Gaming Steve

March 2006 Archives

March 27, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 46 - 03.27.2006

Big White Gorilla at GDC?So what happens when my laptop computer dies on me and I have to travel all weekend? You get my final GDC podcast today instead of Friday (sorry about that all). But the good news is that this is one of the craziest episodes of them all with not one, not two, but three co-hosts this episode! Crazy I tell ya!

Today I share the mic with Alon Waisman from ChatterBox, Wes Ehrlichman from The Gamer's Quarter, and Nathan Cox an aspiring game artist. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 46 Program

  • Game Developers Conference Day 5 Recap
    • How to get a job at GDC.
    • An overview of some of the more interesting game sessions.
    • You will not believe how crazy MMORPGs are in China (did you know that people actually pay money not to play games?)
    • Will digital downloads revolutionize the industry?
    • Was anything interesting on the show floor?
    • Game awards? What are they good for?
    • Recap of all the keynotes and announcements.
    • Wes insults gamers everywhere.
    • The big five-day recap.
Download the show (65 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 46 (MP3).

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Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Comments (20) | Posted to Podcast |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 23, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 45 - 03.23.2006

Spore In A BoxToday was "Spore Day" at GDC with four different talks concerning Spore, and I was at every single one of them. But just how much new information was revealed during these talks? And what new revelations did Satoru Iwata reveal about the Revolution? This and more on today's show!

Oh yes, and once again I share the mic, today with John Callaham from FiringSquad. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 45 Program

  • Game Developers Conference Day 4 Recap
    • John and I discuss Spore talk number one: "Advanced Prototyping" with Chaim Gingold and Chris Hecker.
    • We discuss the Nintendo keynote speech.
    • Will Wright talks, but does he say anything?
    • John gives us a rundown of the expo floor.
    • A review of this year's "Game Design Challenge" and why was Will Wright wearing a tiara?
    • Spore talk number three: "Spore: PrePD Through Prototyping" by Eric Todd.
    • And finally Spore talk number four: "Building Community Around Pollinated Content in Spore" by Caryl Shaw.
    • A recap of last night's Independent Game Festival & Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards.
Download the show (55 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 45 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
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Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

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

March 22, 2006

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report

Lots of GDC goodness today. Breakfast with Peter Moore, Chris Satchell, Larry Hryb, John Porcaro, and Cesar Menendez, the big PS3 keynote, the Ronald Moore Battlestar Galactica keynote (What does this have to do with games? Who cares!), and lots more.

However, rather than a lengthy recap why don't you just download my podcast of the day's events. And as an added bonus I have a guest co-host this episode! Christopher Grant from Joystiq chimes in with his thoughts of the day's events.

In the meantime while you wait for the podcast to download here are few pictures from today's GDC.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
The calm before the storm. Notice the lack of people.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
From the "Blogger's Breakfast". From left to right Adam Levine (Gamer Andy), Stephen Glicker (you know who), Peter Moore (Corporate Vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and Devices Division ... translation: he’s in charge of marketing for the Xbox), Cesar Menendez (Xbox Online Community Manager), Chrisopther Grant (Joystiq).

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Again from the "Blogger's Breakfast". From left to right Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb (Director Of Programming for Xbox Live), Joel Johnson (Gizmodo), Brain Crecente (Kotaku), and Chris Satchell (General Manager Game Development Group).

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Yet again from the "Blogger's Breakfast". From left to right Peter Moore, Cesar Menendez, and Christopher Grant.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Lots of people playing games from the Independent Games Festival.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
The endless line to get into the Phil Harrison PlayStation 3 keynote.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Inside the auditorium before the keynote ... it's a packed house.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Phil Harrison talking about the PS3.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
David Jaffe showing off God of War 2 ... doesn't he look excited?!

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Ronald Moore talking about Battlestar and being way too cool for a gaming conference.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Download PlayStation games here!

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
An art class in the middle of the show floor? Err ... okay.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
The Nintendo is packed.

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 3 Report
Lots and lots of Nintendo DS Lite's are on hand for gaming.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:45 PM | Comments (12) | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Gaming Steve Episode 44 - 03.22.2006

Stephen Glicker with Peter MooreIn this very special episode of Gaming Steve I am reporting to you directly from the Game Developers Conference show floor. And today I do something I have never done before on the show, I share the mic with a co-host! Christopher Grant from Joystiq and Xbox 360 Fanboy sits down with me to discuss the day's news and events. Sit back and enjoy nearly an hour of GDC madness (oh yes, and the photo is of myself and Peter Moore).

Gaming Steve Episode 44 Program

  • Game Developers Conference Day 3 Recap
    • Chris and I discuss the "Blogger Breakfast" with Peter Moore, Chris Satchell, Larry Hryb, John Porcaro, and Cesar Menendez.
    • Review of the PlayStation 3 keynote by Phil Harrison and the myriad of PS3 and PSP announcements.
    • Chris and I geek out talking about Ronald Moore's "Building A Better Battlestar" keynote speech.
    • General thoughts about what we saw and heard throughout the day.
Download the show (55 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 44 (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 10:30 PM | Comments (10) | Posted to Culture | PlayStation 3 | Podcast | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 21, 2006

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 2 Report

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 2Today was definitely a lot more interesting than yesterday as more people were starting to file into the show and the place was starting to "get busy". More people were attending the conference today ... a lot more ... but still the overall attendance was a drop in the bucket compared to the masses who are expected to show up tomorrow when the "real" show begins. Since the last two years was a mad sea of people I can only imagine what will be in store for me. Oh well, onto the show!

I spent most of my time attending the "Casual Games Summit 2006" which has been a mainstay of GDC for the last couple of years and is one of the more exciting tutorials since this market is currently experiencing such explosive growth (one such example, the huge success of Xbox Live Arcade). I particularly enjoy the structure of the summit with each speaker only given around ten minutes to present their information to the audience. The result is a machinegun fire of information from a wide range of presenters.

Although many of the presentations were extremely informative I thought that the presentation given by Greg Canessa, GM of Xbox Live Arcade, was the most revealing. According to Greg, Xbox Live Arcade to date has seen 3 million downloads, a 20% average conversion rate across all titles, and 60% of connected Xbox 360 customers download Arcade titles. These are some really impressive numbers; just to give you some perspective the average conversion rate for PC casual game titles is around 1% or less. On average for every 100-1000 people who download and try a casual game only 1-2 people will actually buy the game. So a 20% conversion rate is quite an eye-opener and a testament to the future of "casual" gaming on future console systems.

Also, in case you were interested, the top performing titles for Xbox Live Arcade have been Geometry Wars, Marble Blast Ultra, Gauntlet, Smash TV, and Zuma. Didn't expect Marble Blast Ultra to be ranked number two, but I don't think Geometry Wars surprised anyone.

The remaining presentations focused on various trends found within the casual gaming market today: Increasingly complex "casual" games, a continuously growing and expanding market, and steady public awareness of the casual game market. But perhaps the most telling line was uttered by Dan Neel from WildTangent when he said "Today's hardcore gamer is tomorrow's casual gamer". Dan went on to explain as the hardcore gamer becomes gets older and takes on more responsibilities they will have to turn to casual gaming as they simply won't have the time to play games 20+ hours per week. Enjoy playing World of Warcraft and Oblivion while you still have the time you hardcore gamer you!

Otherwise today was pretty similar to yesterday; very interesting if you like attending game tutorial sessions (which I do!) but pretty boring in terms of announcements. However, tomorrow the "main" conference begins and the news and information will be fast a furious. I also have my breakfast with Peter Moore, Chris Satchell, and Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb tomorrow morning, as well as several additional meetings. So expect a very tired Steve to present you with a recap of the day's events.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:00 PM | Comments (6) | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Spore NOT Confirmed For Mobile Devices in 2006

spore0.jpgI just got off the phone with EA and it appears that Spore has not been confirmed for mobile devices in 2006. Repeat, it has not been confirmed.

Although it was strongly implied by Mitch Laskey's GDC Mobile's keynote address yesterday that Spore would be distributed in 2006 for mobile devices, it turns out that the slide containing this information was a bit misleading and the 2006 date is in no way a confirmation of Spore's launch date.

Unfortunately I while I was talking to EA I was not able to get a revised date, just that there was no confirmation as of yet for the release date of Spore. I guess we'll still be guessing as to the official release date as of now, however the recent article in Wired Magazine featuring Will Wright did mention that Spore will be released in 2007! Yikes! Stay tuned...

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

March 20, 2006

Game Developers Conference 2006 - Day 1 Report

gdc06_day1.jpgToday was the "first" day of the Game Developers Conference and it was, for the most part, a whole lot of nothing (well, except for the big Spore announcement). You see there are two "parts" to the five day GDC conference.

The first "part" consists of the first two days and all-day tutorials covering topics such as "Embodied Agents in Computer Games" and "Physics for Games Programmers" and are geared towards the hardcore developer. Not much happens during these first two days as they're still getting the "main" conference ready, you can actually see them building the booths and other exhibits during these two days.

The other "part", AKA the "main" conference, covers the last three days (Wednesday through Friday) and is a total madhouse of gaming news and information. Lectures and panels are only an hour long during these days and cover such topics as "Bootstrapping a Game Company in the Age of Blockbuster Budgets" and "Valve's Design Process for Creating Half-Life 2". Since these talks are only an hour long they are often jam-packed with juicy information. And just to make things a bit more interesting there are an average of twenty five of these panels per hour! Looking over the program can be a dizzying experience trying to pick and choose which panels will "make the cut" and vie for your attention.

So today I spent nearly an hour just looking over the hundreds of lectures, carefully deciding which will be worth my time and effort to attend and report upon. I'm still making my picks but definitely on the list are the various keynotes -- the big PS3 keynote, the Nintendo keynote and Will Wright's (of course) -- and I'll be attending all the talks regarding Spore (again, of course) but the rest are a tricky bunch. Hopefully I'll have the final picks ready in time for Wednesday...

Oh yes, as for today I spent most of time at a conference titled "Do-It-Yourself Usability: How to Use User Research to Improve Your Game" given by Microsoft Game Studios. As you might imagine the bulk of the tutorial dealt with methods for setting up and testing your game design. The best part of the tutorial was viewing the various market research movies and watching how easy it was for average users to get lost in games. Really interesting stuff.

Look for more coverage throughout the week.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 9:00 PM | Comments (10) | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Spore Confirmed For Mobile Devices in 2006

Spore!No huge surprise here but the biggest news of the day occured this morning during Mitch Laskey's (former Jamdat CEO, now EA's "Mobile Senior Vice President") GDC Mobile's keynote address. During the talk Mitch explaining EA Mobile's 2006 line-up which will consist of Casual, Core, and Sports titles.

Casual titles to be released this year will include Tetris (of which EA has the exclusive rights for a mere 17 years), Bejeweled, Yahtzee as well as the other usual suspects. While EA Sports' line-up pretty much consisted of every single EA sports title ported over to the Mobile market.

However, when it came to the Core titles listed on the slide to-be-released titles were Battlefield, Sin City, Medal of Honor, Sims, Need for Speed, and little title named Spore. What's really interesting about this news isn't the fact that Spore was announced for mobile platforms but that the release date was listed as 2006!

Does that mean we'll be up to our eyeballs in Spore titles for the PC, consoles, handhelds, and mobile devices by the end of 2006? One can only hope!

Update: After speaking with EA it turns out that the slide containing this information was a bit misleading and that Spore is not confirmed for mobile devices in 2006. And no alternate date was given.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Comments (13) | Posted to Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Gaming Steve Episode 43 - 03.20.2006

Guild Wars FactionsToday is the first day of the Game Developers Conference, but before I even set foot into the convention center I got a chance to sit down and chat with Jeff Strain, Co-Founder of ArenaNet and makers of Guild Wars.

Jeff and I talk for over an hour and cover a huge number of topics. Find out how on earth they expect to release a brand new Guild Wars Campaign twice a year(!), more details on the technology behind ArenaNet, how they manage to continuously balance the game, Jeff's thoughts on various MMO subscription models, as well as much more. Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 43 Program

  • 00:02:28 Interview with Jeff Strain from ArenaNet, makers of Guild Wars and the upcoming Guild Wars: Factions.
  • 01:07:19 My thoughts on the game and the upcoming Game Developers Conference 2006.
Download the show (74 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 43 (MP3).

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

March 17, 2006

I'm Off to the Game Developers Conference

gdc.jpgWell I'm off on my annual pilgrimage to San Jose and the Game Developers Conference. It was during last year's GDC is when I actually launched this site and posted my first podcast show.

I was also one of the very first people in the world to report on Will Wright's new game Spore and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course I will be covering the entire event via this web site and my podcast, so make sure to check back throughout the week. And expect quite a bit more Spore coverage as there are no less than three talks on Spore this year, all of which I will be at front and center.

As a nice bonus it appears that the Gaming Steve Forum may be represented at GDC by Will Wright himself. Will contacted one of the more active members of the Gaming Steve Forums and asked if he could "show a few of your create pics and the video you made in my talk at GDC this year?" He went on to explain "I want to talk a bit about how we're researching the fan expectations as we're designing the game." Very cool.

And if that wasn't crazy enough yours truly has been invited to a continental breakfast with Peter Moore, Chris Satchell, and Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb himself.

Oh yeah, GDC is going to be a total madhouse this year! Stay tuned for all the latest news and gossip!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:00 PM | Comments (22) | Posted to Culture |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 15, 2006

You Want Innovation? You Got Innovation!

Viva PiñataLast week I was complaining that publishers aren't taking enough risks. Well color me impressed as Rare, Microsoft and 4Kids Entertainment are working together to create a brand new IP named Viva Piñata.

Described as "another world where wild-roaming, living piñata animals inhabit a growing, changing garden world. You take control of this environment and the piñata within it, influencing its contents to create your very own pet paradise." Living piñata animals ... very cool.

Clearly aimed to mimic the Pokémon craze, Viva Piñata is going to be both a video game on the Xbox 360 (of course) as well as an animated children's cartoon. So far I have to say that I'm really impressed with this original property. The visuals are incredible, the concept is interesting, the partnership with 4Kids is a great marketing channel, and taking aim at Pokémon empire is a pretty smart move. (In case you forgot Pokémon Emerald for the GBA was the 2nd bestselling video game of 2005 ... yeah, Pokémon is still pretty huge.)

And Rare is just so good at making these crazy games with colorful graphics and oddball characters I am really interested to see the final product (and on a related note, am I the only person on earth who really enjoyed Grabbed by the Ghoulies?).

Viva la Viva Piñata!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Comments (31) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 14, 2006

Starcraft: The Board Game Zergging This October

starcraft_bg.jpgFantasy Flight Games is no stranger to creating board games out of video games with their hugely popular World of Warcraft and Doom board games. While it's not quite the Starcraft 2 it's probably the next best thing as Fantasy Flight has announced Starcraft: The Board Game.

Following the success and popularity of the Warcraft and World of Warcraft board games, we are very pleased to announce the release of an epic board game based on Blizzard Entertainment’s classic Starcraft computer game. This will be one of our big box games, in the tradition of Twilight Imperium, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, and World of Warcraft: the Board Game. It features a large central game board depicting the Starcraft galaxy, as well as nine separate smaller boards that each represent a specific planet in the Starcraft universe. Players will control the familiar Terran, Protoss, or Zerg space and ground units in a bid for domination of these nine worlds. The combat system is fast and diceless, featuring an innovative mechanic that utilizes transparent plastic game cards. The game will feature dozens of beautifully sculpted plastic figures, dozens of cards, lots of high-quality cardboard tokens and markers, a large game board and several mini-boards, and all of the other great components that pack our epic-size games. Starcraft: The Board Game is scheduled for release in October.
In addition, Fantasy Flight has announced two expansions to the World of Warcraft: The Board Game. The first, "Shattered Kingdom", is due in July and features hundreds of new cards, both expanding the original game and introducing a few new concepts. A new item deck rewards characters with exciting trinkets and artifacts. A new quest deck puts a bounty on independent creatures, rewarding characters who defeat them. Each class deck also receives 10 new powers and 10 new talents, further developing each character's arsenal of unique abilities and customizability. Each Overlord also receives special cards that are shuffled into the event deck, and these cards make them even more dangerous throughout the game.

While in November, World of Warcraft: The Board Game gets its first full-sized expansion, with new Overlords, new characters, events, and quests -- including dungeon quests which characters must battle through several cards to complete.

Considering that the WOW board game retails for $79.95 you better start saving your money now for the new Starcraft board game!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:30 AM | Posted to PC |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

The Gaming Steve T-Shirts Have Arrived!

gamingsteve_shirt.gifSo what happens when you combine the Gaming Steve logo, classic Galaxian logo design, and a touch of Pac-Man fever? Why you get the new Gaming Steve T-Shirt design that's what!

Designed by loyal Gaming Steve regular Mark Senger, these shirts are finally ready just in time to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Gaming Steve website/podcast/forums. You can purchase these shirts at the brand new Gaming Steve online store, and in addition to shirts you can also pick up mugs, tote bags and magnets sporting this great design. Personally I like the "Ringer T", but they're all pretty darn cool.

Let me know what you all think of the store as I am toying with the idea of adding more designs and options. If you guys like the store I'll gladly expand it and add new designs and options in the near future.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:30 AM | Comments (10) | Posted to Stuff |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 13, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 42 - 03.13.2006

ticket_to_ride_game.gifI start off year two of the Gaming Steve podcast show with a nice little recap of the last year and the many changes the site has undergone. In addition, the long-awaited Gaming Steve t-shirt is finally revealed, I explain some small changes to the show, and get ready for a week of GDC craziness! Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 42 Program

  • 00:50:00 Special 1 Year Anniversary: A retrospective look at the explosive growth of the site and what the future holds for Gaming Steve.
  • 00:15:32 Game News:
    • GBA gets Player's Choice.
    • Microsoft's Origami folds into an Ultra Mobile PC.
    • New Guild Wars dated.
    • Anti-game study approved by Senate panel.
    • BioWare working on a new MMORPG and forms a new studio.
    • ESA launches Video Game Voters Network.
    • God of War 2 to rock your world.
  • 00:43:00 Review: Ticket to Ride for the PC and Macintosh.
  • 00:51:29 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and the always cool prize!
  • 00:55:24 Show Mail: I answer a dozen audio questions.
  • 01:52:44 Final Thoughts: Next week is the Game Developers Conference ... aka a week of gaming insanity!
Download the show (118 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 42 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
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Posted by Gaming Steve at 11:30 PM | Comments (21) | Posted to Podcast | Review |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 9, 2006

Why Won't American Publishers Take Risks?

Cooking Mama!In a few weeks a brand new game for the Nintendo DS is going to be released named Cooking Mama. In the game you play a female chef who has to prepare food, perform various actions such as slicing vegetables and tenderizing meat, cook your food, make sure not to over/undercook the food, and then serve it. And, well, that's about it really. That's right, it's a cooking simulation game on the DS ... and it sounds freaking awesome!

Of course ... this game is only coming out in Japan and there is only a small chance that this game will ever be released in the States. Like so many other "oddball" games which are released in Japan only a very small portion of those games ever end up getting a US release. And once again I'll have to buy an import copy of this game and try to figure out all the Japanese text.

What I don't understand is why are so many other countries continuously developing so many of these cool/crazy games? Why does Japan develop such great games such as Katamari Damacy, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, Seaman, Phoenix Wright, as well as countless others while we get to look forward to the 20th version of Tony Hawk?

But in this version of Tony Hawk the graphics are just a little bit better than last time! You can actually see your skater's fingers! Go buy it right away!!!

It's almost as if games like Cooking Mama have to be released in Japan before they can even be considered for release in the States. I can only imagine what the discussions are like at publishing houses...

Developer: "Let's make a game with blocky graphics and crazy music where you have to roll up everything you can find in the world using a huge sticky ball! And these balls will be used to recreate all the stars in the universe after your father destroyed them all in a drunken bender!"

Publisher: "What the heck are you talking about? Are you freaking insane? Get the hell out of my office!"

Developer: "Well, they just released the same game in Japan..."

Publisher: "Those Japanese gamers are so crazy! I love it! Let's publish it!"

Why do we have to continuously wait for games like this to be translated and released in the States? Why can't an American publisher try something just a little bit risky, create a few smaller "oddball" titles each year and see what happens?

True there is always risk in creating a new game property, but we're not talking about creating the next Half-Life here. I'm talking about creating the next Nintendogs, a fairly simple title which can be created using a small development team and in a short amount of time. The movie industry follows a similar strategy and to great success.

Each year all the movie studios release a couple of "major" releases every year (you know, all those $200 million "event movies" like King Kong and War of the Worlds). However, in addition to these monster movies the studios also release a couple of "independent" pictures as well. Often these movies cover topics not normally examined by larger movies, have much smaller budgets, and take risks (Brokeback Mountain anyone?). Their thinking is that they can often make several of these smaller independent movies for the price of just a single "event" movie and if just one of them "hits" it is more than worth the investment.

Take a movie such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That film only cost $5 million to make and it grossed $368 million worldwide, that is good return on investment. And that is why movie companies will always make indie pictures: relatively small risk and a possibly huge financial reward.

So why can't the American game industry try this approach? True, Valve is making headway releasing games such as Darwinia and Rag Doll Kung Fu, but more publishers need to step up and start taking these sorts of risks. Not every game needs to be a sequel or a licensed property. The Nintendo DS is almost made to create unique titles, but yet instead of a Cooking Mama we get to see yet another The Sims title released on the DS.

It's almost as if these "oddball" games have to be created overseas first and only then can they be brought over to the States. But I'll tell you right now, if a game like Cooking Mama was made by EA or Activision for the DS I would purchase that game in a second. I don't need a fancy license (how many Lord of the Rings games can EA possibly make?) or amazing graphics, I am just looking for a good, fun, original game.

Could that possibly be why the Nintendo DS is selling so well? Could it possibly be that people are starting to get tired of the same-old-same-old and looking for a new gaming experience? Who's to say, but I can't wait to cook with Mama on my DS! Get with the program American game publishers!

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

March 7, 2006

Gaming Steve Episode 41 - 03.07.2006

Gaming Steve New Cover ArtThis week I provide the second part of my hands-on preview of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, talk about some of the changes on the site and podcast after one year, and a new person joins the Gaming Steve forums. You might know him, he goes by the name Will Wright and made a game called The Sims or something.... Enjoy!

Gaming Steve Episode 41 Program

  • 00:07:02 Game News:
    • Sony sells the Metreon.
    • Red 5 Studios and Webzen sign a deal.
    • Dungeons & Dragons Online launches.
    • World of Warcraft hits 6 million and adds the Spanish language.
    • Live Arcade gets five more.
    • Microsoft to start $10 Greatest Hits program.
    • Oblivion is done, all hail Oblivion.
    • What the heck is this Microsoft Origami project?
    • Another analysts predicts PS3 delay.
    • Rockstar Games serves up ... Table Tennis?
  • 00:30:37 SporeTalk: Spore to evolve onto handhelds? And when is a game "leak" really a "leak"?
  • 00:38:36 Game Preview: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the Xbox 360 and PC, part two.
  • 01:14:15 RetroReview: Planescape: Torment for the PC.
  • 01:26:55 “Name That Game!” contest winner from last week, a new clip, and a very cool prize!
  • 01:30:32 Show Mail: I answer your text and Oblivion questions.
  • 01:58:03 Final Thoughts: What should I do next week for my one year anniversary show? And what to expect from my reports at the Game Developers Conference 2006 and I-Con appearances.
Download the show (124 minutes): Gaming Steve Episode 41 (MP3).

Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
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Vote for Gaming Steve on Podcast Alley.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 4:00 PM | Comments (43) | Posted to Podcast | Preview | Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

Spore Gameplay Video: The Uncut Version


The Spore gameplay video that I posted last week was actually an abbreviated version of Will Wright's presentation from last year's Game Developers Conference. Thanks to a little tip from my buddy Tim, I was able to locate the entire 61 minute(!) presentation which not only includes the Spore gameplay video but a 12 minute introduction, a few extra bits, and a nice wrap-up from the main man Will himself. Definitely check out this version for the full "uncut" version of the Spore presentation.

By the way, some people seem to be a bit confused thinking that this video was from 2006's GDC. The above video was from last year's GDC, March 11, 2005 to be exact. So just think if the game looked this good a year ago who knows how great the game will look this year!

Look for my full Spore coverage from this year's GDC from March 20-24, as well as tons of developer interviews and more game previews than I can possibly imagine. It's going to be crazy I tell ya!

Posted by Gaming Steve at 1:08 AM | Posted to Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 2, 2006

Spore Gameplay Video


Nearly one year ago today Will Wright stole the show at the 2005 Game Developer's Conference when he stunned the world with his new game Spore. For those of you who still haven't seen the 36 minute gameplay video from last year's GDC you owe it to yourself to watch this video and view perhaps the most exciting game concept in years (perhaps ever).

I myself have seen this thing over ten times and yet I can't seem to ever get enough of it. Oh yes, and expect a lot more updates on the site when Spore is presented at three talks during this year's GDC. Until then, enjoy the video and make sure you check out the most active Spore forum in the world, my interview with Will Wright about Spore, as well as my extensive year-long Spore coverage.

Posted by Gaming Steve at 12:30 AM | Posted to Spore |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 1, 2006

DS Download Station Hands-On Review

DS Download StationWhen I heard that Nintendo World in New York City just got the first DS Download Station in the US I ran down the street to give this Station a try.

The first thing I noticed about the Station once I entered the store was that ... there was no Station! I was expecting to see a small kiosk or something similar, but there were none to be found at Nintendo World. Only after I spoke with an employee did I find out that the store itself was the Download Station and that I could use my DS Wi-Fi anywhere within the store to access the Station. Good to know if you plan to visit the NYC store and give this service a try (note to Nintendo, you might want to advertise the DS Download Station a bit in the NYC store). This setup is a unique case as when these DS Stations begin to appear throughout the country there will be an actual kiosk that will beam wireless demo versions of games and other downloadable content into a players’ Nintendo DS system.

After my initial confusion I whipped out my DS, took a seat, and started to look for a local Wi-Fi signal. Sure enough, within 10 seconds my DS found the "DS Download Station" signal and I quickly connected. Oh yeah, in case you are curious the station was "version one" (Nintendo expects to update the content on these stations once every three months or so).

Once my connection was established I was given a list of seven game demos and one movie I could download (you can view the interface in the above photo). The games demos were Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, Mario Kart DS, Meteos, True Swing Golf, Pokemon Trozei, and two different versions of Tetris DS, while the video clip was an "exclusive" Metroid Prime Hunters movie. I wasn't too interested in Mario Kart DS or any of the other games which were already on the shelves, so I decided to give Brain Age and Tetris DS a go. First up, Brain Age!

I have been really interested in giving this game a try ever since I first read about it several months ago. In Japan this game has been an absolutely monster success, so much so that it actually increased sales of the DS hardware. The first two versions of this game will appear in the US on April 17 and May 30 and have been localized for Western tastes.

Once I selected the demo it took around 15 seconds for the game to download into my DS and then begin. The menu for Brain Age appeared to be the same menu used for the full-version of the game, but most of the options were grayed out. I was able to access two "tests" (“Brain Age” and “Brain Training”) as well as the sudoku number puzzle.

I selected the "Brain Age" test from the touch screen and was quickly introduced to this “test” by the disembodied head of Professor Ryuta Kawashima (don’t ask). This first test consisted of a series of cognitive tests which required me to look at words that appeared on both DS screens. I actually needed to hold the unit sideways, like you would hold a book, and as the words appeared on the screen I needed to say the color of the word into the DS microphone. So if the word was red in color I simply needed to say “red” into the DS microphone.

Sounds easy, right? Well, there was one trick; the word itself was often the name of a color. So the word "blue" might actually be in green letters. Your brain might “read” the word “blue”, but you needed to say the word “green” in order to get the answer correct. It might sound simple, but it was a bit tricky to say the correct color quickly and accurately. The good news is that the DS's voice recognition, via the built-in mic, worked great, even in the loud Nintendo World store. After about 45 seconds you are done with this short exercise you get a score based upon the speed and accuracy of your responses.

The other mode, "Brain Training" was actually a math drill! Yikes! But wouldn't you know it, Nintendo somehow actually made doing math problems fun. Again, I needed to hold the DS sideways (actually the entire Brain Age game was played in this manner) but instead of words appearing, math problems would scroll up the left side of the screen. I needed to write the answers to these problems as quickly as possible on the touch screen. One nice touch is that before you begin the game asks if you are left or right-handed. If you are lefty the game flips itself 180 degrees so that the touch screen is on the left side. No wonder this thing is a best-seller, little touches like that go a long way.

The math problems were all fairly simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems and the handwriting recognition was quite impressive. Especially considering that I was writing as fast as possible, and there were times where even I couldn't understand what I wrote, the software rarely made a mistake. Once again at the end your time is analyzed (with five seconds added for each incorrect answer) and you are given a brain score.

Finally I gave the sudoku game a try. It was your standard sudoku game played on a 3x3 grid and the DS needed to be held sideways. The board appears on the touch screen and whenever I needed to enter a number into the board I just selected the appropriate box. Once selected, the sudoku board flips to the left screen and the entire touch screen allows one to easily write the number on the screen. If you get the number correct, you are rewarded with a little green checkmark. If not, you get the buzzer and have to try again. And you need to be careful because if you enter five incorrect answers you lose the game and need to start over again.

I was a bit disappointed that these three demos were so short (although the sudoku game took a few minutes to finish), but I have to say that I definitely see the appeal of this game. The interface was simple enough for your grandmother to use, and yet somehow I was having fun doing math problems. A lot of fun. Expect this game to become a monster hit in the states as well.

Once I was done playing the demo I turned off my DS and jumped back onto the DS Download Station. In theory I could keep any demo I downloaded in my DS for weeks at a time as you only lose the demo data after you turn off your DS. In fact, I still have the "Tetris DS Push Mode" on my DS and I expect to keep it on my DS until the game is released later this month!

With that being said, the next demo I tried was "Tetris DS Standard Mode". Again the demo downloaded into my DS in about 15 seconds and started right up. This version of Tetris was actually a "battle" version of Tetris where I was going up against the computer. This version of Tetris has been around for quite some time and should be familiar to many people. The computer’s board was viewable on the top of the DS while my board was on the touch screen. As rows are removed they are sent to the opponent’s screen, the first person to the top of the screen loses. Other than this “battle” aspect, it was a traditional Tetris game, only with a Super Mario Bros. backdrop and the ability to "capture" any single piece to save for later.

As for the gameplay, what more can I say? Tetris plus Super Mario Bros. background graphics plus Nintendo DS Wi-Fi plus classic Nintendo sound effects/music equals the best version of Tetris ... ever! Oh yes, this game is going to sell several million copies no problem.

After getting my butt kicked by the computer a couple of times (the computer was surprisingly difficult to beat) I downloaded the other Tetris demo, "Tetris DS Push Mode". A strange combination of Tetris, Donkey Kong, and tug-of-war I found that I enjoyed this demo above all the rest. You must compete against the computer and push him/it off the screen before he/it does the same to you.

Themed to the classic Donkey Kong arcade game, the Tetris field takes up both screens with you dropping shapes from the top of the screen to the bottom, while the computer drops shapes from the bottom to the top. In the middle of the screen is the mess of shapes which is constantly shifting back and forth between you and your opponent. Each time the player clears two lines the screen will move down a small amount and vice versa for the computer. Eventually one side will be pushed off the screen and the game will end.

Since you and the computer are building on the same playing field you really have to be careful where you place your shapes. That huge block of lines you're waiting to clear might be cleared by your opponent instead if you're not careful. The game is extremely fast-paced, even for Tetris, and the classic Donkey Kong animations and sound effects are fantastic. As I said before, of all the demos I tried this was the game I kept on my DS and have played it more than a dozen times so far. This game really is a great implementation of the Tetris and Donkey Kong license.

In addition to these three demos I downloaded and tried out the others as well. They all play as you might expect, such as the Mario Kart DS which allows you to try out a sample race. Overall the DS Download Station was simple to use, extremely fast, and allowed me to try out two of the most anticipated DS games of the year. What more could you ask for? Look for these Download Stations in a store near you later this March.

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