Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New XBLA Titles Unveiled

2007 has gotten off to a slow start for Xbox Live Arcade, with next to nothing being released in January and what was released (Ms. Pacman, Heavy Weapon) not particularly compelling. Last week's big release was the add-on packs for Lumines LIVE with no new game in sight for this week. Big hitters like Alien Hominid HD, Worms, Catan, and Castlevania are seemingly always off on the horizon but Microsoft today revealed the next 10 games scheduled to be released, with those four among them:

3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures (Wanako Games / Sierra Online)
Alien Hominid HD (The Behemoth)
Band of Bugs (NinjaBee)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami)
Catan (Big Huge Games Inc)
Eets: Chowdown (Klei Entertainment Inc.)
LUXOR 2 (MumboJumbo LLC)
Paperboy (Digital Eclipse / Midway)
Root Beer Tapper (Digital Eclipse / Midway)
Worms (Team 17 Software)

The first of them will be released in February and the rest will follow in the weeks and months to come as they are not guaranteeing a game per week or any order for the games' release.

Source: Microsoft Reveals Ten New Titles Coming To Xbox Live Arcade - Game Informer

Friday, January 26, 2007

PS3 does have a hardware scaler?

Gaming-Age has reported on a story originating at Beyond3D, proving conclusively that my claims in yesterday's post regarding the system's lack of a scaler are complete bullshit. Or are they?

Apparently the system has had a scaler all along, secreted away in some dark, seedy underbelly of the PS3 motherboard, no doubt part of a massive Sony conspiracy to actually support 1080i...someday.

Personally, I'm still a little skeptical. It seems like Sony is putting together scaler support through software revision, which I commend them for. It shouldn't have ever been an issue to begin with but at least they are trying to fix it. It just doesn't make sense that there is actually a hardware scaler in the system on the level of what is in the 360 and they are just slowly allowing access to it. If there was a dedicated scaler, why introduce a work-around method now?

What's even more confusing is that while 1080i TV owners can only play the vast majority of PS3 games at 480p, 720p TV owners can only watch Blu-Ray movies at 1080i. This kind of thing really demonstrates that even with an extra year of development time the PS3 was very much slapped together. It just reeks of too many cooks in the kitchen.

I'm relieved at the possibility that playing games in HD on my PS3 might not involve an expensive external scaler box or, even worse, a new TV, but I'm baffled as to why Sony would keep a rather crucial feature hidden away. If you can do 1080i, DO IT.

Seeing as virtually every major exclusive Sony had for the PS3 has either been confirmed for release on the 360 (Virtua Fighter 5, Unreal Tournament 3, Assassin's Creed, GTAIV) or is extremely likely to be announced for it soon (Metal Gear Solid 4, Devil May Cry 4, Mercenaries 2) the most important factor for me is, as long as Final Fantasy XIII (and Versus) is playable in 1080i, by the time they see a US release in late 2008, I'm good. I don't care whether it actually has a scaler chip inside or if Keebler elves living inside the A/V port redraw the 720p image with a magic paintbrush.

Then again, by then I probably will have a new TV anyway, so what the hell am I complaining about?

It'd be nice to be able to play Resistance in something higher than 480p on a system I shelled out $650 for, is really all I'm trying to say. Seriously, I just want to know if my system actually works...for all I know the thing could be DOA.

Source: PlayStation 3 Hardware Scaler Exposed - GamingAge

Tose, the biggest developer you've never heard of.

1up.com's Editor-in-Chief Sam Kennedy has an excellent story up about a Japanese development studio which has created hundreds of games for almost every publisher you can think of. Going back to the NES days Tose has been making games for "publishers that simply don't have the resources to develop everything they'd like to release but don't want to necessarily give off that impression".

Often these games are ports or remakes, such as Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth for the PSP or Final Fantasy VI for GBA but they have also developed original titles such as Super Princess Peach for Nintendo and Dragon Quest: Rocket Slime for Square. It's a safe bet that the upcoming Final Fantasy I and II Anniversary Editions for PSP are being developed by them as well.

Do yourself a favor and give it a read, it's not often you actually see video game related stories that aren't just promos for the next big game coming out.

Source: Tose: Gaming's Dirty Little Secret - 1up
Tose Homepage

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

PS3 firmware 1.5 released

One of the major problems the PS3 has had since launch was its shoddy backwards compatibility as many PSX and PS2 games looked hideous when played on the new hardware. That is no longer the case with the PS3's 1.5 upgrade which is available now. And while it still won't upscale the games (as 1up implies it does) like the 360 does with it's limited list of BC titles, they should look at least as good as they did running on the original hardware.

The PS3 is incapable of upscaling via hardware which is why there continues to be no fix for those of us who have 1080i HDTV's. The use of my PS3 as a result has been limited to viewing Blu-ray movies, at which it excels.

Source: 1up.com - Sony Fixes Backward Compatibility Issues in PS3 Update

Monday, January 22, 2007

What do you mean there's no multiplayer in Bioshock!?

OK, I've gotta know: How many of you out there who were looking forward to (read: can't wait for) Bioshock expected it to have a multiplayer mode?

What's that? None of you? Yeah, me neither. But apparently Irrational Games felt compelled to justify their decision to not include multiplayer in a Q&A on the games Cult of Rapture community site. Cut and pasted for your reading pleasure:

"Will there be multiplayer or online gaming in BioShock?
There will be no multiplayer (hold on before you complain!!!!) but for a very specific reason. BioShock features a compelling storyline that revolves around the experiences of one man as he enters the decaying world of Rapture. Having a multiplayer component would have compromised the story we were trying to tell so we made the decision to keep this game as a single player experience. There will be an online component, however, where new content can be downloaded."

Anybody who complains about the game not having multiplayer is kind of missing the point of the game. It's a shame that every game, particularly if said game is played from the first person perspective, is automatically expected to have some kind of multiplayer no matter how out of place it is.

We've been through this before with Metroid Prime and Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay both of which are now considered among the best games for their respective platforms. Riddick on a system known for its online titles.

Retro actually caved in with Metroid Prime 2, following incessant bitching about not having it in the first game, and put in a local multiplayer mode that went on to be played by no one. Perhaps not coincidentally the single player game wasn't as good as the original either.

I applaud Irrational for not slapping together some half-assed multiplayer mode just because of some misconceived notion that every game has to have one.

The reality is that most games that do shoehorn in a multiplayer mode don't get played anywhere near as much as the games that specialize in it. Halo 2 is still one of the top games played on Xbox Live, 2 years after it was released. How many games have come and gone since then? And all you have to do is take a look at how much Halo 2's single player game suffered because of how much attention was focused on it's online play to see how difficult it is to get both right. Semi-important stuff, like having an ending, was completely forgotten.

Bioshock is my most wanted game of the year right now so I'm glad Irrational is completely focused on making the game the best it can be.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oblivion Expansion Confirmed for 360.

The first expansion for mega hit RPG Oblivion, Shivering Isles, has been confirmed by developer Bethesda to be available for Xbox 360 alongside the PC version this Spring.

While the PC version will only be available at retail, you'll need to squeeze the 360 version into however many gigs are left on your 13GB HDD (6.9 here) as it will only be available through Xbox Live Marketplace.

At a likely retail price of $29.99 for PC, this will undoubtedly be the first Xbox Live download requiring the purchase of two 1600 point cards ($20 a pop). It'd be nice if Xbox owners got a slight break on the price because of the digital distribution, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

No word on the plans for a PS3 version of the expansion as the original game won't be out until the Spring. Is it possible the PS3 port was delayed to allow inclusion of the expansion? They've got lots of space on those BD-ROM's after all...

Source:Shivering Isles Confirmed for 360 - Gamespot

PS3 Oblivion to feature double the data?

Apparently all that extra space on a Blu-ray disc really is useful after all. Take Oblivion for instance: Developer Bethesda finds that filling the unused gigs with redundant data helps with seek times as the Blu-ray drive is slower than the DVD drive in the 360. If you have the same data on the disc multiple times, the system doesn't need to scour the disc as much to find it.

It's good to see developers are really taking advantage of the PS3's Blu-ray drive, even if it is only to make up for it's shortcomings.

Source: EGM via GameSetWatch

Are You a Guitar Villain?

Late last year Activision filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the title "Guitar Villain" along with "Drum Villain" adding to RedOctane's previous filing for Keyboard Hero, Drum Hero, and Band Hero.

While filing for a trademark doesn't indicate a game is actually in development it does mean the concept has been considered at the very least.

One has to wonder what exactly a Guitar Villain game would be like? Would you be rewarded for playing poorly? Perhaps you use a headset to heckle the guitarist? Would the game feature a tracklist of bad songs?

More likely is that Activision and possible new developers Neversoft could be planning to add more story elements into future games in the series and the Guitar Villain is the primary antagonist. A no doubt frightening adversary.

Not yet filed is an application for Guitar Sidekick or Guitar Mutant.

Source: Activision calls dibs on Guitar Villain, Drum Villain - Gamespot

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Final Fantasy PSP remakes:now 33% more SNES like!

In an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Times A Game Has Been Remade/Ported" (an award currently held by Resident Evil 1 or maybe Street Fighter II), SquareEnix is bringing the first two Final Fantasy games to Sony's handheld.

According to 1up.com the games, which will see a Japanese release this year, the 20th anniversary of the series, will look "more like the SNES Final Fantasies than previous remakes."

Now, the PS1 and GBA remakes looked pretty much like SNES quality to me so I'm not sure how they can look more SNES like. What Square needs to do is start remaking the PS1 era Final Fantasy titles with SNES graphics, like that Ocarina of Time remake. Maybe make FFVII a side scroller, Zelda II style. In all honesty though, I'd give my kidney for a PS3 (or even better, 360 with achievements like Unlock General Leo as a Playable Character) remake of Final Fantasy VI.

VII is inevitable, but I hope when Square gets around to doing remakes of the SNES Fantasies they don't end up on the DS. Final Fantasy III is a great game but the epic stories of the 2nd gen FF games really deserve big budget remakes.

And speaking of FFVII, Square just last week mentioned they had a big surprise announcement regarding Final Fantasy coming by the end of 2007, now is this announcement the big one they promised or is this the year the FFVII remake will be officially announced?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Crackdown Demo delayed...

If there's one thing you can count on with Xbox Live content is that when a release date is given for something, it ain't gonna happen.

Gamespot reports that the demo is held up in Microsoft's strict certification process but will still be out by the end of January, with the final game still set to ship on February 20th.

I've been excited to try the game since first reading GameInformer's unveiling of the title last year. The co-op elements in particular (which this demo supposedly focuses on) are what really interest me. There are so few games that do online co-op right (Gears of War) and plenty that do it half-assed, (pretty much every Tom Clancy game, Marvel Ultimate Alliance), or not at all.

Real Time World's plan for Crackdown's co-op seemed to good to be true and I've kept my expectations low, a cynical habit learned from my excitement and subsequent crushing disappointment over a game that was never released, called Project Ego, which turned into a game called Fable.

With any luck the co-op will at least approach what they originally planned, like being able to jump in and out of a friend's game at any point, and being able to "borrow" powers from people on your friend's list. Co-op seems to be so hard to implement in games, especially online, that the promise of a giant sandbox style game capable of keeping track of two players independently is one I take with a grain of salt.

I'll be extremely impressed if they can manage to keep the freedom and not restrict co-op play to small sections of the city or require players to stay close to each other. Or even worse, make the co-op a completely separate sequence of short missions as in Rainbow Six: Vegas or Ghost Recon:AW.

Ghostbusters busted.

As it turns out, the Ghostbusters game is indeed real, running on Xbox 360 hardware, but European developer Zootfly has stalled development on the game as they are having trouble securing the rights to the license. While they try and obtain the license they are also working on another title, inspired by Ghostbusters, called TimeO.

While the name has got to go, the early teasers on the game's website show potential.

Whether Zootfly is allowed to go forward with their Ghostbusters game or not, they've demonstrated that there is certainly an interest among gamers in seeing a game made, and that it could be quite awesome if done properly. I expect that we'll be seeing a Ghostbusters game one way or another in the next couple years.

Let's just hope it's not those other Ghostbusters. You know, the ones with the gorilla named Tracey.

Ghostbusters for PS3?

If you have any interest in Ghostbusters, this video is a must-see. Hell, even if you don't like Ghostbusters, it's still impressive. The description on YouTube claims it is an "In-game movie of a Ghostbusters game prototype", and was posted by user "bostjanzoot", presumably an employee of development studio ZootFly.

Yeah, I've never heard of them either but according to their website they specialize "in the development of action adventure games for the Xbox (1 and 360) and the PC."

In any case, if that's just a prototype I'd love to see what this team could do in a full game.

There has been no announcements to my knowledge of any Ghostbusters titles for any platform but Sony Pictures holds the rights to the films so it's possible it could end up a Playstation 3 exclusive.

A new Ghostbusters game is long overdue but with the movie franchise being dormant for close to twenty years and a third movie in development hell for most of that time it's not surprising.

It's a great property though and even if a new movie isn't being planned, a game would be the perfect alternative for breathing new life into the franchise. For fans of the movies a game using the original Ghostbusters is definitely much more appealing than the thought of a Ghostbusters 3 with say, Harold and Kumar, Stifler, and Shaggy. Oh, and of course, Beyonce as the new Janine.

Hopefully we'll know shortly whether or not this is legit as ZootFly is undoubtedly being inundated with e-mails.