June 2009

This week:

  • Top Story: Bethesda buys id!
  • Fighting Words: Activision’s Bobby Kotick disses the PS3
  • Celebrities: Shia LeBeouf and Jack White are mad!
  • Awards: Uncharted 2 wins the GCAs
  • Apple: Releases new firmward for the iPhone/iPod Touch
  • Portable Crime: Rockstar bringing ChinatownWars to the PSP
  • Happy Birthday: Sonic turns 18
  • Colorful News: New colors for the Wii in Japan
  • And finally: Sony’s PlayStation Home held a Humans vs. Hamsters dance-off. Because apparently that’s a thing now…

(watch video)

Which of these videogame news stories will prove the old axiom today?

In this issue:

  • Left 4 Dead 2 boycott group offers manifesto, new demands
  • L.A. Convention Center Neighbors File Complaints Over E3
  • Uwe Boll: I’d “like to ruin Fallout next.”

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The main point of a beta test is to let a small section of dedicated players figure out what works and what doesn’t before wider release to the general public. To that end, Beta Notes makes constructive criticism about what can and should be improved before the game goes gold.

This week: 1 vs. 100

Your basic trivia quiz with a massively-multiplayer twist, 1 vs. 100 lets players compete against each other on Xbox Live for multiple-choice supremacy. The regularly-scheduled Extended Play sessions offer a nonstop stream of canned questions, but the Live shows play out more like the show on which the game is based. In these two-hour sessions, one lucky player (“The One”) faces off against 100 randomly selected opponents (“The Mob”) to see who can last the longest without missing a question. As Mob members drop out, the prize pool of (thus-far imaginary) Microsoft Points gets bigger, until the One misses a question (letting the Mob split his winnings) or decides to stop (taking the prize for himself). Those not selected as the One or the Mob can play along as members of “The Crowd” for bragging rights.

What we like:

  • The pacing: Questions and answers come at a good clip, with 37 questions in the average half-hour Extended Play episode. Plus, the quick answer timer makes it nearly impossible to Google for answers. Good move!
  • The competition: Playing live against thousands of other players lets you revel in their ignorance when they miss an easy question en masse. Which is the whole point of trivia, after all.
  • The interface: Bravo for compressing a lot of information on scoring, Mob and Crowd performance, and statistics into an easy and pleasant-to-read format.

(full article)

The Beatles created a revolution in rock music. Rock Band created a revolution in music videogames. Combine the two, and the revolutionary power is enough to topple every government on Earth!

Well, maybe not, but it’s still a pretty big deal. I sat down for a quick chat with Lead Designer Chris Foster about the development of The Beatles: Rock Band, his favorite bands and what’s next…

Crispy Gamer: When Harmonix’s Beatles game was first announced, Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos promised, “This game is not just a Rock Band song expansion pack.” How exactly is this not a Rock Band expansion pack?

Chris Foster: It’s interesting; at the time, we knew … the decision to acknowledge that it was a Rock Band game was one that came from both [the Beatles’] Apple [Corp.] and MTV. For the core gameplay, clearly there are significant changes, most notably the vocal harmony. But what’s key is that it’s a game really about the Beatles and telling their story. We don’t have the World Tour in there from Rock Band. It’s not about cash and stars and fans; they kind of had all the cash and fans they needed from the get-go. It’s not just about going through a bunch of live venues. It’s not the exact same game mechanics, like, again, with vocal harmony, so there was a real interest to make it its own thing and give it the care and attention it needed. That’s what was intended by the original statement.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: David Crane’s cult NES puzzle-platformer, A Boy and His Blob, gets a long-overdue reboot on the Nintendo Wii.

1. The very first thing that strikes you about the game is the beautiful 2-D art and animation. Each area features its own hand-drawn backgrounds, complete with 10 to 12 layers of independent scrolling for a deeper look. The team estimates thousands of frames of animation have been made for an extremely smooth, rounded look reminiscent of “Winnie the Pooh,” “The Iron Giant” or, more recently, gaming’s Wario Land: Shake It!

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Press Pass: The Unlikeliest E3 JournalistsMatt Clark is a 29-year-old union staff representative and gamer from Dayton, Ohio. Like most gamers, he’s always dreamed of being able to go to E3. Unlike most gamers, he actually got to live out his dream this year.

Clark was one of a handful of gamers that won the chance to help cover E3 as part of contests held by major media outlets. He earned his chance to help cover the show for 1UP.com with a tongue-in-cheek blog spot that made merciless fun of his fellow entrants. At the show, Matt filed dozens of blog posts on everything from his favorite games to goofy, man-on-the-street interviews about a fake game.

Clark said he’d been following E3 closely for over a decade and considered it “a gaming mecca.” Even after years of mental preparation, though, he said he still wasn’t totally prepared for his pilgrimage. “I guess I didn’t anticipate the enormity of it,” he said after the show. “I mean, it’s just so much to take in. I felt like I had a serious ADD spaz-out the first half of the first day. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to be huge … I guess I just never imagined how hard it would be to try and see everything.”

(full article)

Kyle Orland

Kyle Orland: “Was he super-excited to see the Beatles?”

This was, apparently, the first and only thing my father-in-law asked my wife about my trip to E3 this week — the only bit of news about the gaming show that had broken through to his decidedly non-gaming consciousness. Unfortunately, my wife had to report that I didn’t have any reaction to the appearance of the remaining Beatles and their widows at Microsoft’s pre-show press conference. Because I was in an airplane at the time. Flying out to E3. To cover the week’s big events. Like the FREAKING BEATLES showing up at the FREAKING MICROSOFT PRESS CONFERENCE that I FREAKING MISSED.

E3 2009: Post-Post-Post-PostmortemI’m a pretty huge Beatles fan myself, so you can imagine my distress when I finally landed in L.A. and saw the MTV Games PR email announcing the Beatles appearance I had just missed. For over a day I beat myself up for my poor planning and the vagaries of Southwest Airlines’ fare structure, which caused the situation.

But then I caught an archived video of the Microsoft presentation online and, quite frankly, I got over my disappointment quite quickly.

Had I been in the room, I’m sure I would have been caught up in the emotion of the moment, and taken part in the standing ovation that greeted Paul and Ringo’s appearance. But from my detached view on a hotel-room bed with a laptop, I didn’t see what the big deal was about their awkward, 30-second photo op. They didn’t play a song. They didn’t play the game. They didn’t field questions from the press or give any insight into their storied careers or even talk about the experience of helping design their first videogame. They just came out, bantered awkwardly about the incredible awesomeness of themselves and their game for a bit, then left as quickly as they’d entered.

None of this really matters, in the end. The appearance did its primary job of giving mainstream news outlets the hook they needed to break through both my father-in-law’s awareness threshold and the wall of indifference with which they greet most videogame news. But it almost seems like a waste that these two amazing musicians, who no doubt still have a lot to share with the world, have so far been reduced to mere promotional puppets for their first foray into the videogame industry.

Not that I mind too much. If I’d missed a full-on performance or an in-depth interview with THE FREAKING BEATLES because I was on a plane, I’d probably still be bawling softly to myself.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: Despite the continuing legal battle, the turntable-based rhythm game Scratch: The Ultimate DJ was actually playable at a party adjacent to this year’s E3, which is more than could be said for Activision’s competing DJ Hero.

1. It’s Beatmania. Seriously, if you’ve played any of Konami’s Beatmania games, you know what to expect: notes falling from the top of the screen; you tapping buttons in time as they reach the bottom (and occasionally scratching a turntable in special sections). The concept’s pretty simple, and the single row of five buttons means the challenge tops out well below that of the Beatmania games, but the well-timed note patterns and quality sound samples made good use of the thumping club music.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: The included-with-every-Wii game that brought virtual bowling and golf to nursing homes the world over returns. Wii Sports Resort includes some more action-oriented games and a new controller accessory that makes the Wii Remote more accurate.

1. It all starts with skydiving. To get players used to the Wii MotionPlus accessory, the game uses a skydiving Mii making a series of simple mid-air formations as an analogue for the Remote — leaning down to go faster, or splaying out to slow down. The added responsiveness and accuracy of the peripheral are immediately apparent from the first moment of play.

(full article)

The 10-Cent Tour: It’s Wii Fit … plus some new stuff!

1. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. As the trailer shows, there’s a smattering of six new yoga poses and strength-trainers for those of you who like to use your Wii Balance Board for boring stuff. Wii Fit Plus also lets you arrange these training exercises into timed sets that focus on a specific part of your body (hips, legs, etc.). Zzzzzzzzz.

(full article)

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