Windows 7 Poll: Are You Taking the Plunge?

Windows 7 boxMicrosoft’s Windows 7 is available today. The company’s latest operating system promises to be its best since Windows XP. After a rough ride with Windows Vista, most reviews point to Windows 7 being a vastly superior experience. The question is, are you going to buy it? Let the community know by voting in this poll. If you have time, explain why you voted the way you did in the comments section.

[poll id = 2]

Coffee Talk #8: Why You Should Support Borderlands

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, A-Rod discovering how to play in the post-season, Apple’s $999 unibody MacBook, or T-Mobile’s mysterious Project Dark, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Borderlands is one of those games that I hope sells likes crazy, but probably won’t. While I won’t go as far as to say the game has been “sent to die”, like Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter did, I acknowledge that it has several things going against it. Even though it’s an action-RPG, a lot of people view it as a shooter based on screenshots and Gearbox Software’s history. This is an extraordinarily crappy time to release a shooter — especially a new franchise. Halo 3: ODST recently came out and Modern Warfare 2 is a few weeks away. While all three games are different enough, there’s definitely a lot of audience overlap and a limited amount of dollars that can be spent. Most people are going to go with the sequels to established franchises instead of the new game with the funky art.


I hope I’m wrong — I really do. Borderlands is the kind of game we should all be supporting. The developer has a strong track record, the reviews have been great, the game is unique, and the art style rocks (well, it rocks me anyway). A lot of people complain that the gaming business is too sequel happy and not enough effort has been made to generate new IPs. Well here’s your chance to stand up for originality and against sequel-itis!

Of course it’s your money and you should do what you want with it. You should buy whatever game you think will entertain you the most. It’s just upsetting that a good, original game from a quality developer is likely to get brushed aside in favor of sequels. Again, I hope I’m wrong and Borderlands sells millions of copies.

With all of that in mind, here are my questions for you this morning. Does supporting originality or developers come into play when you buy games? Or is it all about entertainment for you?

Assassin’s Creed Movies Hitting YouTube on 10/27

Assassins Creed 2

VentureBeat has a great feature on Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed short films that are being used to hype Assassin’s Creed 2 and expand the game’s brand. Taking over the front page of YouTube in eight countries on October 27th, the first of three short films is a huge deal. The site reported:

Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, created by acclaimed Hollywood special effects studio Hybride Technologies (which Ubisoft acquired last year) and Ubisoft Montreal’s Ubisoft Digital Arts (UDA), will make its global debut on Oct. 27 on the front page of YouTube in eight countries.

The movies, which total about 38 minutes in length, feature live actors working in front of green screens. The same actors did voice work on Assassin’s Creed II. Their faces were digitzed and used in the game. The films tee up game, which takes place in Florence and Venice during the Italian Renaissance.

While the movies were expensive to make, they can help transform Assassin’s Creed into a mainstream franchise instead of one that’s revered only by gamers. While it remains to be seen if AC will get that kind of crossover appeal, Ubi is doing everything in its power to make it so. With the Prince of Persia movie already in production, it would be remarkable if Ubi could add another mainstream feather to its cap.

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Coffee Talk #6: What’s Your Dream Game?

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the Anaheim Angels forgetting how to play baseball, fun with Google Wave, or how you’re going to utterly conquer this week, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

Drizzt 2Is there a movie, comic book, or novel that you think would make a fantastic game? I’m sure there is. All of us have “dream games” that have yet to be made. Some of our visions are outlandish and unrealistic. Others seem so obvious that it’s dumbfounding as to why they haven’t been made.

One of my dream games has been teased, but never fully delivered. I want to play an action-adventure as Drizzt Do’Urden from R.A. Salvatore’s novels. Drizzt has made cameos in Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II, and Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone. You could play as him in the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance series, but he was merely a bonus character set in an adventure that had nothing to do with his storied exploits.

I want the full-on Drizzt treatment. I want an adventure that takes advantage of his history in Menzoberranzan and his adventures with the Companions of the Hall. I want cameos by Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri. I want dynamic action that’s full of twirling scimitars and impossible acrobatics. Just for the hell of it, I want a “dog button” like the one in Dead to Rights, but instead of some lame-ass canine, Drizzt’s magical panther, Guenhwyvar, appears. reader Ieyke recently wrote about one of the games he wishes for, saying, “Assassin’s Creed+MGS4-guns-white robes=awesome stealthy ninja.” Let’s use his formula to talk about our dream games. I guess mine would be:

Drizzt Do’Urden + Prince of Persia – Gimmicky Time Shifting = Awesome Drow Ranger Action-Adventure.

Using the Ieyke formula, tell me about your dream game. (Hit the break for some inspirational music that will help you write about your dreams.)

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Mass Effect 2 Confirmed for January 26, Pre-order Bonuses Revealed

Mass Effect 2

EA just sent out a press release confirming the release date for BioWare’s highly anticipated Mass Effect 2. The game will be released on January 26, 2010. Customers that pre-order ME2 might be able to snag some excellent in-game accessories. Here’s the official word from EA:

In North America, pre-order bonuses include special-ops armor and weaponry that are designed to boost Commander Shepard’s skills and abilities. At GameStop, Terminus Gear is available with pre-orders, which includes the powerful Terminus Assault Armor and the M-490 Blackstorm Heavy Weapon:

  • The Terminus Armor is designed for use in extreme planetary conditions, increasing run speed and personal shields, and augmenting weapons with an additional magazine of reserve ammo.
  • The M-90 Blackstorm Heavy Weapon generates a high-powered localized gravity well, accelerating particles to near-infinite mass, and ultimately expanding the selection of heavy weapons available to players when they gear up for combat missions in Mass Effect 2.

Players that pre-order Mass Effect 2 at other retail outlets in North America will receive the potent Inferno Armor, which is used by officers to monitor battlefield conditions by recognizing elevated heart rates, and regulates sub-systems with extreme efficiency to allow for greater response times — together these abilities translate in-game into a negotiation bonus for Commander Shepard and an increase in run speed and augmented damage from combat powers.

BioWare doesn’t need to lure me with any pre-order items — I’ll always buy the company’s games. That said, I’m not going to turn away some nifty weapons. How about you? Are you going to pre-order ME2?

Hit the break for the awesome Terminator armor image included with today’s press release!

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What Are You Playing This Weekend?!?

Ah, the weekend is here! I’m thankful that I made it through the week. There were some bumpy spots for sure, but in terms of…all I can say is, “Wow!” You guys have been amazing! As you probably guessed from the title of this post, I want to see what games you have slotted for weekend playtime.

Kingdom Hearts 358

I’m way, way behind on stuff I have to play to keep current. While a lot of you will be enjoying Brutal Legend and Uncharted 2, I’m going to be giving Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days a whirl. A bunch of my friends told me that 358/2 Days is to Kingdom Hearts as Crisis Core is to FFVII. Considering how much I loved Crisis Core, I had to give this game a shot. I hope it lives up to my expectations!

Like I said, I want to know what’s on your weekend playlist (*snicker* get it?!?). What games are on your plate?

Analyst Says GameStop Safe From Digital Distribution Until 2017

GameStop logo

Everyone knows that digital distribution is the future of gaming, but nobody can agree on when it will hit. Specialty retailer GameStop and its shareholders would like to know, since digital distribution would make things difficult for the company. The latest guess comes from Broadpoint Amtech analyst Ben Schachter. He told IndustryGamers that the bell will toll in 2017:

There is little doubt that over time more and more media content will be delivered digitally to the home. However, the question of the timing of this trend is critically important as it relates to GME’s stock. In our view, it is unlikely that digital downloads will have any meaningful impact to GME’s business this console cycle (which we think will run through at least 2014). Technologically, full game downloads to a console are feasible already (and there is already a small library of full-games available on Xbox Live), but limited hard drive space (we estimate approximately 70% of current-generation consoles have no hard drives) and bandwidth limitations (full games can be 20GB+) create significant barriers.

These barriers will obviously change over time, but the timing of the replacement cycle is key. Even if one assumes that by 2014 all new consoles have capabilities that eliminate storage and bandwidth concerns (which we believe is unlikely), it will still take several more years before these consoles have significant household penetration.

Hard drive space is a small issues. Storage gets cheaper and cheaper all the time and I have no doubt that the next generation of consoles will have significantly larger HDDs than this generation. I found it curious that Schachter bothered to point out that 70 percent of current-gen systems to not have hard drives. That’s a bit misleading; the Wii is obviously the best-selling system this generation, but its customers are less likely to download full retail games in the future than PS3 or Xbox 360 owners. Hell, a lot of Wii owners can’t be bothered to buy more than one game. I don’t really see a point in him bringing it up.

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BioWare and EA 2D Reveal Dragon Age Journeys Flash Game

Dragon Age Journeys

BioWare and EA 2D have revealed new information on the upcoming Dragon Age Journeys game for web browsers that support Flash. Producer Ethan Levy wrote:

We have some big plans for Journeys. The first piece that we are currently building is a 3 chapter, single player, tactical rpg delivered in Flash. Right now we’re hard at work finishing the first chapter, Dragon Age Journeys: The Deep Roads. The game will introduce you to the dwarven city of Orzammar and the Deep Roads surrounding it where the dwarves face a persistent threat from the darkspawn hordes.

The game is interesting on several levels. On the marketing front, it helps promote Dragon Age: Origins. On the experimental side, it allows EA to see how far it can push the boundaries of Flash games. As a BioWare fanboy, I’m totally down with anything that fleshes out the DA universe. As a gamer, I’m curious to see if a Flash-based RPG will entertain me.

What do you ladies and gents think of Dragon Age Journeys?


Coffee Talk #4: Game Review Scores and You

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, whether the Motorola Cliq will turn the company around, why the hell it’s raining in Los Angeles, or bellybutton lint, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

In Coffee Talk #2, reader rbee90 brought up the topic of game reviews, which led to a conversation about review scores. The discussion started to get interesting and reader RRODisHere suggested that I write about the topic in Coffee Talk. Well here it is!

I have a ton of problems with the way most — not all — game reviews work. Scoring is a huge pet peeve of mine. 100-point scales are just stupid. I’d love for someone to (intelligently) explain the one-point difference between a game that gets an 87 and one that gets an 88. Five-point scales — which I like a whole lot better — are a problem because of the way the business uses scores and how some consumers interpret them. Here’s a pro tip for you — three stars out of five is not the same as 60 percent. Yet that’s the way a three-out-of-five is treated by review aggregators (most of the time). What’s worse is that some publishers base royalties on aggregate review scores, which is completely unfair to developers.

Borat Thumbs Up

Personally, I think there should only be three review scores — buy it, rent it, eff it, symbolized by thumbs up, thumbs in the middle, and a thumbs down (or Megan Fox’s thumbs). Isn’t purchasing, renting, or passing what it all comes down to anyway? I pushed for this system when I worked at GameSpy, but nobody was buying it. Oddly enough, my boss at GameSpy eventually went to Crispy Gamer, which uses a scale like the one I suggested. Anyway, the bottom line is that scores have become so important that the words behind them are often overlooked and sometimes ignored.

Then there’s the way some games are reviewed. Some publishers send code to reviewers days before they’re allowed to publish their reviews. For competitive reasons, everyone wants to get the review up the second the embargo lifts. This has the reviewer cramming a pint glass of gameplay into a shot glass of time. Another practice that bugs the hell out of me is when publishers have reviewers play the game off site. In these cases, a reviewer has to commute to a hotel suite or a conference room to play the game for a few days before writing the review. Again, the short amount of time introduces a problem, but it’s compounded by having to play the game in a completely unnatural setting. My issue here is that reviewers have to play games in a way that few consumers would. Do most people play 50-hour games in three days? Of course not. Do most people make daily commutes to play games in a conference room? No.

Okay, I’m getting angry about the whole deal. What I’d like to know from you is what you expect from game reviews. Do you like like 100-point scales or do you prefer five-star systems? What information is most important to you in a game review? Do you think that the unnatural way reviewers have to play games leads to an unnatural view of the game? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!