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November 2005
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December 2005

What's Captain Falcon Doing In Sonic Riders?

Sonic Riders meets F-Zero GXI think I created a monster.  Back in September when Sega's upcoming Sonic Riders was revealed I wrote a piece on the theory that the game reuses elements of F-Zero GX which, as you'll recall, Sega co-developed with Nintendo.  To add a little graphical punch to the piece I created a quick image of Captain Falcon speeding alongside Sonic the Hedgehog in the other "lane" of an early Sonic Riders screenshot.  Now I see where the image has been featured on Kotaku and commenters in the entry's thread seem to be taking it as proof that Captain Falcon will appear in Sonic Riders.  Just to be clear, the image is not proof of such a connection because I created it.  You all know how much I hate wild baseless rumors, so I'm shooting this one down right now.  It's a fake!

Jack Thompson, Shareholder

VG Cats: Coco Beans In Hot WaterTake-Two Interactive (publisher of titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series) has a new shareholder: anti-game lawyer Jack Thompson.  Thompson claims to have purchased shares in the company so that he can attend the next shareholder meeting and rattle a few cages.  AMN has the story and a few quotes from Thompson on the matter in case you don't have enough to do today and are looking to kill some time, as the quotes read about as you'd expect them to given Thompson's track record for acting like a childish pest. 

Thompson is more than welcome to purchase shares in any publicly-traded company that he pleases.  However, fans of Take-Two's products are just as welcome to do the same.  Thompson believes he can use his new status as a shareholder to cause trouble within the Take-Two organization.  Perhaps the best way to negate his actions here is for fans of the company's games to purchase shares of stock of their own.  If the company's fans and own employees hold a controlling interest against those like Thompson who seek to bring the company down, then Thompson and his ilk can complain all they like.  Without majority control there's not much they can do to put a stop to Take-Two's actions at the shareholder level.

This is also probably a good time to note that I stopped seeing Thompson as a legitimate threat to the video games industry quite sometime ago.  At this point whenever I read an article about Thompson's latest scheme to bring the gaming world to its knees I can only chuckle at his antics.  I haven't mentioned him here on PTB in a while because he just isn't relevant anymore.  This entry is only included here to show just how low the man has sunk in his quest: he's investing money in what he considers to be the enemy.  Even if his rants do nothing to incite the shareholders to sue the company, Take-Two continues on unabated and Thompson earns a return on his investment when the next Grand Theft Auto game is released.  Either way he manages to fill his own pockets.

Who Will Speak For K.K. Slider?

K.K. Slider Chances are you've read about Animal Crossing: Wild World's K.K. Slider and his comments regarding the free exchange of music.  To sum it up, the canine musician in the game remarks that "Those industry fat cats try to put a price on my music, but it wants to be free."  K.K. then gives players a free copy of his musical creations to listen to on demand.  Somehow this little moment in the game expanded into the belief that Nintendo is condoning file sharing and piracy.  I really think that people are reading too much into K.K.'s message.

K.K. Slider is a character in a video game.  When he speaks, he speaks for himself and not for the company that created him.  It is K.K. Slider's opinion that his music should be free.  Nowhere have Nintendo's executives come forward and given their stamp of approval to copyright infringement.  Also note that K.K. is speaking solely about his own music: "... industry fat cats try to put a price on my music..."  There's no infringement in this instance because K.K. is giving away copies of his own music, something that he is allowed to do since he owns the copyright to his own creations.  I believe that anyone looking to read between the lines for implied permission to swap Nintendo game ROMs or other such material is seeing what they want to see.  This non-issue has been beaten to death long enough.  Please, let's move on.

Final Nail Driven Into The N-Gage Coffin

N-Gage QDNokia seems to have decided to cut its losses with the much-maligned N-Gage portable game system/phone, and while we'll be seeing the N-Gage name around for future Nokia-branded gaming projects, the N-Gage hardware (both the original iteration and the QD redesign) are a thing of the past.  It's probably for the best at this point.  Few people bought into the N-Gage concept and even fewer people bought the N-Gage itself.  There are just better portable gaming options out there, and combining a watered-down version of Tomb Raider with a cell phone just wasn't going to work against the like of Super Mario and LuminesSpong has the story, and they cite a Nokia press release so I'm inclined to believe them.

Nokia had a rather large booth back at E3 this year to promote new N-Gage offerings.  I walked by it a few times and each time I passed it there was nobody there playing a game or talking to the staff.  E3 is packed full of people at all times.  The convention hall is a sea of gamers and personal space is at a minimum.  I could have gone to the N-Gage booth and done a series of backflips without colliding with a single person.  That's just how empty the place was.  So long, N-Gage hardware.  You won't be missed, but you will be remembered.  Remembered as a joke, most likely, but history can be a harsh mistress.

Spong also goes on about a Nintendo DS redesign that features free VoIP access, but I'll believe that when I see it.

EA Does The Right Thing At Last

Madden NFL 06One of Madden NFL 06's most vaunted features is the Franchise Mode in which players can build their own teams in order to play through an entire season of football.  That's all well and good except that the Sony PlayStation Portable version of the game has a nasty bug that causes the PSP to shut down when selecting to play the Franchise Mode, making the mode unplayable.  If shutdown doesn't occur right away, then the game locks up early during gameplay.  Oops.  Publisher Electronic Arts's solution to the problem has been twofold: 1) "There is no problem; go away," and 2) "If there is a problem (and we're not saying there is), then just don't play Franchise Mode."  As you can imagine, this response has not gone over well with fans.

Well, two months after the issue was first reported the company has decided to add a third approach to their handling of the situation: "Send us your disc and we'll replace it."  It's great to see a company like EA that has a history of poor regard for customers do the right thing and replace the defective discs.  It's a fine line that companies have to walk these days, as admitting that a disc is defective just opens the way for some overzealous lawyer to launch a class action lawsuit over the issue.  There's no need for lawsuits over what, in the end, is just a defective video game.  However, EA does have a responsibility to the customer in that there should be better quality control procedures in place to catch these kind of showstopping glitches.  EA really should have stood up earlier and offered to make the swap, but better late than never.  Here's hoping that the next shipment of new Madden discs will feature the fixed version of the game.

Back When A Sega Genesis Could Kill A Man

Sega SPROBEOnce upon a time in the land of Electronic Arts there was a little game development machine, and when I say "little" I mean "gigantic".  For you see, in the early 1990s EA scajummed together a development box known as the Sega SPROBE in order to produce their Sega Genesis titles.  In addition to behaving like a normal Genesis / Mega Drive, the unit allows for real-time analysis and debugging of titles in development.  ASSEMblergames has the story and plenty of pictures.

This quite sophisticated tool explains the prowess that EA had with Mega Drive games. Few in number and held close, these units are what made EA shine in the 90's. The unit powers up and plays games like a normal Genesis, however when switched into the bypass mode a variety of software options let you do all sorts of fun things to the [Genesis].

The speculation is that this SPROBE box is the kind of thing used when EA produced their unlicensed Genesis cartridges, making the SPROBE essentially a reverse-engineered Genesis development tool.  Also of note (and noted in the article's comments) is that this particular beast of electronics is Revision E in the SPROBE line.  This makes me wonder just how much more massive the earlier models in the SPROBE line had to be.  I have this vision of an ENIAC-sized computer that fills an entire room and needs extensive cooling all in the name of creating Budokan: The Martial Spirit.

The Carnival Of Tomorrow, Today!

Donkey KongThe Carnival of Tomorrow #15 has set up shop over at The Speculist, and this time the topic is King Kong, both the movie and the gorilla himself as well as the science around making the movie and the science behind feeding the actual giant gorilla.  PTB is included in this go-round with a piece that I wrote last month reflecting on my own experiences with Donkey Kong, but there's plenty of interesting material to be seen elsewhere at the carnival.  Come for the Donkey, but stay for the King.

Pokemon Causes Cancer

POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic geneNintendo has its legal hackles up over the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's decision to name a cancer-causing gene, the POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic gene, "Pokemon".  Get it?  POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic gene.  The Nintendo branch that handles all things Pikachu, Pokemon USA, has filed a lawsuit in a bit of judicial strong-arming to get that name changed to something else.  Chances are Nintendo nor Pokemon USA wanted to see headlines proclaiming "Pokemon Causes Cancer".  I don't know what kind of irresponsible journalist would use such a headline, but there you go.  So now the Cancer Center has changed the name of the gene to simply "Zbtb7" which, as you'll recall, is the name of the final boss in Kirby Canvas Curse.

I have to wonder if this is another case of Nintendo's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.  How often do we hear about an overzealous legal department sending out lawsuits and cease-and-desist orders without the express consent of The Powers That Be in the main corporation?  Sega didn't react badly a few years about when a a defect-causing gene was named after Sonic the Hedgehog.  If news about this little spat winds up in the mainstream press (probably in the "Lighter Side of the News" segment) then I bet Nintendo/Pokemon USA will back down, apologize for its overzealous legal department, and then make a donation to the Center.

Yes, I know the last boss in Kirby Canvas Curse isn't named Zbtb7.

Capcom Loves The Animation

Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter While "classic" Mega Man is undergoing a cutesy re-imagining, his successor Mega Man X is about to break loose on the Sony PlayStation Portable in a remake of the first X adventure.  Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter is an expanded retelling of 1993's Mega Man X for the Super NES, and by "expanded" I mean "loaded with animation".  IGN has some footage.  Mega Man X has been doing animated video clips since the days of Mega Man X3 (the non-SNES versions) and while I really want the animation here to work, I keep having those horrible visions about the videos from Mega Man 8.

Capcom wants to do animated clips and I can respect that.  What I cannot respect is hiring voice actors who apparently cannot speak English.  Capcom is a major company and I'd think that they could afford to hire a second set of actors to handle the English translation.  I'm not judging the Maverick Hunter animation yet because, well, it's not finished.  However, I've learned my lesson when it comes to Capcom's voice talent, so let's just say that while I'm not judging anything yet, I'm also not expecting much.

G4 Boldly Goes For Some Reason

United Federation of PlanetsI think we can now all agree that G4 is giving up its video gaming roots and aiming to become the next SpikeTV.  I say this because the channel has just acquired the rights to Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Now I like Star Trek as much as the next sci-fi fan, but it doesn't belong on a network dedicated to video gaming.  Of course, neither do reruns of The Man Show or Fastlane.  Yet there they are.  We already have a crappy network for men; I don't think we need a second one.

In terms of G4's channel positioning, [owner] Comcast has to walk a fine line lest it violate affiliate agreements for G4 with other cable operators that specify the channel focus on video games. However, video games will likely still be part of the mix at G4 given how popular they are with the young males the channel targets. "Trek" isn't exactly alien to the gamer world; the brand has generated more than 70 video game titles.

Yes, and most of those games have been terrible.  Sure, we all loved Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, but it's time to let it go.  Here's my prediction of how G4's Trek reruns acquisition will play out: it'll be something to watch if nothing else is on, but I won't go searching for it.  Hey, that sounds a lot like SpikeTV.  Well then, mission accomplished, G4!