Friday, July 17, 2009

Finally - Rock Band becomes accessible to the little guy!

What do I mean by that? Oh, just a little something called "The Rock Band Network."

For a while now, Rock Band has been the definitive game of choice by those who enjoy multiplayer music games. Sure, Guitar Hero may sell more units overall, but it over-saturates the market with a game that gets so tedious that after a while you're begging for a change. Guitar Hero even had to take a page from Rock Band's book in the end and introduce a multi-instrument game. And even though Rock Band is now falling into some of the same mistakes that Guitar Hero has fallen into (i.e. games based on one band alone that cost more money and look cooler than the one you already have therefore making an annoyed consumer), it still did something Guitar Hero didn't, and that was give a lot of credit to the little guy. While Guitar Hero tried to bring in big name bands and songs that have crazy solos that make your hands bleed due to their over complication of the instrument (but that's another rant for another day), Rock Band decided to put in some bands that weren't as known to the general public, such as Bang Camaro and Freeze Pop who, despite having the easy in-point of having direct ties to Harmonix, began to gain popularity due to the exposure of their music. Now, I'm 100% aware that Freeze Pop has been in Guitar Hero II, but let's also not forget that Guitar Hero II was the last entry in that game that Harmonix actually worked on, so no duh they got into that game. Now, however, where are you likely to say Freeze Pop and Bang Camaro downloads on your XBOX Live! or PSN? That's right - under the tab that says Rock Band.

And this is to say nothing about the other innovation Rock Band brought. The multi-instrument gameplay an obvious one, they also brought the idea of bringing in full albums for download, as well as debuting songs in their games before people got them elsewhere. Guitar Hero has since stolen both of them and then, with Guitar Hero IV, they said, "Okay, how about this - people are going to make their own songs!" A great idea, right? I mean, the fun of these games would increase a million times with the addition of user created content, so why not introduce a system like that? Only problem is that the Guitar Hero IV song-creation system ended up being a bit buggy and mostly tedious, therefore driving away a majority of the people who would have been interested in that.

But Harmonix heard the cries of the public. They heard all the people screaming, "How can I get my music into the game?!" They heard all the people whining, "Why does Stephen Colbert get a free pass to downloadable content, but we don't??" Harmonix heard, and they responded with The Rock Band Network.

"What is this Rock Band Network you speak of, Matt?" you ask in an excited tone, to which I smile knowingly. Why, my good reader, The Rock Band Network is the greatest thing Harmonix and MTV could have done to the bands no one knows about - they've made it possible for our songs to be in the game. Not just Megadeth and AC/DC and Metallica and Aerosmith and the Beatles and Taking Back Sunday and Stephen Colbert. Now it's our turn to shine. With the Rock Band Network, anyone who owns a master of a recording as well as the credentials that it's in fact your song can now submit it to a community of Harmonix-trained freelance game developers who will then go through the necessary ricketa-racketa to make your song downloadable and playable throughout the entire world. This is a great move for independent musicians who want to get their songs out, as well as a tool for labels to promote their music, because anyone can submit a song as long as it's yours. The song will then go through the process of being reviewed for inappropriate lyrics as well as making sure that it's actual original content before being put into a special Rock Band Network store where the artist can set their own price for their song. What this means is that while Harmonix can only do so much, say, 10 songs a week, this outsourcing will allow a larger amount of songs to come in as DLC per day! Talk about exciting!

Now, I know what you're all thinking: "Wow, this is absolutely amazing! Does this mean..." and I'll interrupt you there. Yes: this does mean that once the network is all set up, I will in fact submit all those awesome songs that I've written for/with A06 for you to play, starting with "Into Shadow Forest" and perhaps eventually the entire CD. Don't worry, I've got you in my heart.

Aside from my obvious egotistical advances, however, this is a great move. Sure, by uploading your one song that you put together in Garage Band in five minutes and sang over with auto-tune to be like T-Pain, you may not ever get noticed. No one may download your song. It's a high possibility. But that doesn't mean you won't get noticed. In fact, this opens up a whole new and exciting door for aspiring artists to be noticed, because if a song does well through DLC and a lot of people seem to enjoy playing it, that increases your chances of being heard by fans as well as labels. It's a very exciting opportunity for musicians that we've been whining for for a while now, and the one time I ever got to speak with anyone involved with Harmonix, there reason for not allowing user submitted content was man power. Now they have it, and now we'll get it.

So rock on, young brothers and sisters. You wouldn't have initially expected it, but it turns out that the music video game world is the next step in the underground revolution to be heard. We started playing shows, but then people stopped leaving the house. We tried Myspace and Purevolume, and it worked for Panic! At The Disco. We tried, but nobody uses Now, a whole new era for music is waiting to be discovered, and Harmonix, MTV, and Rock Band are leading the way gloriously in shining golden armor on top of a magestic Pegasus.


Xbox Live dashboard update details announced

One thing I realized after purchasing my Xbox 360 was that it was absolutely so much more than just a gaming console, it was essentially and entire entertainment system. The moment I jumped on Netflix and could watch Instant Watch through my TV without hooking up my laptop to it and the moment I realized I could watch video files from my desktop PC on my TV through it I was 100% sold.

These are the reasons I am so elated for the Xbox Live dashboard updates that will be hitting Xbox's across the nation later this summer. Some of the basic updates include the ability to browse the Netflix Instant Watch library through your 360 as well as an Avatar Marketplace. Now, that may sound silly to some, but I am oh so excited for the avatar marketplace. Any female that has created an avatar knows how absolutely horrific the selection in the current avatar clothing lineup is. White trash Sketchers? No thank you! Where are my Chuck Taylors?! The new Avatar Marketplace update will allow users to download premium items such as branded and Xbox related apparel. Another neat feature is the Movie Party that allows users to watch movies via Netflix with friends across the globe.

A full breakdown of all the dashboard updates can be found here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Game Diary: July 15. 2009 - World of WarCRACK

After going back through all the old posts on this blog, I didn't realize it had been so long since my last gaming diary. My apologies as my summer has been relatively busy. I was on vacation for the weekend of the 4th in my home state of Washington and didn't get any gaming in. Now I'm back and as far as I know I am done with vacations for the summer, which leaves my weekends open for gaming, gaming, gaming!

After my hiatus of the 4th of July weekend, I spent most of this past weekend immersed in World or Warcraft. I can't deny that I love this game so much. It has been the sole game I've played on at least a monthly basis since I first started playing in late 2004. Granted, there were a few points during that span of time where I was unemployed and poor. This prevented me from paying the $15 a month to sustain my addiction, but other then those few breaks I've been playing this game pretty consistently.

Everything you've ever heard about WoW is absolutely true. I encourage anyone with a PC/Mac and an extra $15 a month to try this game out. It may seem tedious to some and honestly, from time to time it is, but it's oh so addicting. I'm not even sure why as most of your time is spend running around the world, doing quests and killing mobs, but it still maintains it's addictability (I think I just invented a word).

This past weekend I ventured through Outland. For those who know little about WoW, Outland is the area that was added with the Burning Crusade expansion. You have to take a portal from Azeroth to get to Outland. Honestly, it's quite possibly one of the most annoying things to do ever since there are no auction houses in Outland (places where you can sell items to other players and probably the best way to make money in the game) nor are there any trainers (as you level up, certain abilities become available for your specific class, but you must go to a trainer to learn them). This means you have to take a flight path from where ever you are in Outland to the portal. Then you must go through the portal which drops you off in the Blasted Lands with no flight path to a major city in sight. You have to get on your mount and ride from the portal to the Swamp of Sorrows to take ANOTHER flight path to get to a major city. It has quite possibly been the most obnoxious task since moving onto BC content. The good news is, they are adding a portal directly to the Dark Portal in the next patch, 3.2. Kind of crazy that it's taken them this long to do that.

I've been enjoying my time in Outland. I leveled up to 64 (oh so close to 65!) this weekend and moved from Hellfire Peninsula to Zangarmarsh. Hellfire Peninsula was as far as I had gotten with my first main, so Zangarmarsh is a completely new place with new mobs, new quests, new landscape, etc. This is the first time I've experienced "new" content since I started playing in November of 2004. I've never really hated going through old world content when leveling alts before. Yes, it gets sort of boring and old after a while, but the addiction holds strong so I've always enjoyed it for the most part. It's been refreshing to be somewhere completely new and I think has completely revived my love for the game. I won't lie when I say that I slightly yearn to play WoW every day I'm at work. I wish I could take a week off and completely immerse myself in the game. I'm even more excited to move through Outland and onto Northrend (Wrath of the Lich King content). I feel as though I'm one of the few WoW players that enjoys leveling more then anything. After I finish leveling Christilena (my level 64 blood elf paladin) to 80, I plan on then moving onto Walker (my original main, a level 60 tauren warrior) and getting here to 80. End game content doesn't really seem for me as I don't quite have the time to invest in it. I'm probably one of the few solo WoW players. WoW tends to be a relatively social game, but I somehow tend to avoid all that. I think it's mostly due to my lack of time to spend playing the game. I typically only get the chance on the weekends while my girlfriend is at work. This might change a bit come this fall as she's moving to a college that's 2 hours away, but we shall see.

In summary, most of my gaming weekend was spent playing WoW. I've sort of abandoned The Sims 3 for the time being (although I'd like to get back into it) and I also didn't play much Battlefield: Bad Company either. I did find out that I'm only a mission away from beating the game, so I think that's inspired me to play a bit more. With my girlfriend leaving this fall, that probably means I'll have more time during the week to get gaming in so maybe my weekly updates won't be solely WoW related from now on.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Game Diary: July 14, 2009 - Return to Albion Edition (Fable 2)

For the past week I have been impressed with the amount of time that I have spent playing games. Alas, it is not as much as I once played (I still long for it) but it will suffice.

In the past week I got to concentrate on both Halo 3 and Fable 2.

Halo 3 is just as fun as ever (it really never gets boring) and a lot of the time I wish it were the only game that I had to play just so that I could be as good (because I do get frustrated when my trigger finger is not as itchy as it can be) at it as I once was. For the most part I even managed to avoid all of the kiddies. I do not have any particular memory of wanting to rip off my headphones from the prepubescent screeching of a child's voice. But what started me playing H3 again was the prospect of winning Recon Armor on Bungie Day. I did not have any such luck in running into the Bungie employees so I did not get to enhance my e-celebrity with a shiny piece of digital armor.

The real treat that I have been playing this week is Fable 2. I made a serious thing of it by actually installing the game to my hard drive so that I would not have to listen to the constant loading from the disc. I think that the game was originally designed with installation in mind because the silence is awe inspiring if you have ever played the game without making it a permanent resident of your hard drive. I wish I had the space so that I could keep it on there after I finish playing.

But onto the actual game playing; I forgot how much I loved this game. No, that is not right, I did not forget. I had a perfect image of what playing this game was like in my mind and when I went back to it the game was every bit as perfect as I remembered. I did not get to spend a lot of time with the game when it first came out because I wanted to make more time for Fallout 3, whose release date was only a week after Fable's. If you do not know I spent about four months completing Fallout so I only had that one week with Fable.

This time around I find myself doing exactly what I did the first time I was playing the game (and I am still playing with the same character) which is running around each town looking for better clothes, weapons, new expressions, gargoyles, and silver keys. I am doing everything but concentrating on quests (though I did have an interesting experience with Chesty).

Beating Fable 2 does not leave one with that same empty void that beating Fable 1 did. When you beat Fable 1 you were left with the most powerful weapon in the game (if you chose to keep it) and there was no one of any consequence to use it on.

I love the game all over again and there is a strong possibility that when I am finished with this character I will continue with my male character (I am currently playing a chick) who is still in childhood.

Other than playing those two fantastic games that happen to be in a game of the year bundle with an Elite console (I just realized this) I have been looking at these A-MA-ZING new speaker tags for my A40 Audio System and I have been salivating over the prospect of finally playing an Arctic Monkeys track in a rhythm game (sorry Rock Band, you dropped the ball on this one so far).

Bioware releases Mass Effect 2 gameplay; Universe explodes

SPOILER WARNING: Before watching this video or reading this post be very aware that it does spoil one of the endings of game for you. Keeping that in mind, at least to myself, it seems as though there will be a sufficient amount of endings to the game and that seeing this one will just have you being extremely careful for the duration of the game. Now that you have been warned here is the trailer that I did not think would make me as excited as it did:

Hello again. I apologize that you had to return to this universe but alas we can not live in fantasy land all day. In several months this will be a different story but for now let us discuss the video that we just watched. There is a good chance that you have already seen this video somewhere else and I take some of the blame for that but that is not why we are here today.

The first thing that I noticed when watching the video was that the graphics are vastly superior to those of the original game and all I am hoping for in regards to that is significantly decreased or no graphical pop-in.

The second and probably most important thing is the combat. YOU CAN SHOOT OUT THEIR LEGS AND THEY WILL HAVE TO CRAWL TOWARD YOU. Seeing this in the video just let me know that there are going to be some EPIC battles in Mass Effect 2. The physics and NPC animations that they added make it look and feel 100 percent believable. I think that people are going to get out of the combat exactly what they put in (ex. Shoot a Geth in the foot and he will limp toward you).

In this video they also showed the space exploration aspect of the game in some detail and I am happy to say that it looks like it is going to be a lot less boring monotonous. They also said that each place you visit is going to feel like a vastly important aspect of the game (like an episode of a sci-fi series (no recycled environments?)) hopefully much like the main planets in the first game.

And finally Commander Shepard can die at the end of Mass Effect 2 so one will have to be careful with all of the choices that they make throughout the entirety of the game.

The game looks to be one helluva roller coaster ride that I cannot wait to jump on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday MUpdate: Video Killed The Blogging Star

When you say "video game," do you ever stop and think about what it is you're saying? Those two words alone mean their own things, but when put together in a sentence, they mean one singular entity. Each piece is key to the existence of this entity, though. You can have a game without having a video, you can have a video without having a game, but if you want to watch something and play it at the exact same time, you need both the video and the game. We here at BGE celebrate the game aspect of video games everyday, but we almost never celebrate the video aspect. It's kind of a shame. Sure, we occasionally share a video in the form of an attached trailer, and Nate posted the first episode of the Guild the other day, but we never have any blogs just celebrating the video only nature of the video game world. Lord knows this is a vast universe in itself, with people all across the globe celebrating their odd love for digital imagery in interactive motion. So, since I didn't play any video games at all this week due to a complete lack of time, I figured I could provide some humorous little videos to occupy my weekly spot here in BGE. So, without further ado, here are a three videos from around the web celebrating what we love about video games.

First, we have a new song by Parry Gripp created for the 1000th episode of Attack Of The Show, starring Olivia Munn in a common problem that we men once faced when we were single.

For those who don't know Parry Gripp, he used to be the lead singer of a band called Nerf Herder (who did the theme song for Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and now he records one ridiculous song a week and posts them on YouTube. He's known for such hits as "Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom," "Spaghetti Cat (I Weep For You)," and "Hamster On A Piano." "Sherman With A Balloon" is also a favorite of mine. And for those who don't know what Attack Of The Show is, I just have to pause and ask, "Are you even a real gamer?" Sure, we don't all watch G4 religiously, but come on. Everyone knows Attack Of The Show. And don't even tell me you've never heard of G4.

Next, we have a VERY weird video that's supposed to celebrate the evolution of video gaming but then... well, it kind of does it's own thing at the end.

Video Games from MUSCLEBEAVER on Vimeo.

I'm not entirely sure how to react to this video. When it starts, it starts off very cool, with a clear tribute to video gaming. But once Lara Croft shows up... well... OK, so of course all us guys at one time during our youth tried to find that "Nude Raider" code/patch on the internet, but this ... this is just odd. I feel like if they had skipped the insane orgy at the end, it would've been a much better video. I still definitely had to post it, though.

And finally, we have the most adorable video ever in the history of ever starring the bane of my existence.

Those who don't know/remember, I recently revisited Mega Man due to Mega Man 9 coming out. I wanted to start out at Mega Man 1 and work my way up to 9. It never happened, mostly due to sheer and utter frustration. That game is one of the most ridiculously tough games I've ever played, and now I remember why I never beat it as a kid. The thing is - I could get all the way up to Wily at the end of Mega Man 1, but then I just couldn't beat him. There's only so many times you can throw your controller in anger before you just give up, you know? Mega Man is the reason I can't have nice things. All that being said, I still adore Mega Man, and that video was adorable.

Stay tuned next week when I bring even more ridiculousness to my weekly column, perhaps in the form of a three-headed golden monster.