Sunday, June 28, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Rest in peace, Michael Jackson....the King of Pop! The man is truly a legend and he'll never be forgotten.

While I think at some point late in his career, his life took a turn for the strange, there's no denying his contributions to the music world. Since the day of his passing I've been reading up about this man, and it really seems he was a good person at heart. Unfortunately the media focused a lot on his court battles over allegations of child molestation. The thing is, and I didn't know about this beforehand----nothing was ever proven by the ones who were accusing him. They did not have any real, solid evidence. I will admit that I'm one of the people who thought Michael Jackson was guilty, initially. But then, I only thought that because that's what the newsmen on TV were making me think.

Well, now, we've got access to the Internet, and more information is out there about what really happened. It's just unfortunate that information about this is only more interesting now that he's gone. Based on everything that I've read about Michael Jackson, it seems he really was a good person....it may be that he is just very eccentric because, in his words, he never had a childhood like everyone else, and this made him do things which are easily misinterpreted by the media or by people who don't really know him.

Right now he's in a better place. I'll always remember Michael Jackson as a legendary artist, and I'm glad to have been around during the time that he was alive.

Here's a post I found, ironically on Neogaf, which talks about what happened to Michael Jackson and his legal troubles towards the latter half of his life:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=16448184&postcount=1

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=16448241&postcount=5

And here's a video with even more information:




Wuffy's thoughts:

When I first heard that Michael Jackson had passed away, I just woke up and I had trouble processing the news. I'm a fan of Michael Jackson, I'm not a crazed fan but I love his work. Ever since I was a small kid, every All Saint's Day all the radio stations would play 'Thriller' and my and my cousins would dance to it in the cemetery when we were bored. Every morning, one of the TV networks will always play 'We are the world' on TV and it came before Seasame Street so I saw it practically everyday.

I'm not someone who knew the lyrics of Michael Jackson's songs to heart. I knew the music. I knew that it was good. I knew that he was really good. I remember tuning in when one of the TV networks aired one of Michael Jackson's exclusive MTVs for the first time. There was no cable back then and every single person in my family was waiting for the MTV to be played.

I was one of those people who deep down believed Michael Jackson was innocent. A lot of people I know thought he was guilty, but me and my friends stood by him. We could never prove his innocence, it was just our gut telling us so despite everything that the media has said. Perhaps the real reason why I believed in his innocence was the song, 'Childhood'. The first time I heard that song, I had tears running down my eyes. I kept on playing that song over and over...I liked it even more than 'Black or White' and all the other songs in that album.




Just listen to that song.... Listen to the soul and sincerity that Michael Jackson has put in singing that song! Yes. Michael Jackson may be considered weird because he was an adult who thought like a child. But in some ways, I can relate. We all have our moments where we are childish and immature. But none of us can really relate with Michael Jackson who lost his childhood unintentionally in his quest for stardom.

And now Michael Jackson is gone.

It's hard to believe that our children won't grow up to see this man perform live (even on TV). I was unfortunate not to have seen him during his one day concert in Manila in 1996. For the next few days, I'll be hunting for a Michael Jackson memorabilia that we can keep. I can't believe that the mainstream media, such as Fox News continue to demonize Michael Jackson even in his death. I was so disgusted with the reporting that I turned off the TV. But history will regard Michael Jackson kindly because in the end what will last is his spellbinding talent.

Rest in Peace Michael Jackson. I pray that today you are with the Lord dancing together with Him in heaven.




Dead Space - First Impressions

Just got Dead Space...yes, it's not really a new game, but I've heard a lot of good things about it, so I thought it was worth a try. Impressions:

- Excellent production values - I like the way the GUI is set up as these floating graphics/screens. It's the most unique GUI I've ever encountered for a third-person shooter in a long time, and it makes the game feel very futuristic.

- The graphics are also very consistent, no frame drops and a lot of well-used special effects that add to the atmosphere of the game.

- The audio is also very well-done; it really establishes a sense of fear and dread.

- Playing this, you can't help but compare it with Resident Evil 5. Having played RE5 before this, it's even more apparent to me. This game is much scarier than RE5, definitely. (RE5's focus was more on action) I think Capcom can learn a lot by playing this. Come to think of it, they probably already have; I remember reading somewhere that RE6 isn't due for a couple of years and they plan on rebooting the series. Probably because they played this!

Overall, so far so good. If you haven't played Dead Space, it's the type of game that will probably surprise you with it's overall polish. It feels like one of those games that get nominated for GOTY, like Bioshock.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Prototype - Halfway Through Game...Just EPIC!

Just went through a boss fight that lasted over an hour and thirty minutes. I took so long because I used hit-and-run tactics to take down that boss. Eventually I found a 'way' to do it and it was extremely satisfying once it ended.

It was Capcom-esque in that you need to really work your way to winning that fight and it really isn't easy, unless there's something I completely missed and there's a technique to beating that boss quicker. (I'm sure there is; I'm just proud of beating that boss my way....hehe) I have no complaints!

The other day I read the review of Destructoid for Prototype. While they were relatively more positive for the game than they were for Infamous, I have to say that I did end up questioning the skill level of the reviewers there. They were complaining about mundane things, like figuring out how to beat certain classes of enemies, whining about the targeting system and the controls, etc. I just found it strange considering that I didn't really have any trouble with the more technical aspects of the game.

Maybe most reviewers for game websites are just casual gamers at heart. I've seen it before with big sites like IGN screwing up boss fights and then just complaining about it in their reviews. It just goes to show you that game reviews are not always reliable when it comes to opinions on games. It's better to combine their opinions with gamers' opinions from feedback pages or forums. The truth about a game is usually somewhere in the middle; reader feedback is normally more positive, while reviewers tend to focus a lot on everything negative about a game. Also, remember that game reviewers play on a deadline, and that usually makes them much, much more easily frustrated with a particularly difficult boss or enemy. So when they're whining about a hard boss fight or two, they're probably just inept at playing the game, or just don't have the time to spend to learn everything there is to learn about a game.

I think I'm nearing the end of Prototype; regarding game length, it's probably just as long as most games released for this generation of consoles, if you don't do any of the side-missions/mini-games.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Prototype - Sandbox Carnage





A few weeks ago I played Infamous on the PS3. The game's premise was that there's this character who wants to figure out why he has certain superhuman abilities. At the same time, supposedly his actions in the world determine how his powers develop, and also steer the course of the storyline.

Within nearly the same release period as Infamous, Activision's Prototype gets released for multiple platforms. This sparked a lot of debate on the Internet because both Infamous and Prototype have practically the same premise. Much like Infamous, Prototype has you starting out as a superhuman character who is hell-bent on finding out how exactly he became the way he is. In both games, both characters start out losing their memory [a staple theme in most video games to give the storyline something to talk about....], and completing missions in the game lets you find out more about your past and how you obtained your powers.

I suppose one major difference between Infamous and Prototype is that there is no 'moral compass' in Prototype. As you go through the game you realize that your character is literally a monster, in every sense of the word, and everywhere you go there is guaranteed to be a lot of carnage and destruction left in your wake. That's because the military is after you, and this military group has marching orders to take you down, with whatever means necessary. If it takes blowing up civilian vehicles or buildings to kill you, they'll do it. The military in the game seems to be portrayed as some kind of amoral PMC (private military corporation) tasked to clean up any mess the current government may have been involved in.

With this in mind, it's very hard (no, actually impossible) to avoid civilian casualties in any mission or free-roam situation that you get into. There's a lot going on in practically every action packed moment of the game. As Alex Mercer, you just can't help but get a lot of collateral damage when you strike back at the enemy. Alex's powers are incredible. Alex Mercer makes Cole seem like a Marvel Superhero from way back when the 'Comics Code Authority' was still in vogue. Most of Alex's attacks leave a wave of utter chaos and destruction; he can disembowel any human within range of his attacks. He wields all sorts of 'weapons' which morph from his flesh: claws, blades, whips, hammers.....you name it, he has it. And the game doesn't shy away from brutal violence, with bloody gore and decapitation happening in practically every battle scenario you may get yourself into.

Infamous's Cole, even with the moral compass aspect of the gameplay, still exercises some degree of restraint with the violence. With Alex Mercer, there is no limit to what he'll do to find out the truth behind what has happened to him.

I haven't finished Prototype yet so I wonder how exactly this game will end. Infamous's storyline left me completely disappointed, with....

*spoiler warning for Infamous*





Time Travel






*spoiler warning for Infamous*

...being brought up for no apparent reason other than to hint at a sequel and your 'possible' superpowers in a future version of the game. With Prototype, I hope there's no nasty twist like that that can ruin an otherwise straightforward and dark storyline. Originally I thought Infamous was already a pretty dark tale, but Prototype is a whole lot darker, and a whole lot edgier. Granted, Infamous had some sense of humor about it in some moments. Prototype doesn't have any of that at all. The game takes itself really seriously. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you like your games.

In terms of sheer action and carnage, Prototype delivers.

Now for a discussion of its more techincal aspects:

Graphics-wise, in Prototype it seems they used less detailed textures compared to Infamous. When you're in a situation where there isn't much going on, the low detail textures really stand out. At the same time, everything that's going on around you (even if you're not in a fight yet) is pretty amazing. Cars going through traffic, a lot of civilians walking about....the world 'feels' very alive to some degree. Most things in the world are interactive, and with your superpowers you can easily take down trees, fences, and some structures when you're traveling around.

While the game engine in Prototype may not be spectacular when it's standing still, it does show off its mettle when the action starts. Once a fight breaks out between Alex, the military, or 'the infected', this is when the game engine starts to show its best form. There is NO slowdown even with all that stuff onscreen at once. Civilans start running all over the place, cars start getting into vehicular mishaps, tanks start rolling on top of hundreds of cars piled up in crowded intersections, all this while Alex is throwing around his super-powered abilities. The military throws practically everything they've got at you, with mortar shells, missiles, machine gun fire, rocket-propelled grenades....everything short of a nuclear warhead is hurled at Alex Mercer to stop his rampage through the city. And while Alex is not invincible [in fact, he can die quite easily if you aren't careful], his superhuman abilities can get him out of a lot of situations even with all kinds of opposition bearing down on him.

Because of all the chaos and carnage that takes place in every scenario of Prototype, civilian casualties mount at an incredible rate in this game, and at some point you're going to see streets literally littered with destroyed cars and dead bodies. And, it seems those dead bodies don't magically 'disappear' after ten seconds. They just sit there, making the environment of the game feel really macabre and ominous. The soundtrack compliments this theme very effectively; obviously inspired by the musical themes in most horror films. There's never a dull moment thanks to the audio, which seems to dynamically adjust to what's taking place onscreen. When Alex gets detected by the military, a more upbeat 'chase' theme plays back, and this really adds to the intensity. When you're on the verge of dying, it seems the music also adjusts and this really adds to the sense of urgency in the game.

Control-wise, Alex can move and adjust to any situation very quickly. The developers seem to have made a conscious decision to slow down the action when you have to switch between abilities or when you're targeting enemies. At the rate all the action is going onscreen, their decision to put that in is very welcome....there's just so much coming at you that you do need that bit of 'bullet-time' to make split-second decisions on what to do. I like how they implemented action slow-down in the game to actually help the player and lessen the frustration when a really difficult situation arises.

Alex can also travel around the city at an incredible rate, thanks to his ability to run on building walls (instead of jumping over and over, like in other superhero games like Crackdown and Infamous). He can also upgrade his running speed so he never needs to hijack a car. He can also glide through the air, which is useful after jumping from a particularly tall building.

Alex can also fight the military by using their own weapons against them. He can get their guns, rocket launchers or vehicles and fight back with relative ease. The controls for this aspect of the game were well thought out and quite intuitive. Combined with the ability to fight on the ground with his numerous biological powers, Alex can be quite unstoppable if he is controlled right by the player.

Much like many discussions in forums online, I can't help but compare this to Infamous. They've got the same premise; they're in the same genre (sandbox). So which is the better game? From a technical standpoint, I'd say Prototype beats out Infamous because it manages to keep a consistent framerate even while all that stuff is going on on-screen. Storyline-wise, I'll have to withhold judgment until I finish the game. Their stories are really so close in terms of overall themes and ideas. Prototype is much, much darker, and leans more towards making it feel like you're a 'monster' in the game.

In terms of overall enjoyment, the framerate drops in Infamous really deterred the experience for me, and the excessive use of blur effect on distant objects made me question if I was experiencing loss of eyesight. This problem never occurs for me with Prototype. The draw distance is quite far in this game, and while there is a small degree of pop-in, it never deters from its immersiveness. Prototype also has much less aliasing issues compared to Infamous, where the jaggies where just everywhere. I'm not sure if this is a benefit of the fact that I'm playing this on the Xbox 360, given that I haven't tried the PS3 version. [Most 360 versions of multiplatform games have always had the benefit of better anti-aliasing]. Graphics matter to me as much as other aspects of a game, so to some degree I'm enjoying Prototype a lot more than Infamous right now.

I guess it all depends on how the game ends...whether or not this will be the 'best' sandbox game I've played so far, or just on par with Infamous. I'll post impressions again once I've finished the game.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can't Decide Which Platform to Get A Game For?

This is an interesting site. It compares multiplatform games between the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and recommends one based on which has the best overall features.

http://www.lensoftruth.com/

Give it a try when trying to figure out which version of a multi-platform game to get.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Halo Wars - Final Thoughts


Finally finished the campaign for Halo Wars tonight. My opinion still stands on the soundtrack. The last few missions are very well structured and are enjoyable for what they are; though if you've played a lot of RTSes you already know what to expect.

There is one thing which blew me away towards the end of the game:

That last bit of the game contains the very best Halo-universe-inspired-CG-rendered-cutscene I've ever, EVER seen. I don't remember a cutscene in Halo 3 which quite matches this one:

*SPOILER WARNING*

The absolute BEST cutscene ever conceived for a Halo game! Note that this is not the ending of the game.



When the game ends and the credits roll, you get a sense that Ensemble Studios already knew well in advance that Halo Wars would be their last game. It's just something about the quotes at the very end, and the way the ending itself is structured. It just feels metaphorical, as if hinting at something, and essentially saying goodbye, for good...

It's really a big loss considering the studio's pedigree...Age of Empires, Age of Mythology...those were some great PC games. I'm sure going to miss them.

Ensemble Studios will never be forgotten.

Save your old laptops! Try Windows 7!

It’s back to school here in the Philippines and I was helping my brother prep up his laptop for college. It’s a relatively old laptop, a Compaq Presario V2000 (V2602TN), that we got around 2006. I say old because of the original specifications below.

Photobucket

PROCESSOR: Intel Duo Core T2300 1.66GHZ
MEMORY: 1.5 GB DDR 2
HARD DRIVE: 60 GB 5400 rpm
Graphics: Mobile Intel 945GM Express Chipset


At the rate technology is evolving, PCs get outdated so quickly. Sometimes it seems like you need to upgrade your PC every year just to keep it running fast. In the line of work my husband and I do, our laptops have to have RAM upgrades practically every year. And once our laptops reach the maximum allowed RAM, we end up looking for newer alternatives.

Today, the netbooks are the current rave. More and more people are picking up these netbooks because its technically cheaper but it can run the applications that most people use (i.e. Word Processing, Internet surfing). Not to mention, these netbooks are smaller and easier to carry compared to traditional laptops. These netbooks are quite underpowered and will have a difficult time running Windows Vista, which is why most people opted to use Windows XP or some Linux variant for these netbooks.

I’m not writing this article to compare Operating Systems (i.e. Windows vs Mac vs Linux) and tell you which is better. Personally, I like Windows Vista and I’ve always been an ‘I’m a PC’ person. I don’t have a Mac and my Linux experience is limited to running it as a server and not as a client. So the best comparison I can provide is something between Windows Vista and Windows 7. I’m running Windows Vista Ultimate on my laptop, a 32 bit desktop PC and a 64 bit desktop PC. But most people felt that Vista was quite unstable and slow compared to Windows XP. So a good number of people didn’t bother to upgrade their PCs anymore to Vista and just kept their old machines with Windows XP running on it.

With the current trend going to netbooks as well as the issues people had with Windows Vista, Microsoft decided to offer Windows 7 which is said to have been tailor fitted to run in underpowered netbooks. And the response from the public beta, it seems like MS has actually hit their target this time with a lot of people satisfied with the performance of the Windows 7 beta release. I understand there are issues with the beta and the release candidate, I have experienced them myself, but most solutions are available online. Windows Update for Windows Vista is pretty good as well. While there are issues with the public releases, one has to understand that these releases are all demos and not the final product.

However there is one thing that Windows 7 proved to fulfill. And its making old hardware feel new again.

Prior to installing Windows 7, I had Windows Vista Ultimate running on the old Compaq Presario V2000 with the above specifications. While Vista was usable with 1.5 GB of RAM, the laptop ran pretty slow compared to high powered machines. Getting Office 2007 and other word processors took quite some time to load as well. There are times that even File Explorer had some strange loading times. Add any kind of antivirus or network monitoring system, the speed of the machine gets even slower.

We have installed Windows 7 with our newer machines but never on an older underpowered machine. I was a little apprehensive at first but I eventually joined the ranks of people who are quite impressed with this new operating system. I had one issue with the sound driver but I just uninstalled the HP driver and just let Windows Update get the latest driver through Auto Update. After that, everything worked like a charm. To my surprise, the machine booted quickly and it loaded my apps faster than Windows Vista. Office 2007 had no problem running and was quick to load.

Windows 7 is more than giving your PC a facelift. Sure the interface looks great, IMHO better than Vista because it takes out the clutter in the task bar and organizes it per application rather than having a new button / tab for every instance of an application. It’s actually more than being looking good but making your PC perform better.

What compelled me to write this article is when I saw how much that old laptop was selling in one of the top PC sites in the Philippines which is around Php 10,000 (roughly USD 200). That’s 50% less than what the netbooks are selling for. Imagine that…you can get a cheap laptop (with specs that may not really match the latest hardware within the last 12 months) but with Windows 7, it can come close to the performance of a mid-range laptop!

If you have a laptop that you are thinking of selling because its old (and trust me selling it second hand won’t give you a good price and you’ll end up annoyed with all the low ballers), maybe you can hold it for a while and download the Windows 7 RC 1 absolutely FREE here:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows7

Be sure to get yourself a FREE activation key as well. And if you want to join in the troubleshooting for Windows 7, you will need to activate your RC 1 after installation. But note, the RC1 will only run up to June 2010. After that, the RC 1 OS will no longer be able to run and file recovery might be an issue.

So what are you waiting for? Dig out those old PCs / Laptops that you haven’t used in a while and breathe new life into it with Windows 7!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Halo Wars: Some Things Right, Some Things Wrong


Alright, I think I'm a bit more through Halo Wars, enough to give a solid opinion about it. The game gets a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong. It isn't a bad game, but it could be a better one.

Case in point: the game's soundtrack needs some serious help. I know that Ensemble Studios must have went through so many lengths to capture that 'Bungie' magic and put it in their game. And they've done a lot of other aspects right, which I'll get to in a moment. But I just have to bring this up....

They just overuse the whole 'slow, epic' orchestral soundtrack commonly associated with Halo. I've got nothing against the slower musical scores in the Halo universe. It's just that it seems they listened to that one track in the opening menu for Halo 1, and based the entire soundtrack of the game on that one track.

That, coupled with the droning 'ALL UNITS' voiceover from Cutter (the Commander of the Spirit of Fire, one of the ships in the game) just takes its toll and makes the game feel boring. Sound plays a huge factor in most games, and this is no exception. A bad soundtrack can make a game feel really tedious, and in this case, the soundtrack is the thing that hurts my impression of the game the most.

Another point that kept on bothering me with every mission is how it seems your unit count is just so small. You only get to have 30 'units' (and some units take up more than 1 'unit' when you build them). You can upgrade and get up to 40 'units' but that's it. It just seems awful small. I think they were going for a "Warcraft III" feel for the game, having heroes on the battlefield; but I wish they would have given me more units to have on the field.

And getting resources just feels like it takes forever. I'm not too sure how to speed things up, other than building more supply pads. Which also takes forever.

I dunno; something about Halo Wars just feels so slow.

It's not all negatives: the game has its shining moments. I really like how the Spartans can just kick ass all over the place and take over enemy units really easily. In many ways, their prescence in a lot of the levels is fan-service, but I think Ensemble did a great job in portraying them. I like the other little touches in the game, like the dialogue between soldiers while they're on the ground. These really put you in the Halo Universe. The explosion effects, the action when things get heated....the game for the most part actually works as a console RTS. I don't find myself having too much trouble micromanaging my units; though this game still doesn't dethrone the PC as the best platform for RTS (let's hope Project Natal solves that problem....)

The cutscenes in the game are also very beautiful (albeit prerendered CG). Nothing wrong with good CG as long as they're enjoyable to watch, and in this regard, Halo Wars succeeds and entertains.

So yeah, the controls are great. They're practically perfect. The special effects (explosions, gunfire, lasers everywhere) are awesome. This is a Halo RTS done right, because everything about the action itself is Halo through-and-through.

It's just that the soundtrack really hurts this game a lot. If I'm invading an enemy base, it would be nice to have the music change up to something more upbeat instead of being the usual slow orchestral theme that fits a much different setting or scenario. I guess that's what I'm trying to say....Halo Wars is a prime example of how in-game music, if chosen poorly, can actually have a nasty effect on a person's immersion in a game.

I haven't finished the game. Maybe the ending will redeem this one. But for the past 13 campaign missions, I've made up my mind about some things about it. Halo Wars does some things right, and some things wrong. For the Halo fan, I'd still recommend it; just be prepared for that horrific soundtrack. For other players, starting on the Halo universe with Halo Wars might be quite a confusing experience, since the storyline in the game doesn't explain a lot. It's best to try this game out after experiencing the earlier Halo titles (Halo 1, 2 or 3). Only after playing those games will the magic in Halo Wars become easily apparent.

Dee Jay and Thunder Hawk Sound Bites Found In Demo?

I found this on this thread at forums.shoryuken.com:
http://forums.shoryuken.com/showthread.php?t=194980

It seems these sound files were found with the demo which was just released.

Check these links:

"Thunder Hawk Wins!" http://www.zshare.net/audio/613842821a438fac/
"Dee Jay Wins!" http://www.zshare.net/audio/613843017883d013/

Street Fighter IV PC Benchmark Is Now Available For Download!

Here's a link:

http://file.4gamer.net/demo/StreetFighterIV_Benchmark.zip

Or go to the page with the link on it: http://www.4gamer.net/games/049/G004954/20090612078/

You can also get it from the other sites listed in my previous post about SFIV PC.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Can Your PC Run Street Fighter IV? Find Out Tomorrow

According to this post from http://www.andriasang.com/ , the benchmark program for Street Fighter IV PC will be out tomorrow:

Excerpt:

In last week's update at the Street Fighter IV blog, writer Natsuki Shiozawa announced that the Street Fighter IV benchmark would be offered at the official SFIV site on June 22, but would be accessible one week before that through an undisclosed means.

Today's update filled in the blanks. On June 15, the benchmark program will be downloadable from the following sites:

•Famitsu.com
•4Gamer.net
•GAMEWatch
•OEX
•GameSpot

The benchmark will display the logo of the site of its origin, so you'll want to select the site with the least offensive logo (I'll help you out -- it's 4gamer).

They found out by translating this blog post on the Street Fighter IV Blog, here:
http://www.capcom-fc.com/sf4/2009/06/post_110.html

In other news, the same blog post at the Street Fighter blog had Yoshinori Ono posing with some trophies their game just won, just behind some really nice SFIV swag:



Street Fighter IV: Finally Hit 2,000 Games Played on Xbox Live






Hey, you never know if or when my Street Fighter IV save file might get corrupted! There are rumors on forums online that it just happens at random. So I took these pics here to preserve how much time I've put in on Street Fighter IV for the Xbox 360.

Most of the games I play online are Player Matches, the reason being that I enjoy being able to relax a bit when playing and not worry about losing Battle Points or think about the skill level of the opponents that I might end up playing against. Going on Player Matches causes me to play against more 'new' players, though; but I don't really mind. It's good to play the game just for fun :)

All the best players are in Championship mode or Ranked mode, occasionally I go there and I don't fare too well. But for the most part, many of my games online have just a slight bit of lag. I do have the occasional unplayable game, but I haven't had enough of those to make me hate the whole online experience with Street Fighter IV.

It's been great so far; I wonder when I'll actually stop playing this? On the side I'm also playing Halo Wars Single Player. Nothing beats competing against a human in a game of wits in Street Fighter IV. It's just endlessly enjoyable.

Soulja Boy @ E3 - Project Natal, Halo ODST, Forza 3, GOW2 Map Pack Footage and More....

I'm not an R&B/rap fan, but every so often I come across youtube videos from this guy. They're always interesting, sometimes even funny:


Saturday, June 13, 2009

In-Depth Kikizo Article On Project Natal

http://games.kikizo.com/features/microsoft-natal-xbox-360-why-its-a-big-deal-p1.asp

Excerpt:

Natal is a new peripheral for Xbox 360 that currently exists in a very early work-in-progress form. This new, 'full body motion sensing' technology may be revolutionary for interactive entertainment, and quite frankly, leaves things like EyeToy, Wii MotionPlus, and Sony's new motion sensing controllers for PS3 - also revealed last week - in the dust. Anyone who doesn't yet understand why, this article is for you.

There's a lot of positive buzz about Natal, but I was surprised to see how much doubt and even indifference there is about it after talking to everyone about it over the last week. Critics and fence-sitters of Natal seem to consistently be saying one of only a few things against it. I'm going to explain why they're missing the point, and why this thing is the real deal, based on my first-hand experience with it behind closed doors, as well as chats with project manager Branden Powell, and the heavyweight developers who showed it off, Kudo Tsunoda and Peter Molyneux.

***

Another excerpt regarding the comments that it doesn't work with African Americans:

On to the third thing. "I get it", people say, "but I don't believe it works". People have noticed glitches, right? And I heard it can't detect black people!

I'm going to jump right into to this "it can't detect black people" thing and tell you right now it's BULLSHIT. Not only can it detect black people, it can detect players perfectly even with the LIGHTS TURNED OFF. I saw this demonstrated in the private session: Kudo had the lights dimmed to almost zero, and the Ricochet demo continued, completely unaffected. You don't need to worry about ideal lighting conditions like with EyeToy. Natal does not track players by colour (although we know from Milo commenting on my blue shirt that it can if it wants to); it tracks them by infra-red - and it can track up to four people at the same time with no compromises.

The reason there is a thing going around about Natal not being able to detect black players is that a black journalist had difficulty controlling the Burnout demo. Guess what? So did a white female that was in my closed-doors session. I could make a 'women drivers' gag at this point, but I won't because this is a serious point. The Burnout demo was probably not the most finely tuned thing Microsoft could have used to demonstrate Natal, and could have done with some further optimisation. The fact that many people of all colours who've tried this particular demo have had difficulty trying to steer about, accelerating by putting right foot forwards, only shows that this is probably a bit of a last minute demo to have modified - it's another company's game code, essentially hacked into a makeshift Natal demo. Kudo stated in the session that it was not designed specifically for Natal and that it was just to make the point that Natal has no latency issues when it comes to fast paced games like racing games. It certainly does not mean that this is something specifically to do with dark-skinned players. I hope we're quite clear on this.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Final Fantasy XIII Category Available On Singapore Xbox Live Marketplace - Confirms Asian Version?

Thanks to a tip from Pinoyxbox I found out that there is already a category for Final Fantasy XIII in the Singapore Xbox Live marketplace. Does this mean that Final Fantasy XIII will be released in Asia/Singapore? I sure hope so.



Unfortunately, for some odd reason, the video for FFXIII on the Singapore marketplace is region locked, so I can't download it from my location (Philippines). Why is this locked? I doubt there's anything really violent or obscene about this video. I've seen it via the available downloads for E3 on other websites like Gametrailers, so what's the point of region-locking this?

Anyway, despite the fact that I can't download it from my location (along with the Crackdown 2 trailer....sigh) at the very least this is somewhat of a confirmation that maybe FFXIII is exclusive to PS3 in Japan only, but elsewhere around the world, the game will see a global release. Good news for Asian Xbox 360 owners!

Is Final Fantasy XIII Still Exclusive To PS3 in Japan?

According to this post from Kotaku, it may not be...

http://kotaku.com/5286896/xbox-japan-accidentally-uploaded-final-fantasy-xiii-page



Currently I'm not sure if this game will be out for Asian/Japanese Xbox 360s, considering that the FFXIII trailers and themes on the marketplace are only available for US accounts. It would be a real shame if it were only out in the USA; there's a lot of JRPG fans in Asia, and of course in Japan....that said, the 'accidental' posting of that page gives some hope for Final Fantasy fans who prefer the Xbox platform.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Case You Missed It - Project Natal Jimmy Fallon Segment

http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com/blogs/2009/06/kudo-tsunado-demos-project-natal/



Yes, Project Natal Works with African Americans

The Youtube channel for Project Natal was just recently updated with more videos.

http://www.youtube.com/xboxprojectnatal

Here are just some of the videos there:










Some time this week some misinformation was being spread on NEOGAF about how the system couldn't 'see' African Americans, citing how N'Gai Croal was having trouble with using it. There was a video on the Youtube channel with other personalities like Sugar Ray Leonard trying out the system, but many were saying that the video was 'edited' to look like they were enjoying themselves. Natal's detractors were also saying that if you watch the videos, you'll see the players crashing into walls in Burnout, hinting at serious problems with Natal.

My take on this is: I didn't see any problems with the video where Sugar Ray Leonard and the others were trying out the technology. Maybe it was edited, maybe it wasn't; but it seemed to me that they were being fairly honest with their opinions about the technology at the end of it.

Even if it were true that problems were being experienced by the ones who were demoing Natal, I don't think it's fair to start dismissing the technology based on that. For one, it isn't out to market yet, and based on other videos I've seen it will likely be out sometime in 2010. So if some problems were encountered by the ones who demoed the system, I'm sure that it will undergo even more tweaking so that such problems will be avoided. As it stands, the technology for the most part actually WORKS, and over time I think it will just get better and more accurate at detecting user movements. The version of Natal shown at E3 2009 was a preliminary version which is likely to see more improvements as time goes on.

More videos were released today and, interestingly enough, there are people of all sorts of ethnicities in the videos. Some of the videos even featured people who weren't the athletic type but are able to manage to use Project Natal with no problems.

I think a lot of the ones who want to see Project Natal fail are too heavily invested in the other console platforms. To these people, I say: I think the best attitude to have towards this new technology is one of open-mindedness. Personally, I've made the same mistake about new game technology like Nintendo's Wii, and I admit that. Nintendo was right about one thing: gaming's mistake is going too much for the core gamer, it has to keep on expanding its reach to a broader audience if it is to gain acceptance as a respectable form of entertainment with the mainstream.

So keep an open mind. This is far less about which hardware maker will win the 'console wars', and more about the next step in the evolution of gaming technology. I'm more interested in that whenever I think about Project Natal. If Natal succeeds, even more innovative ideas in games will be created, and I think that's a great thing for the gaming industry as a whole.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reminder: Project Natal Will Be Demoed On Jimmy Fallon Show (Jack TV on Philippine Cable TV)

For gamers in the Philippines, catch the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show tomorrow at 4:00 PM Philippine Time on JackTV, to see a live demonstration of the Xbox 360's Project Natal, courtesy of Kudo Tsunoda from Microsoft.

It will be interesting to watch this on local cable TV tomorrow :D

Project Natal on ABC's Good Morning America

No embed code for this video, so you'll have to visit the link:

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7791505

The more I watch these videos of Natal, the more impressed I get. I can't wait for this! And that's saying a lot considering I'm not too big a fan of motion controls on Wii.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Gamingvice.net Claims Tekken 6 on PS3 Has Aliasing Issues

http://gamingvice.net/2009/06/07/tekken-6-on-360-analysis-the-rematch/

"Now here’s the real kicker, if you like the staff of GamingVice.net were at E3 last week you’ll notice something very interesting about the Xbox 360 version of Tekken 6. It is graphically better than its Playstation 3 counterpart. Am I happy about this? Not at all but I find it very ironic that after all this arguing over Tekken 6’s ability to even be on the 360, it looks better as the Playstation 3 version has jagged edges."

My opinion: I have both versions of Street Fighter IV for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Now, guess which version has the most visible jaggies/aliasing issues? There you have it. I wasn't really surprised that the above blogger/writer gave the same observation when comparing the Xbox 360 version with the PS3 version.

Interestingly enough, if you have both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 (and YES, I do have both systems), and you download Namco-Bandai's Tekken 6 Trailer for both systems from their respective marketplaces, you will see the difference between the two versions right away. The PS3 version has noticeable jaggies just from the trailer alone that's on PSN. I'm surprised that Namco didn't embellish their trailer for the PS3 version with one that didn't have any visible graphical defects.

Maybe they thought PS3 owners wouldn't really mind; they're probably used to it. I mentioned on my review of Infamous that that really stands out for the game---the jaggies that are just all over the place. If you can look past the jaggies, there's a great game in Infamous. But the jaggies are just there. They don't make the game bad, but they are in plain sight, every time, in every frame.

So, will Tekken 6 on PS3 have lots of jaggies? Definitely.

NXE Minority Report Designer and Project Natal

I managed to dig up this old news from Kotaku dated July 2008. They were talking about the redesign of the XBOX 360 User Interface which we now all know as the NXE. Back then it was interesting that they got the design company 'Schematic' who has people that worked on the impressive UI Tom Cruise was using in the 'Minority Report'. Read all about that here.

With the announcement of Natal coupled with this piece of news, it makes you wonder just how long has Microsoft been planning the 'reinvention' of the XBOX 360.

Nonetheless, Natal comes as a welcome change to many XBOX 360 owners who would like to have a shot a the 'future'.



For those who wish to remember how the UI in 'Minority Report' functioned, check out the video above. While I am very excited to see Project Natal's implementation with the XBOX 360, I am equally excited to learn about the possibilities of future integration with Windows 7 or other Microsoft Operating Systems. As a developer, I would like to know just how far we can all push the PC and how close we can get to havign our holodecs at home.

Forza 3 vs Gran Turismo 5 Continues: CNET Poll

Forza Motorsport 3 Vs. Gran Turismo 5 poll is underway over on CNET:

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13746_7-10256571-48.html

Poll: Forza 3 vs. Gran Turismo 5
by Antuan Goodwin

E3 2009 has come and gone, leaving delicious trailers and tons of information for Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 5 and Turn 10's Forza Motorsport 3 racing sims in its wake. It looks like it's time for the digital drag race to begin anew.

Will the winner be GT5, with its new WRC and NASCAR modes, or scrappy Forza 3, with its in-depth customization options and more flexible difficulty levels? Sure, you could just get both and have double the fun, but only one can be the best. Check out the trailers below in HD, cast your votes, and get your fanboy on with your comments.

Current Poll Results as of June 9, 2009:



Looks like Gran Turismo is no longer relevant to today's gamers.

Celebrities, E3 Visitors Try Out Project Natal - With Burnout Paradise Footage!

Watch the youtube channel for Project Natal for more videos:

http://www.youtube.com/xboxprojectnatal







Here it seems they also got random E3 visitors to try it as well:


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon To Feature Project Natal Wednesday Next Week

E3 was featured on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show, with this segment:

http://kotaku.com/5280535/jimmy-fallons-late-night-at-e3

According to Kotaku, the people from Late Night were so impressed with Natal that they've invited Kudo Tsunoda from Microsoft for a segment this coming Wednesday. If it pushes through, it's a huge opportunity for Microsoft to continue building awareness on their upcoming gaming platform.

And, here's hoping for a youtube video of it online soon :D Late Night with Jimmy Fallon actually airs on local cable TV here (Jack TV), so maybe I can catch it.

Gran Turismo Developers Polyphony Digital Visit Forza Motorsport 3 E3 Booth, Then Start Taking Notes!

Now this is an interesting turn of events. Blog post from Che Chou of Turn 10, the studio working on Forza Motorsport 3:

http://forums.forzamotorsport.net/blogs/turn_10s_forza_motorsport_blog/archive/2009/06/05/the-road-to-october-looking-beyond-e3-2009.aspx

************

Besides the consistent line of showgoers wanting to try their hand at this rare spectacle, we also had quite a few celebrities come through to play the Forza 3 ride-of-show cockpit. The list is as surreal to me now as it was when I saw (some of) them with my own eyes: Steven Spielberg, Victoria Beckham (with her little boy), Incubus drummer Jose Pasillas, DJ and Turntablist Chris Killmore, folks from LA Galaxy, Aisha Tyler, some dude who came by to shoot a segment for the Jimmy Fallon Late Night Show, and more.

Perhaps the most surprising to me was when a couple developers from Gran Turismo makers Polyphony Digital came by to personally get hands-on with Forza 3, all the while taking careful notes, examining our UI system, shooting photos, and directly asking us some pretty interesting questions. The reason I say I was personally surprised was because PD aren’t generally known as a studio to acknowledge that there are racing games that exist beyond their own. Which could explain why the GT franchise has been so stagnant in the racing genre since GT3. So it seems competition is good for the consumer after all. I know for a fact that Turn 10 will never stop pushing racing games to the next level.

************

Looks like the battle for the title of 'Ultimate Racing Simulator' is ON! This can only be good for us gamers....racing games can only get better because of this ^_^ For more details, check out the blog post link provided above.

New Interview with Tomonobu Itagaki

Here's a new interview with Tomonobu Itagaki, courtesy of 1UP from E3 2009:

http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?pager.offset=0&cId=3174656



It doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess where he's headed....

Microsoft's Project Natal Has The World Talking

Kotaku recently posted an article about how Project Natal has all the buzz coming out of E3:

http://kotaku.com/5280739/so-which-e3-announcements-generated-the-most-buzz



Surprising to see it beat out big hitters like Super Mario and Final Fantasy XIII.

Also, in Gamespot's latest poll on which press conference did gamers liked best, Microsoft's poll clearly leads the rest, with a dominating 41% of the votes:

http://www.gamespot.com/pages/modules/poll_results.php?poll_id=347336&tag=poll;results&popup=1

Friday, June 05, 2009

1UP Forza Motorsport 3 Interview

Is it just me, or every gaming site out there is getting hammered? It's quite hard to download anything gaming related from most sites.

More Incredible Stories on Project Natal

Click here for the full article:

http://gizmodo.com/5277954/testing-project-natal-we-touched-the-intangible?skyline=true&s=i

Here's a very interesting excerpt from the article:

Burnout showcases a few important points for Microsoft. First, it's a real game that's been on the 360. So Natal doesn't weigh down on the processors so hard that you can't play games. Second, it requires fine motor control.

I raised my hands in the air, mining a steering wheel. I hadn't given the system any time to scan my body after kicking Matt out, but I stepped by foot forward, signaling the gas all the same. The car accelerated. I twisted my arms. The car turned just the right amount.

Microsoft had clearly tweaked the Burnout code a bit, forcing the car to feel a bit more like a powerful sedan than a street illegal beast out of some Fast and Furious sequel. And I'm guessing that Natal's ever so slight control delay was masked by the feeling of a looser-driving steering wheel that we find in more standard cars.

So I floor it, growing confident as I wave through traffic and slowly build speed. I reach maximum velocity, throw my foot back to break, cut the wheel and toss the car into a spin. Yes. This feels right. Just right.

Holy shit.

But Natal can't work this well. It just CAN'T. I need to break it, teach this Microsoft prototype a little humility. What if I stand on my tip toes and steer eight feet in the air?

The car handles fine.

What if I kneel on the ground and steer?

Yup, it still works, save for a moment when my knee shifted and I tricked the machine—a fair mistake, even by my highly ridiculous dork standards.


In this footage, they turn off the lights in the room, and surprisingly, Natal continues to work without any problems:

Infamous (Playstation 3) - Review


I got around to finishing Infamous this afternoon. I only completed it once, focused as a 'good' character. I suppose there's a lot of replay value to be had in this game considering it can be played as an 'evil' character, too.

When I first fired up the game, honestly I was not very impressed by the graphics. On my setup which is running at 1080p with HDMI, I could see a whole lot of jaggies, and the framerate is incredibly inconsistent. Many times throughout the game, far-away objects are obscured by this horrible layer of grey smog, perhaps to hide a layer of pop-in with the textures and polygons. On my first five minutes in, I almost gave up on even trying to like this game.

A day later, I decided to give it ago and try to finish the game, despite my dislike for the graphics. Upon finishing it today, I realized I made a good decision there. While Infamous's graphics leave a whole lot to be desired, particularly lacking in good anti-aliasing and draw distance, it does succeed as a game....it does a lot of things right with the sandbox genre and the game does have that addictive 'one more mission' effect on players.

The gameplay and pacing in Infamous never gets boring. You're always caught up in a firefight, or trying to find alternate ways to get to your destination. Given the city in the game is quite massive, there's a whole lot of options available to you, particularly when your powers improve and you get the ability to hover, or grind on electric wires. A slight frustration is the inability to hijack vehicles....perhaps the developers did this to distance the game from other similar titles like Crackdown or Grand Theft Auto IV. I have a feeling the inevitable sequel will have some kind of vehicular driving element, though. It's just the one thing that could have made traveling around the city much easier.

A lot of options are available for the player to explore the world....you can focus on the main story, which I did; or you can be a completionist and go for the side-quests. Some side-quests are inherently 'good' or 'evil' in nature, and completing them has some kind of effect on the city itself. For example, if you complete a 'good' mission, enemies will no longer return to certain sectors of the city, which will make it more peaceful for citizens. If you play as a benevolent 'super-hero', the NPCs around you will start adoring you, taking photos and chasing you around to compliment you. It doesn't seem to have any real effect on the gameplay other than being an aesthetic, though. I can't really say because I haven't played through it as an evil character yet. Maybe it's harder to get around town if you're evil since the cops will go after you, and citizens will probably stone you (hmm, maybe I should get around to playing it again).

But, for the most part, playing through the game as one side gave me a pretty good experience. The missions in the game are fun and creatively made. There's a lot of carnage in a lot of them, especially when you get your powers upgraded. You'll be tossing around cars, people and debris in no time. The framerate takes an extreme hit when you're really throwing out all the effects of your powers, though. It gave me a slight headache because the action was getting a bit inconsistent and lacking smoothness graphically. But the game was still playable, even in this state. It's just that if you expect 60FPS out of every game you have on the PS3, this isn't the one you want. If you can cope with sub 20 FPS drops when the action gets serious, there's a pretty great game in Infamous that you can enjoy.

The story in the game is enjoyable, but to be honest, I really didn't like how it ended.

*SPOILER WARNING*








Suddenly bringing up TIME TRAVEL and having it explain why events unfolded the way they did, didn't really sit too well with me. For example, why would future-Cole (Kessler) kill present-Trish? Isn't that a bit too much of a leap in character, considering that future-Cole establishes that, it seems he is a 'good' character to begin with? Of course it's possible the trauma of having what happened to him in the past, could have affected his morals....but it just seems ridiculous for him to subject the present version of himself to the same kind of trauma.

Furthermore, if future-Cole (Kessler) had the power to travel through time, couldn't he easily go back to the exact spot where 'the Beast' had been created, and destroy him from there? Or couldn't he easily have stopped the research of the First Sons completely? Instead, inexplicably, he helps them develop the raysphere. If he really wanted to stop them, that's NOT what he should have done.










*END SPOILER*

Reading a few forum posts earlier (before trying the game) made me hope the story would be good. In a way, you probably could think that the story is a bit creative. But I don't like how that one story element explained in the spoiler above just comes out of nowhere in the storyline. It seems there's no build-up at all for it, it just happens. Perhaps they wrote the story that way to setup the inevitable sequel; already they've put in a new antagonist for the next story, and you already have some idea of how the next game will be laid out.

The journey through Infamous was undoubtedly fun, though. The gameplay does work well; despite the framerate drops, it is possible to compensate for it / get used to it, and play the game enjoyably. There's a lot of action in the game, and some pretty big battles peppered throughout the main storyline missions and the side-missions, making it one of the more memorable releases on the Playstation 3.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Forza 3 @ E3 2009 Multi-Screen Setup

Project Natal Makes Headlines

Front page of Science and Technology Section, today's issue of the Philippine Star:



Meanwhile, Sony's PSP Go, and their prototype motion sensor device, and Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus were nowhere to be found. They're newsworthy for gamers, but for the mainstream, they're not so interesting.

Bloomberg:



If you haven't heard of Project Natal yet, here's some videos from E3:










The key now for Microsoft is to ride the momentum they've gained by showing Project Natal and having it released by the holidays of this year. No release date was mentioned during E3 itself, so this is a highly unlikely possibility; however, it really is the best time to reinvigorate the Xbox brand by having the new device bundled with every console as standard equipment by Christmas 2009.

I also wonder if this technology will eventually be part of later versions of Windows...? It seems to have a lot of potential applications outside of gaming.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Even More Forza 3 Real-Time Footage

Let the videos speak for themselves.

How To Draw Mainstream Attention: Invite the Beatles

This was in today's The Philippine Star newspaper here in Manila:



Having the Beatles at Microsoft's E3 Press Conference was a pretty smart move by Microsoft to gain worldwide attention for their event.

More on Project Natal

Project Natal was the most interesting thing I saw in Microsoft's conference and perhaps the best in E3. Sure I like the games, and MS E3 conference pretty much sold me on practically every game they showed. But games are games but Natal is something completely different which can essentially change the way motion systems work for games. My interest in Natal is not based purely on gaming. I can see real world applications for this kind of technology.

My husband and I stumbled across some articles that may explain what Natal really is:

Below is a link for Johnny Lee's blog
http://procrastineering.blogspot.com/2009/06/project-natal.html

And no he is not a fanboy but an academe with 10 years of experience in his said field. Johnny Lee first came under the gaming radar with this amazing video that you definitely have to watch! And check out his other WiiMote projects as well with this link: http://johnnylee.net/projects/wii/



Imagine that interesting application for the Wii Mote. Too bad Nintendo never bothered to add a lot more depth with their existing technology. But may be Nintendo's loss is Microsoft's gain for now Mr. Lee is part of the Project Natal team. Here is what he has to say about project Natal:

The 3D sensor itself is a pretty incredible piece of equipment providing detailed 3D information about the environment similar to very expensive laser range finding systems but at a tiny fraction of the cost. Depth cameras provide you with a point cloud of the surface of objects that is fairly insensitive to various lighting conditions allowing you to do things that are simply impossible with a normal camera.

But once you have the 3D information, you then have to interpret that cloud of points as "people". This is where the researcher jaws stay dropped. The human tracking algorithms that the teams have developed are well ahead of the state of the art in computer vision in this domain. The sophistication and performance of the algorithms rival or exceed anything that I've seen in academic research, never mind a consumer product. At times, working on this project has felt like a miniature “Manhattan project” with developers and researchers from around the world to coming together to make this happen.

If you're a skeptic then try out Mr. Lee's Wii Mote projects yourself to get a better grasp of what 3D mapping actually is. His projects will run on a Windows PC but you will need bluetooth in order to connect your WiiMote to your PC. Knowing that Mr. Lee is on board makes me excited in the hopes that Natal will transcend the XBOX 360 and actually go to the PC.

And here is another interview during one of the E3 Project Natal demos:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-10797_3-10255403-235.html

One interesting thing that came up in the demo is that when a woman stepped up to use it, the system recognized she was female and represented her on-screen as a female avatar with long hair. Tsunoda said that ideally, Natal will recognize users and be able to grab their existing Xbox avatars, but that in such a demo environment, it simply represented her the best way it could, given what it could see of her skeletal structure.

Another interesting point was the way Natal recognizes people's skeletal structure and analyzes how we move. Tsunoda made the point that Natal will continue to work even if someone walks in front of a player because it knows how the human body works. So, if a player had his or her arms blocked, but Natal's cameras could still see part of their arm, it can fill in the rest based on algorithms that tell it how that arm should look.

And it's the software, Tsunoda said, that's the "magic" behind Natal, and that allows the technology to "extract the human skeleton."

Natal is designed to work whether someone is standing up or sitting down, and can recognize users very quickly. We saw that in action when, one-by-one, we were invited to step up and play either a kickball game or a driving game. With a couple of exceptions where the player didn't stand in the right place, Natal did seem to almost instantly recognize that a new person was playing and, then, respond to their movements.

This may have been most impressive during game play of the racing game, "Burnout Paradise," when it was clear that Natal was doing a fine job of translating the player's hand movements--mimicking holding and turning a steering wheel--into moving the car on-screen.

Tsunoda said the technology behind Natal includes an RGB camera, an infrared camera, a multi-array microphone and a depth map. These features allow the system to track a player in 3D space, as well as to capture spoken commands from multiple people, none of whom have to wear a headset.

So far those are the only things known about Natal that is available to the public. But based on the impressions of people who actually tried this out, Natal is definitely REAL and the promise is there.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Metal Gear Solid: Rising Announcement for Xbox 360 Sparks Fanboy Anger/Rage



Here's a tip: if you fall under the same category as the angry people who just posted in Hideo Kojima's blog here, please, consider some mental / psychiatric help / treatment.

http://www.kjp.konami.jp/gs/hideoblog_e/2009/06/000177.html

Preserved one angry comment for posterity; I have a feeling Konami / Hideo Kojima will clean out his comments section after today or after E3.

32 / Disappointed Fan / June 2, 2009 5:15 AM

Thank you guys for selling out to Microsoft! Thanks so much for now making the once great hardware pushing game, into a title limited by inferior hardware. Blu-Ray wasn't big enough? So you guys go to DVD9. Kojima's presentation on Raising the bar on stealth gaming? The bar was dropped. Thanks so much for going for money, and forgetting about innovation and super high quality. MGS4 was a masterpiece in terms of technical achievement, storytelling, and the swan song for Solid Snake. And now, MGS on the 360, is a complete 180 on that concept. Thanks so much Kojima Productions! Thanks so much. Way to go guys. Keep pushing yourselves. Next time, let's just make MGS5 a 360 exclusive! Because you need "DVD" type hardware and not "Theatre type" hardware.


Quick dose of reality:

1. It's just a game, people.

2. Corporations / businesses in the game industry are in it to make profit/money, and there's absolutely nothing wrong / immoral about that. It's their reason for existing. They aren't non-profit organizations. None of these game developers/console makers are in it because they like YOU individually, or they want to help you in some way. Yes, even if you have the biggest collection of Metal Gear memorabilia, it doesn't make you any more special than the other fans. It simply isn't realistic to think this way about how they operate; they do these things [make video games] to support themselves / their families.

Perhaps they also do it [make games] as a form of self-expression/art, true....but I think it's best to respect their decision(s) on how they run their gaming business. And besides, I don't think Hideo Kojima is ignoring his fans at all; on the contrary, he's trying to reach out to MORE potential fans by releasing his upcoming game on more consoles.

3. Perhaps promises were made early on with MGS4 about staying exclusive....remember that these game companies do these all the time. Again, it's business and companies stay alive because they make profit/income---making YOU "happy" is, realistically, secondary to continuing to successfully doing business.

The reality is, the United States is a VERY important market for gaming companies around the world. And the reality is, the Xbox 360 has the LARGEST installed base of consoles in the United States. Therefore, it's easy to see that it is in the best interest of Konami to serve the largest installed base of consoles in the United States, because it is the safest option for them to make a reasonable amount of profit. Gaming is a 'hits' business and it's very easy to be forgotten amidst the tidal wave of other games which easily become the 'next big thing' overnight, thanks to marketing and hype. So being profitable, despite what all the Media Create Japanese Sales Figures you may see online every week may have you think, is actually a much tougher challenge than it seems for any company in the gaming business. The 'safe' option, then, easily becomes the 'right' option, for any games-related business.

In a nutshell, making the Metal Gear Solid series available on the Xbox 360 is simply the most logical business decision Konami could ever make, given all the existing business realities of the current generation of consoles.

It's a fact that the Playstation 3 is well-behind the Xbox 360 in the USA, and the margin between both systems is just too great for Sony to catch up. I'm not saying that Sony's system is a bad system here; I'm just making this conclusion based on the simple facts given by the numbers that we know about installed bases of each system. To check on this, simply google NPD data on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and it's easy to see that the Xbox 360 is the market leader if we're just talking about PS3 versus Xbox 360.

It's easy to bring up the Wii in this conversation, but given how technically advanced the Metal Gear Solid games seem to be, (with all the graphical detail, cutscenes, action sequences, etc) the Xbox 360 was probably seen by Konami as the most logical choice for the company to make a decent amount of profit on the franchise with minimal effort. Yes, they still do have the option to make a Wii version of any of their current or upcoming Metal Gear Solid games; but this would require a bit more work on their end, in terms of making their game capable of running on a system with far lesser technological advancement than both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.

In conclusion, any promises that Konami may have made in the past about exclusivity may never have been promises at all. I think some gamers easily perceive them as promises, particularly because of the wording that most companies use to entice gamers that they're on their side. There is no 'betrayal' here; Konami is simply doing what they as a business entity are meant to do...make money and be profitable.

Besides, being profitable is the only way all gamers around the world will be guaranteed that future games in the Metal Gear franchise will ever be made in the future. Profitability is the fuel that motivates inspiration for these gaming companies.

It's just the reality---learn to face it.

I won't deny that I heavily favor the Xbox 360 compared to other game consoles for this generation. However, if you look at the console's history, the Xbox 360 has had its fair share of lost exclusives. They never cause me to exhibit the same type of violent reaction shown by the ones on Kojima's blog, though. That's because it's easy for me to understand that it's just the ebb and flow of business, and I never implicitly recognize any promises of 'exclusivity' for any game as a kind of committed promise to me personally. I simply respect any decisions game companies have over game franchises which I know are duly owned by them. They can do whatever they want with their games.

All I care about is whether or not I get to play them, and whether they were actually any good.

Famitsu.com - "We Support Xbox 360"

Marketing? Or a real show of support? I wish my Japanese skills were better than kindergarten level so perhaps I can make a better conclusion.

Interesting nonetheless.



Famitsu proclaims "WE SUPPORT XBOX 360!"

More on MS E3 09

As I write this post with bleary eyes, I look back on the past 4 or 5 years where my husband and I watched Microsoft’s E3 Press conferences. It all started with J Allard returning to the stage to announce the XBOX 360. Back then, I knew this was the console that, for me, will bring about the technological enhancement that I have been looking for. I have always felt that technology is not solely about hardware leaps but also that of software. When Allard stepped in and narrated all these wonderful software driven features that will be built in the 360, I knew we had to get an XBOX 360 on day one. 5 years ago, Microsoft was laughed at and scrutinized for its concepts. Today, all its competitors are trying to catch up to it.

But as the years progressed, you end up feeling like you’ve seen it all. After 5 years, my husband and I have all the ‘next-generation’ consoles as well as the defining handheld systems. We’ve played on all platforms and enjoyed the unique games that they offer. And then the tedium with games, gaming fans, and the gaming industry sets in. These days I sit back and let my husband and brother play, only occasionally taking the controller to practice with them in Street Fighter.

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Life sets in and its not just made up of the Internet.

So for me, it came as no surprise that I wasn’t feeling all too excited with E3 this year. While we did get E3 invites, some pressing and more important circumstances did not allow us to go to Los Angeles. My husband felt that was ok since we can follow everything on the Internet. When I found out that the Microsoft Conference was about to start at 1:30 AM (Manila time), I shook my head and told myself that I would much rather catch on up sleep and just read the news the following morning. But thanks to my husband’s passion for games, I ended up watching the conference with him while snacking on the side in order to keep me awake.

Even with the lost opportunity to rest, I was glad to have watched the conference for it renewed my interest in gaming once again.

Of course there was a pivotal moment that made my eyes widen (and no it was not Hideo Kojima), but I’ll touch on that later and get the other stuff out of the way.

In fanboy parlance, Microsoft didn’t announce anything new. Most of the games that were shown were already known to people who follow Internet forums and gaming news. While Microsoft did an amazing job keeping leaks at bay, practically no footage of the games were available on the Internet. In comparison with its competitors, that had leaked most of the gameplay footages and announcements on the net prior to E3. At the start, a part of me was worried that Microsoft may have nothing new to show, despite the comments of Larry Hryb (aka Major Nelson) that this year’s E3 was the biggest one for Microsoft.

In this case, I am glad to be wrong.

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So bright and sunny!!! Very different from the emo/ goth / bling culture we have now.

Microsoft started out with a lot of spunk in their conference with John Schapert announcing that they will not be firing the good ‘ol Power Point presentation of sales figures and attach rates. While I am not a fan of ‘The Beatles’, it was a nice introduction to the whole affair complete with star studded cast appearances by Paul McCartney and Ringo Star. While I am not from ‘The Beatles’ generation, I can certainly see my mother actually purchasing the Rockstar Beatles game herself and demand the rest of my family to take up the instruments while she sings along. It’s too early for me to say this but the changing backgrounds and stages depending on the song being played is cool! I like it since it gives a lot more personality to the game and clearly sets it apart from the default Rockband titles. And I hope that I didn’t mishear it when it was announced that ‘All You Need Is Love’ is a free exclusive download for the XBOX 360.

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For a minute there, I thought ice picks are going to be part of your arsenal.

I wasn’t too excited with The Beatles and the game that followed it, didn’t make me feel any different. While I’m sure some people would like to play Tony Hawk: Ride, skateboarding has never been for me. The next game proved to be much better but nothing that will blow me away. Modern Warfare 2 was up next with gameplay footage that guarantees that it will probably make as much money (or perhaps more) as its predecessor this coming holiday season. While playing this online may be difficult due to some lag issues (which hopefully Infinity Ward has addressed), the single player promises to be exciting enough to warrant a definite budget allocation for the upcoming holiday game season. I had to chuckle when my husband mentioned something like ‘What’s with the weird looking weapon?’ and I had to remind him that we’re past World War II now.

Modern Warfare 2 was definitive start of the show for the key XBOX shooter crowd with an announcement that the map packs will be available first on XBOX live. I can imagine the XBL Clans going crazy over the next big thing that they will lose their sleep over.

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Got big hair? Go hide a chocobo in it.

After that was a demonstration of the title whose announcement last year was akin to dropping a nuclear warhead in the NeoGaf Forums, Final Fantasy 13. As Yoshinori Kitase stepped on stage, I was torn between feeling happy (since JRPG is my favorite gaming genre) or annoyed at how FF has turned into the dark anime pose-fest strapped in leather and a million zippers. Then his companion started the playing the definitive XBOX 360 version of the game, dispelling all the rumors that the announcement last year was a hoax. Gameplay wasn’t much, I’ve seen countless of videos in Nico Nico Douga for the FF13 demo included in the Blu-Ray version of FF: Advent Children. The only thing that surprised me was the teeny weeny bit of English voice acting included in the demo…I’m glad that Square Enix actually acknowledged that their audience for this event aren’t made up of Japanese people. But what made the demo exciting was the inclusion of the Odin summon and you get an idea on how these summons will work in the game. And I liked what I saw for it seems like for a certain duration the summon is actually a part of your party. This game will be a definite must-buy for me in 2010, all that remains now is an announcement by Square Enix that the game will be available for the XBOX 360 in Asia.

Next up are the guys from Epic, with Cliffy B wearing a cute Bill Gates T-Shirt. While it’s a shame that the other guy’s microphone was busted, the game they showed, Shadow Complex, certainly looked amazing. When I was watching the video, I thought I will definitely get this game when it comes out on disc. But lo and behold, this game is actually an XBOX Live title which definitely gives me more incentive to actually get MS Points within the next few months just to get this title. With Epic using the Unreal Engine 3, to render a 2D platforming like action game…I think this XBL exclusive something that I wouldn’t want to pass up.

In line with the current XBL line-up, a game quite similar to Mario Kart with your XBOX 360 Avatar as the star is presented. While the game itself isn’t exactly groundbreaking, I am very surprised at the business model Microsoft used for Joy Ride. This game is a… *GASP* FREE DOWNLOAD! Anyone can get the game and XBL Gold Subscribers can play online with other people. The business model used is similar to the some pay-per-play mechanic where you will just buy MS Points in order to ‘pimp’ your ride. I’ll be watching this game because I want to see if the business model employed will actually yield some fruit.

Finally Microsoft is about the blow the lid on their exclusive titles the first of which was Crackdown 2. It’s predecessor was once known merely as "the Halo 3 Beta" but in time Crackdown has gained quite a following. The cel shaded graphics and the awesome animation in the game made it one of the more interesting sandbox games to grace this generation. While not much is shown, other than a teaser trailer, I do hope that this time around there will be a greater focus on the plot as well as more character to bad guys…rather than screaming ‘Die!’ at your face over and over again. Oh..and did I mention it seems like this game has big monster battles and cooperative play as well?

Then we are treated with a trailer of Left 4 Dead 2 which seems to be set in the American heartland! Get ready to smack zombies with your frying pan the moment you run out of bullets. L4D was surprisingly a big hit with the XBOX crowd, particularly with the multiplayer aspect of this game. While not much is revealed in the trailer, this game is once again an exclusive for the Microsoft platform.

Finally, after a long hiatus, Splinter Cell: Conviction is finally ready to hit the streets this year! Ubisoft finally gave Sam Fisher a much needed shave while he sets out to find his daughter’s killer and uncover a greater conspiracy within the third echelon. It’s clear that the graphics have been reworked and it shows. I love the way the cutscenes seamlessly blend with the gameplay. And the title sequence for each mission has a very modern feel to it. The gameplay demonstration proves that Splinter Cell is finally upon us and Sam Fisher is a lot like Jack Bauer of 24 in this game and that’s a good thing.

Then the next demonstration starts with a cool looking car which I’m sure is bound to be expensive and left me wondering if it was on a loan from some Microsoft executive. Forza 3 is officially announced and beside me my husband was chattering happily. The game wherein I’m bound to hear the sound of squealing tires constantly after its release, has finally nailed what I always thought was lacking. Good graphics. Finally Turn 10 has gotten their act together and fixed the graphics engine! There is not much that I can about this game that my husband hasn’t mentioned already. Nonetheless, I was impressed.

Last year people were whining that the new Halo game was shoved out of the E3 limelight by Microsoft. And this year it seems like Microsoft’s decision not to show the game back then was right because the gameplay of Halo ODST was finally shown and it looks like it offers some graphical improvement over the Halo 3 engine. But the real selling point of Halo was never about graphics but the gameplay mechanic itself. Halo was the game that converted me into an XBOX supporter and every time I play it I am reminded why I like this shooter so much. No doubt Halo ODST will be an instant purchase for us. And for those on the fence, well they will include beta-keys to the upcoming Halo Reach game. Those who read the first Halo novel, Fall of Reach, must be very happy with this announcement. This game marks the debut of the Spartans. Needless to say, I’m hoping that we actually get to see John, aka Master Chief, once more. I do hope they will include the Spartan training camp in the game which shows John and the others as kids being trained to be super soldiers. Ironically, the ODST were the rivals of the Spartans back then. And by this point in time, the core XBOX demographic are feeling that nice tingle up their spines.

Finally Alan Wake is shown to the world! The biggest disappointment in this conference is that this game is coming out in Spring 2010. But the atmospheric environment certainly lived up to the hype surrounding this title. I like it that the style of the game has a disembodied voice walking you through the game as if, you are actually living out a novel. Graphically it looks great too! I can’t wait to play this game even if it looks like it’s bound to give me the creeps.

The next few announcements are more on the social aspect of XBOX Live many of which are nice points of interest:

  • Last.FM – XBOX Live finally gets its own radio channels which are free for XBOX Live Gold Subscribers. Of course certain details have not been released, such as the capability of streaming the radio to your game and if this feature is available even for XBOX Live Gold Members in unsupported territories.

  • Facebook - Clearly for the social networking crowd but the biggest draw for gamers is that it seems you can take a screenshot of your game (as you are playing) and post it on your facebook account. Once again, details are still sketchy but if its true that MS is finally allowing gamers to make their own screenshots, I’ll finally cave in and make a facebook account.

  • Twitter – Who will forget this one? Find out what your friend is doing at that very instant…hopefully he’s not just giving you a tweet about going to the bathroom.

  • Netflix – A fix to the Netflix service as well as the inclusion of inviting your XBL friends to watch a movie with you. Only for the US.

  • Sky – The alternative to Netflix for the European crowd. Football galore!

  • Zune Video – HD Movies at 1080p available in more territories other than the United States.

Now there are other 2 announcements following Don Matrick’s appearance, which I prefer to discuss separately. To some things up, MS did what they promised to do at the start of the conference. Less charts, less talk and more game!