Friday, April 28, 2006

Eternal Glory....

You can't stay forever at the top of the mountain on the leaderboards in Ridge Racer 6. So when I retook the #2 spot on the leaderboards for CL4 Rave City Riverfront R (Technically the #1 spot because the car at number 1 is a HIJACK, an overpowered vehicle), I made sure to immortalize my moment of glory:

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pre E3 2006 - The Mudslinging has Begun

April 25, 3:41 PM...A message board post on neogaf forums leaks supposedly insider information:
I just got a release list from Bethesda....first one in a while. I gave it a quick glance then did a double take and spit take with my morning coffee.....take a look:
PS2 AMF Extreme Bowling 2006 (Mud Duck) 9-May-06
XBX AMF Extreme Bowling 2006 (Mud Duck) 9-May-06
PS2 IHRA Sportsman Edition 9-May-06
XBX IHRA Sportsman Edition 9-May-06
PS2 Pirates Of The Caribbean:Legend of Jack Sparrow 1-Jun-06
PS2 Star Trek - Battlestations 6-Oct-06
360 Star Trek - Legacy 6-Oct-06
DS Star Trek - Tactical Assault 6-Oct-06
PSP Star Trek - Tactical Assault 6-Oct-06
PS3 Oblivion 6-Nov-06
PSP Oblivion 6-Nov-06
A few hours later, this simple message board post becomes news all over the internet:

IGN - Oblivion on PSP and PS3?
1up - Oblivion Heading To PS3, PSP? Bethesda's epic RPG is getting cozy with Sony.
Gamespot Rumor Control - Oblivion coming to PS3...and PSP?
Apparently I didn't get the memo, messageboard posts now qualify as news on the Internet. This is Gaming Journalism at its finest....taking forum speculation and blowing it out of proportion and turning a reply of a flat out NO into a MAYBE. That's exactly what happened when Bethesda staff were questioned about this news. In order to make one of these 'professional' journalists shut the fuck up, they just had to leave the answer a bit open (but essentially, Bethesda's answer clearly *was* a NO):

1up:

When contacted, Bethesda didn't categorically deny the information. "At present we have no announced plans to bring Oblivion to any other platforms than PC or Xbox 360. We'll certainly let folks know if that changes," says VP of PR and marketing Pete Hines.

Some people would say that the way Bethesda ended that sentence means there is some hope for a PS3/PSP Oblivion.

To me, it looks more like, "THERE, that's the answer you wanted, right? Now, will you leave us alone??"

Unfortunately better judgment is preceded by hyperbole and hopes and dreams, and in this case, the blatant bias of some of these gaming web sites rears its ugly, deformed head:

1up:

Of course, the key word there is announced. There's plenty of wiggle room for the company to come out swinging with both games at, say, E3. What a coincidence that would be!

Let's ask Bethesda again just to make sure. Maybe they'll slip up. "I'm saying we have not announced any plans to do a PS3 or PSP version of Oblivion. I don't know who that person is or where they came up with that information," he said.


It can't get any more clear than that, right? Wrong. The headline of the 1up article reads:

Oblivion Heading To PS3, PSP?
Bethesda's epic RPG is getting cozy with Sony.

Now imagine how many people out there really bother to read the details of any type of news, and you'll realize that 1up is clearly misleading its readers and sensationalizing what is essentially neogaf videogame fanboy drivel. Either that, or they really just favor the Playstation, and want to see a triple A class game like Oblivion be ported to their beloved PS3 as soon as possible. Knowing that they hold some influence over the decisions that game developers make (since they control perception and public opinion), an article saying that a game *can* get released for a platform increases the likelihood that it will happen. To be fair, that *is* the way it is.

But there's no denying that the gaming press is blowing out of proportion what is essentially a clearly unreliable source of information -- a message board post! Yes it's NEOGAF, supposedly the insider gaming information mecca. But with quality posts like this posted daily:
"Teh M3GAT0N!!1111!!! OMGLOLLERS!!21!!"
...Should you really trust the NEOGAF?

IGN:

We contacted Bethesda and sadly they had very little grist to add to the rumor mill. Their official reply: "At present we have no announced plans to bring Oblivion to any platforms other than PC or Xbox 360."

Thankfully, this response is just cagey enough to keep hope alive....

Pfft! Oh please! Since when did NO translate to MAYBE?

That's just gaming journalism at its finest, fairest, and most balanced. It adds more fuel to the mudslinging that happens day in and day out on console gaming message boards.
Gamespot:

So is a PS3 port and PSP spin-off of Oblivion in the works? For now, the answer is officially "no." "At present we have no announced plans to bring Oblivion to any other platforms than PC or Xbox 360," was the carefully worded response from Bethesda. "We'll certainly let folks know if that changes."

Bogus or not bogus?: Officially? Bogus for the time being. Unofficially? It's within the realm of possibility.

Surprisingly, the best among all three examples I cited is Gamespot. Not only did they properly label their article as RUMOR CONTROL (so that the people who don't really read entire articles aren't misled), they also fairly presented what 'really' happened and presented all the sides of the story, more or less. Bravo, Gamespot. Lately it's turning out that they're the only reliable source of gaming news out there on the 'net (that isn't tainted with fanboy bias or corporate partnerships...)

Supposedly the neogaf/gaming age forums is a famous source for insider gaming information. Truth be told, a lot of things that are *revealed* there are usually half-truths and part of its credibility is only because there are supposedly real game developers who regularly post there. Given that developers frequent the neogaf forum, a lot of gamers, including the less intellectually blessed, are registered on that forum, and if you ask me, a lot more false news gets posted there because of that. It doesn't take much observation to conclude that the vast majority of neogaf posters are illiterate children, together with a much, much larger population of plants and shills than other dedicated-console forums. It's the fame of the NEOGAF that also makes it the worst place to get any kind of decent gaming discussion.

Bottom line: Keep your guard up during these days leading up to E3 2006. There's going to be a LOT of bullshit.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Love them or hate them

Ever since I first stepped into the XBOX community one of the things that they felt really sore about was the utter lack of Japanese support for the console.

All logic will say was that most Japanese developers were not keen on making games for the XBOX 360 since it was a new and unproven console. But plainly speaking it wasn’t embraced by the Japanese developers since the Japanese market didn’t bother much with it. Other the usual complaints about its size, the XBOX was a complete and utter failure in Japan with the exception of Itagaki.

Itagaki made such a big splash in the Japanese and Western markets by creating games that actually took advantage of the strength of the XBOX. Namely ‘Ninja Gaiden’ and the ‘Dead or Alive’ series. It’s also no surprise, that Itagaki’s unconventional thinking with regard to the Japanese market made him quite a celebrity both within and outside Japan.


Tomonobu Itagaki, the real life Ninja Gaiden

Itagaki has stated that the Japanese gamer market is shrinking and the truth growth for videogames exists outside Japan. Of course there will be some people who will disagree with that; armed with the monthly Japan sales report wherein in the words of some Americans, the ‘Japanese seem to have PS2s and DSes for breakfast’.

But the truth is even for start-up Japanese developers Japan is a tough market to crack. The market craves for franchise games, RPGs and simple games. Gone are the days that you will actually need a cheat code to beat a Japanese game for the games of today are quite simple and doesn’t really require much effort to play.

And that current trend that exists in majority of the Japanese games appear to be another one of the sore points with some of the XBOX community.

The XBOX 360 has gathered a pretty good list of Japanese developer support but while it was not enough to sell consoles like hotcakes in the Japanese launch window, it was also not enough for the western fans to appreciate the works of the Japanese.

Take a look at Ridge Racer 6 for the XBOX 360 which was the best and worst selling XBOX 360 title. It sold quite well in Japan while it stank in western regions. Take a look at how the other Japanese XBOX 360 games and developers are treated with resentment.

The western people whine that Ridge Racer 7 was coming to the PS3 at the same time they bashed Ridge Racer 6 for the XBOX 360. They whine about the lousy graphics that may hold a candle to ‘Gears of War’. They whine about the lack of support from Japanese developers since they are not giving their franchise Playstation titles to the XBOX 360 at the same time they don’t recognize the newer franchises and titles that are being developed.

The XBOX community talks about the Japanese maket being tough to please…and I think so myself. But I also realize that the western market is as well. The Japanese developers don’t exactly take years fine tuning their games and graphics is secondary to the presentation of the game. That’s just the way they work.

And that Japanese style has solidified the position of the Playstation as the dominant console for several years. It has also garnered a lot of western fans who love the Japanese franchise, despite the fact that most of them appear to be rehashes.

But the western XBOX community (at least those who are vocal about it) hate the Japanese style. They hate the simple graphics. They rant about the generic anime looking characters (awww…gee have they looked at all the similar looking military shooters in the console). They go on and on about ports and games that are not built from the ground up in the XBOX 360. And the list goes on…

CoD2 is a great game and all...but these guys again?!?

Like Itagaki, I believe that the true growth for videogames lies outside Japan. I believe that the success of the gaming console can no longer be decided simply by looking at the Japanese sales charts. And I believe that other Japanese developers are beginning to realize what Itagaki has long for quite some time now.

The Japanese games are coming to the XBOX 360. Perhaps its not Final Fantasy, Tekken, Devil May Cry or some big Playstation franchise…but they are coming. And there are people like me, who will be eagerly anticipating these releases.

But the question is, will the western XBOX community embrace it or will they just whine and give the same old tired excuses on how Japanese games suck compared to western games?

Further Evidence of the IGN Conspiracy vs the Xbox 360, PART I

Recently, I've given my theory that IGN is actively swaying public opinion against the Xbox 360 because of their ties with Sony and their Playstation 3. New information has come to light which further supports my theory and solidifies my assertion that IGN is no longer a credible source for fair and balanced video gaming coverage. Thanks to ajreynol from the teamxbox.com forums for bringing this information to light.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the perfect example of professionalism in gaming journalism:

Source Thread from TEAMXBOX.COM

IGN » Insider » Roundtable Roundtable #159: Broken 360s All I'm saying is my Dreamcast still works. by IGN Staff


April 20, 2006 - David Clayman, IGN Insider: When the 360 was first released there were scattered reports of lemons and permanent crashes. A few weeks later there was a running joke in the office that inserting a DOA disc would result in a nuclear explosion. The list of editors who'd experienced the blinking ring of death continued to grow but with my console working fine I was hardly bothered by the misfortunes of everyone else.

Now that my most anticipated game of the past few years is in my hands I've started to receive game-ending dirty disc errors. I suppose these manufacturing errors are unavoidable considering the incredible complexity of the machine combined with the rush to make the "world-wide" launch. All I'm saying is that I fired up my Dreamcast this weekend and it's working just fine.

Are these errors, crashes, and general decline in reliability just something we'll have to learn to deal with as game consoles become more complex? Personally, the reason I lean towards consoles is because I'm lazy. Normally you make the purchase, plug it in, and there's nothing more to worry about.

How does this change your expectations for the PlayStation 3 or figure into Nintendo's plans?

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Hilary Goldstein, IGN Comics: The 360 sucks. I don't care about power, games, and achievement points. **** that. It seems like 2/3 of all systems bought by people in the IGN offices has broken. That sucks.

In contrast, my seven-year-old Dreamcast still works perfectly.

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Teddy Pierson, IGN Community Manager: Not to state the obvious... But MS is not really known for rock solid stability in their products. They are more for the paper ink and wow factor, hence the "world wide launch" bull that produced exactly what they wanted, shortages. Which is turn got them a lot of publicity portraying, "people killing their mothers in order to get a 360". I'm sure we can all debate what the faults are or reasons for so many 360s sinkin' in the drink. But what it comes down to is poor building standards from the Umbrella Corporation. Meaning... when Nintendo, for example, builds something... they build it to last and they make sure of it. When MS builds something, it breaks and millions of people turn into zombies.

I don't know, that's my quick and dirty comments without writing a novel...

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Scott Senkowski, IGN Design: Is this that big of a surprise? Microsoft basically took a G5, which is about the size of a car door, made it even more powerful and crammed it into a case about four apples high. Granted, this may be tall for a smurf but it's way too small for a beefed up desktop turned console.

As for the PS3, I'm guessing the same if not worse. They are rocking entirely new hardware, from the cell chip to the ├╝ber-GPU. Not to mention the addition of Blu-Ray's insanity. All this stuffed into a George Foreman Grill? Not bloody likely.

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Gerry Block, IGN Gear: I'm beginning to think that the reason why 360s are still hard to find at retail, even after Peter Moore promised otherwise, is the fact that MS is now replacing the majority of 360s they shipped at Christmas. Out of a pool of more than 20 360s around IGN, almost all of them have broken, right? That's not a bad sample size, and the rate of failure is staggering.

On the other hand, none of my consoles have ever lived very long. I went through 3 PS1s, 2 DreamCasts, 2 Genesises, and my second PS2 just died last week. It's not even as though I'm rough with them. Failing after a year or two is one thing, however, and failing after a month is quite another.

Microsoft will probably have a way to hide the real numbers, but their next quarterly report and annual statement may be interesting reads if they have to report excessive expenses based on 360 hardware failure. 2 million units shipped, 1 million units functionally installed? Maybe.

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Jessica Chobot, IGN Host: I am highly disappointed with my 360. Not only with the basic console functions (or lack thereof) but also their customer service help and repair centers. After my 360 took its inevitable dump, I spent countless hours trying to talk with someone who wasn't an utter jerk-off. It took 10 tries and finally a threat to get any kind of problem solving to occur.

After sending it back to be repaired the first time, I received it back...about 2 weeks later... and it was a different model and more broken than the one I had sent them originally. This meant another 2 days dealing with the help line from Marrakesh.

What can this do for the PS3 and Revolution? Well, I feel the bigger question is what can the PS3 push back launch date do for the Rev (those are the two competitors I truly follow in these console wars). I thought that Nintendo may have bagged it and inched themselves back towards the top rung of the console wars due to the PS3's mamby-pamby announcements and failed launch dates (similar to their weak sauce PSP browser, games and UMD output vs. the DS and soon-to-be DS Lite) and the 360's obvious flaws. Yet with the Rev's controller yet to be proven as "innovative" as it's being touted by the ever efficient Nintendo PR team-we'll just have to wait and see.

So, at this point, I'm still looking at the Nintendo and PS3 race as being more neck and neck with the 360 slightly ahead mostly due to Oblivion and the fact that, although broken, it has been launched

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Dan Adams, IGN PC: I love Oblivion and play it every night on my perfectly operational Xbox 360! Microsoft is my lover.

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Peer Schneider, IGN Blog Promoter: Disappointed with the 360's functions? You mean, the lack of it functioning at all, I hope. I can't say that I'm disappointed with the Xbox 360 hardware in any area -- except for reliability. **** about Microsoft Windows crashes all you want, but the software powering the 360 with its dashboard system is pretty awesome. But yeah, if my console is any indication, the hardware launched without enough reliability testing. Apart from occasional crashes that may or may not be software-related (Oblivion freezing up while loading, PGR crashing when exiting to the dashboard, etc.), I've seen more errors booting games on 360 than any other console. I'm on Xbox 360 #2 now, and last night the machine told me that Tomb Raider Legend isn't an Xbox 360 disc. Restarting the box fixed it, but it's still an irritating (and disconcerting) thing to see after my first one flashed the three-eyed skull.

Is that because the machine is more complex than ever? Sure. But let's not forget that the price tag also went up, the price of the games and controllers went up, and a year's worth of paid warranty coverage is now "recommended" by the manufacturer. I'm also paying for an annual gaming service and am expected to pay money for small downloads that enhance the look of my on-screen desktop. This console eats money for breakfast. If I bought a DVD player or a receiver for $500 and the thing broke on me and a few friends after three months, I'd return it to the store and get another machine altogether. With a console, you don't really have that choice. I want to play Oblivion, so I have to just take it and send my 360 off to the service center. It's the curse of being an early adopter. But the fault definitely lies with Microsoft.

I've already gone through the whole anger phase so I'm pretty mellow about my hardware experience with 360 right now. My first PlayStation 2 was busted on day 1 -- luckily I was able to get another one from the store that same day. If my friend wasn't studying for an exam, I'd be screwed without my 360 right now, though. Out of my classic consoles, the only one that broke was my Super Famicom -- but that's because Fran borrowed it for a week. He must've showered with it, or something. The only other machine to break on me was, brace yourself, the original Xbox. That first-gen $#@% Thomson drive decided to not read some of the later game discs. I firmly believe that MS should've recalled the units or at least offered free service.

I do think that Sony could face similar issues since its console also uses all-new and unproven drive technology and high-powered (that means hot) chips. But when it comes down to it, Sony is a bit more experienced, being a longtime hardware manufacturer. And let it be known: when my Sony Vaio computer started to smoke one day, it took Sony four days to replace it. And they sent me a free Sony Clie (hey Jess, there is that crazy thing again!) to make up for the problems. So, Microsoft: how about a free copy of Halo 3? Or maybe some free horse armor?

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Jeremy Dunham, IGN PlayStation: Outside of one freezing glitch that I got once while playing Condemned, I haven't had any problems.

But that could be contributed to my conspiracy theory that it's just a ploy by Microsoft to win me over since I run the PlayStation sites.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Further Evidence of the IGN Conspiracy vs the Xbox 360, PART II

Continued...

Hilary Goldstein, IGN Comics:
The loading errors are an easy fix, Peer. Eject the disc, blow on it a few times, reinsert and hit power. Should work 22% of the time.

John Miller, IGN Xbox, Xbox 360: Not only am I wary of MS's claim that the 360 problems are well within the "three to five" percent defect range, typical of consumer electronics -- I think it's a downright lie. As we move forward, console reliability should actually increase -- or at least stay the same -- not regress. We've had some kind of problem with every 360 in the office, be it a simple disc-read error or occasional freeze or even the downright system failure. I love the system when it works, but as a consumer, MS has made me want to wait for Nintendo and Sony to release their new consoles to make an educated purchase. Heck, MLB 2K6 doesn't even work on the system -- how the hell did that slip past the rigorous product testing MS supposedly puts games through. If it wasn't for Burnout, I would rather play Fantasy Baseball and watch Deal or No Deal than play the 360.

Stephen NG, IGN FAQs: Jess-IGN posted:

I am highly disappointed with ... basic ... functions ... and ... I spent countless hours trying to ... jerk-off. It took 10 tries and finally ... "... to" ... get any ... After ... the first time, I received it ... and ... I ... originally ... meant ... I feel the bigger ... competitors ... bagged it and inched themselves ... towards the top. Yet ... I'm still looking at ... more neck...

Madlibs are awesome.

The Xbox 360's high heat may be part of the problem. Heat makes physical changes and I suspect it may do things to the soldering and any other delicate connections in the deck. Here's an idea -- how about keeping the whole unit cool throughout the session with a simple fan over the 360's uncovered guts? A potentially low-tech and simple solution.


Erik Brudvig, IGN Guides: My 360 at home is doing just fine, though the one I've been playing constantly at work is having problems. I'm not sure if they're problems from Oblivion slowly bugging out or if it is hardware related. Either way, it is frustrating and one of the machines scratched my copy of GRAW so much that it's unplayable. I'd definitely recommend the extended warranty to people looking to purchase a 360, but I wouldn't tell anyone to stay away from it. Oblivion is simply too good to pass up and there is plenty of promising software that should be out by the time I'm done playing it sometime next year.

Just in case, though, I've made a custom faceplate for my 360. This way, if it does die, I'll have something good to attach to the front while I wait for it to go through any necessary maintenance.

The questions of reliability probably won't help Microsoft in Japan, but as long as they have things hammered out by this fall, I don't think this will hurt the Xbox 360 in the long run. The PS3 is going to have similar problems, though maybe not at this magnitude, and is surely going to have even more severe shortage problems this holiday season.

Doug Perry, IGN Xbox, Xbox 360: People like to ****, and Microsoft is giving them good reasons to complain. But despite broken machines, which can be replaced by MS, the buzz around this office when Fight Night Round 3, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Oblivion came out have been palpable. Most everyone, despite their misery, has been playing 360 games.

I have had some heated discussions with Microsoft about the reliability of their systems, and they say the percentage of broken 360 issues is well within the percentages for consumer products of this kind, 3% to 5%. I say BS. I personally can't remember another system that had so many broken systems, operating issues, or even disc scratches. However, they also added, on the record, that they expect Sony to have similar if not bigger issues with the PS3s when they ship all 6 million of them this Fall.

The first round of PS2s broke badly too. Even the PS1 had serious issues. Sony handled its hardware problems differently. They just deny them. That somehow makes the issue less awful. Microsoft admits them and tries, however embarrassingly, to fix them. So the perception is that their systems are inferior. I find this interesting.

Anyway, my 360 hasn't busted yet. But I expect it to any day now. Seems like it's happened to about 50% of the office.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gamers are never happy.

Today the Japan Conference for the Xbox 360 just ended, and, I don't know....after coming off a lot of discussions with gamers on different forums, I guess I'm getting sick and tired of them.

Nothing ever, ever makes these gamers happy.

It's extremely depressing to listen to them complain about everything from the lack of tiny particles on a screenshot to the lack of proper lighting effects on certain games, or whatever other graphical effect.

Quite frankly, I'm getting sick of it. Whatever happened to looking forward to having a game for your platform? All it is now is, "The game has to have these graphical features/effects/whatever, or else it sucks."

It's getting to me, to be honest. I was playing a game of Call of Duty 2, and my spirits were pretty sapped, because I had to stop and think, "Is this good enough?"

What is good enough, anyway?

Sometimes I ponder on retiring from video games, altogether. Because nothing is ever good enough....

I know I shouldn't let what other people think tell me what to think, but quite frankly these forums are getting on my nerves.

Sigh, whatever, whatever, whatever.