The Ten Million Dollar Question

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

Yet another busy week…

- MK & I caught Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy on Friday night. It was okay. Somewhat disappointing, but not horrible as some reports had indicated beforehand, so I guess I was just happy about that. The film started out super strong (both of us practically lost it when we heard the original tv show theme), and the cast was for the most part excellent (Mos Def, as expected, rocked). But as the film progressed, it began losing steam and became more and more generic, till by the end it was just some random sci-fi movie. As a rule, I usually don’t mind changes to the source material when it comes to any book/tv show/comic to film adaptation, since the move from one medium to another pretty much makes them a necessity at times (hence why the Watchmen movie, now that its finally happening, I sorta hope it doesn’t try too hard to emulate the comic), but the tacked on romance was pretty tacked on.

Hey, at least the original Marvin managed to make a cameo!

- On Sunday, we went to Philly to catch an MC Chris show with Robin, and MK’s friends Morgan and Andy. Going in, I wasn’t too familiar with the guy, aside from his voice work on Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021, and that Boba Fett rap you might have heard.

The show took place in the basement of the church and was packed fill young punk nerd teens. I was easily one of the oldest guys in the whole place. And not too surprisingly, it was hot and sweaty as hell. I say not surprisingly since I’ve been to indie wrestling shows in similar conditions.

There were two opening acts, the first being some noise-rock group that were beyond horrible. As they did their set, scenes from various films were projected on stage, which got a better response than the actual music, which was really dumb. It didn’t take long for the crowd to get over themselves for recognizing Dawn of the Dead, and the band didn’t last that much longer. It was sorta clear that they wrapped their set up super quick when their first three songs got zero applause; they ended things with what felt like an impromptu rendition of the Golden Girls theme, which was cute, but again too pandering.

The second act was a game music cover band, Chromelodeon, whom I thought was actually pretty damn good. They started out with a few really strong original pieces that had strong game music undertones, and then went to straight out covers. Initially, I was with Robin when I was afraid that things were going to turn all faux-MiniBosses like, but it didn’t; his assumption was indeed correct, and I did enjoy their selections (especially the Ninja Gaiden 2 prologue track).

As for the headliner, MC Chris, I don’t what else to say other than it was perhaps the most enjoyable live act I’ve seen in a very long time. For those unfamiliar with the guy (or the voice), just imagine that shirmpy guy from the 11th grade who sounded like he was still in the 7th grade, but rapping very, very well. Chris was also fucking hilarious, with plenty of jokes and bullshit stories between songs, like him being the reason why ninjas are as cool as they are, or some fat, toothless Russian babe that’s waiting for him in the tour bus outside, ready and willing to fuck.

He even passed some Adult Swim info along, such as how there’s going to be an Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie later this fall (sorry if its old news, but I’ve been out of the AS loop for a while… you know, no tv and all).

- Monday night was the Hi-Res vs Low-Res game design debate at Parsons.

The core of the event was a discussion and debate between the merits and disadvantages of high resolution and low resolution graphics (as well as an exploration into what those terms really mean), which was built upon presentations from each camp; most participants were put in one of the two sides. But a few of us were asked to talk about other facets, so I concentrated on the historical, as well as social aspects. And overall, the event went extremely well and I’m extremely grateful to have been asked to participate in such a rather prestigious event; I spoke with nine other members of the local game dev community, and it was said that it was perhaps the biggest public gathering of local talents ever!

I gotta admit that I will say that I was pretty nervous for most of the night. I’ve done plenty of lecturing before, but never on such a huge scale; it was at a huge amphitheater at Parsons, and there was about 200 people in attendance, the largest audience I’ve ever spoken in front of. But by the end, I was feeling fairly comfortable, and from what I could gather, people seemed to dig my historical perspective.

I’ll pass on giving out a full rundown of the evening, since David Allen from the IGDA NY is going to whip up a report, but I will say the highlight of the evening was when someone in the audience asked us what we would do if we had ten million dollars to dedicate towards purely design, and the answers that came from it truly illustrated more than anything else that evening the mindset involved when dealing with high res and low res games.

One more thing that I almost have to mention: if there is one consistently annoying aspect about these game related event symposiums, its the one crazy old lady who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on and ends up wasting everyone’s time by getting on her soapbox. This time there was two; the first was some nut-job who simply said, “I have just one comment. Cosmetology. Discuss.” She did this twice, and the first time a few people forced a chuckle, but the second time got a strong “what the fuck/shut the fuck up” look from everyone in the room. Then there was this other crazy old lady who bitched about her kids not being able to make their own games based on Dragonball Z characters for their cell phones, and how none of us were doing anything about it. A number of times, a few of us tried jumping to stop her from rambling and attempted to extract something useful to build upon, but she wasn’t having anything about. When someone mentioned that its tough marketing a cell phone game with the current system that the carriers have laid down, but it was obvious she wasn’t listening and just wanted to continue bitching, I pretty much had it and was about to set the record straight, but Katie Salen, jumped right in and ended the show.

Afterwards, the first crazy woman continued to annoy even further by trying to hug people and demanding four sets of business cards from everyone. And what was her deal exactly? Get this: she was there for some red states vs. blue states debate and I guess got the date or address wrong and decided to just stick around. What a idiot. Anyway, we all went out for drinks after the event, and I got to chit chat with the various participants, plus the folks who came to watch, like the crew from Large Animal, and my old stomping grounds, Gameloft. Even Richard MeKenna was there, who’s the professor of computer science at Stony Brook and teaches a game design class. Last year I came to judge the best game from his class, and will be doing so again later this month. But I didn’t stick around too long since I had a (long overdue) article to finish up for Gamasutra.

- Speaking of which, yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing Rodney Alan Greenblat about his work on the groundbreaking Parappa the Rapper. Again, you’ll have to read the upcoming story at Gama for the full rundown, but I just wanted to say that Rodney is easily one of the coolest guy I’ve ever met (as well as uber talented), and the chance to not only talk to him, but to also check out his incredible work up close in his home base was a real treat (besides being his studio, its also his home, and is all decked out like Pee Wee’s Playhouse, excpet with a Rodney Greenblat feel, of course). I’m one of the lucky few to see some new work that hasn’t been revealed to the public, though that will be soon. He has a new gallery show in the works, and I mentioned to him that I would help spread the word when the time comes. Till then, here’s a pic of Rodney with some of his latest creations…

- Meanwhile, with so much going on, I’ve sorta lost track of the world of gaming news. What was once quiet is now almost impossible to keep on-top of; with E3 officially less than two weeks away, news leaks, speculations, and crazy rumors are coming from out of nowhere and from all side.

Most people are, of course, talking about the new systems, with Xbox 360 and PS3 dominating the headlines (meanwhile, there’s very little chatter regarding Nintendo’s Revolution… either there isn’t enough to even speculate upon, or folks just don’t care…) and speculation about their capabilities. Personally, I could give a rat’s ass about the machines’ chipsets, graphical routines, and all related technical mumbo jumbo. What do I care about? Perhaps for the millionth time: IS XBOX 360 BACKWARDS COMPATIBLE OR WHAT? I forget if I’ve already mentioned this, but the going rumor is that there will be multiple configurations for the system, and one will include a hard drive, which would allow backwards functionality. Sure, whatever. I just wanna play fucking Panzer Dragoon Orta; I’ve had the game for years and have yet to experience it.

- At this point, almost everything I say is going to be old news, but anyway, heard of ourcolony.net? Its another form of viral marketing on the part of Microsoft, much like the ilovebees.com that was used to promote Halo 2. Basically, once you guess the password, you are supposed to form a team (or “colony”) to figure out challenges to… get this…. see partial pics of Xbox 360.

Am I the only person who thinks this is incredible retarded? As a rule, I hate viral marketing, but at least the ilovebees thing was rather novel. This just sounds too much busy work for some market guy’s idea of “cool stuff”. Plus, it somewhat pointless since many outlets are simply showing all the pics as they appear, including this one, which is supposedly what the new system will look like…

… I say supposedly since I’m not 100% certain if it is from outcolony.net, or just another Photoshop from the web (albeit a fairly convincing one). Doesn’t look too bad really, though anything’s a set-up from the original.

Also floating around are pics of the controller, which looks much like the Xbox 1 S-type one, but white and slightly shaped different. Plus I think its wireless? Anyway, many use it as a basis to compare the new Xbox as some spiritual successor to Dreamcast. That and the fact that much like Sega’s last system, everything seemed to be lining up just perfectly, especially in regards to strong Japanese support, a rock solid internet infrastructure, and a super powerful, yet easy to program machine… which all fell to the mighty next-gen PlayStation.

Plus this pic of the invite that Microsoft is sending out for the public unveiling of 360 (which is actually taking place on MTV, right before E3) has a swirly thing going on, much like Dreamcast…

- One reason why I’m rather non-plussed about the next wave of systems is that I really feel the current consoles have quite a bit still in them. So it’s nice to hear Itagaki, the man behind Dead or Alive (and someone who seriously doesn’t get nearly enough respect), say the following

“The flow towards the next generation is happening faster than I was expecting,” continues Itagaki, adding with a laugh, “Don’t misunderstand — I’m not saying that Team Ninja is going to be late for the next generation system. What I want to say is that it seems that without our knowing it, the current generation has finished.” The laughter quickly gives way to tears (although we’re not sure if he actually cried) as Itagaki reflects, “It makes me feel a little sad.”

- So what am I looking towards at E3? The games of course, and for me, there’s no time better than near the (supposed) end of system’s cycles to see titles that really take advantage of a system.

Though not exactly in the same category is Katamari Damacy 2, which is being called Everyone Loves Katamari Damacy (We Love Katamari Damacy in the US… yup, a US release had ready been confirmed!). Not only has the two player component been refined to include co-op play, but there’s more, crazier looking characters to choose from, the camera systems seems better, plus now you can build snowmen! Fuckin’ a!

- Another game which I wasn’t totally expecting, but am sorta interesting in, is the new Ultimate Spider Man game for the PS2. Again, maybe this is old news, perhaps for Steve Flack; this game seems totally up his alley.

So I guess the Ultimate Spidey Venom has no huge spider on his chest? Lame.

- Today on the GAF, someone pointed to a piece on Boing Boing about some guy who modded their PSP carrying case to look all Katamari like.

But then, Bobby Conover, a very nice fellow from the GAF whom I’ve since become friends with (besides being a native Seattle-ite, we share some of the same love for wacky, obscure Japanese games) showed off his own which, I must say is far superior…

- More PSP related stuff: the homebrew scene just reached a major milestone today. Meanwhile, numerous media outlets, such as ABC News, AtomFilms, and Heavy.com are all offering downloadable content for the system. Plus, manga on the PSP continues to be pretty damn popular.

- Back to the topic of hacking real quick: here’s a cel-shaded version of Super Mario 64 that looks rough, but the idea is pretty solid.

- According to an upcoming issue of Play, the Sonic Mega Collection Vol 2 is going to be a GameCube exclusive. But more importantly, it will include Sonic CD, Sonic the Fighters, and Sonic R. Sonic R, I still have and actually like (though it has much to do with the killer Richard Jacques soundtrack), but to finally have Sonic CD and especially Fighters would be a dream come true.

I’ve missed Fighters ever since it disappeared from the only arcade I’ve every seen it here in NYC, in Coney Island, a few years back. And I’ve never been able to properly enjoy Sonic CD (I never did get a Sega CD, which I only wanted for that game, the original Silpheed, and Snatcher). No word yet on which soundtrack will be present, but I really don’t care cuz I love both equally (the US one gets way too much hate). Perhaps I should be skeptical with such news since its from Play magazine (and everyone knows I’m far from the biggest fan of Dave Halverson), but after them breaking the news on Super Gunstar Heroes, I now have some faith in them. Though another reason for doubt is due to Sonic Team’s shitty track record; if true, this sorta makes up for Shadow the Hedgehog, though I’m still not coming anywhere near that piece of crap.

- Remember the old PC/SNES game Out of This World? Well the creator of the game has made a GBA version and is making it available for free for everyone. Sweet! Too bad you need a flash ROM cart to actually play it on the system. Just another reason to get one I suppose.

- Finally, and back to the real world, I was supposed to catch a Game For Change event earlier this evening, but with the IGDA/SIGGRAPH panel on Monday, the interview with Greenblat yesterday, and tomorrow’s big end of the year show at SVA, I just needed a break.

Plus, Brian from Click-Stick passed word to be me earlier this morning about a chip tune show at The Tank tomorrow night. Bit Shifter, nullsleep, Glomag, and Bubblyfish (whom I’ve yet to see or hear) will be there. Hopefully, there won’t be any cops to pull the plug on nullsleep’s set show this time around.

But the big problem is, I feel like shit. Again, I’ve been spreading myself thin, with all the freelance work, all the prep work for the SVA event, and more speaking engagements just down the road. Plus, the game I was working on is set to resume production; it was on hold due to Nelson having to work on graduating and all that jazz. Though don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, though I am coming close to burning out. Thank God the class is over with for the time being.

My main headache though is that I either have a cold or am really suffering from allergies. I think its a combination of both. And the icing on the cake is that I have another urinary tract infection! WTF? I’m already on some meds, which means I won’t be boozing it up tomorrow night at the after-party, which is going to disappoint a lot of people at work, especially with the spectacle I made myself at last year’s. So no stumbling on stage and interrupting students in the middle of a rapping competition for my heartfelt rendition of the Transformers theme this time around. Oh well…

  • http://www.vitaminsteve.com Steve!

    I’ve been aware of the Ultimate Spidey game, and am looking forward to it. It will be on the XBox too right?


  • http://www.gamersquarter.com Shapermc

    FYI that is not an official shot of the XBox360 but parts of it have been confirmed to be similar if not exactly like that image.

    Mainly I came here to say, yes that is far superior to the other PSP case that I saw.

  • http://www.demolicious.org/ PAINPAINPAIN

    I want that PSP case. I want Katamari Damacy on the DS too.

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