Vicenza, Italy--Microsoft is known for its console holiday bundles, but Microsoft have gone a step beyond for the troops of the US Armed Forces by putting something extra special in the $299.99 pro bundle. The $299 Bundle includes an Xbox 360 Pro with the new 60 GB HDD, Lego Indie, KF Panda and a choice of either Blue Dragon or Gears of War. Each bundle comes with 3 games, however, buyers must look carefully at the packaging to see if they are getting the Gears of War bundle or Blue Dragon bundle. Microsoft also discounts many other of its products for the Army such as Windows Vista discounts, Office 2007 discounts and even marked down prices on controllers and other accessories.
The Personal note: Now that my launch 360 has finally died, might as well get a new one....right?
We all know that if 15 year old girls were playing Everquest, EVE Online, Guild Wars, Sims, or World of Warcraft, they wouldn't be having sex right now! My girlfriend and I started watching this show about high school kids. She watched it due to her amazingly long rubber-neck, the ability to not turn away from a horrific car crash, and I watched it because I'm a teacher. After blowing through Season 1, I noticed something peculiure, no videogames. The show is called The Secret Life of an American Teenager, yet I see no games or systems or even knock offs of systems, like South Park's Gamesphere 3000 or some garbage. It got me to thinking, if they were playing games there would be no sex going on thus no prego kids.
Understanding the show as a cautionary tale, I get that the producers didn't want to distract from the messages they were pedaling to...whoever is their intended audience. But I'm sure if they showed WOW or Guild Wars in the series it might be tied to an anti-social virgin with "absolutly no life," the stereotype of us all. So maybe I should be thankful, but still I'm reminded of this video:
Now I know it's been a while since I've been in high school, and maybe this is a sign of my aging, but being a gaming nerd in high school had amazing benefits. I never got a girl pregnant and I didn't go out drinking or doing drugs. Gamecube was my drug and Gamestop was my dealer. Sure there were some social consequences, but I left high school without too much baggage.
So is it true, playing games prevents teen pregnancy, or am I living in the fantasy world most parents my age are living in?
How could Microsoft and Apple use their new found power?
Apple and Microsoft have two handhelds out now and both are capable of some kind of portable gaming. The question remains, is a portable-console connection even worth it for either company?
In the past, companies like Nintendo and Sega kept mindshare by having a portable platform to keep their company name on the lips of AA battery addicted children. The tiny GameBoy screens that played 8 bit knock offs of NES games and Sega's Nomad and Game Gear were all the rage in the 80s and 90s. Nintendo eventually carved out a market with fresh new games that were both complex and fun while Sega's expensive machines paved the way for the portable concoles of today, the Nintendo DS and PSP. Each system connected with their respective consoles. Sega allowed players to use their own Genesis carts while Nintendo added console specific functions in the GBA software much later. Nintendo's approach allowed the company to offer a value proposition to owning both the portable and console. Sony rose to take Sega's place in the handheld gaming industry's race for best portable soon after its Sega's Dreamcast was canned; however, like freckled face twins, Microsoft and Apple have placed their quarters down and are also ready to join the fray.
Apple has been more covert in their strategy to undermine Sony's position on portable gaming with its motion sensitive controls and sophisticated touch screen. Games like Super Monkey Ball handled well on the platform, better than the Wii version with dedicated motion controls. The only thing that Apple has not addressed is a console connection. What could be done by Apple to assure market-share this year?
- For starters,
connect to a console. Understand that being connected to AT&T cannot be Apple's permanent solution to network capability and that Apple will need to connect to some service soon after its contract with AT&T is up. There are many consoles the iphone could attach itself; Xbox, the PS3, Wii, PC / Mac. With Apple's move to the App-store on itunes, the PC / Mac route is the most probable. So Apple will do more this year to make either the Mac or PC the central hub for the iphone (ipod touch).
Making the Mac brand stand outas a separate entity than the PC, allows Apple the flexibility to solidify a base and optimize hardware. Marketing campiegns will ramp up, displaying the iphone and Mac together and associating itunes with the iphone.
Closing the development community might be a side effect of conflating the iphone and Mac brands. Ensuring security will be in Apple's best interest. Making sure that the Apps are not harmful programs for the Mac might become the long Certification process Microsoft seems to have.
Microsoft have remained quiet on the issue of portable gaming. The Zune has been marketed as a music player, the first of its kind to offer wireless music sharing over a wi-fi network. Although the hardware is not that amazing, the Zune service opened yet another door into the minds of money loving marketers, 14.99 a month for unlimited songs. Despite how much money Microsoft makes off the product and service, the fact that the system is already connected to the Live network makes the portable a prime candidate for console-portable connectivity. But perhaps Microsoft is facing more problems with this handheld then we realize.
The Zune hardware must be retooled. Unlike the Xbox 360, the Zune’s ability to play games seems like a fancy work around. The tech demos and candid interviews point to a very recognizable problem, the Zune isn’t meant for gaming. If Microsoft were to make the Zune apart of their winning strategy they would need to relaunch the Zune with updated graphics hardware. They would also need to come up with a distribution method of Zune software, the most obvious choice being Xbox Live Arcade. They would then need to create development tools that took advantage of the new Zune hardware and future Zune/XBLA games would have to be certified and optimized for the Zune and Xbox 360. Doing so would add countless hours onto already pressured development cycles.
- If retooled,
Zune services will flood Xbox Live.This would be an awesome time to own a 360. One feature missing from both the PS3 and Xbox 360 is the ability to download music. Since Microsoft keeps a record of what is downloaded from its servers, Zune/Xbox owners could easily use the 360 as a hub station for the Zune. Songs could also be played from the Zune’s library as well.
Live Anywhere would finally exist. Imagine customizing your Avatar on your Zune and scheduling downloads as well using the Zune as a remote 360, streaming video or playing XBLA compatible titles. Developers could add extra content to games to support the Zune or the Zune could be an instant voice messenger (it doesn't take much to turn a speaker into a microphone, you know)
Microsoft and Apple have a lot to gain, but not without scrafices. But who knows, maybe Nintendo will ruin everything by announcing a portable Gamecube or the next DS. Let us hope that Microsoft and Apple are not irresponsible with their portable devices by using them to gouge out the eyes of the consumer base with high priced services and useless features.
It is a strange question to the community, to ask for a method to the madness, when so many people gravitate towards people that respect them and make them feel important. So why really did I join this site? To be blunt it was the staff, the writing, the cool site features and the ability to be at ground zero (so to speak) of a huge movement in gaming culture.
Game journalists who parrot the words of the marketing devotees would say that Web 2.0 is the future. The social networking aspects and user generated content is what will drive future site loyalty; no longer will sites depend on great coverage but they will also rely on fostering excellent community. The problem with this outlook is that the user of the site becomes the creator of the content for other humans. Most internet communities can be rude, obnoxious and just plain aggressive. Web 2.0 doesn't just need to be network enabled but it also needs to be a community of understanding, moderation and respect; GiantBomb has those qualities.
For a while I stood on the sidelines at major sites, none that I will mention here. Their community podcasts and emailed questions usually consisted of content that was marketing focused or within the certain tastes. There were very few sites out there that took the words and thoughts of its user base to heart and partitioned their media to reflect those views. GiantBomb, to me, is the embodiment of the views of its viewership. Game reviews are written by the staff but mostly the rest of the content is provided by the community. The flexibility of the tools to write blogs and news stories transforms a gaming nerd sitting on his couch, reading slanted news, go from "dude, whatever..." to "dude, whatever....I'm updating this article!" The power is within the grasp of the people to drastically change their environment.
GiantBomb.com is empowering and makes me feel that I'm shaping the content of the site while at the same time receiving respect for doing so. The thoughts and ideas of an individual are not dismissed out-right without forethought. Each thought is usually paired with intelligent responses and counter arguments. A personal example, I rated LittleBigPlanet unfavorably and was met with intelligent counter arguments, and perhaps some telling realizations, that the game met some expectation that I obviously overlooked. I was glad to not see "noob" and "you sucxors" plastered all over the comments section. This spoke volumes of the community and how much of a discussion we all could have together.
Honest discussion, excellent site tools and respectable community is why I came to GiantBomb, what's your reason?
The Electronic Universe of Language and Culture Pt. 1
A manifesto for games as art
by Charles Samuel and Zach Batles
My friend Zach and I have been thinking of a gamer's manifesto for some time now. The main aim of this writing is to show how games and literature are related. By doing so we may argue that literature and computer science are not exclusive to each other. It would be great to have a course in Literature and Computer science, agreed? Anyway...for 2009, this is our project. Hopefully every month we'd have something new for you!
It came in a dream one Sunday morning; it was the theory of language’s relationship to art. I found a meaning in my dream, although Freud might say differently. There I was, Teetering on the edge of a mental cliff, afraid to jump to the next plateau to reach the door of my subconscious. Although literary scholars would argue that Freud’s subconscious is impenetrable, I argue that the subconscious is but only the final watchmen over the inspiration found in every human mind, art being the foremost.
As a first gate, a door to the garden of meaning, art is the first gate of human society and culture that must be kept in working order to be useful. While the gate metaphor of art equates representative arts like painting, sculpting, and music, art at the very best of interpretations is subjective and that’s the beauty of the practice, for art is a practice. The technique to handle a brush is just that, a technique. The artist, by the very definition, is a person who possesses the ability to turn the subconscious into a traitor and thus reveal the secrets of meaning in the human mind. It takes months, years, and centuries of practice in order to perfect any given number of artistic interpretations. Whether one is to study the appeal of a painting, the meaning of a text, or what a limerick’s tone does for the human spirit—if one believes in such things—a person who considers the arts as the first door into meaning, practices. This practice, writing, painting, or playing music, produces feelings, emotions, or even nostalgia. Art could serve the purposes of historical accounts, passing on of legends, or even contribute to theological discussions. An artist, to be successful, must not only open the door to meaning, but do it in such a way that his or her idea can be accepted by the society of their origin.
Each distinct region on the planet has a marker of what can be accepted as “good art” and each art form has its history. African art may have a different history then Indian art; however, each artistic impression has a value determined by the society an artist may be governed. Art is therefore a force that is governed and defining the terms of art from a singular perspective is a very difficult task. It is not surprising then that the discourse of the arts has been usurped by the absolutes of math and science.
Art has been reduced to the sum of its parts and art theory uses math and sciences in order to judge what is appealing, and therefore most profitable to the artist. Good art has been examined for the proportions of Pythagoras, and the proportional art has been marked as purely a science by the mathematicians, thus loosing the literary significance that literary theory can have on physical, representative art.
It took me some time to think about what could be done with literary theory in terms of painting or complied arts. Compiled arts for me are things like orchestral music pieces, webpages, or videogames. In classical terms, compiled arts are mosaics, collages, or novellas. They are small bits of knowledge sewn together to create a master work. The different logos and Photoshpped images on a webpage are all placed together to create an appealing structure for the viewer to glean information from. What startles me about the rest of art and culture is that these artistic elements of technology are not viewed in the same way classical art or even the post modern. I am reminded of several instances where I would discuss the way a light hit a leaf in a videogame and how that light relates to the an Aristotelian notion of catharsis only to hear the scoffing of math majors and biologists, claiming that there is either a scientific explanation or that the way the light touches is a results of 1’s and 0’s, purely binary. But there is humanity in technology. There is a moment when memory and inspiration collide to create a scene, a graphic image or a sound in a game that reminds us of the roots of civilization, similar to what text can do.
What I hope this writing conveys, text can be used to unlock the doors into the subconscious mind of the reader so as to derive meaning from the possibility that art is relatable to literature theory. I feel that the electronic universe of language is not just tied to math and science but to the liberal arts as well. The implications of such a thought are this: Sciences will be reevaluated for the possibility of including language into the study of computer science. Language can then be applicable to math and science and also equitable. Language (i.e text, writing, art) supplies the reader with a heavy understanding of what the implications and applications of science means to the structure of society. Language would be once again included in the school curriculums as important vital parts of education that must be taught as rigorously as math and science has been proposed.
The first location in thought to begin discussing the relationship of literature (i.e. language, art, writing, music) to that of computers and electronics is in the power that literature possesses within itself; to first define what literature can do. The second phase, describing how computer science is similar in scope and power, as well as demonstrate how technology borrows from the concepts of literature. The third is to put the belief into practice, participating in the unlocking of meaning. Art and technology are inseparable, thus critical theory and technology are also inseparable.
Were the electronic worlds we have created only the compilation of 1's and 0's and the rigorous use of scientific logic, would they be as popular as they are? Certainly not. It is unwise to view our new electronic world without the consideration of the art and integration of past mediums. There was a time when film was merely the product of clever engineering, but now, certainly, one may look and see the exquisite artistry involved in a movie. In the same way, video games serve a similar purpose and must be analyzed as a legitimate art in order for us to fully understand its role in our lives.
It is said that humans are the only beings that tell stories to each other. For such a unique characteristic, we should be intensely interested in everything involved in it. Consider the first story told - the person who first drew a scene in his story and invented drawing and painting, the person who first reenacted his story inventing drama. In light of these developments, to ignore the role that new technologies, that video games and other electronic worlds, play is to miss out on one of the most dramatic evolutions in the way humans tell stories and in the very way we view our lives.
All art is the illustration (whether 2D, 3D, or otherwise) of a view. A view entails many things and can be seen in art throughout history. For the Medieval artists, cycle is a central theme, with people in the stories always filling their role, doing their part, and contributing to the vast divine cycle of life. For Modernist artists in the early 20th Century, their art is filled with a view of progress, of continual newness, and of a great revolutionary scattering of traditional consciousness. In the same way that print revolutionized the Renaissence world and the way that film revolutionized the modern consciousness, video games and our new electronic media are rapidly and dramatically changing our artistic view. To ignore this new artistic view, to forego a critical analysis of these new media because they are not as high and noble and artistic as the critics think they should be, is the lowest form of idiocy.
So many people make top 10, 20, 100 lists of good games, let us take a look at some disappointing ones. These games are not bad games, they just didn’t live up to the hype that was generated by the fanbase, marketing, and/or editor previews.
At number 9, Sonic Unleashed is a great example of how to mess up a good thing. No doubt the brass at SEGA demanded that there be more in the game then just running, jumping, collecting rings, and defeating Eggman; however, adding in God of War style gameplay was not a great solution. /sigh @ marketing. The graphics are amazing, the music is some of the best in the series, the sound design on the 360, for those fortunate enough to have 5.1 Dolby Digital, destroys Gears of War 2 (yes, I said it); however, the gameplay and voice acting and story drag the game down. A game with so much promise, but misses the bar.At number 8, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm is another one of those “great promise” games. It sports some of the most impressive cell shading in gaming yet it plays like the ps2 games before it. If the game was a straight brawler, there would not be such outcry, but because the inclusion of a main hub world and other side mission, important characters and events in the Manga series had to be left on the cutting room floor. It looks so good, yet so much could have been done more with the game. In any case, the game is gorgeous but its visuals do not bring anything new to the gameplay.At number 7, Mirror’s Edge is DICE’s attempt at first person platforming, yet it disappoints by being a bleh experience throughout. Each level varies and challenges are mental, but the game seems at times to control itself or unnecessarily presents enemies for the sake of conflict. But like Matt Leone of 1up fame said “It seems like a proof of concept demo”. With its' short campaign and niche multiplayer components, the game feels more like the demo, only 4 hours longer. At its price, Mirror’s Edge offers little replay value to those who are not obsessed with time trial runs.
At number 6, Tomb Raider: Underworld could be best described as “Lara Croft, again”. The game was marketed as a tomb-refresh but its’ combat system and level design were so 1998 that it just didn’t live up to the hype. The game, again looks amazing, but the entire package just was not there. A reboot to the franchise, it is not. Not much else to really say about it, it is a forgettable game.
At number 5, LittleBigPlanet suffered at the hands of server crashes and other localization issues. Its community touted the game as a giant creative force that could not be stopped. Journalists even said that Miyamoto and the entire Nintendo staff pulled their hair out wondering why they never thought of the game themselves. It was set up to be the biggest launch and reboot to the PS3 this holiday, what happened? Many would argue that the game is still amazing and that the simple fact that not many people are playing it is not indicative of quality, but quantity. A counter argument, community is this game’s strength therefore quantity is proportional to quality. Sony’s failure to secure a smooth launch for LittleBigPlanet cements this game in the top 5 most disappointing games of ’08.At number 4, Animal Crossing: City Folk makes the list for the simple fact that Nintendo’s been hyping an Animal Crossing game for Wii for at least a full year before its release on November 16, 2008. Many speculated it would be Nintendo’s first attempt at making a console MMO, however the game turned out to be Animal Crossing DS on Wii. Seriously, Nintendo executives must think little of their consumer base to assume a port of a 10-year-old N64 game is something to get excited over. Never has there been so much anticipation for a Nintendo online foray since Mario Kart DS, yet Nintendo drops the ball. Its online functionality is no different than the DS or Gamecube versions. It would be best to just find a Gamecube at a Gamestop and buy Animal Crossing on that instead of investing in a Wii this holiday.
These were hard, and I thought about the next three, most disappointing games of the year…
At Number 3, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed should have been game of the year. Being a secret apprentice to Darth Vader, using the ultimate power of the force, new technology that animated characters procedurally, awesome graphics on the next gen systems, it was the Star Was game to end all, but sadly technical issues marred its release. Unfair challenges brought the game’s momentum to a scratching halt. The game’s story, not to say much, lacks in depth and substance. The motivations of Darth Varder are questionable within the realms of the lore and the music seems to be recycled John Williams scores, again. Nothing about this “new game” is new with the exception of some fancy tech that GTA IV utilized much better. The gameplay felt stilted and it stopped being "fun". At number 2, Wii Music has got to be the most heart wrenching, gut busting blow to the Wii lineup this year. Previewed as a tech demo at the Wii unveiling, Wii music displayed remarkable tech that seemed to bring to life old Nintendo songs and offered players a chance to customize their listening experience. What was eventually churned out by NOA was a Simon Says, open a hole in a wall, game that happened to play music. It’s clunky controls make it unplayable and the music selection is elementary. The game does not even sound like it utilizes the normal Wii Midi interface that is used in most Nintendo games like Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess or even to some extent Mario Galaxy. From a company that produces some of the finest game music in the world, Nintendo is like Moses in the desert frustrated at the children of , striking at the rock of music hopping that something comes out to satisfy the thirsty masses. What spills forth from this game is nothing but garbage.
10 years in the making, spanning a failed development cycle on 4 different platforms, removing conventional camera direction in favor of context sensitive controls, emulating gameplay found in Diablo and Phantasy Star Online, and a story that would please Thore…Too Human showed no signs of being a fairly great game, so why is it the top most disappointing? Too Human was hyped not by the company it was published by, but by the developers themselves.
At its core, the gaming community is skeptical of marketing and PR for games and very few will fault a developer if a game turns out to be crap; either the gaming enthusiast says the developer didn’t have enough time or that marketing thought an element of a game needed to be done by CRT time. The problem here is the developer had plenty of time to iron out the bugs, and years to examine how the gaming public would react to the game. The engine they were using, however unfinished it may have been, was solid enough to put out a good looking and playing game. And the story seemed like a very interesting, intelligent premise. There was no reason to doubt the developer. With past games like Legacy of Kain, Eternal Darkness and the remake of Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, the company’s track record showed a solid portfolio of well crafted games. There was no need to doubt the developer when they said it would be a great game.
The promise of 4 player co-op and loot and gear customization was enough to make the dungeon crawling fiend inside any gamer foam at the mouth. The online e-peen battles began with forum posts stating what class is best suited for looting and dps. Disscussions of the story spilt over into podcasts and video previews. At the same time, negative coverage was squashed; the E3 build was Microsoft’s fault and 1up’s negative preview was the result of an editor’s lack of knowledge of the product. The game was so defended by the masses that 1up had to run a series of interviews where the editor of the negative preview had to answer to the developer of the game. Never before in the history of video games has the editor of a major publication had to sit down with the developer of a game and justify a PREVIEW.
The game was hidden behind a wall of hype and wishful thinking and when the blinders eventually came off—gamers were left with what was reality—the game was incomplete. The 4 player co-op was removed not for technical reasons, but because game difficulty and play balance issues. The story made little sense in its context and the game play amounted to nothing more than a point-and-click brawler. The loot was not as important to the game play experience and there were many ways to cheat the system in so that the leveling aspect seemed unrewarding. The game wound up being the worst case scenario for most gamers, 60 dollars spent on a game that no one else was playing. Too Human serves as a lesson to all gamers, just cause its been cooking for a long time does not mean the end product will be better.
Well that's my list, leave comments! :D
So long disappointing games of 2008, bring it on 2009!