Playstation: How Will Sony Regroup?

Sega stole Sony’s thunder at E3, and the X-Box is just around the corner. Find out the seven things that Sony must do to outshine the competition and get the PS2 buzz back on track.

Sometimes in the entertainment media, we like to make small issues into major happenings. Nowhere is this more true than in the game media. For instance, after Sega surprised us with a phenomenal showing at E3, all of a sudden the company was prematurely crowned the new king of the next-generation console market by many in the press.

Let’s be honest; Sony still has the clearest chance to become the next-generation market leader because of its incredible Japanese launch, unprecedented developer support and unmatched mass-market appeal. However, the PlayStation2 has lost a lot of its shine, thanks to poor showings at the Tokyo Game Show and E3, Sega’s resurgence and unanswered development problems.

So, what must Sony do to get the PS2 hype machine back on track before the October 26 launch? Here are seven things:

Sony must act like a first-timer
Just because you’ve taken market leadership in the past, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll do it in the future. (Just ask Nintendo and Sega.) Sony captured the hearts and minds of gamers with the PlayStation by aggressive marketing and by taking nothing for granted. Gamers will not jump aboard the PS2 simply because they loved the PlayStation. They will always go for the system with the best games.

Example: The original PlayStation ads made it feel cool to own a PlayStation. The PS2 advertising campaign needs to make the new hardware feel cool for a new generation.

Sony must help developers
While the game press has made too much of a deal about Oddsworld Inhabitants’ complaints about anti-aliasing, it is a perfect example of one of the PS2’s biggest problems. The console is very powerful, but accessing that power is not easy. Sony needs to make it a priority to help developers overcome the basic difficulties, and free them up to make great games. After all, this is how the PlayStation beat the Saturn.

Sony should also be researching heavily to find easy ways for developers to tap into the PS2’s enormous power. The more that Sony can do for developers, the more likely the developes will make their games for the PS2.

Example: If Sony does not address the anti-aliasing problems for developers, it will lose some developer support.

Sony must support peripherals with compelling games
Sony announced its plans for a hard drive and network connector for the PS2. However, Sony left out one important thing: the games. Without innovative games that take advantage of peripherals, the add-ons have no value whatsoever. Sony needs to ramp up development for games that take advantage of the hard drive and network add-on before it starts talking about innovative ways to distribute the peripheral.

Example: All Sony needed to say was “this device will support PS2 Everquest or Star Wars Online,” and the peripheral would have been one of the most talked-about announcements at the show.

Sony must champion great games
Even though Sony showed more than 30 PS2 games in its E3 booth, the company simply didn’t show off the PS2’s potential. Konami showed off more of the possibilities the hardware offers by showing one game (Metal Gear Solid 2). People will not buy the PlayStation2 because it is a powerful machine; they’ll buy it because it has the best games. If Sony loses track of the games and focuses instead on broadband possibilities, it runs the risk of making the PS2 another high-priced, unused settop box.

Example: Sony needs to have games like Madden 2001, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Dark Cloud on display in every ad and marketing opportunity.

Sony must tap the power of the PS2 with first-party games
Sony needs to have its best programmers working not only to create great games but also to draw out the potential power of the console. It must be a little embarrassing for Sony to watch Konami bring out the true power of the PS2, while its own games look very similar to Dreamcast titles. Yes, Gran Turismo 2000 will be fun, but it would have been nice if Sony had tried to really push the graphics as well.

Example: Sony could help boost the PS2’s perceived value if its 989 Sports lineup outdoes EA’s impressive game list.

Sony must meet demand
If Sony launches with less than a million PS2 units, it will be a major disappointment. Even at a million, the system will most likely sell out in pre-order, but if fewer PS2s ship, Sony could lose impatient gamers to Sega and overly patient gamers to Microsoft. So far, Sony has treated the marketing of the PS2 with little regard. It’s unlikely they’ll do the same with distribution.

Example: Sony built the foundation for the PS2’s success in Japan with a strong, supported launch.

Sony must regain its aggressiveness
When Sony launched the PlayStation and built it over four years into the most popular home console of all time, the company’s most notable attribute was aggressiveness. During the current prelaunch phase of the PlayStation2, Sony has let both Sega and Microsoft play the part of aggressor and has itself played the part of reactor. Sony needs to take back the reins and dictate to its competitors what happens next.

Example: Sony must aggressively tell gamers why they should spend $150 more for the PS2 and why they shouldn’t wait for the X-Box.

N-Gen Racing – The Interview

It’s Afterburner meets Wipeout all the way with the uber air racer dubbed N-Gen Racing. Instead of simply using the horizontal play field — as most racing titles do — N-Gen Racing pushes the envelope to its limits. Players will be able to utilize both the horizontal and vertical playing fields to full effect.

For the scoop on this promising racer, we sat down with Curly Monsters’ games designer Lee Carus and talked jets.

Daily Radar: First off, tell us where the idea for the game came from. Why planes?

Lee Carus: We wanted to do an ultrafast racing game, but we also wanted to do something a bit different to everything else that is already out there. We think that the potential of racing jets hadn’t been fully realized by other developers’ previous attempts.

DR: What will the game basically feature?

LC: There are two game modes — N-Gen and Arcade. Arcade mode is for those who just want a quick bit of racing fun, while N-Gen mode is for those who want something a bit more like Gran Turismo with all manner of race types. Expect to see Championships, Owner’s Club races, Time Trial and Free Flight — as well as the ultratough Majic-12 speed challenges.

There are two different handling modes: Arcade and Pro. Arcade is very simple and quick to pick up. Pro flies more like a real aircraft, and it’s tough to get the hang of. Once a player has it down, it’s the only way to play.

DR: How many tracks and vehicles do you hope to ship in the final product?

LC: There are 14 tracks, which are each playable both clockwise and anti-clockwise. At least one of the directions will take place during darkness. We hope to have over 40 planes — including a few hidden ones players will have to earn.

DR: What about multiplayer?

LC: We have two multiplayer game modes: Head-to-Head Racing and a game we call Powerball. This is more of a combat-oriented challenge rather than flat-out racing.

DR: Are the jets in the game based on real technology or have you exaggerated certain aspects of their design?

LC: The visual appearances of the standard jets are based on real aircraft — with differing aircraft being in scale to each other as well. However, the player is able to bolt on extras, and in the process, some of the planes can turn into things which look more like UFOs.

The handling of the aircraft has been modified. Rather than going for something which is simlike and hard to learn and harder to control, we’ve gone for a more fun feel. It still feels like you’re flying a plane — just with none of the frustration of a full flight sim.

DR: Can we expect to get hold of some crazy powerups as seen in Wipeout or Rollcage?

LC: They’re not that crazy — we tried to keep one foot in reality whilst designing the weapons. There are afterburner and health gates around the track which act as powerups — health restoring your airframe and afterburner allowing to charge up your afterburner meter. This is where it gets crazy, as the top end of the game allows players to exceed speeds of 3000 mph when using full afterburner.

DR: How will the vertical play field be used in the game, and what does this bring to the overall experience of N-Gen?

LC: This is one of the things that makes N-Gen stand out. Rather than just having to worry about left and right, up and down are real issues too. The general motto is the lower you go the faster you go — but sometimes gaining a bit of height to get an afterburner gate and then doing a quick roll to get round the next chicane can be much quicker.

DR: What has the game engine allowed you to do?

LC: This is Curly Monsters’ first game as an independent company, so we had to start from scratch. The graphics engine is very fast, very optimal and throws around an awful lot of polygons for a PlayStation.

It also uses some quite clever detail-swapping stuff to allow us to have double the draw distance of our early renderers. We’re squeezing every last drop of power out of Sony’s little gray box.

DR: What was the hardest challenge during the game’s development?

LC: Making it feel like you are flying a plane without making it too hard and frustrating. We all enjoy flying under bridges in flight sims, but not the 50 keypresses to get you off the ground. Trying to balance the action of a high-powered racer with the elegance of an aircraft was tough, but we’re happy with the results.

DR: How will this push the envelope of the futuristic racing genre?

LC: Imitation is supposed to be the finest form of flattery — but I think we’d like to stay unique for a little while. However, N-Gen has answered many of the questions as to how to develop an airborne racer and keep it fun.

DR: Was there anything you couldn’t squeeze in due to time restrictions?

LC: Well … err… we’ll avoid that question. There may be a sequel, and we wouldn’t want to give away anything just yet. A sequel isn’t confirmed yet — but the idea that N-Gen could be the beginning of a really big franchise is definitely appealing.

DR: Any plans to port the game to Dreamcast or PC for some sweeter eye candy?

LC: There are no plans yet. We really haven’t looked into it. However, it’s likely that if there is another version, it will be on PlayStation2 and be a full sequel rather than a port.

Iridion 3-D – Majesco’s new 3D Game

It’s about time we got some screenshots from a US-developed GBA game! Iridion 3-D from Majesco is the company’s first GBA game, and Majesco says it’ll be ready for the US launch of the system. It’s under development by Majesco’s in-house team Pipe Dream Interactive, and as you can see from the screenshots, the game will feature some intense 3D action. According to Dan Kitchen, the vice president of handheld development for Majesco, “By pushing the graphics hardware of the Game Boy Advance to its technical limits, Iridion 3-D provides a truly realistic 3D gaming experience. Players will be amazed that such smooth environments and intense gameplay can now be achieved on a portable system.”

While we haven’t seen the game in action, the feature set sounds impressive. It promises seven big levels through which players will fight things like mega-robots, starfighters and bio-mechanical worms — all in 3D, of course.

The story thrusts players into the role of a prospector mining the stars. Upon returning home to Earth after an extended leave, player find their home planet invaded by the Iridions, and the fighting commences. Players will fight all the way from Earth to the Iridion home. 3D gamers have always been fascinated with the fact that the graphics of the game is making them want to play more, however, if you like a real 3D game, then try SimCity Buildit. This game is the hottest as far as city-building mobile game is concern. And it feautres free hack for unlimited resources.

Majesco promises tons of weapons, bonus items and intense boss fights. This will be the first of 10 games for the Game Boy Advance in 2001. Other titles include Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure and Earthworm Jim. We’ll bring you more information on the game as we get it — until then, enjoy the screenshots!

Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine

THQ has a huge list of Game Boy Color games, and one of them is Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, a handheld version of the N64 (and PC) game with the same name.

The game should contain all the Indiana Jones fun we’ve grown to love, such as taking down baddies with whips and guns, and fighting sharks, snakes, wolves, jaguars, and even something called “poisonous lice” (hey, it’s on THQ’s press sheet).

THQ promises 15 levels of gun-wielding fun as Indiana tries to uncover the four hidden pieces of the Infernal Machine, a dastardly device created in the foundation of the Tower of Babel. When the tower was destroyed, the device was broken into four pieces and scattered to the four winds (naturally). Now Indy has to find them before the communist pigs (aka Soviets) do.

THQ also says that the game will contain six bosses. We’re not sure what those bosses might be like, but we expect some pretty nasty monsters protecting the nefarious evil Indy will attempt to thwart.

We’ve got some screenshots for your perusal, and as you can see from the shots the game will take place in a 2D top-down view, which is different from the expected side-scrolling view. Perhaps it’s because we associate Indy with Pitfall Harry so much. The top-down view should give gamers a good view of the action, though, and a bit more freedom for Indy as he avoids deadly traps and takes out nasty critters.

The game is slated for a March 20 release.  However, if you can’t wait for that to be release, just play Clash Royale. It is better than most of us have played. We’ll have the review for you then, and more information as we get it.

Force 21 GBC – The realtime tactical game

The Code Monkeys, who developed for Game Boy Color, are back with Force 21. Set in 2015, the game focuses on the approach of WWIII. Chinese forces have invaded Kazakhstan, and the US jumps in to defend the Russian/Kazakh border. Because of the most recent advances in Star Wars technology, the threat of nukes is a thing of the past. It’s conventional war that will decide who will rule the world in the 21st century.

Fifa 17  is one of the first realtime sports games for the consoles of today as described by its free coins on this website fredericksoccerclub.com. Players will move units by controlling a cursor onscreen and hitting a button. The key to success will be smart manipulation of resources and available units. For years, we have enjoyed the RTS-like Force 21. However, in the recent months Clash Royale has been the apple in the eye for most gamers. This is because it has this hack feature for unlimited gems.

Players can defend the superpower of their choice (either the US or China) and battle foes in 16 different levels on desert terrain, in the rural countryside or in snow. There are eight different types of platoons to command, and Red Storm claims even novice generals will be able to command several platoons easily. Force 21 features a wide variety of combat vehicles as well as Artillery and Air Support, and knowing how to use each and every one of them will be a key to success.

Unfortunately, we have no screenshots to show you yet — we got to play a very early version of the game that simply let us move around some tanks in a field. However, with the advent of this realtime strategy game along with Warlocked, we’re curious to see how well the game community takes to realtime games on the Game Boy Color. We’ll be sure to bring you more information on this game in the near future.

Escape From Monkey Island Review

The monkeys. I still hear them in my sleep, they’re getting closer, pawing me with their calloused little banana-odoured fingers. We love a woman with a bit of spirit. And huge breasts. The title delivers a false promise. There is no escape from Monkey Island.

There never was. Its pirate residents never grow old and die; its gritty beaches are never free from washed-up grog barrels; its estuaries always knock and scrape with the adventure genre’s comic flotsam. Its secrets and curses have ensnared us since 1990, and the fourth in the series beckons us straight back into its interior.

Newcomers to the region may find the weight of its history off-putting. Controlling the actions of Guybrush Threepwood, would-be pirate leader and ingenuous anti-hero, you encounter numerous characters and locations from the previous episodes. Delightfully charming this may be for fans, for first-timers it is alienatingly self-referential. Threepwood has finally defeated ghost pirate LeChuck and married his sweetheart Elaine, the governor of Melee Island. Alas, returning from their honeymoon they find Elaine declared dead by foolish bureaucrats, her home on the verge of demolition, her job challenged by a rival politician, her island’s industry the target of a hostile corporate take-over, and a dangerous burglar at large.

Upshot: a 3D puzzle-solving story involving lawyers, theme restaurants, groggacino coffee and sushi. Perhaps not the sort of buccaneereal antics you might expect, but then it doesn’t say Treasure Island on the box.

Grim Fandango’s engine has been overhauled to give LucasArts its new 3D interface. As you walk past objects Guybrush looks at them, and possible actions are suggested at the base of the screen in words. You can accept the action, hit [P] to force a Pick Up option or [U] for use. In each case, a sentence is formed and you hit [ENTER] to act on it. It may sound unwieldy but this unexpected tribute to classic text adventuring blends well with the updated visuals – and is less intrusive than many recent point-and-click innovations. The graphics themselves are stylised and cartoon-like, and while they’re not cutting edge they’re distinctive enough to define a taut sense of place. Forget the clipping and marginal flaws of Grim Fandango: this’un is slicker.

It’s attention to detail that makes Escape a success. Moving forward but with one eye (the other is patched) on the past, it begs to be called post-modern while remaining naively nostalgic. It mocks itself while celebrating its own traditions. Time and again it pauses to show you how foolish the whole thing is – characters routinely refer to their presence in ‘this game’ and Guybrush discovers a bar where he can buy LucasArts memorabilia. It could be clumsy, but it isn’t: it boasts devilish remember-the-first-time-you-saw-Airplane irreverence.

You could argue there’s too much clever-clever self-awareness here. A better criticism, however, lies in the dialogue. You get an earful of it, and it warbles on much too long. You can skip it, but hours of static – but, OK, funny – talking are inevitable. And the puzzles are growing ever more obscure… Stretching a sheet of human skin over with a drain to create a trampoline so you can bounce up to a window sounds like part The Silence of the Lambs, not a high-seas yarn. But there is no escape from Monkey Island. It is the best adventure game for years, it has a sly, well-plotted purpose and it points the way to the 3D adventures of the future.

Don’t fear the monkeys: embrace them.