Humble Bundle 2 Arrives; Is Awesome

21 12 2010

Humble Indie Bundle #2Did you get in on the first Humble Indie Bundle?

Well whether you grabbed it the first time or not, Wolfire Games is at it again, with another pay-what-you-want bundle of indie-gaming bliss with the Humble Indie Bundle #2!

This time, like the last time, they are offering a handful of (great) independently designed games for the low-low (or high-high) price of pay whatever you want!  Even better yet, you can send the payment of your games to the individual developers, two charities (the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play Charity), or any percentage to both.

The games this time are excellent as well.  We’re talking Braid, Osmos, Machinarium, Cortex Command, and Revenge of the Titans!  All of which are awesome fun.  And three of them give you Steam Keys as well so you can activate the products on Steam and get all those community features while you play, plus the “play anywhere” feature that you get by logging into the steam client, wherever you are.  (Cortex Command and Revenge of the Titans are currently still in active development, and therefore don’t have Steam key access yet.)

Soooo… what’s stopping you?  Certainly not the money.  Certainly not the quality of the games… Seriously.  Go and get this and help some indie devs and charities at the same time!  You won’t regret it!

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Christian FAIL

18 11 2010

Are you familiar with Failblog.org?  It’s not a Christian site, and definitely some pretty crass stuff goes there.  But the overwhelming majority of the stuff is just plain funny.  And why?  Because it helps us laugh at ourselves.  It laughs at the pride and overblown egos of those of us who think we’ve got it all together.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, first off, it has a lot to do with where we are as a church.  No, I don’t mean Parkview Community Church, where I work and attend (Although I readily accept that as truth there too).  I mean church with a “big c”.  The body of Christ.

The truth?  All too often we’re failing miserably due to our pride, our bloated sense of self-righteousness, and our desire to “save the world”.

I’m been reading some pretty awesome books over the past year (well, a couple) and what I’m excited about is that there is a growing movement inside Christianity that is starting to recognize our failures.  That we’re starting to really grasp what it means to live in a “post-Christian society”, and more importantly, that the reason we’re in that post-Christian society is our fault entirely.

God didn’t leave.  God didn’t change.  God is constant, loving, ever-powerful, ever-glorious, and ever-faithful.  So what does that leave?  Who tarnished the influence of the church?  You and I did.  Big ole Christian FAIL.

First off, some are quick to get tense and feel like they need to defend the church, or themselves and say “well, MY church did THIS to help THESE people, and I gave THIS time/money/service to help THESE people and therefore you are wrong!”

You, sir or madam, are precisely who I am addressing.

Do you realize what the bible says when we read in Isaiah 64:6, when the prophet says:

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

We are those people.  We are those who have been given generations of proof of God’s constancy and love.  We are those who have been given example after example of true followers of Christ.  We are those who have been given blessing after blessing.  And sadly, we are those who ignore it and say “let’s do it our way!”

There’s nothing wrong with trying to save people.  Unless you don’t realize that you can’t save anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to help people live more Godly lives.  Unless you don’t realize that a lot of people don’t believe in God and therefore think your rule-set is flawed from the word “go”.

The point I’m trying to make is that sure, the world seems to be in decline, spiritually.  But this is not some external force, some random “other guys” that are doing it wrong.  The world is not to blame for Christianity’s decline in reputation and followership.  We are to blame because we have forgotten what it means to love people.

We do a lot of things, us Christians.  We do a lot of good works.  And those good works are pretty awesome.  I’m not bringing those things down at all.  Digging wells to give needed water in remote areas of the earth is awesome.  Feeding the hungry is necessary work.  Clothing the needy is a great kindness.  Sheltering the homeless is perfectly rational and loving work.

But if we do it simply because it’s the right thing to do?  We’re missing the point.

We need to do these things out of compulsion from two sources of unimaginably powerful love:

We need to do these things because God loved us when we were unlovable (which, by the way, is still now, even after salvation.  You got saved, you got covered, but you still stink.  Me too.)

We need to do these things because we have ALREADY BUILT RELATIONSHIPS that had nothing to do with our service.   Relationships that weren’t dependent on anything other than God’s love for those people, and our desire to love them too.

Another important distinction here:  We need to continue those relationships after the service is complete.  After we dig wells, we can’t just say “Well, there’s God!  Enjoy!” and walk away.

A relationship is a maintenance thing.  A relationship doesn’t mean one person gives, the other takes, and then no one speaks anymore.  That’s a transaction, not a relationship.

We’ve been too preoccupied for far too long with transactions.  We’ve been so busy tallying up deposits into the kingdom that we’ve forgotten that our investments are people.  That we’ve forgotten that these people are no less than us.  That we are no better than they.  That we didn’t find them in a low place and raise them up.  That’s what God did, and we are fortunate enough to have participated in God’s glorious process.

We have forgotten the joy of service to God.  We do, however love service for “doing the right thing’s sake”.

You know what?  Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Satanists and anything else that is not Christian can do good work for good work’s sake.  In fact, Athesists would argue that it’s part of the propagation of the species.  That doing for others helps us, and therefore fits nicely into survival of the fittest (we all survive when we’re all fit, right?).

So what is a distinctive of Christianity?  What separates us from them?  God.  That’s the ONLY thing that makes our work different.  But only if we let God do His thing through us.  We toil, and we slave and we work SO HARD for nothing.  And we call it God’s work.  It’s despicable.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m pointing this finger right at myself, while I write this.  I’m ashamed at how long I’ve cowered under the banner of “just lead them to the church and all will be well.”  I forget that I AM THE CHURCH.  WE ARE THE CHURCH.  The pastor is part of the church, and a very useful and necessary one.  But he or she is not the church.  The worship band is not the church.  A really moving piece of worship music is not the church.  WE ARE THE CHURCH.

We need to love people.  We need to remember that Christ loves these people.  That he loved us when we had nothing to offer (again, this is now, not some time in the past when you were less worthy than now.  Newsflash!  We’re still not worthy!)

This needs to motivate us towards love and good deeds.  This is what we must do.  We need to stop failing, and start loving.  Start building REAL relationships in our communities.  Start loving people who we are certain won’t love Jesus.  Because Jesus still loves those people.   We need to love them also.  We need to love without expectation.   We need to love without preconceived notions of what will happen after we love them.  We need to pray for them, that God will soften their hearts, but hand-in-hand with that needs to come the prayer that he will continually do the same for us.

We need to stop failing and start loving.  Will you join me as I offer my breadcrumbs and fish heads?  It’s a gross offering, but it’s all I’ve got right now.  And I know God will do as he wishes with it and to Him be all the glory, honor, majesty, dominion and power.  Amen.





Is Blactivision Imploding?

2 03 2010

Infinity Ward LogoActivision Blizzard, Inc. (or Blactivision, as I call them) has officially lost its collective minds.  Like, certifiably.

So, if you’ve been into games at all in the last year, you’ve probably heard of one of Activision Blizzard, Inc.’s holdings, Infinity Ward.  And if you’ve heard of them, you’ve probably heard of this little art-house game they worked on, entitled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2“.  However, printing money is apparently not high on the value list for Activision, according to the following:

In a strange black-ops quietness that was confirmed only recently, Infinity Ward’s President, Jason West (AUTHOR EDIT: and CEO Vince Zampella) was fired by Activision.  This is the man who led the company through some of its most profitable ventures, and made bank for the most recent game in PREORDERS, with many gamers plunking down cash for the name recognition alone, sight-unseen.  (Of course, fans of the series are loving Modern Warfare 2, although the critical response generally states that the game doesn’t hold as much gravitas and that moment-to-moment impact as the first Modern Warfare.)

So, pair this with CEO Bobby Kotick‘s most recent comments at the DICE conference, the layoffs in, and shuttering of the Red Octane brand, and one has to wonder what the heck is going on with Activision at the moment.  There’s no way that this is a savvy business move, and it can do nothing but tank morale for the other developers under the Blizzard/Activision banner.

Sure, Starcraft II is going to keep Activision/Blizzard with cash flowing.  And World of Warcraft is forever going to be a money factory for them.  But then again, Blizzard is not the part of the company that I’m criticizing.  They’re smart, savvy people over there.  Apparently, something of this magnitude would have to pass Kotick’s desk to sign off on.  Something is wrong with the man, or the company is prepping for a fall.  Or trying to lower earnings, so the stock falls, so Blizzard can buy them outright or something.  I have no idea, but this has terrible business sense written all over it.

I guarantee though, that we’re going to hear a lot more about this in the future.  Mind you, surely there could be some terrible skeletons that West is finally catching up to, but in my opinion, this move, for whatever reason, only solidifies Activision’s persona as of late as corporate goons looking only at the bottom line, rather than the gaming revolutionaries that they began as back in the day.

If there’s no sordid backstory, all OtakuDad can say, is that I wish Jason West the very best and we are CERTAIN that he will be snagged by some very lucky company soon.  If there’s a sordid backstory, then I hope that things will work out, that West will repent, bounce back, and get back to making great triple-A titles.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Okay, so other than Jason West’s personal Facebook profile stating that he’s been fired, there’s no OFFICIAL comment.  So while I’m calling this one fact, it’s not OFFICIAL fact until someone corporate says something.

Also, something I intended to add but forgot, when originally written, was that this firing was a surprise exit by Activision security, and all the staff at Infinity Ward have no idea what is going down as well.  Again, I cannot imagine this does ANYTHING positive to company morale, and will reverberate throughout the Activision banner’s holdings.

FINAL UPDATE: It’s official.  Activision Blizzard, Inc. has officially reported that Jason West and Vince Zampella, the heads of Infinity Ward, have been fired, although no reason has been given for their departure.  The Call of Duty franchise will be moved to its own internal “studio” status, and will be headed by “Activision publishing veterans”, whatever that means.

May I repeat again, that this will do NOTHING but hinder future efforts and reduce morale throughout Activision Blizzard, Inc., and that this tactic of “ANYONE IS EXPENDABLE!” will simply move developers towards safer, less-innovative content.

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Plastic Instrument Wars…GO!

1 03 2010


Rock Band Vs. Guitar Hero

As all of you who read my ramblings here (why?  I don’t get it!) probably know that I’m a large fan of Rock Band 2.  I’m not against the Guitar Hero franchise, as I have MANY fond memories of playing with friends the original and second in the series.  But, many of the newer titles (Guitar Hero 3 especially, but also Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, Van Halen, and World Tour) have been simply mediocre.  Not bad, but just par for the course.  Innovations in the space seem to originate with the Rock Band franchise, and then migrate (sometimes well and other times, not so much) to the Guitar Hero platform.  The instruments are well crafted for Guitar Hero, but the song song selection, as well as the loathsome “play-as-real-singers” thing for World Tour was just the tipping point for me.  But here’s the interesting thing…some of you may have heard this and some of you may have not, but Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick was speaking at the DICE summit recently and lamented not working with Harmonix (creator of the Rock Band franchise, and half of the original Guitar Hero game creators), saying:

We really didn’t even think, ‘Hey, we should go to Boston and meet these Harmonix guys and see what they’re up to.’  The world of music games would be very different had Activision partnered with Harmonix.  It would probably be a profitable opportunity for both of us.

Mind you, he said this at a developer’s conference, while the economy and the “plastic-instrument-based rhythm game” genre are in recession.  So lament is bound to be found anywhere.  And let’s not forget that the “Hero” franchise of Activision’s has been milked (Guitar Hero: Van Halen, Band Hero, DJ Hero, etc.).  The golden goose has been squeezed and prodded to overproduce, and unsurprisingly has come up short of Activision’s earnings expectations.
Yet, despite a couple ventures off the path for Harmonix (Rock Band: Beatles, Lego Rock Band, and the forthcoming Rock Band: Green Day), Rock Band 2 remains a platform product, choosing to update the catalog of downloadable content, instead of selling new hardware and retail discs every time they want to expand.  As of this writing, the Rock Band Music Store boasts well over 1000 downloadable songs, with the limitless prospect of more content coming from independent bands through their Rock Band Network (still in beta) offering.  It is this “platform, not iteration” strategy that is keeping the Rock Band brand full of vitality, as the Guitar Hero franchise declines and flounders.
Couple this with the information in February that Red Octane (owned by Activision) has been completely closed, with many employees laid-off, and one has to wonder at the viability of a two-party system for the foreseeable future in the rhythm game-space.  (All other Red Octane employees that were retained have been relocated and will report directly to the Activision mothership for future Guitar Hero games.)  Sure, any company can make a rhythm game (and many do) but the value of the Guitar Hero games was supposed to be in the guitar peripherals as well as the original “flavor” that the founders of the franchise brought to the table.
So where does this leave the industry?  Of course, we know Rock Band: Green Day is in the works.  It would be stupid to dismiss that a Guitar Hero 6 of some sort is being developed currently.  The main question is whether Harmonix (and its partners) will launch a Rock Band 3 platform prior to a new console generation, or remain firm with their dedication to simply updating the current platform.

I absolutely do not believe that rhythm-action gaming has reached its peak.  Of course, 2009 was a tough year with the recession, which especially affects music games given the relatively high price point of instrument bundles. But in the long term, people’s passion for music isn’t going away, and rhythm gaming will continue to provide people with a deeper level of engagement with the music they love. So, yes, I do think that future music games will exceed the sales success of the last generation.

-Harmonix CEO, Alex Rigopulos

However, it is interesting to note that while Harmonix/Rock Band’s new initiative, the user-fueled “Rock Band Network”, which will launch with at least 180 songs created by independent artists, Activision/Guitar Hero project director Brian Bright is the one quoted as saying:

If you can’t create or edit licensed music due to copyright laws then you’re limited to pretending to play someone else’s music. I think the key is to create music, but make it compelling to create, so the game is in the creation, not the playback.

So what does the future of music gaming hold?  I think it’s safe to say that there will be new plastic instruments to clog up your living room, more great songs, both new and old, and competition as always.  However, it also seems naive to think that both companies will remain in a stalemate.  One franchise will eventually take the throne.  Currently, Guitar Hero sales handily beat Rock Band sales.  However, quality polls seem to indicate that people tend to be much more loyal to the Rock Band brand, once familiar, and the brand is growing with each title.  Who knows who will win, but as long as rock and roll exists, I think it’s equally safe to say, we all win.

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The Predictions Post, 2010 Edition

14 02 2010

The Great Carnac

What a year 2009 was!  My previous post talked about some of the games that stole the show, and stole our goodwill, as well.  However, another post from the past that’s worth reviewing (and re-doing this year) is the one where I predict what would happen in 2009.  Surprisingly, I got a lot right.  Let me first suggest you check out the post from last year (so you know I’m not simply making this stuff up), and then let’s see how I did.  Also, at the end of this post, I’ll make some more predictions for the remainder of 2010.

Wii-HD

Now with the power of FOUR GameCubes!

First off, I bombed a bit with the WiiHD (which I called the Wii II).  While there have been hints and theories (I’m looking at YOU Michael Pachter…) nothing firm has been said about the next Nintendo home console.  And in retrospect, why should they?  They’re printing money on the consoles and their 1st-party software.  Soccer moms all over the world aren’t going to re-up to get HD graphics, because it’s highly likely that these same people don’t even know what they’re missing.  This story from the NPD Group (Sept, 2009) says that the majority of Wii owners only own that one console.  Only 14 percent owned a 360 or PS3.  So they don’t know what to compare visual fidelity with, so why would they care?  So, again, I failed there.  I still expect to hear WiiHD hard fact sometime this year, but the actual console release probably won’t be expected until 2011 or more likely, 2012.

Next, I got the PS3 predictions almost perfect:  I said they’d drop their price (they did), not give

PS3 Grill

George Foreman ain't got NOTHING on this!

up on the console, in favor of talking news of a new one (bingo), and that they would release some great exclusives (finally) as well as start to catch up with the 360 in terms of sales competition.  So, while they dropped their price significantly, leading to much higher sales (in fact, comparably selling with the 360 month after month in recent months), lifetime stats still show the PS3 firmly in 3rd place, at least in the US.  And with exclusive content like Uncharted 2, as well as Demon’s Souls, inFamous, Killzone 2, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time, and many more on the PSN, 2009 was the first year it made sense to actually buy the darn thing.

No Blu-Ray for 360Predictions about the Xbox 360 are a little sketchy, because well, yeah.  While Blu-Ray DID win the HD-format wars, the 360 took the downloadable market route with the Zune HD store instead of adding a Blu-Ray drive to the console itself.  Again, this was a silly prediction in the first place, but I bombed it bad.  However, the 360 is firmly established as the 2nd place (sales-wise) home console.  It remains the lead SKU for many “now-gen” games, due to the ease of programming, and the ubiquity of the console, leading to a higher sales ratio.  This one, yeah.  I chalk it up as a rookie mistake. 🙂

No Half-Life 3StarCraft 2 hasn’t come out yet.  We’ll be lucky to see it in 2010, in my opinion.  And Diablo 3 is firmly in 2012, if you ask me.  However, I still stick to my guns that relative to Diablo 3, and in the United States, StarCraft 2 will NOT live up to expectations, sales-wise.  It may be an excellent game (I expect it will, with Blizzard at the helm) but it’s going to be primarily for those Asian markets, not the US, and US customers won’t attach as well.  Valve DID come out with Left 4 Dead 2, (which to be honest, was a surprise to MANY, not just myself), but no firm announcement on Half Life: Episode 3.

Finally, the Wii DID get storage support (although not in the form of another add-on device, but) through SD card playable games, and while my “pen” joke was silly, the peripheral wars wage on, with all sorts of add-ons, simulation-enhancers, etc…  Heck, even Nintendo previewed the “Vitality Sensor”.  Which I can’t figure out the value of yet…

And, the Nintendo DS remained the Knock-Out Champeen of the Century, with sales out of this world…Surprise, surprise…

2010 – The Next Generation (is announced)

Prediction #1

The Wii will remain far and away the #1 seller of the year in home consoles.  However, market share will decrease, as more and more 360 and PS3 units sell.  However, we will get some good, real information on the next Wii, which will have 1080p support, as well as Motion-Plus waggle built-in.  Storage will not be an issue, and they will entirely re-think the “channel” idea, for a more interactive interface.

Prediction #2

The PS3 will begin to sell monthly in higher numbers than the 360.  By the year’s end, the 360 will still likely have a higher penetration rate, but that margin will have decreased significantly.  This will be largely due to God of War 3 making a HUGE impact on the sales of the PS3, as well as the long-anticipated release of Grand Turismo 5, which will be an excellent game, and the one many people were waiting for prior to plunking that money down for the PS3.  The console itself will see one more price drop before the end of the year, although not nearly as significant as the one we saw near the end of 2009.  This new price drop will occur in late October or early November, to boost holiday sales.

Prediction #3

The 360 will see some true exclusives (something kind of rare in 2009), and those exclusives will kind of suck.  Not terribly, but they won’t move hardware as Microsoft had hoped, which helps the PS3 gain some market share, and keeps Nintendo as the leader for another year.

We WILL however, get not only specs on the next Xbox, we will get a release date.  This also will hurt sales of the current console, but with a price drop (again, around the holidays), this new system (set to release in early 2012) will be highly Natal-centric.  Speaking of the Project Natal, the add-on will be pretty successful, but will sadly go the “minigame” route, rather than be the “Milo” experience we all hoped for.  The Natal concept still promises a lot more possibility, however, so expect to see some great things (and finally the processing power to back it up well) in the new console.

Prediction #4

Playstation will get out of the portable business.  Seeing year after year of disappointing returns on the PSP brand, and with fewer and fewer developers putting quality product out there, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) will go instead into a market that is based upon the PS3’s connectivity.  Instead of being a simple fringe-user, hardly advertised benefit to the PSP, the new device will almost solely deliver the promise that the PS3 will be our “always” device for now and the future.  It will connect to let you play not only PS2-type games from the PSN, but it will also let you play different versions (or story-building side-missions) of the games you already purchased with the PS3, as well as do full voice-chat as a standard for every game that ships for the device.  It will be an e-reader as well, and will finally have two analog sticks.  It will be rumored to have six-axis controls as well, but will dump those at the last-minute to drop the price (which will be pretty exorbitant).

Prediction #5

We will get our first real view of how a service like “On-Live” will work, with a real product being REALLY available for consumer purchase around the time of E3.  While it won’t be a huge seller, it will sell enough subscriptions to remain in business, with a lot of promise for the future.

Prediction #6

Downloadable content and gaming will finally break the 25% (of total game sales) mark, and you’ll start to see major developer houses coming out with some top-shelf products ONLY available as downloads (at least initially…discs may come in the form of “Greatest Hits” styles).  Due to the success of Trials HD and Shadow Complex, CHAIR will be a huge leader in the new downloadable economy.

So that’s it!  My predictions for 2010 are locked in, and ready to be ridiculed.  Here’s hoping it’s another great year for games!

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2009 – A Look Back At The Year In Gaming

11 02 2010

Looking back at this post, where I talked about my most anticipated games for 2009, I can’t help but be amazed at how after all these years, so many games that seem like sure-fire hits simply don’t make the cut when viewed in retrospect, and how many come out the gates with little fanfare and end up becoming beloved classics.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at that old post and contrast with what really happened in 2009.

MadWorld scrnWhat surprised me most about this past year’s games was not that the games I’d been looking forward to were bad, or terrible…it’s that they were so woefully generic or vanilla, that they simply didn’t connect as promised, all too often.  The games I’m thinking of most in this area were MadWorld, and Halo Wars.

Both games were exactly as promised.  Halo Wars, was, indeed an RTS game set in the world of Halo.  However, that’s about where the innovation stopped.  Sure, it was a decent control scheme to bring RTS to the console in terms of GUI and little ways the game was tailored for the 360, however, in general, this also left the game a bit neutered, and less than exciting, despite the thrill of “zerg-rushing” with a pack of Warthogs. Halo Wars

A similar problem dogged MadWorld as well, as the game’s visuals were striking, stark and unique.  But in the end, repetition (along with over-the-top silly commentary) killed the artistic purity of the idea.

Both games are not bad at all, in fact, I’d still say that missing either would be a detriment to understanding what 2009 offered.  It’s simply that at the same time of being good games, they were nothing more than good, when most of the gaming press and enthusiast fanbase expected greatness.  Neither really delivered, and that’s the disappointment more than anything else.

Mary Smith

Image via Wikipedia

My biggest hopes for the year seemed to come from one game that hasn’t yet arrived.  This “coming-soon” game, Heavy Rain from Quantic Dream looks pretty much as-promised in terms of the visuals as well as the new style of gameplay (that tends to work more like EXTREMELY interactive fiction, rather than actual…you know, gaming).  However, while I haven’t gotten my hands on the game yet to verify this, most recent previews/reviews point the the fact that the dialogue is a bit stilted, and that the voice acting is stiff, which, as a more narrative experience (as opposed to simply a gaming experience), may stifle sales of the game and potentially,  kill this “choose-your-own-adventure-digital-edition” fledgling genre…

Resident Evil 5

Image via Wikipedia

As for the game that lived up to expectations last year, Resident Evil 5 sold extremely well, played just as I had hoped it would, and worked well in a very game-y “extra modes” way, while still maintaining the momentum (although, not really growing) of it’s most recent predecessor.  Co-Op play really changed the face of the survival-horror genre, and was implemented quite well.  This was surprising, and I think really gave the game a lot of replayability, as did the leaderboard aspect of the game (something entirely new for a horror franchise).

Dragon Age: Origins, also was a game that a lot of people had high hopes for, but were worried, because screenshots did not show the game well.  And while BioWare‘s pedigree for RPGs with story held a lot of cred with the gaming public, no one was sure whether this would be a step forward or a large step backward, in terms of the genre.  However, BioWare has once more, hit it out of the park, delivering a very compelling, rich, lore-filled world in which every single character resides.  The story is epic enough to lend drama, but personalized enough to make the player care about the small decisions and conversations.

Batman - Arkham Asylum

Image by sean geer via Flickr

Abel attacking Ryu in Street Fighter IV.

Image via Wikipedia

Beyond what I knew about at the time of writing that anticipation post, more than a couple really great games came out, some out of the blue.  First was Capcom’s Street Fighter IV, which really revitalized and brought some credibility back to the fighting genre.  Also definitely worth mentioning (and also one that was unexpectedly great) was Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham Asylum.  While the Batman title brought some cool innovation, story/character depth,  and a lot of fun gameplay to 3rd-person brawlers, Street Fighter IV took all of the conventions of the fighting genre and refined them (with some pretty decent net-code for online matches) into something that felt both new and familiar at the same time.

Assassin's Creed 2 PS3

Image by louisvolant via Flickr

Another suprise hit of 2009 was Assassin’s Creed 2.  Obviously Ubisoft learned a lot from the faults of the original game.  AC2 really developed the story of the Desmond character to a satisfying end, as well as refined and expanded the gameplay which kept the player from feelings of repetition, which was a major complaint in the first game.  Add to this, attractive “side quests” as well as the promise of expansion through downloadable content, and Assassin’s Creed 2 delivers in a way that many other games simply couldn’t.

Uncharted 2_ Among Thieves™3 grenade toss

Image by misplacedparadox via Flickr

Rounding off my list of games that were anticipated, or surprises, is Uncharted 2.  In a year of sequels and more story-driven content, Uncharted 2 really did the best job of pulling off the trifecta of gaming fun.  The story was interesting, and acted well, really giving you a sense of “being in for the ride” much like a good action film.   Secondly, the game plays tightly (gunfights are exciting, not painful), and there’s enough new types of content to prevent you from feeling that it’s simply a rehash of the previous title.  Finally, the visual quality of the game is really top-notch.  So many people have referred to the game as very cinematic, or film-like, and the care which went into crafting the character models, the environments, and the set pieces really are the key to that feeling of realism and getting sucked-in.

All in all, the year (like many others) had a lot of ups and downs, wild successes as well as letdowns.  However, the number of quality, engaging, and replayable titles of this past year really stun me, when one considers that so many developers are making some bold and unique choices with their games.  Sure, Bungie put out some games.  Sure, Ubisoft did as well, but Capcom had a stellar year in terms of original IP, revitalized old IP, and flat-out sales.  relative newcomers like Quantic Dream got a lot of news, and Rocksteady came out of nowhere to claim a (rightful) place amongst the standard greats in the industry.  And who would have predicted that a year chocked-full of sequels would leave us so immensely happy?   It was definitely an interesting and good year for gaming overall, and one can only look forward to now, 2010, when so many games are still on the verge of coming out, all year, and think “what can we anticipate this time?” 

(And yes, that post will come.  Soon.)

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YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! (DUN-DUN)

9 02 2010

The Who SB44Still unsure of the mass-market appeal of downloadable content?  Think Rock Band and Guitar Hero are done spitting out song packs and extending their catalogs?  Think again…

If you watched the Super Bowl yesterday, or at the very least, watched the halftime show, you were treated to a pretty darn good medley of The Who’s greatest hits, performed pretty darn well (in this writer’s opinion, at least.)

Immediately after the game’s end, Harmonix put up “The Who Super Bowl S-Mashup” for download in their online track store for Rock Band 2.  Available on all three home consoles, the downloadable “track” will cost only $1.99 (a flat $2 for the Wii), and has some pretty high difficulty ratings (like most of the other “Who” tracks available already).

While I haven’t purchased the track yet, I am considering it, as the set was pretty good, and you can’t beat the value in terms of dollars to the length of the medley.

Including parts of songs like: “Pinball Wizard”, “Baba O’Riley”, “Who Are You” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, this is sure to please a lot of fans of The Who (myself included).

In my opinion, Classic Rock is underrepresented in the Rock Band music store (sure, it’s there, but there’s a treasure trove of songs yet to appear,) and this is a great compliment to the album/studio tracks available.  And again, that price is compelling.

Of course, this is not the actual live version as performed on stage.  There would be no way for them to create the beat-mapping and note tracking required in time to release in a timely manner.  However, The Who recorded the same medley just for the Rock Band folks at Harmonix, so you can be assured that the songs, the transitions, and the screams of YEAAAAAAHHHHHH! will be just as satisfying.

It will definitely be interesting to see how Harmonix responds to future opportunities like this.  One must assume that this specific track is a toe into the water of future “event” track downloads, so if this is piquing your interest, definitely grab this track now!

You can read more about this track, at the Rock Band site: http://www.rockband.com/news/s_mashup

So what about you? Are you planning on picking up this track?  What do you think about this idea that special events will be chronicled through Rock Band (and one assumes, to stay competitive, Guitar Hero as well in the future)?