Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rush DLC delayed...new albums announced

As I sit with a few thousand Rush fans on the Rock Band forums, waiting for the inexplicably delayed Moving Pictures to become available for download (come ON, XBL, it's a download album, it's not your first day at the rodeo with this stuff!), I have determined that Fake Steven Tyler is the new internet THING. I'm serious. Remember I said that.

Update 8/27 - The natives were quite restless on the forums today, as Harmonix kept the Rush DLC delay explanation in a shroud of secrecy until pretty late in the day. It was eventually revealed that the album download is to be delayed 1-2 weeks. Not sure what went wrong there, but it had to be something significant. Most speculation is that it has to do with the YYZ song having no vocals. Probably, and something to do with how that worked in the live environment, something QA wasn't able to catch in their test environment (like remotely joining a group, or something like that), because it's not as if the lack of vocals somehow escaped their notice until the last minute. So I wouldn't be surprised if the portion of YYZ that is tambourine-friendly becomes a vocals part, if the theory that vocals are not a removable part holds.

Update 8/28 - Harmonix has offered some good news to balance this out though. The Hollywood Insider has the exclusive on the upcoming crop of full album DLC releases, and it's pretty impressive! It starts with Metallica's new record, Death Magnetic on Guitar Hero (this was expected) on September 12. But then:
Stocking the digital bins, EW.com has learned exclusively, will be seminal full albums by Foo Fighters (The Colour and the Shape), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Blood Sugar Sex Magik), Jane's Addiction (Nothing's Shocking), Megadeth (Peace Sells... But Who's Buying) and Stevie Ray Vaughn (Texas Flood), along with a specially-compiled No Doubt Best Of collection. All are slated to roll out in the coming months, according to MTV Games.

Stevie Ray. NICE! No Doubt. NICE! Jane's Addiction...awwww, doesn't include Caught Stealing. Alas. But some pretty exciting stuff coming down the pike.

You can also check out Rock Band 2's opening sequence.

The ultimate Rock Band 2 accessory

One of the things that makes Rock Band better than Guitar Hero, IMHO, is the amount of avatar customization it offers. Never underestimate the value of letting a player spend lots of time playing dress-up and tweaking the appearance of a video game character. I LOVE my Rock Band persona, I wish I could look like her, and certainly there are days I could use her attitude.

So naturally, when I saw this little announcement that Rock Band 2 will let you create action figures based on your RB2 avatar, I idly thought to myself, "ZOMFG I'm GETTING ONE!!!!" (really, the same reaction I had when I heard about this.)

Now, I don't know if I'm actually getting one, because $75 is a little steep (purely from a budgetary standpoint, I don't think it's unreasonable to charge), but the idea is freaking cool enough that the price is not a deal-breaker.

Players will be able to use the game's normal avatar creation engine to "create variety of body styles, faces, makeup options, hair styles and tattoos," said Scott Harmon, Z Corporation's vice president of business development. "Users can also design a band logo and have that applied to a (virtual) T-shirt, and then you control clothing, footwear, hats and instruments."

How COOL is that?? Very cool, that's how cool. And when they say it has the potential to be used on an MMO like World of Warcraft, I say...yeah, it does have that potential, a potential akin to finding a blank check signed by Bill Gates lying on the street. If one breed of player is willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to buy pre-leveled game characters, you can bet the yin to that yang, players who identify with the character they created strongly enough to want an action figure of it, will flock to this (if they aren't already, I seem to dimly remember something like this in conjunction with WoW a while back).

Home Arcade Project

I've had my heart set on my very own Ms. Pac-Man table-style arcade machine for...ever. In the interest of variety, though, I realize it'd probably be best to build one of those MAME cabinets that are all the rage these days. I mentioned this dream of mine to my friend Robert, who said, "I know just who you should talk to about that!" and referred me to Shawn, world record holder in Zoo Keeper, and builder of custom arcade machines. As a hobby. You know, when he's bored. :)

Now at first, the plan was to use our old PC and do the MAME cabinet thing. Shawn suggested an alternative, using a JAMMA board designed for exactly this purpose. If you haven't heard of these (I hadn't), JAMMA stands for Japan Arcade Machine Manufacturers' Association, and it's a standardization applied to most arcade games made after 1985 (however, MANY older classic arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Frogger are included on the multi-game JAMMA boards). The board doesn't have as many games as MAME of course (currently 1069 + 139), but it may be preferable to sacrificing your computer to the cause, it's designed to go in an arcade cabinet (and therefore, I assume, easier to install), and more titles continue to be added via upgradeable hard drive. Also, though some of the titles in the list are duplicates, it includes almost every game I could want. Plus there's a whole collector aspect of seeking out the individual PCB boards for any particular game you might fancy that's not already on the list (in my case, Primal Rage, for example). You can swap in any JAMMA PCB board you want once you have the setup.

Choose Your Own Cabinet
So what will house this savage beating heart of 1200 games? In our case, because we wanted 4-player capability, we wound up going with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cabinet, which has a 25" monitor (as opposed t the 19" CRT we would have put in if we went the MAME route). Gauntlet was definitely in the running, but it is a HUGE machine, and the monitor is set at a very low angle. I didn't think we'd want to play all games that way. I'm also fond of the Turtles, Rafael in particular. Watched the old cartoon, owned the Krang action figure, and yes, left the theater after seeing the first film singing the theme song with my brother and sister.

One could also make a cabinet from scratch, there are lots of schematics available online for that. In many cases, this will cost you about the same as an existing cabinet, but allows more customization options if you have something elaborate in mind.

Control Yourself!
Sample controls setup from Jakobud.comProbably the most complex choice on a custom arcade machine project is the control panel. My husband and I favor different gaming genres - fighting games vs. straight up classics - and those styles require radically different control setups. Then there's the fact that you'll be playing hundreds of different games on this one machine, and it becomes quickly evident that you'll be needing a number of controls.

It took a LOT of thought and discussion, but currently the plan is to have 4 8-way joystick stations, the front two of which will have a six-button setup common to games like Street Fighter. The side two stations will have 3 (scratch that...4) buttons each, because our latest realization was that games like Dungeons & Dragons require 4 buttons, and above all, THOSE are the games we're going to want to play with the kids when they are old enough. It also turns out that 8-way joysticks are really not so good for classic games like pac-man. You need a 4-way joystick for that. And a trackball - don't leave Centipede out in the cold! And that trackball and 4-way are going to need fire and jump buttons of their own and...voila...5th gamer station.

And that's not even covering all the bases. Steering wheel games? Spinner games? Video pinball games? Shooting games? It's fairly impractical to have it ALL, so you have to prioritize what's important to you. The nice thing is, it's not a completely irreversible decision; it is possible to add some of these options later if you decide you just CAN'T go on without A.P.B. (d'oh...you'll need a gas pedal too!)

Next I'll dive into options for pimping the outside of the cabinet. That's a whole new can of worms!

Home Arcade Project, Part 2

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's the Rush?

Yesterday I got the first Rock Band Community Zine. The big announcement in this issue is the full album downloadability of Rush's Moving Pictures (which has Limelight, my favorite). The downloads will be available next Tuesday, the 26th, and there's a new interview to go with it.

If this is supposed to make me feel better about my XBox version of Rock Band 2 being delayed to October 19, well...it does, a little. It's for the best anyway, I guess, I don't think I could handle Rock Band 2 and the Spore launch in the same month. (And I wonder, is it any coincidence that Warhammer Online's open beta begins on September 7, the same day as Spore's launch?)

It's not a great week for delay announcements, with Harry Potter being delayed to July 2009 (rumors on why are plentiful, this one's my favorite. /sigh), and The Watchmen on the ropes (THANKS, Fox...). But hey, if bad news comes in threes, we're all set!

Also, this gives me some time to start practicing Rock Band vocals. I figure it'd be nice to get up to speed on another instrument, and forays into the wild world of hard-level guitar have been dubious, though not as dubious as my dealings with the drumset. That leaves vocals, and while I do NOT have a singing voice, Rock Band vocals are mercifully all about pitch.

PS - It's not too early to start thinking about what comes AFTER Rock Band 2!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

American McGee's at it again

While browsing the latest EGM the other day, I came across an ad for American McGee's Grimm. My first thought was, "Hey, this ad art looks cool!" My second was, "Hold up...American McGee? hmmmm..." I haven't forgotten about Alice. But it said the first episode was free to play on Gametap (it's $4 an episodes thereafter), so I figured, what the heck, right?

Grimm is best described as the antithesis of Super Mario Sunshine, with overtones of Dungeon Keeper and Nightmare Before Christmas. Instead of cleaning off the yuck and spreading cheer, you run around classic fairytales as a crass little troll (Grimm), blazing a path of grossness everywhere you go, and "going" everywhere you stop. The draw is mostly in seeing what pretty things turn into when you nastify them, and hearing the locals express their disgust. It's a game, but more primarily a sort of marionette theaterish eye candy experience. That is, if eye candy actually did contain eyes. And spiders and worms.

The demo episode features missions such as turning a playground full of children into giant match-sticks for a finale where they catch fire and jump on a pile of books surrounding a teacher tied to a stake. Yeah, I know, right? It's like a weird dream, the kind you wake up from with a headache, and it was partly the very narrow line between good fun and mildly offensive that the game walks that kept me playing. I can't definitively say it's cool, but it's at least worth checking out if you like dark humor and classic fairy tales. And spiders and worms.

PS - While we're on the subject, you may want to check out The Brothers Grimm (2005). It was a MUCH darker film than I'd expected (pretty extreme for PG-13), and I rather liked it. Heath Ledger plays the role of Jacob Grimm.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Spore's gone gold!

I know, it's a blog, I'm supposed to be all opinionated, but all I really have to say is, "woot!"

Long-Anticipated Game from Gaming Luminary, Will Wright, is Complete and in Production; Hits Store Shelves September 7

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 14, 2008--The wait is almost over! Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) and Maxis today announced that Spore(TM), the most anticipated video game of the year from the creator of The Sims(TM), has gone gold and will be available for the Mac and PC at retailers September 5 in Europe and September 7 in North America and Asia Pacific. Spore(TM) Creatures for Nintendo DS(TM) and Spore(TM) Origins for mobile phones will also be available globally September 7.

Players who preorder Spore or Spore Galactic Edition from participating retailers will receive a coupon good for $10 off their next purchase of custom merchandise at www.zazzle.com/sporestore. For the ultimate Spore fan, the limited Galactic Edition will contain the 'Making of Spore' DVD, 'How to Build a Better Being' DVD (a 50 minute National Geographic Channel documentary DVD hosted by Spore mastermind, Will Wright), 'The Art of Spore' hardback book, an exclusive Spore poster, and a premium 100-page Galactic Handbook.

"We are so excited to finally get Spore into the hands of fans and players," said Lucy Bradshaw, executive producer of Spore at Maxis. "The Maxis studio has had an absolute blast creating Spore, but the fun is just beginning. The most engaging stories are truly the ones people create themselves, and we can't wait to see how players not only craft and explore the Spore universe, but hear what stories they have to tell as a result."

Spore gives players their own personal universe in a box, allowing fans to create and evolve life, establish tribes, build civilizations, sculpt entire worlds and explore a universe created by other gamers. Spore gives players a wealth of creative tools to customize nearly every aspect of their universe: creatures, vehicles, buildings, and even spaceships. Players can then seamlessly share their creations with the world via the Sporepedia(TM) and explore infinite new galaxies created by other gamers*.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I've got a bad feeling about this...

On a late-night web-crawling patrol tonight, I found evidence of something disturbing. It starts with a May 22 announcement about a $200 million 5-film deal for Crystal Sky Pictures. I decided to see how far the rabbit hole goes. Only it isn't a rabbit hole...

One of the films is based on Castlevania, another on Tekken. Both these are slated for 2009 release according to IMDB. Castlevania is in pre-production, tagged as a "writer's strike casualty." (glass half full!) Tekken, however, is in post-production.

The third is rumored to be Pac-man. I quickly scanned for any trace of Uwe Boll, no signs of him at least. Still, there's something worrisome here. I can't quite put my finger on it.

"Crystal Sky previously produced "Bratz," based on the toy franchise, with Lionsgate, and "Ghost Rider" with Columbia Pictures." Aaaah, that sounds about right. The fear that my daughter might ever want a Bratz doll keeps me up at night...though Ghost Rider effectively puts me to sleep, thus maintaining cosmic balance.

There's been no redily evident news since that day, but the fact that there is a Tekken and Castlevania synopsis on the official Crystal Sky Pictures site is a bad omen. I'm not so worried about Tekken, fighting flick formulae are well-established, and they'd have to try pretty hard to make it truly awful. Castlevania, though...that's treading on sacred ground. That could go horribly, horribly wrong. What if they use the wrong kind of mushroom (it MUST be shitake!), or stream the medusa heads in the wrong direction? Or worse, if the soundtrack is, say, TEN bit!?

There's no sign of the movie or a confirmed plot summary for Pac-man on the official site yet. That WILL go horribly wrong, the extent of which depends on how close this rumored plotline "leak" from Modern Gaming Hobbyist is to accurate:

"P’ak, a powerful warrior from a different reality, is banished to our version of Earth by a traitorous general bent on usurping the throne of P’ak’s world...."

That CAN'T be true. Can it? Dennis Hopper, you're our only hope.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Star Trek Online!

Cryptic's got it now, and...that looks awful solid to be vaporware this time! (Thanks to That Guy for the link.)

You can also see the convention presentation featuring Leonard Nimoy here.

Please see this serious vid

It's vital that you click play.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Morgan Freeman, get well soon!

Sunday night, Morgan Freeman was involved in a car accident. The latest I've heard is, he's going to be alright, but has some broken ribs and a knee injury.

Coincidentally, a friend passed along the following video clip last week, and I was planning on posting it today. Check out Shawshank in a Minute:

JibJab - Shawshank in a Minute

And on a completely separate topic, I just caught a Youtube of Weird Al's first national television appearance. We want AL! WE WANT AL!

I've seen Al in concert...twice. For the closer, he did YODA, and the entire audience sang it together in a massive lovefest of weirdness. He is AWESOME.

And lastly, WTFH?!? The Montauk Monster (Warning: GROSS! Thanks for the link, Mom!). This very odd-looking carcass washed up on the beach in the Hamptons. OK, so it probably is just a dog, but...I want to believe. If you want my scientific opinion, this is irrefutable proof that el chupacabra is migrating northward, driven by global warming and a thirst for blood. Your blood.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Animated Buffy

Well what else is there to say? It's a 3-minute animated version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!