Friday, December 29, 2006


Elmer Fudd jokes aside, the Wii is really getting hit hard by idiots.
Well, that's not exactly what I meant, but you get the idea.

For some reason, people are out to get Nintendo's little system that could. You've got your damage claims (my personal favorite being this moron who managed to put his Wii-mote through his TV. Not the screen, either: the frame), stupid lawsuits (hey -- try this guy's idea for a wrist strap), or just general slander. Why the hate?

If anything, people should be praising the Wii. I don't have one (so don't "fanboy" label me just yet), but from what I've seen, they've finally found a way to target the missing demographic: the stupid and the elderly. I thought Nintendo had managed to get the elderly before, but the stories of Gramps playing Wii Sports and finding meaning in life are just too good to pass up. Also, you've got your war veterans who are playing games for the first time in years (tough to play a standard system with only one hand), and even the left-handed movement is happy.

So really...stop hating.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hello Halo

It's that time again, boys and girls!

Looks like Microsoft is pushing their "killer app" again, but this time, they're being a little more clever about it. See, if you spend $60 on Crackdown, a game that looks pretty cool right now (I'm thinking "this is the game that Superman Returns probably should have been...crime-fighting with superpowers"), you get a code to participate in the Halo 3 beta.

...but what does that mean?

Really, no one has a freaking clue. This could net you three hours of gameplay (on Bungie's time), three days of gameplay, or even three months.

Granted, if word gets out about this, Crackdown will probably sell an extra 10% more than it would have due to people trying to get Halo 3 early.

What worries me is that there are going to be some really pissed off people if this Beta doesn't allow them to play Halo 3 in some semi-completed form for a while.

Not only that, but apparently, you could get on the Halo 3 Beta list just by visiting the website. exactly does that make you want to spend $60 on Crackdown?

Microsoft: you've got people waiting for a game that they don't even want, just so they can get a temporary glimpse of Halo 3.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Death of a Salesman

I am really getting sick of the failed "exclusivity deals" going on in the Next Gen world.
If you haven't heard, the next game to magically lose exclusivity is Virtua Fighter 5 (originally slated only for PS3, but now is coming to XBOX360 as well). This wouldn't normally be a big deal, but SEGA had previously announced that VF5 would only be coming to PS3. However, this past week, SEGA announced that the game would be coming to XBOX360 as well.
So what the hell happened in those few weeks?
There are really two options. Either, A: SEGA was paid by Sony not to announce the 360 version until later, or B: the good folks at Microsoft decided that they wanted the game after the announcement that it would be coming to PS3.
I'll tell you right now, option B sounds pretty stupid. VF5 is a big name. The Virtua Fighter series stands next to Tekken and Soul Calibur as the huge "let's kick each other's asses" games for the masses. There is not a chance in hell that Microsoft wouldn't know about that deal
That leaves only option A, which is that Sony deliberately had the 360 announcement delayed. And for what? To get those 4 people in the entire USA that say "Holy shit! The PS3 has that one game I MUST HAVE!!! I think I'll go wait in line for three days to get one!" to go run out the week before Christmas (where they couldn't get one anyways)?
You can't really build excitement when the announcement is only good for a week.
This SEGA business is bad enough, but this isn't the first instance of it happening.
Assassin's Creed, a game that I am really looking forward to (think Prince of Persia, but with more Guerrilla tactics), was also in the "is it exclusive" mishmash. Again, Sony made the announcement of exclusivity, and then, just a few weeks later, Microsoft had the product, too.
According to Newsweek, Kutaragi sat on his ass too long with exclusivity agreements (basically, GTA4 and Assassin's Creed were both supposed to be PS3 exclusive), and they fell through, allowing Microsoft to snatch them up.
But why the wait? These negotiations are hardly resolved in a span of 2 weeks.

Sony, I can only wonder what the hell you're thinking this year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Going Old School

Today marks an exciting experiment in the world of gaming.
I hooked up the ol' Sega Genesis today, and pulled out the first games I could find. It's amazing what games hold up to the test of time, and why. Back in the days before graphics made the game, it was really a matter of whether or not the game was any fun.
I miss those days.
Needless to say, I think the results of my experiment can truly determine what makes (or made) a game good.

Let's look at the results:

Sonic The Hedgehog:
After 10 botched attempts to get the debug mode (you only think you remember how to do it!), I actually decided to start playing the game. Believe it or not, there is still a fantastic sense of speed in this game (especially when rolling), and the difficulty of the game is tweaked juuuuuuuuust right: you never feel like you have unlimited lives, but at the same time, you know you won't be flinging the controller just yet. The bonus stages still give me seizures, and I still use the level select cheat like a bastard, but it's all in good fun. Impressively, the game manages to incorporate "obstacles" (underwater areas, teeter-totter slingshots, rock pushing) that don't feel as though they were tacked on: probably because they weren't cliche at the time. The challanges are there, and every stage feels different. Also, three cheers for checkpoints. There are STILL games that don't incorporate these!
Oh, and the soundtrack kicks ass.

Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude:
What the hell was I smoking when I bought this (Actually, this marks the first and last time that I bought a game based solely on good reviews)? I remember the day I brought it home, my older brother said, "what the hell are you doing? This is shit. AND it isn't two players." He was right then, and he's right now. Greendog came along during the peak of the Genesis' life cycle (I think '92, right after Sonic 2 was released), and while it looked the part, it had some of the sloppiest game play I've ever seen. Built as a mish-mash of various genres, Greendog basically had you throwing a frisbee at animals until they exploded (was PETA even around in '92?). The game stole elements from Pitfall! (lots of vine-swinging), Sonic (underwater stage where you need air to survive), and a lot of games that were based on impossible jumps (Cool Spot, Revenge of Shinobi...etc). Problem is, when you put all of those "looks like you just died" elements together with only 3 lives (and one continue), odds are that someone is going to get frustrated. That someone is me.
Granted, Greendog does a few things right: the powerups were rather clever (I personally enjoyed the "SuperDisc" that hovers next to you and kills everything), the usage of the dog was intuitive (he kills enemies for you as long as you collect bones), and the skateboarding/rollerblading scenes were a refreshing change (except that every jump was timed to the millisecond, usually resulting in death).
Yeah...I think Greendog is going into cold storage.

I had forgotten why this game was so damned popular. Good looks helped, but the frantic 2 on 2 gameplay just cannot be beaten (I was also thrilled to discover that my old record was still on the game). Continuing my run of dominance, I played a few games and boiled down the gameplay. Basically, you pick a team with one guy full on dunks, and another guy full on 3-pointers. Then, when you have the ball, you run with the dunker and try and dunk. If you're about to get blocked, you kick it out to the smaller guy (who should be waiting for a three) and sink the bucket. Easy as pie, rinse and repeat.
So what makes this game so special? Thinking that you can move outside the predetermined mold. See, in NBA Jam, it's impossible to blow out your opponent. It can't be done. CPU Assistance makes sure that the guy who just hit 15 dunks in a row can't hit dunk number 16 if it puts your team up by more than 8 points. It's actually more subtle than that (the losing team's accuracy increases, too), but that way, the game always stays close -- even if it is a little obvious.
Also, NBA Jam incorporates some game elements that Midway would learn to milk for all they're worth: "turbo" buttons, and an "on-fire" function. These are basically ways to make the player feel like he has even more control (though you'll really find yourself holding down Turbo all the time, and only getting on fire if you're losing).
All in all, I wouldn't mind taking on some friends, or teaming up with them for a few buckets.

So what have we learned today? Gameplay is the difference. Not graphics, not game type: just if it's fun. So far, the best way to have fun seems to be doing something innovative without forcing it on the player (recent examples: Lost Planet's grappling system, the Wii Controller, the open ended gameplay of the Splinter Cell series...etc).

Let's see if anyone is listening.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I'm Going To Go Get Me Some Chinese Food

A Merry Chirstmas to all of you out there that celebrate it. For the rest of us, let's go skiing and eat Chinese food!

Here's a a great gift idea that works for any holdiay.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

What Really Grinds My Gears...

I've made a discovery -- there is a special filter in Redmond, Washington. It's really neat: basically, a Microsoft executive has a great idea, and as soon as it becomes a reality, the message becomes mutilated. Here's an example from 2006:
Original Concept:
"Say, I've got a great idea! Let's really emphasize that the XBOX 360 is a multimedia machine, and allow it to play movies and TV shows, too! That way, we could really distinguish ourselves and offer even more to the gamer, proving once and for all that we are a superior gaming experience that merits spending money on the XBOX Live Marketplace!"
Finished Idea:
"Let's invite everyone to try out an unfinished video marketplace at once, creating intolerable lag and turning everyone off to the idea of using the XBOX 360 for videos! That way, we could really reassert to everyone that we are incapable of coming through on updates (much like the "backwards compatibility" list updates), and that we are just taking their money!"

Long story short, never launch an unfinished product. It's one thing when it's a MMORPG, and there are unexpected bugs not found in the beta test. However, the problem here is that the actual code for the Video Marketplace is fine -- Microsoft just wasn't ready.

Download speeds were awful: something as simple as a video preview took as long as fifteen minutes to load, and even then, it sometimes only loaded the sound. Likewise, certain videos are put up and taken down with no warning at all (so for those of you that didn't nab those Conan O'Brien clips when they were up, it looks like you have to pay for them now).

Worst of all, this seems to be a trend in gaming, too. Whenever I pop a new game into my XBOX 360, it seems that the first thing I'm doing is patching the game. Isn't this what the QA thinktank is for? If there are a bunch of pimply-faced kids in a basement making minimum wage, there's usually nothing good that can come out of it. Break the mold, gaming industry. I want to see results, damnit.

I expect the occasional glitch from a low budget work. For example, The Bible Game, while one of the most awesome party drinking games ever invented (I find the irony oh so delicious), is riddled with glitches. However, I understand that The Bible Game could have been made on a budget of $3,000 from Christian Rock groups that wanted free advertising.

Gears of War, on the other hand, is too well-funded to warrant a patch. If the game isn't ready, don't release it! Also, you can't really say that it's "just XBOX Live work," because people have still found glitches in the game after these patches. The patch is probably the most dangerous thing to hit gaming: how long is it until games are released and then patched every week? Maybe even indefinately?

** I think the army needs to build a recruiting campaign around this video.

In The Beginning

Welcome to the universe, Liquid Meat!
This is going to be a little "pet project" dedicated to games -- not just reviewing games, but UNDERSTANDING them, because I'll be damned if I'm going to have to put my English degree to work in something that doesn't involve writing.

For those of you wondering, the site is named Liquid Meat, because it's the next best thing that hasn't been done (gravy does not count, people). In that same vein, this blog will be bringing that same thought and energy to games.

Here's to the future.