GDC 2011 starts tomorrow – What´s important

February 27, 2011

This year´s Game Developers Conference is going to start this monday, February 28th, and will last till March 4th. The event is mostly thought to be a great opportunity for all the developers out there to meet and exchange knowledge. But that wouldn´t be the whole truth, not anymore. Satoru Iwata, head of Nintendo, is going to hold the keynote speech for this GDC, titled “Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future”. That alone will be interesting to listen to, but all I´ve really got to say is this: Trailer for Skyward Sword!

We got the second Twilight Princess-trailer at GDC, Phantom Hourglass was revealed at another GDC. And we haven´t seen a single thing of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword ever since last year´s E3. Unless severe problems have pushed the game back even further, Skyward Sword WILL see its release in 2011. Two months are over already and except for super-enthusiasts like myself, hardly anyone is too hyped about the game at this point in time, simply because WE DO NOT KNOW S*** ABOUT IT. The only non-generic detail we know of is the mysterious girl that´s going to transform into a sword. That is the only detail one couldn´t have derived from this Wii-title´s predecessors. Controls are new, but expected. And the rest? A random forest-tutorial area and a “the world down below is ruled by evil and Link´s going to visit that land and rescue it“. Yeah, well, that´s … a Zelda-game, I guess. Of course, Link living above the clouds on hovering islands is awesome, but at this point, it´s really just another piece of speculation-inducing pseudo-information.

A Zelda-trailer here makes almost too much sense. The game won´t be released before E3 2011, but that´s where “journalists” should be able to play a near-final build of the game, NOT the place where we get to see the first real trailer for the game. And GDC 2011 is the last known event before E3, so that´s that.  First trailer now, second trailer and playable final build at E3, release date this fall. Sounds good, eh? And it´s the Zelda-series´ 25th Anniversary, too. Compare that to Iwata´s keynote title, yeah. See ya again in about two days, either fan-gasming or raging about the absence of a trailer.

PS: And a Mass Effect 3-trailer would be nice, too, Bioware!

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New year – New hopes

January 7, 2011

The new year of 2011 has begun and left us with an interesting time shortly to come. The last year wasn´t necessarily spectacular, but it had its high times. The game that made me start this blog, Fragile: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, turned out to be a topnotch atmospheric experience, unfortunately suffering from out-dated gameplay mechanics. Monster Hunter Tri marked the first online-gaming experience that I totally loved. And Dragon Age Origins showed me that not all BioWare-games are that great. In the end, 2010 was a run-of-the-mill year for gaming as far as my gaming flavor is concerned. But what can you expect in a time where all available systems start to feel old in one way or another? The Wii´s graphics were old from launch onwards, but due to the lack of MotionPlus-based games, there really isn´t that huge difference in gameplay compared to other systems. Meanwhile, the HD-systems are spammed with known and already-seen experiences. Shooting someone just doesn´t get any fresher the tenth time, ya know. On the handheld front, Nintendo DS could never fully grasp my enthusiasm since I´m not much of a 2D-fan, and 3D-games on NDS aren´t exactly the most fun. Not to mention that I was severely disappointed by Dragon Quest 9, my first DQ-game. Maybe it really were the ugly visuals, because if I look at DQ8, I want to give it a try again. As every year, I´d like to take the time to express how I hope to see this industry heading more towards a gameplay-experience over the currently popular hollywood-experience.

Now, for the year 2011. Let´s not hesitate to start with the big one here: Nintendo 3DS is going to launch somewhere between March and April in both Europe and the USA. I might have mentioned it before, but I´m actively looking forward to become a handheld-exclusive gamer once this attractive piece of hardware finds its way into my hands. As said above, graphics on the NDS were always a problem for me, but that´s exactly where the 3DS comes in, offering pleasant 3D-graphics on par with GameCube/Xbox/Wii, even featuring certain effects that put it above those systems. Not only do 3D-games look nice, also Paper Mario looks just like its console-predecessors. Unlike any former Nintendo-system, the 3DS seems to get software-support from about every important Japanese publisher, and I´m looking forward to Resident Evil Revelations, Pro Evolution 3DSoccer (or Fifa, depending on what leaves the better impression on me), Dead or Alive Dimension and Street Fighter 3D (which, again, I´ll have to choose between the two). There´s also some fantastic stuff coming from Level 5, but I´ll stay away from getting too hyped about their announcements for now – you never know if their games will see a release in the west.

And then there´s Nintendo´s first-party offerings, of course. Surprisingly, Nintendo still has not announced a big 3DS-title. Sure, we have Kid Icarus, but that looks rather like a small title with its arcade gameplay. And we have the Ocarina of Time-remake, which I´ll be all over, especially if it features new content, but it´s a remake nonetheless. Same goes for the Lylat Wars-remake. There´s Mario Kart and Paper Mario, too, but I believe both will take some more time.  Nintendo wanted to have third-parties support the 3DS at launch, and that´s a pretty understandable course, then. But I can´t wait for Nintendo to get serious with their new handheld. I´m thinking along the lines of Super Smash Bros. 3DS, Metroid Prime 4, or a new Mario-platformer. Personally, I´d love to see the first 3D-Yoshi platformer instead, though. And don´t forget about new IPs! I´d always love to see RetroStudios get back to Raven Blade.

But it´s not all about 3DS – not yet. The Wii seems like a forsaken system in terms of software, even when its hardware-sales are through the roof again. I don´t know about Japan, but dear Nintendo, just release Xenoblade, The Last Story and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in 2011, and I´ll have nothing but praise about the Wii´s 2011. So far, all we have is a delayed Zelda-game an Mario Sports Mix, hooyay! :/ Can´t remember the last time a system´s lineup could go that easily from yay to nay to yay to nay …

My Xbox 360 is waiting for exactly one game: Mass Effect 3. Let´s see if Bioware can really release it at the end of the year. I´m not a fan of the much discussed plot of gathering all the different races´ loyalty only to attack the Reapers in one big attack – feels too unbelievable for me that none of the previous galaxy´s  inhabitants would have tried that. But whatever BioWare decideds to go with, I´ll be there. Let me end it all with a bang – and show us Tali´s face FFS! The last game I´d like to mention is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Much like the Mass Effect-trilogy, Deus Ex promises to be an incredibly immersive, interactive experience, both in terms of story and environmental interactivity. Will be bought for PC.

That´s it so far! The Nintendo World 2011-expo will start tonight, featuring playable 3DS-stations and presentations, and then on January 19th, Nintendo´s going to have a simultanous conference for both Europe and the USA, which is expected to tell us non-Japanese people all the final details we need to know about the nextgen-handheld. I also hope to see something from Zelda Wii soon, but I think that the less hype now, the better the game turns out in the end. Just remember the situation before The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.

Happy new year, everyone!


BioWare hinting at new Mass Effect-game?

November 17, 2010

Out of nowhere, Electronic Arts decided to tease a new, yet unknown, BioWare-title. The only bit of stuff we have so far is a short video-teaser that shows no more than a rather generic military-guy and his gun. However, upon further observation, there are definite links between that teaser and the Mass Effect-franchise. As user Zenith pointed out by using a screencap of the teaser and a screenshot of Mass Effect 2, the gun-model that can be seen is almost identical. Not only that, but you can also see some hexagon-structures being used in the design of the unknown game. Following the teaser-video, BioWare released two binary-codes that translate into “55.845”, the atomic mass of iron, and “-128,5F”, which is -89,2°C, the coldest temperatur ever measured on Earth at Vostok, Antarctica in 1983.

That´s all the stuff we have gathered so far. Maybe BioWare releases more clues. At best, this marks the approaching reveal of Mass Effect 3. However, some kind of spinoff set during a previous event is more likely. Hopefully it isn´t some new franchise. There´s too much awesome stuff to tell and do within the ME-universe, and no matter if this is a ME3-announcement or not, it´ll be a long wait for the final part of the trilogy, so a spinoff to ease the wait would be welcome.


The Calm before E³ 2010 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 23, 2010

Another year passed by, and the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010 is approaching quickly. From June 15th to 17th, we´ll get this year´s biggest, cumulative media blowout, with conferences supposedly taking place starting with June 13th. While sporting a bunch of interesting titles nonetheless, the past couple of E³s have been lacking. These expos never fail to gather a lot of hype, but rarely is that hype justified. E³ 2010 ramps up to be different – or to be its old self, for that matter. Remember E³ 2004, when Nintendo revealed Twilight Princess? Yeah, it´s going to be that kind of E³! Like last year, I´m focusing on predictions and expectations regarding Nintendo, as the two competitors simply don´t interest me that much. That´s more fair than making up stuff. So, let´s start with the FlyingFisch´s predictions of E³ 2010!

Fanboy´s favorite: Nintendo


Nintendo hat a pretty damn good start in 2010, with games like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories or the now released Monster Hunter Tri. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M are underway, too, so a good first half of the year is well covered with games. So what´s being released in the latter half of 2010? Despite the higher amount of great games compared to 2009, it kind of feels as if third-parties stopped trying. There´s only one third-party title I´m going to mention…maybe another one, though that one´s more likely to be revealed at Tokyo Game Show.

We´ll definitely see Warren Spector´s Epic Mickey. The dark, adventurous platformer, starring the new Mickey-design, will get a lot of focus at its publishers booth. I´d say it´s safe to assume that not only will there be videos, but it´ll be playable. As far as as I know, it´s supposed to be released at the end of the year, so now´s the time to start the Mickey-hype machine. First screenshots were pretty disappointing, but everything you read about the game sounds just so promising. We´ll see how that one turns out. The other high-quality third-party game that might be shown, but, most likely won´t, is Dragon Quest 10. I don´t have to explain how this is the biggest traditional JRPG-franchise in Japan. Which is exactly why it´s more likely to be shown at this year´s Tokyo Game Show (if at all). Considering that Dragon Quest 9 for Nintendo DS will be released in the US and Europe this July, it also wouldn´t make too much sense to announce the next instance of the series now. There´s a really slim off-chance, but I´d rather bet money on some of the upcoming crazy predictions than DQ10 being shown at E³ 2010.

Which leads us to Nintendo´s first-party offerings. Honestly, I don´t know what other awesome stuff I should predict, when we already know of the two most important things of this year´s E³: Zelda Wii and the Nintendo 3DS. Really, just rename “E³ 2010” into “Zelda 2010”. It´s going to be all about Zelda Wii. Sure, I´m personally hyped, but you´d be a fool to deny how much weight, how much importance rests on this game´s shoulders. It´s kind of staggering and hard to believe just how little we know about the new Zelda. Which is…nothing. There´s an artwork we got at last year´s E³, but that´s it. We know that it´ll use MotionPlus, and Eiji Aonuma talked about introducing a new overall structure of the game, which could mean a lot of things. There´s basically three options for Zelda Wii: 1.) Devolving into some kind of Phantom Hourglass/Spirit Tracks-like game, featuring top-down camera-angle and wiimote pointer-based controls, 2.) yet another Ocarina of Time-like Zelda, like Twilight Princess, or 3.) a truly new, fresh adventure-experience, that finally manages to jump out of Ocarina of Time´s shadow and become its own classic, impacting the future gaming industry again. I fear for 1, hope for 3, but believe we´ll get 2. Which will be disappointing, too, but at least nothing too bad. Then again, I think Zelda Wii is going to be the definitive experience of the next 10 years to come. That´s what it should become. But there´s so much stuff that Zelda Wii “should” do, it´s hard to believe that Nintendo´s going to be able to get it all right. But no matter if they fail or not, Zelda Wii is THE game of E³ 2010.

And when there´s a game of E³, there also has to be a hardware of E³ 2010. There are only two contenders, but if we go by historic importance, then Nintendo wins this one, too. This will be the first time when Nintendo´s going to show the Nintendo 3DS in public, and probably lets E³-visitors get their hands on the true DS-successor. We know that it has some kind of 3D-capabilities and that the screen size will be smaller than 4″. Rumors have it that the 3DS will feature GameCube-like graphics, but that was never confirmed. Even though that much should be possible in 2010, it´s silly to take it for granted. But I can understand that the thought of a portable version of The Wind Waker in 3D sounds daring. Yeah, if Nintendo continues their tradition of remaking an older game for a new hardware´s launch, I´d want that one to be TWW. But let´s see what the 3DS really will be like. It´s supposed to be backwards-compatible to the DS, so some kind of 2-screen-design is obvious. But there´s a lot of possibilities within that frame. Another hardware that´s likely to be shown is the Vitality sensor. But I have no idea how that one´s coming into play.

And then there´s the two Nintendo-funded JRPGs, Xenoblade and The Last Story. While the former looks promising, even though graphically not too special, it is The Last Story that might surprise a lot of gamers. Seemingly, Hironobu Sakaguchi is behind that game, and it´s him as well as the known artworks that make it appear as if this is meant to be a Final Fantasy-competitor. But, again, we have no idea about the game, except for some vague combat-system details. In the end, a high-profile JRPG should also look high-profile, so what many gamers ask themselves, is: What is The Last Story going to look like? Personally, I´d love to see a gorgeous cel-shading style featured, similar to TWW´s. Just have it more detailed. But I won´t complain about a good-looking realistic game. Just make sure it looks “round”. Xenoblade suffers from that.

So, prediction time, eh? With Zelda Wii dominating the Wii´s lineup, there´s not much that could impress equally. But if we assume that Nintendo finally figured out how to use motion controls in a singleplayer-adventure to its fullest, it has to be another MotionPlus-game. Three games would greatly fit that new control-style. First one is Kid Icarus. Yeah, a popular, recurring speculation, but with his bow and arrow, Pit is a perfect match for MotionPlus. Imagine a platformer that closer to Zelda than Mario, and you have it. Another franchise I really want to see anew is the StarFox-series. I´d go against the serie´s arcade-feeling, but I finally want a flight-game that uses the wiimote (and motionplus) as if you´re holding a flight stick. It would control like the flight-game from Wii Sports Resort, but you´d be holding the wiimote vertically instead of horizontally.  The last fitting game is a crazy wish that I had last year, too. Give me a Berserk-game (great anime/manga). Have it use MotionPlus for Gut´s sword strikes. Have it be a mixture of Zelda and Monster Hunter. Have it sport gorgeous cel-shading. And thus, attempt at making me forget Zelda Wii. Ha!

A new hardware obviously needs some new games. Surely, the 3DS will get its own version of Wario Ware. And there´ll be a remake/port of an older title, which I want to be The Wind Waker. But what for new games? We haven´t heard of RetroStudios in quite a while. We should hear from them at this year´s E³. With Zelda getting all the spotlight on the Wii, I cannot imagine that they´d like to start a fight there. Instead, I believe they´re working an the 3DS first killer-app. If the GameCube-level graphics rumors are correct, it would grant RetroStudios a well-known developing environment. There, I expect to see Metroid Prime 4 exclusively for the 3DS. I´d prefer a Metroid-game that continues the story after Fusion, though. There´s also going to be Pokemon Black and White. I´m pretty disappointed by how small the visual upgrade from the last games came out to be, but maybe we´ll get 3DS-support at the least. If not canceled, Golden Sun DS will be fully covered, as well.  Depending on how the 3D works, I also believe that Nintendo will introduce a movie-watching ability for the 3DS, starting with James Cameron´s Avatar. It´d be just too perfect of a marketing move.

As I told you initially, predicting is hard when we know of the best stuff already. Maybe there´ll be Pikmin 3, a new F-Zero-game, some WiiFit-like title. Capcom might finally port Resident Evil 5 to the Wii. Perhaps, Konami makes Zone of the Enders 3 for Wii. And how about a real home console-Pokemon? The heck, I could even imagine that Nintendo´s showing or at least talking about the Wii´s successor, even though there´s the 3DS. If Zelda remains a 2010-release, as well as all the other games, Nintendo won´t have any games for Wii except for Dragon Quest 10 somewhere down the road. We have had two Mario-games by then, another Zelda-game won´t be finished that quickly. And there´s nothing else that can fill the hunger for big, epic, adventurous games like these two. Or, even more crazy, maybe the 3DS is much more important than everyone thought until now. Maybe the 3DS marks Nintendo´s future business, being a hybrid handheld-home console. We know that 3D needs more power, so how about GameCube/Wii-level graphics when you´re not at home, and when plugging the 3DS into the TV, you´ll be able to play HD-quality games, a Wiimote connecting via bluetooth. Who knows. E³ 2010 is looking like it´s going to a Nintendo-show. But when there´s a lot of promise, there´s also a lot potential for disappointment.

Microsoft´s effort-machine


There are two things that highly interest me on the Xbox 360. One is Natal. And no, I´m not interested in that one because of controls. I believe that completely hand-free controls don´t feel good. After all, I had EyeToy, and you just need something in your hands. But I´m totally interested in A.I.-focused games, so that´s Milo for me. Of course, it´s Peter Molyneux. That means: Lots of awesome sounding announcements, lots of terrible shortcomings. But what the showed with Milo last year was…revolutionary. I´d like to see two “games” for Natal. One being a pure A.I.-based simulation-game. Maybe replace Milo with a girl, too, so a nerd can learn how to socialize. As for the second game, create a RPG that makes use of Milo-like interaction. That´s where I see the possibility for a revolution regarding Natal. You´re still using the 360-controller, but all the communication-part of the game is done by yourself. If Microsoft and Molyneux manage to do that, they´ll have their own killer-ap. A game I´d also love to see some first bits and pieces of is BioWare´s Mass Effect 3. I haven´t followed the developer´s recent news-announcements, so if they already said there would be no ME3, too bad. But this third and final part of the Mass Effect-saga is hyped-worthy, no matter when they decide to show it. On the note of surprises, maybe Microsoft finally got their hands on a Metal Gear Solid 4-port.

The Third Place: Sony

I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion:

Phew…E³, eh? The true christmas of every gamer. No better time in the year. I think every gamer, no matter what you´re a fan of, will see a lot of great stuff. Aside from all the stuff I already talked about, it´ll be most interesting to see gamers´ and developers´ reaction on the 3DS. Will Sony announce a new handheld to counter Nintendo? Will the 3DS be too freaky for a lot of developers? Or is it going to be a much more important hardware than “just” the next handheld of Nintendo? Time will tell. But predictions are big part of each year´s E³, so let´s see how much of the above turns out true. Just one advice for next year: Please, Nintendo, don´t spoil all the fun by announcing the two biggest things beforehand. Where´s the fun in predicting a new Kirby-game when you already know of ZELDA being shown. Not that I blame you.


Lost in Stats

March 23, 2010

I love stats. I´d take the risk to assume everyone loves stats about his favorite games. It´s the reason why playing Super Smash Bros. Melee was so much fun (well, part of the fun). Stats give you insight into your individual playing style. The data often shows habits or simply what actions you prefer. And despite all that additional, passive fun, stats are still something rare in video games.

There really isn´t much more to say. Get stats into every game where it makes even slightly sense. No wait, put it into every game, no matter of how much sense that makes. I want stats in the next Zelda-game, showing me how many enemies I killed, how I killed them and how many meters I ran in complete. I want to know the jumping distance in Super Mario Galaxy 2 and how long the longest time in mid-air was. I want stats in Mass Effect 3, showing me who I had the most romances with, who I talked most with and how my moral developed over the course of the game. Give me also stats in the next Mario Kart-game, which actually would make sense. Give me stats about any activity I could possible engage in on my consoles. And then, at the end of all that, let me compare my various stats with those of friends.

Stats, especially when you can compare them with others, are great fun for those interested. And I fathom that it´s rather easy to track the data for these stats in most games. Seriously, give me stats for every game out there. Let the consumer decide if he wants to look at or ignore them. Stats are fun.