Category Archives: Gaming

Titanfall Beta

Titan lineup

The Titanfall Beta will end tonight and we will all have to wait a few weeks for the game to come out on March 11. It has proven to be a big hit with my friends and colleagues. It has fared well in the inevitable comparisons to the Call of Duty series. This should come as little surprise as the game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, was the developer of the Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 editions of COD (as Infinity ward), two of the series’ best loved games.

Unlike COD and Battlefield in which users benefit enormously from past play and specific experience with maps, weapons and combat techniques, Titanfall is easy to pick up and quick to advance. As there is no prone position and no auto-aiming, there is little camping and no quick scoping. For those of us who enjoy a “run and gun” style of play, this is huge. The increased mobility, both two and three dimensionally especially when combined with the enhanced speed make for a fun and thoroughly engaging experience. Playing with my twelve-year old son is also a better experience than online multiplayer COD as the audience is not as openly rude if you happen to forget to mute everyone. Although the game is non-stop action and is as violent as any other FPS, the inclusion of the Titans and the style of gameplay somehow make the killing less ultra-realistic and somehow by proxy less horrific.

For an excellent in-depth discussion of the beta and the game, please visit Gamespot’s Titanfall: The Pros Weigh In

Zombies and Titans

new_gamesscreenshot_composite

The new consoles have been out for two months now and the gaming audience that eagerly awaited the new batch of games has now completed them. We finished the single player campaigns in Call of Duty Ghosts and Battlefield 4. We sailed the seas as Edward Kenway and retired a happy family man in Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag. We help break up slave trafficking as Adewale in Freedom Cry. Sure, we are still playing though the racing leagues and leveling up in Forza 5 (over 50 now) and nearing time to prestige in COD (many already have long ago), but we need something new.

Forza Car packs help keep up the interest, especially when they include sexy Alfa Romeos and Maseratis from the sixties, but new tracks would be appreciated as well. The COD Onslaught expansion pack is also a welcome addition with not only four new maps but also the excellent new chapter for extinction mode as well as a new weapon. It is a little frustrating, however, that the new maps are not accessible in squads mode.

Every gamer that I speak with has the same question, “Where are the new games?” It seems as though there is a dearth of new titles, yet there are many available as you can see by the graphic at left.

A few of the titles that I am looking forward to most have been delayed including Tom Clancy’s The Division. Many of us are pinning our hopes on Titanfall, which I have heard is as good as we would hope. Apparently, Titanfall actually has dedicated servers, unlike other games that promised them and didn’t deliver. The multiplayer and extinction game modes in Call of Duty Ghosts are excellent but suffer from incredible lagging at times. The lagging in multiplayer is especially pronounced. If you are lucky to be on the favored side of the server you can have a great experience and usually do well in scoring. If you are on the less favored side, it is frustrating and repetitive. Apparently, the situation may have been made worse by an update to the game prior to the release of the Onslaught expansion pack.

And the situation is even worse if you are looking for a four-player family-oriented game. There are a few great four player games for the Xbox 360, many of which we enjoy whenever we play as a group. Castle Crashers, Bomberman, Mad Tracks and 3d Ultra Minigolf are some our favorites. We have not even needed to purchase more than two controllers for the Xbox One and it is not just due to the improved Kinect sensor – until now there was not a compelling game for more than two players (on one console). Plants Vs Zombies is a big hit in our house. We not only have the various versions of the game on Xbox 360 and more importantly on the iPads, but we also have plush and lots of it. Pea shooters, zombies, you name it.

As you can imagine then, we are looking forward to the release of Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare with great anticipation. It appears that the split screen mode exclusive to the Xbox One will only allow two players on a single console. As we only have a single Xbox One, this means that we will not be able to play this game with four people either.

Even sports games like NBA 2K14, Madden 25 and NHL 14 do not offer four player local split screen gameplay. There is a useful list of all four-player games available for the Xbox 360 at this Gamespot forum. I have not yet found such a list for the Xbox One console, but IGN does have a complete list of available games as well rumored games on their website.

Interface

L1020448_1000

Happy New Year to all. I have been deeply nested in holiday and home for a month, playing games with family and friends. Over the holidays, we went skiing and tubing in Pennsylvania with another family and had a great time playing some old favorites and some “new” games. The house in which we stayed in had a pool table, which was thoroughly enjoyed by adults and children alike as was a “bar top” trivia game. The gaming system is called the Megatouch XL and this version hailed from 1995. It features a touchscreen CRT display and a color VGA display (although ours often dropped out to a faint blue color). The system has 20 or so games such as solitaire, poker, trivia, mah jong and even horse racing. Despite the fact that every child had their own tablet (and all of the adults had smart phones), everyone was drawn to this retro tech oddity. It wasn’t that the content was so good that we overlooked the poor graphics and sound — we genuinely enjoyed the quaintness of the experience. You might jump to the conclusion that this was us recalling fond memories of playing similar games in our youth, but the younger generation was even more drawn to it than the adults. Was it just the curiosity of it? Who knows, but my eldest wants us to acquire one for our home. They do take up considerable space, perhaps  Megatouch makes an app. In fact, they do, many of them.megatouchxl

Over the last few weeks I couldn’t help but notice the development of interpersonal skills while gaming. The holidays provide opportunities to get together and spend more time with your kids. My boys and I certainly played a wide variety of games, both digital and analog with other kids of various ages as well as adults. It didn’t really matter whether we played pool, dominoes, Chinese checkers or Call of Duty Ghosts or Forza 5 — it is always interesting to note the interactions between kids (and adults, too) while they play games. Perhaps the act of playing a game with a given set of rules allows people to let down their guard some and show their emotions in a less restricted way. Maybe we see their truer self.

It’s not always a matter of competition either. Some of the most volatile and contentious situations happen while my kids build worlds in Minecraft. Regardless of game type, the adults try to instill the right values concerning sportsmanship and fair play as well as the golden rule. Many adults see video games as out of their comfort zone and don’t necessarily apply the same coaching approach. In general, we were pleasantly surprised at how well everyone got along and the few incidents that occurred were all used as teachable moments.

L1020457_1000

With regard to my own gaming, I have been almost exclusively focused on Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag and many of my comments while applicable to many of the new games are directed specially to AC4. I completed the main mission and have been wrapping up the various other activities such as the assassin’s contracts, diving missions and naval battles. After completing the main mission, I watched the credits, as I often do for the games I play. Once again I was amazed at the number of people who work on the large games. Black Flag has one of the longest credits that I have seen, perhaps the longest. To be honest, I quit out before they ended, but I saw enough to appreciate the scale of the operation. AC4 Black Flag, like many other games these days, was developed in many locations simultaneously, so it’s hard not to be a bit dumbstruck by the scale of the development. The size of the world and the amount of detail that is present in every location is staggering. I have always been a fan of large open-world games recently favorites include Red Dead Redemption, Far Cry 3, both Borderlands games as well as the other games in the Assassin’s Creed series.

L1020447_1000

Beyond the shear size of the navigable world and the degree of detail involved in every piece of it, this game has so many other levels of interaction, each fun in its own way. The main mission with its various scripted sequences puts you in your own action film. The many assassination missions, including those where you help side characters through their storylines, provide for a rich experience at each location. Then there are the treasure maps, the chests, the Animus fragments, etc. There is no shortage of things to do. Part of what sets Assassin Creed games apart is their attention to historical detail. AC4 is no exception. On top of the fantastically detailed and period correct ships, weapons and clothing there are the sea shanties that your crew will sing while doing their work. I have accumulated over thirty of these. It is easy to forget the amount of time it takes people to research, produce and record these in addition to the main background music, which like all games in this series is really powerful and spot on in terms of feel and weight.

ac4_navalbattle_1000

Every game depends on the success of its user interface to provide the appropriate degree of control while not overloading the user. AC4 Black Flag, like many new games, features more interface types than was required in previous versions. The display that is ever-present while you walk through the towns or captain your ship is minimal and designed to be unobtrusive. This game is beautiful at sea and on land and features lush environments that would be spoiled by clunky menus and navigational aids. There are different menus for each type of shop and the various games within the game, each built from the same visual kit of parts as the main interface. These days, there are also smart phone and tablet apps that tie in directly to the console game each with their own interface that echoes the main game. The effort required to create and coordinate all of these graphic elements is both staggering and ever-increasing.

All this being said, the game is not perfect. I have found a few glitches such as cut scenes where the audio has dropped out or a new one that happened to me last night where during the boarding of an enemy galleon, my character somehow fell through the deck of the ship and was trapped inside the geometry of the hull. But considering the scale of the undertaking, I am nothing but impressed at the quality of the experience and as usual, I have learned a few things about the period in which the game takes place and it has sparked my desire to learn more about that time in history and the real characters. What more can you ask of any work of art let alone entertainment?

Lava Lobsters vs the Xbox One

lavalobster-1000

Now that both new gaming platforms are out and the dust has had a chance to settle, I would like to give my early impressions. While some are focusing on the PS4 outselling the Xbox One worldwide and on the various hardware issues both platforms have had, I have not experienced any hardware issues with our new Xbox One. In fact, we love just about everything about it. The voice command and greatly improved Kinect are both welcome additions. Thus far, I have played Call of Duty Ghosts, Forza 5, Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and think that each is well worth adding to your collection.

The first thing you notice are the graphic improvements in every game. Each has its own style and focus and collectively do a good job of illustrating the capabilities of the new technology. The next generation of games such as Tom Clancy’s The Division and Titanfall will undoubtedly take the graphic development even further.

We installed our new Xbox One in our main TV room where we have been playing our Xbox 360 Slim. Both Xboxes are hooked into a surround sound amplifier and the FIOS signal is now passed through the Xbox One. We also have an older white Xbox 360 in the playroom next door. I have been wondering over the past few weeks how the systems would be used now and what my boys would prefer. Thus far, the 360s are still getting a decent amount of use thanks mostly to Minecraft and BattleBlock Theater, neither of which are currently available for the One. When we have had a chance to play together, which has not been that often with the holiday activities, we have concentrated on COD Ghosts. We really are enjoying the online Squads mode. It is perfect for playing with kids (and adults who just don’t need the language, general offensiveness and getting their asses kicked in the standard multiplayer mode).

On my own I have completed the COD Ghosts campaign and am well into the Battlefield 4 campaign. I have made solid progress in Forza 5 and am now at level eleven. I am deep into the world of Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and am really enjoying the experience. Except for a few minor control issues that are most likely more my own fault than that of the game, this latest installment is the best by far. The seamless transitions from land to sea and back, as well as the sheer fun of controlling your ship and fleet – including hunting and diving – it’s a deep and multi-layered world of pirate fun.

While I am very impressed by the graphics and improvements in the interface as well as in the handling and control overall, the most welcome improvement by far, is the load once and flip back and forth ability of the interface. With the previous system, the idea of jumping into a game for ten minutes or less was a bit of lie that we told ourselves. By the time the system booted and you logged in your now bloated player profile and then loaded the game, your ten minutes were now two. But you wanted to play your ten minutes anyway and that’s why you were late to whatever appointment you had.

No more of that. Now you walk into the room and say “Xbox On.” The system loads quickly, recognizes your face and loads your profile – a feature of which I never tire. Once you start the game and it loads, dropping out to the main menu and performing actions like watching television in a split window are instantaneous and at any point you can drop back into the game without the need to refresh or reload anything. This is a profound change to the way you can play and perhaps because it is less glamorous than other new features, has not received much press.

minilobster-1000

My oldest son recently made a new friend who is not a gamer. Yes, there are some 12 year olds that don’t play any video games. He is not without his own obsession, however, and now my son has caught the same bug – fish and aquatic life. His new friend has ten or so salt water tanks with various species of fish. He is focused on his hobby and very knowledgeable. My son, being he sponge that he is, is absorbing all of the new information and diving in, if you will pardon the pun. He now has three tanks in his room, albeit all are fresh water. Two tanks have various goldfish and the third contains the Lava Lobster in the photo at the top of this post. The image below is one of the first two lobsters that he acquired. These were Mexican Mini Lobsters and unfortunately, both have passed. It is not due to a lack of effort as my son has pleasantly surprised me with his dedication and concern for the new biomes he has created.  The Xbox has little to fear of his losing interest. He is still playing games, but there is a balance developing and most surprisingly it is coming from within him

 

On the Eve of the Next Generation

XBox-One Horizon 1000This has been an important week for the gaming world. The Sony Playstation 4 was released and despite some issues is being heralded as a success. Its rival, the Xbox One is being released on Friday and with it the next generation of gaming is upon us. The flow of new games has already started with many, many more queuing up behind them. Along with these releases and announcements, there are the obligatory worries, criticisms and panics concerning what might or might not be changed or removed. There certainly has been a lot of talk. It is to be expected as this is the first major update to the two leading consoles in many years. The Xbox 360 debuted in May of 2005 and the PS3 in November of 2006. That same November saw the release of the hugely successful Wii console. Its replacement, the Wii U debuted last December but has not sold well in the U.S.

green line

(Selected) Total Gaming Platform Sales | 11/20/13

Pos Platform North America Europe Japan Rest of World Global
1 PlayStation 2 53.65 55.28 23.18 25.57 157.68
4 PlayStation 38.94 36.91 19.36 9.04 104.25
5 Wii 44.95 33.47 12.75 9.28 100.45
7 PlayStation 3 27.45 32.26 9.6 11.24 80.55
9 Xbox 360 44.86 24.87 1.65 7.77 79.15
16 Xbox 15.77 7.17 0.53 1.18 24.65
23 Wii U 1.64 0.87 1.15 0.27 3.93
Source: VGChartz.com | For more poll details

Many predictions have been made about the success of the new consoles and polls have been taken to gauge public reaction. I have written about what I consider unexplainable biases present in some of these polls in earlier posts. Cast Your Vote: Consoles and Cast Your Vote: Xbox One Anger – Is it Genuine? While understand that some of the policies initially presented at the Xbox One’s launch were received badly and that the One costs $100 more than the PS4, I consider these fairly moot points as Microsoft has rescinded the most egregious of the policies and the cost difference is easily lost in the enormous expense of buying games and peripherals. In any case, I simply cannot understand why so many who responded to the surveys were turned off by buying any new console.

green line

Poll of the Day | 11/10/13

With the launch less than two weeks away, do you plan to buy an Xbox One?

Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered from a local store 2.58% 907
Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered online 2.17% 763
Yes, I haven’t pre-ordered, but I plan to find one on launch day 0.56% 196
Not at launch, but I expect to have one by the end of the year 5.4% 1901
No, I don’t have any plans to get one yet 89.3% 31428
TOTAL VOTES 35195
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

green line

Poll of the Day | 11/09/13

With the launch just a week away, do you plan to buy a PlayStation 4?

Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered from a local store 7.36% 2372
Yes, I’ve got one pre-ordered online 5.94% 1914
Yes, I haven’t pre-ordered, but I plan to find one on launch day 2.28% 735
Not at launch, but I expect to have one by the end of the year 23% 7417
No, I don’t have any plans to get one yet 61.42% 19805
TOTAL VOTES 32243
Source: GameFAQs.com | For more poll details

green line

If these numbers accurately represent the gaming public, then I feel badly for Sony and Microsoft and for the industry as a whole.

Despite the GameFaqs polls, the industry is doing well. A recent report aired on NPR’s “All Tech Considered” stated that the gaming industry has grown to $20 billion a year – that is twice what Hollywood brings in. Some close to the industry expect this total to rise to $70 billion by 2015.

I for one am looking forward to the new games and new capabilities, but I can’t escape the feeling that the general gaming public is spoiled and jaded and expects that everything will be perfect at launch. They are ignorant of the fact that the consoles are not the money makers (as it was released this week that Sony spends $381 manufacturing each PS4 which they sell for $399) and that many of the new games do not fully take advantage of the power of the new systems.

For me, the Xbox 360 was a significant milestone for many reasons. It was my return to gaming after a long absence. It was my first gaming console since I was a teenager and most importantly, it is the console that my children are growing up using. When we purchased our first 360, back in 2006, my eldest son was five years old and my twins were three. My eldest took to it like water and I tend to forget just how well he did playing games, some of which are still challenging for adults today. I think of all three of them playing MotoGP 2006 with me. It is still a beautiful and excellent, but very demanding game and I doubt that they would put up with it today. As new games came out and the boys grew, they each found games that appealed to them personally and today they all have their specialties. There are still many new games that they all play together such as Minecraft and BattleBlock Theatre.

My first post, in fact dealt with this feeling related to Pixar’s ”Cars” games (Nostalgic for Cars) and I can easily think of several times when the boys and I all focused on a single game together. Past favorites included Castle Crashers, various Halo iterations as well as the music games, Rock Band and Guitar Hero

But the point is, I have literally watched my boys develop and grow using the 360. They have become better players and in many cases learned valuable lessons about how to interact with those sitting next to you as well as those with whom they play remotely. (My twelve year old now spends most of his time playing with friends on Xbox Live.)

So I am looking forward to the new generation and all that it its expanded technology can bring. The increased graphic capabilities, the levels of interactivity, the integration of the television all have potential to elevate the experience. It took six or seven years to get where we currently stand. I bet that looking back in 2020, when my boys are nearly independent adults, we will have a similarly nostalgic feeling for this time and this new generation of consoles.

Waiting for the One

Xbox-One-With-Kinect

I preordered an Xbox One and have been somewhat patiently waiting on its release. In the meantime I have been playing way too much Borderlands 2 trying to get a third character to level 50 as well as getting back into the driving groove with Forza 4 in preparation for the new version. Its only a few weeks away now and the past week has been resplendent with news about the limitations of some of the new games. The Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty Ghosts was pre-released and the news that it ran on the Xbox 360 at 720p instead of full 1080 HD while the PS4 is somehow able to accommodate the full resolution did not go over well. For more on this story, please read Infinity Ward’s explanation of the difference between the consoles at Twinstick Gaming. Then came the news that Ghosts had already been hacked. Not even officially released and already hacked. We were all hoping to get a few months of decent play out of it before it was compromised, but I guess we will have to rely on patches from the developers. To read the full story about how the hack was uncovered, please read John Heatz’s post Call of Duty: Ghosts already hacked. Today, it came out that the hugely anticipated Titanfall will only be available for the Xbox but that it too will run at 720p. You can read more about Titanfall at Twinstick Gaming’s blog.

While all of this news is a bit annoying, I cannot really appreciate the way in which some people are reacting. I have read gamers who are cancelling their pre-orders (for both the Xbox One and the PS4) complaining that none of the upcoming games look all that enticing. Really? Maybe we are all getting a bit jaded. I have pre-ordered Battlefield 4, Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV and Forza 5 and am looking forward to each regardless of the news. I would like to judge them for myself. I bet that my reaction will not be one of disappointment – most likely will be more of the “You have to come over here and look at the detail on this” variety. I can almost feel my wife’s humoring me when I ask her to come over and examine the carbon fiber on another of Forza 5’s supercars.

Then I hear people say that the Xbox One costing $100 more than the PS4 is a deal breaker. No one wants to pay more than they need to but this thinking seems ridiculously short-sighted to me. Over the life of my consoles, I have purchased hundreds of games. Many were at reduced prices, but I don’t really want to try to calculate how much I have spent on them in total. Needless to say that the $100 difference is inconsequential at best when you look at the whole picture.

In the end, all of this is talk anyway. The consoles are moving forward and there will be less and less marketed to and available for the current generation of consoles. Upgrading will be the price of entry just to keep playing. With hopes set so high and wish lists so long, there are bound to be disappointments. But this is just the beginning. I wish I could remember whether there was this much chatter when the 360 launched. Social media and the further expansion of the Internet probably also play a big role in making the rumors and news circulate so quickly.

My Favorite Game

Alfa Romeo

The last two weeks I have been getting back in the groove with a few games that I overplayed and set aside. These include Call of Duty Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Forza 4. Though all three of these have new versions coming out in a few weeks for the Xbox 360 and a bit later for the Xbox One, I am waiting for the new console, so I have about five more weeks to go.

I played a few rounds of Black Ops 2 and started feeling more comfortable again and my scores reflected it, but then the inevitable happened. During an online match I encountered two guys who apparently are very angry, racist and homophobic. They were, if nothing else, verbose and shared their opinions freely about everything and everyone they encountered. Typically, I mute the entire group, but this time had not and kept thinking that eventually these idiots would just tire out and shut up. No such luck. I cannot blame the game developers that their creations attract this kind of person, but it is a simple fact that other great game types do not.

I am sometimes asked if I have a favorite game and I have always replied that Forza would be my first choice and then add a list of other excellent games. Playing Forza the last two weeks I was reminded why I love it so much. There are many realistic racing games out there and some are quite good. I own many of them and have played them extensively. Although Forza offers one of, if not the most realistic driving “feel” for each vehicle, that is only part of what makes this game unique. The ability to collect, upgrade and paint your vehicles is more advanced and better integrated than any other driving game I have played. You don’t have to want to race every time you play Forza, you just need to want to be around cars. It is a chance to own, drive, tune and augment some of the greatest cars of all time. It is also a way to learn and to teach.

My three boys all love cars, and because of my interest in cars, my sons can identify most exotic makes when we see them on the road (a fact of which I am hugely proud). Years ago, one of my sons who was about six at the time, saw a sleek Granturismo Sport in the lane next to us and yelled “Look, Masirata!” That one is a keeper and I will much more gladly trade Maserati for “Masirata” than Porsche for “Porsh.” Recently, while driving locally, my oldest son asked the make of a car stopped at a traffic light. I told him that it was a De Tomaso Pantera. Not a car that one sees very often as over its twenty-year production run, only 7260 were made. That night I added the exact model we saw to my collection in Forza.  The accuracy of Forza in terms of the details of the car models and their distinct driving qualities allows the game to be a reference even for those that don’t yet know how to drive in real life.

I also enjoy being part of an international community that appreciates cars and car culture. Users have been posting custom and replica liveries, tunes and graphics for years and the collection is impressive. I have created a few of my own. My focus is taking a lesser known model and making a replica of an actual winning car. I have made a half dozen or so, the most popular of which is for the 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA Stradale. This livery was purchased 62 times over the last two years. This is hardly impressive as some designs are downloaded thousands of times yet I find it impressive that 62 people selected a design for Rafael Barrios’ n24 which won first in class and the overall win in the 1971 Premio Ciudad de Alcaniz. (See my reference materials here.) Not a well-known racer nor race, yet players sought it out and applied to their cars. These are my people.

Am I looking forward to the new games? You could say that. The new versions of all of the games look really impressive on the new consoles and certainly Forza 5 is no exception. I am glad to see that they have added and improved without losing what makes the game special. I am bit saddened to learn however, that my Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel will not work with the Xbox One and my Wheel Stand Pro will most likely not accept the new wheels. You can learn about the new wheels at the Forza website. I guess even virtual racing can get expensive, but from where I sit, it’s really all for educational purposes.

Blockbusters Leaving Less Room for Indie Games

blockbusters_1000It is hard to look anywhere online and not be bombarded with promotions for and reviews of the latest blockbuster games.  Currently, Grand Theft Auto V is the reigning champion with a nearly constant stream of videos and news. Unfortunately for the game’s developers, the current news about the difficulty with the online multiplayer is the dominant message of the day.

My point is that It is difficult for smaller, independent developers to get noticed.

In his article, “Shrinking List of Video Games Is Dominated by Blockbusters” published in The New York Times this week, Nick Wingfield explains why:

The biggest console and PC games — usually those games that are part of an established franchise and have the slickest production values — are posting spectacular sales figures. This month, the latest in the gritty urban adventure series Grand Theft Auto took only three days on store shelves to reach $1 billion in sales, faster than any video game ever, its publisher said.

The richest games are getting richer partly because the industry makes fewer games over all, concentrating players’ spending. Publishers are also squeezing out a little more money per game sold by selling add-on content and other digital goodies. And the legions of players eager to do battle with one another online create a sort of virtuous cycle, as players are attracted to the titles with the biggest pool of opponents.       

Now, the most popular games, like Call of Duty, Halo and Assassin’s Creed, or top sports games, like the FIFA soccer series, have the biggest development budgets and fan bases and are getting a bigger portion of sales. The top 20 games in 2012 accounted for 41 percent of total American game sales in stores, nearly double what they did a decade earlier, according to the NPD Group, a market research company.

The lower output of publishers makes the stakes higher. In 2012, only half as many new games were released in American stores as in 2008, NPD said. Electronic Arts, the publisher of the Madden football series and other sports favorites, sold 67 different titles in stores in the fiscal year ending March 2009. In its last fiscal year, it sold 13. Because fewer games are released, game makers must get more sales out of those games that do reach store shelves.

The development costs on Grand Theft Auto V were likely to have been more than $100 million, and its marketing $50 million more, said Evan Wilson, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities. He estimated that a typical console game would break even at about four million units, while that figure would have been one million a decade or so ago.

I have no issues with the popular big-budget game series and often play several of them but I want to be sure that their success is not at the cost of smaller games that try to do something new.

While this feeling has been increasing for me recently due to the hype around the launch of these huge franchise games, in truth I have come to this thought quite late. Nearly eight years ago, Stephanie Barish, the chief executive and founder of IndieCade, started thinking that the gaming industry had become unbalanced towards the blockbuster games. In his article “Where Indie Game Producers Come Out to Play“, published in The New York Times this week, Harold Goldberg explains:

IndieCade is the brainchild of Stephanie Barish, a former digital media producer. In 2005, after becoming convinced that the game industry had tilted too much toward blockbuster franchises, she began brainstorming with friends in her living room about how to correct the imbalance. After some smaller showcases, IndieCade really established itself in 2008 with 20 games in an art gallery in Bellevue, Wash.

Digital distribution has been driving sales of independent video games for nearly a decade. But the rise of the indies can be traced in no small part to IndieCade, a quirky, artful gathering that attracts people from around the world to an event that’s known as the Sundance of games.

IndieCade, which will showcase over 120 games and is expected to draw 5,000 enthusiasts to Culver City, Calif., this week, features creations made by eager college kids with something to prove and youngish professionals disgruntled by the assembly-line anonymity that can come with working on big-budget productions.

This year the games Myst and Doom  will be honored on their 20th anniversaries. They are two of my all-time favorites and each represents a seminal moment in a game type’s history. Although each started small they proved to become huge hits, true precursors to the blockbusters of today.

Forza/Filmspeed Contest

Forza5
spacer 40h
If you liked last week’s video from Forza 5, enter to win one of the boards used in the video signed by Tanner Foust.

Did you catch the astonishing video of the Forza 5 Motorsport team’s real-life flick book last week? Well, we’ve got three pieces of the artwork featured in the video to giveaway – and they’re signed by the film’s star (and Top Gear USA presenter) Tanner Foust. Want one? Of course you do. Head to the link below to watch the video and enter… (Ts & Cs apply)

http://ngx.me/hm0flokf

Forza 5 Flip Book

With the entire game world  focused on the release of Grand Theft Auto V this week and me holding out for a few other upcoming games, I was beginning to feel a bit left out. And then I saw the teaser yesterday for a new promotion for Forza 5. I was a bit confused as to why they were going to this extent to create an animation from stills from an animation. Don’t I feel silly now? Have a look at the incredibly beautiful results released today. I can’t wait for the new game.

From the Top Gear website:

“This project was ambitious but… not so rubbish,” says Tanner Foust, TG USA host, racer extraordinaire, and driver of the world’s fastest camera car – the modified McLaren MP4-12C that created this astonishing flick book.

The film was created by placing 680 aluminium boards printed with grabs from real Forza 5 gameplay, placed exactly six inches apart, on the side of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Tanner was then told to drive past them at fiendishly precise speeds with a £93,330 camera on the back, creating this ambitious, stunning petrol-powered flick book.

Director, Jeff Zwart, says, “In creating this I felt like I’d turned the camera inside out. But there was a lot of science in working out how we’d get it to work. Different sections of the track required different speeds – 80mph, 100mph, and 120mph – but it wasn’t as simple as just hitting the speeds. You had to get there and stay there,”

Tanner adds, “All the science behind it was very exact. Exact frame rate, measuring the exact distance between the boards, and hitting exact speeds. The McLaren was ideal. It’s classy in the way it makes ridiculous speed, and the suspension’s really smooth.

“If we’d used a Porsche, the visibility would have been too bad for me to see what was going on with the boards, if we’d used a Lambo the brutal shifting would have snapped the camera off. This is a scientific car, and I needed to apply a lot of difficult science to make the film, so it was perfect.”

As Tanner says, “this was the sort of cocktail napkin idea that never comes to pass because it’s incredibly involved. And it would’ve been very easy to do it in CGI, but we did 100 per cent for real and it’s very, very cool.”

To learn more and see how the film was made, please visit the Forza 5 site.

The Vision Behind Filmspeed

The Car Behind Filmspeed

The Math Behind FilmSpeed

%d bloggers like this: