Friday, April 28, 2006

E3 2006 Preview #3

  1. Halo 3 and Forza 2 at E3

1. Halo 3 and Forza 2 at E3

According to a story over at, Halo 3 (or "The Next Halo Game") will be making showing at E3.

Apparently, there'll be a 2-minute video showcasing the next stage of the franchise.

Also, Forza's sequel will be part of the same press conference, and have a playable demo at the show (though it may just be a closed-doors demo).

Xbox 360s back in stock ...

... at least if Austin is any indication.

Wednesday, I saw my local Hastings had a banner out front trumpeting, "Xbox 360s are here!"

Last night, I was at Sam's Club, and they had a bunch of their bundles, which include the Premium Bundle, an extra wireless controller, and a Play & Charge Kit -- all for about $450.

Then, this morning, I saw my local Fry's has a ton of Premium Packages -- and one or two Core packages (like anyone would want one of those).

Is the shortage over?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

E3 2006

One place to get your Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) info -- at least from here.

Links and Feeds:

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)

IGN E3 Central (

E3 2006 (

Xbox/Xbox 360 Game List (

E3 Coverage (

E3 Coverage (G4TV)

E3 Coverage (TeamXbox)

Xbox Marketplace Updates: (

E3 2006 Preview #2

  1. Nintendo Revolution gets new name


1. Nintendo Revolution gets new name

And the new name is ... "Wii" ...

The official word (Cue rousing male choral background audio):

Introducing... Wii.

As in "we."

While the code-name
"Revolution" expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer.

will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else.

Wii will put people more in touch with their games ... and each other.
But you're probably asking: What does the name mean?

Wii sounds like
"we," which emphasizes this console is for everyone.

Wii can easily be
remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No
confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.

Wii has a distinctive
"ii" spelling that symbolizes both the unique controllers and the image of
people gathering to play.

And Wii, as a name and a console, brings
something revolutionary to the world of video games that sets it apart from the

So that's Wii. But now Nintendo needs you.

Because, it's
really not about you or me.

It's about Wii.

And together, Wii
will change everything.

Wiill it? Wii'll see ...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

E3 2006 Preview #1

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is May 10-12, but the announcements are flying already (it's kind of like Christmas starting in August).

I'm going to try to keep up with events before and during E3, and I'll add a link to a summary blog post to the left side of this page, so you can get all of your 2006 E3 goodness (at least from me) in one place.

I'll also package links and RSS feeds (linking back to the owner's content), so you can see on what other sources are reporting.
  1. Xbox E3 source
  2. Valve announces new Xbox 360 development
  3. Webzen E3 line-up
  4. Free Xbox Live Gold week during E3
  5. CNN sneak peek of E3 2006


1. Xbox E3 source

Want Microsoft and Xbox E3 news from the source?

Check out the dedicated section of their Website, and subscribe to their RSS feed for up-to-the-minute info.

There's already some good stuff there, in particular a Too Human and Crackdown developer interviews. And there's a Peter Moore Pre-E3 interview.

2. Valve announces new Xbox 360 development

The titles "will be powered by a customized version of Source, the technology that powered Valve’s Half-Life 2," and the "Valve 360 products are being designed to leverage the Xbox 360’s advanced graphics hardware and integration with Xbox Live online game service."

3. Webzen E3 line-up

We've established I'm excited about WEBZEN and Huxley.

For the company, this year's them is arguably "MMOG", and their showing will include epic fantasy MMO role-playing game Soul of the Ultimate Nation (SUN), MMOFPS Huxley and the "mass-appeal casual MMORPG Project Wiki. All three titles will be playable in WEBZEN's exhibition booth.

4. Free Xbox Live Gold week during E3

Verizon is sponsoring an entire freaking week of free Xbox Live Gold play from May 8-14th. Check out the official site for the details and calendar.

5. CNN sneak peek of E3 2006

I like Chris Morris over at CNN's "Game Over" column. He's got a job I'd love, he's good at it, and he's pretty accessible for questions and comments.

His recent a column has his suggestions and projections for this years E3, and summarizes by saying, "While there aren't quite as many mysteries at this year's E3, there's plenty of anticipation."

Morris thinks we'll learn more about the PS3's hardware, launch titles, and online network, but not the price (which he may have to retract, since this month's PS Magazine's PS3 feature just "confirmed" a $399 price point). I'm also curious what this year's Killzone 2 showing will look like (after last year's "gameplay/pre-rendered" debate).

Nintendo will likely reveal the final name of the Revolution (which would be cool, but anticlimatic, it it stays "Revolution"), a more solid launch lineup, but no final price or specific launch date.

Morris argues Microsoft will focus more on software than hardware, which I find surprising. Sure, Windows Vista is supposed to be a "Gamers OS", but it's now delayed until at least January of next year. Besides, it seems like Microsoft could announce new or updated Xbox 360 peripherals (Webcam, keyboard plugin, etc.), and even talk about their new little "ultra-whiz-bang-mini-tablet-PC".

Morris expects (and I want) Halo info, but he thinks will focus on the next iteration for 2007, but I think will only be a brief tease about that game, and a big announcement about a Halo-themed MMO (partly because it's rumored, and partly because I want a Halo-themed MMO).

Morris also said full coverage during the E3 week will be provided by

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"I like big mechs and I cannot lie ..."


"I like big mechs' and I cannot lie
You other cockpit jocks can't deny
When that mech walks in with a great big turret

Uh, That's all I've got.

Anyway, I'm a mech (mecha) game fan.

I played a lot of Heavy Gear. Shogo is one of my favorite (and is one of the most under-rated) fun games out there). Heck, I even played Krazy Ivan.

And there was the relatively recent spate of Zone of the Enders/The 2nd Runner (PS2), MechAssault/MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (Xbox), and Steel Battalion was the Holy Grail of mech simulators for which I was never able to justify shelling out the $200 for the Customer controller.

And though super-talented animation houses like The Animation Farm may say they're "sick of mechs" in demo reel submissions, I never tire of the big bruisers.

And things are looking good for video game mech fans in the Xbox 360 era.

Besides the rumored development of a next-gen MechAssault title (hopefully we'll hear more at E3), Lost Planet has me seriously stoked, and FROM Software Armored Core vets are bringing Chromehounds exclusively to the Xbox 360 (though I am a little concerned that recent movies make it look a little current-gen MechAssault, and less next-gen Steel Battalion).

As if that isn't enough, FROM Software may also be putting their fourth iteration of the Armored Core franchise on both Xbox 360 and PS3 (though I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled this to make Chromehounds an ongoing Xbox 360 exclusive, make Armored Core 4 a PS3 exclusive).

Cap all of this mech goodness off with Bandai-Namco's yesterday announcement of Mobile Ops: The One Year War, which looks to be a gritty Gundam prehistory, and an Xbox 360 exclusive. This is the formal announcement of the previously announced Xbox 360 Gundam game, and is separate from another Bandai-Namco published game under development -- Zegapain XOR -- "a mech shooter exclusive to the Xbox 360".

Sing it with me:
"I like big mechs' and I cannot lie
You other cockpit jocks can't deny
When that mech walks in with a great big turret

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Webzen/Huxley updates; Sony cuts PS2 price ...

  1. Webzen/Huxley updates
  2. Cool Xbox 360 hardware additions
  3. Atari woes cause Timeshift jump
  4. Phantasy Star Universe coming to Xbox 360
  5. Sony cuts PS2 price ot $129
  6. I'm playing ...


1. Webzen/Huxley updates

It's no secret that I'm pretty stoked about Webzen's Huxley, the sylistic Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter (MMOFPS), the potentially hugely evolutionary leap over PlanetSide and the Tribes franchise.

The videos are absolutely gorgeous, the premise is engaging, and if the story and gameplay measure up, Huxley could be a Game of the Year contender.

And there's been some recent activity on the Webzen/Huxley front.

First, Webzen is an impressive worldwide contender, but is headquartered in Korea. Recently, they named Cindy Armstrong as the CEO of the company's North American operations. Armstrong will be responsible for bringing Webzen games to the West and has more than 15 years of industry experience, working for Nintendo of America, Boss Game & Film Studios, NES International, Inc. (Paris, France), and Activision UK Ltd. Most recently, Armstrong hails from Sony Online Entertainment, where she was VP of Business Development.

Secondly, there's a Q&A interview with Huxley producer Kijong Kang over at, that digs into some of the details of the game.

Some of the high points:

  • "Gameplay in Huxley will take place both in one of the cities and in battle areas."
  • Cities will support "upward of 5,000 people who can be together at one time"
  • Battle areas will "support several hundred"
  • "[T]here will be multiple battle areas in which people can challenge each other"
  • Of the 3 factions, two are playable (alternatives and sapiens), with apparently 2 classes in each of the playable factions
  • Powered by the Unreal 3 Engine
  • "[S]everal stages of growth" allow players to "progress to higher grades, ... purchase additional weapons, shields, and skill items"
  • "There are ways by which players can also obtain honor and further define their own personalities"
  • "Huxley will be a game where player skill matters"
  • "Between levels, the intent is not to increase their strength and striking power but rather to increase the kinds of weapons and skills a player can use"
  • "In Huxley, the vehicles are not only strong weapons, but they also serve a transportation function to convey squads in battle. There will be vehicles used for land, sea, or air"
  • Choice of vehicle selection is also class-based
  • Though being developed for both Xbox 360 and PC, Webzen is creating "unique content and features for each platform" (looks like gone is the cross-platform play premise)
  • Huxley will be playable on the PC at E3

2. Cool Xbox 360 hardware additions

The Xbox 360 Quick Charge Kit should be in stores now (I can't find it yet), and lets you quick-charge your controller rechargables, without the Play and Charge kits that basically turns your wireless controller into a wired one.

Another kind of cool gadget is the Datel XSATA, which allows transfer of content between your Xbox 360 hard drive and your PC hard drive, so you can ostensibly keep unloading your console hard drive of all of the Xbox Live demos, trailers, and content that's picking up steam.

I say "kind of cool", because though it's fast USB 2.0, you still need to have your Xbox 360 close enough to your PC to plug in and transfer.

And ... Let's get with the times, shall we? If my Xbox 360 is able to wirelessly connect to with my Media Center PC to stream music, TV, videos (except freakin' DivX!), etc. -- I should be able to move stuff from my Xbox 360 to my Media Center PC.

Hey, if the Xbox 360 gets a DirecTV blade, I'm going to need that functionality.

3. Atari woes cause Timeshift jump

The current incarnation of the Atari brand has had some recent financial woes.

Most recently, Timeshift -- the delayed, time-mucking First-Person Shooter developed by Saber Interactive that was supposed to be published by Atari in the next month or two -- has shifted to Vivendi Universal Games. Timeshift is supposed to ship soon for both Xbox 360 and PC, but given the switch in publishers, the ship date is up in the air.

Which is probably just as well, because I played the Xbox 360 demo on The Official Xbox Magazine game disc, and was seriously unimpressed.

4. Phantasy Star Universe coming to Xbox 360

The Phantasy Star franchise has been building steam since the late 80s, and the Xbox 360 version -- to be published by Sega this fall -- will have both an offline RPG and an online RPG. The single player will have a 40-hour story arc, and the multiplayer will let players create characters and quest online with five friends exploring three planets filled with other gamers.

Sega's dedication to the Phantasy Star franchise is exemplary -- they kept Phantasy Star Online alive as the single longest-runnign online game for the now-defunct Sega Dreamcast -- well beyond that console's too-short life. Let's hope this version's offline RPG is better than its predecessor.

5. Sony cuts PS2 price ot $129

Today, Sony said it's lowering the PS2's price to $129, effective ... now. This is a smart move by Sony, as they need to keep their majority share in the market in the face of production ramp-up for the Xbox 360, and the cut makes the PS2 even more attractive as an option for first-time and multi-console homes.

Let's see if Microsoft counters with a last-gen Xbox price cut -- though they probably don't need to (but should, to support hte third-party love being shown the original black 'box).

If you just bought a PS2 for $149, all is not lost. Check to see if your place of purchase as a 15-30 day price guarantee, and get the $20 difference back. If you bought it more than 30 days ago, please don't whine -- you probably got 20-bucks worth over 30 days...

6. I'm playing ...

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (BF2:MC). Check out my "I'm Playing" blog for a mini review.

Monday, April 10, 2006

For the Achievement "Women of the Night" ...

The Xbox 360 has spawned a whole sub-class of gamer: "The Achievement Whore."

And I mean "sub-class" in the fullest sense.

Every Xbox 360 profile has a "Gamerscore". The Gamerscore goes up when certain achievements are reached in all of the different games. For example, play through Peter Jackson's King Kong The Official Game of the Movie, and you get 1,000 points. If you can handle finishing this simian-on-rails title.

There are a bunch of Xbox 360 owners out there that are keen on upping their Gamerscore, and there are resources out there for helping you find easy points to bump up your score. I'm listing some of those achievement-related Websites or articles for you below.

Oh, and I don't care if people want to spend time upping their Gamescore playing crap games. What does annoy me is playing a game online and people being obnoxious about "how great their score is" -- and their score is made up of easy-point sports games. So they have high Gamerscores, but they didn't earn the scores. It's kind of like bragging about kicking a doberman puppy or scoring with a comatose paraplegic. Whatever.

Here's the list of sites/articles:

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Microsoft buys Lionhead; New Xbox 360 games revealed

  1. Microsoft buys Lionhead
  2. New Xbox 360 games revealed at Japanese event
  3. Console Exclusivity
  4. New Kameo Co-Op and content


1. Microsoft buys Lionhead

The rumors were true -- Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) has purchased U.K.-based Lionhead Studios.

Lionhead was founded by Peter Molyneux, the guy behind Populous, Syndicate, and Dungeon Keeper, and his current studio produced Fable (and Fable: The Lost Chapters), Black and White, and The Movies.

According to, "Lionhead Studios will immediately begin creating content exclusively for the Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows platforms" -- so it's not hard to see the value add for Microsoft Game Studios.

Molyneux said, "This acquisition gives Lionhead the stability and opportunity to focus on creating world-class next-generation titles."

No word on what this means for Black and White 2, or the Activision-published The Movies, which Activision published for PC, but canned for console release, making actor/gamers like me everywhere, angry. All 6 of us.

Lionhead Studios is the latest member of Microsoft Game Studios, joining Bungie Studios (Halo), Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires), FASA Studio (MechAssault) and Rare Ltd. (Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero). Microsoft shut down Austin-based MGS studio Digital Anvil (Brute Force).

Oh, and with Lionhead Studios and Rare Ltd., MGS has two UK-based studios. They're both strong brands, but beware the Consolidation Fairy ...

2. New Xbox 360 games revealed at Japanese event

The Japanese Xbox 360 launch was a stinker. Microsoft knows this (there's a new Xbox boss for Japan -- Takashi Sensui instead of Yoshihiro Maruyama), and at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho in Japan, they held an "Xbox 360 Media Briefing" to lay out a "new strategy" for the Japanese market.

Existing and new games were discussed, and some of them are Xbox 360 exclusives.

  • Culdcept SAGA
    • Namco Bandai
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: Yes
    • More info April 14, but think monopoly-card-battling-strategy
  • Mobile Suit Gundam
    • Namco Bandai
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: TBD
    • First of the franchise on a Microsoft platform, and first of the franchise to use FPS perspective
  • Zegapain XOR
    • Namco Bandai
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: Yes
    • A mech shooter, based on the Zegapain anime TV series airing in Japan (starting today)
  • Project Sylph
    • Square-Enix
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: Yes
    • Arcade-style shooter designed exclusively for the Xbox 360, maybe like Silpheed?
    • More info
  • (Unnamed RPG)
    • Tri-Ace
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: Yes
    • Microsoft will be publishing an RPG from the folks behind Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean
  • Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and Cry On
    • Mistwalker Studios
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: Yes
    • Two of the most hotly anticipated Japanese releases are Blue Dragon (late 2006) and Lost Odyssey (2007), both to be published by Microsoft. A third title, Cry On, is also in development, but not a lot is known about it.
    • Lost Odyssey is a long way off, but Microsoft and Mistwalker Studios said a 20-minute demo would be available this summer.
    • It's huge for Microsoft to have 3 Xbox 360 exclusive games from the studio founded by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. I am worried that one game will Halo/Oni one (or both) of the others.
  • Pac-Man and Galaga
    • Namco Bandai
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: Sorta (high-def Xbox Live Arcade versions)
    • Xbox Live Arcade versions of the classic arcade games
  • Other Xbox Live Arcade (multiple titles)
    • SNK, Konami, and Yukes
    • Xbox 360 Exclusive: Sorta (high-def Xbox Live Arcade versions)
    • Xbox Live Arcade versions of To Be Announced classic arcade games

As with many Japanese title announcements, the when (and if) of releases for other territories is up in the air. Though I'm hoping Sony's super-intelligent region-free gaming announcement forces the hand of all console manufacturers. That would so rock to be able to legally play games I want to play, even if they're not formally released in the U.S.

3. Console Exclusivity

Console-exclusives mean something different in the next-gen world. Rockstar published the Grand Theft Auto franchise as Sony exclusives, but they show up on Xbox 9-14 months later. Even Ubisoft goes back and forth with "console exclusives" only lasting a month or two.

Right now, everything that's "next-gen only" and coming out between last November and this fall is an "Xbox 360 exclusive -- the 360 is the only next-gen box out there!

Really, the only "exclusives" are going to be first-party published games (Gears of War for Xbox 360, Killzone 2 for PS3, etc.).

This gets even muddier on the Microsoft front, because they're developing some titles for the Xbox 360 and Windows Vista, and are even doing some handheld versions of games (like MechAssault, though I'd argue this is them playing with the pipeline model and process so they can solidify what they need to do for Microsoft handheld exlusives).

Of course, Nintendo is Nintendo, so many of those first party (and "second party") exclusives will remain so. However, though I have phenomenal respect for the company, I really expect them to go the way of Sega at some point.

4. New Kameo Co-Op and content

Microsoft Game Studios and Rare Ltd. have released the co-op pack for Kameo: Elements of Power. Downloading this 25.94MB free pack opens up the two-player cooperative mode for the entire game (previously found only in the action levels of the game) -- sort of. You have to have completed the entire game in single player mode before it's available in co-operative mode, and the game has to be good enough for you to want to play it twice. Wait. Like Perfect Dark Zero. Wait.

Anyway, the download is free and unlocks cooperative gameplay over Xbox Live and System Link, which is cool.

Once again (chant with me): "All games should feature online co-op, and playing co-operatively should matter."

Microsoft has also two packs of costumes for Kameo and her inner kin. Both'll set you back 200 points, with the "Kameo Masquerade Pack" giving you 10 new costumes for Kameo, including outfits inspired from classic Rare titles. The second "Fright Warrior Pack" pack is a set of "fantastic and scary fright-themed costumes" for Kameo and all of her inner fantastical psychiatric patients.

OK, I have to say I really do like and respect Rare -- I'm just a little less than appreciative of Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, and, uh, Grabbed by the Ghoulies.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Tomb Raider" content available from Xbox Live Marketplace

Starting today, the playable Xbox 360 demo of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend will be available to download

You can also get an Xbox Live Marketplace exclusive trailer of the game, themes for customizing your Xbox 360 dashboard, and a selection of picture packs of Lara (from the game and the current flesh-n-blood Lara, Karima Adebibe).

Monday, April 03, 2006

Commentary: The state of Next-Gen gaming in Holiday 2006

Microsoft launched first in the next-gen wars, and though Sony would like to discredit the launch (and it had a lot o' problems), First Advantage is a huge factor in who "wins" this round, and by delaying their console until this fall, Sony gives its competition a full year of First Advantage.

And though the Xbox 360 had a disappointing launch roster (both First Party, and with Third Party publishers releasing sub-par versions of current-gen games), the Spring, Summer, Fall, and Holiday release rosters should give gamers some compelling reasons to go Xbox.

Throw in a compelling Xbox 360 exclusive (say, Gears of War) and the maybe first of the 360's price drops to coincide with the launch of the PS3, and Sony may find itself a bit stunned at launch time.

In addition, with the PlayStation 3 pushed to fall, it will be competing with the Nintendo launch of the Revolution. Though Nintendo is adamant they're not competing in the same space in the next round with Microsoft and Sony, the reality is they'll be competing for the same consumer spending. And if Sony includes one or more compelling platformers, the perception could be the PS3 serves the gaming tastes of the whole family, whereas the Revolution may only serve kiddies. Further, if it looks as though Microsoft and Sony are likely to get the same cross-platform titles, Consumers may opt to choose between those two platforms, rather than consider the Revolution. The dark horse is Iwata's claims of "unique and compelling features" that "break down the barriers" between gaming and non-gaming family members. E3 will be the launch platform for these features.

Microsoft's rumored handheld could erode Sony's market, and in a year where the Xbox 360 could see its first price drop, with compeling enough integration features, could be purchased at the same time a 360 is purchased -- significantly increasing revenue. It'll be interesting to see if Sony does anything innovative/gotta-have between the PSP and PS3.

Sony, however, has a much more compelling possible launch title roster, which is further strengthened by (probably) more stable backwards compatibility, and a release of new PS2 titles (e.g. God of War 2) that will be playable on the PS3.

That said, analysts (all but one), say Microsoft is likely to lead this round until either 2008 or 2010.

I hope to update these ramblings after this may's E3, which looks to be one of the better ones in a while.

It's a good time to be a gamer.