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April 2006

Warner Drops UMD Plans

UMDThe writing is certainly on the wall for Sony's UMD movie format.  Movie studios have been canceling their plans to release films on UMD for the Sony PlayStation Portable for a few weeks, and now it's time for Warner Bros. to join the Canceled Club.  The Digital Bits has a complete list of films (and TV) currently available on UMD as well as a complete list of the canceled Warner titles.  The studio has dropped its plans to release classic quality titles such as Scooby-Doo: The Movie, True Romance, and NBA Furious Finishes.  And they wonder why customers aren't interested in UMD films.

A few of the major studios are still in the UMD game for now.  Sony has a bunch of titles on the way (unsurprisingly), while 20th Century Fox has plans for releases of both X-Men movies and the first two Die Hard films.  Paramount has one title left in the pipeline: Volume 1 of South Park, and even its release date is TBA.  The studios have surely learned a lesson about releasing merely adequate films on an inferior format for comparatively steep prices.  This experience must have taught studios not to jump in with every new format that comes from Sony's development department.  Now then, on to Blu-ray!


The Case Of The Testy PlayStation

TEST Sony PlayStation 2It's time to trot out more development hardware for a good gawking.  Over at question and answer site Ask Metafilter a fellow by the name of Jim Christian has come across an early model PS2 that features a big TEST logo on the side.  He wants to know if there's anything interesting he can do with the console.  The first answer comes from an Electronic Arts employee who explains a little about the unit.

I have one of these guys on my desk. I think in order to do debugging, you need one of the giant "tool" kits. From everything I understand, it's really hard to develop at all for the PS2.

The crew at Assembler Games has been discussing the world of TEST PS2s and documenting the many variations of the hardware.  If you know anything about the hardware, feel free to jump into the discussion.  It's interesting stuff, but it's nowhere as near as interesting as the Genesis SPROBE box or the Super NES FX development card.  Development hardware that looks like the finished product is downright boring.

Thanks to Jim for the photo.


You Can't Spell "Expensive" Without XPS

Dell XPS PC giant Dell has purchased high-power PC producer Alienware.  Sounds all well and good as long as Dell leaves well enough alone with their new acquisition, right?  Slashdot is ruminating on how the two seemingly different corporate cultures are all set to clash and gives a little discussion on Dell's XPS line of gaming machines.  Basically the XPS line of computers are overpowered and juiced up to play games like nobody's business.  Again, sounds all well and good.  It had better be for the price of $2,000 or more.

Continue reading "You Can't Spell "Expensive" Without XPS" »


PS3 Continues To Be Too Cool To Behold

Sony PlayStation 3I've joked in the past about how the Sony PlayStation line will become so awesome and cool that you won't ever be able to touch one, but it looks like Sony is taking my jests to a new level.  According to today's Internet scuttlebutt, the PS3 won't be around in great numbers at E3 next month as one would expect.  Instead the consoles will be behind closed doors that only open for those people whom are invited.  That really surprises me, mainly because after teasing everyone for so long with this new console it really is time to show some concrete details and let the E3ers get their hands on some game demos.  I really have no desire to line up to gawk at a PS3 kept under shatterproof glass for display purposes.  Even the developers are puzzled, as most have no idea if they'll be allowed to display PS3 demos running on actual PS3 hardware in their own booths away from the Sony pavilion.

Over the last few weeks, SPOnG has heard from numerous sources within third-party publishers and at various developers, all of whom outlined that their product being readied for E3 would not be shown on Sony's stand. Furthermore, the availability of demo units to third-parties for inclusion in their own booths has not been outlined, leaving publishers and developers unsure as to what they will be able to show, even at this late stage.

If Sony really wants to launch the PS3 this year then we need to see and touch something beyond a conceptual render or a prototype case.  No more rendered concept gameplay videos.  No more "uh, that's not the final design" stammers from Sony's staff.  I want to see a PS3 powered up and running a game demo.  I want to pick up the new controller (boomerang-shaped or not) and press the buttons and make things happen.  Sony got away with wowing everyone with shiny videos last year, but the time for that is behind us.  It's time to play some games.  The alternative thought that Sony is far behind on making this whole PS3 thing work and therefore has nothing playable to present yet is too gasp-inducing to even consider... right?


Burger King To Publish Xbox Games

Xbox Action Game, Xbox Fighting Game, and Xbox Racing Game The prophecy has been fulfilled! Kotaku has some interesting details of fast food giant Burger King's plans to publish its own brand of Microsoft Xbox games.  Yup, that's right.  Burger King is planning three games based around the burger king himself (you know, the "guy" from those creepy "wake up with the king" commercials).  The games are obviously bound for glory though.  The three games (currently known as Xbox Action Game, Xbox Fighting Game, and Xbox Racing Game) feature the king and other characters created by the company over the years.

These are games that are destined to be given as gifts from grandma to disappointed children.  She heard about the promotion while watching her afternoon stories, and since the grandkids like "the videos", she went to Burger King and picked one up.  The tentative price of these instant collectibles?  $4 each with the purchase of a value meal.  It remains to be seen if the games will be cheesier than the burgers, but personally I'm holding out hope for a sequel to Chase The Chuck Wagon.


A Tetris Bragging Moment

UPDATE: I've topped this score.  Check out my new personal best.

Tetris DSI make it a point not to brag or boast when I complete a video game or achieve a high score, but today I'm making an exception because I amazed myself with this achievement.  While playing the Endless Standard mode of Tetris DS I racked up a score of 2,768,132 with over 1,160 lines completed with the game ending at Level 116.  Incidentally, the game stops counting completed lines at 999, but since the classic games that scroll by on the top screen follow the same pattern each time through, ending the game on Excitebike as I did puts me somewhere in the range of an additional 160 lines past 999.  Top that, my friends.  Top that!


Weekly Poll: Excitement Is Building

Weekly Poll for 4-2-2006The 16-bit generation seems to be the favorite around here based on last week's poll results, but my favorite generation has to be the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The 16-bit games may have been sharper and more fun, but in the 8-bit world nearly everything was a surprise.  New games just seemingly appeared on store shelves because release dates weren't widely known.  Sequels just appeared from nowhere.  A single screenshot could fuel a thousand dreams.  Sometimes I miss the suspense and the mystery of it all.

Jumping ahead twenty years, there are still a few mysteries out there.  E3 is only a month away and at AMN we're busy making plans.  There's going to be a lot to see this year and excitement is certainly building.  What impending announcement are you anticipating the most?  Is it the long awaited Nintendo Revolution secrets?  The details behind the Sony PlayStation 3?  The rumored tease for Halo 3?  Make a choice and leave some comments. 


Whatever Happened To Super Mario Wacky Worlds?

Super Mario Wacky Worlds A lot of gaming fans are familiar with "the ones that got away": Sonic X-Treme... Earthbound 64...  Castlevania: Resurrection...  Super Mario Wacky Worlds.  What's that, you say?  You've never heard of the lost Super Mario title?  Well, there's a reason for that.  It was developed for the notorious Philips CD-I system as part of the licensing agreement that Philips walked away with when Nintendo terminated their planned deal to create the Super NES CD-ROM unit.  Yes, it's the same licensing agreement that inflicted those horrible Legend of Zelda games upon the world.  For Wacky Worlds though the development team wanted to create a traditional Super Mario title for the CD-I and worked around the clock for two weeks to put together enough of a demo to show Nintendo's top brass.  The Black Moon Project has the story.

Silas [Warner] adds "The characters were pirated from a video feed, the level maps drawn off on paper, and John Brooks and I prepared to put in 24-hour days for two weeks. At the end of that time, we had a little bit of one level done, enough to display at an upcoming Nintendo developer meeting. The disk was burned at 4am on friday morning for an 8am meeting." Which leaves the question, why was the game never completed? "The effect was just what was expected. Nintendo marveled and applauded the marvelous job we had done in two weeks, then killed the idea. The CD-i wasn't selling. The project was over, and I went looking for new work." adds Silas.

While the early screenshots look somewhat encouraging (as far as these CD-I titles go), perhaps it's for the best that this game dropped away.  There's a reason why Super Mario titles are always so dang good, and that reason is certainly not related to handing Mario and friends over to a third-party developer.  With pirated sprites and sketched levels, Wacky Worlds may have ended up as just another fan-made game, albeit a fan-made game with official distribution.


Arr Matey! Pirated Famicom Fighters!

Mortal Kombat 3 Special 56 Peoples As I've said before, for every amazingly great video game released through legitimate channels out there, there is a crummy low-tech pirated knock-off version.  In the mid-1990s it was common for software pirates operating out of Asia's darkest alleys to produce crummy 8-bit versions of popular fighting games such as Capcom's Street Fighter II and Midway's Mortal Kombat.  These knock-offs for the Nintendo Famicom contained poor quality character sprites, bland (or even missing) backgrounds, and featured game engines so pathetic that most characters were incapable of performing the lauded special moves such as the Dragon Punch and the infamous Fatalities.

Insert Credit has taken a look at a handful of these pirated clones, covering titles such as Fighter 12 Peoples Street VI, Mortal Kombat 3 Special 56 Peoples, and even the Nintendo-inspired Kart Fighter.

The characters and backgrounds seem to have been drawn in MS Paint with the line tool, and I’m sure that’s not really a far-out assessment of what actually occurred. There is absolutely no attempt made to squeak around the four-color sprite limitation of the Famicom, nor is there any attempt to make appealing use of those precious few colors. On the plus side, characters are actually pretty large for the Famicom, which means they fall the hell apart as soon as they touch each other, being made out of a stack of precariously placed sprites.

Some games just cannot be pared down to lesser technology without losing their soul.  If Capcom could have cranked out a legitimate and quality version of Street Fighter II for the Nintendo Entertainment System, don't you think they would have done so?  That game was a license to print money (as proven by the many many variations that were later produced, all of which sold very well).  It even turned up on the Game Boy years later.  If a valid sharp NES version were possible, we would have seen it.


Nintendo-inspired "Terrorists" Go Free; Koopa Still At Large

Mario goes for the block A little sanity surfaces at last in the case of the five girls from Ohio who were caught "planting" homemade question blocks inspired by Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. around their hometown.  GamePolitics says that the girls will not be brought up on charges related to the incident, but they will each have to write a letter of apology to each agency that responded to the reports of the mysterious boxes.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor V. Vigluicci said "The girls were imitating an art project they found on the Internet. None of the girls had any prior contacts with the police or juvenile court and are all good students. I do not believe that they had any bad or malicious intentions, (but) were not thinking about the consequences of their actions in this day and age."

It's a good thing I wasn't a part of this incident because my letter would be all snark (or, as GP reader jindewinter says, "they have to apologize for making everyone look like a bunch of paranoid dipshits").  Meanwhile, King Koopa and his Koopa Troop are still at large.