Dale Dietrich
friedman: always supply your comparative advantage
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Category — video games

Cost Components that Make up a Typical Video Game’s Retail Price

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video game price breakdown

What are the cost components that make up the retail price of a typical video game? Put another way, how much does each participant in the video-game development / distribution chain get?

I get this question all the time.

In this presentation to Columbia University students, Steve Perlman, OnLive’s founder, both demos the OnLive system and discusses their business model. At the end of part 3 and the beginning of part 4, Perlman discusses the graphic to the left (click for larger view) which shows the cost breakdown for a typical video game.

As you can see, for a typical console-based video game that costs U.S. $60:

  • $15 goes to Retailers: eg: GameStop, Electronic Boutique, Walmart, Amazon
  • $7 goes to Returns/PP/MDF: Returns are money paid-out to retailers for product returns. PP stands for “price-protection” which is money paid back through the chain if/when the publisher reduces the video game’s price. MDF stands for  ‘Marketing Development Funds” which are paid to retailers for promotions such as TV ads, local flyers, and in-store marketing displays.
  • $4 goes to Distribution/COGs: Distribution = shipping and warehousing. COGs = Cost of goods sale. ie: the cost of the physical DVD, manufacturing, the instruction manual and the case.
  • $7  Platform Royalty Fee: For every game sold approximately $7 goes to Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, as applicable, for whatever platform the game plays on – eg: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii.
  • $27 goes to the Publisher. Unfortunately this $27 is not further broken down to show how much of the $27 typically goes to independent developers. The amount paid to independant video game developers can be anywhere from 10% to 70% of the amount paid to the publisher – but often only after the publisher has first recouped any advances paid to such third party developers.

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OnLive Video Game System & Business Model Presentation to Columbia University

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onlive logoIn this terrific presentation, Steve Perlman, OnLive’s founder, both demos the OnLive online, video-game system and discusses their business model. This is the most complete discussion of the OnLive system and business model I’ve seen yet – complete with a compelling demo of games being played  on a laptop, the OnLive micro console and on an iPhone. 

Part 1 – OnLive Company & System Background

In part 1, Perlman gives a basic introduction to the OnLive system, discusses his history with Apple and the technical limitations (compression/latency) that OnLive had to overcome to make their system work.

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Sony’s E3 2009 Press Conference Summary

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sony e3 2009 - jack trenton

Sony’s 2009 E3 Press Conference can be viewed here.  See also my 2008 Sony E3 coverage. Click on images below for larger views.

Exclusive PS3 Games Shown

sony e3 2009 press conference - god of war demo God of War III:  (demo’d – coming March 2010 ) Looks terrific! Except, that is,  for Sony’s continued reliance on quick time events in boss battles. Grrr! But I still can’t wait GoW 1 and 2 were terrific games.

sony e3 2009 - gran turismao teaser trailer Gran Turismo 5 (polyphony – teaser trailer – still no ship date) – photo realistically gorgeous as you’d expect – first time cars show damage in this franchise – still a SIM that is likely only playable by extreme racing gamers.

e3 2009 sony - uncharted 2: among thevesUncharted 2: Among Thieves (demo’d – naughty dog – no ship date – multi-player beta starting immediately) I’m looking forward to this one! Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is still my favorite PS3 game to date. Demo looked terrific but the female lead has changed. Elena Fisher seems to be gone :( 

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Nintendo E3 2009 Press Conference Summary

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nintendo e3 2009 press conference

Nintendo’s 2009 E3 Press Conference can be viewed here. This has to be the most boring E3 conference I’ve ever watched.  See also: My 2008 Nintendo E3 coverage.

Announcements

  • Multiplayer Mario co-op: (holiday 2009 – yawn)
  • nintendo E3 2009 - wii fit plusWii Fit Plus: 6 new exercise modes, 15 new balance games, available as software-only (fall 2009)
  • User Generated Content: Some user generated DS content initiatives discussed:
    • FlipNotes Studio: animation drawing app (this summer)
    • WarioWare DIY: Microgame creator
    • Mario v. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again – level editor and online sharing (DSi – June 8, 2009).
    • Will be able to upload DSi pictures to Facebook this summer.
  • nintendo e3 2009 - wii vitality sensor Wii Vitality Sensor: Monitor health, pulse. Some kind of health / relaxation / stress diagnostics tool (no release date)
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2: New 3D Mario game

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Microsoft Games on Demand Service – One Step Away from Microsoft Points

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Microsoft Points Card

In my opinion, the biggest Microsoft announcement at E3 today was made after their press conference was over. They announced a new Games on Demand service (coming this August). It has two important features:

  1. Full Games Available for Purchase on Demand: Microsoft will start selling full games on-demand via download through the Xbox Live Service starting this fall. Following in the footsteps of Steam (and to some degree Sony), this may be a critical inflection point on the path away from retail game sales. The 30 announced games are all older games (eg: Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed and Bioshock). Games are to be sold at regular retail prices (no disk-free, Gamespot/E.B.; disintermediation discount). Nothing was said about the future availability of new titles day-and-date with retail releases. With the service in place there is, of course, no technological reason why this couldn’t happen. It’s just a matter of time.
  2. A Step Away from Microsoft Points: Anyone who is a regular reader of my blog knows that I am a critic of Microsoft Points (see this post, for example). Games purchased through the Games on Demand service will be purchasable with a credit card. No Microsoft Points required. Amen! Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for Microsoft Points. 

For details see:

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Microsoft E3 2009 Press Conference Summary

Categories: consolesindustryinteractive mediasocial networkingvideo games
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image

The Microsoft Press Conference can be viewed here. See also: My 2008 Microsoft E3 coverage.

Big Announcements:

  • halo reach logoHalo Reach: Bungie teased this new Halo game, set for a fall 2010 release. Whoo hoo! If its a Bungie shooter, and it has the name Halo on it, I’m in! Is ‘Noble 1’, Will Master Chief?
     
  • metal gear rising logoMetal Gear Rising: The next Kojima / Konami Metal Gear game is coming to the Xbox!!! Holy Cow! The final coup de gras against Sony.  Kojima seemed genuinely happy to appear on stage for the announcement.
  • lyons gate mylo demoProject Natal: A ‘controller free’ , full body motion capture, item scanning, facial and voice recognition. Will work on every 360. See demo here. I’ll believe it when I see it! I don’t believe the Lion’s Gate Milo demo pictured on right. It had to be heavily scripted (click for larger view).

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Left 4 Dead

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image 3.5 rating  (3.5/5) – shooter – zombie – survival horror

Reviews: Metacritic 89% | Game Rankings 89.17% | zero punctuation 
Reference: wikipedia12 | Achievements
Walkthrus: Mahalo | WikiCheats | GameFAQs
Developer: Valve Corporation, Engine: Source 

This is not my normal style of game. I hate zombies. I hate zombie games. I fully expected to hate this game. However, given its stellar reputation, I rented it, expecting to play it for an hour, and toss it. That almost happened.

At first I played the single player campaign. I didn’t know what was going on. I was frustrated. I kept dying  repeatedly. The game provides no in-game save option. Consequently I kept getting sent back 20 minutes to the last (rare) check point – a game construct that annoys me to no end.

After a couple hours of futility I was about to return it to the rental store. But, I had heard that it must be played online to be enjoyed. Having no friends with the game I loathed the thought of going online with unruly 13 year olds running off in every direction telling me how much I suck at it. But an amazing thing happened. I had fun.

left 4 dead - hordes of zombies

I was into a game within 30 seconds. At first, I didn’t put my headset on. I expected to hate it and didn’t want to hear others berate my ineptitude. Strangely, 30 minutes later I noticed I was having fun – a lot of fun. At one point I was about to die and then someone came by and healed me. What? That never happens? Where did this sudden benevolence come from?

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50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

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50 cent - blood in the sand cover art 2.5 rating  (2.5/5) – shooter

Reviews: Metacritic 71% | Game Rankings 72.47%   | zero punctuation
Reference: wikipedia12 | Achievements
Walkthrus: Couldn’t find any – you won’t need it! 
Developer: Swordfish Studios Engine: Unreal Engine 3

In 50 Cent: Blood in the Sand, rapper Curtis Jackson (aka ‘50 Cent’) was to be paid for an African concert with a diamond encrusted skull. The skull was stolen. 50 Cent and his G-unit side-kick become a two man army, rampaging through Africa killing anyone that stands between them and their skull.

This game can be aptly described as a shooter with training wheels meets Lego star wars. If there was any game worthy of a zero punctuation lampoon, this one is it!

General Observations

50 cent - blood on the sand - diamond skull I knew going in that this was going to be a poor game. I tried it, nonetheless, because someone on the Listen Up podcast mentioned that the game was a lot better than it was given credit for. While I agree that it was better than expected (I expected a 1.5 out of 5) I certainly cannot recommend it beyond a $5 rental.

After playing through on ‘normal’ I was set to give this game a 2 out of 5. However, my score was bumped up to 2.5 after playing it through on hard and playing online co-op. 

The game is ridiculously easy on both normal and hard. It does get a bit (and I mean just a ‘bit’) more challenging towards the end of the game but only on hard mode. Having leveled-up all my weapons, taunts and counter kills (lame melee attacks) before playing co-op, I admit that I had some fun running and gunning through the game, co-operatively with strangers over Xbox-live, with super-pimped out weapons and characters cussing up a storm.

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Prince of Persia (2008)

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prince of persia (2008) - the so-called prince

3 rating

(3/5) – action – adventure Reviews: Metacritic 81%| Game Rankings 80.68% | zero punctuation
Reference: wikipedia12 | Achievements
Walkthrus: Mahalo | WikiCheats | GameFAQs
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Engine: Scimitar / Anvil

Game Synopsis

In Prince of Persia (“PoP”), an unnamed prince, who isn’t really a prince, travels with Princess Elika to each of the 24 regions, jumping, climbing dodging, fighting enemies to get to the region’s ‘fertile ground". He defeats a bad guy, Elika ‘heals’ the fertile ground, then they retrace their steps on either side to collect light ‘seeds’ (Crackdown-style) to level up. THEN HE DOES IT ALL AGAIN – TWENTY-FOUR TIMES. That’s the game.

It’s gorgeous and somewhat fun, but left me wanting. I preferred the the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time on the original Xbox – especially the fighting elements and the ability to rewind time.

General Observations

Tomb Raider Meets God of War : The game style can best be described as a cell-shaded combination of God of War, Crackdown, Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider without GoW’s terrific combo-leveling up system. I note that PoP uses the same game engine as Assassin’s Creed (Scimitar) which explains a lot.

prince of persia (2008) - grand scale Grander in Scale: This Prince of Persia is much grander in scale than the original Prince of Persia: Sands of Time  and similar in scope to Assassin’s Creed.

Level Intricacies: The intricacies of the 24  regions are quite amazing – especially given their three dimensional nature. You explore every nook and cranny, but, unfortunately, you must explore each nook at least three times to fully complete the game. This is the poster-child for games that extend play by forcing you to retrace your steps, over and over.

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Best Video Game Podcasts – Updated

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video game podcasts - co-op review of riddick, dark athena
This is an updated version of the earlier ‘Best Video Game Podcast’ post I made on April 18, 2008. I have listened to, and abandoned, many video game-related podcasts. Those listed below have survived the culling and, with one exception, are recommended without hesitation. At the bottom I list the deadpool – formerly good podcasts that are now deceased or reincarnated. :)

1. Listen Up – formerly The 1Up Yours Podcast:

listen up podcast iconListen Up is the successor to the 1Up Yours Podcast. Oddly, the name was changed after 1UP.com was purchased by UGO Networks in January 2009, but the format and content is largely the same. It ‘airs’ Friday evenings. The show is still hosted by Garnett Lee, but most of the former cast (who make occasional guest appearances) have moved on to other things: Luke Smith – now with the Bungie podcast; Bryan Intihar -now with Insomniac Games; Dan ‘Shoe’ Hsu – now on permanent vacation; John Davison now at what they play; and Shane Bettenhausen, now Director of Business Development at Ignition Entertainment. Despite the constant cast changes, Garnet continues to provide an interesting set of revolving guests that consistently provide an entertaining and informative podcast week-in and week-out. My original 1Up Yours criticism still remains – the show is often too long and the interesting content (ie: the news) is usually held back to the the end. Not quite as good as it was when the old cast was there, but still the best video game podcast out there.

2. CO-OP – formerly The 1Up Show (video) Podcast:

co-op podcast iconThe CO-OP podcast (pictured above), continues on where the cancelled The 1Up Show left off. It shares the same cast and terrific production crew. It’s still my favorite video podcast. It provides a comprehensive set of visual video game previews and reviews. It also features interviews with industry luminaries and provides trade show coverage. If you want to watch a video game before purchase, this  is the best place to do it. This video podcast comes in small and large sizes (3x the size) suitable for viewing on the iPhone/iTouch and AppleTV respectively.

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November 2008 NPDs – Nintendo Blowout

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Nintendo Wii Console It’s time to create a whole new category for the Wii phenomena. Holy cow– more than 2 MILLION in sales in North America in November is crazy. Yet, to this day there still isn’t a single game on the Wii I’d want to play – not one. Yet you can’t deny those sales numbers.

Video game industry sales are UP 10% year over year. Terrific given the economic downturn.

I was happy to see the 360 outsell the PS3 and PSP combined. Though I’m starting to worry about the PS3’s long-term prospects given its continued poor results. Despite the industry upturn, the PS3’s sale’s numbers are LOWER than its November 2007 numbers.  The PS2 results show its time is coming to an end. I wonder how many months before Sony kills it?  But, it still hasn’t reached the $99 price point. Perhaps it can grasp a few more months of breathe with a price drop before Sony puts it out of its misery.

gears of war 2 cover art Meanwhile my copy of November’s top selling Gears of War 2  is collecting dust as I finish Resistance 2 for my review. Gears 2 sold 1.56 million sold – trouncing Resistance 2’s comparatively meagre 385K unit sales. I’m really looking forward to Gears when I get the time – especially online co-op.

November 2008 Console and Game sales results after the break.

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Replacement Xbox 360 Arrives

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xbox 360 red ring of death

On November 3, I wrote about my Xbox 360 experiencing the Red-Ring-of-Death (RRoD) (original post here). Today, twenty-five days after shipping my unit out for repair/replacement, I received a replacement unit.

  • Replacement Unit: The manufacture date of the replacement unit is 2008-05-29. I presume it is a Falcon. I did not receive a new power supply with the unit. It appears to be brand new (not refurbished).
  • Much Quieter: The first thing I noticed was that the replacement unit was much quieter than the jet-engine sound coming out of my older unit. This is terrific. I can barely hear the replacement 360 when it is turned on. A welcome change indeed.
  • 1 Month Xbox Live Free: In the box was a card that gave me one free month of Xbox Live. Not much of a bonus given that my box was gone for almost a full month of my current subscription.
  • 3 Months Warranty: The replacement unit came with an additional three month warranty beyond the original 3 year warranty period that had just ended. The extended warranty ends on February 26, 2009 – 3 months from the ship date of the replacement unit.

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Yeah! My 360 Experienced the Red-Ring-of-Death – Just on Time!

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xbox 360 red ring of death - rrod Yeah! My Xbox 360 finally experienced the dreaded Red-Ring-of-Death (RRoD). Over the last few weeks my 360 experienced random freezing-up while playing “Dead Space”. It crashed/froze more and more frequently until I couldn’t run the 360 for more than 10 minutes without a freeze. Many times it froze on the boot screen. Initially, I didn’t get the classic Red-Ring-of-Death.

[For an Interesting read on the causes of the RRoD see: The Truth about the Xbox 360]

[Update: On November 28, 2008 I received a replacement Xbox – see details below]

I called Microsoft support (1-800-4-My-Xbox – 1.800.469.9269), expecting to have to pay for a warranty repair.  Happily, while the support rep walked me through his trouble-shooting script, I experienced the Red-Ring-of-Death for the first time (see picture below – yes, that’s a Halo face plate on my 360 – sorry for the fuzzy picture). I was able to boot the 360 a couple more times after the first RRoD, but it inevitably failed to the Red-Ring-of-Death state within minutes or seconds.

Dale's xbox 360 with the dreaded Red Ring of Death (rrod) - just before 3 year warranty expired The reason I say “Yeah!” in the title, and why I’m happy about this, is because I was one of the ‘lucky’ one’s that purchased my 360 on launch day – November 22, 2005. Microsoft’s extended RRoD warranty lasts for three years from the date of purchase. My 360 RRoD’d just 19 days before the third anniversary of my purchase date. As a result, I qualified for the free replacement (see details below).

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Video Game-induced Nausea, Dizziness and Headaches

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nausea in video games

In the early days of console gaming, about 25% or so of all games made me nauseous, dizzy or gave me headaches to the point where I couldn’t play them. A prime example was Deus Ex: Invisible War. I enjoyed the game and wanted to continue playing it. But I couldn’t play for more than 15 minutes without becoming dizzy and nauseous. Ultimately, I had to abandon the game.

[Updated May 25, 2009. Added first person bobbing-while-walking factor.]

In the current (Xbox 360/PS3) console generation, the percentage of games that are unplayable due to nausea, headaches or dizziness has dropped dramatically to, perhaps, 5 to 10%.nausous gamer For example, I couldn’t play the otherwise enjoyable Laura Croft: Tomb Raider Legend for more than 15 minutes without feeling ill.

Below, I identify three four factors that cause me dizziness, headaches and nausea when playing video games.  I also list specific games that have made me sick.

I’d be interested in your thoughts – especially with respect to what might be behind the X-Factor discussed below.

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Silent Hill Homecoming is Unplayable – No Y-Axis Inversion

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buy-from-amazon.ca

Reviews: Metacritic 73%| Game Rankings 77%
Reference: Achievements| wikipedia12
WalkthrusWikiCheats | GameFAQ   | Mahalo
Developers: Konami | Double Helix Games
Genre: survivor – horror
Status: Abandoned after escaping hospital

As explained in my “Video Game-induced Nausea, Dizziness and Headaches” post, I had to abandon Silent Hill Homecoming due to nausea caused by the inability to invert the Y-axis.

It came as a shock to me that, while there is an option to invert the Y-axis when shooting, Silent Hill Homecoming does not give you the player the option to invert the Y-axis when walking around, fighting or doing anything else in the game. This is extremely rare in modern video games.

silent hill homecoming nurse killingA quick Google search to see if there is a patch, cheat code or some other way  to rectify the situation yields posts like this one and flame wars like this one. It seems that Konami is aware of the issue and just doesn’t care. No patch is available and none is in the works. It’s truly bizarre that Konami does not provide an across-the-board option to invert the Y-axis in a major title such as Silent Hill. This is a standard option in virtually every console game that comes out these days.

The upshot for me – the game was unplayable. I tried. I killed some nurses and critters, got a couple achievements and made it out of the hospital. But 25 minutes of playing without inversion made me too dizzy and nauseous to continue. FYI, the game also suffers from reliance on quick time events – which I detest.

Thank goodness this was a rental. Back it goes.

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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames – Abandoned Due to Nausea

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buy-from-amazon.ca

Reviews: Metacritic 73%| Game Rankings 72% | zero punctuation
Reference: Achievements| wikipedia12
Walkthrus: MahaloWikiCheats | GameFAQ  
Developers: Pandemic Studios | Pi Studios
Genre: Third person shooter
Status: Abandoned after first level

As a shooter fan, I was looking forward to Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Unfortunately, I had to abandon it after the first level due to nausea. 

jennifer mui - mercenaries 2Mercenaries 2: World in Flames was fun – as far as I got. Nothing spectacular, but some good old-fashioned sand-boxy, shooter fun.

I unintentionally ended up playing the hottie female character, Jennifer Mui, pictured to the right. I’m not sure how that happened because I didn’t necessarily intend to pick her. But she was fun to play nonetheless

The weapons were fun, the controls were responsive, the vehicles were enjoyable. I liked the tracer-bullet effects (would like to see that in more shooters). The sounds were realistic. The collecting cash bit was a bit cheeky. It looked like it was going to be a fun romp.

But, within minutes of starting, that old-familiar dizziness, headachy feeling that, in me, leads to nausea, reared its ugly head, forcing me to stop playing an otherwise enjoyable game.

It’s been awhile since nausea (in this case for the x-factor reason) forced me to stop playing a game. Having also been forced to also stop playing Silent Hill Homecoming due to nausea (caused for a different reason), I decided to write this “Video Game-induced Nausea, Dizziness and Headaches” post.

I hope those with stronger stomachs/heads enjoy Merc 2. :)

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Most Anticipated Fall 2008 Video Game Releases

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gears of war 2 box art little big planet box art resistance 2 box art mirror's edge box art tom raider underworld box art image max payne movie poster call of duty world at war box art

Below are the fall 2008 video game releases that I’m most looking forward to, not sure of and two 2009 games that I’m chomping at the bit to play.

Fall 2008 Can’t Wait

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Star Wars: Force Unleashed

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buy-from-amazon.ca

3.5 rating  (3.5/5) 
Reviews: Metacritic 72%| Game Rankings 72%  | zero punctuation
Reference: Achievements| wikipedia12
Walkthrus: MahaloWikiCheats | GameFAQ  
Developer: Lucas Arts Genre: Action-Adventure
Engine: Ronin, DMM, Havok and Euphoria

Pros:
engaging story – music – excellent auto-save points – genuinely fun – first rate physics – achievable achievements – fair

Cons: some camera issues – use of quick-time controls – boss battles – no co-op or online modes – corridor corralling

Fun

Simply put, for action-adventure fans, Star Wars: Force Unleashed (SWFU) is a fun game, with a nice difficulty ramp, good auto-save points and challenging for players at all skill levels.  The primary gaming mechanic are force powers similar to the telekinesis powers in Deus Ex: Invisible War  While a tad glitchy, the game was generally solid. Unlike so many other games, (except for the star destroyer boss battle discussed below) I didn’t feel cheated by silly gimmicks to prolong game-play or artificially make the game more challenging. It was generally all-round good fun.

Star Wars - Force Unleashed - Darth Vadar on the Wookie Planet of Kashyyk

Star Wars Story Between Episodes III and IV

Star Wars - Force Unleashed - Juno kisses Starkiller Star Wars fans will enjoy the story. It is a reasonably immersive, entertaining and well told story about Darth Vader’s apprentice, Starkiller and his love interest Juno Eclipse. The story takes place between Episodes III and IV of the Star Wars series. However, it wasn’t a ‘bridge’ between the two episodes as I had been lead to believe. It was more or less an irrelevant side-story (much in the way the Enter the Matrix game was an engaging side story to the Matrix Trilogy) involving some of the familiar Star Wars characters (Darth Vader, Princess Leia (using Carrie Fisher’s likeness but not her voice), Senator Organa (using Jimmy Smits likeness and his voice), Senator Organa (briefly using Ewan McGregor’s likeness) , R2D2, Emperor Palpatine, among others).

Star Wars - Force Unleashed - Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) and Starkiller Star Wars - Force Unleashed - starkiller and princess leia

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Too Human

Categories: reviewsvideo games
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buy-from-amazon.ca

Reviews: Metacritic 65%| Game Rankings 68% | zero punctuation
Reference: GameFAQ | wikipedia12
Developer: Silicon Knights, Engine: Proprietary Genre: Action-RPG
Status: Abandoned after 3 hours

Pros: beautiful, well-rendered environments – user selectable save points – good graphics/character models – solid cinematic production values – good death/penalty system – online co-op (though oddly without story elements)

Cons: no camera control – nausea inducing – story didn’t grab me – too complex for little pay off – too much button mashing – ballistic aiming was poor – too much HUD – no story/direction screen

As a Canadian, with the Silicon Knights development studio just a few miles across Lake Ontario from me in St. Catherine’s Ontario, I felt obligated to give Too Human a try. Plus, after listening to dozens of interviews by Denis Dyack and with all the controversy swirling around this game, I was curious.

I made it just past the point where you have to choose to go the human or cyborg paths (about 3 hours in) where I abandoned the game. I’m generally not an RPG-playing, leveling-up, inventory-managing, kind of guy though I enjoyed both KOTOR and Mass Effect enough to finish them (I similarly abandoned Oblivion after a few hours, though I made it through a good 10 hours or so of Morrowind).

Too Human Fighting Sequence

Camera Control Issue

Lack of camera-control is one of my bigger video game pet-peeves. Too Human is one such game. I listened to Dyack go on and on about the cinematic advantageous of allowing the game to control the camera – analogizing that movie viewers don’t control the camera. Sorry Denise, movie-goers are passive by definition. While your game was among the better games without camera I’ve played, every game like this is a loser for two big reasons:

  1. they always make me nauseous (Too Human was no exception); and
  2. I need/want to control my view to fight the battles the way I want to fight them – not the way a game designer intends.

I’ve only played a few games to the end that did not allow me to manage the camera: God of War 1, God of War 2 and Munch’s Odyssey. Most others I won’t even try. I’ve never managed any in the Resident Evil series for more than 10 to 15 minutes without needing to toss my cookies.

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E3 2008 Sony: Movie-TV Service Launch – Not Much More

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 E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Jack

Sony Movie and TV Service: The biggest ‘news’ of the Sony press event was the U.S. launch, today, of the previously announced (see here) video service. Sony, Fox, MGM, Lion’s Gate, Warner, Disney, Paramount and Turner Entertainment have partnered with Sony to provide movie and TV content for the on-demand download service. The system uses progressive downloads so users can watch as a movie/TV show as it downloads. Sony says, content is playable a minute or so after ordering. Purchased content only plays on PS3 and PSP. No PC, iPod, iPhone or other device support was announced. No official word yet on how long rentals will be available for viewing – one site mentioned that it will be the usual 24 hours and 14 days to start.

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - New Movie-TV Service

Note: While the previous announcement stated that a service like this would be made available ‘world-wide’, I checked my PS3 in Canada and there was no such content available. Note the "video" button circled in red in the picture above (click for larger view). If it isn’t there, no movies for you!

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Resistance 2 Resistance 2: They showed a little of Resistance 2. It’s looking good and includes 8 player online co-op support (probably only for certain missions). I quite enjoyed Resistance 1 so I’m looking forward to this one. What is it with the ‘brown’ colour in all the PS3 and 360 games this year?

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Massive Action Game (MAG)Massive Action Game ("MAG"): This massively multiplayer shooter looked interesting. MAG supports up to 256 simultaneous players with 8 player squads, ongoing faction campaigns and character growth. The trailer looked great. It’s hard to imagine that 255 players will follow a command hierarchy that goes up to one or two generals. In my experience 8 players will rarely ever co-operate in an online shooter battle. I’ll have to see this one to believe it. See the blatantly pre-rendered trailer below.

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E3 2008 Nintendo: Wii Music, Wii Speak, MotionPlus, Wii Speak

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E3 2008 Nintendto Press Briefing - Reggie

And nothing happened. Nothing captured my interest and certainly nothing was announced to satisfy the hard-core gamers.

New Products

Wii Speak Wii Speak: A microphone that sits atop the TV that picks up all the sounds and voices from a room. This will be used in games in lieu of a headset. But the Wii doesn’t have a system-wide voice system (let alone a decent online game strategy). This will need to be supported from game to game.

Wii Motion PlusWii MotionPlus: An add-on that plugs into the WiMote to add wrist based twisting motions to its repertoire of recognized real-time movements. One wonders how developers are going to appreciate the burden of developing titles that work with both the WiiMote alone and with the MotionPlus adapter.[gizmodo review here]

 

E3 2008 Nintendto Press Briefing - Wii Sports Resort Wii Sports Resort: A new game, similar to Wii Sports, but situated at a beach resort. They demoed Frisbee throwing (with a cute dog catching it), sword fighting and lumber chopping. This game uses the new Wii Motion Plus for accuracy. Coming March 2009.

E3 2008 Nintendto Press Briefing - Wii Music Virtual BandWii Music:  A new music game featuring 50 virtual instruments was announced. A virtual piano, violin, sax and drum kit were demonstrated. Unlike Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the user doesn’t need to purchase physical plastic instruments. Nor do they follow note patterns on a screen to play. The instruments are ‘virtual’. Waiving/moving the WiiMote around in a manner similar to the instrument being played simulates the instrument. The virtual drum kit (see picture below) that uses the WiiMote and Numchuk as the drumsticks and a WiiFit board as the drum peddle was clever. But the other instruments looked like little more than air-instruments where regardless of what the user does some facsimile of music will be produced. Lame. And it sounded pretty awful. [more info here]

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E3 2008 Microsoft: New Dashboard, Netflix, Final Fantasy XIII

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E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing

(Click image to watch abridged version of Microsoft’s 2008 E3 press briefing)

[Full Microsoft E3 2008 coverage is here]

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - New Dashboard Interface A new Dashboard Interface for the 360: It’s coming this fall. [ Watch demo here]It’s nicer than, but seems influenced by, the PS3 ribbon. It looks like it will be easier to use than the current blade system. I question whether people will want to learn a whole new interface.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - New Avatar System Avatars coming on 360: Looks like Microsoft is trying to bring a bit of the Wii and Playstation Home to the 360. I’m not sure if my adult friends will take the time to create their own avatars.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - Netflix Coming to 360 Integrated Netflix coming to the 360: Netflix users will be able to queue up their Internet ordered videos to be played on the 360. This probably won’t be available outside of the U.S. for years (if ever). Regrettably, it appears that movies will only be streamed through the Netflix service and not downloaded. This means (i) fastforwarding and rewinding will janky; and (ii) the quality of the picture will vary depending on your Internet connection speed.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - Final Fantasy XIII Coming to 360 Final Fantasy XIII Coming to the 360! The hitherto PS3 exclusive franchise is coming to the 360 on the same day and date as the PS3. Final Fantasy XIII coming to the 360 is another Microsoft coup. Other than Sony Studios first party games and Metal Gear Solid, I can’t think of any major game franchise that is a PS3 exclusive any more. Interestingly there will be no Japanese 360 version.

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Battlefield: Bad Company – Diary #1

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Diary: Entry #1
Reviews: Metacritic | Game Rankings
Reference: GameFAQ | wikipedia12
Developer: EA DICE, Engine: Frostbite
Status: Finished “Welcome to Bad Company” (the intro level)

Pros: Boat load of shooter fun – Immersive – Humorous – Destructible environment – Terrific death/penalty system – Save points therefore a non-issue – Very good graphics/character models – Difficulty Level is just right – Amusing squad – PC can jump

Cons: Fighting with camera while driving – No coop – No customizable controls – Daft syringe/help system – No prone position

Introduction

In Battlefield: Bad Company (“BBC”) you play Private Preston Marlowe, of “B”ad Company, a band of misfits in the 222nd army battalion of the U.S. army -currently fighting the Russian Federation.

Somehow BBC had escaped my radar until I read Paul Thurrott’s review here. Our tastes in gaming are almost identical. So on his recommendation, I decided to try it.

Other than a few hours here and there, I’ve never played a Battlefield franchise game before. So I’m new to this franchise and, so far, I’m really enjoying it! Much,  more so than MGS 4.

Battlefield - Bad Company - 360 - tank blowing up

Initial Impressions – The Good Stuff

Fun From the Start: From the amusing jazzy-organ playing opening credits/main menu this game felt like was going to be something different.

Immersive: As with other leading shooter, the ambiance, 5.1 sound, terrific graphics and, in this case, almost instant death if hit, give this game a terrific immersive (feeling like you are really there) quality that is still too rare.

Destructible Environment: The much touted destructible environment is definitely fun! But it is odd that you can’t totally destroy a building. You can knock out most of its walls but try as you might its support pillars will not blow up. So you can not, for example, topple over a two story house – even though you can knock out every one of its walls. Kinda lame.

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I Abandoned Metal Gear Solid 4 (for now)

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MGS 4 Diary: Entry #1, Entry #2, Abandoned!
MGS4 Reviews: Metacritic | GameRankings.com
Reference: GameFAQ Walkthrus | wikipedia12

As beautiful and cutting-edge as MGS4 is, after making it past the laughing Octopus stage in the second act, I abandoned the game, at least for now. This surprises even me. I have been waiting for years to play this game, but the lack of a decent checkpoint system and endless cut scenes turned me off.

Poorly Implemented Checkpoints

You cannot save the game when you want and it’s checkpoints are few and far between. Adult gamers do not have endless hours, nor the desire, to replay extremely long portions of even a great game over and over.

Solid Snake being Sneaky in MGS 4When I play stealth games I want to be stealthy and play it right. This means taking my time, exploring every nook and cranny. Being sneaky. But when I sneak around for 30 minutes, successfully execute difficult manoeuvres and then die, I do not want to play through the whole 30 minutes again. No game should ever force a gamer to replay more than 5 or so minutes. Period.

Yes, I could have cheated and run through sections with abandon, gunned down everyone until killed, thereby learning where all the baddies are and what their tricks are, to avoid them on the next play through. But I refuse to do that. That’s gaming the game and not playing the game. It takes all the fun out of it.

Stealth games, by definition, are designed to be played thoughtfully and slowly. The player should have a realistic chance of beating a level if they play that way. But, when they die, as they will, they shouldn’t be forced to replay the last thirty minutes or an hour to get back to where they were.

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Metal Gear Solid 4 – Diary #2

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MGS 4 Diary: Entry #1, Entry #2, Abandoned!
MGS4 Reviews:
Metacritic | GameRankings.com
Reference: GameFAQ Walkthrus | wikipedia12

Progress: I made it to Act 1 – Crescent Meridian (7th of 8 parts to Act 1)

What a difference a day makes. Discovering that Weapons/Items need to be equipped before they appear was important! (See Update in Diary Entry #1). You’d think the game or manual would have mentioned that somewhere up front!

Visuals

I can’t say enough for the visual and cinematic feel of MGS4. The particle effects, fabrics, lighting, character models, rich and detailed environments, the camo suite, the Dolby surround sound audio. This is a visual and audible masterpiece.

Love the Bright Sunny Arab World

Stealth games are usually too dark (can you say “Splinter Cell”). Heck, too many video games are too dark. One of the reasons I love the GRAW series so much is because they are mostly set outdoors in the bright sunlight. I wish more games were set in the sunlight.

How Do You Tell the Difference Between MPCs and Militia?

If you kill militia, by accident or not, they’ll turn on you. So it’s important to either avoid them and PMC’s in all battles with stealth or determine which of the factions is militia and which is PMC and then side with the militia (you can side with the PMC but they’ll still shoot you).

So that’s been my big question/challenge today?  Previously, the only way I could tell was to use the solid eye and zoom in close to read the character’s names (militia’s are named ‘militia”). I had thought there was going to be a colouring difference (ie: the text and symbols) but there is none – at least initially.

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