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August 2006

Nintendo Restricts Wii Wi-Fi For A Reason

Nintendo logoThere's a lot of bile churning among the gaming community today over a single statement buried at the bottom of IGN's latest preview for a Nintendo Wii launch title, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam.  While touching on the fact that the game would not include online multiplayer, the preview adds:

IGN has separately learned from multiple development sources that Nintendo will not release Wii Wi-Fi Connection libraries to third parties until early 2007, which means that no third party launch title will have an online mode.

The outcry over this is that Nintendo is "breaking" a bunch of third-party Wii titles by restricting online capabilities.  Maybe so, but Nintendo isn't being completely unreasonable here.  After all, the company probably wants outside developers to focus on the new controller first and foremost for launch titles and could be concerned that the distraction of adding online content might weaken third-party Wii titles.  Or perhaps Nintendo wants to put its best foot forward and kick off the online Wii content by itself without outside competition (both stellar and sub-par).  No matter what Nintendo's reasoning, it shouldn't come as a surprise.  Nintendo has always been a very restrictive company with which to work in that if you're going to play with their toys in their yard, you're going to play how they say and when they say.

ProteinStation 3

Folding@HomeMaybe the Sony PlayStation 3 is more computer than game console after all.  Stanford University is preparing a special PS3 version of their Folding@Home research software that uses untapped distributed computer resources to crunch complex algorithms involving protein folding in an effort to cure diseases such as Parkinson's Disease and certain forms of cancer.  Essentially, when you aren't shooting thugs or racing cars, your PS3 will be working to help improve lives.

The PS3 client will also support some advanced visualization features. While the Cell microprocessor does most of the calculation processing of the simulation, the graphic chip of the PLAYSTATION 3 system (the RSX) displays the actual folding process in real-time using new technologies such as HDR and ISO surface rendering. It is possible to navigate the 3D space of the molecule using the interactive controller of the PS3, allowing us to look at the protein from different angles in real-time.

This is a fantastic idea.  In this case you as a person don't have to do anything to make this work beyond loading the software on your PS3 and paying for the slightly higher power bill that comes from running your console all the time.  However, since the software is going to run on a PS3, let's have a little fun.  I don't understand the math behind this project, but I know a chance for entertainment when I see it.  Just give me a little spaceship in the middle of the protein field and let me blast the "bad" proteins.  Let me fly stunts around complex molecules.  Let me feel like I'm doing something productive beyond watching numbers I don't understand scroll endlessly across the screen.

(via Kotaku)

Ashes To Ashes, Bits To Bits

Memory cardMy friends, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to some of our dearest friends, and although they are gone (ripped away from us just when we thought they'd be with us forever), inevitably we must move on.  Farewell and be at peace, dead and formatted memory cards.

I went to France to visit my cousins a few weeks back and I was watching one of them play SSX3 on the Gamecube. At one point the game failed to read the memory card and so gave the option to reformat. Not being able to speak English my cousin selected the option, and despite me screaming no, went and confirmed... memory card completely wiped. I lost: Paper Mario 2, TimeSplitters 2, Tales of Symphonia, Skies of Arcadia, [Super] Mario Sunshine. Probably one or two more, my memory's fuzzy at the moment. At least I'd finished all the games...

I've only had one memory card issue over the years, and actually it's for a battery-backed game cartridge.  After receiving SimCity for the Super NES in late December 1991, I spent over a week building my city, Cashtown, up to the metropolis level only to turn the game on one afternoon and find absolutely no record of the city.  Cashtown was just gone, swallowed up like a digital Roanoke Colony.  I eventually rebuilt, but it just wasn't the same.

Star Fox Command Storyline Revealed

Star Fox Command The latest chapter of the Star Fox saga is about to unfold on the Nintendo DS later this month, and from the look of the storyline this will be another adventure in the series that Changes Things Forever.  Once again the team has fragmented and gone their separate ways only to find that... well, just read for yourself.

Years ago, a scientist named Andross went mad with power. Defeated by Star Fox and banished to the toxic planet of Venom, he dedicated his life to terraforming Venom into a lush, green world that his grandchildren would be happy to call home. Shut off from the rest of the galaxy and hated by all, Andross and his dream were eventually forgotten.

Fast-forward to the present day. A group of aliens called the Anglars, who discovered a way to survive in the toxic Venom Sea, launch an all-out assault on the Lylat system. The Cornerian military turns to team Star Fox for help but are shocked to find that personal issues have forced the team to disband. Fox McCloud, the team leader, agrees to take on the Anglar threat alone ... but soon finds himself overwhelmed. After some consideration, he agrees to regroup the team and take another run at the Anglars.

But in order to enter the Venom Sea and take out the Anglars, team Star Fox will need to find the device invented by Andross so long ago. Can they do it? Will the team survive long enough to put aside their personal differences and fight as one? The world waits...

For a guy who has been dead for quite a while, Andross still manages to threaten the galaxy.  Nintendo promises a branching storyline and multiple endings for Star Fox Command, something that is greatly appreciated after the linear storyline of the previous title in the series, Star Fox Assault.  While nobody is saying so officially, I still stand by my belief that a lot of Command's gameplay is cribbed from the completed-but-canceled Star Fox 2 for the Super NES.  Both games include turn-based strategy segments based off a map of the solar system and mini-missions based on events that happen on the map.  Folks who have played Star Fox 2 have wondered how the gaming public at large would take to a taste of strategy mixed in with familiar shooting elements, and now ten years later it looks like we're finally going to get an answer with Star Fox Command.

Weekly Poll: Navi Come Home

Weekly Poll for 8-14-2006 Well, there is a little interest in Microsoft's Creators Club.  Time will tell if the gaming community at large sees anything fun come out of the program.  I still believe that we'll be bombarded with the worst kind of tripe commonly found at the bottom of  Prove me wrong, homebrewers.  Prove me wrong.

Moving onward, last week Nintendo revealed that the Wii version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess would not allow players to use the old fashioned control stick control scheme.  Meanwhile, the GameCube version will (of course) use only the control stick scheme.  This has stirred up some discussion in the community, as many players were planning on buying the Wii version and switching the control options to the traditional control scheme if the freehand controller turned out to be a bust.  Now we have a choice to make: stick with the familiar GameCube version, or go on to something unproven with the Wii version.  How about you?  Which version are you eyeing (if any)?

The Worst That Acclaim Had To Offer

AcclaimI'm not one to dance on a dead corpse, but when I came across this old list of the ten worst games produced by the now-defunct Acclaim, I just had to do a little jig.  All your anti-favorites are here, such as Turok: Evolution, Total Recall, and BMX XXX.  There's even a little section on Acclaim's horrible marketing campaigns.

Who can forget the contest in which the company offered to pay five hapless schmucks 500 pounds sterling apiece to legally change their names to "Turok"?  Or the time they tried to buy advertising space on the tombstones of real, dead human beings to promote a Shadowman game? Or when they expressed utter contempt for public safety by promising to pay the traffic fines of anyone who received a speeding ticket in their rush to pick up a copy of Burnout? You can't make this stuff up. Well, you can, but it's much more entertaining to realize that someone really was so desperate to sell games that they sank to these depths.

I'm happy to say that I never fell for the Acclaim trap after the Game Boy generation (yay for Kwirk!), and while I have played several of the company's abysmal creations, I've never actually spent my own money on their horrible products.  If I had, however, I imagine I'd still be in the shower trying to wash the gunk off of my soul.

The Things We Do For Games

Gimme that game! How much trouble have you gone through to acquire that certain special video game?  Did you drive many miles, trade all your other games away, or import from across the sea?  The gang at the rllmukforum is in discussion mode again, this time talking about the many things we do to get our hands on a beloved game.

I have to shamefully admit that In summer 1996 I gave my girlfriend a rather thin excuse for not spending a Friday night with her because I wanted to go straight home after work and play the Quake demo.

While I've never rejected women in favor of video games, I am guilty of roping together some friends to help me count and wrap pennies out of my big glass gallon jug so I'd have enough money to buy Battletoads for the Nintendo Entertainment System as a kid.  The justification?  "It's a two-player game so if you want a turn, you'll help wrap pennies."  Surprisingly, it worked.  We never could get past the speeder bike level though.

The Games Of The Simpsons

Homer Simpson As long as we're talking about the combination of television and video games, let's have a look at this list of all of the video games that appear on TV's The Simpsons.  There's all kinds of games listed, both fictional and real.  Thrill at humorous fake game titles such as Bloodstorm, Bonesquad, Dash Dingo, Larry the Looter, Escape From Grandma's House (and its sequel), Razor Fight II: The Slashening, and everybody's favorite, Time Waster.  You'd better chuckle at these names because you can bet that each one required several writers sitting around a table for several hours in an attempt to come up with funny game titles.

The Games Of Stargate

Chevron sevenThe Stargate SG-1 television series recently celebrated its 200th episode, and as part of the festivities the Stargate fan site has launched a special feature looking at all of the Stargate video games.  Yes, of course there have been Stargate video games.  Most people may be most familiar with the canceled Stargate SG-1: The Alliance, but the Stargate legacy extends to the 16-bit systems of yesterday as well as handheld and mobile content, too.

Despite the many Stargate games, I'm still disappointed by the cancellation of The Alliance.  The 16-bit games based on the original 1994 film don't really capture the soul of the Stargate mythos, as it's just an Acclaim-produced film license tie-in game created to generate some quick cash back in the day.  The handheld games are just puzzle titles with the Stargate license strapped to it.  The PC-based MMORPG coming in the future just doesn't excite me either.  I'm still waiting for the great grand Stargate game.

Use Wii Only As Directed

Warning labelSometimes I really wonder about people.  You'd think by now that we, as a species, would have learned to read the directions that come enclosed with our electronic gadgets if we expect to succeed in using said gadget.  MTV's Stephen Totilo recently had the chance to play some of THQ's upcoming games for the Nintendo Wii and, for whatever reason, seems to be surprised that the games do not play properly if the freehand controller isn't wielded as directed.

[W]hat about those people who don't want to play by the rules? What if, for example, in "Cars" you choose to hold the remote like you would the horizontal steering wheel of a city bus, rather than like the vertical wheel of a regular car? Would it work? A quick test showed that the game only reads a twist on the vertical plane, like the movement of the hands on a clock, or a wave goodbye or, for the theatrically inclined, "jazz hands." But what about flipping the remote upside down and then steering? It still works, but again, only on that vertical plane.

Let me get this straight.  Stephen is surprised that the games do not play properly if the player doesn't hold the controller correctly.  Why would he expect the games to work if he mishandles the controller?  I don't expect to progress in, say, Super Mario World if I hold the controller upside down and press only the B button.  Of course controllers have to be held as directed in order to function properly!  I'd say more about this issue, but I have to go and prepare lunch by stapling some turkey to the wall.  I know most people don't make sandwiches that way, but today I feel like breaking the rules.