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I Guess This Proves That Life Is Cyclical

It's been a few years since I was active at GameSpot. I used to love it here, and at the time there was nothing quite like it. Things change, however, and so did my interest in GameSpot after a long line of staff changes. Now I'm back, simply because of the Giant Bomb acquisition, and having been gone for such a long time means a lot has changed.

Change doesn't have to be a bad thing--sometimes it is, sometimes it's not. There are things with GameSpot I feel have gotten better, and some I feel have gotten worse. The issue with this is, Since I'm a glass is half full kind of person, I tend to focus on the latter tho.

One of the things that bother me the most with the new GameSpot is that it feels very impersonal. As far as I can tell, there's no staff page to be found, where all the editors and other people working on the site are listed. It could be that I haven't looked hard enough, but if you have to spend time having to look for it would mean proving my point.

Maybe I'm just getting old, and don't match GameSpot's target audience any more. Maybe I'm just not used to the new site yet, with time I might get used to it all. As things on the Internet have moved towards becoming more and more social, maybe GameSpot is trying to differentiate themselves from other gaming sites. I don't have the answer, but maybe I will know in time.

Not Cool GameSpot. Not Cool.

I had written a long post on how I felt disappointed in the fact that no full hour streams had been made available from E3, and how the thing that upset me the most was the lack a comment or explanation from GameSpot. However, I'm being told my HTML wasn't well formed (which is weird considering it's only text), and 70% of the post is gone. I guess that instead of reading a lenghty comment on the issue, all you get is this condensed version, which focuses more on the fact that the post got lost than on the original post itself, but that's just how things work out sometimes.

To be clear, the topic of this post relates to the full hour streams, not the issues I had with making this post.

I Just Helped Pay Greg Kasavin's Salary

OK, I admit, the topic is little more than an attention grabber. It's a fancy way of saying "I pre-ordered C&C 3 Tiberium Wars." So, if that's the case, why'd I chose to write it like that? Well, when I played the demo, which was pretty amazing, I couldn't help but think of Mr. Kasavin, and how the fact that he is working on the game gives it some sort of instant quality guarantee. My cynical mind can't help but to think that was an added bonus for EA when they hired him, something I'm sure they didn't mind.

There is, however, another reason why I chose to formulate the topic as I did. A reason that involves the piracy problems that the game industry as a whole--and the computer game industry in particular--is facing; namely how human emotions can push people to buy games instead of pirating them. I'm going to bet that close to all of those who visit GameSpot have pirated at least one game, probably more. If we accept that as a fact, then it's interesting to think about how our views on piracy are affected if we have some sort of emotional, or subconscious, connection to a game.

I can only speak for myself, and personally I am pretty convinced that Mr. Kasavin's involvment in C&C 3 had some sort of impact on my decision of pre-ordering the game. I wouldn't go so far as claiming that it played a major part in my decision, as my impressions of the game are all very positive. Being a long time visitor to GameSpot means I've come to trust Mr. Kasavin and his judgement on games and you don't have to be a trained professional to figure out that comes into play when decisions like these are made.

As I sit here, staring at the countdown on EA's page for Tiberium Wars, I can't help but feel jealous of Mr. Kasavin, and the opportunity he was given. Working on such a legendary franchise must be inspiring in itself, but if the game turns out to be as good as all indications point to then I'm sure Mr. Kasavin can't help but to feel like he's the happiest man in the world.

Sony's Moment of Truth is Nigh

This is it. TGS is here and it's time for Sony to show the world why anyone should pay $600 for a Playstation 3. If you're a Sony--and Playstation--devotee, you should be crossing you're fingers, because they can't afford to miss this oportunity. If the road leading up to the PS3 launch had been smooth and free from worries, I wouldn't be writing this post, but alas here I am.

Apart from the obvious reasons--such as the price point compared to the Xbox 360 and the Wii, and the huge head start the Xbox 360 has had--there are other factors to consider that should make Sony feel the pressure. Take the much hyped Bluray drive; or the 1080p HDMI output; or the lack of a rumble feature in the controller. What about them, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

Starting off with the Bluray drive, one of  the biggest concerns is all the issues the first-generation stand-alone Bluray players has. Most, if not all, comparisons between Bluray players and HD-DVD players end up favoring of the latter, citing better picture and audio quality among the strongest factors. Now, most of these tests make sure to point out that both formats look really good, but being forced to pay a premium price for something that's falling behind is something I think a lot of people won't really like.

The issues I see with the 1080p HDMI output are more technical in nature. Besides the fact that there aren't that many Plasma or LCD screens or projectors that support 1080p--and the ones available are just crazy expensive--it's just a matter of getting everything to work right at the kind of bandwidth 1080p needs. Getting 720p or 1080i to work correctly can sometimes be hard, if you end up with bad cables, and 1080p is even more delicate. I may be a bit too sceptical here, and I hope time proves me wrong.

Lastly in my concererned look at the upcoming Playstation 3 release I focus my attention on the controller. I'm all for the tilt feature--I can see some interesting uses for it--but not at the expense of a rumble feature. Sony say that the reason they took out DualShock was due to space constraints and that they chose to go with tilt instead, but I have to assume there's some sort of connection to the lawsuit. The Xbox 360 has rumble, the PS3 has tilt, and the Wii has it all. Right now, no one knows what will be the most popular feature in the next-gen race, but we all know that the rumble feature is extremly popular.

Now we all hold our breath, waiting in anticipation to see what Sony has to offer. It could very well be that in four days from now, I have forgotten all of my concerns. Sony are known for betting everything on one card, and then go with it no matter what. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail. I for one can't wait to see how all this turns out. Sony's moment of truth sure is nigh, and it will be interesting to see if they can silent their critics; or if their critics will have even more reasons to speak out when this is all over. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

E3 06: Review of GameSpot's E3 Live - Day Three

Like any major event, E3 passed just as quickly as it came. Three hectic days of the main event and two days with pre-E3 press conferences and news add up to one crazy week filled with tons of interesting new information about known and unknown games. My review for day three took a few days extra to put together, but I hope no one has been waiting around for it. It doesn't matter much anymore anyway, because here it is!

There's one thing I have to get past right off the bat, namely the Best Buy ads. I understand all this live coverage costs a lot of money, it's just that as a Total Access paid subscriber I'm promised an "ad-free experience on the site." Sure, there are no ads on the site itself, but in my definition this video stream is on the site. As I see it, they have three options. They can either get rid of the ads, have separate streams, or stop claiming Total Access members get an ad-free experience. The weekly show On The Spot has had similar ads (for Wendy's) a few times, but since this post is about E3 Live I'm not going to get into that.

If you read my review of day two, you know I was hoping for the coverage to start on time without any delay. I wasn't really expecting that to happen, and my suspicion was correct; the third day coverage started 22 minutes late. Unfortunately, I missed the pre-show stream, so I can't recap what was shown. I doubt anything interesting happened though. If you happened to catch it, and you have anything interesting to report, please leave a comment.

When I look back on day one and two both Rich and Carrie have been doing their jobs as hosts as well as I had hoped, and day three was just more of the same excellent interviews and demos. Something I have to mention is what a great job Carrie did in restricting herself during her first interview of the day. The interview was with Tetsuya Mizuguchi from Q Entertainment, and before the interview Carrie was given specific instructions--as she later revealed--to talk slow and articulate well; she did just that. Even though it felt somewhat unnatural for her to talk at a slower pace, it was also a nice change. My only wish is that she could've talked like that throughout the three days; as Carrie could leave me feeling a bit stressful at times.

It was also nice to see that the issues with the colors were resolved for the third day's coverage. Now the game play footage looked just as good as you'd expect. It's too bad that some of the most interesting demos of the show--such as Unreal Tournament 2007--were plagued by this issue, but it was nice to see that they finally had it sorted out.

One interesting thing about day three was to see some new people appearing as floor correspondents and hosts. Justin Calvert filled in as floor correspondent, and did an excellent job. As everyone else, he had good questions prepared, and it seemed like he felt comfortable asking them as well. The reason as to why Justin filled in as floor correspondent, I suspect, was that Ryan Mac Donald filled in as host of the stage show while Rich and Carrie got an hour off to go play with the Wii. Ryan is just as good as a host as he was as a floor correspondent, so there's not really a whole lot to say about that.

Also Tor Thorsen and Tim Surette, both news editors, filled in as floor correspondents. Their duty was to act as guides of Kentia Hall, the part of E3 no one seems to take seriously. As regular visitors to GameSpot know, Tor and Tim never appear to be serious, and the Kentia Hall tour was done with a lot of humor. I liked this segment; it was fun to watch and just crazy. The fact that Tor sounded like he was on some form of controlled substance worked pretty well in this segment, but maybe it's a good thing Tor wasn't acting as one of the main hosts of E3 Live.

The most interesting segment of the day was to hear the editors talk about their impressions of the show. We didn't get as many editor check-ins during the third day, but that discussion more or less made up for it. GameSpot always delivers really well written previews and reviews, but it's nice to hear a bunch of editors discussing their thoughts in a more relaxed way.

So, this is it. E3 is over, so is GameSpot's E3 Live coverage, and thus my mission to review it. This third day saw most technical issues straightened out, but I did experience a few problems with the connection at times. Nevertheless, it's definitely an improvement over both day one and two. Before I give you my rating, I want to say that I hope you liked reading my reviews, and I welcome all comments, both publicly and via private messages. In my opinion, the third day was definitely the best, and my rating for day three, on a scale from 1 to 10, is 8.6.

E3 06: Review of GameSpot's E3 Live - Day One

When I was trying to come up with some kind of my own coverage of E3 for this blog the first idea obviously was to write about what was shown. Pretty fast I realized that was a stupid idea as that'd be pretty uninteresting. Instead, what I came up with was that I was going to review GameSpot's E3 Live coverage, and so here it is. I hope you enjoy, but honestly, I'm more than happy if you even read it. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment.

It's hard to claim that the live coverage of E3 got off to a great start. There was a 25 minute delay that included all kinds of interesting stuff including the hands-down viewer favorite-- a close-up shot of Miss Carrie Gouskos upper body region in profile. We also got to see Rich Gallup chewing gum "like a cow"--as someone in the chat room described it--and various shots of the stage. When the show finally did start there were a few issues with the connection and the audio, but all-in-all I must say that they were all very minor issues.

The show is hosted by GameSpot Live's main front man and features producer Rich Gallup together with On The Spot regular and features editor Carrie Gouskos. Both of them have had a lot of practice doing On The Spot and they performed very well. Carrie tends to get a bit too excited and talks a bit too fast and forgets to articulate on occasion, nothing too serious though. This is where you can tell the difference between her and Rich, who always talks slow and clear. Apart from this, they both ask really good questions and do a really good job on getting the most out of the interviewees--be it editors or game developers.

The show looks very good and the direction is first rate. As any live broadcast there are moments when they cut to the wrong camera or some graphics pops up that's not supposed to, but it doesn't happen often enough for it to be an issue. There were a few moments when I wanted them to show something from another camera or from the in-game footage, but that's just the way live broadcasts are.

Apart from the stage show there are also two floor correspondents; Ryan Mac Donald and Homer Rabara. Both did an excellent job, but I feel that Ryan was the slightly better one of the two. He asks really good questions and his interviews feel very relaxed. There's one thing that always strikes me about Homer though, and it's the fact that he never seems to run out of energy; he's really amazing and fun to watch. The camera operators responsible for following Homer and Ryan around on the show floor must be mentioned as well. Even though it's clear that they pre-record the show floor footage there are little room for re-takes, especially during interviews, and that's puts a lot of stress on the camera operator as well as the correspondents.

My favorite part of the show is the Editor Check-in segment, in which one of the editors sits down to talk to the hosts about their impressions from the show and they games they've seen. It's really interesting to hear the editors just talking about what they've seen and gives a more relaxed take on the games than their written stories. Some editors are more interesting to watch and listen to than others, but they all do a really good job.

Another very interesting segment of the day was Ricardo Torres' interview with Kaz Hirai, president and CEO of SCEA, which was shown in what seemed to be its raw uncut format. It gave an insight into the way video interviews are made and it's always interesting to see stuff like that. I'm hoping they'll have more segments like it the other two days as well.

If you, like I, have been following GameSpot's E3 coverage for some time you know that they traditionally have decided to cover the games and the show but leave the "booth babes" out. For one reason or another, that policy has changed this year. I'll admit that they aren't spending very much time covering the scantily dressed women, but even a few minutes a day is too much if you ask me. I wonder why this policy changed. I guess they did some market research and realized that the other big entertainment network was stealing subscribers from them with their extensive babe coverage.

I did experience a few technical issues apart from the ones mentioned before, and the biggest one was the fact that part one of the coverage wouldn't play beyond 05:58 on-demand, it just stopped. If I tried skipping to any part later in the stream it would also stop, which lead to a bit of frustration. The only way to solve this issue that I found was to lower my media settings to 100k, which isn't that great of a solution. Sure, it's watchable, but it isn't what I'm paying for.

The coverage itself from day one was excellent. All of the hosts did a very good job and the routine that they're building up is really starting to show; they have certainly improved since last year. The only bad things I have to say are about the booth babes and on the technical side of things, and unfortunately that bring the overall experience down. The final rating, on a scale of 1-10, is 8.1. Without the technical issues it'd be considerably higher.

E3 06: Sony Press Conference Impressions

Another year, another E3, another pre-E3 Sony press conference. But this year isn't just any year, it's the year of the PS3. After a slow start with some talk about how well the PS2 is doing, the press conference was pretty much all about the PS3--as is this blog post. The delay meant I only got four hours of sleep the past night, but I can't say I regret staying up even though the really big surprises were a no-show. Let me start of with commenting on what Sony ended with; the price. As I, and I guess lots of other people, suspected it's gonna be pricey. It's gonna be even worse for us who live on "the wrong side" of the big blue. However, the PS3 is going to be region-free so I may just end up importing one--it's nice to have family in the States sometimes. With the current currency rates, I'd actually pay less for the PS3 than I did for the PS2 back when that was released. Just like that, and it doesn't seem that expensive any more. Apart from revealing exact launch dates and price points--which some people claimed they wouldn't--they also revealed the finalized PS3 controller. To more or less everyone's relief, the new controller looked pretty much like the Dual Shock controller we've all come to grow fond of. I can't help but to think that one reason for last year's strange design had something to do with the on-going law suit that has since been settled. The cool thing about the new controller is the motion sensitive gyroscope. I don't care that the guy showing the Warhawk demo looked silly, that thing seems really sweet! When it comes to the games, there were a few that looked really, really awesome. My personal favorites were MGS4: Guns of the Patriots, Resistance: Fall of Man, Final Fantasy XIII, and Heavenly Sword. There were a bunch of other games that also looked really promising, but those four are the ones that really made me excited. I'm not going to go into any details on the games, as GameSpot's editors are so much better at that than me. The strongest third party presence at the Sony press conference was--surprise, surprise--Electronic Arts. EA brought a few nice tech demos of upcoming sports games with them and showed off some truly next-gen stuff. Realism in games is really going to get a huge bump in the 07 lineup of EA's sports games, and that's what really has me excited about what the future has in store. It will be interesting to see if there'll be a difference between the PS3 and the Xbox 360 when it comes to stuff like this. I'd be really surprised if that is the case though. Apart from a ton of cool real-time gameplay and tech demos, a handful of game trailers and the revelation of the new controller there was one thing that just sent my brain into overdrive; the PSP integration. To see the PSP being used for the demo of Formula One 2006 made me realize there are so many great ways you could use the PSP together with the PS3. Why not use it as an interactive map, or for easy access to potions, spells and weapons when playing FFXIII for even faster gameplay? I see a lot of potential here, and it makes me very excited. The press conference was also the first time Sony publicly showed the interface for the PS3. This where you'll access the network features such as buying add-ons for games and interacting with other users. We didn't get to see very much of the interface, but from what little we saw I must say it looked nice. They ended the demonstration of the interface by showing how network features are seamlessly integrated into games such as SingStar, and how easy it is to buy additional content. Nothing revolutionary, but it all looked simple and very thought out. I can't end this post without mentioning the best sales speak of the event. The award goes to Phil Harisson and his line "... our development teams all around the world, in all of our development studios, have been hard at work converting that technology and vision into magic." That is just pure genius, and I applaud the copywriter who came up with that amazing line! I've written some crazy copy in my days, but man, that's pure gold. This must be my longest blog post to date, I apologize! There were just so many impressions I wanted to share, and the greatest thing is, E3 hasn't even started yet! Enough writing for this time, as I'm sure not a whole lot, if anyone, will read this massive post anyway. I'm going to go bask in the glory of my new Tagger King emblem I so well deserve, I bid you farewell for now.

This Is My Confession

I wasn't planning on posting anything before the Sony pre-E3 press conference, but I realized something was wrong with my last blog post so I had to confess to my mistake.

You see, I thought Tag Leader was the highest emblem you could get for tagging, but in reality it's the Tagger King emblem. Now that I clarified that, I need to go tag some more to reach the ultimate level of tagger emblems.

Oh, and while I'm confessing to mistakes: In regards to my Matrix Online blog post, I take it back. I take it all back. We all get excited over stuff that turns out to be pure trash.

Tag Leader And Lucky Winner

As my previous blog post revealed, I've become addicted to the new tagging system. Every day I go through the new news and add all the tags I feel are appropriate. The amount of tags for a news article varies, but I usually add between five and ten. This (healty) addiction has brought me two new emblems; Tag Leader and Lucky Winner. Tag Leader basically means I'm among the people who tag the most. I'm not sure if they count words, characters or items tagged, but I'm happy about it nevertheless. It's not my motivation for tagging, but it sure makes things just a little bit more addictive. I wonder if I would get demoted to a lower rank and lose the emblem if I stopped tagging as frequently as I do at the present? Not that I'm planning on finding out. Lucky Winner has the following description: "We were required by state law to issue this award to whosoever submitted the 100,000th tag into our database. Thanks, hannisen." This means that it's a unique emblem, which is kinda fun. I wonder if that was why Chris stopped by my blog and posted a comment. Oh, the mystery! Since we're closing in on the craziness that is E3, the number of news articles I can look forward to tagging are increasing every day. I think yesterday has the record so far, but I'm sure this is just the beginning. I doubt I'll ever run out of things to tag as it's also possible to tag previews of games. I've rambled on for far to long. I have to stop--I have things to tag and tags to explore, and so do you I'm sure.

Tagging News Is Fun--Making Gamespace Banners Is Not

Just as most of the Gamespot staff--and probably a lot of people with a 360--are totally into collecting points, I've become hooked on tagging news stories. I don't know why really, it's just fun! For as long as I can remember I've been way into news and facts and useless knowledge, and this takes my need for news to a new level.

I've noticed that I read the news stories more carefully now, and I take my time choosing my tags. It's not always easy as you don't want to over do it, and at the same time you don't want to leave anything out. It'll take some time before I find the perfect mix between the two.

Just a quick mention about the second part of the topic before I finish today's post. I submitted a gamespace banner last week to the gamespace banner contest. Turns out my banner was rejected. Why I don't know. Looking at the banners chosen I felt that my banner was better than some, but I gotta admit that some users really seem to put a lot more effort into it than I did. As you don't get any feedback about the banners you submit--chosen or not--I've decided not to submit any more banners. There are people who are paid for doing it, and I'm not gonna waste any more time doing it, because that's what it feels like. A waste of time.

Enough rambling for this time. E3 is coming up, and it's about to get real crazy. Check out the E3 2006 tag for updated news on one of the years biggest events in gaming. Several people, myself included, will make sure that tag will include all the news regarding the event.

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