Sunday, January 31, 2010

The DSi XL: Nintendo's E-book Reader?

I don't know if you've heard, but Nintendo is releasing yet another version of the DS this year:  The DSi XL.  If the name doesn't give it away, allow me to explain: it's the DSi, but bigger. 

The latest in the Iwata Asks series of interviews has some info as to the design concepts, including a bit of discussion as to the name:

Iwata: I feel that I owe everyone an apology with regards to the name. Just when the ship was getting ready to leave harbor, I caused it to capsize. If you want, you can disclose here the terrible state we got into regarding the name. (laughs)
Kuwahara: (laughs) When Fujino-san, another designer and I were coming up with the name, we thought about it together in secret.

Fujino: We considered a lot of names, didn't we? Nintendo DSi Comfort, Nintendo DSi Executive...

Kuwahara: Nintendo DSi Premium was also suggested.

Iwata: I seem to remember that Nintendo DSi Living was also suggested... (emphasis mine)

Kuwahara: But none of those names were really any good...

Iwata: Right. I don't mean to be rude to the people who thought up those names, but that's how I felt. There's also the fact that when Japanese people think up names in English, they are going to sound strange to English native speakers but then when people from overseas suggest things, they won't quite sound right to Japanese ears. That's how we hit upon one name to use worldwide: Nintendo DSi XL, at least at one time.

Ok, cool.  There's some discussion going on about the DS as a lifestyle product, and I assume it comes as no surprise that I'm geared up about this.  There is certainly some media buzz about the DSi XL possibly being Nintendo's attempt to break into the burgeoning e-reader market.  This site (en francais) has posted a hands-on video using the 100 Classic Book Collection software (which is still not released in the US, presumably to piss me off).

This is all well and good, but what about actual e-books?  If Nintendo has any sense, they'll at the very least include a PDF reader and at best include all of the compatibility features of the Sony e-reader.  The SD card slot should make storage a virtual non-issue, and the dual screens could provide a unique e-reading experience -- one that feels more like reading an actual book.

The DSi XL will not do particularly well in the US if it is not an e-reader.  The reaction of most potential consumers will be "Bigger?  Why would I want that?".  Some of the more hardcore will be excited to see their favorite DS titles on a larger screen, but not many.  But if we're given a reason to buy a Nintendo product instead of the Nook or Kindle, you know we'll bite.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Three Avatar Games Which Should Be Made

So, Avatar was pretty good, but the game was apparently not so hotHere are a few examples of what they should have done:

James Cameron's Avatar: Hunter's Moon 
This is the one which will satisfy the often-climbing-sometimes-fighting requirement of contemporary action games.  It'll be like Assassin's Creed, but in the jungle with climbable objects everywhere.  And I do mean everywhere.  Every tree, every floating mountain, everything.

Set during the Sky-people occupation but before the events of the movie (hereinafter referred to as “The Hometree Event” or "THE"), this title tracks the development of a young Na'vi during the trials he faces to become a man.  The events would be similar to “going native” parts of the movie as he learns to climb stuff, bond with the domesticated animals, shoot a bow, fall from great heights, etc.  Another Na'vi (you know, the one with blue eyes and black hair) will act as his foil, persistently making him look bad and getting him in trouble.

The setting, though, would not be at the Hometree, but rather in another clan; this is key.  Stop making us replay the events of the movies – let the developers run wild with the world you have created and make new stories within its confines.   

Our protagonist will have a curiosity about the Skypeople, and will travel great distances to witness them despite the warning of his clan leadership, leading to all manner of misadventures.  If you must tie in with the movie, then in the late game the Kwisatz Haderach will show up riding Big Red and our boy will aid in convincing his clan to mount up.  We take part in the big awesome ending battle, including a battlefield duel with the rival in which the protagonist prevents him from killing the clan leader.

Age of James Cameron's Avatar
The RTS, set twenty years after THE.  The Skypeople are back, and this time they brought the big guns; no more retooling shuttles to be bombers. And of course the key to a good RTS is in the teams and their elite units:

  • Clan: Human miners.  The bad guys from the movie, still just looking to dig up the cheekily-named unobtainium. 
  • Elite unit: those "get away from her you bitch" walker things

  • Clan: Human datajackers.  When the Skypeople return, they’re going to want to check out this whole entire-biosphere-is-a-network-of-memories thing and exploit it.  Imagine the processing power if all the living matter on a planet is hot-swappable -- I’ll bet they’ll want to do something more with that than just beat Russians at chess.  These guys come in and interface with the native flora and wildlife, and can turn it against whoever bothers them. 
  • Elite unit: Hacker.  Can turn any technology (human or Navi-natural) to its own side.

  • Clan: Na'vi traditional.  Horses, dragonthings, bows and arrows. 
  • Elite Unit: Priest of Eywa.  After seeing that the mother goddess will send hordes of badass beasties if you ask nicely, a sect of Na'vi shamans focus on just that.  They can’t bring the stampede every turn, but when they do?  Good times.

  • Clan: Navipunks.  Native Pandorans who salvaged the Skypeople tech after the Hometree Event. 
  • Elite Unit: Coptertroops.  They’ve got helicopter backpacks.  They’ve got bows.  They will fly around and kill you.

  • Clan: Dark Na'vi.  Descendants of one of the clans unwillingly subjugated by the grandfather’s-grandfather, these Na'vi refuse to bond with the forest.  They live in caves, eating yummy fishes.  Now, these guys are no idiots; they know where the unobtainium is and how to get it, and they will use this advantage to befriend the Skypeople and destroy their age-old enemies.
  • Elite Unit: Underminer.  It’s off to work these guys go until your fortifications have fallen into the earth.

James Cameron's Avatar: Winged Horizon

Somebody call up Factor 5 and get them on this.  The story of the previous Toruk Makto, the dragonrider who unified the clans.  I think it's safe to say he accomplished this by all manner of badassery.  Fly around, kill stuff.  See all of Pandora and wage large-scale dragon battles.  What could be better?

And personally I would like to see the Na'vi paired up with Navi from Ocarina of Time.   But come on, what are the chanced of that getting made?

Rumor confirmed: Gaming on iPad - SnoCross

Just heard that the spanking-new iPad had SnoCross demoed on it.  Is it true?  More casual gaming for all?

Update:  And here's the info.  Is that Cyan Mini Cooper from the same game?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sarto sunday: Zelda 20th Anniversary

When did The King of Games get this T back in stock?  And why didn't they call me?  They key to this shirt's awesomitude is the lack of the world Zelda.  Gamers are a private crowd, and we like to be recognized by others of Our People without broadcasting our nature to the world.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Five Question Friday: Mark Beers of 'From Across the Nerdaverse'

This week we hear from one of the co-hosts of the popular podcast From Across the Nerdaverse, Mark Beers. Haven't checked it out yet? Here's a brief descripto:
"Join hosts Mark and Jessie as they journey Across the Nerd-a-verse! Join us each episode for nerd talk that hits you like a zerg rush! We cover video games, comic books, all things sci-fi, movies, television, books and more."
#1 - Across the Nerdaverse covers games, movies, comics, TV.... Are there any taboo topics? Anything you refuse to cover?
  • When Jessie and I got together and started to plan out ATN we both envisioned the show as a place where we could discuss any subject matter that happened to be tickling our fancy. So, in that respect, I don't think that we have any topics that we consider expressly taboo. ATN is actually our second attempt at producing a show. Our first attempt was a revival of a Team Fortress 2 focused podcast known as "The Fortcast". As Jessie and I got deeper into our planning for that show we came to realize that we had a lot more that we wanted to be able to talk about and that a TF2 based podcast would become a bit restrictive. We basically wanted to talk about "all things nerd". In general, we've tended to avoid political topics, and music discussions. I think that the biggest factor that determines our choice of topics is if we feel that we have something worth saying about a particular subject.

#2 - You and you co-host met playing Team Fortress 2. Walk me through this process, the transition from online life to real life.
  • Jessie and I are both members of the Team Fortress 2 Fort ( community clan, which is really where our friendship began. Sadly to this point our friendship is still very much a virtual one as we've never actually met in person. Through discussions on the community's forums is where we began to form a friendship. It didn't hurt that in game Jessie and I made a quite potent Heavy + Medic combo. When "The Fortcast" took a break due to some staff changes Jessie was one of my first choices to try and revive that show. The revival of "The Fortcast" didn't happen, but we came away from that attempt with ATN so I guess it worked out okay. The fact that Jessie originally hails from the Western NY area as I do certainly helped solidify our friendship as we could bond over the common Western NY touchstones of chicken wings and the Buffalo Bills.

#3 - What is the worst recent trend in videogaming you have seen?
  • In general, I think that we are currently in an era of gaming where more things are going right then wrong. I think it is great that videogaming as a medium is becoming a larger part of our popular culture landscape then it has ever been. It has been great to watch the medium grow over the course of our lifetimes, and I think we are finally entering an era where our long time claims that videogaming is as valid of a medium as say movies are finally being validated. It is even more exciting when you consider that we've yet to even see platforms like the PS3 taken full advantage of. When you combine that with the fact that independent development is now far more viable due to online distribution services such as Steam and Xbox Live we are in a great place to watch people really push our hobby into new and interesting places. If there was a negative trend that was bothering me, I think I would say that it would be the development disparity between the console platforms and my platform of choice the PC. The PC I think has had a great resurgence as a platform, but it still makes me sad that I have not seen console titles that I am interested in such as "Castle Crashers" or "Bayonetta" make their way over to my side of the fence. However, this is a trend that I have seen become less and less as of late to the point where a game not having a PC version appears to be more the exception then the rule.

#4 - Listening to your podcast feels very similar to tuning in to talk radio, but in an alternate world where the hosts talk about stuff I care about instead of football. How do you compare yourself to traditional talk hosts?
  • First off, I'm going to take this question as a bit of a compliment, because I think one thing that I've always wanted the show to strive for was to provide that same type of talk radio feel. I've long been a fan of talk radio in all its formats be it sports, politics what have you. If you get into my car the radio will usually be tuned to some talk radio station. I'll listen to just about anything from Rush Limbaugh to "sports" talk such as the Tony Kornheiser show, and the technology programming being produced by Leo Laporte and the TWIT network. I think if I take my inspiration to how I approach broadcasting from anyone it would be from Mr. Kornheiser and Mr. Laporte, who both do an excellent job of making a show be about more then just sports or technology and more about our current social culture in general. The really exciting thing for me about the emergence of new media such as podcasting and blogging, is that it has allowed for a wider array of cultural topics to enter the arena of public discussion. On ATN we happen to focus on subjects such as videogaming and movies because they are not only near and dear to our hearts but are becoming a growing factor in the general cultural discussion of our era and it is great to contribute to the dialogue relating to these items. I guess the old English major desire to be involved in the analysis and discourse of these cultural artifacts never really dies.

#5 - What games are you playing now?
  • I've been spending a good bit of time recently with Bioware's Dragon Age: Origins, as well as another Bioware title Mass Effect. I still do find time to put in a few rounds of Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 each week as well.

Make sure to keep track of Mark, Jessie, and their ragtag band of misfits at Thanks, Mark!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jay Is Games Hearts EA2D

Congrats to EA2D for some great showings in the Best of Casual Gameplay 2009 Awards.  Jay Is Games is well worth the italics in the place for casual games, and the users gave Mirror's Edge 2D the #1 for action and Dragon Age Journeys #3 for strategy.  Here's hoping for more awesomeness on the way.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wallpaper Wednesday: Hershel Layton and Luke

This illustration reminds me of a puzzle!

Layton and Luke at the Busstop by ~wredwrat on deviantART

 Any lover of logic loves Layton, and the added bonus of excellent art and animation makes both of the games must-haves.  Found this very faithful bit of fan art of deviantART --  if you use it, just remember that a gentleman always gives credit where it is due.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gamer Tattoo Tuesday: l'Cie Tattoo

UPDATED 3/29/10 -- Somebody got the tattoo.  Check it here.

Any mention of the plot of Final Fantasy XIII sends me into a fit of ear-holding and "lalalalala"-shouting.  Really trying to hold out for the full experience.  But screenshots?  Oh, they're just fine, of course.  Hence my knowledge of the l'Cie brand.

Like... ow brah. Totally

Found a different version over on the gamefaqs forums.

I think it can see you, Ray.

Fantastic.  I can only assume people all over Japan have this symbol tattooed on their forearms already.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sarto Sunday: Final Fantasy XIII Jewelry Et Alia

I'm not really a jewelry guy, but if I win the Square-Enix members Final Fantasy XIII Stylish Sweepstakes, I might consider it.

In the cold of winter, a sweater vest is tempting.  And why not an SMB sweater vest?

And can anyone explain to me why I don't own a pair of RIVER RAID MITTENS?!?!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How to Post Your Playstation Trophies on Facebook

By now, I'm sure you've noticed many of your friends posting their PS3 trophies on Facebook.  Want to join in the gloating?  Easy peasy:

Turn on your PS3.
Select the Playstation Network menu.
Select Account Management.
Select the aptly-named Facebook icon.

From here you can choose to Share Trophy Information, Share Purchase Information, and Share Event Information.  Click one, say Yes, and enter your FB info at the prompt.  And whoomp, there it is.  Next time you sync up the PS3, your latest awesomeness will be posted to The Book of Faces.

This video from the firmware v3.10 preview will walk you through it as well.

That's the program -- now get with it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Five Question Friday: Nana Rausch, pixel artist

 The latest issue of The Atlantic features an article on a PC game used to train soldiers on counterinsurgency tactics.  Good article, and I found myself compelled by the isometric pixel illustration which accompanied it.  The artist, Nana Rausch of QuickHoney, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. 

You've done quite a bit of birdview pixel art for magazines (Maxim, Fortune, et al. recently).  Any insights as to the popularity of this style of illustration?
I've been working in this style for the past 10 years! It's been popular for a while. Probably it's a good balance between realistic and abstract illustration.

The article makes reference to the SimCity series of games.  Did this influence your illustration at all, or did you depart from it?
The article in "The Atlantic" makes the reference to the Sims game, because it's an article about a similar game that soldiers use, before they deport, to  train them for certain situations.
It is a very long time ago, that the Sims game was in isometric pixel. The Sims might be the roots for the isometric pixel style, but it has long gone it's own way.

What software do you use?
PhotoShop. Pen tool. Pixel by pixel.

(Holy {expletive deleted}!)
One of the impressive (and fun) aspects of pixel art is the illustrator's ability to work past the inherent limitations in line and detail.  For example, three pixels become a bullet hole, or a single-pixel strip of white makes an ovoid shape into a slab of fish.  What is your favorite detail in this illustration?
I think my favorite part in the illustration for "The Atlantic" is the rotten car.

What games are you playing right now?
Just got an iPhone. So I'm playing a bit there. Other than that, I'm not playing much these days. The times of playing Playstation all day are somehow over for me.

Thank the gods for the iPhone: the casual gaming portal for the hip crowd.  And many thanks to Ms. Rausch!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wallpaper Wednesday: fl0w

Here's a nice pic for your desktop.  Remember fl0w?  I played it when it was Jenova Chen's MFA thesis, but have yet to free up the PSN points to pick up the flashy PS3 version. 

Turns out I've been a fan of this guy for ages without realizing it.  I loved Cloud.  I used to leave fl0w up in a window on my desktop for the chill factor.  And Flower was the second game I bought for the PS3. Maybe I should send him a card or something.  A very... relaxed... card....

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sarto Sunday: Drake Coat of Arms

Speaking of Uncharted, here's a T-shirt featuring a re-imagined coat of arms for the adventuring Drakes

Get it here.

FYI - looks like it was based on old Francis's actual coat of arms, complete with latin motto.

Image source and more info here.

Note the identical image on the crest and the replacements of the helmet with a skull (archaeological or violent?) and of the ship with an airplane.  Very subtle and clever work.  Next time someone infers that gamers are illiterate button-mashing dorks, remember this little gem of design.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On Dragon Age: Journeys

 That's how they getcha.

I've been avoiding Dragon Age: Origins.  Don't get me wrong -- I love Bioware as much as, or perhaps even more than, the next guy.  I even played Jade Empire.  But when I found myself choosing a new game, I settled on the devil-may-care wit of Nathan Drake over the blood-besmirched plate-mail of this fellow, whoever he is.

You know I'm right.

I'm more of a Final Fantasy guy, as you may have guessed.  All my occidental swords-and-sorcery needs are fulfilled by Warcraft.  And then this happened.  Dragon Age: Journeys, a well-designed casual RPG built by something called EA2D.   It's pretty!  It sounds good!  It's fun!  Dang it all.

While you're watching The Biggest Loser, 
we're gonna killify things and loot their steaming bodies.

(If there's any doubt left in your mind that EA will someday control all of mankind's dreams from atop a sheer platinum tower, please cast it aside.  Seriously, what else to Potter addicts, chop shop owners, and regular people have in common?  They have been right all along; it is, indeed, in the game.)

So fine.  I play their little flash romp through a few times.  No big, right?  No need for me to fall into the endless pit of expense that is DAO right?  One might think that, but no.  No, the sly devils at EA added a few achievements to this little gem, and once these are successfully completed, content is unlocked in Origins.  I am now the proud owner of a Helm of the Deep, an Amulet of the War Mage, and a snazzy little belt called Embri's Many Pockets.  This for a game I don't even own.


Monday, January 4, 2010

A Pic from Geek Chic

Just a quickie to point this out. 

Gabe of Penny Arcade fame posted this pic via twitter, stating that it "is the DM's Valet from Geek Chic", and professing his love of it. 

Oh yes.  There is a company that makes furniture specifically for the D&D crowd.  Aren't you glad you know that?

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Phoenix Down Plaque

In case of emergency, break glass.

For a gamer, Christmas does not change from youth to adulthood.  Each wrapped package holds a potential game -- like Schroedinger's cat, it both is and is not until opened. 

This season, one of the gifts in my home was a glass ornament containing a single feather.  "How pretty!" the masses exclaimed as they saw it on the tree, but in the deep recesses of my heart I knew better.  This would not be relegated to the attic when the tree came down.  This gift was to be co-opted. 

A single feather protected in glass?  This could only be Phoenix Down, the ubiquitous Final Fantasy item which revives the dead.  A quick stop at Michael's and a bit of time at the workbench and we've got ourselves some new decoration.