See you in another life, brother

June 7, 2010

Only eight days remaining. Then the biggest moments will be over. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony will have finished their E3-press conferences. And that will mark only the beginning. As for me personally, I´m close to losing it because of the hype about Zelda Wii and the 3DS. And that hype is only going to get worse from now on. That´s why this will be that last blog-entry before E3.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you all will enjoy E3 2010, video gamers´ biggest and most important event of the year. Whatever megatons await, we´ll get to know about it all starting with June 14th and be finished on June 15th. Guys, have fun,

we´ll meet again on the other side.

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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.


The Future is 3D (again)

December 25, 2009

Last week I saw Avatar, James Cameron´s latest movie. After all the overhyped movies a bunch of fanatics hyped up (The Dark Knight, Inglorious Basterds, etc.) I was pleasantly surprised of how this one film actually held up to all the expectations. Of course, the story presented in Avatar is run-of-the-mill, evil human corporations attack peaceful aliens to make more money and so on, but not only was that story well presented, the imagery of the whole film was great. So great that I constantly thought of how my favorite videogame-franchise should borrow parts of this film. A small, or big, I cannot decided, role played the fact that I saw the film in 3D, using rather cheap 3D-glasses. The resulting effect complemented the movie very well, though it didn´t stand out too much. Where the 3D-effect really shone was in a trailer for some upcoming Disney-animation movie (that I am SO going to to watch). Long story short, I think 3D images is the next big thing in video gaming.

The future I imagine consists of three major pillars: Controls, A.I and Interactive Visuals.

I talked about A.I. in an earlier blog-post, so let me go on about the other two. In terms of controls, we´re getting “there“, thanks to Nintendo starting the whole thing with its Wiimote. MotionPlus was another big step forwards, and I think, sooner or later, though hopefully sooner, we´ll get some kind of data gloves, or combination of MotionPlus and Microsoft´s natal (see Minority Report). The controls are there. A.I. will be there as well, or can, at least, be presented well enough so that people will think it is “there”. That leaves Interactive Visuals. No matter how expensive your TV is, it is always limited to a flat picture. Current HDTVs aren´t capable of any 3D-output, and though Sony is working on 3DTVs, they´ll have a hard time to catch on, considering how most of userbase just upgraded to “mere” HDTVs. 3DTVs aren´t the future in terms of gaming. I don´t know of any efforts coming from Microsoft, so maybe they have something or have not. But there is another console manufacturer that might work just on what I envision. Here´s a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto, from November 2005:

It’s convenient to make games that are played on TVs. But I always wanted to have a custom-sized screen that wasn’t the typical four-cornered cathode ray tube TV. I always thought that games would eventually break free of the confines of a TV screen to fill an entire room. But I would rather not say anything more about that.

For those saying that maybe Miyamoto just talked out of his ***, in an interview in one of the last issues of German magazine “VideoGames“, he said that in his vision thanks to lower costs of discs (instead of cartridges), they (Nintendo) would be able to include special hardware with games. Guess what we saw happening with Mario Kart Wii, Link´s Crossbow Training or Grand Slam Tennis!

It is also reason I believe Nintendo to give the deciding push towards 3D-gaming, because they´ll follow a different approach in terms of setting the whole thing up. With Sony, they clearly want you to buy a 3DTV. They´re a hifi-entertainment company, selling not only videogame systems, but also TVs and a lot of other stuff. It is in Sony´s interest to bet on these new TVs. Not so Nintendo. Prior to the Wiimote´s unveiling at Tokyo Game Show 2005, there were a lot of rumors about a built-in projector. As in, a projector being within the videogame system. No need for a TV, AT ALL. That would certainly fit in line with Nintendo´s philosophy, as head of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, told in a recent interview that there won´t be mobile phone-functionality included in a Nintendo handheld as long as it´s not free to use. So what would be more fitting than the independence of the gamer´s personal budget and build a home console where everyone experiences the same? No more “I have more money, I can have a better experience from the same game.” And that´s only speaking of costs and equality.

A 3D-effect works best with a big, a really big picture. When I turned my head while watching and saw the borders of the big cinema-screen, the effect lost a lot of its strong impression. So I believe that it is necessary to have an as big as possible screen. Something certainly not possible for most people. Not even the biggest HDTVs would work for that. But imagine the whole wall of your room being a screen! Whoah! Together with Motion Controls, virtual reality would finally come true. If these controls and the 3D-image were tightly woven one into the other, a real sense of touching virtual object could be the result. Incredible.

(An old picture I created in full hype beforehand Nintendo´s Wiimote-unveiling in 2005)

Now, projectors, even if not that expensive to buy, are expensive to keep running. The bulb of such a projector is expensive. It could work as an overall business, with Nintendo offering new bulbs at a reasonable price point, but there´s an even more advanced, more awesome solution for Shigeru Miyamoto´s vision: 3D-video-glasses, or shorter, visors. These visors were also heavily rumored within the whole “Nintendo Revolution”-turmoil, but they could resurface. Visors would make TVs obsolete as well, yet wouldn´t have running costs for the consumer. The old saying “visors make your eyes hurt” is long overdue, technology made several steps forward since then. Best part, though, is that these visors wouldn´t be exclusive to videogames. It could mark Nintendo´s step into a bigger business, being the one company that pushes that technology, instead of keeping on relying on TVs.

Whatever it is, I believe that 3D will make its way into video gaming. And if Nintendo doesn´t stop to innovate, it´ll be their next big thing as well as gamers´. After having experienced Avatar, it´s all I can hope for.


Project Natal – The next Revolution in gaming questionmark

June 12, 2009

There´s a lot of talk about motion controls sind E³ 2009. Of course, now that waggle has become cool. Microsoft ist very confident in Project Natal, that new kind of camera that can track movements, even in depth. There´s also quite some fan-following that hype themselves about the “endless possibilities” of Project Natal. But here am i and ask: What possibilities?

I often hear the argument that Natal has the advantage of not needing a controller, when compared to the Wii. Well, excuse me, but that´s exactly what made the Wiimote better than Eyetoy: You had something solid in your hands. Waving throught nothing but air WITH nothing but air doesn´t feel good. But that´s not even the biggest problem.

The Wiimote, with MotionPlus, can detect even smallest movements. And it has the pointer. When it comes to tracking movement, i´m not sold yet on Natal, because as seen in the E³-conference presentation, the player had to make big waves with his hand to go through the X360-menu. If you have to do such big movements for all kinds of functions, it´s going to be tiring and annoying soon. ALSO: What made most “hardcore”-games on the Wii so great is the pointer. RE4 Wii, Call of Duty, House of the Dead, Metroid Prime, bow-shooting in Zelda, etc..

What remains is a camera that can detect bigger movements and…that´s it.

Don´t get me wrong, though, i´m super excited about Milo. Milo-software integrated in future games as a communication-feature, maybe especially for RPGs, would be a revolution in gaming. But for now, not even Milo is ready to go, let alone big epic games that include it as a gameplay feature.

All of the above leads me to believe that we´ll see a lot of EyeToy-minigames and sportsgames with annyong full-body controls. Remember how the Wiimote was, and is, trolled for the player having to move so much? Well, Project Natal takes that even further and you can´t even sit on the couch when playing certain games.


E3 is over – Where are the games? – and – The day waggle became cool

June 3, 2009

Well E³ as an expo isn´t over, yet, but the big three conferences are. And to come straight to the point: I am disappointed. Let´s be clear, though: This year´s E³ is a dozen times better than what we had to go through last year. Then again, that should have been expected.

What i´m so disappointed about is how few new games had been announced. And don´t call me out on this one naming some small puzzle-download-games. I don´t care about those. I´m talking about big games that i can sink into, that grant me an experience. But what did Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo show us?

Microsoft started with a broad showing of popular IPs. In the end, Kojima´s Metal Gear Solid: Rising was the only new game, though. Sony…hm, ah, there was The Agent from Rockstar and a couple of PSP-games, though it´s yet to be proven how well a Resident Evil works on a handheld. Nintendo showed the most new games, but…it was like Mario, Mario and Mario again. Seriously, i was about to shout when Cammie Dunaway spoke as if it was great to have more Mario games…well, then she showed Mario Galaxy 2, so that´s good, but still… Oh well, Metroid: Other M should be considered a half-megaton, but not for me, as i hate Team Ninja´s hack and slay-games, and i am not interested in a Metroid Hack and Slay.

THEN there is the sad part about the past two days: Waggle became cool.

I am a Wii-owner sind end 2006, and i always love the idea of motion controllers, i even made a bad picture before Nintendo even unveiled the Wiimote. But for the past 2,5 years, as a Nintendo-fan you got ridiculed all the time by bitter Sony-fans about how crappy motion controlling is, about how it kills gaming and how they don´t want to move after they come home from work. Guess what, NOW they´re fighting on all the internet boards, fighting for THEIR motion control is better than Nintendo´s. Give me an effing break. At least Microsoft has a different approach and i hope they use their Natal-camera more for supporting traditional games than trying the “without anything in your hands”-crap. There´s a reason why the Wiimote works and Eyetoy bombed.

NERVNow, let me point out something else: If i was Microsoft, i´d badmouth Kojima so much that he has to go out of business. What kind of kindergarten was that when he said at Sony´s conference, the PSP-MGS is the “true next MGS”? As if he was making fun of MS that he announced MGS: Rising the day before. The next thing is Capcom developing a RE-game for PSP. WTF, the Wii gets only On-Rail-shooters, and the PSP gets a, probably, real RE-game? Give me a break. People say that Nintendo doesn´t help third parties enough, but they gave them 2008 and the whole 2009 without any Nintendo-competition. That is more than any of them could ever want.

At long last, let´s talk about what i liked. Yeah, there were things i liked. First of all, looking at my E³-predictions, Microsoft delivered. Not only was ME2 shown, but also Molyneux´ Project Dimitri, now called Milo, was revealed. If this thing works as it was shown, it´ll be revolutionary. Also, there was a nice trailer for Endless Ocean 2, so Nintendo delivered that. Of course, i´m anticipating Mario Galaxy 2, but it´s coming out in 2010, so it´s too far away. A game that looks at least as good as FF12 is Monado: Beginning of the World from Monolith Software…which Nintendo didn´t mention at all, sigh. Looks rock solid, and has active battle system, yay. Then i´m a bit hyped for Silent Hill Wii. Looks very immersive, maybe a bit too immersive for me. And that´s it. There are other interesting games, but i have yet to see more of them. Biggest disappointment is maybe Red Steel 2, which, from watching a developer walkthrough, doesn´t really use MotionPlus for 1:1 sword-controls. At least in the videos he never moved the sword slowly, only made fast swings. Oh well.

In the end, Miyamoto mentioning Zelda Wii and showing a, most likely, completely irrelevant painting of Link and a girl in a blue robe is enough to make me feel satisfied. But it´s not enough to make my brain stop and think: Nintendo, what are you doing in Kyoto? There are only 2 new Wii-games by Nintendo themselves. Are they developing other games secretly for future times? Are they working on fewer games with more manpower for greater quality? Or did they fire many of their inhouse developers? Really, something´s fishy, and i´d like to know what.

Now let´s wait for 2010, because as of now, Nintendo won´t be releasing a big game in 2009…at all.