I suck at good-byes, so I'll just lay this out fast and then dress it up some: Today is my last day at GameSpot. Crazy, I know. This place has been home for 12 years. But all good things come to an end, and this has most definitely been a good thing for me. Before I sign off, I've got a lot to cover, so hopefully you will indulge me on a zigzagging trip down memory lane with a nerd detour or two.
First nerd detour: blog title.
As a Star Trek nerd, I felt compelled to steal the title of the final episode of Deep Space Nine, the absolute best Trek there has ever been. I loved what that show turned into, and it was awesome to see a person of color as a captain. After doing some research on the quote that inspired the finale's title (all good writers who steal do their homework), I found the original line from Pericles, a respected Greek statesman, that went like this:
"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others."
And that really hit home for me as I look back on my time at GameSpot. In my case, I'm not leaving behind any stone monuments--just some data on the Internet--but the sentiment is the same. I hope that my time here amounts to more than just the content I produced and winds up being more about what I've been able to contribute to GameSpot, the industry, and the people I've worked with. First and foremost is my team here at GameSpot. Over the years I've been able to put together the most diverse team of individuals you'll find anywhere to cover games. I may be a little biased, but to my mind, you won't find a smarter bunch of great writers anywhere else.
Beyond my team, there's the content that GameSpot has produced over the years, which is going to require some looking back, something I rarely do. I've always had a weird hang-up about being self-indulgent, but if not now, then when? My time at GameSpot has been rewarding in too many ways to count because I got to come here and play with an amazing group of phenomenally talented people. And man, we had a blast. After this much time I could lay out a scroll of great memories, but I'll be a little selective and hit the stuff that has left a lasting impression. Sorry if it's list-y, but this is the Internet, and everyone loves lists, right?
On the Spot: Back in 2004, GameSpot's founder, Vince Broady, asked Ryan Mac Donald and me to put together a weekly live show. While it may not sound like much to ask now, back then, when no one was doing anything like that on the Internet, it was an ambitious request. Since Mac and I didn't know any better, we just did it, kicking off with a live show from http://www.gamespot.com/shows/on-the-spot/?event=on_the_spot20040624">EA's Tiburon Studios.It was totally insane to pull off at the time, but it laid the groundwork for the live content that became core to what we've done better than anyone else.
E3: We have always attacked this show with a passion that has resulted in some of the coolest stuff we've ever done. 2005 was a personal highlight, because GameSpot basically jacked everyone and scored the exclusive on Sony's E3 press conference. I should note that it was the first and last time anybody got an exclusive of that nature--sorry everybody! Besides press conferences, E3 quickly became about our live stage shows. Over the years we've debuted the best and the brightest from the show, with some killer firsts like Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Street Fighter x Tekken, Twisted Metal, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, the PlayStation Vita, and the Wii U. The show started as 15-minute segments at the top of every hour during E3 in 2002 and grew to run every hour the show was open and, most recently, into the evening. My favorite stage show is probably 2007, E3's modest year, when we rented out a restaurant on the Santa Monica pier and had people head over from Barker Hangar to be on our show. We closed out with Alex Rigopulos and the Harmonix posse going nuts with the original Rock Band. My overall favorite E3 is 2006 for two key reasons. First is the picture below:
That's Eiji Aonuma, Vince Broady, me (with the beginnings of my enormous hair, which almost blocks out Brad), Bill Trinen, and Ryan Mac Donald posing together after the boys came by to do a demo of Twilight Princess live on our stage show, which, given how protective Nintendo is, was like having a sasquatch ride a unicorn onto our stage. We also had Reggie on for a chat with the Game Boy Micro (remember that thing?), which made the show extra awesome.
Second is that I got the chance to hang out a bit with Vince, which, considering how high up he was at the company, was a big deal since we didn't get a chance to see him as often. I took him around a bit on the show floor and got him into one of Nintendo's after-hours presentations, which was awesome since I got to see him geek out like the rest of us, because, in his heart, Vince loved games just as much as we did.
Events: With everything we learned from On the Spot and our E3 stage show, we started flexing our muscles at events to try to give the folks at home, who couldn't be at game launches or other special events, a taste of the action. I remember going to Japan in 2004 with Ryan and Jeff for the Japanese PSP launch (it was also the trip where Mac and I snuck off to see Godzilla: Final Wars in a Toho-run Japanese theater, which was the best thing ever). Then there was 2006, an insane year where we got our exclusive Tokyo Game Show and X06 event coverage on Xbox Live. (That was the trip where Brian Ekberg and I flew from Tokyo to SFO, stayed in the airport after customs, and then caught a flight to Barcelona. It was also the trip where Vinny broke his finger between Japan and Spain o_0). As if that weren't crazy enough, in November of that year we went to New York and did two back-to-back webcasts for the PlayStation 3 and Wii launches. (Favorite memory there is Mac asking Charlie Murphy to do a shout-out for the site and things going slightly off the rails: go to the 1:38 mark.) In 2007 we hit PAX and did a live show where Mac hosted a demo of Haze and the developer from Free Radical parsed himself a brand-new swearword live on the air. Most recently we've broken ground at San Diego Comic-Con, where we did our stage show, had Colin and our backpack camera roaming the floor, and brought you uncut panels from the convention. This year we had fun with our launch coverage of the 3DS in Japan--Shaun, Takeshi, and I went to Akihabara and went live from Yodobashi Camera and our hotel room to show off Nintendo's new handheld. All that stuff is a challenge to be sure, but we've all loved doing it for you guys.
Tokyo Game Show: While this could technically fall in with the rest of our event coverage, I had to do a special call-out for this show because it's probably dearest to me as a game geek. I grew up in the era when Japanese games were the heart of gaming, and I've always had a soft spot for them. The first chance to go to TGS well over a decade ago was mind-blowing for me, but the chance to meet the developers who made the games that had a profound impact on my gaming life is really indescribable. Over the years I've gotten to know a lot of the guys from Sega, Capcom, Tecmo, Treasure, Nintendo, Sony, and a host of other developers, and it has been amazing and humbling. To top all that, I've come to have a very deep affection for Japan. It was the first place I'd ever gone to overseas, and it surpassed my lofty expectations. So when we've covered TGS we've always tried to showcase how awesome the show and country are by having fun. My best memories there are tied to and unsurprisingly revolve around cosplay, from Brian Ekberg's infamous "Stitch" run through the show to Shaun's "Luigi-V" shenanigans.
Spotlighting the Industry: At heart, I've always had an artistic/creative streak that has led me to be fascinated by the creative process and the people who make games. I've always believed that games are an art form like movies, television, and music, and over the years I've made it my mission to showcase them in one way or another. Big picture, there's Behind the Games, a spotlight on developers that shows a different side to these talented individuals. It has done me proud to see Sophia be inspired by BTG and dive into all aspects of music and audio in Sound Byte. Video Game History Month is another little passion project I was happy to see come to life to spotlight the fantastic and diverse history of our industry. On the smaller front, there are things that a site like GameSpot can do to highlight games or developers that we feel you should be keeping an eye on. One of my happiest memories in that respect was in 2004 when we helped get the word out on a fledgling developer called The Behemoth and its little game called Alien Hominid. The guys wound up doing pretty OK for themselves, as talented people do, and it has been fantastic to see them come so far. Then there's the spotlight we put on games like Demon's Souls, Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Catherine, to name just a few. We've always felt it's our responsibility as one of the big players in the industry to try to bring you a balanced diet of the blockbusters and the smaller, interesting stuff.
And that's just some of what I'm proud of here at GameSpot. I could go on a lot longer, but I've got some people to thank. I've been very blessed to have encountered some fantastic mentors over the years, and even though you guys probably don't know many of them, they deserve some public thanks.
Michael Brown: The big boss at CNET Gamecenter, where I had my first editorial job in the biz. He taught me the importance of setting the tone for your team.
John Marrin: My boss on the console section at Gamecenter, who taught me the importance of balancing being a game dork and a professional.
William Harms: My second boss at Gamecenter, who taught me the value of humor, zombies, and "getting it done."
Vince Broady: GameSpot's founder and the smartest man I've ever met in this business. He taught me the importance of protecting a brand, business manners, how to focus my drive and ambition, how to build a team, and, most importantly, how to take care of them.
Suzie Reider: Vince's successor, who taught me about grace under pressure and sticking to my guns when things get crazy.
Greg Brannan: Suzie's successor, a brilliant man who taught me about programming, developing content, and engaging an audience.
Henk Van Niekerk: A savvy guy who taught me about engaging and serving your community.
Stephen Colvin: A ballsy dude who reminded me about the importance of being an editor-in-chief.
Steve Snyder: A veteran business guy who taught me new things about business, communication, and managing a team.
Besides the array of bosses I've had, I have to give special thanks to a handful of people I've worked with in the trenches:
Joe Fielder: Thanks for showing me the importance of leading by example and, most importantly, being authentic to who you are while doing it.
Jeff Gerstmann: Thanks for showing me the importance of balancing being a total goofball with knowing your s*** and having fun. I'm glad you're kicking ass and taking names.
Greg Kasavin: Thanks for driving home the GameSpot work ethic that makes anyone who has worked here special and for reminding me that if you're not passionate about what you're doing, it ain't worth doing.
Andrew Park: Thanks for showing me the importance of organization, thinking things through, and always having some kind of solution in your back pocket.
Brian Ekberg: Thanks for showing me new ways to be a rock in hard times and how to be fearless and for introducing me to Trailer Park Boys.
Justin Calvert: Thanks for showing me how to just get on with it when things are crazy, the importance of international coordination, and introducing me to Phoenix Nights.
And last but not least...
Ryan MacDonald. Thank you for everything. You taught me how to be gregarious, positive, resourceful, and a better person all around. We saw the world together, we did things no one else even thought of in our time together, and, a few times, we broke the Internet together. I seriously can't think of anyone else I would have rather spent 12-plus years of my life with. You are my hero. Thank you for being my coworker and my friend and for all the time.
Now, while you'd think that's damn near everybody I could thank, I've still got more gratitude to dole out. If you've been coming to GameSpot, you definitely know the public faces here--myself, the editors, and the video and community teams--but we're not all that GameSpot is. While it's true our content makes up a lot of the site you see, there are dozens of other people here in the building and across the globe who have made GameSpot what it is. So I want to thank the US, Australian, UK, and Asian GameSpot teams--including editorial, copyedit, data, tech, product, design, marketing, events, sales, and PR--for their time, effort, and passion in making this whole thing go. Even more importantly, I want to thank the boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, children, and, hell, pets of everyone who works on GameSpot. The brand couldn't have lasted this long without scores of passionate people pouring their blood, sweat, tears, and time into it. Unfortunately, that has sometimes led to missed dates, strained relations, and the assorted byproducts that come with passion and sacrifice. So my profound thanks to everyone for sharing their time and loved ones to make this brand kick ass.
I couldn't think about doing any kind of good-bye without taking a nice chunk of space to thank my staff along with the countless folks I've worked with along the way who are no longer here at GameSpot. I couldn't have asked for a better, more-supportive kickass group of friends, coworkers, and colleagues to have made this 12-year journey with. You have been and continue to be brilliant and inspiring. You've helped shape me into a better editor and human being. I only hope that you realize how grateful I've always been for your tireless work and encouragement.
I could trot out the old cliche that I love you guys more than you know, but I hope that after all these years, while I certainly may not have said it enough, you guys know how much you have meant and will always mean to me. The experiences we've shared, the tough times, the demanding deadlines, and the seemingly impossible situations during my tenure, here and abroad, are unique to just a tiny handful of people on this planet. We have been, and always will be, a family. No matter where we go, no matter what we end up doing in the years to come, know that there is that handful of people out there who understand and that I will always have your back in the good and hard times.
I want to thank the industry: developers, publishers, PR, and all the other pieces of this crazy business we work in. It's mind-blowing to think it has been this long, and it's even crazier to think I've seen so many people grow up. I can honestly say I have cartridges older than some of you fetuses! But in the end, it has been a blast to work with everyone (well, most everyone. What? I'm not going to be blunt?), and I thank you all for the support and kindness that has come my way over the years. We've all bonded in the uniquely crazy rush of events, broken embargoes, demos, leaks, missent emails, and all the other shenanigans that have made up our work lives together. I will work with you all again soon, but until then, hugs (and stabs) to you all. It has been a blast.
Finally, and thanks for sticking with this, I want to thank the readers of the site. It has been an honor and a privilege to be gifted with the time you've spent on the site, watching videos, commenting on articles, posting in the forums, or making horrible memes of us playing motion-control games. You kept us honest, and you kept us motivated. On a special side note, I want to give a shout to the folks of color in the audience who have reached out to me in person or via PMs and email saying how excited and inspired they've been to see a Mexican EIC at a video game website. Well, it has been exciting to be that special kind of unicorn in the industry, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity. It wasn't easy getting here, and once I did, it was a ton of hard, but enormously rewarding, work. I also hope I'm not the last one, so y'all reading this, get your butts through college, play games, know your stuff, and come pick up the torch! I did this, and so can you, so step to it.
And there you go...an epic sign-off. But hey, it has been 12 years since I first stepped foot into this office, so sue me.
For those wondering what I might tackle next, my first priority is...not a damn thing. I've worked 12 years straight (including most holidays! Thanks, games industry, for those pre- and post-Christmas releases!), so I think I've earned myself some time off. I've got so many friends and family I want to spend time with, and along the way I've got real life to live for a bit.
But I'm not done with games by a long shot. I'm much too passionate about this medium to be done with it. There are so many stories yet to be told and things to be done in games that I'm intent on telling and doing. In the meantime, I'll be jotting down some of my thoughts and posting pics on this Tumblr. A word of warning, though--this blog ain't getting touched for at least a month or so. I'm going to spend some time catching up on games, hibernating (8 hours of sleep?! Impossible!), and maybe even going to Disneyland.
All the best,
We interrupt EVO ramblings for a heads up on some cool goings on here at GameSpot:
It's a great time to be a gamer.You'll find interesting games worth your time in all kinds of different places these days. As the gaming landscape grows and evolves, GameSpot will be moving along with it and broadening its scope to highlight cool games, wherever they may be. To start with, we'll be showcasing a weekly selection of top mobile game picks for Android and iOS. At the end of each month we'll also call out the best games from the previous week's picks. The games we feature will be a mix of titles we think are cool and, more importantly, titles you all think are cool as well. We'll be setting up a special forum dedicated to discussions around what the top picks for that week are. Ultimately your input will be the most important part of the mobile content we produce,
It's a different approach to covering games than we usually take, but we think it's the right one. At the end of the day the biggest problem for mobile game coverage is discovery on both sides. Developers make cool stuff that's often lost in a sea of content and potential gamers can't find said cool stuff because of the massive array of options. We want to try and fix that on both ends by tapping you all since word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to discover mobile games. We hope you'll make yourselves heard and help us create compelling coverage around the titles you care about. This is your site as much as it is ours so let's make something cool together. We'll be aiming to bring you the stuff we think is cool and, if you guys speak up, the stuff you like too.
Let's make magic, people!
Now, back to EVO-ing... Check out the feature and let us know what you think!
Just a semi quick note from the road. Mac and I are in Las Vegas right now, taking in the sights and sounds of EVO 2011. We're talking to some folk, filming some stuff, and carrying the official stream here. If you've never been you should def check it out. Even if you're not into fighting games, the matches make for some great spectating. We've shot some interviews already (with Seth and SNK for KOF XIII which is here) and have more scheduled for MvC3, SFxTK, SFIII: Third Strike, Tekken Tag 2, and Soul Calibur V. There may be one more but we'll surprise you with it if it happens. In the meantime, look for the video soon and some updated impressions on the site. Good crowd here already (things kicked off at 8am this morning) and it's just getting started. Give a shout on Fuse if you're looking for us to hit anything in particular, I've already got some requests in I'm working on but there's time to squeeze more in!
The show's been nuttier than usual for us but so much fun (I will be posting a non haiku-like entry once things settle down). I hope you guys are enjoying all the coverage, wanted to just say a quick thanks for the feedback you're sending our way.
So Akira Yamaoka is putting together a project to benefit the Tohoku tsunami victims and relief effort. It's an album called Play For Japan: The Album and will feature video game artists and composers from both the East and West. Info below. Spread the word and pick it up when it hits the iTunes Store in May.Website:More Links:@AkiraYamaoka@PlayForJPNPlay For Japan auction item: Akira Yamaoka Silent Hill Guitar (auction ending 4/5/2011)
So just following up on my last post. More than a few folks have pm'd me letting me know they'd like to help but it's not financially possible. So I started asking around and had this passed on to me by a friend:
If you can't give money but have some time, paper, envelopes, and some stamps lying around this lets you pitch in.
So I wanted to call your attention to the link on the site we've just posted. It's a collection of resources available to anyone looking for a way to donate to the victims of the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. You should see it at the top of every page on the site. It's up to you all to decide if it's something you want to do but, and I'm not one to do much in the way of preaching, I'd ask everyone to consider donating something if you can. For those of us who are able, I don't think it's too hard to choose to not eat out or go see a movie a few times and donate that chunk of money. Given the devastating scale of what's happened, I understand that it's possible to feel totally overwhelmed and powerless. You shouldn't though. Everyone has the capability to help in some way, no matter how big or small, and that can make a difference. Recovery for Japan is going to take a long time so anything we can do to help is better than doing nothing. If you're not able to donate money there could be ways to donate your time to help, or even just raise awareness. At times like this, it's important for those going through it to know that they're not alone so please find a way that's right for you and help.
See what I did there? I turned a clearly exaggerated statement into a shocking headline just by adding a question mark, like in this Fox News article headlined, "Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World?" But seriously, the Fox News article is disheartening, to say the least. It's sad to see video games still being positioned as a corrupting influence on today's youth.
On the one hand I expected us to be past this by now. The industry has been around long enough to have seen multiple generations of gamers grow to adulthood and beyond without causing the downfall of society. On the other hand, I get that dire stories about all the evils of the world and how they could ruin your children makes for eye catching, snappy news. They're even more eye-catching when peppered with gross generalizations and completely unsubstantiated "facts."
For example, the Fox News article quotes Emmy-award winning psychiatrist Carole Lieberman as saying "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in videogames." Putting aside the vanishingly small number of games that allow you to play out sexual scenes, it's worth noting that the "increase in rapes" Lieberman references doesn't seem to exist. According to Bureau of Justice estimates, there were 126,000 rapes and sexual assaults in the US in 2009 (the most recent year available), less than half the 2006 total of 272,000. In fact, the number of rapes and sexual assaults has been trending downward for decades. The Bureau estimates there were 607,000 incidents of rape or sexual assault in 1992. Coincidentally, that was the year Mortal Kombat debuted in arcades and touched off a previous round of hand-wringing about violence in games.
The sad reality is video games are still something of an unknown for a lot of people, including parents, so it's very easy to paint them as horrible things that you are powerless to stop from doing something insidious to your child's moral fiber. It's exasperating for me to see because, as one of those aforementioned kids who grew into adulthood while playing games, I've seen this play out before. The games have changed--back in my day it was Night Trap and Mortal Kombat--but the root fear is the same. The concern, even then, was that seeing violence or sex depicted in games was going to warp kids' view of reality and somehow lead to us all committing horrible acts. Anecdotally, I can tell you that this did not happen to me or any of my acquaintances or theirs.
In the end we're the product of "nurture" as well as nature. Our upbringing shapes us and informs the way we process the world. Regardless of how games or technology or new media change the specifics, parents will always have a responsibility to raise their children to be respectful, intelligent members of society. If they can manage that, a child will have the common sense to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and use good judgment regardless of what unsavory content they come across while gaming, surfing the Internet, or hanging out with friends. And incidentally, BulletStorm isn't even intended for small children and is clearly marked as such--it carries a rating of "M" for "Mature."
I understood, even as a kid, that games were a form of entertainment. In my world then, and honestly for my generation now, games are right up there with movies, music and television, and we have always seen them as such. And just as with those media, parents have a responsibility to monitor which games their children are playing and exposed to. The video game industry has done its part to help out. There's an easy-to-understand ratings system in place that's plastered on boxes, tagged onto commercials, and readily accessible online. There are parental lockout controls on every major console and all the latest handhelds. Whether or not they choose to use them, parents already have these tools at their disposal.
So is Fox News the worst news outlet in the world? I think people's opinions will vary, wildly, on that matter. As for Bulletstorm, is it a deplorable celebration of the most puerile experiences gaming has to offer, entirely devoid of merit? Possibly. Is it something that should be kept from impressionable children? Well duh, it's rated "M". Is it the latest scapegoat in a decades-long discussion dominated by unnecessary hand-wringing and fear mongering? Definitely.
Okay it's almost 5am up in here. All the goods have been posted and are being grouped for your viewing pleasure by folks in the US. Hope you guys liked the coverage, it was a blast to be here and see this happen. The games look cool and the screen is nuts.There's a lot to like about this device, so I'm really hoping the price continues that trend and lands in the likable spectrum. What are folks thinking is a good number? In a perfect world of unicorns and yeti I'd say 250. But in the land of realism? Probably in the 3-400 range although I'd love to be proven wrong... K time to pass out for a bit before flying home and doing the time warp thing- leave Friday 3pm.... arrive Friday 8am. *cue sci fi music*
Just some quick bits before crashing... jet lag is in full swing. So today got a chance to visit one of Sony's offices to get updates on The Last Guardian, Patapon 3, and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus: The Collection. Neat stuff to be sure, content's embargoed for a while so hang tight on specifics.
As for tomorrow, if all goes well we'll be having a liveblog of Sony's event and some exec interviews to share so keep your eyes peeled. There's a lot of info out there (none of which Sony is confirming or denying as part of the time honored industry tradition of dealing with leaks) that's pretty interesting. The one thing that hasn't gotten out is any word on software, which everyone's curious about. Here's hoping they bust out some big guns. Alright, I'm out. Check the site tonight for all the fun.
Yo yo the 2011 Fun Train continues to move along like the one in that Chris Pine/Denzel Washington movie. Sitting in my hotel in Tokyo right now trying to convince my body it's time for bed and not 6am... gaigh. Why am I here? Two things: the import release of Gal Gun and Sony's PlayStation Meeting 2011. Okay more #2 than #1 but hey, I will be picking up Gal Gun if only to torture the folks back home. As for the PlayStation Meeting, well, even though Sony keeps up its now patented "What?" response to the wave of inquiries on what they'll be discussing, I'm pretty sure you all can guess some of it by now. We should be live blogging and shooting some interviews from that Thursday event to post late in the night Wednesday and into Thursday US PST if the internet doesn't bug out on us. Got some other stuff cooking too but i'll fill you in tomorrow. Going to pass out now...
But one quick thing,if you all have questions on Sony's news shoot them my way and i'll see what i can do to get some answers.
This blog is a part of the scavenger hunt.
Share a couple of items on your Christmas wishlist this year.
A new laptop
What games will you play during the holidays?
World of WarCraft, CoD: BO, Dead Rising 2, DCUO Beta
What are the kinds of food or drinks you must have during the holidays?
My mom's tamales, carrot cake
ORNAMENT HUNT ANSWER - CLUE 26
Just got back from the Project Natal "experience" thing. I guess I should say the "Kinect" experience, although it's going to take me a while to get used to saying that... I'm sure you all have seen the mixed reactions the name is getting. To be fair it's tough to put your finger on the one thing that is off right now, because tonight was one of the more eccentric things MS has done in a good long while. I remember the off the wall nature of some of the X0 events in Europe years ago but tonight was something on a much bigger scale. So, in that respect, they certainly achieved something but what that was varies. End of the day, tonight really wasn't for us. It was a play for mainstream attention and the unicorn-like broader audience everyone's been chasing since the Wii dropped on the industry like a force of nature. I'm hoping that tomorrow's press conferences will show what's in buying into a Kinect for us. Also I'm hoping can get into the press conference without having to slap an oversized light up lobster bib on. But that might just be me.
So it's the start of a new year and it seriously feels like the holiday was like some kind of extended 3 day weekend or something. It's been pretty busy around these parts thanks to a grip of games hitting stores or well on their way to. But, despite all that, I'm trying to carve out some time and check in a lot more regularly to fill folks in on what's going and offer some general chatter. So I'm aiming to do something regularly on a Friday or a Monday... or a Tuesday- let's just say this is going to be a work in progress thing for now. I would've posted yesterday but I was actually off with Tyler shooting something pretty cool.
It's going to be a while before we can talk too much about it but, I'm sure nobody's really surprised that Lucasarts and Bioware are hauling tail on the soundtrack recording for The Old Republic right?
So there's a tiny update. I'll get my good habit going and be back Friday! (Or Monday... but probably Friday- work in progress people!).
Right, so let's talk about that GTAIV score. For those who haven't seen or heard, here's the deal: there was a bug in our publishing system on Monday that caused the incorrect score for GTAIV, a 9.5, to appear for on some pages for a while. This happened hours before we posted the actual score with the review, a 10. This has all led to a lot of talk and speculation so I'm going to set things straight, short answer: it's not true. Longer answer requires me to run you through stuff which I'll be doing now.
Our review process is like so: Once our reviewer has finished the game, he writes his review, submits it to copyedit, and then goes back over the text to look over the changes copyedit made before submitting it to production who then produce the review. Once the review is produced as a Web page on our QA servers, a link goes out to the reviews team for the peer review process. During that time the review score is not final. I'll say that again for dramatic emphasis: During that time the review score is not final.
In the case of GTAIV, that non-final review had a score of 9.5 attached to it--a score which the peer review process is designed to fine-tune and then set in stone. As has been standard GameSpot operating procedure for years, the last step of the peer review process is a discussion about review content and score. The content discussion entails making sure that relevant gameplay features and whatnot are mentioned to ensure the review is accurate as possible--and that said score matches said review.
As Justin noted in his blog, there were enough people in the reviews group who felt GTAIV deserved a 10 that we all holed up in a room to settle the matter....as the review was in the QA process on our staging servers with a 9.5 score attached to it. Ironically, one of the staff poked their head in the room during the at-times heated discussion and mentioned that it looked like a bug on the staging site had caused the QA score to go live for a split second. The importance of this event didn't sink in at first, since were so embroiled in our talks. Why were we so focused? Because we take matters of review score seriously. I'll reiterate what Justin said in his blog: We don't hand out 10s lightly--we've given out just four in GameSpot's entire history.
I've hit up our tech folks to find out what the deal was. After some back and forth, they got me answers because I wanted to post about this and include some info. So here's the tech nitty gritty for those that care:
* a 9.5 score, which as I noted above was not final, was the original score placed on the GTA4 page and became the page that was cached while testing and reviewing the site for quality assurance.
* Due to a bug in our publishing system that has since been corrected, a cached page containing the score and review blurb, but not the review itself, appeared on the Production version of the site.
* The length of time this was up is not precisely known but logs show that changes were made from 4:45PM PST - 8:20PM PST, with the actual review going live at 8:20PM PST.
And there you have it. A publishing snafu + some tremendously awful timing = needless drama. I'm well aware there's a bunch of folks out there happy to add this to the conspiracy theory tapestry that has been woven about GameSpot. Adding to said conspiracy was a blog post from a moderator saying the 9.5 score was deliberately put up as a "red herring" to test reader reaction. The same moderator has since corrected himself, pointing out that in 2003, an accidental score of 0.0 was posted for one of the highest-review games of the year--Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (9.1).
I'm disappointed that, end of the day, one of the best-written and best produced text and video reviews is being cynically written off by some. None of the naysayers know the effort that went into making sure our review of probably the biggest--and so far, the best--game of the year was as bulletproof as possible. The personal attacks on Justin are unnecessary. Apparently people don't realize that Justin's been at GameSpot for 9 years--starting with the original GameSpot UK--and has reviewed all sorts of games in that time.
But so it goes. Bugs and assorted glitches are a fact of life on the web just as misspellings and assorted printing issues can be with print magazines. We take our reviews seriously here and we don't post them until they're ready. This is why GTAIV went up when we wanted it to with the score we wanted it to have. For those that gave us the benefit of the doubt and that didn't jump to conclusions, you have my thanks. To the others? ...
15Jan 07So here I am. It's close to 10pm Monday night and I'm in a line at the Fry's in Sunnyvale- they're doing a midnight launch for Burning Crusade. Mac and I came down to shoot some interviews with the Blizzard folks who came on down to attend the sale and the signing. We both kinda laughed at the deja vu of us in the middle of a mob of people lining up for something games related in insane cold. There's a radio station here amping people up (well the front of the line anyway, by the time I got done with my business I wound up in the part of the line that wound around the building- boo!). Past few months were so busy I fricking forgot to preorder a CE so here I am. Woo. The interviews went well, Shane (Dabiri, producer) remembered us from the last time we interviewed him at Walk of Game so that was cool. We did our standard interview then went through the line with Shane and Justin Thivrat, art director. we talked to folks, some of which have been here since 10pm last night. Shane and Justin got a kick out of what people had to say. I gotta say, this is easily the most eclectic line I've been in yet not to mention the biggest line I think I've ever been in for software. There's probably about a thousand people in line here, with more showing up as I type. This is pretty insane when you consider it's freezing temperatures out tonight (man I knew I should worn like 2 more pairs of thermal undies...). Lord only knows how slammed the servers are going to be tonight and the rest of this week. Anyhoo, that's what I got for now. I'll update in a bit with pics and some more musings when I thaw out my hands- did i mention the "freezing temperatures" thing?
So I meant to update sooner but we've kind of been on crazy train since hitting town. It hasn't let up but, although I should be doing something smart like taking a nap or something before our coverage of tonight's Wii-splosion in Times Square, I figured I'd write out some stuff to fill folks in on what's been going on. Here's a quick run through:
Ryan Mac, Myself and the boys all flew out to New York (via New Jersey). We got in evening time and once we checked into our hotel made our way to the Sony Style store in Sony Plaza. The line for PS3's was pretty hefty so we did some taping and then headed back to the rooms to pass out.
D-day for us. The crew took to the streets of NY and hit a few places to do some taping at various lines. We hit the Circuit City and Best Buy lines to see how folks were doing there. I gotta say, in a non pandering "HELLO CLEVELAND" kind of way, that I do love New York and its peeps. It's a great city with good people. Anyhoo, back to our day:
Later that afternoon we headed on over to the Sony Store to set up our live broadcast. It was crazy to get everything together in time. The way things worked out we couldn't get in until a little after 4 to set all our stuff up which didn't give us much wiggle room in case something was busted or didn't go like we planned. Fortunately it all worked out well. Have to say it's pretty insane to think that this whole live thing was a crazy notion Mac and I tossed around a few months ago when we started brainstorming launch ideas. At the time I remember we were both like "This'll probably never happen..." and yet there we were setting up. If you saw the broadcast you got a taste for how crazy things were. Anytime we do something like this we try to prepare for anything that could go awry but there's always stuff you can't plan for that happens. Like when Charlie Murphy did his shout out or when a glass door was closed and severed our power line in a Fantavision like display of sparks forcing us to go all "MacGyver" to get back up and running. Mac's amazing that way. Once that was done it was tear down time and a crawl to the hotel to sleep.
So we slept most of the day since we weren't back to the rooms and sorted until about 3 am (ouch). Once everyone was conscious we split up with one team heading out to check out Wii lines and the other going to set up our tech for Saturday night. Way later in the day I met up with folks at the Nintendo World store in Rockefeller Center and poked around, squeezed in some Christmas shopping since I haven't even started. Once that was sorted we headed back to the hotel for some sleep since we expected Saturday was going to be insane.
We were up and out this morning and started making our rounds. We hit up Toys R Us in Times Square, which is gonna be ground zero tonight, to do some early filming and check things out. There's a new Wii section on the second floor that was put in especially for the launch. The lower level's gotten a bunch of extra monitors in that are running Wii trailers or have playable games on them. Zelda is actually running on a 70 inch monitor which is sweet. Once we were done there, we headed back to the Nintendo store to check on our homies from the day before. The line at the store was much longer so we shot interviews with a whole bunch of people for tonight's show. Once that was done we headed on back to the hotel which brings me to right now:
The plan now is to go interview Reggie before it gets too crazy, gotta head out in 10 minutes. Once that's done we'll come back, rest up, prep the gear and head over. The festivities kick off a few hours after that and then it's on. Whew. Hope folks are digging the coverage. Come back and check out the stream in a few hours. For the New Yorkers out here, come say hi if you see us at the event. You might wind up on camera!
One Big Blur
So I'm sitting here on a bus speeding to Narita International Airport in Japan on my way home after a whirlwind trip to Japan for PS3 launch. I meant to write something in my blog during the trip but it's been just a little crazy so the ride to the airport has turned out to be the first chance I've had. So here's a quick run through the trip.
Left SFO Tuesday morning got in Wednesday night. Awesome traffic stretched the normally two hour limo shuttle ride to close to 3 hours. Once Takeshi and I got to our hotel we made a run for some beef bowl, ran back to the room to tape the video segment they ran on On the Spot, checked in with a friend that was helping us out with our PS3 adventure and then passed out.
Thursday morning we made a run to Akihabara to shoot some stuff and get a feel for where the best place to camp out for our PS3 was going to be. I'd been ready to start lining up by 2 or 3 in the afternoon but a lot of the stores we intended on pitching a tent by were discouraging folks from lining up- mostly due to the fact that most stores weren't expected to get many units. Finally checked in with our buddy Henry who popped over and joined us as we merged into the conspicuously line-like clump of loiterers standing in front of the Yodabashi Camera watching PS3 trailers. Later in the evening around 8:00 Yodabashi employess busted out some bullhorns and announced that if people didn't disperse they wouldn't be able to sell units in the morning. So we all dispersed, like 10 feet and just all spread out, sort of like that final scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". Once bullhorn guy left everyone edged in again. I tapped out and left Takeshi in line while Henry and I made the rounds to other local stores to doublecheck all our options. Our backup plan was to try one of the launch day raffles happening in several stores on the morning of the 11th. In order to be eligible I had to go sign up for point cards at a few stores. When that was sorted I traded spots with Takeshi so he could go sign up too and wedged myself in to the crowd right in front of the PS3 monitors running trailers for games and an interactive kiosk that let you play Devil May Cry, Gran Turismo and Ridge Racer. We expected it to be mellow until after the store closed at 10 pm since employees and the local cops made it clear they weren't allowing lines until after the store closed.
Things didn't quite turn out that way.
So there I am wedged between tons of people watching the Afrika trailer yet again. I heard someone start talking loud, I recognized the word "line" (my Japanese aint what it used to be) and then the world kind of exploded. People ran away from the store and towards a guy holding a PS3 sign up the street, the start of the official line. I was ready to join the "running of the nerd" herd but one of the runners in front of me fell so I stopped so's not to stomp him and wound up getting shoved from behind and going down for a bit. I got a little stomped trying to get back up cos rather than step over someone on the ground mofos acted like they were playing DDR with me as the pad (ow! ow! ow!) Eventually I did get back up and found myself in a big honkin line. It seemed uncomfortably far from the store so I was a little worried that my getting mashed by tomorrow's DDR champions had cost me a good place in line. When Takeshi and Henry got back a while later they were a little taken aback by my new location considering how primo the spot in front of the monitors was but what're you gonna do? I tapped out with Takeshi a little later so I could nurse my wounds. I went back about 1 am and parked it in our spot on the sidewalk. Takeshi headed on out to work on editing video leaving me to have all kinds of fun sitting on the ground until 7am praying that it wouldn't rain.
The wait wasn't so bad thanks to the magic of the DS and PSP although, in retrospect, something soft to sit on wouldn't have been bad. The vibe was a little weird. Though there were plenty of Japanese folk and foreigners who were genuinely excited for the system. There was also a different crowd there namely scalpers and their minions. Amidst all the regular folk it wasn't too hard to spot people who were there with the intention of grabbing a unit to either eBay or turn over to someone who was paying them to stand in line.
Takeshi returned around 6 am because we'd heard Ken Kutaragi was going to make an appearance. It made sense since he'd been on hand 2 years ago to sell the first PSP so Takeshi wanted to be around in case he made a return. As it happened he didn't show up to sell the first one although we did catch sight of Phil Harrison, who put in a brief appearance before heading out to make his rounds. When 7am rolled around the store opened and started selling units. Of course since I was #449 it's not like I had to move for a while. While I waited for my turn to go by the line started shuffling forward… and it started to rain buckets. Henry got me an umbrella from a nearby convenience store and also got Takeshi a poncho since he was still trying to film stuff.
I finally got into the store at around 8:45am and got to stand in yet another line that weaved through the aisles. As I waited for my turn I was slowly driven insane by a trailer for Kirby Squeak Squad on DS which looped the 20 second tune over and over. 9:15 I got I finally got to a register. I got a 60gig, the five launch titles, and a handful of Sixaxis controllers, turns out they were sold out of the memory card adapter. Thankfully Henry offered to pick one up on his run through Akihabara to assess launch aftermath for a news story. With our PS3 in hand Takeshi and I made our way to our hotel to check it out. We got a bonus on our way out when we got handed a FROM SOFTWARE HD Visual Preview Disc, fancy name for a disc containing Amrored Core 4 and Enchant Arms PS3 trailers.
First thing we did was update the firmware and then start to poke around with the games, Genji, Resistance, Ridge, Gundam, and Sega Golf Club. Three of them, Resistance, Ridge, and Gundam, offered English language options while Genji and Sega Golf Club were all Japapnese all the time. The downside to our experience was that all we had to work with was a standard def TV and the simple RCA cables that come with the PS3- not an ideal set up. For what it's worth everything looked good enough on the TV. Web browsing was a bit of a chore due to the cell phone style text input but most pages loaded up fine although flash proved to be a problem depending on the site. Once that was done I passed out on the floor for a bit.
Follow Up From Home:
Rest of the trip is fuzzy but I remember packing, hitting up some UFO Catchers for souvenirs for the gang back home, responding to a PM from Sethfrost, dropping stuff off at work, seeing Greg and Ryan Davis who were there reviewing stuff, doing some email and then heading home. Also I seem to recall meeting a dude named Steve (I think) on the BART ride home who asked for my autograph. I stumbled home and passed out. Insane? Yes. But also oddly fun. End of the day console launches don’t happen that often and it's always a unique experience. Granted this one may have felt a little low key because of the quantities in stores but it's still the start of a new set of boxes to play on so it was worth the madness and stomping.
Next up PS3 and Wii US launches. O_0
So I've been thinking about the kind of games I want to be playing on the PSP. With the hardware locked and loaded for a March launch, we're starting to see more and more of the software that's being developed for it. So far there's a fair mix of new content along with the expected ports. It's funny because I'm pretty torn about the subject of ports on the PSP. While I'm usually not a fan of dirty porting, we see that enough on consoles, I have to say that I wouldn't mind seeing some old favorites get a portable makeover.
Vampire Chronicle was one of my most anticipated titles for the system when it shipped in Japan, despite the fact that it was basically just a ten year old fighting game with a new mode and WiFi built in. The extras weren't a bad addition and the fact that there hasn't been a version of Darkstalkers out in an age made the game practically new anyway. Looking at what's coming I think you can say that "everything old is new again" in a number of cases, like Wipeout Pure and Ape Escape for example, but that doesn't necessarily mean I want to see developers scampering back to their PlayStation catalogs and dusting off anything that came out for it.
What I'd like to see happen is developers take an approach that's in the same spirit as what Capcom did for Vampire Chronicle. If you pick the right old stuff I won't hate, especially if it gets tricked out to take advantage of the PSP's Wifi, massive screen, and good amount of buttons. The geek in me wants to see the PSP software library turn into a showcase for great new original titles as well as a spotlight for enhanced director's cut style versions of PlayStation games that didn’t quite get their due or are hard to find. My wishlist of PlayStation games I'd like to see enhanced on the PSP is, and this is by no means comprehensive since this is me just thinking out loud:
On top of all that I'd like to see Sega do its fans a solid release Shining Force III for the system. And I'm not just talking about the lone chapter that hit the Saturn at the tail end of that console's life, I want them all. For those that don't remember, the Shining Force III debacle was one of Sega's biggest FUBAR moments and the final smack to long suffering Saturn owners. Basically the Shining Force III that was released in the states was the first of three scenarios, the other two came out in Japan as they were meant to and finished off the well thought out story. While the 20 or so of us that imported the rest of the chapters were satisfied by how the story played out, anyone who just played the US game was left wondering how the heck things turned out. Given that most players have never played the other two chapters, or even the first one actually since the game was released at the end of the Saturn's life when most folks had moved on, Shining Force III would be a great candidate for a PSP game. A visual makeover plus the inclusion of the other two scenarios, hell Sega could even through in the super rare Premium Disc content which you could only get by sending in proofs of purchase of all three scenarios too if they wanted, would ensure the game would come packing some serious value and gameplay. Who knows if anyone's going to listen to these mad ramblings but it sure would be cool if at least some of them happened, right?
So the madness of launch day in Japan has subsided mad I've got a few to collect my thoughts. It's been a whirlwind few days full of some unexpected surprises as we've all been doing our thing and prepping for the launch of the PSP. Saturday afternoon found us prepping and debating amongst ourselves as to whether we should do the line thing. The weather's cold and a little wet which gave us some pause when toying with the idea of waiting in line the night before if one started to form. We weren't really sure if people would be coming down the last two major releases in Japan, DQ8 and the DS launch, had lines that started early in the morning on the day they respectively went on sale. We weren't sure just what to expect for the PSP since you just never know. Even still, Mac and I were pretty surprised as we headed back to our hotel following an afternoon adventure (more on that in a second) at around 8pm and saw people lining up in a queue outside a Yodabashi camera. We did a double take and then realized that people were already hunkering down which was a little crazy since we'd kind of figured the lines wouldn't start for a few more hours.
Once we saw that we decided to pass on waiting in line all night and just show up at dawn the next day- we already had our PSP needs covered anyway, we just wanted to "keep it real" and clock in some line time. While that may sound a little bizarre, let me toss out some context. Between Jeff, Mac, and myself, we've all been doing this for a good chunk of time and we've seen more than our fair share of system launches. This has helped give us a good perspective on the whole "launch day" activity thing because, no matter how much time has passed and no matter how things have changed in the industry there's one constant that will hopefully always remain the same: waiting in lines he day before a new system hits- which, honestly, is kind of awesome. When it comes to a major release of hardware and to a lesser degree these days, software it always goes back to waiting in a line with other like-minded nerds. Lines remain the great equalizer because it doesn't matter if you're a journalist, hardcore gamer, or even a causal player, if you want to get your hands on the goods as quick as possible you're going to drag your butt out someplace and get yourself in a queue. When you're in one there's no real pretenses, you're just one of a sea of people jonesing for this one cool thing. Doesn't matter if you're young, old, or even speak the native language for however long you're in that line you're part of the tribe which is just dope.
But, before I wrap up the tale of our launch day morning, let me fill you in on a little adventure Mac and I had the night before. We had a bit of time before we had to start prepping for our launch duties and I convinced him to come with me to see Godzilla: Final Wars, the latest in Toho's most excellent oeuvre of "man in suit" flicks. The movie recently opened in Japan and was in pretty wide distribution so it was easy to find a theater close to our hotel that was playing it. After a quick walk/run to make the showing we settled in to the Toho run theater and saw what is quite possibly THE best Godzilla flick in ages. I did some research before we left to see what we'd be in for if we saw it and was left a little uneasy. Folks either loved or hated it; it seemed to polarize the fans like few of the recent films had done so I was worried it could be a mess. I dig director Ryuhei Kitamura's style so I hoped that, mess or not, the film would at least offer up some cool visuals. Yeah well it did that and then some. I can see why some fans were irked by some of the film: Mothra did not need to go out like she did; Hedorah <i>did</i> get some lame treatment; and yeah Minya really didn't have to be in the movie. But aside from some minor points like that, Final Wars is probably the Godzilla movie people have been waiting for for years. A grip load of fights (Godzilla tears through and whups tail on something like 11 monsters), and a nice sense of history go a long way towards making the flick appealing. Best of all the cast of humans in the film was great. Lead actor Masahiro Masuoka and the rest of the cast, including UFC vet Don Frye, are all having a good old time and kept the non monster sequences almost as lively as the epic city destroying battles thanks to some Starblazers style action sequences. As if that wasn't enough, one of the critters big G stomps is none other than the crappy American Godzilla, inflicted on us by the Emmerich and Devlin movie, that looked like some kind of iguana. The sight of Godzilla tail smacking the frigging thing into the Sydney opera house and lighting him up with some atomic fire is satisfying on so many levels. But back to our launch day adventures...
The morning of launch day the three of us headed out around 5:30 am or so and were staggered by what we saw. The Yodabshi we were headed to is tucked away in the center of a shopping district in Shinjuku that's towards its center. By the time we were at the crosswalk to get to the outskirts of the district we saw a fat line. There was easily over a thousand people snaked through the area by security hoping to keep things orderly. If things couldn't get anymore surreal I passed by an obviously happy Ken Kutaragi who snapped a few shots of the line with his camera before popping in the store to prep for the sale. Word had spread that a few stores would start selling their PSP goods earlier than the standard 10 am opening time. In Yodabashi's case that mean 6am. We positioned ourselves in front of the store for a good view of the action as the hour grew near. All three of us were pretty surprised at the volume of folks. Up until then it had been hard to gauge local interest in the PSP. We'd seen plenty of ads for it on trains and magazines but, given the expected number of units available at launch, it seemed as though people were being pretty low key about it. At least we thought so until we saw the thousand people lined up...
A few minutes before 6 a countdown started that found the assembled people chanting along with it as the hour approached. At the end of the countdown some confetti was set off and a bunch of folks cheered (it was almost like a frigging New Year's Eve countdown which was awesome). The line started moving into the store and local and foreign press ran in for the first shot of the day's first PSP being sold by Kutaragi-san. Of course Mac was in the thick of things so keep an eye out for his visual account of what I'm describing because you have to see it to believe it. After we did our thing at the Yodabashi it was time to get to work so we headed off to our rooms and started our day. I'll be checking in soon.