&t Phil on Games: August 2007 <$BlogMetaData$;

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Interview with me on Joystiq.com

I came back from lunch, and there it was! Sweet!

Phil Cohen talks up God of War: Betrayal

26 Days

w00t! Congrats to everyone at Bungie and Microsoft!

Press Release:

Halo 3 Goes Gold

Most Anticipated Title of 2007 Released to Manufacturing, Begins Final March to Xbox 360

The wait is almost over. "Halo 3," the final chapter in the groundbreaking "Halo" trilogy and the most anticipated game release of 2007, has been released to manufacturing.

Three years in the making by renowned developer Bungie Studios, "Halo 3" is now finished and will begin its journey to store shelves around the world in less than four weeks. "Halo 3," which has already set new records as the fastest preordered game in history, has exceeded one million presales in North America alone. The title is set to shatter day-one entertainment sales records when it is released worldwide beginning Tuesday, Sept. 25.

"This is a huge milestone for us and a big cause for celebration at Bungie and Microsoft Game Studios," said Harold Ryan, Studio Head at Bungie Studios. "This is the game we've always wanted to make and certainly the best game our studio has developed. We can't wait for gamers to get their hands on it on Sept. 25."

Created by legendary developer Bungie Studios and exclusive to the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system, "Halo 3" will set a new standard for interactive storytelling and social gaming by engaging consumers worldwide in Master Chief's epic battle to save humankind. In November 2004, the world's view of video games changed forever with the release of "Halo 2," which generated a record-setting $125 million (U.S.) in sales within the first 24 hours and changed the way people think about interactive entertainment. Three years later, it remains the most-played game on Microsoft's Xbox LIVE® online gaming and entertainment network, with nearly 1 billion hours of online gaming logged to date.

Monday, August 27, 2007

28 days

28 days to Halo 3!

It's not a big secret that Microsoft and Peter Jackson are having "issues" getting their script funded. Though I'm disappointed that the initial deal for the film fell through, I don't blame the film studios. 98% of all video game movies are complete garbage. The sales of these films in theater tickets and DVD are projected out and based on what % of each demographic they assume will buy the film. In this case, they would assume: 12 million Halo fans (probably more like 30 to 50 million aware of the brand), and they would cautiously aim at whatever the high % prediction since it's one of the biggest game franchises ever, but so was Super Mario Bros.

Since the film deal fell through, and with Halo 3 only a month away, Microsoft has been releasing short "live-action" clips based on the Halo universe, the second of which was released today. Though some scoff at the quality of the film, I see a stroke of brilliance. It seems to me and many others that Microsoft and Peter Jackson's WETA team have gotten together with a reletively tight budget, and are releasing a variety of these shorts as screen tests to convince a studio to give them the big bucks for a feature film. Though the screen test film quality isn't exceptional, they spent their money in very specific places to plant the thought "this would look amazing if it had full funding". For example, they built a fully functional, drivable Warthog, and put their special effects effects budget into the flying Pelican craft, but spent little on the rest of the effects, like lasers, explosions, and such.

And that's what it's all about; convincing others to give you money. It's not that the movie studios don't want to release the movie, it's that Microsoft won't budge on reducing the estimated budget that would bring the script to life (and if you've seen Lord of the Rings or the new King Kong, then you know the type of quality Microsoft and Peter Jackson are going for). I think MS/Jackson are doing the right thing here; they believe if you can't do this franchise justice on the big screen, don't do it at all. They are not backing down, but they aren't giving up either. I really hope that wiser heads prevail.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Playing Favorites

The release of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360 is so close! I haven’t been this excited for a video game launch since, well, Halo 2. It’s safe to say that Halo is my all time favorite video game franchise to date. My excitement as an “adult” for these games is the equivalent of my childhood excitement for all things Star Wars or Indiana Jones (which admittedly continues to this day). I actually feel the kid in me break out for a moment when I think about the game, allowing me a taste of the time in youth where the world was magical.

This is a very bold statement for me. I rarely say that something in entertainment is “my favorite”. I enjoy all genres of movies, music, and games. Beyond my demand for quality from these experiences, what you would consider “my favorite” at any given moment is dictated by my current mood. For example, I love Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, but I really just want to sit down and watch Night at the Museum sometimes. I like 24 and The Shield, but sometimes I’d rather just watch Seinfeld. I like Metallica and Slayer, but enjoy Rolling Stones and The Beastie Boys more at times. All of these can be considered “my favorites”, but none can be called “my favorite” alone.

Of course there are plenty of other video game franchises that I play and enjoy. I still play Super Mario, Civilization, Ghost Recon, etc... Most of the time, given the choice to play a Halo game or something else, I’ll probably play the non-Halo title (just like you wouldn’t watch Citizen Kane the majority of the time you choose to watch a movie).

But how can I call Halo my favorite game franchise? There are certainly titles that surpass aspects of the Halo games; some games have better graphics at their equivalent time of release, some have better voice acting, some have better stories, and some have better gameplay. The Halo games, so far, have managed to find the perfect balance between these multiple aspects. Perfect at none, but fantastic in all, is what makes Halo such solid, intriguing games.

If you need me, I'll be on Xbox Live the night of September 25th.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Patches the Horse

This is ripe video game material... What kind of game ideas did you get from watching this video?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hezbollah Game Celebrates War vs. Israel

My buddy and fellow Producer, Al, brought this article to my attention in light of my post from a couple weeks back. It leaves me feeling very conflicted.

Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2007 2:07 PM
Categories: Beirut, Lebanon
By Richard Engel, Middle East bureau chief

It was a launch party that would have made Microsoft proud, if Microsoft were an anti-Israeli militant group.

Hezbollah held on Thursday what was basically a giant garden party to announce the release of its latest video game, "Special Force II," in which players destroy Israeli tanks, shoot down helicopters and destroy warships; killing Israeli soldiers earns bonus points.

Victory party
All week, Hezbollah has been holding victory celebrations to coincide with the end of the conflict in August 2006, which Hezbollah considers a major victory. It’s a war Hezbollah says is not over.

In a speech earlier this week, Hezbollah leader Sayid Hassan Nasrallah declared there is "no ceasefire" with Israel, but only a "halt of offensive operations." Nasrallah also claimed his forces are fully rearmed with rockets that can reach "anywhere" in Israel, but added that he does not want another war.

Until there is a new war – many Lebanese fear it could happen at anytime – young people here can now relive the fighting on their computers.

Hezbollah’s celebrations and new video game may also have a domestic political goal. Many Lebanese now question if the nation gained anything from what Nasrallah calls his "Divine Victory" over Israel.

During the war, as Israel targeted – Lebanese say indiscriminately – the country’s infrastructure, most people here were united behind Hezbollah. But today, Lebanon remains in tatters, and on-going Hezbollah-led protests against the U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fouad Siniora have closed most of the businesses in downtown Beirut and scared away tourists. Lebanon has not moved forward since the war. Lebanon has turned on itself. But that’s not part of the video game.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Graphs and Spreadsheets

When I work on game designs, I write down loose descriptions in a MS Word document of what the general gameplay, setting, and development goals are. MS Word is fantastic for creating design documents, but I find the 2 places where I hash out the finer details of how the game generally functions are in my brain, and in MS Excel. Composing all of my ideas into spreadsheets and graphs gives my design ideas some sense of tangibility beyond a descriptive paragraph. If I have the variables in the game set up in a spreadsheet, it allows me to play around with combining these elements and tweaking them to get a better idea of what works, what doesn't, and what I'm still missing well before any coding starts.

In the end, a working prototype is the best way to determine if your gameplay ideas work or not, and the best way to tweak them so they're just right. But I try my best to determine what works or not ahead of time by playing with these graphs and spreadsheets. It saves money, time, and a shred of sanity.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Equal Opportunity Violence

This past week, a blog was posted that caused quite a stir in the game world. The writer was deeply troubled by the upcoming game, "Resident Evil 5." The famous zombie-themed survival-horror franchise is moving into some generic African village setting. The populous has become infected/driven mad by something, and it’s up to the player (a white character) to fight through and discover the source of the mystery. Since the setting is in Africa, the player is inevitably gunning downs hordes of black people.

On the surface, it sounds horrible, encouraging a white player character to shoot black people because they are rabid killers bent on your destruction… but back up. This is not the first game that has the player in situations where they have to shoot black people. More important, most human-target games have the player killing white people (though admittedly, there are only a handful of cases where the player controls a black person doing the killing). Therefore, does this not mean that most black gamers have spent their lives virtually murdering white people for years? And let’s not even get into the number of aliens, mutants, and masked ninjas that are virtually slaughtered on a daily basis.

Obviously, these complaints are ridiculous. If the game’s entire premise was that ‘black people are bad and must be killed’, then of course there should be an outcry against it. However, this game’s premise isn’t racially motivated by any stretch. It just so happens the story's setting requires that there be black people to make it believable.

When it comes down to it, the only real-life group of humans that are universally acceptable to kill in video games are Nazis, and they are white (at least a good Nazi is). I can’t tell you how many I’ve killed in video games I’ve played; they make great bad guys, and who is going to care if you kill a virtual fascist? Maybe Illinois Nazis… I hate Illinois Nazis.