Slave to the Game

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Whenever I noted the best video games coming out in the past, none was for girls. But as a father of three girls, I'm paying more attention these days.

This year is the first that I remember in which some of the most interesting games are actually created with girls in mind. The game publishers either target the girls directly or create games that would appeal to girls as well as everyone else.

Targeting girls involves some assumptions. Some older girls, teens and young women are embracing games traditionally aimed at males. That's evidenced by the females who are turning pro in gaming tournaments that I recently watched involving shooting games such as "Dead or Alive 4" or "Counterstrike: Source."

But the game industry is reaching out to girls more than ever, thanks in part to the broader appeal of the Nintendo Wii game console and the handheld DS.

Market researcher NPD says 41 percent of gamers in the United States are female, and Nintendo says that 33 percent of the Wii's purchasers are women. On average, females have been playing for eight years, compared to 10 years for males, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

Around ages 8 to 12, girls tended to drop out of gaming in the past. Companies such as Purple Moon failed to attract enough girls to make viable businesses. But Her Interactive's "Nancy Drew" has sold enough to spawn multiple titles.

This year, Disney Interactive showed off several big efforts aimed at girls with its "High School Musical," "Hannah Montana" and Disney Princess brands. Electronic Arts also came up with several original titles that appeal to girls and boys for the Nintendo Wii, including titles such as "EA Playground," "MySims," "EA Smartypants Trivia" and "EA Boogie." It also scored kudos for "Rock Band," a title aimed at the older set that riffs off the craze for "Guitar Hero."

Other titles exploit fresh ideas beyond shooting.

In "Thrillville: Off the Rails," coming from LucasArts, players will be able to create roller coasters where cars fly into the air and people parachute safely to the ground. In Sony's "Echochrome" coming next year, you can walk into a world that resembles a stroll through the M.C. Escher painting "Relativity," where down is up and up is down.


"Halo 3" is a lot of things: an exciting science fiction action adventure, a rich online first-person shooter and the end of a popular trilogy. But let's cut through the enormous hype: It's not the best video game ever.

"Halo 3" (Rated M, $59.99, $69.99 or $129.99) does refine many aspects of the first-person shooter genre on the Xbox 360 console. And new multiplayer features make it the most robust online experience on any console.

Since receiving my early copy of "Halo 3," I've indulged my senses and blistered my fingers in nonstop game playing. I've completed the single-player campaign and experimented with the game's voluminous multiplayer features.

It turns out there are two very different sides to "Halo 3." I suspect only one aspect will keep gamers going for more than a few days.

It's been three years since the infuriatingly obscure end of "Halo 2" left us all wondering what happened.

Will Master Chief, the game's mysterious, armor-clad superhero, survive? What about all those angry aliens: the Prophet of Truth, the Covenant, the Flood? And what of Cortana, the female artificial intelligence who shares an oddly intimate relationship with Master Chief?

"Halo 3" answers all these questions and more in a narrative that sometimes stumbles but at least provides a sense of closure.

Without any prologue, "Halo 3" picks up with Master Chief crash-landing on Earth in the year 2552. The gunplay-driven action is relentless from there as you blast droves of aliens back from the front lines of our future home world.

Master Chief's motivation is nothing less than survival of the galaxy.

Earth's population has been decimated by the Covenant, a diverse collection of religious aliens who believe the key to activating a network of "halos" — massive ring worlds floating in space — is buried somewhere under the sands of Northern Africa.

These halos, crafted by a mysterious ancient race known as the Forerunners, are seen by the Covenant as a path to salvation. There's one catch: Turning on the halos would destroy all sentient life in the galaxy.

This doomsday premise drives the action forward through levels that occasionally falter with unclear goals or too much repetitious backtracking.

The game slowly builds in intensity but suffers from some uneven difficulty. A showdown in a Flood-infested spacecraft was by far the most difficult section for me to complete. However, I was far from finished and the real final battle felt like a letdown by comparison.

Like its predecessors, "Halo 3" liberally uses cinematic interludes between the action to advance the story. And again, it sometimes cheapens the gaming experience. Instead of watching a movie where Master Chief performs some daring move, shouldn't I be the one controlling him?

If anything, life as Master Chief is predictable: aim, shoot and reload. The weaponry this time around has been upgraded and includes some devastating armaments like hefty turret weapons, which Master Chief can rip from the ground and use to mow down foes.

Another favorite is the Gravity Hammer, a slow weapon that when swung turns enemies into a bloody pile of their former selves.

New to the game are a slew of equipment upgrades such as a personal bubble shield and a special grenade that temporarily blinds with a flash of white light.

"Halo 3" is the first version for the Xbox 360, and the colorful graphics shine for the most part. Close-ups on many of the character's faces were far from high-definition, however, and the overall visual quality drops markedly once you jump to the online modes.

"Halo 3" rolls out some interesting new vehicles that can make or break a mission, including the Mongoose, a speedy ATV with room for two people. The Scorpion tank, meanwhile, returns as my favorite vehicle of destruction.

Most of the game's innovations lie in the multiplayer modes. For the first time you can play with three others online in cooperative mode, offering a fresh and fun new way to finish the fight.

Then there's the Forge system, which allows gamers in multiplayer matches to manipulate certain aspects of the environment in real time. You can't rebuild the landscape, but you can move around turrets and make other changes to the battlefield.

While Forge doesn't seem particularly robust compared to mapmaking tools on many PC games, it adds a strategic twist to online "Halo 3" games and should keep people interested for years.

Theater mode is another innovation that lets players record their favorite "Halo 3" action moments, then share them online with others. So remember: your next loss could be someone else's "Halo 3" highlight reel.

"Halo 3" wraps up an interesting, if somewhat scatterbrained, story line with some really compelling online features. The result isn't going to change how we play or perceive video games. But it's an overall package that's definitely worthwhile for any fan of action games.


MOSCOW, 29 (UPI) -- U.S. video game developer Richard Garriott is paying $25 million to become the sixth space tourist to spend a few days on the International Space Station.

Garriott, whose father is former NASA astronaut Owen K. Garriott, is to travel to the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft next year, said U.S.-based Space Adventures.

Garriott, who developed the Ultima computer game, is expected to spend about a week on the space station.

The previous five space tourists each paid about $20 million each for the privilege but Russia recently announced it was raising the price per ride to $25 million, RIA Novosti reported.

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Several weeks ago we reported on the rumor that Sony would release a new model of the PS3 in time for the holidays, with a smaller, 40GB hard drive and a price point of $399.99. Now an FCC filing has been discovered for a new PlayStation model number, the CECHG01. While technical details and pictures are not present, the FCC report shows a diagram on pages 8 and 9, showing what had been tested on the system. As DailyTech has pointed out, the unit shows only two USB ports instead of the normal form, and no card reader is present, which could certainly indicate a trimmed down system for a trimmed down price point. We still don't have a hard disk size, though 40GB sounds like a reasonable bet. Personally I liked it better back when you bought a console and it was the same one everyone else had, but that's just me.

Seniors: Wii like it

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Obert Thomley was one of 19 seniors who tried their hand at bowling via the Nintendo Wii video gaming system last week.

“I can see this is going to be a lot of fun,” Thomley said.

The senior center is starting a fall bowling league to be played on the Brunswick Bowling Wii game. Already, 14 pairs are signed up to play.

It’s appealing to seniors who didn’t think they’d ever bowl again.

Don and Jan Kuechler both bowled before each had back surgery.

“You just kind of write it off as something you can’t do anymore, but with this system you can bowl again,” Don said. “You feel you’re in a bowling alley; It’s so realistic.”

For those with physical limitations, the Wii system opens up a whole new world of experiences. A small, light controller translates a player’s movements into lifelike onscreen action.

Chippewa Falls seniors released throws effortlessly down the computerized bowling lane last week.

“The faster you swing your arm, the faster the ball moves,” Senior Center Activity Coordinator Angie Walker said.

“Just like at the bowling alley,” Ellie Wohlbier quipped.

Minus the 8-pound ball, that is.

“Anybody who can swing their arm can bowl, even someone in a wheelchair,” Angie Walker said. “That’s the precious part.”

Angie and her son Andy, 17, first tried out Brunswick Bowling several months ago. (In addition to being an avid Wii bowler, Andy recently bowled a 709 at Falls Bowl.)

“It’s something new happening all over the United States, and I thought we should try it out,” Angie said.

Andy demonstrated the game at the senior center and helped everyone try it out.

“If you can figure out what the buttons do and remember it, it’s not too bad,” Delores Follensbee said.

“It’ll take me awhile to see what’s going on, but it’ll be exciting and different to do this,” said Mickey Johnson, who has bowled at Falls Bowl since 1953.

“I never knew they had such a thing.”

Wohlbier’s grandson from Oregon visits from time to time, and she remembers him playing the Wii system during his last visit.

“I’m glad to see the younger generation has something like this,” Wohlbier said. “It keeps them off the streets.”

But next time the grandkids pull out the Wii system, grandma and grandpa will have a few moves to show them.

“I’d like to say to my grandkids, ‘Let me try that,’ and show them I could do it on my own,” Dian Hanley said.

Some seniors liked the system so much they’re considering adding one to their household.

“When grandkids get a certain age, they get bored at grandma and grandpa’s,” said Jan Kuechler. “This is perfect.”

Everyone wants a piece of the action.

“I’m going to tell my husband we should get this for each other for Christmas,” Wohlbier said. “Then, when company comes over it would be something to just go bowling in the living room!”

In addition to Wii bowling, there’s football, golf, role-playing games, shooting games, carnival games, racing, puzzles, trivia, pinball and virtual life games. Some of the least-expected game tasks include cooking and surgery.

Don is curious about the Wii game that allows the user to fish.

“You set the hook, cast it and reel it in,” Andy Walker said.

One of Angie Walker’s favorites is Barnyard, where the player is a cow and completes different barnyard challenges.

“I laughed till I cried, playing that game,” she said.


Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday said its "Halo 3" video game rang up a record-smashing $170 million in retail sales within its first 24 hours on sale at U.S. stores.

The figure does not include international sales in 37 countries, which could add tens of millions to the tally.

In comparison, the top grossing box office movie release, "Spider-Man 3," racked up $151 million.

"Spectacular," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities.

Analysts say strong sales of "Halo 3" could be enough to push Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division into the black for the quarter ending Sept. 30. The division has lost billions of dollars since launching its Xbox video game console business in 2000. The Redmond, Wash., company has promised to reverse those losses and turn a profit from its games business this fiscal year.

"Halo 3" is regarded as a critical component in Microsoft's strategy to win the race against Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 console. Microsoft, which has spent millions of dollars in a marketing blitz to promote the game, is betting "Halo 3" will spur consumers to buy its Xbox 360 console and play the game online through the company's Xbox Live service.

"Within the first 20 hours alone, we've seen more than a million Xbox Live members come online to play Halo 3," said Shane Kim, corporate vice president of Microsoft's game studios.

The game's previous installment, "Halo 2," grossed $125 million its first day out in 2004.

Learn the delicate art of survival, the Master Chief way.

by Greg Orlando

Knowing is half the battle, sayeth noted pundit G.I. Joe. The other half, at least for the first-person shooter Halo 3, is getting the basics down. Using these simple tips will help you begin your journey to Halo mastery.

Or they'll at least keep you from dying like clockwork every six seconds.


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Step One: Know thy enemy...

The simplest thing you can do to stay alive in Halo 3's single-player adventure is to understand your enemy. You'll be facing a host of Covenant forces, from bumblebee-like drones to hulking Brutes. Each type of foe has its own set of reactions, battle tactics, and weapons. Once you know what a given enemy class is capable of, and what it's going to do in a given situation, you will be well prepared for a meaningful dialogue with it -- by which we mean kill the rat bastard and mock its corpse.

Diminutive grunts, for example, will panic in the face of pressure; kill the Brute leader they support, and the Grunts will throw up their arms and scatter. Jackals serve as snipers and, on the game's heroic difficulty level, are crack shots. When they're around it's best to use stealth to kill the ground enemies they support so as to find a good vantage point from which to snipe them, or else move from cover point to cover point to avoid their deadly fire.

Later on, during the Flood levels, Halo 3 becomes more of a run-and-gun affair. Here, it's not so much necessary to recognize the different Flood types, but rather escape from them. In fact, shooting some of the Flood is just asking for trouble; the little, twitching, bulbous-headed Flood (Flood carrier forms) will explode when shot, releasing a horde of tiny parasites in the process.


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Step two: It's tool time!

Do not neglect your tools. They're handy in so many ways.

Bubble shields are invaluable, especially when Master Chief's facing a host of enemies and cover isn't readily available. Dropping one will give you the time you need to reload, recover lost shield power, and plot a new strategy.

Portable gravity lifts can be dropped in doorways or narrow corridors, creating a perfect trap for foes. Any enemy foolish enough to wander over one will be thrust upward toward the ceiling and rendered helpless. From here, it's easy to either shoot them or lob a grenade toward the generator (the generator will then hurl the grenade upward) to dispatch the trapped foes.

A power drainer is great to use on a concentrated group of enemies. It rapidly depletes enemy shields, and will kill anything stupid enough to remain in its area of effect. Players can then follow up the drainer's destructive attack with grenades, or simply plow through the problem spot with little resistance.

In multiplayer games, other players' radar can be temporarily wrecked with a radar jammer. This is great for players who like to take the high ground and snipe suckers from a distance, or for less experienced players who rely on praying and spraying (with the battle rifle, machine gun, etc.) or those who like to dispatch their foes close up with melee attacks.


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Step three: Learn this combo...

The ability to wield two weapons at once is a godsend in Halo 3. Covenant enemies such as the Brutes now use armor, and taking them out while it's intact is really tough.

It may seem like an unlikely combination, but the pistol and pistol combination (human and Covenant plasma) works extremely well against armored or shielded foes. Charge up the plasma pistol by holding down the fire trigger (either left or right, depending on which hand the plasma pistol is being held in, and shoot when the pistol begins to hum and shake. This will knock out shields and destroy armor, allowing for two or three quick shots with the human pistol-a surefire way to destroy any foe.


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Step four: One last thing...

Always aim for the head. One well-placed head shot is worth 5-10 hits on an enemy's body.


Just hours after die-hard fans finally got their hands on a copy of "Halo 3," blogs brimmed with reports that special limited-edition packaging is scratching the video game disks.

While the scratches don't appear to be keeping gamers from playing the last installment of the popular trilogy, it's a rough patch that Microsoft Corp., which has faced several Xbox 360 glitches in recent months, could have lived without.

Microsoft, which owns the studio that makes the Xbox-only "Halo 3," responded quickly on its Xbox Web site with details for a replacement program. Customers can fill out a form and send in their scratched limited-edition disks for a free exchange through the end of December.

"We have identified that there are some instances of blemishes on discs as a result of the packaging," said Microsoft spokesman David Dennis in an e-mailed statement. "This is a small fraction of the total number of Halo 3 games shipped and sold, and is a limited production version of the game."

Microsoft is selling the limited-edition version, which comes in a tin with bonus behind-the-scenes features and a making-of-the-game documentary, for $70. A regular copy of the game costs $60, and a "legendary" version, which comes with a replica of the helmet worn by game protagonist Master Chief, costs $130. The game officially went on sale early Tuesday.

Richard Mitchell, the lead writer of the Xbox 360 Fanboy blog, said one of the disks that came in his limited-edition set is scratched but the damage didn't seem to interfere with its playing.

"Who wants to pay full price for something scratched?"

Brian Crescente, Kotaku.comThe AP received several review copies of "Halo 3" in limited-edition tins. Both the game disk and an "essentials" disk had come loose from plastic housing designed to keep them in place. The game disk had been scratched but seemed to work fine.

"It sounds like it's just an aesthetic thing, though who wants to pay full price for something scratched?" said Brian Crescente, managing editor of Gawker Media's Kotaku.com video game blog.

Microsoft has been plagued by Xbox 360 problems in recent months. In July, the software maker said it would spend more than $1 billion to repair broken Xbox 360 consoles, and in August it disclosed that some Wireless Racing Wheel game controllers were overheating and smoking.

Since its launch, the Xbox 360 has outsold Sony Corp.'s next-generation PlayStation 3 console, but it hasn't been as popular as Nintendo Corp.'s Wii. Investors and analysts are watching whether Microsoft can turn a profit in the division that makes the Xbox 360. Microsoft, which expects to hit that milestone in the current fiscal year, has said "Halo 3" is one part of its strategy for reaching that goal.


Written by Brian Szabelski

For Wii owners, it has been a very long summer with few reasons to brush the dust off their consoles. It has been especially difficult for the hardcore Nintendo community, with many of them growing sick over the perception that developers are only putting out Wii games for casual gamers.

The waiting has finally paid off, as the highly-anticipated Metroid Prime 3: Corruption arrives on the Wii after a nine-month delay (Prime 3 was originally supposed to be a launch title for the Wii), and to their credit, Retro Studios has pulled off something incredible.

Prime 3 is perhaps most notable for its new controls that use the Wii remote and nunchuk, but we'll dive more into that later. Prime 3 also adds the ability to pilot Samus' ship into the game, which becomes handy and important in navigating between multiple planets in the game, another new feature. The inclusion of tokens and friend vouchers for completing certain in-game tasks has been added, and these tokens can be used to unlock things like artwork and music. There's also the return of the Spring Jump and the stackable beam system. Finally, Prime 3 adds a hyper mode to the game, which drains health but gives Samus the power to blast enemies with super-powered bolts of Phazon energy.

In the final installment of the series, Samus Aran must do battle with her super-powered doppelganger Dark Samus, who manages to infuse the dangerous element Phazon into Samus and three of her fellow bounty hunters. With the help of advanced technology, Samus is able to get a boost in power, but with the drawback of putting her own health in danger. Her mission: stop Dark Samus from infecting the known universe with Phazon and put an end to this menace once and for all, by any means possible.

The core of Prime 3's game play remains much the same. Sometimes you'll be shooting your way through a horde of Space Pirates, while other times precision is key when trying to solve the game's puzzles. Prime 3, though, seems to take things to the extremes, namely the boss battles.

One of the most memorable battles involves falling down a long shaft while trying to blast away at Meta-Ridley before you both hit the bottom. It's experiences like these that make Prime 3 incredibly exciting and fun to play.

On top of that, new features like the Grapple Lasso add new depth to game play. For example, in the case of the Grapple Lasso, you'll use the upgrade to rip shields and armor away from enemies, as well as opening sealed doors. Other items from the previous editions, like the X-Ray Scanner, have been improved making them more useful.

The only bad part is that there's a "fetch quest" at the end of the game, and while it can be annoying, it's not nearly as bad as the Triforce pieces in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Using the Wii remote and nunchuk to control Prime 3 is probably the game's biggest selling point, and Retro has made sure not to let gamers down. Using the Wii remote to point and the A button to shoot is pretty easy, as is using the B button to jump, though switching the two buttons around might have made controls even easier. Locking-on is handled by the Z trigger, but unlike past games, you have to aim your shots once locked-on to a target. This is a big change at first, but it opens up the game's control scheme, and later in the game, can be used to get one-hit kills. The Wii remote and nunchuk movements used in the game are simple enough for anyone to pull-off. Unfortunately, mapping missiles to the down direction on the directional pad is a little cumbersome at times, especially during frantic fights. Overall, controls are pretty intuitive and do a good job of making the gamer feel like they're in Samus' shoes.

For the first time, the game brings voice acting into the fold, and it's done pretty well. The dialogue at times seems kind of, well, generic, but it fits the cut-scenes, which are very well done and serve a purpose. As far as Wii games go, Prime 3 is by far the best-looking and best-sounding. The environments look far better than previous games in the Metroid Prime series, and the game's soundtrack fits very well with the overall design. Each planet has a unique look and art style to it, especially the game's later stages.

Even after beating Prime 3, there's plenty of reasons to go back and try the game again. There's always going through the game again to get 100% of all necessary items, or trying to beat the game on Hyper Mode difficulty, which is unlocked after beating the game on normal difficulty. Unfortunately, multiplayer mode got the axe this time around, which might either be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it.

This is the title that hardcore gamers have been looking for on the Wii. After suffering through ports and games centered more towards casual players, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is a breath of fresh air on the Wii even if it builds-on a lot of past Metroid titles. Future Wii games will likely surpass this one, but Metroid Prime 3 might be the Wii's Gears of War - the game that opens the gates to a flood of great titles on Nintendo's newest console. We can only hope that's the case.

Pros: The best-looking game on the Wii to date. Controls are well-done and adjustable to different levels of sensitivity, though sometimes controls are gimmicky. New power-ups add depth to the game's combat and puzzles. A solid, polished title all around.

Cons: The stupid fetch quest at the end of the game. No multiplayer.


"Halo 3," the highly anticipated video game from Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), won high praise on Sunday from game reviewers who gushed over the lush settings, cinematic feel and array of multiplayer features.

The game, the final chapter of a trilogy that began in 2001 with the launch of Microsoft's original Xbox, is a key part of the company's strategy to take a bigger share of the console gaming market from Sony Corp (6758.T).

Gaming news Web site GameSpy gave "Halo 3" five stars, its highest ranking, saying it was so good that it was worth buying an Xbox 360 just to play it. The Xbox 360 costs $280 to $450, depending on features.

"Quite simply, 'Halo 3' is the reason the Xbox 360 exists," GameSpy said.

Since "Halo 3" is the game industry equivalent of a new "Harry Potter" book or "Star Wars" movie, few expected it to be a flop. Specialty gaming retail chain GameStop Corp (GME.N) said the title set a record for advance orders while Microsoft has said it expects initial demand to surpass that for 2004's "Halo 2," which racked up $125 million in its first 24 hours.

The game is set to go on sale on September 25.

Reviewers did voice a few complaints. Some said the game's graphics, while impressive, fell short of titles such as Take-Two Interactive Software's (TTWO.O) "BioShock" and "Gears of War," also from Microsoft. Others said the behavior of computer-controlled enemies wasn't very realistic.

"Will 'Halo 3' live up to the hype? No. There isn't perfection here. There isn't an absolute, please-all quality," said gaming blog Joystiq.com, though it added that the game was still a must-have.

Most critics said any shortcomings were more than made up for by unprecedented variety that includes a cooperative mode that allows four people to play together online, and editing tools to let gamers modify levels to compete against each other in "deathmatch" competitions.

Dan Hsu, editor-in-chief of gaming magazine EGM, gave the game a perfect 10 rating.

"It's such a huge package. It's hard to imagine something gamers don't like here," Hsu said.

GameSpot, another top gaming news Web site, weighed in with a rating of 9.5, saying the new features refreshed the familiar feel of the "Halo" universe.

"When you roll all this stuff together ... it really feels like a dramatically different game, and a dramatically bigger game. It comes together in an amazing package that is definitely one of the year's best," GameSpot said.


Publisher has high hopes for its upcoming Olympics game in which the company's blue blur squares off against Nintendo's plucky plummer.

TOKYO--Sega is looking to bring home the gold with the upcoming Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. According to a Bloomberg report, Sega corporate director Masanao Maede said at the Tokyo Game Show that the company will sell 4 million copies of the game, which is set to launch later this year.

Maede didn't give a time frame for how quickly the game would hit that milestone, but both characters reached such lofty sales heights before. The original Sonic the Hedgehog game that frequently was packed in with the Sega Genesis has been touted as selling more than 4 million copies worldwide, while Nintendo has said sales of the DS hit New Super Mario Bros. have topped 9.5 million copies worldwide.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is set for a November release on the DS and Wii.


BANGALORE: High import tariffs, piracy, lack of adequate broadband connectivity and retail infrastructure were some of the impediments to the Indian gaming industry.

The gaming industry in India, which is currently pegged at USD 100 million in comparison to a global estimate of USD three billion, has immense growth potential, Microsoft India Country Manager (Entertainment and Devices Division) Mohit Anand told PTI.

The high duties, which translates into higher pricing of gaming accessories and consoles, put paid to the growth of the industry which was relatively new to many people in the country, he said.

"Another growth dampener is the lack of broadband connectivity. Though the broadband network was growing, it was not growing at a faster rate as expected, limiting the access to online gaming experience," he said.

Piracy was another factor which the gaming industry was facing, with pirated versions of popular games being sold at cheap rates.

Moreover, the industry also has to contend with the negative parental perception about gaming.

"Parents still connect gaming with violence which hampered a child's development, which was a completely misplaced notion," Anand said.

However, India has a young demographic profile which automatically translates into a huge chunk of gaming consular in the country, he said.

Remember last November when all of you took your Wii to your Thanksgiving dinner and got your family to give the Nintendo's little white box a go? Remember how astounded they were by Wii Sports? Remember how they said they were going to get a console for themselves? My question is this. Are they still buying new games?

Although this has been in the back of my mind for a while, looking at the sales of Metroid Prime 3 has pretty much confirmed what I've been thinking. Casual gamers are happy to have their console and Wii Sports to play on it, but will they be continue to shell out money for games over the course of a generation? I don't believe they will.

I know a lot of people have been thinking about this and I'm not here to spout doom and gloom for Nintendo. The thing is that even if Nintendo sells the most consoles out of anyone this Christmas, if the only thing Casual Gamers buy the console for is Wii Sports and ignore Mario Galaxy, Smash Bros., and various other games, how do you guys see this affecting the industry as a whole?

Lets be honest. Sure, it's Nintendo's ass on the line if the general population drops Nintendo, but do you see Microsoft come swooping in to pick off the remaining hardcore gamers? I know that hardcore gamers already feel jilted by Nintendo and the Wii Fit announcement at E3. And games like Bioshock and Mass Effect are titillating. Could Nintendo be shooting itself in the foot?

The last time an industry wide crash came about, Atari was riding high and depending on the casual market to help the industry grow. True a lot of crap software was involved in that collapse, but it involved the general population getting tired of gaming overall as well. Will the current casual get tired of the mini-games and novelty of the Wii and stop buying games overall, even when blockbusters like SMG and SSBB hit?

And even if the console does well this winter and a number of publishers move their portfolios to support the Wii for 2008, what if this decision to stop buying games by the casuals comes during late 2008. Not only will Nintendo drag itself down, they would drag down all the other publishers involved with them. Look at EA and their Nintendo numbers. Abysmal.

Sure the big companies have plenty of assets to keep them afloat, but what about the smaller publishers? There could be bankruptcy fillings all over the industry as the attempts to find balance. Smaller developers and publishers could be wiped out and the rest of the industry tries to balance itself from the collapse on the Nintendo sector. Remember Capcom even almost went bankrupt once when their copies of Super Street Fighter 2 didn't sell well on the SNES (which had a huge userbase).

Is Nintendo really going to be able to convert the casual gamer into the hardcore gamer? Or is it setting itself and the companies who align with it for a fall? Thus far, Metroid Prime 3 has only been bought by 8.9% of the people who own a Wii. It's already been hailed as being the best game on the system and yet it isn't selling. With two months still to go before any sign of Galaxy, is this a sign of things to come? If they continue to ignore the hardcore gamer, we may find out sooner than later.


A new video game designed exclusively for the Xbox 360 is stirring up controversy for including an optional lesbian sex scene. “Mass Effect”, from game developer BioWare, will allow players to engage in romantic interludes with other game characters, including same-sex relationships between female characters.
Spoilers on the game were published recently by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which regulates the film and video industry in the UK. The spoilers include details about the game’s content, including a sex scene “triggered by the player making a series of choices about becoming more than friends with a colleague.”

In “Mass Effect”, players can choose to initiate romantic relationships between male characters and female human NPCs (non-player characters) or female-appearing alien NPCs—although BioWare technically specifies the aliens as being non-gendered. Female characters are allowed to choose to engage in relationships with both male humans and female-appearing aliens. The resulting sex scene includes a flash of virtual breast and, as Eurogamer.net states, “some jazz saxophone wailing in the background”.


Previous video games such as “Fear Effect 2” (for Playstation) have included lesbian or bisexual subtext. The RPG game “Jade Empire” from BioWare allowed both male-male and female-female relationships. More recently, the video game “Bully” featured kissing between two male characters.

Although the alien characters in "Mass Effect" are, as previously noted, tagged as being "non-gendered" by BioWare, their strikingly female appearance is behind the sex scene controversy.

Two opposing streams of protest are already being generated by the sex scene included in “Mass Effect” on gaming forums across the Net. On one side of the issue are protesters against the inclusion of any sexual content in a video game potentially put in the hands of children—much less same-sex content. George Walker, Midwest Contributor for Aeropause.com, stated yesterday on the gaming site: "I would hope that 'Mass Effect' could be the kind of game that any teenager would be able to play, but I now see that will not be the case. I know a lot of people don't have a problem with this sort of content, but I do. ...If this stays in the game upon release, I can honestly say I'll be boycotting the 'Mass Effect' series."

On the other side are those who question why BioWare would include same-sex content between what appears to be two females, but not between two male-appearing characters.

David Edison, Associate Editor of GayGamer.net, tells LesbiaNation.com: "...While male same-sex content in gaming is on the rise (see Bully's boy-on-boy kisses, for instance), and heteronormative values of traditionally ideal male sexuality do have dual-appeal as gay sex symbols you might see in a Falcon or Titan video, I'm of the opinion that most, but not all, of that increase is more about general societal openness and lessening of anti-gay reactiveness rather than any real flat-out interest in generating male-male gay game content."
"...While it's nice to see same-sex relations in mainstream media, it's hard to get behind this one as anything remotely progressive," Edison continues. "I see titillation. The exclusion of male same-sex possibilities clearly marks this as another heterosexual fantasy rather than any kind of step forward. That said, if there was equal play opportunity for both genders in the game, it would go a long way toward evening the score, and would definitely show up on our radar as something positive and desired."

Edison adds, "...It's a shame BioWare has only included a specific kind of freedom that panders to the lowest common denominator without offering even the shadow of an equal, opposite choice."




Based on the BBFC’s rating, in Britain—where “Mass Effect” is due to be released on November 23rd—children as young as 12 will be allowed to purchase the game. In the United States, the game has been rated M for “mature” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, meaning that it cannot be purchased by anyone under 17 without parental approval. As versions of games often vary from country to country, it is possible the sex scene or same-sex options will not appear in the U.S. version


MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's nascent $30-million gaming industry is set to grow to $700 million in the next five years, driven by global companies that are pushing new generation gaming consoles in the Indian market, industry watchers said.

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) launched its XBox 360 in India in September 2006, the premium version retailing at 24,000 rupees, without taxes. In April this year, Sony Corp (6758.T) (SNE.N) launched its Playstation 3, priced at a hefty 39,990 rupees, complete with the latest blu-ray formatted optical disc drive.

The third major console maker Nintendo's (7974.OS) Wii has not been officially launched in India, but is sold through various channels at a substantial discount to the Xbox and the PS3.

"The main drivers for the growth of the gaming industry in India would be seeding initiatives by the players, marketing, and pricing of the games - which is an important aspect in India," said Rajesh Jain, executive director, KPMG.

He said India's gaming market would go to $650-700 million in about 4-5 years from $30 million now, including the grey market.

MARKETING HYPE: PLAYING THE GAME

Microsoft, with its first-mover advantage, is meeting the challenge head on. "The response to the XBox has been phenomenal...absolute demand has exceeded our expectations and plans," said Microsoft India's Mohit Anand, country manager (entertainment and devices).

"I have more than 1,000 retail touch points across the top seven cities," he said. "We are everywhere...any retail outlet."

While in the past consoles were left to sell themselves, now makers are taking a proactive approach to sell their products.

"This kind of an organized marketing thrust was missing when the first XBox was launched," said Anand Gurnani, head of animation and gaming portal Animationexpress.com.

People's perception of gaming has also changed. "It has gone from being a product for a cult group to a lifestyle product."

Tanisha Kaul, product head, PlayStation at Sony India, said that a study done prior to launch showed an increase in jobs, disposable incomes and internet usage were inclining more people towards a digital lifestyle and alternate means of entertainment.

"Indian consumers might catch everyone unawares by bridging the gaming gap with the developed markets more quickly than anyone could have imagined," she said.

CONTENT AND PRICING

Price points are very important in India. Most games are priced steeply. In the U.S., new games for the 360 retail at around $50 a DVD. In India imported games attract a steep duty and retail at upwards of 3,000 rupees. Prices of games are being reduced as there are more homegrown games available.

"Some of the Playstation 2 games have already been brought down. That helps to grow the market," said Jain. "At the end of the day the prices at which the games are bought is important."

He pointed out that software developed in India leverages local strengths bringing down costs and the selling price.

So Microsoft has introduced a game on cricket in India priced at 1,699 rupees. In fact, the company has absorbed part of the import duty of 54 percent on the Xbox.

"It is not the cost of the box which is important..it is the cost of the recurring games which is," Jain said.

"What is needed is localized content and games designed for the Indian market," Tony Garcia, CEO of FX Labs, said.

($1=40.26 rupees)

Ben Heckendorn has once again cranked out a gaming mod, and this time his target was the original xbox "duke" controller.

The idea behind this mod was to take the "guts" of a wireless xbox 360 controller and put them in the huge body of the original xbox controller. "Why would he do this?" you may be asking. Well quite simply, because he can.

There's no real benefit from this mod, and I can't imagine anybody would actually want to use this giant controller, but it's cool nonetheless.

Here's a couple of pictures that show an over-view of what was done in this mod:


Looks quite normal from the front, except for the added guide button (between/above back and start) and the headset jack at the base. Couldn’t forget that, what’s trash-talking without one?


Back is also fairly normal, except for a small, recessed “sync” button below where the cord used to come out.

Some games push all the wrong buttons. Check out this rundown of gaming's biggest offenders.

From the very beginning, video gaming has managed to stir up controversy. Exidy's 1976 arcade game Death Race raised the ire of the National Safety Council by rewarding players for running over gremlins. The 1982 Atari 2600 game Custer's Revenge angered women's rights groups for its tasteless depiction of non-consensual intercourse. Regardless of whether or not you happen to believe that video games are a valid form of artistic expression, you can't argue with their ability to tick people off.

And over the past 15 years, they've gotten really, really good at doing just that. So grab your picket sign and get ready to march as we look at some of gaming's most controversial games.

Night Trap
(1992: Sega CD)

If it weren't for controversy (and the fact that it starred ill-fated actress Dana Plato), this throwaway Sega CD game would have drifted into obscurity as merely another failed attempt at marrying gameplay with live-action video. But from the moment legislators caught wind of its premise -- young co-eds being hunted by vampires in a deadly house -- it became a touchstone of media tolerance and censorship. Senate hearings led by Joseph Lieberman called the game's content "sick" and "shameful," and while they inaccurately claimed that players were encouraged to trap and kill the unfortunate starlets (players were actually trying to trap the vampires, duh), the damage was done as the game was quickly yanked from retail shelves. The nail in the coffin? Damning testimony by none other than Bob "Captain Kangaroo" Keeshan. Ouch.

Mortal Kombat
(1992: Arcade)


Don't let the bad grammar fool you: Midway knew exactly what it was doing when it unleashed this brutal challenger to Capcom's coin-op champ Street Fighter back in 1992. Thanks to incredibly lifelike graphics made possible through digitizing human actors, Mortal Kombat quickly became a breakout hit, but its sheer brutality and chilling "Fatalities" made it an easy target for anti-violence crusaders. Along with Night Trap, Mortal Kombat was singled out as a prime example of inexcusable game violence during heated Congressional hearings in 1993, the result of which led to the formation of the ESRB ratings system. Not a flawless victory.

Doom
(1993: PC)


When fledgling developer id Software cobbled together the landmark Martian monster mash Doom back in 1993, they were simply building on the success of their previous game, Wolfenstein 3D. But Doom took off like a bat out of you-know-where, quickly becoming the most downloaded PC shareware program of the era. Its initial release prompted outcry from various religious groups for its violence and satanic imagery, but none of that would compare to the flood of criticism following the tragic 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. Once word spread that perpetrators Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were fans of the game, including a wildly disseminated rumor that they used it to design levels based on the school's layout (since proven to be untrue), lawmakers and activists labeled the game a murder simulator and several victims' families filed lawsuits against the film and video game industries, which were eventually dismissed.

SimCopter
(1996: PC)


Before Rockstar was scalded by Hot Coffee, sim developer Maxis was burned by Hot Guys In Speedos. Upset with what he considered unfair working conditions (i.e. too many hours, not enough margaritas), a SimCopter programmer named Jacques Servin decided to play a bit of a prank by making a few alterations to the game code just before it shipped: on certain dates, scads of shirtless male sprites (dubbed "himbos") would gather in great numbers to hug and kiss. When word of the unauthorized code leaked, sales skyrocketed and Servin was summarily fired. Where's the love?

Postal
(1997: PC)


You have to hand it to Running with Scissors and now-defunct publisher Ripcord Games - they knew how to drive people crazy. For instance, call your ultra-violent action game "Postal," a term coined after a series of homicides by disgruntled U.S. Postal employees during the '80s and '90s. Though the game's cartoonish graphics and disconnected isometric viewpoint made light of its insidious undertones, no one was laughing - especially not the U.S. Postal Service, who promptly sued the pants off the developers for trademark infringement. Though Running With Scissors have somehow managed to crank out a few sequels and even a feature film, the Postal series has remained an example of shock over substance.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
(2004: PS2)


For a game featuring more acts of thoughtless manslaughter than a Terminator marathon, it's stunning that the excellent San Andreas was nearly derailed by a delicious cup of coffee. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the coffee as much as the simulated sex mini-game that, through patches or special code software, could be unlocked by persistent gamers. Calling Hot Coffee a significant controversy is an embarrassing understatement; the incident opened the floodgates of video game legislation, resulted in a massive recall and re-rating of San Andreas, and obliterated the 2005 fiscal earnings of Rockstar parent Take 2 Interactive, a blow the company is still reeling from. Maybe they should have ordered tea.

Bully
(2006: PS2)


After years of letting gamers wreak havoc on the weak-willed digital masses that filled the streets of Liberty City, Rockstar decided to empower the little guy with this twisted take on schoolyard social castes. Still, their reputation preceded them as critics lined up to take potshots at Bully before it was released, claiming it sensationalized and trivialized the real-world problem of bullying. Florida attorney and video game critic Jack Thompson went so far as to attempt to get it pulled from store shelves even before it received an ESRB rating, though ultimately his plan didn't work and the game hit retail. Bully's sexual themes also caused a bit of an uproar, particularly the fact that protagonist Jimmy Hopkins was able to kiss certain other boys in the game.

Resistance: Fall of Man
(2006: PS3)


This well-received first person shooter was one of the few PS3 launch titles worth the price of admission and served as the troubled console's high point through much of its debut year. Until, that is, Sony was threatened by the Church of England for featuring Manchester Cathedral without getting permission. Upset over the fact that a holy site was used in a game featuring guns, bullets and alien hordes, the Church demanded a formal apology and that the game be removed from shelves. Sony met them halfway, issuing an apology along with a statement claiming that they did not see a connection between their sci-fi tale and "contemporary issues of 21st century Manchester." That presumably ended the spat, but not before bumping the game back into the Top 40 and making it the best-selling PS3 game to date.

BioShock
(2007: Xbox 360, PC)


By all accounts, this unnerving first-person action game is a diamond, a commercial hit and a shoo-in for countless game of the year awards. A few notable issues plagued the game's launch (including a devious little twist that allows users to only install the game twice - ever), but it's BioShock's central moral dilemma - whether or not to harvest "Little Sisters" for the precious material ADAM - that makes it a case study for Ethics majors. Most mainstream media outlets have thus far avoided the issue, although an article in Boston's Patriot Ledger openly questioned the inclusion of such a touchy practice in a video game. Only time will tell how this morality play will end.

Manhunt 2
(2007: PS2, Wii, PSP)


The original Manhunt could have easily made this list, having been banned in several countries due to its depictions of extreme violence. Manhunt 2 picks up where its forbear left off, allowing users to perform horrific executions in order to escape from a mental institution. Or rather, it would have picked up there had it not received the dreaded AO rating by the ESRB, effectively rendering it useless since most game retailers refuse to carry AO-rated products. Though Rockstar initially planned to fight the rating, they eventually reworked the content and resubmitted to the ESRB. The now M-rated version will hit stores at the end of October, surely triggering another firestorm of controversy for the embattled publisher.


The people at joystiq are hooking everybody up with a free 1 year subscription to Electronic Gaming Monthly. Supplies are very limited and these magazine deals don't last long, so if you want to get in on this offer you better hurry!

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A man in southern China appears to have died of exhaustion after a three-day Internet gaming binge, state media said Monday.

The 30-year-old man fainted at a cybercafe in the city of Guangzhou on Saturday afternoon after he had been playing games online for three days, the Beijing News reported.

Paramedics tried to revive him but failed and he was declared dead at the cafe, it said. The paper said that he may have died from exhaustion brought on by too many hours on the Internet.

The report did not say what the man, whose name was not given, was playing.

The report said that about 100 other Web surfers "left the cafe in fear after witnessing the man's death."

China has 140 million Internet users, second only to the United States. It is one of the world's biggest markets for online games, with tens of millions of players, many of whom hunker down for hours in front of PCs in public Internet cafes.

Several cities have clinics to treat what psychiatrists have dubbed "Internet addiction" in users, many of them children and teenagers, who play online games or surf the Web for days at a time.

A youth welfare group has come up with a novel way to improve the mental health of young people: an online video game.

"Reach Out Central", championed by the Inspire Foundation, is an online role-playing game in which players can "test-drive life and play it when and how you want to".

Helping and befriending the computer-controlled characters that inhabit the online world is essential, and the Inspire Foundation hopes skills developed in the game - and choices made there about friends, partying, work and life in general - will transfer to the real world.

The foundation's director of programs, Jonathan Nicholas, was quoted by news.com.au as saying that young people aged 16-25 would be targeted, as they were the most vulnerable.

He said a major focus was to develop a cool, fun game that looked good and was engaging. Engagement was difficult to achieve by simply shovelling booklets of information at young people.

Mark Rosser, senior program manager for youth at national depression initiative beyondblue, said one in five young people suffered from depression each year and he was concerned that fewer than 40 per cent of them actually went on to seek help.

Figures released by the Department of Health and Ageing in 2000 and cited by Inspire show that, in an average year 12 classroom with 30 students, as many as seven young people would experience a recognised mental disorder. Only two of those will have sought help.

But a survey of young Australians by Mission Australia last year found that, after friends and family, young people turned to the internet for support. They were twice as likely to go online than contact a counsellor, teacher, doctor, minister or youth worker, and three to six times more likely to go online than call a telephone hotline.

Nicholas believes Inspire's use of an engaging game to deliver mental health information online is a winning strategy. He said much of Reach Out Central's content was based on an education program used in schools.

"Rather than being a static game it's probably best to think about Reach Out Central as an online soapie game - we'll continue to add in and write new storylines," he said.

The Sony Foundation stumped up the $500,000 needed to develop the game, but it is also supported by beyondblue, NSW Health, Teen Spirit Foundation and The Golden Stave Foundation. (ANI)

Condemned. Project Gotham Racing 3. Forza Motorsport 2. Dead or Alive 4. Viva Pinata. Prey. Skate. Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter 2. Eternal Sonata. Stranglehold. Blue Dragon. Skate. Dead Rising. Elder Scrolls IV: The Oblivion. Assassin's Creed. Army of Two. Gears of War. The Orange Box. Bioshock. Mass Effect. Call of Duty 4. Rock Band. Devil May Cry 4. Ninja Gaiden 2. Grand Theft Auto 4. Halo 3.

At the very least, these games represent a great gaming experience. At best, genius. And strangely enough, it won't matter if you don’t have a console to play them on. That’s the shame of a Microsoft Xbox 360 console.

I remember sitting on line in front of a Target back on November 22, 2006, freezing my ass off. I was waiting to buy my first HD console. It turned out that all the Premium systems had been picked off and I could only pick up a Core unit. "Screw it:, I said to myself. I picked up the Core unite along with a 100$ hard drive, Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark Zero, and Condemned. A week later the console was up on Ebay.

It wasn't that I didn't like the games. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the HD graphics. And it wasn't the fact that I distrust Microsoft. It was something else. These little murmurs that the consoles were crapping out appearing on CNN. "The price early adopters pay", I thought to myself and deciding that I didn't want to pay that price, I ditched my system. Who would have thought that nearly two years later people would still be paying the price?

At the start Microsoft refused to acknowledge that anything was every wrong with the console. The only thing they would have good old Peter Moore admit was, "Things break." It was a douchebag answer and everyone knew it.

But the 360 owners stuck with him. They rationalized that the broken 360 consoles were a result of poor management of the system. This kept up for a year. Then something else happened. Media outlets, IGN and Kotaku (among numerous others) started reporting that their own 360 consoles were dying en masse. This wasn't something that 360 fanboys could play off as just some fool who didn't know to take care of a system. This was the hardcore media.

Still, Microsoft turned a blind eye. They opted to concentrate on the games rather than the hardware and still managed to draw hardcore gamers to take the plunge. Gears of War pulled that off quite expertly last Christmas. However, after the news reached the mainstream media and several law firms looked to file a class action lawsuit against the company, Microsoft finally introduced a 3 year warranty last July. Too little, too late though...

A month ago the Nintendo Wii surpassed the 360 in total worldwide sales. This is the price Microsoft paid for their indulgence. Just as Tony Montana was his own worst enemy, the Xbox 360 is the Scarface of this console generation, the red rings of death glowing brightly on its face. This was Microsoft's race to win and they threw it away by refusing to accept fault with their hardware. Now it's commonplace knowledge amongst the mainstream that 360 is prone to hardware failures. It's commonplace knowledge amongst the hardcore that it'll be nearly a month to get their console back if it does die.

"What's the point of all those great games if your console is always in the shop?" That's the question I asked myself early this summer when looking through the fall/winter release schedule for the 360 and I've decided that once again, I will pass on picking up a Microsoft 360. I mean why go through that hassle? The fact is that it's not worth it. Had Microsoft respected the consumer, they would have solved these issues a month after launch. Instead they pretended that no such issues existed until their actions almost led them to the court. I won't support a company like that. Neither should you. Still... looking back at the list of games I typed up... I still have thoughts of picking up the console. It's like a little whisper in the back of my mind that calls to me. But the truth is, all those thoughts and whispers remind me of is how Microsoft threw it all away and how much of a shame that really, really is.




Scarface indeed.

Gaming Lagoon

Posted by William On 0 comments

Gaming Lagoon

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It was 9 months ago that you may have heard of PSP Home Control 1.0 a clever hack that involved using the PSP to control the DVD player, Tivo, and lighting of a house. Since then lots of progress has been made in the world of PSP hacking, and with the recent release of Lua Player .15, there is now an easy way to talk via wifi to other networked devices.

This has sparked new development ideas for integrating the PSP to allow it to control other devices. This time it is not a home A/V system that is being controlled, but a heavily modified, "ElecTrick" 1994 Honda Civic hachback .

The PSP can control several features of the car including, turning left/right, gas pedal, brakes, horn, opening and closing of the doors, headlights, volume and blinkers.

The car features an Electric motor developed by the guys at Metra Electronics. All of the wiring and several of the car's internal components are manufactured by Tsunami. At the heart of the car's control interface is the Aurora Multimedia WACI NX IP Based Control System. There is an Aurora IBZ-1040W 10.4" touchpanel mounted into the dash of the car along with an analog joystick for driving. The main interface for the car's controls was written in Macromedia Flash and can be taken for a 'test drive' here:
http://www.waciworld.com/psp_controlled_car/flash_interface.htm

The car hosts 21 TV screens including 2 20" LCD's that hang from the back hatch of the car, fed content from 6 DVD players and 2 cameras which can be routed to any screen from the wifi interface.


Future enhancements include integrating video streaming hardware (Aurora's NX Stream) into the car to allow streaming video from the camera mounted on the front of the car to the PSP. This will allow us to see where the car is going when we're driving it.

Yes, you read that correctly, we are going to attempt to drive this car remotely from the PSP. As a safety precaution we have an override switch which will cut off control from the PSP and apply the brakes, just in case something does not go as planned. A video will be posted shortly after CES once we get the car to a nice empty parking lot to test it.



All of this will be on display at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in the Metra Booth (Booth #3406 in the North Hall), and the car will be traveling across the country to make it's stops at other car shows throughout the year. Bookmark this page for updated information including video clips, and schedule information for other shows the car will be appearing at.

Master Chief is now forever enshrined in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Las Vegas. Other such wax statues have been made of the likes of Elvis, Princess Diana, and Britney Spears.

For those of you who are lame to the point that you don't know who Master Chief is, he's the plasma-ray packing protagonist in Microsoft's forthcoming Halo 3 videogame.

The "life-sized" figure of Master Chief was unveiled at a ceremony at the famed museum on the Strip last week. The wax version of the futuristic soldier stands an impressive 7-foot, 2-inches tall. That beats by an inch what was until now the museum's tallest resident -- a statue of NBA star Shaquille O'Neal.

There's just something about a Shaq-dwarfing sized statue of Master Chief that comes off as completely badass to me.

Not only is Master Chief the biggest bastard in the museum, he's also the first videogame character to be enshrined in a wax museum, according to Tussauds officials.

The event is the latest indication that Halo 3, set to debut on September 25th for the Xbox 360 console, will smash sales records for game discs. Internet retailers such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and BestBuy.com have taken more than a million pre-orders for the first person shooter.

Master Chief is a biologically enhanced soldier who has to blast his way through a futuristic, 3-D landscape to survive and accomplish missions. Version 3 of the game, developed by Bungie Studios and published by Microsoft, features a host of new levels, weapons, vehicles, and level types.

Most retailers are selling the title for around $60. A special "Legendary Edition" sells for about $130 and includes a helmet-style case, bonus discs, and collector's art.

Psh, $70 extra basically for a helmet that can't actually be put on? MAYBE if the helmet could be worn, not in public mind you... definitely..not in public... MAYBE then I would shell out a little extra cash for the collector's edition. I sure as hell wouldn't pay $70 for it though. For $70 they better throw in a 7'2 wax Master Chief statue.

Microsoft is also planning to introduce a special Halo 3 version of the Xbox 360 that's emblazoned in the same green and gold colors sported by Master Chief.

The special Halo 3 xbox 360 is a cool idea... cool and ugly as hell all at once. Maybe it's just me but the colors just don't work well together on a console. But then again people went crazy over other ugly consoles like the pokemon n64... the thought alone makes me shudder.




It's been a long year for PlayStation 3 owners with very little in the way of new, exclusive content. As good as they are, "MotorStorm" and "Resistance: Fall of Man" are wearing thin for me.

Finally, two new PS3 exclusives are available: "Warhawk" and "Lair."

Being an exclusive game doesn't guarantee greatness. Five minutes with "Lair" makes that painfully clear.

"Lair" (Rated T, $59.99) kicks off well enough, with a gorgeous animated sequence involving warriors on fire-breathing dragons.

The aerial spectacle is tremendous, the cinematic effect stirring.

So how can the actual game — a title with battle-tested, fire-breathing dragons, mind you — be so utterly terrible?

It's a classic case of a game that looks phenomenal but plays horribly. The controls quickly kill any sense of fun.

Flying dragons around the war-torn landscape is maddeningly tough in "Lair." Too tough.

That's because you have no choice but to move the controller in the direction you're trying to go. The PS3's controller has always had a motion-sensing capability, but it's very imprecise when you're trying to guide a dragon through a narrow canyon.

To do a quick 180, you can flick the controller up — but, often, my flicks didn't do anything or sent me in the wrong direction.

If only "Lair" would let me use the controller's traditional joysticks and buttons for movement.

"Lair" just isn't worth the effort.

One star out of four.

At least "Warhawk" delivers what it advertises: a quick, responsive multiplayer combat game. Nothing more, nothing less.

The game feels a bit generic compared to more established online shooting franchises like "Unreal Tournament," but there's plenty to like about "Warhawk." Namely, big, sprawling online matches against up to 31 other real players.

There are the usual online modes like Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, which span a diverse array of maps. There are plenty of weapons like machine guns and grenades, plus you can drive around tanks and jeeps, or control turrets to defend your base.

Some weapons seem overpowered, namely the flame thrower, which can somehow mow down armored tanks with relative ease.

But the game's biggest rush comes from piloting the warhawk fighters. They're able to transform from hovercraft to fighter jets and back again.

They pack an arsenal of weapons that includes missiles and mines. They're extremely maneuverable, too, able to perform all sorts of aerial tricks such as loops and spinning turns.

There are two ways to buy "Warhawk," which is rated T. You can download it directly from Sony and pay $39.99, or buy a boxed copy that includes a wireless headset for $20 more.

That way, you can talk trash right back to the online strangers who will taunt you after they've blasted you from the sky.

"Warhawk" is the sort of game the PS3 desperately needed. It's an approachable title that delivers all the online mayhem you can handle.

Three-and-a-half stars.

Yes you read the title right, the Rock Band bundle for the Xbox 360 will be packaged with wired controllers.

Notice I specifically said the 360 version came with wired controllers? Yes that's right because the ps3 version comes fully equiped with wireless controllers, sorry 360 owners.

The developers of Rock Band say their motive for the choice of wired over wireless for their 360 bundle is for the simple fact of the cost. The wireless chipset was just too expensive, and sales would be damaged due to the higher pricing according to them.

In these sort of games, freedom of movement is essential. Nobody wants to be restricted by cordage while rockin' out.

Whether it provides a small decrease in the price or not, going with corded controllers was a bad move in my opinion. Fans of the genre would have paid the higher cost to get the wireless controllers, and while this lower cost will attract a few more buyers it will also turn away many who don't want to be wired.

I predict we see many more ps3 versions sold than for the 360; and for those gamers who own both a ps3 and a 360, the choice of which console to buy the game for is a no-brainer

One million downloads in nine days

The demo of 2K Games' BioShock has become the fastest demo to surpass one million downloads over Xbox LIVE, according to the publisher.

And during an investors question and answer session following the release of the company's Q3 trading results, chairman Strauss Zelnick hinted that the rough two-year release cycle the publisher has employed for for it's Grand Theft Auto series could be adopted for future BioShock titles.

Zelnick also revealed that the Xbox 360 and PC title has shipped 1.5 million units worldwide to date and that it's on track to become "one of the fastest-selling games in history."

In the nine days since the LIVE demo was released on August 12, BioShock had outperformed every other demo available over Microsoft's Xbox 360 download service.

"We are really pleased that Microsoft's Xbox LIVE Marketplace has managed to attract a record number of gamers to its site to download and check out BioShock," commented Christoph Hartmann, president of 2K Games.

The title has also become this year's highest-ranked game across all console platforms on Metacritic.com.

2 million songs downloaded since April

Activision has sold over 650,000 song packs for Guitar Hero II over Xbox Live, totalling 2 million individual tracks – the equivalent of multi-platinum sales in record industry terms.

Each song pack contains three songs – in the first week of release a My Chemical Romance song pack was downloaded over 50,000 times via Xbox Live.

"The Guitar Hero II downloadable videogame song packs are some of the most popular content on Xbox Live and are quickly becoming a very lucrative revenue stream and powerful promotional vehicle for musicians and record labels," commented Dusty Welch, head of publishing for RedOctane.

"Activision was the first third-party publisher to offer downloadable content via Xbox Live to consumers and as a result, we have tremendous insight into the types of content that consumers want."

According to data from Gfk, Chart Track and the NPD Group, the Guitar Hero games have sold over 5.5 million units worldwide.

Deforestation, pollution, global warming and industrialization are just some of the many important themes in Eco Creatures: Save the Forest, a unique real-time strategy (RTS) game for the Nintendo DS(TM) being published by Majesco Entertainment Company an innovative provider of video games and digital entertainment products for the mass market. Co-developed by Lightweight Co. Ltd. and Headlock Corporation, Eco Creatures is the only game of its kind that promotes awareness of environmental perils while tasking players with defending the Mana Woods against them.

"Eco Creatures is distinctive in its ability to weave meaningful issues into a fun video game experience that makes the player a champion for the environment," said Ken Gold, vice president of Marketing, Majesco. "Noble mission aside, endearing creatures, resource management, magic, level creation and multiplayer features make Eco Creatures a deep and engaging real- time strategy game for any DS player."

Eco Creatures: Save the Forest is a real-time strategy game in which players use the Touch Screen to control units of woodland creatures--named Ecolis, Ecoby and Ecomon--that will protect the naturally beautiful Mana Woods and recover the polluted land. All creature types have unique skills that must be strategically managed. With proper nurturing, they can evolve to learn new abilities that help a player complete the game's more than 40 environmental missions. As players grow their woodland army, they must also plant new trees to prevent deforestation and revitalize the woodlands.

In addition, Eco Creatures includes a creative Land Make feature that lets players build and play their own maps. This eco-friendly RTS also supports two-player play via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and up to four players via single card download play or ad-hoc multi-card play.

Eco Creatures: Save the Forest is expected to launch in early 2008 for the Nintendo DS. For additional information, please visit www.majescoentertainment.com.

As previously reported, the ESA defeated a California law seeking to have "violent video games" labeled as such and to make the sale of these games to children a felony. The law was quickly thrown out by a federal judge, and now the ESA is filing a motion to have its legal fees from the fight reimbursed to the tune of $324,840. The Governator has vowed to keep fighting for the law on appeal, saying in a statement that he "signed this important measure to ensure that parents are involved in determining which video games are appropriate for their children."

If this seems like a recurring theme, that's because it is: the ESA was awarded attorneys' fees in Louisiana to the tune of $91,000, and again in Michigan, where taxpayers had to cough up $182,349. In Illinois, a similar bill was also found to be unconstitutional, and the tab for the ESA's legal fees there was an incredible $510,000. These laws may gain limited public support, but they never pass the rigors of the legal system and are proving to be incredibly expensive to the states that try to pass them. IF the ESA prevails in California, that will put the bill to taxpayers across the US at $1.1 million.

"From early on, the industry warned Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Yee that this bill was unconstitutional and would be thrown out by the courts and that California taxpayers would pay the cost," said Michael D. Gallagher, president of the ESA, in a statement. "California citizens should be outraged at their elected leaders. Hard-earned tax dollars were spent on defending this law that California's state leaders knew was unconstitutional."

The law's author, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), supports the decision to continue fighting for the law. "I am very pleased to see the Governor's commitment to this issue," he said in a statement. "This is a common-sense law that empowers parents by giving them the ultimate authority over whether or not their children can play in a world of violence and murder."

Yee's statement notes that Judge White said the state must prove that the ESRB ratings already found on all retail games do not "equally address the state's interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of children." That could be an uphill battle, and so far, no judge has been sympathetic to such arguments.

With the past rulings all in the video game industry's favor, California is throwing its taxpayers' money away. Gov. Schwarzenegger's decision to appeal the law ensures that the price tag will only climb higher, and we can't see him prevailing where all others have failed repeatedly.

Baton-Rouge-based digital entertainment company Nerjyzed Entertainment Inc. said it will launch sports video game Black College Football Experience on Nov. 23.

The game will be supported by a 12-week promotional road tour to historically black colleges and universities, classics and homecoming games. Black-owned Nerjyzed describes BCFx as an authentic, action-packed game.

FROM THE Nerjyzed WEBSITE::



Welcome to the Black College Football experience.

Bring your skills…they will be tested.

Bring your expectations …they will exceeded.

This is the most brutally fun and amazingly accurate football experience out there. Set in the unique and colorful world of Black College Football, BCFx puts you in the spotlight.

Step into the cleats of a player:

Make hard hits and split decisions, as you guide your team through the season. Feel the passion of the fans and the music from the band coarse through your veins as you get closer, yard-by-yard, to the Championship game.

Step into the boots of a drum major:

Halftime offers no respite as you suit up, grip your baton and lead your band of musical maestros through intricate formations as the crowd roars in amazement. It's the Battle of the Bands: Win this and you just might give your team what it needs to prevail in the second half.


Featuring:

Top-Notch Graphics - For the first time ever in a football title, BCFx utilizes the Unreal 3.0 engine for state of the art graphics and animation.


Nerjyzed - There's that time when your senses are heightened. You block out everything, but what matters. You forget your insecurities, your fears and the limits of nature. Run faster. Feel stronger. Smile with fierce determination as you realize the machine you have become. You are Nerjyzed and the crowd is going wild.


Rag Doll Physics - Tackling takes on a new level of brutality and authenticity with the innovative use of rag doll physics.


Interactive Halftime Battle of the Bands - You need a break from that first half, but there's no time to rest. A game is on the line and its up to you to lead the band. You step into the boots of the drum major as the crowd anxiously awaits your high stepping entrance. The routine plays through your mind -the cues, the notes. It's a complexity you feel at home with and you wouldn't trade it for a thing. You take the stage, knowing the momentum of the game is in your hands now. Out perform. Out awe. And you just might give your team the boost it needs to walk away with the win. Groundbreaking music, combining original recordings with fight songs performed by the actual bands of each school and actual routines, come together to provide a truly authentic and exciting experience.


Diamonds in the Rough - That new walk-on has potential, but its up to you to sculpt his talent and give him the playing time he needs. With some good coaching, he just might be your next secret weapon.


Music - Think you know sports games? You haven't heard anything yet. BCFx combines original recordings with fight songs played by the actual school bands. After the game, enjoy more music from the bands in the 5th Quarter or head over to the jukebox to hear and download music from our constantly updated track list.


Momentum - Your team has the makings of a nice drive as it becomes imbued with the energy from the crowd and the sounds of the band. Things seem to come a bit easier as the ever-swinging momentum is in your favor …for now.


Trophy Room - Stroll through an area built for the sole purpose of admiring your accomplishments. Stare at the empty spaces, finding renewed determination for practicing harder than ever before.


And Much More - 40 officially licensed teams, mascots, play by play and commentary by Jonathan Coachman and Donal Ware.




Multiple Game Modes

Practice Mode - Refine your strategies. Sharpen your reflexes. Prepare yourself for greatness.


Online Mode - Bragging rights and more are on the line, as you play online against competitors across the map.


Classic Mode - Face your fiercest rival. Become part of a BCF tradition. Make history, as you get the opportunity to play in an actual BCF Classic Game.

Technology

A true revolution in the world of sports video games, BCFx takes full advantage of today’s most groundbreaking technology. What does this mean to the player?

*As the first ever sports title to use the Unreal 3.0 engine, BCFx features eye-popping visuals. From the grand stadiums down to the sweat filled pores of the players’ skin, its all here in vivid detail.

*With rag doll physics powering every tackle, you can be sure to witness some brutal take downs on the field.

*Motion Captured animation ensures life-like and fluid moves for the players on the field and the dancing girls on the sidelines.

*In another first for sports video games, Nerjyzed Entertainment utilizes the very program put to use by BCF band directors for years. Incorporating Pyware, the interactive halftime shows of BCFx will have the same authenticity and energy that has made this world of sports so unique and unforgettable.

Master P is getting into the gaming world with "Play the Industry," an entertainment industry-themed video game that will allow players to climb the ranks of stardom as an athlete, hip-hop artist, or entertainment broker.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Master P's P.Miller Enterprises has teamed with actor Seth Green and partner Matthew Senreich's Stoopid Monkey Productions ("Robot Chicken") as well as Shadow MachineFilms ("Moral Orel") to develop the new game.

Master P originally approached ShadowMachine principals Alex Bulkley and Corey Campodonico with the concept for "Play the Industry." Campodonico said they were immediately interested in working with P, who he considers to be extremely innovative.

"Master P is at the forefront of so many new things, including putting out new 'clean' albums that are not derogatory and don't have cursing and that sort of stuff," Campodonico said.

It hasn't yet been decided whether "Play the Industry" will be disc-based or online-only, but Senreich has likened the 3-D game to the Electronic Arts favorite "The Sims."

"You can play agent, you can play mogul, you play all sorts of different characters," Senreich said.


Still in its early stages, Stoopid Monkey and ShadowMachine are currently working on a script for the game while they line up financing for the project. With plans to secure a developer within the next few months, the partners hope to release "Play the Industry," by late 2009.


"We really want to take the time and make sure we do this right," Senreich added. "But the good thing we have going into this is we are developing the creative ahead of time, and we're very close to having that up and running."


While the "Play the Industry" game is the first goal, the partners are hoping to eventually bring the concept to other platforms, including a motion picture, reality television show and clothing line.

If industry trends are any indication, "Play the Industry" can expect a good response from gamers. There are a number of successful hip-hop games currently on the market including "Def Jam: Vendetta" and "50 Cent: Bulletproof."