Monday, October 29, 2007

Project Gotham Racing 4 Incredible Images

Some of the images I've seen for PGR4 are just breathtaking. My own screenshots are not as good as these screens, which I found on the pgrnations.com website:

http://forums.pgrnations.com/forums/5/7178/ShowThread.aspx#7178

http://www.pgrshowcase.com/








To view my own screens, check this link

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Surprise Game for this Month:
PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 4


This morning at around 9:00AM I downloaded both the demos for Guitar Hero 3 and Project Gotham Racing 4 from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Guitar Hero 3 is awesome; unfortunately, my guitar is with my brother so I wasn't completely able to appreciate it. So I left the demo and to my surprise, my download for PGR4, which weighed in at 1.2 GB had actually finished downloading.

I wasn't too optimistic for the game. I enjoyed PGR3 and thought it was a great launch title, but personally I played a lot more out of Ridge Racer 6 than PGR3. So I was expecting PGR4 to be the same, usual, sterile driving experience....I mean, as a guy who has played the HELL out of Forza Motorsport 2, you can imagine my expectations for the PGR4 demo were really, really low.

At about 12:30 in the afternoon today I left Data Blitz, with the full version of PGR4 in hand. What happened?

Well, apparently both me and my wife were just so incredibly impressed by PGR4. The graphics have been improved significantly compared to the previous game. I am awestruck by the work on the lighting that Bizarre did for this game. They seemed to have tweaked it so that it looks more photoreal, and more natural. Another aspect of PGR4 which caught my eye is the blur effect. PGR4 sets the argument that you don't need 60 FPS to get a great driving experience. The game just feels fast, and the blur is so well done that you don't really think it's not 60 FPS anymore.

Couple that with a really vibrant, eye-catching GUI....this game screams polish. Yes, there isn't much in terms of customization---that's where Forza 2 trounces it. But in terms of gameplay, graphics, car models and sense of speed....this 30FPS shockingly beats the 60FPS Forza 2.

I know Microsoft let go of Bizarre Creations....now I understand that that is a HUGE loss for them. These guys have talent, and with the extra time post PGR3, they've made a game which really shows their ability as game developers. I hope MS signs them up for PGR5, or at the very least, ask them to help out with Forza 3. Forza needs a bit of work with the lighting and needs more vibrant, creative racing tracks....in this respect, PGR4 clearly delivers.

PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 4. This is not a review. But I will say that if you LOVE racing, if you enjoy playing racing games at the nearby arcade, and if you love that sensation of taking a turn stylishly and narrowly missing the wall (by centimeters, no less), BUY THIS GAME RIGHT NOW. Go, Go GO!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Microsoft releases Xbox 360 Arcade

http://www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/x/xbox360arcadesystem/

"Microsoft Launches New Xbox 360 Console for Families

New console includes five games, wireless controller and storage to save games — all for the incredible value of $279.99

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 22, 2007 — Just in time for holiday, Microsoft Corp. today released a new Xbox 360® console that delivers games and content to everyone in the family for an incredible value of $279.99 (U.S. estimated retail price)*. Available in stores beginning today, Xbox 360 Arcade console is the first Xbox 360 console to include five family-friendly games, a wireless controller, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) connection to enable high-definition output if desired and 256 MB of memory useful for storing games and entertainment content. At $279.99, the Xbox 360 Arcade console will include five best-selling games: “PAC-MAN Championship Edition” (NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc.), “Uno” (Carbonated Games), “Luxor 2” (MumboJumbo), “Boom Boom Rocket” (Electronic Arts Inc.) and “Feeding Frenzy” (Sprout Games).

“As families gather together this holiday, it’s the perfect time to launch a new low-priced, high-value Xbox 360 that plays games, TV shows and music for everyone to enjoy,” said Jeff Bell, corporate vice president of global marketing, Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “In addition to offering an incredible all-in-one package for families to get right into the fun, the Xbox 360 Arcade system features the industry-leading Family Settings, which allow parents to control what their kids are watching and playing — and we know how important that control is to families around the world.”

Karen Dodge, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer at Toys “R” Us, added, “We are excited to offer this new gaming experience to our customers — children and families — who can now enjoy the fun of Xbox 360 together. Many of this holiday season’s hottest items provide Internet connectivity, and with the online entertainment options available through Xbox LIVE®, Xbox 360 Arcade offers families a great mix of online content and traditional gaming in one console.”

The news of Xbox 360 Arcade comes as part of a broader initiative by Microsoft to bring the Xbox 360 experience to families everywhere. Microsoft also announced today that it is significantly expanding its catalog of high- and standard-definition family fun content that is available on demand direct to the consumer’s living room. This includes the addition of everyone’s favorite characters such as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck from Warner Bros., which will be delivering the first ever “Looney Tunes” cartoons for download on Xbox 360, starting today. In addition, Nickelodeon is adding three new shows to its already large library of more than 300 episodes of TV shows on Xbox LIVE, Microsoft’s premier online gaming and entertainment service, with the inclusion of “Blue’s Clues,” “The Backyardigans” and “iCarly.” “SpongeBob SquarePants Underpants Slam™” (THQ Inc.) and “SHREK-N-ROLL™” (Activision) games will also be available exclusively on Xbox LIVE Arcade, the place to download games for Xbox 360 over Xbox LIVE, adding more fun for everyone in the family.

Microsoft’s commitment to family entertainment is complemented by the largest next-generation library of “E”- and “T”-rated games, more than 200 in all, available at retailers nationwide this holiday, including “BEE MOVIE™ GAME” (Activision), “Guitar Hero III®: Legends of Rock” (Activision), “Naruto: Rise of a Ninja” (UbiSoft Entertainment), “Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action” and “Viva Piñata®: Party Animals.”"


"Xbox 360 Arcade unboxed
Posted Oct 14th 2007 7:57PM
by Conrad Quilty-Harper
Filed under: Gaming

Thanks to Emanuel, an intrepid tipster who went above and beyond the call of duty, we managed to get a full unboxing of the Xbox 360 Arcade before Microsoft has even been able to send out a press release about the thing. Whenever the console officially lands, you can expect to pick up the hard drive free console for around $299.99 (Amazon said $279.99), which includes a 256MB Memory Card, a Wireless controller, an HDMI port minus the cable, and a disc that includes copies demos of Xbox LIVE Arcade games Boom Boom Rocket, Feeding Frenzy, Luxor 2, Pac-Man Championship, and Uno. Check out the full gallery below.

Update: We added some more shots from before the unboxing, including one for the eagle-eyed that shows the all important manufacture date: September 4th, 2007.
[Thanks again, Emanuel E.!]"

The Xbox 360 Release List until the end of 2007

The Xbox 360 is on the receiving end of an incredible lineup of games for the latter half of 2007. Here's a list from IGN; I'm not even sure if it's a complete list, and it doesn't cover those surprises like Xbox Live Arcade games or Downloadable Content:

October 23, 2007 Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation
October 24, 2007 Battlestar Galactica Sierra Action
October 28, 2007 Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock RedOctane Music
October 28, 2007 Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (game only) RedOctane Music
October 29, 2007 Avatar: The Last Airbender -- The Burning Earth THQ Action
October 29, 2007 Cars Mater-National THQ Racing
October 30, 2007 Bee Movie Game Activision Action
October 30, 2007 Chessmaster: Grandmaster Edition Ubisoft Board
October 30, 2007 Naruto: Rise of a Ninja Ubisoft Adventure
October 30, 2007 Simpsons Game, The Electronic Arts Action

October 30, 2007 TimeShift Vivendi Games Shooter
October 30, 2007 Virtua Fighter 5 SEGA Fighting
October 30, 2007 Viva Pinata: Party Animals Microsoft Party
November 5, 2007 BlackSite: Area 51 Midway Games Action
November 5, 2007 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Activision Shooter
November 5, 2007 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Limited Collector's Edition) Activision Shooter

November 6, 2007 Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War KOEI Strategy
November 6, 2007 Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2008 Activision Hunting
November 6, 2007 F.E.A.R. Files Sierra Shooter
November 6, 2007 LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga LucasArts Action Compilation
November 6, 2007 Scene It? Microsoft Trivia
November 13, 2007 Assassin's Creed Ubisoft Action
November 13, 2007 Assassin's Creed (Limited Edition) Ubisoft Action

November 13, 2007 Beowulf Ubisoft Action
November 13, 2007 Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2 Konami Music
November 13, 2007 Need for Speed ProStreet Electronic Arts Racing
November 13, 2007 Soldier of Fortune: Pay Back Activision Shooter
November 13, 2007 WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2008 THQ Wrestling
November 19, 2007 America's Army: True Soldiers Ubisoft Shooter
November 19, 2007 College Hoops 2K8 2K Sports Sports
November 20, 2007 Final Fantasy XI: Vana'diel Collection 2008 Square Enix Compilation
November 20, 2007 Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess Square Enix RPG
November 20, 2007 History Channel: Battle For the Pacific Activision Action
November 20, 2007 Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Eidos Interactive Action
November 20, 2007 Mass Effect Microsoft RPG
November 20, 2007 Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus SEGA RPG
November 23, 2007 Rock Band MTV Games Music
November 23, 2007 Rock Band: Special Edition MTV Games Music
November 27, 2007 PopCap Arcade Vol. 1 PopCap Games Compilation
December 4, 2007 Golden Compass, The SEGA Action
December 11, 2007 Madden NFL 08 En Español Electronic Arts Sports
December 17, 2007 MX Vs. ATV Untamed THQ Racing
December 18, 2007 NCAA March Madness 08 Electronic Arts Sports

Monday, October 22, 2007

Playstation 3 gets Lost Planet next year

Lost Planet just lost its exclusivity status with the Xbox 360. The game is one of my favorites; I really love the mech combat and the art direction that they did with the environments and enemies :)

The Playstation 3 is getting its own version of Lost Planet next year. Unfortunately it seems the fantastic graphics from the Xbox 360 version aren't making it to the PS3. Check out the comparison pic below.


This trend has happened time and time again for the PS3. The Xbox 360 versions of the same games look better and play smoother than their PS3 counterparts. For Lost Planet it's a bit unthinkable considering Capcom was given a substantial amount of time to tweak the game for the PS3---and the above graphics are the result? Perhaps the continued argument that the PS3 is hard to develop for does hold some weight. The promised potential of the PS3 has yet to be demonstrated by any game, and as time passes, Sony loses their opportunity to win the market for this generation.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sony pleads with third-party developers not to abandon the Playstation 3

It seems Sony was completely overwhelmed by Microsoft this generation. They're already begging third-party developers to stay with them:

http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/2007/10/deans_take_on_npd_numbers_for_september.html

"One piece of news that came out this week was that Sony pleaded with third-party developers not to abandon its struggling platform. That change in attitude is a marked difference compared to the arrogance of past years. The argument is that the PS 3 will show its strength as developers learn how to make games for it. But developers know they can staff four or five Wii teams with the same number of people it takes to make one PS 3 game. We may have a glut of Wii games soon, but that’s not as bad as not having enough games on the PS 3.

The Xbox 360 is going to have a good season with games like “Mass Effect” and “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” still to come. Yes, I know it’s also on the PS 3. But clearly it will sell more units on the Xbox 360. Sony managed to crack the top ten finally with a PS 3 title, “Heavenly Sword.” But beyond Ratchet & Clank, it’s unclear what is going to be a big seller for the company this season. We’ll have to see the October numbers, but I expect that the Halo 3 blast radius is still going to have an effect, as will the entry of the $399 PS 3. As Frazier says, content is going to move hardware. With Super Smash Bros. pushing out, Microsoft looks like it has some of the strongest games yet to come in the season. Nintendo still has Super Mario Galaxy, and Sony will have to cross its fingers on Ratchet."

Gamepro followed up on the article, regarding Takahashi's assertion that Sony was pleading with third-parties:


"Takahashi cited "insider information" when contacted by GamePro for source clarification. "

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tragedy strikes Glorietta Mall in the Philippines :(

Not gaming related, but sad news in my country. Terrorists have attacked one of the local malls near the Central Business District.


It's really tragic that these things happen; what's worse is I believe that my government probably doesn't have a clue how to handle these kinds of situations. They're ill equipped because most of the money that was supposed to be spent protecting the people from this kind of attack is probably being pocketed away by politicians to spend on their ultra-luxurious villas and sports cars and mistresses. It's also unfortunate that these terrorists who do these kinds of attacks don't realize that what they're doing is only going to worsen the situation in this country, by bringing about instability and economic uncertainty. They're not helping the Filipino people when they do this; truly there are problems with our government but through violence they make things far worse. Terrorists simply set things back to the way they were and worsen things, and lessen opportunities for their Filipino bretheren by scaring away businesses and investments. I guess they don't care. In the end, they're simply tools of political machinery, working for the selfish ends of some other group that wants power, under the guise of whatever ridiculous ideology or fundamentalist/extremist religious belief.

What a sad day for the Philippines :( Let's pray for the unfortunate victims of this horrible tragedy, and hope that justice will be served and the ones who committed this act of violence against the Filipino people will be captured and punished.

The Pinoyxbox community meets with Microsoft Philippines!

At long last, the Pinoyxbox community has finally gotten the opportunity to meet with Microsoft Philippines. Thanks to Mr. Jojo Ayson, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft Philippines for meeting with us, and thanks for the food and freebies :) The official Pinoyxbox thread for the meeting is linked below:

MICROSOFT PHILIPPINES & PINOYXBOX MEETING

While there was no confirmation or date given for official support for the Xbox 360, I personally think that it's a good start for the community. Here are the results of the meeting, as posted by Wuffy:

***

Summary:

Microsoft Philippines will not support the XBOX 360 in the country anytime soon. However, they are willing to support the PinoyXBOX Community Events.

How MS Philippines can help the PinoyXBOX Community.

Note: All items/venue are subject to availability and proper authorization. We also have to give MS ample time to process our request.

* The usage of 2 XBOX 360 consoles for PinoyXBOX events (This consoles will be a donation to PXB from MS Phils ).

* The usage of MS Philippines function rooms for PXB events and EBs. (Note that some of the function rooms are equipped with 5 screen projectors.) The pic above was actually taken in the function room Sir Jojo suggested. That big white thing in the back is just one of the screen projectors available in the place Imagine playing the XBOX 360 on those things

* The usage of certain equipment such as kiosks (default kiosks not the XBOX 360 one) for events and trade shows.

What can PXB do to help MS Philippines gain official support from Redmond?

* Organize and join lots of events to keep the community growing. The bigger the event and the more press coverage we get, the better. The goal is to be able to catch the attention of Redmond so they may consider extending official support to the country.

* Forge more partnerships with companies related to gaming. (i.e. Gamehopper) It would be nice if PXB can contact Samsung Philippines and see if they are interested to help PXB at our events by providing us HDTVs to connect our XBOX 360 with.

* Have a visible / active presence at the World Cyber Games Tournament (sponsored by Samsung)

* Organize a PXB committee for events.

Additional Notes:

* Microsoft Philippines is entering into the foray of hardware devices this coming December by announcing support for Microsoft peripherals such as keyboards and mice. They will also be supporting PC games officially. There is no mention of XBOX 360 support.

***

Here are some pictures from the event:

(Left to Right) scytherage, kantoboy, amd2000, leomarley, Mr. Jojo Ayson, whyme and yakisoba

(Left to Right) wuffy, scytherage, kantoboy, amd2000, leomarley, Mr. Jojo Ayson and yakisoba

Jojo was kind enough to give us this Halo 2 freebie!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DEMO of GUITAR HERO 3 available on OXM 77

The Official Xbox Magazine issue 77 has the exclusive for the demo of GUITAR HERO 3!



Here's the song list for the demo:

The Metal - Tenacious D
Rock You Like A Hurricane - as made famous by Scorpions
Even Flow - Pearl Jam
Lay Down - Priestess
Hit Me With Your Best Shot - as made famous by Pat Benatar

Here's a listing of videos that are available, made off of the demo:

Even Flow http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaaWrQ7ri_E
The Metal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=295fxG4S6DY
Rock You Like A Hurricane http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aVXbD_4thQ
Lay Down http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MT3ktyi5M8
Hit Me With Your Best Shot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1f42K3IWcCE
Other stuff http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eUaoty0unc



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We're illegal aliens on Xbox Live....but thank you, Microsoft, for letting us stay.

Here's a little story that I might have never posted before on the blog. Did you know that there was a time when Filipinos based in the Philippines that are playing on Xbox Live could have been locked out from using the service? It almost happened. At some point this year, around May, I think....I recall that MS wanted to implement a new dashboard update. This update, together with some other tweaks to the Xbox Live service, could determine the user's physical location when he logs in to Xbox Live.

Prior to this, some users noticed that there was downloadable content that they couldn't download because they were only available in some regions. For example, the Dead Rising demo can't be downloaded if your gamertag is registered with the location as 'Germany'. That's because of the laws and restrictions on video games that are being implemented in that country. Gamers found a workaround for this.....they created new gamertags with the registered country as something else other than where they were physically located. So, technically, a German gamer could create an Xbox Live account, register the account as located in the 'United States', and there you have it. So gamers who previously couldn't download content locked out of their regions could now download it.

Obviously, Microsoft got wind of this, and that's why they created that new dashboard update that I was talking about earlier. With the new update, they could know where you're physically located and implement regional restrictions on your system. When news came out about this, there was a lot of speculation that they were going to lock out accounts that were 'out-of-region'. For instance, for us Filipino gamers based in the Philippines, Microsoft being able to determine our IP location gave Microsoft the option to lock us out; after all, we aren't officially supported/the Xbox 360 isn't sold in the Philippines. At that time I remember a lot of people at Pinoyxbox (PXB) were really worried about several things:

-Could they still log in to Xbox Live?
-Could they still download/buy content?

To get Xbox Live Gold accounts many in PXB paid real money to get MS subscription cards or applied for subscriptions online on the marketplace....the threat of getting locked out was really worrisome at that time.

Eventually, Microsoft clarified that what they were locking out was really the Video marketplace area of Xbox Live. This is because the content that was there was under certain restrictions in being sold in other places outside the United States. In a nutshell, there's a lot of legalese which prevents Microsoft from simply allowing anyone around the world from downloading South Park. Read this blog post from aceybongos, it includes clarifications on the issue....in particular, read the comments section and watch how the out-of-regioners battled Microsoft in the hopes that their $50 investment in Xbox Live would not go to waste:

The community at Pinoyxbox breathed a sigh of relief, thankfully they could still log in to Xbox Live. Later on it was found out that some game-related downloads were affected by these restrictions (for example, since I'm in the Philippines I can't download the Bioshock demo). It seems what is restricted for download by out-of-region accounts are the more 'controversial' content. I guess this is to prevent the aforementioned German gamers from making US accounts and downloading overtly violent games or games with mature content....But for the most part, Xbox Live and the Xbox Live marketplace is still open to gamers everywhere around the world. Thank you, Microsoft, for the consideration. At least we can still play and download content online.

Overall, I recall this episode because it's one of those issues that is the reason why I rally for official support for the Xbox in the Philippines. We can't really do anything when the main Microsoft office in Redmond makes decisions about Xbox Live, and with this incident we barely dodged a bullet. Thankfully a lot of other out-of-region gamers made their voices heard (not just Filipinos....the Greeks, actually, were quite vocal to Microsoft in letting them know how disastrous it would be for them if they did get locked out of Xbox Live.).

Xbox Live is one of those incentives for Filipino gamers to support the Xbox 360 and buy original games and unmodified consoles. Without Xbox Live, you're missing out on the complete interactive experience that the Xbox 360 has to offer. For instance, with a game like Halo 3, once you've completed the single player mode, you might just as well put it on your shelf, and some gamers will probably never play the game again. But because of Xbox Live, the longevity of your games is increased, and it's easier to justify the P3,000.00 that Filipino gamers spend on each video game when you can play the same game for several months on end. Had Microsoft locked out Filipinos from Xbox Live, I think Xbox 360 piracy would have gained more popularity, because the incentive to support originals would be lost. Thankfully, that didn't happen. And this is why the Pinoyxbox community is continuing to see such an amazing rate of growth in the installed base for the Xbox 360 in the Philippines. Right now, the sales of the 360 locally isn't completely spectacular, perhaps....but in comparison to rival game consoles available in the local market, I think that the Xbox 360 reigns supreme when it comes to sales of original games and unmodified game consoles. If Microsoft ever does officially launch the Xbox 360 in the Philippines, a lot of gamers that are probably thinking about buying a 360 will likely jump in without a second thought. This is because some of their worries about the console's hardware and Xbox Live support would be put to rest.

I hope that Microsoft is looking into a more effective way of implementing the Xbox Live service in the future (maybe for their console after the Xbox 360?). They really have to consider that their console reaches places that they never anticipated, and it isn't good for their brand or their reputation if they just decline to give service to customers who enjoy their products. Microsoft should know that a better, more globally focused approach for the Xbox brand will benefit them in the long run, and eventually help them win against their rivals Sony and Nintendo.

Now, another issue related to the lack of official support is the Red Ring of Death. But that, my friends, is for another blog post...

Bionic Commando Announced for the 360, PS3 and PC

From Gamespot:

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6181070.html

"Bionic Commando returns

Capcom franchise swings back into action with new adventure set for release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

By Brendan Sinclair,

GameSpot Posted Oct 15, 2007 5:00 pm PT

Bionic Commando Capcom's original swinger returns. Watch Download

Released in 1988, the original Bionic Commando introduced a novel grappling hook mechanic into a stagnating side-scrolling 2D platformer genre. While the Capcom-developed game was highly regarded (and even named as one of GameSpot's Greatest Games of All Time), the franchise has been dormant outside of a 1992 Game Boy version and a 1999 Game Boy Color pseudo-sequel. That's about to change, as Capcom has revealed to GameSpot that it is developing a new Bionic Commando game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Simply called Bionic Commando, the new game will bring back the original game's hook (pun intended), with players able to use the main character's bionic grappling arm not only to navigate levels but to take out enemies at close range, rappel down sheer surfaces, or toss objects (like cars) at enemies. Don't try this at home.Where the original Bionic Commando followed players on a mission to rescue a fellow agent named Super Joe, the new game's storyline appears to carry a more cynical edge. After serving his country honorably in conflict with the Imperials, technologically enhanced agent Nathan Spencer is framed for a number of crimes by his superiors and sentenced for execution. Fate intervenes, as an experimental terrorist weapon is detonated in Ascension City on the day Spencer is to be executed. With the city in ruins and Spencer uniquely equipped to handle the many skyscrapers, monorails, and suspended roadways, the government reluctantly turns to its imprisoned bionic commando for help. Naturally, the grappling hook makes its return as well.To help the game live up to its pedigree, Capcom has made development of the game an international affair. An American producer, a Japanese creative advisor, and Stockholm, Sweden-based studio GRIN will be collaborating on the project. GRIN's most recent projects have included the PC conversions of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and its sequel. For more on Bionic Commando, check out GameSpot's continuing coverage throughout the week. "

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rock Band Only Available as Bundle until 2008

According to this interview with Harmonix, Rock Band is only going to be available as a bundle until February 2008:

"On the “items not sold separately until 2008″ rumors:

When Rock Band ships this November it will only be available in one flavor, bundled. Done. Confirmed. Although there are a few reasons for this the main seems to be based on retail. Firstly, the components in the bundle are not cheap and thus creating a bundle and three other separate packages (guitar, drums and vocals) would increase costs which could lead to less bundles available at ship. Lastly, although retail partners are confident the title will be successful they are appreciative of the fact that they won’t have to display four reasonably-sized packages in each of their stores. When is Harmonix looking to ship the separate components? Early 2008 is the general goal, so EB/GameStop’s leak was correct."


This and other information on Rock Band is available
at this link.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thoughts on the lack of support for game consoles in the Philippines

Posted this over at one thread in Pinoyxbox, I just thought to put it in the blog as well, because it summarizes my thoughts on the lack of official support from any of the major console makers for the Philippines. I think Microsoft is best poised to officially support the 360 in the Philippines compared to their rivals Sony and Nintendo. This is because of several factors which I wrote in the post below, in reply to Hsai from pinoyxbox:

http://www.pinoyxbox.com/phpnuke/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&p=157920#157920

=========

another reason why there is no official support for consoles, with the exception of handhelds is the market. There are very few consumers that buy console-related products. The demographics in the Philippines is low.

I replied:

I think that, with enough serious effort and properly targeted marketing, console makers can create a demand for consoles. A market for games does exist and this is shown by the fact that pirated console games still sell well. The people here are aware of what video games are, and how fun they can be; but, unfortunately they always just gravitate towards the best deal, which is piracy. At the same time, people choose piracy because there hasn't been any real, serious effort on the part of either Microsoft or Sony to 'sell'/market console gaming here. Most Filipinos are used to pirated software, and most of them probably can't tell the difference between pirated games and originals. Whose fault is that? I think it's also the fault of the companies who don't want to sell their products here and don't want to take the effort to market their games to a specific target market. Just look at how Sony Philippines sold their PSP. They barely advertised that they were officially selling the games. Their lineup of games was not as complete as the lineup of the pirates in Greenhills (a well-known mall loaded with stores that sell pirated items) and other places. And to top it all off, Sony Philippines naively sold Japanese versions of games, completely forgetting that the market they're going after is NOT fluent in Japanese. It's half-hearted efforts like that that make it appear like there's no market. I think there is a market; it's just that the ones who've tried to crack the market always do a horrible, half-baked job, and they immediately attribute their failures to piracy or some easy reason, when in fact it's their own fault that they haven't succeeded. Sony Philippines also could have fought with the pirates if they wanted to. They could have used the press or other means to expose the pirates here, which are just everywhere, even in major malls/department stores. Instead they opted to just quit after a year (probably less), opting to sell those 100,000 peso HDTVs which are probably even HARDER to sell than game consoles.

Microsoft has an advantage now, because going with original games actually has some benefit; that is, one is able to play online on Xbox Live or download free content (if one decides not to pay for online gaming). And in a way, the 3 red lights of death problem (3RL) can work to their advantage here in the Philippines...because of 3RL it's very very risky to buy a modified/flashed Xbox 360. At least if you go original, you can have the system replaced because of that recently implemented 3 year global warranty. There's really a chance for them to enter the market or to create a market now. The library of games for the 360 at the end of this year is incredible. With a good strategy that targets a specific market, I think the 360 can succeed in the Philippines. They can do so many things....they can work with telecommunications providers and bundle the console with broadband deals. If they're worried about piracy they can just sell the console itself and let the importers handle stocking games (Sony could have done this, too). They can tie up with companies selling HDTVs and bundle the consoles. There's probably better strategies out there...I just refuse to believe that there isn't a market for game consoles here. If they can sell those ridiculous 40,000 peso cellular phones, expensive European sports cars and those aforementioned HDTVs, why not game systems? It's all a matter of marketing effort, and I think when they market they shouldn't go for the mass market. They shouldn't quit after a year or less like Sony Philippines did. They should see selling consoles as a long term thing. It's not like consoles are a fad that's going out of style anytime soon. A whole billion dollar, worldwide industry exists and revolves around console gaming. They can even bring this to the next logical step and create software houses here that can outsource work required for next generation games (game testing, artwork creation, the tedious stuff). There is immense opportunity in console gaming; let's hope that Microsoft Philippines will eventually realize that.

=========


Wuffy added this to the discussion, and I love the way she put it. She wrote:

Gaming consoles and handhelds cannot be treated as a commodity. It can never be on a equal footing to something as common as pre-paid cellular phone load.

That's the problem with the default assumption that there is no market for games in this country. Let's face it, these things are luxury items. You don't need a gaming machine in order to live.

When we look at luxury items the default target is easily the middle class and above. The MS Phils marketers probably see that the middle class and beyond percentages isn't so high in the country. More than 50% of the Filipino population are classified into D and E classes.

If MS Phils is so afraid to bring official support here since the market is 'poor' why in the world did they even bother to set up a 'CONSUMER MARKETING DIVISION' to sell Windows Vista to regular consumers and not their default corporate sales group? Do they think that D and E classes can afford original windows software?

Ok...so what if they treat the ordinary lan shops as corporate or consumer sales, they managed to make some headway in that area by cooperating with the OMB (Optical Media Board, a government agency in the Philippines) in cracking down on stores that promote or use pirated Windows software. Can't they do the same for consoles? Heck the OMB is confiscating PS2 and XBOX games during raids these days.

IMHO, there are several ways to bring official support here but MS appears to be looking at just one of them. They want to bring the console here with them being at the forefront of the service. That means increasing their staff (and perhaps their bloated salaries), warehousing, consumer marketing etc etc. But there are other ways to by-pass those things by giving it to distributors (not resellers) rather than doing it themselves.

All we need is for MS Phils to acknowledge the support of the console and its distributors. That's one step forward rather than staying in limbo and hoping that the XBOX 360 suddenly gains the appeal of Smart Load.

Unlockable armors for Halo 3

Here's a pic which shows all the unlockable armors for Halo 3. These armors are useful for setting yourself apart in Halo 3 Multiplayer.




Why no PS3 or Wii coverage?

Because I don't have either of those consoles. I only make enough money to cover one system....and the Xbox 360, with its incredible library of games, is more than enough.

Feel free to send me any of those consoles, if you feel it isn't fair that there's no coverage for those other consoles on the site. ;)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Awesome McFarlane HALO 3 Figures!

Spotted these over at spawn.com:

http://spawn.com/toys/product.aspx?product=3417





Virtua Fighter 5 Demo now on Xbox Live marketplace

Just posting this because I just played the demo and I had a blast...As a Sega fan from the days of the Genesis onwards to Saturn and Dreamcast, I found this to be a really fun experience.


Download Virtua Fighter 5 on the Xbox Live marketplace! It's available in all regions right now.

Unreal Tournament 3 Beta Demo Leaked!

NEOGAF may be loaded with console war in-fighting and Sony fanboys, but it's a really good source of news:
http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=198495

Unreal Tournament 3 Beta Demo Download Links:


http://itavisen.no/demo/4448
http://www.fileradar.net/files/view/Unreal-Tournament-3_UT3-Beta-Demo/1481
http://www.utcity.net/site/index.php?showfile=1&fid=868&p=downloads&area=1&categ=79
http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/794/mirrors.php
http://www.fileshack.com/file.x/11252/Unreal+Tournament+3+Demo
http://www.devotii.com/downloads/games/fps/ut3/demo
http://dl.free.fr/bVRa2zxDC/SetupUT3Demo.exe
http://www.photonization.com/autres/index.php?rep=./demo+pc&sub=demo+pc
http://www.utzone.de/include.php?path=content/download.php&contentid=6293
http://www.mininova.org/get/936323
http://home.comcast.net/~infamousdd/UT3BetaDemotorrent.torrent

Can my PC even run this? I guess I'll have to find out the hard way.


I saw these specs for one gamer who tried it and this is a picture of the graphics that he's getting:

Specs:

AMD3000+
Radeon 9700PRO
1 GIG

Specs + UT3 == ....

And if you're one of the lucky ones with a super PC, you'll get graphics like this:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

PINOYXBOX @ GX-CON 2007 An Astonishing Success, Despite Lack of Support from Microsoft Philippines


GamEX Magazine recently held the first ever Video Game Console Convention in the Philippines, GX-CON 2007. The convention was held at SM Megatrade Hall 3, on October 7, 2007, from 10AM to 9PM.

Pinoyxbox (PXB) was at the event to promote gaming on the Xbox 360. Lots of fun was had by all, and I think everyone did a great job in providing information on the console, as well as answering the usual questions about the console's games, the hardware, and Xbox Live. PXB had 3 consoles available for play at the event, and held playfests with Guitar Hero II, Halo 3, Gears of War, and Forza Motorsport 2. There weren't that many technical glitches for PXB, other than a balloon pillar that got popped halfway through because of staples on the floor.

For this event, Pinoyxbox did NOT receive any kind of help or support from Microsoft Philippines--they were contacted about it (both through phone and via e-mail), but they didn't send any sort of reply (not even a "No, we're not interested", or "No, we aren't selling the Xbox 360 in the Philippines", or a "Please cease and desist from promoting something that we aren't selling locally."). I guess that pretty much tells us that they have no plans to even acknowledge the existence of the Xbox 360.

And no, don't ask me about Sony Philippines and whether or not they helped pinoypsx.com with their booth. I worked more with Pinoyxbox for this event so I really have no idea how they handled their booth for the event. I do recall that Sony Philippines' last comment regarding local PS3 support was along the lines of "we're not releasing the PS3 officially in the Philippines because of piracy", or something like that. Perhaps check out pinoypsx.com and ask them what they think about that one.

As for the convention itself....it isn't perfect, but it's a good start. I have to admire GamEX for even having the guts to try a console gaming convention without official support from Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft.

Pictures below!












BIOSHOCK - Review

BIOSHOCK – my review
(Xbox 360)
Genre: First Person Shooter/Horror/Adventure
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Irrational Games/2K Boston/2K Australia
Rating: Mature (17 and up)
By Philip Ortiz (Xbox Live Gamertag: scytherage)
September 9 2007
Gameplay: 10/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 10/10
Replayability: 9/10
Overall: 9.75/10


In this day and age, it's quite difficult to find a First-Person Shooter game that's radically different from everything else. They're either set a thousand years in the future, with the player cast as some supersoldier, armed to the teeth with various implements of death (machine gun, rocket launcher, etc.). Or, they're set in World War II, and the bad guys are the Nazis (who ever gets tired of shooting Nazis?) Of course, there is the present day shooter where its terrorists versus counter-terrorists, with the usual set of weapons (again, machine gun, rocket launcher etc.). And while I doubt that this successful formula will change anytime soon (Why should it? It works!), it's nice to see a game that tries to evolve the genre, placing more importance on story, pacing, presentation and delivery. That game, is BIOSHOCK.

In BIOSHOCK, it's 1960, and you're the lone survivor of a plane crash that somehow manages to land you near the entrance to an underwater city, interestingly named Rapture. Later on, you find out that Rapture was built by an enigmatic entrepreneur named Andrew Ryan, a man who sought to create a place where scientists and artists would be given free reign in their creative endeavors, and not be constrained by things like ethics or, in his words, petty morality. As a result, scientists discover a way to modify one's genetic code so that people are able to summon and control the elements of nature and are capable of superhuman feats. When you arrive in this city, however, most of it is in ruins, and its citizens have become violent and disfigured. A lone survivor named Atlas then begs you to help save his family and escape from Rapture unharmed. Thus begins your journey deep into the heart of the city of Rapture, not only to save Atlas's family, but also to find out what happened to this once-prosperous metropolis.

To call BIOSHOCK a story-driven game is a huge understatement. Most first-person-shooters assume the title 'story-driven game', but then every level is essentially room after room of mindless bots. You go to one room, destroy everything in sight, then move on to the next room. BIOSHOCK's gameplay is different: you go to a room, encounter enemies, then investigate, think, ponder, plan....At least, that's how this reviewer 'experienced' this game. On the back of the game box, it says that 'no two gamers will play the game the same way'....and to a large extent, that statement is very, very true. BIOSHOCK is a horror game, a role-playing game, an action game, and an adventure game all rolled into one. And it seems to me that it can be a very different game for a different gamer altogether. There are going to be gamers who will rush through this game, shoot everything that moves, and not appreciate the story or the scenery. And there are others who will play this game slowly and methodically, investigating every little nook and cranny, appreciating every bit of story detail and immersing themselves in the setting and the unique experience that it provides. Surprisingly, both types of players will find a rewarding experience in BIOSHOCK.

The action-oriented gamer will appreciate the seamlessly implemented combat system. You have, other than the usual repertoire of guns and ammunition, a set of abilities called plasmids, which enable you fight using nature's elements or take advantage of creatures or objects in your immediate surroundings. If you find yourself trapped by several enemies, you can turn them against each other with the Enrage plasmid. If you end up spotted by a security camera, you can use the electro bolt plasmid to disrupt it, then hack the device so that it will work in your favor. And despite all the chaos that ensues when you do use these plasmids, the action never skips a beat. The framerate is solid, and it can even be increased to a smooth 60 frames-per-second simply by changing one of the in-game settings. Furthermore, your enemies (or allies) don't seem to be prone to getting stuck, running the wrong way, or getting lost. In fact, it's the incredible artificial intelligence system that's programmed into the game that helps make it even more immersive.

The story-driven gamer also has a lot to look forward to in BIOSHOCK. The game delivers its storyline through audio recordings left behind by Rapture's citizens and through characters who will contact the player from time to time. The voice acting for these recordings is very well done; they do a great job in giving each of the different characters a unique personality. Another element of BIOSHOCK which I found interesting is the way it occasionally tells a story without saying anything explicitly to the player. Sometimes you'll encounter a particular room or setting where, upon investigation, you can figure out what happened on your own (with occasionally surprising or terrifying results). For example, there's one area in the game where you'll find a dead body hanging with the words 'SMUGGLER' written above. Approach and investigate the scene, and you'll find out what exactly this person was smuggling...which then will give you some insight on the world of Rapture and some of the reasons why the city is in ruins. This isn't the only scene in the game where it tells a story without explicitly telling the player; there are many, many moments in the game where this type of narrative is executed flawlessly. The developers of this game are very skilled at telling the story of their world interactively. This results in a very rewarding experience for players who enjoy thorough exploration. In that sense, the game provides a sense of adventure that you'll rarely find in most first-person shooters. Lastly, the story-driven gamer will enjoy the element of choice that the game presents. To survive in Rapture, your character needs to acquire an element called 'ADAM' from little girls wandering the halls, called Little Sisters. However, you cannot take this element without killing them in the process. At the same time, you need the element to survive the later areas of the game. What do you do? The choices that you make in dealing with these Little Sisters will affect the way you play the various levels of the game, and they also have an effect on the way the story ends.

Does BIOSHOCK deliver gaming perfection? If I'm going to answer this question I think I need to talk about an element of the game's design which will be controversial for most: the Vita-Chambers. These are devices located in each level of the game which resurrect your character upon death. In a nutshell, if your character dies, you get resurrected immediately in the nearest Vita-chamber, with most of your equipment intact. So, it's entirely possible to 'cheese-out' the game. Case in point, if you're trying to take down a Big Daddy (one of the stronger creatures in the game), you could attack one recklessly until you die, then resurrect in a Vita-Chamber, then look for the Big Daddy where you left it, and kill it while its health is still low. The truth is, different players will handle the situation of dying in different ways. For me, I didn't really bother with 'using' the Vita-Chambers; every time my character died, I usually just end up reloading my saved game, because I thought that the reason I died was because I didn't handle the situation efficiently (you have very limited resources when it comes to ammunition and healing kits). Other players may handle this differently, and they can opt to use the 'cheese out' method I've specified above. Does this break the game? After completing it, I realized that the developers must have wanted most players to finish the whole story. The decision to include the Vita-Chambers must have been made so that the game would be more inclusive to gamers of different skill levels, so that, with patience, everyone who plays the game will see the entire thing from start to finish. I'm sure that this will be a sore point with the more hardcore gaming crowd, but lets face it....there aren't really that many hardcore gamers out there, and the hobby does need to become more accessible to more people.

...Which brings me back to my original question: Does BIOSHOCK deliver gaming perfection? For this generation of games, I haven't quite seen a game that can match BIOSHOCK in terms of delivering the most complete single player gaming experience. Perhaps the only unfortunate thing about this game is that it's a mature title; literally, buckets of blood flow aplenty, and that does reduce its appeal (a whole lot more than the 'problem' with the Vita-Chambers). Also, the terror factor that the game has will discourage some people from even getting beyond level 2. Let me just assure players who get too freaked out: just keep at it, you'll get used to the freakish denizens of Rapture soon enough, and at that point, the game's action pacing feels more like Halo than Doom.

Gaming perfection? Damn close.