Where Are the Perfect Dark Reviews?

Only days before the launch of the Xbox 360, there are still no reviews of Perfect Dark Zero, supposedly the “flagship title” for the launch.

Review aggregator GameRankings shows multiple reviews for the rest of the launch titles, but PD is conspicuous in its absence. It’s pretty suspicious.

In the movie industry when movies are not pre-screened to critics, most often it signals a stinker that the studio doesn’t want critics to sink before opening night. From what I gather from GamingSteve’s X05 coverage, that may be the case here as well.

Coupled with yesterday’s Next Gen article about how the game skipped Certification and went right to Manufacturing, the circumstantial evidence is making it look like Microsoft may have pushed too hard to have this game ready for launch.

If that’s the case, it’s very foolish on their part. The bad press of not having a game ready for launch is nothing compared to what will happen if that game crashes or flat out sucks.

They Came From Hollywood interview on GameCloud

GameCloud has an interview with Sparky of Octopus Motor, creators of the forthcoming They Came From Hollywood.

If you like monster movies, or you were a Crush Crumble and Chomp fan, keep your eyes on this game. You get to take the form of a giant monster and smash the city, while fighting off the armed forces and scientists.

It’s being independently developed so there’s no release date yet, but I think the wait will be worth it!

November 15, 2005 | Posted in: Video Games | Comments Closed

And There Was Much Rejoicing. Braga leaves Trek.

I can’t believe it, but my years of tribble-sacrifices have finally yielded fruit, as seen in this article on SciFi.com
Braga: I’m Done With Trek

Longtime Star Trek producer Brannon Braga told SCI FI Wire that he’s done with the franchise, at least for now and for the foreseeable future. “At the moment, yeah,” Braga said in an interview. “There will be a lot of fans cheering about that,” he added wryly, referring to the often caustic fan criticism directed at him during his 15 years as a writer and producer on Trek series and movies.

Wow, am I happy about this! I’m not saying he never did anything good (he did write All Good Things…) but I am glad to hear he has moved on. It’s a shame what has happened to Trek over the years, and hopefully some new blood will be able to return it to a shade of its former glory.

The Movies Review (first impressions)

Peter Molyneux‘s LionHead Studios has finally released The Movies, a game in the vein of his Theme Park series. I’ve been itching to play this game since I saw it at E3 a few years ago. Yesterday I got my copy. Here are my impressions after a few hours of play.

For those who haven’t heard about it, The Movies is a tycoon-type game where you run a movie studio. Starting in the 1920s with only a few buildings on your studio lot, you hire people (actors, directors, crew, and maintenance workers to start) and build sets and enhancements to the lot.

As in all tycoon games, a lot of the game is about management as you try to keep your studio lot looking nice, keep the actors and directors happy, crank out new scripts, research new technologies and so on.

Once you’ve got a script and hire cast and crew, shooting begins. You can zoom in and watch as the movie is shot on sets around your lot. When shooting is finished the film is released and reviewed. Reviews will be based on many different factors, such as the experience of the director and actors in the genre, how well they relate to each other, and so on.

Based on the reviews, the films make money, that you use to hire more workers, write more scripts, build more sets and so on and so on.

What sets this game apart from the other games of this genre is the movie-making process. When you first start, you are making very simple films generated by the PC. Once you acquire the “Custom Scriptwriting Office” (after achieving a simple set of newbie goals), you can access Advanced Movie-Making and Post Production. You gain access to a library of thousands of scenes that you can edit together to make your own movies. Although the scenes are canned, there are so many ways to customize them that they will go a long way.

For example, each character in a scene is first represented by a mannikin. You drop your actor onto a mannikin in the scene to tell them to play that part. There are usually many mannikins in a scene and you just “turn off” the ones you don’t use.

There are also various sliders that can change the scene. For example, there’s a scene where a monster rises up behind the hero. You can set the “Outcome” slider to “Victory” or “Defeat”. Although you don’t have direct camera control, some sliders will change camera angles, dollies and cranes, etc.

You can put together as many scenes as you want, then edit them together, add sound effects, and so on. It can be a lot of work but you don’t HAVE to do any of this – you can just continue on using the studio-generated scripts if you don’t want to spend hours tinkering with the movie.

When your film is finished, you can export it (I think only to .wmv) to upload to a website or email.

As time passes in the game, you get access to new technologies, sets, props, costumes and so on. The game also has a Sandbox mode where you don’t need to worry about money, actor’s moods, etc etc. The only catch is that you only have access to things you have unlocked in the main game. So if you want to get the most out of Sandbox you have to play a game through to the modern era.

There’s also an online portion to the game. You can upload your finished movies to the Lionhead site. People can rate your films, and based on the ratings and number of viewers, you earn credits. These credits can be used to buy props and sets that you can use in the game.

The interface is VERY Sims-like and friendly, although there is room for improvement. For example, to hire a director, you need to scroll through the employee types til you find them, pick them up, and drop them into the appropriate room. Since you can ONLY add directors to that room, it would be much better to just rightclick on the room and select “Add Director” with a list of directors showing.

Anyhow, I’m all fired up about this game at the moment. The open-ness should give it some lasting appeal. I can only assume that LionHead plans to follow the Sims model of releasing content packs for various genres and so on. Hopefully they will correct the game’s most glaring error: no pirates!

Inner Workings of TrueSkill

This paper on Microsoft’s web site shows the inner workings of the new TrueSkill Ranking System. It includes notes on how the matchmaking works, how the leaderboards are maintained, etc.

If you’re into videogames, and like stuff like

exp(-(μA-μB)2)/(2*c2)) * d
c2 = 2 + σ2winner + σ2loser
d = 2/c2

then this is the article for you! 

November 9, 2005 | Posted in: Video Games | Comments Closed

Xbox 360 Shortages?

eToyChest has a story on the rumored 360 shortages and it is not looking good. According to the article, EB, GameStop, Sam Goody, Circuit City, etc have all been shorted on what they were promised by Microsoft:

Circuit City, is known for drawing lines of gamers for midnight or early morning openings for console launches. However, after talking with managers are a Circuit City store in a high traffic area in Denver, we have been told that the store is only expecting four premium consoles to arrive, and no core systems. Not only that, but they have been instructed from their corporate office that they are not to sell the systems on November 22, but rather to wait and put them out on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving.

That’s just one example. Other retailers are reporting similar problems. Read the full article here.

I’ve had my 360 reserved since April, so I’m good. I hope.

I had 2 games picked out for launch: Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Perfect Dark Zero. Unfortunately Oblivion is now delayed until 2006, and PDZ supposedly sucks. Oh well. Now I’m going with Call of Duty 2, Kameo, and Gun.

November 8, 2005 | Posted in: Video Games | Comments Closed

The Goon!

I’m a bit late to the party since the book has been running for a couple years, but my favorite comic currently is The Goon.

The main character (known only as The Goon) is sort of a depression-era(maybe) Hellboy. He spends a lot of time beating up monsters and works as an enforcer for Labrazio, the mob boss who runs the town (or does he?) which is being overrun by zombies.

The stories are all pretty straightforward, but nothing wrong with that! The Goon and his psychotic sidekick Frankie are interesting characters, as are the Zombie Priest villain and the rest of the supporting characters in the neighborhood The Goon protects.

What really sold me on this book, though, is the art. Creator Eric Powell has definitely learned a lot from the greats, and panel swipes homages are found throughout. A bit of Mignola, a little bit Wally Wood, a dash of early Corben, and a whole lot of Frazetta make the stories come alive. The oil-painted covers are fantastic.

If you like monsters, zombies, or great art, pick up one of the trades on your next trip to the comic shop! The first couple are outstanding, but the quality drops slightly as the series goes on. My recommendation is to start with #0, Rough Stuff.

November 2, 2005 | Posted in: Comics | Comments Closed