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The Conduit - First Impressions

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." - Anne Lamott

I can't help but think of Lamott's insightful quote concerning hope when reflecting on The Conduit. Going into the game's release, so many of the Wii faithful were banking on The Conduit as being the 'white knight' that was needed for the console. Well, I hate to burst the hopeful bubbles, but this white knight is a dud. For the most part.

As always, this is a first impression as there are a few key components of the game I haven't gotten around to or have not delved deep enough to offer my full thoughts in a review. However, I can't see things getting any better for The Conduit. To offer perspective, I'm into the third mission of single player and have three multiplayer matches on my record.

You can always tell what I'm most excited about for a game based on the first steps I take. Generally, this is deciding between single player or multiplayer. With The Conduit I found myself fiddling around with my controls off the bat. The way High Voltage kept bragging about the amount of customization, I couldn't help myself.

If first impressions mean anything in gaming, then The Conduit made a very remarkable one. This is hands down the greatest control customization I've seen in console gaming. It's not really fair to compare the game's customization to PC games, considering how many button configurations are available with the keyboard. However, nearly everything you could want to change with your Wii Remote controls is available. It's not a good sign though, when most of the fun I had was tweaking my Wii Remote's dead zone and not the game itself.

The Conduit starts out with a muddled plot, but to be fair I'm only into the third mission so maybe the game is trying to be ambiguous on purpose. One of the first plot devices used in the game, that I can't stand in storytelling is the 'backtrack'. Where the story starts out in a certain period of time, then goes back in time just to catch up with itself again. UGH. If you don't mind, or by some divine force like backtracking in your story then you can ignore this critique.

Once the story gets underway, and the game starts up you'll find a very mediocre FPS waiting for you. To provide context I should tell you that I'm a FPS connoisseur. And I probably judge FPS titles the hardest out of any genre. There's a couple of reasons for that. First, it's easily the most saturated genre in this current gen landscape. Secondly, it's very hard to create a unique FPS experience with all the gameplay devices that have been used in the past.

Repetitiveness, and bland game design is what really hinders The Conduit from being more than it could have. The first two stages, I felt as though I was playing an on-rails shooter more so than a FPS. The stages played out like, go from Point A to Point B, and shoot a few bad guys on the way. Rinse and repeat. In the second level, there are sections of the game that look completely recycled from areas you just left. Felt like I was going in a loop rather than make progress.

Along with the level and game design, the enemy A.I. is completely bonkers. Many people have been comparing this game to Goldeneye, and when it comes to stale A.I this is the case. Enemies might strafe back and forth, but there's no sense of strategy whatsoever. Sometimes you'll run right upon an enemy and he just stands there. He won't shoot, run away, or do anything. Just stand and look at you a second, giving you an unfair chance to strike first. This might make it easy, but it doesn't add any urgency to the experience.

Another issue with A.I balance is the difficulty of enemies. There's a certain type of alien that you'll encounter in the first stage that is a breeze to get through. However, in the third stage the same enemy has the potential to two shot kill you. It happened to me twice, so it wasn't a fluke. This off-balanced enemy difficulty distribution just feels like lazy development to me.

Besides controls, another aspect of The Conduit that High Voltage heavily touted was its graphics. There was talk that the Quantam3 Engine was pushing the Nintendo Wii to its limits. From what I saw much of the game looks similar to Onslaught, which is a download on WiiWare. The weapons, and the cutscenes look fantastic. There's a sheen, and metallic look to the weapons that have an abundant amount of detail. Your enemies will look detailed as well, just don't take too much time to look around at your settings. The textures, and colors used for the game's setting looks bland, dreary, and not even close to being as detailed as the characters. Metroid Prime 3 looks better than this game, and it's over a year old.

Enemy Details - Good...Setting/Background Details - Bad

Along with the textures, the animations suffer from a very bland execution. I think I've seen two different death animations so far. Again, another example of lazy execution that takes away from the aesthetics of the game. Explosions, from grenades and objects in the game just look like an orange ball rather than anything resembling a flame.

Coupled with the graphics, the audio of The Conduit feels passable. The voice acting gets the job done, but with the talent that High Voltage signed on for the game I was expecting more. None of the voice inflections ever really drew me into the experience, and it really felt as though I was just listening for the sake of progressing to the next stage. The sound effects feel right, and it's gratifying to unleash a clip of ammunition on to some unsuspecting terrorists and aliens.

After being done with single-player, I took to multiplayer. Here, I was met with a much better game experience that left me with a few gripes that just didn't seem necessary. First, was the time it actually took to find a Regional match. I can understand it taking awhile to find a game in a lobby or what have you. But when it found a match, I was greeted with a timer and it looked as though the game was trying to search for players. When you see something like this in a game, it generally takes 5-15 seconds. I was waiting upwards of 2-3 minutes. That just isn't acceptable for online play.

Two out of my three matches ended with network trouble, which led to me testing out another game to see if it was my connection. That game worked fine, so I tried The Conduit out one more time. I played the third game without a hitch. Unfortunately, 33% isn't a good number for successful connections with a game. Hopefully the servers were just maxed out and I won't have the problem again.

For the one game that I was actually able to finish, I had a blast. The twelve person free-for-all is everything you would want it to be. Here is where I was whisked away to the old feelings of Perfect Dark multiplayer, only I was able to play online. There's always an intangible force attached to FPS games that makes it unique from others in the genre. Whatever spirit The Conduit is harnessing, it feels remarkably familiar to the Rare FPS's on the Nintendo 64. Which is a compliment.

Before a match you get to vote on weapon sets, rules, and maps. I would have liked to seen more detail put into what can actually be included in a game. For instance, only choosing one weapon or a completely wacky rule set if it's wanted by the majority of the group. I was also disappointed at there only being three match types to choose from. I think that 5 is the standard in multiplayer FPS's these days. Again, so much of multiplayer feels like it could have been more.

I alluded to an Anne Lamott quote based on hope in the beginning of my first impression. That's because many times, hope can be a blinding and dangerous trait. We become so wrapped up in what we want The Conduit to be, that we lose sight of what it really is...a bland, and contrived FPS. If you're just getting started in the FPS genre, then The Conduit is a good start actually. With the simple level design, and toning down the difficulty there is some fun to be had for beginners. If you're a jaded veteran like myself then you'll see that so many games before it have done better, and looked better doing it. Even with the amazing console controls.

Video Games and the Female Demographic

It's quite weird that a few days after my thoughts on Megan Fox, and her views towards female gaming that a video about females in the video game world arises.

Coincidence? Well, yea probably.

After watching the video I have a few thoughts and disagreements about the subject matter presented by Daniel Floyd and Leigh Alexander.

Daniel Floyd/Leign Alexander Video

The overall spirit of the video is based on a question that has alluded many for a long time - Why aren't women interested in video games? While that's a general, and widely speculative question, I'll play along.

The video starts out saying that some women play games, but that they're a minority in the overall gaming population. Leigh Alexander, a widely known video game journalist is used as a guest expert and I'm guessing most of the video is based on her research as it sounds similar to articles I've read by her.

The two main points that I took away from the vid is that women mostly stay away from games because they see a lot of titles objectifying women, and that most ladies are playing casual games. Well, I disagree with both points. The second being a contradiction to the argument the video is presenting anyway - isn't a "casual" game, still a game?

The video uses 'Halo' quite a bit as a barometer of where "hardcore" gamers fall into. This is silly to me, because to be quite honest I consider Halo a very casual game. This is of course coming from someone who grew up with FPS's on the PC. And once you've beaten the final stage of the original Unreal Tournament on Godlike!, everything else just seems casual. Which is exactly my point. You can't judge how many 'true' female gamers there are based on the muddy dichotomy of hardcore/casual. The farther you tweak the slider for judging someone as 'hardcore', the more people you're going to alienate, women and all.

The second main point of the video is something else I disagree with, and I might actually step on some toes with this. Floyd, and Alexander are of the mind that games are alienating to women because of objectification. Well, I have a reality check for both. In this modern advertising world, we're all objectified. Men, women, boys, girls; the content that is present in all our main media outlets objectifies someone in certain ways. Read an issue of Seventeen, and tell me that teens, both male and female aren't objectified in some way. It's quite astounding actually. Yet, the majority of its readers are female.

Sex sales. That isn't going to change ever, and to be quite honest I don't think it should. I could be in the minority but there's nothing wrong with engaging our carnal side. There's nothing inherently wrong with buxom female characters. Christie Monteiro is my favorite fighter in Tekken and could arguably be the most scantily clad of the roster. I don't want to see that change. And in doing so, probably isn't going to draw any more female gamers into the mix. I think if we try and take sex out, or try to tone the objectification down we're just going to create this weird state of censorship. I can just see developers sitting around a table asking - "are her breasts too big?", "should we make her shorts longer?", "maybe she should be wearing pants instead of shorts?". Well, if Lara Croft is in the snow I'd say she probably should be wearing pants.. ;)

I think the video's two strongest points are its' least talked about. First, we need more ladies represented in the industry. Here's an interesting article on CNN about the rising number of females in the development industry. Reports like this make me incredibly happy; because we need our industry diversified. The gaming industry can only grow, and become a stronger medium if we reach out and tap into creative minds previously unused. Having the female mind represented can not only further women's involvement in games, but will assist the health of the industry altogether.

Something else the video makes note of, in just one sentence I believe, is that we need to start our girls out playing games at a younger age. It's odd that it isn't expanded upon more, because it's the strongest argument in my mind.

I can use my sister as an example. I don't think my parents ever bought her a video game system until the pink Nintendo DS was released. She became of video game age around the time the Nintendo 64 had just released, yet she's never received a console. I did let her keep my old Nintendo 64, when I had my Gamecube and PS2. She played it like crazy. In fact I think she probably has more time logged into Harvest Moon 64 than I do, and I consider that one of my favorite games ever. I can only imagine how much more of a gamer she would have been, if she was more exposed to consoles than I was. If her lone (and lucky ;) ) victory in Punch-Out! on the Wii is evidence, she probably could have turned out a better gamer than I am.

In conclusion, I believe there's no true answer to the question presented by the video. All we can really do is try and expand the market, and do everything necessary to execute. Having a more diversified industry is definitely a good start. From there, the sky is the limit. Who knows, maybe there's a video game idea out there that can break down all the walls between men, women, hardcore, and casual. If it is out there, I'd sure as hell like to see it.

My Interview With Eduardo the Samurai Toaster Developer

This week marks the release of Eduardo the Samurai Toaster on Nintendo WiiWare. For my Wii site, I was able to score an interview with one of the developers. Thought you all might be interested.

The Eduardo: The Samurai Toaster trailer was released just a couple of days ago, and I've been enthralled since. I'm not quite sure what it is that has me so intrigued. Perhaps it's that my favorite foods in the world (Pop-Tarts, and Eggo's Waffles) are made in a toaster. Or if it's the idea of using a toaster to pull off samurai moves that has me anxious. Whatever the reason, color me excited.

I then began to do some research for the game, visiting Semnat Studio's site. Which lead to me contacting Semnat's co-founder, and artist Daniel Coleman to try and learn some more about the game. He was kind enough to take some time and answer questions about the game, and give us a look behind the creation of it.

First, the name of your development company is Semnat Studios. How did you come up with that name? I've googled it, and wikipedia'd it and so far I've come up with nothing.

Semnat is just an old nonsense word I used to use. Apparently a lot of stuff I thought up around the time I invented Eduardo was pretty random. A friend suggested the Studios part, which is funny since there's only three of us. I guess each person is a studio.

Ha, well I guess it's always good to sound professional. If anything you can make people like me look up Semnat in Wikipedia. Back to the game, the trailer has been out for a couple of days now, have you received a lot of feedback from anxious gamers? If so, what are they saying?

I try to avoid reading comments about the game. Keyword being try. I get a bit nervous. I mean we've been working on this thing for so long and the whole time it's been a private project with little exposure to the outside world. You get used to living in a vacuum! But from what I've read people seem to dig it. I honestly expected more hate. I mean it's the internet, right? The only comments that have bugged me a bit are the ones accusing us of making shovelware. I knew that when we started making a Wii game that some people would assume we were making crap for a quick buck, but it's still kind of annoying to read. I can't stress how important the quality of Eduardo is for us. This is very much a passion project. We've worked insane hours since the start of development because we care so much about making a good game.

Yes, once you're exposed you can expect people coming from under their rocks to criticize. Going back to the trailer, one thing I was really curious about is what weapon is Eduardo using? Is it toast? Or what kind of projectile is Eduardo packing?

Eduardo and the other toasters shoot out the same pastry enemies that are attacking you.

What are the names of the other toasters that can be used in multiplayer, if you can divulge that information?

We never officially named them, but we refer to them by which movie characters they're based on. I don't know if I'd be copyright if I said who they're supposed to be. But maybe that can be a fun guessing game for players. :D

That's probably a good call, I think for it to be infringement it has to be more than 20% comparable to the original. But I'm not a lawyer so don't go by that. Anyhow, just a couple of more questions. I was reading on your website/blog about how you decided on how to stylize the grass in your game. Without having to spill too many beans or having to speak tech jargon, can you maybe take us from how art that you create goes from the canvas or paper, into the actual game?

Yeah it's pretty simple, really. For the assets which I used traditional media for, I would create them on gessoed paper or mylar, etc., and either took a picture of them or, as in most cases, scanned them in. Then I'd use something like photoshop to cut them up however I needed to. Some of the textures, like the grass for level one which I detailed in my blog, was a mix between old textures I created in dog waffle and two different textures done with acrylic inks. I would cut them up on the computer, blend them until I was satisfied with the right combination, and then get them to repeat well. The repeating textures are the most difficult assets to create. They have to look appealing but subtle enough where you don't easily notice that they're repeating all over the place. I won't bore you with further details, but for those that are interesting in hearing more about these processes I'll detail everything in my blog.

One aspect of indie games I find intriguing is the music, and sound. It's so much of a separate skill set than the art, and graphics. How many different tracks are in the game, and how was the experience of creating the music, and sound?

Yeah that's a good point. None of us at Semnat have any music skills, or rather, we couldn't have music comprised entirely of humming and my rad kazoo ballads, so we had to seek help from elsewhere. Luckily we found someone at the University of Advancing Technology in Arizona. Ian graduated from that school and asked around to see if any students there would be interested in providing music for us. Raymond Gramke got in contact with us and was able to get school credit for it as well. We've been working with him for quite a while now. So we have about nine tracks in the final game, all that we could fit. For sound effects we went to places like gamecues and sound rangers. If any game designers out there are looking for a musician, I highly recommend getting in touch with Ray.

Well, glad to see someone is getting some school credit out of this. My final question; I've been reading on your site and through other interviews about the development process, and the time it took to create this game. Its been five years from beginning of the idea to the end, if I'm not mistaken. What have been the hardest parts of seeing a game through for that long period of time? And what would your advice be to other aspiring game developers just getting into it?

Yeah a few years working on prototypes of Eduardo, just over one year for the Wii game. It's been a real learning experience this whole time, every little detail about game design. We made many prototypes because we learned so much and would realize that we could do something much better if we started over with a new engine and revised gameplay mechanics. We went through that process a number of times. The challenge keeps it from being boring, and that time gave me a chance to learn how create better art. The hardest part has definitely been issues with resources. Not being able to work on the game as our only job but still having to put full-time hours into it. It's a difficult thing to sustain for such a long period of time.

We won't find out until Eduardo is released if this method worked out for us so I don't know if my advice will be of any help to aspiring designers. But perhaps I could say learn from your mistakes, let people outside of your development team take a look at your work and encourage honest feedback. Be critical of your work and make sure you're doing something you're passionate about. I can't imagine working on this if we didn't love the game we were making, or earlier on, the game we were trying to make. And Learn to embrace criticism, that's very important. If someone takes the time out to play your game and offers criticism, appreciate that and don't allow your ego to get bruised. Unless you're a game design genius you're going to make mistakes and plenty of them, but you can always learn from them and improve your skills.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about the game. I'm really anticipating its release, and can't wait to review Eduardo when it comes out. Good luck with its release.

Thanks man, I appreciate the support.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and Wii Remote MotionPlus First Impressions

My first impressions write up for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is going to be quite slim. Last night I ended up getting home late, and didn't have a lot of time to truly dive head-on into the golf sim. I did get to play for a couple of hours though, and thought I'd share some of my thoughts about the game thus far.

I was able to get in a round of frisbee golf with the fam. Then I started up career mode and played through 12 holes of my first tournament. After both experiences, I can say that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 is the best true golf simulation I've ever played.

What you're probably most curious about is if the Wii Remote MotionPlus adds enough to the experience to warrant a purchase. I can say without hesitation that MotionPlus has provided the Tiger Woods series the biggest step forward that the game has received since create-a-golfer. Nintendo definitely wasn't lying when they said that Wii Remote MotionPlus gave the ability to provide 1:1 motion controls.

If you truly want to test the capabilities of MotionPlus, then the first thing you'll want to boot up is frisbee golf - or Frolf for you Seinfeld fans.

The basics of the game are simple. The Wii Remote acts as your hand. You simply point at the frisbee on screen, press the 'B' button and the disc is in your hand - almost literally. Once you start moving the Wii Remote around is when you'll start seeing the subtle awesomeness of MotionPlus. The movement recognition that the game is able to detect is unparalleled on the Wii. Even a slight turn of the Wii Remote is met with the exact same motion on screen. When you're ready to throw, just pull your arm back and follow through like you regularly would throwing a frisbee. Let go of the 'B' button at the trajectory you want the frisbee to fly in, and voila the game reacts accordingly.

The entire act from beginning to end; picking up the frisbee, moving it around, and throwing it feels so natural. I can honestly say it's the most fluid motion control I've ever seen on the Nintendo Wii.

Ok, so Frolf might be fun for a bit but how about actual golf itself?

When you first load up the game, you'll be given an opportunity to customize your controls. I decided to use the advanced control option for ball striking, and the new precision putting for my short game. I haven't tried the other controls so I can't speak for them unfortunately. However, if you decide on the configuration I chose then prepare for two things: A very realistic golf simulation, and a heavy amount of frustration.

If you play golf in real life, then you know the frustration of which I speak. You'll have unwanted draws and fades pop up when your swing is off. Something that I learned while playing is that you'll actually hit the ball better when you keep your head down. I'm pretty sure I've never had to rely on that in a video game before. The game also does a great job of picking up exactly where you're at in a swing. So, as you take a shot the amount of backswing you provide feels more natural and you don't have to rely as much on looking at your avatar as a marker. In previous Tiger Woods Wii iterations, watching the player on screen was a must in terms of judging how much power you wanted in your swing. Not so with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10.

Along with the control of power, draws and fades have been improved. With MotionPlus, there's a greater amount of precision when trying to apply a small or large amount of draw/fade to a shot. In my 12 rounds of golf, I've already noticed 6 various degrees of draw/fade which I think is triple compared to past games.

What's been improved even more than ball striking, is the putting. EA has included a brand spanking new short game called 'Precision Putting'. I haven't tried the other putting mode, but I can say with a good amount of confidence that it probably isn't more responsive than precision putting. The way it works is that a meter sits in the bottom left corner of your screen whenever you putt. As you take a backswing, the meter drops down which represents the distance you want your ball to go. There are markers on the bottom part of the meter that represent different amounts of power. Instead of measuring things in feet, the markers represent a certain percentage of power. So, you might only need 3% of your full power to sink a 3 foot putt. This provides a more realistic experience because you don't have to switch 'distance types' like in previous Tiger Woods games. After your backswing, follow through with a smooth putting stroke. With precision putting the game will push or pull if you aren't hitting the ball square. Luckily, hitting straight isn't as much of a challenge in putting as with driving. It took me awhile to learn the system, but once I did I began liking it.

The precision putting is a bit difficult to explain in words, so here's a video that shows it off better than I can explain...

(Skip to 1:55)

Graphically, the game is still a bit long in the tooth but the textures have definitely improved from 09. The courses, specifically the trees don't seem nearly as pixelated but it still isn't anything you're going to ooh and aah at.

While the graphics were passable the sounds of the game, specifically the commentating came up short. Kelly Tilghman provides the 'play-by-play' and does a good enough job but just seems really bland. Scott Van Pelt, who is one of my favorite ESPN anchors, just seems to ]phone it in for this game. He's as bland as Kelly but at the same time will annoy you when you're doing bad. Annoying and bland aren't two qualities I want when hearing someone talk about how bad my game is. I still stand by my belief that sports games should start using voice actors instead of commentators. Because in essence when you're calling a game, you actually have something to look at. With voice recording, it takes a bit of imagination to make it seem authentic.

After a couple of hours I can honestly say I will be playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 for a long time. I dabbled into Career Mode, but didn't get far enough in to provide anything insightful. Based on MotionPlus, and the new/expanded ways to play the game I can honestly say this game deserves your time. Even if you're not a golf fan, you'll still be impressed with the integration of MotionPlus.

My Response To An Article About Nintendos E3 Presence

Ok, the week of E3 is over. Fanboys are gasping for breath after all the announcements. The booth babes are going back to their normal lives, which involve things that were probably about 10x different then what they were subject to at E3. I think we can all safely say that Nintendo's keynote this year was much better than last year. Mainly because we actually got some game announcements to be excited about.

In our excitement, did we per chance miss out on subliminal messaging from Nintendo? According to this article from GamesRadar, there could be dark days ahead for us Nintendo faithful. So, should we be worried?

According to the GR article, the writer believes the release of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a sign of Nintendo becoming complacent. Because Nintendo is making a direct sequel to a Mario game. In response, I would ask that the writer review some Nintendo history. Two Mario games saw sequels, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels and Yoshi's Island. Both sequels are seen as quality releases, and I'm hoping Super Mario Galaxy 2 becomes the "Lost Levels" in terms of upping the difficulty. Miyamoto has claimed that the game will be much harder, so that's a good sign.

After E3, dare I say I'm more excited about the future of Nintendo. During the keynote, we received announcements for New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Metroid: Other M. Pre-E3, High Voltage announced two games that will be releasing within a year...Gladiator A.D and The Grinder. Oh, and post-E3 we just happened to receive a little concept art; confirming work is being done for a new Legend of Zelda game.

For the sake of argument, I will play a little devil's advocate here. Would I have liked to see a Star Fox game announcement, or Kid Icarus? Sure I would have. It would have been the bee's knees, but it didn't happen. Instead we got an announcement for a sequel to one of the greatest Mario games ever, an announcement for the first four player Mario game, and a Team Ninja developed Metroid game. If you look into Nintendo's past; they've blown away the amount of core titles released with the Nintendo Wii compared to past systems. Let's make a list of first party core titles that Nintendo has released since the Nintendo Wii has been in existence.

Mario Platformers - 1 Release (2 Pending)
Zelda Adventure Titles - 1 Release (1 Pending)
Punch-Out! - 1 Release
Mario Kart - 1 Release
Paper Mario - 1 Release
Super Smash Bros. - 1 Release
Metroid - 1 Release (1 Pending, perhaps 2 if you believe the Metroid Dread rumor)

We're now going into the third year of the Nintendo Wii. Meaning, we're just now reaching the halfway point (if you follow the five year console rule). I honestly can't remember the last time Nintendo released that amount of first party games in such a short period of time. Those numbers come close to the entire offering of the SNES, and I think it might surpass what they released on the Nintendo 64. Just imagine the library that the Nintendo Wii will see when its cycle comes to a close.

Here's some food for thought, would any of it had been possible without the success of the casual market? Think about it. Where is Nintendo getting all the money for releasing so many games? Do you think so many titles would be coming our way if the Nintendo Wii didn't branch out to a new audience? Trust me, when a game like Wii Fit sells close to 20 million copies the amount of resources being utilized in every aspect of the company increases. What I find funny is how so many people feel abandoned by Nintendo.

I mean how dare they branch out to a new market, and dominate the competition. How dare they bring new candidates into the world of video games, and expand the market. Just who do they think they are?

--They've sacrificed my much beloved Mario franchise (well, there's going to be 3 Mario platformers released within three years). Yea well, how about all the Zelda fans (umm there's guranteed to be two Zelda titles before the Wii is done). Hmm, well they've forgotten about some of their lesser known franchises (oh, you mean games like Punch-Out! which hasn't seen a release since the SNES). Well, they still suck and the Natal will blow them out of the water.--

Above, isin the block quote is a paraphrased conversation I had with someone in a gaming forum that I frequent. Everything not in the parentheses was something he said, and then of course everything in the parentheses was my response.

The gaming press just keeps adding fuel to the fire as well. For example, the Games Radar article I linked above. How can anyone honestly sit there and try to tell me they think that Nintendo is giving up on all its long time fans. It's kind of funny in a way, if it weren't so sad.

Oh well, I guess I'll just keep beating my head against the wall and be the minority voice in the gaming press. You know, the few who see through all the hardcore/casual dichotomy **** and realize Nintendo is just as faithful to its fans as they've always been. Who knows, maybe next year if Nintendo announces a Star Fox/Kid Icarus/Super Mario RPG/Super Mario Platformer/Zelda/Metroid/Punch-Out!/Donkey Kong/Wii Fit sequel Track & Field/Sin & Punishment third sequel/Excitebike/Super Metroid remix line up then everyone will shut up. It won't happen, but it is fun to dream isn't it?

Update: Apparently, not all Games Radar editors think alike. Henry Gilbert of GR wrote his own reponse to Hougton's thoughts on E3. Sounds similar to mine; great minds think alike I guess (I promise I didn't copy.. ;) )


Nintendo Releases Fiscal Year Report -- 1 Trillion?

Nintendo Fiscal Report 2009

If anyone has had experience reading fiscal reports, or anything of the like you'll know that figures tend to be abbreviated. That's usually because it takes up a lot of space to write out all those zeros. Generally, the company will write out something like: (Thousand Dollars) — 3,000…and if you multiply those two together, you get $3,000,000.

Nintendo had to do something like that in their report. Specifically with their net sales numbers. Instead of abbreviating with a thousand dollars it was with 'millions' of yen. The equation reads like this: (Million Yen) — 1,838,622…Ok, all you math scholars out there, what does that equal to?

1.838 Trillion Yen(bold for emphasis)

Fiscal reports are incredibly boring, unless you have some kind of creepy love affair with money and numbers. I read through the report and picked out some interesting stats to share and what they could mean for the future of Nintendo. If you'd like to read the entire report,click here.

Probably the first big stat that jumped out to me, besides their net sales was the forecast for next year's report. According to the 2010 forecast, Nintendo's net sales will decrease by 2.1% or about 39 billion yen. Of course, a lot of times the forecasts are lowered so they can later brag about how they performed better than anticipated.

Then later on in the forecast, they predict that they're net income will increase. The reason for this is probably due to the lowering of production costs. This is a sign that a potential price drop could be in the foreseeable future.

Wii Unit Sales For The 2009 Fiscal Year: 25.95 Million Units Sold (50.39 Units Sold To Date)

Scrolling further down the fiscal report, their Fixed Assets really jumped out. Specifically under theProperty, plant, and equipmentcategory. Nintendo looks to be expanding their physical presence in the world. Nintendo's assets through land increased by nearly 12 billion yen. Even more staggering was their 'construction in progress' assets. Nintendo must be constructing some massive expansions as their assets from construction in progress went from 292 million yen to 3.4 billion yen. It's easily their largest jump in the asset department.

If you're looking for a job, Nintendo dramatically increased their employee's benefits. Employee's retirement and severance benefits jumped from 715 million yen to 5.9 billion yen.

There were stats for third party software sales in the report as well. What is most interesting about these figures is that third party sales increased in every region around the world, except Japan where it decreased somewhere around 100 million yen.

Finally, two of the most interesting numbers were found down near the bottom of the report. While most companies are having to re-structure (a.k.a laying off and firing employees), Nintendo increased their work force. Expenses for employees increased by about 40 million yen last year.

The juiciest bit of news from the report is Nintendo's increase in expenses for theirResearch and Development. Expenses for R&D increased by 50 million yen and the 2010 forecast looks to increase by 3 million yen. Wonder what Nintendo is creating, that they need all that money for?

Ghostbusters The Video Game and Corporate Greed

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

If there's corporate greed in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call??Not Sony Computer Entertainment or Atari. For those who've anxiously been anticipating the release of Ghostbusters: The Video Game on the Wii, you'll have to wait even later into year. Perhaps forever.

There are very few things in this world that I'm fanboy of, and that I'll get fist pumping angry over if someone screws with it. Ghostbusters happens to be one of those things. When I first heard that a Ghostbusters video game was in the works, I was skeptical to say the least. It took some groundbreaking news, like hearing that all the original crew would be back to do the voice work to pique my interest. Watching the first trailer for the 360 and Wii version sealed the deal for me.

Just as I was beginning to come around and get excited, the bombshell hit. Activision had bought out Vivendi Games, and like a dumb corporate entity decided to drop Ghostbusters from its list of published games. Ghostbusters: The Video Game was in the ever frustrating,publisher limbo. I knew it wouldn't be long before someone realized what a gold mine that Ghostbusters: The Video Game was and is going to be. That publisher happened to be Atari. Due to the publisher switch, we'd have to wait even longer for a release. Atleast it was still on its way though.

Fast forward to yesterday, when some of the gravest news of the year (for me anyway) dropped. Sony purchased the exclusive rights to release Ghostbusters on June 19th for the PS3 and PS2. Thus, leaving the game in even longer limbo for non-Sony consoles.

This has to be one of the biggest punches in the gut I've ever received in terms of gaming news. What could have been going through Atari's head when they did this? It had to have been a multi-million dollar deal that was signed, maybe Atari is really that desperate for the capital. Because now Atari has really pissed off a large consumer base. A large Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii owning fanbase.

I happen to be one of those consumers. I was looking forward to picking this game up on the Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii on the same day. Not to mention purchasing the Blu-Ray release. It's not the fact that it's a timed exclusive that makes me angry. But they waited until just under a month before the game's release to do this? Forcing many like myself to switch their pre-orders from Xbox 360 to PS3. The biggest travesty is that I'm going to cancel my Wii pre-order. Talk about lost money for the video game industry.

I hope the money was worth it Atari, because you just lost one consumer who was beginning to have faith in you again. This will be in the back of my head every time I hear Atari is publishing a title. That's not a good moniker to have in the publishing world.

(Update): Atari has now confirmed that this is for the PAL regions only....phew

Nintendo vs The Hardcore - sigh

If the video game world were boxing, then March 09 would be a round that you'd want to forget. Nearly every system took a dive in sales. Software sales were down. The doomsayers in the analyst world see this as prelude for things to come. While those who actually have a clue as to what's going on, know that March 2008 is the reason that March 2009 saw decreasing numbers. Big releases March 2008: Grand Theft Auto IV and Super Smash Bros Brawl. Big releases March 2009: MadWorld and GTA: Chinatown Wars.

March 2008
GTA IV: 3.6 million units sold (first day)
Super Smash Bros Brawl: 1.4 million units in first week (fastest selling game in Nintendo history)

March 2009
MadWorld: 66,000 units sold (first month)
GTA Chinatown Wars: 68,611 units sold (first week...sales are growing though)

Hmmm...two big releases from some of the most storied franchises in gaming vs. an obscure 6-7 hour long beat-em-up and a re-imagined GTA game using a ****that was out before GTA III. What do you think is going to push more software and hardware sales? Also, GTA: Chinatown Wars sales figures are growing. Maybe, no one thought it was going to be any good when it first came out.

Some blame Nintendo for not releasing enough core titles, even though the most storied Nintendo franchises have already seen a release. With my favorite franchise getting a release in May.

There're some video game writers that blame gamers for the awful month of March. Wow, really? You think gamers should buy games they don't want just to support some mythological, journalism fueled fight between "hardcore and casual"? I can't speak for GTA: Chinatown Wars but I can speak for MadWorld. As someone who's loved games since 1989; games of all genres and systems I'll give you this it. MadWorld can be beaten in just over 6 hours. Why spend $50 on a game that you can spend $3-5 on and still receive the same amount of enjoyment? To support some make believe idealogy?

It really is almost getting to the point that I'm ashamed to call myself a gamer. This new market of gamers that are fueling the industry at the moment; and all we can do is huddle in our corner. Surrounding ourselves with Final Fantasy discs/cartidges, and a blow up doll imaged as Link of Hyrule. Instead we should be embracing this new market. They might just surprise you given the chance. Newcomers have to start somewhere, why don't you recommend a title to them instead of cursing them from a distance for somehow 'ruining' your hobby.

This weekend, my mom read a comic book trade for the first time. It was the Origin story of Wolverine. She absolutely loved it (mostly for its colonial setting, and art ****. Still, my mom ... reading an entire series of comics, and enjoying it should prove that anything is possible. So, get out there and start showing off the games you love to people who might not know any better. They might just end up enjoying them, and who knows...maybe March 2010 will blow 08 out of the water.

As a silver lining, Nintendo's stocks have dipped considerably and are perfect to snatch up at the moment. Thanks to Kotaku for the tip.

Article - WiiBlog: Loving casuals since 1872

First Nintendo Wii MMORPG Releasing Next Year (Bowling)

Nintendo Wii MMORPG

I can remember back on the Super Nintendo, playing the simply titled, 'Super Bowling'. A very under appreciated game. I've always held an affinity towards bowling games. I don't know if it's the timing of lining up my shot correctly, or the physics. Whatever the case, I'm excited to bring you exclusive news of an upcoming Bowling MMORPG release.

I can't rat on my sources, but they have close ties with the higher-ups at EA. Peter Moore has been an avid pusher for releasing more titles on the Nintendo Wii. EA's most ambitious title is yet to come, as they are secretly working on the first ever Bowling MMORPG. You might be shaking your heads at the idea of mashing together the spirit of bowling, and MMO's. Luckily I have details here that might sway you to think differently...

What's the two main ingredients when playing a MMO? The sense of community, and the idea of leveling up, or making a character more powerful. So far, all we've seen from MMO's are elf laden settings, and the occassional futuristic setting as well. EA is looking to take a different path, and really shake up the market with Bowling MMORPG. Like in all MMO's you'll create an avatar, which can be based on yourself, or you can make up a whole new character.

The gameplay will be simple, and based on motion controls. There hasn't been mention of utilizing Wii Remote MotionPlus, but with a year of development time left there's plenty of time to do so. On the surface the idea of making the simple motion of bowling a ball seems easy, but EA is going to add a layer of depth to the experience. The idea of Bowling MMORPG, is to take your character and make your way across the country taking on more powerful opponents. You can bowl against high level AI contenders, or stay in the world of PvP. The experience will be completely open to your imagination. There will be over 20 unique locations to explore, some bowling alleys will have certain tendencies over others. You'll be able to level up with straight head-to-head matches, or you can play skill challenges that will help you hone in on a specific ****of bowling.

Speaking of **** there will be two main ****s to choose from when selecting your bowler. Power, and finesse. If you decide to choose a Power bowler, you'll have a couple of sub-****s to specialize in; Pin Obliterator and Focuser. The Pin Obliterator is your standard grunt, who gives away accuracy, and finesse for brute strength. The pins won't know what hit them. Focuser is a strength character, but has a unique **** He might not be as accurate as a finesse player, but he's one of the more balanced specializations in the game. The Finesse sub-****s are, Curve Expert and Sharpshooter. If you've ever seen professional bowling then that's the ****you'll be using if you decide on a Curve Expert. They're the hardest spec to use, but if mastered can be a brutal challenge. Sharpshooters rely on spare oppurtunities to wear down an opponent. They might not rack up that many strikes, but they won't have open frames either.

That's all the details that have been released about the game so far. Nintendo Wii owners have been pleading for a MMO experience to release on the Nintendo Wii. It looks like EA will be providing said experience, and we can only hope that more details will be released in the coming months, and at E3.

Oh, by the way, Happy April Fools...feel free to moan and groan in the comments below.

IGN's Nintendo Interview - Alot of Hype, No Answers

I really hate to criticize IGN. I've been visiting the site since around the late 90's or as I refer to it the 56k days. Unfortunately, they've given me reasons to criticize with Matt Casassamina's latest interview with Denise Kaigler, the Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Nintendo of America (bet she hates repeating that job title).

I've read many interviews throughout the years, and this one is basically a mixture of worthlessness and incredible spurts of sensationalism. I won't get into the details of everything that's mentioned, but I will talk about two key parts of the interview that left me scratching my head.

First, Matt starts out the interview talking about third party support for the Nintendo Wii. When you hear those thoughts put together, you could place a guranteed bet on what would come up next. ..

'Why hasn't M-Rated software been performing well on the Wii'?


The answer of course is just about as obvious as the question, and honestly I'm definitely with Kaigler on this one. She responds...

"When it comes to the games that are delivered to Nintendo platforms by our third-party partners, I would defer you to those companies"

Then a discussion ensues about success of third parties and having a broad audience on the Wii. Kaigler again backs up her view towards third parties' responsibilities and their own success...

"We're not saying that certain games can't succeed on Wii. We want those games. We want people to bring those opportunities to us. So I opened up my answer to your question by saying talk to SEGA, talk to those guys."

The third party chat isn't what angered me about the interview, it's when they began talking about the upcoming E3 conference. Matt went from not giving up on a question, to just wasting interview time. Pretty much every few paragraphs would end with him asking Kaigler about anything she could say about E3. I won't bother quoting her, but the general answers were no comment, or just wait.

Then the big bomb dropped, and is where the sensationalism found in journalism today (ahh I rhymed) reared its ugly head. She finally reveals some information to Matt about E3. Here's the couple of sentences I'm referring to...

"First of all, off the record, Matt, can we just shut that off for a second? I rarely do what I'm about to do with you," she says.

Without delay, I push the pause buttons on my recording devices.

That's when Kaigler tells me something so megatonian-huge that I dare not repeat it because it would simply blow your mind. You could not handle it, trust me, so don't even think about it. Put it out of your mind, people.

All right, she doesn't tell me anything of the sort. But I wish she did. Does that count? "

I think Matt was trying to be funny, but is he joking? Who knows. This of course will lead to some wild speculations brewing across the internet. I'm sure something big will happen at E3, but didn't we kind of assume that already? Either way, this was very irresponsible journalism and it really disappointed me.Such a waste of interview time.

After your read through of the interview, what were your thoughts on it? Am I making too much of it, or did you find it to be useless and full of hype like I did?

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