Anthony J Scarcella's Gaming BlogSliced Blogs Home »
I'm back! Did you miss me? Thought not.
So where have I been? What's that? You don't care? Well screw you, I'm telling you anyway. I've just finished my Uni course. Still can't believe it's all over, but hey, apparently it is. They basically threw us all out when the clock ticked over, out into the scary world. Anyhoo, I'd urge you all to take a look at this, which is my major project. I had fun doing it! Also, you can check out Scrub Studios for more stuff I've done, cos I think it's pretty nifty. But then again, what do I know?
Nintendo: I Want My Sleep Back
I'm gobsmacked. Blown away. Is there some sort of secret E3 that Nintendo is brewing? The one that'll have the announcements of games the dedicated Nintendo fans have been waiting for? You remember those guys, Nintendo? We're the ones that purchased the Gamecube when you told us it would be completely awesome. And we stuck with it, and had many a good time with it, but we always knew we'd round out the pack in third place.
And now we've adopted the Wii, a console that has proven itself to be popular with complete idiots and tools. And we waited. And waited. You clawed your way back to the top in a matter of minutes: we all exchanged grins and knew that the wait was worth it. So we kicked back and waited for the kiddies to get off the damn thing so we could play some real games.
And we waited.
I...don't know what else to say.
Brawl: Who Still Cares?
Does someone want to explain the PAL delay to me? Anyone? What happened, Nintendo? Did all that localisation you had to do from American english to proper english stress you out? Was it just too hard for the widdle localisation staff's brains? Was there only one person working on it? Were you converting it from English to Japanese to English again?
It's this crap that pisses the living hell out of me. PAL regions get treated like crap, yet Nintendo still thinks we want the piles of pure, unmitigated shovelware that grace the system every damn day. "But there's still first-party games!" I hear you say. Pity they're all the same as their predecessors, short of some sort of waggle related control scheme.
I had really high hopes for the Wii, but almost every developer on the system, including Nintendo themselves have proven that they've got absolutely no imagination whatsoever. Yet, the console flies out the door at an alarming pace: where's the justice? I was buying all of Nintendo's doomed products since the N64. Remember those consoles? The ones with decent games on them? Now, when Nintendo is finally doing as well as it did in the SNES days, all we've got is a tonne of crappy third-party titles, and massively delayed first party titles.
Thanks for nothing.
BAN GTA IV
I don't know about you, but I'm certifiably OUTRAGED that the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV managed to secure it's decadent self an MA15+ rating! I wanted an outright ban damnit, I don't want to see that filth on my screen! What, with all that incomplete sex code running around in the game and horrible low-pixel nudity, how is it that it still gets released here?
GTA IV needs a dedicated Australian version. Something like "Play School Theft Auto". Instead of beating up people and stealing their cars, you politely ask them if you can borrow their wheels for a short duration of time. If they refuse, you just move on and see what other non-heinious prospects you can muster.
No money? No problem! Just take a look at the many satisfying jobs avaliable to you! Disagreement with a friend? No problem! Simply buy them a gift and it'll all be dandy!
Excuse me while I go copyright this game. I'm sure the OFLC will love it, therefore assuring that I'll sell MILLIONS.
In short: STOP FUCKING US OVER AND GIVE US THE R RATING.
So I game. Love to game. Gaming is great. Paying for stuff to play games isn't so great. So, what's the solution? Cover your bases, of course. I have a Wii, which is entirely useless for any modern game. I have a DS, which is useless for everything media related. I have a MacBook Pro that I game on XP with, which makes me the target of pointed asides on how I'm an idiot.
Anyhoo, I'd like to think that I've got enough systems to cover a fair share of gaming. Alas! Having a PC means games should COME to PC. GTA IV: no PC plans at the time. Tim Schaffer's Brutal Legend: 360 and PS3 only.
Who do I blame for this neglect of the PC format? The companies making the games? The consumers? WHO DO I BLAME?!
Been a while since I've posted in this (I blame Uni and, you know, real-life), but I'm back to give you some more incoherent rambling. Uni's out for this year (cue jokes about my course not being real) so it's time to enjoy four months of gaming, starting with the excellent Team Fortress 2.
I've been playing a lot of this lately (on 28.8k Internet, no less, damn you Telstra) and I absolutely love it: the art style is brilliant, the game is stable and it beautifully balanced. Coming from the now ancient TFC, this was a welcome change from being poisoned by a certain malicious medic who targetted no-one but me. I'm glad Valve took this long to create TF2, and that they wised up and moved away from the more realistic style they were heading in. As they say in the commentary, no competing companies would have their bases right next to each other in the real world.
What else...I managed to snag a PC version of Tim Schaffer's brilliant game Psychonauts. The PC version never came out in Australia so it can be hard to find (eBay is your friend). If you haven't played it, do so: it's one of the best games I've ever had the fortune to play. If you disagree, well, you're wrong. I hope you guys have been keeping up to date with the upcoming Brutal Legend: should be brilliant! All I want is a PC VERSION DAMNIT.
Now, on to more modern things, namely Crysis. I made the potentially fatal mistake of installing the demo the other day (and the more potential mistake of setting the graphics to "High" - my laptop was literally burning when I shut it off). First impression: not impressed. Second impression: really not impressed. I'm glad Crytek didn't say anything about this game being revolutionary (apart from the graphics, which are nice) because this is yet another stock standard, boring and utterly deplorable first person shooter. Sure as hell won't be getting this game in anyway, shape or form come release day.
Finally, a message to the lads who've just released the complete LEGO Star Wars collection: PORT IT TO PC DAMNIT.
This is Barely Breathing
The PlayStation 3 is finally here. After months of bad press, delays and goodness knows what else, the PlayStation 3 is finally here to grace itself upon the salivating crowd-oh, wait a second. Make that a salivating 80 or so people.
I honestly feel more sorry for Myer at the moment, considering they were the main organiser behind the midnight launch in Sydney. You can tell they were expecting some decent crowds: 80 people is insulting.
What can I say that hasn't already been said? Remember that Australia is a niche market for any company in terms of video games: we rarely generate the same amount of hype that countries in Europe or Asia do. Having said that, both the Wii and the Xbox 360 posted extremely successful launch windows during their respective launches, so it remains to be seen if the PS3 launch was an unmitigated disaster or not.
Sony's got a tough battle on its hands during the next couple of months: it has to, somehow, convince the public that the PlayStation 3 is worthy of an upgrade from the hugely successful PlayStation 2, as well as prove its superiority over the Xbox 360 and the vastly underpowered Wii. How Sony will do that remains to be seen: I sure hope they're not banking on their "This is Living" slogan to do so, because it's probably the most piss-weak slogan I've ever heard. Hell, if the slogan was "Plug it Into a Power Point" it probably would've generated more interest.
Alas, what's done is done. We're all now eagerly awaiting some official stats to confirm Sony's preorder tally of 20,000 units. As such, we'll reserve judgement till that day.
Whenever that is.
Windows Vista Part 2
Despite the name, this post isn't really going to be about Vista. As I mentioned in my last entry, the new Windows operating system draws similarities (at least, to my deluded mind) to the gaming world at present. We're inundated with 'the next big thing' all the time, but it all seemingly links back to the graphics.
Let's take Crysis, for example, Crytek's spiritual sequel to Far Cry. Some people know my opinions concerning Far Cry: for those who don't, here's a quick summary.
Far Cry was a demonstration that pretty graphics don't maketh the game, yet when the game launched back in the day, all I saw was praise and high scores. I can't understand why: apart from the ragdoll physics, the shaders, the large maps - well look at that, all of those points have something to do with aesthetics.
Vista's main promotion tool at the moment seems to be it's stupid graphical effects (effects that require a super computer to actually appreciate). Who cares? Why are we so insistent on playing the same garbage with better graphics? Crytek are still yet to prove themselves with Crysis, but if it's anything like Far Cry, expect a low score from yours truly.
That isn't to say the alternative is that much better: I draw your attention to the port of The Godfather which'll be arriving on the Wii soon. After the Cube was blessed with graphically accomplished titles like the Metroid Prime series, Star Fox Adventures, Rogue Squadron and the Resident Evil series, Wii gamers are expected to endure stretched graphics, shitty level design and poor looking models. Seriously, the game looks like it belongs on the PSP, let alone the Wii.
Where the hell is the balance? Where's the balance between graphics and gameplay? Where's the innovation? Where's the delight in the entire gaming experience? Look at Psychonauts, Tim Schafer utterly brilliant platformer. Critically acclaimed by all, the game brought back some class and originality to the gaming world, with a wonderful design tied behind a great story and good gameplay. Long story short: the game flopped in sales. I don't even think the game was released in a box version here, which is a downright shame (I'm not a fan of buying stuff over Steam, my connection is too crap).
Oh well. Let's all marvel at Flip 3D Windows, and the physics and graphics of Crysis. Scrap away that thin layer of garbage, and you'll be wondering where the beef is.
The Wow Starts Now!
I'm amazed that Microsoft can even say that: I try and say that when I refer to my pants and their, er, contents and all I get is stares and the occasional slap in the face.
Alas, I'm not here to illustrate my descent into the world of crappy pickup lines (and no, I don't use lines like that, mine are much lamer): no, I'm here to actually talk about Windows Vista. By the end of this blog entry (or two), it should be pretty clear where I stand on the matter of the "Wow" starting "Now".
I can't help but compare Vista to the games industry at this moment in time. Let's face it, most of Microsoft's hyping concerning the operating system concerns it's 'brand new flashy graphics'. Similarily, every big-name game (particularly on PC) that arrives, the main thing that most of them boast about is the graphics. Instead of Aero Glass, we have pixel shaders.
It's a worrying trend, but before I get ahead of myself, I'll start with this: I'll be discussing two issues here. One in this blog and one in the other. I shall devote this entry to Vista. Prepare 'ye for a bit of tech talk.
Back in the old days, when Vista was still a tentatively (and absurdely) named promise called Longhorn, the Microsoft developers promised us a 'brand new core' one that would be written from the ground up, which would finally put a nail on the coffin that is Windows NT. 2-3 years later, what do we have? Yet another Windows operating system running on WindowsNT. Yes folks, Vista is, essentially, a reskinned version of Windows XP. But the fun doesn't stop there: instead of concentrating on features that would possibly benefit and improve the OS, MS instead decided to inject it chock full of DRM goodness (if you don't know what DRM is, go research it and CRY IN PAIN).
But hang on. DRM can be used for good! It's stopping those nasty pirates! Oh yeah, that's what we'd like to think. But according to a very well researched, er, research document, "The evidence [of security] must be presented to Hollywood and other content owners, and they must agree that it provides the required level of security. Written proof from at least three of the major Hollywood studios is required". Yes, folks: Hollywood. So if a company wishes to develop certain security measures for hardware that they have to go through the creme de la creme of the PC world: Hollywood Studios.
The document linked above, while very technical, gives a very good, example ridden outline of exactly how retarded and frightening Vista is. But hey, so long as the OS X inspired (trust me) has flashy, RAM hogging graphic effects onboard, I'm sure it'll con a million customers into actually buying that hunk of crap.
Perhaps there's a bit of bias in me: hell, I'm only sitting in-front of my MacBook Pro, which is running a surely unholy but totally legal union of OSX and Windows XP. I'll say this though: XP did not generate this much controversy when it launched. Personally, I like XP and I like OS X. Both operating systems have their advantages and disadvantages. What I don't like is when companies put restrictions for consumers in order to benefit Hollywood.
That's just plain evil.
"The Wow Starts Now"? More like "The Screams of Anguish Start Now!"
Feel free to disagree.
I'm back! Where'd I go? Vacation. Disconnected from the world for a little over a week. Missed out on whatever the heck happened in the world of gaming.
After my Internet connection recovered from receiving 40 emails, updating RSS feeds and updating AVG (dialup is so very painful), I had a quick look at some of the gaming news floating around. Sony's back in the press again, with rumours of a PAL launch delay to April, which, admittedly, isn't that bad, but still...
The other bits of news floating around suggest that there's a lot of PS3 stock still sitting in shelves in a lot of stores and that Wii stock is close to non-existant. This also combines with the news that the Wii has sold over 4 million units (congratulations, Nintendo).
So now what? Sony's kinda stuck in a rut at the moment. I also saw among my random stumblings that Sony has denied the rumours of a second version of the PSP. If that's true, it means that the UMD format will probably go the way of the Dodo in a similar fashion to that of Sony's MiniDisc format (well, it's had some relative success in parts of Asia). It also means that all the problems associated with the current PSP will never be remedied.
My guess is that sometime in 2008, everyone will look back and either say "Well, it was close, but they've done it!" or "Hey, do you remember that other console?". The latter is probably grossly over-exaggerated but that's probably my sunburn talkin'...
In other news, I picked up San Andreas the other day and I've been having an absolute ball playing it. Kudos to Rockstar for delivering a total dandy of a game for us to enjoy. Very much looking forward to GTA IV.
Does anyone remember Deus Ex (the original)? Not a lot of stores seem to carry the title (the sales assistant did look at me strangely when I asked if they had it, dunno why, the game is only...6 or so years old :X ). I remember playing that game as a kid and thinking "Man, this is hard". My copy is now gone, but methinks it's time for a revisit somehow so I can relive one of the better examples of FPS reinvention of our time. Come on devs, where's the next Deus Ex? The next System Shock 2? There's still a hoard of gamers who want something new from the FPS genre (and no, DirectX 10 graphics don't count, but they do look pretty).
Anyhoo, I've ranted enough. Enjoy 2007!
So here I sit in my comfortable office chair at Sliced Gaming's headquarters (note: no such headquarters exist) with my mouth all numb. Could it be the launch of Nintendo's most daring console to date that's causing my mouth to become numb? Or could it be the fact that I just had two teeth out to make way for braces? I'm gonna go with the latter here.
Is there a point to this lame introduction? Yes: the Wii. I want to focus on some things that have come to my attention ever since the release of the console. My first gripe is the (overly) hyped "Red Steel" from Ubisoft. When the first screenshots for this unique shooter were unleashed around the world, many a gamer jumped for joy: here was a FPS that evolved the standard controls (both the predictable PC controls, and the terrible gamepad controls [admit it, one does not play a FPS with a gamepad]) with something entirely new, and, dare I say it, more realistic. Screenshots revealed a nice, if slightly dated graphical style. We rejoiced.
Take a look at the situation today: numerous bad reviews from the various gaming websites and general word of mouth with the clear indication that they were going to give the title a wide berth. What the hell happened? Did the game go through quality control? Was it rushed? Was it overhyped? Did someone over at Ubisoft lie about the content?
In my opinion, the fact that Red Steel has been condemned to an early death is worrying, particularly since this is one of the Wii's flagship titles. I would go so far as to muse what would've happened had Zelda not been a launch title: I sure as hell can't see anything that grabs me from a traditional gaming point of view (so ignore Wii Sports and Wii Play for the time being). I see ports, lame movie tie-ins, and countless examples of what could've been.
As much as I am a diehard Nintendo fan (which lead to the ultimately foolish purchase of the GameCube, which, despite having a few nice titles, suffered from a severe lack of quality content), I've always had a niggling concern for the Wii. Granted, I had the same concern for the DS (I do recall saying something like "This could be Nintendo's next Virtual Boy"). Boy howdy I was wrong. I sure hope I'm wrong about the Wii and it manages to get it's sexy hands on some extremely good titles that utilise the controller properly instead of using it as a gimmick. Sure, Wii Play, Wii Sports, WarioWare and all the mini-game esque titles are fun for the whole family, but they just don't make a console. You need the killer titles, and not just from Nintendo themselves. I sincerely hope that Metroid takes Red Steel's hopes and pushes far past them to create the FPS we want. I hope that Nintendo delivers us come quality content we get Brawl and Galaxy. And I hope that a second/third party developer comes to the rescue to supply us with awesome stuff to fill the gaps. The N64 had Rare. The GC had...uhh...well, I'll leave that for you to fill. We don't know what the Wii will have...
Microsoft has recently taken great strides in trying to unite as many things as they can together. This isn't only Xbox 360 specific either: the new Windows Live range of online applications and services, as well as the upcoming Windows Vista operating system all demonstrate a clear delineation away from the, shall we say, less than impressive attempts in the past (*cough* Windows ME *cough*). One could almost say that they've adopted some very Apple-like principles, and they'd be right (only without the constant snide and annoying remarks).
However, despite the fact that Microsoft is working hard to ensure that the Xbox Live service is extended to games as well, it seems that Sony isn't making the extra effort. Today, they announced that all games would use a unified sign-in system, but games could and would still utilise their own systems for various things. In my opinion, this is totally the wrong way to go: not only does it extend development time (instead of using something that's already there, the dev team has to add extra code) but it complicates issues: do you really want seperate buddy lists for every single game, or would you rather see a unified buddy list that's sorted by games or however you want to sort it? I sure as hell would.
One cannot discuss unification without mentioning Valve's Steam service, which has balooned to epic proportions. What started as a project to combat software piracy has evolved into a dedicated distribution platform. No doubt Valve are laughing all the way to the bank. My point is, Steam works because it combines all aspects of gaming into one system (which, despite the opinions of stubborn minority, works incredibly well) - updating, messaging, purchasing and of course, gaming.
This begs the question: is it too late for Sony? In my opinion, yes, it is. At this point in time, it seems that they've got no hope in matching the quality of Microsoft's Live service, which is a real shame for a company that has suffered a great deal in the past few months. As well all know though, only time will tell, so we'll all be waiting to see what will become of Sony when the PS3 makes its (rather belated) launch here in March 2007. And yes, I say belated because American sales figures are not indicative of anything, particularly since we live in Australia. ;)
Here's the news according to Wikipedia (gotta love it):
In August of 2005, the company was once again in legal trouble, this time from Sony. Lik Sang had sold imported PSPs to UK customers before the UK release date, which Sony alleged was a breach of their trademark rights. Lik Sang continued shipping PSPs, claiming Hong Kong's laws allow an item to be traded freely once it appears in a market anywhere in the world.
On October 23, 2006, the High Court in London ruled the shipments were indeed in breach of Sony's rights. The following day, Lik Sang posted a message on their website claiming they had been forced out of business due to Sony's legal action. Sony responded in a statement saying that Lik Sang had not contested the case, thus incurring no legal fees, and had not paid any damages or costs to Sony.
So does this come under the "big swallowing the small" banner, or is it a legit contest on Sony's behalf? Despite the fact that a lot of fans of the company are quite literally pissed at Sony at the moment, I can't really see any other way this could've gone down. If you breach trademark rights, then you're gonna get busted. The last bit in that Wikipedia post interests me however: is it true or not? Very puzzling.
By the way, bundling Wii Sports with the console = genius.
It seems that quite a few Australian Nintendo sites are reporting on the possiblity of the Wii being released here before Japan gets it. November 30th is a date that keeps cropping up for some reason. Evidence so far:
1. The Australian press release/conference, as well as the "Nintendo related" news item on Channel Seven tomorrow night. Of course, this could just be something retarded like "lolz, new conzole r coming sometime??" on Channel Seven, and a statement of pricing and a normal release date from Nintendo. However, the announcement of both this press release in combination with a news story is certainly interesting.
2. wii.com. Australia is listed on wii.com with a heading of "Coming Soon" - it's strange that Australia would get its own thing (considering Europe is under one banner). One would think that it would be under the title of "Australiasia" or something similar to incoporate our Pacific neighbours.
3. Well, that's all I can think of right now.
Perhaps a lot of us are being highly hopeful for absolutely no reason. It'd be extremely strange that Nintendo would release a product first before their home country (Japan has given Nintendo the biggest amount of success to date), given that Nintendo's track history here has been on a steady decline (discluding handhelds of course). However, as Gordon mentioned in the forums, Nintendo could very well use Australia as a trial to see whether or not its new toy can really hit it in a market run by Sony and Microsoft. The Wii is guarenteed to sell in Japan, no doubt about it: the real test is in countries around the world, countries that favour the Xbox and Playstation more. Australia is small enough for Nintendo to not lose a great deal of money, but it's large enough to stage a good test of the system. I sure as hell would love to get my hands on one early...
The Wii has been heralded (at least, on the Internet) as gaming's saving grace. A lot of PC gamers I know are excited about this thing, as they've realised that the 360 and PS3 are nothing but outdated (come on, admit it) PCs. Couple in the cheap (at least, we hope) entry level price and Nintendo could be sitting on a winner. We shall see...
Personally, it was inevitable that the delay would occur. This is quite a crucial piece of news, as it means that Sony will surely miss the pre-Christmas sales rush, giving consumers the choice of the Wii or the Xbox 360, provided they haven't had a chance to pick them up yet. For Microsoft and Nintendo, it's a chance to capitalise on the lack of competition by marketting their respective consoles: for Microsoft, I predict some fantastic combo packs coming out, and maybe even a slight price cut (we can be optimists after all). For Nintendo, a good entry level price and a heavy advertising campaign that focuses on the revolutionary aspects on its console may see it being bought along with the 360, something that Microsoft and even Nintendo have said to be a good scenario.
As for Sony, well...who knows. No doubt they will get the sales when the console finally arrives in 2007, but will we have enough money for it? As much as I hate cliches, only time will tell...
Mario Kart: Double Dash
I've had a lot of fun with this game in the past couple of days. Just gotta finish two more cups in Mirror mode to see what else is to be unlocked in the game...
My point is this though: why the hell are GC games so freakin' expensive? I mean seriously, they probably sell about 1 every 3 months, so what's the point of keeping the stock there at such a stupid price? Hell, buying two games at the price is more expensive than buying the console itself! The DS Lite was more expensive than the GC! Stop charging such ridiculous prices for games that no one will buy and discount them till they cannot be discounted no more! THEN people will buy them.
Now, these trailers aren't officially released yet (we can expect them on Steam in the next week or so in HD glory) but if you're somewhat industrious like I am (read: desperate like a nerd on date night) then you'll have probably seen what Valve had to offer. I must say that I was mightily impressed, particularly with the TF2 clip. Kudos to Valve for taking some initiative and truly updating a game, rather than rehash it, Counter-Strike: Source style (not that CS:S is a bad game, I just didn't want to see another one). The cartoon style suits the game perfectly, creating a extremely vibrant and colourful landscape. It's a title that has some character and humour to it, something that good ol Conker's Bad Fur Day gave us in spades.
That leads me nicely to my next point: why aren't there more of these games? Games that attempt to break the paradigm of design and story telling? Sure, we have the upcoming satirical title "Bad Day L.A.", but that's one game in a crowd of hundreds of shooters, MMOs and god knows what else. Obviously, games like this work when the humour is snappy and good and not out for a cheap laugh. Still, it would be nice to see more developers take the plunge and attempt something new...
Clever and subtle advertising: You've got an enemy lined up in your sights. They have not noticed you as you carefully aim the reticle. A malicious smile plays across your face as you reach for left mouse button. You get ready to push...
*DING!* BUY F.E.A.R. NOW AND GET:
- THE FULL SINGLE PLAYER GAME
- EXTRA MULTIPLAYER GOODIES
- AND MORE!
ALL FOR ONE LOW PRICE! *DING DING DING!*
[Cut to a shot of you lying in a pool of your own blood]
A host of new players:
I rest my case.
Of course, these are completely hypothetical. On a more serious note, I'm happy to see Monolith do this, so long as they don't screw it up. It will no doubt attract new players to the F.E.A.R. experience and hopefully coerce them into purchasing the full game (rather than torrent the full version and use the free CD key for online play, as people have already done since the release of the multiplayer component).
The Boredom of Next-Gen
Don't get me wrong, I'm still looking forward to whatever this generation brings (particularly the efforts of Nintendo, who had a truly crummy run with the Gamecube) but nothing so far has relived the glory days of seeing the first screenshots of 3D Mario running around his colourful domain. The N64 had such a strong launch, one that has yet to be replicated today. Sure, the Wii has a fairly good launch, but it still doesn't match what the 64 blew us all away with. Of course, those were the days that Rare were still with Nintendo, and producing quality stuff.
Am I too nostalgic? Maybe it was because I was younger and heck, everything was exciting back then. Who knows eh? ;)