JRock3x8's Life Musings

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Revolution Controller

Well, well, well. Nintendo is deciding they want to change the rules of video gaming. Apparently 2 analog sticks and a mess of buttons is just not going to cut it anymore.

If you don't know what I'm talking about then you probably would never read this blog in the first place, but here : http://media.cube.ign.com/articles/651/651334/vids_1.html Back? Okay.

I've listened to all of the opinions on this thing : good, bad, and ugly. And as usual, people who are fervently expressing their opinions on things tend to leave out the obvious.

#1 - Nintendo is not sitting on the SICK mound of cash that Microsoft and Sony are. They had to play this round differently or risk running themselves out of business due to what must be rediculous R&D costs for Sony and Microsoft. Sony, in particular, seems way over their head in R&D between the Cell processor and the Blu-Ray drive. This is obvious to me because they haven't shown a game yet and it's obvious to me they're not quite sure yet how they're going to manufacture this thing.
#2 - As Cliffy B said before the announcement, the current 2 stick and mass of buttons controller has evolved as far as it is going to go. It's time to try something new. Whether it succeeds or not depends largely on how well it works. I don't know how good Nintendo is at making electronics from scratch, but I guess we're going to find out.

You know I think the most important thing about this is - Will the developrs write software that supports this? Think about it. If you're EA, are you going to make Madden work with this new controller? Are you sure it will be worth the time? I'm pretty sure the answer is no. Third party games might be VERY very slim for the Revolution. If Nintendo doesn't develop some extremely catchy games quickly, this concept might be a short lived one.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Greatest Video Game Never Made...

I really hate to admit this, but I'm a big sci fi nerd. Yah, I know it kind of goes with the territory of video games, Star Wars, and Halo, but it's still not cool to come out and say it.

One of my passions in the world of sci-fi is the writings of a man by the name of Timothy Zahn. Sound familiar? Timothy Zahn gained fame (and my readership) by writing the popular post-Classic Trilogy Star Wars books (Heir To The Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command). While I really enjoyed these books, it wasn't until I started reading his other material that I REALLY started to gain an appreciation for Timothy Zahn. I liked his work so much that I started a website that is still viewable at the wayback machine at archive.org : http://web.archive.org/web/19991021224740/www.wauknet.com/jcwillia/. Lately, I've been thinking of pulling all that text down and re-creating the site.

My candidate for the best videogame never made is the Cobra series (Cobra, Cobra Strike, and Cobra Bargain - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0743488474/102-2957618-7311302?v=glance). A Cobra is a futuristic soldier somewhat like Master Chief of Halo, but all of the enhancements are in the inside - night vision, binocular vision, enhanced hearing, servo-enhanced limbs and joints, computer targeting system, fingertip lasers and my personal favorite - the anti-armor laser mounted in the lower leg (fires through the heel). My favorite part about these books is that the characters are frequently put in positions where they don't want to use their powers so they don't give away who they are. That's what makes videogames really interesting in my opinion - that piece that makes you think - "Okay I CAN do it this way, but is there another way that might be more effective?"

The game wouldn't necessarily be a shooter. I'm picturing something more along the lines of Knights of the Old Republic where the combat is a turn-based roll the dice type thing. Shooters are fun, but they can get old after a while and with Halo already dominating the modern day shooter world, I would see no reason to try and chase that path.

I can't help thinking after reading these books that they would make fantastic video games. I know I would buy it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Zombies

I know I said I would write part 2 of the article on the comparison to video games but this is really bothering me.

I borrowed a copy of Half Life 2 : CE with Half Life : Source on it, and after a couple of hours playing it, I have to say I'm done with it. Here's why. I am sick and tired of games trying to get me to crap my pants while playing their levels. In Half Life, there are trigger points all over the first level where the moment you cross into it, something blows up or a creature jumps at your face. This is the same reason I never finished Duke Nukem 3D. Call me a little cry baby if you want, but my enjoyment of a game experience does not include cheap B-movie horror film tactics. For this same reason I probably won't pick up Doom 3 or the forcoming Prey.

I realize there is a huge market for these games, and that's great. I just want an equally large market for games whose primary purpose is not to get you to soil your pants.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Video Game Icons

I have a confession to make. I know it's unpopular to profess affection for the only Video Game TV network available, but I am head over heels in love with the series "Icons" on G4TV.

Bungie, Donkey Kong, Gran Turismo, oh my! This series is so good that I can watch 5 of them in a row back to back, and I really don't like watching TV. The interviews are candid. The information presented is good but not gritty in details. And typical of documetaries, they focus on the happy details and ignore the cynical side of the video game industry. For example, in the Bungie documentary, they left out the part where almost everyone hated the ending of Halo 2 (myself included) and just told the part of the story that mattered : Halo 2 was an amazing, astounding, and acclaimed success.

I'm looking forward to catching up on more of these shows and there are several new ones (new to me anyways) scheduled for this week.

A final word on how much I'm enjoying this series. I plugged my jukebox recorder into my DVR so I could take the audio with me on the road. I've never recorded anything else on that box in the year and a half that I've had it.

So while it may be uncool to say you like G4TV, I REALLY love "Icons".

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Price of Video Games - A Comparison to Movies

I'm going to do a comparison of video games to movies, because I think there are some similarities in the economics of how things work.

I'll start at the bottom of the food chain - commercials.

Commercial movies are those web-based BMW clips of people acting out these strange stories while driving BMW's latest automobiles. The gaming equivalent is "Corvette" or "Ford Auto Racing" (which apparently uses the Gran Turismo engine). They're cheap/free and they have very small supply and very small demand. How companies convince people to pay for their advertising is beyond me.

Next up is the direct to video/television movies which are roughly analagous to the $20 start price video game.

I don't have a lot of good examples here because - frankly - who remembers these things anyways? Oh wait - Mutha Truckers 2 will be $20 - there you go. Now that's exciting. This is almost as bad as the commercial except that there's an attempt at originality here, just not a very good one.

My next category would be your classic high budget box office bomb.

Remember "Stealth"? Neither do I. The video game world is littered with way too many examples of games that had a lot of money behind them, but were just horrible when they finally came out. My classic example (which I am certain someone would disagree with) is Mech Assault 2 : Lone Wolf. All the video game editors loved this game until it launched. Then the bad reviews started. I'm not sure I will ever spend $50 on another video game after buying that.

The next category is the cult movie and in the video game world, the equivalent is games like Psychonauts and Killer 7.

Great critical acclaim, but sadly no one buys them. Years later, small groups of people will form fansites on the internet joining together in praise of the game/movie, and sometimes enough interest generates in these sites and a sequel is born. Usually and unfortunately, these works usually just pass into obscurity.

My last category is the triple "A" blockbuster.

Star Wars. Halo. These are some big names. They usually start with a good idea and get executed to brilliant precision by the people who work on them. Star Wars was just plain weird, but George Lucas found a way to make it accessible enough to make it the most successful movie series of all time. Halo started out as hum-drum RTS (which would have ended up in the "cult classic" section in my opinion) and evolved into one of the most popular shooters of all time. I won't argue the merits of this category, but popularity obviously means that enough people liked it to spend money on it. That's got to count for something.

In my next blog entry, I'll editorialize on how the cost of production and marketing for each category directly relates to the price and ultimate success of the games or movies.

The JRock Update

I haven't posted in a while, partially because my real world life has gotten busy and partially because there really anything really compelling to write about. XBox 360 news (my main interest) has slowed to an absolute crawl. Frankly, the only thing that's left is the release date and the launch list. The only game I really wanted to play - Full Auto - is rumored to have slipped to 2006 which puts a serious damper on my demand for the new console.

Small tip : I heard they are only shipping 1 million consoles to North America, so it seems to me there will definitely be a shortage come holiday.

As a side note, I am really enjoying my new Halo 2 clan, "Clan Crosseyes". It's a groups of older gamers who love video games but profess no proficiency in gameplay whatsoever. One of the main reasons I formed the clan is I got sick of 14 year olds telling me how bad I sucked in the post game carnage report. Now, I take pride in my suck-age.