July 2005 Archives
July 28, 2005
July 23, 2005
I guess crusading attorney Jack Thompson is a regular listener to the Gaming Steve podcast because I've been saying for awhile now that if you think GTA is bad (which was rated M for Mature) you should see what going on in The Sims 2 (which is rated T for Teen). According to Gamespot Thompson is attacking the Sims 2, saying that its salacious unlockable content "is no different than what is in San Andreas, although worse."
Okay I'm not on the side of Thompson in any way whatsoever, and I detest what he's trying to do to the industry, but I have to agree that the mods found in the The Sims 2 community are much worse than what can be found in the Hot Coffee mod. Not that I mind the content in The Sims 2, not at all. I just find it insane that GTA received an "Adults Only" rating by the ESRB because it contained some hidden "sex" scenes -- and I use that term loosely because these scenes looked like they were animated using the Doom 2 engine. Meanwhile the "regular" version of The Sims 2 contains both hetro and homosexual sex, sex with aliens, the ability to torture and kill your Sims, people going to the bathroom, taking showers, walking around half-naked, and so much more. And yet, this game is intended for children 13-years and older according to the ESRB.
And once you factor in all the various "skins" you can download for your Sims, which include naked people, disformed people, people with burns all over their bodies, and much worse, I would have to say that there are a lot of games out there which should be rated "Adults Only" according to the ESRB's recent actions. If GTA gets an "AO" rating for containing sex then all games which contain sex should be rated "AO" according to their logic, which includes The Sims 2, God of War (where you can play mini-game in which you have sex with two women at once), Mafia (again, in-game sex), and so many more. Oh no, this is far from over, Hot Coffee was just the beginning of a very long road indeed. Hello Kitty games for everyone!
July 22, 2005
Despite posting a 22% increase in revenue for its "Home & Entertainment" division Microsoft continues to take an operating loss amounting to $179 million, bringing the yearly loss to $391 million. This is down from a loss of $1.2 billion last year, so not too bad, but the Xbox remains a big money loser for Microsoft.
Sure I love the Xbox, and I'm looking forward to the Xbox 360, but you have to wonder just how longer Microsoft is going to keep making a system which is costing them than the GNP of ... Liechtenstein. Okay, maybe it's not costing them that much money. I mean, they just $3.7 billion in the last 90 days. So what's a few billion for a gaming system? And everyone is having a good time?
So thanks Bill for spending all that hard earned money on letting us play Xbox games! I'm looking forward to the Xbox 360, and whatever comes after that. I hope you continue to lose money for a long long time...
July 19, 2005
Sure the first Dungeon Siege sort of played itself, and the gameplay got repetitive, but lurking in there was a groundbreaking game. Well word just came down that Dungeon Siege II has gone gold and will be stores August 16, 2005. Normally I wouldn't make an entry on a single game going gold, but this game is from Gas Powered Games (makers of the upcoming Supreme Commander ... drool) plus I have been playing the beta of DSII and it's a ton of fun. This time around Gas Powered did their research to find out what people liked and didn't like about the last game and has vastly improved the overall gaming experience.
The gameplay is basically the same as before, you lead a party, you kill lots of monsters, you see lots of pretty environments, you build up your characters, and you get lots of phat loot. Basically the Diablo II formula but in full 3D and a larger party. The first game was good, but it had several issues, the biggest was that it was basically the game from beginning to end. It was so close to being the next Diablo, but it just missed the mark.
This time around there are a lot of little things which were added to make the game a lot more fun. Your party is smaller and a lot more manageable, as your characters level-up you can select special skills from a skill tree (similar to Diablo and WOW), your pets are much stronger and can level up along with your characters, the monsters are very cool and unlike any you have seen before, the story is surprisingly deep, the graphics are improved, the game interface is gorgeous, and lots more. Definitely be on the lookout for this game next month.
And now that DSII is done they can get cracking on Supreme Commander. Hurry up and finish that game!
July 14, 2005
I guess it was just a matter time before we would start seeing this ... a couple filing for divorce in China is arguing over custody of their computer game characters and virtual items.
According to the Chongqing Business Post, Mr. Wang from Chongqing and Ms. Ye from Huibei met last September on Shanda's online game Legend of Mir 2. Wang saved Ye's character from being killed by another player and the two quickly fell in love. The couple married at the end of October but decided to get a divorce this last June.
During their marriage, the couple jointly played over ten Mir 2 accounts, attaining level 40 to 50 status for all of them, which I am told is quite high. All the characters and virtual items are estimated to be worth 40,000 to 50,000 Yuan, and Wang said that he wants to keep the accounts and virtual items and is willing to give their joint apartment to Ye. However, Ye wants to split the apartment and game items equally (how do you split an apartment?).
Remember, if you are going to share your virtual items with your significant other make sure to write your name on all your items!
July 11, 2005
GamePolitics.com who was instrumental in breaking this story and has written extensively about this topic. In this episode of Gaming Steve Dennis and I speak about:
July 8, 2005
July 7, 2005
Summer is usually slow for the world of gaming, but this has to be the slowest summer in recent memory. And with no big news articles expected in the upcoming months I hereby declare this summer as "The Summer of Retro Gaming” in which I will regularly focus on classic games and systems of the past. And to kick things off I bring you the Portable Video Game King … Football!
Yes, that’s right … Football. That's it. That's the entire name of the game. Football. Not "NFL Football" or "Smash'em Up Football" ... just Football. It might not sound very impressive but of all of the handheld game systems this is perhaps the most recognizable and most beloved handheld game systems ever made.
For those of you out there who don't remember life before the Gameboy you actually had to buy your portable games one at a time with one game per system. In the late 70s through the 80s hundreds of these systems were released, each centering around a single game and the "graphics" on these systems usually consisted of nothing more than blinking LED lights. And let me tell you ... we loved these things!
As for Football, it was one of the very first handheld games ever released. Originally released in June of 1977, Football was released by Mattel (it was their second handheld release, the first being Auto Race) and was sold only through Sears stores (yes, in those days you actually had to buy your video games at Sears). Initially Football game sales started out slow, with Sears selling only a few thousand copies a week, but once school started and kids starting bringing these red blinking demons into the classrooms, sales took off. By February 1978 Mattel was selling 500,000 units ... a week! These things were everywhere and were being played by everyone -- if you were alive in the 70s you played Football.
When it first came out in 1977 Football cost around $35. Adjusted for inflation Football would cost $110 today! And you think the PSP is expensive?
As for the game itself, everything on the screen was portrayed by a red blip -- you, the ball, your players, the other players, everything. The controls were simplicity itself, up, down, and forward, that's it. The goal, what else? Start from your 20 yard line, run down the field as fast as possible and score a touchdown. Of course, running down the field actually consisted of you rerunning the same field over and over again since there was only space on the screen for 9 yards (yes, 9 yards, not 10), so you got to the end of the screen you would just wrap around the screen to the other side and keep on running! Surprisingly the real rules of football were well represented in this game. The game would keep track of your field position, the down, the time remaining in the quarter, and your score, pretty amazing for the time.
You always played offense (the bright red blip), the computer always played defense (the slightly dimmer red blips) and the defense touched your blip play stopped. Believe it or not, the defense AI was actually pretty sneaky and could require you carefully plan your trip down the field. Of course, the entire field was just three pixels high so there wasn't a huge amount of space to maneuver.
"If the game malfunctions, try fresh batteries" ... so smashing the game to the ground after my buddy scores a game-ending touchdown isn't part of the problem?
Another great feature of the game was that it allowed for two-player action. In fact, that was the only option. You played both sides, so after you scored a touchdown or were stopped by the defense you would take over as the other team. So to play against someone else you just passed the game to the person you were playing after your turn was up. Again, this might not sound like much, but being able to play against someone else was freaking awesome for the time and is easily responsible for hundreds of hours of lost time.
So what on earth made this game so damn popular? First, it was simple. Sure it was insanely abstract, but there was a strange elegance to this game and you could pick it up and figure out how to play in seconds. Second, you could play against someone else, which greatly helped the social aspect. And third, it was addictive as hell … like Tetris-addictive. Let me tell you, once you got that open lane and could run all the way down the field, you would pound that run button like a woodpecker on crack. Forget about "cell phone thumb", I'll put my “Football" thumb up against those cell phone jockeys any day of the week. Ah, nothing compares to running an 80-yard touchdown in Football, where you get into that "Tetris zone" where everything goes into slow motion you become one with the blips. Nothing.
So much fun in such a tiny package.
Of course, this game became so popular it basically started the entire handheld gaming market still seen today (hello PSP, meet your great-grandfather). Football sported the sequels "Football 2" (yes, even back then sequels were a big deal) and "Head to Head Football" (two-player action!) as well as few million other Mattel sports games (Baseball, Hockey, Soccer, etc.).
Football was actually reissued a few years ago both as a full-sized replica as well as a keychain(!) version. Definitely pick it up if you want to get a good laugh/relive your childhood, and don't blame me if you get addicted!
July 6, 2005
The new version of iTunes now supports podcasts which will make downloading and subscribing to podcasts easier than ever. Of course I have the Gaming Steve podcasts all ready to go, just click on the graphic below to subscribe to the Gaming Steve podcast in iTunes:
July 5, 2005
You know gaming has finally come into it's own when the world's first Rehab clinic for gamers just opened in China. According the Associated Press report the clinic is officially licensed by the Chinese government an is located near the Beijing Military Central Hospital. The patients -- most of whom are between the ages of 14 and 24 -- are looked after by a team of 23 nurses and doctors. Many say that their addiction to gaming grew out of a wish to relieve everyday stress and pressure from parents to perform well academically.
Treatment sessions begin at 6am every day and consist of therapy sessions, medication, acupuncture, and exercise. Patients also spend time hooked up to a machine which stimulates nerve endings receiving 30 volt electric shocks to pressure points, and are intravenously fed a clear liquid said to "adjust the unbalanced status of brain secretions". Officials refused to reveal any more information about the medication.
A stay at the clinic costs $48 per day -- more than twice the average weekly wage for a Beijing citizen -- and the course of treatment generally lasts for between 10-15 days.
This might sound funny on the surface, but I have personally known of dozens of people who failed out of college because they were addicted to MUDs and MOOs back in the 1980s. And my roommate from sophomore year had to repeat a semester of work because he was addicted to Dragon Warrior for the NES. With the likes of World of Warcraft and Everquest I can only imagine how much worse this has gotten over the years.
Heck, I consider myself a hard core/jaded gamer and I myself was hopeless addicted to WOW for two months solid. And to this day I have friends that I never see because they would rather play WOW than go out and do things in the "real world". I wonder how long before 60 Minutes/Oprah does a show on this very real problem...