Monday, February 27, 2006

You've got to be kidding me...

Check this out.

Specifically about who is in charge of this upcoming MMO based on the DC comic universe. That's right, Sony. The same guys who brought us fine hits like EQ2 and SW: Galaxies.

Don't worry, I'm working on the obituary for this game as we speak.

DDO = Great

...the only reason I haven't been writing lately.

What an intelligent MMO this is. I'll be writing up a review as soon as it goes live.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mixed Bag...

Couple of links here.

First one is a very interesting article at CBS regarding the state of Star Wars: Galaxies. Man...apparently, they really screwed this one up.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/21/tech/gamecore/main1335511.shtml

Can anyone, please, for the love of all that is holy, please make a good Star Wars game...anyone?? Hello?? (cue cricket sounds)

Next up is an article that relates a bit to my first Common Sense article regarding a school memo that me and my wife got last moth. It touches on why we're so concerned with safety and butterflies and cute fury things. I kid...its about our fear of risk taking these days. Part of the reason why I'll never see a manned Mars mission in my lifetime.

Here it is:

http://www.reason.com/rb/rb021706.shtml

Oh, and BTW, we get these school memos every month. I personally find them to be pure blogging gold, just due to the stupidity alone. So, look forward to one of these at least every month.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More on gaming violence

Excellent article regarding the non-issue of gaming violence.

It’s really interesting how these politicians and "parent" groups really don't understand basic human nature and historical context when it comes to violence. Our society is relatively non-violent when you compare it to 18th or 19th (even 20th) century cultures...especially when it comes to violence portrayed in the media of the time. This article explains this concept very well.

Their crusade to rid us of all violence is both futile and, I dare say, unhealthy. Its unhealthy because the darker side of human nature needs to be expressed...and truthfully, I'd rather see it expressed digitally, because the other option is not so much fun. Repressing of any natural human trait has never gone well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Layoffs at Atari

20% from last count...and hey, from the press releases that I saw, they didn't use the word "realign" even once. How refreshing.

Looks like this is becoming a trend now.

If there wasn't a trend of layoffs in the industry, I wouldn't be so surprised at the Atari announcement. I got burnt by The Temple of Elemental Evil. That was the buggiest game that I have ever played and hit Atari's reputation hard, and rightfully so.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Revolution

So I've been doing more thinking about what this delay of the PS3 means for Nintendo...and the more I think about it, the more I think that Satoru Iwata has probably got a serious case of the giggles right now.

It’s all about the Japanese market. Right now, Sony owns the branding market against Microsoft in Japan...70% to 30% were the last numbers that I saw, not sure about how that translates to market share of Play Station systems vs XBox. Microsoft knows they have a problem in Japan because Japanese will always support a Japanese product...its partly culture driven. This will always be the case no matter how cute they get the XBox360 to look.

Now, imagine if you take the PS3 out of the picture for the next year...who fills in that void in the Japanese market...not Microsoft, but Nintendo. True, Nintendo had an edge anyway because it is Japanese, but with PS3 not showing up this could give it a nice little boost.

Time will only tell what this will do this the American market. People who passed on the 360 in the hopes of the PS3 might just grab the 360 just to get into the next gen, or they might just grab a Nintendo...not really sure.

Wow...speculating is so much fun...

Star Trek: Legacy

I'm cautiously optimistic.

http://www.gamecloud.com/article.php?article_id=3576

Everytime I got one of these games build in the Star Trek universe, they're fun for about 5 minutes and that’s it.

This optimism is further fueled by the fact that Bethesda Softworks now has the license.

My kingdom for a deep and compelling ST game!

PS3 delay..12 months???

This is interesting.


Things are not looking good for the PS3...at all. I really think it was a big mistake putting the Blue-Ray format in the PS3. Given the current state of the format war, (or the fact that there is a format war at all), it was an extremely risky move. The expense of a Blue-Ray drive alone probably has the PS3 designers shitting their pants.

Now, if the PS3 is delayed for another year its going to take a serious bite into their market share.

I wonder what a 1 year delay of the PS3 would do for the Revolution....hmmmmm.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Death of PC gaming....again...

Interesting article regarding the whole "Is PC gaming dea?" debate...a bebate which I'm kinda getting sick of.

Interesting clip:

"PC gaming in general is in a rut."

Moore echoed that sentiment during his speech last week at the Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain summit.

"We are becoming like TV and film in that we are sticking to a formula," he said. "We are a superior medium, and we should take the next step to rekindling originality."

"I am very concerned that we are too reliant on sequels, formulaic gameplay, and licenses from outside our medium."

Despite the hurdles facing the PC gaming industry, few think that gaming on the computer will become a thing of the past.

"It's like saying people are going to stop browsing on the Internet," said Mark Rein, vice president and co-founder of Epic Games. "It's idiotic."

Boy is it ever in a rut. I call this the "reality TV" phase of gaming. I remember the first season of Survivor. Wow...what a show. Human nature at its most basic level, in all its splendor and glory just oozing out of the TV screen. Survivor II was ok...but I started to notice something, and thought...nah. Survivor III confirmed my fears...they're going by a formula of picking people to maximize drama and the network does not care about quality. It was no longer about viewing how humans interact to accomplish common goals...it was now about what loud mouth show-off will get their acting career launched after getting off the island.

Gaming is in the same phase of the entertainment cycle. They got to start taking more risks...especially companies like EA and Microsoft. PC gaming will never die because it is the main driver behind PC technology development (processors, video cards etc.). Without PC gaming, there would be no Xbox360...so I don't understand why this subject even comes up anymore.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Yikes...

I've been looking forward to Start Wars: Empire at War since it was announced, even more so since the playing the demo a week or so ago.

Well...the reviews are coming out, and its not looking encouraging. Check out Game Rankings. I think I'll hold off a bit before getting this one. I'll more than likely grab it if more positve reviews come out.

Sure, nothing wrong with an 80% over all, but thats only three reviews...and after the demo experience I would have expected at least 5-8 points higher than that.

More Links

Elysium from Gamers With Jobs has another excellent article up regarding his theory on the current "slump" that the gaming industry is in.

One thing he does not mention is the impact that MMOs are having on game sales. If you have 5 million subscribers to WoW, that’s got to hit the bottom line for game sales somehow.

I can only use myself as an example, but I know my game purchases have decreased since I've played WoW. Now that I'm taking a WoW break, I've bought two:Fable and DDO (pre-order). I'm picking up Star Wars: Empire at War today to cool off that burning sensation of those gift cards.


Penny Arcade had summed up my feelings quite well over EQ2 here. I played EQ2 when it first came out. Man, that wasn't a game, it was a job...especially after lvl20. After about 2 months of that, my whole guild left the game. I then went on to City of Heroes and then to WoW. My guild still hangs out to this day in WoW, and now in DDO. We were so disappointed in how EQ2 turned out, that every MMO we think about getting together on, we always ask ourselves, "will it be another EQ2?". That game was a classic case of reading the market wrong. This is even more evident given the success of WoW.

Star Gate MMO

If they do this right, it'll be huge.

The potential for this game is enless. If you're a fan of the series, you'll know why. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please go to your nearest Best Buy and start buying Start Gate seasons on DVD...you won't regret it.

I do admit though, everytime I see an annoucement like this one, I cringe and say to myself, "Please don't let them screw this up".

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sextrade workers are doing what??

The world gets stranger.

There it is again...people creating a link between violence and video games. I'm telling you, video games are the new rock-and-roll. It’s like the 50's again and, oh my God, Elvis is gyrating his hips again....SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!

SWOP-USA has their heart in the right place by trying to make life better for these women, but their heads are someplace else. Ummm...prostitution is said to be the oldest profession and I think that supposed violence caused by video game on a prostitute is a small part of their problem overall.

People like this, seem to go ape shit when a violent video game shows up, but are the first in line to cheer on sports like hockey and football, where men are crashing into each other, even fighting.

Now, I hate GTA. It’s not a game, it’s a piece of crap called a game. However, I will not support censorship on people who want to make crap…I just won’t buy it.

Facts about video game violence and youth...go here. This is real statistics taken from the FBI....but hey, we should never let facts get in the way of a crusade.

More layoffs...and that word again....

Activision joined the layoff club this week, and they used that stupid word that I love so much when explaining layoffs.

...Ashley Dyer commenting that the layoffs were part of an effort to 'realign' the company's operations for the next two years."

...grrrr...urge to kill....rising....

RF Online...the final chapter

...I hated it. I didn't like it. I'll never play an anime/asian MMO again.

Check please.....

DDO Online

I must say I'm impressed so far...and I didn't think I would be. So I was going in thinking I would hate it.

At the encouraging of a friend I've played with online for over a year, I preordered Dungeons and Dragons online for the PC last night. You get a 10 day beta key with it so that you can try it out before the game launches.

So, I start the download at around 7, come home from my work-out and start it up around 10pm last night...so I only had time to try out the tutorial and a couple of other things.

First thing that hits you is the graphics. Very nicely done, even on medium setting. I tried high setting, but since this is a beta, it seemed to hit my monster machine a bit too hard for my liking. The colors are nice, characters are nicely modeled and environment is top notch.

Character creation part of the game is quite involved if you want it to be. Not as diverse as City of Heroes, but definitely more diverse that World of Warcraft. You can pick face type, hair color etc, etc. If you've played The SIMs, its very close to that.

I created an Elf Rogue, briefly looked over all of the stats and stuff (I never get those right away), crossed my fingers and entered the world.

You do a tutorial first. A simple dungeon that just introduces you to stuff like jumping, climbing and interacting with latters and doors. The thing that really hit me was the atmosphere (there’s that word again). As you enter each room, a voice tells starts to talk to you. For example, when I entered this one room, "the voice" told me, "You enter the room, and notice footsteps on the floor from various races, gnome, elf and dwarf…along with many other creatures"...or something to that effect. The tone of the voice and what he said really brought me into the game. Almost every room had something like that...a little narrative that explained your surroundings. What you see, what you feel (like a gust of wind on your face...is it a secret door? A trap maybe?)

Now, I admit, I'm a WoW junkie and I'm desperately seeking rehab in the form of another game Although I've only played the tutorial...if this game keeps this emersion up, I'll have to stick around this world for a bit. I'm also hoping that this game will not be a very large time sink like WoW or EQ2 was. I just want to crawl around a dungeon with my friends for about 2 hours, get some good stuff and be on my way...and have a blast doing it. Kind of tired of spending 5-6 hours farming Molten Core and having a chance at getting a new pair of boots.

More to come on this one. Plan on playing tonight with some of my friends. If this game does not live up to what I hope it is...expect me to start screaming as well as kicking small fury creatures.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Self Esteem and the Boogy Man

Oh...every time I get a newsletter from our daughter’s school I get the urge to giggle and throw-up at the same time...very weird sensation. Reading this stuff is like getting a large sugar injection from Bonzo the Evil Clown.

Of course, the big thing in schools these days is self-esteem…and why not, good feelings, good times...happy happy happy.

Well...lets start.

"We're increasingly hearing this term (self-esteem) which might seem complicated..."

Condescending jack-asses. Since when is it complicated...and even if it were, since when did I forget how to use a dictionary. It gets better:

"Teachers will have a very significant bearing on children since the school is a world of success or failure. Success gives confidence, increases the taste for risk taking and enhances the self-esteem, while failure breeds self-doubt, instills fear and will adversely affects the child's qualities."

Where do I start. They're on the button for success...it does all of those things...but failure can (and does) the same thing. Failure is needed for learning. I agree that in the wrong environment, failure does instill fear. What the teachers are really saying here is that they don't feel like creating an environment where failure is learning tool, because dealing with all of those negative feelings is too complicated for them (my turn to be condescending). Good feelings are easy, and therefore less work. Its easier to connect a good feeling to a learning experience than a negative one. Failure, is an important part of learning, just as much as success is...sometimes more so. What has happened is that we're unbalanced in our way of teaching kids. Instead of creating an environment for them to be successful, we're handing success to them.

One of my favorite movies sums up how I view the raising of my kids. In Batman Returns, a young Bruce Wayne falls in a well and breaks his arm. His Dad rescues him from the well and says, "Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to get back up." Schools, and more parents now, want to make sure that their kids never fall (both metaphorically and physically)...ever. We're ending up with a generation of kids that will never know how to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and be stronger for doing so.

And here's the topper:

" ..if a child is leaning toward a negative side, there is serious cause for concern. Restoring one's self-esteem is a highly complex task that takes a great deal of time. Prevention is the key."

OK...so instead of identifying this extreme and addressing those kids, they've labeled all kids as in need of this crap. My wife told me that nobody can fail in our school between Kindergarden and grade 8. That means that there are kids going into high-school with a sub-par skills...oh well...at least they feel good about themselves. We're playing to the lowest common denominator and calling education.

I'm sorry...but I'm calling bullshit on this self-esteem stuff.


I say bring back dodge-the-ball. Now there was a good self-esteem builder.

Upcomming PC games

Caught this on the Gamers with Jobs website regarding upcomming PC titles:

Looks like my oasis is really a waterfall...saweeet!!!

Flame on

Very interesting article over at Wired News regarding a study on flame wars in forums.

Anyone who wants to see a perfect example of this in action only needs to go the the WoW (World of Warcraft) forums. It doesn't take much to set these people off...thats why I just play the game and stay away from the forums.

I comfort myself that most of these flamers are 13 years old with no emotional maturity at all...man, that better be the case.

Yayyy...new games

Wow....has it ever been a dry game world out there. But alas, the oasis to my Sahara is finally arriving this week. Yes, Star Wars: Empire at War is arriving in stores this week and I can hardly wait. I've got $90 worth of EB Games gift cards that have been burning a hole my pocket since Christmas...and the burning is reaching unmentionable areas (ummmmm...I've said too much)

Again, if you haven't had a chance, please check out the demo...great stuff.

Another good one that’s coming out soon is Galactic Civilizations II. I've been in the beta for this one for quite a while. Its a 4X space strategy game (yes....they still make those). So if you're familiar with the genre, then I won't bother explaining it. Stardock is truly one of the best indie game developers out there. So if you like these type of games, pick this one up. These guys at Stardock (and others like them) have got to keep making games or else its curtains for true innovation in gaming.

Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, in my option, cannot come soon enough. This game looks like it might be the WoW killer for me. Believe me; I'm really looking for something that will take me away from WoW. I've hit level 60 with my Rogue and am just doing the grinding of MC over...and over....and over. Its slotted for March 20th (according to EB). Its been delayed before. Hopefully this date is solid.

...oh, and #2 for my New World Order List: People who don't signal. Its that little stick-like-thingy next to your steering wheel....USE IT!!! Not sure if I want these people arrested or sentenced to watching The Wiggles for 25 years (those with kids will understand the reference)

Things that must happen in new world order..

1. People who put sweaters on dogs, arrested on sight.


...its a short list, but I'm a very simple man.

Friday, February 10, 2006

EA vs Nortel

Bill Harris, whose excellent blog can be found here, told me that a good parallel for a Nortel in the software industry is Take-two...for sure. These guys at Take-Two are in some trouble financially and from what I last read are a rumored target for a buy out.

My connection between EA and Nortel is very soft...however, they are both great examples of how "leaders" within those companies like to sugar coat bad news with euphemistic language.

Take a look at this article from 2001.

A nice little highlight from that one, which sounds really familiar...

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Nortel said that while it expects to continue to hire in 2001 to focus on high-growth markets, it will eliminate 4,000 regular full-time positions "through streamlining and realignment activities."



RF Online - Part 1

Oh my....where do I start.

I mentioned atmosphere on my SW:EaW article. If you haven't read it yet, do that now...I'll wait......

Atmosphere in a game really draws in the gamer. It brings you into the world and makes you care about the things you do in it. RF Online is not off to a good start.

So I download the client and enter my Beta key that I got from Fileplanet. In total, this took about an hour or so. I start it up and BAM...they hit you with the first impression. I suddenly feel like prancing in a field of daisies with puppies and kittens. I'll just leave you with that mental image for a second......

The music in the log-on screen. I have never heard music that was this misplaced in a game before. I'm about to enter into a world where I'm cutting, blasting, and destroying and these guys give me tunes from The Sound of Music. Well...not literally, but you get the idea.

I ended up logging in long enough for the tutorial, but logged off right after. That impression, for some reason, just stuck with me.

This game already had a hit against it by being an anime-type of MMO a-la Lineage II (I can't stand anime...something is very wrong with a person who draws cartoons like that). Now they completely drew me out of the game...AT THE LOG-ON SCREEN.....jeesh.

I will try to write a part II for this article when I actually get to play the game. I just need to stock up on Gravol and Tums first as well as take a shower
...so more to come on this one.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Executives and the Smell of Dung

So EA has gone through some layoffs. Some 300 people just lost their jobs last week, which is about 5% of their workforce.

Now, notice my language there: “layoffs”, “people lost their jobs”. What did a company spokesperson have to say:

"…during transition we always look to realign our resources, whether that's people, technology, or our investments. It's a time of focusing on our key priorities."

..funny, I always thought that your people are key priorities...oh well.

Oh, and this is my favorite:

"This is an unfortunate but a natural part of transition," Warren Jenson, EA's chief financial and administrative officer, said in a conference call Thursday."The way I would think about it is a realignment of our resources." he added.

Unfortunate, yes, natural…no. There is nothing natural about losing your job.

See folks...this is what I call “execu-speak”. Its language that CEOs, CFOs use to explain away negative things that happen within their company and make it sound like smiles-and-sunshine. People didn’t loose their jobs, they where “realigned”…sounds like something you do to a car.

Now, if you ever wanted to know how execu-speak is actually made, its quite easy. You take reality, add vague and euphemistic language, rinse with bullshit and send it out as a press release. You too, can now be as greasy as some of these people are.

This is why I just love stories like this one:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=9f895ea5-2c16-4f21-8de6-252a6bb91b31&k=52091

…it’s what happens when the CEO’s and CFO’s are caught in the bullshit machine and end up smelling like it. The guys in that article where saying the same kind of stuff during the tech bubble in 2000-ish….I know, because I was there when they were saying it.

Now, do I think EA end up like a Nortel or a Worldcom? I really can’t say. I do wish they would just use real language when things go wrong…people who lose their jobs under your leadership deserve that much.

Star Wars – Empire At War

So I played the demo last week and all I can say is…Wow. Very nicely done Star Wars game….for once.

It’s no secret that the Star War video game franchise has been, ummmm, how do I say this nicely, lacking over the last decade or so. I think the last really memorable Star Wars game that I played was Tie Fighter (Jedi Knight is a close second). However, it looks like Star Wars: Empire At War just might be the one that breathes life back into the Star Wars name for PC gaming.

For those who haven’t played it, SW:EaW is a RTS game with some tried and true RTS ideas mixed in together…and very nicely I might add. You have your traditional ground pounding experience a-la Command and Conquer; where you have your units, the enemy has its units, now go kill them. There is no base building, however; there are reinforcement areas around a map which you capture in order to bring troops to the area. These troops you buy and transport before you invade the system.

You also have space battles which are kind of a nice mix between Star Craft and Star Trek: Armada in terms of mechanics. The space battles have a good sense of scale to them, so you get a good feel for how big a Star Destroyer is compaired to a Corellian Frieghter for example.

For games with the Star Wars name, atmosphere is everything. For me, if I don’t feel like I’m part of the Star Wars universe, then I will not be drawn into the game and more than likely will loose interest…check please. This game has atmosphere to spare. Whenever you move your men on the ground, a little hologram dude appears at the lower left hand part of the interface appears and gives you information in that theatrical Star Wars British voice we all know and love. This is just one of those little things that give great value to a game.

All of the sounds effects from the movies are there, from the blasters, to the clack-clank of the walkers to the cool sound that Hoth spy drone makes in Empire Strikes back. Overall, very well done in the sounds department.

Graphically, the game is beautiful. Full, rich environments. The modeling of all of my favorite ground and space vehicles are nicely done. Eye candle such as explosions and laser fire are also top notch.

This is a very brief review. I didn't even go into tech trees, bounty hunters, special characters, etc. If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at the demo, and you’re a Star Wars fan (even if you’re not), go try it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Welcome

Welcome everyone to The Common Sense Gamer.

I've been thinking about starting a Blog for some time now, but I've really been struggling about what the content would be. There are so many good sites out there covering a wide range of issues.

Well, I know I like gaming, so that was a must...but I had to think of something else to write about to fill in those dry spells that the gaming industry likes to subject us too every couple of months. It finally hit me last night.

See, our insurance/retirement savings agent game over last night and we all got the talking about how things have changed with parenting and in the schools here in my home town. We started covering how idiotic it has all become...with the main emphasis being on "self-esteem" and the near fanatical fixation on safety now-a-days. I mentioned that maybe group of parents should oneday form a support group called "Parents for Common Sense".....The Common Sense Gamer was born.

So, more to come soon. I’m hoping to write something every couple of days…so hang tight.