Saturday, September 17, 2005

Is The Revolution A Solution?

So finally after many months of speculation, artist renderings and the like, Nintendo finally unveiled their new controller for the Revolution system due next year. If you haven't seen it yet (just go to just about any mainstream gaming site), the controller is a one-handed remote-like device. Nintendo was hinting at simplicity for the future, and they weren't kidding. The controller is pretty minimalisitic, with a D-pad, a few face buttons and a power button. BUT, the controller acts gyroscopically, which means it will react with any hand motion. Basically it's like a wireless mouse. There's an attachment that will allow you to hook up an analog stick for one hand, while you use the Revolution controller in the other.

This is by far the most bizarre and confusing direction Nintendo, or any other company has taken, with it's new console. They've pretty much guarnteed us a unique experience based on the controller alone, but I'm wondering how much mainstream appeal this will have. Sony may as well have a lock on the next generation, and Microsoft wants to steal a big chunk of that this fall with the Xbox 360. While Nintendo is leading themselves into the next generation with a lot of innovation on their hands, there's undoubtably a lot of speculation as well. But like what we've seen with the DS, trying something new doesn't hurt, but the Revolution seems like a different animal altoghter. We'll see when the games come out (for Revolution), and then we'll know for sure wether or not Nintendo was crazy.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Jack Thompson : Douchebag Of The Year!

It's been a couple of weeks since I've last posted, but I really couldn't find a topic to discuss on. That was until I went on to IGN today. Apparently, Jack Thompson's tryaid of seeking out of "what's wrong" with video games continues with Capcom's Killer 7. For those who don't know who Jack Thompson is, he's the lawyer from Florida who has recently joined Hillary Clinton on the whole GTA: San Andreas Hot Coffee controversy. But he's been taking this situation many steps further, by scrutinizing other games that have been released, or even yet to be released. A few days ago, he and a group of teenage kids protested about Rockstar's upcoming game "Bully", claiming it will lead to the Columbine-like incidents again, and that this game should either be rated "M" or just not published at all. Now, he's targeting Capcom's Killer 7 because of a scene where two clothed people are simulating sexual acts. Like GTA:SA, he wants this game to be slapped with an AO rating, and further more, to have the ESRB "dismantled" and investigated.

On top of all of this, now he (according to Gamespot) has recieved death threats via e-mail from crazed video game fanatics. While I wouldn't go as far as to say as this man should be murdered, I will say that Thompson seems to be going too far in what he is doing. He is not a politician, yet he's making threats like he is one. I'm starting to think that he has jumped on the bandwagon Clinton has started and is just doing this for monetary reasons. Claims that this is to protect children are starting to seem less likely to me. I think the ESRB and the industry have been doing their part to come up with a ratings system that is clear and understandable. There is only so much a company can do to regulate the sales of M-rated games to minors, that this is more of a problem with retailers and parents than it is with the industry. Game makers are creating these games under the impression that people will follow the ESRB guidelines. When they make M-rated games, they're not making them for kids, they're intended for ages 17 and up. Now, when things such as the Hot Coffee incident occur, when a developer knows something is there, but hidden, that should be disclosed with the ESRB and let them decide on wether or not that the material still falls within the rating guideline. But it probably would have been better for Rockstar to just spend the extra time to take it out. Then again, Rockstar isn't one to give up free publicity.

But why is the gaming industry under so much more scrutiny than the film industry? Game ratings are basically similar across the board with the MPAA's (E= G or PG, T= PG-13, and R = M). So why is it that Hollywood can get away with so much more than the gaming industry can? Did anyone complain about the sex scenes in "Unfaithful" or "Team America"? No. I've seen seen some pretty racy stuff on basic cable .But when game makers even Simulate sex, investigations are "needed" to be made. Thompson claims it's "ridiculous" that people feel his stance on sex is much harsher in games than violence. But really, that's what this whole recent digital witch-hunt has been about. Since the sexual content of the Hot Coffee thing has emerged, politicians and lawyers are scrambling to find the next offender.

Why is it so hard for people to adhere to the ESRB rating system? It's clear as day. Reatilers are starting to catch on to regulating sales, but that's not enough when parents just buy the game for their kids. Like the grandmother who bought her 14 year-old grandson GTA:SA, and was outraged to find out there was the hidden sex game in there. HE SHOULDN'T EVEN PLAY THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE, BECAUSE ACCORDING TO THE ESRB, THE GAME IS NOT INTENDED FOR HIM. I've been in Gamestop on some occasions where parents have bought the GTA games for their kids, who look like they're 10 or 11. What the hell? Why can't parents spend 3 seconds to look at the bottom of the game package to read the rating. It's pretty big and not hard to miss. If people weren't so ignorant, I really don't think these "sex controversies" would be happening. It's a load of crap that the politicians are making excuses for the parents such as "they're too busy", and have to come down on the gaming industry whenever something happens. I believe that the industry has been pretty responsible so far, by creating and evolving the rating system. How much more do they need to do to keep politicans happy? Probably make some "political contributions".

The gaming industry really needs to stop lying back and taking the brunt of these attacks. If these politicans and attorneys want games to be rated AO, then perhaps the industry should go after retailers who decide on "blacklisting" AO games. Jack Thompson doesn't realize that because he doesn't like what he sees, and that the gaming companies have to change that to shut them up, that the game companies lose money. I think Rockstar should sue Clinton and Thompson for profit losses, since they're getting some political face-time.

Funny how "free speech and expression" doesn't apply to everyone....

Saturday, July 16, 2005

BlueStorm Express Lane!

Hillary Doesn't Like "Hot Coffee"

Well, it looks like a new mouthpiece has emerged when it comes to complaining about the content in videogames. Move over Joe Lieberman! Hillary Clinton has found lemons to make her lemonade in the form of GTA: San Andreas. If you haven't heard by now, a hacker from Germany has figured out how to "unlock" a sex-minigame in the PC version of GTA San Andreas, releasing the patch as "hot coffee". Didn't take long for a California congressman and Hillary Clinton to claim GTA: SA as "pornographic" and suggest that Rockstar slap the game with an AO rating. Rockstar claims they have nothing to do with this, and somebody just made up this mod for the game. Way to play your cards straight, Rockstar, because now people have found out how to unlock the sex minigame in the PS2 version through a cheat device. Ooops, they did it again!

Regardless of wether or not Rockstar was planning on putting this minigame in the game, I think it's still within the bounds of the M-rating. People are seeming to forget that the MATURE rating is for ages 17 and older, as it states right on the front of the box with the words MATURE 17+. Why is this acceptable for an R-rated movie, but not for an M-rated game. If you're so concerned about your kids playing this game, DON'T BUY OR RENT IT FOR THEM. I've witnessed in games stores a couple of times where a parent bought their kid a GTA game. Where's the responsibillity? Why does the gaming industry have to be held up to stricter standards than the film or music industry?

I say to those who bought the game for their kid and are now insulted/mortified/disgusted, SHUT UP AND READ THE DAMN LABEL THAT YOU COULDN'T TAKE 3 SECONDS TO READ! If you wouldn't let your child see an R-rated movie, then why would you buy them an M-rated game? Stop feigining ignorance and accept the fact you made a mistake. The game industry only makes the games. You are the ones who buy it. Use a little thing called discression.

Can You Have A 360 Without A Halo?

I've noticed that the Xbox 360 really doesn't seem to have a Halo, or a "Halo"-like game to launch their system this November. Now, there could be a suprise announcement in the future that a new Halo is on the way on or after 360 launch, but the reason why the Xbox sold so well was Halo. I'm not sure if games such as Project Gotham 3 (as promising as it looks) would be enough to sell the system. Perhaps Microsoft may sell the system on anticipation alone (there have been many pre-order sell-outs), with the promise of a new Halo on the horizon. We'll have to see.

Abandonment Issues

More on Microsoft, this time about the current Xbox. I think it's rather foolish of Microsoft to pretty much quit developing for their current system and move straight to the next one. This is basically going to be the biggest and last fall season for the current gen consoles, and Sony and Nintendo plan on making the most of it in terms of first-party offerings. Microsoft really doesn't have much to offer but two games from it's development studios. The rest seem to be moving on to Xbox 360. While there will be no shortage for games from third-party companies this fall for the Xbox, it's kind of disappointing to see that Microsoft won't be playing a big party of the fall season this year.

Quick 5: Music-Based Games
  1. Amplitude
  2. Frequency
  3. Um Jammer Lammy
  4. MTV Music Generator
  5. Dance Dance Revolution Series

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No Matter How You Dress It Up, It's Still A Whore

In a recent article from our local newspaper, The Press-Enterprise, it was said that game companies may be putting 10-second spot commercials in games. While it didn't point out who would be considering this and when (**cough**EA...), this is kind of a bit of a sleazy step in trying to whore out more product. It's bad enough with the static images we see in games like Need For Speed Underground 2 (which was one of the worst offenders last year when it came to ads in games).

Look, I don't care if the ads are relevant to the game your playing. Take Gran Turismo 4, for instance. There are ads and billboards for cars, car products and such, but it's authentic and things you would actually see on a race course. It's not there for the sake of making money, it is for realism. Same goes for Project Gotham Racing's courses that feature real-world landmarks that may also be fast-food chains or retail stores. If it's there in reality, then it's fine. But when someone like EA forces things like Best Buy stores or billboards for cups of soup in a street-racing game, a line needs to be drawn. Even older games such as Crazy Taxi has it's fair share of whoring, by throwing in Pizza Huts, GAP stores and so on.

Now, they want to actually put commercials in games? It's bad enough that we have to put up with this at the movies. Pay $8-9 to see a movie, and watch 5 minutes of TV-spots you could see at home. Now, we'll be paying $40-50 for games to have commercials get in our way. Come on. Unless these ads can make the games cheaper, I really can't see a good reason of them being there. Sure, it may help the company trying to sell the crap they're trying to sell you, since you're not watching it on TV, but really, doesn't help us out one bit.

Hopefully, in the future, game companies will be smarter about in-game advertising in the future, rather than just whoring themselves for a quick dollar.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Who Won The Race This Generation (Part 1?)

With the next generation of consoles rapidly approaching the horizion (November, to be exact), let's stop and look back at this generation, notably who "won" and who "lost" the race. Now, many of you (or whoever happens upon this blog) pretty much assume, nay, clamour that Sony has won the race this generation. But did they really?

Winner Of Largest Install Base: Sony

Clearly, Sony managed to get themselves in more homes than Nintendo and Microsoft combined, even if they had the most inferior hardware. Attribute this to the DVD playback capabillities out of the box (which is what made it an initial hit in Japan), backwards compatibillity, the largest library of titles, the strongest third-party releationships and a little game we like to call Grand Theft Auto 3. There is just no doubting that the PS2 dominated in homes, wether you like it or not. It's mainstream appeal and overall game lineup was just tough to beat.

Winner Of Actually Making Money: Nintendo

While Sony is in more homes than any other system, Nintendo is the only company of the three that actually made (or lost the least) money this generation. Microsoft took a huge hit in profits from day one with the Xbox, selling it for less than it cost to produce. Sony was the same story. I'm not sure how Nintendo did it, but they seem to be the only first party company to make, or at least lose little money. While an install base is great for boasting, the real bottom line is how much you're making, and Nintendo won this battle.

Winner Of The Online Arena: Microsoft

Sega may have been the first company to actually get people to play online with the Dreamcast, Microsoft had the best model of how online gameplay should be ran. Perhaps this didn't fare well with developers at first (especially EA) since they didn't have much control over online play (Microsoft handles all accounts and servers), but this is a more organized and uniform approach than what Sony did. Microsoft also excells in the online arena due to downloadable content, which keeps games fresh. Microsoft is really banking on Xbox Live for the Xbox 360 to pull them through in the next gen race, and if they keep things running as well as they do now, XB360 will be the gamer's choice for online gaming.

Right now, it seems like a draw on who really won the race, but the realitiy is that each company excelled in different areas than others. In the future, we'll look at more dimensions to see if there is a definite winner this generation. As for now, it's a 3-way tie.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Is There A Point To See The Movie, Or Play The Game?

Something interesting has happened recently with licensed games based upon movies. No, not all of them have gotten better. Two recent releases, Star Wars Episode III and Batman Begins, uses the entire storyline of the film for the games. Now while this adds authenticity, you would have to wonder why see the movie when you've played the game, or the other way around? I'm sure many go and see the movie and end up renting (or buying) the game to re-live the experience. But since you get the story either way, why bother doing one or the other? Well, the films usually look better than what is done in games, and basically you just watch what is going on. In the case of the games, you can play in the world of the movies. But when LucasArts does a bonehead thing and release the game two weeks before the movie, revealing spoilers, you have to wonder, "why"? Sure, it's an easy way for a game company to make a quick buck (especially if the film does well), but why not hold the game until the movie is out? Hopefully, this isn't a continuing trend.

Just Finished Last Night:
Resident Evil 4 (GC)

Recently Started Playing Again After 8 Or So Months:
Dead To Rights (GC)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Could Sony Kill Itself In The Next-Gen Race?

Ok, now let's talk about gaming.

Recently, there have been various reports that Sony will be selling the PlayStation 3 for $399, but they are actually taking a $100 loss on each console sold, which could equal to $1 billion lost. Now, the $1 billion loss is bad enough for them (although I really don't care too much about Sony since they let me down with the PS2), but asking consumers to pay $400 for a new console seems a bit steep. Especially when Microsoft will be debuting the Xbox 360 at $299, and the Nintendo Revolution possibly entering the market at less than $200 (this isn't concrete, but looking at the Gamecube, it's more than possible). The last time a console sold for $400 was the Sega Saturn, and we all know what happened there. Sony's console was $100 cheaper at launch, and Nintendo's N64 was $150 less at launch.

The question, though, is will people pay $400 for a new console? I'm a bit iffy on that. Will PS2 owners shell out an extra $100 to follow the PS3? Granted, the PS3 may be the most powerful console (which is a change for Sony) in the next-gen era, I'm not sure how many people will pay $400 for a gaming system.

Well, for some, the PS3 won't just be a gaming system, it will also be a Blu-Ray disc player, which is the next-gen DVD format. Now for some, that can be an added value. Blu-Ray disc players could be pretty pricey when they hit store shelves, so having a game system that also plays the media format might not be such a bad deal. This is how DVDs stated selling well in Japan, since the PS2 (at the time) was the cheapest DVD player on the market. It could be the same story for the Blu-Ray disc format, that if the PS3 sales are strong, the media format will thrive. But then again, we're talking about a console that costs $400, and the consumers really don't like going that high for a gaming system that may be good for 5 years.

In the next-gen race, this is really Microsoft's game to lose. If they don't have a good launch and have games that are convincing enough to buy a new system, they're done for. Sure, the system will be $100 less than the PS3, but if nothing convinces gamers to switch over to Xbox 360, Sony may as well dominate the next-gen market, even with a pricey console. The only thing we can do is wait and see.

Quick 5 : Top 5 Rally Racing Games
  1. RalliSport Challenge 2
  2. Colin McRae Rally 04
  3. V-Rally 2
  4. Sega Rally Championship 2
  5. World Rally Championship (WRC)

Like what you've read? Have something to say? Feel free to comment on anything in this blog!

Welcome To BlogStorm, Another Thing I'll Abaondon In 3 Months

Or not. Depends on how much I'd be doing this. Well, this is the blog to compliment my site, BlueStorm, which can be found at . If you don't know what it's about, it's basically a video game site with reviews and features. So you may ask why if I have a site, do I need a blog? Well, I wanted to have something I can easily update without having to deal with all the uploading and crap, and I wanted to have a blog to commentate about what has recently been going on in the gaming industry. I really don't do that now (well, I tried) on my site since it's a hassle to do so, but here it should be pretty easy.

And it won't be all commentary, I'll have quick lists about my favorite games (or gaming related lists), brief reviews of games that I have YET to review on my site and other things to keep it interesting. Hopefully I'll inform as well as entertain. And if you don't like that, go back to your Inuyasha or Dragon Ball Z fan site and pretend this never happened. But please stay. I need the attention.

Thank You
-- Shaun M.