Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Ten years ago today I woke up early in the morning and rode a bus downtown before taking a light rail train to, what was at the time the closest Best Buy. I walked out with a white box emblazoned with an orange swirl.

Yes, if you bought one then you already know that today is the tenth anniversary of Sega’s US launch of their greatest achievement and biggest failure. The Dreamcast was the little machine that could do everything except compete against the PlayStation 2 launch hype.

Bundled with a 56k modem for online gaming the Dreamcast was ahead of it’s time. The Dreamcast was also the first console to support progressive scan (albeit through an optional adapter). In addition it supported mouse, keyboard and microphone peripherals.

In a way the Dreamcast was too much of a good thing. Sega’s much touted GD-ROM anti-piracy method was cracked within a year of the US launch. Rampant piracy combined with an already low price point resulted in a product line that was impossible to sustain. With the PlayStation 2 already on shelves and the Xbox and GameCube on the horizon Sega threw in the towel and walked out on the hardware business.

It’s a shame that the Dreamcast had such a short lifespan, but we should be happy it existed. Without the Dreamcast Microsoft may never have entered the console market. Microsoft would then never have developed Xbox Live and online gaming on consoles would be very different and probably not as good.

So dust off that copy of Shenmue and rejoice. Today is Dreamcast Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

When to review

Recently several news outlets have delayed reviews of Killzone 2 because they were given review code and not final code and because the multiplayer features are difficult to test. Reportedly the code submitted to outlets for review was older and had bugs which were removed from the retail version. This raises some interesting issues.

If a publisher submits pre-release code for review then they must have a certain amount of faith in the product. Still it’s somewhat unreasonable to review admittedly un-finalized code as a finished product. It’s also unreasonable to presume that all of the admitted bugs have actually been fixed. The question here is one of editorial policy: Do you take the publisher/developer’s word at face value? Do you preface your review with a note about pre-release code and review the code as is? Do you just wait and review the retail version?

There are legitimate arguments to be made for every option. The ultimate issue is that whatever policy a publication decides to use, they have to use it across the board. If you wait for a retail copy of Killzone 2 then you have to wait for a retail copy of Halo: ODST or any other game. At the same time if you notify your readers of pre-release code in one review, you must do it in all reviews.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gravity Bone


Gravity Bone is a stylish independent game. It's hard to say a whole lot more about it because in the time it takes me to write it, nay the time it take you to read it, you could have played it.

There's the problem. The game is too short. It's like reading the epilogue to a novel and nothing else, at once engrossing and disappointing. Gravity Bone grips you and then throws you off a cliff without so much as a hello.

The upsetting thing is that while what little there is of Gravity Bone is very good, it's so short it's almost bad. The way the game is designed (there are at least four item slots, but only three are used) makes it feel like an aborted attempt at worst and a demo at best. The whole middle of the game is just missing.

The thing is I still love it.

Gravity Bone via Offworld
screen shot blatantly stolen from Offworld

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bit. Trip: Beat

Over on Offworld Brandon Boyer has posted a video of Beat, one of the six games in Gaijin Games' WiiWare offering Bit. Trip. The thing looks to be made of pure concentrated awesome:

It's like something I'd expect to see on Live Arcade or PSN; stylish and minimal yet impossibly shiny. Nintendo needs to let people know that games like this and other WiiWare titles exist. I'm willing to bet that half of the Wii userbase doesn't even know that it can connect to the net.