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Chaosium preps Call of Cthulhu 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition


Let me get this straight. I don’t play pen-and-paper roleplaying games anymore. Period. OK, we did a little one-off of one of those goofball D&D box sets with the CD audio last year but my days of talking with funny accents and scribbling out elaborate adventures for unappreciative friends is long over. That being said, aside from D&D and Star Frontiers, the RPG I loved the most was Call of Cthulhu. I think it still stands as the best roleplaying system ever developed. It’s a simple system with percentile-based resolutions and plenty of room for great Lovecraftian storytelling and atmosphere. It’s also served as the basis for a lot of other media, ranging from the Arkham Horror and Mansions of Madness board games to the Shadow of the Comet and Dark Corners of the Earth video games. It’s a gaming institution.

It’s hard to believe the game’s been around for 30 years and to celebrate its publisher, Chaosium, is printing up a single batch of these ultra-eldritch, faux-leatherbound editions due for release in August. This is a 320 page book with hand-sewn binding and printed on super nice art print-quality paper. There’s probably a bunch of really cool illustrations in it as well. It’s $65, and I wouldn’t mind having one if only for old time’s sake.

Face to Face with Pinball FX2's new "Mars" table

I remember watching late night TV many years ago and seeing those ads for the Richard Hoaglund VHS tapes where he talked about the face on Mars and it kind of freaked me out. Now I just think of that line from Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”- “press your space face close to mine, love”. Or sometimes it reminds me of “Life on Mars” from Hunky Dory.

What I’m also freaking out about it, albeit in a good way, is that there’s a new Pinball FX2 table on the shelf of your local Xbox Live Arcade. It’s Mars, and it’s a port from Zen Studios’ PSN platform, Zen Pinball. I’ve had access to it for a week and having put in some good time with it I’m glad to report that it’s definitely in line with the rest of their top-flight digital pinball tables. It’s a fun table with a fairly clear and uncluttered playfield, simple mission progression, and lots of fun novelties including a crazy zero-G multiball and holograms by the shuttleload. If Portal 2 didn’t give you your fill of spidery robots, there’s one here for you as well. The Mars exploration theme (including that damn face and the supposed pyramids) is well implemented. I love the themes these guys use, they’ve got a great eye for unusual themes that make for great pinball tables, Rocky and Bullwinkle notwithstanding. This is also one of their easiest tables, so if you’re easily frustrated by dropout lanes or low-scoring balls I think this one might be more accomodating. If you’re a pinball wizard like myself, you might find that the challenge isn’t nearly as compelling as it is in Rome or Blade.

But it’s only 240 MS points. You can’t go wrong unless you hate pinball. If that’s the case I’m not sure it’s going to work out between us anyway.

I hear tell that their next FX2 table is another Marvel one. Wanna bet it’s Cap, Thor, or Avengers?

Xbox Live Activity is Revealing

Major Nelson’s blog today revealed the Xbox Live activity based on unique users for the week of April 11.

According to ‘Major’:

These lists are based on global unique users connected to Xbox Live or in the case of Arcade and Indie Games, full versions purchased during the week. Some content (and therefore the links) may not be available in all Xbox LIVE regions.

While this doesn’t really have everything to do with sales, it is interesting data. It shows what people are playing, and what they are not playing — at least to some extent. The number of people that play Halo and Call of Duty in its various forms, every day, continues to prove that I’m an old man who is out of touch.

According to the XBLA list Clash of Heroes is 9th, which places it behind, wait, Braid? Limbo? That new game about Dishwashers? (Granted Barnes liked that one a lot.) Damn people Clash of Heroes is pure digital addiction and it’s 9th? I am disappointed in all of you. We’ll see how it does next week.

Here’s the full listings, with indie games as well.

Giant Bomb Posts Activision Memos

Did you ever get an email from someone and immediately realized that, whoops, that was absolutely not meant for you to read?

Yet you read it anyway?

It’s impossible to turn away, isn’t it? Giant Bomb posted an article today revealing an internal Activision memo that was sent to employees and was then leaked. There’s nothing earth shattering in this memo, really. There’s another one coming tomorrow about Guitar Hero which I think could prove a hell of a lot more entertaining. This one? It’s about Call of Duty and how it can avoid Guitar Hero’s fate. Activision loves them some Call of Duty. Duh. It’s worth reading, just so you can read an internal memo, but it’s laundry that isn’t really dirty. Here’s hoping the Guitar Hero memo (which may also touch on the killing of True Crime: Hong Kong) is full on blazing.

Might & Magic Heroes VI Delayed Until September

No High Scores reader and 4-time contest loser KyleS emailed me news about the delay of Might & Magic Heroes VI via a post on the game’s Facebook page.

The post reads as follows:

Hello everyone,

As you might have read it on the official Might & Magic Heroes VI website and forum, the game release has been postponed to September 8th.
We want to ensure that the game quality will go beyond your expectations!

So there you have it. Thanks Kyle. Now I’m going back to bed as I still have a fever. Email Brandon anything else today. He’s bored.

Panzer Corps: The Interview

I had a nice chat (via email) with Tim van der Moer, CEO of The Lordz Games Studio, the developer of the upcoming game Panzer Corps. The game, while Tim is adamant about not calling it a remake, takes the Panzer General formula and bends and tweaks it into (hopefully) something fresh. I should get my hands on a preview builds soon. I hope so because after talking with Tim I’m in full on “Let’s take Poland!”* mode.

I also have a batch of screenshots which I’ll post later. We normally don’t do screens here but Matrix sent them to me and it’s hard to see them on GameShark and here I can blow them up full. They’re nice.

Here’s a taste of the Q&A:

Of course Panzer Corps will feature a lot of things that were never in PG: Waffen-SS units, land-lease units, a complete railroad system with trains, rail guns and armored trains, radar, Wunderwaffe (like the “Maus” tank and the “Gustav” huge rail gun), an enhanced RPG element with medals, heroes and detailed battle history for each of your units etc. Each of these elements adds some more variety and immersion to the player’s experience. But perhaps even more important is the right balance of the basic game elements.

It really is a good read and if you loved Panzer General then this should go right to the front of the “tell me more Bill!” list.

If you never played Panzer General, I’m sorry. If you did and hated it, you’re dead to me.

*If your family was actually part of the German “Let’s Take Poland” campaign, I’m sorry. That had to be awful. It’s just a game.

Time For Some Time Off?

No High Scores

Last week before the podcast, Todd mentioned that he didn’t have a lot to talk about during the “what we’re playing” section because he hadn’t been playing any games lately, wanting, as he put it, “to just get away for a little bit”. I’m fairly certain I don’t know what that means.

I mean, I know what it means to get away for a little bit, I just don’t know why you’d want to. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a day when I didn’t play anything. Between my consoles, my handhelds and my laptop, I play something every day.

I’m just wondering if I should.

Right now, I have six games in my 3DS case: Nintendogs, Radiant Historia, Pokemon White, Ghost Recon, 999 and Pokemon SoulSilver, but that last one is simply for Pokewalker purposes. That’s easily over a hundred hours of gaming right there. On my laptop I’m playing Battle Slots like a fiend, but I also have Torchlight and Bejweled 3. Consoles have Clash of Heroes, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Tiger Woods.

Will I finish all of these? No, but not all of them can be finished in a proper manner. You can finish the story in Pokemon and still capture to your heart’s content. Nintendogs will go on forever if you let it. Some of the games you can finish, and I probably will, but for some, time and a reduced attention span will be the death of them.

I’m not a Whale, in Bill’s definition, I just tend to get distracted easily, or am easily swayed by a review for a game that sounds different. 999 sounded very interesting, so I picked it up despite only having a few days to play it before moving on to a review game. Same with Radiant Historia. I bought that game two days before Pokemon White came out. Two days! What the hell is wrong with me?

Well, lots, but in this case, I just like games too much. When I see a game that sounds interesting, particularly handheld games, I’ll buy it out of fear that if I don’t, I’ll forget it. Now, this is a ludicrous idea as I keep an Amazon wishlist for books I want to remember to read, so there’s no reason I can’t do the same thing for games. The other part is that I absolutely abhor having a gaming drought. I get very cranky when I don’t have something to play and having games in reserve keeps me from having a drought.

The problem is that in the act of getting a bunch of games to stave off a drought, I’m ensuring that I never spend time doing anything but play games. See, when I watch TV with my wife, I can’t just watch TV. I’ll fall asleep if I do. It’s silly, but it is what it is. My wife used to get upset with me because I was always reading or playing a game and I’d miss important plot developments so I stopped, and then I was asleep in my chair at 9PM. At least this way I’m still awake and I do my best to pay attention.

Because I have to have something to do constantly when we’re watching TV, and we watch a lot of TV, I always have books or magazines to read or games to play. I’m buying, and playing, a lot of games, but I’m also buying a lot of books. Books I end up not reading. The table beside my chair in the family room currently has in it:

  1. One issue of Cook’s Illustrated
  2. One issue of Entertainment Weekly (the summer movie preview, woohoo!)
  3. All but two of the Y: The Last Man TPB’s
  4. All of the Seven Soldiers of Victory TPB’s
  5. All of the Scary Go Round books
  6. Two Little Dee compilations
  7. The Battle for the Cowl TPB
  8. The Complete New Yorker cartoon collection
  9. Book one of the Calvin and Hobbes compilation
  10. One or two Bloom County compilations I picked up at a library sale
  11. One or two other things I know I’m forgetting

That is a lot of stuff to read and it’s not like I don’t like reading. I love reading! I just can’t get myself to stop playing games long enough to do it and with my birthday right around the corner, and my wife getting me an iPad 2 for it, my gaming and technological tinkering will only increase.

So maybe I need to pull a Todd and get away from it all for a little bit. It can’t be good to spend so much time gaming, because eventually, when I have to do review work, I’ll burn myself out. Maybe I need to take a break from the battling of slots and training of puppies to read about zombies, or Batman or zombie bat men. Then, when I have something I have to play I’ll be enthusiastic and able to approach it in the right frame of mind. Then again, maybe I can just get all of those books on my iPad 2. You know, when I’m done checking out Sword and Sworcery.

.99 Cent Games are Coming for Your Children

No High Scores

Headline courtesy of Todd.

Epic President Mike Capps is terrified of 99 cent games. Seriously. I mean, if you can get a good game for a dollar, why would you possibly pay 60 bucks for a game? And if you don’t pay 60 bucks for a game, how is he going to keep rolling around in piles of filthy, filthy lucre?

Here’s the quote from Big Mike himself:

“If there’s anything that’s killing us, it’s dollar apps,” he said. “How do you sell someone a $60 game that’s really worth it … They’re used to 99 cents.”

Well, Mike, let me take a stab at this. People will pay 60 bucks for a game when they can get games for a dollar for the same reason that people buy an Acura when a ’73 Vega does the job, for the same reason they buy a $500,000 house when a three bedroom apartment does a job, for the same reason they spend more money on things they perceive as being valuable when a cheaper alternative would do the job. Games are not one size fits all. Some people want to do nothing but fling birds and match gems. Awesome, they have a game for that. Some people want to play Gears of War 3 and awesome, you’ll have a game for that. I seriously, seriously doubt that anyone who plays Gears of War 3 after playing Angry Birds would ask why the GoW 3 experience costs more. They may ask why they should pay for it when Angry Birds does them just fine, but that’s a different point altogether and one that would be asked if your game was ten bucks or twenty or three hundred. Now, if you want to ask why I should pay 60 bucks for your game when games like Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes and Section 8: Prejudice, both with long single player campaigns and awesome multiplayer components, are 15 bucks. I think that’s a much better question because then you’re on a more level playing field.

Seen at Industry Gamers.

Microsoft Fixes XBLA Indie Rating System – Sort Of

No High Scores

It’s unfortunate that some people decide to promote their successes by crapping on the success of others, but that’s exactly what has been happening with the ratings of games on the Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace. Last month the makers of College Lacrosse: The Video Game asked their Facebook fans to vote up their lacrosse game. That’s all well and good until the people voting the lacrosse game up decided to start voting other top rated games down, knocking games such as Cthulu Saves the World and other indie top sellers out of the top rankings. Since the tomfoolery was uncovered, Microsoft has since changed the system so that only Gold account members can place votes, however they also determined that they can’t roll back the fraudulent votes meaning the games that got knocked out of the top spots will stay there. It seems strange to me that you can devise a system that allows two people on opposite sides of the world to chainsaw each other in the face, but you can’t make a change to some database table somewhere, but whatever. At least it’s a start.

Seen at The Escapist.

Every Sega Game Ever Made On Sale (On XBLA)

No High Scores

If you like Sega games on Xbox Live Arcade, but loooove money, do I have some news for you. Every Sega game on XBLA is currently on sale until April 25th. Prices range from 33% to 50% off and you can get some games as low as $2.50. Less than three bucks for Streets of Rage? That’s cheap enough to have an entire city block of rage! Crazy Sonic, his prices are insane!

From the Sega Europe blog.