Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report 01.07.04

Welcome to the first Mid-Week Mid-Boss of the New Year! This year feels so much different than last year! I’m serious!

Oh, who am I kidding??

This week, I was prepared to bring the anime section back to this column. Why? Because at the time I started writing the column, the anime column on 411Black had yet to show up. So I said f*ck it. And then lo and behold, it was posted on Monday. So for the time being, it will stay on 411Black, but expect, at any time, for the anime to return here. I just don’t know if I have the time and energy (and motivation for that matter) to do two full length columns a week.

But for now, it’s all games. So stick around and have fun, because that’s what this is all about!

Gaming News
Now that the holidays are officially over, the news is POURING in. It’s about time, because I was really feeling bad about not including much here! And surprisingly, this week is very light on the RPG stuff!

Yet Another New Console in the Works
The biggest news this week is that there is another game console being developed, this time by VIA (makers of computer motherboards and chipsets) and APEXtreme (makers of lower cost DVD players). While many people may compare this to the Phantom console that many people are skeptical of, this one not only seems more realistic, but also better in almost every way imagineable.

The console is titled “APEXtreme Personal Gaming Console and DVD Player”, or PGC for short. It will be, for all intents and purposes, a Media PC. The hardware will be developed primarily by VIA, and that includes the processor (which will clock in at a minimum of 1.4GHz), graphics card, motherboard, and sound card. The DVD technology will be provided by APEX. The operating system will be an embedded version of Windows XP.

While everybody and their mom will compare this system to the Phantom, this one has many things going for it. First and foremost, the developers are well known. Maybe not everybody has heard of VIA or APEXtreme, but many people have, especially in the computer industry. Secondly, they will actually have media, so you don’t have to download a huge game. And finally, they are going a route that Phantom seems to want to avoid. The PGC comes with a 40GB hard drive, and is apparently designed in a way that you can use it any way you want. In fact, you may be able to upgrade said drive with a bigger one if you so desire.

All these details are somewhat sketchy at this point, since I don’t know if there is even a prototype made as of yet. You can check out a mock-up of the console at Games are Fun. The expected price will be in the $299-$399 range, which isn’t bad for a DVD Player/Digial Video Recorder/PC/console. More details will be revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 8. Interestingly enough, the Phantom will also be on display there, supposedly.

In related news, I read somewhere (I can’t remember where exactly), that Alienware is also in the market for creating a similar gaming console based off of a PC, but since I can’t check for sure, the report may have just been talking about the PGC and got the names wrong or something, but it’s worth mentioning.
Credit: Ars Technica

Movies Coming to a GBA Near You
Majesco, the makers of games like Bloodrayne and Bomberman Jetters, has announced that they have a technology that will allow them to fit 45 minutes (and maybe even an upwards of 90 minutes) of high quality, full color video on to a standard GBA cart. Nintendo has approved of this technology being used on GBAs, which means that within the next few months, there are 12 titles set for release. There is no word on what the titles are, nor is there any video or screenshots available yet to see just how high the quality is.

Honestly, this is pretty cool sounding, but several things could kill it. For one thing, what if the titles are all geared towards a younger audience? For example, what if they released a whole bunch of Dragonball Z episodes? What they SHOULD do is release a wide variety of titles, encompassing several genres of movies, as well as ratings, from G to R. R may be pushing it, but if there isn’t at least ONE PG-13 title, I will deem it a “bad idea”. Secondly, if the quality isn’t very high, then it just won’t be that big of a deal. And finally, is the cost. If the price compares to a standard GBA game, it will be a TOTAL failure, especially considering the falling prices of DVD movies. I’m somewhat skeptical and excited at the same time. I think the premise is excellent, but I don’t see Majesco pulling this off with great success. There are just too many ways that it can be considered a failure.
Credit: Games are Fun

Electronic Arts Admits Why The Don’t Like Xbox Live
Everyone who is in to sports games knows the problems EA has had with Microsoft. EA will not produce any online content for its Xbox versions of their games because Microsoft wants them to incorporate Xbox Live elements into the interface, so EA just didn’t make any online version for it. It had been speculated that the reasoning was more because of the extra work it would take to add such elements, but now the truth has been revealed. Apparently, the Xbox Live pricing structure is set up in a way where the $10 per month that is paid goes to Microsoft and only Microsoft. EA took exception to this policy and decided not to go for it. So now, if you want to play an EA game online, your only option is the PS2.

Really, I have to agree with EA here. If I were to develop something extra specifically for another console, and the makers of said console want to make an extra buck off of it, well, f*ck ’em. Really, it’s not very fair for companies to create content for Xbox Live, an act which benefits Microsoft, and then the developers get none of the money produced by their products usage on Xbox Live. I could try to think up some sort of scheme to make it more fair, but I’m not good with numbers and stuff like that. Maybe Bryan would like to tackle that one?
Credit: Games are Fun

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II Goes Gold
The sequel to the popular Dungeons and Dragons console title has been completed and shipped to the publisher for distribution. The title should be available for the PS2 and Xbox within a few weeks. There is no word on a possible Gamecube version.

In related news, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, ships this week. This game is made by the same company and uses the same engine as Dark Alliance II. Best of all, it’s based on the excellent Fallout franchise. Sadly, Interplay, the owners of Black Isle Studios, makers of the Fallout and Baldur’s Gate series has closed down Black Isle. Worst of all, they LIE about it. They claim that Black Isle still exists, and in fact, the highly anticipated Fallout 3 is being reviewed for development. The sad fact of the matter is, Black Isle is dead, and the only way we’ll see another Fallout or Baldur’s Gate game (after these console titles are released) is if Interplay sells the rights to another company, say, BIOWARE or something like that. Here’s to hoping.
Credit: RPGFan

New Tales Game in Development
Akira Yoshizumi, a producer at Namco, has announced that they are currently working a new game in the “Tales” series. While the series isn’t that big in America, it is very popular in Japan, and more Americans will warm up to it after the release of Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube here in the States. The series is one of Namco’s two flagship titles (the other being, of course, Xenosaga), so it will likely get plenty of attention once more information is released. No word on which platform it will be developed for.
Credit: The Magicbox

The topic of this commentary is loving what you’re doing. And I’m not talking about writing for the site or anything. This one goes straight to the people that make games.

I have enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies greatly since the first one was released. I wasn’t one of the purists that looked for everything that was changed. I was one of the ones that sat back and let the story be told and enjoyed it for what it was. I got the first two special edition boxes with the extended movies and extra footage of documentaries and such, but I was only in it for the movies and the statues that came with them.

I finally sat down one day, prior to seeing Return of the King, and watched all the behind the scenes stuff for The Two Towers. And I was amazed. Simply astonished. Why? Because it was so obvious that the people who made these movies LOVED them. They f*cking LOVED doing what they were doing. You had as high as Peter Jackson, the man behind it all, who rarely got sleep because he’d have to work on editing, then work with the composer, then help out Weta (the visual effects department) with something. But he enjoyed it. An even better example is a guy who worked at Weta. His job: to weave the chainmail. That’s all he did. For a year. He’d take these pipes, cut them into small pieces, and put those pieces of chain together to make chainmail armor. That’s all he did for a year. This is a guy who does a boring ass job and won’t get shit for recognition. His reply when asked how he likes his job? “Wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

From the director, to the actors, to the makeup artists, to the set designers, to the digital effects people, to the costumers making chainmail, EVERYONE loved working on the project. And to be bluntly, the Lord of the Rings series is a FUCKING MASTERPIECE. Watching these documentaries gave me a great appreciation as to what it took to make a movie. Especially when they’d show a sword they designed, for example, Gandalf’s sword Glamdring. One thing that you’d never know is that there is Elvish writing on the hilt of the sword. They included this, knowing fully that it would never be seen in the movie. They did this with EVERYTHING. The amount of detail that went into every little thing was amazing, and most of it is never appreciated. But they did it because they love it.

This is one thing that I think is missing from a lot of game developers these days. When I play a game for a while, and I catch little things that bug me, or little bugs for that matter, I realize that the developers could have done a better job. And that’s the case with so many games. Look at some of the games that Lucard has reviewed lately. Both CIMA and Beyond Good and Evil had inherently decent premises, but both failed in execution. Both had some things going for them, but they never got there. I think that many game developers these days are not loving what they’re doing, and they’re just making games to stay in business, not because they enjoy the process of making a game. If they did, then maybe there would be more good games out there.

The point of all of this is: if you’re in a business where you are making something for the world, and getting paid to do so, then you better love it, because your work reflects on yourself. If you hate your job and make a shitty game, then maybe next time, people won’t buy your game. Look at Eidos and their “star” Lara Croft. While it can be said that Tomb Raider has ALWAYS sucked, people still enjoyed the first one, but the most recent release was a total failure. Why? Because they’re not “loving it” anymore. They just want some bling bling.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t name a single game off the top of my head that was SO good that you could tell the developers love what they are doing. And that’s something that needs to change. They need to take Lord of the Rings as an example, and start loving it again and making good games, so that we can TELL that they love it. Because really, if they love what they do, would they realistically release a shitty game by EVERYONES standards? I don’t think so.

Christian’s Crazy Game Releases
Keep in mind, these are ship dates and are not set in stone. Game companies LOVE to push stuff back at the last minute, so don’t blame us if it’s not right. Also, since it is a ship date, it may take several days to arrive at your favorite store, depending on what it is, so please call before rushing over to pick up a game that may or may not have arrived.

Jan 6
Conflict Desert Storm 2: Back to Baghdad (GC)
Little League Baseball (GC)

Jan 7
Fallout – Brotherhood of Steel (P2, XB)
Sonic Heroes (GC)

Release dates courtesy of Christian at Game Crazy. MVP Event! If you trade a PS2, X-box or Gamecube title and you’re an MVP member, Game Crazy will give you 20% extra on your trade in. That’s 10% over your bonus everyday! Find a Game Crazy near you at Gamecrazy.com.

Christian’s Comments: Things are slowly getting back to normal after the holidays. News is flowing in, and new games are being released. This week, the only thing to talk about is Sonic Heroes. Cube owners get their game 3 weeks earlier than everyone else. Hot Diggity!

Lee’s Comments: Two releases worth mentioning this week: one big and one HUGE. Fallout will be a good one, and one I can hopefully pick up soon. Sonic Heroes will be a big hit, and Nintendo is the winner here. This is easily one of the biggest releases this early in the year, and 3 weeks is a big advantage. I know Bebito wouldn’t hold out for the other systems, and neither should you!

Links to the Past

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
Even though it ALMOST missed the New Year, he still got it out, with all of his game industry resolutions for 2004!

411MAX: News News Revolution – Alex Williams
To complement my predictions from last week, Alex gives some silly ones, along with his excellent news and CHEAT!

Retrograding Mailbag – Alex Lucard
Yea, Alex gets a lot of mail. More than the rest of us, cuz he’s better than us and we suck. Next.

Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
Cory discusses how stupid Sony is for not only releasing the Eye Toy, but also how they are going to be focusing on it in the future. Really, seriously, who the f*ck thought this was a good idea. The reason I play games is so I’m NOT in the game. I don’t want to see my fat ass on the screen, which is why I avoid getting pictures taken like the plague. It’s not that I don’t like myself, it’s that I don’t want to see myself! I don’t need to see myself other than looking in the mirror before work to make sure I don’t have something on my face or something. The Eye Toy is something that would only appeal to people like Lucard, so they can see themselves all the time! Hey, it’s only in good fun! Wait, please Lucard, please don’t beat me!

The Gamer’s Conscience – Frederick Badlissi
Fred found a potentially game breaking bug in Legacy of Kain: Defiance. He’s a lot like me in the fact that a really good game can potentially be ruined by something like this. Also, a good anime can be ruined by a shitty ending (*coughevangelioncough*).

Thank God It’s TUESDAY News Report – Bryan Berg
Bryan fills in for Chuck this week and talks about pre-orders for GTA: Sin City, Zelda Collection in the UK, and the price drop of Beyond Good and Evil. You know, at that price, I’M considering getting it.

Read all these reviews! My blurbs don’t do them any justice.
Review: Sword of Mana (GBA) – Alex Lucard
Review: Top Spin (Xbox) – Bebito Jackson
Review: Magic the Gathering: Battlegrounds (Xbox) – Alex Willaims
Review: Beyond Good and Evil (Xbox) – Alex Lucard

I look back on those reviews and realize that I’m one of the very few of the staff who does not yet own an Xbox. Not that it’s a HUGE thing, but I still want one. I will definitely have one for Fable. Not like that matters now, since I expect that to be released a few weeks before Duke Nukem Never. HAH!!!

Anyway, enjoy the week. Read Bryan and Williams and everyone else!