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  ‘The Office’: The Game  
Posted 2007-06-20 by Tony Walsh
Casual games publisher MumboJumbo announced today that it will bring a game based on The Office to platforms including PC, Sony PSP, and Nintendo DS. I presume this will be a game version of the American version of the British TV series... sounds terribly unfunny already, but it gets funnier.

According to an official press release, MumboJumbo's CEO says that he looks forward to working with NBC Universal "to ensure that the thematic elements of 'The Office' are closely approximated in the development of the video game." Note that he didn't say that the game itself will carry forth the themes of the TV series, but that these themes will be approximated during development. Given this, I have to wonder if the game will ever actually be completed, or if a bumbling middle-manager on the development team will royally cock things up. Hilariously, of course.

MumboJumbo threatens to develop a game "that combines the quirky characters and humor of the show with a proven, addictive game mechanic..." I'm curious about what sort of proven, addictive mechanic we might be so lucky to play with. What could it be? Matching things? Lining things up into rows? Arranging pairs of complimentary shapes? Wait, I have it: Smoke-breaks.
  ‘High School Musical’: The Games  
Posted 2007-06-14 by Tony Walsh
High School Musical was originally a Disney Channel TV movie, but has since spun out in the form of a soundtrack album, an ice tour, a live concert tour, an upcoming sequel, a movie planned for theatrical release, and now... video games. Disney Interactive Studios will extend the High School Musical experience across Wii, PS2, and DS game consoles this summer. Sorry, parents: Your pre-teens are going to sing you into insanity.

The Wii and PS2 versions of the family-friendly game will involve karaoke antics involving characters from the property and about 30 songs. The DS version doesn't require singing (a pity, since the DS has a built-in mic), instead approaching High School Musical from a rhythm-game angle. DS gamers will be able to compete and trade videos with others via Nintendo WiFi. It would have been an added bonus to tie in DS and Wii game play, but I suppose that'd be asking for too much.

I suspect that even if interest in the sing-along, dance-along genres is waning, a High School Musical game will still have plenty of appeal to the tweenage set, particularly given the pending movie sequel and spinoff. Not sure 30 songs is going to provide much repeat play value, but I suppose the point is to sustain interest in the brand long enough to sell movie tickets.
  ‘Talisman’ Board Game Gets Digital Edition  
Posted 2007-04-16 by Tony Walsh
Capcom has announced that it will be bringing the vintage fantasy board game Talisman to the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC platforms this winter. Originally published by Games Workshop in 1983, "the magical quest game" was a tabletop staple in the nerd-packs I used to run in. Although I recall the game fondly, it's one of those board games--like Monopoly--that the leading player has no obligation to complete, thereby dragging out play as long as the rest of the players can stomach it. Now in its fourth edition under the imprint of Black Industries, I'm hoping Talisman's been revised for the best.

The video game version promises a fully 3D environment (naturally), 1-4 player support, dynamic camera angles (a no-brainer), up to 25 characters from the Talisman universe (each with unique features), voice chat, and... downloadable game expansions and microcontent. The original game seemed to spawn an inordinate number of expansion packs, and I see the digital version isn't much different--except in this case, I'm sure you'll pay more for less.
  Peep-Show Potential in Sony’s ‘Home’  
Posted 2007-03-23 by Tony Walsh
Sony's upcoming 3D game lobby Home is packed with peep-show promise, allowing users to host private gatherings where media such as video may be shared. Private spaces are unmoderated, according to Sony big-shot Phil Harrison, who told semi-official Sony site Three Speech that "[P]eople can express their creativity inside Home in a wide variety of ways and it's not necessarily for us to dictate what that should be." Additionally, Harrison said that Sony hopes to offer user-to-user "transactional elements" in the future.

Where technology springs up, porn and profit naturally follows: With Home's video sharing and a transaction system, peep shows are an inevitability. You pay me in whatever filthy lucre lubricates Home's user-to-user transactions, I invite you to my screening room for a 30-minute porn clip. Since the session is private, nobody can complain--not even copyright-holders to the porn clips, who would never know whether or not infringements were taking place. Everybody wins!

This whole peep show thing isn't far-fetched when you consider users of Habbo Hotel whore themselves out for gifts of virtual furniture, or that Second Life escort services are a dime a dozen.
  PS3 Goes ‘Home’ [Updated]  
Posted 2007-03-07 by Tony Walsh
PS3 Goes ‘Home’ [Updated]
Sony gets worldy.
Thanks to readers Ryan and Victor for sending in the news that Sony has announced Home, a presumably-upcoming 3D community space for its Playstation 3 console. The free service will be accessed through the PS3's "cross media bar," allowing gamers to mingle inside a virtual world resembling Second Life and There. Users may customize the body shape and attire of their avatars using built-in and downloadable options. In-world communication tools include animated emotes, menu-driven phrases, an on-screen keyboard, and real-time voice chat with a Bluetooth-compatible headset.

According to a Sony video promoting Home, the service will "grow into a virtual network of [public and private] spaces" over time. Users will be able to carve out their own customizable private spaces for invite-only chats, or to share media stored on the PS3 via in-world screens and stereos. Users will also be able to group up and enter games together (making Home a bit of a "lobby" used to meet other players).

Continue reading: PS3 Goes ‘Home’ [Updated]
  Big Weekend For Game Consoles  
Posted 2006-11-17 by Tony Walsh
Just in case you've been living under a rock, this weekend marks a major outburst of consumer lust related to the retail availability of the Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii in North America. The two next-gen consoles took their sweet time getting to market, and now appear to be in short supply for launch weekend--conveniently, this is making for all sorts of headlines as the mainstream media boggles at rabid gamers lining up or punching each other in the face for a chance at picking one of the consoles up. We are on the cusp of a new round of the console wars. My prediction: Xbox 360 FTW, followed by the Wii, then the PS3. I'll grab a Wii in 2007, but I won't touch a PS3 unless I have to.
  Lightweight Games To Save Console Industry?  
Posted 2006-08-01 by Tony Walsh
Wired contributor David Kushner looks at the state of the console game industry in this month's magazine, finding that the content of the future will likely be distributed digitally--not physically--in the future. Kushner points to Xbox Live Marketplace, the Nintendo Wii's "always on" internet connection, and Sony's planned "e-distribution" system for the PlayStation 3, as well as discusses the rise of retro-style and casual games.

Choice quotes:
  • "It's as if only encyclopedias are being sold, and no other types of magazines or books," says Satoru Iwata, President, of Nintendo. Iwata compares typical commercial games to lighter-weight products, but it remains to be seen if "magazines or books" will sell better than "encyclopedias." Besides which, subscription-based MMOs such as World of Warcraft seem to combine the best attributes of the encyclopedias (huge chunk of content) and magazines (subscription-based, smaller chunks of content).
  • "In a few years, people will regard the current generation of games as odd and anomalously complicated... They intimidate the average person," says Jason Kapalka, chief creative officer of PopCap Games. If my living depended on making easy-to-learn casual games, I'd probably say that too. But the personal choice of whether to play Bejeweled or Half-Life 2 is based on cognitive style and/or lifestyle. I believe that gamers (as we traditionally know them) are exceptional--not average--people. Since the introduction of arcade games, I've seen an ebb and flow in the appeal of games to average (Pac Man) vs. exceptional (Asteroids) people. In the last 5 years in particular, I think more average people have been discovering their inner gamer than ever before.
  Concerning Handheld Web Content  
Posted 2006-07-27 by Tony Walsh
I've been poking around for details about the Sony PSP web browser and Opera for the Nintendo DS on the off-chance I may have time to develop content for these handheld devices.

Sony actually provides a set of browser and RSS guidelines for the PSP, and while distribution of the PDF guidelines requires a registration, I was able to grab a copy by filling in bogus information. There are also some handy unofficial stats available here.

I haven't been able to find a similar document for "Opera DS" (as I'm calling it), but I do know that the browser doesn't support plugins and "has virtually the same level of standards support as the Opera 8.5 desktop and can access the same sites, pages and Web-based applications." Obviously some clarification around "virtually the same level" would help content developers immensely.

In considering the possibilities for interesting dynamic content that doesn't rely on plugins, I've been looking over PHP, Javascript, and DHTML options. On the surface, it doesn't seem that anything excellent has been made with these technologies since the late 1990s, when Flash and Shockwave started to take off. Will developing cross-platform content (PSP and DS) require reverting back to decade-old creative options and production techniques? Seems so, initially.
  PS3:  Too Much Buck--Who Cares About the Bang?  
Posted 2006-05-08 by Tony Walsh
Sony has announced the price and launch date of its next-gen PS3 console. On November 17, 2006, the console will launch worldwide with a 20GB model and 60GB model, at a price of $499 USD (20GB) and $599 USD (60GB), or $549 CAD / $659 CAD (plus taxes, plus games). Far too expensive, no matter what the features are, if you ask me. I'm not kidding: I have no desire whatsoever to buy a console for that much money. For roughly the price of the high-end PS3, I could buy a Mac mini. For less than the price of the low-end PS3, I could buy a 60GB iPod. I could make two months of car-lease payments. I could buy an upgrade version of Flash 8. I could even pay for minor cosmetic dental surgery.

But buying a PS3 would just make me feel like an idiot.
  Miserable Failure:  UMD Movies  
Posted 2006-03-30 by Tony Walsh
When Sony's PSP handheld game console was launched with its own, proprietary Universal Media Disk format, capable of storing games and feature films, I thought to myself "Who is going to shell out for a Hollywood movie on a small screen for prices comparable to a full-sized DVD?" It seems I wasn't the only one thinking along these lines. Next Generation reports "Wal-Mart may be about to quit the UMD movie market, following a downward trend in sales. Hollywood studios are abandoning the format." Last time I checked, Wal-Mart was the largest retailer in the world, so dumping UMD disks will likely be a huge blow to Sony. Add to this the number of studios pulling out of UMD distribution, and soon, PSP owners will be left with a weak selection of PSP games for entertainment. Nintendo has got to be loving this.
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