11/21/2008

[Emily Dickinson] Made A Shooter? Cool!

by Matthew Hawkins

The line above was uttered by Wade Tinney, head of Large Animal Games, this past Wednesday night at a seminar for those interesting in getting into game development. It was a follow-up to a statement by Rebel Monkey’s Nick Fortugno, of how vitally important it is for those wanting to crack into the field need to promote themselves: “Even if you make the greatest game in the world, if its in your basement, no one will play it. Don’t be like Emily Dickinson, whose work was discovered and recognized well after her death.”

I’ve been to a bunch of different, yet all very similar gatherings over the past number of years, but this past one was perhaps the best. Maybe because it was such a packed house, with a ton of energy. Mostly students, all passionate about creating games, and eager to absorb every single morsel of advice the experts on the stage had to offer, along with a few professionals from various walks of life, looking for a career change, especially in these tumultuous times. At the very least, it was the least stinky; it was pretty much an even mix of men and women. Anyhow, I was originally going to do a write-up on the event, but since I’m now supposed to do one for some other site, I’ll simply move, though I guess it’s also worth mentioning that the whole thing is gonna air later this weekend in these here parts anyway, on CUNY TV, followed by the web sometime thereafter (since I believe my report will be published a day or so after it’s television airing).

So I’ll simply move onto the subway ride afterwards, where I watched this one guy play with an f’n NEO GEO POCKET almost the entire way home. Now that’s hardcore.

Also that same day saw the long awaited release of the new Xbox 360 dashboard, dubbed the “New Xbox Experience”, and which makes up the bulk of the following post. Now, I already know that complaining about the Xbox avatars is pretty ridiculous since, even in the realm of video games, there’s so many more “important” things to discuss, and I honestly don’t know myself why the NXE has become an obsession of mine. Ultimately, I’m an interface nut, plus I’m also of the opinion that if you’re gonna rip something off, at least do a good job of it. But I’m kinda getting ahead of myself… I’m also well aware of how the following pictures are crap. And yes, I need to get a high definition monitor, blah, blah, blah, heard it a million times, next.

Back on topic: for some bizarre reason, I was literally biting at the chomps and counting down the days till the release of the NXE. Actually, there was one semi-sensible reason: the ability to stream Neflix movies and watch them on the comfort of television (I don’t have a PC, and watching stuff of any substantial length on my iMac or any computer in general is just not my thing). But again, getting a bit ahead of myself.

First off, as pretty much everyone has discovered by now, the new set-up is indeed an improvement over the former blades system, though to what degree is debatable. At a recent demo, a number of dashboard specific actions impressed me, though I would learn that many were already possible in the then current system, which most folks didn’t even know about. Hence the overhaul. Some things are easier and make more sense, while a few things are kinda confusing… but like before, I’ll get used to it, like we all will. It’s also rather slow and flakey, but that’s going be the case for pretty much anything that’s .0 anything.

Obviously, the biggest addition is Microsoft’s “take” on the Nintendo Wii’s Miis, the avatars. And my two cents is that they flat out suck, sorry. They’re just not as fun, nor interesting, plus they feel very “corporate” if you catch my drift. The biggest problem here is the super lame creation tools; I get the sense that the avatars are supposed to be a bit more “realistic” and stylized that the Miis, but there far less creative options available, resulting in very little to play around with. The end result is most everyone’s avatars looking very similar to each other, which was somewhat of an issue just a few days after people first began making Miis, but nowhere to this severe degree. Take the eyes for example: I believe both Nintendo and Microsoft offer the number of styles to choose from, but it’s almost impossible to discern the differences among those on the MS side. Plus you can’t adjust the size and position, nor change their orientation. Lame.

Okay, here we have me (ifrom New Year’s, I couldn’t find anything more recent and also as flattering)…

And here we have me as represented on the Wii…

… Pretty damn close I’d like to think (and most friends’ Miis are also pretty accurate, dead-on in some cases). And here we have myself on the 360…

… It took me forever, and the help of Katie, to determine the right nose, eyes, etc. Hair is not perfect (there’s all these different styles, but not all of them come parted on the left and right, which is so stupid). Clothing options are also piss poor; I just prefer it being nice and generic, like on the Nintendo side.

Now here’s Katie in the flesh…

… And Katie on (or I guess in) the Wii…

… Dead on if I don’t say so myself! And now here she is via the 360…

… Katie spent I don’t know much time, and it still barely resembles her. Not at all actually. Clothing options for girls are seemingly worse, though she was happy that a sailor hat was available…

… Yet no matching outfit? What the hell? One definite plus is how, when it comes to hair, those with male pattern baldness have some more flattering options available.

And for some people, they’ll be able to magically create an unbelievable virtual facsimile of themselves, like Joe Salina. Otherwise, most will be disappointed, I’m sure. Or most will simply not give a rat’s ass, like most I’ve spoken to thus far, who think the overall idea to be just dumb and unnecessary. Also, I should be surprised that the new Xbox avatars are a bust since it was developed by Rare, and they kinda don’t have a stellar track record when it comes to almost anything these days; last good game from was, what, Blast Corps? Too bad they didn’t look at folks like Harmonix, who was able to create an awesome blend of real and cartoony with their video game people. Speaking of, here’s my other self in Rock Band 2, Suzy Cool…

… Yes, I love dressing up virtual dolls, so sue me. Doesn’t mean I’m gay or anything, I just love chicks, even virtual chicks, hence why I almost always choose female characters in fighting games, and so on. But I had a pic of Katie’s character, Bon-Bon, handy (forgot to take one, but it was such a headache taking these few right here, plus the camera’s battery is dead, so I ain’t gonna bother), you’d see why I’m constantly asking Katie, as we play RB2, if our characters ?get it on? backstage, along with plenty of ?SCISSOR SISTERS!? proclimations.

Anyhow, back to the topic of virtual selves in video games, one last thing: for almost forever now, I keep hearing about Sony’s take on them, which from I can tell is super realistic, as part of their PlayStation Home initiative. And after keeping a fairly steady eye on the project this entire time, I still have no idea what the point is. Okay, you make a very realistic version of yourself in the PlayStation world, also build house or something, and then what? On a related note, the new Animal Crossing for the Wii just came out, didn’t it? Gotta check that one out.

So earlier this morning, Sonic Unleashed finally arrived. Oh boy! Haven’t had a chance to pop it in yet since it?s been a super busy day thus far. I’m expecting the traditional platforming portion of the game to be at least half decent (they were when I last gave them a try), whereas that other part of the game… Dave Roman put its best with “Werewolves are the new fishing levels!”

Also just in is, at long last, is a copy of the KORG DS-10 Synthesizer! Can’t wait to crack it open, though if I’m not mistaken, Dave Mauro’s already spent a good amount of time messing around with it, and will actually have original songs that he created as part of his upcoming review! Speaking of, he’s hitting the road to finally pick up his straight from Japan, Astro City arcade cabinets. I really wish I could join him, since I’m always down for a road trip, especially if its video game related. But I have a prior commitment later this evening, plus deadlines to meet on other projects. Which is why I should rap things up, though real quick…

I still can’t believe Bike Hero was a viral scam. Actually, I can, I’m just really annoyed by the revelation. I admit it, I was completely fooled, and looking back, I should have paid attention to how overly slick it was to certain degrees. Sorry, but I just despise viral marketing. At least this wasn’t as stupid as all that I Love Bees nonsense. And all advertising is ultimately about spreading misinformation, I know that. Still, it just rubs me the wrong way, perhaps because the basic heart of viral marketing is getting people to do the job of evangelizing whatever for you, and not paying them a dime, that irks me. Then again, thanks to everyone having a “voice”, all of us love to champion whatever person, product, service or cause, often without any provocation, as well as spread videos and whatever crap that tickles our fancy, regardless of its original intent, plus given I?m trying to get into the PR and advertising space, maybe it?s best I keep quiet, otherwise I’ll say something that?ll bite me in the ass later down the road, so moving on…

By default, my favorite wacky video game thing of the week was PETA’s attack on Cooking Mama. Once again, LOL PETA!

  • Slonie
  • http://www.fort90.com/ Matt

    Hey, how come we haven’t swapped Miis/aren’t on each other’s XBL buddy list?

    I’m FortNinety on XBL, obviously. You’ll have to give me a sec with the Wii friend code. I can never remember where I put that damn thing…

  • Slonie

    I don’t know, but you can guess my name (AND will be on your Xbox sooner than me, so send me a request!)

  • Toups

    I had the exact same problem with my NXE avatar. Spent probably an hour working on it and still had something that didn’t really look like me. Compared to my Mii, which took less than 10 minutes and is still really accurate.

    NXE seems like a dumb name for the new dashboard. What happens one year from now, when it’s no longer new? Will the 360 be dead by then…?

  • http://dhex.wordpress.com dhex

    “And all advertising is ultimately about spreading misinformation”

    well, no. it’s about getting people to pay attention. lying tends to hurt a brand.

  • http://www.fort90.com/ Matt

    That’s certainly true, but the perception that ads always lie has always been around, and thanks to stuff like viral advertising, it’s perhaps stronger than ever.

    BTW, I forgot to mention what a role Activision is these days. FIrst pissing off pretty much all the record studio honchos (sure Guitar Hero might be the sole reason behind many of them are not completely bankrupts, but bragging about it at the negotiating table is poor business move 101), as well as the Beatles (enough for them to run off and ink a deal with their rival), but now the gaming audience at large.

    Also, since its somewhat relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbMKbykr2Ec

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