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With many exclusives coming out for every system in the coming months, 2008 is going to be a hell of a year. Now is where things get interesting. The 360 is in its second year with both the PS3 and Wii having just finished their first not too long ago. Looking at the games coming out, I wouldn't be too out of line to say that the developers have finally got a handle on programing for the hardware. There are still some snags of course, but there always are. Here's my take on the 360's potential for the coming year.

Looking at the Xbox, we see some pretty impressive games in the line-up. Lost Odyssey is one of games on the slate for 08. Why is this one important to the big M? For starters, it's a game that's been designed by the Japanese with Japanese influences. Microsoft has had a big problem trying to break in to the Japanese market and the numbers show it. The only boost they've had there was at the release of Halo 3. Unfortunately, the boost did not last long and had little of a lasting impact on the market. This may be the game to break the Wii strangle hold in the land of the rising sun.

Speaking of Halo, the last in the series may be out, but that doesn't mean we won't see it again. On the horizon (just sorta peeking over that mountain there) is the little brother to the Green Behemoth. Halo Wars is an RTS game with roots back to the one that Bungie was designing before being bought out by Microsoft. Bungie isn't actively working on this title, but I'm sure that Ensemble Studios (of Age Of Empires fame) has a good handle on it. We should also be seeing the release of Too Human this year...Probably. Alan Wake is also in that category of possible vaporware. It's had an on again, off again release date, and is maybe confirmed for either 2008 or 2009. Confused? So am I.

This year we will also see the release of more sequels to Xbox favorites. We'll be seeing several games with Fable 2 being one of the most high profile. There will also be more games going multi platform in the coming years. Loosing exclusivity is not just a PS3 problem, it's affecting all the consoles. Downloadable content is also a big one for the upcoming year, with the biggest being Grand Theft Auto's content exclusivity for the 360. Not much is known about what will be available yet, but expect to see more missions, character skins, maybe even weapons and vehicles.

Now for the bad news. Continued problems with hardware and emerging issues with Live set to dampen enthusiasm for this system. I'm not saying it's a bad system, but the history speaks for itself. Microsoft lost $1.5 billion and counting on the Red Ring of Death, a problem that was possibly avoidable. Press releases say that the problem has been fixed with the introduction of smaller processors, but I'm still skeptical. The RRoD is not the only problem with the hardware, but scratching of discs and the like seem to be less of a concern. The problems with Live seem to be getting attention from Microsoft, so this problem is likely not to be a big problem nor have a lasting impact for consumers.

The last thing to mention is HD-DVD. The fate of this format seems all but sealed at this point. It's possible that HD-DVD may have some life, but it seems unlikely. Expect to see the add-on discontinued and discounted at some point before summer. Whether the 360 will support Blu-ray with either an add-on or installed drive remains to be seen.

Over all it seems like the 360 is in a good position to fight for console dominance. Will it win? Maybe for a while. I think 2008 will definitely be a deciding factor in this console war.
As Today's Entertainment.

OK, so it's been in the news again. Violence and video games. I know, I shouldn't be surprised by what the typical news outlet thinks is newsworthy these days. With people like Jack Thompson trumpeting the evils of electronic entertainment, expect to see more of this in the future. The problem I have with this fixation on video game violence is the fact that video games are not, nor was it the first, form of violent media available to us. All we have to do is turn on the news itself to see violence and death. I'm not talking about some Hollywood concocted nonsense, I'm talking about murder, violence and war. It is kind of ironic that the outlet that video games are most often decried from is the same outlet that has had embedded reporters with the Army and Marines during the latest conflict in the Middle-East. Turn on the news today to see the latest death scene from a car bombing in Iraq.

Movies today have become more and more violent also. Just look at the releases that happen around the Halloween time frame. You'll see your movies like Saw 12, Touristas 7, and all the others in the "torture porn" genre. The old Friday the Thirteenth and Nightmare on Elm Street movies are tame by comparison. Are video games really more dangerous then these displays of graphic violence? I know people will point to the fact that you actively control a character in games, but really, how do you honestly compare the cartoony, unrealistic violence of a game versus real people on screen committing incredibly realistic acts? Even the worst of Hollywood special effects can make a mutilation scene look like it is really happening.

I posted this topic on a forum recently and got some interesting responses to it. It seems that most people accept the violence displayed on the news as just a sign of the times we live in. It was reasoned that the news airs stuff like this because, of course, it makes money for the station. Viewership drives the price of advertising up, and advertising as we all know, is how we are able to watch all these shows for free. The more sensational the story is, the more viewers it most likely will pull in. A story about a teen killing a small child may not be that interesting, but throw Mortal Kombat into the mix and you have sensationalism at its finest.

On the good side, as games become more and more of a mainstream form of entertainment, we will see less and less attacks on the violence in games. Will there ever be a day that games are as accepted as movies are? I think we are seeing that happen today. With the current generation of consoles, and not to a small part the Wii itself, we are seeing video games being played by a more diverse demographic then ever before in its history. With game developers and console designers getting more creative, we will most definitely see a change in acceptance, and I think, sooner rather then later. Eventually, Jack Thompson will have nothing to complain about. Watch out, professional sports may be next.
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So, there I was. At work with a ton of free time on my hands. What to do, what to do? I got it. I'll check out Wiki. Ok. Here I am, homepage. Now, what do I look up? That's an easy one. What else is there in life but video games? The history of video games catches my eye. Reading through the in-depth article, I realize just how much video gaming has infiltrated my life.

I remember the first time I played a home system. I saw this big box in the basement of the house of a relative. The box said Pong, and from the illustrations on the outside, I could tell that it gets connected to the tv. I had no idea what it was at first, but then they hooked it up. The results weren't much to look at (it was Pong after all), but I was hooked. Every time I went back over to their house I asked to play the game. It's visuals were ugly and basic, but it was fun to play. To this day I have no idea what the system was, no way I could pick it out from a line-up. All I know is that the only thing it played was Pong, but that really didn't matter. All that mattered was that I was hooked, and would be for the next 27 or so years.

Reading through to the descriptions of the console generations, I saw the first true gaming system that I actually owned. I had, and still have, an Atari 2600. Unfortunately the one I still have is not the one I owned as a kid. I regret selling it now, but not at the time. That one I sold to get a Nintendo Entertainment System. Again, I still own a Nintendo, a couple of them actually. One of those is the original that I had as a teenager. Over the years I have collected several other systems. I've had at least one system from each generation (with the exception of the first), often times two. Until this generation that is. The reason for that? Pure economics. I have a family now and gaming is not at all a cheap lifestyle. I'm not complaining though. If it takes a little while longer for me to get a 360 or Wii, that's fine. I'm patient. Usually.

The thing that struck me with reading this is just how far gaming has come since the first time I played. It used to be a hobby for kids. Just going into any arcade during the 80's proved that point. Seeing an adult in there that wasn't an employee was just kinda strange. Most adults of the time just didn't get it. Of the ones that did go to the arcades, we always were on guard with those people. Were they some kind of weirdo, or did they have some other motive for going there? You would see plenty of teenagers, but that's about it. Eventually, I grew up (it may not show most of the time, but it's true), and so did my hobby. I started noticing a change with each new generation that came out. The games would start to be more maturely themed and violent. With the improving graphics we had more realistic situations to play through. No more pixels representing a person. With the advent of the sprite you could actually tell that that was a person you were shooting. Polygons advanced things further. Many genres could not exist without the advancing visuals. For example: Survival horror games were scarce at first, but have gradually gained popularity. Seeing a dog rendered with polygons jump through a window actually startled you. Not just because of the sudden movements on screen, but because you could see that it was a dog and that it wanted to eat you.

The maturity of themes and visuals were not the only things to change, stories became even more advanced and involving. Gone are the days of single paragraph explanations of a games back story. Today, games with hours of dialog are commonplace. Early Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy games proved that story can be as important as the visuals. A tradition that is continuing even today.

What will be the state of gaming tomorrow? Will we continue to see my generation evolve with gaming? Will the younger generations stick with it as long as I have? I am a lifelong gamer. I always have been a gamer, I always will be a gamer. That's why today, I call gaming a lifestyle, not a hobby. A person can give up a hobby. This is part of who I am now, and will be tomorrow.

As always, I look forward to comments about my article. I want to hear about your gaming history and experiences. Where do you see gaming going in the future? How long do you think you will stick with it? Are you a gamer for life, or are you a gamer for right now?
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I took my PS3 to a friend's house last night. He doesn't have one yet and wanted a taste to see if it was worth it. I also took over my collection of games. We started with a small sampling of flOw, then proceeded to Uncharted, The Darkness, Resistance, Folklore, and Motorstorm. He had a good time testing all the games out, but ended up playing a couple more than others. We traded off the controller for some good and dirty racing action with Motorstorm, with me schooling him on how to hit the turns to practically lap the AI drivers. But, most suprisingly was the fact that flOw stole the show for him. It took him a couple of minutes to get into the game, but once he did, he was hooked. He later told me something that I had experienced myself, flOw feels great to control. He even went further to agree with me that the controller just seems to disappear when you play it. It just doesn't feel like you control the Sixaxis, it just feels. Now the Sixaxis has gotten a lot of flak lately, but one thing is certain. This game could be played no other way.

Occasionally, I do pick up a game that's a little bit different. I bought Incredible Crisis and Personna for the PSOne. I loved Giants: Citizen Kabuto for the PS2. Now I've added a couple of PSN titles to my PS3 collection. flOw and Everyday Shooter don't fit in the typical game genres that we see these days. Sure, Everyday Shooter is a shooter, we all know that. But how would we characterize it's music integration? Without the musical influence, it just wouldn't be the same. Take the Sixaxis from flOw and you kill the game. No doubt about that. The feeling just wouldn't be right.
And Should We Care?

Today, we are seeing the same old ideas popping up again. This time with the very unreliable rumor stating that the 360 is getting a motion sensitive controller. I don't care who came up with the idea first, or even if the controller will ever see production, it's completely irrelevant. The practice of technology showing up on multiple competing systems is nothing new. Oh, sure, one company may say they came up with it first, but who has an original idea anymore? The consoles themselves prove the case. One console may have a different chipset than the next, but really, how different are they. They still operate in basically the same way. Electronic theory isn't rewritten with each new system generation.

Small innovations do appear every now and then, but what is more common to see are old ideas used in a new way. Take motion control. That tech has been around a lot longer than the Wii. Nintendo didn't invent the technology, they just used differently from the way it had been used before. Sony has implemented similar technology in the Sixaxis controller. Now Microsoft may be considering a unique idea to differentiate themselves from their competition and give their fan base what they want, or at least something that they think the consumers will want.

I believe that we are getting promising possibilities out of these rejuvenated ideas. One of the current innovations from the last generation seeing new life is the PlayStation Eye and the game Eye of Judgement. It brings old ideas to new concepts, and mixes a couple of gaming genres in to boot. Seeing what is possible with simple components will hopefully bring us a new and worthwhile experience. Another innovator, Johnny Lee, has an amazing video explaining his use of the Wii controller to put us in the game. Immersion is definitely something we expect while playing games and after seeing this creative thinker in action, I'm excited about the possibilities. I think that implementation of his ideas may be years way, but I can absolutely see this for the next generation.

We need to start celebrating the ideas of the competition. The Wii is, undeniably, different from any system that came before it. Both the PS3 and the 360 are substantially more powerful than all the previous generations combined. As I said before, the console makers guard their secrets, and try to make you want their system. Because of that you won't get everything you want with just one brand.

The only way to be able to get all the best in tech is to give up our long held prejudices against what we perceive to be the enemy. Xbots, the SDF, and whatever the Wii fanboys are called, are only hurting themselves by not accepting that each console, because of their differences, are worthy of purchase. Not all generations have been able to claim that, but I believe this one is as close to ideal as we're going to get. All the consoles were made by different people with different ideas, but with one ultimate goal. The goal is to give us games to play. Accept the fact that all the consoles are worthy of your attention. Each and every one of them has a game you will love to play. To not have the opportunity to experience the best on the PS3, the 360, the Wii, just because of the name on the box, will only hurt you. I don't have all the systems yet, but it is a goal of mine.

I don't believe in the concept of a console war. Wars do not have winners, just losers. I see it a different way, although, I do see a winner and a loser. The winner is the gamer, a true gamer, that believes in playing for the fun of it, experiencing the best of the industry, no matter the name. The loser, ah the loser. The loser is the one that limits the possibilities by sticking to one console. The loser misses out on about 2/3 of the good games available. I am not going to be a loser, are you?
Today's word of the day* is OPINION. Let us begin with the formal definition provided by

o·pin·ion [uh-pin-yuhn]

1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.
2. a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.
3. the formal expression of a professional judgment: to ask for a second medical opinion.
4. Law. the formal statement by a judge or court of the reasoning and the principles of law used in reaching a decision of a case.
5. a judgment or estimate of a person or thing with respect to character, merit, etc.: to forfeit someone's good opinion.
6. a favorable estimate; esteem: I haven't much of an opinion of him.

I will be using the second definition while discussing this topic. A personal view, attitude, or appraisal. Why am I mentioning this? How does it apply to the gaming world? Does anyone really care? Probably not, but I do have a point. I think.

We see opinions every day on the web. I have an opinion, you have an opinion, and of equal importance, game reviewers and analysts have an opinion. What is of certainty is that no two people will always have the same opinion. Take the blog section here. My opinion may differ from someone about the importance of sales numbers, but that doesn't mean that either one of us is wrong. Likewise, two gaming magazines may have rated a game differently. Is one of those two sources dumber then the other one? No, but I will admit, if the opinion is not an intelligent one the possibility is there.

So who's opinion do we listen to? The easy answer is the one that most agrees with what you do. To only listen to one side, though, has its risks. By ignoring one side you will probably not get the whole picture. One opinion may focus on, say, the visuals of a game, and rate it poorly because of it. Another site may have a different opinion based on gameplay, and give it high marks. Both sites may be right, but which one is right for you. In my opinion, listen to both places and make up your own mind. I'm big on people thinking for themselves. I will never agree with one side or another without listening to both sides and the only way I can do that is if each side has their own coherent and logical argument. I mean argument in the form of discussion, not trading insults or other such nonsense.

Which leads me to the point of this article. Fanboyism. Now this form of opinion is often entirely biased and ignorant. This type of opinion is the only one that I will completely disregard out of hand. To blatantly say that the 360, or the PS3, or the Wii is the best one just because you like it more, just shows how small minded some of these people are. I'm not saying all fanboys are bad. I happen to think the PS3 is the better system, but I'll be willing to back up my claims with facts, not just feelings. Unfortunately, ignorant fanboyism has been with us since the early days of the arcade and will continue as long as there are competing consoles. Just visit any gaming forum and you'll see what I mean.

In closing, I am not making any demands here. I'm not trying to change the internet or the viewpoint of any particular website or person. it's just my opinion.

*Disclaimer: In using the phrase "word of the day" I am not stating that I will, in fact, write about a word every day. It just sounded better than "word of the week" or "word of the whenever the hell I feel like writing about a word".

So Why Listen?

We all see the numbers each week for sales of whatever somebody finds interesting, be it games, consoles, Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD sales, or what have you. With each of these topics, we see multiple sites quoting multiple analysts about some number or trend regarding the direction these products are going. One camp says they are tops in this region. Another says the first is lying and they are in first. The last says the second made a statement that wasn't true about widget 4. You see where I'm going with this, right? With all these PR people trying to spin their product why should be listen? What do we get out of it? The truth is most definitely something we don't get, and the numbers can lie.

If a good game, by good I mean well designed and critically praised, under sells its potential, does that mean it was a bad game? Of course it doesn't. We've all seen the results of what happens when a publisher fails to promote a game that may be a little out of the norm. We get Madden (a game that shows very little innovation from year to year) shoved down our throats each and EVERY year, but a truly unique game like Psychonauts, gets less press coverage and no on air advertising. Clearly Psychonauts was less of a mainstream game and it didn't sell very well, so if the numbers are correct it must have been a bad game. Let's look at Kane and Lynch, a game that was given not so hot reviews by pretty much everybody. The sad thing about a game like this is that it wasn't a great game (which the developer and publisher had to know) and still had a HUGE marketing campaign to back it. Conversely, we see badly reviewed games, poorly designed and difficult to play, get up in the sales charts all the time. They may not be horrible games, but they're probably not as good as an Okami or some other non-typical game. Back to Kane and Lynch, will it sell better than Psychonauts? Probably. If it does sell more, does that prove that it was the better game? Not a chance.

I've given up listening to all these charts and numbers that everyone puts out. The only number that matters in my life is little ol' number one: Me. I know what I like and what I'm likely to buy. Am I going to let Microsoft's or Sony's number games influence my buying decisions? Don't count on it.

Don't buy in to the PR schtick and stick to what you like. Let's stop crap from getting so much attention.

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I read an interesting article a while back from G4 regarding graphics in video games. It got me thinking about the games I grew up with and what we have today. Video games have a long and well documented history going back several decades. From the games played on the big mainframe computers to today, where a game can be played on a cellphone. Advances in graphics have improved substantially over the years with each successive generation.

When the first video games came out the graphics were, to put it mildly, less than mind blowing. The screens usually had a white object (ala space war), or whatever you controlled, on a black background. The advancing vector graphics in early games became something to behold. Eventually games evolved to 2D sprites and emerging to 3D polygons. The jump to 3D was definitely a huge advance for gaming and for showing the realism possible. With advances in texture, lighting, and processing power, we have some amazing looking games today, but is that really what we need?

We all like to see the eye candy in todays games. Who doesn't like to see the way the foliage moves in Crysis? Uncharted includes realistic looking and moving characters in addition to a good looking environment, but is all this realism something we really need? Could realistic games bad for gaming? Let's take a look at what the effects are of getting all that pretty scenery. As games become more realistic we see a huge increase in the amount of software that is required to render said environments and characters. It takes a lot of information to get Crysis to look as drop dead gorgeous as it does. What cost do we have to pay for that? Obviously, we need a system with a lot of processing power that can read all that information and display it on the screen as it was meant to be seen. If our computer or console is unable to read and send out the information fast enough, we see drastic problems with the rendering. Slowdown is to be expected in games with high detail environments, although the developers work hard to make sure their game is compatible with as many systems as possible. Another issue we see, more and more these days, is regarding the length of the game. The developers have a hard choice in choosing the correct balance between quality and quantity. We all want more of our favorite games. To see more and different environments in Uncharted, or to have another area to go to in Halo 3 are all natural reactions from the gamers. For the game makers though, that one more level may mean another $500,000 in developing costs or adding a second disc to include the extra code. Both factors that are important in order to lower development costs.

For some games though, realism is the only way it will work. The Normandy Beach level in Medal of Honor would not have made the impression it did if you didn't see the bodies, hear the bullets and mortars, or see the Nazis in the distance with the machine guns. You needed to feel a connection with the world, the real world that was, in order to get the full impact and emotional response to the moment. When you charge the beach, you can imagine being with the soldiers that were actually there, some 50 years or so before you were even born. It brings us a connection to what was, and maybe even, what is to come.

Realism may be a challenge for developers, but in the right world, under the right circumstances, it is a requirement.

As always, I'd like to know what you think. Yes you, the one that kept muttering to himself while reading this article. You just need to speak up a little more so I can hear you.
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This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Since then I've gone online to have hours of quality entertainment.

I can't believe it. I've been banned! And it's all because I'm a n00b (please don't hold it against me, I'm really a nice person deep down inside). I don't have much experience with multiplayer, LAN or online, so I was a little nervous trying it out on Warhawk for the first time. I just got the Warhawk bundle with the headset yesterday and today was the first chance I had to try it out. I had a little trouble setting up the headset, through no fault of the headset or the PS3, I'm just clumsy with technology sometimes. Well, I get the headset recognized, heard my voice in the ear piece as I'm setting it up, and think all is good to go. I don't want to look like a complete loser (not that it actually helped) so when I started the game I set up a LAN game first to practice. I played for about 20 minutes (far too short a time but far too long when I was the only one on the map) and got the basics down ok. I then decided to brave going ONLINE. I am justifiably nervous at this, there are 10 year old kids on there that can fly rings around me. All I can say is thank god for anonymity. I don't think I could handle being whipped and then having them really know who I was. Me being a 33 year old gamer that grew up with a controller in his hand. I come from a time when multiplayer meant it was a 2 player game. Ikari Warriors and Contra are perfect examples of this (and if you have no idea what I'm talking about, point proven).

Anyway, so I get the game started, customize my character and aircraft (my daughter wanted me to use the underwear as my icon, I said no), and join the first server I see. I accidently joined a CTF map with a few people on it. Since I'm not a member of a clan I usually only play DM and usually that helps me avoid all n00bish taunts. When I started the game there was someone near my avatar obviously trying to talk to me, but for some reason my headset isn't working. So there I am, me fiddling with my headset in the real world, while some complete stranger (getting more irate by the second) is yelling at me. I could hear something through my TV, but not enough to make it out. All I understood was this: "GlossGreen....(mumble mumble). GlossGreen (mumble mumble)". I knew he was getting irate because I went a little ways away and he followed me. "GlossGreen....(mumble mumble). GlossGreen (mumble mumble)"! Then he hit me! I think he got me with the knife, must have had friendly fire on 0 because I didn't die, I just got irritated myself. I ran away from him again. You know what he did next? The little bastard threw a grenade at me! So, I get a lot irritated and decide to test out the Warhawk. I jumped into the first one I could find. After hearing "GlossGreen....(mumble mumble). GlossGreen (mumble mumble)!", for a couple more minutes, I quit the game. Upon leaving I get this message "You have been banned from this server." I should have paid attention more in the lobby. The name of the server was "Obey me or else." Whatever.