Tag Archives: Eidos

First details of Deus Ex 3 emerge

In the worldwide debut of both Eidos Montreal and its first project, Deus Ex 3: Human Revolution, art designer Jonathan Jacques-Belletete demonstrated how his team challenged status quo thinking by creating a visual language centered around two esoteric art styles, the Renaissance and modern-day cyberpunk. He showed the first look at the third game in the award-winning series.

For the full story, check VentureBeat.com.

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The Decade in Review: Videogames 2000-2009, Part 1

By Douglass C. Perry

When we look back 20 years from now, the first decade of the 21st century will look obvious to us, like a paint-by-numbers drawing for kids. It’s almost incalculable how many little triggers have shaped our current place in the games race. But there more than a handful of events, dozens of key games, and entire years that pushed this one-time cottage industry into the full-blown billion dollar industry it is now. While this isn’t the definitive historical account of single thing that happened between the years 2000 and 2009, this Decade in Review is an insider’s look at what happened. See “Part 2 of The Decade in Review: Videogames 2000-2009” here.

The End of an Era

The decade started with a tumultuous bang. After the Sega Dreamcast roared into the world’s consciousness on September 9, 1999, breaking sales records, introducing online gaming to consoles, and introducing David (Visual Concepts) to Goliath (Madden), the Japanese hardware maker shocked everyone again in 2001 by declaring its console was kaput.

Perhaps more remarkable was that Nintendo’s biggest competitor in the 1990s, the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, and EA’s biggest partner, was re-focusing its energies to become a “console agnostic” software producer, meaning Sonic and his pals would appear side by side with Nintendo’s mascot, Mario. To the gaming world, this was like Bill Clinton announcing he was Republican, Bill Gates admitting he stole the Mac’s operating system, or saying you didn’t really like The Empire Strikes Back–all of it anathema.

Sony’s Big Empty PS2 Launch

Sony Computer Entertainment American launched the black, asymmetrical, and interesting (it was neither beautiful nor ugly, it just kinda “was”) PlayStation 2 in Japan in spring 2000 with lots of Sony-built hype, but few significant games to back it up (Tekken Tag Tournament and Ridge Racer V just didn’t cut it). The even bigger North American launch was amazing in that it packed 28-launch titles, only two of which were truly memorable, Madden NFL 2001 and SSX (originally proposed as a Dreamcast game). Sony scrambled to get 1 million consoles to the US, some flying on planes at the last minute.

Sony’s Stunning 2001 Line-Up

So while Sony’s launch year was a bust in many regards, replete with lots of faulty aliasing and sketchy titles, Sony (and its partners) made plans for 2001. Sony’s fall 2001 PS2 line-up was remarkable, perhaps the greatest line-up of a single system ever. In many ways it secured Sony’s first-place spot in that console generation. In the fall 2001, Sony and its partners launched Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Ico, Final Fantasy X, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Grand Theft Auto III, Onimusha, Red Faction, Gran Turismo 3: A-spec, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, Devil May Cry, SSX Tricky, Twisted Metal Black (which admittedly came out in the summer), Jak and Daxter, NBA Street, Klonoa: Lunatea’s Veil, Half-Life, Silent Hill 2, and Midnight Club, among many others. The knock-out punch was thought to be Metal Gear Solid, but in fact in was Grand Theft Auto III, which swept the message boards and radio waves, and became the PS2’s exclusive killer app for the next four years.

September 11, 2001

The al-Qaeda-backed hijacking that led to the destruction of four commercial airlines and the devastation of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York affected the entire world. In the video game business, publishers with games based in New York, removed the Twin Towers from the skyline of their games (i.e. Spider-Man 2). The grim repercussions stole the industry’s light step, killing four-day PR stunts and junkets (some of which were too long and crazy, anyway), forcing marketers to edit creative use of violent language, and heightening American’s fears of Middle Eastern religious groups, the subject of which would appear in games to come.

Grand Theft Auto III Steals the Show

Grand Theft Auto III launches; and with it Rockstar Games brings a whole new way of looking at game design, game production, and a maturing gaming audience. GTA III brought open-world gaming–sandbox design–to the forefront of game development, but it was Rockstar’s magic touch of high-cost development, mature themes, good story-telling, enormous geography, stellar, hand-picked soundtracks, and most importantly, humor–that parodied American civic life–that made the Grand Theft Auto series so revolutionary, not to mention one of the best selling series of all time. Activision, Midway, and several other companies tried their best to imitate it, but between 2001 and 2005, none came close. Pandemic’s Mercenaries, Vivendi’s Scarface, and Activision’s Spider-Man 2 came in at a distant second.

Halo Captures a Generation

When Microsoft entered the videogame business in 2001, it tried buying developers across the world. Its big catch was Bungie Studios, which was in development with the first-person shooter Halo (originally for the Mac). With Halo, Bungie revolutionized FPSs on the consoles. The Halo franchise won over millions and millions of college students who spent endless nights playing linked systems and Master Chief strangely displaced a generation of confused, lone college women. The Halo franchise went on to break previous opening day retail sales records and remain the number one selling game on Xbox during its four-year life-cycle.

2001: Titus Acquires Interplay

French publisher Titus Interactive, best known for its phenomenal failure, Superman 64, completes its acquisition Interplay. French gamers are oblivious. American RPG fans openly weep across the nation.

2002: Square and Disney Raise a Kingdom

In 2002, after navigating high-level political discussions and crashing into license cul-de-sacs, Square demonstrated its creative genius again with its fully licensed Disney action-RPG, Kingdom Hearts. One part Final Fantasy (without being Final Fantasy), and the rest a bamboozling assortment of Disney characters, Kingdom Hearts, up until the recent Batman Arkham Asylum–became the pinnacle of innovative licensed work.

2002: Titus Fumbles Interplay

Interplay’s shares descend drastically, and Interplay is de-listed from NASDAQ. American RPG fans claw their eyes out, wander the streets blind.

September 20, 2002: Square and Enix Merge

In one of the biggest mergers in Japanese game history, Square, makers of the popular Final Fantasy franchise, and Enix, makers of the Dragon Quest franchise, join in holy matrimony. The new company is called Square Enix, and its formation has as much to do with the crumbling Japanese economy and staying solvent as anything else. Years after this merger, Square will make yet another purchase of note.

September 12, 2003: Valve Launches Steam
Valve’s digital distribution platform, Steam, might have launched in September 2003, but it wouldn’t be until Half-Life 2 released in 2004 and third parties joined the party in 2007 that Steam gained traction and reached profitability. By carrying big third-party companies such as Eidos, Capcom, and Id Software, and seeing financial successes with The Orange Box, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and BioShock, Steam took the leadership role in digital distribution.

December 8, 2003: Black Day, Indeed

Interplay lays off the Black Isle Studios staff. A spat of former Black Isle staff members bitterly recalls the final days of their studio’s collapse. American RPG fans walk off cliffs, in front of cars, into the mouths of sharks.

September 1, 2004: Acclaim (Finally) Calls it Quits

One of the oldest publishers in the arcade and video game business, and makers of titles Shadowman, Burnout, NFL Quarterback Club, WWF Attitude, Re-Volt, Extreme-G, Vexx, Fur Fighters, Dave Mirra’s Freestyle BMX, and many others, Acclaim finally throws in the towel. After its multiple comebacks, all of its ghastly Mary-Kate and Ashley “games,” and the last, gasping hope at re-kindling Turok (once a great series), Acclaim Entertainment filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in fall 2004, purportedly owing $100 million to its debtors. Nobody, not even Acclaim employees, weep a single tear.

2004: EA Buys NFL License, Kills NFL 2K Series

In a move that crushed the healthy competition between annual football developers EA and Visual Concepts (and football-based videogames in general), EA out-bought its competition. EA convinced the NFL to an exclusive five-year licensing deal granting the Redwood Shores publisher the sole rights to the NFL’s teams, stadiums, and players. The move followed Visual Concepts/Take-Two’s risky move to sell its game at just $19.99, undercutting EA’s Madden sales with a superior game at a lower price. EA went on to produce three years of substandard Madden games in the new generation of systems, proving true the adage that competition is healthy for any market.

The Fall of 2004: Heavyweight Sequels Reign Supreme

The year 2004 was one of the greatest all-encompassing creative achievements for the game industry. In the fall of 2004, heavyweight games were in abundance and every system had its killer-app lined up. After an alleged security breach forced developer Valve to stall the release of Half-Life 2 in 2003, the Seattle-based developer delivered the wildly popular sequel on the PC in fall 2004, garnering dozens of high scores and game-of-the-year awards. Bungie followed up its first Xbox success story with Halo 2 to high scores, incredible sales, and a technologically advanced online system that revolutionized console multiplayer games. Rockstar Games brought its biggest, grimmest (and subsequently most controversial) game in the Grand Theft Auto series, GTA San Andreas. GTA San Andreas brought in the highest ratings and sales for the franchise, but also produced the hidden Hot Coffee sex scenario that caused characters like Jack Thompson to have their day in the sun (you know, before he lost his license to practice, soon thereafter). While these titles initially garnered the lion’s share of press, awards, and sales, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft silently took over the PC, wooing millions of casual gamers to subscribe to its highly addictive MMORPG, which went on to become the most successful MMORPG ever.

November 21, 2004: Nintendo launches the DS

Ever marching to its own drum beat, Nintendo launches the dual screen (DS) handheld, a modern new take on the Game Boy, which doesn’t instantly take off. It wasn’t until Brain Age and Nintendogs were gobbled up like candy in Japan, Europe, and North America did the system surpass sales of major consoles.

See “Part 2 of The Decade in Review: Videogames 2000-2009” here.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Mini-Review

Every night that I play Batman: Arkham Asylum, a little Xbox oval pops up on my screen to tell me “friends playing this game.”  This is a newish addition to the Xbox Live communication functionality, but with this game, I hardly need to see it. It’s redundant. Whenever I play Batman, all of my friends who have their Xboxes turned on are playing Batman and nothing else.Batman

There is a good reason for this. With some games, you get a beautiful presentation, but behind the pretty facade, there isn’t always enough game to match it. With Batman, you get a gorgeous facade that is intricately tied into every aspect of the game. So not only is there pretty eye candy grabbing your attention all the time, it ties into functional aspects.

Find a Riddler item? You’ll hear an audio response from the Riddler and a menu pulls up to show you what it was.  A quick legion of bats flies by to note you’ve collected something else, and because of these simple little things, you’re drawn just a little deeper into Batman’s world.

I’m only 22% through the game, but I am so impressed by the well-thought out overall world of Arkham Asylum. If you die? During the reloading screen the Joker appears and gives you shit, until the retry button appears. What about water or falling off a cliff? If you fall in water, a cutscene shows you climbing out of it. Oh, the game is telling me not to go in the water. I don’t die like in old GTA games, and there are no invisible walls preventing me from the water–like in a dozen other games. If I fall off a cliff, in slow motion I’ll have the option or using the grappling gun to save myself. Similar to the water scenario, I’ll climb back up. These seems like natural, logical ideas, but how many games have actually done this?

Those are the little things that add up, but Rocksteady nailed all the big ones, too. Batman isn’t just a beat’em-up, it’s a Batman game — one part action, one part detective story, one part adventure, and one part living comic book. Rocksteady really knows its Batman characters and it has done an excellent, excellent job at not only getting their looks right, but capturing them the way they would be in the comics; this too is another thing that most comic book games miss.

Come to think of it, DC has been pretty screwed when it comes to video games. I mean, the best comic book games are, what? Spider-Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance? Not bad, but there hasn’t been a good Spider-man since like 2004, and once you’ve played Ultimate Alliance, erm, I mean Marvel’s Ultimate Diablo, you’ve played them all. Batman has never been handled so well or transposed into the videogame format as he has been in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Thank you, Rocksteady, for making the best Batman game I’ve ever played.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Collector’s Junk

Yesterday afternoon I bought the last copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum from the local EB Games store. It was the Xbox 360 Collector’s Edition, $40 more than the standard price. I was sick of waiting for Eidos to send the game my way, so I spent my Edge Card savings and traded in some games (Transformers, MLB 2K9, and a few others I knew I wouldn’t touch again).  The game is beautifully crafted, presents everything with an amazing amount of class and style, and the actual gameplay mechanics and design are superbly done and make sense for the Batman character.Batman

But this Collector’s package is pure lunacy. For $40 more I got a huge, space-taking Batarang-shaped box and a whole lot of bat-shaped foam.  With a game DVD came an “extras DVD”, which I have not explored yet, a plastic mounted batarang, a leather-bound bookelt, a faux psychologists diary of sorts that lists the line-up of baddies Batman faces in the game and their prognosis. By the way, the diary includes Batman as a potential candidate for the Asylum. The package also includes two stickers, with redemption codes for free downloadable multiplayer modes, and some other crap.

Those extra levels are cool. And I love Batman stuff, but this Collector’s business is crazy making behavior; this stuff is totally worthless and it’s a waste of resources. I shouldn’t bitch, because after all, I didn’t actually spend any money on the thing, but still. It’s junky stuff. For instance, if you simply play the game you’ll collect all the villain cards and get the same information digitally; you don’t need a leather bound book, too.  The plastic mounted batarang just takes space. It’s not good for anything, like the Lord of the Rings bookends, or the Twisted Metal business card holder made of chains and sheet metal (and which is sort of ugly). And everything except the two DLC levels are pretty much fluff. I guess I’ll just put that old batarang up next to my Master Chief SPARTAN helmet. Blech.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Video

Another hell-effing-yes video of a game I want to play–Batman: Arkham Asylum.

I’m sure other folks have this, but I found this lovely bit of loveliness (that’s lovely loveliness) on Destructoid.

The Freeflow System is a fancy way of calling Batman’s fighting combos in a beat-’em-up, but you know, doesn’t Freeflow System sound better? Also, in case you didn’t notice, Producer Sefton Hill is mighty British.

This is going to be a great year for games.

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Sweet Mix

Normally I would say, “There’s this guy I know in PR who has laid down some sweet tracks, blah blah blah.” But he’s not just a phat, sick, bad, chill, swiggity-swag guy, he’s Kjell Vistad, bad ass former hippy-haired Ubisoft and Eidos PR dude.

He’s created some sweet mixes that shouldn’t be missed. Check these out.

Happy listening.

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