Gaming Steve

November 2005 Archives

November 25, 2005

Leave Your Comments, Win Free Stuff!

Lots O' GamesOver the next week I'll be taking a little vacation and probably won't be posting to the site. Oh sure, I'll still be around, checking out the Gaming Steve forums and a few other things, but I probably won't have time to post new stories to the site over the next week. Which brings me to ... The Gaming Steve Comment Contest!

How it works is real simple. Just post a comment on this topic telling everyone and the world what is your favorite video game and why. Make sure to post your comment no later than midnight Sunday, December 4th, then come back to the site on Monday, December 5th where one person will be chosen at random to win a free copy of City of Villains Deluxe Edition for the PC! And, well, maybe I'll give out some other free stuff as well to others ... ah what the hey. I'll also give out a free Half Life 2 T-shirt and a free copy of the Auto Assault Pre-order CD as well. So that's three prizes to three lucky people, and all you need to do is leave a simple little comment.

Again, all you need to do is just leave a comment on this topic telling everyone what is your favorite video game and why, and that's it. Just make sure to enter in your real email address when you enter your comment so that I have a means to contact you -- don't worry, you won't get put on any list and you're email address will be kept totally private. Feel free to comment on anything else and comment as many times as you like (only one prize per person).

I'll see you all back here next Monday, in the meantime check out the very active Gaming Steve forums, or catch up on some old podcasts, or play the classic Star Control II. Just make sure to check back on December 5th when the winners will be announced and I'll be posting the next episode of the Gaming Steve podcast where I interview the guys at NetDevil, the makers of the upcoming Auto Assault. See you then and good luck to you all!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 PM | Posted to Stuff |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 23, 2005

Xbox 360 Achievements Inspired by the Atari 2600?

Activision Freeway PatchOne of the cooler aspects of the Xbox 360 is the addition of "achievements", which are basically rewards for achieving various in-game objectives (i.e. finish the game, unlock secret items, obtain certain high scores, etc.). As you "collect" these achievements they are added to your Xbox Live gamer profile in the form of cool icons for the world to see.

Sounds like an original concept, right? Rewarding people for achieving various in-game accomplishments on a console game? Well, this concept which first surfaced over 23 years ago on the Atari 2600!

Back in the "gaming stone age" (AKA the year 1982) Activision offered free cloth patches if you achieved a high score in any one of their games. Users were instructed to photograph their TV with the high score showing and mail it in and then Activision would send back a patch. Quite a bit of work in order to receive a piece of colored fabric, but it does mark the very first true "achievement" system for video games. In total there were 43 patches for 33 different games and the patch designs were quite varied and pretty damn cool.

So what made me think about this obscure past of gaming history. Well, just this past weekend I was at my parent's house poking around my old room when I came across my old Puma sweatshirt and my collection of Activision patches! Take a look at this bad boy! Doesn't it just reek of 80s nostalgia? Damn, I used to wear this thing everywhere, proudly showing off my various gaming achievements for the world to see. I think I should get an achievement for just having this blast from the past.

Anyone else still have their Activision patches? And how many did you manage to get in total?

Activision_Patches_01.jpg
What's that in the back of my closet? My old Puma sweatshirt, complete with Activision game patches? Score! Note the other relics of gaming history in the background as well.

Activision_Patches_02.jpg
A full frontal view of my proud achievements. Damn that the Pitfall patch was freaking huge!

Activision_Patches_03.jpg
Of course I had so many patches that I had to attach a few to the shoulders as well. Could you imagine what you would think if you saw this walking down the street? On second thought, don't try to do that...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 22, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 28 - 11.22.2005

Xbox 360 Big Time FansThis week's episode is a "super special episode" as I cover the worldwide launch of the Xbox 360 at Best Buy in Midtown Manhattan. If you think you're a hardcore gamer wait until you meet these guys. They waited in the freezing cold and rain, many for upwards of 20+ hours, just so that they could buy an Xbox 360 12:01 AM Tuesday morning. Check it out:

Gaming Steve Episode 28 Program

  • 00:02:50 Talking with the guys waiting in line.
  • 00:16:15 Chatting it up with the Best Buy Geek Squad.
  • 00:20:18 The pre-sale employee "psych up" meeting.
  • 00:21:35 The doors open, and the madness begins.
  • 00:29:23 Wrap up of the big event, time to get some sleep.
Download the show (33 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 28 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:00 PM | Posted to Interview | Podcast | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Xbox 360 Launch Party at Best Buy in Midtown Manhattan

It was wet and freezing cold, but that did not deter several hundred people from standing in line outside the Best Buy in midtown Manhattan for several hours/days in order to be the first people on earth to own an Xbox 360. Of course Gaming Steve was there covering the event, chatting with the people on line, and getting very very wet. Check out my photo coverage of the event, and make sure to check out my podcast where I interview and chat with the all Xbox 360 devotees pictured here.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
The scene of the madness, it doesn't look too bad...

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
...until you went around the block and you saw the line...

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
...that wouldn't end!

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
On the line we have #1 and #2, aka Peter Gonzalez (left, doing an interview with USA Today) and Michael Hamplton (right). Peter started to wait on line since early Sunday afternoon and hadn't slept in 36+ hours, and he looks it.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Next to #2 was #3, David Carbone (right), another one of the walking weary.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Numbers #4 (Joe Delia), #5 (Paul Gelardi), and #6 (Dan Gelardi) stood in line together, so at least they could leave the line from time to time and take a break. Oh yeah, that is an Xbox logo painted on Joe's face.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
At 10:30 pm the line moved up to the front of the store, which definitely perked everyone up.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
David (#3, right) compares notes with another 360 "member of the line".

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
With just under an hour to go Jason Hartje (#7, far left), Dan (#6), Paul (#5), and Joe (#4) are pumped!

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Okay, it's cold and wet, time to go inside the store and check out the setup.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Of course Geek Squad members Ray Sitorus (left) and Michael Abraham (right) need to "get familiar with the product", so they played some Madden before the big event.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Best Buy really had their act together, everything was all laid out and ready to go.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
That's a lot of controllers.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Xbox Live accessories ... check.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Memory units and faceplates ... check.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
HD cables and wires ... well, you get the idea. There was a lot of stuff.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Even the staff was pumped for the event.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
And there they are, a small mountain of Xbox 360s numbered and ready to go behind each cash register.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Another small mountain of 360s.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Five minutes to go until midnight they start to let the first eight people into the "waiting area".

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
And the doors are opening!

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
And they're off!

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
The first group got a huge round of applause from the entire Best Buy staff, they were really excited to get their unit (and to get out of the rain).

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Okay, thanks for the applause ... where's the damn 360!

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Peter was the very first person in the world to purchase an Xbox 360 in store, and here is that historic moment (by the way, he also got Perfect Dark Zero).

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Packing up the 360.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Oh yeah, he did have to buy it (no freebies for Peter).

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
But at least he got some change.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Sure he hasn't slept in 36 hours, but he said it was all worth it. Not only did he get another big round of applause but he was interviewed by around 30 different members of the press -- it took him 20 minutes just to get out of the store.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Michael (#2) looked refreshed and ready to go and play!

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
David (#3) getting a unit.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Joe (#4) won the award for "most Xbox branding".

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Jason (#7) wraps it up.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
Half an hour later and the line is still there, and it's still raining.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
An hour after midnight, still raining, still waiting.

Best Buy Xbox 360 Event
An hour and a half ... Okay, time to head home and post this sucker.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 AM | Posted to Culture | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 19, 2005

Jack Thompson Thrown off Alabama GTA Case

Jack Thompson vs. PongLast week it was reported that anti-game crusader Jack Thompson removed himself from an Alabama lawsuit against the makers and sellers of Grand Theft Auto III. It appears these initial reports weren't quite accurate.

In Strickland vs. Sony, the families of two police officers and a police dispatcher killed by then 18-year-old Grand Theft Auto player Devin Moore are suing Sony, Take-Two, Rockstar, Wal-Mart, GameStop for damages, based on the premise that GTA turned Moore into a triple murderer. The plaintiffs were being represented by Thompson and his legal team.

On Thursday, November 3rd the defense argued before Circuit Court Judge James Moore in Fayette County, Alabama that Thompson should be removed from the case for alleged misconduct. However, rather than wait for the ruling from the Judge -- which could have lead to much embarrassment for Thompson and potentially damaging to his anti-game crusade career -- Thompson simply removed himself from the case on Monday, November 7th. At the time of his departure Thompson told Game Politics, "The other side wants to make me the issue. The important thing is that the clients be served."

Well it appears that Thompson spoke too soon as yesterday Judge Moore ruled on whether or not Thompson could dismiss himself from the case ... and it couldn't have gone much worse for Thompson.

In an 18-page decision Judge Moore excoriated Thompson's professional conduct and outright rejected his attempt to withdraw from the case. Instead, the Judge revoked Thompson's Pro Hac Vice (visiting) admission to the Alabama Bar, which essentially forced him off the case and removed his visiting Bar credentials. In addition, Judge Moore noted that he was referring the matter to the Disciplinary Commission of the Alabama Bar for "appropriate action."

Thompson, as one might expect, was furious and issued a scathing letter to Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission, questioning Judge Moore's ethics.

In a profession in which prior actions and decisions carry enormous weight, this verdict could seriously derail Thompson's future anti-game effectiveness. Only time will tell but for the time being Thomson will no longer be able to practice law in the state of Alabama. Thanks to Dennis McCauley of Game Politics for breaking this story and continuing his exhaustive work on this matter.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 PM | Posted to Culture | PlayStation 2 |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 18, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 27 - 11.18.2005

City of Villains - Dominator with Venus FlytrapWelcome to the bonus episode of Gaming Steve. This was actually part of the last episode but it was so big that I had to cut it into two. Make sure to listen to the details on the Gaming Steve T-Shirt design contest and join our Frappr! family. Enjoy the bonus goodness!

Gaming Steve Episode 27 Program

  • 00:04:02 Game News:
    • PlayStation 3 won't play borrowed, used, or rented games?
    • Jack leaves on his own terms.
    • World domination of Warcraft continues.
    • Man profits from virtual island.
    • 360s in short supply.
    • 360 to play 200+ Xbox games in US but ...
    • ... Japan only gets 12 games and ...
    • ... Europe gets 156 games.
    • Xbox 360 midnight madness.
    • Darwinian evolves onto Steam.
    • Nintendo Wi-Fi hits speed bump.
    • EA slashes prices.
    • What is ... World of Warcraft?
    • Rare's Perfect gamble.
  • 00:42:10 GameTalk: How is the industry changing?
  • 01:03:04 SporeTalk: Tell me what you want to hear.
  • 01:08:08 Game Review: City of Villains for the PC.
  • 01:24:39 RetroReview: Chiller for the arcade.
  • 01:33:15 RetroReview: Death Race for the arcade.
  • 01:36:10 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a mystery prize!
  • 01:42:53 Final Thoughts on Gaming Steve Frappr, the T-Shirt design contest, help me in testing out iTunes, and my Xbox 360 coverage next week.
Download the show (112 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 27 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 PM | Posted to Classic | PC | Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 17, 2005

"My Name is Earl" Shows Berzerk Some Love

earl_berzerk.jpg

What's going on with this week with video games and television shows? Last night World of Warcraft was a $1,000 answer on the college version of Jeopardy! Next Monday, the day before the Xbox 360 launches no less, CSI: Miami takes on video games with an episode labeled "Urban Hellraisers”. The plot summary: “When a group of criminals play out a violent video game in real life, the CSIs must stop them before they strike again" ... yeah, that sounds about right.

But what really caught my attention was this past week's My Name is Earl in which Darnell is seen playing Berzerk on an Atari 2600! The dialog in the episode was as follows:

EARL: That's not a bad Berzerker score.

DARNELL: Yeah. It's definitely going to make the "Wall of Fame".

CUT TO: Darnell looking at a wall filled with seventeen Polaroid photos of Berzerk, each with a score written in black marker on the bottom of each picture.

Now that's what I call classic TV!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 16, 2005

Atari 2600 Game Code Visualized

Combat.gifImagine you could take programming code and turn all the mathematical instructions into a graphical representation. Not only would this look cool but it could actually be useful in visualizing the code and how various elements work with one another. Media artist Ben Fry has done just this -- he took the assembly code of past Atari 2600 games and mapped their execution visually with surprising results.

Ben's transformation from binary code into a visual map is quite interesting. First Ben maps out the binary code of the cartridge itself using a series of numbers for lines of code and orange boxes for bytes of data. Then examines each line the code and the results of all conditional statements (i.e. if x is true, go to y). If the math results in a true statement a curve is drawn from that point to its destination. The end result is a elegant mix of curves and numbers.

What's really interesting to see how the programing varies by game. Extremely simple games, such as Combat, are light and airy. While complex games, such as Pac-Man, are a tangle of lines and curves. Unfortunately he only has six games on the site including Adventure, Air Raid, Combat, Pac-Man, Pitfall, and Q-Bert. But could you imagine what a modern game would look like mapped out using this method? Scary.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 4:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Random |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 15, 2005

Video Game Maps Galore

smw-th.gifThe Internet is just an amazing place. Say you wanted to find a web site which does nothing but store and catalog maps from hundreds of video games throughout time? No problem! I managed to find not one but two web sites completely dedicated to just this one esoteric hobby.

First up we have VGMaps.com. Definitely not the prettiest site around, and the navigation is a bit confusing, but if you stick to the map directory you will find a treasure trove of map goodness! Nearly every console and computer system is represented on this site, you'll even find a few arcade games in there as well. Unfortunately, the quality of the maps are a bit spotty at times, but there are so many listed that you'll probably find something of interest.

Over at Ian Albert's Video Games Maps you'll find quality over quantity. Ian doesn't have a huge selection of game maps, but what he does have are painstakingly crafted works of art. Just a word of warning, many of these maps are quite large usually weighing in at a couple of megs each. But nothing compares to his Ultima 7 map, which is an insane 24,576×24,576 pixels in size and a 84 MB download. Now that's a map!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 PM | Posted to Classic |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 14, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 26 - 11.14.2005

Jack Emmert and City of VillainsIn this special Gaming Steve episode I sit down with Jack Emmert, aka "The Statesman", Creative Director of Cryptic Studios. In the interview Jack and I talk about City of Heroes and the newly released City of Villains (of course), the future of comics, what's next for Cryptic, Jack's favorite comics, and much more. Oh yeah, and we talk about the comic book classic Atari Force, enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 26 Program

  • 00:03:59 GameTalk: Interview with Jack Emmert, aka "The Statesman", Creative Director at Cryptic Studios.
  • 00:28:28 Show Mail: I answer your audio and email questions.
  • 01:16:05 Final Thoughts on finding an Xbox 360, the PSP as a gaming platform, and where is the rest of the show?
Download the show (83 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 26 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Posted to Interview | MMORPG | PC | Podcast |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 11, 2005

Atari M.U.L.E. Online!

M.U.L.E.M.U.L.E., a planetary-colonization/trading simulator that turned economic bartering into an adrenalized action-strategy mixture, was for years considered a lost classic of the 8-bit era. Happily, today's gamers can now re-experience this game verbatim - and now, with full online multiplayer capabilities.

M.U.L.E. has been available on modern systems through an Atari emulation. The downside was that you could only tap into multiplayer mode the way our forebears did: by cramming up to four people around a single machine. But now, thanks to the folks at Kaillera and Atari800WinPlus, up to four colonists can play M.U.L.E. with each other over the net with the new Atari M.U.L.E. Online package.

Fondly remembered for its addictive gameplay, tongue-in-cheek humor, and criminally catchy theme music, M.U.L.E. was a masterpiece crammed into a simple-but-ingenious interface. The premise was simple: up to four aliens were dropped on the planet Irata ("Atari" backwards), and granted one parcel of land per turn. Players could then purchase MULEs (Multiple Use Labor Elements - essentially multipurpose worker robots) and set them to work harvesting food, energy, smithore, or the invaluable crystite. Economic output was determined by player race (some were better for harvesting food, some for raising energy, and so on), land type, and happenstance. But it was after the production phase, during trading, where the real excitement kicked in. Players would attempt to hawk off excess goods, or buy or sell supplies like food or energy. Players who devoted their land towards mining might make a killing selling their valuable minerals - but then could be at the mercy of others who sold the food or energy they needed.

The bartering portion featured one of the most ingenious interfaces ever designed. Sellers stood at the top of the screen, and buyers at the bottom. Each could physically push a line towards the other end, which represented the price at which they'd be willing to buy or sell. When the two lines met, a transaction occurred. Not only did this perfectly illustrate the concepts of supply and demand in visual terms, but it turned the cerebral activity of economic trade into a visceral real-time experience. The spectacle of three players literally racing to push the "buy" line towards a seller sitting loftily at the top of the screen was one of the most entertaining and memorable aspects of gameplay.

A lot of old games are revered simply because of nostalgia, but M.U.L.E. deserves its reputation as a classic, and now new gamers can experience it firsthand, and better than before. Check it out - preferably when you have a lot of free time to kill.

Posted by Michael G. Shapiro at 4:30 PM | Posted to Classic | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 10, 2005

Kingdom Hearts 2 Will Include the World of Tron

Kingdom Hearts 2 with TronHey all you Kingdom Hearts fans (you know who you are!). While you patiently wait for Kingdom Hearts 2 to be released (is this game ever coming out?) some new world information has been released in Japan. From this Japanese magazine preview it appears that Sora and the gang will be traveling into the world of Tron!

I have to admit that the first Kingdom Hearts was pretty cool, especially when you got to explore the world of Jack Skeleton and Halloweentown, but exploring the world of Tron would be so freaking cool. Of course this game has been in development so long I wouldn't be surprised if it came out with the PlayStation 3 at this point (only kidding ... sort of). Now if Disney would just get started on that Tron 2.0 movie we'd be all set (all pictures after the jump).


Kingdom Hearts 2 with Tron

Kingdom Hearts 2 with yet more Tron

Kingdom Hearts 2

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 PM | Posted to PlayStation 2 |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Man Buys Virtual Island for $26,500 - Makes Money Back in a Year

Project Entropia Island PackageSome might remember last December when a 22-year-old gamer spent $26,500 on an island that exists only in the MMORPG Project Entropia. For those unfamiliar with Project Entropia it allows gamers to buy and sell virtual items using real cash. Players are allowed to exchange real currency for PED (Project Entropia Dollars) and then back again into real money.

At the time this story got a fair amount of airtime, with most news organizations taking the angle of "hey get this, some silly gamer 'bought' a virtual island for $26.5k ... what an idiot!" Well, that silly gamer is laughing no more as he managed to recoup his investment in less than one year.

According to the game developers the now 23-year-old gamer, know as only as Deathifier, has made the money back that he spent on the island. By selling land to build virtual homes as well as taxing other gamers to hunt or mine on the island he was able to generate an income on his virtual land. With his initial investment paid off, Deathifier can start making some real-world profit from a completely virtual property.

It will be interesting see how another virtual property in the game performs as just last month Project Entropia player Jon Jacobs bought a virtual space station for a mere $100,000. Jacobs plans to turn the space station into a virtual resort ground that spawns dinosaur-like monsters, which visitors can kill (actually, that sounds pretty damn cool). Jacobs will take a cut of the virtual resources that gamers will make selling the dinosaur hides and he estimates he will make about $20,000 a month from running this virtual service.

Could you just imagine if World of Warcraft decided to start selling loot and land directly to players? Azuroth would probably have Gross National Product higher than 95% of the world's countries. Ah, the future is fun.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:00 AM | Posted to Culture | MMORPG | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 9, 2005

Some Quick Site Housekeeping

Frappr!With so much going on with the site I thought it would be a good time for some quick housekeeping items.

First up, the podcast. Over at Gaming Steve HQ I have installed a new recording setup which allows me to easily record pretty much anywhere in the world, but yet still maintain studio-level quality. This will not only allow me to (hopefully) record the show more often but also allow me to easily bring the show on the road. In fact, one of the first uses of the new setup was to perform several interviews including the development teams from City of Heroes, Guild Wars, and the upcoming Auto Assault. Look for those interviews, and much more, in future Gaming Steve podcasts.

Second, Gaming Steve Frappr! Frappr creates Google Maps for groups of people and incorporates their photos and locations onto a world map. I've created one for the Gaming Steve site, just enter your name and location (it works for the entire world and you don't have to enter any identifying info) and you can add your mark to the world.

Finally, I have removed the RSS 1.0 feed from the site as it was quickly getting outdated. With all the new features and technologies being added to the site only the RSS 2.0 feed will be supported from now on. If you have subscribed to the RSS 1.0 feed you don't really need to do anything as the site will automatically redirect you to the 2.0 feed. In the long run this will be for the best as RSS 2.0 is always expanding and updating it's protocol.

Now go add yourself to the Frappr map!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 PM | Posted to Stuff |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 8, 2005

StarCraft: Ghost Questions & Answers

Nova escaping from a marineWith all of the buzz around the new World of Warcraft Expansion people almost forgot about Blizzard's "other" game, StarCraft: Ghost. Although this game has been in development for what seems like forever, from what was shown at Blizzcon this game appears to shaping up quite nicely and we might even see it before the end of 2006!

Until then we can enjoy this nice little Q&A on Blizzard's new game and eleven brand new screenshots (after the jump). Enjoy.

Q: What is StarCraft: Ghost?
A: StarCraft: Ghost is a tactical-action console game set in the StarCraft universe.

Q: How will StarCraft: Ghost be different from other tactical-action console games?
A: StarCraft: Ghost will be different from other tactical-action games in many ways. As the game's hero, elite Ghost operative Nova, players will be able to:

Utilize a Wide Range of Elite Ghost Abilities
o Outmaneuver your enemies at sonic speed
o Infiltrate bases and sneak past guards using the cloak ability
o Utilize powerful psionic abilities
o Lock down vehicles and electronic devices to immobilize them
o Engage in both face-to-face firefights and planet-scale warfare

Leverage the Resources of an Entire Army
o Take control of familiar StarCraft vehicles, such as the Siege Tank and Vulture
o Wield a variety of weapons, such as the Perdition Flamethrower, Gauss Rifle, Torrent Shotgun, and a variety of explosives
o Join your allies in battle and do your part to ensure mission success

Experience the StarCraft Universe in 3D
o See the world of StarCraft on a personal level
o Visit familiar planets from the StarCraft universe
o Explore 3D environments designed for strategic interaction
o As Nova, players will be able to hang from wires, climb poles and scale walls, and negotiate tightropes

Unveil the Next Chapter in the StarCraft Saga
o Experience story-driven missions complete with plot twists
o Play a crucial role in the rich StarCraft history
o Engage in combat with a variety of fully rendered characters from the StarCraft universe, including well-known units from the Terran, Zerg, and Protoss races

Q: What new features have been added since the Blizzard console team took over the development of StarCraft: Ghost?
A: The goal of Blizzard's console team has been to expand and evolve the strong foundation already established for StarCraft: Ghost. The majority of this work involves making changes to the graphics engine, incorporating a number of characters, weapons, and vehicles, and designing and implementing StarCraft: Ghost's new single-player and multiplayer features.

Q: What can we expect to see from StarCraft: Ghost at BlizzCon?
A: BlizzCon will offer the first opportunity for the public to see StarCraft: Ghost in its current form, with the latest single-player and multiplayer features implemented. In particular, multiplayer has been expanded to now accommodate up to 16 players over Xbox Live and Battle.net. Also, gamers will be able to control newly playable Zerg multiplayer units and experience the newly unveiled "Invasion" multiplayer scenario. The new single-player level that players will be able to see takes place on the lava­-scorched planet of Abaddon, which has never been seen by the public prior to BlizzCon.

Q: How many players will StarCraft: Ghost support?
A: StarCraft: Ghost will accommodate up to 16 players on Xbox Live for Xbox owners and Battle.net for PlayStation 2 players.

Q: How long will the StarCraft: Ghost single-player experience last?
A: Development of the single-player missions has not been finished yet, but we plan to create approximately 12-15 hours of single-player content.

Q: When will StarCraft: Ghost be released?
A: While we have not yet announced a street date for StarCraft: Ghost, we anticipate that the game will be complete in 2006. However, as with all of our games, we will not release StarCraft: Ghost until it meets the high standards that our development teams and our fans demand.

Q: On what platforms will StarCraft: Ghost be available?
A: StarCraft: Ghost will be available on the Xbox and PlayStation 2.

Q: What rating do you expect for StarCraft: Ghost?
A: With StarCraft: Ghost still in development, it's too early to determine what ESRB rating it will receive. Right now, we're wholly focused on making StarCraft: Ghost into a Blizzard-quality console game, and we will have a better idea of what rating it will receive as we get closer to release.

Q: Who is developing StarCraft: Ghost?
A: StarCraft: Ghost is being created by Blizzard's console development team.

Q: Why did Blizzard enter the console arena?
A: We began our early development efforts in console gaming, and we have always been excited about returning to this arena. Additionally, we've wanted to revisit the StarCraft universe for some time. With StarCraft: Ghost, we are able to do both. Also, due to the game's control interface and tactical-action nature, developing this title for the console systems makes the most sense. In addition to expanding StarCraft's rich storyline, the game gives players a chance to experience the sci-fi universe from an all-new perspective.

Q: Will there be a PC and Mac version?
A: No. StarCraft: Ghost is being developed for console systems only.

Q: How many copies of StarCraft have been sold?
A: To date, the StarCraft franchise has shipped over 9 million copies.


Balancing act in a Terran Supply Depot

Fighting a Firebat in First Person POV

Marine Busting through the Door

Nova applying a stealth-kill maneuver

Nova caught by a patrol

Nova escaping from a marine

Nova firing on a Dragoon

Ruins of Helios

Terran Bunker

Terran CommandCenter

Ziplining in on a Terran Supply Depot

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:50 PM | Posted to PlayStation 2 | Preview | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 7, 2005

Gaming Steve Episode 25 - 11.07.2005

Civilization 4I guess I have totally given up on trying to make the show shorter as every time I try it just ends up longer. Oh well, enjoy this week's gaming goodness.

Gaming Steve Episode 25 Program

  • 00:01:36 Game News:
    • Xbox.com is reborn.
    • Video Games Live canceled ... again.
    • Peter Jackson POed with EA.
    • Virtual property sells for $100k.
    • Uwe Boll splits Dungeon Siege movie (Ed note: after the show was recorded Uwe changed his mind and will now release one 2 hour and 40 minute movie instead).
    • Blizzard fires up the Burning Crusade.
    • Star Wars Galaxies commits seppuku.
    • Sony Online developing "free" MMO.
    • City of Villains unleashes its evil on the world.
    • Elder Scrolls IV missing Xbox 360 launch.
    • Sony starts selling PSP Media Manager.
    • Starcraft: Ghost skipping GameCube.
    • Xbox 360 Lounge opens in Tokyo.
    • Doh! EA snags The Simpsons for next-gen.
    • Bioware and Pandemic form partnership.
    • EA announces Command & Conquer 12-pack.
  • 00:46:08 GameTalk: I answer lots of viewer questions.
  • 01:18:34 SporeTalk: A new picture from the "E3 Spore Room".
  • 01:20:00 Game Review: Civilization IV for the PC.
  • 01:38:56 Game Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the Nintendo DS.
  • 01:45:04 RetroReview: LaserDisc arcade games.
  • 01:51:34 RetroReview: Dragon's Lair for the arcade.
  • 01:59:18 RetroReview: Space Ace for the arcade.
  • 02:04:58 RetroReview: Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp for the arcade.
  • 02:10:40 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a mystery prize!
  • 02:15:50 Final Thoughts on the new podcast setup, send me your questions, and site email.
Download the show (145 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 25 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
Add the Gaming Steve Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator.
Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 AM | Posted to Classic | Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 4, 2005

Classic Video Game Music and Flyers Galore

AsteroidsEvery day I spend a little time trolling the web to try and find uncovered gems for my loyal readers, and today I managed to hit the motherload in classic gaming goodness.

Daniel P. Hower's Coin-Op Video Games appears unassuming at first glance, but hidden in the site are not one but two undiscovered gems of classic video game history. First, Daniel has the largest selection of video game flyers I have ever seen with over 2,732 flyers on the site and more added every day.

These "flyers" were nothing more than sales brochures created by coin-op game manufacturers in order to promote their games and feature game screenshots, pictures of the gaming cabinets, descriptions of game play and concept art. Not only are all the flyers on the site in mint condition but Daniel has an extremely well-designed flyer database allowing for lighting fast flyer locating.

But if that wasn't awesome enough his second "treasure" is even more impressive. I'll let Daniel explain this one in his own words:

Back in 1982, my best friend had a Sony stereo walkman recorder. Audio was the conventional recording media back then and we recorded all kinds of stuff. One day we were on our way to the arcade 'Just Fun' in Ithaca, NY and came up with the idea to record video game sounds.

We recorded video games from 1982 until 1988. Fortunately I managed to save all fourteen audio tapes of video game sounds and arcade ambience which were recorded from a variety of locations in the US. Most of the recordings are from Ithaca, NY, Albany, NY and Ocean City, MD.

So far I have not come across another individual who thought of documenting classic video games on audio tape! There are people on RGVAC who talk about classic video games and arcades shown in movies and TV shows, but nothing about video game audio recordings.

In the last several years I digitized these nostalgic recordings to preserve and share with all of you. Experience the nostalgic ambience! The blend of many video games being played simultaneously, the kids yelling and the coins being inserted. Experience and enjoy. We will never hear such beautiful chaos again....

The list of recorded arcade sounds is truly staggering ... it's practically a "who's who" of classic video games. Unfortunately Daniel was actually playing these games while he was recording, so they're not perfect copies. But ... who cares! Where else are you going to find recordings of Vanguard, Time Pilot, Venture, Phoenix, Gorf, Tron and hundreds upon hundreds of other games?

Daniel, I salute you! Check it out this site ... right now!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 6:00 PM | Posted to Classic | Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 3, 2005

World of Warcraft China Examined

World of Warcraft ChinaConsidering all the recent talk on how World of Warcraft actually functions in China I thought it would be interesting to take a much closer look at this little understood topic.

First and foremost it's important to understand that Blizzard doesn't actually run World of Warcraft in China. They have licensed WOW China to the company The9 which is one of the leading online game operators in China. In addition to running WOW, The9 also run several other MMORPGs including "MU", "Mystina Online", "Granado Espada", and "Joyful Journey West". I'm sure that most of you probably haven't even heard of some of these games but they are extremely popular I assure you.

Just to give you an idea of how popular MMORPGs are in Asia and China the game "MU" first launched in February 2003 and very shortly reached a player base of over 15 million registered users. MMORPGs are a huge business overseas and completely dwarf the American and European MMORPG market. Even your "average" MMORPGs in Asia have over a million registered users (meanwhile Everquest is proud of having nearly 500,000 users at their peak).

The9 and Blizzard launched WOW in China on June 7, 2005 and in less than one month the game exceeded 1.5 million paying players and continues to grow at an breakneck rate. Financial analysts expect WOW China to easily reach over 10 million registered users if not more.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about The9 is that it's a public company and traded on the NASDAQ market exchange. What that means is that The9 has to publicly disclose their business operations to anyone who might be interested in investing in the company. They do this by publishing quarterly reports every three months as well as an extremely comprehensive annual report at the end of each year. If you have never read an annual report because it sounds boring you might be surprised what you can find in there, including some very interesting information on how an online gaming company is run in China.

All of the following information can be found in The9 2004 Annual Report which may give you a better understanding of how WOW functions in China. All items in quotes are directly from the report and I have provided the page number within the report for easier reference. This is just a small overview of some of the more interesting and relevant items. Make sure to read the entire report to get a true understanding of just how unique the Chinese MMORPG market is compared to the States (details follow the jump).

Concerning the WOW license agreement with Vivendi Universal Games (VUG)and Blizzard (Page 11)
“We are obligated to pay royalties equal to 22% of the face value of WoW prepaid cards and online points sold by us by making recoupable advances against royalty payments in an aggregate amount of approximately US$51.3 million over a four−year period commencing from the commercial launch. We paid VUG an initial non−refundable license fee of US$3.0 million in 2004 and the first year minimum royalty guarantee of US$13.0 million in 2005. We are also obligated to commit no less than approximately US$13.0 million in the marketing and promotion of WoW in China during the term of the license agreement. To meet this obligation and to promote WoW in China, we have agreed to conduct a joint marketing campaign with Coca−cola (China) Beverages Limited, or Coca−Cola China, to promote WoW in China.”

Concerning online game operators in China (Pages 13-14)
“There are over 100 online game operators in China. We expect more companies to enter the online game industry in China and a wider range of online games to be introduced to the China market, given the relatively low entry barriers to the online game industry. Our competitors vary in size and include large companies such as Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited, Netease.com, Inc. and Sina Corporation, many of which have significantly greater financial, marketing and game development resources and name recognition than we have.”

Concerning SARS and MMORPG gaming (Pages 20-21)
“In early 2003, several economies in Asia, including China, were affected by the outbreak of SARS. During the height of the SARS epidemic in the second quarter of 2003, we experienced a decline in the number of concurrent users of MU in China, which we believe resulted largely from the Chinese government’s decision to close Internet cafés in Beijing and elsewhere to prevent the spread of SARS. Most of our online game players can only access MU at Internet cafés. A renewed outbreak of SARS or another widespread public health problem in China could have a negative effect on our operations. Our operations may be impacted by a number of health−related factors, including, among other things, quarantines or closures of our offices which could severely disrupt our operations, the sickness or death of our key officers and employees, closure of Internet cafés and other public areas where people access the Internet, and a general slowdown in the Chinese economy. Any of the foregoing events or other unforeseen consequences of public health problems could adversely affect our business and results of operations. We have not adopted any preventive measures or contingency plans to ensure the safety of employees and minimize disruptions or other adverse effects on our operations that may occur due to a recurrence of SARS, or similar adverse public health developments in China.”

Concerning online games and regulation by the Chinese government (Pages 23-24)
“The online game industry in China is highly regulated by the Chinese government. Various regulatory authorities of the Chinese central government, such as the State Council, the State Press and Publication Administration, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Public Security, are empowered to issue and implement regulations governing various aspects of the online games industry.

We are required to obtain applicable permits or approvals from different regulatory authorities in order to provide online games. For example, an Internet content provider, or ICP, must obtain an ICP license in order to engage in any commercial ICP operations within China. In addition, an online games operator must also obtain a license from the Ministry of Culture and a license from the State Press and Publication Administration in order to distribute games through the Internet. If we fail to maintain any of these required permits or approvals, we may be subject to various penalties, including fines and the discontinuation or restriction of our operations. Any such disruption in our business operations would materially and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.”

Concerning the regulation of Internet cafes in China (Page 24)
“Internet cafés, which are currently the most important outlets for online games, have been criticized by the general public in China for having exerted a negative influence on young people. Due primarily to such adverse public reaction, some local governments in China have tightened their regulation of Internet café operations through, among other things, limiting the number of the new operating licenses to be issued and further reducing the hours during which the Internet cafés are permitted to open for business. Also, local and higher−level governmental authorities may from time to time decide to more strictly enforce the customers’ age limit and other requirements relating to Internet cafés as a result of the occurrence of, and the media attention on, gang fights, arsons or other incidents in or related to Internet cafés.”

Concerning the regulation and censorship of information in China (Page 25)
“The Ministry of Culture has issued a notice reiterating the government’s policies to prohibit the distribution of games with violence, terror, cruelty or other elements that may have the potential effect of instigating crimes, and to prevent the influx of harmful cultural products from overseas. The notice requires, among other things, the review and prior approval of all the new online games licensed from foreign game developers and related license agreements. We have obtained the necessary approvals from the Ministry of Culture for operating MU and WoW in China. We will submit new games licensed from foreign developers for the required review in due course. The Ministry of Culture may find the content of our new licensed games objectionable, and we may otherwise be unable to obtain the approvals for these games in a timely manner, or at all. If this happens, we will not be able to launch our new licensed games within the expected timeframe or at all, and our business and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.”

Concerning Internet service in China (Page 28)
"Although private sector Internet service providers currently exist in China, almost all access to the Internet is maintained through state−owned telecommunication operators under the administrative control and regulatory supervision of China’s Ministry of Information Industry. In addition, the national networks in China connect to the Internet through government−controlled international gateways. These government−controlled international gateways are the only channel through which a domestic Chinese user can connect to the international Internet network."

Concerning payment for online games (Page 37)
“To use our fee−based online games, a customer must register an account in our Pass9 system. Once registered, the customer may log into our network, select and activate the desired games and the game districts where the customer wishes to play, and then charge his account with a prepaid card or prepaid online points sold by Internet cafés or given by us through our promotional events that enable the customer to play for a specified period of time.

Each customer needs to maintain only one Pass9 account, which provides information regarding the customer’s available prepaid game playing time for each selected game district and payment history. A customer can purchase game playing time through any of the following methods:

Prepaid Cards. A customer can buy prepaid cards at retail outlets including convenience stores, supermarkets and bookstores all across China. Each prepaid card contains a pass code representing game playing time offered by the card based on its face value.

Prepaid Online Points. Over 120,000 Internet cafés across China have used our self−developed eSales System, which is part of our Pass9 system and enables an Internet café to buy prepaid online points from our distributors and sell such points to their customers.

Online Payment. A customer can buy game playing time online by charging payment directly to a credit or debit card. In addition, we offer free online game playing time to our new registered customers and users of our SMS service. We have also included free game cards in our marketing materials to attract new customers. Our integrated membership management and payment system also incorporates a variety of community−building features, such as chat rooms which provide registered users a platform to interact in real−time groups or one−on−one discussions, and bulletin boards which allow registered users to post notes or inquiries and respond to other users’ notes or inquires. We believe these features encourage user congregation on our site and facilitate player interaction for the games we offer.”

As you can see, WOW and all other MMORPGs in China face completely different challenges than those in the States and Europe. Which makes WOW even more interesting as with most MMORPGs the developer simply has to worry about gameplay balance, server stability, community management, billing options, 24-hour maintenance and few hundred other items. When you then factor in government regulations, language and cultural differences, and even SARS, it makes what WOW has accomplished that much more impressive.

Whether or not Blizzard can continue this delicate balancing act between countries and cultures remains to be seen, but it is extremely interesting to view the unique challenges facing Blizzard when maintaining and expanding WOW over the next couple of years.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Use Atari 2600 Joysticks on your PC

StelladaptorFor many the Atari 2600 joystick was their very first gaming controller and it holds a special place in their heart. Of course it only moved in eight directions, and it only had one button, and it put a horrible strain on your wrist, and it broke all the time, and if was difficult to use, and the rubber joystick made your hand sweat, and it didn't always work, but you loved it all the same.

Of course gaming technology has come a long way since then ... now our controllers have pressure sensitive analog buttons, shoulder pads, rumble packs, and no wires. But those of you who miss those earlier times when one button was all you needed to save the galaxy your prayers have been answered with the Stelladaptor.

The Stelladaptor is basically an Atari 2600 to USB adapter that will allow you to use standard Atari 2600 compatible controllers, including joysticks, paddles, and driving controllers, on your modern PC. It's compatible with Windows, Macintosh OS X, or Linux operating systems and requires no additional drivers to use. It's a bit pricey at $29.90 (not including shipping) but if you want to play your MAME emulated games using the "real deal" then this is what you need.

I am quite curious about that USB functionality. I wonder what would happen if I plugged that thing into my Xbox 360? Can you imagine trying to play Dead or Alive 4 using an Atari 2600 joystick? Of course, you could only kick with the one button, just like the old times...

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 AM | Posted to Classic | PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 2, 2005

Xbox 360 for Dummies

Xbox 360 for DummiesFrom the same people who released Dungeons & Dragons for Dummies and Sex for Dummies comes their latest worldwide bestseller -- Xbox 360 for Dummies!

Scheduled to be released on November 22nd in North America this 360 page book (get it?!) will cover perplexing topics such as:

  • Hooking up an Xbox 360, taking advantage of HDTV and Dolby capabilities, using built-in digital video recording and wireless functions, storing media files, playing music, and displaying photos.
  • Shows how to have even more fun by taking an Xbox online for massively multiplayer gaming, instant messaging, and more.
  • Discusses the social potential of the Xbox, which people can use to make new friends, join groups and teams, and even throw fantastic parties. (fantastic parties?)
  • Includes tips for securing the Xbox from online threats.
Uh ... yeah. I just want to play games. Does it show you how to do that?

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 PM | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Guitar Hero to Rock Your PlayStation 2

Guitar HeroSamba De Amigo was one of the very first rhythm games ever released way back in June 2000 (six months before Dance Dance Revolution came to the states) and although it received excellent reviews it didn't sell that many copies. Not only was it a Dreamcast exclusive (ouch) but perhaps there just wasn't that large of a demand for a maracas simulator. But for the handful of people who actually played the game had a memorable time as the maracas were a lot of fun and multiplayer was a blast.

Well move over Samba De Amigo ... you have meet your match!

The new PlayStation 2 game Guitar Hero arrives in stores today and it comes with its very own guitar controller! Now that is just freaking cool. So far the reviews have been excellent with GameSpot saying "Guitar Hero plays fantastically, it has great music, and, for a change, it's a rhythm game that's accessible to beginners." The game's music selection contains tons of headbanging rock, and it was developed by Harmonix, makers of the fantastic rhythm games Frequency and Amplitude, need I say more?

The only downside? The price of the Guitar Hero Bundle (game and controller) is a little expensive at $70, but if history is any indication of games with crazy special controllers usually retain their "ebay value" over time. And with $60 Xbox 360 games right around the corner $70 doesn't seem that expensive ... did I mention that it comes with freaking guitar!

If you've ever been interested in the rhythm genre, this is the game to buy. Get it now!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:00 AM | Posted to PlayStation 2 | Review |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

November 1, 2005

Yahoo Jumps on the Podcasting Bandwagon

Yahoo! Podcasting with Gaming SteveAnother day, another major corporation jumps onto the podcasting bandwagon. Yahoo just launched their own podcast directory and it's pretty nice. The RSS feed function seems to be a little buggy, but the interface is very clean and it's extremely simple to navigate.

And, of course, the Gaming Steve podcast is listed. I am hoping that a few of you would still like to vote and review. If so, do so here!

For those of you new to the site you can check out all the past Gaming Steve podcasts in the podcast archive. A few choice episodes include the recent Xbox 360 roundtable discussion, my interview with Xbox Live's Major Nelson, and my interview with Will Wright.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Posted to Stuff |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!