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Amer Blog

Regarding Jeff and Tim

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I haven't updated my admittedly anemic blog in almost a year, but this week's debacle over the termination of Jeff and Tim's jobs under dubious circumstances and in a manner that I'm sure the bright people responsible for are now regretting has compelled me to update it. There's nothing I have to say on the matter that hasn't been said already, but I do want to express solidarity with Jeff and Tim (and release some of this pent up frustration and disbelief).

I'm not worried about either Jeff or Tim. They are both incredibly talented people who I respected deeply during my comparatively short stay at GameSpot, and I know they'll be just fine. I do worry about the reputation of GameSpot, which has been my homepage for over 10 years and a publication that I deeply respect; I worry about the constantly eroding line separating church and state (editorial and marketing) at the site; I worry about a publication that's being managed by people with no substantial editorial background or an understanding of the games industry; and I worry about the impact that this week's action will have on the credibility of the gaming press as a whole. I love this site and the people that provide content for it, but for some like me, it'll take a lot before I make a purchasing decision based on that content.

To paraphrase something that Greg said this morning, credibility can be gained and lost, though it's much harder to be gained. I hope those responsible for the manner in which all of this was handled are made to publicly answer for their irresponsible actions. That'd be the first step in helping to restore some of that lost credibility.

I heart u too, Tom

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Fitting that Tom Chick, currently a freelancer for Yahoo! Games and an ex-GameSpot contributor, would write such a verklempt-inducing piece as this one on Valentine's Day.

 http://www.quartertothree.com/inhouse/news/314/

Hey Tom, you're a generally very well-adjusted person too. I guess that says a lot, considering the industry we're in. This one's for you:

Thanks for the link, Wedge.

Greg Lives!

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In what's promising to be a recurring theme on this weak-sauce blog, I present you with photographic evident of yet another ex-GameSpot editor's existence and success.
Yes, Greg is alive and well and wearing gaudy striped shirts. Oh, and there's Bob too, with his smug "I just shipped over 3 million units of Burning Crusade" smile. We got together a few weeks ago over dinner and cold (to the chagrin of a certain ex-editor, but joy of another) sake in celebration of our successful southern migration from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

I'll make sure to status the likes of Angelinos Joe Fielder and Shane Satterfield later. In the meantime, project deadlines wait for no one!

Read This

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Because I'm a tireless self-promoter, because I owe him a favor, and because -- in between the rambling lines -- there's a good read about the perception of games as art in there somewhere, I'm linking Mr. Perkins' latest blog post, entitled Citizen Game.

Oh, and I'm still alive. But there's this game I'm involved with, and it needs to get done, and soon, or bad things will happen. I'll emerge from my hole soon and start updating this thing again with more useless junk that six people will read.

Preordered the Wii

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Despite the fact that the PlayStation 3 launch lineup is kind of anemic, I still want to get my hands on the latest Sony console when it releases next month, being the foolish early adopter that I am. So it wasn't without a bit of disappointment that I failed to get my hands on a PS3 preorder at my local EB Games earlier in the week. I read the story about the company's preorder plans on Monday afternoon, and made plans to stop by the next morning immediately before they opened in order to get my hands on one of the 8-14 machines that were allocated to each location. Unfortunately, 9-15 people had beaten me to the punch, leaving me PlayStation 3-less.

So when EB announced their Wii preorder plans a few days later, I made sure to wake up extra early the following morning so as not to strike out twice. I got to the store in the Howard Hughes Promenade around 8:10am, some two hours before it was scheduled to open. By that time, there were already about a dozen people already camped out in front. The first person there had set up his own sign in sheet, and as people trickled in throughout the morning, they wrote their names down on the numbered list. It was quite civilized -- I was number 16.

The store's manager finally arrived about an hour and a half later and announced that he would be receiving 25 Wiis on November 19 -- there were about 30 people waiting by now. Impressed by the unofficial list, the manager used it to hand out official tickets to the first 25, while the remaining (and dejected) five left to a local mall in the hopes of finding a less crowded wait. A few minutes later, the store opened and the manager called people in three at a time. Being 16th in line, I had to wait about half an hour before my number was finally called in. I paid for my Wii preorder and put money down for a Wii Classic Controller and, of course, The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess. Since I was already there, I figured that I might as well preorder Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas for the Xbox 360. I normally don't preorder games, but it's gotten all but impossible to walk into an EB and ask for a triple-A calibur game on its launch day without being asked if i had preordered it by the sales clerk.

So there you have it -- I'm the proud new owner-to-be of a Wii at launch...maybe. While I doubt most people will have a tough time finding a Wii at or around launch time, the early adopter in me had to make damn sure. As for the lack of a PS3 at launch, I have one more avenue I'm exploring that doesn't involving camping out in front of a Best Buy the night before. Let's just say that it better work out pronto, or I will level Toronto.

I'm looking at you, RoninKengo.

Much Ado About a Wiimote

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It appears that a recent photograph I snapped of a non-functioning Wiimote while in Tokyo has caused a mini-stir of sorts online. Well, maybe more like a nano-stir. The original picture, as it appears on my Flickr account (linked), is below: It all started when I was doing my nightly websurfing of gaming sites this weekend, when I noticed that Joystiq had posted a speculative story about the retail Wiimote box while using my photo as evidence. I promptly sent them an explanation that it wasn't a retail box at all, but merely the packaging of a non-functioning Wiimote that was handed out at all three recent Nintendo events in Tokyo, New York, and London. As I continued surfing, I ran into the same speculation on several of the sites that I frequent, all of which were using that same photo. So far, I've found the story carried on the following: www.joystiq.com/... www.neogaf.com/... www.kotaku.com/... www.infendo.com/... The real story is this: That specific Wiimote was handed out at the September Nintendo event in Tokyo, and it belongs to my ex-roomate and one-time GameSpot editor, Sam Kennedy, who is currently serving hard time at 1UP.com (yours truly is in the third pic from the bottom). Sam and 1UP attended the Nintendo event and were given the Wiimote as part of a larger goodie bag. I snapped that shot a few days later, while Sam and I were getting ready to head out to dinner in Tokyo, as I was fiddling with his Wiimote (no giggling, please). The controller is everything it appears to be: sleek, sexy, and fits very comfortably in the palm of your hand, despite its rather angular appearance. Unfortunately for all attendees of the Nintendo event, it's also utterly non-functional. So much for saving $30 come this November. So hopefully, that clears up the micro-mystery that caused a nano-stir. But while we're on the topic of sweet Nintendo goodies from Japan, I might as well show off a pair (no giggling, please) of new items that I picked up while recently in Tokyo. The first is a Nintendo DS Lite pouch that was only made available for Mario Club members in Japan. I dabble with imports every now and then, and a friend of mine (an ex-GameSpot Japanese correspondant) rocks hard enough to maintain an account with Nintendo of Japan for me. When I accrued enough points, I opted for the pouch (the one on the bottom), and it turned out to be pretty snazzy in person. Incidentally, the pouch above it was handed out by Nintendo to those who waited in line at their booth at this year's E3. While I did no such thing, a coworker of mine did, so a big 'thanks, g' goes out to him for his generosity. The second is the set of coveted Mario stamps that were released in Japan in July only. The collection of ten iconic Super Mario Brothers characters and items come in a gorgeous, simple binder. When their impending release was announced last March, I ordered a set immediately, and had my same Japanese friend pick them up for me. I can't wait to send out my rent checks with this postage...

OK, not really, but that would be a cool Brewster's Millions moment.

The Metal Gear Solid Speculation Returns

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It's been a while since I've done this, so pardon me if I'm a little rusty.

There's an unofficial tradition of sorts here at GameSpot wherein editors will post their thoughts and speculation on the many and often mysterious trailers that Hideo Kojima has released for his Metal Gear Solid series throughout the years. It started about five years ago, and continued on several times -- maybe several times too many -- by various editors, some of whom have moved on, and others that are still here. So with the release of the latest six-minute trailer of Metal Gear Solid 4 at TGS this weekend, I figured it was high time for big daddy to retake the reins of this ridiculous speculation column once again. I won't bother with the two previous trailers that have been released for Metal Gear Solid 4, as theories about the biggest mystery (Snake's mysterious old age in relation to all the returning characters) have been thrown about like crazy already. Personally, I believe it's the effects of Foxdie from the first MGS. But anyway... For the first time since Metal Gear Solid 4 was announced, we were treated with what looked like actual gameplay footage, the most important of which was Snake's new stealth suit. Judging from the video, it looks like the gameplay will basically be a simpler form of the camo mechanic from Snake Eater. That is, instead of browsing through your list of available camo and matching it to your surroundings, Snake's new suit will automatically assume its surroundings characteristics like an octopus at the touch of a button. If this is indeed the case, I'm not sure why Kojima opted for simplifying the stealth gameplay, though doing so would let players focus more on the actual combat, which would be OK by me. It also looks like there are some limitations to the camo. In one clip, Snake is spotted and starts running for cover, and his camo immediately reverts back to its default state. This probably indicates that you can't move if you're "stealthed". The second piece of important gameplay that this video showed off was the prone mechanic. Snake seems to spend a lot of his time on his back or on his belly (no prostitute jokes, please). I guess as CQC was the main mechanic in MGS3, so is prone/stealth sneaking and crawling the primary mechanic in MGS4. I don't know -- I'm a runner. If something goes down, I'm going to get up and run like Forrest Gump. When that Metal Gear was attempting to stomp on Snake, he just sat there and then started inching backwards on his elbows! What's that all about? And what's with Snake doing the worm while in that shallow trench between the local Arab milita and (who I'm assuming to be) Ocelot's genome soldiers? Whether that's an actual combat technique or not, it looked a little silly. And speaking of that firefight, I'm surprised that Snake opened fire on the Arab crew. In the two videos of MGS4 that were released earlier, it appeared that Snake was somewhat allied with the Arabs. It was always the Arabs versus Ocelot's genomes, or the Arabs versus the Metal Gears, both of whom targetted Snake as well. Though maybe he's just tagging along with them for the ride in order to get closer to Ocelot, and when he was found out, their marriage of convenience ended. It's telling that he took pity on the fleeing Arab soldier, however, so maybe Snake only attacked that group in self defense. Eh, anyway... The video revealed three additional potential hints at the gameplay. First, the little wheeled-robot that Otacon controls looks like it has the same kind of stealth camo as Snake does. That sequence also was briefly displayed from the first-person perspective, so maybe Otacon doesn't control it -- maybe you do. Second, judging from the way Snake always carries his combat knife, even when firing that M4A1, it's probably a safe bet that CQC will make a comeback from MGS3. In fact, we got to see a little bit of CQC action when Snake took out the spotter for one of the genome snipers. Lastly, and this is really speculation on my part, but does anyone else think that the PlayStation 3's tilt controller will come into play during those barrel sequences? It's easy to imagine maneuvering the barrel by tilting the controller during the sequence where Snake runs over the three genome soldiers while in the barrel.

And like any good Kojima trailer, the video contained a bombshell near the end. Many who saw it are assuming I'm referring to "young Snake", but I'm not. Yes, that scene was mysterious and exciting and blah blah. Need I remind you that MGS3 had not one, but two scenes where Snake assumes the role of Raiden by putting on a mask? "Young Snake" could be nothing more than old Snake with a mask. No, the real bombshell, and the one that I'm shocked Brad (at least, I think it was Brad) missed in the impressions story was what was revealed immediately before we saw young Snake. Specifically, after successfully eluding those genome soldiers by posing as a statue, that story says that "birds" poop on Snake. Those aren't birds! Well, technically they are. But they're ravens! Ravens! Hello, Bueller? Vulcan Raven, anyone? When Snake bested Raven in the beginning of MGS1, his corpse gets consumed by ravens and it's assumed that those birds now carry Vulcan's "essence"... or something. When Snake runs into that quad and sees the statue, and hears the squawk of the ravens, you can almost see a knowing smile form underneath his mask. And when he takes the mask off and young Snake is revealed, one of the ravens poops on him, as if to say "hey, how ya doin'" from the great beyond. The cast of characters that makes a return from previous games in MGS4 is huge -- Merryl, Otacon, Colonel, Liquid/Ocelot, Raiden, Naomi -- why not Raven too? Hey, a guy can dream.

Tokyo Game Show Impressions

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The Good 1. The trailer for Final Fantasy Versus XIII looked really, really good. It was all prerendered -- depsite a 15 or so second segment that was intentionally made to look like gameplay -- but it really looked good. In fact, I couldn't tell you the last time that prerendered footage got me this excited about a game. I probably won't play much of Final Fantasy XIII the RPG, but I'm definitely looking forward to more details about Versus. I just hope Square hasn't set the bar too high with this trailer. 2. Gameplay footage of Metal Gear Solid 4 was shown for the first time! To be honest, it was a little jarring seeing Snake move around as he will in-game when all we've seen of MGS4 so far are the excellent real-time cinematics. The disconnect is that his moves are all mo-capped and graceful in the cutscenes, and "game-like" and (I'm assuming) key-framed during the actual gameplay. But that's how it was with MGS1, Sons of Liberty, and Snake Eater. But seeing some of Snake's moves was great. The barrel maneuvers were a nice touch, and there was enough crawling around the dirt to earn his namesake. Though I'm not sure how I feel about Snake doing the worm near the end. And nor would I have sat their on my back while a Metal Gear was attempting to stomp me. I kept wanting to yell "run, fool!" at the screen. But I thought better of it, what with the being a guest in a foreign country and all. Oh, and the mechanics involving his camo suit look like they're going to be a lot of fun too. Oh, oh, and Young Snake! Yet another plot twist... 3. While I didn't get to play it, Devil May Cry 4 looked really good too. They had what appeared to be a real-time movie of the game at the Capcom booth, and the portions of the footage that actually showed in-game action looked really impressive. It's good to see Dante back to his old self again. I played a lot of the first DMC for the PlayStation 2, but hated DMC2 and got my ass handed to me by DMC3. The fourth installment looks like it's going back to its original roots. However, and this is probably nitpicking, but the character models, and specifically, the facial animations looked kind of mediocre. The lip-syncing was just off, and the cinematic sequences looked a bit stiff. However, I had just finished watching the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer for like the third time in a row when I checked out DMC4, so I'm sure that skewed my take on it somewhat. 4. I have this Metal Gear Solid 4 press kit and you don't.  The Bad 1. Aside from Devil May Cry 4 and Ninja Gaiden (which I didn't see), the rest of the lineup on the show floor were the usual suspects. I played Ridge Racer 7, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, and Virtua Fighter 5, and I saw that Lair, Coded Arms Assault (which had HORRIBLE lag), and Heavenly Sword had all made an appearance as well, but there was nothing really new. 2. Gran Turismo HD, Ninja Gaiden, and flOw all looked the same as their original counterparts (though bravo to Jenova for getting flOw published by Sony). Sony needs to be mindful of having the PlayStation 3 be perceived as a port machine, like the PSP is. 3. There weren't any Wiis at the show at all. I know Nintendo just had its own event last week, and that it doesn't typically go to TGS, but I had hoped that some of the larger third-party publishers would have shown off their Wii wares on their own. Oh well -- at least I got to play a little of the Wii at Leipzig last month.  The Ugly By far, the worst thing that happened to me on this trip was attending Ken Kutaragi's keynote address at the show this morning. I'm sure that, in the long run, the PlayStation 3 will be a feature-rich heavyweight of a console that we'll all want to own and develop for. But I've not seen a company try so hard to bungle and rush a console launch like Sony is doing with the PS3. I was fully expecting Kutaragi to take the wraps off of the PlayStation 3's online component. What's Sony's answer to Live and Marketplace? What's the UI going to be like? How is it going to integrate with my PC and PSP specifically? What are the prices for downloadable games going to be? Instead, the keynote attendees got to listen to an hour and a half of Ken praising the Internet, and lamenting how it's improved all of our lives, as if this were the year 1996. At first it sounded like he was heading in that direction, setting himself up for a nice little segue to unveil the big PlayStation 3 network news. But he kept going and going, and only stopped 90 minutes later to run yet another video of Afrika, which at this point, I'm guessing is a glorified Pokemon Snap. No network news. No Killzone 2 footage. No nothing. I was really looking forward to this show. I came all the way over here on my own dime expecting Sony to finally show its hand. Instead, all I saw was a middle finger. But at least I have my swag.

Why I Love My Job, Part 2

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I don't hide the fact that I damn near swoon around certain industry vets whose games I've played and enjoyed. I wouldn't call these people idols, but I do admire their accomplishments and the sometimes profound effect they've had on my childhood (and sometimes, adulthood), and that leads me to act like a blubbering fool in their presence, sometimes. Last month in Germany, I ran into the Castlevania couple, Iga and Yamane, and tried to maintain as much composure as a Castlevania fan can in such a situation. More recently, as in last night, I was damn near surrounded by pseudo-idols of similar stature. I attended the Tokyopia pre-TGS party, and the guest list must have read like a who's who of the Japanese industry. After being welcomed by about a half dozen fellow employees who work out of our Tokyo office (I felt like a long lost cousin at a family reunion), I was introduced to some people who I truly admire. In attendance were Kenji Kaido, lead producer of Sony's Ico and Shadow of the Colossus; Akira Yamaoka, lead producer of the Silent Hill series; Kousaku Maeda, founder of The King of Games; Shinta Nojiri, lead producer of the Metal Gear Acid series; and Michiru Yamane, composer of some of the greatest Castlevania soundtracks ever. If she was ticked off at being stalked across the globe, she didn't show it. Yes, I think I managed to keep it in my pants, but my inner fanboy was screaming with glee. I also bought this shirt from The King of Games guys. I had been wanting to buy it for months now, but my size had been out of stock. I guess I lucked out at the party. I also picked up a Mario pin panel that I had never seen before. If every party ever thrown were this cool, well, I'd go to more parties. And while this isn't related to the party, it does have relevance to my current Tokyo trip. I take issue with Justin posting a picture of his copy of Game & Watch Collection for the DS before me. See, while his English self was still 38,000 feet somewhere over the north Pacific, I was in Akihabara purching my copy first. Just because he posted his photo first doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to gloat, right? I actually had two of the three original Game & Watch games that make up this collection -- Oil Panic and Donkey Kong -- both of which were the very first Nintendo products that I had ever owned. As such, I think that these two classics also had an effect on my game-playing childhood.

It's fitting then, I suppose, that I've encountered so much on this trip that's responsible for shaping my passion for games, career, and life in general.

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