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What Happened to Pre-Order Cards? September 29, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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I picked up Dead Rising 2’s Zombrex Edition the other day and recieved it along with my pre-order incentive code and noticed for the second time what could be a distrubing trend.  The code was given to me on my reciept.  This is the second time this month I noticed this.  The first was when I got my GameStop Multi-Threat Armor when I picked up Halo Reach.

Normally when I preorder a game, if there is any preorder DLC included, usually you’re given along with your game a glossy index card with a scratch off code on it.  The card usually contains art from the game (or from the DLC itself) and instructions on how to redeem the code.

Does this mean the death of the Pre-Order card?  There are several good reasons why the cards should be discontinued.  They use extra paper which could be saved by just including them on a reciept.  They also ensure you don’t run out of codes, espessially if they’re tied directly into the Microsoft service so a new code can be generated every time one is requested, just like in a casino with paper money vouchers.

The problem is It’s not like it’s preventing code theft.  A guy online was still selling multi-threat armor codes on EBay for 60 dollars a pop (somehow).  Could he have gotten the codes by hacking the system, or did he just generate a bunch of codes and write them down?  Or was he just a plain fraud and the codes didn’t work?

I have to say I’m not really sad to see these things go.  I mean, I’m sad now but it’ll pass.  I’m glad that it allows some companies to save on some paper, that’s definatly enviromental thinking.

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Dead Rising 2 Zombrex Edition Unboxing September 28, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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Maniac unboxes the Dead Rising 2 Zombrex Edition, it’s quite nice.  I chose this over the High Stakes Edition because the High Stakes Edition (0nly in the Capcom Online Store) didn’t include the behind the scenes bonus disc with the entire Zombrex Dead Rising Sun movie.  That plus I wanted the extra shot of Zombrex, just in case.

Death of a Consumer September 28, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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The following article was originally written on November 9th, 2004, just after I had attended the midnight launch of Halo 2.  It was submitted to my freshman college English class that following day where it drew a cult following among the students and the Professor.  What follows is a slightly updated version of the article, mostly just minor tweaks.  The article is about advertising, and how it differs gender to gender.

A lone figure walks down a dark shadowed hallway.  The hallway is made entirely of metal and looks like the corridors you’d see in a futuristic spacecraft.  The figure is clad in space armor and walks down the hallway with purpose.  The light shines upon him and the viewer recognizes the figure.  It is none other than the Master Chief, the hero of Halo.  Reaching into a weapons locker, he grabs a rifle from the cabinet and enters an elevator.  Over the speakers play distress signals from across the galaxy, military forces in dire straits with need of help.  Finally the Master Chief makes it to the bottom of the elevator and steps outside of it.  Then the following two voices are heard.

“Admiral, tell your men to hold their positions, re-enforcements are on the spoke.”

“The entire fleet is engaged, Cortana.  With respect, what the hell sort of re-enforcement have you got?!”

The Master Chief looks out a window in the spacecraft.  In the darkness of space a familiar object is seen.  Earth is under attack.

At the end of the trailer appeared the subtitle:  “Stop Destruction of Human Race…In Progress”. 

The Master Chief readies himself to be blown out the airlock and opens the airlock doors, sucking himself into space and on top of the closest alien ship he can hit.

Sounds like a scene in a movie doesn’t it?  It’s not from a movie at all.  It’s from a commercial.  This one advertisement for a game that would be two years away started a new generation of gamers.

“Lose inches off your waist with no money down”, “More absorbent then the leading pad”, and “Have a very happy misses at home” are just a few examples of this strangle hold the advertising media has on the country.  It stays subliminally in our consciousness showing in between breaks of our favorite and not so favorite television programs.  It takes time away from our lives to corrupt us to feed money into the capitalist machine that is the world.  Yet advertising is all around us.  By integrating itself into our everyday lives it has us working jobs we hate to buy stuff that we don’t need.

You can see the trends in advertising marketing with the major difference in style of the first Halo 2 trailer and the Halo 2 commercials that aired on television.  The internet is seen as a different type of medium than the television.  The first trailer was intended for the people who loved the first Halo game and would use up their internet bandwidth to retrieve it to watch it.  Even though it didn’t show much except some new footage of the Chief going down an elevator and then later blowing himself out of an airlock hangar to hopefully land himself on board an alien ship’s hull while subtitles played, the intent was more to jar the memories of the first game with the players of Halo 2 using extremely simple methods while making a simple nod to where the second one will go.  It also showed off an early version of the new graphics engine to whet the appetite of what would be possible for the second game visually.

This is quite different then where the current TV commercials for Halo 2 are targeted.  They are more action oriented with an attempt to appeal to a person who is unfamiliar with the Halo universe.   These ads are professionally done, more targeted around showing off what the game can do to appeal to people who have a casual interest in video games other then the demographic of Halo gamers who the advertising agencies probably figured were already set to buy the game regardless of advertising.   There certainly wasn’t any intent in the commercials to make the game appeal to women.

Men and women are hardly alike.  I must admit this is hardly a controversial statement to make.  Such books have been written to show this very statement, including the very popular book, Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus.  Personally I would’ve preferred to come from Jupiter, but that’s not the point.  Men and Women have different tastes and different interests.  It’s not true in every case.  Sometimes women share interests with men and men share interests with women.  For example, cooking is not a common practice for only women.  There could be a man who is an excellent skilled chef like Emeril or Wolfgang Puck.  However, if there was one gender demographic that would be stereotypically assumed would be done by males would be gaming.

Advertising only recognizes trends using either surveys or sometimes just relying on stereotypes to market their product.  In the end, to the advertisers we are nothing more than empty vessels, ready to consume regardless of gender.  If it’s not a stereotype and their surveys don’t show a need for something, they won’t bother with it, and they saw no need to market Halo to women.

Now because of the amount of time that advertising has been harassing people it would take forever for me to write a paper about all the different examples in advertising for targeting of gender.  Perhaps if I had a grant and no life I would find it interesting, but it’s hardly a requirement of this article.  So for that reason this paper will be focused on one particular advertising campaign which has recently gone into full effect, the Halo 2 launch.

In November 2001, Microsoft launched their home video game console, the Xbox.  The flagship video game that was launched with the console and became the must have game for the console was a game called Halo.  In the span of four years, the game has sold over four million copies in its existence and to this day is the number one game to play at parties for teenage males.  So much of a fan base was created by the game, it was inevitable for Microsoft to convince their developer, Bungie to create a sequel.

Their prayers would finally be answered in September 2002, when Bungie announced development of Halo 2.  With the announcement came the very first commercial for the game, which was the very same commercial that was described at the beginning of this article.

The only game to actually successfully appeal to women was Will Wright’s The Sims, which was never the original intention of the designers, but strangely upon release the designers saw women loved the game more than men.  Halo, when it was released, was considered the norm.  It was viewed as a game that only young men enjoyed.  Because the game industry usually doesn’t make games they feel would appeal to women, they don’t waste time trying to advertise to them.  The outcome was as expected.  When Halo 2 was finally released on November 9, 2004 at 12:01 AM across the country, lines formed out the door.  Stores who said they were expecting sales of over a thousand copies.  Each!

The people who waited in line were gamers by every definition.  There was such a difference among all of them in appearance and style the only thing that actually held them all together was the fact that they all loved Halo and wanted to be among the first to play the sequel.  In the crowd of a hundred people at the release party I attended there was roughly a ninety-six percent male population in the group.  Of the four girls that were actually in the line that night, about half of the girls looked like they were there just to hang out with their boyfriends and had no actual interest in the game, but the other half of the girls left in the crowd were actually there for the game.  It was a genuinely disheartening statistic, but not a surprising one.

It was kind of sad to see this enormous imbalance along the genders in the crowd.  Over the years gamers have accepted these trends but still profess to attend events like this out of love for the games.  With these numbers they must be, they’re certainly not doing it because they think they’re going to get laid.

The question remains, will these trends remain?  As time goes on, a casual trickle of female gamers are appearing in LAN events.  This is a very encouraging sign of the changes to come, and I welcome it, I just hope advertising joins me.

What We Liked About Halo Reach September 27, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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diskreader117 and I continue our conversation about Halo Reach, and discuss what they liked about the game, because they did in fact enjoy it very much, although they thought it could’ve been better.  Also we talk about the latest Halo Reach news, including new content that is coming for the game.

We also talk about the latest Halo Reach news including when matchmaking will work for Campaign, what the most difficult armor to get will be, and discuss easter eggs

What Would Have Made Halo Reach Better? September 27, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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In a rare first for gameXcess, I actually have someone other than myself in a video. Joined by diskreader117, we talk about Halo Reach, and what could have been improved with it. But don’t watch this video and think we didn’t like the game, we both did very much, and in the next part we talk about what we liked.

The Fall of G4TV, Part 2 September 26, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Histories, The Fall of G4.
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If you look in your digital channel lineup you can find a little station on the list somewhere between MTV2 and Encore called G4 or G4TV. You’ll also note that the schedule for that station will likely only include reruns of Cops and Cheaters. If I told you, and you didn’t know any better, you probably wouldn’t believe that station used to be the premiere station for gaming coverage. You’ll probably also wonder if they were a station for gaming coverage why do they only show reruns of Cops and Cheaters, as well as a few other international shows nobody cares about. Well, it’s a story that goes back a long time, but I have no problem telling you it. It’s a sad story with a very sad ending, but just like with Halo Reach, even though you know how it ends from the beginning, it’s still a story you want to hear

It was 2004 and a corporate merger was coming to G4, Comcast intended to buy the station out and merge it with another of their stations, Tech TV, to maximize profits. Now, obviously since Comcast bought two stations which covered subjects the new suits knew absolutely nothing about and which in reality had very little in common, by forcing them together the outcome was going to be bad, REALLY bad.

During the merger, all of the shows from both of the stations were now fair game for cancellation. Ratings were not even factored into the decision, and no show was left untouched. If it wasn’t cancelled immediately, it was changed. If it wasn’t changed it was recast. It was a complete shakedown and no one was safe from it.

The host of Cheat changed from a competent yet nerdy guy to a supermodel in a miniskirt who looked more at ease doing weather for football games. The 2001-esque MMO show would not be renewed. G4TV.com, G4’s staple show, would eventually get cancelled, as would the majority of G4’s prime programming including Arena, Pulse, and Cinematech. Icons shifted from covering gaming company histories to biographies of people who had nothing to do with gaming like Mark Eko. But no show would get it as bad as Tech TV’s The Screen Savers which got its focus shifted, then completely recast by incompetent people who had no tech intelligence, then cancelled. It is now called “Attack of the Show”, and has changed its focus more times than I can count.

Not too long after the rebranding or cancellation of a lot of the shows their fans loved, the dedicated fans of the station stopped watching. I’m sure that corporate assumed that new people would start watching the station, but of course they didn’t. Instead of restoring the shows to their former glory to bring the old fans back, the shows instead were terminated from the lineups, not even showing reruns anymore. It became a systematic glassing of the station, leaving a massive scar in the form of a G which would not go away because the shows never came back.

About the only survivors of the complete glassing of the station’s shows was Tech TV’s X-Play (not a terrible show but it’s disappointing that was the only show they kept) which was now expanded to cover more than just gaming reviews but also gaming news and previews. The former glory of an entire station which previously was covered by an entire lineup of shows was basically crammed into one show which only aired twice a day. The other survivor was Kevin Pereira who was promoted to host what idiot writers assumed was geek culture.

Nowadays G4 is just another channel I flick past. With no more decent original programming anymore, there’s just no reason to watch it. Occasionally there’s a glimmer of the station that it once was when you see live E3 coverage once a year, and you get the briefest reminder that this used to be a station that gamers watched. The G in G4 is supposed to mean TV for Gamers, not syndicated reruns of shows only enjoyed by lowest common denominator.

The Fall of G4TV, Part 1 September 26, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Histories, The Fall of G4.
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If you look in your digital channel lineup you can find a little station on the list somewhere between MTV2 and Encore called G4 or G4TV.  You’ll also note that the schedule for that station will likely only include reruns of Cops and Cheaters.  If I told you, and you didn’t know any better, you probably wouldn’t believe that station used to be the premiere station for gaming coverage.  You’ll probably also wonder if they were a station for gaming coverage why do they only show reruns of Cops and Cheaters, as well as a few other international shows nobody cares about.  Well, it’s a story that goes back a long time, but I have no problem telling you it.  It’s a sad story with a very sad ending, but just like with Halo Reach, even though you know how it ends from the beginning, it’s still a story you want to hear.

When the station was first designed they had a lineup of entirely original shows based upon each individual gaming archetype.  Trust me, any gamer could easily find something on the schedule that they liked to watch.  Icons focused on the history of video game companies or major events like the crash of 1982 (their finest episode).  Cheat gave tips and pointers to recent games, sometimes focusing on one game in particular.  Arena, which took two teams of players and had them battle in Mechwarrior  on a LAN, (although their rules were pretty terrible and there were other games than Mechwarrior they could’ve played). There was a news show which had the latest gaming news of the day.  Judgment Day, a review show which introduced the world to Tommy Tallarico and Victor Lucas.  For video connoisseurs there was Cinematech, which had the latest trailers and opening cinematics for games. There was an MMO show with a 2001 vibe and very MST3K humor whose name I cannot remember.  Then of course there was the televised talk radio show G4TV.com, which was one of the best shows in existence starring gaming writers Tina Wood and Laura Foy.

It was a great time.  I can name tons of people who want to see their original series released to DVD.  I missed about 80 percent of its heyday because my parents refused to upgrade to digital cable due to the technical limitations at the time, but when high-speed internet was finally made available in my area three years after everyone else could get it, at that point they had no choice because I got them a really good price.  Once we got it installed I would not change the channel.

The great time was not to last and a dark time was on the horizon for the station in the form of a corporate merger, and I’ll talk about all of that in Part 2.  Stay tuned!

Console Wars – III September 25, 2010

Posted by anakronos in Console War, Histories.
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As we entered the fifth generation of gaming there were a lot more fighters in the ring than in times previous.  It was a Royal Rumble of sorts, and a lot of companies that attempted to gain entry found themselves tossed out of the ring inside of what amounted to a minute in the market.  At this juncture the gamer population had aged a little bit, and with age came suspicion – and really high expectations…

But before we get into the winners, let’s point out the abject failures of this gen:

  1. Panasonic’s 3DO – Here were your options back then: buy a 3DO or just get a PlayStation and an N64 and still have about $150 left over to buy some games.  This system had a horribly limited library and was basically doomed at launch.
  2. Atari Jaguar – I don’t know a single person that bought this.  We all knew better, Atari almost destroyed home based gaming in the 80s when it bankrupted itself and disappeared from the gaming map.
  3. Sega’s 32x – This thing was launched almost at the same time as the Saturn– it was full of  fail, but sadly, it wouldn’t be Sega’s last mistake.
  4. Virtual Boy – Look man – I am fully aware that it wasn’t a console, but it wasn’t a portable either – either way you slice it, there is something we can both agree on, it sucked like no other.
  5. Neo Geo CD – There were few things more awesome than playing arcade quality Fatal Fury, Shodown, Metal Slug and a slew of other great titles at home, but this system just didn’t take off as it should have.  It’s a crying shame that a company as talented, innovative and groundbreaking as they were never managed to capture a significant portion of the market.
  6. PC-FX – Most of you never heard of this console and that’s just as well because it only had 62 games.  This system was basically the deathblow for NEC’s gaming division.

But enough about the losers, let’s talk about the real players of the era.

There is little doubt that the PlayStation brought home the Gold, N64 the Silver and off into the distance the Sega Saturn had to settle for tarnished bronze.   And mind you, it was never neck and neck – Sony sold something like 102 million units worldwide, compared with 35 million for the N64 and a paltry 9 million for the Saturn.  When you aggregate these numbers alone, 6.16% of the world’s gamers owned a Saturn, 23.98% an N64 and 69.86% a PlayStation.  I enjoyed this era immensely because at long last, the market finally exposed Sega for the eminent fuckups that they are.

But how could Nintendo, a once third-party developer for Atari, achieve massive success at both the 8 and 16-bit levels, only to lose it to the freshman Sony?   I don’t want to get into it now, but the major points were:

  1. They dragged their feet launching and developing the new system, giving Sony a one year market lead
  2. They stubbornly stuck to proprietary media – Nintendo collected royalties from each cart produced
  3. They generally catered to the kindergarten demographic
  4. They lost key third party support

What about Sega?  If anybody had told me that Sega was going to follow up their weak-ass Master System with what the Genesis turned out to be, an amazing powerhouse of console gaming, I would have laughed in their face – and I would have been wrong.  But to then see mighty Sega follow up the Genesis with the anemic sales of the Saturn, was just…sad.  No really – I’m totally serious here; it’s always been my contention that the best stimulus for good gaming is competition.  It seemed at the time that the void left by Sega was going to be bad for gaming, but it turns out that Sony was waiting in the wings to not only supplant Sega as Nintendo’s chief adversary, but change the face of gaming forever, and become its new standard bearer.

With that said, let’s talk about games.  I bought my first PlayStation when I was in AIT at Ft. Gordon, GA, back then the guys were only interested in playing Madden and the new NBA Live games.  I wasn’t a big fan of either, which led to buyer’s remorse – so I sold it to one of my buddies and bought the N64 instead.  At launch the N64 had Super Mario 64…which I played through until I got all the stars.  I also bought Waverace, Pilotwings and Shadows of the Empire – and proceeded to beat each of these as thoroughly as possible.  I was really surprised by the textures and rendering capacities of the N64, the graphics were typically more colorful, softer and less jagged than the PlayStation’s.  The N64 had anti-aliasing, Z-Buffering and Goraud Shading (all precursors to Voodoo 3dfx cards).  These effects really showed off the system’s potential in titles like Turok, Goldeneye and Perfect DarkRogue Squadron was one of my favorite ports, not just for its Star Wars theme, but because honestly, it was extremely well made.  Then of course there was Nintendo’s Magnum Opus, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  The N64 also had Mario Kart and Starfox, but sadly never released a Metroid.  The Nintendo faithful would have to wait one more generation for that to happen.

But wait a minute…if the system had all these great titles and superior hardware, how’d it come in second?

I hate to say it, but Holden McNeil put it best:  “It’s all about marketing.  Over- or underweight guys who don’t get laid – they’re our bread and butter.”

And that’s exactly who Sony marketed to, a primarily tween male audience.  That wasn’t the only factor though, there’s only one reason I bought a PlayStation, for the second time, and that was Final Fantasy VII, which is to me, the greatest game ever made.

While my PlayStation library was slender, it was packed with classics, among them: Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy VII & VIII, Resident Evil I&II, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater II, Street Fighter Alpha II, Tekken III, Metal Gear Solid, the Tomb Raider series, and Jedi Power Battles.  Back then I was a real snob when it came to buying games because well…Sony had so many shitty games on their platform that it was almost a full time job trying to separate the crap from the good and subsequently the good from the awesome.  But more often than not, all your sifting would be richly rewarded.  On the N64 it was much different, I had a pretty easy time of identifying what games to avoid and which ones to reserve ahead of time.

In the end, third party support is what really helped Sony walk away with all the medals.  Nintendo was left reeling, but stubborn as a Bantha, insisted on the continued use of proprietary media and focusing on G audiences.

As the era drew to a close, there were forces at work that sought to mimic Sony’s success.  First though, they had to secure a franchise game.  Once Bungie was bought out, the stage was set for the exclusive console release of Halo.  With that, the fourth battle in the Great Console war began.

Alan Wake’s Final DLC, The Writer, Coming October 12th September 25, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Gametrailers has just premered the world exclusive trailer for Alan Wake’s second and final DLC chapter, titled “The Writer”.  In it, Alan must learn to master the dreams manifesting in his mind in order to free himself from the nightmare he is trapped in.  It very much looks like the first DLC episode but with far more combat options given, such as explosive rolling barrels.

The Writer will be coming October 12th, 2010 through Xbox Live Marketplace for 560 MS points.  It will be the final Alan Wake DLC.

Dead Space 2 has Entered Closed Beta September 23, 2010

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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I just received an email from the Dead Space 2 team announcing that they’re secretly having a closed beta test of the highly anticipated multiplayer portion of their game right now on the Playstation Network.

Admission seems to be by invite only right now, and the code only works on the Playstation 3, although the game will also support Xbox 360 and PC.

Dead Space 2 will release January 25th, 2011.