Gosh, just look at the time!

It’s been slightly under an entire calendar year since OpenAlpha lived in any form. Last year was not a good year for me. There were brief periods of amazing joy in the first half of 2011 — CES, E3, Montreal Grand Prix (F1) — and then a crappy straight downward line from there. I’m not sad to see 2011 fade away! I’ll take the lessons learned the hard way to heart and improve myself. Oh, and have lots and lots and lots of fun whenever possible. My life needs more fun and that includes more gaming and writing ^_^

I get to kick 2012 off right, too! This time next week I’ll be en route to Sweden for the Paradox Interactive Convention 2012.

Did I mention that we’re gonna be at Häringe Castle? No? Cause we are. Woo! It’s ok to hate me right now. I can hardly believe I’m going either! For you Paradox fans out there, take a look at the Games list and lemme know if you have specific questions for to me to ask people. I’ll be going to the event by myself, but I know I can wrangle some help to get some video done. It’s too bad I won’t be covering the Paradox con for GamePro like I did last year (not that I can link you because all GamePro links are now dead. So much great work by everyone, just, *poof!*), but all my musings and videos will show up or be linked to from right here. If all goes well with my phone internationally, you can also check out any super quick impressions on twitter: @jenncutter

General Housekeeping

I switched the OpenAlpha theme for ease of updating and formatting for both video and written and gallery posts. I’ve had several quadrillion ideas for OA over the last year, and I waited to bring the site back until I was absolutely certain I could implement them, and do so consistently. I’m so excited to be filming again, and getting to do so overseas in a country I’ve been dying to visit since I was little is such a wonderful bonus!!

Looking forward to sharing all my random gaming love with you again!
jenn

 

Twisted Pixel v. Capcom Mobile

“Nuh-uh, Twisted Pixel, our exploding guy versus scientists and intentionally similarly titled game is TOTALLY different from yours!” — me putting words in Capcom’s mouth.

Thanks to the excellent round up by GameInformer for putting all of the info in one handy place. Do check out their article though I will embed the videos here, too.

Last summer Twisted Pixel released ‘Splosion Man on XBLA as part of the ‘Summer of Arcade’ series. Though it was well-reviewed, and friends of mine would just not shut up about it (and the extremely likable donut song), I never played past the demo. There were too many other games going on at the time and I figured I could always come back to it. You know how it is. Here’s what it looks like in action (starting around 11 seconds in):

 

You’re a man. You explode. You break stuff. Simple concept, great execution. gg TP (*giggle*). Then Capcom Mobile comes out with MaXplosion:

 

Hmmmmmmmmmmm, yeah. Everyone picked up on it. No foolin’, eh.

Base mechanic? check.
Sound style? got it.
Story concept? Big Science and M.A.D Science.
Title? Holy crap, have some dignity there.

It’s even easier to paint Capcom as super evil supreme picking on the much-loved Twisted Pixel thanks to the information that ‘Splosion Man was initially pitched to their console division. This incident has brought to light that Mobile is its own division, but when a company like Capcom, big and scattered around the globe as they are, makes this kind of move, it will not be ignored. Internet social media rallied behind TP and CEO Michael Wilford made a statement about the controversy.

“We’re definitely not going to pursue legal action. While I think the similarities are pretty nauseating, we’re too small to take on a company like Capcom. That, and we owe them one for inventing Mega Man, so we’ll let them slide. I just hope they’re not counting on the fact that indies can’t fight back.

“In general, anything that would take our focus off of making games would be a bad decision, I think. We just need to keep our heads down making the next thing so that Capcom has something to steal next year. But I have to say, the amount of support we’ve seen in the last 12 hours on Twitter and over email has been awesome, and I think that’s better than wining [sic] a stupid lawsuit or anything like that.

“We’ll just have to make our own mobile game and I’m hopeful that Capcom will see that robbing our *** wasn’t worth it in the long run. We’ll let you know when we have something on the mobile front to talk about, but now we have added incentive!”

Look at it the other way: just how fast would TP be smacked down were Capcom first to market here? Yeah.

Capcom’s response wasn’t really helping matters along, not that a large corporate entity often makes statements exactly like this. The non-apology, safe in the knowledge that internet rage is fleeting and the general iPhone market will completely not care, follows:

“While Twisted Pixel did have discussions with our console game team about publishing ‘Splosion Man’ on game consoles, Capcom Mobile is a different division of Capcom with separate offices and as such, had no prior knowledge of any meetings between the console game team and Twisted Pixel. ‘MaXplosion’ was developed independently by Capcom Mobile. Nonetheless, we are saddened by this situation and hope to rebuild the trust of our fans and friends in the gaming community.”

‘Saddened’. That’s up there with ‘I’m sorry if someone was offended’. A total fauxpology. An answer so that people will just go away. Which part are they sad about? Sad about the shocking similarities that Wilford called “complete theft”? Sad that people noticed? Sad that they are releasing it anyway? I truly believe they didn’t know about the meetings; that happens all the time. Anyone that has ever worked in even a medium-sized office knows that management is often clueless that two teams are working against each other by accident. But it’s not like ‘Splosion Man was an invisible release. It was also, oh, in June 2010. I cannot believe that Capcom Mobile has been working on MaXplosion for all that long. This is not the type of game that takes years of work in a bunker to complete. Even the title just feels callous. Had they waited another year or so (though that would run into Ms. ‘Splosion Man), it might not have attracted this kind of negative attention. You cannot do a search for MaXplosion without all the theft posts atop the results.

If studios weren’t free to use the mechanic of running and jumping and dodging, our gaming catalogues would be much, much thinner. MaXsplosion seems akin to having two guys from, uh, Newark fall into a pipe in orange and turquoise overalls, jumping on walking carrots and lizards to save a queen. Much too close, guys. This is why people are calling Capcom Mobile ‘Poopy Heads’ on social media sites.

Ok, so I’m calling them Poopy Heads on twitter, but maybe it can start a movement.

Since Twisted Pixel won’t be spending their limited resources on a court case, I hope that this exposure has led to more sales of ‘Splosion Man on XBLA. Should they release it on the App Store themselves, I’ll buy it. And maybe Ms. ‘Splosion Man will have some new twist that makes me grab it on launch

 

 

GT5: Black Flagged

 
        The solid black flag is used to summon a driver to the pits. It is usually used to punish a driver or team for disobeying the rules, but may also be used when a car is suffering a dangerous mechanical failure, such as a loose hood or dragging bumper, or even calling a driver to the pits when their radio is not working. In Formula One races, the black flag means an immediate disqualification for the driver involved. The car number of the summoned driver is displayed in a designated place near the flag stand or occasionally on the flag itself. Black flags can be waved at all observation posts simultaneously to order all drivers to clear the track after the starter waves the red flag, often in the case of a serious accident.
Before I get into all this, here’s a Public Service Announcement: GT Academy Registration is open. Are you over 18 and a US Resident? Of course you are! I mean, can pretend to be. I have a super-secret twin sister in, uh, the midwest? West? I’m She‘s in one of those brackets. What a happy coincidence! I’m sure all of you wonderful people will soon discover long-lost American relatives, too. It’s all about the bonus downloads. When I logged in with that account, I was surprised that my Collector’s Edition bonuses crossed over and all the CE and Gamestop cars were in the garage. I don’t know if the GT Academy freebies will be trade locked (which they might to prevent people abusing it), but I hope not.

 
Now, it’s JENNRAGE™ time. I still like GT5. Parts of it. Occasionally. There’s just so much stupid sometimes that it’s hard to find what did go right. Then you find it, enjoy it briefly, and have ample time to recall what keeps pissing you off about it during the constant loading screens. Thus I sit, and wait, and grow cross, and eventually race, and get disqualified from the IA-10 license test because the Train of Cars they call the AI is sometimes really ridiculous and I hate them and die die DIE.

Seriously, IA-10 can (continue to) to kiss my rear bumper. It’s the responsibility of the overtaking car to ensure the safety of both vehicles. When they hit my rear when I’m square on the driving line, it’s really not my fault they tried to make a space to pass — again, square on/through my bumper — and I get DQ’d. There’s only so fast I can take that corner without spinning and getting disqualified all on my own, thanks. I follow a path/overtaking schedule quite similar to this guy, but I’ve got to learn to do it faster during the sections from 0:46-1:00 and 1:36-1:41 because I’m not ahead of as many people as he is on the first lap and some jerk ALWAYS hits me from behind there. I tried ignoring the apex there for a few runs but I’d get the side of my bumper clipped and spin as if they, in their jet powered cement trucks, executed a perfect PIT maneuver.

 

I might be bitter. I drive with aids off, except that I usually keep ABS at 1 and occasionally I’ll let the TC sit at 1, too. Even though I have the Driving Force GT, I rarely take advantage of the clickwheel to switch settings on the fly. I’ll have to tackle it again later with a cooler head. I didn’t mind doing it over and over the first half hour, but the frustration was building and I eventually bailed to take on the rest of the very fun Karting special events. Since I hadn’t touched a kart since December 6th, it took a few laps to nail down the throttle/RPM control I had before to leave everyone in the dust. Zipping around Autumn Ring when you’re having a great run is a wonderful experience; still more fun than it has any right to be. I totally have to jump online and see if people are putting karts on any other tracks! I’m sad that I’ve now completed all the kart missions in GT5 and want more of them.

Sheesh. I had a long list of things to write about, but so many deserve their own post. I could (and will) write a book on B-Spec. GT Life is a great idea that needs a lot of love. The tuning options may appear straightforward, though people unfamiliar with how all the parts work might end up wasting their hard earned credits on pieces that end up detracting from their performance and don’t suit their driving style. I won’t be writing a guide on that since we’re all better off with me linking real pros instead of ‘this works for me!’ settings. I love particular cars that are not considered popular or top tier at all. It’s too bad that there are no Jetta selections available. This is not actually a knock against GT5 in any real sense; there’s no possible way to make everyone happy with the car choices, it just would have been nice to take my car around tracks it’ll never see :)

Changelog

No one really knows what the update on or around December 20th will change. Promises, promises. We’ve heard it all before. GT5 patch notes basically say “This is a patch”, which I find endlessly hilarious thanks to the endless forum speculation about what has actually transpired. If Blizzard tried to pull something like that, there’d be mobs with torches and pitchforks. We’re still missing things like leaderboards — pretty critical, eh? Better be in before GT Academy Qualifications — and offline stat tracking and rewind/ffwd controls in replay mode. Seriously, Polyphony Digital, what were you doing all that time? I actually hope that dumptrucks full of hookers and blow were involved since that makes things make sense. I like my brother’s theory that the budget went to getting Kaz all the supercars for his own garage. Who’s to say we wouldn’t do the same?

This leaves plenty of other nitpicks to moan about. Like, oh the locked saves. My secondary PS3 — launch unit remains un-updated to keep OtherOS support — won’t be mine for much longer and I have to look at getting a secondary secondary (#FirstWorldProblems for sure). I’m sure as heck not doing that until the promised unlocking happens. I <3 Babelfish:

“To other storage it backs up your own saving data… late December with update of you become possible.”

Whether they will unlock them entirely or keep them tied to your PSN account remains to be seen. I'm a little surprised to hear that there are people against fully open saves. Yes, there are the people (let's call them 'parents') that will download a save that gives them all the cars and paints and money in the world. Then there are people like me who will slog it out to the end, even if I'll be 30 by the time that happens. The existence of the first group does not impede upon my fun, online or off. I bet most of the download people won't even race online with their shiny F1 cars. I just think that locked saves are ridiculous in this lovely era of console failures. Sheesh. I can chill until the 20th. Maybe I'll get lucky with Santa (hahaNO) or find a sweet boxing day deal on a slim.

Used Dealership Sales. One Day Only!

The used dealership rotating inventory makes me a little angry, as do a lot of similarly atrocious user-friendly errors, but that they chose to make THIS part 'realistic' instead of letting us tune/purchase brakes just plain hurts. Don't see the car you want? Here's what you have to do to make the inventory cycle:

 

Parting Shots

  • Standard vs. Premium cars. You know how it is. Some will be upgraded but I'm a lot less optimistic about the whole thing than that news post is.
  • Want to change the music? PD implemented it in a pretty user-unfriendly way, so they give you the Driving Music Trophy for even trying.
  • Paint chips. To paint your car, you need to own the chip. To get the chip you must have a car that colour. Each chip can be used once, and you still pay to get it done. Don't have the red you want? Hope you can find it in the Used Car Dealership. Maybe cycle it a few times. Only GT5 could find a way to make painting a car a grind. The mind, it boggles.
  • LOADING. For the love of all that is good, PD, let us do a real install. Hopefully you can find a cheaper solution than fitting the PS3 with an SSD drive. Mad props to "Phil" for figuring that out. I love geeks.
  • The shadows. Oh, the horror. You could stab someone with some of these shadows. Rows upon rows of witch's hats are less pointy than my Mazda Furai's shadows going around Daytona. You'd think they recycled some PS1 code here.

I could honestly keep going on and on here, but this horse is pretty dead. By now you either know that you want the game, or you're laughing at those of us that paid full price for it.

I'm looking forward to talking about B-Spec. I found it an annoying waste of time, but it slowly grew on me.

 

Gran Turismo 5: First Lap

Short version: I know I should hate it, but I’m having too much fun.

There are a billion things wrong with GT5. Nigh endless list of bad design decisions, really, but I keep playing. Presently I’m obsessed with B-Spec mode (in fact, my drivers are running right now as I write this out), but let’s start off where I did: License Tests.

Initially I was going to gold as many as possible, but I got bored and started settling for silvers and bronzes through B and A tests. I highly recommend starting with those. You don’t have to worry about having the right vehicle (they give you the car and tuning set to use) and you get experience, too. I went from that straight into the Special Events and now I’m lvl 14 and have about 700,000cr without ever doing an actual cup race or doing any other modes. My poor starter Sunburst Yellow Mazda Eunos Roadster J-Limited 1991 has yet to be loved. Yes, I totally picked that because it was 19,000cr and then I went and picked up the ECU Tuning (Tuning Shop > Engine > ECU on the right) for 1,000cr so that I could get the Penniless Trophy right off the top. Hey, easier now than later. And it’s not a car I mind at all. There are so many Miatas in this game; collect them all!

SPECIAL EVENT 03 – Top Gear Test Track

Sure, it’s number three, but I bet most of us went here first!

Polyphony Digital has never seen an episode of Top Gear, ever. I guarantee it. I’m going to say that no one even related to or friends with PD people are familiar with the show. Kaz could sit next to Clarkson, Hammond, and May at a dinner tomorrow and not know who they are. The first Top Gear challenge hurts merely because of how stupid it is. Racing VW buses and any contact DQs you? Touch a cone and you’re out? Nothing catches fire? Not Top Gear. You need a gold in this first challenge in order to unlock the Top Gear Test Track for freeplay…. and then there’s no standing start available. See what I mean when I say that they don’t know TG from Thomas the Tank Engine? The challenge isn’t hard, thankfully, it just feels worse than it is because it’s so. damn. slow. Soooooooooooooo slow.

 

Then there’s the second Top Gear Challenge: Lotus. Try driving on ice with tires made of butter. Better yet, don’t. I’ve only tried twice before I got bored at getting disqualified for not actually touching a cone myself. See, ‘enemy’ cars can smack you around with complete impunity (however, much like the bus race, you hitting them at all will DQ you… sometimes. With the bus I’d sometimes collide people way harder than what would usually get me kicked out with no issues. It’s very hard to judge, and that’s a big consistency problem all over this game) but if you just so happen to steal their line and they choose to run off rather than brake, you’re done. It sucks. I’ll deal with it later.

SPECIAL EVENT 01 – Gran Turismo Karting Experience

Love it. Want more of it. Can’t wait to go back and do last the Advanced round. I got my PDI Racing Kart 100 for free, either by doing the B license or just because I gained a level, and it’s a ton of fun. If I do any racing online, it’ll probably be in a kart. But I won’t do it backwards.

 

SPECIAL EVENT 02 – Jeff Gordon Nascar School

I didn’t think I’d like it. I liked it. The opening video was creepy, unlike the promo for it, since Mr. Gordon’s avatar looked a little off, but the driving was responsive and fast and I’ll be going back for Advanced the second I hit level 21. Seriously though, the lipsynch. Creepy.

 

SPECIAL EVENT 04 – AMG Driving Academy

Simple and brilliant. Here you go through the Nürburgring in smaller chunks until you do a full dry lap as the final challenge. Beginner sticks you in a good car, Intermediate has you doing it at much faster speeds, and I haven’t done the last two yet. The AI on those full laps can drive you ’round the bend though. YEAH, I’M TALKING TO YOU, YOU LIME GREEN PIECE O’ CRAP. GET OUT OF THE LINE. Whatever you do, don’t drive the ring like this guy. zomgwow. The car saved his ass so many times. Dear parents of the kid driving and the others in the car: take the keys, now. For everyone’s sake.

I <3 Rally but I haven't started the next event to get a taste of it. Instead, I jumped into b-spec and, uh, that might end up taking over my life. Now I said I haven’t shown my sunny yellow convertible any love, but my two level 5 drivers T. Fleury and S. Fry are adding hundreds of km to the dash quite well on their own. Sporadically well, I should say. Theo ‘Donut’ Fleury and I need to have some words about that.

 

Mystery Day: December 9th

Microsoft: fixing what wasn’t broken. And breaking it.

What do you think of the new Xbox site? I’m not a fan. It’s slow. It’s annoying. It’s slow. Going to your friends list is painful. Oh, and they broke my account settings. This is a known bug and there’s no timeline on a fix. Thanks for that. This meant that I had to call Xbox Support on the weekend to deal with something I thought I took care of back in August. In fact, I took care of it on August 30th. It was sometime mid-afternoon.

 

Remember when Microsoft announced the price increase for Live subscriptions? I knew mine was going to expire on December 9th so I figured, hey, might as well save a little bit of money. I was going to renew, anyway. Did you see the date of the announcement? Yup, same date that I paid for it. Obviously I’m wasn’t the only one since, I’m told, a lot of people are facing the same issue that I now have.

While playing Borderlands on the weekend with my brother, my Xbox told me ‘oh noes! Your sub runs out on December 9th and you better renew quick!’. Waitaminute here. That’s not right. I immediately head online to sort this out — My Xbox > Accounts > Membership Options > Upgrade/Manage Account — and here’s what I find.

 

I don’t know whose avatar they are using for the Glitch Guy, but I already wish to punch him. I knew I was in trouble off the top when, on the My Xbox page, I could see that it said “Your Account Summary: Service Unavailable”.

 

Boo. Calling Xbox Support at (800) 469-9269 was not off to a great start when I was disconnected twice. I learned the options and then learned that they also won’t let you skip their messages off the top. You know the ones. “Don’t forget that you can manage your account online!” lol. It’s like calling your ISP because their network is down and, while on hold, they tell you to check the status online. Third time’s a charm and I was connected to the very helpful and honest Nicole. The problem with honesty is that it’s not always what you want to hear.

Yes, the website is broken for a ton of accounts.
Yes, I likely paid for my renewal in August like my receipt says.
Yes, it should kick in December 9th when the old one expires.
Yes, lots of people that renewed early are getting all kinds of emails and messages that they shouldn’t be.
No, they don’t know when the site will be fixed. There are lots of bugs.
Seriously, it should be fine and here’s a case number in case things go awry.

There’s a reason I don’t feel this is good enough and it is particular to my situation. Try and stay with me here; there’s a lot going on. You cannot remove a credit card from Live without giving a new one. Removing it otherwise will cause me to lose my gamertag. Not cool! I wanted it removed to be able to move to pre-paid cards. Nicole told me that the easiest way to do that would be to let Live expire — which should happen for me December 9th, 2011 — drop to Silver for a little bit and then renew Gold with a pre-paid card. My credit card presently on file has expired. I switched banks and canned the old card. I’m going to be quite furious if they attempt to charge that card and I get hit with fees and have to deal with a bank I’m no longer dealing with for a reason. Not only is my console telling me to renew, I also have an email from November 9th that I somehow missed earlier.


< snip >

 
(Oops, forgot part 2 of the letter earlier. Nope, my payment information is totally not up to date. On purpose.)

Not good. I’m worried. There’s still a chance that all this will be fine and I’m stressing over nothing, but it’s rarely fun to deal with banks in a dispute and this should be easily avoided. Why can’t MS support people see my account? I can’t even see my purchase on the billing page (no screenshot since I’m not sharing that info). Someone, well, some computer database, somewhere sent me my receipt on August 30th. Why is that not showing up when I call Support? I can get no guarantees that they’d be willing to talk to my bank and I’m sure as hell not trusting them with my new credit card. That defeats the whole point of what I’m trying to do. There should be no further action required on my part and I hope to escalate this before December 9th to see if I can find a better solution for myself and others. We’ll see if @XboxSupport can further lend a hand! :)

Have any of you run into this, too?

 

Club Nintendo Rewards

Back in June, even though I never thought it was going to happen, I managed to become a Platinum Member of Club Nintendo. Back in July I got to pick the statue that I’d get as my reward. They said they’d ship it around Christmas so I was pretty surprised to get a box from them in November that wasn’t PR-related. Or either of the two other things I ordered from Club Nintendo that have yet to arrive. Frankly I had no clue what this box was for since I forgot about the whole ‘reward’ thing by August.

Gotta say, I love the box. I love it more than the statue, honestly, even though I know it’s simple and takes nothing to make from home. Nintendo could have been boring and shipped this in foam, but Club Nintendo is for the (minimum) slightly hardcore and they did it up right.

My still camera does not like to zoom. I assure you, it looks better in real life.

 
 
 
 

This is totally going on my desk the set.

 

Cynical Reactions

Alas! When did this happen? Any time a game company has dropped the ball the last few months, in any conceivable way, I have been assuming the worst.

Gran Turismo 5 delayed? Those jerks at Sony probably wanted it to require the latest unreleased firmware, forcing Polyphony Digital to go back and change stuff when they were ready to go gold. Or Kaz was horsing around again when he should start saving stuff for GT6.

Kinect fudging its space requirements? They knew they’d sell far less if they had to put on the box “requires 5m and enough light to be considered a small sun to function”.

Call of Duty: Black Ops robbery? My first reaction was totally ‘publicity stunt’, even though I knew cops and real weapons were involved :(

Konami Dance Masters not releasing their final difficulty level at launch and no word as to whether it will be free or paid DLC? Or even when it’s coming out? And, even days after launch, no one has unlocked Stealth mode yet? Ridiculous.

The latest 360 dashboard update breaks autoplaying discs? Not cool. I hate that Sony purposefully disabled that feature (should be standard, not a feature) to force you to look at their stupid scrolling top right info bar that you also cannot remove. I know it only takes an extra second to move to selecting the game and starting it, but I really like turning on the system, getting a drink, and coming back to the game already past the unskippable intros and ready to play. It was easy to assume that MS was now following suit and their dashboard is waaaaaaaaay more annoying!

90% of their channels are useless to me. I bought a 360 for gaming, nothing else. Start me on My Xbox — or let me select the option to start there — so I don’t have to go through your annoying crap to get what I want. Kinect’s longish boot doesn’t help matters now that auto-starting discs is disabled, regardless of your selection in System Settings.

The (hopefully temporary) Microsoft-approved fix in the meantime is pretty funny:

To launch the current disc

1. Go to My Xbox

2. Select the first panel to Play Disc

Thanks to GeneralBison for the heads up about the issue and fix after I asked what had happened on twitter :)

 

Kinect Hates My Game Room

Kinect and my game room are not friends right now. They only sort of talk to each other. Occasionally. Such a petty spat. Dance Masters would let me play sporadically, even though it wouldn’t actually tell me when it couldn’t see me, despite their assurances otherwise. Heck, even when it could see me and my movement snapshot came out perfectly, I’d still get Boos randomly, even though I got Perfects for the exact things I did the moment before. Very very annoying.

Close. Ish.
 

Kinect Adventures was even more picky about it. Even though Adventures said I was well into the Good section of floorspace for gaming, and even on the line of the Best section (which you need for two players), leaning even 10cm would cause the action to come to a halt while it tried to find me again. It’s quite the pity since I was really having fun with it! I thought would only count as a 1/2 of a game since most bundled things are crap, but with this and Wii Sports proving quite entertaining, I support this new trend! I haven’t even bothered with the Move yet but maybe they can make it three for three. Not counting on it. It’s still ridiculous that the Move Starter Bundle doesn’t come with the Navigation controller or at least a second Move. This, however, is an issue for another day.

I can’t move my tv anywhere, but I can try and ditch the couch. Try is the operative word. As I mentioned before, the low ceiling is a massive issue and I already banged my head and scraped my knuckles from my play session last night. Adventures has you jump and Dance Masters requires hands over head moves. Argh. This weekend I’ll try to work it out and post my thoughts on the games themselves, as well as what it’s like to navigate with the camera. It’s not entirely fair to lambast the camera and games for anything aside from it’s ridiculous space requirements at this point… even though I measured and I was actually standing a full 2m (6.56ft) away from it. Oh, and I had to use my studio lights to make sure it was properly differentiating me from the wall behind. And I had to take off my baggy hoodie and switch shorts for it to see my legs. The hoodie I understand since seeing my hands would be considered critical. The shorts? Less cool.

Tonight I catch up with an old friend over kick ass Korean food downtown, so fussing around with furniture for the sake Kinect vision can wait a day. Absolute worst case involves me moving the xbox to a smaller tv in a different area to save my hands and head. My secondary is a massive step down, so I hope to avoid that solution.

 

Pre-Kinect Concerns

I was not impressed with the Kinect at E3. The games were as pedestrian as to be expected – lean to steer! Match the actions on camera! – and it hates left-handed people since all navigation was to be done with the right. One would certainly hope that there have been improvements between now and then, but I am approaching this with more than a little trepidation. I never expected to be blown away by this tech since there are few games that I feel can be vastly improved by having them depend on reading the human body. The accuracy just isn’t there yet. I do give them credit for trying; how else will it get better? As a bonus, I no longer call it the Kinetic. This was a surprisingly hard habit to break!

When it comes to camera tracking like the Kinect promises, I mostly think of the possibilities for instruction. You could probably learn basic martial arts at home since the camera would detect whether or not you are maintaining the proper form or if your speed is adequate. This gets people active and will, hopefully, feel less pointless than waving your hands in the air to the beat. Now, I LIKE dancing games. I’m a DDR freak. The only two Kinect games I enjoyed at E3 were Dance Central (Harmonix) and Dance Masters (Konami). Frankly, I liked Konami’s offering more and not just because I wiped the floor with the demo guy on the third day on a hard difficulty on my first time playing ;)

That said, it looks like the first two Kinect games I’ll be covering are Dance Central and Sonic Free Riders. Still waiting on shipping for those so I can’t say when I’ll get to dive in (Man, USPS is slow to Canada. I’m still waiting on a bunch of other games I ordered more than a week ago!). The Sonic game will be all new to me, but back in June I spent a good chunk of time with Konami’s Adrenaline Misfits and really wanted to like it. New IP and you board down extreme tracks as fast as possible while doing stunts. Basically, you lean left and right and jump occasionally. It’s even less exciting than it sounds.

I know I’m raining on the parade without yet seeing the results of the final product, even though I want it to work. I want it to see peoples of all colours. I want the tracking to be excellent. I want it to be accessible to everyone and bring new people to gaming. The human body is capable of so many amazing things but the Kinect is facing an incredible challenge to try and keep up. Will the sensor be fast enough? Accurate enough? Interesting enough? There are only so many fitness and dance and racing and party games that even I want to play! Will it evolve to work fluidly and naturally with RPGs? I mean, work without forced waggle, er, arm waving, like a lot of Wii games suffer from. What about first person shooters? Nintendo managed to make a platformer controlled by a set of bongos that mostly worked. Now it’s up to Microsoft and other developers to expand the offerings for the Kinect. I own both the original 360 camera and an EyeToy. If nothing else, they have already done better than those.

I would love an SSX-style game on the Kinect but, as it stands right now, it wouldn’t work. Well, it would, but it’s just a lot of leaning and craning your neck to keep watching the screen to make sure you are where you want to be. As my comfort level with the body controls increases, this will be less of a problem to, hopefully, no issue at all. To be totally fair here: I snowboard and, uh, it IS a lot of leaning and craning your neck to make sure that pesky tree is where you left it and branches aren’t going to take your head off. The real thing always wins, though, since outside I have wind and inclines that I can feel and it’s a rush that will never be replicated indoors. Dubai’s kick ass thing aside, anyway. You are, if I’m honest, at least a little less likely to get hurt with the Kinect unless you roll your ankles or smash into a fellow player. I even wanted Tony Hawk’s Ride to work because at least that required actual balance on a replica board. Did I buy it? No. I was afraid that it was dead-end tech and I’d spend all that money on something that would only ever work with one game. Even with my bongos and taiko drum and beatmania controllers and super scope, I do use those for more than one game and even use several controllers on the PC. I did have to make an import ready PS2 for the other Taiko and Beatmania games, but the option existed. The wiki page points that more games using the board are coming, albeit with a new developer, and I might take the plunge. Heck, if it works with Kinect AND the board, they might be on to something!

Now, for a more immediate issue:

When it comes to playing at home, I’ve got less than 2 metres between my tv and the back wall. That’s around 6.5 feet for the rest of you. And that’s if I move my couch and stand under the shortest part of my roof, which means I can’t really raise my hands or I’ll scrape them across the awful stucco ceiling. I don’t want to talk about how many times I’ve cut my knuckles on that since the roof juts down the same way over my desk. In the game room I usually don’t care since, you know, I’m sitting down and don’t stand on the couch. DDR I play probably too close to the tv, but I can jump as high and enthusiastically as I feel like since I’m short and the roof is closer to a normal height over there. It’s too bad my games aren’t here yet or I’d race home this evening to boogie or, well, race the night away! :)

For my final word before I pick up my Kinect at lunch, Dance Central still needs this. It’s perfect.

 

 

Episode 19 – Epic Mickey

Special thanks to Darren Kitchen for the camera work! At E3 2010 Jenn got her first hands-on look at Epic Mickey, a Wii exclusive coming out during the holidays. She interviewed Matt from Disney interactive and got walked through a middle portion of the game while he talked about many of the features while being coy about others. To top it all off, there’s a Disney-provided interview with Warren Spector about his vision and goals for the game. And, truly, Jenn is very very very thrilled that there is a real lefty mode.

Also, don’t forget to check out the latest Hak5 episode for even more coverage of action from the floor of E3 :)

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