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Monday, July 14, 2008

E3 Lite, Day One

posted by on July 14 at 13:40 PM

Microsoft has tried for decades to take over the living room, starting with the turd known as WebTV. Result? Four thousand grandmas are still using the thing to forward Christian redemption chain e-mails. Nice work, MS. They’ve done better as video game makers, at least in the States, but their secondary goal of hawking movies and TV shows—a huge part of the Xbox 360—has been somewhat muted. TV episodes at $2 a pop? No thanks, and movie rentals, while comparably priced with PPV, are difficult to navigate with the 360’s clumsy interface.

If Microsoft wants to outdo the Wii, it shouldn’t try with weird games with add-ons (like You’re In The Movies [requires a camera] and Lips [requires a microphone], both announced today at their Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference). The novelty of gizmo-games like Wii Sports and Guitar Hero must wane at some point, so it’s good to see Microsoft try a parallel route—make the Xbox a dominant digital media center before anybody else gets there. Say hello to the first great blows in that direction: Starting this fall, NetFlix users will stream movies off their Xboxes, done with a new interface that will make navigating long lists of TV shows and movies much simpler. Seems fair to expect a neutered NetFlix film selection on the game console—much like the selection you can currently stream to a laptop—but it’s a huge step in the right direction, and it’s Xbox-exclusive. Sony can tout Blu-ray high-def movies on its systems, but if digital distribution is the future, Microsoft has just taken the lead.

Other announcements: Xbox 360 is gonna get the next Final Fantasy game, an announcement nobody predicted—and I could care less. Look at the title of the game: Final Fantasy 13. Thirteen? What else can the game do that it hasn’t done 12 times before? I know, people in Japan go ape for anything with an “FF” attached, and Microsoft could use a sales boost there (Sony’s had the lock on that series for years), but Final Fantasy games represent everything I get tired of as a grown-ass gamer: long grinds of quests, dialogue that is “good enough,” melodrama, birds that are ridden as horses, etc etc. Every time fanboys go on about how games are maturing and becoming art, I point at this series’ human characters with cat-ears and make a fart noise.

Speaking of gizmo-games, Nintendo’s announced a Wii add-on for motion control. Say what? This Wii MotionPlus add-on will apparently improve the motion sensing—or, I should say, make the Wii Remote actually work for anything other than Wii Bowling. You ever play a game other than Wii Sports and been asked to “turn a key” or something? The key will never turn. Nintendo will announce tomorrow what new games this gizmo will support. I’m crossing my fingers for Punch-Out Wii, but it’ll probably just be Brain Training Wii with support for scratching your forehead.

Oh, and let’s earn that “Nerd” tag:

(PS: Xbox players might’ve heard that a demo for the long-awaited Too Human is now online. I played two minutes of it and turned it off. Talk about an ugly, hard-to-control, harder-to-see game. Should’ve held off on releasing that demo, MS.)

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"Every time fanboys go on about how games are maturing and becoming art, I point at this series’ human characters with cat-ears and make a fart noise."

Does this also mean that bad movies make good movies less deserving of the label 'art'?

I think you lost me there...

Posted by RiotNrrrd | July 14, 2008 1:51 PM

Dude, Too Human releases on August 14th and has been in development for like 9 years. I don't think waiting to release the demo would do any good.

Posted by Dude | July 14, 2008 1:53 PM

MegaMan 9! Just found out about it today, it may not have been E3-related though.

Posted by A | July 14, 2008 1:53 PM

too human wasn't TOO bad. I played about 10 minutes of the demo this morning. I'll lump it in the category of games with odd control options that aren't so bad once you just do as they say and not as you want.

The only real gripe I had about it was not being able to skip cutscenes. I know they are trying to build a strong story line, but I got tired of hearing about Oden pretty quick.

What really matters to me is the loot/item/store/crafting and I didn't get a chance to dig into that.

Posted by drew | July 14, 2008 2:00 PM

There has been a Netflix plugin out for some time now, it's third party plugin that you install Vista Media Center, and then if you use your xbox as an extender to that machine you then have the ability to stream any netflix on your Xbox.

I don't think gizmo games are a novelty that will go away, as you see the market open up to a larger variety of people you will see more of a variety of games (not less).

Also, navigating the movie downloads on the xbox is only difficult if you're retarted.

Posted by Todd | July 14, 2008 2:02 PM

Admitted (ashamed?) FF fanboy here. I'm quite surprised Sony lost their exclusivity clause with Squaresoft, but I'm not sure if this is a dealbreaker or anything. How well did Lost Odyssey or Blue Dragon do on the 360? Not very.

Posted by kid icarus | July 14, 2008 2:26 PM

Well I for one am less excited for Too Human now that Diablo III has been announced. That'll sort out my hack-and-slash, leveling and looting fix in a bad way.

Posted by Sir Learnsalot | July 14, 2008 2:32 PM

The Xbox's dashboard was in serious need of an overhaul. I'm not sure if this is better, but at least they're trying. It's a mess (Todd, perhaps not all of us enjoy holding LS down or paging over and over again to find a title that we KNOW begins with T, for instance).

Sam, what does MS have to do with Too Human. The game is developed by Silicon Knights. Yeah, MS is publishing it, but the suckiness of the demo is not their fault. On the graphics front, I remember hearing reviewers discuss the quality thereof, so either they're still living in 2001, or the demo has toned-down textures and meshes to better fit on the intertubes.

Finally, I don't understand the "Microsoft could use a boost in Japan" statement wrt FF. I've heard it elsewhere, and it just doesn't compute. Perhaps for an already-owns-an-Xbox Japanese person, this makes sense: they'll grab the Xbox version. But the number of 360 owners is so diminishingly small in Japan that I can't help but think that this will do nothing to change that. The PS3 version will sell well, and the Xbox version will just be there for the Japanese that already own an Xbox but not a PS3.

The Xbox FF is most important for American fans.

Posted by Jason Petersen | July 14, 2008 2:44 PM

It's too bad the XBox craps out, because making Netflicks available is a good idea. I'm all for minimizing the number of components in my living room cabinet.

As for the "turn a key" thing--I've never had a problem with that function. However, I've only had to use it a handful of times with WarioWare and Lost Wind.

FF character design is all kinds of cheesey since Yoshitaka stopped doing it. That said, if FF doesn't have "Tactics" in the title, I'm not interested.

Posted by tabletop_joe | July 14, 2008 2:48 PM

It's all about the light sabers.

But it will make it fun to play WoW on a Wii.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 2:55 PM

oh, and Diablo III.

That would be fun too.

But I doubt it will be Wii-capable, more likely the old PC/Mac/Linux paradigm.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 14, 2008 2:58 PM

OMG, it's Netflix, regular capitalization. Hire a copy editor, woulda?

Posted by Emily | July 14, 2008 3:22 PM

Why are you so angry, Sam?

Posted by Zow | July 14, 2008 4:05 PM

I had web tv because I was looking for a very cheap way to stay online. They should charge $5 a month for THE Turd known as webtv. It's like comparing playskool to a $2000 Lenovo.

Posted by ihatewebtv | July 14, 2008 4:31 PM

Here's a link to vmcNetFlix, the plugin that gives you NetFlix streaming. It has been around for a while...

Posted by Todd Maloy | July 14, 2008 4:36 PM

Here's a blogpost on LifeHacker with clearer instructions to install vmcNetFlix...

Posted by Todd | July 14, 2008 5:00 PM
Posted by Todd | July 14, 2008 5:01 PM

Wow, I don't know how the heck they managed to grab FF13. I have to admit being a little annoyed, I've got a PS3 primarily for the (used to be) better catalogue of Japanese games.

Oh, and just for the record, there were no cat ears in FF12. Great voice acting, interesting dialogue - and they lost the standard Japanese stand-in-a-line combat. It was my first FF game, and I absolutely loved it. I'd love to hear what games you would put above it in a RPG genre, because frankly I think there hasn't been much out that compares.

I suppose the other question would be, and I ask this as a grown-ass gamer myself - have you actually played them?

Posted by wench | July 14, 2008 5:30 PM

FF7 and FF12 are two very excellent games to play.

I totally agree with wench above.

Posted by robot2501 | July 14, 2008 5:48 PM

@8: FF sells systems in Japan, period. But both of our points are moot; FF13 won't be on the Japanese Xbox 360, turns out.

@18: If you want a better formulaic RPG, I'm fond of Lost Odyssey (made by a lot of people from the original FF teams). Allegiant to the old guard, yet somehow refreshing, and--at least at the outset--full of good acting, a good script, and compelling mini-stories tucked into the "dream" sections. Some people absolutely love to be sucked into 50-hour quests, even if the payoff is in the grind rather than a series of great stories or moments. But FF games have been doing the same thing for too long to get me jostled anew (FF12's "active" battle system is just a boring version of WoW without the fun of the latter's massive co-op). I'm happy being outside the fence on this issue with the Slog core gamers (nothin' new).

Posted by Sam M. | July 14, 2008 7:05 PM

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