Gamer’s Hangover News Report 07.07.03

So I had an interesting week . . . .

Scene: CORY sits at his desk, headphones on, bopping happily as he writes yet another game review. Enter BEBITO from stage left, a look of concern on his face. The Rumor Monkey jumps onto his desk and starts to chew thoughtfully on Cory?s Eskimo Joe?s Cup. CORY pulls off his headphones.

CORY: What?s up, bro?

BEBITO: You missed an HTML tag.

CORY: Yeah, I know. It was my first news report, and we were at Callene?s party later than I thought so it was late anyway.

BEBITO: Most of your column was in italics.

CORY: I know. I?m really sorry. It won?t happen again. Promise.

BEBITO: Ashish and Widro set up a page to test your HTML before you submit it.

CORY: Okay.

BEBITO: I?ll send you the link.

CORY: Okay, it?s not really necessary. I have my own test page I can use, but thanks. I was just really tired and late last week.

BEBITO: You really need to have your columns properly formatted when you submit them. Pankonin really hates it when columns aren?t formatted correctly.

CORY: Yes. Thank you, Bebito. Tell Panky, Ash, and ?Dro that this won?t be a problem again. Really. I mean it. Thank you.

BEBITO: It takes up the editor?s time when you don?t, and it makes the site look bad.

CORY: Well, it obviously didn?t take up too much of the editor?s time, since it was still screwed up when it went up. But I get it, already. Thanks.

BEBITO: Just try to do it right next time. . . .

CORY grabs the Rumor Monkey by the throat, pulls a .38 out of his sock and holds it to the Monkey?s head. The Monkey makes monkey ?WTF? noises.

CORY: Bebito. I. WILL. FORMAT. CORRECTLY. FROM. NOW. ON. STEP. OFF. OR. THE. MONKEY. GETS. IT.

BEBITO calmly looks at the situation, turns on his heel, and walks away. CORY looks at Monkey, still in his grip, grins, then pulls the trigger. A flag with the word ?Bang!? comes out. He puts down the gun, grabs a banana from his bag, hands it to Monkey, and lets him go. Monkey hops happily down the aisle after BEBITO.

Actually, I kid. All Bebito did was format . . . er . . . FORWARD me the official 411 HTML guide for Clueless Columnists and tell me how much he liked my work. I will pimp him properly later.

I will apologize right now for blowing my HTML last week, and for it being a bit later than it should have been, since Panky wanted it by 11:30 p.m. and he got it about 2 a.m. Anyway, let?s get to it.

The NEWS

Hey, I know someone else covered this already on 411, but I just couldn?t resist. From Reuters:

UPDATE 3-Activision sues Viacom over ‘Star Trek’ license
Tue July 1, 2003 06:25 PM ET

By Ben Berkowitz

LOS ANGELES, July 1 (Reuters) – Video game publisher Activision Inc. on Tuesday said it sued Viacom Inc. over its “Star Trek” license, alleging Viacom let the franchise deteriorate by not promoting the TV series or making new movies or TV shows.

Activision said it terminated its pact with Viacom and was seeking damages.
Viacom shares ended off 23 cents at $43.47 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Activision gained 1 cent to $12.88 on Nasdaq.

“Activision’s allegations are without merit; indeed, Activision appears to be trying to use the courts in an effort to renegotiate a deal it made in 1998 to secure the rights to the valued Star Trek franchise for interactive games,” Viacom said in a statement.

While licensing disputes are common in the games business, it is rare for such disputes to escalate into a lawsuit. The only other major publisher in such a dispute is Acclaim Entertainment Inc., which was sued by professional bike rider Dave Mirra over the misuse of his name.

“We’ve expressed our dissatisfaction with the state of affairs some time ago,” Activision spokeswoman Maryanne Lataif told Reuters. “We would have preferred to maintain our relationship with Viacom.”
In the complaint filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles on Monday, Activision said Viacom’s “critical failure to perform” included not releasing “Star Trek” films from 1998-2002 and allegedly deciding recently not to make any more “Star Trek” films or TV shows.

Under the 1998 licensing agreement, Activision agreed to pay $20 million in royalties plus millions of dollars worth of stock warrants to license the “Star Trek” name.

The “Star Trek” franchise has spawned multiple TV series, books and films. However, the most recent film, “Star Trek: Nemesis,” was a box-office dud, and the latest TV show, “Enterprise,” has struggled in the ratings.

“A continuing pipeline of movie and television production, and related marketing, is absolutely crucial to the success of video games based on a property such as Star Trek,” the company said in a statement. “However, through its actions and inactions, Viacom has let the once proud Star Trek franchise stagnate and decay.”

Activision’s Web site lists 10 “Star Trek” game titles, including the most recent, “Star Trek: Elite Force II,” released last week.

Activision said it did not expect the suit or license termination to materially affect its guidance for the fiscal first quarter or year.

In the suit, Activision said it has already paid $11 million in royalties under the terms of the 10-year deal in addition to providing stock warrants that Viacom has exercised for revenue in excess of $10 million.
The suit asks for damages and a so-called constructive trust over the warrants to keep Viacom from selling them.

My favorite bit was the bit about ?a continuing pipeline . . . .? What Activision is refusing to acknowledge is that there hasn?t been a decent Star Trek series since Next-Gen. Deep Sleep Nine was boring, and when they actually made an interesting storyline, they had a blow off worse than the WWE?s attempt at using the NWO. Divine intervention my ass. Voyager was interesting if almost sickeningly politically correct (even worse than 1st season Next-Gen in my opinion), but then Berman and Braga discovered T&A. Enterprise SHOULD be really, really interesting, but Beavis and Butthead blew their wad a long time ago and now can?t come up with an original idea to save their skins. You want evidence? They?ve already resorted to using THE BORG. IN THE 22nd CENTURY.

Activision should be concentrating on finding newer and more interesting games to do than leeching onto the Star Trek franchise like it was their only hope of survival, because if it is, they are F-U-K-T. Personally, I haven?t played a Star Trek game since . . . . . wow . . . . . the SNES, I think.

The next story is sponsored by the Baxley/Lucard Transpacific Goodwill Association. Powered by Reuters:

Dragon Quest maker to launch ‘wireless sword’ game
Fri July 4, 2003 03:22 AM ET

TOKYO, July 4 (Reuters) – The Japanese maker of the blockbuster “Dragon Quest” videogames said on Friday it plans a game in which youngsters can use a “wireless” sword to fight monsters shown on a TV screen.

The sword, to be launched in Japan on September 19, is unlike other Dragon Quest games in that it does not need a video game console, said Square Enix Co Ltd.

The player stands in front of the television and wields the 40 cm (15.75 inches) sword to fight monsters on the screen as if they are on a battlefield. A sensor placed on the TV catches the sword movements and adjusts the game to match.

The product, called “Kenshin Dragon Quest” or swordmaster Dragon Quest, will sell for 6,980 yen ($59.07) and will only be available in Japan.

Tokyo-based Square Enix said the sword was developed in its efforts to seek new business opportunities using its hit Dragon Quest franchise assets.

The Dragon Quest role-playing game series has sold more than 30 million units since its debut in 1986 in Japan.

The game publisher declined to give a sales projection for the new game but it plans to hold over 110 promotional events across the country ahead of the release.

Square Enix, created in April through the marriage of Enix and Square — makers of the smash hit Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy franchises — has said it was developing a new Dragon Quest video game for Sony Corp’s PlayStation 2 game system, but it has not unveil the launch schedule.

Shares in Square Enix closed down 0.71 percent at 2,090 yen on Friday, compared with a 0.80 percent decline in the key Nikkei average .

Why don?t they cut out the middleman and just make a game that senses your movements and awards points for the number of things you break in your living room? They could call it Godzilla vs. Mom?s Crystal.

I?m starting to have to worry about the trends in games, and I can only hope that this doesn?t sell very well in Japan. That way they won?t try to market it in the U.S. in a couple of years and my son won?t beg me to get it just so he can put a nice big gash in the screen of my 60? TV. ?But Dad, your TV is PERFECT for that game!?

The sad thing is this: I?d still buy it for him, and I?D probably be the one destroying the TV. I once stabbed my couch with a sword in celebration of completing my senior project. I was listening to ?Princes of the Universe? by Queen. The lesson: I am a geek.

Oh, sweet Lord, no. From the Electronic Arts press releases:

EA TO RELEASE HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER?S STONE GAME ON NEXT-GEN CONSOLES

Best-Selling Game Adds New Features for First-Ever Next-Gen Version

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. ? July 3, 2003 ? For the first time ever, Harry Potter? fans will be able to experience the magic of Harry?s first year at Hogwarts? with next-generation graphics and updated gameplay in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer?s Stone? game from Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS). EA?s UK Studio, the team behind the worldwide success of the original Harry Potter and the Sorcerer?s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? games, which together have sold over 20 million copies worldwide, joins Warthog Games in developing the title for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system, the Xbox? video game system from Microsoft, and Nintendo GameCube?. The game is scheduled for release in the fall of 2003 under the EA GAMES? brand.

Continuing the successful game design style first used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the graphics and gameplay for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer?s Stone?previously available for the PlayStation game console, PC, Game Boy® Advance, and Game Boy Color?are updated for next-generation consoles for an even richer experience in Hogwarts year one. Making the most of new technology, the locations in and around Hogwarts and Diagon Alley? are displayed in spectacular 3D graphics.

Players take the role of Harry Potter as he arrives for his first year at Hogwarts and embarks on a journey to unravel the mystery of the Sorcerer?s Stone. An adventure full of fun and magic, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer?s Stone allows players to explore a variety of multi-layered 3D environments. The game includes encounters with many of the characters familiar to readers of the fiction, including Harry?s best friends Ron Weasley? and Hermione Granger?, Rubeus Hagrid?, Professor Dumbledore?, and his nemesis Draco Malfoy?.

Uh, PS2 has been out for how long? Doesn?t ?Next-Gen-Consoles? imply those that aren?t here yet? PS3 for example?

Actually, I?ve seen the first Potter movie, and I have to admit that I liked it a lot. Maybe someday I?ll read the books. This could be a really interesting game, but it?s a MOVIE game, AND it?s by EA. I?d feel a little better about it if they had made the game based on a brand-new story.

I think, with this last book release, Harry Potter finally reached that critical point of media overexposure. The point where the hype truly was more than the product. The day the book came out there were stacks of them in every single freakin? store, and I?m not just talking about bookstores, I?m talking about department stores, Sam?s, and even grocery stores. You know what? They?re still there Wait a couple of weeks and you?ll be able to buy copies for 10 cents a dozen. Get a truckload for kindling for this winter. You know you want to.

From our friends at IGN.com

Criterion Gets Physical

MathEngine’s physics IP has been acquired by Criterion, says the news. RenderWare to get even more powerful, says everyone else.

July 03, 2003 – Criterion Software, the world’s leading provider of middleware technology for videogame development (we’ve been told by company representatives that roughly 30% of all games are developed off of the RenderWare platform) has finally, after almost a year of bargaining, completed its acquisition of MathEngine’s own intellectual physics property.

Adam Billyard, CTO, Criterion Software:

“We plan to do for physics middleware what we did for graphics, i.e. provide an affordable, highly optimized, multi-platform solution that developers can leverage to push the creative envelope. There are also some really exciting technical directions we plan to take, that are just not possible with a standalone physics technology, such as tighter integration and sharing of data, resulting in a smaller footprint, and higher performance.”

David Lau-Kee, President and CEO, Criterion Software:

“Our goal is to ensure that RenderWare technology supports each and every part of the game development process. It is already the de facto choice for the industry, and it is our intention that as the industry grows and matures, we can scale RenderWare in tune with the needs of publishers and developers. The acquisition of this Intellectual Property supports this strategy.”

By the time you read this, my review of Burnout 2 (developed by Criterion) should be up. All hail Criterion. However, plug-and-chug game development is not something I?m looking forward to. Of course, even a top-of-the-line development platform won?t ensure a great game.

Ah, forget what I said. The real game development aces will always shine through, no matter what tools become available. The RenderWare/MathEngine package will just give those capable more time to really make games interesting and fun, right?

Sure. Right. Whatever.

Non-Game NEWS

NASA delays Mars rover launch to replace battery

Next available launch times on Monday night

Sunday, July 6, 2003 Posted: 11:23 AM EDT (1523 GMT)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) — NASA has once again postponed the launch of its Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, to replace a battery aboard the rockets.

In a statement released late Saturday, NASA said the launch of the golf-cart-sized, six-wheeled robot geologist — scheduled for Sunday night — would be delayed for a day so that the battery on the electronics box could be replaced and tested. The battery is used to blow up the rocket if it veers off course.

The two launch times available for Monday are 10:35 p.m. and 11:18 p.m. EDT.

Time for the mission is running out. The launch must take place by July 15. After that date, Earth moves too far in its orbit around the sun for the Delta rocket to make it to Mars.
If Opportunity does not launch by the July deadline, the project would be delayed for four years — the next time Earth and Mars are in the correct positions.

I have a bit of a fishy feeling about that, since Earth and Mars are almost guaranteed to be in identical relative positions once every TWO years, as Mars has an orbital period of 687 days, just shy of two Earth orbits. I don?t think there?s that much eccentricity in the planetary orbits. Maybe they?re pushing the limits of the Delta so they have to wait for absolutely minimum distance. If that?s the case, they need to get off their butts and build a new long-haul rocket.

There wasn?t much more in this article, just some tidbits about the robot itself, but then we got down to the last line of the piece, and all credibility for this story goes right out the window:

Mars is also closer to the sun, which results in more solar power.

— Journalist Philip Chien contributed to this report.

Mr. Chien was obviously sleeping in science class, a trait surprisingly common among college Communications majors (I cite as witnesses for the prosecution my friends Patrick the DJ and Deb the PR guru). If Mars is closer to the Sun than the Earth, then maybe we should have listened to the Vatican and not Copernicus. Does that mean we?re all going to hell? Are we all bound for eternal damnation because some yahoo with a telescope and some funky math told us all that the sun was the center of the solar system? Yeesh. I always thought I?d go to hell for something more fun than that. What a drag.

This pisses me off because it?s second nature to me; I?ve been reading about the solar system since I was 5 so I feel like everybody should know this stuff by heart. And it?s not only one guy that screwed this up, this guy has to have at least one editor looking over his shoulder, and he probably has an editor over him . . . and the line really stands out there by itself. It?s not buried in a paragraph or anything. It?s the last line of the story. It?s about as blatant as:

The Pope is, of course, the head of the Nation of Islam.

Now, if someone had made that error, we?d have whole groups up in arms. Plus we?d have to see Louis Farrakhan on every TV news channel for weeks, talking about the relevance of the number 7 to the ineptitude of some copy editor somewhere, and how it?s part of a conspiracy to . . . you get the picture.

But a blaring science error occurs, and nobody will hear about it, or probably even notice, except for some geek trying to find something to fill space in his weekly game news column, and only then because he?s a space geek on top of being a gaming geek.

Anyway, I hope the person responsible is adequately embarrassed by his error.

And for the last time, the millennium started on January 1, 2001; not 2000. There was no Year 0. A.D., except possibly the week between J.C.?s birthday and the Gregorian New Year. See my commentary for the Dragon Quest story for the point of this.

Not-So-Damn-Serious Non-Game NEWS

Well, the Major League Baseball All-Star teams were announced last night. The STILL 1st place Royals are sending two: 1st Baseman Mike ?Dead Man Walking? Sweeney, and rookie relief pitcher Mike ?Mac the Ninth? MacDougal. Personally, I was hoping for a nod to Royals outfielder Carlos Beltran who has almost identical offensive numbers to Sweeney (except a .285 BA instead of a .321) but has 23 stolen bases to Mike?s 2. Ah well. Can?t have everything.

I?d like to point out something that?s very near and dear to my heart. If you look at the records of all of the teams in the American League, the Kansas City Royals, leaders of the AL Central, are six games behind the New York Yankees, leaders of the AL East and, as a group, an offense to God Himself. For the non-baseball fans, six wins difference at midseason (when 81 games have been played already) isn?t that much. However, when you consider the relative payrolls of the two ball clubs; the difference, or lack thereof, is astounding.

2003 Team Payroll for the New York Yankees: $164 Million
2003 Team Payroll for the Kansas City Royals: $43 Million

Yes, for spending approximately ¼ what the Yankees spend, they are SIX games behind with six games to go before the All-Star Break.

Don?t get me wrong, I still believe that baseball needs a salary cap, and needs it pronto. What I?m happy to see is the Yankees getting absolutely nothing for spending the extra $120 million. They could pay me 1% of their payroll and I?d be happy. Hell, I?d even promise to work out and show up sober for the games, which is an improvement over a certain part of their roster.

As a final note, with six games to go before the break, Mike MacDougal has 24 saves. He?ll probably be closer to 30 come the All-Star Game. He?s a rookie. Diz-Zam! When you?re a rookie pitcher and you catch Barry ?Here, hold my Deca vial while I bat? Bonds looking, you?re . . . you?re something special.

Just to clarify to my new fans, I hate baseball. I can think of four sports offhand that I?d rather watch than baseball. However, I have undying loyalty to the Royals; in fact, the reason I hate baseball is because of woefully uncompetitive business practices by certain organizations and a player?s union that won?t let the owners who aren?t George Steinbrenner vote to institute a salary cap. I won?t go into the supposed collusion arguments opined and disputed by the respective sides. Suffice it to say, I wish George Steinbrenner would get the Rasputin treatment, live on pay-per-view so I could watch.

There aren?t many people whom I hold such a low opinion of. The list starts with Steinbrenner and Bill Romanowski. Triple H, Vince McMahon, and Hulk Hogan haven?t even made that list. I?d even like to see Osama Bin Laden live (if he wasn?t already dead) so that they could drag his ass to Guantanamo Bay so that he could endure almost certain separation from Allah as he would be sodomized on a daily basis for the next century.

Okay, I?m done now.

PLUGS, PIMPS, and THANKS

Okay, so I failed basic HTML last week. It was my virgin column, late, and submitted finally at 2 o?clock in the morning. I?m just happy the whole thing didn?t come off like the Arkham Asylum monthly newsletter.

My readers (all THREE of them now) took this in stride, apparently; with our featured (read:only) e-mail of the week from new reader Caitlin.

Hey, Cory

I really enjoyed reading your column this week and I’ll try and keep this brief. However I have one request when I try and read your column it makes me go cross eyed. It is due to the fact that the entire column is typed in italics. Maybe some people like it(yeah right) but I can barley finish the column when it’s typed like that, but hey it’s just me and it’s just a suggestion so whatever…I will continue to read your column regardless, this is just meant as a suggestion better it. Thank-you for taking into consideration what I have said here and good luck with future columns!(so much for brief, eh)

Sincerely,

Catlin “Liquid_Bike” Buyck

Nice, constructive criticism with some very definite support. Huh. I thought the Internet was full of people that read at the 5th grade level and spell at the 1st and have the emotional maturity of my Grandma?s Maltese on a Snauseges bender. Apparently all of the people (that?s THREE now) that read me are kind, articulate, and supportive. What?s the fun in that?

Thank you, Caitlin, for your kind words. I?d like to point out that, not counting the 411 staff, I have a measurable 33% FEMALE readership so far. That MUST be some sort of record for internet gaming sites.

Speaking of gaming sites, I gotta pimp mah 411-games news-dogg homies. C-Pank holds the bling-bling, so he gets first props.

Bebito?s got my back on Tuesdays. An? that Rumor Monkey ain?t flingin? shizzle, yo.

Baxley got the Humpty-Hump Day 411. Stay outta his way at Wally World, he bust ya open.

Berg be starting the weekend early, fo shizzle.

Watson, get your ass in here, beyotch (an old-school ref, like history class old).

Lucard just posts whenever the fool feels like it. We just step off an? let ?im. He got that Philly-ECW thing goin? on.

These pimps brought to you by the classic Sir-Mix-A-Lot album, Swass.

Laughlin? LAUGHLIN?! Okay, it?s not like he?s only heard my name on the phone. The only time he?s seen my name he?s SEEN my name. Anyway, my fellow newbie Alex Whilliyyumms has taken it upon himself to find cheats and tricks for you, as well as review games, making 411 your one-stop game site.

Even in 411-Games, we all seem to be wrestling marks. Here?s your required reading for the week: Hyatte, Haley, Eric S. , Grut. Parental guidance is suggested.

For good, clean, safe-for-work fun (as well as a character in a Mexican wrestling mask) check out Homestarrunner.com. Witness THE CHEAT, and I don?t mean Mr. Whilliyyumms. (Old school gamers should try menu page 13.)

And the Wichita plug of the week. O?Phil. If you want some tear-it-up ska, these are your guys. Buy an album. Rob has a family to support now, dammit!

This week I?m on vacation, but only from my paying job. Next week there will be MORE news, and some exciting and possibly titillating insider news from my vacation. (Veronica is done with the 12-hour work days, the amphibians and reptiles building is ready for accreditation, and she?s ready for . . . some time with me.)

Until next week, get some sleep

Cory