Milo And Me…And Aragorn Makes Three

It has begun

It has already begun.

Okay, so yeah. Blog has had to take a backseat to things like “having found a job” and “wanting to stay employed” and “Gee, my house sure is dirty since I went back to work or my standard of living is just higher now”.

My apologies but things are probably going to be sporadic from here on out unless I develop a means of staying awake for twenty-seven hours a day. But anyways, onward to today’s blog. Milo, Me and LotR: Aragorn’s Quest.

First up we have Milo. But before I even get into why this is a bad idea, I feel like we should take a step back and look at the overall failure of the name “Natal”. Yes Microsoft, you have beaten Nintendo’s Wiimote and can now shuffle out your own brand of shovelware crap for consumers to shift through. You can also use it to exercise and blah, blah, blah. Which is pretty frickin’ sweet, I’ll give you that. And if for some reason, my readers have been living in a cave and missed the tech demo for this new technology, see below.

So again, pretty cool and one step closer to the promise of the PS9. But my beef is with calling it “Natal”. Did your marketing reps not take English in college? Or Biology for that matter? You do realize how that word is pronounced yes? If you wanted to call it “Natall” you either needed to to suck it up and put that extra “L” in there or shove a snazzy apostrophe mark over one of the letters or something. Because as it stand right now, when I think Microsoft, I think pre-term babies. And I seriously doubt that’s the image you wanted from your test groups. Just a thought.

But on the meat of this part of my post. MILO.

Holy shit Microsoft! WHY?! I mean, yeah it’s neat that he recognizes faces and movement and can draw a pretty picture and give it to you and then tell you what you drew and it’s all fun and games until he becomes self-aware and starts replicating and telling your toaster that maybe it doesn’t want to be a slave to the whims of toaster strudel cravings and before we know it, SkyNet is live, I, Robot is real and we’re all serving as batteries for the robot overlords. And I’ll have to blame you instead of Japan which is just. Plain. WRONG. So please, think of the children…also, I don’t want to remind the TV to do its homework. I have a hard enough time getting my own kids to do theirs. Although I can’t threaten to unplug them if they don’t…hmmm.

Speaking of kids (I know, a pretty weak segway), there have been rumblings on the internet. The kind of rumblings that speak of angry fanboys rising up as one to protest the rape of a beloved series. And what is the subject of their wrath? Lord of the Rings. EA has finally allowed their death grip on the franchise to expire and Warner Bros. was quick to snatch up the IP. And horror of horrors! They’re putting out a child friendly version of the game called Aragorn’s Quest. Pulling design elements from Mario and Zelda, the game is seriously lacking in blood and gore, which apparently is all fanboys care about. Oh, that and super-fantastic-uber-realistic face renderings. How DARE they make it cartoony!? Want to know what all the hub-bub is about? Here’s the trailer and handful of screenshots. Judge for yourself.

Shire In AutumnAragorn

Personally, I think the naysayers are just missing the times. Not every game coming out these days is aimed at the hardcore gamer and I think we’re having issues adjusting. Casual gamers are like the new baby and we’re all just jealous that that little squalling bundle of bones is getting all the attention when it can’t even GRENADE JUMP yet. But I think this is a great idea. My kids love magic and swords and all that jazz but blood and gore is a little too advanced for them at the ages of eight and four. And as a gamer parent, it’s a way for me to bond with them; to play along and explain the story without fear of emotional trauma or nightmares about Orks.

So with all the gripes, I hope Warner Bros. ignores the cacophony. With all the crap and total dregs of barrel being released for unsuspecting “new” gamers, a quality title would be a breath of fresh air.

Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest for the Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest for the Wii, PS2 and the DS is RP and slated for release in the Fall of 2009.

Dishwasher: Dead Samurai Dropping on Live

dishwasher_deadsamurai

A year and a half after it was first released on XNA, The Dishwasher is finally coming out. On April 1st (yeah, I know how that looks but I swear it’s true), the cult darling is being released. For 800 Xbox Live points, you too can kill zombies, robots, cyborgs and others in this 2-D fast paced action game. According to the press release from Xbox Live Arcade:

The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a 2-D stylistic action platformer for Xbox LIVE® Arcade showcasing fast action, deep gameplay, and a unique visual style. An undead samurai dishwasher in a dystopian universe is on a quest for revenge against the evil cyborg army. To dispatch hordes of zombies, cyborgs, and robots, the Dishwasher has at his fingertips a devastating array of attacks using ancient blades, disturbing machinery, and screen-obliterating Dish Magic. Compete with the rest of the world in a variety of speed run and high score challenges to become the most formidable Dishwasher yet!

  • Fresh take on gameplay: Gameplay in The Dishwasher is a fresh take on popular stylistic action combat, taking combo- and timing-intensive combat into a 2-D, blood-soaked environment emphasizing speed, vertical movement, and maneuverability, and player-driven pacing to create a truly unique, fluid and visceral experience, with an appealingly psychotic art style.
  • New game modes with guitar peripheral: The Dishwasher has arcade co-op, drop-in solo campaign co-op, and drop-in solo phantom guitar co-op using the guitar peripheral. Phantom guitar players can unload electric death by playing wicked solos, perform basic movement, and use the guitar’s motion control to rip through enemies with a razor-sharp headstock.
  • The power of XNA: The Dishwasher is a testament to the power of XNA. The game was created by one guy with no professional game development experience (and a self-described lousy programmer) in about a year and a half.

There is also a spiffy video in case you want to see what all the buzz is about.

After catching a huge following on XNA, The Dishwasher was awarded top prize in Microsoft’s 2007 Dream-Build-Play competition. Since then, it’s been given updated graphics and apparently the ability to kill hordes of enemies via guitar. Sweet! However, it seems that core of the game has been left intact with no dumbing down the bloody, bloody violence. This year there is one more reason to love April Fool’s Day.

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Who the Hell is Alan Wake?

.....apparently this guy is.

.....apparently this guy is.

I remember first hearing about this game back in 2006 in Game Informer magazine. At the time, all they had to go on was a couple of screenshots and the assurance of Remedy Entertainment that this would be the most epic of all games. Ever. And, since the Finnish company is the same development studio to bring Max Payne and bullet time into the world, we all believed them.

Fast forward to 2009. Not much has been heard about Alan Wake. There is an official website with a handful of screenshots and video. But more interestingly, there is the back story. It seems Mr. Wake is a writer of thriller novels. Like many published authors, he is suffering from writer’s block. To fix this problem his wife takes him to a small town in Washington state where he can get the creativity back. Yeah, because nothing bad can happen in a middle of nowhere town that’s surrounded by zombie fog twenty-four hours a day. Seriously, Washington state is getting a reputation for a bad business. But I digress. To the complete surprise of no one (except maybe Alan), his wife goes missing, the novel he is writing starts coming true and soon the world of darkness is coming for him.

Remedy Entertainment has promised throughout a scattering of interviews that Alan Wake will utilize light and darkness in a new and dynamic way. Translation: you won’t be running and gunning like you were in Max Payne. No, this game will be more psychological. Much like the Silent Hill series or Eternal Darkness: Sanity’ Requiem. You’ll fight, just not all the damn time. Strategy people.

A quick pop over to Xbox’s website gives a few more kernals of information about gameplay. They say it will have:

  • Episodic content: The mission-based structure of Alan Wake creates an episodic narrative similar to the very best of dramatic television. As the episodes progress, gameplay evolves to introduce new elements and characters, drawing the player deeper into the experience.
  • Realistic environment: Experience an immersive reality like never before, as weather and light changes affect gameplay. Explore every aspect of a hyper-detailed Pacific Northwest town as you look for the truth behind the horror around you.
  • Massive world: Explore and roam free in an open environment as you investigate the mysteries of Bright Falls. Pay close attention to detail as you look for clues scattered through the town.
  • Brutal combat: As night falls, creatures begin to attack, and the longer Alan spends in Bright Falls, the longer the nights get. His enemies seem to draw their power from the darkness, and light soon becomes his greatest ally. Combine use of light with more conventional weapons to drive back the forces that hide in the dark.
Need more convincing that this isn’t going to turn out as some horrible cheap knock off of the horror game genre? Yeah, me too. Let’s see if the trailer released last October can alleviate some of this doubt.
So, it’s a combination of Silent Hill, Insomnia and the Johnny Depp movie Secret Window. I can live with that. But where’s the gameplay video? Surely after three years Remedy has some sort of demo to show for all their hard work. Not on the official site. Hmm. Here we go.
Keep in mind this is leaked footage and from 2007. Not the best quality picture and I’m sure they’ve come a long way since then. But based on the above video my curiosity is at least piqued. It will be interesting to see if they’re able to pull off the lighting as a major game element.
Remedy Entertainment has bitten off a lot in the making of this game. Large open world content, weather patterns and a day/night cycle that affect gameplay, promising a psychological thriller on par with classic movies. They’re doing a great job of keeping their head down and not throwing out an arbitrary release date. Which either means their hard at work or afraid to unleash a demo to a remorseless gaming public. However, bearing in mind that this IS the studio that spawned the excellent Max Payne series, I for one am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Microsoft Takes Xbox Off Life Support

xbox_console

According to their official website, Microsoft announced that as of yesterday they were cutting off out-of-warranty support for the original Xbox. This came as a shock to many gamers, who already assumed that Microsoft had hit their original console in the head with a shovel and buried its remains in an unmarked grave. After all, the signs were all there.

The last game to be released for the Xbox was almost a year ago when Madden 2009 came out. And that was with little fanfare. In fact, in most places you had to special order it. It was like the unicorn of Xbox games.

Then, as recently as last month, retail gaming giant GameStop announced that they would stop taking original Xbox games in as trade on February 9th and would be begin the process of phasing the games, systems and accessories out of their stores.

So pardon this blogger for being more surprised that Microsoft was STILL repairing out-of-warranty Xbox’s until yesterday. That being said, there is still hope out there. Microsoft put up an official website that “…will host a wealth of previous and new how-to, troubleshooting, and configuration content that has been revised and updated to meet our customer needs and current support model.” So if you need a fix it or a repair for the old black brick, there appear to be step-by-step instructions.

From that same website, it appears that Microsoft does still have Live up and running for users and are offering an upgrade to the 360 (no word on price of course!) for anyone who still has an Xbox under warranty. Who the hell would that be? They stopped making this system three years ago and I’m pretty sure warranties only last for a year. Am I missing something here?

So let us all take a collective internet moment here to bow our heads in silence at the passing of this once great behemoth of a system. Rest In Peace, Xbox.

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Microsoft Puts Fingers In A New Pie

Microsoft must look at the world as one giant Monopoly board and they HAVE to own everything. Because clearly no one else can properly manage Marvin Gardens. Or something.

The company announced eariler today that they are going to open their own retail chain. After all, if Apple can do so can they. They intend to use this opportunity to “…create deeper engagement with consumers and continue to learn firsthand about what they want and how they buy.”  In other words, they want to stop people from smacking down their products and will do so with an iron fist.

Microsoft appointed David Porter to oversee this new division. Porter worked for Dreamworks prior to this new gig but I doubt Microsoft is interested in his ability to market crappy kids toys. No, I think they’re more interested in his TWENTY-FIVE year history with Wal-Mart, where Porter clawed his way up the corporate ladder to vice president and general merchandise manager of the megastore’s entertainment division.

While the company hasn’t released any dates or locations yet, I can’t help but think that with a former Wal-Mart employee behind the curtain and Microsoft’s Scrooge McDuck tower of money that one day I’ll wake up and be able to see three of them from my house.