Sunday, November 27, 2005

Is the Philippines ready for the Next-Gen?

Whether Sony likes it or not, the next generation of video gaming has arrived with the XBOX 360. The XBOX 360 officialy launched in the United States last Nov 22 and what a week it was.

It was a week marred with exceedingly high demand, shortages, eBay price gauging, harrowing reports of system defects fueled by some fanboy trolls, sarcastic media and so much more. But is it stopping the XBOX 360? Not at all! In fact the demand appears to be greater than what it used to be given some negative publicity that the console has been receiving.

But going back to the original question, is the Philippines ready for Next-Gen?

For the majority of the Filipinos, my answer is no. I’ll be honest, much of the Philippine gaming market thrives on cheap pre-paid schemes as popularized by localized Korean MMORPGs and the ever-so-popular piracy problem that has been plaguing the country ever since the dawn of gaming.

A local game store in Greenhills, when asked when they would be stocking the XBOX 360, the default answer is next year. How can that be considering it’s the best time to sell these mean machines on the onset of the most popular spending season, Christmas? The most obvious answer will be due to the actual console shortages in the United States. Personally, I feel that most retailers won’t bother carrying the console if doesn’t have a mod-chip and have pirated games since majority of Filipino game retailers only carry pirated software. Of course, most retailers are still stuck trying to sell their overstocked PSPs to the point that ‘installing PSP games on your memory chip’ has been the new lucrative business to many game shops.

If those reasons are true it’s disappointing to a small group of people who are very much interested in the console. But then there is an oddity in the Philippine gaming market that manages to survive by carrying only original games and unmodified systems, despite the overwhelming competition of pirated games.

And just 4 days after the North American launch, the first batch of XBOX 360 titles, fresh from Mexico, has arrived in the Philippines!

The store carried nearly all of the XBOX 360 launch games. But please note, as of writing most of the games are already out-of-stock and has been purchased by overzealous gamers such as myself and scytherage.

This store has guaranteed those who are interested that they will be getting the console sometime soon. Of course, supplies will be severely limited but to the early adopters like me, we are certainly ready to purchase the console. Of course, it helps that I saved money for this thing ever since it was announced in E3.

So is the Philippines ready for the Next-Gen?

Many will still be stuck playing on their modded consoles or hoping that the PS3 will come here and sell for something less than P10,000 (of course to some people that may still be expensive). But for those who are lucky and those who have truly waited…THE NEXT GENERATION OF CONSOLE GAMING SHALL COME TO THIS COUNTRY PRETTY SOON! Hopefully before Christmas, as it serves as the best gift to gamers!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Xbox 360 now available in the USA

The Xbox 360 just got released in the United States last November 22. I've not been able to post here because I've been following how the launch over at the US is going. So far, here's what I've been reading about:

1. Microsoft hasn't been meeting the demand for 360s...the demand is so high
2. There are claims of defects on the consoles, but lately I've noticed that the claims feel like they're fabricated for some motive (some of them are complaining about the simplest of issues, or don't even know what they're talking about)
3. The ones who should be happy about having a 360 are too busy complaining about the slightest jaggy. Sheesh, mankind should have been obliterated ages ago if we would just end up THIS whiny.

What do I think about the launch? For starters, because of the *shortage* over at the US, the local gaming outlet here isn't able to guarantee anything with regard to when and how they'll get the 360. That said, I've got money saved up and am prepared to get it as soon as it becomes available.

The launch has actually been very good for Microsoft despite the problems I've mentioned above. Generally people seem to be very happy with the 360 and the high number of launch titles (the largest in the history of console gaming!). The review scores for the games have been very good, and even a site as jaded as Gamespot awarded great scores to first party titles like Kameo and PD0!

Congratulations to Microsoft for a job well done.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Next Gen: Hilarity by degrees

After the controversial New York Post article, which openly advised people not to purchase an XBOX 360, another publication has aired a similar opinion.

(The above image is a parody...but 50 Cent: Bulletproof?!?)

“If you still haven't been swayed and are actually thinking about buying an Xbox 360, you should know it has severe limitations which could put you and your family at risk. In the event of an emergency, the Xbox 360 can NOT be used as a flotation device and has not been approved to put out grease fires due to its shoddy design and Microsoft's willingness to cut corners. The console does indeed play dvds, but fast-forwards through scenes it doesn't like and flat out refuses to play any movie starring a now-deceased actor.”

Got your curiosity piqued, click HERE to read the rest of the article!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Next Gen: Sony has won...

Sony has delivered its strongest blow to its competitors, particularly the XBOX 360, months before the launch of the Microsoft console. They have done it by once again implanting the seeds of doubt in the minds of people. A sneaky but effective strategy, that they had used before hand when they squashed the Sega Dreamcast.

What have they done? Comments from the SCE head, Ken Kutaragi from month’s back were like a virus slowly trying to kill and disillusion its host. Particularly, Kutaragi’s comments of the following were the strongest:

  • XBOX 1.5
  • Xbox 360’s true competition is the PS2
  • Not Next-Gen
  • PS3 will come with true superior Next-Gen hardware

To the unkeen eye and to people who really don’t know what gaming is all about, it’s so easy to believe Ken Kutaragi’s statements.

  • The XBOX 360 is coming out 4-6 months earlier than the PS3. Let us remember that the hardware that will come out in Japan in Spring 06 will be the SAME hardware that will come out to North America in Winter 06 and for the rest of the world in 2007.

  • The hardware, the disk drive in particular, is just a regular DVD drive not the future Blu-Ray drive that will come with the PS3
  • The current console winner, hands down, is the Sony PS2.

  • It’s a Sony product and the Sony brand name is a treasured one compared to Microsoft, who has been topic of numerous anti-trust lawsuits, and everyone and their grandmother thinks Bill Gates has too much money, Sony is a little angel.

If journalist all over the world are the same ones as it is here in my country, then you can bet that the these journalist don’t really bother with extensive research and they just go on to deliver the most sensationalist bit of news. But of course, objectivity has never really been something to sell print media and boost television ratings. Had the media been doing their research they will come up with the following.

a) The actual research and development for the XBOX 360 started around the same time the original XBOX was released.

They enlisted the help of IBM, the same guys that Sony went to for their Cell Processor. While in theory the cell processor is indeed a new approach to computing, the multi-core architecture of the XBOX 360 is just as new considering it is only reaching mainstream support from Intel and AMD with their new PC dual core PC processors. To top it all off, the Graphics Processing Unit of the XBOX 360 is one of the first that will add EDRAM, something that current PC video cards do not have.

b) People keep on forgetting that a totally new thing may not exactly be a good thing.

This whole debacle on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is useless since neither one of them are even out yet. With talks of newer formats being developed by other companies that may even surpass the capacity of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, I don’t see how there is a clear winner on these formats as of the meantime. Also tech-heads might also be able to throw additional life to the cheaper DVD format by introducing more sophisticated data compression methods, something that Microsoft has been rumored to be delving into.

c) The whole Microsoft thing.

(Image courtesy of the wonderful folks at the 1UP gaming site)

A couple of days ago, I read an interview with Bill Gates and why he is giving away his money to help in the world health situation. In my opinion, the interviewer is being rather snide will Bill Gates despite the content what he is actually saying. It is as if he can’t believe Bill Gates, one of the richest man in this planet, was capable of doing something good. Sadly, the XBOX 360 is marred by the reputation of Microsoft as a big-bad bully from the early nineties. It is an image that most people have stuck in their minds even if the XBOX console product is completely different from the software services. If these journalists actually bothered, they will realize that Sony has a couple of skeletons in its closets as well, like the whole fiasco with publishing ‘fake’ reviews to boost their movie ratings and the Digital Rights Management issues wherein Sony installs an unknown program in your computer to prevent you from making copies of the music. Sometimes, I feel that if the XBOX 360 was a product of a company like Apple, people would be a lot warmer to it. This whole perception thing is quite sad really…

d) The Playstation 2 argument.

The PS2 won in the last generation because it has the strongest third party support and it NEVER was because it was technically superior compared to its competitors namely, Nintendo Gamecube, Sega Dreamcast and Microsoft XBOX. In the current generation, no doubt the XBOX is the most technically superior console of its time but it took a mere 20% market share with Sony dominating everything else. In the console generation before the current one, the superior hardware can be awarded to the Sega Saturn, a console that met an untimely death due to the difficulty of developing for such new hardware. However people are touting the PS3 as the clear winner, while discrediting other consoles such as the XBOX 360 (a major improvement of its product and services) and the Nintendo Revolution (with its out-of-the-box wand controller) simply because the PS3 can churn out more muscle than the other two. But history dictates that it was never really the strongest hardware that won the console race but the most well rounded platform. Sony’s winnings came from the support of third party developers. People seem to forget that the XBOX 360 has signed on a lot more developer than they used to and they forget the strongest innovation in current day gaming that Sony will not bother with at all, online gaming!

So has Sony won?

By giving us videos (yes videos and not actual game play) such as the one below, Sony has played it safe. It played it the perception game very well keeping actual progress mum and promising a world of innovation at the same time.

Of course comparing it to current graphics of today…such as this…

Not much innovation on the side of videos. But clearly I hope, that I will be playing more of the one above rather than the actual game play shots of the one below.

While Sony might be stomping off its competitors with unfulfilled promises, they in effect setting a bar for themselves as well. And if they can’t meet that next-generation bar…let see if people will still be as forgiving as they had used to be. But hey…its’ a Sony!

Sony may have won the battle for perception. But the next-generation console war rages on!

Post I made on - Contribute ideas!

I posted the following on the forums...If you have any ideas, feel free to post them in the comments section


Let's help Microsoft - What to you is NEXT-GENERATION?

Alright, you know what guys, I'm so sick of all of these gaming journalists telling us what is and what is NOT NEXT GENERATION. To tell you the truth I don't think these journalists care about gaming anymore. They rush through Kameo and say that it's too short (when they themselves didn't even bother to enjoy the ride), they say that Perfect Dark Zero is just another shooter (when another shooter, entirely comprised of CG, is what they claim to be 'next-gen'--KILLZONE 2 for the PS3), and they say that Project Gotham Racing 3 is just another racing game with good graphics (and they were DROOLING over a movie of Gran Turismo running supposedly on the PS3).

They claim that 'graphics arent everything' but can't help but say that Gears of War will be GOTY simply because it looks cool. I have NOTHING against GOW -- i think that game is going to be good too -- my only point being that, why do journalists 'flip flop' like that, whining about how they want some kind of gameplay dynamic that's totally new, but they go all ga-ga over great graphics.

People, there is seriously something wrong with the gaming industry today.

So, how do we define what is truly the next-generation of gaming? Is it simply great graphics? Is it having some kind of gameplay dynamic that's never been done before? Is it having a control interface that is radically different from what is available today?

What about other ideas applied to old ones? How does one make a better first-person-shooter? How does one make a racing game interesting again? How about action-adventure games?

I think a better way to think of how to improve FPS/Racing/Action games is, what about those games did you always hate? Stupid AI? Too few enemies? The quest/mission doesn't feel EPIC enough? The racing gets boring after a while?

I offer this thread so that everyone can share their ideas--maybe somehow we can help Microsoft create better games that are truly TRULY NEXT-GENERATION. Yeah, yeah, I know that MS probably has so many people already working on this very problem 24/7, but you know what, it's time that we gamers help build and define what is truly NEXT GENERATION. What do we want to play tomorrow? Say it here.

(As for me, I'm still thinking about what qualifies as my 'dream game', and will post it here soon. And no, I will not sue MS if they consider my idea(s). I have no plans to work in the gaming industry anyway; and judging from where I live I wouldn't be able to sue them if I wanted to!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Next Gen: Getting Real?

Depending on what side of the gaming fence you are, lets admit it, the next generation of videogames are coming and it starts with the XBOX 360. At least it does for me.

Now there is one thing odd that I have been noticing about people’s standards when it comes to the next generation. First, they the next gen perception is heavily influenced by traditional CG cut scenes. Second, next gen expectations always fall somewhere along the lines of being “realistic”.

With regard to the XBOX 360 games, I have seen a lot of people throw praises at realistic looking games such as Call of Duty 2 or Project Gotham Racing 3. While I have no problems with these things and no doubt the praises are well deserved by those games, the idea behind realism affects the way other ‘unrealistic’ games are perceived.

Take a look at the first party game called Kameo. Simply enough the character is a female fairy elf that can transform into a variety of cute looking characters as she walks through a fantastical looking environment. But despite the graphical achievements in this game, some people simply discount it as a kiddie game unworthy of their attention. Since when has a game where the character is not wearing a military combat suit a kiddie game? While in the end it’s a matter of preference, the perception of realism appears as a hindrance for some people into trying out a different genre.

Next stop, Perfect Dark Zero. A lot of people have voiced displeasure at the ‘unique’ art style of the game which look like the ones you see in comic books rather than the default facial features you will see in your default military games. Not only is the art style the thing that is being critiqued the character physics and environment interaction as well, everything from rag doll physics to blood splatters.

I guess with all this next gen thing, people are expecting too much realism. With realism, the expect games that look like the way the ‘real world’ does. While this is good, not all games that do not fall within the realistic category should be scrapped as a lesser game. Personally, I appreciate games that are non-realistic. I have considered games to be as a means of escaping real life woes. I would much rather be transported to a magical colorful world like Kameo’s rather than be sent to some war torn desert. I hope more gamers realize that next-gen offers more than realistic facial features and environments, it also pushes the limits of the developers imagination to create new immersive worlds that are totally unlike the ones we live in today.

A Local Company Here is Going to Give Away 10 Xbox360s!

This offers a little bit of hope that one day the Xbox360 will be offered here in my country locally. A contest is being sponsored by Canon Philippines wherein they're giving away 10 Xbox360s! Here's a screenie of their flyer:

Xbox360 Games Reviewed by Various Sites...Quick Thoughts from Me

Just read some reviews on Kameo, Project Gotham Racing 3, NBA 2K6 and Madden 06. I'm noticing a pattern when it comes to game reviews which is quite distressing. In summary here's what I've noticed:

1. Game reviewers on console launch are intent to be MUCH MORE CYNICAL than usual. This is because they want to impress their wives/girlfriends/office mates that "they're not fanboys".

2. There is this horrible slant towards games that look ultra realistic ("like-real-life"). Granted there's nothing wrong with having such high expectations for next-gen games, but what would gaming be like if --every-- game had characters and settings that looked like the real world that we live in now? Where would the creativity be?

Oddly enough, my comment comes from reading 1UP's review of PGR3, which essentially gave the game a 10 simply because it looks BEAUTIFUL. Granted I made another blog post where I share that same sentiment, and I still think the game looks beautiful...but if realism becomes the ONLY STANDARD for games, these types of reviews will set a horrible precedent for expectations of games in the future.

So hard to believe that the same audience that loved Pixar films like FINDING NEMO and THE INCREDIBLES can find a game like KAMEO to be too 'kiddie' for them. The odd thing is, if a game had Super Mario in it, it automatically raises the value of a game even if it's essentially just having that same character in a different gameplay scenario (Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Dance Dance Revolution....etcetera etcetera).

This same reason is what threatens to cause Perfect Dark Zero to get a lower score than usual. I don't know if PD0 is a good game or not, but judging from every article and gamer 'opinion' that i've read, the game's main 'crutch' right now is that Joanna Dark looks like a cartoon.

Let's hope that the arrival of the next-generation of gaming doesn't herald the end of creativity in art and game conceptualization. There's only so much SWAT team/Counterstrike simulation/World War II type gameplay that gamers can take....if the market saturates with these types of games, we're looking at another Video Game Crash, people. I guarantee it.

3. On console launch, the SCOOP is much more valued by the reviewers than the actual dissemination of proper information. It's obvious that the reviews of 1UP and IGN were written after the writers horribly RUSHED THROUGH THE LAUNCH TITLES. So their opinions, in *my* humble opinion, are not really well-informed and really just written quick enough in the interest of being able to release a review ASAP. Sad, because games that look to me to be well-crafted for FIRST GEN titles are getting the shaft.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Getting an XBOX 360 on Launch!

Yes, me and wuffy are going to get one XBOX360 each!

No, our country is not included in the launch list for that console. Heck, our country isn't even on the list for XBOX LIVE! (though i got a subscription anyway...A SINCERE THANK YOU TO MICROSOFT SINGAPORE FOR YOUR KINDNESS IN ACCEPTING MY XBOX LIVE SUBSCRIPTION!). Microsoft Philippines does not officially support the Xbox and the Xbox 360 in our country because the piracy rate is so high that they think it will not be profitable for them. Boo hoo for me.

But we are going to get the xbox 360, when our 'supplier' manages to get them all the way from the 'States (or however they get it...i have no idea how they manage to do it).

It's funny though. I visit message boards every day related to the xbox 360. And these days a lot of the people in the 'first world' are whining about xbox 360 shortages. Every manner of curse and four-letter word is being hurled by consumers at their retailers for not being able to supply them with the console.

Apparently thinks it's such a huge issue that they even made a comic strip about it. Wow. It's such a disaster of epic proportions. [/sarcasm]

"Oh noes I have to wait *gasp* TWO WEEKS to a MONTH to get my time-wasting device."
-->The brats--oops, guys at penny arcade.

Where I live, well, they're going to sell that new console at a much more expensive price. Possibly 100% of the price of the 'box will be added to its selling price. Ouch. They probably won't have all the launch games. There will probably be only FOUR xbox 360s in the store--and that would be all of the supply in the entire country. They COULD ALL BE CORE BOXES (Good LORD that would be disastrous! [/NO SARCASM]).

So if your ebgames or gamestop or whatever doesn't manage to get you your xbox360 on November 22, take comfort in the thought that there are places far far worse when it comes to the supplication of gaming needs.

Project Gotham Racing 3 is INCREDIBLE

Nuff said....

For more incredible screenies click HERE!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

How Could I Be A Gamer If I Live All The Way Out Here?

Exactly. That might be the question on your mind right now. The Philippines isn't exactly the greatest country in the world. It has serious issues with poverty and government corruption. Our exchange rate with the US dollar is at an all time low and the threat of the government collapsing on the weight of its own sins can happen any day.
That, my friends, is a Philippine flag.

So why the hell am I a gamer? I ask myself that question a lot. Maybe I should have picked a more inexpensive hobby.

How'd I get introduced to the wonderful world of video and computer games? Maybe that's a good place to start.

Have you ever heard of a device called a "Game and Watch"? I think Nintendo produced that thing sometime in the 80s'. If memory serves me right, that's where I got introduced into video games. I played this game where you're controlling this monkey that's supposed to be catching coconuts being dropped from a high place. If you miss, you lose a turn...and eventually it's game over. The idea was that the monkey dropping the coconuts from the high place would get faster and faster over time, and that's where the game provided endless amounts of challenge for my then feeble mind.

I also got introduced to the wonderful world of video gaming thanks to a little device known as the COLECO VISION video game console.

At this point some of you may be wondering--why the hell are they shipping COLECO consoles all the way out there in Asia?

Actually, my parents got it for me as a present after a visit to the United States. If memory serves me right, they got me the console along with three other games. The only game I have any recollection of is DONKEY KONG. At this point in time I can't recall the other two titles that they got for me.

The Coleco Vision game console provided hours of fun...the only problem I had was that I could never ever find games for it in the local department store. I recall that store clerks had no clue what I was talking about whenever I asked them about Coleco Vision cartridges.

Oddly enough, they did sell Atari game console cartridges--and boy, did that piss me off. This was how I discovered, early on in life, the number one rule of console gaming (and this rule still applies to this very day):

Game software designed for one console will not work with another console.

So it began. For me, at least.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hello World! :)

Hi! Trying out blogging for the first bear with my n00biness...

Welcome to Who am I and what is this blog all about?

I'm a gamer...a guy who likes video games of various types. This blog will be about my thoughts on the gaming industry, computer and video gaming in general, and sometimes---about gaming in the third world.

That's right. The THIRD WORLD.

Okay, to be fair, it's about gaming in MY PART OF THE WORLD. I have no idea how gaming is like in the deserts of Africa....

But I didn't want to name my blog or or anything obvious like that that just gives away my nationality. If you follow this blog for the next few months (and hopefully years if i never get lazy on updating this) you'll be able to piece together why that is. I don't want to come on too strong on my first blog post (is that what people call a post on a blog? Sheesh I'm such a n00b!)

I'm writing this from way out here in the Republic of the Philippines. A country which many of you have probably never heard of. Or, if you've already heard of this place, you probably think it's some kind of haven for Al Quaida terrorists (given the wonderful coverage the press has given to one of the more famous terrorist groups that have taken 'refuge' here, the Abu Sayyaf).

Anyway I hope that my insights on the gaming industry and my anecdotes on gaming in my part of the world will bring endless entertainment to other gamers around the world.

See you around!