BlazeHedgehog / Member

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BlazeHedgehog Blog

You win this round.

Yeah, whatever. I'll stick around until a better alternative shows up - IF a better alternative shows up. Say what you will about "Gerstmanngate" or whatever the hell they call it, but Gamespot has the nicest community intergration.

While we're at it, here's a video I made last night. Morning. Whatever!

[video=JCdhkzf-5bwOvDLb]

This offer is BELOW STUPID (new: something to consider)

I won't lie: Gerstmann ("The Gerst" as me and my friends sometimes called him) was my favorite Gamespot staffer. I don't really care about his controversial review scores as generally I don't ever really care about a review score from any one individual website - I'd rather trust Metacritic and Gamerankings.

But I enjoyed the humor he brought to Gamespot. Him and Ryan Davis are awesome.

I had really begun to warm up to Gamespot after all but abandoning 1up and never really caring about IGN ever. But I guess after this, I am on the road looking for a new major videogame site to call "home", if you could even call it that.

Or, you know, I could just use that long-dormant blogger account I have. Whatever.

----

Update: A lot of people in internet land are claiming that Jeff wasn't terminated over his Kane & Lynch Review, and that everybody is making a big deal out of nothing, etc. While there is no definitive answer, keep this in mind:

Gamespot removed Jeff Gerstmann's video review. I could see this being "bad timing" any other way, but the fact that they went out of their way to remove a video review for the game that was already posted (yet Jeff's other reviews on the site are fine) says it all. If it was just simply bad timing there would be some sort of statement from somebody, you'd think. But the fact that the involved parties are keeping their mouths shut (either forcefully or at their own discretion) says to me that this is a big problem internally and that if the truth came out it would pretty much spell the end for CNET, Gamespot, and maybe even Eidos as respected business establishments.

Regardless of what's actually happening, all CNET and Eidos are making themselves look really, really bad without sufficient damage control. Either they don't see this as a big enough problem to comment on, or they're scrambling to make up a response that sounds "correct" - it's quick and easy to tell the truth, but corporate spin takes time.

A Blogging Smorgasboard

A neglected blog make for a wide array of posts compacted in to fun-sized tidbits of joy. A smattering, if you will.

Moddb Concept Art Competition
About a week ago I submitted my entry for the Moddb Concept Art Competition. It was the longest I've ever spent coloring any one single picture (about two weeks, solid) and it just about destroyed my index finger. Even now, my finger feels very... strained. It was feeling better, but... yeah, not anymore. Anyway! My image, "Aliens" is up there. The grand prize is a $3000 Alienware PC and I am still in need of new computer hardware, so you know, it'd be really great if you'd vote for me. As it stands, though, I expect to be creamed as there are some amazingly talented artists here.

Blacksite: Area 51 Demo 2 impressions
It sucks. The two levels on offer aren't even the full levels; they're five minute snippets. I didn't really like either scenario and reviews for the full game are pretty luke warm. Even the game's producer is saying his game sucks. So yeah... not very good.

The Orange Box: Half-Life 2 Episode 2 Demo impressions
Whereas Blacksite was short and sucked, I know Half-Life 2 is probably really good, but it still doesn't excuse this pitifully short demo. 700mb for ten minutes of gameplay is not what I would call a worthy usage of my time, and the feeling of frustration is only exacerbated by the fact that this and Blacksite seemed to re-introduce the concept of a "timed gold exclusive" demo on Xbox Live. That is to say, these demos could only be downloaded by Xbox Live Gold users at first. For Blacksite, it was 24 hours, for The Orange Box it was nearing a week. Microsoft has made no mention of "timed gold exclusive" demos coming back after they stopped doing them about six months ago, and trying to download the demos on a Silver account simply gave you a very cryptic error message. Very weird.

High-Def TV vs. VGA Monitor
Recently spent a couple days at my cousin's place playing Rockband, Halo 3, and Guitar Hero 3 on his big nice 42" LCD HDTV. Personally, I didn't think the difference between VGA and HD were large enough to matter, but... wow. I guess MX vs. ATV Untamed is one of those games that just looks good in HD because while I lamented that it looked like crap on my VGA monitor, playing the demo on the HDTV was like experiencing a totally different game.

Portal
Also while staying at my cousin's, I played and beat Portal. I know the game was supposed to be short, but really... that's just kind of extreme. I know I kind of applauded Starfox Assault for daring to be a short game, but it felt right at 2-3 hours. Portal does not. Most puzzle games ship with hundreds of puzzles... Portal ships with 19. It doesn't feel like it comes anywhere close to recognizing it's full potential. And 19 puzzles is such an odd number, to boot! Sure, for those 19 levels, it's totally, non-stop awesome (I did not expect it's sense of humor to be that awesome - the whole "The cake is a lie!" quote is already wearing out it's welcome, if you ask me)... but I need more. I've heard very few (if any at all) of the user-created Portal levels even come close to approaching the balance and fun of the official ones, too.

Spider-man 2: The Game
Got this for free just last night and have been playing it. Yeah, wow. the sub-mission variety is terrible. Two hours in to the game and I was already seeing a lot of repeats in saving pedestrians and stopping robberies. Swinging, though, as everybody said, is pretty great.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go check and see if my batteries are charged so I can try Guitar Hero 2 (my cousin let me borrow it along with the extra guitar he has).

The Demoralization of Jeff Minter

So I may have accidentally pissed Jeff Minter off. As you may have read, Jeff is basically angry that Frogger outsold his Xbox Live Arcade title, Space Giraffe. I was actually aware of the blog before Gamespot picked the story up - it was about two days ago, infact. Some friends linked to it and were discussing it. Shortly before going to bed (around 3am) I registered on LiveJournal explicitly for the purpose of posting a response to his first blog. Since I had to wait over 20 minutes for LJ to send me the validation email, I wrote out my response in notepad and saved it to the HDD, not knowing I'd actually need to save it.

Subject: Oh, jeeze.
Look, man. I don't think anybody's faulting you for trying to do something fresh and original.

But what you have to realize is that you can't just throw any old thing out there and expect people to eat it up. Do you know why the starving artist is starving? Because nobody gives a crap about his paintings of sad clowns. Doesn't mean he's less of an artist, it just means he's not appealing to the average consumer who would be willing to buy a painting of something.

And, if I may be so harsh, that's kind of what we've got here. Space Giraffe just lacks market appeal. If anything, in my experience, Space Giraffe actually repels people. I have friends who play videogames in almost all of their available free time - people who I know for certain aren't photosensitive in the slightest to flashing colors or patterns - and most of them get a terrible headache after playing Space Giraffe for less than a full minute.

Of course Frogger or whatever going to sell better. I'm not surprised. Konami has worked strangely hard to make Frogger an appealing character to children in the last few years, by giving him a personality and a world and a storyline. There are no psychedelic seizure-inducing rainbow effects constantly flowing in the background, there are no nonsensical and confusing strings of text appearing on screen, and there are no disembodied heads of J. Allard. It's safe and it's fun for the whole family.

Nobody's denying the love you gave Space Giraffe, and nobody's faulting you for your effort - but Space Giraffe is not for everybody and I'm surprised that you of all people aren't actually aware of how the game's stylistic choices could perhaps limit its audience.

I posted that and pretty much went straight to bed. Upon waking up, I discovered he closed comments for that post and locked his blog down so that it was private and dirty outsiders like myself could not reply. I also discovered the second blog post, where he says he's not going to blog about game dev anymore. In all the comments on his "Space Giraffe isn't selling well and that sucks" blog, I was perhaps the most negative one on there (that I saw, anyway) - everybody else was patting him on the back with the "It's okay, buddy. The world's just stupid like that." response.

I can't help but feel I am responsible for pissing Jeff Minter off. Even though people tell me Minter is a whiny little girl, I'm perhaps too much of a nice guy for my own good and I tend to feel guilty about stuff like this; even if the guy's a total jerk. So I sent him a PM about it through LJ.

Subject: I wasn't saying you sucked.
I was simply saying that you shouldn't have expected Space Giraffe to become some amazing sensation among gamers.

It's obvious you've got a core audience, it's just not as big as something like, per your example, Frogger. Hundreds of indie movie makers start and end their careers making cult classics, and they're perfectly okay with that. I just thought it was weird you seemed to expect so much from Space Giraffe on a concept that was too weird for the average joe.

Personally, I'd love to be in your position. If I had a team to make XBLA games, I'd be absolutely delighted with the cult status Space Giraffe has. And there's nothing wrong with that!

It's been over a day and I haven't gotten a response, nor do I really expect one.

On a different note, it would seem they've started doing "Timed Gold Exclusive" demos again on Xbox Live. I couldn't download the new Blacksite: Area 51 demo for over a full day after it's release, and now I can't get at the Orange Box: Half-Life 2 Episode 2 demo for the same reasons. It doesn't actually say they're Gold Exclusive, but it comes up with some sort of stupidly cryptic error message about not being able to retrieve information from Xbox Live. Yet, mysteriously, Gold users can download them just fine. What's next? Download Queues like Fileplanet? Will they favor Gold Users, but are somehow always magically full for Silver users? I'm not getting Gold just so I can have a demo a week early, but I do have the right to complain about how stupid it is.

Demo Impressions: MX vs. ATV Untamed

About time we got a new demo. There's a new Blacksite demo coming up in a couple of days, as well.

MX vs. ATV Untamed continues the long running series of games where you race through the dirt in a variety of vehicles, including, you guessed it - ATVs. Also on offer are dirt bikes and monster trucks, and a variety of other mud-slinging wheeled vehicles.

Unfortunately, the demo is frustratingly limited. In a day and age where you can get a PGR4 demo that lets you sample each racetype the game has on offer, what MX vs. ATV provides in it's demo is fairly pitiful. Almost all of the options in the demo are locked and inaccessible. This borderlines on offensive at one point - though most menu options cannot be selected, you can select and view the "X-Cross Tournament" from the main menu - but everything inside of it is completely inaccessible. You can see the career path you'd take, but you can't actually do anything but look at it. It's the epitome of useless. The other option is "Custom Event", and it's options are equally limited. You can't change difficulty (it's locked on "Beginner"), you can't change cars, can't change vehicle types (this is especially important in race types where more than one vehicle type is allowed) you can't change tracks or who you're racing against... you can only pick an event and start racing.

Out of roughly 9 total "Custom Events", you can test drive four of them: Supercross, Freestyle Opencross, and Waypoint. Supercross is essentially dirt bike racing. Freestyle is a trick challenge. Opencross lets you race mud buggies. Finally, Waypoint mixes things up by throwing all of the available vehicle types in to a big, almost free-roaming location and challenges you to get to the Waypoints before anybody else. Each vehicle type obviously has strengths and weaknesses and the locations you race in are designed so that there are routes to take where each vehicle has an advantage. It's sort of like a poor man's Motorstorm, and even though you're tethered to racing JUST an ATV for the demo, it is the highlight of the experience.

Visually, the game is... passable. Textures are relatively crisp, I suppose, and the water effects are nice... but everything in this game sort of feels like a re-heated PS2/Xbox/Gamecube game. The game fluctuates between 60fps and 30fps and there are no extra effects that really stand out; it's just not fancy looking. No motion blur, no lightbloom... your cars don't even get dirty or take damage. It just looks... bland. The demo also features no music to speak of at all. The sound effects themselves are decent but not spectacular - I play all my games with headphones and I wasn't particularly amazed at how the game sounded.

But perhaps my biggest problem with the demo is the Freestyle Event. Any other point in the game and doing tricks feels kind of touchy but not terribly difficult to pull off... until you enter Freestyle I found myself falling off my bike on jumps that didn't really seem like I'd be landing terribly hard. The whole arena seems designed to make it difficult to do tricks on as you have to make very sharp turns and chain tricks together constantly if you ever hope to win. For "beginner" difficulty, it is surprisingly difficult and even after I had taken first place in all the other events available in the demo, coming back to Freestyle was still next to impossible. Even worse is when the game would respawn you going backwards through the track, or on a slope where you have to let your bike slowly roll back down backwards. It was frustration incarnate.

For the limited amount of content the demo provides, I'm rather surprised it clocked in at over 900mb. For all the options locked out, this demo is probably not worth 900mb. I suppose they do that so people like me don't just sit around playing their demo instead of buying their game, and I can't say I blame them - but... come on. Locking down every single option in the demo and letting you access a menu just so you can see all the locked content you can't access in the demo? That just feels cheap, like they're taunting us or something. "Haha, look what you can't play until you pay us $60!"

Maybe on a better game I could see dangling a carrot on a stick like that - but so far, this demo hasn't really impressed me. It's not bad, mind you, it just feels... blah. Not something I would buy.

Who ya gonna call? Me, preferably.

For those of you who do not have your thumb on the pulse of gaming, today Vivendi announced they would be publishing videogames based on the Ghostbusters license. Not only that, they're apparently going all out - reuniting most of the cast from the films to provide their likenesses and voice work (that means Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson), as well as basically adapting the long-awaited often-delayed Ghostbusters 3 movie script for the videogame world. As an added bonus, co-op AND competitive multiplayer have been announced. This sounds like the ultimate Ghostbusters game, right?

But there's a problem. It's easy to get excited that all the cast are coming back together... but I'm worried, and arguably for the right reasons. So you've got all this talent coming together - some of the greatest comedy talent in the business, as far as I'm concerned. But guess who's actually developing the game?

Terminal Reality. They're making PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 versions of the game. If you don't recognize the name right away, let me refresh your memory as to what games they've worked on, courtesy of MetaCritic:

Aeon Flux: 66/100 (Mixed reviews)
"This is a game that has been made to promote the film, no doubt in tandem with cereal box promotions and official merchandise coming to a supermarket near you. It's just a shame, for both their sake and ours, that it simply isn't very good."

Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare: 75/100 (Decent reviews)
"If you grew up on this series and were hoping for the next great chapter, you'll be left alone in the dark."

Blair Witch, Volume I: Rustin Parr: 73/100 (Mixed reviews)
Blair Witch, Volume II: The Legend of Coffin Rock 55/100 (Mixed reviews)
Blair Witch, Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale 55/100 (Mixed reviews)
"Only diehard "Blair Witch" fans are going to want this one, and then only because it's cheap."

Bloodrayne: 75/100 (Decent reviews)
"Even those who love the gore and carnage, I suspect that the novelty would soon wear off."

Bloodrayne 2: 75/100 (Decent reviews)
"Everything about BloodRayne 2 - save some of the snazzy 3D effects - screams "1998.""

SpyHunter: Nowhere to Run: 51/100 (Mixed reviews)
"I hate to say, but I really can't see anyone actually wanting to spend money to play this. "


What this essentially translates to is that given the developer's track record, Ghostbusters will likely be mediocre and forgettable. To what degree varies - but most of the games from Terminal Reality seem to have a habit of not aging very well and getting very mixed opinions regarding their quality. They never really seem to make a good game - just ones that are decent and playable when released, but age horribly as time goes on. Don't believe me? Go back and play Bloodrayne. Go on, I'll wait. It's free on Gametap right now.

Surely Vivendi could've chosen a better developer! You get together all this A-List Hollywood talent to make a game based on one of the most beloved franchises of the 80's but you sign up a C-list videogame developer? I'm sure there are dozens of game designers out there itching at the chance to make a Ghostbusters game. I'll be truthful with you - I'm one of them. I may not be a professional game designer, but back in 2003 I began tossing around the idea of a Ghostbusters game in my head and by 2004 I had finally sat down and written a very rough draft design document for the game. Most people told me what I wrote sounded awesome - and I was even advised by somebody on the fringe of the game industry to keep my ideas quiet, unless I risk them getting stolen and used against my permission.

You know what, though? Screw them. If the game's already announced, that means their design document is arguably already finished and finalized. Whatever I write now probably won't effect them - and if it does, I only hope it effects them for the better. So I'm going to paste my rough draft design document for my ghostbusters game. Keep in mind, this draft was written in early 2004, and I want to stress that it is a rough draft. This is a long way from anything even closely resembling a final draft. The first draft I ever wrote of this was written on Halloween night, 2003. I haven't touched this file in over three years. Before Halo 2 was released, before GTA: San Andreas, before the Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii; and most definitely before the sandbox genre became overused. It's a very long read, but it's probably worth it.

Part Sim. Part First Person Shooter. Part Crazy Taxi. Part GTA3. That's my vision for a Ghostbusters videogame for the next generation. A mission based free-form Ghostbusters game.

PHASE 1: The Sim Aspect

When the "88mph Studios" Ghostbusters Comic was nothing more than a rumor, it was mentioned it might detail the start of the Ghostbusters; their struggles with money, etc. So I thought to myself, and in the first incarnation of this idea, I had heavily based it around cashflow. I didn't like that idea then and I still don't like it now, so I'm scaling it back abit. The idea of cashflow still remains present: You start out with the most basic equipment; equipment that is prone to breaking down, or not working properly, and a crappy car. After each mission, you can browse a shop menu to buy and upgrade your equipment. As follows:

- Equipment
Here you can buy new equipment to aide you in your ghostbusting missions, and upgrade/repair current equipment. For instance, upgrading a proton pack would give you a greater range for your light-beam, so you could trap ghosts at a greater distance. You could also purchase in PK-E meters of various kinds (splinter-cell style goggles for seeing ectoplasm and ghosts, and a wide array of handheld devices, etc).

- Secretary
At the beginning of the game, you will not have a secretary. If you feel you can fund her payroll, you can hire one. There will be "good" secretaries and "bad" secretaries -- the difference being a bad secretary might be rude to customers, and ignore phonecalls from time to time. Good secretaries will promote business by being friendlier, etc. Before you "interview" a secretary you will see a status screen showing what areas she is strong or weak in; you can then hire her based on the type of secretary you want. Her abilities might even effect the type of missions you accept, due to how she treats certain customers.

- Vehicle
Here you can upgrade, tune and customize Ecto-1. A wealth of options would be at your fingertips; you could tweak Ecto-1's motor, tires, give it a new paint job, maybe even design your own Ghostbusters logo for the side (which, of course, would be used on everything -- uniforms, etc.). Not only that, but you could outfit Ecto-1 itself with ghost-tracking equipment -- giving you the ability to track down and trap ghosts BEFORE they become a problem. (Doing so increases your popularity rating much faster, and as such, you get more calls) Additionally, you can register for a professional emergency siren (if your popularity rating is high enough and if you have enough money) -- this would mean that during the driving segments, other cars would pull over to the side of the road for you just as they would police officers.

- Advertisements
Allow you to purchase advertisements for your business; TV commercials, radio advertisements and newspaper spreads to help bring your popularity rating up ever so slightly, and educate the world on the existance of the Ghostbusters. The more money you spend on these advertisements, the more effective they will be. Perhaps, three levels of advertising strength: "Alright" "Good" "Excellent"; Excellent being the most expensive and Alright being the cheapest.

- CPU Ghost Busters?
An idea I'm not entirely sold on would be the possibility to hire A.I. controlled Ghostbusters to aide you on your missions; but this might make things overcomplex if you're giving orders to your CPU allies; and allowing them to roam freely on their own is generally a bad idea.

PHASE 2: Missions

Popular nowadays among the game industry is the concept of "non-linear gameplay", popularized by Grand Theft Auto 3. While the system for Ghostbusters would be a little similiar, I would probably liken it more to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance's Guild system. Once you complete a mission, you return to the firehouse and you can browse a list of currently active calls. Each call is marked by their phone number (randomly generated?), and a brief (one sentence) summary of their problem, followed by how much cash they offer you (there will be a starting price you can set, a fee for proton charging and that sort of thing, and customers can offer you more money depending on how much higher of a priority they think the job might be). From here you can select a certain call, view a more detailed summary (symptoms of the haunting, what section of town they live in, etc) and wether or not you are willing to accept the mission. For really tough missions, you could even haggle with the victims; refuse their mission, forcing them to call back with a higher asking price. (However, if you did this too much, the victims might get the wrong idea and will obviously stop calling you, you know, like, you might have forced them to move out of their house or whatever) Once you accept a mission, you can cancel the mission at any time via the pause menu. Missions themselves could be generated by "Ghost Hotspots" that rise and fade around certain areas of the city. If the hotspot gets great enough, a boss ghost is spawned. You know, the "threaten the earth with destruction" sort of ghost. Although there would be story-driven ghosts (ghosts that are MEANT to appear; old favorites like Zool and maybe a few lifted from the cartoon series), I am a big fan of "infinite replay value", so perhaps once you beat story mode you open up "generic" mode in which no story occurs, you simply just take calls/whatever like normal.

PHASE 3: Driving Segments

While never really focused on in the movies or anything, I remember the intro sequence to both Ghostbuster cartoons ("The Real Ghostbusters" and "Extreme Ghostbusters") featured really well-animated clips featuring Ecto-1 tearing up the streets. When you take a mission, and enter Ecto-1, an arrow appears in the HUD and a clock starts ticking down. If you can get to the location before time is up, you get rewarded a special cash bonus for delivering speedy service (Additionally, it boosts your popularity). The faster you are, the greater the bonus. The aim of the driving segments is to provide a quick and thrilling ride around the town, very similiar to the hectic pace Crazy Taxi provides. At the same time, not only are you rewarded for being speedy in getting to your destination, but if you're a careless driver and crash into too many other cars or frighten too many pedestrians on the street (such as driving on the sidewalk), it hurts your popularity rating. (However, nothing drastic -- as to allow leyway; an extremely wreckless driver that gets to the destination very early might balance out the popularity damage he caused) Like GTA3 you can enter/exit Ecto-1 at any time, but Ecto-1 never becomes damaged. (Entering and exiting Ecto-1 is essential if you come upon a ghost roaming free in the city)

PHASE 4: Ghost Trapping

Once you arrive at the destination, you enter the building -- be it an appartment complex, a home, a hotel, a resturant, etc. While not every house in the city will be enterable (obviously), there will be many numerous locations around the city where ghost activity can crop up; at least as far as entering facilities goes. Ghosts themselves can appear in any section of the city; and they can wander around before finally entering a location to haunt. Additionally, while outside the car, on the pause menu you are given two options for camera - third person and first person.

Once you see a Ghost, you line him up with your crosshair and press a button - locking on to him. Your cross hair has a little semi-transparent circle surrounding it; when you're locked on and out of range, it's red. When you're within range to use your proton beam, it's green. In the original version of this document I described I liked the concept Luigi's Mansion gave you for trapping ghosts -- you had to hold the opposite direction (of the analog stick) that the Ghost was currently tugging you. I still like that idea, but perhaps I want something a little more tangible -- the idea is that the default perspective is first person, so I don't think the "tugging" concept will really work.

I had thoughts more along the lines of a fishing game of sorts. Say, the lock-on button is the left trigger -- both the Xbox and the Gamecube have analog trigger buttons, right? Right trigger would be how "hard" you reel your "fish" in. (at the same time, your ghost is flying around the room, perhaps even dragging you with him) Depending on how much power your Proton Pack can handle, depends on how long you can hold the ghost, and if the ghost is putting too much stress on the proton beam, that only creates a larger proton output -- if your proton output (line tension) gets too great, your proton pack overheats and goes into emergency shut down mode (the line breaks). From there, you must wait for the pack to cool down (one of the upgrades for the proton pack will be increasing the output bandwidth so overheating doesn't occur as often). In addition to this, you can also pull at the ghost to try and get it into a certain position; for instance, if the Ghost is not over the actual ghost trap. I'm not terribly sold on this idea, but it's the best I can think of right now.
Additionally, if you spend too much time arsing around with a ghost and not actually catching it (For instance, your pack overheats a few times or you spend most of the mission just chasing the ghost around a map), there is a chance that the ghost can infact leave the residence it is currently haunting. The game itself I want to be very "open-ended", in that sense, ghosts can leave the area they are haunting and go back out on to the city streets to find a new place to haunt if you pester them too much without actually trapping them. This is never a good idea, for while you will get paid money, it will be the minimum fee (which would only cover proton charging) AND your popularity will take a hit. The only way to gain that popularity back would be to catch the ghost that escaped, however you will still be out the money.

Of course, not all ghosts will be so easy to trap. Certain ghosts might be a little trickier to catch - some might have the ability to instantly overheat your proton pack until you accomplish a certain task or bring them a certain item. Other Ghosts just might be tricky to actually track down. Certain Ghosts might require the ectoplasm goggles just so you can see them. These tricky-ghosts will be special "Event" ghosts; one-time-only missions featuring a unique ghost, to liven things up a little.

PHASE 5: Multiplayer

A game nowadays without some form of multi-player, be it online or offline is a game that is only half-constructed. There are a few modes for this game that I can think up that might be pretty fun:

- Co-Op
Halo popularized it. Cooperative gameplay between two players in the singleplayer campaign. Players could take missions seperately or together, and pool their money for new equipment.

- "Capture the Ghost"
A combination of Capture the Flag and Last Man Standing; two teams are given territories in a given map. You know, Red side, Blue side. There are a number of low-level ghosts roaming about the map; teams must work together to capture as many ghosts as possible. Each ghost capture nets them a certain amount of points, based on their popularity level. Popularity can be stolen from the opposing team by going over to their territory and trapping their ghosts. (Perhaps the opposing team can defend themselves with melee attacks, or release "decoy ghosts" or something, I don't know) Whoever has the most points at the end of the round wins.

- Online Score Ranking
Did you catch a class-9 free-roaming phantasm in less than a minute? Did you hold out on a customer until they paid you $10,000 for a mission? Compare times and ranks with players across the world to see who's the REAL Ghostbuster.

In Closing

With the new Ghostbusters Comic launching this month (April 2004), if it's success continues to grow and prove itself to be a viable source for a new TV show or Movie, I think my concept of a 3D next-generation Ghostbusters title is a solid gameplay premise that will make fans, new and old alike, feel their favorite franchise was handled with the loving care only another Ghostbuster fan cound bring. So many adaptations of franchises get poor treatment, but with my game concept that trend could be broken, even if it's just for one game.

I can only hope Terminal Reality surprises me with something that is fun to play. I'd hate to think they would be calling in the legendary Bill Murray to lend his voice to a sub-par videogame by a developer with an unstable track record.

Rumor all up ins: Sega working on a new "real" Sonic game.

I am a blogging machine, lately!

In the latest Quartermann poop shoot, he gives us a small tidbit of information simply saying that Sega is working on another "real" Sonic game.

Statistically, Quartermann is "correct" with these rumors about 50% of the time. I've heard that there is no Quartermann at all and that it's just an alias various EGM writers go under when they want to "spill the beans" (but not spill it too much and get in trouble) about certain news stories (and other times they write stuff they made up just because they never want to look like they're hitting the nail on the head every single time).

Anyway, assuming this is true - the vague usage of the word "real" should probably be focused on. Are we going to see Sonic 2k6 2 (Sonic 2k8? 2k9?) in the sense that it'll be another "Sonic in the 'real world'" thing? Or is Quartermann simply saying we're getting another canonical Sonic game?

And is it too early to start taking bets on whether or not Sega or Sonicteam will screw it up again?

I think Sega knows that Sonic is on the ropes, personally. At least, Sega of America knows he is - I think Simon Jeffery, President of Sega of America, has even come right out and said he understands that the recent Sonic games have been mistakes. However, Simon has also said that he is powerless to do anything about it - what happens with Sonic is purely a Sega of Japan decision, and Sega of Japan has historically been the dumb branch of Sega.

To get off topic for a moment, it was Sega of Japan, for example, that pulled Tom Kalinske out of Sega of America after he pretty much single-handedly made the Sega Genesis go from 0.1% Marketshare to something like 70% in about 4 years. This made Sega of Japan jealous (seriously, the Sega Genesis was struggling in Japan) and word on the street was they pulled him from Sega of America as sort of a "TAKE THAT!" manuver, and things have been admittedly downhill since then. Ignoring the Sega Saturn, Sega of Japan has rarely been more successful than Sega of America. More creative? Sure. But more succesful? Not usually. Especially in regards to the Sonic franchise; Sonic has never really "caught on" in Japan, so nobody on the japanese development staff really respects the character (unlike America and the UK, where Sonic was pretty much the foundation of Sega's popularity).

What this ultimately leaves me questioning is if they're really going to make a dedicated effort to re-think the Sonic formula in 3D or if they're just going to take the Sonic Adventure concept and re-work it yet again, just like every 3D Sonic game since 1998.

The bitter, cold-hearted cynic in me says the latter (and after Sonic 2k6, he's been let out of his cage perhaps more than he should be allowed to).

No strings attached

Allow me, if I may, to pimp a website out there to those of you who have not yet heard the buzz on the subject:

Goozex.

What's Goozex? Goozex is a trading site. Game trading, that is. It works like this:

#1) You list what games you are willing to trade and then people request them from you.
#2) You send your game to the Goozex mailing center, they package the game up nice and send it to the guy who requested it (so you never know where it's going - to prevent cheating).
#3) In exchange, you get points (the amount varies based on the game). You can then spend your points to request a game from somebody else.

As a sign-up bonus, you get 100 free points, no strings attached. You're probably saying, "Chyeah, right. Most games probably cost like ten times that." Yes, and no - new games (such as Halo 3) cost 1000 points. However, Goozex has quite an extensive list of 100 point games for older consoles like the PS1, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, and Dreamcast. I wanted to make sure this worked before I mentioned it anywhere, and a couple days ago my free game arrived in the mail.



If you can't tell (sorry for the blurry photo), that's Jak & Daxter, the first game I ever wanted to buy a PS2 for (You're looking at a former Sega fanboy who vehemently defended the Dreamcast and hated Sony - J&D was the first game to really soften me on the PS2). I got it, for free, from Goozex. However, there's a catch; there's always a catch with this sort of thing: Whatever game you get with your bonus 100 points is totally free of charge. However, any trade after that will cost $1 per-trade.

Additionally, despite Goozex listing hundreds of games, the vast majority of them are not available. The easiest way to check a game's availability is to click "Trade Info" on the game's profile page. It will list how many copies of the game are available, how many are being requested and what condition the games themselves are in (Full Package, Disc & Manual, or Disc Only). I had a lot of high hopes dashed when I discovered half the games I saw for 100 points weren't available for trade (for example, if they had a copy available, I probably would've gotten Ratchet & Clank 1 instead of J&D).

It's worth mentioning that unlike the previous blog post I made about Survey Savvy, I'm not getting any compensation whatsoever for this blog post. You do get a bonus for referrals, but it's not like you get free points (you just get the $1 trade fee waived for each referral and I honestly don't care about that). This is seriously, honestly, strictly for your benefit as a reader of my blog. Like I said, I just wanted to make sure it worked before I opened my big mouth and was like "HAY GUYS GET A FREE GAME I DUNNO IF IT WORKS THOUGH LOL".

So yeah. Give it a shot. Even if you don't plan on using the site itself to trade games, you can at least get a cheap freebie game - and really, who doesn't like freebie games?

Demo Impressions: Two Worlds (XB360)

Woo! It's time for a new demo.

Two Worlds clocks in at around 550mb. It was released on the PC and 360 (maybe the PS3, too, I dunno) sometime last month. It was notoriously hyped for being the next Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, and after having played with the demo for a considerable length of time I guess that rings true. I've never had the pleasure of playing Oblivion, only watching it being played - but at a glance, it is difficult to tell the two apart.

Where everything hits a snag, though, is in the simple fact that Two Worlds simply isn't quite as good as Oblivion. The game suffers from a pretty extreme lack of polish; animations are jerky or don't move correctly. The framerate frequently hiccups and loading times can get frustrating. Clipping is the order of the day - upon wearing a robe I noticed my shirt was clipping through the sleeves, and my legs were clipping through the bottom of the robe. Voice acting is worse than Oblivion with horrible lip sync. Really, the list just goes on and on - Two Worlds has the right ideas, it just isn't balanced or polished enough to really be an amazing game.

Despite this, however, I actually had a lot of fun with the demo. Even though it's a blatant and poorly-executed Oblivion ripoff (though it borrows some stuff from other action RPGs like Diablo), there is quite a bit of fun to be had running around stabbing wolves and bandits; it's just every now and then you may come across a house with no doors, or trees suspended in mid-air, or a town may accuse you of murdering a citizen when you, in fact, have not. Strangely, all of this almost gives the game charm.

Where this as a demo really excels is the amount of content it gives you. Two Worlds is quite obviously a very, very, very big game and although the demo is a small portion - it's a small portion of a really big game. What this ultimately entails is that the Two Worlds demo gives you something insane like one or two square miles to run around and quest in. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much fun you would get out of Two Worlds if you actually tried to follow the storyline. All of the dialog is very poorly written and very convoluted - I never could stand to listen to any of it for more than a few seconds. The few conversations I did listen to all the way through were boring and convoluted and the game's mapping system helps you very little in getting to the next destination in your quest. Simply put: It's easy to get lost.

However, if you're like me and enjoy purely exploration (aka getting lost on purpose), the Two Worlds demo contains literally hours of content. I must've played this demo for five or six hours total so far - not doing anything in particular, just exploring the landscape in hopes of finding another camp of bandits or Grom (goblins) hiding out in a cave. Or, better yet, slaying wolves and bears to get ingredients to mix strange potions that boost my stats high enough so I can take out the stronger enemies (Orcs and the mighty cyclops). There is simply a ton of room to run around in and there's a lot of variety to be found lurking in dungeons and inside houses.

I did the same thing with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; I loved the big open outdoors locations. Whenever I'd open a new island, I'd just drive around for days and days - getting lost on purpose, just because I wanted to see what was out there. A lot of people complain that there wasn't anything out there - but to me, there was plenty of stuff out there. There might not have been any missions, but for me, there didn't need to be. I just enjoyed seeing the sights and spotting clever easter eggs hidden way out in the middle of nowhere. The same thing appeals to me in Two Worlds.

It's just... don't expect this to be an Oblivion-killer. Don't even necessarily expect a good game. But... just... give it a shot. You might be surprised to find you're having fun, despite how under-developed and unpolished the game feels.

Re-written Mario Kart DS review.

I have re-written my Mario Kart DS review, for those of you interested in reading it. Sometimes I re-write reviews like this, generally because I think of a better way to describe my feelings on a particular game. I have to say, though, Gamespot really needs to fix that problem with reviews ignoring line breaks. It's annoying seeing huge run-on paragraphs.

For those of you wondering, the Halloween webcast was a success. 65 listeners at it's peak, with an average listening time of over 4 hours. That's pretty impressive, and over double the listeners I had the last time I aired something like this two years ago.

I have more games I probably should review; I've recently beaten Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, and I'm on the final levels of both Jump Ultimate Stars and Drill Dozer. I've also got a free copy of Forza 2 coming in the mail. I also beat Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat a while ago and never reviewed it.

Woo! Busy days, this holiday season. Still, I wouldn't mind getting a Wii and Super Mario Galaxy. I foolishly hoped maybe I'd get some donations on my Halloween Radio site, but I did not get a single dime. Oh well. My holiday is full enough with games and I'm a jobless bum who doesn't deserve donations anyway!