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7:09 PM on 09.17.2007

The infamous embargo

Hmm. This is going to be a short one, I promise. The two of my favorite movies, Matrix and Gladiator respectively, I saw without knowing a damn thing about them. I think the lack of hype and general astonishment with the storyline or quality of the movies made them special to me, and since then I've employed a tactic with games too.

I usually follow news of every game out there. When a game spikes a bigger interest, I invoke something I like to call my "information embargo". It's a restriction I impose on myself, so I can enjoy the game to its full potential, unspoiled by hype or spoilers. I had such an embargo on Indigo Prophecy, and it paid off. I believe Bioshock was imbued by it too. At the moment, it's Crisis Core, Hellgate London and Heavenly Sword.

Does anyone else do this? Talk to me.   read

9:57 AM on 09.05.2007

The rumor mongering of Apple inc.

I know people from the industry follow me. No I'm not a paranoid person. Well most of the time I'm not. But they are listening to me. They are. All the things I say, and all the "Oh I'd so wish for product X to appear with Y features" come true. Really. Most of the time. Well usually. I should apply for that games industry analytics person job. Even with a .08% guess rate, I'd be well versed and popular, as experience shows. Fancy pay, endless possibilities of stock option fraud. Oh, the world. Ken Lay would be proud.

Anyhow, this blog post is inspired by the imminent Apple conference. In just under 2 hours, the world will listen to Steve Jobs' voice which will put them in a hypnotic state and cheer at the utmost banalities of features. I'd quote a blog I read recently, but I can't find it in my history. The writer said something of a narrative technique which puts people in a "reality bubble". It's a state where you knowingly let yourself become part of a mob to cheer whatever the leader says. I heard a fellow named Adolf Hitler was quite adept at it. Now before Apple fans rip me to shreds, I'd like to accentuate that I adore Steve's keynotes, and my own presentation skills were enriched by his mimics, gesticulation and speech methods.

So what will be announced at that conference? New iPods are a sure thing. I also like to think that they would mention that unimportant product that is OSX Leopard too, since it ships in less than a month. iPhone? European plans probably, and of course the plan to suck your wallet dry by buying ringtones from the Apple Store (that's just seriously wrong. Just enable MP3s as ringtones). iPandas? Little cuddly robotic mobile WiFi enabled phones and email notification toys? I'd wish (and I hope they are listening which is a truly remarkable thing for a paranoid person to say).

The fact that intrigues me is how Apple can hide secrets so vigorously. Not unlike Penny Arcade's recent strip focusing on Battle Royale II-esque security methods at Blizzard, I think Apple's code of secrecy is tighter than the NSA. Sure, sometimes things leak. Most of the time, it's the third parties which like to blabber much. Then again (considering modern advertising methods), you never know when that supposed leak is truly what it implies it is, or whether it was just a marketing ploy. Apple did not resort to viral marketing to extreme levels such witnessed by us, gamers, as Microsoft did. They don't really need it anyway.

It will be enough that Steve comes out, announces the iPod branded earphones with integrated controls, lets some fancy new artist come out and play a tune or two, and just before that with "one last thing" actually announce that they have a new iPod with Wifi, and the crowd will go wild. I'm ranting here, but take my word for it. Whatever they announce won't objectively be revolutionary, it will be expensive, it will take over the crowd like a all-Japanese Baywatch commercial and (of course), we'll all go out and buy the damned thing.

Well. At least we enjoy the illusion.   read

5:00 PM on 09.01.2007

The value of demo versions

My father has a saying, and he spent a nice amount of time chiseling it into my mindset. It's actually a Jewish saying, and goes something like "I'm not rich enough to buy cheap things.". Now while this may sound just silly when read without context, you do have to give it a thought or two. Then it makes perfect sense.

My budget for games is rather limited. I can't go out and buy every bloody game I fancy. I find that aspect good, because I actually play the games I buy then, and enjoy them all the more. Psychological effect of me being just too insistent on playing something I spent 70$ on (I live in Europe, we pay more here)? Maybe, but I still have fun with those games.

Now when I choose a game, it obviously needs to pass through some steps. You have those no-brainers (all games from Blizzard, most games from ex-Westwood, etc), but other ones require some form of validation. So you read the previews, you watch the trailers. You scour Youtube and find some bootleg phone camera shots of gameplay videos taken on god-knows-what occasion. You read the hands-on reports from people you think share the same unique view on games. You discuss the game with friends, enemies, and random homeless people. You then await the game to come out and, if everything goes fine, you await it quite anxiously. The game comes out, and you read crappy reviews of it giving it really bad grades. You feel disappointed, yet not entirely convinced. You seem to think there is more to the game (because you usually like movies which flop at the box office). You want to try it yourself before deciding on the final step.

So you fire up your Playstation 3, or your Wii, and download absolutely nothing. Why? Because some smart people don't want you to play their game and like it, but rely on other people's opinion of it. The 360 you own has a lot of demos, so you don't hate it that much. You hate it more because it crapped out on you a few months back, and you still didn't send it back to repair (the second bloody time).

This outburst of depressive consequential writing in "you" form was sponsored by Lair. The game which I thought would be nice. It has gotten awful scores and makes me fear that it may actually be Barbie Horse Adventure's evil twin sister. The thing is, I'm still not convinced. I'd like to play it, but I'd like to start with a demo. Maybe I'd like it. Who knows. We may never know.   read

6:25 AM on 08.23.2007

Microsoft's agenda

My room walls keep swelling up in the past year. You see, my brother is somewhat of a film buff, and he likes his DVDs and other format movies. After buying hundreds of them, the shelf space (though extended on multiple occasions) just won't do. What me assured me some time ago was that he wasn't gonna make the high def plunge until a standard has won and is already established. That promise didn't go well, because we bought a PS3 together, and he became a Blu-ray follower.

That same brother was unnerved the other day when Paramount and Dreamworks announced they won't publish Blu-Ray discs anymore, courtesy of a Microsoft pay-off. Now the format wars (cue in Star Wars music) have been raging for a while now, and I normally expect every publishing company to walk around a bit (except, obviously, Sony controlled studios). What struck me as terribly odd, however, is the fact that Microsoft directly paid to have HD-DVD movies. Now any person who thinks further than a cigarette throw away can tell you that, aside from assuring that very popular movies (Transformers, Shrek 3 to name just two) arrive and move some HD-DVD players, they may have lobbied Paramount and DW to offer the movies on Xbox Live, too.

What bothers me most though is that Microsoft never showed any action (until now that is) to directly choose sides in the format war. Sure, they released a HD-DVD addon player, but they also repeated approximately 359275920375023 times that they'd release a Blu-ray player too if it proves to be the more popular option.

Anyhow, my thesis is this: Microsoft has chosen the HDDVD side, and paid Paramount and Dreamworks so they can ensure the push of new bundles which will have built in HDDVDs, the new processors, and larger hard drives (larger than any of the PS3 hard drives, I presume). The rumored XviD support in the fall update of Xbox 360, IPTV capabilities and the aforementioned Xbox Live movie download service can only point to one. Microsoft can advertise the following:

"We have the ultimate home media center. It supports HD-DVD playback, DVD upscaling, XviD (probably Divx too, I guess), we have IPTV, we have downloadable movies and series."

It makes sense in an eerie sort of way. This way, also, Sony's strategy of portraying the PS3 as a multimedia hub would be destroyed.

Well so much from me. We'll see how it pans out.

Cheers   read

4:32 PM on 08.22.2007

Good thing I wasn't drunk...

...because God told me to write a blog. So. Here it starts, I guess.   read

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