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Polybren Blog

Putting down the HotSpot

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So we're putting the HotSpot out to pasture, which is a bummer for me because I really loved doing that show for about three years, and was excited to see where it would go with Magrino at the helm. Anyway, we said it was going on hiatus a month or so back, but we were getting a slow drip of comments on the old shows, e-mails, and PMs from people asking when it would return. It was great to see that people missed the show and wanted it to come back, but also frustrating because I had nothing to tell them. Eventually, we made the decision to end the HotSpot and put our time and effort into a handful of other projects (both audio and video) that we hope will fill the gap for anyone still missing the show.Once that decision was made, we figured it would be good to put together one last HotSpot to give any loyal listeners (and to be honest, us) some closure.

The first HotSpot aired July 20, 2005. It ran for 330 episodes as an audio program and 29 episodes as a video program. It liked mom jokes, rambling conversations, and the marketing campaign for Ubisoft's Haze. It is survived by a Wikia page. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made by purchasing a copy of ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman for PSP (and downloadable for PS Vita).

[video=6373813]

OMG best patent abstract EVAR

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So I wrote this feature:

http://www.gamespot.com/features/patented-game-mechanics-that-might-surprise-you-6369027/

Which inspired me to start this tumblr:

http://contextfreepatentart.tumblr.com/

Which led me to the GREATEST PATENT ABSTRACT OF ALL TIME:

From a 1990 patent application (approved in 1992) by Konami: "A novel hand held electronic LCD video game with 19 player-controlled ninja turtle figures individually displayable under player manipulation to simulate rescue of a kidnap victim... The player controlled turtle is manipulated to perform simulated underwater swimming to obtain dynamite multiple times and a key to free the victim..."

Thank the heavens nobody else can copy this innovation for another.... Oh crap, this patent expires in September. TIME TO COPY THAT INNOVATION.

EDIT:http://www.tumblr.com/photo/1280/contextfreepatentart/20450222901/1/tumblr_m1xrokfy1o1rsromy

Too much Street Fighter.

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My nightmares

I made this picture to approximate what I see every time I close my eyes after spending the last two months watching Street Fighter: The Movie and cutting together the Blow-by-Blows review of it. Enjoy?

[video=6350795]

PlayStation Vita thoughts!

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Just a few things that I've noticed from playing the system and some games a little for a few days now:

PSP backward compatible stuff looks swell. Tekken 6 character portraits are a bit muddy, but once the action starts, this thing is beautiful. Controls great, too. Really glad the D-pad works so much better than the original PSP's old crappy d-pad, or the 3DS' awful pad (Hated my brief time with Tekken on 3DS).

As I tweeted, "Uncharted for PS Vita is a reminder of how much hand-holding modern-day AAA games do. I barely feel like I'm playing it." At this point, the Uncharted story and gameplay are getting pretty formulaic, and the Vita version looks great and controls impressively. But really, there's nothing novel here. It's like a new Call of Duty game, competent craftsmanship without the heart or creative inspiration that makes a game special.

Little Deviants is neat, but would be better if they mixed up the minigame action more. I've only played through the first couple "levels." I would have done more, but when each "level" consisted of making me play increasingly harder versions of the game mini-game 7 times in a row, I lost interest quickly. A minigame collection should never be tedious. It just shouldn't be.

Touch My Katamari is a joy to play so far. I love the storyline and it's winking acknowledgement that the series went to crap for a few while there. I haven't enjoyed a Katamari game since the original, but this one is my favorite Vita game so far. The sense of humor is perfect, and the gameplay tweaks (squishing the Katamari to be tall and skinny or short and fat) are fun to toy with.

I've also tried (ever so briefly) Rayman Origins and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The former is gorgeous. The latter controls much better than I expected without a joystick. I suspect I'll buy them both sooner or later.

The built-in AR card games are neat (fireworks), eh (cliff diving), and confusing (table soccer). AR stuff could be impressive, but I really want to see a game where the cards have a deeper impact on gameplay. For instance, a tower defense game where your strategic placement of turret cards would actually be crucial to success. Also, my girlfriend is completely smitten with AR stuff, and can't wait to see more. I'm thinking there's an opportunity here for Sony to court more casual audiences, hopefully with more enthusiasm than Nintendo's 3DS AR stuff has been conducted.

The abundance of programs on the dashboard that require an Internet connection really make the system feel crippled when you're not near a Wi-Fi point or on 3G. I don't think this is a good thing for Sony, because I doubt the 3G adoption will be significant until people have better reasons to sign up. Instead, people will just feel like their brand new systems are hobbled out of the box.

Anyway, early impressions of the system are very positive. I don't regret preordering one in the least, and if Sony ever brings the memory card prices down, I look forward to ordering a ton of games off the PSN.

Yay Vita!

Pinball Arcade

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Do you like pinball?

If the answer is "no," then I have no idea why you're reading this blog post. That's just silly. So assuming the answer is "yes," let me suggest you go buy Pinball Arcade for the iOS or Android. It's from Farsight Studios, makers of the excellent Williams Pinball Hall of Fame, and it's wonderful.

Like Pinball FX 2, Pinball Arcade is a platform more than anything else. You buy the first table (the fantastic Tales of the Arabian Nights) for $1, and then you can buy additional tables for $2-$4 each. Right now there are only four tables (the modern Stern table Ripley's Believe it or Not, Bally's wonderful Theater of Magic, and the throwback Black Hole), but Farsight has licensed dozens of tables for future release (two a month), including Monster Bash and Attack from Mars. If it does well, I wouldn't be surprised to see oft-requested favorites like Twilight Zone and The Addams Family finally get their proper due in digital form.

The reason I love Farsight's efforts is because they're as close to an archival preservation of classic pinball tables as we're ever going to get. Pinball is a uniquely American art form, and it's absolutely dying. In a decade or so, I expect pinball machines to have been bumped out of the few remaining spaces they currently reside, like the back corner of a dive bar or the lobby of an over-priced movie theater.

Anyway, Pinball Arcade and Williams Pinball Hall of Fame are the best approximations of playing a real table ever made. Precise tilting is a little harder on the mobile devices, but that could be seen as an improvement given the ease of tilt control on the consoles basically broke some of the tables. Other than that small gripe, Pinball Arcade is practically perfect, and an absolute must-have for any mobile phone or tablet gamer.

Tekken: The Musical

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Because I know you were waiting to see last year's live-action Tekken movie until you'd hear what I had to say about it:

http://www.gamespot.com/video/tekken-the-movie-blow-by-blows-6348002

BTW, it's not actually a musical. That blog header is a lie.

I realize I've been quiet on the blog of late. Part of that is because I've been busy, but part of that is because the sort of posts I would normally make here have found their way to other parts of the site. For instance, the video review above is exactly the kind of thing in the past I spent way too much time doing and only posted on my blog and wound up being seen by very, very few people (see YouTube searches for Undertaken and Ultimate Overhaul).

Meanwhile, all the "sky is falling" grousing about the doomed fate of the doomed gaming industry (did I mention it was doomed?) fits neatly in our recent push for more editorials on the site. Here are links to a few of those, just in case you miss people talking about doomed things:

http://www.gamespot.com/features/japanese-third-party-games-staying-home-for-the-holidays-6347794

http://www.gamespot.com/features/why-dont-we-care-about-censorship-6347061

http://www.gamespot.com/features/jurassic-park-user-reviews-abused-6346288

http://www.gamespot.com/features/the-return-of-arcades-6344645

http://www.gamespot.com/features/aaa-or-bust-6338540

http://www.gamespot.com/features/nintendo-trading-in-the-blue-ocean-for-a-white-flag-6333295

And if you're curious, my top 10 games of the year list was included in a staff feature that just went up:

http://www.gamespot.com/features/personal-perspectives-the-top-ten-of-2011-6348004

Hope everyone's enjoying the holidays and getting some time to relax!

GameSpot News is now hiring

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Just a heads up, everyone! We're looking for an assistant news editor to work with Magrino and me and the rest of the GS staff. Take a look at the job listing here:http://bit.ly/nc2SBY

If you've ever wanted to work at GameSpot HQ, here's your chance!

Game of the Year candidates?

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It's been a strange sort of year so far. We're just on the cusp of the holiday release blitz and I still don't have a real solid Game of the Year contender in mind. Normally I at least have a personal front-runner at this point, but this year seems wide open to me. The closest thing I've got in mind right now is Catherine, simply because we might be able to look back on this years from now as a significant milestone for the industry.

Catherine is a widely released multiplatform game about a relationship instead of an alien invasion or zombie apocalypse. It sold pretty well off the bat, too, with 200,000 in first-week sales, good enough to be Atlus' biggest US launch to date, I believe. It's a game that I can describe to non-gamers and they get it. The idea of a game like Catherine interests them because it doesn't fit their preconceived notion of what games are, and it offers a situation where the interactivity of a game instantly adds a new dimension that can't really be achieved by books or film. (Your objection is noted, Choose Your Own Adventure fans. Now sit down. Both of you.) So in addition to being a great (but flawed) game, Catherine has the added weight of being something potentially significant for the long-term health of the industry. It's the sort of market expansion that acts subtly now, but pays off hugely in the future because it expands people's notions of what a game can be.

What are the other candidates so far? I loved Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but can't picture myself pushing for that to even make the top 10 nominees for all the corners Capcom cut. Shadows of the Damned was a lot of fun, but I'm not sure how many people would consider that a serious contender for Game of the Year. Portal 2 was great. Maybe that would go on my list. What about Terraria? Jamestown? Could Minecraft be eligible since it's only been in beta since 2010 and hasn't technically seen it's official release yet? Will people remember in November that Killzone 3 and Little Big Planet 2 came out this year? Could Ghost Trick give the DS a dark horse contender?

I know it's early and there's a plethora of great games on the way in the coming weeks and months, but I don't think I've ever been this uncertain of how the GOTY discussions will play out this late in the year. I think Portal 2 may be the only game released so far this year that I would be absolutely shocked (shocked!) to see left out of the top 10.

So what are your picks for GOTY so far? No listing games that haven't come out! I already know what big games are on the way and have potential; I want to know what games you've already played this year that you think will crack that final top 10 nominees list.

Gaming's Citizen Kane revealed!

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Nintendo president Satoru Iwata commenting on the Wii U's E3 reaction, pulled from a Nintendo shareholder Q&A:

"In fact, I was interviewed by the media many times at E3, and as I recall, over half of the reporters said, 'congratulations'at the beginning or end. I think we can say that 'congratulations' is great praise for a presentation and I only experience this once every few years when our show is good. I do not have any close relationships where reporters would say such a thing just to flatter me, so I think the response at E3 this year was very good."

I'm not sure he understands how a close relationship is supposed to work.