The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games 04.20.04

Hola, amigos! I have returned, after a brief hiatus. I’d like to thank Marvin for covering last week… But I can’t. Mainly because he wouldn’t hear me…
*Marvin’s not home right now…
Since you last saw him he’s undergone a… slight change….
*He’s been upgraded…
And possessed by Starscream’s Ghost. Expect an even more cynical outlook than usual this week.


The Halo 2 screenshot trickle continues

Here, courtesy of, are the two latest shots of Halo 2. Not much else to say, given the overall lack of info.

Misha: And again, little bits of screenshot with no actual real info. Why bother?


Guerilla gets Shellshocked

New screens have just been released of the new game, Shellshock: Nam ’67. Developed by Guerilla, creators of Killzone, the game is shaping up to be involving and bloody, as your humble grunt’s successes attract the attention of various “Black-Ops” units. Pictures are here, courtesy of gamesradar

Misha: At least SOME people know how to show off a game. Not many screens, but it’s a step in the right direction, since the shots actually show IMPORTANT stuff.


No GTA at E3?

Latest news from Take 2 Interactive and Rockstar Games is that the much-anticipated Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will NOT be on display at the E3 show, but will be shown to the gaming press at a separate event in June.

MarvScream: Foolish humans! Don’t they realise how much publicity they’ll lose?


Vivendi President quits

Luxc Vanhal, Vivendi Universal’s president of North American operations, has left the company. No reason has been given by the company at present, but a brief statement to confirm the news indicated that Bruce Hack, the company CEO, will be taking over Vanhal’s duties in the interim.

Misha: Hmm. not much to say. Changes of executive don’t often affect game lineups, but we’ll see.
MarvScream: Oh, I don’t know… Often a change of leadership is EXACTLY what’s needed… Are you listening, Megatron??

Gamestars Awards results

UK TV recently saw yet another half-hearted attempt at a decent videogames awards show. The results from the latest offering “Gamestars”, can be seen below.

Newcomer: EyeToy: Play (SCEE)

Action Game: James Bond: Everything Or Nothing (EA)

Multiplayer Game: Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (Nintendo)

Adventure Game: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo)

Pocket Game: Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire (Nintendo)

Licenced Game: Knights of the Old Republic (Activision)

Sports Game: Championship Manager (Eidos)

Racing Game: Need For Speed: Underground (EA)

“The Sun” People’s Choice Award: EyeToy: Play (SCEE)

GAME Most Wanted Award: Driv3r (Atari)

The rest of the show was bad beyond belief, with another “National Videogame Championship” segment, and was saved only by the appearance of Simon “Shaun of the Dead” Pegg.

Misha: A couple of worthwhile choices winning categories, but the show itself was so bad, it wasn’t even funny…
MarvScream: If you don’t like it, do the sensible thing: Kill everybody responsible, and usurp their positions! They’re only humans, after all!!

credit: me

Fire Emblem: new shots

Screenshots of hot new GameCube RPG Fire Emblem: Souen no Kiseki have been released. See them here, thanks to cubed-3 and Jeux France

Misha: At last! A game only hinted at in Super Smash Bros Melee is on its way! Huzzah!


Sammy announce E3 lineup

Darkwatch (PS2 / Xbox, Spring 2005) – Wild West action horror.
The Shield (PS2 / Xbox, Spring 2005) – the game of the show.
Spy Fiction (PS2, Sept 2004) – Espionage-em-up in the Metal Gear tradition.
Iron Phoenix (Xbox, Winter 2004) – Combat action, with online multiplayer.
Guilty Gear Isuka (PS2, Winter 2004) – 4-player fighting sequel.

411 will bring you all the news from E3 as it happens.

Misha: More Guilty Gear, eh? Well, that’s something…

credit: The Magic Box


As promised, something a bit bigger in scope this week.
*It has to be, otherwise he dies….

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games proudly presents: “Conventions: A Transatlantic Comparision” (brought to you in part by Blazing Skies)

It’s a curious phenomenon, the TV convention. What sort of rabid level of fandom would persuade perfectly normal people to pay to spend weekends dressed up as their favourite characters, queueing for hours to get autographs on their DVD box sets?

The answer is simple, provided you’re not in the US.

Conventions in their original form were designed to be highly informal, fan-run events, based around a fairly small group of fans getting together to meet-and-greet some of the starts of their favourite TV show (whether it be Dr Who, Star Trek, Buffy, or whatever). Back in the original mindset, the organisers were happy to make enough to cover their costs: the rest went to one or another charitable cause. Somewhere along the line, someone in the US saw the huge amounts of cash that the dealers in the Merch Room were making, and thought “hang on, we can get us a piece of that”. So, in true capitalist style, they sat down, looked at the business plan, and wondered how they could get more money in.

They came to a number of conclusions: one was “Make it big. Bigger is better. More stars, and a wider range, draws more people in”. The other was “The fanboys and fangirls will pay damn near anything for the stuff they want. So let’s make them.” A third point was “When our business model gets around, everybody will use it. People will be brainwashed into thinking that it’s the norm for conventions, and they won’t object”.

So thus, you have the emergence of the Commercial Convention. Taking all the fun (and the alcohol) out of the event.

Luckily, in the UK, this trend has been slower to rise. There are a number of moderately-commercialised convention organisers around, but even those stay fairly true to the roots, but experience has shown that the ones that try to go too heavily commercial flop in spectacular fashion, because the UK fans won’t accept the watering-down of the Con spirit. Over here, it’s the smaller cons that stay in business; but more than that, they go from strength to strength. And why? Because the fans like to go and do more than just buy autographs. They want to REALLY meet the guests, be it on the dance floor, or in the bar. And the thing is? The sort of guests who are worth having at conventions, the ones who make it fun, are exactly the sort of guests who WANT to be able to meet the fans. Former Doctor Whos1 are probably the best example of this: When a fairly minor convention in Liverpool can get THREE incarnations, you know somebody’s doing something right.

And of course, that would bring us to the most important “missing aspect” of the US convention: the booze. At a con in the Sates, the hall closes at 6, and that’s yer lot for the day. Now where’s the fun in that?? At your average UK con, 6pm is when the dirnking starts in earnest. Usually, it goes on solidly until the disco starts up, when the two spheres merge in a haze of alcohol. The old axiom holds true: “It’s not a proper convention without the entire dancefloor doing the Star Trekkin’ Dance2“. Some discos go on all night, some finish at an established time: Not that this stops the drinking, you understand, it just means there’s no *official* music. There’s always somebody with a Room Party going on… Failing that, you’ll have already gotten nicely drunk3, and will wander into the now-closed bar, where there will inevitably be others in the same state as you. From a random sub-space pocket, somebody will produce a guitar, and the endless drunken renditions of the entire soundtrack to “Once More, With Feeling” will commence.

Then in the morning, you wake up, and head off to the restarting con, knowing you’ll do it all again tomorrow night. And the night after.

In summary: A handy-dandy print-out-and-keep comparison guide

US Convention

Focus on cashflow
Harsh, impersonal setup
Dry as dehydrated desert sand
Nothing after 6pm
In bed by 11pm due to boredom

UK Convention

Focus on fun
Friendly, meet-and-greet atmosphere
More alcoholic than Polish homebrew Vodka
All-night discos and parties
Sleep? Sleep is for tortoises! Where’s the beer?

1 For more on Dr Who, go ask Eric S. Alternatively, ask me or Marvin very nicely, and we might do a little tribute to the show for you.
2 Or, indeed, one of the many filked versions of “Bohemian Rhapsody”
3 Perpendicular, not horizontal, and definitely not “One with your Inner Self”4
4 This is a dual-deference reference. First person to email me mentioning either one, gets a pimp next week. Mention both, and get a Super-Pimp.
5 Not that there’s any bias involved, of course…

Right. And with that, I feel that’s the lot.
*You foolish humans and your need to consume food! When will you learn that we are superior??
Superior, you may be. But I know your one weakness…
*Galvatron? I am more powerful than him, now! I will grind him to space dust!
No, not Galvatron… Something much, much worse…
*What? No….!!! You wouldn’t!!!!
Oh yes I would….
**opens two-way portal to The Padded Cell**
Oh, ladies…. We’ve got Starscream here…
*Fangirls! Noooooooooo!!!!!!!
Fangirls: SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!
And you really don’t want to know what comes next. I’ll just sign off now….