Comic courtesy of Fat Gamers.
The silly season has landed... with a whimper
It's the bane of any editor's life - and makes marketing and sales people sweat too. The silly season is upon us and no one is safe. Take a look at any paper today, and you'll see the silly season - a term coined by Fleet Street journalists to describe the period of summer when nothing newsworthy is happening as politicians are on holiday and the British public are living it large. It's so bad that the cricket has become front-page news, as well as dodgy adoption certificates and A-list celebrities.
But what of the videogame industry? Does it go through the same torment? Certainly there is evidence to say it does. In recent months new releases have been about as inspiring as watching it rain at Wimbledon. When there are no good games to get all hyped up about, game magazines and websites struggle for content. About the only thing keeping everyone's head above water this summer has been new hardware rumours flying around the Internet, and, recently, the impending release of the 360 and the PSP.
Don't blame us - blame publishers who refuse to bring out a single game worthy of a Â£40 price-tag when the British weather hots up. It's a curious phenomenon - if just one publisher took a chance, they would have the entire season all to themselves, and could potentially make a killing. But alas, no, we have to make do with the Chinese government and game-inspired Hollywood movies.
It'll never work...
This week the Chinese government detailed strict new laws intended to prevent avid MMO gamers from getting hooked on an unhealthy level. They intend to reduce the abilities of avatars when played for more than three hours. So, that bad-ass Axe of the Monkey + 25 to Monkey Power you poured your heart and soul into acquiring down some God-forsaken dungeon will all of a sudden become about as effective as a Twig of the Back Garden Tree. Defiant gamers who refuse to be deterred will face crippling penalties placed on their in-game characters if they go over the five hour mark, making them about as useful as a cup of tea. The Chinese government wants all players to take a five-hour break before their avatars are restored to full power.
Utter madness of course. Limiting gameplay to three hours completely alters the dynamic of playing an MMO. It often takes more than half a day to work your way through the hardest instanced dungeons in World of Warcraft, which has 1.5m players in China. If you're part of a high-level MMO guild, it can often take an hour to get everyone together to perform a raid or to even attempt some of the game's harder challenges. Put simply, this law makes MMOs unplayable.
It's quite obvious this measure is in response to the huge popularity of MMOs in the country, and a few recent high profile cases of gamers who have lost all sense of reality while engrossed in a virtual world. But really, this kind of measure isn't the answer. If certain individuals do not have the willpower to log off a game, whether it be an MMO, FPS or otherwise, the problem lies with the person, not the game. This knee-jerk reaction is targeting the wrong area.
Ring of hope?
This week it was finally confirmed that one of my favourite games of all time, Halo, will be made into a big-money Hollywood blockbuster. While many fans of the franchise have groaned at the prospect of everyone's favourite universe saving beef-cake being torn to shreds ala Mario Brothers and Street Fighter, there are others who are cautiously optimistic. Some brave pundits have even gone as far as to claim Halo could be the best videogame inspired film of all time.
Not that it has much competition. Gamers down the years have been treated to one celluloid catastrophe after another - although I thought the first Resident Evil was curious enough to buy the DVD, and the first Mortal Kombat strangely compelling. But the Tomb Raider films have never done anything for me (despite the gloriously beautiful Angelina Jolie bouncing around) and I don't think anything Uwe Boll gets his hands on can be considered entertainment.
But Halo could be different. Why? Because Microsoft made demands of Universal and Fox studios a game publisher has never had the balls to make. They demanded unreasonable terms from the off, knowing that any film based on Master Chief's heroics - one of the most respected game icons of recent times - would have to withstand the scrutiny of the very passionate fan-base Halo has acquired over the last few years. If the film is crap, all Bungie's hard work creating a hardcore gamer franchise will be sullied in one fell swoop. To that end, Microsoft demanded creative control over the project.
They didn't get it, but fans shouldn't be worried. The terms agreed this week are the most robust of any game-movie tie-in in history. The Halo movie is being produced by Peter Schlessel, and written by 28 Days Later and The Beach scribe, Alex Garland, who was said to be paid $1 million to write the script.
The settlement now allows Microsoft "extensive" consultation on the project, but no approval over any of the film elements. However, several members from the game's development team, Bungie, will serve as Microsoft's creative consultants. Which means, theoretically, that the movie should co-exist perfectly with the history and rules of the Halo Universe. It's also been slated for a summer 2007 release, which could coincide with the launch of Halo 3 on 360, although that would mean the game would arrive about a year later than expected.
Either way, Halo will hopefully rock. Some think the film will tell a story separate from the games, but true to the plot, perhaps taking place after the events of Halo 2, but before Halo 3. My best bet is a simple retelling of the first game - just look at The Internet Movie Database's plot summary for Halo:
"After escaping from destruction from a gathering of alien races called "The Covenant" and landing on a ring-shaped world called "Halo", marines and a super-soldier called "Master Chief" must find out Halo's deadly secret before the Covenant fulfil their mission that has to do with Halo itself."
Now all we need is a director and a lead to play Master Chief. And no, please don't say The Rock.
Bloody Japanese get it first again!!
They're so lucky. Always first with hardware (PSP, PS2), always first with games I want to play (Katamari Damacy, Winning Eleven and every RPG under the sun), and now first with the one movie I want to see this year above all others: Final Fanatsy VII: Advent Children. Not only will the Japanese be first to see the CGI action film, but they'll be able to see it in cinemas as well, something us Western FF fans will not have the opportunity to experience. To top it all off, Square-Enix haven't even got a European release date for the DVD.
Sigh. At least we can drown our sorrows with our US gaming cousins, who have also seen the release of FFVII: AC delayed from September 13th. But even the Americans have bested us. They've got a shaky 'holiday season' launch to pin hopes on. We Brits? Nothing. A hard done by lot we are indeed.
Give me a G! Give me an M! Give me a... ah forget it
Next week we travel to Games Market Europe, the trade show that hopes to plug the gap left by last year's ECTS/Game Stars Live debacle. This time last year ECTS and Game Stars Live clashed in a quite ridiculous spat that included bitching and in-fighting. Specialist and mainstream press were forced to travel back and forth halfway across London to cover both events, when one would do. The result was two events that were, quite simply, not what was expected.
GME, on the other hand, looks like a show under some degree of pressure. E3 it will not be, but London is facing some serious competition from Leipzig as the home of Europe's premier annual games event. But there is some promise. Perhaps the biggest draw will be Ubisoft, who plan to show off King Kong. But really, the absence of the 'Big 3' (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) means GME can only be a blip in the vast gaming calendar. It is, though, just the beginning, and hopefully a successful two days next week will strengthen its position and lead to bigger and better things next year. It won't be easy though - Leipzig was, as all agree, one hell of a party.
This week's new releases
Oh, how glad we are that September is almost upon us. The last few months have been hard going, with barely a game worth renting, let alone buying. Ubisoft, Capcom and SEGA have put on a decent spread this week, with 187 Ride or Die, Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike, Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, but these are just appetisers. The big ones are just around the corner and come thick and fast all the way in to 2006.
- 187 Ride or Die (PS2, Xbox)
- Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory (PC)
- Beyond Blitzkrieg (PC)
- Blitzkrieg Anthology (PC)
- Echo Night Beyond (PS2)
- Outlaw Tennis (PS2)
- Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 (PS2)
- Sacred Gold (PC)
- Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (PS2, Xbox)
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike (Xbox)
- Wild Water Adrenaline (PS2)
So, what exactly is in store next week? Well, there is a little something called the PSP, and a smattering (read truckload) of games. Our short time with Virtua Tennis suggests that is deserves a place among other essential PSP purchases, like Ridge Racer, Wipeout Pure and Lumines. There's also Moto GP 3: URT on Xbox and PC, plus Dungeon Siege 2 on PC. I hope you've been taking our advice to save your pennies, as it's going to be an expensive couple of months.
Next week on Pro-G
Expect more reviews of PSP launch titles, including Virtua Tennis World Tour and Wipeout Pure, plus coverage of Games Market Europe.