Gaming Steve

February 2006 Archives

February 27, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 40 - 02.27.2006

The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionThis week I provide the first part of my hands-on preview of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I review a new game cut directly from the Star Control mold, retro-review the best Bungie game you have never played, answer your Oblivion questions, and so much more. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 40 Program

  • 00:04:08 Game News:
    • Merrill Lynch guesses at $800 PlayStation 3 cost and causes a mild panic.
    • EA slashes new game prices by 20 percent.
    • Infinium opens their books.
    • Ex-Gizmondo Exec trashes a million dollar Ferrari.
    • Condemned to storm PCs this April.
    • Classic Sierra games set for re-release.
    • DS Lite to wear only white at launch.
  • 00:27:44 SporeTalk: An overview as to how the download and ranking system will function.
  • 00:32:22 Game Preview: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the Xbox 360 and PC, part one.
  • 01:12:45 Game Review: Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators for the PC.
  • 01:26:07 RetroReview: Pathways into Darkness Macintosh.
  • 01:35:17 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a very cool prize!
  • 01:38:10 Show Mail: I answer your audio questions.
  • 01:57:03 Final Thoughts: So when can I scratch my Oblivion itch again?
Download the show (122 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 40 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
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Posted by Gaming Steve at 4:00 PM | Posted to Podcast | Preview | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 23, 2006

How Big Is Your Video Game Collection?

Lots and Lots of GamesWhile I was reading through the Gaming Steve Forums I stumbled upon a post where forum member T-BirD listed his entire video game collection of 1168 games. I have to hand it to T-BirD as I have always wanted to list out my entire collection, but I just never seem to have the time or the energy to do this, and I can only imagine how long it took to enter 1168 games into this database.

What I find most interesting on this list (besides the fact that he lists owning fifteen Sega 32X games) is the overview:

Favored platform: PC
Favored publisher: Nintendo
Favored developer: *unlisted (no company info)
Estimated value of collection: $29,200.00
IGN Editors' avg. score: 8.4
T-BirD6's avg. score: 8.4
$29,200 spent on these games? I shudder to think just how much I have spent over the years (for the record I believe that my collection is approximately the same size, just my PC game collection alone is well over 500 games). And then when you add in all the various systems, "gaming" PCs, video cards, and other accessories I've purchased over the years I imagine that I could have instead purchased a very nice car ... or two.

How big is your video game collection? Can anyone beat T-BirD? Or how about this guy?

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

February 22, 2006

The Best Board Game Turned PC Game ... Ever

Ticket to RideAlthough I love computer games (obviously) a little secret of mine is that I might actually enjoy playing board games even more than video games. I have been an avid board gamer since my youth and with the explosion of German-style board gaming over the past decade I have been in board game nirvana. Rarely will a month go by without a new quality board game released in the States (definately check out BoardGameGeek to find out about these games).

And of all the games I have played over the years one of my absolute favorites is Ticket to Ride from American publisher Days of Wonder. Since its release this game has been a worldwide success and even won the Spiel Des Jahres Game of the Year in 2004 (which is like winning the Academy Award of Gaming). All it takes is one session with this game and you'll see why it's so popular. Real quick overview: Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America or Europe. The longer the train routes, the more points the players earn.

The challenge lies in that there are a limited number of routes. So let’s say that you're trying to build a route from New York to San Francisco, and someone else builds right in the middle of your train line. Now you’ll have to build halfway around the country in order to complete your route. Of course, you can do the same to your opponents.

Believe it or not, but my description is actually more complex than the actual game … it's just that simple to play. It's one of those games which is easy to learn, plays quickly, fun for all ages, but yet has surprising deep strategy. I have yet to find a man, woman, or child who doesn't love playing this game.

So when I heard that Days of Wonder was creating a computer version of this game I giddy with excitement. Just released, the computer version plays on both PC and Mac, allows for online play, features stunning beautiful graphics, and is horribly addictive. In fact, I might even say that the computer version plays better than the board game version! Since games often take only 20-40 minutes to complete rarely will you be content just playing a single game. You have heard of the Civilization "just one more turn" phenomenon. Ticket to Ride has heralded in the "just one more game" phenomenon.

I won't even bother going over the fantastic online community, the ability to play solo games, and the exclusive Swiss map included with the game. All I have to say is go get this game, now. You won't be disappointed.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 2:30 PM | Posted to PC | Review |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 20, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 39 - 02.20.2006

The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionToday I got a change to sit down with Pete Hines, Vice President of Public Relations & Marketing at Bethesda Softworks and makers of the highly anticipated The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Pete and I talk for well over an hour and cover a huge number of topics ranging from the basic to the hardcore questions that the fans wanted me to ask.

Find out how the Oblivion Xbox 360 achievements and downloadable content will work, Pete reveals a secret in-game "easter egg", new details on the Radiant AI system, as well as what's next for the Elder Scrolls series. We even manage to sneak in a few questions on Fallout 3, the new Star Trek license, as well as much more. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 39 Program

  • 00:01:57 Interview with Pete Hines from Bethesda, makers of the upcoming The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
  • 01:20:15 My thoughts on the game itself and a small tidbit from next week's detailed on-hands preview of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Download the show (85 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 39 (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 11:30 PM | Posted to Interview | PC | Podcast | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 17, 2006

Making a Living in a Virtual World

Second LifeOne MMORPG that is quietly chugging along is Second Life which now sports over 130,000 users. For those unfamiliar with Second Life it focuses primarily on the social aspects of an MMO rather than the "game" aspects. Users spend their time chatting, exploring, and building this virtual world. And when I when I mean that users build this world, I mean they build it as nearly all the content within the game is user-created.

Second Life has an extremely robust modeling and physics system which allows users to build anything. And when I mean you can create anything, I mean anything. Avatars, clothing, homes, fashion accessories, furnishings, animals, vehicles, plants, gadgets ... all of these and more can be created and used within the game. You can even create and use "body parts" -- any type of body part -- which makes for a very interesting social environment within Second Life ... but that's for another column!

What this column about is the quickly expanding secondary market within Second Life. For the right price you can buy custom-created avatar with custom artwork and effects, or you can buy a fire-breathing dragon as a pet, or remote-controller submarine, or just about anything else you can imagine. And people are starting to make real money creating virtual items; enough money that they're quitting their day job and becoming a full-time operator of a digital shop.

There are literally dozens of web-sites dedicated to selling in-game items for real money. Some such as SLBoutique and SL Exchange allow you to buy the same sort of products you might find in department store. While d'Alliez Island Rentals is a virtual real estate agency which paid Linden Labs, the publisher of Second Life, $1,250 for each island they own. They in turn rent out lots on these islands for $15 to $75 per month and make a nice little profit in the process.

And there is some serious money to be made in virtual property. Reportedly Anshe Chung, one of the most famous landowners in Second Life, makes more than $150,000 per year on her various interests. That is some serious real-world money being made on a completely virtual land.

When games like Second Life and Project Entropia can generate economies strong enough for people to quit their "real jobs" and living solely on a virtual currency you have to wonder how long before the heavyweights like Sony, NCsoft, and Blizzard start to take note and decide they want a piece of the action. Perhaps EverQuest: The Landlord Adventures? Time will tell.

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

February 15, 2006

Do You Think Those Star Wars Galaxies TV Ads Are Working?

Darth Vader Wants You!

Remember a few months ago when Sony decided to improve/retool/destroy Star Wars Galaxies and make the game a lot more accessible for your average "non-hardcore gamer"? For example, Old SW: Galaxies: what to become a Jedi? Just play the game for a couple of thousand hours and then maybe, just maybe, you could become a Jedi (if you're very lucky). New SW: Galaxies: want to become a Jedi? Poof, you're a Jedi!

Of course in the process of making the game "more accessible" Sony ended up destroying most the flavor of the original game. Not to mention that the vast majority of the people who were actually playing SW: Galaxies were the hardest of the hard-core. As you might imagine they did not react to the complete nerfing of their game very well.

But what I find so interesting about this whole episode is the aftermath. Specifically the Star Wars Galaxies television commercials which have been running on Spike, G4 and a few other channels where one might expect to find ... err, "Star Wars Enthusiasts/Casual Gamer". If you haven't seen these commercials yet, definitely take a look (you can view the two 30-second spots here and here).

Now I realize that video games have had their fair share of bad commercials (rapping Zelda anyone?), but these SW: Galaxies commercials almost border on infomercial they're so bad. At least the rapping Zelda commercial was funny, these commercials are just bad.

Of course the real question is I wonder if these commercials are working. I haven't been able to get the latest subscription numbers on SW: Galaxies, but somehow I don't think your average "Star Wars Enthusiasts/Casual Gamer" is flocking to the game. What do you think?

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

February 14, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 38 - 02.14.2006

DarwiniaThis week I talk about my upcoming interview with the The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion team, I review Darwinia (another IGF Competition Finalist), answer lots of audio questions, and so much more. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 38 Program

  • 00:03:17 Game News:
    • Crystal Quest shoot onto Xbox 360 Arcade, but it isn't the same Quest as before.
    • The DS to support voice chat.
    • "Hasta la Vista Baby" ... Halo 2 heading to PC.
    • DS download stations coming Stateside.
    • Half-Life 2 becomes episodic.
    • Solitaire games gets NYC worker fired.
    • Xbox 360 shortages coming to an end?
    • A look at the January top 20 console sales.
  • 00:25:18 SporeTalk: A quick overview of what the heck is Spore anyhow? And some info on the Spore demo.
  • 00:41:35 Game Review: Darwinia for the PC.
  • 00:52:12 RetroReview: Command & Conquer for the PC, Macintosh, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, and Saturn.
  • 01:02:43 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a very cool prize!
  • 01:07:36 Show Mail: I answer your audio and email questions.
  • 01:57:41 Final Thoughts: What do you do when you get into the gaming doldrums?
Download the show (124 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 38 (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 11:45 PM | Posted to Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 13, 2006

What Is The Bestselling Video Game Of All Time?

Mario is The ManI actually saw this article in Yahoo a few weeks ago but I thought it was worth repeating, good stuff:

What's the bestselling video game of all time?

That depends -- are you talking arcade, console, or PC? According to Time Magazine, The Sims is the bestselling PC game of all time. It passed perennial powerhouse MYST in 2002.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Super Mario Brothers is the bestselling video game of all time, with over 40 million units sold. The 26 Mario games have sold an astounding 152 million copies since Donkey Kong came out in 1983. However, Super Mario Brothers came bundled with the Nintendo's NES gaming system, so it had a Microsoft-like advantage in that respect.

But Mario is still sitting pretty, as Super Mario Brothers 3 has sold 18 million unbundled copies since its release. And the bestselling video game console? That would be Sony PlayStation. The bestselling coin-operated arcade game appears to be the one and only Pac-Man.

For the latest video game sales statistics, we suggest you head on over to NDP Funworld, an industry-tracking service. Right now it's all about football.

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

February 10, 2006

When Does An Online World Become a Virtual Nation?

World of AzerothThere always seems to be some sort of brouhaha happening in the World of Warcraft, but rather than your standard topics of server lag and endless queues (both of which are still major issues) the latest controversy deals with some very interesting “real world” issues. Over the past two weeks a series of events occurred that centered around a woman who was trying to recruit for her GLBT-friendly (Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) guild. A Blizzard GM saw this recruitment and cited her for "Harassment - Sexual Orientation", stating that her speech violated WoW’s policies. Very shortly after this occurred a large number of events took place, including a much closer examination of WoW's in-game policies and the involvement of the nation's oldest and largest legal group dedicated to the protection of gay and lesbian civil rights, Lambda Legal.

The good news is that it appears that potentially ugly incident has been rectified for the time being, with Blizzard reviewing their policies and apologizing for the event. Although this incident is quite interesting in its own right it is not what caught my attention.

You see something is happening in WoW that I have been patiently waiting for ever since I first read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. That one day a new nation would appear on the planet Earth, only that this nation would be totally virtual ... and I believe that that day has come. The issue outlined above would have never become such a lightening bolt of controversy and activity if WoW was “just another game”. This issue became a nationwide story because WoW has become a virtual nation of millions and as a virtual nation it is starting to have to deal with larger issues that come with becoming a world power.

So how did this happen and what does it mean? And makes WoW unique and become one of the world's first virtual nations? Much like Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" I too have put together a list of rules which a virtual world must pass in order to become officially recognized as virtual nation.

My first requirement is that a virtual nation must have a visual representation which allows for their inhabitants to express themselves in a social, cultural, and emotional manner easily recognizable by understandable by other inhabitants. WoW easily passes these tests as their 3D avatar system allows you express yourself in WoW. Socially you can talk with others, make both "real life" as well as NPC friends (and enemies), join guilds, go on socially bonding activities such as guild raids and party quests, write letters to one another, sit down to eat and drink with one another and so much more. Nearly all social activities which are available to you in the terrestrial world are available to you in WoW.

This leads to the next requirement, culture, where WoW also passes the test. In fact, WoW might pass this test too well as between all the of holidays in WoW, the extensive world history, WoW-slang, and the thousands of unique animals, plants, food, drink, monsters, regions, languages, races, classes, and so on that I almost need a comprehensive guide to understand it all.

Which then leads us to last requirement of this first rule, the ability to express yourself emotionally quickly and easily. Once again WoW easily passes this test. Between the avatar system which allows for a myriad of animated emotes and expressions to the world itself which allows people to send each other wrapped gifts, dress in a wide range of clothing options and styles, or even the ability to get married in a church, WoW easily passes this test. And with that, WoW passes the first of my rules.

My second test is that a virtual nation must have an economy strong enough to compete and be recognized by the world economy. Once again, WoW passes this test. Not only does WoW have a thriving economy within WoW itself with its worldwide system of auction houses, but WoW Gold has a very real value in the economy of the world. Want to convert your US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Japanese Yen, South-Korean Won, Taiwan Dollar, Hong Kong Dollar, or Chinese Yuan into WoW Gold? No problem, there are dozens of web sites which will convert your hard currency into WoW Gold (and back) if you wish. In fact, the WoW economy is so strong that WoW Gold holds its own against these world currencies, so much so that trading in WoW Gold has become a multi-million dollar worldwide business. So WoW passes my second test, it has a strong, far-reaching economy.

Finally my last law, that a virtual nation must have a population large enough and diverse enough to allow for the first two rules to continue to grow and evolve through the actions of the inhabitants of the virtual nation. Sure there are dozens of other MMORPGs that come and gone over the years that might also pass this rule, but none of them have approached the size, scope, and reach of WoW. Currently WoW has a world population of 5.5 million "subscribers" which ranks WoW as the 112th largest nation on Earth, currently between Nicaragua and Denmark in terms of population. Plus, unlike most world nations, WoW has very lax emigration policies, all you need is access to WoW via computer and the ability to pay the fee and you too can join the nation of WoW. This policy has allowed WoW to growth at a breakneck pace of 300,000 - 400,000 new citizens a month. In addition, WoW is not a local phenomenon centered on a single terrestrial nation. WoW reaches some of the largest countries on earth including North America, Europe, China, South Korea, Oceania, as well as many others. In short order there won't be a place on the planet that won't have access to the land of Azeroth. In my book that marks WoW as one of the very few virtual worlds which not only meets but very nearly surpasses this rule.

So what does this all mean? What's the big deal if WoW is a virtual nation? Who cares if a GM in WoW is limiting the actions of a single individual? Very simply put, WoW is becoming something much more than "just a game". It is becoming a land where people can share their thoughts ideas, where they can exchange their cultural beliefs as well as create new ones, where fortunes can be made, both real and virtual, where people can make new friends, meet old friends, fight, and fall in love, where they can express their emotions and explore feelings not normally allowed to them in their terrestrial existence ... in essence, WoW is becoming a land very real and very important to millions of people. WoW is becoming a virtual nation.

What is truly interesting is that WoW is becoming something much bigger than even Blizzard might realize. They might have created the structure and environment in which WoW inhabits, but it is its citizens which are giving WoW life and allowing it to grow and evolve. So when something as seemingly innocent as a GM preventing someone from recruiting for a GLBT-friendly guild this is no longer a simple action of a GM affecting a life of a single user. This is a far-reaching issue which affects the lives of the millions of inhabitants in the nation of Azeroth. If WoW was simply “just a game” this incident would have gone unnoticed and would have affected only a small handful of people. But as virtual nation with millions of citizens this small incident very quickly became a fireball of controversy with very far reaching and real consequences.

WoW might simply still be "a game" in the eyes of Blizzard, something they created to make money and to entertain people throughout the world. But Blizzard might have done too good of a job when they created WoW. They created a land which much more than simply going on quests and maxing out your character's levels. They have created a land which has its own culture, a land where people feel truly connected and part of world, a land where people spend a significant amount of their time not only to occasionally visit but to live major portions of their lives. WoW has become a virtual nation and as the “owners” of WoW Blizzard has the responsibility to run this nation in a fair and sound manner. Blizzard must understand and realize that WoW is no longer “just a game” and that even the smallest actions can have very real and very significant consequences in the daily lives of millions of people. That to WoW is something much more than sum of its parts.

Blizzard might have set out just to create a game, but they have in fact given birth to virtual nation. And what that means and how that will affect the terrestrial world we are only first starting to discover.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 3:00 PM | Posted to Culture | MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 8, 2006

Make Your Own World of Warcraft Items

The Rubber Chicken ... of Doom!I believe this goes under the category of "wow that is totally cool, but yet I can't think of a single good use for it". Anyhow, check out this extremely cool World of Warcraft Item Creator web page. Now you too can make your own WoW Weapon/Armor for the entire world to see.

Of course, I can't really think of a good use for this. Perhaps you can make imaginary items for your own personal web site (like me, heh). Or you can make elaborate geek pranks for your WoW friends (one of my favorite geek pranks is to go onto my friend's computer and rename all of his folders ... classic). Or you can actually make this Foxtrot item for "real". Or you could, err, well, I can't really think of a very good use for this tool.

But it sure is fun to use!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 6, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 37 - 02.06.2006

Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite SpaceThis week I talk about Diablo III and Starcraft 2, give details about my upcoming talks at I-CON 25, review an IGF Competition Finalist, answer a ton of show mail, and so much more. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 37 Program

  • 00:06:08 Game News:
    • New DS hitting Japan this March.
    • The US gets Brainy this spring.
    • Xbox 360 loses the remote.
    • Stargate enters the MMO universe.
    • Blizzard stirring up hell recruiting for the Diablo team.
    • The Empire strikes gold.
    • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Supreme Commander delayed until 2007.
    • PCs to be Condemned this spring.
  • 00:29:13 SporeTalk: I answer lots of questions about Spore.
  • 00:38:19 Game Review: Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space for the PC.
  • 00:49:42 RetroReview: Aliens vs. Predator 2 for the PC.
  • 00:56:47 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a very cool prize!
  • 01:02:28 Show Mail: I answer your audio and email questions.
  • 01:46:00 Final Thoughts: Results from last week's Final Thoughts contest, why Starcraft 2 isn't coming any time soon, and more.
Download the show (113 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 37 (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 Podcast | Review | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 5, 2006

Poll: Have You Ever Bought Gold?

Gold Them Thar Be!A few weeks ago I asked the question "Are Gold Farmers Really All That Bad?" and I have to say that I was really impressed with the discussion that post generated. I was also surprised just polarizing that subject was with my readers, many of who were completely against the entire idea of gold farming and thought the idea was morally reprehensible. While others took the side that in a free market economy anything goes, if there is demand then enterprising people will provide the supply.

So let's tackle a simple topic this week, have you ever bought gold for an MMORPG before? I also added a few other answers in there besides the standard "yes" and "no", but it will be interesting to see just how many people have taken part of this practice.

And for the record I have bought gold in WoW as research for a piece in a past Gaming Steve podcast episode. I did it twice and I have never done it since ... so there we go. Let the voting begin!

Have you ever bought gold?
Yes, I have bought gold for WoW
Yes, I have bought gold/money for another MMORPG
No, but I plan to in the near future
No, but I would if I had more money
No, buying gold is evil
  

Posted by Gaming Steve at 3:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG | Poll |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 4, 2006

Poll Results: How Many Hours Have You Spent Playing World of Warcraft?

poll-2-4-06.gifI asked a little less than two weeks ago "How Many Hours Have You Spent Playing World of Warcraft?" and the results were a bit surprising (at least to me). When I was making the poll I never thought that anyone would really answer more than 2000 hours. But yet 11% of the people who voted claim that they have spent more than 2500 hours playing WoW, which is pretty mind-blowing if true.

But then I started to think about it a little. Personally I have spent around 500 hours total playing WoW since the release -- I forgot to include time spent playing my Alt characters last time, but that does not include my time spent playing the "Blizzard Friends and Family WoW Beta" for one year (in which case my grand total would be well over 1000 hours). And most of those 500 hours were played during the first two months after release when I was playing WoW like crazy. So let's say that in just two months time I played about 400 hours of WoW in total. And when I was playing I was also working fulltime, so I could only at night and during the weekends, yet somehow I managed to squeeze in 400 hours of gameplay. That, in retrospect, was totally crazy (I think I can see why my wife was starting to get a bit peeved at me playing this game all the time).

Now I can only imagine how much you could play this game if you had a fair amount of free time on your hands. I have one friend who was unemployed and he would easily play 80-100 hours of WoW ... per week. So I guess I really shouldn't be that surprised that there are people out there pumping 2500+ hours into this game since its release.

What I want to know is what are you doing during this time? Once I hit level 60 a lot of the "buzz" faded from the game and it just hasn't had the same hold over me since. What are you people who are playing WoW (or any MMO for that matter) hundreds of hours a month doing? What is keeping your interest in these games?

Look for a new poll tomorrow!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 5:00 PM | Posted to MMORPG | Poll |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Gaming Steve Podcast Gets Some Major Kudos

Gaming Steve PodcastOver at the website Virgin Worlds The Future of MMORPGs they have posted their reviews of the best MMO Gaming Podcasts around ... and wouldn't you know it but they reviewed the Gaming Steve podcast! Make sure to check out all the reviews, but here is review for the Gaming Steve podcast:

Gaming Steve is billed as "a vortex of gaming knowledge." Is he ever. This man knows more about games, gaming, gamers, game companies, and game systems than anyone I've ever heard. Only the Will Wrights of the world could listen to Steve's podcasts and (perhaps) not gain enormous amounts of information and insight into the gaming universe. Gaming Steve's listeners have the opportunity to gain the perspective of a prolific, intelligent, and studied gamer. Gaming Steve covers EVERY kind of game on EVERY gaming system known to man. Everything from World of Warcraft to Need to Speed to Legend of Zelda is reviewed and discussed in depth. While details regarding Steve's background are scarce, he is an industry insider who has owned and operated his own gaming company and has served as a consultant in the game industry. He has many friends and contacts within the industry and seems to be very well respected. He schedules interviews with key personnel at major game studios on a regular basis and executes those interviews with grace. Steve's production skills are second to none. His professionalism is second to none. His knowledge is second to none. His podcast is second to none. (5 / 5)
Wow, do you think they like the podcast? Thanks for the nice write up guys. Make sure to check out the entire Virgin Worlds website (which was also recently featured at SlashDot Games) as they have a lot of great articles covering the MMORPG scene.

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

February 3, 2006

Rumor: Diablo III On the Way? You Better Believe It!

Diablo Foxtrot Style!

It looks like the Diablo III rumor mill has started up once again with a seemingly innocent post on the jobs section of the Blizzard web site. A few days ago they posted a job for an art director and various leads to join "the team behind Diablo I and II" for "an unannounced PC project." I have been getting some inquires since then if Blizzard is indeed working on Diablo III and when is it going to come out?

Well, before I answer let me mention a few things. First, I don't want to get any of my friends at Blizzard in trouble, so from instead of mentioning "Diablo III" let's call this theoretical game "Beelzebub 3" and instead of "Blizzard" let's call them "Snowstorm". Second, my information is quality stuff, but it is a little old, so take that with a gain of salt. Third, err, well, there is no third, so let's get into what I know!

Let's the obvious out of way, "Snowstorm" is indeed working on "Beelzebub 3". Not only are they working on it, but they have been working on this game for no less than the past four years. In fact, "Snowstorm North" nearly completed the game several years ago, but what they developed just "wasn't fun" and been quietly reworked. This was actually one of the key reasons why Snowstorm North was closed and everyone was relocated to Irvine-based Snowstorm, so that the bigwigs in Irvine could better track and follow the development of Beelzebub 3.

As for what to expect in to see in Beelzebub 3, believe it or not but those rumors that were floating around a few months ago about the game were fairly accurate (by the way, I have no idea who started these rumors or where they came from). According to the rumors:

"Diablo 3 takes place in heaven. Hell is trying to take it over and it is AWESOME looking … Imagine the brightness of heaven being taken over by the darkness of hell … Imagine WoW but in a Diablo world in amount of size and playability … Also, guild housing is available in this game for those of you who know about it."
This information was pretty dead-on. It is true that Beelzebub 3 will be done in true 3D and it did indeed look freaking awesome. It is also true that Beelzebub 3 features a story between the conflicts of Heaven and Hell and contains a very cool feature where every single item in the game can change between a "light" version and a "dark" version. However this was also one of the problems with the original version of the game. Other than the ability for any item to visually change from light to dark it didn't affect the actual stats of the item or change the gameplay in any way. So the game has gone through a total rework to inject some "fun" into the gameplay and to make it feel like the Beelzebubs of old.

The core gameplay Beelzebub 3 will play pretty much like Beelzebub 1 and 2, but the game world will be much larger and provide a much deeper experience -- many more items, more levels when you go through the game for first time, more skills, more of everything. In addition, the multiplayer aspect will be greatly enhanced from the past installments and don't be surprised to see more than a couple of WoW-based concepts to leak over into the Beelzebub 3 universe ... such as two opposing factions (Alliance and Horde = Heaven and Hell), enhanced guild functionality, and maybe even mounts?!

As for when Beelzebub 3 will released, that one is easy to answer ... when it's done. Snowstorm is in no rush to finish this game and will release it only after they feel it's perfect. And after the fiasco of StarCraft: Ghost -- which has been announced for years and is currently going through its second round of redesign and reprogramming -- Snowstorm is in no rush to announce Beelzebub 3. Don't except an announcement until the game is near completion.

But there is some good news; that "leak" on the Snowstorm jobs page was no accident. If they are starting to leak information about Beelzebub 3 then they are starting to get closer to a final release. Of course for Snowstorm something "getting close" can mean two years from now.

Hopefully that will hold everyone over for the short term. Hopefully Beelzebub 3 will be announced at the next E3, I'll try to find out more before then and give everyone the dirt as I get it.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 4:00 PM | Comments (984) | Posted to PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

February 1, 2006

Why Do American Games Fail in Japan?

MarioDuring my last few podcasts I've been talking quite a bit about game sales and tastes around the world and their many differences. I must have struck a gaming nerve as I have gotten dozens of emails on this topic, asking me to explore it in more detail. So over the next few weeks/months I will do your bidding and examine what makes gamers tick throughout the globe. First up, let's take a look at the Japanese gaming market and which systems/games rule in the land of the rising sun.

It took quite some doing, but I finally managed to track down some solid sales numbers from Japan for 2005, including the top 100 games sold in 2005 (but more on this a bit later). First up we have platform sales (all figures based on Famitsu data from December 27, 2004 to December 25, 2005):

Platform2005 SalesTotal Sales
1 DS 4,002,871 5,098,801
2 PSP 2,225,799 2,565,743
3 PS2 2,134,863 18,706,019
4 GBASP 831,221 5,636,928 (GBA + GBASP + GBm = 15,010,568)
5 GB micro 394,845 394,845 (GBA + GBASP + GBm = 15,010,568)
6 GC 305,000 3,913,258
7 Xbox360 81,770 81,770
8 GBA 28,985 8,978,795 (GBA + GBASP + GBm = 15,010,568)
9 Xbox 13,186 472,991

While it is no big surprise that the DS and PSP took top spots in 2005, but what is surprising is just how poorly the Xbox has done in Japan. Sure, we've all heard the stories about how it's not selling, but when you see that the Xbox sold less than half a million boxes since it's initial launch nearly four years ago (and a pitiful 13,186 units in 2005) you begin to fully realize just how poorly it has done. Yikes, let's look at the top ten games of 2005 (note, I attempted to translate the Japanese game names into English):

PlatformTitlePublisher2005 Sales
1 DS Oideyo Doubutsu no Mori [Animal Crossing: Wild World] Nintendo 1,169,757
2 PS2 Gran Turismo 4 SCE 1,066,749
3 DS Nou wo Kitaeru Otona no DS Training
[Prof. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? 2]
Nintendo 1,011,341
4 DS Nintendogs [Shiba + Dach + Chihuahua and Friends] Nintendo 965,665
5 PS2 World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 Konami 923,288
6 PS2 Shin Sangoku Musou 4 [Dynasty Warriors 5] Koei 917,985
7 DS Yawaraka Atamajuku [Gentle Brain Exercises] Nintendo 875,371
8 DS Tamagotchi no Puchi Puchi Omisetchi
[Tamagotchi Connexion Corner Shop]
Bandai 770,391
9 PS2 Kingdom Hearts II Square Enix 737,652
10 DS Mario Kart DS Nintendo 669,575

Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that third and seventh best selling games in all of Japan aren't really games at all but a program which tests your skills in math, pattern recognition, object matching, and other mental gymnastics. That's right; a "game" which involves performing math functions took two of the top ten spots. Do you think that those two games will sell similar numbers when they're released in the US later this year? Considering that the first title will include a version of sudoku, it just might!

The only other big surprise is that six of the ten titles are DS titles. Rarely do portable titles ever make it into the top 10 in the US, except for Pokemon (which was number two this year in the US).

Next up, the publisher breakdown:

Publisher2005 Total SalesNumber in Top 100
1 Nintendo 11,030,000 19
2 Bandai 5,540,000 11
3 Konami 5,080,000 7
4 Sony Computer Entertainment 4,090,000 8
5 Square Enix 3,580,000 9
6 Namco 3,360,000 8
7 Capcom 3,330,000 9
8 Sega 2,770,000 5
9 Koei 2,370,000 3
10 Pokemon 2,290,000 7

For you Nintendo-lovers out there (and you know who you are) you must be beaming with pride as Nintendo is just destroying the competition. Add in the Pokemon brand (which is also owned by Nintendo) and you got 26 of the top 100 titles in 2005 going to Nintendo. And this is not a one time phenomenon; year after year Nintendo dominates game sales in Japan, largely due to their stranglehold on the portable market and their incredibly strong brands (Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, all those titles). Sony might dominate the platform sales with the PS2, but Nintendo dominates with software sales year after year.

Oh yes, and what about Microsoft, EA, Activision, THQ, Take Two, or Ubisoft? Those companies might dominate in the US and Europe but they can't even crack into the top 10 in Japan, and haven't in the past three years (perhaps more, but I could only get sales data for the past three years). Usually those companies are lucky to make it into the top 20 ... or top 30 (Microsoft was recently number 33 on this list, ouch). Culture class indeed.

Finally, we have the motherload, the top 100 games sold in Japan in 2005:

PlatformTitlePublisher2005 Total
1 DS Oideyo Doubutsu no Mori Nintendo 1,169,757
2 PS2 Gran Turismo 4 SCE 1,066,749
3 DS Nou wo Kitaeru Otona no DS Training Nintendo 1,011,341
4 DS nintendogs (Shiba + Dach + Chihuahua and Friends) Nintendo 965,665
5 PS2 World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 Konami 923,288
6 PS2 Shin Sangoku Musou 4 Koei 917,985
7 DS Yawaraka Atamajuku Nintendo 875,371
8 DS Tamagotchi no Puchi Puchi Omisetchi Bandai 770,391
9 PS2 Kingdom Hearts II Square Enix 737,652
10 DS Mario Kart DS Nintendo 669,575
11 PS2 Dragon Ball Z3 Bandai 642,424
12 GBA Mushiking Greatest Champion Sega 629,902
13 PS2 The 3rd Super Robot Taisen Alpha Banpresto 602,695
14 PS2 Dragon Ball Z Sparking! Bandai 532,690
15 DS Pokemon Fushigi no Dungeon: Ao no Kyuujotai Pokemon 521,380
16 GBA Pokemon Fushigi no Dungeon: Aka no Kyuujotai Pokemon 517,484
17 DS Sawaru Made in Wario Nintendo 505,254
18 PS2 World Soccer Winning Eleven 8 Liveware Evolution Konami 468,242
19 DS Jump Superstars Nintendo 464,076
20 GBA Famicom Mini: Super Mario Brothers Nintendo 457,558
21 PS2 Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song Square Enix 454,657
22 DS Super Mario 64 DS Nintendo 447,505
23 PS2 Tales of the Abyss Namco 440,225
24 PS2 Kidou Senshi Gundam: Ichinen Sensou Bandai 436,411
25 PS2 Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball 12 Konami 433,535
26 GBA Rockman EXE 6 Faltzer / Grayga Capcom 432,119
27 PS2 Gundam SEED: The Federation vs ZAFT Bandai 417,191
28 PS2 biohazard 4 Capcom 370,580
29 PS2 Shin Sangoku Musou 4 Moushouden Koei 355,296
30 PS2 Tales of Legendia Namco 342,779
31 GC Mario Party 7 Nintendo 329,633
32 GBA Pokemon Emerald Pokemon 319,837
33 PS2 Tekken 5 Namco 317,357
34 PS2 Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daichi to Norowareshi Himigime Square Enix 307,572
35 DS Daredemo Asobi Taizen Nintendo 301,809
36 PS2 Rogue Galaxy SCE 299,310
37 PS2 Radiata Stories Square Enix 293,413
38 PS2 Devil May Cry 3 Capcom 281,025
39 DS Touch! Kirby Nintendo 276,418
40 PSP Minna no Golf Portable SCE 268,173
41 PS2 ACE: Another Century’s Episode Banpresto 254,547
42 GBA Mario Party Advance Nintendo 241,721
43 PS2 Daito Pachislot Yoshimune Daito Giken 241,277
44 PS2 Grandia III Square Enix 233,866
45 PSP Monster Hunter Portable Capcom 233,783
46 GC Naruto 4: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 4 Tomy 233,107
47 PS2 Ryu ga Gotoku Sega 232,650
48 PS2 Monster Hunter G Capcom 232,239
49 GC Pokemon XD: Yami no Senpuu Dark Lugia Pokemon 232,196
50 GC biohazard 4 Capcom 220,799
51 DS Pokemon Trozei Pokemon 215,038
52 DS Naruto: Saikyou Ninja Daikesshuu 3 for DS Tomy 212,655
53 PS2 Sarugetchu! 3 SCE 212,534
54 GC Super Mario Stadium: Miracle Baseball Nintendo 211,661
55 GBA Rockman EXE 5 Team of Blues Capcom 211,099
56 PS2 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Konami 209,674
57 PS2 Drag On Dragoon 2 Square Enix 203,336
58 GBA Pokemon Fire Red / Leaf Green Pokemon 202,800
59 PSP World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 Ubiquitous Evolution Konami 202,176
60 PS2 Jissen Pachislot: Fist of the North Star Plus Sega 201,367
61 DS Catch! Touch! Yoshi Nintendo 197,337
62 PSP Shin Sangoku Musou Koei 195,473
63 GC Star Fox Assault Nintendo 195,407
64 PS2 Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special Square Enix 194,673
65 GBA Rockman EXE 5 Team of Colonel Capcom 194,472
66 PS2 Naruto: Narutimate Hero 3 Bandai 194,372
67 PSP Tales of Eternia Namco 193,458
68 PS2 Naruto: Uzumaki Ninden Bandai 191,077
69 PS2 Wander to Kyozou SCE 190,916
70 PS2 Ratchet and Clank 4th SCE 187,773
71 PS2 Wild Arms: The 4th Detonator SCE 186,221
72 PSP Nouryoku Trainer Portable Sega 185,199
73 PS2 Daito Pachislot Simulator Ossu! Banchou Daito Giken 184,440
74 PS2 Gundam: Generation of CE Bandai 181,576
75 GBA Super Robot Taisen J Banpresto 180,503
76 PS2 Gundam: True Odyssey Bandai 180,386
77 PS2 Tear Ring Saga: Berwick Saga Enterbrain 177,202
78 DS Slime Morimori Dragon Quest 2 Square Enix 176,218
79 PS2 Pro Yakyuu Spirits Konami 175,660
80 DS Pokemon Dash Pokemon 171,286
81 PS2 Sengoku Basara Capcom 167,445
82 DS Dragon Ball Z: Bukuu Ressen Bandai 165,599
83 GBA Super Robot Taisen Original Generation 2 Banpresto 164,884
84 PS2 Simple 2000 Series. Vol. 81 The Chikyuu Boueigun 2 D3 Publisher 164,586
85 PSP Ridge Racers Namco 158,265
86 GC Fire Emblem: Souen no Kiseki Nintendo 156,413
87 PS2 Summon Night Ecstacy Banpresto 153,962
88 GC Mario Party 6 Nintendo 153,682
89 PS2 Tales of Rebirth Namco 152,551
90 PS2 Momotarou Dentetsu 15 Hudson 149,550
91 PS2 Sakura Taisen V Sega 144,668
92 PS2 Tengai Makyou III Namida Hudson 144,415
93 DS Super Princess Peach Nintendo 142,684
94 GC Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 3 Tomy 139,212
95 GBA Final Fantasy IV Advance Square Enix 134,418
96 PS2 Namco x Capcom Namco 131,615
97 PS2 Rumble Roses Konami 129,021
98 PS2 Baseball Live 2005 Namco 128,221
99 PSP Piposaru Academia SCE 127,679
100 PS2 Saint Seiya: Chapter Sanctuary Bandai 127,679

What's surprising about this list is not what is on the list, but what isn't on this list. No Xbox titles, no EA titles, and only a single title made in the US (Ratchet and Clank 4th). And it's not like those companies had to sell a huge amount of titles to get onto the top 100. A mere 128,000 units would get you onto this list, but truth be told those companies are happy if they can sell a few thousand copies of their games in Japan, let alone ten thousand. Very rarely do any American-made games make it into the top 100 any year in Japan.

Of course, this is no big surprise as the best-selling games in the US over the past few years have been sports titles, GTA (which actually does decent sales in Japan, but never in the top 100), and, err, well, games from Japan. So why can games from Japan become top 10 sellers in the US but American games can't even break into the top 100 in Japan? Well, that's the million dollar question isn't it?

One of the key reasons is different in gaming tastes and genres. American developers make some of the best console FPS, sports (American only), and action games around. If you take a look at the top 100 list you won't find a single FPS or American sports title. As for action games, Ratchet and Clank 4th (AKA Ratchet: Deadlocked) does appear as number 70 on the list, and was developed by American Developer Insomniac Games. But that's it, no other American game is on this list. Not even God of War was a top 100 seller.

On the other hand, in Japan they create some of the best RPGs, "simulation" games, horror games, gambling games, and action games around. Not to mention all the various Mario and Pokemon games released each and every year. Except for the gambling games, all the titles I have listed make the culture jump much easier than the other way around. Americans are simply more interested in playing Mario Kart or Metal Gear than Japanese are in playing Quake 4 or Madden. (By the way, take a look at number 60 on the top 100 list, "Jissen Pachislot: Fist of the North Star Plus", which roughly translates to "Fist of the North Star Slot Machine Game". Dude, I would totally play that game!)

It also doesn't hurt that in the US we often get the "best" of what Japan has to offer. Only the top sellers in Japan are officially released in the US, and those games are often carefully translated and localized for American tastes. However, this is not true at all when it comes to American games released in Japan. Often American titles are literally just dumped into Japanese stores with little to no translation at all, and there is little to no "quality control". Both good and bad American games are dumped into Japan, and there are a lot more "bad" games than good. Just imagine if all the games released in Japan were dumped into American stores with little to no translation, how do you think they would do over here?

There is a demand for quality titles in Japan, but it's extremely difficult for the average Japanese gamer to pick the best American games from all the games released. The only real hope for an American title to get any traction over there is for a major publisher to get behind it, like Sony did for Ratchet and Clank 4th.

Other reasons include fierce brand loyalty to Sony and Nintendo, massive competition (many more games are released in Japan than in the US), one too many "bad experiences" with American game titles, American games covering topics average Japanese gamers have no interest in (pretty much all American sports titles), and the simple fact that Japanese developers make some of the best games around.

I go on and on and write a doctoral thesis on this topic alone but I think I got my point across. Japanese gamers want to play excellent games which appeal to them. As soon an American developer takes the time to carefully translate, localize, and adjust the gameplay to suit Japanese tastes (just as they do when they release Japanese games in the States) will American games begin to get any traction in Japan.

My only question is ... when are more of those games in top 100 coming to America? I can't wait for Rogue Galaxy to come to the States!

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