Monday, June 26, 2006

The Austin Edition (one good, one bad)

  1. Edge of Reality goes after original IP
  2. NCSoft Austin downsizes


1. Edge of Reality goes after original IP

On the positive side, Austin-based Edge of Reality, after solidly producing licensed content for publishers (PS2 The Sims, Pitfall: The Lost Expedition, etc. ), is going the Gearbox (Halflife Blue Shift-cum-Brothers In Arms) route and producing original IP in the form of Cipher Complex.

According to Edge of Reality president Binu Philip:
“The evolution of action games has seemed to plateau, perhaps because of the emphasis on sequels. We are exploring and developing brand new styles of gameplay and methods of storytelling. The concept and mechanics of Cipher Complex have been incubating in our mind for years, and with power of the next-gen consoles, we can finally make our dream project a reality.”

You get to play as John Cipher, a covert ops soldier who is trying to find out what happened to a recon satellite that was knocked out of orbit. Right, the treatment sounds canned, but this may be the game for which I auditioned in February. If so, it's got a unique look, and a team that really wants to do something different. I shall follow up with Edge of Reality ...

No publisher is attached as of yet, and according to the company, this is by design -- they want the lattitude to build the game they want the way they want before signing a publishing partner.

The game is due 2007, and other Edge of Reality will continue to work on licensed IP.

2. NCSoft Austin downsizes

On the less-positive side, the Austin branch of Korea-based NCSoft has laid off approximately 70 of its 300 employees. An NCSoft spokesperson ackhnowledged "an immediate restructuring ... that included the difficult task of reducing members of its workforce."

Supposedly, none of the publisher's development teams have been affected by the move, (the forever-in-development Tabula Rasa team is still in hiring).

A lull in current and new NCSoft product launches is pinned on the flux of the MMORPG market, but it's probable that the flagship (at least stateside City of Heroes/Villains is seeing a subscriber decline, and AutoAssault, NCSoft's "caRPG", hasn't done so well.

My thoughts and well-wishes go out to those folks who lost their jobs, and their families.

Xbox Live unavailable for 4 hours Tuesdsay (June 27)

According to
On Tuesday June 27th from 0200-0600 PT Xbox Live will be offline for maintenance. As a result, the ‘My Xbox’ section of will be unavailable, and the Xbox forums will be in read only mode (you won’t be able to post.) The remainder of will be available.
This is for maintenance, there are no new features that will appear when the service comes back online. This is all for server maintenance…nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Games that Should be Made: Transformers RPG

This is the first in a new sporadic column, "Games that Should be Made". In this column, I'll talk through a title, IP, or concept that I not only find interesting, but that I think has innovation, gameplay, and/or commercial merit.

The Website for the Michael Bay Transformers DreamWorks film has gone live (and is oddly counting down to this July 4th, even though it comes out next July 4th; but, whatever).

And, I've been watching Season 2 of the 80s cartoon, thinking about how much the Atari PS2 video game sucked, and how glad I am Activision (X-Men: Legends, Marvel Ultimate Alliance) now has the video game rights for the franchise. Activision hasn't said what the game genre will be, or what its tie is to the film.

And it hit me.

There should be a Transformers Role-Playing Game (RPG). Maybe even an MMORPG. But at the very least, a CORPG (Co-Op RPG), like upcoming Xbox 360 titles Phantasy Star Universe or (to a lesser degree) Too Human, where you and 3 buddies can play online and level up.

Think about it:
  • Mythos-friendly factions -- At the very least, Autobots and Decepticons).
  • Character classes -- Vehicle mode or transform type (a Blitzwing-like character (tank/jet) would be an "Engineer" class, slower but heavier hitting; Ratchet/Red Alert/Ironhide-like characters could be "Medic"/"Cleric" classes)
  • Expansion packs -- Meet the fanboy need by adding expansions that map to the seasons, series, and toylines (Generation 1; Headmasters); Add Beastwars characters/classes later, or have dinobots "discovered". The work is done for you!
  • Places to play -- Earth, Cybertron, the Decepticon moon or deep sea bases.
  • Character customization -- Pick your faction, your class, and colors (which would effect your robot and transformed look). Allocate your stats, and start leveling from there.
  • GamePlay options -- Are you a straightforward Autobot or Decepticon? Or are you a Dinobot, not always keen on the Autobots, or an Insecticon, with the same ambivalence to the Decepticons? Are big guns like Megatron (ha!) like the Jedi in Star Wars Battlefront? If you're a combining Transformer (like Constructicon Scrapper, who is part of Devastator), maybe you can only be that character, and can party with the other 5 Constructicons, and if you comine, only one of you get to control Devastator, but it rotates control quickly, so pay attention, and don't lose the fight for your team.
And so it goes.

Yes, this game should so be made.

I'm calling Activision.

Xbox 360 "Prey" demo not coming today

Despite banner adds on saying the Prey demo is coming today, there's a delay.

From 3D Realms president George Broussard
We do not want 360 people waiting up for the demo or having false expectations. The 360 demo will not appear on Marketplace tonight. [last night]

I'm still waiting for specifcs [sic], but I'm being told that it's still in testing at Microsoft. From what I understand this isn't Microsoft's fault, and is more likely just an issue of timing.

I'm hesitant to give any estimates for a release, but I've been told it should be reasonably soon after the PC release, but could be as long as a few days.
Prey is one of the most anticipated FPS games this year, and has been 10 years in the making.

It's "likely just an issue of timing"? I manage software, so I'm guessing either (A) The demo wasn't turned over to Microsoft on schedule for certification, (B) Microsoft didn't plan for enough time for certification, or (C) significant issues were discovered during certification.

But, since I manage software, my heart really goes out to those folks who are madly trying to identify, fix, and recertify the demo, with hundreds of thousands of stereotypically less-than-courteous-or-understanding gamers lighting up message boards. Unfortunately, software development isn't a very deterministic process.

I, uh, may have been waiting up last night for it ...

Sunday, June 18, 2006 censored me!

I find this funny.

In my earlier post, I linked to a post I made on the sharing of Xbox/Xbox 360 game saves topic in the official Xbox forums.

I just looked at it, and they censored me!

I had this statement in the post:
Or, there should be a product that has USB on one end for the Xbox 360, and the USB-cum-proprietary connector that is on the original Xbox, and I should be able to direct transfer game saves.
Which they changed to
Or, there should be a product that has USB on one end for the Xbox 360, and the-USB-***-proprietary connector that is on the original Xbox, and I should be able to direct transfer game saves.
Then the moderators locked my post from editing.

I'm a little annoyed with the extra hyphen, by why take out the innocuous middle word?

Uh, it's "cum", guys. As in a latin preposition "with; along with; combined with; -- often used in combination." As in "extra-bedroom-cum-home-office" or (*GASP*) "magna cum laude".

Funny stuff. Censor me, lock my post.

What were they thinking I meant?

Microsoft iPod/PSP killer? Bill Gates retires? Xbox game saves on the Xbox 360?

  1. Microsoft is Working on iPod competitor?
  2. Bill Gates Retiring
  3. Use original Xbox games saves on your Xbox 360


1. Microsoft is Working on iPod competitor?

Rumors have been (and will likely keep) circling for over a year about a Microsoft competitor to iTunes, and/or the Apple iPod, and/or the Sony PSP.

Thursday those rumors got a lift when news source Reuters reported:

"Software giant Microsoft Corp. ... is laying the groundwork to compete against Apple Computer Inc.'s ... iPod digital entertainment device and iTunes service, sources familiar with the discussions and plans said on Friday."

Microsoft's in licensing discussions with the music industry -- no surprise, given the recent integration of MTV's URGE music service in the Windows Media Play 11 beta.

No launch date yet, or details on video/gaming capabilities, as of yet -- looks like it's currently just around the iTunes-like services.

2. Bill Gates Retiring

Friday, Microsoft announced Bill Gates will transition out of the day-to-day operations of Microsoft by summer 2008, to "spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."

After the transition, Gates will still be the company’s chairman, as well as advisor on key development projects.

Also announced was Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie's promotion to Chief Software Architect, and he'll be working with Gates on technical architecture and product oversight responsibilities for the transition.

3. Use Xbox games saves on your Xbox 360

Finally! Backwards compatibility is nice (be nicer if they'd get the games I want on the list), but not being able to use game saves was a beast.

Luckily, the Datel folks have provided a way to get your Xbox game saves to your Xbox 360.

Check out the MaxConsole/YouTube video, which walks you through using Datel's Xbox Action Replay and XSATA Adapter products to get game saves from your old Xbox to your new console.

Sweet, I'd like to try this to upload my Black gamesave to my 360 for that last level.

But we're still talking about $90 combined bucks for the functionality, and I don't care for the cheat functionality in the Xbox Action Replay side.

Besides, Microsoft is really being ass-stupid about this. If the game saves from the Xbox work on the Xbox 360, I should be able to log onto Live on my Xbox, upload my game saves for any games on the backwards compatibility list, shut down, log onto Live on my Xbox 360, and download them there.

Or, there should be a product that has USB on one end for the Xbox 360, and the USB-cum-proprietary connector that is on the original Xbox, and I should be able to direct transfer game saves. How tough is this?

C'Mon, Microsoft, get of your keisters. The emulator ninjas are awesome, but I'd really like my game saves transferrable, so when you finally make both X-Men Legends games backwards-compatible, I can play them on the 360 without starting at level 0.

Join the discussion here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Update to backwards compatability list

Microsoft has released an update to the backwards compatibility list, adding 21 new titles to the roster.

Somw of them beyond suck (Bad Boys 2? You wasted time with Bad Boys 2?!), but there are some OK additions, and the sucky ones might have come along for free while enabling some other games. Maybe.

Here's the list (and commentary):
  1. 4x4 EVO 2 (mheh.)
  2. Amped 2 (mheh+1.)
  3. Bad Boys 2 (HAHAHAHA!)
  4. Big Mutha Truckers (What? Mother?)
  5. DOOM 3 (Nice!)
  6. Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (Suh-weet, beautiful 1080i adventuring on Xbox 360.)
  7. Fatal Frame (Creepy Xbox 360 goodness.)
  8. FlatOut (OK.)
  9. Grabbed by the Ghoulies (Weak.)
  10. Intellivision Lives (Why? I've got Xbox Live Arcade!)
  11. LEGO Star Wars (Yeah, OK, but this game is just a stop-gap for LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy.)
  12. Minority Report (mheh-1.)
  13. MLB SlugFest 20-04 (mheh.)
  14. The Punisher (I'm a comic book geek, so this is now worth picking up.)
  15. RalliSport Challenge (Too many decent Xbox 360 car games for me to care.)
  16. Silent Hill 4: The Room (Better creepy Xbox 360 goodness.)
  17. Spawn Armageddon (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)
  18. Spider-Man (OK, but what about Spider-Man 2?)
  19. Star Wars Battlefront (OK, but Star Wars Battlefront II is on the list already.)
  20. State of Emergency (mheh-2.)
  21. Zapper (mheh-3.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Microsoft goes backwards compatible on its word

UPDATED: On the heals of Peter Moore's comments (and my blogging about them) comes info from the Xbox Marketing Team, who say they've heard "directly" from the folks working on backwards compatibility "that they're in the testing phase of another update, and it should be out in the next few weeks. We saw the list they're testing, and it looks like they're hoping to add at least a dozen titles."

Left Hand, meet Right Hand.


In a video interview on game site Kikizo, Microsoft's Corporate VP of the Interactive Entertainment Business (in the Entertainment and Devices Division) Peter Moore said, "Nobody is concerned anymore about backwards compatibility."


I'm concerned about backwards compatibility. I'm somebody.

He also said, "We under promised and over delivered on that."


Uh, Peter? The interview with Todd Holmdahl (Corporate VP of the Xbox Product Group) is still up on Todd says (and I quote):

"When we say Xbox library, we mean the entire Xbox library." (Emphasis mine.)
Oh, and Peter? Todd also says, "We're not going to forget about the console that got us where we are today. Xbox still has a very bright future with many top-tier titles coming out from the world's best developers."

I care about my titles being backwards compatible. I tend to pick up good games as they go on the cheap, and play them as I'm able (Soul Caliber, Psi-Ops, Beyond Good & Evil; none of which are on the BC list). I'm glad you enabled Brute Force, But I'd much rather you enable the X-Men Legends games (and fix Raven's damn "play online only with the same resolution" bug).

And I'd much prefer to play them on the feminine, strokably curvaceous Xbox 360, rather than the fat girl that puts out that is the old black 'box. But I may have revealed too much.

Anyway, you should check out the whole Kikizo interview with Moore -- It has a bunch of good stuff (other than the backwards compatibility thing) that are worth noting. Stuff like handhelds, price drops, accessory pricing, overall strategy, and cross-platform gaming

Also do check out the current list of backwards compatible titles -- and props to the technical folks who are actually making it happen.