Friday, September 29, 2006

X06: Bringing it Home (Day 10)

According to Major Nelson, here's what's available for Day 10 -- the last day of the "Bringing it Home" promotion:
  • Gamer Picts and Themes:

    X06 Picture Pack

    LEGO Star Wars II 360 Downloadable Character Pack (200 points; Not available in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, or Taiwan)
  • Trailer:

    X06 Arcade Montage


    Blitz the League


    Army of Two
  • Video (Not available in France):

    Saint's Row-Mayhem Video Strategy (720p)

    Saint's Row-Insurance Fraud Video Strategy (720p)

    Saint's Row-Hitman Video Strategy (720p)

    Bringing it Home: Interview Day 3 Briefing Backstage Pass (Japan only)

Note: I don't know what happened to my Day 9 posting, because I was sure I published it. I'm blaming nefarious forces for deleting it, since I made snarky comments.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

X06: Microsoft press briefing (HUGE)

It's on -- and so much more exciting than TGS (which makes sense, because this is Microsoft's show).

Announcements of note are below; don't get lost in the list, there's some good stuff here.

Of course, you can probably just go to for one of the bigger announcements. Oh, and the "only place to get the full GTA4 experience is on Xbox 360." And Splinter Cell will become an Xbox 360 exclusive. And stuff.

Read on:
  • Doom is coming to Xbox Live Arcade tonight.
  • Sensible World of Soccer from Codemasters is coming to Xbox Live Arcade (sometime).
  • Banjo and Kazooie is coming to the Xbox 360 (I think this was rumored in either GameInformer or The Official Xbox Magazine a few months ago).
  • Gears of War -- CiffyB showed a new level; hopefully, screenshots will be posted soon.
  • Assassin's Creed was playable, and looks amazing.
  • BioShock looked to be all pre-rendered or pre-scripted, but looks to be amazing and twisted and complex and important.
  • Blue Dragon is coming to the U.S. -- not just Japan.
  • Lost Odyssey is coming to Europe and North America, and new footage was shown (or that's what they implied, but the streaming video crapped out right at the new content, so all I got was the slideshow version.)
  • According to Peter Moore, the only place to play "the full Grand Theft Auto experience" due to exclusive download content. I'm not sure what this means for PS3-exclusive content.
  • Lost Planet: Extreme Condition got a nod from Peter, but no video. It is playable (single and multiplayer) at X06. Lucky bastards.
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent was represented with new video, but the big news (HUGE) is the next Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell title will be an Xbox 360 and Games for Windows exclusive. Brilliant way to lock in third-party support, and Microsoft is timing this perfectly -- Double Agent will likely rock, and fans of the franchise who haven't yet bought a next-gen console better get an Xbox 360. Sony, rebuttal?
  • Forza 2 has an early playable build on the X06 show floor.
  • There was a big plug for Games for Windows, and Windows Vista as a gaming operating system (Conan: Hyporean Adventures, Crysis, Shadowrun, LEGO Star Wars II, Hellgate: London, Halo 2, etc.).
  • Live Anywhere is the integration of Xbox Live and Games for Windows, with Shadowrun as the first title.
  • They announced Marvel Universe Online, a Live Anywhere title exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Games for Windows, and is a Marvel comic book MMORPG. I am literally shaking in excitement.
  • Peter Jackson and Microsoft Game Studios announced a partnership to create new form of entertainment medium "between games and movies". This first will be based on the Halo universe. They also announced of the formation of Wingnut Interactive, the interactive company division of Jackson's/Fran Walsh's empire.
  • There was an absolutely amazing cinematic of Halo Wars, a Halo-based RTS from Ensemble studios. As soon as I saw the sillouette of the Warthog passing overhead (I spend an unusual amount of time getting mowed down in Halo 2), I stopped IMing gamer buddy GammaZero and squealed at the screen like a Hello Kitty fangirl.

    'Halo Wars is set during the UNSC's first deadly encounters with the Covenant, allowing players to lead the crew of the UNSC's "Spirit of Fire" from initial skirmishes to an all out war against the evil Covenant.'

    (Hey, history buffs, did you know Halo was originally envisioned as an RTS before it became an FPS? Did you know Ensemble Studios knows RTSes (Age of Empires/Age of Mythology/The Conquerors/The Titans)? Did you know they're in Dallas? Did you know the drive from Austin to Dallas is nothing for talented, professional voice actors?)
  • The HD-DVD player will be available in in November for $199, and for a limited time, come with the Xbox 360 universal remote and the HD-DVD version of Peter Jackson's King Kong.
  • Come this holiday, there will be 160 Xbox 360 titles (I'd like to see the breakdown, because I suspect this is on Xbox Live Arcade and full titles, and I wonder if this is supposed to be "next holiday").

X06: Watch the Microsoft press briefing live

X06: Electronic Arts line-up

At X06, Electronic Arts will be showcasing a number of next-gen titles for the Xbox 360:
  • FIFA 07
  • Need for Speed Carbon
  • Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 07
  • NBA LIVE 07
  • NHL07
  • Half Life 2 (the game we wanted on the Xbox, packed to the gills with content!)
  • SUPERMAN RETURNS: THE VIDEOGAME (must they YELL this title? And have they fixed that "I'm Brandon-Routh-in-an-inflatable-Superman-costume" look? And will Superman actually get to fight in this game?)

X06: Bringing it Home (Day 8)

UPDATED: Added a ton of new content available after the Microsoft press conference.


X06 kicks off tonight, and though there's a little bit of content on the Xbox Live Marketplace, according to Major Nelson:
"...the below list is not all of the Marketplace content for today. More content will go live later today to coincide with the briefing."
So maybe something exciting will be announced at during that briefing.

In the meanwhile, here's what's there now:
  • Demo

    Sonic the Hedgehog

  • Gamer Picts and Themes:

    Halo Wars Picture Pack (not free)

    Halo Wars Theme (not free, but I bought it; be aware, it's based on the Halo Wars concept art -- not stills from the trailer, which I would have preferred. Where's my freaking Xbox Live Marketplace preview, Microsoft?)
  • Arcade

  • Trailer:

    Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Trailer

    Call of Duty 3

    Banjo Kazooie

    Marvel Ultimate Online (still shaking from excitement)

    Viva Pinata

    Assassin's Creed (this was a cool real-time demo)

    Splinter Cell: Double Agent

    Blue Dragon

    Lost Odyssey


    FIFA 07

    Rainbow Six Vegas ("Vertigo")

    Halo Wars (Yay!)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

X06: Halo Rumblings

Some good stuff came out of Bungie's inaugral podcast this weekend.

While there was (thankfully) a bunch of stuff on the audio portion of Halo 3, there was some clarification of the Halo 2 Live Anywhere implementation, which will include achievements -- but just on the PC version of the game.

More importantly, community manager Brian "Sketch" Jarrard dropped this nugget:
"It's safe to assume that something cool will come out of that X06 show," and
the next podcast will be "juicy."

You can get the full podcast here.

Bringing it Home (Day 7)

We're in between the Tokyo Game Show (which ended Sunday/Monday) and X'06 (which starts tomorrow), but the content's still coming in.

According to Major Nelson, here's what's supposed to be available over Xbox Live for Day #7 of Microsoft's "Bringing it Home" promotion:

  • Trailers

    Forza 2 Physics & Damage

    NBA 2K7

    Sonic The Hedgehog

    Shrek 3

    1Just Cause

    NHL 2K7

    The Darkness (This is either of dup of Day 6, or it didn't get posted that day)
  • Demos

    Lego Star Wars II (the Xbox version also available on the current disc of the Official Xbox Magazine)

Monday, September 25, 2006

TGS: Bringing it Home (Day 6)

According to Major Nelson, here's what's supposed to be available over Xbox Live for Day #6 of the Tokyo Game Show:

  • Trailers

    Battlestations Midway


    Import Tuner Challenge

    Need for Speed Carbon

    The Darkness (Sooo looking forward to this game)
  • Demos

    F.E.A.R. (also available on the current disc of the Official Xbox Magazine)
  • Picture Packs

    Mass Effect Picture Pack

    Battlestar Galactica (US Only)
  • Video

    TGS Showfloor video 3

Sunday, September 24, 2006

TGS: Bringing it Home (Day 5)

(Still feeling the mheh-ness.)

According to Major Nelson, here's what's supposed to be available over Xbox Live for Day #5 of the Tokyo Game Show:

  • Trailers

    Virtua Tennis

    3NBA Live 07

    NHL 2K7
  • Video

    TGS Showfloor video 2

    TGS Showfloor video Day 3*

    Gamers' Interview*

    Xbox Live The Party #8*

    Xbox Live The Party #9*

    Xbox Live The Party #10*

* = In Japan only; unless you have a Japanese gamer tag...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

TGS: Bringing it Home (Day 4)

According to Major Nelson, here's what's supposed to be available over Xbox Live for Day #4 of the Tokyo Game Show:

  • Trailers

    Vampire's Rain*

    Forza 2 Customization
  • Theme

    Forza 2 Theme (costs money)
  • Video

    TGS Showfloor video 2 (This is listed as "1" on MajorNelson, which I think is a typo)

    TGS Showfloor video Day 2*

    Game Creator Interview*

    Xbox Live The Party #5*

    Xbox Live The Party #6*

    Xbox Live The Party #7*

* = In Japan only; unless you have a Japanese gamer tag...

Friday, September 22, 2006

TGS: Bringing it Home (Day 3)

According to Major Nelson, here's what's supposed to be available over Xbox Live for Day #3 of the Tokyo Game Show:

  • Trailers

  • Demo
    Fusion Frenzy 2 (Yay!)
  • Video

    TGS Showfloor video 1

    TGS Showfloor video Day 1*

    GM Sensui Interview*

    Xbox Live The Party #1*

    Xbox Live The Party #2*

    Xbox Live The Party #3*

    Xbox Live The Party #4*

* = In Japan only; unless you have a Japanese gamer tag...

TGS: Videos

Mainly just the ones in which I'm interested ...

Blue Dragon

Lost Odyssey

"Shaky Cam":

Xbox Press Conference:

Tenchu: Senran

Trusty Bell

Thursday, September 21, 2006

TGS: Sony press conference

Here's a recap of Sony's Tokyo Game Show press conference, from various live feeds, press releases, and articles.

The short answer is -- I don't think much happened.

And, ouch, the blow-by-blow is less than complimentary -- an hour into it, blogger Brad Shoemaker's saying "this may be the least eventful keynote in TGS history".

Some interesting stuff, though, if you're paying attention. Ken Kutaragi said the upcoming launches of both the PS3 and Wii mark the start of the next generation of gaming. Classic marketing -- don't acknowledge #2 (or in the case of next-gen consoles on the market, don't acknowledge #1). It's the same reason Visa digs at American Express and not MasterCard.

It sounds like there was a lot of talk about the far future of gaming -- GPS, search-engine personalized data, shopping, banking, online security, etc.

And there was YASHL (Yet Another Sony History Lesson) on the PlayStation and PS2 -- Sony is really trying to trumpet their past (which really doesn't help their present). And their "look at how we killed a superior DreamCast product" arrogance is wearing thin with me.

But I've just exposed a bias.

And more video of that Akrika game was shown -- with not much more detail, so it's still a mystery. But there was new footage of a guy and a jeep, so this could be a next-gen Cabela's-type game, or a safari version of Dead Rising. Now I'm just being small.

Oddly, bigger news came after the press conference, during Q&A.

The lower-end SKU'd PS3 will have an HDMI port for high-definition video output -- a reversal of Sony's E3 announcement. And according to BusinessWeek online (at least for Japan), the lower end SKU is now going to be cheaper -- 49,980 yen ($430), down from the 62,790 yen ($536) it was going to be. However, the negative upside is the higher end SKU, which will be $599 in the U.S., will have an open price in Japan. This means retailers can charge whatever they want. With only 100,000 units shipping initially in Japan, I'm guessing this will be expensive, and I would think shut out the Japanese core demographic.

Outside and before the conference, Sony's US publicity chief Dave Karraker criticized the Microsoft HD-DVD/1080p announcement, saying the "PS3 uses the Blu-ray format for gaming, giving developers 50GB of high-definition storage on a single disc, while Microsoft's 9GB DVD gaming format is an obstacle for storing HD content."

The problem is in the accuracy of his statement, as he's comparing a dual-layer BD to a single layer HD-DVD. HD-DVDs can actually hold 15GB on a single layer (so he's wrong), and a theoretical 60GB on a double-sided, dual layer disc. BDs have mutlilayer opportunities, too (possibly beyond the dual), but they have a thinner substrate medium and (I've heard) more fragile media in general.

I hate stupid anti-marketing. Oops, another bias.

Let's see what Microsoft comes up with tomorrow, or at X'06 next week.

I think things are going to get more snippy. For them, too.

TGS: Xbox 360 Mheh-ness?

UPDATE: A regular reader (who I shall call "headcrab", and who I shall call a "rabid fan", because it makes me sound like I have rabid fans) pointed out my post could be a little confusing as to what I'm "mheh" about.

The content is cool. Actually, it rocks. Lost Odyssey gameplay? Whoa. Blue Dragon gameplay and character designs? Whoa, Whoa. All of the Lost Planet stuff? Whoa, WHoa, WHOA!

It's just that downloading them through Xbox Live isn't necessary (or pain-free enough), since I can get the content elsewhere faster, and store it with more space on my PC. Now if demos come out (like that freaking Lost Planet multiplayer demo I'm jonesing for) -- that would rock (and make me leverage Xbox Live more than I am). I mean, I did download the Xbox Japanese-only Tenchu Senran demo (hopefully I'll post a video later).

That said, all of the Microsoft Xbox 360 (and to a lesser extent, Windows Vista) content flooding the Web is a hugely effective way to say, "Ooh, you should own an Xbox 360."

Back to the original post ...

So, I've been a little underwhelmed by the Tokyo Game Show/Xbox 360 Live/"Bringing it Home" stuff.

I mean, the 1080p announcement is significant.

But the availablility of the content through Xbox Live has been kind of ... underwhelming. It's mostly been stuff from E3 (??), stuff that's been available from or (though in higher def than typically available from the latter), or the content shows up concurrently on those two sites (and others). I've got more room on my PC than my Xbox 360's undersized hard drive (what, we can put 80 Gig in an iPod, but we're stuck with a 20 Gig drive on a next-gen console?), which makes the slow Xbox Live downloads non-compelling. Again, the content's good, but I have no reason to wait to get it on Xbox Live -- unlike the E3-exclusive content.

But I got to thinking about it, and realized Microsoft's probably not done.

Sony's press conference is in like 5 hours, so there's a possibility another Microsoft shot from across the PS3 bow could come thereabouts.

Also, only a few days after TGS wraps up, Microsoft's own X'06 industry event is another chance for them to make a case for their self-professed dominance.

I'm just hoping things get more awesome, and less mheh. I've got queuing and background download on Xbox Live Marketplace, and I don't really care so far this week.

TGS: Bringing it Home (Day 2)

According to Major Nelson, here's what's supposed to be available over Xbox Live for Day #2 of the Tokyo Game Show:
  • Trailers

    Vista Game Montage

    Fusion Frenzy 2 trailer

    Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom trailer

    Team Fortress 2 trailer

    Table Tennis trailer*
  • Theme

    TGS Theme

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

TGS: HD-DVD and 1080p

In an earlier Tokyo Game Show post, I mentioned there was an off-handed comment from the GameSpot coverage about the HD-DVD player having 1080p support.

Turns out it's true, it's bigger than that, and I can't figure out why people aren't making a bigger deal about the implications.

If you look at the press release (at,, etc.), you'll get the skinny on 1080p.
"Xbox 360 and the HD DVD Player together deliver the most powerful and affordable games and movie system for Japanese consumers,” Moore said. “The freedom to choose their entertainment experiences is extremely important for consumers as they enter the next generation."

In addition, Microsoft announced that its fall software update, scheduled for release later this year, will allow all Xbox 360 consoles around the world to output game and movie content in 1080p resolution.
Get that? It "will allow all Xbox 360 consoles around the world to output game and movie content in 1080p resolution."

The press release was a but wordy, so here's my paraphrase:
"How's this for a shot across your hi-def bow, Sony?"
I'm not trying to be combatitive, but Sony's been trumpeting their 1080p support as a differentiator for the PS3, and similar (reverse?) to my post on Xbox Live Arcade and Nintendo's Wii Virtual Console, Microsoft has deftly made their 'competition's differentiation, "not so much"...'

Maybe it's not being trumpeted because 1080p doesn't matter right now -- it's too new, and too expensive, and Sony's arguably producing all of the 1080p sets. My projector does 720p and 1080i, so it'll be a long time before I upgrade.

That is, it's not issue unless Sony tries to use it as a differentiator when they lauch the PS3.

Then Microsoft's response will be, "Yeah, we've had that for a while."

TGS: Bringing it Home (Day 1)

Like I said, clear off your hard drives.

Eventually. There seem to be a few hiccups on the download front, but stuff's trickling down.

According to Major Nelson, here's what's supposed to be available (with my commentary, of course):
  • Trailers

    DOA X2 E3 Trailer*
    UPDATED: Old E3 trailer, and available from

    Project Sylpheed*

    Tenchu Senran (very slick, very brief video)
    UPDATED: It's also available over on

    Half-Life 2 - Episode 2 (The high-def video's been on for a while)
  • Demos

    Tenchu Senran* (Mother! I would like this demo; oh wait, I have a Japanese gamer tag ...)
  • Game Downloads

    BFMEII Aragorn’s Journey - Map Pack 1 (Don't download this yet; it's supposed to be free during Bringing it Home, but it's not, and the team's working to resolve it)
    UPDATED: Seems to be fixed now.

    BFMEII Northern Badlands - Map Pack 2 – 350 Points
  • Arcade

    Spades Vision support

    Hearts Vision support

    Backgammon Vision support

    Bankshot Billiards Vision support
  • Community

    TGS Picture Pack
* = In Japan only; unless you have a Japanese gamer tag...

TGS: Microsoft press conference

Check out a rundown over at GameSpot, but here are the pieces I found interesting:

Everyone loves Xbox Live Arcade, and here's a demo reel of what's coming soon. Any new surprises in store? Among the games not yet out: Defender, Gyruss, Contra, Lumines, Dig Dug, and Fatal Fury Special.

2:38: Whoa, here come new additions to the service, including the Japan-exclusive Yie Ar Kung Fu, along with Rush 'n Attack, Ms. Pac-Man, and New Rally X. Yie Ar exclusive to Japan?! What about us poor Western gamers?

Wow, and in early 2007, Microsoft will conduct a Pac-Man world championship. The top 10 players on the game's leaderboard will be flown to New York City to compete for the top prize. Pac-Man creator himself Toru Iwatani from Namco is now on-stage to discuss the enhancements to the game available on Live.

Seems like the big enhancement is the worldwide leaderboard. Not a mindblowing new feature, but similar features have certainly enlivened Xbox Live Arcade competition for other titles since the 360's release.

OK, I'm jonesing for Contra, and Rush 'n Attack is news (and almost as cool as Contra).

What I'm not sure about is "... the HD-DVD add-on. Connects with USB, as we know, and supports 1080p."

Really? 1080p?

More as I get it...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Proof positive that cheaters are morons

Aeropause has an interview with a cheater.

I guy who cheats at video games. Like Halo 2.

Cheaters make playing Halo 2 ... not fun. And like cheating on a test, cheating on a girlfriend, or shoplifting, I can't get my head around ... why?!

It's a freaking game!

My buddy dajoti and I played Halo 2 a few weeks ago (which we rarely do anymore), and it was a bad experience. It wasn't just that we got spanked, it was that the guys were jerks. And we ended up in like 3 games in a row with a few of the same guys, and found out they're actually level 30s, but like to play with level 1-8s for matchmaking, so they can whomp on people, and insult them for being newbs.


How small of character are these people? Cheating at a game? At least with the other stuff, you get grades, nookie, or beef jerky.

But a game?

Check out the article to find out how much of an idiot "Schmuck5000" (not his real gamer tag) is.

Of course, reading the comments to the interview is equally disappointing, as I think our society is getting progessively more stupid ...

UPDATED: Changed "Aerospace" back to "Aeropause". Spell check autocorrect ...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Make room on your Xbox 360 hard drives!

Remember all the content Microsoft shared with us during E3?

Get ready, 'cause that was just a dry run -- we've got nine days of gaming goodies on the way, as Microsoft does the same for the virtually back to back Tokyo Game Show (TGS) and X'06 press event.

Hey, all the love was good during E3, but face it, the content and games are getting better, Microsoft has learned a lot, and we now have queuing and background download.

According to Major Nelson, content'll be available September 20, through Friday, September 29, we'll be able to get highlights from press briefings, daily updates and behind the scenes videos from the show floors (please let it be better than the E3 treatment) "as well as the hottest playable game demos and videos in high definition."

Since I get the majority of the demos I want between Xbox Live and The Official Xbox Magazine, I'm hoping there's some new love to be found over these nine days.

What I really want is a Lost Planet multiplayer demo (hey, the game took Leipzig -- keep the buzz rolling!).

"In total, more than 100 pieces of new downloadable content will be available to
gamers during the nine day period, including a never before announced major
franchise on Xbox Live Arcade."

Hmm ... "a never before announced major franchise on Xbox Live Arcade", huh?

And you gotta get the content fast, because the "majority of this content will only be available until 12:00 a.m. PDT on September 29" -- yikes.

I wish Microsoft had released a bigger hard drive by now. My paltry 20 Gig's not doing so hot, and there's a lot of content I want to keep, that isn't available anymore ...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wii don't play DVDs

Amidst all the positive Nintendo Wii press yesterday, there was one subtle nugget o' discontent.

When Nintendo first announced the console, they said the console was capable of playing DVD movies, though it might "require an attachment to do so".

But yesterday's final specs don't mention anything about DVD functionality, decribing its media bay as a "single self-loading media bay will play single- or double-layered 12-centimeter optical discs for the Wii console, as well as 8-centimeter Nintendo GameCube discs."

Now, 12-centimeter optical discs are DVD standard, but according to at least one company rep, "because the price of DVD players has dropped so much and they have become so commonplace, Nintendo saw no need to create extra hardware options that would drive up the cost for consumers."

Sure, they could do a USB 2.0 add-on, but aren't likely to, given how cheap DVD players are, and the fact the "Wii don't do high-definition" (I've got a million of these, so get use to 'em).

Not to say the specs for the Wii are bad:
  • Four GameCube controller ports
  • Two GameCube memory-card slots
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • SD Card slot
  • IEEE802.11 Wi-Fi capability will let it communicate wirelessly with the DS handheld or the Internet
  • Will support component and S-Video output

Time will tell whether this decision has any impact, or if Panansonic will release a DVD version of the Wii, like it did with the DVD-playing "Q" GameCube.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nintendo Wii: "Coming Soon"

Interesting. I noticed on that there are a couple of placeholders for "Coming Soon" channels on the "Introducing Wii Channels" page (lower right corner of screen shot).

These could just be Wiib browsing (a la the Opera browser) and forums, or they could be something more. Wii'll see ...

Screen shot of's Wii Channels page, which has to empty Coming Soon sections

Nintendo Wii: U.S. launch titles; Virtual Console publishers

Nintendo, arguably out of all the consoles, is most about the games themselves.

So, the confirmed launch titles are pretty important.

The big guns are there, But there are some notable ommissions, like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption isn't coming until 2007.

All in all, a solid list, with Nintendo a contender for "Best Launch Portfolio", ahead of Microsoft and Sony.

("*" = Confirmed for Nov. 19)

First-Party Games between launch and March 2007:
  • Battalion Wars II
  • Big Brain Academy (temporary name)
  • * Excite Truck
  • * The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Mario Strikers Charged
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
  • Super Mario Galaxy (temporary name)
  • WarioWare: Smooth Moves
  • * Wii Sports (bundled with the Wii console)
Third-Party Games between launch and March 2007:
  • Activision
    * Call of Duty 3
    Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
    Rapala Tournament Fishing
    * Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam
    World Series of Poker
  • Atari
    Dragon Ball Z Budokai: Tenkaichi 2
  • Atlus
    * Trauma Center: Second Opinion
  • Buena Vista Games
    Chicken Little: Ace in Action
    Disney's Meet the Robinsons
  • Codemasters
    Dance Factory
  • EA
    The Godfather
    * Madden NFL 07
    * Need for Speed: Carbon
    Tiger Woods PGA Tour
  • Konami
    * Elebits
  • Majesco
    Bust-A-Move Revolution
  • Midway
    The Ant Bully
    The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
    Happy Feet
    Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
    Rampage: Total Destruction
    [Presumed canceled--Blitz: The League]
  • Sega
    Sonic and the Secret Rings
    Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz
  • SNK
    Metal Slug Anthology
  • THQ
    Avatar: The Last Airbender
    SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab
  • Ubisoft
    * Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII
    * Far Cry: Vengeance
    * GT Pro Series
    * Monster 4x4: World Circuit
    * Open Season
    Prince of Persia (working title)
    * Rayman Raving Rabbids
    * Red Steel
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    * Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent
  • Vivendi Games
    Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
I don't know what the U.S. Virtual Console launch list and timeframe is going t0 be, but if it's like the Japanese launch (30 downloadable retro games for launch; 60 available by end of year; 10 more added each month thereafter), there have to be publishers on board.

In addition to Nintendo, the following publishers will be releasing content for the Japanese Virtual Console, and I expect a lot of overlap for other regions:
  • Atlus
  • Bandai Namco
  • Banpresto
  • Capcom
  • Chunsoft
  • D4 Enterprise
  • Enterbrain
  • Hal Laboratory
  • Hudson
  • Irem
  • Jaleco
  • Kemco
  • Koei
  • Konami
  • NCS Masaya
  • Netfarm
  • Paon
  • Rocket Company
  • Sega
  • Square Enix
  • Sunsoft
  • Taito
  • Takara Tomy
  • Tecmo

Nintendo Wii: U.S. press conference

You didn't need to wait for the Nintendo U.S. press conference to get the goods on the stateside release -- a lot of it was retread from yesterday's NY Times article, with no real surprises from the Japanese press conference.

Besides, Nintendo published the U.S. press release before the actual conference, so you can find out "[Nintendo of America President Reggie] Fils-Aime made his remarks in New York" -- before he made them.

To summarize, in an oh-so-sexy way:
  • Wii will go on sale in the Americas on November 19th
  • The MSP is $249.99
  • The bundle will include includes one wireless Wii Remote controller, one Nunchuk controller, and a copy of Wii Sports (collection of five different Wii Sports games)
  • There was a little more info on the "Wii Channel" feature, which will allow users to "pick games to play, get news or weather, [edit,] upload and send photos or even create playable caricatures of themselves to use in actual games"
  • Between Nov. 19 and Dec. 31, 30 titles will titles will be available
  • First-party Nintendo titles will have an MSRP of $49.99
  • "Wii’s self-loading media bay also can play the entire library of more than 530 Nintendo GameCube titles from day one."
  • The U.S. pricing structure was not released, but will be "in the coming weeks"

Nintendo Wii: Japanese press conference

Two weeks after the Wii launches in the U.S., Japan will see a slightly cheaper ($213) Nintendo Wii on December 2. The slightly cheaper price might be due to the absence of the U.S.-bundled Wii Sports, which will separately for 4,800 yen (around $41).

According to Bloomberg news, 16 titles will be available from 10 publishers at launch, and will range in price from 4,800 yen (~$41) to 6,800 yen (~$58). One of those titles will be The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (6,800 yen/~$58). By the end of 2006 27 games should be available in Japan.

Nintendo also revealed details on its virtual console and downloadable games (via the "WiiConnect24" service). NES games will cost 500 yen (~$4.25); SNES games will cost 800 yen (~$6.80); and N64 games will cost 1,000 yen (~$8.50). No pricing for TurboGrafx, MSX, or Sega Genesis games, which will also be made available. Games can be bought by credit card or prepaid point cards (like Xbox Live Marketplace does). 30 vritual games will be available at launch, with up to 60 by year end.

Probably more significantly, Satoru Iwata (Nintendo of Japan prez) said virtual titles will grow by 10 per month -- exceeding Xbox Live Arcade's current weekly releases. Microsoft's not going to get the Nintendo first party titles, but it seems like they'd be smart to approach and mine the same TurboGrafx, MSX, and Sega games, and extend to publishers like Hudson Soft. This'd be a win-win for the IP holders (more channels) and Microsoft, plus it's a standard marketing technique -- differentiate your product, and make your competition's differentiation, "not so much"...

On the feature front, the Wii will support avatar customization for every user (though not every game will support it. This is another example of Nintendo one-upping Microsoft on a feature Microsoft introduced (or at least teased as a possibility).

The Wii will also have photo editing and viewing functionality, and can take photos off of an SD card.

A news and weather channel were confirmed, as was Web browsing (a la the Opera browser base, similar to the Nintendo DS, which will also support Flash animations), and message boards.
The Wii will come with the "Wiimote" controller and corded "nunchaku" attachment and estra "Wiimotes" will cost 3,800 yen (~$32), extra nunchakus will go for 1,800 yen (~$15). The controller for playing classic games on the Wii will be sold separately for 1,800 yen (~$15), but for a limited time consumers who purchase a 5,000 point (5,000 yen/~$42.50) Wii-point card will receive a classic controller for free.

The console itself will also come with a wrist-strap for the "Wiimote", a power cord, a standard A/V cable, a sensor bar, stands for the console and sensor bar, and AA batteries.

Let's see what the U.S press release reveals in a couple of hours, but Nintendo seems to be firmly back in the saddle.

Nintendo Wii to launch November 19 for $250

Thursday is the official press event, but according to the New York Times, Nintendo's next console will launch November 19 (two days afer the PS3), cost $250, and have more than 25 games available at launch (with 30 by end of the year).

First-party games will cost $50 (like most of Microsoft's), and the console will have Web-surfing abilities, photo viewing, and news/weather channels.

Let's see what tomorrow's official press events reveal, but the NY Times is never wrong.

Wait ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

AGC: Additional thoughts and opinions

This year's Austin Game Conference was a really good experience. Going from 2 days to 3 was a huge (positive) change, and running concurrently with (and granting concurrent access to) the Game Writers Conference, Casual Games Conference, and first Game Audio Conference is certainly bang for the buck.

The Game Audio Conference itself was a cool deal, but I found myself getting less out of it as a voice actor than the Game Writers Conference, which I found surprising. Though I did get a ton out of GAC (like that acronym) keynoteist Charles Deenen (Senior Audio Director at Electronic Arts).

Speaking of the Game Writers Conference, I got a bunch out of the sessions and experience here -- even though I had only planned to attend one session ("Inside the Voice Actor's Studio: Writing Dialogue for Actors"). I ended up also attending the Improve for Writers, and got unexpected (and needed) emotional uplift, and "Writing Comedy for Games", which introduced me to one of the heroes I didn't know I had -- Matt Soell, writer behind Stubbs the Zombie.
The GWC also introduced me to an unexpected, repetitive irritation. I was at 3 separate sessions, where writers at a table (who didn't know I was a voice actor), were griping about "those voice actors" -- like this verbatim gem:

"Actors. They work 88 days out of the year -- no wonder they love their jobs. We work all the time, and don't get any recognition. I freaking hate voice actors."
What the hell? If there are folks out there in the game or acting biz working 88 days out of the year, I want that gig -- and then I'll fill the other 277 days doing other full-time productive stuff. But this was a repeated, semi-poisonous mindset I found pretty bothersome. Uh, Writers? If no one acts out your stuff, does it even exist? I'm a writer, and I resolve to treat myself well as an actor. ;-)

Going back to the positive (really positive) Writer & Game Writers Conference Chair Susan O'Connor is freaking amazing. Not just talented (Gears of War? Bioshock? Two of my "Important games Adam must own?), but really together, and really nice. And really good at the "Do ya know?" game.

For those who don't know how this works, it starts with a very aware person (Susan, or Dan Parsons, who also does this well) recognizing a similarity or potential synergy between two people they know or have met, and getting them introduced. At any cost (Short of lack of professionalism). Susan did this deftly several times during several sessions. Fun to watch.

UPDATED: Cliff Bleszinski told me, "She is, in fact, the shizzle."

On the applicability to BigHugeCorp, applicability was pretty much across the board, with particular benefit from Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.'s keynote from Rob Pardo, and sessions "Re-Thinking Service Offerings", "New Frontiers in Digital Acting. A BioWare Perspective", "Moving Beyond Men In Tights", "Financing Choices for Start Up Game Companies", and "Digital Distribution Revolution".

On the voice acting front, this was a productive week. I accomplished the majority of my goals, met a ton of new folks, and would like to work with a great many of them. And those damn business card form-factor CD demos that lost me so much sleep? Huge hits. Of course, my big fear is that someone will slide them into a slot-load CD player, kill the machine, then hate me. But they'll remember me.

This was a way better year than two years ago, when I was attending the conference while massively sick -- and definitely better than not going last year (when I canceled last minute to clean up someone else's mess at BigHugeCorp, then got treated less than charitably in response; but it taught me where to invest the loyalty).

Really glad I did it this year -- and I really enjoyed meeting so many fascinating and talented people.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

AGC Day 3: "Digital Distribution Revolution"

I had intended to go to "Product vs. Process - Results Oriented Development", but decided last-minute to go to "Digital Distribution Revolution", after reading the summary.

From a revenue stream potential (and because I wanted to see what panelists had to say about micropayments), this is an interesting topic to me.

Long past the pioneer days of Mark Cuban and AudioNet/, digital download and distribution is an even bigger deal.

I didn't even look at who the panelists were, and was surprised to see Warren Spector, one of the "game gods" (he probably hates that title) -- and I actually haven't seen him speak before. Scheduled panelist Miguel Olivera (Director of Digital Distribution, Encore Inc.) was there, as was moderator Julie Pitt (GM, Planning and Distribution, Games, RealNetworks). The Disney dude wasn't there, which was fine, because replacing him was Ricardo Sanchez (VP of Content for Turner's GameTap, who I'd met the day before), and David Edery, the guy Microsoft recently hired away from MIT to be the new worldwide director of Xbox Live Arcade (good for him).

This was a spirited discussion, with a lot of strong personalities, with an interesting, largely three-way dynamic between Edery (who by his admission is strongly drinking the sugared beverage), Sanchez (whose GameTap is arguably the most in competition with Xbox Live Arcade), and Spector (who is mature, opinionated, but amazingly open to reconsidering his statements when someone posited a well-thought counterpoint or example; I hope I can be that mature).

Good debate, and, like the "Hollywood and Video Games" panel, seemed to miss the point on recent happenings with episodic content.

Micropayments were actually a point of contention, with Sanchez saying they were "good", and Spector saying they made no sense -- until Edery gave the Oblivion example, then Spector gracefully recanted (at least with that example).

Ads in games were a point of contention, too. Spector dreads the day "someone tells me I have to put advertising in my games" (as do I; Webzen's Huxley deal with Massive, Inc. has me bothered), while Olivera and Sanchez saying they were a viable revenue stream. Unfortunately, there was not much discussion given to the difference between in-game ads, and ad-supported games -- two very different beasties. Edery was a bit mum on this, which makes sense, since Microsoft just purchased Massive, Inc., arguably the #1 in-game advertising company. Maybe his silence was unrelated.

A good panel overall, and it was neat to see 5 such intelligent people maturely debate the topic. With some minor (incorrect) barbs about "outdated consoles", etc. ...

Friday, September 08, 2006

AGC Day 3: Financing Choices for Start Up Game Companies

I haven't done this in a long time. Walked into the wrong room. I had intended to go into "Design and Implementation Considerations for Deploying Server and Network Infrastructure in Asia and North America", but walked into "Financing Choices for Start Up Game Companies". Whoops (but, look, yesterday's choice was between "Economic Theory and MMOGs" and "New
Frontiers in Digital Acting. A BioWare Perspective").

I was going to walk out, but thought about the topic's applicability to everything I do at BigHugeCorp. Every time I start a new program, every time I take over a new program, every time I try to rebuild an existing program from the ground up -- I'm in essence doing a startup.

The funding techniques didn't apply per se, though I did take a few of the relationship tips as applicable to getting additional internal funding.

Not that this was an easy push to make applicable to BigHugeCorp. This was a subdued talk, presented by Paul Kim, Executive VP of Go Pets, Ltd.

I'm talking SUBdued, the topic is comparitively dry, and the vibe in the room was floor level, and understandably so. These are folks who want to "make games", and Kim appropriately shot that down with the reality of needing to decide what that means (are you a publisher? Developer? Porter? Licensed or original IP? Etc.), and what it costs -- financially and time-wise.

There was good talk about what to leverage and why. Leverage yourself (you are building a product), your product (you're building an asset), your contracts (you're building a business), your network (you're building a successful business).

Institutional funding was an interesting side discussion. I didn't realize that in addition to the largely untapped US gov funding, other countries pay even more to incent US development on their soil. For example, $20M from Singapore; Korea will provide office space AND pay 1/2 of your payroll (and you pay no US income tax, I believe).

Creative funding needs to be more leveraged. Think cross-vertical investments. Unfortunately, the applicability I see for this to BigHugeCorp is probably going to go away.

As an aside, Go Pets is an interesting and encouraging business story. And Kim is pretty impressive.

Mother! My Treo's dying again. So I'll curtail this.

AGC Day 3: "Moving Beyond Men In Tights"

UPDATED: Damion graciously corrected me -- It's "double coding", not "double coating". So I've made the correction, and am hereby claiming "double coating" as my linguistic device. "Double coating" like what they do to lightbulbs. Or what 3M does with fiberoptic cables for protection and flexibility. Or like having a layer of led paint under latex paint. Or wearing a purple waistcoast under a purple duster ...

Back to the original post:
"Moving Beyond Men In Tights We constantly hear that MMOG design is in a
rut, and that we are making clones of the same game over and over again."

Interesting. This session was led by Damion Schubert, lead combat designer for Bioware Austin. I'd thought he'd gone to Stray Bullet Games after Ubisoft shuttered Wolfpack Studios in Austin. Teach me to assume.

And he did a good presentation, focused, passionate and entertaining, and the best of the 3-4 times I've seen him speak.

Schubert's goal was to get us to think about what works, and curtail "bad" innovation (ant farming, etc.).

He made the analogy that World of Warcraft is Coke, and you're not going to go against Coke "unless you have Pepsi money." Good analogy.

The answer? "Smart innovation". Things like managed innovation/risk and subtle clear innovation rather than cloning, etc. (Some of this applies to BigHugeCorp.)


  • Tactical challenge to solve (which often gets reduced to "combat"; but should it?)
  • Repeatability.
  • Co-op -- he totally gets that "co-op is the future of gaming" (even over PvP). Yay!
  • Scalable combat (that scales gracefully).
  • Classes (not required, he argued, but useful) -- and they must be balanced.
  • Players need appropriate choice (not too much; can be used in place of classes or class development, per se).
  • Tactical transparency (Texas Hold 'em vs 5 card draw); especially in PvP.
  • Levels and experience reward devotion, not skill (not all players have skill, and you're trying to keep subscribers, and if it's too hard to earn rewards, they'll bail).
  • Big moments that are equivalent to levels (getting a mount in WoW level 40, getting last name at UO level 20.

"Your players are obsessed with fairness. They are obsessed with real and perceived fairness."

Schubert addressed the "grind" problem in MMORPGs. Not sure what his contention was. WoW gets this right with the pacing and rewards for quest -- but it makes for a non-grindy experience.

So why all the fantasy MMOs?

Resonance. Fantasy resonates.

Double-coding (Bugs Bunny, Animaniacs; I suspect Viva Pinata, given the episodes I've seen), where the writing is for kids and adults -- as opposed to paren-brain-melting Blues Clues. Fantasy, by nature, is double coded.

Heroic arc (City of Heroes; as an aside, from several of these sessions, CoH really breaks a lot of the rules).

Escapism. 'Nuff said.

Villainous arc that matches the heroic arc (start out with a giant rat, then culminates with a dragon).

Fantasy as a trope gives players roles they feel with which they can contribute.

Thoughts on a choosing a genre/trope? "Have a vision, and deliver on the vision."

He also discussed licensed vs original IP. Examples included Stargate (with its non-combatant archeologist challenge), the currently slumbering Highlander (with its "permadeath" challenge; though I have so thought through how I would make this a compeling MMO), and Star Trek (with it's diplomacy-combat-as-last-resort-core-principal challenge). Be interesting to see how these problems are solved.

Also, he touted the importance of not relying on players finding their own fun.

And while people focus on the success of WoW, Second Life, Eve Online, and Runescape are "worldy" games (rather than "gamey" games) that have done really well (and are succesful). Worlds tend to be more free, more real, and more immersive. Gamey games generally are more directed, etc.

Good to hear him articulate that people often confuse poor execution with thinking there's a problem with the idea itself.

Again good session from Damion. I think the dude's a serious asset to BioWare Austin.

AGC Day 3: Keynote Vernor Vinge

Thing didn't freaking start until 5 to 10, without explanation or apology.

"Vernor Vinge is best known for his science-fiction stories, which include 'True Names', 'A Fire Upon the Deep', and 'A Deepness in the Sky'. The last two items each won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of the year. His most recent novel, 'Rainbows End', examines the near-future implications of wearable computing and smart environments on issues of entertainment, privacy, and terror.

"Inside Out: Art, economics, and various scarier forces are conspiring with Moore's Law to propel us into a world of networked, embedded microprocessors. What will games be like when most real-world objects know what they are, where they are, and can communicate with others? Maybe that question is backwards. Maybe it should be: In such a world, will there be anything besides games?"

Vinge is a professorial author, so I kept reminding myself "content is king". But this was heady, speculative fiction stuff (as opposed to derogatively monicered "skiffy" -- see my paper for the difference) -- which is to say, it was great.

He discussed ubiquitous computing, embedded processors, networked processors (and their soon-to-be incarnations of smart RFID or equivalents). This later evolution will lead to Smart Dust and MEMS, and Localizers (where a smart embedded processor knows where it and its
compatriots are in 3D space).

Wearable computing is needed to leverage these changes. As I think about this, we already are moving rapidly in this direction, with devices like true smartphone or PDA phones, with latter generation Bluetooth and upcoming wireless USB. The next step is ultra high-resolution eyeglass displays that track and can be driven by eye movements.

Interesting discussion of reality becoming database.

The scary thing is handling current software technology challenges, which become a much bigger deal with wearables -- SPAM, spoofing, cacheing, hijacking, etc.

So how does this apply to gaming?

Vinge posited that much of the "wisdom behind games become[s] the wisdom behind running our civilization."

There's also an impact with the huge number of concurrent simultaneous realities can exist.

People are going to need to come to grips with the reality that people talk to people that aren't physically present.

There was not much of a discussion on world economic impact to/from job-related alternate realities, micro-duration labor markets, analysts. My head is rabit trailing on things that impact or support or curtail these scenarios.

He made an unsettling analogy of members of the Society for Creative Anachronism living in their world 24/7 -- their pervasive reality. I have this unsettling vision of having a performance discussion with an employee of mine, who's living in this world, and sees me as the evil, oppressive fief lord. Is there a fundamental, uncrossable disconnect? Or, do one or the other of us suspend our reality and join the other's? Or do we BOTH suspend our realities, and go to some sterile white room reality with aluminum chairs and no destractions? The mind boggles. Or at least itches.

AGC Day 3: Pre-Keynote

Maybe it's the after party after effects. Maybe it's because the Game Writers Conference ended yesterday.

But there is no one here.

It's Vernor Vinge, freaking awesome Hugo Award winning science fiction author, and there's no one here.

Ya think this keynote should have happened during the GWC?

AGC Day 2: Official Afterparty

I'm feeling guilty.

I told the K2 folks on my way out the door, "Great Party!"

It wasn't great. It was good.

The party was at Spin (what was Sky Lounge), which is a hopping urban dance joint, but way to loud to conduct business or build relationships.

And I had like 4 back-to-back me-trying-to-get-to-someone-across-room-but-lost-them-by-the-time-I-got there. Joint's not that big, so they must have left. Frustrating.

I did have a good conversation with a guy from PayPal, and a great conversation with an Electrical Engineer cum Columbus State University prof, who's trying to put together a multi-disciplinarian game development program at the college. Cool mix of left and right brain, and a real pleasant conversation.

I still fee bad I said "great", when I meant "good".

Do what you say. Say what you do. Mean what you say. Mean what you do.

It's linguistically transitive, Kids!

AGC Day 2: Michael Dell "Fireside Chat"

Wow, this was bad.

Besides poor sound quality, the poor choice to have it in the Tech Pavilion (what was wrong with Ballroom A?), the interiew was far less than professional, and most of the questions were off-target at best, and insipid at worst.

"Would Dell create a software emulator for old PC games? What faction are you in World of Warcraft?

This was a disservice to Michael Dell and the attendees.

I can see why he spoke -- Dell has the XPS gaming/performance line of laptops and PCs, and recently purchased Alienware.

But I'd be surprised if he spoke again.

AGC Day 2: "New Frontiers in Digital Acting. A BioWare Perspective"

I next went to BioWare's presentation on creating digital actors. This was a great, low-key presentation on the end-to-end process of creating high-caliber game characters.

To sum up? BioWare has a freaking high bar. For everything. And I'm grateful. And I'm grateful they have that same high bar for flesh-and-blood voice and film actors.

Nice group of fellas, too (Ken Thain, Cinematic Designer; Mac Walters, Designer / Writer; and Mike Laidlaw, Lead Writer). And I could understand them through their accents, those witty Canadians. And Mike's funny.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

AGC Day 2: Hollywood and Videogames: A Marriage Made in Hell?

(NOTE: My Treo died, so the next few summaries are stacked on top of each other. Deal.)

After a great lunch and chat with Adran (I ate lunch, we both chatted), it was off to the session "Hollywood and Videogames: A Marriage Made in Hell?" -- which was an interesting panel.

The speakers were impressive -- Moderator Corey Bridges, Executive Producer and Marketing Director of The Multiverse Network; Chris Klug, Creative Director of the Stargate Worlds MMO (Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment); writer's representative Michael I'm-embarrassed-I-forgot-his-last-name; and Lee Sheldon, Indiana University, and writer/producer/designer.

Great, direct semi-diatribe from Sheldon about if you're contributing to the media, youshould be a consumer of the brand:

"Why are you writing for games? Because you couldn't write for movies and TV in
Hollywood, so you thought you'd just try it, but you don't play games?

I really appreciate that. I got into voice acting because I love games and cartoons. I get so frustrated reading interviews with voice actors who do the game or animation roles for which I'd do violence, and them saying, "Oh, I don't play games".


There was also a frank discussion of breaking down the perceived classicism between the creative sides of the Hollywood and game communities -- because "there's not really a divide."

They were really off on the current state of episodic content -- they ostensibly said it's not happening. But think about it. Bethesda's Oblivion. Valve's Half-Life 2. Vivendi's Sam and Max. Sin: Episodes. Bone. Microsoft's weekly Xbox Live Arcade updates. I shall educate them. And they will likely disparage me.

And Sheldon hates cutscenes. He and CliffyB would probably have a great (probably violently agreeant) conversation on the topic.

Oh, and Sheldon mentioned the death of Floyd in Planetfall, one of my all-time favorite games. That took me back.

AGC Day 2: Writing Comedy for Games

This happens.

Virtually all the panelists begged out, leaving only Tom Abernathy, the writer/designer behind Destroy All Humans! (and its sequel) at Pandemic Studios. He was joined by two ad hoc panelists: John Sutherland, writer at Microsoft Game Studios; and Matt Soell, the incredible writer at Wideload Games behind Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel without a Pulse (Funny freaking game. Read my review. Buy the game. Seriously. This thing's so under-rated).

I expected the funny in the whole experience, which might not have been fair, but it wasn't quite there. Subdued panel, though some good nuggets. And the guys are witty. And Tom is animated and opinionated. I like that.

But the session title is "Writing COMEDY for Games". Where da "ha ha" funny?

Hmm ... This game writers audience has a different kind of energy than at other writer's conferences I've attended. And I've been (and managed) writers. Interesting.

I was going to go the server deployment talks for either MMOs or MMPs (to look for applicability for my duties at BigHugeCorp), but those 2 sessions turned into roundtables, and hadn't started when I went to join them (late). Not to be small, but I wonder if that would have been a livelier discussion.

AGC Day 2: Keynote: Jon Landau Producer; COO Lightstorm Entertainment

Jon Landau is the Producer behind Titanic (and one of my favorite films, F/X) and the COO of Lightstorm Entertainment.

Despite the fact that Landau read virtually his entire keynote, this was fascinating stuff (and Q&A wasn't scripted and was much better). And though read, this was good, well-thought stuff.

James Cameron is a technology visionary. His splitting Terminator into two films so technology could catch up (and testing the concept first in The Abyss) shows foresight and patience.

He and Landau have created an amazing production pipeline that -- in real-time -- lets Cameron not look at actors, but at virtual characters in virtual environments.

A cool tangent for this is Landau's and Cameron's focus on "Performance Capture", rather than "Motion Capture" -- getting every performance nuance and action, rather than just motion. This is good news for this actor. Even better in the Q&A, Landau said ("no offense to anyone in this room"), "our goal is get rid of the animator, and keep the actor". He said he and Cameron look at performance capture as "21st Century prosthetics", and are improvement over the analog versions, because they can be reductive to the actor's structure, rather than just additive.

He also did a pretty passionate argument for the importance of digital projection in theaters, which is required for the new 3D (which doesn't require glasses, and has proponents like Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, and Disney behind it). It also makes a theater multi-purpose, rather than just show 35mm film.

All of this feeds into virtual worlds, asset re-use, and the separation of game participation vs movie voyeurism, and MMOs (which arguably provide both).

He encouragingly talked about how the games, rather than regurgitating the film, can show worlds, characters, and themes not presented in the film (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic anyone?). He also said the inverse could be true -- games can influence upcoming films.

He made some strong analogies between the independent film and independent games.

Other strong words about games, like films, needing to start with a story, rather than with assets, and games shouldn't be made to meet a date, because "dates don't make films; films make dates". Kinda. There are still holiday films and summer blockbusters, and games are retail products and entertainment experiences; not just the latter.

It's a new world in this "intersection of technology and culture". Cameron, Landau, Lightstorm, and Multiverse are doing an MMO. Ron Howard and Wideload Games are doing an MMO. Wow.

Really, really good time to be an hard core actor/gamer/movie professional.

And I introduced myself to Landau and told him "thank you" for his and Cameron's focus on actors. And I gave him my business card demo. 'Cause they should audition me for Avatar. The game and the movie.

AGC Day 2: Thoughts from yesterday

I've been thinking about Gordon Walton's (Bioware, Austin) talk yesterday, "Re-thinking MMO service offerings".

In particular, he talked about jettisoning "bad" Customers -- that fractional group that causes between 20-25% ofthe pain.

I need to think about this more, but I've got some ideas perculating about BigHugeCorp ...

AGC Day 2: More thoughts

"Microsoft vs IBM."

The historically aware know about the significance of this statement.

Right now, at the Austin Game Conference, it's taking on new significance.

I'm stoked Microsoft has released a free version of their XNA development tools, and opened Xbox Live so publishers can host their own content.

But they have to.

I'm holding a brochure from IBM, and they're in the game.

Besides extending Rational BuildForge for games, they can apply the Cell Broadband Engine, Blade Server and their hosting as product and service offerings for online games.

They've extended their source control, content, and asset management software for game development.

And IBM isn't even a game-centric company. But they're IBM.

And Microsoft is Microsoft.

"Microsoft vs IBM."

Game on ...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

AGC Day 1: Improv for Writers

OK, so I was going to go to a "Virtual Currency" discussion for BigHugeCorp, but I'd had an emotionally traumatic and sleep deprived kind of day, so I went to "Improv for Writers" instead.

This was taught by Shana Merlin, and this was basically a light version of her improv workshop, with explanation for applicability to writers.

Good, good stuff.

Mainly because I am totally drained from working so hard to meet people and pay genuine attention to them (I never want to be insincere), and this was an improv workout that reminded me of what I love, what I'm good at, and it lifted by spirits.

So that worked well ...

AGC Day 1: Re-Thinking Service Offerings

After a hurried lunch with independent NY audio producer Michael, it was off to "Re-Thinking Service Offerings":

"Conventional wisdom is that 24x7 customer service is necessary for the
success of any MMOG. It's also typically the single most costly part of the
service offering. What if we could figure out how to minimize or even eliminate
portions of traditional MMOG customer service? Be ready to hear some wild ideas or even contribute some of your own as we discuss this roundtable topic."

This was really a round table discussion led by Gordon Walton (Bioware, Austin), who's a freaking impressive person in the game scene.

There was some decent back and forth about a number of topics, like "software vs service", "brand power", "customer loyalty", etc.

I say "decent", because they (a) didn't have background with other industries' trends and MO (like telco, my BigHugeCorp, etc.), and (b) there weren't sufficient deep dives.

For example, no discussions about additional revenue opportunities vs cost reduction vs cost recovery.

And there was way to brief a discussion of the importance of brand, which (coupled with loyalty) translates into attraction and retention.

Still a good discusion, but I kept my mouth shut about the BigHugeCorp perspective -- but I took stuff away.

And Gordon Walton is impressive.

AGC Day 1: Inside the Voice Actor's Studio: Writing Dialogue for Actors

Here's a session I was pretty excited about: "Inside the Voice Actor's Studio: Writing Dialogue for Actors".

It was a panel of writing, casting, and voice over -- Marianne Krawczyk,writer (God of War, Sopranos video game); Dawn Hershey, CSA Casting Director (Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), Blindlight; Debi Mae West, voice actor (Meryl, Metal Gear Solid); Flint Dille, Writer (Chronicles of Riddick), CEO, Bureau of Film and Games; Ryan Wickerham, voice actor (Thief : Deadly Shadows); and moderator Joseph
, writing director (Halo, Halo 2), Bungie Studios.

Freaking amazing session, on so many fronts, I'll have to write oodles later ...

AGC Day 1: PS3 EU launch delayed

AGC scuttlebutt: PS3 EU launch delayed to March 2007 -- and people here are grumpy ...

UPDATE: And serious shortage on units, too. has a hilarious, if borderline unprofessional, graphic.

AGC Day 1: Keynote: Charles Deenen, Sr. Audio Director, Electronic Arts

Next up, I headed over to the sister Game Audio Conference for the keynote from Charles Deenen (Sr. Audio Director, Electronic Arts).

Charles started with his values, ("enjoy what you do, play within the system, work hard be direct play fair, and your best tools are your staff"). I really appreciated this grounding as to why he does what he does.

He left the game industry for a while, and came back, and his goal was (and is) to create emotionally engaging audio in games.

He made a point about realism, and we're good, but not good enough, and too much attempt at realism will fall short, jerking gamers out of the experience (he used them film, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within as an example).

Charles did an interesting differentation of "emotion" (the cross cultural reaction), and "feeling" (the cultural/individual response to emotion.

Game audio, he contends, can generate (or destroy) emotions, and "more emotion leads to less judgement", and possibly addictive behavior.

He broke out 4 critical components to audio:

  • Music
  • Dialog
  • Sound Effects
  • Mix

We then did a brief table exercise where each table picked something that quickly emotionally enhances a game (appropriate quality music was the common answer here), and something that can emotionally destroy a game -- "repetition" and "poor voice acting" were the common answers.

Poor voice acting. That's part of why I got into voice acting -- I'm tired of poor voice acting.

Charles did say that even bad acting and bad writing can be overcome, if audio is well-recorded, well-edited, and well-implemented to enhance believability.

The QA was a mixed bag, but some good discussions.

He said the audio directors at EA often don't have a lot of control over writing and voice acting -- external producers are hired for the efforts.

He said we should also cater to gamers. Always. Not to audio professionals.

On orchestral scored music, he said it depends on whether they're doing it to get specific emotional response, or "because we have budget to blow, and Hollywood does it".

Got to chat with Charles briefly afterward. Nice fellow.

AGC Day 1: Keynote (Rob Pardo, Vice President of Game Design, Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.)

First up Austin Game Conference was a Keynote from Rob Pardo, Vice President of Game Design, Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

A lot of this was using World of Warcraft as a device to explain Blizzard's design, development and marketing methodology.

Blizzard mantras:

  • "Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master"
  • "Killing with a purpose"
  • "Concentrated coolness"

Interesting that Blizzard, in their attempt to meet their "Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master" mantra designs depth first (character classes, dungeons, pvp, raids and end games), then accessibility. And pacing bridges the two.

On the accessibility front, UI is obviously the most apparent, and Pardo criticized UIs that "try to show too much" -- WoW offloads a lot of this to things like their auction house implementation.

Other areas of accessibility include the solo experience ("0 to 60"), new content as you level up, and handling "The Newbie Experience".

"Concentrated coolness" is handled through differention of races. They're not just differently skinned. And by limiting the number of classes.

Pardo went into the development truism that every decision costs. Interesting idea that compromise is not good, because "it makes members of both sides dissatisfied." He did some cool comparisons with graphics (WoW vs. Crysis); World size/Teleportation (WoW vs. Diablo); Prestige Gear/Customizable gear (WoW vs. Ultima).

He also made some conmments on creating a culture of polish that I need to evaluate in the context of my toy job.

Good keynote overall, and it worked, given the MMO nature of the conference.

As an aside, I'm just realizing the exclamation point matker system populated in Diablo II is a really good interface device.

UPDATE: A more in-depth blow-by-blow of the keynote is available from

Austin Game Conference prep

Wednesday sees the start of the Austin Game Conference, a video game opportunity running concurrently (and co-located) with the Game Writers Conference, Casual Games Conference, and Game Audio Conference.

For me, it's a phenomal opportunity in my own backyard. I'll be hitting this thing as the BigHugeCorp service manager that I am, as a voice and MoCap actor, and (of course), as a gamer.

I've touched base with a bunch of attendees and speakers prior to tomorrow, printed out a bunch of my signature voice over headshots and resumes, a dozen or so traditional demo CDs, a couple dozen new, business card demo CDs, and even added a new clip:

The first snippet is from that unannounced personal project I keep teasing, and the other two are from my Marvel Ultimate Avengers DVD audition.

And I went through my bag (picked it up early tonight), weeded out all the crap, and I'm good to go for tomorrow.

Time for a few hours of sleep before I hit it hard in the a.m.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Game trailers worth watching

There are a few game trailers and videos that caught my eye this week. They're all over at TeamXbox, and all in Hi-Def. Those guys rock.

Team Fortress 2:

Fans of the original and newbs alike have reason to be excited about this refresh of the multiplayer classic. This team-/class-based multiplayer first-person shooter was a riot before, but it looks like Valve is seriously deepening the gameplay, taking a stylish cartoonesque note from the Free Radical (TimeSplitters, Second Sight, Haze), and the result is really appealing. The fun art style may make playing on Xbox Live with jerks all the more irritating, but we'll see.

And, if is right, the game will include everything, as it "will not only include the second chapter of 'expansion' episodes for Half-Life 2 [Episode 2] but also enhanced versions of Half-Life 2 and Episode One plus the all new Team Fortress 2 and Portal."

Watch the Team Fortress 2 hi-def trailer at


Merge comic-book sensibilities and a sandbox world, from the guy who created the Grand Theft Auto concept (well before the Hot Coffee debacle)? Brilliant!

I re-watched the Xbox Live E3 behind the scenes footage on this game a few nights ago, and had already got myself all excited again, but these three gameplay trailers have me even more pumped. My one concern is that it looks really hard to avoid inadvertently killing civilians -- lots of civilians. It's not like I'm a softy, but I like games that create a strong emotional experience (like regret at innocent life lost), rather than irritation at cannon fodder. But that's me. I'm still excited about the game.

Watch the Crackdown hi-def game play videos at


Yun-Fat Chow fan? Check. John Woo fan? Check. Fan of the fact that Woo created Tiger Hill Entertainment as a brilliant way to do new IP and maintain creative control of it? Check.
Hey, this is the game that CliffyB (Gears of War) said was the most impressive game at this year's E3, and said he couldn't figure out why it didn't get more buzz.

Watch the trailer -- it's really looking like we're going to get to play a John Woo film -- how amazing is that? There will probably be doves. There will probably not be a dove-shooting mini game. But they should think about that. It might extend their target audience.

Watch the Stranglehold hi-def trailer at