Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DC, What the Heck Are You Doing?

The rumors had been swirling for a while that DC would be rebooting the universe after the Flashpoint mini-series and just yesterday it became official.  Not only are they rebooting the universe, they're also supposedly rebooting all the books back to #1 and over 50 characters are getting an overhaul in design by Jim Lee.

The first book will be Justice League #1, coming out the same day as the end of the Flashpoint event on August 31st.  I figured Flashpoint may be a cool Elseworlds-like mini-series, but now it seems as if a new DC Universe is coming out of it.  One with new origins and updated, real world connections.  The even bigger news is that with the reboot also comes day-and-date release digitally for the comics as well.  I find that to be the better news out of the two big announcements.

I just can't believe they're going to revert Action Comics and all the high numbered Batman books back to #1.  We all know that Marvel has attempted the revert to #1 before, mostly around the Heroes Reborn time.  In that case every comic eventually went back to their original numbering (Amazing Spider-Man, the now fully closed Fantastic Four, Hulk, etc.) and I also expect DC to eventually move into the old numbering too.  I just see too much of a backlash with the aforementioned books.

There was also an image released of the new Justice League.  Supposedly it will have 14 characters with the key central characters being Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Cyborg.  Biggest question is whether that is Bruce or Dick in the Batman outfit, but it is also obvious the Flash is Barry Allen with the blue eyes.

This will be interesting and I'm not to high on it at the moment, but I'll surely give it a good chance.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Need for Lower Prices on Lower Profile Games

Sorry that it's been a while since my last post, been busy writing reviews and having a busy work environment in my full-time job.  Just today I put up my review of Activision's James Bond 007: Blood Stone, a game with an original story with Daniel Craig, Judy Dench and singer Joss Stone supplying their looks and voices to the game.  I open up the review talking about game pricing and how with the 360 at its 5 year anniversary and the PS3 at its 4 year anniversary why the game pricing structure hasn't changed.

It is obvious if you play the game that the production budget was not as large as many AAA games out there like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Medal of Honor, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and many others.  Those games will sell like hotcakes at the $60 price point, but something like Blood Stone (which is a good, but not great, game) simply isn't going to sell well at that price point.  If they dropped it down to $50 or even $40 as I would recommend, there may be more people willing to buy it and in the long run I think they'd make more money than bringing it out initially at the $60 price point.  Sure, you're losing $20 on each sale, but the potential extra buyers at that price point should offset the loss.  Given the money put towards the game is less you should still come out better in the end.

So, let's say Blood Stone sells 100k copies across the 360 and PS3, that's $6 million profit on the game at $60.  Let's say at $40 the amount of copies sold are doubled to 200k, that's $8 million (at $50 we'd be talking $10 million) and with a larger install base the word of mouth could spread and the game has a "long tail" on sales.  Where the game may have only sold that 100k at $60, there is the potential to sell at a greater multiplier at the lower amount because more will pick it up because they save $10 or $20 on it.

My argument is that early on the companies could get away with $60 for a game (then there's Microsoft which started 1st party games at $50 with the 360, but now they are $60), but now that we're several years into the systems we should really start to see some games that are more regularly budgeted come out at a lower price point in order to maximize sales and get the word of mouth out there.  I just think these recently released games may have done better in sales at lower price points, including the obviously dying instruments/rhythm games that could have had stand alone copies dropped in price:

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (my review)
DJ Hero 2 (my review)
Rock Band 3
James Bond 007: Blood Stone
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (my review, an excellent game that would sell well at a lower price)
Alan Wake (it is less now, but when it came out it may have sold better at a lower price)
Crackdown 2 (my review)

Those are just some off the top of my head.  Each game would be considered below a AAA game in terms of production budget.  Given it isn't a top notch game that will generate a lot of pre-buzz, why not bring the game out at a lower price point allowing more people to play it and possibly get the good word out on them.  All those games range from good to great from a critical perspective, but word of mouth could really sell them and potentially make more money for the publishers at a lower price point.

Maybe I'm out of line with my thinking, but as we move into the last half of a decade with the 360 and come close to the half decade mark with the PS3 I think it's time for them to tier prices, which may be a difficult thing for them to figure out, and attempt to make as much money as possible.  The budget conscious buyer out there is waiting for many of these games to drop in price before picking them up.  Why not make it enticing right off the bat at the budget price because we all know games generally sell big when they first come out and trail off from there.  There are aberrations out there like DJ Hero that had "long tails" on sales, but generally if you don't sell straight off you aren't going to sell.

So, what do you guys think?  I'm going to post this over at Colony of Gamers in the General Gaming forum to get some discussion going.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Problem with Swearing in Gaming (Enthusiast) Journalism

I'll be the first to admit that I do swear pretty much everyday, but that my mind is cognizant of the situation I am in and is able to somehow turn the swearing switch off and on.  Where I don't swear is in anything I write about gaming.  I also try as hard as I can to not swear in forums either, including at Colony of Gamers.  When I do swear there it is usually to point out something someone else said in the thread through the use of quotes.

With that out of the way I have a major problem with the amount of swearing I see and hear in gaming (or enthusiast) journalism.  I use the word in quotes because many people feel that most video game writers sit in the enthusiast section and really aren't journalists in the broad sense of the word.  In many ways I agree with that since most sites, including CoG, fit into the enthusiast genre more than mainstream journalism.  Then there are the pulp sites like Kotaku, Destructoid and the like that may have some people with journalism backgrounds, but take a fully "throw the spaghetti at the fridge and see what sticks" mentality.

I was recently checking out one of the blogs I read regularly.  I won't name it, but they recently added another contributor to the blog.  A person I had worked in the past with on another site I used to write reviews for.  Reading this person's blog posts there are a lot of the f-word being used.  This person has at least one kid and reading through the posts I just don't see a reason for the swear word to be there.  It doesn't really add anything to the conversation at all, so I'm not sure why you'd put it in there.

I don't listen to podcasts either.  I never know when a podcast might have a swear word in it and it really takes me out of the conversation when one is used.  These are freely available sound recordings that any child could go in and download from iTunes or wherever.  Many of the people that do podcasts that I know also are in the radio industry.  Would that industry allow you to swear without using the 7-second delay?  Of course not.  So, I don't understand why the mindset changes from being on the air to doing a podcast.  Yes, you're in a more comfortable situation, but I would think a radio personality would be pretty hardwired to not swear when talking into a microphone, but maybe I'm mistaken.

I know I'm missing out on a lot of things by not listening to podcasts.  Are there any gaming ones out there where swearing is used sparingly or not at all?  I would guess some of the more major sites like Gamespot, IGN and maybe even Game Informer wouldn't allow swearing, but am I right about that?  I also realize we have print magazines out there that allow swearing and that's fine because they made that decision long ago.  However, as gaming journalists (or gaming enthusiasts) we should really be talking about gaming at the lowest denominator we can and allow children to hear stuff they might be interested in without swear words flying about.

Maybe I'm a prude in this respect, but there are many gaming journalists out there, or what I consider gaming journalists, that don't resort to swear words to spice up their reviews, opinions, interviews or whatever.  I think this is yet another example of what divides the enthusiasts from the actual professionals.  We're probably too far down the line to change anything about this, but I implore those aspiring gaming journalists out there to not resort to swearing and think about the full range of people that may be reading your site or listening to your podcast.

Fact is I'll simply stop reading or listening if I feel a swear word is used for no apparent reason at all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Growing Up 8-Bit: Sample PDF

Since the Kindle Sample doesn't really hold any content from the book outside of the cover and much of the Table of Contents, I've decided to upload a sample PDF of the first eight pages of the book starting at the Preface which explains my unique perspective with playing games my whole life.

The PDF document should be downloadable to anyone via this link.  Enjoy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Excerpt from Growing Up 8-Bit

Here is the excerpt about Yars Revenge, one of the best games I played when I was younger.  This should give you an idea of how each game is presented in the book and what the general writing is like.  Hopefully this will entice you to pick up the book through Amazon as noted in the post below this one.  Without further procrastinating, here is the excerpt:

Yars Revenge (Gaming Milestone)

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Systems Played: Atari 2600
Released: 1981

If you’ve never played Yars Revenge, can I suggest trying to find a 2600 and a copy of this game?  Hours upon hours of my early life was spent with this game on the 2600.  My grade school friends and I used to get together on weekends and just play this game, handing the controller between us.  I was young when this game came out, so I can honestly say I don’t think I knew the story behind the game until I recently looked on Wikipedia.  I remember seeing the comic book that came with the game, but heck that I remember what the story was.  Basically these two alien races are fighting each other over the fact that one destroyed a Yars world and they’re seeking revenge.

It is interesting to note that the game was designed by Howard Scott Warshaw, who went on to create the horrendous E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial game.  In Warshaw’s defense, he did only have five weeks to create the game, but it can certainly be pointed out that the massive money loss for Atari on E.T. started the snowball of Atari going belly up.

Yars Revenge was the best selling original game on the 2600 and that title is certainly deserved.  You play an insect that can shoot a pellet from his mouth.  At about a third into the screen vertically is a neutral zone of static where you can’t be killed by either the roaming/homing single shot or when the cannon on the right turns into a swirl.  Your task is to take out the shield around the cannon by shooting or touching/eating the shield so it gradually disappears.  The key thing with eating the shield is that it helps you build a missile on the left side of the screen that you will then use to take out the cannon either in its static form or if you’re lucky when in the swirl mode.

The trick of course was when firing the missile to line up correctly and hit the cannon.  To exasperate this, on some stages there was a full rectangle shield that the cannon was in and you’d have to shoot/eat it down enough to get a missile shot to the cannon or await its change into the swirl.  As you went on and your points got higher the color of the shield changes and the cannon changes to swirl mode more often and at the higher levels gets a heat seeking power added to it that makes the neutral zone even more important to you since you are faster than the swirl, but watch out!  This game was highly addicting and even the simple sounds fit right in with the rest of the game.  For those interested, there are several videos on YouTube showing the game off.  The way I explain it probably sounds strange, but once you see it in action and remember that it is from 1981 it will blow your mind.

Growing Up 8-Bit Available Now

I know it's been a while since my last blog post, but I figured this area would be the best place to give some excerpts from my newly released book, Growing Up 8-Bit.  The book is about my experiences and real-life connections to the over 100 notable games I played that came out between my birth in 1976 to 1990.  This books is the first of at least three books.  The next one will chronicle the years 1991 to 2000 and the other one will cover 2001 to 2010.  Both will probably have more games than this initial book.

The book is set up with over 100 chapters in the Table of Concepts by system, game and real-life event.  You can feel free to jump back and forth between games or read through the whole book if you so desire.

The book is available currently only through the Kindle service on Amazon.  The nice thing about Kindle is that you don't need the eReader to purchase and read this book.  You can download a client that allows you to read it on a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android.  All the software downloads are available here at this link.

The book itself is priced at $2.99, the lowest price I could set it at in order to get 70% royalty from Amazon.  Those of you outside of the US can also buy the book.  Here are the two links to the US and UK versions of the book:

US Version

UK Version

With that out of the way my next post will be an excerpt from the book itself since Kindle's Sample download only goes through part of the Table of Contents and doesn't really touch any real content.  This will be about Yars Revenge, one of the best games I ever played as I was growing up.  It is part of the many gaming milestones I note in the book in my opinion.

Thank you for reading this and please feel free to purchase Growing Up 8-Bit.  I hope to have it available to Nook customers as soon as Barnes and Noble opens up its publishing website that is supposed to happen sometime this summer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Too Human (360): I've Never Given Up On You

As of 11am Central Time (the time this post goes up) my good friend (and boss at Evil Avatar) Nick Puleo has this interview with Too Human creator Denis Dyack available in both MP3 and transcript form on both Evil Avatar and sister site Co-Optimus that Nick runs.

I proofread the interview yesterday and the first question obviously stood out for me.
Nick - So we'll start with the big one: Are we going to see Too Human this year?

Denis - Yes! Our Launch date is officially going to be August 19th.

Finally! This game is finally coming and it is coming pretty quickly in just over 3 months from now. I've always believed in Silicon Knights and Dyack himself. This is the 2nd game that has gone through multiple systems and delays for the company. Eternal Darkness did quite well (check out my review from Console Gold a long time ago that was actually featured on Silicon Knights website for a long time) and I always believed Too Human would be a great game even with the E3 2006 fiasco.

Reading the interview I come away with the belief that this is going to be a game that is going to surprise everyone. Nick told me when he came back from the MVP Summit a few weeks ago that he thought it looked awesome and looked very different from what he had last seen. I know many people out there have put this game on the back burner, but be prepared for it to go to the front burner and get red hot.

It is disappointing that there is only 2 player co-op instead of 4, but I think Dyack does a good job of explaining why they did this. It sounds like the character classes and the balancing of them in relation to speed was problematic. I'd honestly rather have a really well done 2 player co-op experience than a problematic 4 player co-op experience.

This game is also sounding like everything Hellgate: London wasn't when being compared to the Diablo games. It also sounds like the other 2 parts of the trilogy may be coming on the next Microsoft system, but I still have hopes at least the 2nd one would find its way onto the 360.

Just be ready for this game because I think it could be one of the greatest examples of a turnaround in gaming ever.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Unscorable Game

I worked long and hard on getting everyone together and edit all the pieces that turned into the Evil Avatar: Liberty City Diaries piece that was put together for posting last Monday. Some of my co-writers on the piece asked about putting a score on the review and I noted that this type of game doesn't deserve a score and we should just hone in on our experiences with the game. There weren't any people that went against what I said, but once the piece went up there were many forum users that were asking where the score was. Personally, I feel the GTA series as a whole is unscoreable (I made up a new word..woo!). There are other games out there that share this power (another recent one is Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii), but GTA is easily the most visible one.

The fact that 29 sites gave its top score to the 360 version and 20 did the same for the PS3 version simply shows that these games just cannot be scored. All of these magazines and online sites of course have to give the game a score, but really is it going to make any difference to the consumer? They're going to go out and buy GTA IV, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 4 no matter what it gets scored. These games just rise above the review process. What strikes me as odd with both GTA IV and Brawl is how much people just default give it the top score. I haven't played Brawl, never really liked the series, but I have played GTA IV and it certainly does not deserve the top score. If I was to do an actual review of it for Evil Avatar I would most likely give it a 4/5 or 4.5/5. It has a lot of wonderful things in it, but there is also a lot of missteps that keep it from being the "be all, end all" of videogames.

I hated the last GTA, San Andreas, yet 30 sites gave the PS2 version a perfect score. Although it was the largest of the GTA games, I just didn't like some of the directions Rockstar North went with it. I would have scored it a 3/5 or 3.5/5 at Evil Avatar. The whole keeping CJ healthy (or not healthy if you're into that), which was a core mechanic to the game, was a total turn off to me as was the story itself.

Bottom line is why even give scores to these games? Why not just talk about the experiences you had and whether you liked it or not. I like what we did with the Evil Avatar: Liberty City Diaries piece and am glad we attributed no score to it (honestly it would be hard to equate 12 scores into one final score and people not fly off the handle about it). Maybe more places should take note and not score these games that are guaranteed to be picked up by the public no matter the score given to it. Why make a fool of yourself giving it your top score when you could easily give your reviews on the game with no score?

We're Back

Yep, it's been a while readers. As you can see the layout has changed a bit and I hope to finally start having more regular posts. On the right side is now the publications I write for as well as reviews of movies and games that I've been playing with links for those that are published. Any more questions, feel free to ask.