Sunday, May 27, 2007

Starcraft II

It is hard to imagine a game getting more advance buzz and hype then Starcraft II. Announced just last week (in case you're just waking up from a 28-days later style coma, you can watch some footage here) SC2 is almost guaranteed to smash all sales records when it finally launches.

Just how many copies will it sell? Difficult to predict, of course, but the simExchange (I mentioned it earlier) is going do its best to try and guess. The current futures estimate is in the neighborhood of 10 million copies worldwide. Based off of the insane hype already surrounding this game the stock price on the SimExchange rose nearly 25% in one day. Obviously a lot of people have big expectations for this game.

One point to note, though, is that the SimExchange does not seem to be international yet (that is, English is the only language of information and comments) and the bulk of games listed are those with western appeal. Given SC2's huge important in the Asian market (in particular Korea) I'd be curious to see what would happen to the futures estimates if the fanatical Koreans started 'buying' shares. Something tells me the sales expectations would quickly inflate to astronomical levels, not because the game will necessarily sell 50 million copies (or some other absurdly large number) but because the hype is so strong that 'purchasers' would abandon all logic and just get swept up in the frenzy (*ahem* -- tech stocks circa 1999 anyone?). Clearly, though, its a good time to be Blizzard.

On a slight tangent, Joystiq today posted a video of a matchup between two Korean Starcraft gods which you can find embedded below. An interesting video, to be sure, but unless you are a huge fanatic you'll likely want to let the whole thing load then skip around to the exciting parts. Even though the whole thing is in Korean and I'm not a SC guru it is clear there are some very advanced strategies at work here but I can't help but feel I'd appreciate it so much more if someone could give me a running analysis of whats going on (and why it is so impressive) in my own language.

Which brings me to a point I've made a few times in the past re: meta-data for games (and, in this case, game movies). It would not be an impossible task for someone to take this YouTube flash video, export it to a .avi, open it up locally and overdub their own match analysis, replacing the Korean commentators (perhaps a lengthy process, but surely there are those willing to make the investment) widening the potential appeal of the video to a large English-speaking market. There are thousands of fan mashups of videogame trailers released on YouTube but I haven't seen much 'meta-analysis' (for lack of a better word). Are they out there? If so, how does one go about finding them?

How nice would it be to be able to visit a YouTube movie's page and click on a link called: "Find Mashed-Up Media" that would search YouTube for all of the other videos uploaded that share certain digital fingerprints (ie: the same video track, or parts thereof, but different audio tracks). Can someone get to work on inventing that already? :)

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Friday, May 25, 2007


I noticed in my traffic logs today that I significant amount of traffic was directed this way from today.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I don`t have SA forum account so can't find the post that led to this traffic.

If anyone reading this came from SA, would you be so kind as to post said thread in the comments? I'd appreciate it.


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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Emotion In Games II

Sorry I've been so quiet of late everyone. I took the week off of work last week to focus on my neglected home and patient wife, and fell a little out of touch with the goings on of Our World as a result. I'm just starting to get back up to speed.

This one will be short but I might build upon it tomorrow. I read on next-gen today that Lionhead has released the first of their development diaries focusing on fable 2. This first installment talks about the now infamous dog giving even further details and promises regarding how emotionally connected we'll be to our canine friend in this game. I've blogged before about my thoughts on Lionhead tipping their hand somewhat with all this talk about how much we'll care for the dog, but I do like some of the things Peter has to say.
“We give you no control over the dog. Just think about that for a second. No control over the dog. You haven’t got a dog button… You control the dog by worrying about you as a hero"
Download and watch the complete video here. On another note, does anyone else find Peter Molyneux has a very soothing voice? I think he should do some voice acting in fable2. ;)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Prince Of Persia Classic

I've been itching to talk about this title so I'm very happy that Ubisoft finally announced it. Sometime this summer (hopefully sooner rather then later) a Ubisoft/Gameloft production (Ubi publishing, Gameloft developer) entitled 'Prince Of Persia Classic' will hit XBLA.

The most credit I can take for this excellent title is of development broker and part-time consultant so when you play it and love it, I'm sorry to say I won't be able to accept your heaps of praise. :)

Watching this game be developed made me really miss my team back at Gameloft Montreal as it was a wonder to see (1) how quickly they managed to get something functional (especially given that they created all the technology from scratch and had never developed for the 360 prior) and (2) how far they were able to push the signature 'Gameloft Polish'. There are a few little touches (more evident in the high-quality version) that are a real treat for me to see given my involvement on POP: The Two Thrones. For example, notice that in that wonderful scene when The Prince sees himself in the mirror and jumps through, releasing his evil counterpart, said doppleganger has been 're-imagined' to be The Dark Prince from T2T. I love it.

'Classic' titles are going to continue to find a home on XBLA because (1) publishers have the large back catalogues of titles they'd love to re-monetize and (2) consumers seem anxious to play favorite titles from their past. Given this, though, I really like the way we treated this title with the upgraded graphics and small (mostly cosmetic) gameplay tweaks. Fans who would cry foul if we changed the original too much should be very happy while those who never experienced the Jordan Mechner classic will play something that stands on par with the level of graphical polish and experience they would demand of a modern ('casual') title.

I'm not supposed to, but I'm chomping at the bit to buy up as many shares as simExchange will allow me to. I have high hopes for the sales of this game.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Puzzle Quest

A few weeks ago I found myself uninspired by my existing games library and decided I needed a new fix. I wanted something casual so my attention focused on the PSP and DS -- the platforms I generally look to for shorter game sessions.

I remembered reading the above linked Penny-Arcade comic for a game called Puzzle Quest and being intrigued. It sounded like Magic The Gathering married with Bejeweled -- not the two games and genres I would most expect to combine well. I was happy to see that not only is the game available on both the PSP and the DS but that a relatively rich PC demo version is available for download. I grabbed it and was quickly hooked -- one afternoon quickly shot.

Puzzle Quest is, as far as I am concerned, the 'Killer App' for the PSP. I have been playing, literally, all day. I woke up, started playing, ate, played, and will likely be up to the wee hours of the morning -- it is that addictive.

The core game mechanic could not be simpler. Match gems in groups of three, four or five ala Bejeweled. The hook, though, is that the different colored gems correspond to different types of Mana which in turn is used to cast spells. It is uncovering the powerful spell 'stacks' that makes this game so meaty. Any RPG fan will find plenty of tweaking opprotunities as they fine-tune their spell arsenal inbetween battles.

Puzzle Quest is soon to launch on Xbox Live Arcade where I'm sure the multiplayer component (which I haven't tried yet so I can't comment on) will help make this a top Live title. I know I'll be purchasing it.

Do yourself a favor -- check out the PC demo and see if you can resist the siren call of this excellent title. 'Casual' accesibility and mechanics combined with 'hardcore' story and depth. Truly a special game.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Articles Of Interest

A lot of gaming related news tidbits have caught my attention in the last couple of days so I figured it was time for another link dump.
  • N'gai rented out his 'soap box' to Midway's Chief Marketing Officer Steve Allison. Steve uses the opprotunity to discuss, amongst other things, the art and importance of the 'Vertical Slice' in game development and makes the arguement that a truly well developed represenative sample of final gameplay (what we here at Ubisoft generally called a First Playable Prototype) would help solve some of the complaints of the Dyack Debate. My personal opinion is that this is a lot of text about what I feel has become a common-sense practise. I don't know of any developers who tackle projects of significant size without focusing on an FPP/Vertical Slice.
  • An 'MMO' based off of one of my favorite movies in recent memory (Kung-Fu Hustle)? Where do I sign up? Gamasutra has an interview with John Smedly talking about some of SOE's upcoming initiatives and the discussion about this MMO has me giving serious thought about getting back into the habit.
  • Finally some of you might remember from a previous post of mine that I have a thing for the convergence of location based services, wireless devices and gaming. This new LBS solution from HP, then, is understandably exciting to me. One quote I like:
    "So, depending on where you are, you can play games, listen to music or watch videos, all of which are relevant to where you are. It’s already been tested at the Tower of London, where people could play games relating to the site (presumably involving beheading royalty)".

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Service Question

Is anyone having problems accessing this blog using Internet Explorer?

Periodically when I try to access my blog at work I get a very strange error message when using IE.

I guessed the problem was localized given that no one has emailed to complain, but I just want to verify. If I was mistaken, please let me know.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Red Faction ++

Not much to say other then: "Nice". LucasArts is on a tear!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The SimExchange

I can't believe I haven't heard of this before today.

If you have even a passing interest in the business of video games then you've certainly tried your hand at least once trying to predict the potential sales of a game you felt convinced was going to do particularly well (or poorly).

The SimExchange creates a free virtual futures market to allow the would-be Warren Buffet's of the videogame space to safely try their hand at predicting top-selling titles.

Publishers, I'm sure, will also be keeping an eye on this service to see how closely the Wisdom of The Crowds mirrors real life for actual shipped titles and invest their trust in the future predicting capabilities of the service accordingly.

For now some titles' sales projections seem to be woefully exaggerated (as much as I'd like to believe it I don't think Rival Swords for the PSP will sell 400k+ units) so I'd take the whole thing with a grain of salt.

A very cool service nonetheless! Worth checking out.

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And now for something completely different

Via Engadget - this has nothing to do with game development but is just too cool not to post.

Anyone out there remember the 1986 movie 'Short Circuit' ("Number Five Is Alive"). Does anyone else remember having their imaginations sparked as children by that movie and thinking robots were not only the future, but the COOL future?

Well Daniele Benedettelli, a (I'm guessing) masters student in robotics, has used Lego's awesome Mindstorm NXT product to create a faithful reproduction of the infamous Johnny Five and it simply blows my mind.

Watch the embedded link to see Number Five in action and join me in hoping against hope that our children will love the 'new' lego as much as we loved the old. Not much would make me prouder as an eventual father then having my son/daughter get into constructing robots as 'play-time'.

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