Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Greeting Cards from the Industry

While just a year into formally being in the games industry, I have reached an unlooked-for measure of success: I'm getting video game holiday cards.

I got a bunch, and I particularly enjoy the company-themed offerings.

Below are a few of my current favorites. Of course, these are the outsides of the cards; I'm not going to share the insides, because those are besmirching personal.

Cards and lightweight opining below.

("Understated. Tastefully branded. Tastes good with cheese.")

("It's Nintendo! It's Animal Crossing! It's cute!")

BottleRocket Entertainment:
("Kicks ####ing ###.")

My Card for 2008:
("Edgy because it's Christmas, and gutsy in hoping 'game-theme' will win out over 'Santa-hating'.")

No, I didn't make my holiday cards (this year), but I really dig this card with art from Charlie Podrebarac. And, yes, Sony and Nintendo are not getting this particular card. They get different cards. Obviously.

Though I think they like cookies.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gamebryo 2.6 Preview?

I've got a new podcast up at my Emergent Game Technologies Product Management podcast / blog site.

This is a "preview" podcast for Gamebryo 2.6, even though 2.6 released last month, and I'm just now getting around to posting the audio for the interview with Dan Amerson, technical director for Gamebryo.

So, in an odd way, I've created a time-traveling blog / podcast, and you get to come along for the surreal ride. Unfortunately, there are not yet any dinosaurs. Not yet.

Or something.

This is what happens when I live head-under-water with video game middleware. But wicked good things are happening on this front. Wicked. Good.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Xbox 360 deals

I'm sure these have been picked up elsewhere, but I ran into a few game-related deals while holiday shopping today.

First was a refurbished Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controller and 20GB Hard Drive at Circuit City (their Chapter 11 is good for gamers).

Then, over at Toys R Us, several Xbox 360 games are on the clearance cheap(ish), including The Orange Box ($14.98); Halo 3 Legendary for Xbox 360 ($39.98); BioShock ($14.98); and Frontlines: Fuel of War ($14.98).

That's it for now. PS3 and Wii fanboys, keep your Emails to yourself; I was looking for 360 gifts, so that's why this list is slanted that way.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Black Friday Gaming Deals

Ah, "Black Friday" -- that day after Thanksgiving shopping madness where people cast off their contentedness from the day before, in exchange for the chance to save a buck or two on that thing they can't live without, and punk gamers can play tug-o-war with old grannies horribly transformed, for that last NDS Lite (two guesses which one I was).

First, some general stuff.

If you're someone (ironically, like me) who wants a full list of deals so you can determine your own prioritization, CheapAssGamer.com just posted their list (Updated: now has a handy breakout by platfrom). You can also go to some of the better-known Black Friday aggregate sites that let you view just the gaming deals (*):
Oh, and I'm not hitting tertiarily related gaming deals (like TVs and couches), but there are some good deals out there if you're interested (like Samsung LCD TVs at Best Buy).

Other caveats? Erm, prices may change, games may be available for more / fewer platforms, deals may be for the weekend, Black Friday, or early a.m. doorbusters, I may have screwed something up, blah blah blah.

Now onto my lists.

There are some decent gamer deals this year, and you could slice and dice them a bunch of ways, but for this post I'm going to focus on these four categories:
  1. The Fantastic Game Deals
  2. Big discounts on newly released titles
  3. Handheld and Console bundles, Accessories
  4. The Non-deals
1. The Fantastic Game Deals

There are some people who seem to have unlimited time and money to game -- Let's call them "unemployed slack-bastards".

But that's not who I am.

I have limited time and funding (I have to share with my comic book and toy fetishes), so I hit some of the bigger players (Fallout 3, Gears 2, etc.), some more casual titles (stuff from PopCap or The Behemoth), and stuff I'd rather rent than buy (lightweight hack-n-slashers, etc.).

For me, the sweet spot for Black Friday "Fantastic Game Deals" falls into that "stuff I'd rather rent than buy" -- those prices where I can buy a game I want to try for close to the price it'd cost to rent. An additional nuance is if I can find rent-price co-op titles, I can also take care Christmas giftage for my gaming brethren. Keep in my mind my personal cut-off for these kinds of deals is ~10, but there are some decent deals to be had for $15-20.

Here are some of the deals that have my attention:
  • Assassin's Creed PC $9.99 (Best Buy)
  • Assassin's Creed Xbox 360/PS3 $9.99 (Game Crazy)
  • Bioshock PC $9.99 (Best Buy)
  • Boom Blox Wii $20.00 (Target)
  • Buy 1, get 1 free on all new $18.99 or less games (Game Crazy)
  • Command & Conquer Collection PC $9.99 (Best Buy)
  • Conan Xbox 360 $9.99 (Circuit City)
  • Cooking Mama NDS $9.99 (Circuit City)
  • Dark Sector Xbox 360/PS3 $9.99 (Game Crazy)
  • The Darkness Xbox 360 $4.99 (Game Crazy)
  • Dead Rising Xbox 360 $9.99 (Circuit City)
  • Death Jr NDS $7.99 (Game Crazy)
  • Disney Princess: Royal Adventure GBA $4.99 (Circuit City)
  • Enemy Territory: Quake Wars PC $4.99 (Circuit City)
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions PSP $9.99 (Best Buy)
  • God of War PS2 $15.00 (Target)
  • Halo 3 $30.00 (Target)
  • Justice League: Heroes NDS $9.99 (Circuit City)
  • Lego Star Wars: THE COMPLETE SAGA Wii $10.99 (Costco)
  • The Little Mermaid GBA $4.99 (Circuit City)
  • The Little Mermaid NDS $9.99 (GameStop)
  • Resident Evil 4 PS2 $9.99 (GameStop)
  • Saints Row Xbox 360 $9.99 (Best Buy)
  • The Simpsons Game Xbox 360 $9.99 (Best Buy)
  • World of Warcraft PC $9.99 (Best Buy) (Circuit City) (GameStop) (Meijer) (Toys R Us)
  • World of Warcraft Battlechest PC $14.99 (Circuit City)
2. Big discounts on newly released titles

There are a bunch of newly and relatively newly released titles that have shipped, and the barrier to purchase goes down tomorrow. While not the "Holy Crap" deals some of the above are (with the possible exception of Brothers in Arms), they make for a much more accessible way to get more recent titles.
  • Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway PS3/360 $17.99 (Toys R Us)
  • Brother in Arms: Hell's Highway PS3 $19.99 (Best Buy) (Game Crazy)
  • Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway Xbox 360 $19.99 (GameStop)
  • Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway PS3/Xbox 360 $19.99 (Circuit City) (Game Crazy) (Target)
  • Call of Duty 4 GOTY Xbox 360/PS $39.99 (GameStop)
  • Call of Duty World At War Xbox 360 / PS3 $49.00 (Target)
  • Civilization Revolution NDS $19.99 (GameStop)
  • Crysis Collector's Edition PC $19.99 (GameStop)
  • Dead Space Xbox 360 / PS3 $30.00 (Target)
  • EndWar Xbox 360 $37.99 (Best Buy)
  • Far Cry 2 Xbox 360 $37.99 (Best Buy)
  • Guitar Hero Aerosmith Wii $24.99 (Best Buy)
  • Guitar Hero Aerosmith w/2 Wireless Guitars Wii $99.99 (Target)
  • Guitar Hero III Bundle PS3/360 $54.99, and add a wired guitar for only $9.99 (Circuit City)
  • Left 4 Dead Xbox 360 $49.99 (GameStop)
  • Ninja Reflex NDS $9.99 (Circuit City)
  • Ninja Town NDS $14.99 (Best Buy)
  • Soul Calibur IV PS3 $37.99 (Best Buy)
  • Teenage Zombies $11.00 (Target)
3. Handheld and Console bundles, Accessories

Looking for a new or additional system? Your deals are below:
  • Ice Blue DS w/Free Brain Age game & Carrying case $139.99 (Circuit City)
  • Ice Blue or Mario Red DS Lite Bundle $149.99 (Purchase any Nintendo DS before 11am, and receive $25 OFF on your next Nintendo purchase) (K-Mart)
  • Mario DS w/Free New Super Mario Brothers game $139.99 (Circuit City)
  • Mario Red & Ice Blue DS Bundles $136 (Wal-Mart)
  • Nintendo DS Brain Age or Mario Bundle w/ Free DS Accessory $19.99 or Less $149.99 (Toys R Us)
  • DS accessories $9.99 each (Sears)
  • Nintendo Wii Family Bundle (Wii Console, 3 Wii Remotes, 3 Nunchunks, Wii Sports game, Mario Super Sluggers Wii Game, King of Clubs Mini Golf Wii Game) $425 (Sam's Club)
  • PS2 console (Silver or Black) + $30 Gift Card + Free $19.99 Game $129.99 (GameStop)
  • Xbox 360 Arcade Holiday Bundle + Refurb 20GB HD & Wireless Controller $199.99 (Circuit City)
  • Xbox 360 Arcade Holiday Bundle w/Rock Band 2 Game $199.00 (Dell.com)
  • Xbox 360 Arcade Holiday Bundle w/free Guitar Hero III + Wireless Guitar $199 (Wal-Mart)
  • Xbox 360 Elite Holiday Bundle + Gears of War 2 and the Gears of War 2 Amazon.com Exclusive Lancer $399.99 (Friday only, saves $200)
  • Xbox 360 Pro 60GB Holiday Bundle with Tony Hawk Proving Ground & NBA 2k9 $299.99 (Best Buy)
  • Xbox 360 60 GB Pro Holiday Bundle + $30 Gift Card $299.99 (Circuit City)
  • Xbox 360 60GB Pro Holiday Bundle with $60 Gift Card $299.99 (Target)
  • Xbox 360 Pro or Elite Holiday Bundles and get a Guitar Hero II bundle free $249.99/$399.99 (Game Crazy)
  • Buy Xbox 360 Holiday Bundle (any), get Rainbow Six Vegas 2 free (GameStop)
  • Xbox 360 System (any) and get a free wireless controller (Sears)
  • Xbox 360 Wired Guitar Hero Guitar Controller $10.00 (Toys R Us)
4. The Non-deals

I think Kotaku.com calls these "the uneducated parent deals", but beware of console "deals" that are list price, and then list "with [1,2] free games!" -- The current Xbox holiday bundles ship with free games, so the retailer isn't doing you a favor. Also, beware of games deals like the Orange Box for $19.99 (places like Target have this as their new regular price.

Happy shopping!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gamebryo 2.6 is live

I'm stoked to say Gamebryo 2.6 -- the newest version of Emergent's multiplatform game engine -- has gone gold and is shipping. So, it's available now for making game and other 3D interactive awesomeness.

Philosophically, I want to be able to give developers the best tools possible so they can make their games their way. And while we're a multiplatform engine, we're targeted and optimized for each. This 2.6 release is geared toward providing further differentiated platform offerings for each, and introducing tool and workflow improvements for artists and designers.

We're not content to rest on the laurels of our well-received 2.5 release, and with this release we introduce the new version of our Nintendo Wii offering (including an integration with the new Emergent Terrain System introduced in our 2.5 release). Developers can develop for multiple platforms simultaneously, or start on the Wii as their lead SKU, and aim at other platforms later in development, or point their existing projects already developed on PC, 360, and / or PS3 toward the Wii, for more potential commercial return.

We also added optimized D3D 10 rendering support for PC, and for all platforms, a new XSI exporter, huge improvements to our Animation System, Scene Designer enhancements for artists and designers, engine upgrades, and more technology partner integrations (we're not so arrogant as to think we should build everything for everyone).

More details on the release are available from Emergent.net, and from the Gamebryo forums, and see the shipping release notes, and blah blah blah.

Ignoring competitive rhetoric, Gamebryo actually does hit the sweet spot for developing 3D interactive experiences -- of any size or type -- which for me means making sure we make the best tools and tech available to people making all sorts of games with all sorts of time and budget restrictions. Casual games? Check. Serious Games? Check. Triple A? Check. Commercial titles? Check. MMOs? Check. More? Check.

So, less than a year into the new job, two launches out the door, and more to come.

Stay tuned ...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shopping deals (Oct. 26)

A couple of deals float my boat this week.

First, I'm chomping at the bit for Bethesda's Fallout 3, but was kind of on the fence about paying $20 extra for the special edition. Over at Circuit City, though, they're giving a $10 gift card and a mini strategy guide if you buy the regular or special edition version (and $10 cards for various other games shipping this week). Hey, for what's ostensibly a ten-spot extra, I'll pick up the special edition, with its art book, bobblehead, making-of DVD, and lunchbox (I needs me a new lunchbox).

Next up for anyone looking for an Xbox 360, there look to be a bunch of deals coming up at Sam's Club. While the search on the site seems a bit borked right now, Kotaku reveals a Guitar Hero bundle -- which, besides the 60Gb, should - be - the - only - version - but - we'll - call - it -our - middle - SKU, version, and the bundled Kung Fu Panda and LEGO Indiana Jones games, it also comes with the full-guitar version of Guitar Hero III. And it's only $50 more ($349 total) than the 60Gb version by itself. Should be available middle of November.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Download Fable, Fable II music

I meant to post this a week ago, but you can download some free music from Fable and Fable II.

Sounded like a better deal at first, what with " wonderful selection of Fable 1 music and 3 brand new tracks from the upcoming Fable II soundtrack".

But since the zip file contains 6 tracks total, you get 3 Fable I, and 3 Fable II tracks. But that sounds less markety.

You do get the Fable I Danny Elfman theme, so that by itself is worth the price of admission.

Anyway, link below (the Sumthing Digital promo code on the site is borked).

Download from Sumthingelse.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Begun, the Shark Wars have ...

Ah, the joys of company culture.

We folks at Emergent Game Technologies work wicked hard. It turns out putting a commercial game engine that doesn't suck into the market is a wicked lot of work. Putting out one that kicks it hardcore on multiple platforms takes a wee bit more work than that. So we work hard. Constantly.

That said, if you put a bunch of wickedly smart people together, things get wickedly wonky, and, well, entertaining.

Here's a snapshot.

It started with a quote and bet, and then spiralled from there.

The quote is from Austin Powers' Dr. Evil:

"You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done."
The bet was ... multifaceted. But let's just say part of it was made between two engineers, and dependent on the creation of an actual shark with frickin' laser beams.

So, after a bit of jury rigging to a rubber shark (provided to Engineering by Yours Truly), Emergent ended up with a shark that, indeed, has frickin' laser beams attached to its head. And independently controlled fans. And is pluggable into a computer to receive notifications (like when we lose network access to our source control repository).

Below, feast your eyes on the Engineering Shark, traditional lasers and all:

Emergent Engineering Shark

Me? I saw opportunity for a bit of a friendly competitive battle, and having provided Engineering this cute little fellow, I ordered a five-foot inflatable badboy, attached red faux gems (and had a bad 80s denim Bedazzler flashback) and red yarn to the eyes, to create "analog lasers".

Behold, Product Management Shark 1.0:

Emergent Product-Management Shark (Profile)

Analog lasers and all:

Emergent Product-Management Shark (Analog Lasers close-up)

Now, the fact that the Product Management shark is hanging in my office, the red gems' propensity to pop off at a moment's notice, and the general irritant of the phrase "analog lasers" created a culture of engineers walking into my office and taking shots with NERF guns at Jabberjaw (affectionately and respectfully named for the Hannah-Barbera character, and, uh, my loquacity; and/or my tendency to say, "bite me"). His poor little eyes kept popping off.

To protect Jabberjaw and mitigate the "those don't count as a defense mechanism" verbal barbs (words hurt), I picked up some cheapy motion-activated dart launchers, strapped them around his middle, and put the sensors near my door.

Enter Jabberjaw 2.0.

That gave me a couple of weeks of giggles as visitors were beaned in the head (or nether regions) before someone got done and stole my darts. Jerk(s).

Undaunted, and guessing the toy dart launchers were too cheap to use unique RF signals, I picked up another set. Sure enough, one set of transmitters will set off multiple missile launchers, so Jabberjaw 2.5 (I'm just enhancing functionality he already had, after all) is now equipped with two launchers, each capable of launching 2 missiles, for a 4-missile volley that makes people think about whether they really want to talk to me.

Jabberjaw 2.5:

EGTPM Product Management Shark 2.5 LOLcatted

There's more to the back-and-forth Product Management and Engineering good-natured ribbing, but I think I'll save recounting the next round of that for another aggrandizing post.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tokyo Game Show 2008

The Tokyo Game Show is in full swing, and other than putting some links over on the left to TGS tags or sections of industry sites (IGN, Joystiq, and Kotaku*), I haven't been able to write much -- though I've been keeping up.

So what's the big news at TGS?

Depends what you like.

If you're of a certain type, maybe it's all about the TGS "companions" and their "outfits".

I'm not writing to your type. Ever.

Industry Happenings:
From a lightweightish touchpoint of the industry perspective, the platform representation is a bit interesting. Not definitive by any means, but the percentage of titles per platform at TGS08 is an interesting indicator of commercial interest (and therefore, addressable market) for those platforms. Obviously, the data slightly skewed due to the regional (and, therefore, regional consumer interest) nature of show.

Unofficial breakout of platforms represented at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show
Attendance is down around 11,000 from last year (continuing a downward trend), probably due to Nintendo's continued absence, and the in-betweenness of big shipping titles and not-yet-playable titles, and/or Microsoft as one of the big publishers still not being the Japan draw that Sony is (or Nintendo would be, if they deigned to show).

But ignoring jaded gaming press's various wailing's about "not much happening" at TGS this year, for gamers who still love games, there's some good stuff, and Saturday's public attendance (from picts) at least looks respectable.

If you're an Xbox 360 fan, there was a lot of good noise on that front. Besides the formal announcement the New Xbox Experience (NXE) coming November 19th, (confirming what we already knew, based on an XBL ad), it sounds like the monolothic, twice-a-year Xbox dashboard updates of the past may give way to more fleet-of-foot updates, which as a gamer, program and former development manager, makes me happy. Plus, the videos of the new dashboard in use is pretty exciting.

And the laggard "Bringing it Home" downloadable content finally showed up (anyone else find it funny that Xbox Live's Major Nelson seemed surprised by the content?). Oh, but good luck finding it in one place on your Xbox, since I have yet to find the TGS08 button there, what with all of the "Shocktober", Quantum of Solace, Gears of War 2, and other noise on the dashboard. (UPDATED: Turns out I got to it by going to Marketplace --> Spotlight --> Games --> Tokyo Game Show 2008 (37 slots down from the top? Seriously?).)

If you're more on the 360 fanboy side, you should take glee in Microsoft's further eroding of the Sony exclusives by taking Tekken 6 (out next year), adding to the usurped Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy franchises.

Oh, and Halo junkies? Bungie finally got to make their late- and- undercut announcement of Halo: Recon, a boxed-title expansion pack for Halo 3, that will be a prequel (single player campaign and new multiplayer maps and modes), featuring a playable Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) marine -- a bad-ass looking character I've been waiting (and I'm pretty sure I've been promised I'd be able) to play since Halo 2. The trailer shows off the repeat top-notch, triple-A, traylor madd skilz we've seen in past Halo universe trailers. Some of the cool stuff is pretty subtle (which makes it cooler).

Of similar interest is the Halo Wars RTS, and I'm hoping it gets the love it needs from Microsoft and Ensemble, given the former's recent shuttering of the latter.

Public service announcement: I still want Otogi 3, but From Software's Ninja Blade will likely fill the gap until someone comes to their senses and makes that other thing happen.

And on the free- publicity- better- than- your- own- game- PR- could- do front, I'm not sure Microsoft could get better than Kotaku calling Banjo Kazooie "More Like LEGO Grand Theft Auto".

Sony folks? Were you bummed like I was that anticipated title White Knight Chronicles -- a game showing up this year -- wasn't playable on the show floor, and its session was a PowerPoint presentation? Hey, at least 4-player co-op news snuck out.

But the Resistence 2 (PS3) and Resistence: Retribution (PSP) interconnectivity sounds nifty (actually the whole "PSP Plus" tie between the PSP and PS3 (including DualShock functionality) feels cool, and I hope devs exploit it).

I'm watching to see if LittleBigPlanet becomes the atypical console mover I think it could be. But the brilliance of leveraging Sony's IP as Sackboys (Kratos from God of War, Nariko from Heavenly Sword, "Old Snake" from Metal Gear Solid 4, Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII), while kind of a "duh" move, showcases the kind of tactical marketing savvy I like to see. Now, if they could only do the same thing with their video and music catalogs on PSN...

On the multiplatform front, Resident Evil 5 is looking grr-eat, and the co-op deets (I'm a co-op bigot) make me happy.

Konami's going to get us a new Xbox 360 and PS3 Castlevania, but other details or neigh non-existent.

Namco Bandai's Afro Samurai? Looks wicked sweet.

And, no, Square Enix didn't announce a date for Final Fantasy XIII. [Sigh]

And this Street Fighter IV trailer? Art. Again. I want the game to look like the ink or watercolors or sand post-processing effect. Please?

Changing Business Models:
On the "changing business models front", Microsoft's NXE goes a long way in that direction, because it will give better access to the wealth of content that's made the 360 a victim of its own success, and it'll be an interesting experience in the "core, non-core, social interaction" realm (a la the avatars and LIVE Party). Sony making all first-party PSP titles downloadable is a very cool, moving- into- the- digital- distro move, and Level 5's surprising ROID digital distro (Steam?) competitor gets props for super sexy packaging, and console- transformer- red- herring tease (but they don't have any PC or mobile games in their portfolio, do they? Hmm.).

As a left-field kind of thing, I really like what I think is an important industry statement from Peter Molyneux (Fable II):

"More and more we are saying these ones here are core games and these one here are casual games. Actually I think that is an incredibly divisive thing and if we're not careful the amount of attention we put into these core games will get less and less because they are so expensive to make."

Show Floor:
Here's an embed of what the Tokyo Game Show floor must be kind of like, from blip.tv / Kotaku (who, despite my rant below, I think are probably fine folks).

More as I think about it. Maybe.

* (What is up with Kotaku? Much as I like those guys, why the hell do I have to dig through so many fractured tags to get all of my TGS info? ("tokyo game show 2008"? "TGS08"? "Lets TGS" [sic]? WTF? Oh, and there's TGS content not tagged. Nice.)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Gamebryo takes 4 out of (a) Top 10

Things like this happen on an almost minute-to-minute basis, but I'd be remiss in my job if I didn't point it out when I see it (totally recognizing I'm risking an inaccurate shill-pimping perception here).

But at least at 10:32 a.m. October 6, 2008, Gamebryo-powered titles included 4 out of the 10 "Most Popular" titles on GameSpot.com (including #1):
  1. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
  2. Dragon Age: Origins
  3. Fallout 3
  4. Little Big Planet
  5. Spore
  6. Civilization IV: Colonization
  7. The Witcher Enhanced Edition
  8. Worldshift
  9. Silent Hill Homecoming
  10. Fable II

So, Gamebryo's under the hood of new PC MMO contender Warhammer Online; anticipated triple-A RPG title Fallout 3 (PS3/360/PC); PC Sci-Fi/Fantasy RTS Worldshift; and PC strategy title Civilization IV: Colonization (Gamebryo was also in the mix for the title's Civilization: Revolution PS3 and 360 brothers).

Not bad for the middleware engine that can -- and does -- over and over again, across hundreds of titles, a dozen-plus genres, and a bunch o' platforms.

(FYI, this post delays the initiating event by a bit, because I was verifying the status of one of the titles.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Defining Good Middleware

Yesterday, Kyle Wilson (Day 1 Studios) posted a "Defining Good Middleware” opinion piece on Gamasutra.com.

It is a good, direct, cogent little piece of writing better and more succinct than most of the "buy versus build" seminars I've endured over the past decade.

Wilson discusses several attributes of "Good Middleware", including:
  • Provides you with more code than you could write yourself for a fraction of what it would cost you to try
  • Offers structure ("Middleware draws a line between the things that you have to worry about and the things you don’t")
  • Lets you hook your own memory allocator
  • Lets you hook your own I/O functions
  • Has extensible functionality
  • Avoids symbol conflicts
  • Is explicit about its thread safety
  • Fits into your data pipeline
  • Is stable
  • Gives you source code
Using Wilson's article as a starting point, Gamebryo architect Vincent Scheib posits, "Is Gamebryo Good Middleware?"

Fortunately, the answer is Gamebryo is good middleware. Very good middleware.

Give it a read, and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fill your back catalog at GameStop

So this is kind of cool.

GameStop is doing "Buy 2, Get 1 Free Sale" on all used games and accessories (you can use coupon code GSB2G1 if you're ordering online).

If you have an Edge Card, you get an extra 10% off. What makes this particularly cool is if you're not inappropriately fixated on "next-gen" graphics, there are a bunch of original Xbox, Gameboy Advance, GameCube, etc. titles you can get for peanuts, that all play on their now-gen successors.

For example, print out the Xbox backwards compatibility list (from Xbox.com, once it's back online), and pick up things like Project Snowblind for $2.49, Hunter: The Reckoning (a personal fav) for $2.99, etc. (if you're looking online, I just sorted used Xbox games by price). And this is all before discounts.

Of course, the discount applies to current-gen games too, so it makes GameStop's not-discounted-enough titles more palatable, if you're looking for new or recent titles.

(I'm not affiliated with or paid by GameStop / EBGames. ;-)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Google Lively AGDC keynote quick notes

Kevin is Largely on the content side.

120 content developers registered. Will be opened to everyone soon.

Opening up the API will happen "soon".

Talked about getting content from "Max or Maya or Flash or SketchUp".

Formed separate company as content team for Lively.

Have seen a user-created plug-in for international use (implied Japan/by-di).

Envision Peer-to-peer transactions.

"We're going to open up animation tool. Dcc will be "Max and Maya and Sketch-Up".

Friday, September 12, 2008

Adam in Austin for AGDC

Starting today, I'll be in Austin for a week for the Austin Game Developers Conference (the conference proper starts next week).

It's hopefully going to be wicked busy, but you can track me via Twitter and Brightkite.

I'd like to meet up with you if we can.

Of course, this is all pending Hurricane Ike (especially since I connect through Houston this morning).


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Deals, deals, deals ...

I'm curious to see how the Xbox 360 price drops change the retail landscape (or not), with the $199 Arcade version the cheapest now-gen console on the market. Dunno if Nintendo will follow suit, but Sony's already said they don't feel the need to drop their price.

In case you were wondering, here's the new official retail price breakout for the U.S. (Japan may get a similar price drop, but the UK, not so much):

So, are there better or worse places to buy the newly priced 360s? Yeah -- Circuit City, who's giving away a 1600 Xbox Live points card with the purchase of any Xbox. Cheaper new consoles and a $20 XBL card? (I think Microsoft uses new math.)

While you're at Circuit City, you can also pick up any of 3 titles for $15 bucks (new): Ghost Recon 2: Advanced Warfighter, Saints Row, or the excellent, everyone-should-play, Dead Rising. Or you can get wireless controllers for five bucks off.

There are even rumors that Call of Duty 4 will be $29.99 at Circuit City the following week of the 14th (if this is the GotY edition, pick ... it... up), and Gears of War (for PC) will be $14.99.

I'm probably being really unfair to other retailers and platforms, but those are the only things that jumped out for me this weekend.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Gamebryo / EGT updates

Just a few quick updates on the toy job front.

Forbidden Terror on Station Z, our "Zombies on Rails Shooter in Space" gameplay / tech demo from GDC08 is now available to the masses, via Emergent.net. You, Joe Gamer, equipped with at least a middling PC and an Xbox 360 controller, can download and play this nice little time-suck. Evaluators and licensees can actually download the full source code, crack it open, and play around -- on PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii (assuming you're licensed for those platforms).

I'll actually be in Austin for the Austin GDC (as will a bunch o' EGT folks), and I (and a co-worker) will be presenting a case study for the demo Monday at 3 p.m.:
"Zombies Ate Our Dogfood (and Drank Our Kool-Aid®)"
We'll be playing and deconstructing the demo. Dunno which (Any? All?) platforms I'll be bringing for play, but it promises to be an engaging chat

(In the schedule, this is probably listed as "Zombie Survival Seminar: A Case Study on Short Timelines, Limited Resources and Achieving Big Results.")

On the conference front, EGT had a strong showing at Leipzig, and licensee Larian Studios had a strong showing of sequel Divine Divinity 2: Ego Draconis ("I the Dragon").

Speaking of strong showings, Gamebryo-powered MMO Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, has gone gold and announced a September 18 ship date. (For those liking the behind the scenes side of things, be sure to check out the production podcasts.)

Continuing the MMO news, another title with Gamebryo under the hood, Wizard101, went live today. Calling it a "'Tween MMO" is probably a bit underselling, and I'm intrigued by this almost all-ages MMO, and the steps the team has taken to make it a safe, fun, engaging online experience.

Also, Hidden Path Entertainment's Defense Grid: The Awakening, was well received at last week's Penny Arcade Expo. This looks to be a fun tower defense implementation, and is already looking visually spiffy.

On the partner technology front, EGT released an updated Audiokinetic Wwise integration (version 1.0.5, which supports Gamebryo (for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360) or Gamebryo (for Wii) and Wwise 2008.3).

We also released an Umbra (hardware-accelerated occlusion culling) integration (v1.1.0) for Gamebryo (available from and supported via Umbra). The Gamebryo 2.5 version of the integration is still in development and will be announced down the road.

Other than that, I'm heads down as the producer for our GDC09 demo. We're doing things quite a bit different for next year, so as a Product Manager, I've got to make some decisions as to if / when / how I'm going to tease demo info out. More to come.

UPDATED: Added mention of Gamebryo-powered Defense Grid: The Awakening from Hidden Path Entertainment, which was received very well at PAX.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Leipzig GDC

I've been wicked busy at the video game job, so my coverage of the 2008 Games Convention in Leipzig has been ... non-existent.

You can find tagged GC '08 coverage at Kotaku and IGN:
My too-brief sum-up:
  • Art travesty
  • I'm going to explode waiting for MadWorld and Left 4 Dead
  • I wonder if Heavy Rain will be the system seller for me
  • The inclusion of the Joker and Green Lantern (and associated gameplay mechanics) give me hope MK vs. DCU won't be too derivative
  • Sony is pushing MMO on consoles by adding Free Realms to DC Universe Online and The Agency
  • The PS3 Wireless Keypad looks like a usability mistake (above the gamepad? WTF?)
  • The PSP 3000 (sleeker, brighter screen, microphone (Skype), etc.) could give Sony a decent revenue lift
  • Sony certainly seems to get that making the console the center of the living room takes space, and is meeting that need with a new 160Gb model (though I cry "hypocrite!" at their original public badmouthing of Microsoft's multiple Xbox 360 SKUs)
  • I'm hoping the new 360 game pad with non-crappy D-Pad is not a region-based limited release -- even though that means I'll need to buy 4 new controllers
  • Upcoming Gamebryo-powered PC / 360 action RPGer Divinity 2 -- Ego Draconis showed well and was received well
  • Spider-Man: Web of Shadows may lift the franchise out of its video game doldrums
  • I want to play the likes of Little Big Planet, Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic, and more, but they're not enough for me to buy a PS3 (for reference, if I didn't have one, I probably would have bought a 360 for Braid)
  • I feel like Microsoft's split focus on GC 2008 and X08 has made it hard for me to get first-party coverage on either

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gamebryo for Casual Games

One of the initiatives I've pushed most recently as the Product Manager for Gamebryo at Emergent Game Technologies is making a bunch of waves in the industry:
Gamebryo Casual.
This is the full version of Gamebryo, targeted toward the real-world constraints of casual development timelines and budgets.

I'm stoked about this offering for a bunch of reasons.

First and foremost, I'm absolutely convinced we need to give developers and publishers the best tools so they can make great titles, and we need to meet teams where they're at with budgets, timelines, and other development restrictions.

Secondly, "Casual" is a bit of a misnomer, but the industry knows what it is. It's all of that stuff outside of "big box" development. It's also not "breezy, jump - in - jump - out - with - no - commitment" gameplay -- that's the player's experience with a lot of these titles.

The developer's experience is more along the lines of "holy - crap - I - have - no - money - and - no - time - and - I - have - to - get - a - high-quality - title - out - the - door - yesterday." There's an urgency and a desperation that requires the right titles to rise to the top to help folks see what the developer has to offer.

Gamebryo does that, and now we're raising awareness for casual game development on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PC.

Lotta info follows below, but I'm trying to do at least two things with the recent push.

First, we're raising awareness of the product we've had, and will continue to have, for casual game developers (or whatever the market segment ends up being called).

Second, by way of short-term promotion, we're making it really easy for folks to do multiplatform casual game development. It's not a one-size fits all promotion ("casual" development isn't "hobbyist"), you have to qualify, pricing isn't public, blah blah blah.

But if you're interested, contact Emergent and see if you qualify for this product and promotion.

Keep in mind, this is the same tech being leveraged for the likes of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, Fallout 3 , and Spatterhouse, and is perfectly suited for developers faced with reduced budgets and development schedules who still want to make high-quality titles. Developers still have access to the same tools as big-box devs (content exporter plug-ins for Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, and SoftimageXSI, our Scene Designer and Animation tools, the new Emergent Terrain system, etc.).

Gamebryo's flexible and extensible, so devs can leverage the pieces of the product they want, remove unneeded others, and optimize their titles for their distribution and platform needs.

Speaking o' flexible, Gamebryo's geometry system lets developers export their assets to target platforms and balance maximum detail and minimal download size (more objects for a game with a smaller footprint). The new system has the previous runtime efficiencies, and in version 2.5 we added increased load-time efficiencies (makes it faster). Data files are now smaller, and the end memory representation of those data files can be smaller (with pretty much zero perceptible loss to the end of the user).

Hundreds of titles in virtually every genre have used and are using Gamebryo. Casual developers should have the flexibility to build the title they want, in the genre they want, with the gameplay they want (a small sampling can be found at http://tinyurl.com/EGTCAS). Even better, we're looking for you to create innovative new genres and gameplay models.

Casual titles need to maximize their commercial return. Using Gamebryo, developers can more easily put their same title on multiple platforms, increasing their additional revenue potential without significantly increasing their cash outlay.

And since we do technology integrations with other middleware, developers can leverage other technologies and systems for their use, picking additional tech to meet their game needs and distribution restrictions. Remember this post? Allegorithmic's offering is a great example of Emergent partner tech that meets challenges in the download / digital distro space.

So that's the skinny.

(This has turned out to be a pretty high-profile effort, so I'm curious to see what the competitive reaction is. Lately, other companies have been doing a lot of verbatim lifting of EGT messaging and collateral (which is an Unrealistic way to build credibility, and lacks Vision), so I'm curious to see what "me-tooism" comes in response to Emergent's focused efforts with this offering.)

Austin: Emergent Game Technologies is hiring

This is an update to my last post about a Friday (August 22) evening mixer at Dave & Buster's in Austin, TX.

I won't be there, but you should be. Tell 'em I sent you.

The officialness is here, but here's a cut-n-paste of the deets:
We are primarily looking for folks to support our Online Game Server product, but will be taking resumes for other positions as well. We are looking to create a core group of contract developers IN AUSTIN.

We are looking for:
  • Online Service Integration Experts ( XBOX Live, PSN, Wii Online Services)
  • Security and Deployed Testing
  • Networking Experts
  • Distributed Simulation Experience
  • Console Performance Optimization
  • Game Scripting in Python or Lua
Come trade your resume or business card for food and drink and find out more about these opportunities with Emergent.

WHAT: Emergent Meet and Greet Cocktail Hour
WHEN: Friday August 22 5:30PM to 8:30PM
WHERE: Dave & Buster’s
9333 Research Blvd. Suite A600 Austin , TX 78759 512-346-8015


Questions or RSVP to:

kristoffer.singleton[that at sign]emergent[the dot thingy]net
But, really, if you miss the RSVP, don't let that stop you from going. And don't miss the fact that if you've got mad skilz that don't fit in the above buckets, we are still wanting those other mad skilz.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Austin: Emergent is hiring video game professionals

Austin's got a few top-tier video game folks that have recently become available; this message is for them (and anyone else interested in a gig):
Emergent Game Technologies is hiring video game professionals.

Seriously, whether you're technical or art, if you're looking for a gig, we'd like to chat. We even have an event this Friday in Austin, so if you want in on that, you gotta let me know (seriously, it's day after tomorrow).

And, if you're in-between studios, and are blessed with the latitude to take advantage of recent workforce reductions to just hang out and work on that labor of love of yours -- you really should contact me; we've got something special to offer you to help make that happen.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gaming deals

Cheap Ass Gamer has its weekly deals up, and there are a couple in particular of which to take note.

On the games front, if you don't own the earned-excellence that is Call of Duty 4, you can pick it up at Circuit City for $39.99 -- and it's the "Game of the Year" edition, which includes all of the new maps for free.

If you want a console, Circuit City's giving a $30 gift card when you buy any XBOX 360 (now that we're living in mixed SKU/hard drives-ville). If you're a Madden fan (sorry sorry sorry, I just can't do it), at Target you get a $40 gift card when you buy Madden NFL ’09 and either a 60GB or 120GB XBOX 360. Or at Best Buy, you get a free wireless controller when you tag Madden '09 and any XBOX 360.

As an aside, I'm surprised to see the PS3's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots already discounted (even if slightly, at $54.99) at Target.

And while I don't believe PC gaming is actually on the decline, it is a bit sobering to see no PC entertainment titles listed for Target, Best Buy, or Circuit City this week.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Adam travelling to LA

I'm off to Los Angeles for a whirlwind trip for the toy job (EGT), and likely won't be fitting in any auditions or even game developer / publisher meetings while I'm there (and likely couldn't give you any deets if I was).

But for those Web 2.0ers who want to keep lightweight track of me (and for the moderately stalk-y minded), you can follow me on brightkite or twitter (no need to use both - they should be in synch).


By way of abbreviated Emergent Game Technologies updates, BottleRocket Entertainment announced their Splatterhouse resurrection is going to use Gamebryo:

And developers should be excited that Gamebryo licensees get to use Allegrithmic's ProFX procedural texture tools - for free (promotional until the end of September, and the offer excludes MMOs).


Monday, July 28, 2008

EGT podcast

Over at the Unofficial Emergent Game Technologies Website, I've posted the first of (hopefully) many podcasts I'll be doing for EGT.

My guest (Dan Amerson, Technical Director for Gamebryo) and I shoot the breeze over Gamebryo 2.5, the recently released version of our 3D engine.

You can also subscribe to the RSS/Podcast feed here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Comic-Con 2008

Every year, Comic-Con becomes more and more the "everything" pop culture mecca.

I'm not going this year (not that last year was enough), but I will be watching for that peanut butter and chocolate mix of comic books and video games that I so desperately crave.

If I don't post Comic-Con-related shenanigans this week, be sure to check in on the convention-skewed offerings from Kotaku.com and IGN (they'll also be at the left side of the page for a week or two).

I'm sure Microsoft will be adding their Comic-Con specific coverage and Xbox downloadable goodies shortly (starting last year, they became great givers to the comic/geek/Adam crowd).

I'll add more links as I find them.

EDIT: Added the Xbox.com Comic-Con page.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gamebryo / EGT updates

So what's up with Emergent Game Technologies and / or the Gamebryo game engine recently?

On the Gamebryo-powered games front (at least retail), there's Space Chimps from developer REDTRIBE and publisher Brash Entertainment, on the Wii, 360, PS2, and DS.

On the MMO front, the open beta for Magic World Online (dev Goldcool Games and publisher Ingle Games Ltd.) starts June 20.

The big PC MMO for this year, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, started its closed guild beta July 11. This is from long-time developer licensee EA Mythic, and is being published by Electronic Arts.

On the partner integration front, Allegorithmic's ProFX for Gamebryo 2.3 and 2.5 is available, as is our updated Gamebryo 2.5 integration with Audiokinetic's WWise.

Finally, there are also new case studies on the Emergent Web site, including Image Metrics (from the facial animation demo we showed at GDC this year), and Coldwood (another GDC demo with a long-time licensee, showing what seven or eight people can do to create a hot tech demo in about a month's time) -- video accessible via the pict below.

Coldwood Case Study screenshot

Right, that's good for the work side of my gaming life for now.

(EDIT: Cleaned up links -- thank, Vince, for the heads up.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

E3 2008: Day 1

I'm tired, but it's been a big day on the announcement front.

You can catch my live tweeting of the Microsoft press conference.

Biggest announcement was Final Fantasy XIII coming to Xbox 360. Other cool stuff includes a NetFlix announcement (download videos via Xbox Marketplace, for the cost of the NetFlix account), Xbox Dashboard redesign this fall (sexy 3D-ish), sequel Portal Still Alive is a 2008 exclusive to the 360, content deals with NBC / Universal, and titles Fallout 3, Fable II, RE:5, and Gears 2 all look fantastic.

Electronic Arts robbed the Activision cradle (?), snagging id Software and Rage, and introduced Nucleus, a system/service that will connect a bunch of their games (29 by end of 2009), and Rupture, an API that "allows anyone to bring data in and out of the Rupture website. The API has two major components, the Rupture Client API and the Rupture API."

Sony's and Nintendo's and pressers are on Tuesday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

E3 Preview(ish)

E3 starts Monday, with the console pressers on Monday and Tuesday.

I'm excited to see what shakes out, but there are a number of titles and rumors that have me pumped.

On the titles front, I'm going to miss something I dig, but Borderlands (Gearbox Software) just looks fun; I'm hoping Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization continues the great stuff from Civilization: Revolution; Capcom's got me jonesing for Resident Evil 5 and Dark Void, Flock has me intrigued, and I'm hoping "New games from Capcom Interactive" include Dead Rising 2; from D3 Publisher, I think Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers looks to be the video game version of wonderfully trashy camp; Dead Space looks be a brown trousers equivent to 28 Days Later; Mirror’s Edge may improve on the Breakdown formula for "first-person thing"; Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning may be the MMO that gets me on board with the genre (and it's Gamebryo-powered); I'm hoping The Lord of the Rings: Conquest successfully merges the Tolkien IP with the Star Wars Battlefront gameplay; Left 4 Dead could be the shot in the rotting arm the zombie genre needs (like it needs anything); Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe may be a great expression of the component IPs; and SquEnix's The Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery look like uber-epic super-production value offerings.

As far as console rumors, I'm hoping they all do something actually phenomenal with media intersection. Brass tacks, Microsoft owns the show with Xbox Live, Sony should have exploded a long time ago (since it has the media and video content six ways to Sunday), and Nintendo could get so much more addressable market if they would get into that space (by way of focused online).

For Sony, it's probably a bit stupid of me that the most exciting thing for me would be a Twisted Metal follow up, (a la Black). Oh, and Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain looks closest to bridging the uncanny valley -- and tugging the heart strings to boot. On the hardware front, I wonder if Sony will drop the price of the PS2; seems like a win/lose, because it'll bring revenue, but feels like it'll cannibalize PS3 adoption (unless there's an equivalent PS3 drop, which I don't expect).

For Microsoft, I wonder if there'll be any motion controller announcement, to add to the news of the price drop for the Pro SKU. I'm a Halo be-otch, so Halo Wars, Peter Jackson's project, or whatever the #### Bungie is working on would be keen. Aside from that, I'd really love "Live Anywhere" to materialize (or even "Live Somewhere") -- like some big E3 presser announcement, simultaneous dashboard download and Windows Mobile update. That'd be sweet.

Nintendo? They say they haven't abandoned the "core gamer", so I hope that means some unexpected announcements from them. A Nintendo DS more akin to the Wii, or integrated with the Wii, or something, with content that matches the stereotypical gaming demographic. Franchise wise, I'm thinking Donkey Kong. What about the Wii? I'd love for Nintendo to do something disruptive -- a "Wii 1.25", or something -- with basics like DVD, a focused network initiative, etc.

So that's my quick-and-dirty preview -- more in a few hours.

Xbox 360 20Gb drops and deals

Ahead of its E3 keynote, Microsoft has made official the rumored $50 price drop for its 20Gb Xbox 360, ahead of the release of the new, replacement 60Gb version.

Not only can gamers get the 20Gb version starting today at most major retailers, some are doing shopping incentives in addition -- like Target, who's are giving $25 gift cards plus the fifty-buck price drop.

(Dunno if the new 60Gb version will be $300 or $350.)

Full Microsoft press release:
Redmond, Washington—Microsoft is giving consumers more gigabytes for their buck. The company today announced an Xbox 360® console with triple the storage space of the original console, but for the same price of $349 (U.S.) estimated retail price.

Available in retail stores in the U.S. and Canada starting in early August, the upgraded Xbox 360 will include a 60GB hard drive for storing the growing wealth of digital entertainment available for the console, including music, movies, television shows, and game content. In addition, Microsoft today dropped the price of its 20GB Xbox 360 console in the U.S. and Canada to just $299 (U.S.) (ERP) while supplies last, a savings of $50.

"We know consumers need more and more space to store the amazing digital content Xbox 360 offers, and we're giving it to them at no extra charge," said Albert Penello, Xbox director of product management at Microsoft. "No one device offers the depth and breadth of entertainment that Xbox 360 can deliver, and now you'll have three times the storage to manage all that great content."

Xbox 360 is just one of three Xbox 360 gaming and entertainment systems Microsoft offers. Microsoft's Xbox 360 Arcade, which comes with a 256MB memory unit and five Xbox LIVE Arcade games, is a value for the whole family for $279 (U.S.) (ERP), and the premium Xbox 360 Elite console is available with a 120GB hard drive for $449 (U.S.) (ERP).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gamebryo / EGT updates

As Product Manager for 3D engine Gamebryo, it probably makes sense for me to -- at least every once in a while -- summarize what's happening on that video game front.

Aside from our recent release (was it just over a month ago?!), we're not standing still.

Here's what's happened in just the last few days (I'm too lazy to go back through the whole month right now).

On the games front, there are a few titles with recent movement from that long list o' titles I posted for this year alone.

Notably, this week (today) sees Gamebryo-powered title Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution hit store shelves.

There's also a little Gamebryo-powered offering from Google (Lively). It's for Google to talk about, but there are number of online interviews where Google mentions the Gamebryo engine.

Emergent is also good about technology partnerships -- we understand we can't build everything, and we're sensitive to our licensees' investments in other middleware. More than just "paper partnerships", our partnerships are generally tech integrations available out-of-the-box (or via easy download) that let you leverage other top-tier games middleware in a powerful way.

Updated integrations include Audiokinetic's awesome Wwise audio pipeline offering, compatible with Gamebryo 2.5.

Then there's Aristen, a new company with a special effects sequencing tool. There launch press release was earlier than I expected, but it has a nice plug for Emergent.

Finally (at least on this) we released our first Allegorithmic ProFX integration with Gamebryo. Massive procedural textures, itty bitty compressionables. Yum.

Good stuff -- more to come shortly.

E3 links

In preparation for next week, I brought back the "E3" link on the top left side of my page, and added a few of the big dogs that come to mind -- including their scheduled press conferences.

On the console front, only Microsoft seems to have their E3 site up and discoverable, so if you know where Sony's and Nintendo's are, let me know.

Press conferences:
  • Monday (7/14) 10:30 a.m. PDT: Microsoft
  • Tuesday (7/15) 09:00 a.m. PDT: Nintendo
  • Tuesday (7/15) 11:30 a.m. PDT: Sony

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bungie Day 2008

(Forgot to post this this morning.)

It's Bungie Day 2008 ("the seventh day of the seventh month ..."), and there are some online and Xbox Live goodies for download -- with the Xbox Live goodies mostly available for today only (gamerpics and theme).

On Xbox Live Marketplace:
On Bungie.net:
Get 'em while they're hot:

7.7.08 (Bungie.net)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gamebryo games releasing this week

I'm away from the official list, so the only Gamebryo-powered release that comes to mind for this week is Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution.

The demo's available online, and is a solid console offering for the storied franchise.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Upcoming Gamebryo titles

I mentioned I work for Emergent Game Technologies, the company behind the Gamebryo game engine.

I'm pretty proud of our tech being foundational in somewhere around 200 titles. There are also 100 or so additional titles in development.

Which got me to thinking: Which titles built on Gamebryo are coming out soon?

The trick is finding titles I can actually mention. We're very protective of our licensees (people in our own office often don't know what titles are being worked on, since we keep that info need-to-know).

So, with the help of Reid at work (a top-notch Technical Account Manager at EGT), I've got a list of Gamebryo titles that have shipped or are coming out in 2008. These titles have been mentioned in some form or fashion in the media. If they haven't crossed a press barrier of some sort, they aren't here.

And EGT doesn't make games -- so these are other folks' properties, and they retain all the rights, licenses, etc.

And this is list isn't a commitment for shipping in 2008. Production schedules can and do change, blah blah blah.

Here are a buncha titles that have licensed Gamebryo, and have shipped or should be shipping in 2008:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

GLN: Breaking 4000

All right, this installment of Gaming Last Night (GLN) recaps me, playing Dragonball Z: Burst Limit, and ...

(... wait for it ...)

... breaking 4000 on my Xbox 360 Gamercard.

Which is ... dunno ...

Well, it's something, isn't it?

Might be more impressive if I hadn't bought my first 360 on launch night. Or if I still had my first 360 (sniff, I'll miss you, One-eyed Pete; HAL is so pissy). Or if I was a Gamerscore Whore (luv ya, Ryu!), and my numbers were cresting seventy thousand.

As it is, it's an excuse to post and get snarky.

Like I need an excuse.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Game industry needs to step up

I'm writing this post, knowing it's going to piss people off.

I'm writing it for at least a couple of reasons.

The first is to generate discussion -- about what I think are pretty important topics.

The second is because I've written (here and here, and plan to write) several topics that have needed to point back to a post like this; by writing this post, in the future I can link to here from "the game industry could learn from" type statements, and not derail future discussions.

To be fair, I'm relatively new to the game industry -- six months after a 3-year directed effort to get into this market (I'll write about that some other time), and since I'm on the middleware side, I'm a bit distanced from "core" game development and publishing. I'm also arguably not yet Part of the Club -- but I think that puts me in a unique space to comment on these topics.

And I'm a fan. I'm a consumer, I fought to get into this space, and I recognize the huge potential for this market.

Also, I'm wicked impressed with the creativity, innovation, and intelligence in the games industry. I just think the industry needs to recognize its relatively small size, vertical market maturity, and learn lessons from other vertical markets.

These are generalities, of course -- it doesn't apply to everyone, and companies like Microsoft, for example -- who have enterprise, consumer, and brand maturity -- are arguably going to be more mature in the games space.

Relative size:

The game industry is pretty small. Numbers put it between 6-8,000. Dell, as one company, has more than that. Now, think Cisco, IBM, Boeing, 3M, etc.

That makes for a very small talent and experience pool. On the upside, that should make for a more accessible group of folks -- if you're in the club (see above); but on the downside, it can make for an insular, elitist culture, too. I'm not saying it is; saying it could be. On second thought, I've experienced it quite a bit, so let's say it is.

Relative accomplishment:

I've talked about what film accomplished in its first 20 years, versus what video games accomplished in nearly twice that -- and video games had a more mature technology base from which to start. Not pretty.

There's a lifetime video game vet in Austin I keep encouraging to publish his verbal rant about the elevation of film versus his frustration with his industry's "myopic, uninformed braggadocio". It is a brilliant, informed, very articulate call to arms (and call to accountability) for the games industry.

And, because he's a respected lifetime vet, he could say say the same things I'm saying, but people might actually listen. Maybe.

Relative Professionalism:

OK, maybe. Because brass tacks, the downside of a very small, insular professional pool can be a lack of professionalism.

(This may sting; I hope it does.)

This exhibits itself in different ways. On the upside, I think the games industry is less constrained and more gutsy than a lot of other technical markets. Because of the nature of the deliverables, political correctness and "appropriateness" (as a generality) don't have the same gating powers as they would for say, Cisco or IBM. That leads to some hilarious, open fare (a la Battlefield: Bad Company or Red v. Blue).

But I have been treated with less regard in the games industry than any other part of the technology sector.

I've mentioned I spent a focused 3-year effort to get into the games industry. That's because I got great, focused advice from vets in the industry located with me in Austin who told me because of "the arrogance of the industry", I would need to take longer and additional steps to get closer to a parity title in the games industry.

I was an enterprise technical director in the financial services market. When I went to leave, I turned down executive-level positions in that market and other tech markets.

For video game companies, I was literally offered unpaid internships and associate producer positions at a fifth of my salary -- from people who knew my background and then-current compensation.

As I was getting coached by some top-tier folks to get into the industry, they had concerns about how I would get in and how I would do -- not about me, but about the industry "not acknowledging the skills and process maturity you bring that we so desperately need."

I had one interviewer tell me, "I'm not worried about you being able to do the job -- I'm concerned you'll run screaming when you see how f***ed up we are as an industry" (verbatim, I still have it written down from the interview).

I had a recruiter (one of the people on that side of the house I respect most in the game industry) who was beyond frustrated with the lack of response he would get on my behalf: "Don't they get that if they don't get people like you, they will fail?" (not me -- "people like" me -- I'm confident in my abilities, but I'm no Neo for the games industry; there is no Neo for the industry).

Another example would be on the biz dev front. While that's not part of my current job, per se, it is a part of how I'm wired as a person. I get far fewer responses from within the games industry when I tickle people about potential, exciting unthought-of business opps than I did before joining the games industry (as a matter of fact, I just realized the responsiveness I've had has been from companies outside of the game industry).

Hell, I'm also a professional actor, and I find that market more open, accessible, and collaborative (even on the stereotypical LA in-club side) than the games industry.

Learning from Other Industries:

I have not arrived. Neither has any industry. But the games industry could learn a lot from other industries -- and even more if it would acknowledge it could.

Going back to that guy's "run screaming" concern -- if I hear "enterprise" in the context of gaming any more, I am going to run rampant with NERF weaponry, shattering monitors left and right (as an aside, I want this when it launches this year).

I lived, breathed, and managed enterprise (where "n-tier" is not "2") for years: with its defined business and development processes and certifications; data wharehousing; business intelligence software; solutions that have thin and thick clients--> load balancing --> Web server --> application server --> database server --> distributed across 4 data centers on 4 continents.

Think you know clients and servers? Are you able to get mainframe / assembly-level responsiveness equivalent to an authentication check assess available funds do a business rules decision tree do fraud detection tolerance in a worldwide round trip in under 2 seconds? With 6,000 round trips running concurrently each second?

Think you know .NET and MS-SQL? Does Microsoft come to you to figure out how you got that kind of performance from their products? I'm pretty sure that's at least a bar -- and it's being met in other markets.

Think the games industry knows how to eke the most out of a license? No, but the toy industry does (think Hasbro, and their brilliance of growing addressable market through increased IP "expressions".)

Think you know how to be niche vertical player, come back from the business dead, and become a brand powerhouse to rival a media conglomerate like Warner Bros.? No, but Marvel does (they also know how to genuinely do community implementations).


Obviously, I haven't arrived (and this post may set me back a bit), there's a lot of growth to be had, and I'm looking forward to working with folks who get that.

It sounds high-horse, but I genuinely want to enable creative brilliance to see the light of day, and block the stupid stuff -- from every direction -- that gets in the way of that.

Mheh. I expect tomorrow to be interesting for me.