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E3 07: Microsoft Media

As part of their press conference, Microsoft released a slew of new media from their upcoming Xbox 360 and PC games. Additionally, we have Gears of War PC and Mass Effect footage with more following soon.

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"anyone have a problem with codecs for the Halo trailer? All I'm getting is sound. "
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Denis Dyack Interview

Eternal Darkness is one of my favorite titles. The storyline was interesting, the replay value is high, and the sanity moments were more than just a gimmick--they made the gamer want to see what would happen next. Would the character's head fall off? Would the television's volume slide up and down? Would the infamous blue screen of death make an appearance? Or worst yet, would the controller mysteriously disconnect just as I entered a room full of enemies? After owning the game for several years, and playing through it just as many times, I decided that I'd learned all I could from fan sites and numerous reviews I would read just for the sake of reading about one of my favorite games. It was time to go to the source--Denis Dyack himself, director of Eternal Darkness and founder of Silicon Knights, a game development studio responsible not only for one of my personal favorite titles, but several other gaming gems as well. I recently had a length chat with Denis about the founding of his studio, the longevity of digital distribution, video games as a viable art form, and a recent controversy surrounding video game journalists and the E3 2006 preview build of Silicon Knights' next title, Too Human.

Shack: Out of everything you've played, what game would you say is responsible not only for getting you into video games, but also inspiring you to enter the industry? Denis Dyack: I've never been asked that question before, and the answer's going to be really funny, actually. When I saw this game, I was like, "That's the right way to go, these guys know what they're doing." Speedball, by the Bitmap Brothers. Shack: I've heard of it, but haven't ever played it. Denis Dyack: They're doing a remake now, and man, back in the day--going back to '88 on the Amiga--I saw that game, and it was, in my opinion, the most polished game ever. I'm excited about the remake, but haven't seen much of it. Back then, that was sort of it for me. I thought the Bitmap Brothers had quality down, back in the day when three people could make a game. Now our teams are comprised of hundreds. But that was the one for me, the one where I said, "Those guys are doing it right; I want to do it, too, and have the same type of quality that those guys have." And that's what we're shooting for. The game that made me play video games was Pong, but everyone's going to say that. Shack: At least we know now, when the Speedball remake comes out, what will account for Too Human's sudden halt in development. Denis Dyack: [Laughs] No, it won't. I can't afford for Speedball to do that. You know, actually, there have been some games that I've pulled myself away from. World of Warcraft, about a year ago. I had one of the highest characters in the company, and I finally went, "It's time to stop this." I was level 58 or something. Shack: Wow, right near the edge of the level cap, before the expansion. Denis Dyack: Yeah, right at the edge. But man, it was insane. The game was great, I didn't want to put it down, and I just said, "This is like an addiction, I've got to put it down. There are other games to play." I think World of Warcraft was an excellent game, but fortunately, I removed myself from it. Shack: How did Silicon Knights come about? Did you always want to form your own company? Denis Dyack: I don't think there was ever a want to form my own company. We made our first game in 1992. It was published by SSI and a group called Millennium [Interactive] in the United Kingdom--Cyber Empires, for the Amiga, the Atari, and the PC. Back then, we just wanted to make video games. We were in Toronto, very, very different from an area like Silicon Valley on the west coast. We didn't even know if there was an industry. Because we wanted to do our own type of games, and because there was no one around [in our area] that did those types of games, we just formed our own company with two people, actually. Our first hire was an artist, and the first game we did... I designed the game, did all the art, and the programming. My partner at the time, who left about seven or eight years ago now, he did a lot of the artificial intelligence stuff. It was a really small team. You could start, literally, in your basement back then. It's a completely different world now. You can't do that anymore. We just started because we wanted to. We called the company Silicon Knights because we wanted to be the knights in shining armor in the games industry. We wanted people to recognize that the games we were going to do would be of the utmost quality, and that every game we did, you could rely on a Silicon Knights game. It's like a Stephen King book--you know that you're going to get something good when you pick it up. Back then we thought there were a lot of bad games, and not enough good ones. Ironically, it's only gotten worse these days. Percentage-wise there are a lot more bad games than good games out there. Shack: That's a good point you make. You look back at, for example, the Wii's growing Virtual Console library, and it's easy to see where video games re-started after the crash in the early 1980s. Some of those games are just terrible, and you'd think that, after all this time spent designing and learning how to make games, more companies would know what constitutes complete and utter crap. Denis Dyack: I agree with you--some of the games are just so horrid. It's because they're hard to make, and there's no set of ground rules for the games industry on how to do good game design. Hopefully over the next twenty-five years or so we'll get there. We're such an immature industry. The definition of "game designer" isn't even concrete yet. Silicon Knights, when we did Legacy of Kain... in North America, I was the lead programmer for a while, then I became a director; no one had even heard of that before. Everything was about producers. I look at it as, producers deal with money, and that can conflict with creativity, so you need a creative person. Now, there's a ton of directors out there, but jeez, Legacy of Kain, that was about nine years ago, and it's just recently that directors are really emerging. Finding a game designer these days that actually knows his stuff these days is really hard. We're actually working with a local university, creating a program called Interactive Arts & Sciences, where people can get a degree in the arts, in game design, technology, in all these different areas that explore what the role of a game designer is. Shack: You'd think that a lot more game companies would be anxious to get to that point, because these days, games cost so much to develop that in many cases, one flop could cost someone their company. Denis Dyack: Oh yeah, for sure. One of the things that I'm a big proponent of is, I wish there were fewer games. So, you do reviews and you report on the industry. It was last Christmas or the Christmas before, there were two hundred games released in November. Shack: It's absurd. I think the problem was, there were so many quality titles that got outshined by bigger names, so no one ever got a chance to play them. Denis Dyack: I totally agree. It's a shame, and at the end of the day, there's just so many out there that the market is over-saturated. I'm hoping that these games, becoming more and more expensive, I'm actually hoping that at some point, publishers will just go, "We can't make all of these any more, so we'll just make few gamers." Which I think is a good thing, because I want to play them all. I'm a big movie buff, too; I watch as many movies as I can. But you just can't get out there all the time to see everything. With a game being... it used to be around forty hours on average, but now they're around ten and fifteen, which I think is more manageable for the consumer. Still, though, there are just way too many games. Between Nintendo DS, PSP, 360, all the other consoles, you just can't play them all, and I just hope that at some point there are significantly fewer games.
Shack: In a recent interview, you said that you believed gamers do not want long games. Do you think that episodic content and its eventual spin-offs are the format that video games will be released on in the future? Denis Dyack: I would categorize episodic content as a similar medium to television--it has its place. There are films, and then there are shows like Heroes on T.V. I think episodic fills that gap, and I think there's room for both, actually. When we created Legacy of Kain, it was upward of 60 hours to complete. No one's got time like that any more. I'm thinking that, just in general, with higher production values, I'd rather be done with a game after ten to fifteen hours, and have a tremendous experience, than have a sixty hour experience that ends up as just so-so. Not including replays, not including online and all that stuff. For example, Halo 3--if it takes between ten and fifteen hours to complete [the] single-player [campaign], I'm a happy guy. I think episodic content is its own sort of derivative. It's just a smaller type of game. Shack: Along those same lines, we're watching digital distribution grow quite rapidly. Do you see brick and mortar stores becoming less and less the primary means through which gamers acquire new software? Denis Dyack: Yeah, I see that as inevitable. I think that eventually, the only way of distribution will be digital. Actually, it comes down to a very interesting philosophy. I'd like to extrapolate quite a bit, and if you'll bear with me, it's kind of a long answer, but I think it's an interesting one. If you look at technology, and if you were just to assume technology is infinite--the amount of pixels you can process is infinite, the amount of memory is more than you'd ever need, the hard drive space--imagine in the future that your [Internet] bandwidth is unlimited. Essentially what you're doing there is, you can actually hook up your controller to some audio/visual device, whatever that will be; maybe you can plug stuff into your head after a while, I don't know. You should be able to play games without downloading anything. The reason that's so important, and why digital distribution is going to win, is because you then could set up things such as server subscribers that will limit piracy, because there's nothing to pirate. If you look at MMOs, and if you look at China where there aren't any copyright laws, essentially the only games there are MMOs because you can't pirate that experience; you've got to pay to interact with everyone else. As technology continues to explode, which I think it will, we'll get to the point where what you'll be purchasing is the game experience. There's no disc, no software to download. If the technology gets fast enough, you can probably just play games from a central server, and it doesn't mean things need to be [only] multiplayer, it just means that the technology is so good that you don't have to wait. You can enjoy the experience in ways that can't be pirated, and I think that because our medium is interactive, it does mean that it has substantially more value than old mediums that are more linear, such as television and movies. Once something gets put onto a bit torrent site, it's over; that value just decreased like MP3s in the music industry. But with these kinds of technologies in the future, digital distribution is not only the future, but it's the only answer to stopping some of these problems that we'll be facing. Turn to page 2 to read more of Denis' thoughts on the future of gaming, as well as the inspiration that led to Eternal Darkness. _PAGE_BREAK_
Shack: You hit right on something I wanted to discuss with you. John Romero recently said that he believes gamers will be "playing on their PCs or a new PC-like platform that sits in the living room but still serves the whole house over Wifi, even the video signal." I know that you recently announced your preference that there eventually be one central console. Do you see this, or something akin to it, happening? What will gamers use to play their games, downloaded or otherwise? Denis Dyack: Yeah, I think there will be a console. I would somewhat agree with what John Romero said. It all comes down to commoditization. Essentially, as technology becomes more powerful, we're reaching a threshold with the average consumer, internally, say our parents or our grandparents, they won't be able to tell the difference between a PlayStation 3 and a 360. The technologies are different, and I think as a hardcore gamer, you can tell the difference, but with each successive platform, say the Xbox 720 or the PlayStation 4, whatever, the differences will become smaller and smaller. What happens is, the technology jumps become less and less, so the amount of effort that Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo put into proprietary hardware... the value will be reduced. I think eventually we will come to one homogeneous platform, and the hardware will become so powerful, it will lose its value. Which, in a sense, is commoditization to the point where different technologies can't match up. Now, I don't know if I would call [the uniform game system] a PC. The technology, whatever derivative form that it's in, I think without question, a homogeneous platform is inevitable, just like digital distribution, because in the end, our market is less competitive and not as good as it should be, because you have these false economies where you can have an FPS on the PS3 that's exclusive, and an FPS on the 360 that's exclusive, and quite frankly, gamers would win if there were one console that allowed everyone to play everything. For example, take Gears of War and Resistance: Fall of Man. Both very good games, but the person who has a 360 versus someone with a PS3, probably have not played both. If they do have both, they're either in the games industry like we are, or a hardcore fan. For most people, consoles are still fairly pricey, and if they do get both, they'll wait two or three years down the road to get the other one. I know when I pick up a movie, even though we have the whole Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD thing right now--that's going to go away fairly quickly--but if I pick up something like the latest Pirates of the Caribbean DVD, I know I can play that on any DVD player; I'm not worried about different compatibilities. Commoditization is pretty hard to stop. It's just like cell phone technology. At first, the cell phone itself was everything, now they're given away for free because it's all about the service plans. I think Microsoft's real console is [Xbox] Live, not the hardware. I think Live is the future. Sony's certainly heading that way, too. Everyone's heading to online. Shack: Speaking of the technology, one term that I feel is extremely cliché is "next generation." I think it's a bit misconstrued. Everyone talking about next generation seems to mainly be talking about graphics. Personally, from last generation to this generation--PS2 to PS3, for example--I feel the leap in graphics has been quite small, which is something you touched on earlier. What do you see as the true meaning of "next generation?" Denis Dyack: That's a really great question. I think generally it's going to be a move toward content. As the technology becomes less important, the true games that are going to stand out will be compelling experiences versus. A lot of people think next generation means new and inventive, but I don't think it means that, either. I think it all comes down to production value. There are other ways in which we can tell compelling [stories], different gameplay, audio, graphics... all in a way that really mesh together. I think that's really going to [define] "next generation." That, and compelling entertainment experiences, really content-crafted games. Shack: In terms of delivering compelling entertainment experiences, companies seem to be trying more and more to make gamers feel like they're "really there" when playing games, but if I don't have a good control scheme, I personally don't feel as involved in the experience. Do you think that systems like the Nintendo Wii and the DS, are changing--or at least attempting to change--the way gamers actually play their games? Denis Dyack: I think they have significant value. The catch-22 with me for those systems--and let's talk about the Wii in particular--what I'm particularly talking about is, everything we [Silicon Knights] focus on is software-driven. I think as the hardware becomes less important, is going to be about the software--and how you use that software. You always hear people say, "It's all about the games." Nintendo has always been about the games, and here they come with this really unique input device. I think that's akin to, maybe in the future, plugging directly in to our brains, or using some kind of virtual technology or whatever. I would say, with Zelda [Twilight Princess] it would be the actual game experience itself, and I think that the input device that [Nintendo] is using now, it's very original and very cool, but because it's hardware, I would be more inclined to look toward software for next-gen, but I do think they [Nintendo] have something there, no question. Shack: I'd like to steer us back toward Silicon Knights for a bit. One of my favorite games is Eternal Darkness. I'm curious, can you tell us about the inspiration as to how Eternal Darkness was born? Denis Dyack: Good question. All our games, where they come from, it's really hard to say. I remember thinking about a lot of things at the time, and I loved Resident Evil 2, and knowing that what I liked about Resident Evil 2, and what I thought was interesting about it, was how [Capcom] told the story from two different sides [Claire Redfield's and Leon Kennedy's]. I thought that was ground-breaking. To me, that's what made that game stand out. Also, when we [Silicon Knights] think about making games, we never want to make anything similar to something else, and frankly, Resident Evil was good enough at the time, and we didn't want to make anything like that, but I did like the juxtaposition of seeing the story through two different pairs of eyes. Our impetus for doing Eternal Darkness was, to take some [H.P.] Lovecraft elements, let's take some Michael Moorcock elements--have you heard of Michael Moorcock? Shack: No.
Denis Dyack: He wrote a series called Eternal Champions and another series called Elric; it's fantastic. A lot of people who have read Michael Moorcock have seem similarities in Eternal Darkness. It's basically about parallel universes with champions who interact at times. So we kind of combined those elements, and we wanted to create a game that had a ton of characters who had to fight these supernatural forces, which are basically immortal, and ask how humans could fight these near-immortal beings? The only way they can do it is passing things on to other people over a period of about two thousand years. That's how everything started. Nintendo was really supportive for that project. I remember kicking off the idea at the Nintendo Store in Redmond. We had a bunch of other ideas, too, but this is the one we really hooked on to. Within a month, we'd started, and it was pretty exciting. Shack: Could you tell us a bit more about its development? Denis Dyack: We pretty much got close to alpha on the Nintendo 64, and we did some amazing things with the technology. We were running in 640x480 screen resolution within the memory add-on, and we had a decent frame rate. We switched over to the GameCube and were going to make it a launch title, just because everyone thought that would be the right thing to do. Eternal Darkness had gotten so many accolades already. Unfortunately on that, we almost made launch, but then 9/11 happened, and we had a lot of Middle Eastern content that we had to make sure was very safe. I don't know if there was anything in the game that really wasn't safe, but at the time, with anthrax threats being thrown around and a bunch of other things--George W. Bush was saying it was the next crusade, and we had a crusader in the game--so we had to delay the game a bit more to make sure everything was totally cool. It was a beautiful game on the Nintendo 64, and we learned a lot on that console, but taking it to the GameCube, which was much more powerful, allowed us to do a better camera system and we're pretty happy with how that turned out. Shack: The sanity effects were a great idea. Denis Dyack: Yeah. Some almost didn't make it into the game, like the one that allegedly erased your save game file. That was my personal favorite. That took a lot of work to get in, and no one's ever really done anything like that before. We really broke down the fourth wall, there. We got most of the ones in that we really wanted to get in, but there's certainly room for a lot more. Turn to page 3 to learn about the partnership between Silicon Knights, Nintendo, and Konami that led to Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, Denis' thoughts on video games as art, and more. _PAGE_BREAK_
Shack: Would you say a sequel to Eternal Darkness is pretty likely? Denis Dyack: I've never seen so many requests. Every day I open my email--and we have a web account as well--we have people just hammering us. Every day, without fail--"When's Eternal Darkness 2 coming?" I think there's a lot of people who want [a sequel], and it'll require the right timing and, you know, the right circumstances, but certainly when we create a new IP, we create entire universes; we don't create one-shot stories. I personally would like to tell more stories [in that universe]. Shack: How did the partnership between Silicon Knights and Konami come about? Denis Dyack: Actually, it was before Eternal Darkness hit the streets. I was in Japan sitting down to lunch with Miyamoto-san and Iwata-san, and we were just talking casually. Out of the blue, Miyamoto said, "Would you like to do a Metal Gear Solid [title]?" I kind of looked up and wasn't sure if it was a translation issue, wasn't sure if he was serious, because you know, Metal Gear [Solid] was always on the PlayStation. So I went, "Huh?" Because we were talking about future projects and stuff, and that one had obviously even entered my mind. And he said, "We were talking with Kojima-san, and we think it's a great possibility. He's very busy with Metal Gear Solid 3, but we'd love to do a GameCube version [of Metal Gear Solid] if you're up to doing it. You'd get to work directly with Kojima-san." And I said, "Sure, let's talk about it." The next day, he [Hideo Kojima] actually came in from Tokyo on a bullet train and had an hour long meeting, then started the project ten days later. It was completely unexpected, and something we hadn't planned on at all, but before you know it, there we were up on stage at E3--Kojima-san, Miyamoto-san, and myself--talking about Metal Gear Solid. It was a great experience, and I think working with both Nintendo and Konami was really rewarding for us, they were really great partners to have. Shack: Were you a fan of the Metal Gear series? Denis Dyack: Oh yeah, I was a huge fan of the first one [Metal Gear Solid] for sure. I thought that he, Kojima-san himself, took things to the next level. He did some things in Metal Gear Solid that I thought really stood out from the crowd of most games, trying to tell a compelling story rather than just something that's pure gameplay. I wish more people would do that. Shack: One common thing--I guess I'll phrase it as a complaint--about the Metal Gear series, is that there are so many cinematics to the point that gamers get frustrated and just want to play the game. Do you feel cinematics should all occur as real-time, in-game events, or do you prefer the pre-rendered variety? Denis Dyack: Well, before we did Metal Gear Solid, I thought that pre-rendered was the way to go, and since working with Kojima we're now all behind real-time, but the reason that we're behind real-time is that, I think the whole idea of story-gameplay-story-gameplay, is really going the way of the dodo, and what we're doing with Too Human is, we're adding interactivity into the content as much as we can. That whole gap between gameplay and story is something we're trying to erase. By doing that, specifically in Too Human and in our future products, we think that it's really going to help video games stand out on their own merit. We're big believers that video games are an art form, and there's a big upcoming conference where we're doing a talk called "The Eighth Art." By and large, film is called the seventh art, and we think video games is the next step, that it's really a convergence of all the other art forms. By making and allowing things to be interactive and non-linear, video games can do something that all the previous art forms can't. That's where we're heading. There are certainly valid complaints about a cinematic going on too long. Fifteen or twenty minutes is too much to do, to just sit there and watch when you'd rather be playing; I agree with those criticisms. Shack: Obviously when remaking a game, you have an obligation to stick close to the original source material, yet enough new content must be added in order to attract those players who have already played through the original game. How much control did Silicon Knights have over the remake of Metal Gear Solid? Denis Dyack: We were charged with the gameplay aspects, and mixing elements from the original with the second [Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty]. We didn't have a chance to change the script. A lot of the cinematics were produced by Kojima's friend, Ryuhei Kitamara. He re-choreographed everything. The script was unchanged as far as I know, and the voice actors were the same. Kojima-san made the decision not to change that stuff at all, and Kitamura-san directed all the cinematography and fight scene choreography. Our job was to make the game. Shack: Now obviously, you said you were a fan of Metal Gear Solid, and that it was an honor to do a remake, but what led to the decision to remake a game rather than continue one of your own IPs such as Eternal Darkness, or even create an entirely new IP? Denis Dyack: Basically because Miyamoto-san and Iwata-san asked me to do it. They said, "We think this would be great for Nintendo, and great for your team." It was more of a strategic thing for the overall good of Nintendo, and it was something that Kojima-san wanted to do as well. I don't know if we would do something like that again--actually, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't. We're focused on original IPs now, but I was excited about the learning experience and the collaboration, it was pretty worthwhile. I think it was a cool project, but we don't do that kind of thing anymore. Shack: Back to something you said earlier, there are of course proponents for video games as art--I myself am one. However, I wonder, is there a point where a game is art, or just a game? For instance, let's compare Street Fighter II and Metal Gear Solid. Some say that Street Fighter is "just" a fighting game, whereas Metal Gear Solid is art because of its dynamic characters, its story, and its deep gameplay. Do you believe there is a proverbial line that a game must cross to be considered a viable form of art? Denis Dyack: You know, I think that's a good question. Essentially, there will always be entertainment, and there's a school of thought that everything we do is defined around story. So, when you play Street Fighter, the story is, you beating up your pal, doing crazy combos, pulling off victories at the last minute. You tell that story over and over again. We're defined as individuals by the stories we tell people, so one could argue that there is a story in everything. However, just like modern media, there's film--serious film, like cinema--and then there's pornography, there's television and short films, short stories and full novels... I think the real issue I have when people say that video games are not art, is they think it's okay to say what can and cannot be defined as art. Documentaries, as an example, are now considered art, but a long time ago, they were just considered kind of a scientific methodology for finding the truth in something. I guess my answer would be, there's room for everything, pretty much. Whatever entertains people and is really what they're looking for. That's not to say that games like Street Fighter will ever go away--I think they should stay--but I think it would be not a good idea to not submit video games as an art form just because some of those games exist. I guess the question would be, in the film industry, is pornography art? I've heard people like CliffyB [Cliff Bleszinski] say that games are almost a form of pornography, or the equivalent of pornography, so it all depends on your take on something. I don't know what I would do, personally, without Final Fantasies, without Metal Gears, without the types of games we [Silicon Knights] make, because those are my favorite types of games, but that doesn't stop me from playing things like an RTS. Supreme Commander is one title I'm really enjoying right now, and it's not very heavily story-driven.
Shack: You make an interesting point. I've always believed that some games don't have storylines per se, but rather, their gameplay can tell a story in and of itself. Do you think that doing things like exploring the world of Hyrule in a Zelda game, stealing cars in Grand Theft Auto, stomping goombas in Super Mario Bros.... can those types of things be considered as a form of storytelling? Denis Dyack: Oh, good question. I think it's that kind of stuff, that kind of game design, that's going to be the future. We're talking about something like Street Fighter, which is pretty old school, but when you have games where the content just develops over time, it helps you tell a story. I think Shadow of the Colossus is a really good example--not a lot of dialogue, but it's crafted story is very thoughtful. It's those kinds of things that I think are really the future of gameplay, of game design. We're certainly trying to head in that direction. Games like Zelda and Super Mario, the stories are crafted well, it's just not crafted in the traditional sense. When you have a mime who doesn't say anything--and mimes have been around for thousands of years now--they tell stories too, they just don't speak in the traditional sense. Shack: Your relationship with Nintendo was arguably very successful, but it was rather short-lived. What happened to end the partnership? Denis Dyack: It was a secure relationship. Really, I guess it came down to the direction they were planning to take the Wii--titles that are aimed at a more casual audience. At Silicon Knights, we like to make pretty big blockbuster games. We [Silicon Knights and Nintendo] shared lots of similar ideas of quality, and knowing we work for the consumer, and doing whatever we could to make a quality game. Unfortunately, the kind of games we wanted to do required high system requirements, and the Wii wasn't something we thought we could do a lot with. It's a different perspective, and Nintendo will still do games like Zelda, but I think even Miyamoto's even recently said that he thinks those types of games aren't the future for Nintendo. We at Silicon Knights believe games like Too Human are our future, and all the stuff we talked about before, with the bigger games and hopefully having fewer of them, that's the direction we're taking, and Nintendo's just taking a different direction. They want to go more toward the smaller party games, and that's just the kind of stuff we're not interested in right now. Turn to page 4 to learn about Silicon Knights' partnership with Microsoft, as well as Denis' thoughts on video game previews. _PAGE_BREAK_
Shack: What led to Silicon Knights' eventual partnership with Microsoft? Was Sony ever an option? Denis Dyack: Ken Lobb, who was at Nintendo for a long time and who eventually went to Microsoft... before it was even out that we were no longer exclusive to Nintendo, he went to Microsoft right away. He's always loved Too Human, he knew that was the type of game we wanted to do. Microsoft moved fast. Shack: You recently gave a GDC panel that revolved around independent developers maintaining their identities. Do you feel that Silicon Knights is able to do that while working with Microsoft? Denis Dyack: Yeah, absolutely. I think Microsoft is fantastic in that regard. They do whatever they can to support us. Microsoft has done a fantastic job of letting us keep our creative vision, and they're pretty awesome to work with. Shack: Did you enjoy that same creative freedom while working with Nintendo? Denis Dyack: Definitely. Nintendo was fantastic as well, and I think we were doing some pretty radical things with Eternal Darkness at the time, and they were fully supportive. Groups like Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony--they're all really good to work with. They're strong, they know what they're doing, and they're good partners. They all have their different ways of working--Microsoft involves a lot more people on projects, whereas Nintendo involves fewer--but they're all very good. For any developers out there, I can recommend them all strongly, they're good partners. Shack: A few months back, you were involved in a dispute with some Electronic Gaming Monthly editors over their preview rating of Too Human at last year's E3. What caused the dispute? Do you think perhaps the game was shown too early, or do you think the problem lies in video game marketing? Denis Dyack: Yeah, I said a lot of things at GDC specifically tied to the industry, which is essentially this--when journalists start giving reviews of previews, I think that's really, really bad, because often times when a game is shown at E3, you really don't know when that game is going to come out; the developer doesn't know, the publisher doesn't know, and I think without question that Too Human was shown too early. I could have cared less whether we got a great rating or a poor rating, because we've gotten a lot of great ratings before at E3. The unfortunate thing is, they're rating all these titles, and they are predicting how they're going to do. My issue with them is that there's absolutely nothing for them to base that on. They're not able to play many games. Most of the games rated as 'awesome,' they didn't even play. To even play Too Human at all was out of the norm. We need to start showing games when they're closer to being finished so that press can make more accurate judgments. How many times have you read a preview with developers saying, "Oh, don't worry, this part will be fixed, and so will that one," and have it not be fixed? We have to get away from that stuff. So, you guys have to be fully critical. If the frame rate's bad, say it's bad. But if someone clearly says, "This isn't done yet," then you have to be pretty careful if you want to say something good or bad. This kind of thing is happening more and more in the industry. Right now, the cash flow problem is the bottom line. Our industry needs publishers who can do the marketing, but if you slip, where you have to get into magazines three or four months early, you spend all that money and the game's not out... that's too risky.
Think about it--how much have you seen of Grand Theft Auto [IV]? Nintendo's been doing it [previewing games later in their development cycles] for a while now, and other groups will do it more and more, because it's just a good business model. The fact is, them [EGM] being super-critical at E3 was one of the reason E3 died. It's important that the mainstream press be more critical, but if you're going to be critical when things are shown early, like at E3, it's not worth it for anybody, because the game's chances of doing poorly become better than its chances of doing well, irregardless of what game it is. Is it good, or is it bad? No one can tell, because it's not even close to being done. Shack: I have to agree. I think one of the former E3's biggest problems was, because there are hundreds of games released every year, I think the show got to the point where journalists felt that they had to assign ratings to a degree just to keep the public informed of which games to watch out for, since the industry is so over-saturated. The whole concept was and is misguided. Denis Dyack: Exactly, and I tried to mention that in the EGM podcast. It's really funny, a lot of people there really didn't understand what I was trying to say, but if you have five thousand games shown at an E3, and a game journalist previews twenty... I mean, even by previewing those twenty at all, aren't you essentially saying that they all have something special? I mean, there's five thousand games there, so those twenty must be something special, right? How can you possibly preview five thousand games in three days and be fair? You can't. So, at that level it's like, there are too many games, and that's why the show died. I'm really glad you agree. Shack: Do you think the smaller scale of E3 will maybe take some of the apparent stress away from journalists and allow them to properly do their job, which is to report on what titles are coming out? Denis Dyack: You know, I've got to tell you, I don't know if E3 will do that, but I think the industry's going that way. If I had my way, what I'd do is give you a finished copy of, say, Too Human, three months before it comes out. You can play the whole game, have plenty of time to write your review, and then you've played it, you've given your opinion, rather than saying, "Here's a huge game, it's got four player co-op, there are five classes, you have seventy-two hours to review it--GO!" It's not fair. I feel really sorry for the press, because there are too many games. How are you going to review fifty games in a week? It's not possible, at least not fairly. Don't you look at a lot of games? Shack: Yeah, and unfortunately, I found it to be one of those things where, with so many projects, you have to pick and choose how to spread out your time, because there are only so many hours in a day. Denis Dyack: Exactly. Why should you, as a review and preview writer, have to take anything on good faith and take the word of the developers when they say, "We know the frame rate sucks. Don't worry, we're going to fix it?" You should just be able to sit down and play the finished game and say, "The frame rate is great," or, "The frame rate sucks," and know that you did your job, and you're giving your audience a review they can trust. Right now, our industry is so messed up, you can't do that. It's not that it's anyone's fault, but it's not fair to you guys, that's for sure. That's one thing I'd love to see changed. Shack: Do you think that previews are necessary, or would you rather implement your suggestion and have the press wait until a game is completed, play through it a few months before its release, and then give a complete review? Denis Dyack: Actually, in my world, previews don't go away, you just preview more finished products. The way a marketing campaigns would work is, there'd be a reveal, and during that reveal, the game could be done, or close to done. You show one level, you talk about it, you let the press write about it, let people digest it, then you slowly build up to a big blowout where you let everyone review it. So actually, previews don't go away, but in the movie industry, generally by the time you start seeing previews, the movie is done. That's what I would recommend--when you see a preview, you know the game is almost done, or close to being done, even though it may be a couple of months before you see it on the shelf.
Shack: I can imagine, from a development stand point, that having a preview build ready for E3 was quite a pain. Denis Dyack: It was universally acknowledged as a complete nightmare for developers, publishers, and the press. No one liked E3. It cost a ton of money, it wasted a lot of time, and the results were questionable. Sometimes the show was really good, sometimes it was really bad. That's why it's gone. Why do something where publishers are spending tens of millions of dollars to put on this show, when it's questionable as to how much coverage they're really going to get, and they games may not even look that good because they're forced onto this brutal schedule which takes away from development time and ends up delaying the game even further. Show the game when it's ready, and you don't have to take away from development time. Shack: I'd prefer things move in that direction. I recently had to review The Lord of the Rings Online, which came out on April 24, and just a couple of weeks ago, I finally had my review done to the point where I actually felt competent and confident enough to give a widely-read opinion. By that time, though, the game had already been out almost a month. Denis Dyack: I think you're exactly right, and what you're looking at there is a cash flow problem. Imagine if the game had already been done and you would have had three or for months to review it. That would be awesome, and the developers would have time to tweak the game more. But everyone has to meet their fiscal quarter demands. Shack: Thanks for your time, Denis. I really enjoyed speaking with you. Denis Dyack: Me too, man, I really enjoyed it.

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Dyack: Gamers Don't Want Long Games

Related Topics – Valve, Denis Dyack, Silicon Knights

While discussing the upcoming Xbox 360 action RPG Too Human and its two planned sequels, Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack explained that gamers do not want long games. Thus, the decision to produce three separate Too Human releases was not made from a strict business perspective, but one with gamers in mind. "Legacy of Kain [PlayStation, 1996] had about sixty hours of play, but games have changed," said Dyack in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. "People don't want that any more. I don't care how good the game is I don't want to play something that's one hundred hours long. As much as I love World of Warcraft I pulled myself out of it." "I don't really see it [planning Too Human as a trilogy] as bold. I see that as a promise to the consumer that there's more here than just one game," he stated. "If we're going to craft an epic story we decided we had to divide it into manageable chunks for the consumer." While some may oppose Dyack's stance, others studios such as Valve echo a similar sentiment. "There's a lot of depressing evidence out there indicating that not very many players are finishing out games," Valve's Robin Walker told Shacknews after the release of Half-Life 2: Episode One, which signified the company's shift from longer experiences to bite-sized episodes. Currently, Valve's statistics page shows that only 38% of Half-Life 2: Episode One players have completed the game, despite an average completion time of only 5 hours and 40 minutes. Furthermore, Valve has indicated to Shacknews that discussions with other developers suggest Valve's numbers are above industry averages for completion rate. Dyack also noted that the trilogy-based approach benefits developers in that studios don't have to "start from scratch again" when producing sequels. Presumably, Dyack was speaking of reusing assets and technology developed for the first game, which would lower the cost of additional entries relative to the initial title. Though no release date has been provided for the first game in Silicon Knight's Too Human trilogy, past comments by Dyack suggest the title will see release this year. Back in April, the Silicon Knights president made headlines after expressing his desire for one standardized gaming platform.

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"I haven't finished HL2:E1 because it crashes whenever the game saves unless I run it in windowed ..."
- nudel    See all 178 comments


Silicon Knights Pres. Hopes For One Console Future

Related Topics – Denis Dyack, Silicon Knights

Speaking on the future of the video game industry with GameDaily BIZ, Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack revealed his aspirations for one standardized gaming platform. Much like a DVD or CD player, this theoretical hardware could be produced and sold by any number of manufacturers so long as it met the specifications laid out for the medium. Such a device, he claims, would ease game development and resolve the fragmentation of the current console market. "Honestly, we'd rather spend time making the games than worrying about the hardware," Dyack said. "And if everyone had the same hardware and when you made a game you knew you got 100% penetration because anyone who plays this game had to buy this hardware platform just like a DVD or whatever standard media format's going to be. I think that would ultimately be much better for gamers." Silicon Knights has developed games on a variety of hardware platforms, including Cyber Empires on PC and Amiga, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain on PlayStation, and Eternal Darkness, which began production on Nintendo 64 but was later shifted to GameCube. Currently, the company is working on the upcoming Xbox 360 action RPG Too Human and with Sega on an unannounced project set across multiple platforms. Though recent rumors suggest Too Human, the first in a planned trilogy, might not release until 2008, Dyack described the game as "much, much further along than what people think." As for the previously mentioned Eternal Darkness sequel, "it's going to take the right time and the right things to come together to make that happen," he noted.

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"I would indeed be difficult to imagine the video game industry without computation."
- Nephsevenon    See all 49 comments


Late Night Consoling

I can't say I'm particularly looking forward to this "Consumables" business. In general, I think Live is great so far, particularly Live Arcade. I'm all for reasonable downloadable content and transactions for Live Arcade games, but I really can't see any tangible benefit to gamers from the practice of selling in-game items that are available from day one of the game's availability. It's one thing to have a feature that has the potential for misuse but can also be used really well. In this case, I really don't see how paying for things that are already built into the shipping game would be a good path to go down at all.

  • Microsoft to Introduce Repurchasable "Consumables"

    [xbox360]
    During its Gamefest event, which had its second and final day today, Microsoft's Marketplace business manager Rohan Oommen gave a presentation entitled "Xbox Live Marketplace: Future of Digital Distribution." The presentation outlined a number of statistics pointing to the success of Xbox Live Marketplace, including that 75% of Xbox Live users have downloaded content at an average of over 20 items each, making for a total of over 40 million downloads so far. Xbox Live Arcade has been successful as well, with 65% of Live users downloading content with a demo-to-full version conversion rate of 22%. By contrast, conversion rates for PC casual gaming are more in the line of 1%. Interestingly, Microsoft has found that gamers seem to respond fairly well to a variety of Live Arcade price points; games priced at 800 points ($10) and 1200 points ($15) end up making more revenue than those priced at 400 points ($5). As far as extra in-game content, according to Oommen's presentation slides, "Gamers are hungry for Game Add-on content... [it's] not coming fast enough." This segment too appears to be fairly price insensitive, as there is a "core audience for each game that downloads all add-on content for that game." One new initiative revealed in the presentation is "Consumables." Consumables are repurchasable in-game assets delivered via Xbox Live Marketplace. They may consist, for example, of in-game currency or better equipment for the player's character. The technology behind Consumables will be added to the fall version of the Xbox 360 SDK. According to 1UP, Microsoft also hopes to make this technology directly integrated within gameplay, meaning players would be able to spend real world money on in game items without even leaving the game in question and visiting the Xbox Live Marketplace.
  • Xbox 360 to get HD-DVD for $200?

    [xbox360]
    HardOCP claims to have gotten a look at Microsoft's Xbox 360 roadmap, consisting of a few interesting bits of rumor. According to the site, the announced external HD-DVD drive for Xbox 360 will retail for around $200 and, as previously revealed, will not make use of HDMI. Other news outlets have also cited $200 as a likely launch price for the device. This is in line with reports coming from retailers earlier this year, indicating that Microsoft plans to make the combined price of an Xbox 360 and HD-DVD drive no more expensive than that of the higher-end PS3 model.
  • Silicon Knights Still Too Pleased with UE3

    [xbox360]
    Despite the earlier lack of comment on the part of Too Human (X360) developer Silicon Knights or publisher Microsoft regarding rumors that the upcoming action game is no longer running on Epic's Unreal Engine 3, Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack has now addressed the matter directly. Dyack denied the allegations in a statement the company has delivered to the press:
    "Although we do not usually comment on speculation, rumors of Silicon Knights completely scrapping the Unreal Engine 3 on Too Human and massive delays for the Too Human product release are false. Too Human is progressing very well and we expect that gamers will be extremely excited with Too Human when we next show it."
    Too Human is slated for release in the first half of 2007.
  • PSP Revisits Planet Moon

    [psp]
    Sega today announced that one of its "vintage brands" will be returning, though the company stopped short of revealing just which brand. Planet Moon, the studio behind Infected (PSP) and Armed & Dangerous (Xbox, PC), will be returning to Sony's portable console to handle development on this title. "SEGA's vast library of properties allows for unlimited possibilities in revitalizing fan-favorites on the PSP," said Planet Moon co-founder and CEO Bob Stevenson. "Our passion for Sega's classic brands combined with our extensive background in crafting original games will help us create a compelling new chapter in this fan-favorite franchise." Sega did not give any indication as to the release period for the game. The publisher has two other recently announced retro revivals in the works as well. Totally Games, best known for the X-Wing and TIE Fighter franchises and more recently Secret Weapons Over Normandy (PS2, Xbox, PC), is working on a new version of an unrevealed Sega IP, and Secret Level (Final Fight: Streetwise) is heading up a new Golden Axe game for Xbox 360 and PS3.

Misc. Media/Previews

PS2
Game Informer goes hands on with Sony Online Entertainment's Untold Legends: Dark Kingdoms (PS3).
Xbox/X360
GameSpot previews the Xbox 360 version of EA Redwood Shores' The Godfather (X360, also PS2, Xbox, Wii, PSP, PC). IGN checks out From Software's Enchanted Arms (X360).
GameCube
Screenshots: Rayman Raving Rabbids (Wii, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PS3, X360, NDS, PSP, GBA, PC).
Portable
GameSpy checks out Shiny Entertainment's Earthworm Jim (PSP).
Multi
GameSpot checks out Ganbarion's One Piece: Grand Adventure (PS2, GCN). IGN takes a look at Starbreeze's The Darkness (PS3, X360). Screenshots: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 (PS3, X360, PS2, Xbox, also Wii, PSP, PC).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Lock 'n Chase for the Intellivision. "One of the few Pac-Man inspired games to be worth a damn. Trap the cops between locked doors and get the timing right to pull off the big heist." (submitted by Carnivac)

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"zOmg a company finding new ways to get money!!!! ITS EVIL I TELL YA!!! Did ya think that ..."
- YoYo    See all 85 comments


Late Night Consoling

I'm here at Microsoft Gamefest, as you may have noticed. Though I'm our Console Editor here at Shack, I grew up a PC gamer, so it's sort of saddened me to see what has been, in my own opinion at least, a general decline in the overall PC gaming scene since the golden best year ever of 1998. Ever since Microsoft first announced its intention to really start pushing PC gaming, I've been more optimistic, and some of the initiatives outlined today were very encouraging. Hopefully once Vista ships we'll start seeing this stuff pan out.

  • Microsoft to Revise Xbox 360 Controller?

    [xbox360]
    In a presentation at today's Gamefest event in Seattle, Microsoft's product unit manager for hardware Robert S. Walker made some comments suggesting that the company may release a new optional "advanced" version of the Xbox 360 controller at some point in the future. The presentation was largely focused on Xbox 360 peripherals coming in the near future, such as the Xbox Live Vision camera and the Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel, but at a certain point the topic shifted to the issue of fine control in genres such as first person shooters which are arguably less suited to traditional console controllers than to a mouse and keyboard. After confirming that, as previously stated, the company has no plans to allow in-game mouse and keyboard support on Xbox 360, Walker noted that Microsoft is looking at ways to modify the right analog stick on the controller to make it more conducive to the precise movements used in shooters and various other genres. This controller would not replace the original controller, and would merely be an option available to players looking for a more advanced control scheme. When asked for clarification by Shacknews, Walker reiterated that Microsoft does not yet have any concrete plans for the workings of such a device, nor is there any projected release period. Rather, it is something under consideration by Microsoft's hardware development teams as a long term possibility.
  • Unreal 3 Too Hard for Too Human?

    [xbox360]
    Silicon Knights' upcoming Too Human, the first title in a planned epic sci-fi trilogy incorporating themes and characters from Norse mythology, has undergone its share of delays over its ten year development system. Originally planned for PlayStation, the game was eventually moved to GameCube, and is now in development for Xbox 360. According to recent unconfirmed reports, the game may have hit another roadblock. The Advanced Media Network claims that Silicon Knights has been encountering problems with Epic's Unreal Engine 3 and plans to create its own internal engine to power the game. Such a move would undoubtedly push the game's release back even further; it was recently delayed to early 2007 from its prior holiday season 2006 release period. Despite other similar reports of developer difficulty with the tools, the Unreal Engine 3 remains by far the middleware of choice among next-gen developers when it comes to high end graphics rendering. In regards to these rumors, neither Silicon Knights nor publisher Microsoft Game Studios have offered any comment.
  • Hitman Screenplay a Hit?

    [ps2] [xbox] [xbox360] [gamecube]
    If you keep up with the vibrant and creative world of video game film adaptations, you may be familiar with the LatinoReview, which manages to post reviews of game-based film scripts on a surprisingly frequent basis and with a high degree of accuracy. The latest subject of reviewer El Mayimbe's criticism is the script to Hitman written by Skip Woods (Swordfish), who is also directing the film. El Mayimbe gives the script an "A" rating, calling it "very kick ass," "a masterpiece," and "overwhelmingly clever and intelligent," and stating that it is likely to be "the defining role of [star Vin Diesel's] career." For the curious, the review also contains various plot spoilers. For reference, LatinoReview gave an A- to Stuart Beattie's (Spy Hunter, Pirates of the Caribbean) Splinter Cell screenplay, and an A to Alex Garland's (28 Days Later) script for the Halo film, which is currently being rewritten by newcomer D.B. Weiss.
  • EA: "Consumers have proven that actually what they want is fun"

    [ds] [psp]
    When it released its most recent financial results, publisher Electronic Arts disclosed that it will be increasing the amount of funding it allocates to Nintendo DS and Wii development. Speaking to UK trade publication MCV, EA executive VP and COO of worldwide studios David Gardner elaborated on the company's position regarding the latest portable consoles from Nintendo and Sony. In the last year, EA has weighted its portable development significantly in favor of PSP, which comes as little surprise given the conduciveness of EA's multiplatform approach to the PSP's home console-like attitude to portable gaming. However, in the light of the increasingly strong performance of Nintendo DS, Gardner noted, that may not be the most ideal route. "I think we were excited by the technology, but the consumers have proven that actually what they want is fun," he said. "We must never forget that what we need to focus on is fun and so EA is putting more effort behind DS games--and creative ones that really take advantage of the hardware."
  • EA Replays on PSP

    [psp]
    Despite an apparent reallocation of funds, EA still has plenty of games in the works for PSP. If online retailers EBgames.com and GameStop.com (both owned by GameStop) are to be believed, the company is leveraging its several of its older properties for a PSP compilation called EA Replay. According to the product description, the game will support head to head multiplayer for applicable titles (presumably via local wireless) and will contain ports of 14 EA-owned titles. The provided list, with platforms added, is as follows: - Grey Matter's B.O.B. (SNES, GEN)
    - Electronic Arts' Budokan: The Martial Spirit (AMI, C64, GEN, PC)
    - Electronic Arts' Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (AMI, SNES, GEN, GB, GG, Lynx, GBA, PC)
    - High Score's Jungle Strike: The Sequel to Desert Strike (AMI, CD32, SNES, GB, PC)
    - Electronic Arts' Haunting Starring Poulterguy (GEN)
    - Mutant Productions' Mutant League Football (GEN)
    - Probe Entertainment's Road Rash (AMI, GEN, GB, GG, GBC)
    - Electronic Arts' Road Rash II (GEN)
    - Electronic Arts' Road Rash 3: Tour de Force (GEN)
    - Bullfrog Productions' Syndicate (AMI, SNES, GEN, 3DO, JAG, PC)
    - Origin Systems' Ultima VII: The Black Gate (SNES, PC)
    - Electronic Arts' Virtual Pinball (GEN)
    - Origin Systems' Wing Commander (AMI, SNES, SCD, PC)
    - Origin Systems' Wing Commander: The Secret Missions (SNES, PC) (Thanks GameSpot)

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Dig Dug for the NES. "As a kid I always thought the idea of inflating someone until they exploded as a little cruel and disturbing, but I still played the hell out of the game." (submitted by BrodieMan)

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"Blame the tools ,of course thats why so many games suck nowdays."
- hippolove    See all 111 comments


Late Night Consoling

Well, Ubisoft is really coming out in full force for Wii. I'm starting to think that this system is our last hope for a sequel to Beyond Good & Evil (PS2, Xbox, GCN, PC, play it now), considering how much designer Michel Ancel loves the thing. Please, make it happen, Ubisoft. Any system you want. I'll buy a Gizmondo if I have to. Please.

  • Gears of War's Emergence Day Revealed; No Demo

    [xbox360]
    Microsoft today announced the final release date for Epic's upcoming Xbox 360 shooter Gears of War. Referred to in marketing materials as Emergence Day, November 12, 2006 will be when the game is officially available in stores, though comments made today by Epic employees suggest that retailers will be able to sell the title as soon as it is delivered to their stores. Somewhat oddly for a game release, the date falls on a Sunday. The game will hit the United Kingdom on November 17, the same day Sony plans to launch PlayStation 3 in North America and Europe. Gears of War will ship in two versions, a standard edition for $59.99 and a limited edition collector's edition for $69.99. The higher price tag on the limited edition pays for metal packaging as well as an official book of artwork entitled "Destroyed Beauty" and a DVD with documentary footage. The pricing scheme breaks the Xbox 360's tradition for Microsoft-published software, which has previously launched at a $49.99 price point for standard editions. Speaking on the possibility of a pre-release demo, Epic vice president Mark Rein soundly refuted any such speculation, noting that the time it takes to create a demo would needlessly delay the game. "Given a choice of the game this year or a demo this year and the game next year I'm sure every one of you would rather have the game this year because you're already planning to buy it," he said frankly, adding that the company has not decided whether to create a demo post-release. However, it seems like Epic's priority is on creating extra downloadable content for the game, which has already proven to be hugely popular with Xbox Live gamers. "I know we have some very cool plans (not 100% solid so too early to give any specifics) for additional downloadable so that might take a higher priority than creating a demo," he said.
  • Ubisoft Commits to Seven Wii Launch Titles

    [nintendo]
    Following comments made this week by Ubisoft's Laurent Detoc that Ubisoft has seven titles in development for Nintendo's upcoming Wii console, the publisher has issued a press release providing a somewhat surprising clarification to that remark. It seems that the company in fact plans to release seven titles at the system's launch alone, which solidifies the company's existing image as the strongest third party supporter of the console. Today's announcement claimed that there are "many more titlets currently in development" in addition to those planned for launch. The titles are: - Red Steel (exclusive, already announced): Yakuza-themed gun- and swordplay action title from Ubisoft Paris - Far Cry: This iteration of Far Cry will feature "a fresh storyline, new maps, characters and equipment," as well as being tailored to the Wii remote, according to an IGN interview
    - GT Pro Series: A newly announced racing franchise unique to Wii, featuring 80 licensed cars, tuning options, and drift physics. Apparently, this game will be packaged with some kind of custom peripheral.
    - Rayman Raving Rabbids (multiplatform, already announced): Ubisoft Montpellier's latest Rayman title is heading to all current- and next-gen consoles, though designer Michel Ancel seems to consider Wii the game's primary platform
    - Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII: Wii version of Ubisoft Romania's WWII flight combat sim
    - Monster 4x4 World Circuit: Wii version of Ubisoft's monster truck franchise
    - Open Season (multiplatform): Wii version of Ubisoft's animated film adaptation The French version of today's press release also stated that a Wii version of Prince of Persia will be released in March 2007, though the English-language release did not include that information. Prior rumors alleged that Ubisoft was preparing a compilation of the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy for Wii; this may be referring to that project. Today's announcement brings the number of expected Wii launch titles near 30.
  • Blizzard Toning Down Console Development

    [ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [gamecube] [nintendo] [ds] [psp] [gba]
    Last night, Blizzard sent out a press release indicating that various "key members" of the Blizzard Console team, formerly known as Swingin' Ape, have been relocated to various other Blizzard projects on the PC. The only currently announced new project in the works for the company is the upcoming The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft, but this week a Blizzard job posting surfaced, suggesting that the company has a new realtime strategy game in the works. About a year ago, Blizzard's regular newsletter asked readers whether they would be interested in a Nintendo DS version of StarCraft, or a Nintendo DS or PSP version of Diablo. The company has not made any reference to these proposals since then. One perennial rumor, that Blizzard is preparing a console version of World of Warcraft, is dealt yet another blow by today's announcement, having already been repeatedly denied by Blizzard representatives.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Coming to XBLA?

    [xbox360]
    According to the latest issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Konami's classic PlayStation title Castlevania: Symphony of the Night will be ported to Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox 360. The game, commonly abbreviated SOTN, is revered among the Castlevania franchise for being the entry that inaugurated the series' Metroid-like nonlinear level design, which it has retained ever since. The news may suggest that Microsoft has relaxed its 50MB size restriction on Xbox Live Arcade games. Requests sent to Konami and Microsoft regarding this possibility as well as the accuracy of the initial report had not been returned as of press time.
  • Stranglehold Loses Grip on 2006

    [ps3] [xbox360]
    An update from Midway today revealed that the company's upcoming action title John Woo Presents Stranglehold (PS3, X360, PC) will be missing its 2006 release date and instead coming out some time in the first quarter of 2007. This update contradicts earlier reports from IGN that the game would be launching alongside Sony's upcoming PlayStation 3. No further details regarding the reason for the delay were revealed.
  • Atari Missing PS3 in 2006

    [ps3]
    In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Atari CEO Bruno Bonnell confirmed that Atari will not be publishing any titlets for PlayStation 3 in 2006, though 2007 will see some Atari output on Sony's upcoming machine. Oddly enough, Bonnell stated that the reason for the delayed showing has to do with a lack of information. "It's just that we're lacking information about the PS3 at this stage, because we have basically a rough release date and a high retail price point," he explained. "As far as the Wii and the Xbox 360 go, we'll be there for this season."
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    Cubed3 speaks with Hirohide Sugiura of Monolith Soft about the company's Baten Kaitos series of RPGs and about developing for Wii. Silicon Knights' Ken McCulloch has updated the IGN-hosted blog on the company's upcoming Too Human (X360).

Misc. Media/Previews

PS2
GameSpot checks out Sega's Yakuza (PS2). IGN has a first look at Team Symphonia's Tales of the Abyss (PS2) and Tecmo's Tokobot Plus: Mystery of the Karakuri (PS2).
XBOX/X360
1UP has a preview of Capcom's Dead Rising (X360) (so does Gameworld). Screenshots: Crackdown (X360). Movies: Crackdown (X360) (Movie #1, Movie #2).
GCN/Wii
1UP takes a look at Intelligent Systems' WarioWare: Smooth Moves (Wii).
PORTABLE
GameSpot takes a look at Xpec's Bounty Hounds (PSP). GameSpy checks out Climax's ATV Offroad Fury Pro (PSP).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Gauntlet for the NES. "Yes, it was a shoddy port of an arcade classic. But when MC Chris makes a beat out of one of the themes, you know the game is gold." (submitted by volitionism)

Read more »

"re: Castlevania: SotN size, it's actually a pretty small game. The majority of the the cd is ..."
- geedeck    See all 32 comments


Late Night Consoling

I played Outerlight's The Ship (PC) online with Shackers yesterday, and it was a blast. It's a great take on multiplayer, with a lot of tension and strategy to it. It's only $20 over Steam; I recommend giving it a shot if you're looking for something different.

  • Argo/Zune to Game After All?

    [xbox] [xbox360]
    News about Microsoft's upcoming portable device, known as either Argo or Zune depending on who you ask, is likely to get old pretty fast, with no end to rumors and still no official statements from Microsoft. Still, here's the latest one. Reputable Apple rumor site Think Secret has reported on news from "Microsoft insiders" that the system is equipped with a 400MHz DSP processor, seemingly overkill for a machine speculated to focus on audio/video playback rather than gaming. For reference, PSP has a MIPS CPU clocked at up to 333MHz, locked at a speed of 222MHz. With that kind of power, Microsoft may be setting its signs on Nintendo and Sony's handheld offerings after all. Still, with Zune's price point rumored to be in the neighborhood of $400--the price of a premium Xbox 360 package--it will have to deliver some tasty gaming to succeed on those terms.
  • Too Human Taking a Little Too Long?

    [xbox360]
    Last week, the Gears of War (X360) product page on Xbox.com was updated to reflect an October 2 release date, whereas previously the Epic shooter was announced only as coming out some time this year. Inquiries to Microsoft were met with neither confirmation nor denial of the information. The October 2 date has since been removed. Now, another anticipated game has had its release date moved around. Silicon Knights' sci-fi adventure Too Human (X360), famously in development for many years and across several systems, has been announced for an unspecified 2006 release date. Until mere days ago, its Xbox.com product page release date read "TBA 2006," though now it has been changed to an even more vague "TBD." It is not clear whether the change reflects a delay or merely housekeeping on publisher Microsoft's part to keep release dates as open as possible until final announcements are made.
  • Final Fantasy XI-2 Coming?

    [ps3] [xbox360]
    Varies news outlets are reporting on an article from Japanese site Nikkei, noting that Square Enix is currently working on a sequel to its multiplatform MMO Final Fantasy XI (PS2, X360, PC). The unnamed game is apparently in the works for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows Vista; the inclusion of Vista indicates that the game is likely to show up no earlier than 2007. Square Enix has not yet responded to inquiries regarding the reports.
  • DS Lite Cracking Up

    [ds]
    Reports on various blogs and forums indicate that the left hinge on some DS Lite units seems to be prone to cracking. Various photographs have appeared showing the small horizontal crack; according to those affected by the problem, functionality of the hinge itself is not affected. At this point, Nintendo is not classifying the problem as one covered under warranty, presumably because it does not affect operation. Online users have reportedly been unable to find a strong correlation between amount of use and presence of the problem. The manufacturer estimates that less than 1% of DS Lite units are afflicted with the defect, and are charging a discounted rate of $50--rather than $75--for those who wish to send in their units for repair. By contrast, Nintendo will replace units containing dead or stuck pixels free of charge, so if you happen to have a cracked unit with a dead pixel or two, you may well be covered.
  • Nintendo Shows off at Comic-Con

    [ds]
    Nintendo today announced that it will be showcasing upcoming titles at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego, though it seems the company's lineup will be entirely made up of Nintendo DS titles rather than those for the Wii console or the few 2006 releases left for GameCube. Among the games playable at the show will be iNiS' Elite Beat Agents (a remake/sequel to DS rhythm game Osu! Takae! Ouendan!), Square Enix's Mario Hoops 3 on 3, Q-Games' Star Fox Command, ChunSoft's Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, and others. The company will also be operating a download kiosk for Nintendo DS game demos and movies. Longtime voice of Mario (and Luigi and Wario and Waluigi), Charles Martinet, will be on hand to sign autographs and say things in goofy accents.
  • MSN Messenger Knows Who Your Friends Are

    [xbox] [xbox360]
    Xbox Live friends list functionality, once a feature in MSN Messenger but removed over a year ago, has been returned to Microsoft's online chat software. Users with recent version of the renamed Windows Live Messenger now have an Xbox tab that will list recent Xbox Live news and display the online status and current activity of each of their friends. While Messenger users cannot interact with friends through the software, clicking on a Gamertag will launch that friend's Xbox.com page. (Thanks Major Nelson.)
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    Another industry member-written blog about the industry has sprung up, this one from QA Engineer Zachary Slater. Fittingly, it's called the Game QA Blog.

Misc. Media/Previews

PS2
GameSpot takes a look at Clover Studio's Okami (PS2). 1UP checks out Capcom's God Hand PS2) (so does IGN). Screenshots: God of War II (PS2).
XBOX/X360
IGN previews Playlogic's Xyanide (Xbox). Game Informer tries out an import version of Q? and Phantagram's Ninety-Nine Nights (X360).
PORTABLE
IGN checks out Treasure's Bleach DS (NDS). 1UP previews Capcom's Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Justice for All (NDS). Screenshots: Project Hacker (NDS). Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light (PSP). Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins (PSP).
MULTI
1UP compares the versions of Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent (PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360, PC). Movies: Tony Hawk's Project 8 (PS2, Xbox, PS3, X360, PSP). Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent (PS2, Xbox, GCN, PS3, X360, PC).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for the Dreamcast. "I lost countless hours of my life to this game, and more specifically School II. S-K-A-T-E" (submitted by emocore) (Chris: Me too... me too.)

Read more »

"You've never had an issue because you've never wanted to play your iTunes-bought music on ..."
- nudel    See all 33 comments


Late Night Consoling

Hey, it's Friday.

  • Throwback Picks Up Acclaim Games

    [ps2] [xbox] [gamecube]
    Newly formed Toronto-based publisher Throwback Entertainment today announced that it has acquired the rights to a number of titles formerly owned by Acclaim, after the publisher's assets were put up for auction. Throwback's stated plans for the games, most of which hail from the PS2/Xbox/GameCube era but some of which date back to Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast, are to extend their franchises to the next generation of consoles. "We are very pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to take these titles through the next generation, and onwards," said Throwback in a statement. The company's website highlights the following acquired titles: Z-Axis' Aggressive Inline (PS2, Xbox, GCN, GBA), Probe Entertainment's Extreme-G (N64) and Extreme-G 2 (N64, PC), Acclaim Studios Cheltenham's XGIII Extreme G Racing (PS2, GCN) and XGRA: Extreme-G Racing Association (PS2, Xbox, GCN), Bizarre Creations' Fur Fighters (DC, PC) and Fur Fighters: Viggo's Revenge (PS2), Acclaim Studios Manchester's Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance (PS2, Xbox, PC), Iguana Entertainment's Iggy's Reckin' Balls (N64), Acclaim Studios Salt Lake City's Legends of Wrestling (PS2, Xbox, GCN) and Legends of Wrestling II (PS2, Xbox, GCN) and Showdown: Legends of Wrestling (PS2, Xbox), Acclaim Studios Cheltenham's Summer Heat Beach Volleyball (PS2), Climax's SX Superstar (Xbox, GCN), and Acclaim Studios Austin's Vexx (PS2, Xbox, GCN). Buried deeper in the company's site is a full list of acquired titles, which numbers a staggering 106. It includes such games as Re-Volt (PS1, N64, DC, PC), Alien Trilogy (SAT, PC), Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (PS2), the Sega Saturn version of Myst, the PlayStation version of Riven: The Sequel to Myst, Wizards & Warriors (NES), Wizards & Warriors III (NES), and the SNES version of Populous. In most of these cases, it is likely that Throwback holds the publishing rights only, and would not be able to develop further franchise as is the plan with the aforementioned highlighted games. Re-Volt is one exception, it being an Acclaim-developed game.
  • Eternal Darkness Sequel Coming...Eventually

    [gamecube]
    In the Too Human (X360) blog maintained by developer Silicon Knights, studio director Denis Dyack indicated that the company still plans to make a sequel to its 2002 GameCube title Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. "Although this may not be obvious to those outside of Silicon Knights, anyone inside the guild understands that there is really no other answer," wrote Dyack, referring to Eternal Darkness sequels. "When creating an original game we start by conceptualizing an entire universe." Presumably, further games would be developed for a Nintendo system, be it Wii or a successor, as Nintendo owns the rights to the Eternal Darkness property. However, it will likely be some time before that occurs; Silicon Knights is currently working on its long in development Too Human trilogy, the first game of which is slated to ship later this year.
  • Jeff Minter and Ubisoft's Guillemot on PS3

    [ps3]
    Llamasoft founder Jeff Minter, creator of many games but perhaps most notably Tempest 2000 (JAG, SAT, PC), has some less than flattering things to say about Sony in his latest column from UK publication Edge, calling the company "incredibly arrogant." He wrote, "They seem absolutely certain that even when they say it's going to be considerably more expensive than existing consoles, nevertheless us eager customers will rush out in droves to buy it because it's, hey, a new PlayStation." Minter may be referring in part to recent comments made by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe CEO David Reeves, who stated, "The first five million are going to buy [PlayStation 3], whatever it is, even [if] it didn't have games." Last week, speaking to financial news outlet Bloomberg, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot also expressed concern about PlayStation 3's price tag. Though Guillemot expects the machine to sell out its initial launch quantities in 2006, he believes it may need a price drop to compete with Microsoft's already entrenched and lower priced Xbox 360. "The true question is 2007," he said. "In the battle with Microsoft, the company will be obliged to lower prices to get their machines installed."
  • Hurricane Help Through Headsets

    [xbox] [xbox360]
    In a rather unusual promotion, at least when it comes to video game peripherals, Plantronics is now pledging one dollar in Hurricane Katrina relief donations for each GameCom Halo 2 Edition Xbox headset sold through the company's web site. Even better, it's now going for $14.95 or $19.95, depending on whether you need the Communicator widget, a far cry from the original $49.95 and $59.95 asking prices--plus, it works with Xbox 360.
  • Sony Promotes Hirai, Reeves

    [ps2] [ps3] [psp]
    Sony this week announced that Sony Computer Entertainment America president and CEO Kaz Hirai and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe president and CEO David Reeves have been made executive vice presidents of Sony Computer Entertainment. In addition to their regional duties, the pair will now have more clout within the corporate structure of SCE.
  • Nintendo Goes to Korea

    [gamecube] [nintendo] [ds] [gba]
    Nintendo today opened a wholly owned Nintendo subsidiary in Seoul. The facility, operating on an initial investment of 25B won ($26M), will aid Nintendo's prescence in South Korea by way of game localization and sales support. While gaming is an enormous phenomenon in South Korea, it is almost exclusively PC-centric. Only recently has interest in consoles began to grow, as console publishers ëstablish themselves more strongly. Sony Computer Entertainment maintains offices in the country, and last month Activision opened a South Korean branch.
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    Nintendo has launched the official site for its upcoming DS RPG based on The Legend of Zelda's Tingle; the title may approximate to Fresh Tingle's Rose Colored Rupee Land. The site is some kind of Flash-based graphic adventure. Somebody who reads Japanese, please explain what is going on. IGN has an overview of upcoming RPGs for the Xbox 360, from both Japanese and Western developers. 1UP today wrapped up its week of coverage on Treyarch's Call of Duty 3 (PS3, X360, Wii), made up of interviews, features, and videos.

Misc. Media/Previews

XBOX/X360
Game Informer checks out the Xbox 360 version of EA Tiburon's NCAA Football (X360, also PS2, PSP, PC). 1UP takes a look at Capcom's Dead Rising (X360).
PORTABLE
GameSpot checks out the PSP version of EA Canada's Need for Speed Carbon (PSP, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PS3, X360, PS3, Wii, NDS, GBA, PC). 1UP previews Inti Creates' Mega Man ZX (NDS).
MULTI
Movies: Rayman Raving Rabbids (PS2, Xbox, GCN, PS3, X360, Wii, PC).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Treasures of the Deep for the PSOne. "Despite the simple graphics, distance fog and a gentle sway really make you feel like you are swimming with the sealife. Very relaxing to just tool around, but I guess you do have to play the missions at some point, right?" (submitted by agsilva)

Read more »

"Another re-volt game would be sweet. I loved that game back in college (98/99). We used to lan ..."
- icase81    See all 36 comments


Late Night Consoling

Once again, I'm running low on Console Games of the Evening, so if there are any classic titles you particularly love (or hate), get those in there, and check to make sure they haven't already been submitted. I'm trying to hold off on using any of the PS2/Xbox/GameCube submissions until all three next-gen consoles are out, so dig back into those legacy systems. Thanks!

  • Square Enix Likes Blu-ray

    [ps3]
    Several months ago, Square Enix executives made some ambiguous comments suggesting that main numbered entries in flagship series such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest might become multiplatform in the upcoming console generation. At least in the case of Final Fantasy, this possibility has been all but denied at this point. Both Final Fantasy XIII and one of its sister projects Final Fantasy Versus XIII are being developed solely for PlayStation 3. In a recent interview with Japanese publication Gaimaga translated by IGN, FFXIII director Motomu Toriyama and Final Fantasy Versus XIII producer Shinji Hashimoto explained the reasoning for the continued Sony exclusivity: one DVD, forms of which are being used in both Xbox 360 and Wii, are insufficient for the "type of visual expression" being produced in the game. In all likelihood, this has to do with the large amount of CGI movies that have been a part of Final Fantasy games ever since Final Fantasy VII (PS1), which take up even greater amounts of space in high definition. PlayStation 3 will be using the higher capacity Blu-ray Disc format for all of its games. Presumably, Square Enix considers single-disc convenience a crucial factor this time around; several previous series entries have shipped on multiple discs. In regards to the current status of the game, Toriyama stated that the engine is in a running state on PS3 hardware, and the scenario design for the game is about 80% complete. "Now is the time for the true start of FFXIII," he said.
  • Microsoft Doesn't Like Blu-ray, Doubtful of PS3 Online

    [ps3] [xbox360]
    In interviews with Eurogamer TV (part one, part two) this week, Xbox Europe head Chris Lewis and Xbox UK head Neil Thompson expressed strong words about Sony's Blu-ray strategy, and haziness regarding the details of PlayStation 3's online service. "I find it concerning for consumers that they're being forced into a purchase [of a Blu-ray drive]," said Thompson. "I don't think they need to make that decision for another two, three years maybe. Sony now have a very interesting business model I think they're going to find challenging." He pointed to Microsoft's strategy of an upcoming optional HD-DVD drive as more desirable, in that it offers consumers a choice of whether to invest in a high definition movie format. "If gamers over time choose to go to HD-DVD we're going to give them the choice to do that, but we're not going to force them to buy that day one,” he said. Lewis noted that the inclusion of Blu-ray in the machine contributed to its high price point, and stated that Microsoft feels no pressure to lower the price of its Xbox 360 in the near future, given that it is already priced competitively with Sony's machine. "We're confident that we are at the right price at the right time and will remain so," he said, "and nothing I've heard [from Sony] does anything other than frankly reinforce that view." In regards to Sony's online plans, the Microsoft executives were "flattered" by Sony's promises, which share many similarities to the successful Xbox Live service, but Lewis believes that Sony has not followed up with sufficient solid details on the service's workings or payment options. "It's good to see them catching up in that regard," he said. "I think the service is still hazy in my view in terms of how it's really going to work for the consumer--how the pricing's going to work still to me seems very unclear." (For reference, Sony has announced that its online gaming service will be offered free of charge, with purchasable content similar to that available via Xbox Live Marketplace.) Lewis also pointed to Xbox Live's strong integration with the Xbox and Xbox 360 as a crucial part of the system's success.
  • Painkiller: Hell Wars Delayed

    [xbox]
    People Can Fly's Painkiller: Hell Wars, an Xbox adaptation of the original PC shooter Painkiller, has seen several delays, pushing it back from its original release date of fall 2005. Today, publisher DreamCatcher Interactive announced that development time on the game has been extended to ensure that all of the features from the PC game are present. "DreamCatcher is committed to making Painkiller: Hell Wars a must-have title for the Xbox, and quite possibly the last great shooter on the Xbox platform," said global product marketing manager Byron Gaum. No new release date was given for the title, though the announcement claims it is "soon to be available."
  • PSP Updated

    [psp]
    Sony has released a minor software update for its PSP console, bringing the system from version 2.70 to version 2.71. There are two announced changes: adding support to save game demos to a Memory Stick, and correcting an error with the system's LocationFree Player. Currently, a demo of SCEJ's LocoRoco is available.
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    1UP speaks with developers from Square Enix about Final Fantasy XII (PS2). Silicon Knights' Denis Dyack has a few things to say in defense of Too Human's (X360) showing at this year's E3.

Misc. Media/Previews

XBOX/X360
IGN checks out Capcom's Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting (X360). Movies: Chromehounds (X360).
GCN/Wii
Screenshots: Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii). Movies: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii, GCN).
PORTABLE
Screenshots: Flipper Critters (NDS). Lunar Knights (NDS). HOT PXL (PSP). Movies: Spectrobes (NDS).
MULTI
GameSpot goes hands on with Supersonic's Micro Machines V4 (PS2, Xbox, DS, PSP, PC) and takes an updated look at EA Tiburon's NCAA Football 07 (PS2, Xbox, X360, also PSP) (so does IGN). Screenshots: King of Fighters: Neowave (PS2, Xbox). Movies: NFL Head Coach (PS2, Xbox, PC).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan for the Game Boy Color. "Along with Tetris, my first Gameboy game. To this day... a perfect old-school side-scroller: Graphics, Music, SFX, Animation, ALL AMAZING. Along with perfect gameplay, it's an old-school classic." (submitted by at0micGarden)

Read more »

"You do know that Snake started out on Nintendo consoles right? Guess not ;-)"
- Sifer    See all 101 comments


Late Night Consoling

I'm really starting to get excited about E3. This is a new thing for me. Usually I have cautious anticipation tinged with a sense of dread and impending migraines. It's always entertaining, but if you're there to actually get a lot of work done, it can be unbelievably draining. This year, though... I don't think I've ever looked forward to as many different things at an E3 before. With the exception of Xbox, which has essentially been dropped at this point, there are games I'm actively anticipating on every current platform. Yesterday's official announcement of Assassin's Creed (PS3) from Ubisoft sort of caught me by surprise; I hadn't paid much attention to that title when it was in its pre-announcement phase, but the setting is fascinating and the game has a lot of potential. If the historial aspects aren't just glossed over and used as only the vaguest inspiration, which sadly seems to happen quite frequently in video games, consider me excited. As far as other titles on PS3, I'll have to wait and see. We really haven't heard too much about the system, but I'm sure games like Metal Gear Solid 4 will be amazing. On Xbox 360, I'm curious to see how Silicon Knights' Too Human plays. I have to admit, I'm honestly skeptical of any video game developer's ability to live up to the complex sci-fi themes and storylines that are so often promised, and by the same token I'm not sure I'm on board with studio head Denis Dyack's proclamation that Too Human will change the world. All that said, it sounds like a lot of cool territory is being explored and I look forward to checking it out. There are also rumors that Halo 3--or, at least, the third Halo game, whatever it may be--will be present in some form, though almost certainly not playable. The Halo games are really the only games that have ever convinced me to play an FPS on a console (unless you count Metroid Prime as an FPS, which I don't really), so suffice to say I'm very interested to see what Bungie is cooking up. That said, I'd also love to see Bungie get away from Halo for a bit too. That studio has some fine heritage and range among its games, and there's a lot more potential there than just more Halo. Here's hoping. With Revolution--I'm sorry, Wii--I just want to play anything, really. As with PS3, we've seen practically nothing in the way of concrete game information, but that controller is inherently exciting. I have to say, I absolutely expect a lot of initial non-Nintendo games on the system to not use the controller to its full potential, or in ideal ways. Weirdly enough, I'm really looking forward to that. Not everybody can relate to this I'm sure, but I love seeing developers try out crazy stuff even if it doesn't always result in the most objectively solid game--as a case in point, games like Grasshopper's Killer 7 (PS2, GCN) and Vivarium's Odama (GCN) are fun experiences for me even if they're a bit rough around the edges. Then sometimes we get stuff like Keita Takahashi's Katamari Damacy (PS2) from Namco, and it's the best of both worlds: inventiveness as well as a coherent experince. Back to my point, sorry about that. While I'm sure eventually somebody will figure out The Best Way to Control Platformers on Wii, and The Best Way to Control Third Person Shooters on Wii, just like how dual analog sticks have become a standard for console FPS games on other systems, I can't wait to see what kind of crazy methods developers come up with for various genres before they become standardized. Anyway, in terms of specific games for Wii, I'm hoping Metroid Prime 3 from Retro is playable. Metroid Prime on GameCube really blew me away, so I can't wait to see what those talented guys do with the new controller. That said, I also sort of view Retro in a similar way as I do Bungie: a first party developer that has already created two acclaimed entries in well-known flagship series but who would do well to branch out. It would be great to see what else they're capable of. Fortunately, recent rumors suggest Retro will have another game at E3 as well, so here's hoping for that too! And for me personally, I don't know if there's any single game I want to see on Wii more than Pikmin 3. The first two Pikmin games on the Cube were easily some of my favorite games of the generation, and ever since Miyamoto said last year (before the controller unveiling) that Revolution would be a perfect system for Pikmin, I've been on pins and needles. EDIT: Gadzooks, that intro was longer than I thought it was. Sorry guys!

  • Shadowrun at E3?

    [xbox360]
    For some time now, there have been persistent rumors that a Shadowrun first person shooter is in the works for Xbox 360. Those rumors came to a head today, as the internets noticed that the official website of FASA Studio (which developed the Shadowrun game on Genesis) is fronted by a splash screen containing four silhouettes that suspiciously resemble those of Shadowrun characters. This connection was reinforced when it was also noticed that shadowrun.com redirects to the same image. Not much more needs to be said here, really. A Shadowrun FPS has already been all but confirmed in recent months, so don't be surprised to see this RPG adaptation show up during Microsoft's pre-E3 press conference next week.
  • Ubisoft Reveals Rayman Raving Rabbids

    [ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [gamecube] [nintendo]
    Though the existence of a fourth game in designer Michel Ancel's Rayman series has been out in the open for some time now, few details have been available. Today, Ubisoft officially announced Rayman Raving Rabbids, which the publisher promises to be the series' "funniest and zaniest adventure ever." Raving Rabbids is set to ship this holiday season for current and next-generation consoles, but oddly enough the only platform specifically mentioned by name is Nintendo's upcoming Wii. Ancel's latest effort will be a launch title for the system, making it Ubisoft's second confirmed Wii launch game after the platform-exclusive Red Steel. Rayman Raving Rabbids pits the titular (and limbless) hero Rayman up against the evil and insane rabbit-esque rabbids. At Rayman's disposal are a variety of creatures he can tame and control, as well as different costumes he can use to infiltrate the rabbid ranks. (Earlier today, Ubisoft released a Rayman Raving Rabbids screenshot that can, indeed, be described only as "zany." That image, however, was prematurely distributed and has been recalled. They did, however, also send, uh, this.) Rayman Raving Rabbids is in development by Ubisoft Montpellier. It will ship alongside Wii later this year, as well as for other systems this holiday season.
  • Sonic Speeds to PSP

    [psp]
    Sega's daily game announcements continue, with the latest reveal being Sonic Rivals, being developed by Death Jr. creator Backbone Entertainment for PSP. Featuring 3D environments and characters with 2D gameplay. Sonic Rivals puts classic Sonic platforming in a competitive setting. Playing as one of four characters, the player must reach the finish line before a computer-controlled character or a friend via local wireless. "In this heated rivalry, gamers are tested to prove not only who's the fastest but who has the best head-to-head gameplay strategy," said Sega's Scott A. Steinberg. Backbone Entertainment's Sonic Rivals ships this Fall.
  • Crash Crashes Into DS

    [ds]
    Crash Bandicoot will be coming to the DS platform for the first time with Crash Boom Bang!, developed by Dimps--largely known for its anime licensed games--and published by Crash owner Vivendi. Crash Boom Bang! collects 40 different mini-games that can be played via local wireless multiplayer, as well as the ability for players to bet on game outcomes and trade collectible items. Dimps' Crash Boom Bang! ships this October. - Screenshot.
  • Ubisoft at E3

    [ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [gamecube] [nintendo] [ds] [psp] [gba]
    In addition to its Rayman announcement, Ubisoft also sent along its official E3 game lineup, consisting of ten titles, including one not yet officially announced. They are as follows: - Assassin's Creed (PS3) - Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway (PS3, X360, PC) - Dark Messiah of Might & Magic (PC) - Enchanted Arms (X360) - "Game to be Unveiled," an as yet unannounced game from Timesplitters developer Free Radical - Open Season (PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360, DS, PSP, GBA, PC) - Rayman Raving Rabbids (Wii, "current and next-generation consoles") - Red Steel (Wii) - Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent (PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360, PS3, PC) - Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas (PS2, Xbox, PS3, X360, PC)
  • Midway at E3

    [ps2] [ps3] [xbox] [xbox360] [gamecube] [nintendo] [ds] [psp] [gba]
    Midway is the latest publisher to reveal its E3 lineup, and it consists of fourteen games. They are: - John Woo Presents Stranglehold (PS3, X360, PC) - Unreal Tournament 2007 (PS3, PC) - Blitz: The League (X360, Wii, PSP) - Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (PS2, Xbox) - Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run (PS2, Xbox) - The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC) - Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War (PC) - Happy Feet (PS2, GCN, Wii, GBA, DS, PC) - The Ant Bully (PS2, GCN, GBA, PC) - The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (PS2, GCN, GBA) - MLB SlugFest 2006 (PS2, Xbox) - RUSH (PSP) - Mortal Kombat: Unchained (PSP) - NBA Ballers: Rebound (PSP)
  • Nintendo Gears Up for E3

    [gamecube] [nintendo] [ds]
    With Sony, then Microsoft having launched their official E3 coverage sites, Nintendo has followed suit. The site promises live coverage of Nintendo's Wii unveiling press conference as well as show floor coverage.
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    In case you still aren't convinced it's real, AGFRAG studio head Joseph Hatcher takes some time to speak about the upcoming Bob Ross video game for Wii. Hudson Entertainment has part two of an internal interview with company president John Greiner, discussing Hudson's past and future, as well as its role in opening up Nintendo platforms to third parties. GameSpot chats with Sega's Takashi Iizuka about the upcoming Sonic Rivals (PSP). IGN chats with Midway's Kraig Kujawa about the Wii version of Blitz: The League (also X360, PSP), internally referred to as "Blitz: The Wiigue."

Misc. Media/Previews

PS2
Movies: Rogue Galaxy (PS2).
GCN/Wii
Screenshots: Rayman Raving Rabbids (Wii, also "current and next-generation video game consoles").
Portable
IGN checks out SCEJ's Work Time Fun (PSP). Screenshots: Crash Boom Bang! (DS). Sonic Rivals (PSP). Movies: The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch (PSP).
Multi
GameSpot takes a look at Traveller's Tales' LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (PS2, Xbox, GCN, DS, PSP, GBA< PC). 1UP takes a first look at Neversoft's Tony Hawk's Project 8 (PS3, X360). Screenshots: Cars (PS2, Xbox, GCN, DS, PSP, GBA, PC). Justice League Heroes (PS2, Xbox, PSP).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Alex Kidd in Miracle World for the Sega Master System. "You have to eat a hamburger to finish each level? Need I say anymore..." (submitted by MaverickUK)

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"Ah, sigh..LOL..gotta love the Shack thread system and how replies work...this was in response to ..."
- wytefang    See all 82 comments


Late Night Consoling

Announcements ahoy!

  • Square Enix Gears Up For E3

    [ps2] [xbox360] [ds] [psp] [gba]
    Square Enix today announced its official games lineup to be presented at this year's E3, containing upcoming titles for PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS, PSP, and Game Boy Advance. With the exception of the already-released Final Fantasy XI on Xbox 360, The list is suspiciously devoid of any titles on next-gen platforms, as well as any games scheduled to ship past 2006. It is probably safe to assume the publisher will be showing or mentioning further titles during its pre-E3 press conference on May 8. New Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles games have been announced for both Revolution and Nintendo DS, and several Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, among others, will undoubtedly appear on PlayStation 3. PlayStation 2:
    - Dawn of Mana (no current release date) - Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (Summer 2006) - Final Fantasy XII (Fall 2006)
    - Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (TBA 2006) Nintendo DS:
    - Children of Mana (TBA 2006) - Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (TBA 2006)
    - Final Fantasy III (TBA 2006)
    PSP: - Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth (TBA 2006) Game Boy Advance: - Final Fantasy V Advance (TBA 2006) - Final Fantasy VI Advance (TBA 2006) Multiplatform:
    - Final Fantasy XI: Treasures of Aht Urhgan (PS2, X360, PC; already released)
  • Mobile Ops Moves to Xbox 360

    [xbox360]
    Namco Bandai today announced an exclusive title for Xbox 360, Mobile Ops: The One Year War. Despite the name, Mobile Ops was actually conceived as a Gundam title, but Namco Bandai elected to forego that branding since the Gundam name carries less weight in the United States. A mecha combat game, players pilot giant robots as well as fight on foot or in other vehicles. "With dramatic cockpit views and exquisitely detailed mobile suits, we fully expect 'Mobile Ops' to immerse gamers into a futuristic world where giant mechas loom against a war-torn horizon," said Namco Bandai business director Yoshi Niki. The game will support Xbox Live team play as well. Mobile Ops: The One Year War ships this holiday season. - Screenshots.
  • Dragon Ball Comes to Rev

    [ps2] [nintendo]
    After constant rumors in recent weeks, Atari has confirmed that Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 will be heading to Revolution in addition to the previously known PlayStation 2. The fighting game contains over 100 characters and nine single- and multiplayer game modes. "The innovative controller featured with Nintendo Revolution is perfectly suited for Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, which engages players with fast-paced fighting moves," said Atari marketing director Matt Collins. "Gamers will be able to play in a very physical way, mimicking several of the show’s most popular character moves and pull off awesome combos and attacks." Specific details on how the Revolution controller will be used were not revealed. The game is being developed by longtime Dragon Ball developer Spike. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is slated to ship this holiday season.
  • Perfect Demo Zero to Hit Live

    [xbox360]
    After months of Perfect Dark Zero's launch title brethren slowly receiving Xbox Live demos one by one, Microsoft has stated that a free downloadable demo of Rare's launch shooter will be made available soon. It will include a single player map enabled for online cooperative play, as well as a multiplayer map.
  • Sony Releases Loco Roco Demo

    [psp]
    Starting tomorrow, Japanese PSP owners can get a taste of the upcoming PSP title Loco Roco via an official demo made available through the game's official website. To play the game, users must upgrade their systems to version 2.70, which will also be released tomorrow for Japan. Of course, in reality, the upgrade (and presumably the demo) will most likely work on PSPs from other territories, as has been the case for past updates that were released in Japan before the rest of the world. In all likelihood, part of the new update's functionality is to continue Sony's ongoing attempts to curtail homebrew efforts on the system, but offering a demo--with more to come in the future, one would assume--is certainly a nice addition.
  • Be the First Against the Wall

    [nintendo]
    Nintendo and AOL Games have announced a joint contest offering three winners the chance to be the first general consumers to play Nintendo Revolution games during this year's upcoming E3. Head over to AOL's website to sign up. Note that though AOL's page has pictures of a regular DS and Super Mario 64 DS, the prizes are in fact a DS Lite and the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. (DS). The package also includes a three-day, two-night stay in Los Angeles during E3, as well as attendance to Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference.
  • New Super Website Bros.; Super Website Ball

    [ds]
    Nintendo has launched its official website for New Super Mario Bros. (DS), previously just a static splash screen. The site now contains a new gameplay video as well as the promise of a new video each Monday through May 15, which coincides with Nintendo's currently listed ship date for the game. Sega also launched Super Monkey Ball World, a site devoted to its popular Super Monkey Ball franchise, including Traveller's Tales' Super Monkey Ball Adventure (PS2, GCN, PSP).
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    Follwing Nintendo's announcement of TurboGrafx games on Revolution's Virtual Console, Game Informer has cooked up RTE306: A TurboGrafx-16 Revolution Retrospective. There's also a brief interview with Sega's Scott Steinberg about Sega's relationship with Nintendo, in the context of the recent news about Genesis games playable on Virtual Console as well.

Misc. Media/Previews

PS2
GameSpot takes an early look at SCE Santa Monica's God of War II (PS2). IGN checks out an import copy of Square Enix's Dragon Quest: Young Yangus' Mysterious Dungeon (PS2) as well as Climax's ATV Offroad Fury 4 (PS2, also PSP). Game Informer goes hands on with Clover Studios' bewilderingly gorgeous Okami (PS2). Screenshots: Yakuza (PS2).
Xbox/X360
1UP has an early preview of Silicon Knights' Too Human (X360). Screenshots: Mobile Ops: The One Year War (X360).
Portable
GameSpot goes hands on with an import copy of Nintendo's Mother 3 (GBA) (so does GameSpy), as well as SCEI's Loco Roco (PSP) and SCEE London's Gangs of London (PSP). IGN checks out Team17's Lemmings (PSP), SCE London's World Tour Soccer 2006 (PSP, also PS2), and the PSP version of Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider: Legend (PSP, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360, PC). GameSpy previews High Impact's Ratchet & Clank (PSP), SCEI's Loco Roco (PSP), and SCE London's Gangs of London (PSP). Movies: LostMagic (DS).
Multi
GameSpy previews Krome's The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning (PS2, Xbox, GCN, DS, GBA). Screenshots: Rogue Trooper (PS2, Xbox, PC).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

3-D Worldrunner for the NES. "A 3-D glass game where you jumped over huge chasms - one of the first games I played with a real illusion of depth to it. Also, when the player pauses the game, Worldrunner actually sits down and takes a cigarette break..." (submitted by Vangoghs Ear)

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"Agreed, especially compared to Ghost Recon's city environment. I think MechAssault looks better."
- Sturm08    See all 106 comments


Late Night Consoling

Comin' to you from the BlizzCon press room, it's Late Night Consoling: Quick Edition. Note: The Xbox 360 story regarding single-threaded games has been updated.

  • Microsoft Discusses 360 Release

    [xbox]
    Microsoft announced its earning today for the latest financial quarter, with its Home and Entertainment Division (which contains the company's Xbox operations) posting a loss of $141M, up from a $131M loss last year. The increased loss can be attributed to slowing Xbox sales, which dropped $132M in revenue from last year in part due to the upcoming Xbox 360 devaluing the current-gen Xbox. Microsoft expects losses to continue to increase into the next quarter as the company spends more on the Xbox 360 launch and associated marketing and events. Notably, Microsoft indicated that analysts have actually been "expecting more of a launch spike than we were" in regards to initial Xbox 360 shipments, which is somewhat surprising because analysts have already been forecasting lower-than-planned ship numbers. The statement does not bode well for gamers who want a 360 but haven't already pre-ordered one (nor does it bode well for gamers who pre-ordered their consoles late in the game).
  • X360 Launch Titles Single-Threaded

    [xbox]
    Everybody's favorite industry muckraker The Inquirer has posted a claim that all of the Xbox 360 launch titles are single-threaded, using only one of the six available threads present in the machine's three double-threaded processing cores. This wouldn't be all that surprising, given that multithreaded programming is something that is entirely new to the game development world and many developers have outright stated that it will take some time to wrap their heads around the concept and develop a strong competency with it. That said, The Inquirer has not always been known for its rock-solid research, and this news should still be treated as rumor. As such, GameSpot has featured the story in its latest edition of Rumor Control, and it looks like Microsoft has not confirmed or denied the allegation. UPDATE: I have received confirmation from a designer at Infinity Ward, assuring me that the Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty 2 (X360, PC) is in fact running on at least two threads. While he could not elaborate into specific technical details, he is definitely aware that the game's AI is being run on a separate thread than the rest of the code. A developer at Pseudo has also written, confirming that Full Auto (X360) in fact uses all six threads across all three cores. So there you go!
  • THQ Touches On Next Generation

    [ps2] [xbox] [nintendo]
    THQ released its latest financial reports today, with a loss for the second quarter of $1.4M. The number is a great improvement over last year's second quarter loss of $6.4M, and was lower than analysts expected. The company also made a few announcements regarding the next console generation. For one thing, Volition's GTA-esque Saint's Row (X360), once speculated for the Xbox 360's launch window, has been delayed. The title will not ship until the first quarter of THQ's 2007 fiscal year, which begins next April. THQ also has 13 games in the works for the three next-gen consoles, and claims that four will be released in its current fiscal year--which, of course, means before next April. Considering the publisher stated that it expects both PS3 and Revolution to ship in the second half of 2006, one would assume that all four of those titles are set for Xbox 360. In regards to all three consoles, THQ is currently planning on devoting approximately 40% of its development budget to Xbox 360, 40% to PS3, and 20% to Revolution. The company is currently increasing its Revolution development, and explained that its lower Revolution budget is due to the console still being largely unrevealed. In regards to Nintendo as a company, THQ president Brian Farrell told IGNCube last month that "Nintendo is waking up," and that "We're seeing more from Nintendo now [for Revolution] than we have on any other Nintendo platform," though at the time he declined to elaborate due to nondisclosure agreements.
  • Tool for GTA:LCS Soundtracks

    [psp]
    Owners of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP) who wish to take advantage of the game's custom soundtrack support will need to download a special tool to convert music files into a format accepted by the game. The utility is conveniently mirrored on FileShack right here. In the readme, Rockstar notes, "RCT is designed not to work with personally created CDs or CDs containing music encoded via MP3, WMA or other compression techniques. By using RCT, you acknowledge and agree that all conversions created through RCT are solely for your private use to enhance your enjoyment of the gameplay of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and may not be reproduced or distributed to others."
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    GameSpot chats with Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack regarding the studio's long in the works title Too Human (X360).

Misc. Media/Previews

Xbox/X360
GameSpot checks out People Can Fly's Painkiller: Hell Wars (Xbox).
Portable
Game Informer has movies and a preview of Alphadream's Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS). GameSpot has Famitsu-sourced details on Marvelous' Ys Strategy (DS) (so does IGN), Square Enix's Final Fantasy III (DS, also NES) (so does IGN), and Capcom's Resident Evil: Deadly Silence. IGN previews Nintendo's Super Princess Peach (DS), Genius Sonority's Pokemon Torouze (DS), and Planet Moon's Infected (PSP).
Multi
GameSpot previews 2K Sports' College Hoops 2K6 (PS2, Xbox, X360). IGN looks at Harmonix's Karaoke Revolution Party (PS2, Xbox, GCN). IGN checks out Sega's Shadow the Hedgehog (PS2, Xbox, GCN).

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"I was going to buy a 360 and all that. Then I upgraded my PC. I'll wait until next year and a ..."
- Pettytheft    See all 76 comments


Late Night Consoling

Okay, so... I'm not really sure what kind of response I expected from that Electroplankton review, but suffice to say I didn't anticipate that. It's cool, though! Got some interesting feedback. I was gone the whole day (covering non-wacky games for you guys!) so unfortunately I didn't get to respond to the thread at all. One thing to bear in mind is that as of now I've only done one actual review for this site. Shack isn't even known for having reviews ever, so it would seem odd to take that lone exception as a precedent. I like reviewing games though, so if you guys want me to do it more often I can. Electroplankton was not chosen as "my inaugural review," it was just a game I wanted to play so I figured why not let Shackers know what I thought? Likewise, in terms of previews, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! is just one out of a whole bunch I've done here so far. Two titles do not a rule make. So, yeah! Hopefully that's sort of cleared up. Thank you to those in the comments who voiced either side, just remember that I'm not trying to lay down some manifesto one way or the other. Basically: I like games, lots of different ones. Sitting on my shelf next to Kirby Canvas Curse is Max Payne 2. Well, not right next to it, but you get the point.

  • Be Charitable, Buy Crazy Game Stuff

    [ps2] [xbox] [gamecube]
    The Entertainment Software Association holds yearly benefits to improve the quality of life for children in America, aiming to create positive social impact by being a large contributor to such organizations as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Starlight Children's Foundation, and more. Right now, the ESA is holding a rather large eBay auction to raise money, and the items up for bidding range from the extremely rare (a Star Wars lightsaber signed by George Lucas) to the oddly mundane (an HP Photosmart printer). Other items up for grabs include two tickets to E3 along with a pass to Nintendo's private E3 party, two tickets to E3 along with a pass to Sony's private E3 party, an Xbox 360 signed by Bill Gates, and a six-foot-tall statue of Halo's Master Chief. Most of the auctions end in the next few days, so if you have cash to burn for a charitable cause, get on it!
  • Microsoft Worried About 360 Launch

    [xbox]
    For those who wonder why console manufacturers always take so long to launch their machines in certain territories, Microsoft's Peter Moore has this to say: "There's a reason no-one has done this before and we are figuring that out. If we knew what we were getting into, we might not have done it." A BBC report indicates Microsoft is getting rather worried about its ability to keep its upcoming Xbox 360 console stocked worldwide in a far shorter timeframe than has ever been attempted before with a major console. Moore seems determined to see the problem through, but don't ask him how he's going to do that; he doesn't know. "We're going to ship all around the world; how we're going to do that, I don't know," said Moore. "We're going to rent every 747 we can find." The article also brings up the issue of launch titles, a topic Microsoft seems to want to avoid answering conclusively until the last possible moment. In regards to Microsoft-published anticipated titles such as Rare's Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo: Elements of Power as well as Bizarre's Project Gotham Racing 3, Microsoft Chief XNA Architect J Allard said, "These games are not far from being done, and if they're three weeks after the launch or they're on launch day I don't think it makes a significant difference." Moore echoed those sentiments: "Games will arrive with a thousand bugs and get into the certification process. They make it or they don't. It's no big deal if a game takes another week. The consumer will get a strong line-up."
  • Real Time Worlds Licenses Unreal 3

    [xbox]
    Real Time Worlds, the studio founded by Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto creator David Jones, announced today an agreement with Epic to license the Unreal Engine 3 for use in any of the studio's games. The first title to take advantage of the deal is the upcoming MMO All Points Bulletin (APC) (X360, PC). Real Time Worlds is also working on Crackdown for Xbox 360, but it was not specified whether it will make use of Unreal technology. The game sports a very stylized visual aesthetic, in large part due to its atypical color palette. Webzen, the Korean firm publishing APB, has also obtained several licenses of the engine.
  • Nintendo Announces Two Bundles

    [ds] [gamecube]
    Nintendo just announced two upcoming hardware bundles, one for its DS console and one for the GameCube. I've seen quite a few people ask about this in chatty, so here's your answer: Two weeks after Mario Kart DS hits stores, Nintendo will launch a Red Hot Nintendo DS bundle. Like the recently-announced Nintendogs bundle, it goes for $149.99 (the price of a standalone DS before its recent price cut), comes in a limited edition color scheme, and includes a full game. In this case, the game is of course Mario Kart DS and the limited edition color is a deep red. The deal also comes with a checkered-flag wrist strap as well as various decals. Mario Kart DS ships November 14, and the bundle will follow on November 28. Nintendo also announced another GameCube promotion, following the recent Super Smash Bros. bundle. November 7 will see the release of a bundle containing a GameCube, Mario Party 7, a GameCube microphone, and two controllers--all for $99.99. Separately, the items would retail for about $175, with the upcoming Mario Party 7 priced at $49.99.
  • 24 Hour Dance Dance Fitness Revolution Alpha Extreme

    [ps2] [xbox]
    Konami has announced a deal with major U.S. gym club chain 24 Hour Fitness to include DDR machines in 24 Hour Fitness locations. The machines will be featured in grand openings of the chain, as well as in 24 Hour's Kids Club section. 30-day trial passes to 24 Hour Fitness will be included in copies of Dance Dance Revolution EXTREME 2 (PS2) and Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3 (Xbox).
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    IGN asks a few questions of Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack regarding the studio's upcoming Too Human (X360). 1UP has a developer interview with The Creative Assembly's Clive Gratton regarding Spartan: Total Warrior (PS2, Xbox, GCN). Iain Simons at Gamasutra has a feature up on the processes followed by Xbox 360 design director Jonathan Hayes.

Misc. Media/Previews

PS2
1UP keeps going with day 3's coverage of Fumito Ueda's Shadow of the Colossus (PS2), today looking back on Ico (PS2). GameSpot previews Harmonix's Guitar Hero (PS2). Screenshots: Dynasty Warriors 5: Xtreme Legends (PS2). Mobile Suit Saga (PS2). WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 (PS2, also PSP).
Xbox
Screenshots: Shadow of Aten (X360, also PC). Movies: Shadow of Aten (X360, also PC). Top Spin 2 (X360, also DS, GBA).
Portable
IGN digs up some info on Nintendo's Mario Kart DS (DS), Square Enix's Children of Mana (DS), and Mistwalker's ASH (DS). Eurogamer also scrounges some info on Nintendo's Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS). Meanwhile, GameSpot gets a non-exclusive look at the multiplayer in Raven's X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (PSP, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PC) as well as a preview of Sony Online's Field Commander (PSP). IGN checks out Sony Online's Untold Legend: The Warrior's Code (PSP). Screenshots: Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble (DS). Burnout Legends (DS, also PSP). Movies: Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble (DS).
Multi
IGN previews Rockstar's The Warriors (PS2, Xbox). Screenshots: Crash Tag Team Racing (PS2, Xbox, GCN, DS, PSP).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Chrono Cross for the PS1. "Innovative combat system, pretty graphics (for the time), and interesting characters, locations, and story made this my most favorite RPG of all time." (submitted by rotten element)

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"Anyone remember the PS2 shortages back when it launched? Those were crazy, at least in this ..."
- evildanish    See all 106 comments


Late Night Consoling: Wordy Edition

Warning: there are a lot of words in this LNC. Last week, I picked up Indigo Prophecy at my local retailer. For those who aren't aware, when a game isn't the hypiest of the hyped, retail stores tend to only order as many copies of a game as they get pre-orders, and maybe a few extra if they expect stronger sales. This is partially because there are tons of games and the stores are generally small, and partially because profit margins on new games are so low that retailers only want to stock what they know they will sell. So anyway, I'm at the local shop for Indigo Prophecy. "Oh, you were in here last week, weren't you?" the clerk asked. They just got their shipment in, and we started chatting about the game. He said how much he'd been looking forward to it, and that he'd pre-ordered a PS2 copy. As we talked, a guy was there to buy Madden 06. He heard us chatting, and seemed pretty intruigued. After I paid for my copy, Madden guy came to the counter and said, "Uh, so I can get that, uh, Indigo...Prophecy? I'll take it for Xbox." The clerk checked behind the counter and informed him that I had taken the only Xbox one. They only got one copy for Xbox. They had two for PS2, and both clerks had them on pre-order. This guy had clearly never heard of the game, and was willing to try out a genre he'd probably never played, but was foiled by the pre-order system. I'm certain he's not going to go out of his way to track down the game, so that's one less person who could have had a great adventure experience but won't. The same thing happened to Psychonauts. There were widespread reports of stores not having it in stock, or having only a couple copies. Even my friend, who is a longtime Schafer fan, had to wait about a month to pick up the game because he couldn't find it anywhere and doesn't buy things online. He was waiting for the game for years; is some random guy who might be interested in a crazy platformer really going to bother? Publishers wonder why unique games often don't sell. There are many reasons, but one is that people can't find them.

  • DS Announcements: New Games, Online Details

    [ds]
    Though it's not quite the media hype event we're obviously seeing with X05, Nintendo held a conference today in Japan to discuss the future of the DS. There were some new game announcements and some details about previously mysterious games. And here they are: Mistwalker Studios, founded by Final Fantasy creator and former Square head of development Hironobu Sakagushi, announced an RPG for DS entitled ASH, short for Archaic Sealed Heart. Sakagushi explained that he wants to convey realism with the game's 3D graphics. ASH is the story of a flame whose touch would turn people to ash, leaving their bodies destroyed but their heart and memories intact. The flame was sealed away long ago, but as the game begins people who were turned to ash are being revived. The player must unravel the strange events, solve ancient mysteries, and meet supposed time travelers. It is a "simulation RPG", with character design by Final Fantasy veteran Hideo Minaba and music by FFXII's Hitoshi Sakimoto. Mistwalker is also developing two RPGs for Xbox 360. Nintendo of America also made some concrete announcements regarding Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Nintendo will be setting up thousands of hotspots around the country, and is also sponsoring the Free Spot Council, an organization which sets up free wireless access points in Japan and around the world. Obviously, other free wireless access points can be used as well. For those without a home wireless network, Nintendo will sell a small USB dongle which plugs into a computer with internet access and sends a wi-fi signal to the DS (or Revolution eventually). Anybody you've played against using the DS' local wireless will be added to your friends list. Every DS owner will also have a "Friend Code" which can be used to add others to your list. Most games, such as Mario Kart DS, will have several online options: create a game with friends, get put into a matchmade game, or join a random game with people from all over the world. In Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS), on the other hand, only your friends can visit your town (and vice versa) due to the game's more personal and open interactions. It seems that all games will be free to play online, even third-party games. Vicarious Visions' Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (DS) will ship alongside Nintendo's Mario Kart DS on November 14 as the first online-enabled games. Animal Crossing will follow a few weeks later, and Metroid Prime Hunters (DS) will ship in early 2006. Several upcoming Nintendo-published DS games were announced, most of which with few details: - Tingle, of Zelda fame, will be getting an RPG on DS. Go figure. - A new Wario Land game, entitled Kaitou Wario ("Thief Wario") is in development for the system. - Sakura Wars developer Red Entertainment is developing a 2D adventure game called Detect Hacker (DS), to be published by Nintendo. It has an anime style and is set in Tokyo. - Nintendo will be bringing the Custom Robo series to DS. The game is listed as an action-RPG. - Not too surprisingly given its enormous success in Japan, Brain Activity Software's Brain Training will be seeing another DS installment. The first "game" is speculated to be coming to North America and Europe at some point. - Nintendo also announced a puzzle game called Puzzeloop (DS) and an adventure game called Wish Room (DS). Many third-party games were also announced at the conference, likewise with few details given: - Namco announced that the long-running Tales series of RPGs will be coming to DS in 2006. - From Software is working on a Tenchu title for DS. The game is in 3D with an overhead perspective. - Capcom is working on the next game in the Gyakuten Saiban series. The upcoming Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS) is the first time that series has made it out of Japan, and if it does well we should expect to see the followup localized worldwide as well. - As anyone might expect, Konami will develop another Castlevania title for DS. The very well-received Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS) was released this week in North America. - Hudson Soft announced Bomberman Story (DS), apparently an RPG based on Bomberman. - Longtime anime game developer Banpresto is making a new SD Gundam simulation RPG for DS. - Taito announced a DS version of its classic Rainbow Islands series. - Koei's 16th century Japan simulation franchise Nobunaga no Yabou will be coming to DS. - Marvelous confirmed the existence of Ys Strategy (DS), which was unofficially uncovered last week. - There are also all sorts of board games and puzzle games which seem unlikely to make it out of Japan.
  • Square on Nintendo

    [ds] [gba]
    I initially had all of this Square Enix news in the above story, but the developer/publisher had so much Nintendo-related stuff to say that I figured it justified its own story. Read on: The main topic for Square Enix was the Final Fantasy III remake on DS. It was first mentioned almost a year ago, and finally has some concrete details. Apparently the game has changed quite a bit in that time. For one thing, it will be in 3D, both the character models and backgrounds, which explains why it's not appearing on GBA. Mana veteran Koichi Ishii and Chrono Trigger producer Kazuhiko Aoki, both also FFIII team members, will be supervising the project. FFXI's Ryoskusuke Aiba will be handling art direction and Xenogears/FFXII's Akihiko Yoshida will do character design. The company released some updated information regarding Children of Mana (DS). The game's release date has been moved from the end of 2006 to this coming winter. It will also feature wireless multiplayer cooperative mode, though it was not specified whether this will be available through the upcoming Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or just local wi-fi. Fans of the series should be pleasd to hear that multiplayer is considered a crucial aspect of the game. The game will employing an item-based customization system in order to allow players to better suit themselves on the fly to their multiplayer partners. Finally, it was noted that the stylus will be used, but all the main action will be controlled with the d-pad and face buttons. Square Enix also announced Final Fantasy V and VI for Game Boy Advance. It was noted that as expected the games will receive visual and other upgrades along the way. Along with Final Fantasy I+II: Dawn of Souls (GBA) and Final Fantasy IV (GBA), which will be released this year in Japan, today's announcements ensure that all pre-PlayStation Final Fantasy console titles will have made it to current Nintendo portable platforms. Somewhat surprisingly, Square Enix is also currently developing Mario Basket 3 on 3 (DS), which is of course a Mario basketball title. According to Square Enix president Youichi Wada, his company actually approached Nintendo with the proposal, and Nintendo agreed. The game is rendered in real-time 3D and promises to feature a deep ball handling system made possible with the stylus. It will feature a variety of courts themed around the Mushroom Kingdom. This will mark Mario's first basketball title, not counting the appearance of Mario, Luigi, and Peach in NBA Street. The game is set for release next year, and it seems likely it will make it out of Japan.
  • Possible 360 Shortages?

    [xbox]
    Joystiq has uncovered a research report filed by Deutsche Bank employees suggesting that Microsoft may be concerned about Xbox 360 shortages. This would explain why Japan is not getting a stripped down version of the console; once supply is at an optimal level, Microsoft may introduce the hard drive-less version in that country. The manufacturer is already planning to offer the premium bundle at an approximate discount of $50 in Japan as compared to the North American price point. If true, this would run contrary to Microsoft's stated goal to have no problems supplying sufficient quantities of the console come launch.
  • The Cost of the Next Generation

    [xbox]
    Forbes has a comprehensive look at the pricing plans and strategies for Xbox 360 consoles and software. The article seems to indicate that Microsoft is actually requiring retailers to "to sell only bundles for the Xbox [360]", which would explain why you can't seem to find anything online that's just the boxed console itself. Forbes also quoted Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who indicated that $60 standard pricing for next-generation games should hold true. When Activision set this pricing scheme for their products, other publishers followed suit. Said Kotick:
    "We've said we're to going sell those products at higher price points until ... the market forces us to sell them at lower price points, which we don't think is likely. We don't really think that there's a lot of price sensitivity on the part of the consumer, if you're delivering value."
    First-party Microsoft titles will be priced at $50; first-party console publishers frequently sell their software for cheaper than third-party publishers because they are already receiving console rights royalties on all software for the system.
  • Eidos Confirms Tomb Raider Delay

    [ps2] [xbox]
    Eidos has confirmed that Crystal Dynamics' upcoming Tomb Raider: Legend (PS2, Xbox, PSP, PC) has in fact slipped to 2006, both for Xbox 360 and Xbox. Presumably, this also applies to the other console versions. The fact that the confirmation was made at X05 explains why they were not mentioned.
  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    WarCry's Shannon Drake compares Nintendo's next-gen strategy to Muhammad Ali's Rope-A-Dope ploy.

Misc. Media/Previews

Xbox
GameSpot takes updated looks at Rare's Kameo: Elements of Power (X360), Eden Studios' Test Drive Unlimited (X360), Realtime Worlds' Crackdown (X360), Epic's Gears of War (X360), EA Tiburon's Madden NFL 06 (X360, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, DS, PSP, GBA, PC) and Superman Returns: The Videogame (X360, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PC), and EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (X360, also PS2, Xbox, GCN, PSP, PC). IGN checks out Relic's The Outfit (X360), Q Entertainment's Ninety-Nine Nights (X360), Epic's Gears of War (X360), Realtime Worlds' Crackdown (X360), Bioware's Mass Effect (X360), Silicon Knights' Too Human (X360), From Software's Chromehounds (X360), and Square Enix's Final Fantasy XI (X360, also PS2, PC). 1UP previews Bizarre's Project Gotham Racing 3 (X360), Red Storm's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (X360), Epic's Gears of War (X360), and Silicon Knights' Too Human (X360). Screenshots: Saint's Row (X360). TimeShift (X360). Amped 3 (X360).
GameCube
1UP checks out Capcom's Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble (GCN).
Portable
GameSpot goes hands on with Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS).
Multi
GameSpot previews Midway's Blitz: The League (PS2, Xbox). Screenshots: Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PS2, Xbox, GCN, X360). Alone in the Dark (PS3, X360). Movies: Resident Evil 5 (PS3, X360).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Rushin' Attack for the NES. "Great old school platformer. I wasted hours on this one. I could beat the entire game in one sitting without dying once!" (submitted by PerfectCr)

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