Archive for May, 2008

Guitar Hero World Tour: Rock Band Clone?

Yesterday, Guitar Hero World Tour was officially debuted. It will be out in Fall for PS3 and most other major systems.

Main features are:

  • Multiple Instruments: Drum kit and microphone in addition to lead/bass guitar.
  • More flexible, expanded career/world tour mode
  • Expanded group play and multiplayer options
  • Ability to compose new songs

The first thing running through everyone’s mind is, “Wow, that is exactly what Harmonix did with Rock Band after finishing Guitar Hero 2″. This isn’t even subtle, it’s blatant imitation. OK, Rock Band doesn’t have cymbals on the drum kit, and you can’t compose new songs (not yet, but Harmonix has been publicly planning the same thing for their upcoming titles). But wow, those changes are eerily identical to Rock Band.

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There are many obvious additions and popular feature requests to the genre that haven’t been done by anyone. The music/rhythm genre is still new and uncharted territory compared to something like the 3D shooter genre. This should be pioneer country where developers are breaking new ground rather than focusing on large scale imitation.

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Dvorak on Blu-Ray Bashing

Dvorak, one of the most famous and popular technology columnists, has written a column on the excessive bashing of Blu-Ray technology.

I have always shared this viewpoint, and I suspect most readers of this site feel the same way, so it’s nice to see this point of view acknowledged in such a mainstream fashion. It’s one thing for people to be disinterested in a technology, it’s another to see such a concerted attack on a technology. One common refrain that is particularly crazy, quoted from another PC Magazine columnist, is this:

[Consumers are] not hopping on the Blu-ray bandwagon, however, because they don’t see the benefit. [snip] the average consumer can’t perceive the difference.

Really? People can’t tell the difference between regular DVD and Blu-Ray? That’s flat out nonsense. Sure, many people don’t care about movie resolution and have much more important things in their life to worry about. And the whole hi-fidelity, high-tech stuff can put many consumers off, but the quality difference is real. Even regular “average consumers” can see the quality improvement on any halfway decent HDTV set.

So why the excessive bashing? Dvorak says it’s three categories of bashers: the Sony haters, the technology futurists, and the Xbox aficionados. That sounds about right.

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What Do You Want from MGS4?

This is easily one of the most anticipated games of 2008. What do you love (or not love) about this series and what do you want to see in the the new title?

I want to see a grand, deep, and fully immersive experience. Basically, I want the exact opposite of the tech demo like games that we see a lot of today. I want to see a game that is not just some bullet-list-friendly features designed for press previews and PR campaigns and big industry exec speeches. And not just some cool game technology with an art team creating N levels on top of it. And I don’t want to see any mini-games clumsily bolted on to add more “gameplay”. I want a deep and well thought out game experience.

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What I loved about previous MGS games, was the variety and polish and integration of the different play mechanics. I always felt like I was doing something different and I always felt fully immersed in the game world. I never felt like I was merely playing more levels within a game engine and I never felt like I was playing a mini-game.

On the downside, I never terribly liked the Metal Gear storyline. Most of the time, it’s a colorful and amusing backdrop for the game, but at times the characters were childish and the dialog can be groan-inducing. I nearly vomited when I played MGS 1 and heard one of the characters launch into a particularly nauseating soliloquy, “Can love blossom on the battlefield?”. What is this, bad teenager poetry?

Sometimes the non-interactive cut scenes are too long and too frequent, but I feel like this game is getting an unfair rap for that (the bogus 90-minute cut scene rumor is a good example). The cut scenes are occasionally annoying, but they are always in addition to, not instead of, copious amounts of highly polished gameplay.

To sum it up, I’m not a huge fan of the story or particularly excited about the stealth action genre, and there isn’t any specific feature set I’m excited about. I just want a deep, complex game that can keep me fully immersed and that consistently surprises me.

What do you guys want or expect out of this title?

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Where are the PS3 RPGs?

The PS3 has really started to deliver awesome games recently. But since the launch of the system, the RPG genre has been surprisingly lite.

Future Releases: Beyond 2008

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The two giants are of course Final Fantasy XIII and White Knight Story. Besides those, NCSoft is working on PS3 exclusive MMORPGs and there are tons of other RPGS scheduled for ’09 or tenatively scheduled for late ’08 (I’m skeptical). I’m sure some of these will be great, but until we see more details it’s hard to say which ones.

Recent high quality PS2 titles

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After the PS3 launched in late 2006, many of the Sony exclusive RPGs have still stuck with the PS2 rather than moving up to the PS3. This includes Persona 3 (and the upcoming Persona 4), Rogue Galaxy, Final Fantasy XII, Odin Sphere, Valkyrie Chronicles, Disgaea 2. Sure, most PS3 owners can play these in BC mode, but most of us would prefer PS3 native software.

Japan-only PS3 exclusive RPG-like titles

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Japan has several high quality hybrid RPG-like titles including Disgaea 3, Valkyrie Chronicles, and Yakuza 3

Cross platform titles

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PS3 got a very high quality but late port of Oblivion. PS3 also gets a simultaneous release of the upcoming Fallout.

PS3 Exclusives available in Western Territories

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The only title worth mentioning is Folklore, and that’s more of an action RPG.

Am I missing anything? Can anyone guess when the quality RPGs will really start to roll in?

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