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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sacred 2: Offline Coop - Nearly A Fail

The Girl and I were big fans of the Baldur's Gate and Norrath games (and their clones like Justice League) because they offered a good method of couch coop. The best implementations made it easy to create a new character, start a game, and join in and out of current games.

Sacred 2 just recently released for the PS3 and I was pretty excited to get something like the above for the new system. It's a shame that the offline coop nearly wrecked the whole thing.

So for people in our position, there's a trick to doing offline coop right. You won't find it in the manual and the game is of now help. Not sure who figured this out online, but hats off to them.

To play two characters on the PS3 and be able to save them:
- Make sure you have two users on the PlayStation 3 system. That's right, get out of the game, go to the system menu and create a new user. Just for this game.

- Log in as one user, create a character.

- Log in as the second user, create another character. You can now start a campaign and when the second controller hits start, select the first user.

- Now you can select the first character, play and save together.

There's a few odd things that still hang around offline coop - like not being able to trade with the other player. But at least with the above you can play together.

Overall opinion on the game forthcoming, but the above is just a terrible concept.

Update: Review up now.

Update: With the latest patch, you can do offline trading. When two players are close to each other, "Trade" will appear above (like "Use" or "Talk"). It's a bit unfriendly when you're in the heat of a battle, and both users need PSN accounts and be signed and it seems buggy and will flake out on detecting a signed in user ... but it does work. Mostly.

Friday, June 05, 2009

More Signs Nintendo Is Demented

Reggie "Terminator" Fils-Aime, interviewed by CNet:

With their announced new motion-sensitive control systems, Sony and Microsoft seem to be planning to aggressively go after the elusive mainstream audience. But perception-wise, at least, Nintendo maybe has the opposite problem: You've got the mainstream. How do you reach that core gamer?

Fils-Aime: We have near-term, mid-term and long-term opportunities. The near-term opportunity is the consumer who owns an PS3 or an Xbox 360 and has been bad-mouthing Wii to their friends. We can reach that consumer with games like The Conduit or Tiger Woods with Wii Motion Plus. The mid-term opportunity is the more mainstream consumer who saw Wii at a friend's house but just needs a little extra incentive to get into our game. That's what Wii Motion Plus and Wii Fit Plus and new Super Mario Bros. Wii will hopefully achieve. And the long-term opportunity is that person who currently says, "I don't play video games and I have no interest in playing video games."

The problem Nintendo has is that if that is seriously their near and mid-term strategies - they're pretty fscked. I don't care how impressive previews of the The Conduit may be - you can count the number of Halo fans who are getting a Wii to play it on your right hand. Especially when any gamer compares Nintendo's networking with Xbox Live.

And this fascination with Tiger Woods, a long running EA Sports franchise which sells will on every platform as some kind of Wii Motion Plus catch is just fascinating. Perhaps for the hardcore golfers who just loves to actually practice their swings ... maybe.

Honestly, I think you can sum up Nintendo's philosophy with this: "That's what Wii Motion Plus and Wii Fit Plus and new Super Mario Bros. Wii will hopefully achieve."

Hardware, hardware and more Mario. That's their plan. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft have technically competent motion sensing solutions coming down the pipe and all the high def glory that gamers do (sorry Reggie) care about. In particular, Microsoft's lower price points will be able to put pressure on the Wii marketshare. Just wait for the Xbox 360 Arcade + Natal + 360 Sports package.

That's really the Wii's best hope - that Sony and Microsoft charge too much for their solutions.

Interview continues:
Can you talk about what you saw from Microsoft and Sony when it comes to the motion-sensitive controllers. It will be a sort of a new arms race.

Fils-Aime: The only thing I'll say is a rhetorical question. Is it fun? If it's fun, then I tip my hat and say, "Well done." But what's happening sounds to me a lot like, "Who's got the prettiest picture. Who's got high-definition. Who has the best processing power?" It sounds like technology, when the consumer wants to be entertained. Our focus is how do we take active play and make it entertainment. And that's what we're going to continue to focus on. And I think we've done a great job with Wii Motion Plus, and the Balance Board. And we're going to continue to push the envelope in ways to make it more fun.

When this gen of consoles took off, the Wii was innovative. A year from now, or maybe less, it will just look inexpensive. Which isn't nearly as brand friendly (though it doesn't hurt). Nintendo got here by pushing the envelope - but now they think pushing the envelope is measuring your heart beat and painting the Wii black.

Nintendo needs a better answer - and here's a tip: it is not more hardware.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Armchair Analysis: E3 2009 Keynotes

I will probably never attend E3, as I am unlikely to shell out for it myself and don't foresee an employer willing to do the same.

Should not stop one from reaching from afar and being highly critical.

Nintendo (Joystiq Coverage)
Let's play a game. Let's strip everything from Nintendo's keynote which is not either a) a rehash of an existing Nintendo icon or b) requires a new piece of hardware to play.

We get:

  • Dead Space: Extraction
  • Conduit
  • Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
  • Flipnotes Studio (DS)
  • Style Savvy (DS)
  • Cop: The Recruit (DS)
  • Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion (DS)
  • Golden Sun DS (DS)
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10

Now, a magic trick. Stare at that for a bit and then mentally remove DS games, light gun games and sequels to other well known franchises. It's like those 3D things at the mall, but in reverse. Ok, so that last one might not be entirely fair - the industry is pretty franchise driven all in all, but we're talking about Resident Evil, Final Fantasy and Tiger Woods for fsck's sake. It's not like a sequel to Crackdown on the 360 - there's already what, like 50 Resident Evil games for the Wii?? And Tiger Woods? You actually show Tiger Woods during a keynote? Let me guess - it looked like a damn golf game.

For me, the message from Nintendo is - love our hardware and love our characters. Or piss off.

Microsoft (Engadget Coverage)
Microsoft had Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney? Wow. If only it was a game I cared about.

Oooo, look - Felicia Day...

OK, so would it be fair to play the same game here with Microsoft? Depends on your level excitement over, say, a new Halo game versus a new Metroid game. If I went by number of sales, I'd say a lot more people are excited by a new Halo game, and a new Crackdown game, and a new Left 4 Dead game, etc., than a new Metroid. Maybe Mario is a bigger draw, I don't know. I didn't finish Galaxy.

And that's accounting for the Wii outselling everyone by what, like 2 to 1 every month? Plus, Microsoft had goodies to add to Xbox Live, and Xbox Live Arcade. Did Nintendo announce a new buddy system? Better networking? Better lobbying? No. They did not.

And of course, Microsoft has this Natal announcement. Motion sensing by camera, no other hardware required. There's some impressive videos and as mentioned before on Cathode, early opinions are pretty high. I think Natal's microphone seals it for me as a show stealer for E3 - even if Nintendo had it with Wii Talk first. Sony needs to step up there.

I'm not a 360 user, and I still thought Microsoft had a pretty good showing.

Sony (Joystiq Coverage)
Sony's done an excellent job of shoring up their software glut - even if they haven't been able to stave off Microsoft's exclusivity attacks completely. Again, if we play the same game here - Sony still showed off some interesting new titles like ModNation, MAG and Agent. The big franchises are going more cross-platform and what exclusive Sony shows seem pretty darn good.

Sony's pushing the PSP Go pretty hard, and I'm just not that interested. Seems like a good evolution, even if it is a bit late and still about $50 too expensive. The Motion Controller might look a bit like a sex toy, but I can't deny their argument that some games just need buttons. I still think they need an EyeToy update that includes a microphone, however (I'm an idiot).

PSN has been good to Sony and I'm glad to see them pushing it - but there are some key developments, like Netflix integration, missing from the deck. And we can all agree Home needs some serious work. Added involvement is nice and all, but some structural changes (like not having 50 people and bubble machines crowd a Silent Hill lobby) would have been nice.

No slim PS3 announcement, interestingly enough.

All in all, a decent showing - but a bit mixed for me.

Signs Nintendo Might Be Losing It

Microsoft showed off Project Natal to the press at E3 and the opinions seem to run from the positive to the wildly optimistic. Camera-based, Microsoft's motion solution doesn't require waving any hardware around. While products for the device (as well as the device itself) aren't expected until around 2010, it is reported to be quite functional and user friendly already.

Rumors abound that Sony has a motion trick up its sleeve as well, either an adaption of the Sixaxis (a more Wii like solution), or camera based like Natal. However, it looks like it might be a no show for E3.

Nintendo, on the other hand, has announced Wii Vitality. This is a heart rate monitor that hooks into your wiimote.

Let me say that again: it is a heart rate monitor. For your wiimote.

Microsoft has a potential Wii-killer (or at least a Wii-beater-upper) and Nintendo has a heart rate monitor. For your wiimote. OK, so technically they also have Wii Motion Plus with exactly zero titles I can think of that would really make me want to buy it.

Gamers are begging Nintendo for a better software library. While some gems, like Boom Blox (review pending), might be going unnoticed - the amount of shovelware on the Wii is rather embarrasing. Aside from Nintendo's own first party titles, which often ship with some new hardware gimmick, the Wii has some pretty slim pickings. While titles like Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party make excellent use of the Wii Fit Board, there are precious few developers looking to go outside the nunchuk as an accessory.

So why does Nintendo insist on making more of them? And then... even more?

They're still making money hand over fist, but Wii Fit can only sell for so long - and I don't think a heart rate monitor (for your wiimote) will help that. If Microsoft delivers a decent Wii Play clone in early 2010, Nintendo might be picking some Wii Teeth off the floor.

Update: Sony just showed their motion solution - a wand combined with EyeToy to deliver "1:1" sensing.