Showing posts from May, 2008

UTA, CAA, Endeavor: You Just Don't Get It Edition

I was traveling yesterday, so I picked up USA Today. It is nice to see the paper telling middle America the future of entertainment, because if it didn't, the country would never know what they really wanted. According to Marco R. della Cava, the country is crying out for television on the Web. Never mind your dual tuner TiVo enabled, surround sounded 60" plasma screened home theater experience, when you want content from the Coen brothers, you are going to watch it in tiny 2 minute segments on your computer. With broadband, you can even make it full screen. You see, in the future, people aren't going to want their content to take advantage of the unique attributes of the interactive, lean forward medium, they will be over the novelties of connections to others, and the mouse and stuff. They are going to want to see the same execution on the new, smaller, screen. Hence our film business' heavy dependance on the language of the stage. Oh yeah, that's righ…

Bourne Conspiracy: First Reviews Edition

The first review of Bourne Conspiracy is in, and they confirm, it is not your typical movie game.

As the bold-faced centerpiece of The Bourne Conspiracy, the taut and intense melee combat does a superb job of tying the whole game together. Combat in Bourne puts an almost oppressive pressure on you due to its penchant for brutal impacts and visceral takedowns. Excellent camera-work and lighting show off the beauty of Bourne's graphics engine as well as the designers' keen grasp of photographic and cinematic composition. Film geeks will also appreciate the game's mindfulness of a cinematic concept called "mise en scène": the ability to assemble a scene or shot that takes in all necessary focal points without drawing too much attention to the fact that it's being done -- or, put simply, a attempt to ensure that everything in its correct place, from a visual standpoint. . . .
At around 10 to 15 hours, The Bourne Conspiracy isn't exactly a brief experience, bu…

Balla Tounkara: Social Gaming Revolutionary Edition

The gentlemen in the video above is Balla Tounkara. He is a 40th generation Kora player. No, it's not a typo, 40th. He plays the Kora because he was "born into it." In the US, where tracing your family back a handful of generations is unusual, an unbroken line of 40 generations is incomprehensible. The instrument is the predecessor to the harp, and the one he plays has his village in Mali painted on the front. The village hasn't really changed much since his ancestors started to play, and neither has the dissemination of the music and message. His family line spread the word of the Kora and makes as many people happy as they can with the music. Mr. Tounkara chose to go to New York, and "platform" his music in the subway. He serves his music to millions of people weekly, as they walk through the subway. If they are engaged by the free sample, they will stay and listen and then they can buy his CD, allowing him to retain them as a customer. If they…

Game Reviewer's Bill of Rights: Treaty Edition

MTV blogger Steven Totilo made some waves with his release of a proposed Game Reviewer's Bill of Rights. I can possibly accept the idea in principal, but I think a treaty is more appropriate than a Bill of Rights. He shouldn't settle for a unilateral grant from the publisher, because what the publishers give, they can take away. Perhaps he should think about a treaty like START, or the Kyoto Accord. Having been on the receiving side of more than my fair share of reviews, I believe a treaty may be welcome.

Developers and publishers may agree with the requests, so long as they are met half way. Placing myself in the position of mediator, those who know me know I am politically oriented enough to handle the task, I could imagine responses to his proposal providing:

Item 1: A final, boxed copy of a game will be provided to a reviewer prior to the writing of a review
Item 2: The review copy of a game will be made available to the reviewer at least a week prior to a game’s relea…

Mainstream View of Gaming: Rock Hero Edition

Nowhere is our inward focus more apparent than this clip from the D conference. Bobby Kotick is introducing Guitar Hero World Tour and Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal says of the new installment of the genre creating franchise: "Called Rock Band I think. . ." It is all the same to them.

Check it Out: Way Too Much Time on Their Hands Edition

Every once in a while one of those joke email blasts has something really cool.

Energy Drinks are Worse Than Games: Real Science Edition

A new study indicates energy drinks can trigger the same behavior as other studies say are triggered by games:
In March, The Journal of American College Health published a report on the link between energy drinks, athletics and risky behavior. The study's author, Kathleen Miller, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, says it suggests that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with "toxic jock" behavior, a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.Imagine the impact of telling a high school guy energy drinks lead to sex. I bet sales will go way down. It's good to be out of the headlines for a second. The drink studies get the benefit of an intelligent interpretation of the data. Rather than equating correlation to causation, they identify the attraction to energy drinks as an indication of personality type.
The finding doesn't mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data …

It Was Time for "The Talk": Parenting Anti Piracy Edition

Yesterday I had to have "The Talk" with my son. I walked into my 12 year old son's room the other day and was shocked by what he was looking at on-line.  He found a site loaded with torrents of whole, cracked, console games.

"Dad, isn't this great? Look at all the games we can get for free. How do I get them?"
"You don't, it's stealing."
"No it's not. It's downloading, they are right here on-line."
"Trust me, it's stealing. The food you eat is paid for with money from game sales. You are stealing from us. Do you want to eat tomorrow?"
"Then don't download those games. . . . and tell your friends."
I went through this with him once before.  I was really proud of myself for doing it, and delusional to think it was sufficient.  When he was about 6, my son heard Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on a television show and really enjoyed the song.  H…

Guitar Hero: Jump the Shark Edition

When I was at Eidos we got calls all the time to move Tomb Raider to new platforms. We didn't because we did not want to damage the brand by giving consumers something less than they came to know and love on the console. Sure, it happened later, but did you see Eidos' financials when they made the decision? Is this thing going to capture the magic of the console version? Was it the pushing buttons part we loved, or the looking ridiculous to anyone watching?

The good news is you don't need as much musical ability as you do to play this one from Ubi:

Jam Sessions: Producer Walkthrough.

Ownership: Have Your Cake and Eat it Too Edition

I know this sounds kind of preachy but the issue won't go away.  It rears its head in every deal. The most common "deal breaker" issue is ownership. I hear it over and over again from both sides. Publishers and developers alike consider ownership as binary. You either have it, it or you don't. This is just not the case.
My realization came from a September 1997 Forbes Magazine Article sidebar
Lucas may own The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi outright, but Spielberg virtually owns the cash flow from The Lost World and Jurassic Park.Read it again and you will quickly get the point. When it comes to the IP, Lucas owns everything, Spielberg "owns" nothing, and they are both billionaires who control their IP. To put it in game terms, Scott Miller owned Max Payne, Sony owned Jak and Daxter, Scott Miller and Jason Rubin are both rich. Owning IP is much different than owning a pair of shoes.  In law school they taught us ownership is like a bundle o…

NY Times: Voice Actor Compensation Confusion Edition

The New York Times just ran an article about voice actors in games. The Times makes it sound like Michael Holick, the voice of Niko Belic is unhappy with his deal, and the part of the quote working its way through the blogosphere makes it sound worse. The whole quote paints a mildly different story. Here is the whole quote:
“Obviously I’m incredibly thankful to Rockstar for the opportunity to be in this game when I was just a nobody, an unknown quantity,” Mr. Hollick, 35, said last week over dinner in Willamsburg, Brooklyn, shortly after performing in the aerial theater show “Fuerzabruta” in Union Square. “But it’s tough, when you see Grand Theft Auto IV out there as the biggest thing going right now, when they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars, and we don’t see any of it. I don’t blame Rockstar. I blame our union for not having the agreements in place to protect the creative people who drive the sales of these games. Yes, the technology is important, but it’s the human perf…

Pride of the Yankees:It's Never Been Easier to Do Good Edition

I received this email from talented musician and all around great guy Dan Navarro this morning:

Those of you who know me probably know my 28-year partner in Lowen & Navarro, Eric Lowen, was diagnosed in March 2004 with the degenerative, incurable, paralyzing, fatal neuromuscular disease ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease. Though most people with ALS die within 3-5 years, he is still singing and we are still touring. We also have a new album, called "Learning To Fall", releasing in a couple of months on our own label, Red Hen Records.

Last November, Eric and I gathered 30 or so people whose lives have been affected by ALS -- PALS (People With ALS), their families, friends, supporters and caregivers -- to sing on the recording of the title track of our new album. The song "Learning To Fall", written by Eric Lowen and Preston Sturges (son of the famed 1940s film director) chronicles Eric's struggle with ALS and life as he's known it.

Among the friends was …

Check it Out: Bourne Consiracy Trailer Edition

This is game play. The fight system was created with Jeff Imada, fight coordinator for the Bourne films. Its fun

Watch the trailer today, buy the game June 3.

More at Bournethegame

California Game Legislation: Shame on Yee Edition

California State Senator Leland Yee wants to protect California's children. Unfortunately, his zealotry is somehow interfering with the fact receptors in his brain.  Senator Yee was one of the primary sponsors of the California Assembly Bill 1179. The bill was approved by Governor Schwarzenegger but found unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court. While the court found a compelling interest in protecting our children, the law was not narrowly tailored.  Had Senator Yee done his homework, he would have seen there is no definitive evidence of a causal link between video games and violence, and an effective system is in place to prevent children from purchasing M rated games. 

Senator Yee portrays the law as being simple. You will be punished if you sell a violent video game to children.  That doesn't sound so bad. Most of us probably even agree.  The question is how we define violence.  If we can't clearly define it, we don't know how to comply with the law. …

EA Agrees with me: EA is Really Smart Edition

I have been writing a lot about EA lately, and I don't want this to be all EA all the time, but I should note when they are really smart, like in their perspective on the recent withdrawals from The ESA.I agree.

EA's Qs: Metacritic Harsh Dose of Reality Edition

It looks like Wall Street wasn't as excited by John Riccitiello's Jerry McGuire moment as I was. The stock is down over 10% since the announcement. The daily stock price is not the be all end all, and every CEO will tell you they do not let the stock price dictate corporate decisions, but stock hits make access to capital harder, making things like purchases of Take Two relatively more expensive. The decline is probably more attributable to the losses disclosed on last week's earning call, or the expiration of the Take Two tender offer, but the guidance of no quarterly guidance coupled with likely delays did not help. I say “likely delays” even though the company didn't he was very specific about products slipping from a quarter but staying in the fiscal year. Spore in the first quarter of 2009 would still be a fiscal 2008 release.

The point I highlighted in the earlier post, was the commitment to quality against a backstop of the objectively measurable deliver…

ESA: The Last Person Out Please Turn Off the Lights Edition

Lucasarts left The ESA today. It looks like Activision and Vivendi's withdrawal triggered the cascading effect suffered by E3 a few years back. The first pickle out of the jar is always the hardest.

I am sure Lucas's reasons for withdrawal were sound and the decision was thoughtful, perhaps The ESA is not what it used to be post Doug, but are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater? I stand by my earlier statement regarding the need for an industry organization charged with the responsibilities espoused by The ESA. Our business does not provide adequate lobbying at State or Federal level and we suffer for it. It is easy to see the anti game legislation and piracy issues which drew the publishers together to form The ESA, but what about the other issues which could be addressed through a stronger lobby? H1b visas, tax benefits provided by competing territories and who knows what else because no one is doing it? Now we see publishers are willing to withdraw if the…