Previous month:
February 2006
Next month:
April 2006

March 2006

Xbox 360 Camera Gets You In The Game

Stay Tuned Rumors come to factual life with the unveiling of the upcoming camera accessory for the Microsoft Xbox 360.  The Xbox Live Camera offers video chat capability and face-mapping abilities, allowing players to put their own faces (and eventually, erm, inevitable "other" body parts) into the video games themselves.  Yeah, that will end well.

"Things like wearing a baseball cap, having a pony tail, long hair, basic shape features, etc.. Once you have a rough shape of your face the 360 spends a couple minutes processing it all and voila, instant in-game character of your own likeness.  The whole process takes less than 5 minutes with very good results. You cannot see it animate in the photos but you can open and close the mouth, wiggle the ears, and move the rest of the face around in realtime."

Like so many other things there are plenty of valid uses for this new gadget.  On the other hand I can already hear the outraged screams of parents and legislators when they discover that Little Billy has been playing on "that toy" with Captain Penisface where he learned how to murder his classmates training on "the murder simulator".  Like I said earlier, that'll end well.

Time To Empty The Warehouse

Conker loves a good dealEver wonder what happens to video games that are produced in large quantities and then don't completely sell out?  They hit the discount rack.  In this case Microsoft appears to be clearing out a little warehouse space by inducting a number of Microsoft Xbox games into the "Best Of Platinum Hits" line, marking down games such as Soul Calibur II and a number of Tom Clancy titles to a mere $9.99.

I have to say, this is a great deal if you're behind on scarfing up Xbox games.  I can't remember the last time a home console game sold for that low a price.  Even Nintendo's "Player's Choice" line of bestselling games doesn't sink below the $19.99 mark.  It's a great time to stock up and save.

Attack Of The Marketing Department!

Tomb Raider The world of marketing and public relations is a strange place, a place where conventional wisdom and logic don't always apply.  It's a place where conventional vocabulary skills don't always apply.  Consider marketing chief Bob Lindsey's comments to Next Generation regarding the next Tomb Raider game that include gems like this:

"The game is strong so we will get a long run, it will extend to other platforms and then go platinum. It will be evergreen so we are comfortable with the decision."

Speak English, man!  Don't spend so much time maximizing your vectors to core enable the game space's longevity habits.  What is there to gain by giving these kind of empty statements?  And why do marketers such as Lindsey speak in such an over-jargoned manner?  The buzzwords just don't make sense packed together in bulk.  There's nothing of value to be gained by reading the actual interview, so instead check out Curmudgeon Gamer's lambasting of the marketspeak instead.  Synergy!

The Brain Behind Eternal Champions

Eternal ChampionsBack when Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II were fresh sources of parental and congressional outrage, Sega decided to jump on the fighting game bandwagon with an original fighting license of their own.  Combining the cartoony world of Street Fighter with the gore of Mortal Kombat led to the Sega Genesis title Eternal Champions and its Sega CD sequel, Eternal Champions: Challenge From The Dark Side.  A third installment of the game for the Sega Saturn was eventually scraped by Sega's Japanese arm because management decided that Virtua Fighter was where the company's fighting future belonged.  We all know how that turned out.

Before the Eternal Champions series was snuffed out there was this interview with producer Michael Latham.  In this three page Q&A he discusses from just where the original concept came, which characters were cut by Sega management, and how the game engine itself works.  It's an interesting look back in time to when shockingly brutal fighting games were new and Sega itself was still running in the console race.  Where are you now, Jetta Maxx?

It's Not All Smoke And Mirrors Anymore

Desert Bus Way back when developers were excited about the Sega CD there was a little title in the works called Smoke and Mirrors featuring Penn & Teller, the magic/comedy duo.  The game was quite bizarre, as in addition to a somewhat post-modern standard platformer adventure the game also included mini-games with odd twists, such as a diversion called "Desert Bus" in which players must drive a lone bus from Arizona to Nevada.  During the bus ride nothing happens.  There's no other traffic on the desert road, no passengers on the bus, no turns to navigate... it's just eight hours of unfolding pavement.  Would it surprise you if I said the game was never actually released?

Long story short, the game has finally surfaced after all these years. is offering it up for download, and since the developer/publisher, Absolute Software, has been out of business for a decade now it's widely assumed the game is basically abandonware.  Just as a point of interest, the other game in development at Absolute at the time was the Super NES adaptation of television's Home Improvement.  Gee, I wonder why Absolute went under?

New Super Mario Bros. Goes Back To The Beginning

New Super Mario Bros.I've been saying it for a while, but I'll say it again.  I'm excited about New Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo DS.  Now there's more new information about the game, and from the sounds of things it looks like the development team has taken the best elements from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario World, and Super Mario 64 and combined them with plenty of new material into one grand package.  Nintendo veteran Takashi Tezuka has revealed some interesting things.

The gameplay itself has a lot of replay value, I think. In addition, you won't be able to save your progress from level to level; you'll only be able to save when you reach the next world. So in that way, the game system is designed to challenge the player and encourage replay. Also, remember how in Super Mario 64 you needed to collect a certain number of stars to reach the next course? We're doing something similar to that. There are also similarities to Super Mario World in that different branches exist to different levels. By completing some task, you'll open a different branch.

What else is there to say?  New Super Mario Bros. releases in North America this May.  Personally I think there should be a national holiday declared to celebrate the release, but that means stores would have to be closed and the mail would not be delivered, so we wouldn't actually be able to get the game on the actual holiday itself.  Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Stargate Defender Kept Me Out Of Stanford

NewsRadioBack in the mid-1990s there was no better office comedy on American television than NewsRadio.  Airing on NBC for five seasons, the show followed the goings-on of WNYX 980AM, a New York radio station specializing in news and traffic reports.  The show's third season was just released on DVD this week and it features one of my favorite episodes, "Arcade".

Continue reading "Stargate Defender Kept Me Out Of Stanford" »