Are Sequels Unfairly Criticized?

First off, that is one of the greatest images I have ever seen. Ah, Conan the Destroyer.


id CEO Todd Hollenshead discusses the bad rap sequels get in the game industry. I guess he means from the press? Gamers can’t get enough of sequels, just look at the sales figures. It’s the new brands that struggle.

It’s a tricky thing, really. You can’t blame companies for playing things safe — look at Red Faction Armageddon, a game that shuns the old design and opts for something totally different, people hate the switch, and the series could be in trouble because of it. People wanted for RF:G, didn’t get it, and are not pleased. Now look at Prey 2 which is doing the opposite– going from a traditional shooter to an open world sci-fi game that has nothing really to do with the original game, at least gameplay wise. Then again look at Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, etc. These games are playing it safer than a politician — 10000% playing to its base. It’s a delicate dance. Do you just pump out more of the same or radically change direction? I guess it depends on the franchise.

Hollenshead makes some fair points until he uses a film analogy. Of all of the movie franchises to link to his argument he chooses…Road House? Really Todd? Road House?

Go Back to High School with NCAA Football '12

For the past few editions NCAA Football has included a mode known as Road to Glory, in which you create your own player and take him through a college football career. I’ve always wanted to like the idea behind this mode, but have never been able to get into it. I haven’t touched it in a couple years, but I remember it as being too easy to get the starting nod at a school, with far too few decisions to make once you get there and those you did make being rather silly and superfluous. This year EA Tiburon has evidently overhauled the mode and have just released this teaser video, narrated by one Kirk Herbstreit (boo!). Here’s the highlights…

- The High School Experience. Play out your final year of high school using either a 7 or 12-game schedule. You can do custom uniforms and difficulty for your opponents, import created teams to serve as high school cannon fodder, etc. You can play both sides of the ball and, in doing so, find yourself being recruited differently based on your multiple positions. You might, for example, be viewed as a 5-star safety, but a 2-star quarterback. Schools will recruit you accordingly and you’ll have to accept going to a lesser school if you want to have ultimate control over your position. As gimmicky as it sounds, I actually like this a lot. I’m not sold that they’ll really implement it well -check the stats for the 5-star safety recruit in the video; they’re woefully incomplete- but it peaks my interest.

- Signing Day. The video glosses over your actual recruitment process, but you can see a Signing Day screen in the video where you choose the school you’re committing to and your number. This gives me the wiggins because, if you’re going to make going through your senior year of high school a big deal, there’s potentially a lot you could do with the recruiting process in terms of interested schools making promises to you, taking campus visits, academic factors, soft and hard commits, etc. Would be a shame if they completely glossed over this as there’s interesting off-field gameplay to be found there.

- On Campus. Once you’re on campus you can see options to practice (with a set number of available reps), see what kind of trust your coach has in you, and upgrade skills. There are tabs in there for My Career and ESPN, but no mention in the video of what they contain. The Herbstreit narration says you do have to “win” a starting job and that even once you do, you’ll have to endure “position challenges” in practice. Good! Coach Trust will come into play here as it determines what you can do on the field in terms of things like calling hot routes, audibles, plays, etc. (The video shows you earning different levels of captaincy as well.) This is excellent if it’s done in a sensible way, but here we lead into the part that makes me throw up in my mouth: Experience and one-game Ratings Boost Packs.

- Player Progression. Yes, you want your player to evolve as you play. You want how you perform to have an effect on it. Absolutely. But, again, it needs to done sensibly. This looks nonsensical and arcadey, like something you’d get from NFL Bliltz. Hey look I just scored enough points to get the “No Fumble For You” boost pack. Does that come with a stick of gum in every pack too? Sigh. At one point you can see a Skill Upgrade called Crow Hop with the following description, “Use that Crow Hop from left field with this Throw Power, Acceleration & Jumping Boost.” I don’t even know that means or what those three skills have to do with each other that they’re being bundled together. It also shows each of those ratings getting a +2 bonus which also boosts the Overall rating by +2. You can only worry so much about numbers in a 2-minute preview reel, but that’s absolutely terrifying because this is the game that, at E3, shows Michigan’s defense being rated as a B+. I’ve been a fan of the Maize and Blue since I was five and last year’s was the worst Big 10 defense I’ve ever seen. There is no way they should be rated that high going into this year. (Better, maybe, but a B+ isn’t even in the ballpark.)

To sum up, I want to like what this mode brings. I really do. A lot of people don’t care a wit for this mode (or Madden’s Superstar Mode), and I understand why, but it’s the kind of thing I can get into and have fun with. And for the first minute or so of that video I think, “Yeah, alright, this could be cool.” But the system looks like it completely derails once you start dealing with player progression, which is arguably the most important part of the mode. Two words: Not sold.

Who is Cowen and Company Analyst Doug Creutz?

I have no earthly idea who that is. I guess I should because when he ripped Bioware’s Star Wars MMO after seeing the E3 demo, Bioware felt the need to publicly respond. I clearly do not have the clout of Cowen and Company analyst Doug Creutz. This is what Doug said about the Galaxy Far Far Away MMO:

“Despite promises from EA/Bioware that the title represents a major step forward in MMO design, what we saw was essentially a World of Warcraft clone with Star Wars character skins and the BioWare RPG nice/nasty dialogue tree mechanism bolted on for non-player character conversations.”

Eurogamer has BioWare’s response which contains such reassuring statements as, “The content’s getting there” and “Things are tracking well.” Nothing BioWare says openly refutes what Creutz said, however.

Here’s Tom’s E3 write up for GameShark. Doesn’t install confidence, but part of that is that it’s hard to demo an MMO at E3 for the masses. I think you need a specific event with serious MMO fans to convey your vision because you need to show more than normal E3 demo fluff.

And Now, Some 3DS Release Dates

No High Scores

Despite the 3DS not selling as well as Nintendo, or really anyone expected, the 3DS section of Nintendo’s booth was packed all through E3. It wasn’t until 4PM on Thursday, an hour before the show closed, that I was able to get up there and see any games. I didn’t get a booth tour this year, so wandering Nintendo’s booth was my only recourse for seeing 3DS games.

Joystiq recently spent some time on Nintendo’s press site and came away with a release schedule for a whole mess of Wii and 3DS games currently in development. Rather than list all of them here, which would be a waste of space given how much shovelware is still yet to be shoveled, I figured I’d point out the highlights, as well as my thoughts on them. The bottom line is that while the 3DS will get some good content soon, it’s still not enough to warrant a purchase for anyone in the near future. I still don’t understand why they didn’t launch this fall and just hammer people with good games. You can argue that there’s nothing to lose by launching early and getting that sweet, early adopter money, but at the same time, the system now has a reputation of not being worth it due to the anemic library. Maybe that reputation will dissipate once the good games start coming in, but maybe not. Come fall, I think people are going to be all about the Vita so the 3DS is going to have its hands full. Of course, Sony’s mutant power seems to be colossally messing up their hardware launches, so maybe all the 3DS has to do is sit back and let Sony screw itself.

Let’s take a look at that calendar, shall we?

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – June 19
Try as I might, I just can’t get excited for this one. I loved the original game, and it still stands as one of my all time favorites, but I’m not sure that means I want to play it again. Especially for 40 bucks. I can watch beloved movies and tv shows over and over, read favorite books more than once, listen to favorite albums multiple times in the same day, but once I’m done with a game, I’m done with it. Plus, I just don’t like the idea that the only thing Nintendo thinks the 3DS is good for is remaking Nintendo 64 games. It’s lazy and seems like a cash-in, regardless of how good the source material is.

Resident Evil Mercenaries – June 28
Also somewhat of remake, as this is basically taking a game mode from a previous RE game (5, I think) and making it a full game. Still, shooting zombies is always a hoot and 3D in conjunction with the over the shoulder view will probably make for some pretty visuals. Still, even with this, at best this is a rental for me.

Dr. Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights
When I played this at E3, Konami was saying September, however the demo was pretty lengthy, so lengthy that it made me think this wasn’t a demo but the actual game, so maybe Konami took a look at the anemic summer 3DS release schedule and moved it up. That would be awesome if it were true because this game is much more than a Professor Layton clone. On that note, we’ve been told that a Prof. Layton game is coming for the 3DS, but other than that, we know bupkus. Konami should fill that void while they can, because once the Prof. Layton game drops, I think there will be too many comparisons for Dr. Lautrec to get a fair shake. Then again, these dates are what Nintendo thinks, not the publishers, so who knows.

Cave Story 3D – Aug. 9
Danielle is real big on this one, but I don’t know much about it. It looks like they’re completely redoing the game’s world for 3D, so maybe the story is different too, but if I never played the original, does it matter? To me as a player, no, but to me as someone who doesn’t want the 3DS lineup to consist completely of remakes, yes it does.

Shin Megami Tensei :Devil Survivor Overclocked – Aug. 23
Devil Survivor is supposed to be one of the best SMT games and I’m sure the SMT fans will gobble this one up, but again, it’s not a new game, just a DS game made prettier and given more stuff. Still, as 3DS games go, it will certainly stand out among the 3DS offerings, so maybe that’s worth supporting.

James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes – Aug. 30
It’s a puzzle based murder mystery set in a 60′s game show. Yes please! I imagine Card Sharks, but with murder. No, wait, with murrrrrrderrrrrrr.

Star Fox 64: Sept 11
I’d say this is just another remake, but I don’t know as all Nintendo would talk about in their booth was that it has 4 player local multiplayer. No mention of non-local multiplayer, or the story, or really anything other than what I just said. In fact, despite having played it at E3, I left it out of the GShark feature, because really, what is there to say about it? Besides, I’m not going to do Nintendo’s job for them. If they don’t want to talk about it, fine, I won’t talk about it. I never played Star Fox 64, so maybe I’ll pick this one up. Then again, Slippy is damn annoying.

I didn’t get a chance to play this one at E3, but I watched people play it and yeah, ninjas!

NCIS Oct. 25
I love NCIS. I can not wait to play this game in 3D, and to stare into Gibbs’ horribly rendered, soulless, dead eyes as his ghostly hand comes out of the screen to slap me in the back of the head. The only thing that could make it better is if they made an NCIS: LA game where I could take LL Cool J with me via the built in pedometer, and he’d randomly drop rap rhymes when I hit predetermined step goals. Cool J cookies indeed.

Kid Icarus: Uprising – Holiday
All of these say “Holiday” which I’m taking to mean November. Finally, a new game! Hopefully it will be good. It looks nice, but that doesn’t mean much. I have never played a Kid Icarus game, so I have no ties to the franchise at all. I just want to fly around and shoot stuff.

Mario Kart – Holiday
I cared about Mario Kart for about ten minutes before I went online and saw that I had no business playing this game. Carry on.

Super Mario – Holiday
Mario is, to me, the Beatles of video games. I understand and respect Mario games’ influence on the industry and medium, but do not want to spend my free time playing them. They just don’t do it for me.

Sonic Generations – November
I also could give a crap about Sonic, but this Sonic game appears to be decent, which is more than you can say about most Sonic games of late.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7
The LEGO games lost their appeal to me some time ago, however I am interested in seeing how they handle the darker tone of these movies. Probably not at all, but maybe I’ll get to see a jokey scene of Nagini eating dead Hogwart’s instructors. I played this on at E3 and while it looked good, I had no idea what I was doing, which is why I didn’t write it up for GShark. Wouldn’t exactly make for a compelling entry.

Metal Gear Solid Snake 3D Snake Eater – Winter
Konami isn’t stupid. They’re not going to let all of that sweet remake money pass them by when they’re sitting on a metric ton of Metal Gear Solid titles. Like all Metal Gear Solid games, I will safely ignore this one. It’s not a condemnation of the series, these games just aren’t my thing.

Luigi’s Mansion 2
Can’t wait for this one. Sure it’s a sequel, but I don’t care. It’s been too long since I’ve played Luigi’s Mansion. From what I saw at E3, the game sure looks pretty.

Heroes of Ruin
I’m also looking forward to this one. The feature set, including daily support with items, quests and challenges for a year after release is intriguing. I’m interested in getting more story details though as right now, I have no idea what the game is actually about other than killing monsters.

Who knows?
Resident Evil: Revelations
Set between RE 4 and RE 5, it has Jill Valentine searching for Chris in a mansion built atop a boat. No, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just call it a houseboat. Do they make mansionboats? I don’t know. Any way, I played this one. It looks like Resident Evil. Do with that what you must.

Tekken 3D
I guess every 3D fighting game is going to make it to the 3DS at some point. Soul Caliber seems like the only one left. All I know about Tekken is someone has a cheetah head. Or maybe it’s a leopard. Guess I don’t know as much about Tekken as I thought.

Animal Crossing
You had to know this one was coming. I would imagine Nintendo will go nine sorts of crazy with the StreetPass and SpotPass one with this game. Hell, the whole game will probably just be trading furniture by walking around. Fun!

Paper Mario
Despite not liking Mario games, I do love Paper Mario, so I’m excited for this one, but I think it’s just a remake. I hope I’m wrong because if it is a remake, I won’t be buying it. Stupid Nintendo and their stupid remakes.

So there you go. I still don’t see enough compelling content to make people run out and get the system, but maybe there’s more coming we don’t know about. Even so, there would have to be some seriously badass games coming. I’m not saying the 3DS won’t eventually be worth it, but for the next six months or so, not so much.

Why Vita Will Succeed (According to Sony)

I thought Sony had a solid E3 with the Vita announcement. It was a clear shot across the bow of Nintendo. Today, Edge talks with SCEE president Andrew House on why the Vita will not succumb to the same failures of the PSP.

“In contrast to the PSP, which was essentially taking a home console experience and replicating it on a portable device, we’ve worked really hard on Vita to pack in as many interfaces that are only possible on the portable experience,” he explained. “That differentiates gaming on [Vita] from other devices, but it also gives developers different ways to explore getting the best out of their franchises.”

I have to admit, while I’m, not much of a handheld gamer, I like what the Vita is offering, at least on paper.

Is Microsoft's Kudo Tsunoda Delusional?

Disclaimer: I am, as of June 2011, not a fan of Kinect.

At all.

The E3 demos and presentations did nothing to change that, either.

I agree with Tom Chick when he says, “It tries a solve a problem that doesn’t exist.” Maybe there will be a day when I embrace it but as of now, I can’t see much use for it and I HATE that games are trying to come up with silly ways to implement support for it. So when I read quotes like this from Microsoft’s Kudo Tsunoda, the creative director of Kinect, I start to wonder:

“I mean, I never really thought that core gamers were in any way hostile to Kinect. People saying: ‘Wow, we’d really love to have Kinect in the games that we love to play and the genres and types of games we like to enjoy,’… to me that’s saying like: ‘We really love Kinect, and we’d like Kinect to be in the experiences that we play regularly.’

Am I completely misreading the landscape here? Or is he delusional? Or just mastering the art of PR? I know a lot of “core gamers” and while not all of them hold the same level of contempt for Kinect as I do, I certainly don’t know too many that are, “Woo hoo go Kinect!” unless it’s to play games with their kids.

Is there really a big demand for Kinect support for core games?


David Jaffe: Stop Making Sense

CVG has an interesting interview with David Jaffe on a variety of topics but one bit is about how the media needs to toughen up and call games for what they are, good or bad, and look beyond how pretty stuff blows up. To see a developer say this sorta thing…is refreshing. To see that he NEEDS to say these things, is sad.


I’m honestly not trying to be like, ‘we need to be totally pure and forget graphics,’ but there is a balance to be struck. And when I hear people say that E3 looks conservative, to me, I don’t think the journalists have done a good enough job holding our – as in developers’ – feet to the fire. Take a film critic. Whenever you read Variety, at the end of a Transformers 3 review, they’ll say ‘tech credits are amazing’. They love it, and all those tech people on that movie will hopefully work forever because they’re clearly geniuses in their field – just like the guys who worked on the Battlefield tank sequence. But above that, you also have ‘f*ck, this movie’s boring’, ‘I’ve seen it before’, ‘It doesn’t work’. You know?

Read the whole thing at CVG.

I would say Jaffe is right.

But you already know that.

THQ Boots Homefront, Warhammer Kill Team Developers

I always hate to see news like this but THQ has decided to part ways with Homefront developer Kaos Studios. This does NOT mean the end of Homefront the franchise, just Homefront, the developer.

PR Ahead:

THQ confirmed today that it has made a strategic realignment within its internal studio structure and is in the process of closing two locations: the company’s UK studio and KAOS studio in New York. Both studios’ employees have been informed.

THQ continues its strategy of aligning the best industry talent with the company’s marquee franchises. (Being a publicly traded company). The Montreal studio will take over product development and overall creative management for the Homefront franchise. The Montreal studio actively collaborated with KAOS on Homefront.

The company continues to strengthen its internal creative development expertise and is actively hiring in many of its internal studios, including Montreal and Vancouver, Canada, as well as Austin, Texas. THQ’s UK studio and KAOS employees will have the opportunity to interview for open positions with the company globally.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #75

No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise /

For this lovely Monday morning (well, it’s lovely here in Indy), we bring you our Day 3 wrap-up episode of Jumping the Shark, which features the usual cast, plus return appearances from Tom Chick, Jason McMaster, and Brian Rowe. Hear all about Square’s big lineup, Driver: San Francisco, Saints Row 3, Metro Last Light, and some of the games of IndyCade, which including our first exposure to gaming with a kiss-driven controller. No, for reals. I wrote all about it in my day-3 wrap-up.

Direct Download
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Past Episodes
(Embedded feed included after the break.)

The top “small” games of E3 2011

You don’t typically go to E3 for the little guys – indies, downloadable games, really, anything that doesn’t position itself as a potential blockbuster. No way, you go for the show-stoppers, the AAA’s, the ear-splitting volume, the flashy trailers. The whole thing reeks of Hollywood/Vegas showmanship and big, honking budgets.

Over the last year or two, however, I’ve gotten more and more interested in games that don’t necessarily come in a $60 box. So while I was at E3, I kept my eyes peeled for future favorite “snack” games.

Here are a few of the very best (at least, from what I could tell by their demos)…

Skulls of the Shogun
I hijacked the Indiecade booth tour mostly so I could get some hands on time with Haunted Temple Studio’s debut game, a totally funky action/turn based strategy game starring a dead samurai. I was able to talk to developers Borut Pfeifer and Jake Kazdul about the team’s design philosophy (they’re all action gamers who were looking for more depth) and the genesis of the game’s wacked-out storyline (Jake Kazdul’s time in Japan, checking out actual Shinto temples).

I had never heard of this game before coming upon it in the Warner booth, and it totally made my day. It’s an action RPG with a completely awesome art style (the neon-hued world assembles right in front of you) and the best use of VO in a game that I’ve ever seen (everything you do in-game, from attacking the enemies to finding power-ups, is announced by the “storyteller”).

War of the Worlds
I wasn’t allowed to talk about this game until today (hooray, NDA!), but now that I can, it will be hard not to gush. It’s an absolutely beautiful 2D game done in the style of Out Of This World, with black and white graphics accented by splashed of color. Your main job in the title is to evade the nasty alien machines that are attacking mankind – and the protagonist must survive the onslaught and get to his loved ones before it’s too late. Maybe it’s the graphics, the lack of Tom Cruise, or the voiceover by Patrick Stewart, but this struck me as the classiest damned game of E3, hands down.

Prime World
I can’t tell you how shocked I was how much I liked this game. I went to Nival’s booth thinking this was one of those lame appointments that everyone must endure – but I was so, so wrong. After explaining the design philosophy of the game (social strategy – combining casual/social gameplay with hardcore strategy), we got to play, and I was immediately hooked. It really does blend social aspects (with world building, a Zuma-like puzzle mini-game, and Facebook friend support) with classic RTS gameplay – and it has a few bright new ideas as well (including a territory/terraforming mechanic that gives combat bonuses to whichever faction claims the area). I’ll never pre-judge a Facebook game before playing it again.