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Giant Bomb is my new home

From now on you can catch me over at Giant Bomb under the screen name TOYBOXX. I've finally found a place to blog without the worry of the website itself being biased, and also where the online community is thriving.

Peace out Gamespot! - thank God.

Back from the depths

Hello, one and all, to the lost chronicles where the absence of a blogger has returned to keep you needlessly informed on the gaming industry. Ok, well not necessarily informed as I'm no editor to a gaming website nor am I getting paid to speak my mind on the matter of gaming. Anyways, this years E3 has come and gone like a fart in the night, and there has been some high points and low one's too that need to be discussed. Starting with the high points:

MICROSOFT: The press conference was interesting that lacked entertainment. The partnership with Netflix was a great idea on the part of Microsoft that will keep the money flow coming. And the implementation of a new interface looks not only professional but ... cleaner. Oh, and Gears of War 2, according to the questionable gameplay footage, Epic Games has another beast in their hands. And the new Galaga game will be mine once I get my 360 back from repairs.

SONY: In my opinion they've stole the show. Resistance 2, Infamous, Killzone 2, the 2.41 firmware update (which has been released before E3) PSP bundles, and a new price for the 80GB - $399! (Please discuss below about this as I'm uneducated about this announcement) The powerpoint presentation using Littlebigplanet was brilliant and entertaining to watch - kudos to them for that.

Now for the low points:

NINTENDO: Were they even at E3 this year? Seriously they're press conference was an elaborate demonstration that screamed "We have absolutely nothing for you this year!" I mean what was that?

As a whole E3 is dwindling. It's a matter of time where the convention won't even exist anymore due to the lack of interest in it. But as I've finished pouring myself over all of these gaming websites, almost like prying myself off of a cheap carnival ride, I can finally say that I'm glad it's over. But not over yet as I'll be preparing myself for Tokyo Game Show.

Gamespot staffer joins!

Brad Shoemaker, formerly known as a regular hear at, is now a freelance journalist for Can't get enough of Brad and his slow entrancing voice? Join me at 1up and subscribe to the 1UP Yours podcast at iTunes where you'll get to hear what he's been up to.

Wow, this website is a bit empty now. Isn't it? Hmph. Yeah why bother just tear it down?

St. Patty's Day, and a brief Army of Two review

This Monday will be St. Patty's Day and boy will the Xbox Live users love me. Yes I intend to play some Army of Two while I'm, shall we say, sauced. So happy Saint Pat's Day everyone!

Speaking of Army of Two I was disappointed with how EA developed the game. Gameplay feels more like Mercenaries than to a game that utilizes a cover system like Gears of War. The story is completely forgettable, the aiming is difficult than it really should be, and the AI for both the partner you'll play with in the single player game and the enemies, as they just often times sit there and do nothing while they're being shot, are too dumb. I'm tired of being dragged around (literally) in circles by my partner trying to find cover to heal me that ultimately gets me killed because the AI for him is too stupid. Gah! And the online portion of the game isn't any better. Just rent it and find out for yourself. But even with it's frustrations and annoyances Army of Two is still an alright game if not for it's customizations. To tell you the truth if it wasn't for the achievements on the Xbox 360, Army of Two would of been an after thought for me. I give AOT 6 out 10.

And for the people on Gamespot that is my friend on Xbox Live, I won't be on the service coming this June. The Playstation 3 bundle deal with Metal Gear Solid 4 at $499 is just too good to pass up. And since PSN is free online I'll be using that more than Live. Realistically it wouldn't make sense to pay-to-play on XBL when I can play for free on PSN.

So this wraps up my not-so-daily blog post. Have a great weekend guys!

MGS4 PS3 Bundle Pack Date Officially Confirmed!

Just a couple of days ago, Sony announced plans for a Metal Gear Solid 4-bundled PlayStation 3. At the time, rumors ran wild around the internet pointing to June 12 as the new release date for the much-anticipated title, but Konami would not confirm this... until now.

As part of the Destination PlayStation event, Konami has revealed that Metal Gear Solid 4 will in fact be arriving on June 12. Konami CEO Kazumi Kitaue compared the release to a blockbuster movie premiere, which he called "a tradition of the summer."

Kitaue also revealed new details about Metal Gear Online. As had previously been revealed, the 16-player online extension of the Metal Gear universe will feature a "Starter Pack" in MGS4, with the implication that a full game disc or download pack will need to be purchased to access all the MGO content.

If that leaves you a bit uncertain, take heart that you'll be able to test things out for yourself a bit in advance. Anyone who pre-orders Metal Gear Solid 4 beginning in April will receive a bonus pack that will include free beta access to Metal Gear Online. Said beta test will begin on April 21, but it will run for a mere two weeks. The pre-order bonus also features a Metal Gear Saga 2.0 DVD. This disc has a full recap of the series up to now, a retrospective, character bios, and a collection of MGS4 trailers.

Further information on Metal Gear Solid 4 and its big PS3 debut is available via an FAQ posted at the PlayStation Blog. If you're done salivating for the moment, you also might want to take a look at 1UP's previews of both Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Online.

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I'm glad to hear that Konami won't full on charge people for another game just to play online. And since I already have Metal Gear Saga vol 1 from pre-ordering Subsistance 4 years ago, I'll definantly be picking up 2.0!

And as a side note I won't be on Gamespot that often anymore. The online community is dwindling, the content that they bring isn't as great as in months past, and users don't have enough freedom to speak their minds without being harassed by the moderators. So I'll be spending most of my time at since they're site is growing. If your interested hit me up there. I'm under the same name as here.

The Wave Of The Future

Competition ahoy! Even though CEO Sir Howard "young people don't like advertising very much" Stringer is skeptical of in-game advertising, that hasn't stopped Sony from pursuing that path with some determination. After appointing Darlene Kindler to head up their in-game advertising efforts last October, AdAge is reporting that Sony will be "opening up" the PlayStation 3's advertising platform, allowing in-game advertisers Double Fusion, IGA, and Google's AdScape to sell dynamic ads.

Two years ago,
Microsoft acquired in-game ad firm Massive which powers in-game advertising on the Xbox 360 platform. Sony's model is a "clear departure" from that - eMarketer's James Belcher says, "Making things open only makes things better for marketers or people who want to place ads because they aren't the mercy of a given network." With "baked in" ads, and competing dynamic services on the Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms, the reportedly $400 million game advertising business is going to become increasingly visible (for better or worse).

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In-game advertising can be a curse or a blessing depending on how it's done. If it's being displayed on the online service then I don't mind. But if the advertising is interfering with my play time then I say no, get rid of it. How Sony is handling it seems reasonable.

It would be nice if I can order myself a delivery pizza or a sandwich from McDonalds through the service :)

MGS4 PS3 Bundle Pack Coming Soon!

As Hideo Kojima's "final" installment in the Metal Gear Solid series, Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is uniquely positioned as one of the most heavily anticipated PlayStation 3 titles from a dying breed of third-party console exclusives. Today, Sony revealed via its PlayStation Blog that Metal Gear Solid 4 would arrive on the PS3 in late Q2 2008, which runs until June 30. The news comes as part of the Destination PlayStation retailer conference, which is currently under way in Arizona.

While Sony wasn't more forthright with an exact date, retailers, which sometimes leak release dates through online listings prior to publishers' actual announcements, seem to be under the impression that the game will surface in mid-June. According to listings on Amazon and GameFly, MGS4 will take to the streets on Thursday, June 12, while GameStop has the game slated for Tuesday, June 17. Publishers typically choose to release high-profile titles on Tuesday in the US.

To promote Metal Gear Solid 4's release, Sony also revealed the game will be available as part of an 80GB PS3 bundle. In addition to the game and system, the bundle will include a DualShock 3 controller and will retail for $499.99. Presumably, the DualShock 3 will replace the Sixaxis controller currently available in the $499.99 80GB SKU.

Similar to Microsoft's use of Realtime World's Crackdown to hand out keys for the Halo 3 multiplayer beta, Sony also said it will be guaranteeing access to Metal Gear Online's multiplayer beta test for those who preorder the game. The test is expected to commence in late April.

The Destination PlayStation conference also yielded an update on the DualShock 3, which Sony officially took the wraps off of during 2007's Tokyo Game Show. The much-requested rumble-equipped, motion-sensing wireless controller will arrive in North America in April at the price of $54.99. According to Sony, more than 100 PS3 games will be compatible with the controller, including Uncharted, Ratchet & Clank Future, and MGS4.

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If you don't already own a Playstation 3, like myself, then this is a good reason to pick one up. Metal Gear Solid 4, Dual Shock 3, and the 80GB PS3 itself all for $499.99? What more can you ask for?

Phil Harrison Resigns

Sony today announced that Phil Harrison, one of the founding members of Sony Computer Entertainment and one of the company's most public faces, has resigned.

Harrison's last day with Sony will be February 29, at which point Kazuo Hirai, currently the president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment International, will take over his responsibilities.

Talking of his decision, Harrison said: "The past 15 years at Sony Computer Entertainment has been the defining journey of my life so far...I am so proud of everything PlayStation has achieved and will continue to support its future in every way I can."

Harrison has been with Sony since 1992, serving in senior positions across North America and Europe before being appointed the president of the newly conglomerated Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios when it was formed in 1995.

This role was pivotal in Sony's gaming business. Harrison's responsibilities included setting the global product strategy and managing the development operations of 16 studios in five countries.

As well as being president of SCE WWS, Harrison was corporate executive and representative director of Sony Computer Entertainment and executive vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.

Harrison was described by Sony as "a core member of the teams that successfully launched all of the PlayStation family of hardware formats and innovative software that have helped expand the market for computer entertainment worldwide."

In the statement announcing Harrison's departure, Hirai backed up this view, saying, "As one of the founding members of SCE, Phil played a key role in the development and growth of the PlayStation business and our industry."

No announcement was made relating to a long-term replacement for Harrison, or his reasons for parting ways with his long-time employer.

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Yes change. It's a part of life, unfortunately, and it's how we grow. There are movers and shakers in this world where they either help or create a product to it's full potential, but they can't stay in one place for long. I'm curious to know why he's moving on and to where. But in the end it really doesn't matter. He's moved on and I personally wish him well.

GDC Coverage: The Force Unleashes Onto The PS3

SAN FRANCISCO--In recent months, the PlayStation 3 versions of many multiplatform games have been released after their Xbox 360 counterparts--or canceled outright. Others, like Grand Theft Auto IV, have seen both versions delayed because, having optimized the game first on the 360, the developers encountered difficulties with the PS3 edition.

This week at the 2008 Game Developers Conference, a major studio laid bare the pitfalls of cross-platform development on the current crop of consoles--and talked about how it plans to deal with it in the future. In an expansive and informative lecture, Haden Blackman, project lead for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, discussed which platform the company's "built from scratch" development team began work on in 2005.

"Multiplatform development was one of our biggest challenges," he told the jam-packed hall in the basement of the Moscone Center. After George Lucas famously urged the studio to "go build that game" upon seeing the first test reels from TFU, they began work straight away on Xbox 360 dev kits in late summer 2005--because that was all the studio had.

"It took a very long time for us to reach a multiplatform mentality," said Blackman. The reason? "Until early 2006," LucasArts had no PS3 dev kits whatsoever and, for the sheer sake of moving the project forward, focused on Microsoft's console. "It took months to get enough dev kits to everyone," rued the developer.

The problem was, once LucasArts finally had enough PS3 dev kits to supply the staff members that required them, 360 development of The Force Unleashed was months ahead. Worse still, the 360-optimized early version of the game "didn't translate well" when ported onto the PS3, given the differences between the hardware architecture of the two consoles and the complexity of PS3 development. This led to more complications and pushed the simultaneous launch of The Force Unleashed back further.

Now, however, the impressive-looking game is on track, and Blackman says that, after some hard-learned lessons, LucasArts now has a strategy for future multiplatform titles--develop the PS3 version first. "Our next project will use the PS3 as the baseline, and then apply that to the Xbox 360," he said. He made no mention of the other versions of The Force Unleashed.

Scott Steinberg, Sony Computer Entertainment America's vice president of product marketing, stated that virtually every third-party publisher is now developing for the PS3 first. "They all are now, since it's just easier," he told GameSpot. He then referenced his long tenure at Sega of America, saying, "Having recently dealt with this myself from a third-party background, I know this is the case." As of press time, Microsoft had not responded to Steinberg's comments.

The Force Unleashed
While Blackman's discussion of dual-platform development was insightful, it was only a small part of his presentation titled "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: How LucasArts is Building a Game, a Development Team and a Technology Pipeline...At the Same Time." As the title suggests, the developer cast his oratory net wide, detailing how in 2004, he and others were tasked with the "rebooting" of LucasArts' internal development studio. To further complicate matters, this had to be done during a console transition--and at the same time the entire organization was, along with Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, relocating to a brand-new San Francisco campus.

As it turns out, having ILM in the same building proved to be a boon for LucasArts. It allowed LucasArts to adapt to the celebrated special-effect house's programming and development framework, code-named Zeno. In fact, the overall goal is for LucasArts, Lucasfilm, and ILM to begin sharing digital art assets, development processes, and effects and animation technology as games approach film in terms of realism.

To make The Force Unleashed as realistic as possible, LucasArts created a new engine code-named Ronin. But while the majority of its technology is proprietary, LucasArts had no hesitation about licensing third-party technology. It acquired Havok's physics engines; NaturalMotion's Euphoria for realistic, AI-driven character animations; and Pixelux's Digital Molecular Matter (DMM), for spectacularly destructible environments.

TFU's first public demo
To show off the technology, LucasArts staged what it asserted was the first live public real-time demo of The Force Unleashed, which will be released this summer. Though Blackman preemptively apologized for bugs, there was no nitpicking by the captivated audience during the next five-odd minutes of gameplay.

Earlier in the presentation, Blackman had said that after much focus-testing the most appealing scenario to gamers was to play as a Jedi Knight. From the TFU demo, it was easy to see why. It begins with the game's protagonist, a secret Jedi apprentice to Darth Vader, being dispatched to kill a Jedi who has taken over a TIE fighter production facility. Vader's instructions are simple: Bring back the Jedi's light saber, and leave no witness.

With carte blanche to wreak destruction, Vader's apprentice entered the bay and immediately began tossing boxes at hapless stormtroopers. Then he cut out the middleman by picking up the white-armor-clad soldiers with his Force Grip power and then tossing them into walls and off ledges with Force Push. Whenever a stormtrooper was hurled particularly far, the camera would zoom in to watch the trooper's realistic struggle, since the Euphoria technology instills them with a futile sense of self-preservation.

The results were often hilarious, with troopers clutching onto anything within arm's length to fend off the inevitable. At the denouement of the final battle with the errant Jedi, Vader's apprentice picked up and tossed the battered warrior into the void below the hangar. He flew toward and then away from the camera, with his death screams bouncing around the hall's sound system.

To display DMM's brawn, Blackman had Vader's apprentice smash open steel doors, which gave off a cloud of dusty smoke as they buckled realistically. Then, it was on to a veritable TIE fighter skeet shoot, with the dark Jedi taking out a half-dozen of the spacecraft with boxes and other heavy objects.

What might have been...
A while after the thunderous post-demo applause had died down, Blackman showed a cinematic from the game, in which Vader's apprentice presents his lord with the defeated Jedi's weapon. "Cinematic" was the operative word, with the scene feeling like it was taken from one of the better installments in the six-part Star Wars film franchise.

Indeed, The Force Unleashed is meant to be a seventh installment in the series, falling between the last of the prequels, Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith (2005), and the first of the original films, Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). To that end, LucasArts is pulling out the stops to make it feel like a blockbuster movie, including recording a two-hour soundtrack with the full San Francisco Symphony at Skywalker Ranch. The developers also recorded dialogue using stage actors acting out scenes together while wearing facial and motion-capture rigs to re-create their performances.

The result looked nearly as realistic as the dialogue scenes in Mass Effect, the recent sci-fi game from BioWare, developer of the celebrated Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series. Ironically, The Force Unleashed almost was a third KOTOR game. Though Blackman never mentioned the forthcoming BioWare/LucasArts mystery project, he did say that during the conceptual stage, he and his team had considered setting their next project in the KOTOR universe. They had also considered making a smuggling game centered around a Han Solo-like character and even an action game with a Wookie protagonist.

That last idea didn't last long, however. "When we presented that, George [Lucas] just stared at us," said Blackman, before setting up one of the biggest laugh lines of the presentation. "He then said, 'I tell you guys about the importance of dialogue, and you pitch me a game with a hero that can't talk?!"

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It's understandable that LucasArts is working on the PS3 first as the console is more difficult to develop for than any other system. Personally I'm in great need to play a decent Star Wars game. For a long while it seemed LucasArts didn't know how to make video games based on their number one hit franchise, with the exception of Rogue Squadron. Hopefully now with all of this technology Lucas and his crew can create something that will blow us away.

GDC Coverage: Insomniac Is Joining The Dev Community Bandwagon

At a GDC press conference, Insomniac Games (responsible for Ratchet & Clank and Resistance: Fall of Man on PS3) has announced a ground breaking initiative to open up their technologies for the development community at large. Through the "Nocturnal Initiative," Insomniac Games is attempting to break the common development practice of keeping technological advances a close-guarded secret. As they noted, "developers spend resources solving problems that have already been solved."

A public site ( will give developers access to various parts of Insomniac source code. Libraries have already been made available, with more on the way. Through a Wiki styl interface, Insomniac hopes that they will allow everyone to "make better games."

The tools available will obviously work on PS3, but because it is a PC-based environment, should work on Xbox 360 as well. Joystiq will be chatting with Insomniac shortly. Stay tuned.

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It seems everyone is jumping on the dev community bandwagon these days, starting of course with Microsoft. For people out there looking for some insight as to what it takes to make games, mod making and the dev community is a good source.