News – in brief

This is my busiest week of the year by some distance so site updates will be infrequent…but damn if I don’t love you guys too much to leave you hanging. Bear with us and normal service will be resumed soon. Until that happens, expect updates to be a little shorter and grumpier than normal, if that’s even possible.

First up: Play the Vanquish demo! Its great, like Gears on speed. It solves many of the problems of Epic’s triple AAA (that’s nine A’s) title and does it with lots of style. The mecha-manga look is a refreshing change from brown futuristic dystopias and the enemies take just the right number of bullets to go down (i.e. less than fifty). Great stuff, but remember it’s marketed by Sega so it needs all the word-of-mouth it can get.

The sliding mechanic is stupid-awesome

I’ve been diving into a bunch of graphic novels recently. I finally got round to reading Preacher and followed up immediately with Garth Ennis’ work on Punisher in Punisher:Born which was also excellent. I’m no comic expert, but I’m about to start either The Walking Dead, 100 Bullets or Batman – The Long Halloween. I’m in a mood to read something about people having a tougher week than me, so which one should I read first?

This looks like my Monday morning

Anyway, thanks all for continuing to view the site, it’s still growing and I appreciate you folks who check back regularly. Once we make it out of this week, we’re home free folks!

Lets hope it doesn't come to this

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Apple Game Center

This is a big deal. Game Center is an attempt by Apple to create an Xbox live-style service on its iPhone, iPod and iPad devices. It appears with the newest firmware update and exists as a range of services including achievements, multiplayer support and other features very similar to its console counterparts. It’s not exactly Xbox Live or PSN yet, but like those systems it has the potential to grow and expand into something formidable in the future and crucially, other phone manufacturers have nothing similar to stand in its way.

Apple already leads the field in mobile games for non-gaming mobile devices. A look at the titles on HTC’s devices shows that it lags behind substantially in both quality and price. Many titles released on apples devices are half the price due to the large economy of scale offered by its huge number of customers who must use the Itunes store. This closed market has made some very modest games become incredibly popular. Angry Birds is so well-known that a film adaptation is rumoured to be on the way. Don’t laugh, considering the quality of game-film franchises it probably won’t be the worst.

Other than the poor judgement shown with the name (we brits spell centre properly) the whole system is an impressive step in the right direction. It leverages the appeal of achievements, and also displays your scores on global and local scoreboards. The twin appeal of raising your international position on the scoreboard while overtaking your friends is sure to make for a compelling reason to keep playing games you might otherwise tire of quickly. Outwith the achievement system, game center is quite a light offering with none of the more advanced features of Xbox live or psn. That being said, most of those features are available as separate apps anyway.

You can’t help but feel that Apple have been forced into the gaming market by their largely unplanned success. They create good hardware which has almost been co-opted to be a gaming device. They certainly didn’t create it with gaming in mind; it lacks the controls to allow conventional games to be ported and Apple has always been a company that has treated gamers as second class citizens throughout its history.

Maybe it’s the fact that developers have had to adapt to the little soap bar device that has made it so popular. You’re not going to get terrible ports of PS2 games like on the PSP or poor technical performance like on the DS. Developers have had to create new types of games and this has resulted in some very imaginative titles as well as some technically proficient releases. The I-devices are as powerful as a PSP and as innovative as a DS and this makes for a formidable gaming handheld, regardless of Apples apathy towards gamers.

As ever, its the money that talks. With Apple’s protected marketplace acting as a massive revenue generator and titles like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja making serious money despite their measly 59p price tags, no one can afford to overlook us gamers any more. We’ve bought our way into their considerations, but with no other competitors in the marketplace it might be hard to get them to hear us when we suggest changes or additions. The whole Game Center may become a glorified shop front. Hopefully the other phone manufacturers create rival systems to push Apple in the right direction. Apple has a chance to close its grip on the mobile gaming market. Sony found out the hard way that once Microsoft had gamers chasing achievement points on their system they were much more loyal and less likely to chase Sony’s rival trophies. If they are complacent, Apples rivals may learn the same lesson.

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Links of the day 10th September 2010

Its been a hard, painful week. On the plus side: Friday! Celebrate with this video of a monkey riding a pig:

Kaz hirai on expensive PSPGo
PSP interview

Thats should win over the hardcore Nintendo!
Jedward!

One handed SF4 trials

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Links of the Day 8th September 2010

Enjoyable game quiz thing. I managed 5200
Geek Mind

The blades on this helicopter are actually spinning:

Another crazy real life videogame thing, this time with the rocket-jump

Unreal engine stuff on IPhone
Epic Citadel

Great article on the iPhone epic tech
Digital Foundry

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Xbox live vs Steam vs PSN

I thought this might be of interest to some of you, an extract of a debate on the relative merits of Xbox live between me (Tom) and Ealiom. Join the debate in the comments!

Ealiom:


I don’t even have xbox live paid for. Penny arcade said they were upset about the price rise. I was upset at the prospect of paying full stop. People balk and get upset when they pay taxes and are then taxed again and again. In this case I have bought Microsoft’s gaming machine, I have bought the game and I have paid for the internet access. I should not have to pay for the right to play that game the way it has been designed to be played and not even to the developers but to Microsoft. It’s the only reason I don’t buy the 360 versions of cross-platform games.

Tom:


I hear what you’re saying, it’s a consumer choice and you pay for what you think is worth the money.

Microsoft pays for the multiplayer platform and the infrastructure for the developers and gamers to use though. They could give it away for free, but I have no problem with them charging for it. Matchmaking, truskill, gamer profiles etc etc is all paid for by Microsoft and the multiplayer net code is handled and paid for by Microsoft. If they didn’t do this, much fewer games would even have a multiplayer component.

Ealiom


Yeah I get that they have led the way and I applaud them for that. But Valve don’t charge and they’re developers. It’s in Microsoft’s best interests to do what they have done and imho it’s probably why they have “won” this console “war” but to charge for that victory ………

So while I can see that the service is probably value for money I can’t justify spending more (however little it actually is) on playing things I have already bought.

I can imagine the uproar if Valve said they were going to charge £2 a month to use their service… Its £2… buttons. The principle though, as cheap and thrifty as it sounds is, what matters. To me anyway.

Tom


Steam runs on windows (which you pay for) which handles the low-level networking stuff for your pc and you have to buy that too. It’s a good comparison because Microsoft would say that its doesn’t offer anything like the same service as Xbox live (which is true to an extent) but the real reason they can’t charge is because steam has competitors on the same platform and xbox live doesn’t.

No matter what, we pay for steam, PSN and Xbox live one way or another. Each of them exist as something that is both a service and a shop front, but to different extents.

Ealiom


No matter how you phrase it I can’t stomach paying £5.99 a month for something I already have. (If) there was no alternative I would be forced to pay so until Sony decide to charge for PSN I will not be giving them a penny. I don’t particularly like consoles for online play as it stands, which is another important facet to my reasoning. My experience of Halo3 online was grim, CoD4 likewise it felt… uuurgh?! detached?

In games I played frequently on the PC I would chat and send emails to the other players I met all the time. I was invited to groups and heard their voice over teamspeak. I got invited to CS:S league matches. I got frantic emails sent about something happening in EVE. Players on the console never gave me any of that. For all it was supposed to be social it felt detached.

I can feel Tom shaking his head.

The 360 has the infrastructure and one stop portal to all your games and contacts… This is greater than the PC or PS3. The PC has far better ability for you to meet, talk to and get to know players. This to me greatly increases a games fun-ability than running alongside a faceless voiceless guy named dickconnisuer89.

Stop shaking your head. 🙂

Tom


I have largely the opposite experience, but I play far more console games online so have more exposure to console players. I get messages from streetfighter players and have had good recent experiences chatting and cooperating on Monday night combat. I think PC gamers are generally better people, xbox live is full of some of the worst people on earth. They tend to be worse in COD4 and Gears than in most other games though, Battlefield and the like have good communities on PC and console.

It’s still 40 quid for a year here in the uk which doesn’t add to 5.99 a month. It might go up, but at less than 4 quid a month I don’t think it’s a bad deal for what you get.

Incidentally the only place that has ever had as many dicks as COD was Counter strike when it was popular. Back when it was the most played game online it was full of unbelievable racism and abuse. I guess that just means the most popular games have the majority of the tards; it’s not about PC vs console but popular franchise vs niche fanboys title. It seems like mainstream gamers should just GTFO.

Can I put this discussion online?

Ealiom


Haha sure, just edit it so I sound wittier! ;p

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Links of the Day 6th September 2010

I’ll be reviewing Monday Night Combat soon, but apparently they almost picked a different, but equally terrible name:
Kotaku MNC

Mythbusters is awesome, so a videogame episode would be great:
Discovery Channel

Hackers 1, Sony 0
Eurogamer on Ps3 Hack

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Itunes 10 is fug ugly

I just downloaded and installed and it sure looks bad. The memory capacity bar looks very strange but kind of charming with its pastel shades, but the buttons on the left all look grayed out. I thought at first that they were all deactivated.

Like a designer threw up on the screen

It comes with Ping, Apples attempt to steal some of Facebook and twitters thunder. The horribly named software is a glorified attempt to send you ads for music and movies to purchase from the store. It’s greatly reduced functionality compared with competing social networking sites and its painfully corporate overtones make it deeply unappealing. Worst of all, it asks for you genre preferences in music then allows only three selections. Well fuck you Apple, I like rock, blues, folk AND alternative! I guess fewer options make it easier to sell your details for targeted advertising.

Apple customers always sell a little bit of their soul when they purchase a shiny gizmo. The gains you get from the lovely hardware is always balanced by the draconian and function-poor software. Itunes is despised by right thinking individuals throughout geekdom, the new iTunes seems unlikely to when them, or me, over.

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