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April 2005

March 2005

When Online Worlds Dry Up

The Matrix OnlineWhat happens when people move on from a virtual world?  That's what's being discussed over at Slashdot today as the news that Sony would be merging Everquest servers hit the Internet.  The idea is that as more and more people leave the MMORPG game behind for newer online experiences, the original world of Everquest doesn't need to be so, well, massively multiplayer anymore.  Various realms are being combined to streamline things a little.  While this in itself is minor news in the grand scheme of things, it does raise the question as to just what happens to a MMORPG when the players stop playing.

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Attack Of The Massive Controller

Big NES ControllerCable channel G4 relaunched The Screen Savers as Attack of the Show this week and to celebrate they built a massive Nintendo Entertainment System controller. The controller requires two people to use, but it is actually functional. I'm not so certain that this construction project gives them the gamer "street cred" that was lost after G4 gutted TechTV, but it's certainly interesting to see. Fortunately they've posted a video of the segment. Note the typo in their own content that describes this as an Super NES controller. Hmm, I think any credibility they might have gained here has just been lost with that little error.

Still, nice controller.

(via BoingBoing)

Perceptions On Passing On Picking Up A PSP

PspwebThere's a discussion over at Slashdot today regarding how the PlayStation Portable wasn't a complete 100% out-of-the-gate rocket-like sold-out-completely success.  What's interesting (to me at least) is how the comments are skewing towards why people decided not to buy a PSP at this time.  Some cited cost, some cited Sony's poor track record for first generation product runs, and others cited the poor launch library.  It's an interesting read just to get some additional perspective on the matter.

As for me, I passed on picking up a PSP mainly due to its high cost, but also it's seemingly fragile state.  If I put down $250+ for a handheld gaming gizmo, I don't want the screen getting keyed when I accidentially slip my car keys into the same pocket as the PSP.  Say what you want about the Nintendo DS, but it's screen is never getting scarred by my misplaced keys.  Thankfully.  If I'd been carrying a PSP around in my pocket all this time, it would be scratched up in every way imaginable.

The Forgotten: Battletoads

Everyone loves an established video game franchise. After all, some of gaming’s best loved characters have been going on adventure after adventure for years, prompting players to line up to reserve the next installment of Super Mario, Link, Samus Aran, or Sonic the Hedgehog. Over the years, however, some games just haven’t struck gold; they’ve been overshadowed by more popular fare that shares the store shelf or are even passed over due to something as petty as unimpressive box art or an unusual premise. They deserve to be remembered and revived, but instead they are The Forgotten.

Developed by Rare
Released for the NES (1991), Game Boy (1992 and 1993), Super NES (1994), Sega Genesis (1994), Sega Game Gear (1994), and the arcade (1994)

Before Rare lit up the game world with Donkey Kong Country one of the games the company came up with was Battletoads, a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the vein of Final Fight and Double Dragon. Three of the galaxy’s fightingest toads (Rash, Pimple, and Zitz) set out to defeat the evil Dark Queen with their cartoon-inspired moves, such as fists that become an anvil or standard kicks that become giant boots. Alternating with the side-scrolling levels are a series of vertical drop levels, racing levels, and other such diversions to keep gameplay fresh. Battletoads was ported to a number of consoles and the characters even teamed up with Billy and Jimmy Lee of Double Dragon fame, but after Donkey Kong and friends put Rare on the map they left the ‘toads behind.

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Sony Replacing "Dead Pixel" PSPs After All

PlayStation PortableSony has apparently backtracked on their claim last week that they would not replace PlayStation Portable units with dead pixels.  If you'll recall, last week I touched on the fact that Sony would not be replacing these defective units.  It seems that Sony's American division has been feeling the heat from angry customers because now they're offering replacement screes and/or PSPs for units that suffer from dead pixel problems.  To quote from the article that offers this news:

SCEA representatives have offered an official line that any PSP owners who, after a week or two, find that any dead pixel issues are causing them problems, will have their machine or its screen replaced free of charge, though the time-frame for the postal exchange service was not outlined.

It's good to see Sony listening to their rabid customer base's complaints and doing the right thing in replacing defective units.  After all, if you pay $250 for something you expect it to work correctly right out of the box.

Anatomy of a Nintendo Lifespan

NessetRPGeek over at Everything2 has written an amazing account of the Nintendo Entertainment System's debut, life, and obsolescence.  As we move forward into new gaming generations with new capabilities it's always nice to look back at our gaming roots.  I share a lot of Everything2 writeups here because that's one of my favorite sources of essays like this, but if you know of something similar on another website, please send it to me.  Great gaming writing such as this deserves to be shared with everyone.

At first, they tried to partner with Atari, who rebuffed them in favor of developing their own system, the Atari 7800, which was eventually shelved due to the failing market and later released during the NES's heyday to little success. They then tried to shop the Famicom directly to retailers, who as a group wanted nothing to do with video games and the toylike red and white Famicom.

Nintendo thus hatched a clever plan to crack the market open, and then lock it up for themselves. There were three groups they needed to win over to do this: the game retailers (mostly toy stores), the game buyers (mostly parents), and the game players (mostly children). Each group had a portion of the strategy directed towards them.

Kudos to RPGeek on a job well done.  Remember, send quality gaming essay links to me at the address over on the right-hand sidebar (no direct link here to help cut back on spam to my inbox).

Nintendo Scaling Back On Buttons

BowserIt's been a slow news day in the gaming world, but this piece from IGN caught my eye.  Nintendo President Satoru Iwata recently gave an interview to a Japanese publication regarding the upcoming new Nintendo Revolution console.  What disturbs me about Iwata's comments is this little quote:

"The current consoles are constantly getting more complicated. The number of buttons on Joypads has been increasing steadily in recent years, for instance."

There's been a lot of rumor about touchscreen controllers and what-not, but my concern is that Nintendo is planning a controller with only one or two buttons.  Imagine if Kirby's Air Ride (a game which only uses the A button and control stick) was the standard control scheme rather than the exception.  I don't want games to be that simple.  I do want a little complexity in my gaming, thank you very much.  I want a jump button and a weapon button and an item button and all the other functions we've come to expect from modern gaming.  If Nintendo's big idea for the future is a big green button that says PUSH ME, I'm not so sure I want to be a part of that.  The only worse thing would be if that big green button came prepushed from the factory.

Contemplations On Majora's Mask

ZeldaHere's another dip into the Everything2 library in which two members of the VideoGames usergroup, MightyMooquack and malcster, have written very detailed essays about The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.  They discuss the basic structure of the game and provide a basic walkthrough, but the major points of interest are how the game diverges from the traditional Zelda formula and how strikingly weird the game can be at times.

Another masterful feature of the game is the way that each person in Clock Town, and many people outside of it, have completely worked out routines as to what steps they take and what they do for the 3 day cycle. This means that if you know where someone is at a particular time on a particular day, you can go there during that exact time on another 3 day cycle and they will still be there.

Clock Town is a masterpiece of choreography, with the builders building, the postman running around looking in the letterboxes, and little scripted events taking place (for example, hang around in North Clock Town at midnight, and you witness Sakon the thief mugging someone, who you can choose to help and get rewarded with the Bomb Mask). You could wander round the town just watching for hours, and the magic of the game never wears off.

You can always count on the VideoGames group at Everything2 to crank out quality essays such as this one. 

PlayStation Sales Halted

DualshockIt hasn't been all good news for Sony this past week.  A District Court in California has handed down a ruling that Sony is guilty of patent infringement in regards to its DualShock controllers and must pay more than $90 million to the rightful patent holder, Immersion Corp.  What makes this story more than just another corporate misstep resulting in a fine is that both the American and Japanese arms of Sony must also stop selling PSOne and PS2 units as well as forty different games.  The judge involved with the case immediately stayed the injunction, thereby allowing the consoles to stay on the market.  All of this because of a patent over controller technology.  It's unknown if Sony is actually at fault or if Immersion is taking advantage of the situation.

With PlayStation units supposedly pulled from shelves, how will this effect Sony?  American gaming consumers seem focused on PlayStation Portable units right now (which are uneffected by the ruling) and most people who have a PS2 have one already, so it's not as if Sony is losing money hand over fist in lost sales.  Of course, this is surely an issue for them and chances are they will take a hit the most from the games that must also be removed from shelves.  My prediction is that Sony will settle with Immersion and either buy the patent or the company itself.

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Mini-Review: Yoshi Touch & Go

YoshiAt long last, something worth playing on the Nintendo DS besides Super Mario 64 DS has arrived.  Yoshi Touch & Go is essentially a re-telling of the classic Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island in that Kamek the Magikoopa has derailed the stork's plans to deliver Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to their parents.  Baby Mario falls from the sky and lands atop a Yoshi who must travel across the land to reunite the brothers.  This is no normal side-scrolling platformer, however.  The control pad and buttons have no function here; instead players must use the stylus and microphone to effect the world around our heroes.  Yoshi reaches back to a time when the object of a video game was to earn a high score.  There are no traditional levels here and no standard progression.  Basically, Nintendo has taken a little tech demo known as "Balloon Trip" and turned it into one of the most addictive games we'll see this quarter.

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