Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
30 May 2006
More Tomb Raider Remake Scuttlebutt
I'm a confessed Tomb Raider fanboy, so the Lara Croft rumor from Kotaku has me excited:
Eidos/SCi are planning on celebrating Lara's 10th birthday by releasing a remake of her original adventure. We are talking improved graphics, new moves, the lot. If there is time, the "new" game will feature a remake of both Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II: The Dagger of Xian, but right now the developers are focusing on Lara Crofts first adventure.
That certainly gets the better two Tomb Raider games I've played. Tomb Raider III was a buggy pack of stupid episodes that I couldn't bring myself to finish. I did finish the grossly maligned Angel of Darkness, but it's still not quite up to the standard of the first two. Regardless, I wish they'd at least release the script for the next two games, since they did bother to write all that ahead of time and Angel of Darkness kind of left things hanging.

In other news, the date for the PSP version of Tomb Raider: Legend was pushed back again and again, so I'm still going to have to wait until next week to find out whether it's worth getting over the PlayStation 2 version. You can read that two ways: they're struggling to get a non-crap port out the door, or they're making sure to release it only when it's perfect. I regret that it'll probably be the former.
--Matt Matthews at 13:17
Comment [ 6 ]

29 May 2006
Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection
I spent the night and part of today with Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection for my PSP. It appears to be a perfect handheld diversion, much as I found in The Pinball of the Dead for my GameBoy Advance. The difference, of course, is that Pinball Hall of Fame is recreating real tables and trying to model real physics. The simulation feels authentic, although I'd caution that I've not played any of these tables. Experts could nitpick, I suppose, but they'd miss the point: the tables I've played are enjoyable, challenging, but not impossible.

In particular, I just finished Victory which is a car race in pinball form. You have to hit or roll over seven checkpoints, in order, and then hit a checkered flag gate to win the race. It took me about an hour to figure it out and complete that goal.

This goal's significance goes beyond stroking my own ego: finishing it unlocked another game, Goin' Nuts, for free play. Before I had to earn credits to be able to play Goin' Nuts. If you aren't up to completing goals, it appears you can earn enough credits on free play games to buy free play on the machines which otherwise cost credits.

The developer, Far Sight Studios, tried to make playing as authentic as possible beyond just table design and physics: they included backglass reflections on the main table glass and ambient arcade sounds. Fortunately, the former can be turned off since the reflection is annoying. The ambient sounds are better, including samples from Joust and Galaga, but they repeat a little too often to be true background noise. Regrettably, I don't see a way to turn these sounds off.

In the few hours I've played, I have encountered one bug: a ball flew right through the table and off into space, ending my game. I don't think that was intentional, since the table clearly has a glass top, but for a second I was impressed that they'd modeled a ball flipping right out of the machine.

I also have the PlayStation 2 version of Pinball Hall of Fame, and while they are similar the PSP version wins. You have to be seriously interested in pinball if you can wait the 3 minutes it takes to get to playing on a TV screen every time you want to play. This goes back to what I said before: when there is a PSP version and a PS2 version of a game, the PSP version has the advantages of portability and the PSP's sleep function.

Someday I'd like to meet up with someone who has a PSP so I can try the game sharing function. Most of the tables can be shared wirelessly with another PSP owner with only one copy of the game. Not a killer feature, but nifty nonetheless. (For the Free Software fans, there is a nice note in the manual about the networking software using parts of NetBSD. See here: pspnet.txt.)

If you're interested in the actual machines, Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection was developed in conjunction with the real-life Pinball Hall of Fame, a project by the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club. I don't think the real museum is open yet, but if and when it does open, I'd be interested in checking it out.
--Matt Matthews at 17:31
Comment [ 4 ]

27 May 2006
John Carmack: The SPOnG interview - Interview at
John Carmack recently had this to say (in a interview) when asked about consoles measuring up to PC hardware:

But you can get effectively three times the performance if you're targeting a fixed platform than if you're targeting the PC space.

Hrm, so why is it that Aspyr can't carry this over to the Macintosh, a relatively fixed platform? This is why Quake3Test came out Mac-first -- to help id bug test precisely by limiting the platform combinations. Why aren't there iMac-optimized ports, for instance? You can't swap out a video card to save your life. Use this to your advantage, porters! One might say this was done to a limited extent with G4 & G5 processors & Altivec, but why stop at the processor level?

I recently complained to Matt (via email) that we're right back to the Groovy Grover Cleveland $1000 Mac gaming tax I've run into the ground on this site. For $3-400, you can grab a new Win86 PC that runs Civilization 4 or you can grab a video card to slap into year or two old hardware. On the Mac end, anything less than $1300 is a no-go.

Here are the specs:

MacWin86 PC
CPU Processor: PowerPC G5/Intel chipset
CPU Speed: 1.8 GHz or faster
Memory: 512 MB or higher
Hard Disk Space: 3.5 GB free disk space
Video RAM: 64 MB or higher
Disc Drive - DVD
Processor: 1.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon processor or equivalent
Operating System: 256 MB RAM (Windows 2000) / 512 MB RAM (Windows XP)
Hard Drive: 1.7 GB Free
CD-ROM: 4X Speed
Video Card: DirectX 9.0c-compatible 64 MB video card with Hardware T&L support

Good stuff, huh? Strangely, not only does the Mac version require $1000 more hardware, it also requires twice the hard drive space.


Oh well, at least there's another rumor of Apple hiring game programmers. And as I said to Matt, I can always find some comfort, as I did this morning, that World of Warcraft runs just fine on my old iBook. Now time to buy some [more?] sod.


--ruffin at 08:27
Comment [ 11 ]

25 May 2006
Console game profit calculator (or: why Sony wants to get rid of used games)
Given development cost, revenue per unit, and attach rate, you can estimate how much a publisher makes on a game. This calculator I made lets you play with these numbers. Among other things, I think it makes a good case for why Sony, and in fact all hardware and software players, want to get rid of used games: used games reduce the new game attach rate.

The first time you load the page, you'll see my assumptions for a possible PlayStation 3 game's costs and revenue (in North America). In particular:
  • 1.6 million North American PlayStation 3 machines. Sony says they'll sell 4 million by 31 Dec 2006 and typically 40% of Sony's hardware sales are North American.
  • $38 for the publisher per sale. For a $60 game, I'm figuring $12 for the retailer, $10 for Sony, leaving $38 for the publisher to take home.
  • $15 million to develop an average next-generation game. Some will be more, some will be less.
Then attach rate is how many of that game will be sold per console sold. So an attach rate of 0.3 means that 3 of that game will be sold for every 10 consoles sold.

The break even attach rate is the attach rate the game must achieve to recoup its costs. Any higher than this, and a game starts making money. For the given hardware sales, you can also see this as a total number of game units sold.

You can set your own user-defined attach rate if you don't like the ones provided.

Finally, you can set things automatically with some buttons provided at the bottom. These include the unique case of Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360 where we know the hardware sales, software sales, and development costs:
  • Approximately 1.5 million Xbox 360 consoles had been sold in North America by 30 April 2006.
  • Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360) sold about 854,000 units by 30 April 2006.
  • It has been reported that Call of Duty 2 cost $14.5 million to develop.
That's an attach rate of 0.57 for a profit of around $18 million.

You can try the PlayStation 3 sales by 31 December 2006, which I've estimated to be 40% of the 4 million that Sony plans to move by that date. The PlayStation 3 sales by 31 March 2007 I've estimated to be 40% of the 6 million that Sony plans to move by that date.

Here's a little test: Try the PlayStation 3 by 31 December 2006 button and then alternate between the $50 button (assumes $32 profit per sale) and the $60 button (assumes $38 per sale). Watch the break-even attach rate move and the total number of sales.

If you know another example of a game for which we know concurrent hardware and software sales, as well as development cost, it would be interesting to see what kind of profit it made...if any.

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--Matt Matthews at 22:17
Comment [ 3 ]

23 May 2006
Finished: Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee
While not one of my goals for Curmudgeon Gamer's Third Annual Finish Goldeneye 007 Month, I am pleased to announce that I've reached the platinum tournament stage of Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee on my PSP. This triggered a show of the credits and opened up a bunch of extras, so I'm calling this one finished. There are still dozens of extra items to collect, but that'll be something to enjoy for months to come.

Random stats:
HSG Rank: HSG King
Tournament Stage: Platinum
No. of Tournaments: 190 rounds
Best Round: -14 on Alpine course, Short Tee
Best Putt: 48.4ft
Best Chip-in: 268.3y
Best Drive: 337.1y
From what I've seen, this is still one of the very best PSP games out there. If there is a worthy sequel with more courses and perhaps an infrastructure wireless network mode, I'll definitely consider picking it up immediately. I'm not much of an online player anymore (said the still-recovering Action Quake 2 addict), but this is one game I believe I could enjoy online.

To give you an idea of how consuming this game can be: 190 rounds at 15 minutes a round (conservative) works out to 47.5 hours of playing time.
--Matt Matthews at 18:10
Comment [ 1 ]

21 May 2006
Daddy, I did it! I made the star spin!
Watching my 3-year-old boy play Toy Story on the SNES tonight, I couldn't have been much prouder. I typically start the first level and activate the invincibility cheat, then hand the controller over to the boy. Despite my earlier concerns, he's learned a good bit about how to play a platform game. In fact, he's been able to finish the first level on his own for quite a while.

Tonight was something different.

See, the cheat works by running Woody halfway through the level, jumping on a rubber ball, landing on a shelf between two other shelves, and then crouching until the star at the top of the screen starts spinning.

Tonight, the phone rang just as I fired up the SNES, and I had to go answer it. As I hung up the phone, I heard the boy exclaim "Daddy, I did it! I made the star spin!"

I ran to his side and looked at the screen. Naturally, he'd started the game on his own. More than that, he had Woody crouching on the special shelf and the star was spinning.

It's not a huge technical accomplishment, I realize. But here it is, three hours later, and I can't stop grinning every time I think of him looking up at me, controller in hand, saying "Daddy, I did it!"
--Matt Matthews at 22:45
Comment [ 6 ]

Bring on the DS Lite
I hope to get a DS Lite sometime in July, along with a copy of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. After reading gatmog's post on Julius mode in Dawn of Sorrow over at ToaSE, I'm going to find the wait even more difficult to bear than before.
--Matt Matthews at 12:22
Comment [ 2 ]

17 May 2006
A Curmudgeon is Born
A new curmudgeon, Ryan Daniel, has joined our family. He arrived 16:24 16 May 2006 weighing 8lb 14oz. As a future curmudgeon, he has already shown he knows how to express his displeasure. Loudly.

That is all.
--Matt Matthews at 11:36
Comment [ 12 ]

16 May 2006
Finished: Akumajo Dracula XX
As part of Curmudgeon Gamer's Third Annual Finish Goldeneye 007 Month, I said I'd try to finish five games. I'm happy to report that I've finished the Super Famicom version of Akumajo Dracula XX. The final screen for my ending is the one with the dude on his horse entitled "For Rescuing No One" on this page at vgmuseum.

I expect I will finish at most one other game, but I'll give it my best shot. Ideally, I'll finish either Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War or Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. With a little luck, I'll finish both.
--Matt Matthews at 11:06
Comment [ 3 ]

15 May 2006
History of Console Prices (or: $500 ain't the worst...)
Is the $500 price tag for the crippled PlayStation 3 historically high or low? I did a bit of number crunching to try to put that number in perspective. These graphs tell the story:I've uploaded PDF versions: absolute and relative.

The first shows absolute price and the second shows relative price. Here absolute means the stated price at the time the console went on sale. Relative means what does that price mean in 2006 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

I'm a little busy right now, so I don't have time for commentary. Feel free to supply your own.

Update: Also, yes, I know the $600 PS3 and $400 Xbox 360 should be on there somewhere. I'll do them later. Done. Didn't update the thumbnails, but the full-sized images now show the two choices for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

I got the idea after reading this GamePolitics rant about the antics of Destructoid at E3 2006.

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--Matt Matthews at 13:38
Comment [ 200 ]

14 May 2006
A Wii Control Problem
(I refuse to title this "Losing control of one's Wii.")

A lot of people were less than impressed over Red Steel, the UbiSoft-developed first person shooter/slasher for Wii shown at E3, and it's striking that lackluster polygon texturing was not always considered the main problem.

The thing that most people hated was the fact that, in the slasher sections, the pointer control did not actually control the sword. Instead, various motions the player made with the remote would be recognized by the system and translated into canned moves, entirely missing the point of having such a versatile controller in the first place.

While many observers loved Mario Galaxy (and personally, I think it looks awesome and I'm looking forward to it a lot more than even the new Zelda), I think it's important to note that, except in a couple of places (the blue star-orbs and the drag-and-launch places on the path to the spider boss), the pointer is not really well-integrated into gameplay. The process of using the cursor to collect star pieces reminds me of old video shooters, such as Namco's old Starblade arcade game, where what happened on-screen was not really affected by the pointer except for targets overlaid upon a static video clip. The static clip here was replaced with an amazing revision of Mario gameplay, but from the pointer perspective, it was almost as static.

The Wii Sports games, especially, Tennis, appeared to use the controller with more skill, although at the apparent expense of traditional controller functions. Reports were that the Tennis game allowed the player to very intuitively aim the ball at different parts of the court, as if he had been swinging a racket! That would be totally cool, if it was not for the fact that it was largely pointless, since wherever the ball was hit, the opposing player would automatically be moved to a proper return position anyway.

I think in the future, the controller will be used in three primary ways, in ascending order of coolness:

1. The controller can be used as a way of delivering gestures to the game, for recognition and translation into discrete events. Speaking for the general case here, I have to say this sucks. I think it might be possible to create a game in which gestures are used entertainingly, but until then, I am unimpressed with this usage. Leave the gestures to Wii's port of Opera.

2. The sensor can be used as a method of manipulating an on-screen pointer. This is better, if a bit obvious. Mario Galaxy, Zelda Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3 and Red Steel all used this system. For shooters, this allows for looking around and aiming at arbitrary points on-screen. For Zelda, it lets the user aim the bow with great fidelity and to point and click at UI elements. For Mario Galaxy... well, it allowed for pointing, that's for sure. It's obvious that the pointer is here meant to emulate a mouse. That's quite cool, but ultimately not as cool as we want.

3. The best uses will be those that endeavor to use the motion sensing and/or pointing aspects of the controller to sense how it's held in space and translate that into a game-world representation. The Wii Sports games seemed to do that to some extent. The flight games that Nintendo and Hudson are developing definitely do this. The new Monkey Ball game seems to do it really well. Project HAMMER might be the best conceptual usage of the controller shown at E3, although people tended to complain that the game frequently loses track of the controller's orientation when the pointer left the screen. To my mind, that is inexcusable: what the game should do, unless some important implementation detail is escaping me, is use the motion-sensing controller for the game, and using the screen pointer as an extra source of spatial information to calibrate the motion sensors on the fly.

While it's true that Nintendo showed some very cool uses of the controller at E3, I've yet to see it live up to the mental image I had formed of it from the original announcement. If Sony or Microsoft were to have announced something like it, I would have taken it skeptically, but I hold Nintendo, who has tended to shoot straighter when it comes to announcements of system capabilities than its competitors, to a higher standard. I'm not disappointed yet, and I still think I have every reason to believe that I won't be, maybe when the second wave of games comes along.

So get cracking on that, Nintendo.


--John Harris at 21:58
Comment [ 6 ]

Cheat code quiz
Y'all seem to like quizzes, so here's one.
It's blatantly stolen: it's from Perplex City, an Alternate Reality Game that I've been playing. Short summary: you buy these cards with puzzles on them, and you can keep an account on their website, enter answers there to the puzzles, and score points thereby. Oh, and if you figure out the "boss puzzle", you win $200,000.

But enough about that. This particular card has a list of cheat codes from time immemorial, and the goal is to determine the games the cheat codes are from. I will try to duplicate as much as possible the look of the cheat codes here; if you want to see the card in its original form, I recommend this link.

Note that for this to be any fun, you have to remember the cheat codes yourself; there's several places online with the answers now. (Amusing side note: before the solutions to this puzzle were put up, it was a clever inverse problem. Knowing a game, it's easy to find the cheats, but given the cheats, not easy to find the game.) If you're just dying of curiosity, answers are available here, here, or even here.

The Cheat Codes:
5. Alt+Shift+Control+C, klapaucius
8. L1, TRIANGLE, R2, L2, L2, R2, CIRCLE, L1
9. Origin - k
10. POKE 14711, 165 / SYS 8192
--Bob Wieman at 17:31
Comment [ 3 ]

13 May 2006
Nintendo wins: Wii have moved beyond the name
A week ago, you couldn't go two videogame blog posts without hitting a lame pun on the Wii name. The jokes have stopped, for the most part, and Nintendo is having the last laugh. They chose the name they thought best, and then decided how best to maximize the announcement and their E3 presence.

Here's how their plan worked:
  1. Pick a name: Has all the desired features: novel, easily remembered, and a double meaning that suits their strategy. They were serious about the name, and picked it for the long term.
  2. Time the release right before E3: Know the discussions generated, primarily by the hardcore gaming audience, will be incredibly intense and negative.
  3. Suffer stoically: Right up to E3, secretly appreciating the attention, knowing it will pass.
  4. Don't hide, embrace it: At the E3 conference Nintendo dropped one Wii joke and then proceeded to use it often and without pretension.
  5. Focus: What's important? Not the name! The new controller, the new games, the virtual console, the network.
  6. Everyone moves on: By the end of E3, everyone's focus is the controller and the games. They're using the name just as naturally as they use Nintendo DS and GameCube.
Nintendo knew what they were doing all along, and the press and fanboys (unknowingly) played their parts to the hilt.

Too bad Sony couldn't copy Nintendo's savvy as quickly as they mimicked Nintendo's controller.


--Matt Matthews at 21:55
Comment [ 3 ]

Will we call Wii's bluff?
That EA Sports apparently has a team in Canada working out how to inteface their port [1] with the Wii controller is, if nothing else, an impressive bit o' marketing. My read is that there's a porting team -- anyone know where the Gamecube's Madden port is being developed? -- whose primary goal beyond that Gamecube port is to add a Wii-controller specific interface.

They're making good [conceptual] progress. To hike, you appearently lift up on the [entire] controller. To throw, you no longer hold a button longer for a bullet pass versus a short tap for a lob. Now how quickly you move your Wii-mote controls the velocity. They're even, if you believe all you read, thinking about using controller movement for jukes, etc.

But I get the feeling that there's going to be an "old-school" controller setup, and there's my concern. Check out the pictures of the controller, below:

Wii Controller from ||
Fake mock-up of even more conventional Wii:

Seems like I read early on that it was Nintendo's intention that you could combine the two "halves" into one, turn it on its side, and essentially have an N64-esque set up. Now capital "A" is almost certainly a different button than "a". You've now got select & start & triggers from the other half of the controller, even a d-pad and joystick. You can now play Madden like you did on the Playstation 1.

If Madden Wii has an old-school controller option that does a decent job providing standard Playstation-style Madden play, I think the Wii might be in trouble. After Nintendo's E3 pitch, why do you buy a Wii if not for the controller? Surely not for the Gamecube 1.5 hardware, right? [2] If gaming houses succumb to the pressure of providing old-style setups, how long until they stop with the Wii-specific action? How long until the Wii really is just Gamecube 1.5, extending the life of the system and developers' interests by a few years rather than for a full console generation? Would Nintendo, whose latest slew of new Game Boy console options has me wondering, even care? Has the "real" Revolution simply been pushed down the pipe a few years? Is the Wii a planned evolution of the Gamecube instead?

Nintendo continues to impress me with its dedication to pushing gaming. I wonder if the gaming public will, contrary to Nintendo's feelings in Time magazine, where they say sometimes you have to push the consumer and not listen to what they request, keep their offering in its 3rd place niche.


Thanks to JohnH and Matt for more Wii controller info (see comments for this post). I suppose you can add "Wii is evolutionary, not Revolutionary," to my list of things I'll be bashing on cg.

Matt's link makes the GC 1.5 connection even more direct:
The classic controller face also has two analog sticks, which are necessary to maintain GameCube compatibility.

This reminds me of my favorite line from the Redskins' description of my ticket explaining why there needs to be a four-foot wide column essentially directly in front of my seat:
[this picture] includes the unavoidable column placement necessary to ensure the structural integrity of FedExField...

Well, keep the column in my eye! I don't need to see half the field if removing it means being responsible for maiming thousands when the stadium caves in! Heaven forbid you redesign the stadium with more smaller, less obtrusive columns or, the horror, not sell these tickets!

The relation? Both are corporations coming up with some sorry excuse for a choice they willingly made. With the 'Skins, it's that you're selling the crappiest of seats for, well, let's say significantly more than $20 a piece, and until this season significantly more than $40. With Nintendo, it's allowing your new console to be a slightly updated version of your existing one by pretending to Revolutionary capibilities and providing developers with a safe out. Both have done a good job. I shelled out to sit behind a post and E3 coverage seems to think the Game Cube 1.5 "won".

Not to spam much more, but this reminds me of things like etched glass in automobiles. It's not harder to steal a car with etched windows, but it is more difficult to sell it. After your gta, do you leave those numbers on each piece of glass, making the boosted car incredibly easy to trace? Or do you replace *every* pane in order to sell it off of an entirely illegitimate market? The etchings make the value of the stolen car lower, and low enough that it deters some from stealing it.

Same deal with Apple's AAC. You can get the DRM out, but it's difficult enough most people won't invest the time or dough to do it. Same with the Game Boy DS. The screen's there, Jack. You can't remove it. You might as well use it. The GBA backwards compat is beautiful. How can anyone play a conventional gba game on the DS and not think, "Why do I have this second screen sitting around?"

The Wii controllers, if there were no easy to find, conventional alternatives, could have acted like etched glass or AAC or the DS. With the Wii's ability to mimic conventional controllers, much less the "classic controllers" Matt points out that are essentially the SNES' crossed with a Playstation's, Nintendo's running the risk of our being sold a lot more, ever so slightly updated, Game Cube games. As JohnH points out, we're going to hear about gestures and innovation, but it appears we're in for the same ole lot o' games.

Boy, that was much too wordy. EDITOR! ;^) Think of this as a rant on a blog (which it is) and not an article (which it ain't).

[1] And "port" Madden Wii is, whether EA admits it or not; they're using Tiburon's standard code to start.
[2] I'm still tempted to buy a Wii as GC 1.5 to get the GC library, old games, and continued Maddens. But that's just me. And I do wonder which series will receive the highest "year" of Madden: PS2 or Wii.


--ruffin at 11:31
Comment [ 4 ]

12 May 2006
Rule of Rose
Do completely new games have to show gameplay to get my attention? No, and I have an example: Rule of Rose. I bring this up because in the comments, lordxixor101 said:
Now, let's be honest, your excited for these games. But, if a brand new game series was coming out with one of these clips, and no game footage shown, it wouldn't be a blip on anyone's radar. It's only because we mentally have an expectation of what these games could be, and their companies (Konami and Bungie) are just letting your imagination fill in the blanks.
In sifting through the hundreds of games with news this week I ran across Rule of Rose. This SCEI PlayStation 2 horror game has only been released in Japan, but Atlus just announced this week that it is bringing it to North America. It has a definite whiff of Silent Hill about it, but appears to be striking out in its own direction. If you can, try watching the longer trailer on this page, to see what I mean.

As I recall, there isn't any actual gameplay shown in the trailer, but that didn't stop me from putting this on my list of games to watch and, quite probably, buy.
--Matt Matthews at 11:20
Comment [ 1 ]

11 May 2006
What the MGS4 and Halo 3 trailers get right
At E3 2006, neither the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer nor the teaser for Halo 3 show a single second of how either game is played. Is that a weakness? No, it is precisely why you should watch these trailers and be interested in these games. Eschewing game mechanics and graphics, these two trailers are free to focus on plots and themes.

As Cortana flashes in and out of view, the Master Chief walks across a blasted plain, past smoking wreckage, and gazes out over a huge crater. As the music swells, the Halo 3 trailer ends ominously:
This is how the world ends.
I'm no Halo fan, but even I can put aside my prejudice and admit they've set the stage beautifully. Just this teaser is evocative enough to draw in the average player while also driving fans wild with anticipation.

I am a confessed fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, and the MGS4 trailer was a must-see. Consider this monologue:
War has changed.
It's not about nations, or ideologies.
It's not even about profit, resources, or ethnicity.
It's an endless series of proxy battles,
fought by mercenaries and machines.
War, and its vast consumption of human life,
has become a rational, well-oiled business transaction.
War has changed.
ID-tagged soldiers carry ID-tagged weapons, use ID-tagged gear.
Nanomachines inside their bodies enhance and regulate their actions.
Genetic control.. Information control..
Emotion control.. Battlefield control..
Everything is monitored and kept under control.
The age of deterrance is now the age of control,
averting catastrophe from weapons of mass destruction.
And he who controls the battlefield, controls history.
War has changed.
As the speaker finishes, dozens of soldiers pour out of a truck and are mown down, wholesale, by sniper fire. It's a chilling sequence.

And later, there is this:
The [private military companies] and soldiers are
installed with a state-of-the-art control system.
As long as the nanomachines remain inside of a soldier,
he won't be able to point his gun anywhere near a client.
Not only does this raise interesting possibilities for how the game will be played, but more importantly focuses, as Kojima has in the past, on the effects that technology has on people and on society.

The creators of these games, Halo 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4, feel they have important stories to tell. To attract players, they are putting those stories forward now, confident that they can deliver on a fun game later. I am pleased to see the emphasis move away from minutiae of game mechanics and graphics and toward storytelling.

Why are most other game trailers just snippets of game mechanics and flashy graphics? Could it be that that's all they have to show?
--Matt Matthews at 15:00
Comment [ 12 ]

10 May 2006
Just in: Gamers don't like to be surprised or think
Jon Jordan is blogging for during E3 and wrote this barely credible sentence with respect to the Sony backlash:
Or maybe gamers just don't like to be surprised, because then you have to think for yourself.

Look, I'm as close to a Sony fan as you're going to find around here. I was considering another launch-day adventure, like the one I had in October 2000 for my trusty PlayStation 2.

But there is a huge difference between an innocent surprise and screaming horror. It's the latter that I felt when I saw the $500 and $600 PlayStation 3 price tags. Then I thought about what games I could get for my current systems using a fraction of that money, and I mentally put the PlayStation 3 on hold until at least 2007. Beyond that cold reality, what's there to think about?

The Wii at $250 is looking better all the time.
--Matt Matthews at 12:49
Comment [ 1 ]

Wii Virtual Console Pricing: $250, $10, $5, $1
JohnH sent me a link to N-Sider who (via EGM) gives us an essential piece of the Wii virtual console: pricing. Quote:
  • Wii price of $250 "seems appropriate", according to EGM.
  • Estimated prices for the Virtual Console are "a few dollars for NES, $5 for SNES and $10 for N64."
While I'd like the Wii's price to be lower, these game prices have me interested. Put it this way: for the price of a single Xbox 360 game you can get between 6 and 60 classic games for the Wii. Definitely better than dealing with the sellers at the local flea market.

I'm still waiting for two key bits of information.
  • What titles will be available?

    Each of us has a mental list, and the Wii's appeal will depend on how well its catalog overlaps those lists.

  • Will they be persistent?

    Several weeks ago JohnH pointed me to this CNN story in which Nintendo President Satoru Iwata says:

    It's entirely possible that some downloads might not be permanent, either, making additional storage space less important.

    "We can set some limitations as to the time period a piece of downloaded content can be played," said Iwata. "Or, we may opt to let users play as long as they want. This gives us a flexible business model."

    By "flexible business model" he actually means "yet another way to wring a few bucks out of a 20 year old game". If this is the plan, I'm probably not interested, even at the given prices.
I look forward to hearing Nintendo's answers to these questions.


--Matt Matthews at 07:44
Comment [ 2 ]

09 May 2006
Sony forgot its duck
As I've watched the big three press conferences at E3 2006, I've been reminded of an old Far Side cartoon about getting caught empty-handed. A scientist, among a group of other scientists at a lecture, realizes he's the only one who isn't holding a duck. A pained sense of horror is obvious in his face.

At its press conference, Microsoft calmly played their trump card, the Master Chief, and basked in the second wave of games for its Xbox 360. For once, it could claim not to be the new kid on the block. Instead of boasting what it would do, it showed what it had done -- Xbox Live Arcade and 3 million systems sold so far -- and was appropriately content.

Nintendo confidently waved its magic wand and swore they'd capture the great untapped casual market. They touted some completely new games, and also showed a full roster of old games with new tricks, a sure crowd pleaser.

Sony, on the other hand, forgot its duck.

In lieu of a duck, it brought out a console we've known about for months and expected the crowd to go wild. They tried to dazzle us with the same slides we'd all seen several weeks ago at the Game Developers Conference. Sony brought out its own clone of the Wii controller -- oddly confessing that they'd only had "a couple of weeks" to put together a demo -- and emphasized a little too loudly that it didn't require ANY EXTERNAL HARDWARE, as if this were the bullet point which would put poor old Nintendo out of its misery. Toward the end, Sony did come up with a duck for Phil Harrison to play with using the "new" old controller. As the crowd sat silently watching a grown man make a yellow duck jump in a pool of water, they must have been wondering when the real show was going to start.

The real show wasn't long coming. The answer to the million dollar question was $600, and the response was stunned silence.
--Matt Matthews at 22:30
Comment [ 5 ]

GameSpot misunderestimated Halo 3
As of this moment, GameSpot's coverage of the Halo 3 teaser trailer reads:
The importance of a new Halo game for the Xbox 360 cannot be underestimated.
Penned by Jason Ocampo, GameSpot's staff humor and malapropism writer.

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--Matt Matthews at 18:22
Comment [ 0 ]

WoW != 9 9s
Okay, okay, I know this won't win any Curmudgeon Gamer Post Awards, but I had to find some outlet to vent my frustration at finally freeing up enough time to reactivate my World of Warcraft account -- and have it come in the middle of Tuesday maintenance!!! A blog seemed appropriate.

Argh. When corporations try to have pie in the sky nines of reliability (quick explanation) for webapps, I'm not real sure why Blizzard can't have enough backup servers to take one farm down and replace it with a second set -- sort of a RAID 1 setup with servers rather than hard drives. And I did see the bit on the "(quick explanation)" link, above that said that "For every additional Nine, the cost soars. Three extra Nines, for example, can cost 200 times a price premium." But right now we're talking, well, let's say 4-6 hours down once a week, 162/168 to 164/168 or 96.4-97.6% uptime as a best-case?! That's not even two nines, dang it.

I'm awfully concerned with why Blizzard can't seem to get enough servers online to serve the people playing now. Hardware is not your greatest expense when it comes to running apps on the web. Is the server software poorly written and limiting scalability? I wouldn't think so. Is Blizzard simply too stingy to shell out for the extra admins? Now that WoW has been around a while, though the world has grown, I would still have expected Moore to have pitched in a contribution on the servers as well.

In any event, though some of the time this morning was spent on this rant, when my account was last active, I'm afraid Tuesday mornings were likely my most productive. Ah, and you Everquest guys thought you'd found virtual crack.

(I'm pretty sure I've ranted about this before, but I'm hoping it was 1.) On my own blog the first time, which only I read and 2.) Well, I've got that recent BBC link in this one!)
--ruffin at 08:54
Comment [ 5 ]

08 May 2006
Old news: Tomb Raider 10th Anniversary Edition for PSP
I'm not exactly sure how I missed this, but apparently Eidos announced Tomb Raider 10th Anniversary Edition for the PSP back in September 2005. If the N-Gage got a port of the original game, I guess the PSP is the natural next step. Maybe this week Eidos will be announcing some updated information.
--Matt Matthews at 10:29
Comment [ 0 ]

07 May 2006
Winston Churchill plays Castlevania
You might be familiar with this Winston Churchill quote:
Never give in - never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
Many historical texts leave out the next sentence:
Also my password to get to level 6 of Akumajo Dracula XX is axe, flame, axe, holy water, axe, axe, heart, flame, heart.
The troublesome level 5 is behind me now. On to level 6.
--Matt Matthews at 23:54
Comment [ 2 ]

What I hate about Prince of Persia
No subtitles. Not a single word.

Having the volume down and hearing the whole story just isn't an option. I'd prefer to learn as the story evolves and prevent my young son in the next room from hearing the Prince smash a short sword up through the nose and into the brain of an enemy, but I'm just not given that option. This is true both in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.

What makes this especially bad is that you can't tell in advance when the Prince is going to start babbling. Sometimes, just running down a hallway, the Prince offers up some personal thoughts on how bad his life's turned out, delivered at the level of a whisper. You wouldn't know it with the volume down, however. There are no visual cues.

This is all selfish, to an extent, of course. The hearing impaired are surely the most in need of subtitles. They don't have the choices I have. Why don't console makers require subtitles as part of certification for publication?
--Matt Matthews at 15:01
Comment [ 4 ]

06 May 2006
GameStop/EB Games liquidating PSOne stock?
I was thinking about getting a big shipment of PSOne games to stock the Curmudgeon Gamer Memorial Library, like I did last summer, and so I loaded up the EB Games/GameStop used PSOne games page. At first glance, everything appeared normal, with well over 400 games in the catalog. Upon closer inspection, however, the 459 games listed boils down to only 93 games available for purchase. The remaining 366 games are listed as "back ordered". Click thumbnail for full size image:

That's the worst I've ever seen their stock. My local stores have tiny shelves with a handful of used PSOne games, which reflects what I see online. Furthermore, a local Rhino Games appears to have jacked their prices on PSOne games. I don't know that that's related, but it makes me suspicious.

Is there any other outlet for used PSOne games for purchase in bulk? There's always eBay, but shipping would eat me alive...
--Matt Matthews at 16:05
Comment [ 1 ]

05 May 2006
Battlezone for PSP: Twisted Metal with hovertanks
Yesterday Atari published a press release on Battlezone for the PSP. From what I can tell, it's Twisted Metal with hovertanks. That might have been fun five years ago, but I've moved on.

As Ravuya pointed out in my previous Battlezone post, Activision made the classic 1990s strategy combat game, not Atari, so the new game was quite likely to be something far different. GameSpot has screenshots, one of which I've included here. I look forward to seeing it in action and a downloadable demo would be helpful, but my enthusiasm for PSP Battlezone has mostly evaporated.

--Matt Matthews at 23:02
Comment [ 2 ]

Akumajo Dracula XX boss reduces me to cheating
I can't take it any more. I've played level 5 of Akumajo Dracula XX (SNES) about two dozen times now and I always die a cheap death on the boss. I'm reminded of Ruffin's post from 3 years ago where he said:
There should be more than one route towards finishing a game. There should be a quick route through different portions of games for idiots like me. Shortcuts should exist that you aren't forced to take, but open after you've tried and failed the original route a few times.
I need this like you wouldn't believe.

As it is, I'm right at the verge of using someone's password for level 6 and moving on. I've got better things to do with my videogame life.
--Matt Matthews at 22:45
Comment [ 3 ]

Conflict of interest?
I don't do much actual curmudgeoning around here, so here's something to help make up for that:

So, does anyone know what the DS Lite's U.S. release date is, who doesn't work for Nintendo.

Okay I admit, that's not the real question. I merely wanted to point out that, of the people to do know, one of them is Craig Harris (no relation) at IGN. Check it out.

That's Craig Harris. Works, it seems, on IGN's DS site. IGN is a video game news site. You know, journalism.

Why didn't he, then, fill his audience, the people who come to his site to get NEWS, in on this juicy scoop?

Oh, because he signed an NDA. Simple reason.


I understand that they want to maintain a working relationship with Nintendo. Yep, I can understand that real well. Except that journalism, be it Old School, New Games or Daily Show, is, or rather should be, an inherently adversarial relationship. It is not the duty of a journalist to cozy up to sources of news.

Next thing you know, Reggie Fils-Amie will be giving the IGN guys nicknames, and they'll release videos of him looking under desks for Zelda: Twilight Princess, and they'll all react stony-faced when the Penny Arcade guys lampoon them to their faces.

I know the real reason they want to maintain that relationship is because the company is a primary source of news: press releases, screenshots, movies, etc. But that doesn't make it any less of a conflict of interest.


--John Harris at 02:56
Comment [ 7 ]

04 May 2006
Why is gold farming/gold buying bad?
In a comment to an earlier curmudgeon gamer story regarding Gary Whitta's column, "Let's Shut Down Gold Farmers", GregT answers the question: Why is gold farming/gold buying bad?

I'll assume GregT's comment is directed towards me (?), though if so he seems to have missed two key items in my comment on the same story. First, I don't see anything wrong with farmed characters. Perhaps I'll weigh in about farming and selling gold in more depth another day. He also doesn't seem to have addressed my suggestion that WoW pull a UO and legalize cash for 733+ness, capturing that money to pour back into the game.

Regardless, it was an interesting line of straw men, so let's get to knocking 'em over.

(1) It inflates the virtual economy to put many top-end items out of the financial reach of players who have played "fairly".

This seems a natural enough conclusion in the "real life" market, but has farming really inflated virtual prices? Playing World of Warcraft to level 53, I didn't have any trouble affording anything I needed, and the level 60s always seemed to be able to easily sell [perhaps equally inflated?] items for enough to cover even their luxury purchases.

And it was still easier, come level 60 in a good guild, to go instancing for rare, high-level purples, etc, than to buy. Though items priced to the point where it's easier to quest than buy might seem like evidence for GregT's argument, I believe it still plays into Blizzard's desire that as many as possible earn the powerful items so that next to nobody buys.

Remember that, in WoW at least, items have minimum levels requirements for their users. If you're a rich level 5, you still can't buy the items the level 55s count on daily. And some very nice items can only be gained by completing quests and can't be sold; you must earn them by playing. If every item's price is inflated and it's still enjoyable and easy to procure [and sell] these top shelf items once you hit the proper level, well, is there really any inflation? These aren't the kinds of laws we have governing prices at Wal-Mart. GregT, Blizzard has your back.

Now with character [not gold] farmers, unless they somehow decrease the availability of these rare items (and in a select few cases they have, like Pratt McGrubben's recipes), GregT's claim doesn't necssarily hold water. If a thousand extra successful farming groups hit an instance that, for the sake of argument, holds a Golden Chalice at the end 90% of the time, there are 900 extra Golden Chalices in the world. Seems this would potentially decrease the price of the item!

(2) It encourages servers to be populated by characters who are just there to farm. Thus the signal to noise ratio of other worthwhile players is lowered; in non-instanced MMOGs it also means more people to camp against for spawns.

You know, I always wanted to see someone or a group I knew was farming. In heavens only knows how many hours playing, I was suspicious once, but can't say I ever really spotted one. Perhaps I felt them through lag in Ironforge or at the Auction House somehow, but if there was extra noise, I never knew the difference. This complaint is, for me, in WoW, a nonstarter.

(3) Some of the evidence on gold farming is open to the interpretation that exploitative work practices are engaged in by the relevant companies.

A.) For now, I feel it's still safe to consider farming without thinking it necessarily involves exploitation. Perhaps the amount of cash that can be brought in by MMORPG farming makes it so that the jobs are, nearly by definition thanks to the limited potential to create income, exploitative. That is, perhaps the best farmer can only scare up $0.05 an hour, which isn't a living wage anywhere.

Yet Castronova and the small slew of researchers that have followed, including some recent claims about incomes from Second Life, tell me this sort of exploitation's likely not -- not by definition, that is -- unavoidably the case. If it's not, then there's nothing specific to WoW forcing exploitation of would-be farmers.

B.) Can anyone tell me how these jobs line up with comparable ones available to the people who take the "sweatshop" MMORPG farming jobs?

(4) Farmed characters allow players to reach levels of play without acquiring the skills normally taught on the way; the pool of players talented enough to group with at endgame is unnecessarily diluted.

How does this affect my game experience when my guild enters an endgame instance? Have you played with someone who had purchased a farmed character and had a bad experience? Have you played with a middle-schooler who "legitimately" made 60 sheerly from throwing 110% of his or her free time down the WoW timesink? How can you tell the difference? And if your endgame groups are that bad, have you tried swapping guilds?

etc etc

Bad play doesn't bother me. Don't join/leave that guild. You have alternatives.

I must also say that those middle schoolers, with whom I have grouped on occasion before learning of the fact, drive me crazy.

(5) As with engaging in any black market, because gold farming is illicit and non-regulated you never know what you're buying; while many companies are "honest", you always run the risk of being cheated or stolen from when dealing with them.

But surely you've heard all those arguments before?

Okay, that last one, no, I haven't heard that one specifically in the context of WoW/MMORPGs. I like the moral angle, but not being a potential client, it bothers me less than WoW's weekly maintenance. And, well, eBay's no different. Wait, um, life's no different.

Which is really my tack on the issue. I like the way cyberspace spills into "reality". I like having seedy companies at the fringe where the buyer must beware. My gameplay experience hasn't been diminished by the concept of farming; it's been enhanced. This is no simple fantasy or diversion (and what truly is?). MMORPGs are a part of the fabric that makes up the whole of our lives. Watching people bend rules is fascinating. It's not always for the best, but fascinating nevertheless. Knowing there are people behind the avatars, some playing simply for fun, but others to dodge writing college papers (thus the temporary suspension of my account!), some to dodge their families, some playing drunk (I've seen more of that than I would've expected), and some playing to make the money that'll allow them to drink... Well, there's more to the MMORPG than a bunch of folk just playing a game.</wax off>

I've got much worse to worry about than if someone's paying their way to level 60. I'll let Blizzard handle that one, even if it means doing nothing more than putting my realm on a ph4tt3r server. They seem quite good at watching our back.
--ruffin at 22:04
Comment [ 0 ]

Curmudgeon Gamer's Third Annual Finish Goldeneye 007 Month
I finish only a fraction of the games I start, so I'm going to use the month of May each year to try to catch up on ones I'd like to finish, but haven't. Here are the games I've already started that I'm going to try to finish before 1 June 2006:
  • Resident Evil 4 (PS2)
  • Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (PS2)
  • Akumajo Dracula XX (SNES/SFC)
  • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (PS2)
  • Goldeneye 007 (N64)
What's your list of unfinished games?
--Matt Matthews at 10:49
Comment [ 5 ]

03 May 2006
Buddy-buddy interview with Peter Moore
This interview with Microsoft's Peter Moore at Next-Gen is truly a puff piece. If you want your fill of marketspeak dressed up as a candid interview, read on.

Gaming is at the forefront of what Microsoft believes entertainment will be and I think we add value to the gaming ecosystem.
You know he's serious because he said "ecosystem".

He [Moore] points out that Xbox, the company's first play in this market, took a 25% to 30% market-share "depending on where you are in the world".
How does this even make sense? Let's say I'm somewhere in the world, like -- hrmmmm -- Japan. Then 25% of the market was the Xbox? Hasn't the Sony PSOne routinely outsold the Xbox in Japan? This kind of stuff shouldn't go unchallenged, or at the very least shouldn't be printed if it's flat-out false.

Whether it's Halo, Fable or Project Gotham or Xbox Live we brought innovations that changed the world. And the others are the ones that are having to react.
By my count: buying a developer, putting out a game for which the developer apologized, yet another driving game, and a really good network. I'll grant them the really good network, but what was so innovative about Project Gotham Racing?

I did like this line:
Xbox 360 is beginning to deliver the required numbers, even if it won't hit some of Microsoft's own fairy-tale targets.
That's a well-deserved dose of reality. In fact, the whole bottom of the second page is pretty grounded. More please.

The seriousness doesn't last long:
Xbox Live Arcade is digital distribution in the console made flesh. Whatever games get shown next week, it's still the most exciting thing this business has produced in the last ten years.
Note that that's not Moore talking: that's Campbell, the interviewer. It's also a ridiculous statement, on its face.

Let's pick an easy example: QuakeWorld. That's late 1996, so within the last 10 years, and it was the first killer-app for internet gaming. The FIRST. And now an all-in-one online service that bundles various features that have existed disparately is the most exciting thing the business has produced in a decade? What about Half-Life? That was an incredible experience, and still holds up today. Or Grand Theft Auto III and its living city sandbox?

Microsoft sure is proud of Xbox Live. They might even have a new name for online gaming:
Microsoft has clearly been having a few brain-storming sessions. It turns out the term 'online gaming' is passe and vulgar. "I won't call it online gaming any more," says Moore, almost convincing me that the idea just came into his head. "It makes it seem like a hardcore pastime. I'm going to start calling it connected gaming from right now. Online gaming still has this feeling of MMOs and RPGs. It was linked to the PC and I think that is off-putting for a lot of people and quite frankly seems kinds geeky."
I was just thinking how easy it would be to get my Mom involved now that I can call it "connected gaming". It's so very much more friendly. I'm sure she'll love Perfect Dark Zero, provided I emphasize the connected gaming angle. ("Connected gaming" reminds me of the funny name Ruffin came up with for our LAN party club back in college: RCUG or Recreational Connectivity Users Group.)

Finally, we get to the throwing of stones:
"You can over burden the features [of a console] and therefore offer features that the consumer is not particularly interested in. Case in point, look at the PSX in Japan that Sony launched - with PVR plus PS2 for $700 - it disappeared because the pricepoint did not deliver. It's a very delicate balance between features and price and the difference between good enough and great."
Yeah, the PSX isn't the example that came to mind. I was thinking more of the hard drive in the Xbox. That'd certainly be an example closer to Moore's experience. That hard drive was supposed to be a killer feature, what set the Xbox apart. Now it's an overpriced accessory.

And we can't pass up an opportunity to slight Nintendo:
Nintendo? Microsoft is not convinced by the controller's claims to innovation of the year. "If the controller is different and innovative; fine. But I would say that Xbox Live is the bigger innovation. It depends on your definition of innovative. If having a DVD style controller defines innovation; great. I would argue that talking millions of gamers and connecting them with friends and strangers around the world... I'd call that pretty innovative."
Call me crazy, but I think this guy really, really likes Xbox Live. It -- Xbox Live that is -- keeps coming up, over and over, in this interview. I hear that Xbox Live enables Connected Gaming[tm]. Xbox Live.

And what's with the "DVD style controller" smear? Isn't that kind of missing the point? It reminds me of Woody Allen's famous quote after reading War and Peace: "It involves Russia."

Sure, Sony's got their paid mouthpieces, as does Nintendo. Do we have to give them an open mic like this?

Labels: ,

--Matt Matthews at 14:36
Comment [ 3 ]

Quiz Answers: Videogame prices from 1997
Answers to the quiz from earlier.

In July 1997, EB Games was selling:
- Sega Saturn for $200
- Nintendo 64 for $150
- Sony PlayStation for $150

Prices of N64 games:
$80 for Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
$70 for Pilot Wings 64
$60 for Super Mario 64

Note: In this catalog, there were no Nintendo 64 games under $60. I think I recall it being big news when you could finally buy brand new $50 and (gasp!) $45 games later on.

Prices of PlayStation games:
$60 for Dynasty Warriors
$55 for Codename: Tenka (like anyone remembers this one)
$50 for Tomb Raider
$45 for Twisted Metal 2
$30 for The Incredible Hulk (a real stinker, as I recall)

Prices for Sega Saturn games:
$60 for Hexen (terrible port)
$55 for Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (DVD of this is probably $5 now)
$50 for Doom
$45 for Tetris Plus
$40 for Command & Conquer

There you go.


--Matt Matthews at 14:20
Comment [ 2 ]

02 May 2006
D & D on my PSP
This looks promising. I'd sure like an SSI Gold Box experience, or something like it, on my PSP. A party of six players is mentioned -- I hope that means single-player with six characters, not that I have to network to get a full party.

I first saw this mentioned at Gaming Nexus. Screenshot from IGN's VoodooExtreme.
--Matt Matthews at 17:03
Comment [ 0 ]

01 May 2006
Quiz: Videogame prices in July 1997
Reading through a July 1997 Next Generation magazine, I was struck by the prices things were going for back then. Since I've been writing exams, here's one for you to test yourself on 1997 videogame prices.

1. How much did each of the following cost? Choose from: $250, $200, $150, $100.
a) Sega Saturn
b) Nintendo 64
c) Sony PlayStation

2. Order these Nintendo 64 games from most to least expensive: Super Mario 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Pilot Wings 64.
(Bonus: What were the prices?)

3. Order these PlayStation games from most to least expensive: Dynasty Warriors, Star Wars: Dark Forces, The Incredible Hulk, Tomb Raider, Codename: Tenka, Twisted Metal 2.
(Bonus: What were the prices?)

4. Order these Saturn games from most to least expensive: Doom, Hexen, Tetris Plus, Command & Conquer, Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp.
(Bonus: What were the prices?)

Answers are now posted here.


--Matt Matthews at 23:39
Comment [ 6 ]

Confused: Mac gaming is dead or isn't it?
Why is it that can run a story titled Destineer Secures USD$12 Million, Promises More Mac Games, ostensibly in part because they're developing original content, and Aspyr, the company that used to be best known for porting games to the Mac, is now releasing original games for WinPC and Xbox with no Mac version in sight?

Is Mac gaming dead? Until the iPod video takes a swipe at Game Boy, yes, major label Mac games haven't been this bad since before Quake 3 Test and the announcement of Tomb Raider 2's port. Could the Mac be a great breeding ground for shareware and independent gamers? Well, um, of course. What else is new? That's not even a consolation prize.

Luckily I've discovered Wario Ware, inc., which allows me to add a $25 piece of hardware to the top of my Mac and have enjoyable, twitch, quick-fix gaming. Even better than Virtual Game Station, I'm telling ya.

[Update: Found this bit over on Aspyr's newsletter site from 4/20:
Aspyr will continue to focus on 3 things:

1. Ship native Mac games as quickly as possible.
2. Deliver the best gaming experience and best support possible for our Mac customers.
3. Offer even more choices to Mac gamers.

... With titles such as Dreamfall, Spellforce 2 and Gothic 3, we're fulfilling our vision to deliver an incredible entertainment experience to the world. We do not fear change; we anticipate it and kiss it right on the lips. So pucker up Boot Camp.

I'm not sure about you, but it sounds like Boot Camp's Aspyr-ing kiss isn't exactly a kissing off. Perhaps we're to assume putting #2 & #3 together with Boot Camp is not necessarily an undercut of focus point #1?]
--ruffin at 16:41
Comment [ 0 ]

Randy Pitchford: Visionary, madman, or both?
This was certainly an interesting quote from Randy Pitchford in this morning's Next-Gen:
I still hold onto my prediction from a couple years back that, eventually, Sony will be licensing the video game operating system software from Microsoft. Perhaps Sony's experiences with their new online initiative will actually make that difficult-to-imagine step a little easier... If Microsoft can ever figure out how to gain traction and trust as a gaming platform in Japan, I believe that the two companies will rapidly desire to become partners instead of competitors. It sounds counter to expectations at first because we are so caught up in the competition, but I assure you that I could explain why the concept of an eventual partnership between Sony and Microsoft has merit.
That last strikes me as Fermat-like: "I have a remarkable proof, but this margin is too small to contain it."

Unless Microsoft splits the market 40-40 with Sony this time around, I don't see Sony giving up their exclusive platform to license one from Microsoft. It's not just Sony being Japanese and Microsoft being American. Look at how this Wii thing is playing out for Nintendo. Image means quite a lot, and giving in to Microsoft in that area in particular would damage Sony's image everywhere.

Putting aside that factor for the moment, Sony's not been horribly competent of late either. Suppose licensing Microsoft's tech was the only way for Sony to survive as a gaming company in the post-PS3 generation. I wouldn't expect Sony to be clever enough to realize it and save their own hide.

So, what to make of this quote? I'd like to see some proof of why this makes complete sense. How about you?

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--Matt Matthews at 09:44
Comment [ 1 ]

Is cheating good for children?
To keep my son entertained until I can grab a copy of Donkey Konga, I pulled out the copy of Toy Story for the SNES that I'd squirreled away a few months ago. He took to it immediately, which I expected, but it's still a bit beyond his abilities. So next time he plays I'm going to enter the invincibility cheat and see what happens.

I'm a little concerned that removing that rule will prevent him from learning how the game is played. Sure, right now he just needs to learn the buttons and figure out how to bounce on stationary targets, but at some point he's going to tackle the game as it was intended. The trade off is that he gets to see more of the game's world while picking up some coordination. And occasionally he'll get to see me play, and hopefully learn by imitation.

It's probably not a big deal. After all, he spent five minutes today giggling like mad while he smacked a toy plane with Woody's pull-cord.
--Matt Matthews at 00:08
Comment [ 6 ]

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