Friday, March 30, 2007

Gamasutra: Rethinking the MMO

Gamasutra posted a great article on Rethinking the MMO. If you've ever played one of these games, it's worth a good read.

I've pulled out some quotes that spoke to me:

"To make matters worse, the game mechanics do not often require players to adapt in a meaningful way, leading to repetitive encounters where the player performs the same set of actions every time."

"Players will spend hours at a time churning through feeble, ineffectual opponents rather than taking on more risk, because the game rewards them more for adopting this style of play."
"it is natural for players to want to empty the cookie jar of quantifiable accomplishment as quickly as possible, even if they get a stomachache in the process."
"Players should not have to choose between building their persistent entity and doing something fun."
"There is rarely creativity involved, and the only meaningful customization is typically a series of one-time choices made at the start of the game (character creation)"
"Although they are still constrained to the path dictated by the designer, there are few interesting experiences between the start and end, the trip is painfully slow and entirely predictable, and the whole point of the journey is to get to a destination, not to enjoy the ride."
"In the land where everyone’s a hero, heroes are commoners.
In a game where gaining power is the primary goal of the game, this design flaw is significant."

"RPGs are about saving the world or otherwise fixing some sort of hefty problem. The objective purportedly is to alter the game world. An RPG where altering the game world would break the game therefore has a serious flaw."
"While it is certainly debatable whether such games are evil, soul-consuming, life-wrecking monsters, the fact remains that they are more enjoyable when played in long stretches than when played in short ones."

"Playing with others is fun; organizing and preparing is not. "

The article doesn't pull any punches when criticizing the genre, but it's obviously written by people that love these games and really want to see them improve. And I'm totally with them. The key things that make the MMO appealing are persistence and epic scale. But the classic RPG gameplay expanded to this model doesn't always hold up.

I enjoy WoW. Obviously I wouldn't play it so much if I didn't. In this brutal genre WoW is more friendly than most. And its recent expansion has improved this even more. But there are still a lot of places where it could evolve. I hope the good folks at Blizzard are taking these issues to heart and thinking about how to give their crack more substance... while maintaining the trademark addictive aftertaste.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Electric Vehicle Limitations

Continuing from my post yesterday...

The electric vehicle doesn't come without its limitations. The researchers described their challenge as answering these questions: "How far, how long, how much?" As in: How far can I go on a single charge, how long does it take to charge, and how much does this thing cost?

How Far: With the best battery technology out there there's enough to almost go from Seattle to Portland and back on one charge. Lower cost batteries can still get you to Tacoma and back. In other words, it's enough for your everyday commute, but it's not going to scale to a road trip. For that you'd want a separate vehicle (or maybe do something like FlexCar). Which means an electric vehicle not a comprehensive solution for your all your transportation needs, instead it's something that will satisfy the common case (daily commute, shopping, etc.).

How Long: The numbers here vary wildly depending on the battery technology. Nothing is going to be as quick as pumping gas is today, although some of the non-linear recharges get pretty close (something like 80% charge in 10 minutes). But this is offset by the fact that you could charge anywhere there's electricity: home, work, wherever. You'd want charging stations for longer trips, but in your normal routine you could go indefinitely without having to divert to a fueling station (which depending on your viewpoint makes it more convenient). We've all become used to plugging in our cell phones every time we come home - it'd essentially be the same thing with your car.

How Much: Definitely the cost is going to be higher as long as these are specialized hand-built automobiles. The real question is how much they could come down in mass production. And I haven't found reliable data on that yet. But as a hand-crafted vehicle (about 4 per day) the GM EV1 cost $40,000 (without subsidy). Which isn't a cheap car, but neither is it an overly expensive car. With manufacturing improvements it seems that could come down a decent amount. But regardless, you have to ask yourself if the bottom line is what's important about moving to electric vehicle technology, or if it's something else.

Which is the real question, isn't it? What's the motivation?

It can't be to find the most convenient and economic solution. That criteria leads us to where we are today. That logic will also lead you to live off of McDonald's and Top Ramen. No, the motivation has to be to find something that's better in the long term. And that's almost never the easy way. There are certainly compromises we'd have to make to adopt this technology. But in my opinion they're reasonable compromises, given the benefits.

Anyway, check out the movie. It was well presented and definitely promotes some discussion :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who Killed the Electric Car?

This past weekend I watched Who Killed the Electric Car? (links: NetFlix, Wikipedia). And I'm having a hard time categorizing my thoughts, primarily because I have so many of them. I may have to break this up into multiple posts, so bear with me.

Coming into this I couldn't claim to know much about battery electric vehicles. I intuitively know that producing energy in a dedicated facility that feeds the power grid seems a lot more efficient (both in economy and in environment) than having to produce power in a space and weight constrained vehicle (i.e. via the internal combustion engine). Seems obvious. I also can guess that employing a non standard technology on the complexity of an automobile is going to be more expensive until the economy of scale kicks in when components get mass produced. But beyond that I didn't know much.

I had no idea that California had implemented a zero emission mandate in the early 90's and that multiple major car manufacturers had actually rolled out consumer quality electric vehicles (complete with recharging stations). This wasn't pie in sky - this was real technology available today (or rather, a decade ago). And the whole thing got scrapped (quite literally), for completely dubious reasons.

I liked how the film explored multiple possible suspects for this failure, and in the end deemed most of them guilty. This wasn't some over the top Michael Moore pathos where the root of all evil is Charlton Heston: it was far more reasonable. Which in the end made the movie all the more effective, because you didn't feel like you were the target of emotional bottom feeding. The movie did conclude leaving me feeling disappointed - not with the film but rather with our society as a whole. It angers me that we are so obsessed with convenience, and so resistant to change, that we'll cannibalize progress.

I'm not prone to conspiracy theory, but you don't have to be to understand the sketchy behavior by the automobile manufactures and oil companies. Because honestly their behavior makes sense. They're out there to preserve their profits. The oil companies would suffer greatly if we pursued truly alternative automobile energy options. The car manufacturers have less to lose, but change is risky business and they are content with how much they own of the pipeline. It makes sense for them to be a little wary. But their behavior is borderline criminal. And I'd be more skeptical of a documentary's depiction of this if it weren't for previous infractions on the part of the accused. Fool me twice...

But overall I'm most frustrated with our inability as a society to suck it up and realize that our way of life is unsustainable and that we have to make some changes. No one wants to make a compromise. We're all content to live out our life and leave the barren wasteland to our descendents. Which is bullshit. It's our duty as citizens and consumers to demand better for ourselves. Better food that doesn't make us fat, better entertainment that doesn't make us stupid, and better transportation options that keep us breathing for many generations to come.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bitter Sweet

This last Friday I caught Bitter Sweet at the Triple Door. I first heard the band up on Zune Arts, which if you haven't seen yet you should totally check out - there are a lot of cool animations up there. Bitter Sweet's debut album, The Mating Game, is really solid; varied, yet cohesive. I wasn't surprised at all when I heard that one of the Bitter Sweet duo was also one of the founding members of Supreme Beings of Leisure. There's a lot of similarities in the grand instrumentation and the quality of the vocals (although it's a different singer).

Anyway, when I spotted the poster that said Bitter Sweet would be at the Triple Door, I was pretty excited. The Triple Door is a great venue: super classy with excellent food. It's a great place to go if you're really interested in listening and won't mind not being able to dance. Bitter Sweet has a lot of funk in them, so they didn't really fit into that "sit and listen" bucket most of the time, but I was busy munching on tasty schezwan green beans so I didn't really mind.

I had a good time at the show, but I have to say that Bitter Sweet is a lot better in the studio. The actual band is only two people. This performance had six people. The actual required instrumentation of most of their songs is more on the order of ten or more. It's hard to get into a performance where almost half of what you're hearing is prerecorded. Which you would think would keep the integrity of the songs up to the quality of the studio recordings, but it didn't. The show had a very rough start with the levels being way off and the tempo being rushed. They found their stride a couple songs in, but it never quite had the impact of their fine tuned studio recordings. You may just think I'm a stickler for production, but generally I actually prefer the grit of live performances. I spent a lot of the show watching the added musicians to try and figure out what they were actually contributing to what I was hearing. I never did figure that out, partially because the show was just so darn short. Bitter Sweet really needs to cough up another album to fill out their sets. I may sound pretty critical of the performance here, but I was happy to support the band and I'd snatch up any second album in a heartbeat.

Apparently I would have been better off never having heard that debut album before coming to the show. A friend that we (the already initiated) invited to the show had never heard the band before. And she promptly bought the album the next day. So if you had never heard how good the band was in the studio, apparently that show rocked.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

IGN's Top 25 GameCube Games

IGN posted a list of the top 25 GameCube games. Which isn't only valuable for nostalgic value, given that the Wii has 100% compatibility with all GameCube games. So if you're looking for some good games to feed your Wii, this might be a good place to start.

Here's the list, which I've annotated with my own personal status (whether I own the game (*), rented/borrowed it (~), or never played it).

1) Metroid Prime *
2) Resident Evil 4
3) Super Smash Bros. Melee *
4) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker *
5) Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem *
6) Pikmin 2 *
7) F Zero GX ~
8) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time *
9) Super Mario Sunshine *
10) Wave Race: Blue Storm
11) Animal Crossing *
12) Beyond Good & Evil *
13) Resident Evil ~
14) Soulcalibur 2
15) Metroid Prime 2 Echoes *
16) Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door *
17) Viewtiful Joe *
18) Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader *
19) Timesplitters 2
20) Killer 7
21) Super Monkey Ball 2 ~
22) Battalion Wars
23) Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
24) DK Jungle Beat
25) Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes

You can also get a similar list just by doing a review filter on GameSpot or GameSpy.

Some of the selections are a little odd, but in general it's a good list. And I'm happy to see that I have 13 of those 25 in my personal collection. Which if I run out of things to do with my Wii gives me a lot of great titles to fall back on.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What does the Playstation 3 need?

The Playstation 3 has had a rough launch, to say the least. GameSpot recently put out a list of 10 Things to Make the Playstation 3 Worth Buying. Most of which are easier said than done. "Reconsider the price" sounds nice as a consumer, but considering the fact that Sony is already losing $300 on every PS3 console, I doubt they'll be able to lower the price for quite some time. So if the price isn't going to change, they really need to do… something.

The number one most important thing a console needs to have is good games. And the PS3's been falling way short on that. With GDC recently gone by and E3 coming up in a couple months, this is the time of year when we'll really start to see what the PS3's lineup is going to be like. But independent of upcoming game announcements, the PS3 really needs to offer some good games now. Some do seem to be trickling in. I was checking out the video review of MotorStorm, which looked like a fun dirty driving game. The graphics look great, and as Alex Navarro put it so elegantly: "it looks rad when you break stuff." But whenever I see a game like that I wonder, "wow, that looks sweet, but can't the 360 do that too?"

It's also critical that the PS3 nail down a lot of the services that gamers are growing to expect. It still blows my mind how much better Xbox Live is than what the other systems are offering. And I'm not even talking the current evolution on the 360 - even the Xbox Live from the original Xbox trumps anything that the PS3 or Wii have. Sony's trying to up the bar with their newly announced Playstation 3 Home, but what they call "infinitely more exciting" I call "inefficient and creepy." But Second Life seems to have a large following, so maybe it'll take off in some circles. Just don't try to override your social networking feature as a matchmaking and achievement lobby.

There's a lot of potential in the PS3. But Sony's got a lot of work to do to make anyone give a crap. In the meantime, I'll continue to rock my Wii60 setup and be content with that.

Friday, March 16, 2007

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC)

I held it off as long as possible, but at last I have hit level 70 in World of Warcraft (TBC reviews: GameSpot, GameSpy). I had no interest in rushing the journey from 60 to 70 because I knew that the returns diminish pretty dramatically after you hit the level cap. It's likely that Blizzard has handled it better this time around, but it's a fundamental limitation of this kind of game that at some point the content thins out and they have to string you along with a decreasing time/value proposition. So I've absolutely taken my time to smell all the flowers as I've strolled through The Burning Crusade.

The quality of content added in this expansion is undeniably of a higher quality than what was previously available. The quests are more interesting, the zones flow better, the rewards are more diversified, the instances are more streamlined… everything's just plain better. This is true not just of the new Outland 60 to 70 content, but also of the new 1 to 20 content for the two new races: blood elves and draenei. Leveling a new character through the first two zones is a much deeper experience than it used to be. Unfortunately then you get dumped off in the old stuff for the next 40 levels. Which leaves sitting here with a level 20 blood elf, thinking "do I really want to go through all that again?"

Meanwhile back in Outland, my level 70 druid has a similar dilemma: how do I want to spend my time at the level cap? For me the game is all about the locations. So in the meantime the answer to my question is easy, as that of the seven zones in Outland I've only really cleared out five and a half of them. Plus there are fifteen instances on your way to 70, and I've only visited six of those. On top of that there are the more hardcore ones that require uber gear, but I recognize that I'll likely never see those. So from where I am now I'm just going to keep doing what I have been doing: solo questing through the zones, grouping up to do an instance every now and then, and occasionally doing commando style solo runs on the instances that previously owned me so that I can convince myself that I'm a badass.

I don't feel like I've hit the wall yet, and I'm optimistic that when I do I'll realize it and have the self control to just stop and go play another game or something. My achievement point addiction and WoW addiction will continue to battle it out, striking some sort of tenuous balance. And then when my crack-riddled psyche needs some rest I can flail around like a crazy person with my Wii. Problem solved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hip Hop… Brawler?

Check out the footage from this video review of Def Jam: Icon. You don't need to watch the whole review necessarily, just enough to get an idea of what the hell this game is. Or alternatively you can just grab a YouTube clip like this one.

Regardless of how into hip hop you are, you've probably seen 8 Mile, Wild 'n Out, or something like that. So when you think of two rappers battling, you don't think of them, you know, actually engaged in fisticuffs. But that seems to be exactly what Def Jam: Icon is: a game that lets you pit two famous rappers against each other in hand to hand combat.

Okay, so I'm sorry. But hip hop culture has officially shot off the ridiculous meter. As if all the thugs with gold plated teeth showing you their pimped out (rented) mansions wasn't enough. But now there's a game where they're trying to convince you that they're actually badass. They got famous for saying they're tough, not actually being tough. Seeing them in those gameplay videos, all fat and weighed down with their gold chains and baggy clothes, trying to brawl… it's hilarious.

Ignoring the ridiculous concept of the game, it's actually really interesting how they made the environments react to the music. And there are even advantages of timing your moves with the rhythm of the music. Which kinda turns it into a rhythm-fighting game. I'll have to download the demo on the 360 and see if I can keep a straight face long enough to check it out.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Warioware: Smooth Moves (Wii)

Warioware: Smooth Moves (GameSpy, GameSpot, GameFly) is my fourth contact with the Warioware series. And it feels like all the previous iterations were just building up to this one. It arrived on the GBA. Multiplayer was added when it was ported to the GameCube. When it hit the DS it brought a more intuitive set of controls. And then it revisited the GBA to experiment with motion controls (which is the one title I missed). And now it's here on the Wii, and the Wiimote makes it the best yet.

Warioware has always been crazy, and there's a group of people that have always found it appealing. But bringing the whole experience to life with the motion controller makes it far more approachable. Seeing some ambiguous one-word explanation and being expected to press a button or do something on the D-pad just wasn't that intuitive. But physically shaking that banana or turning that key is obvious. In the past, multiplayer with Warioware was a brutal matchup of those who knew the games and those who didn't. But the gap is much narrower with Smooth Moves, making party style multiplayer viable after only a quick introduction.

I've said before that I want my games to be more exciting than reality. Warioware shows the exception to this rule. The microgames are generally the most mundane tasks imaginable (like vacuuming or sharpening a pencil). But throwing a set of these tasks at you in disorienting rapid succession somehow makes that all okay. And mixing those in with more fantastic tasks like throwing shurikens at impeding ninjas or lasering down giant monsters can't help but make you smile.

The one complaint I have with Warioware is that although the controls are more intuitive they're decidedly more flakey. There are times when you tweak out the sensor and miss a round even though you were doing the right thing. And if the game were less fun this would be really aggravating. But before you have a chance to really get mad a new game is coming your way and you've forgotten all about it.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Viva Piñata (Xbox 360)

I usually wait until after I finish a game before I review it. But I'm pretty sure that Viva Piñata doesn't have an end. I guess the closest thing would be getting all the achievement points. But given all the other games I have going on right now (ahem, new Wii), I don't think that's happening any time soon. So I'm going to jump the gun and tell you what I think now instead of later.

Viva Piñata received a lot of critical acclaim (links: GameSpy, GameSpot, GameFly), and with good reason. It's a charming game with adorable graphics and compelling gameplay. It's hard to stop playing Piñata once you've started, because there's always something to do in your garden. Advancing through the game and discovering all the creatures is genuinely fun. But there's something about it that's just... off.

The thing that initially confused (and disturbed) me about Viva Piñata is that despite all the cute creatures with personalization options, this is not a game about enjoying your piñatas. It's about getting over attachments. You start the game intuitively caring a lot for your individual piñatas. But to advance in the game you need to grow heartless and start selling of your piñatas and feeding them to other Piñatas. You quickly learn to not get too attached to your piñatas because eventually you're going to have to do away with them. Don't bother spending money to buy a cute hat for your Newtgat, because half an hour later you're going to be feeding him to that Badgesicle that just moved in. And definitely don't stop to give him a name - just keep it at "Newtgat 2" so that it's easier to say goodbye. As a game that's targeted at kids (with it's own Saturday morning cartoon and everything), that underlying message is kinda disturbing.

But hey, I can't be too harsh. Because even as I'm sitting here preparing to retire Viva Piñata to the shelf for awhile, I kinda still wish I was playing it. My memories are filled with delightful moments of coaxing new creatures to join my garden and rejoicing when they finally decide to stay. But somehow my brain has blocked out all those other memories… like when I was too slow to call the doctor and my piñata died from some crazy candy fever… or when I had to put down my first Raisant because he picked a fight with everybody… or when garden filled up and I had to sell off entire species to make room for some new hotness…

Damn. It's a wonder I don't curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep after playing this game.


One interesting aspect of the new Armory feature for WoW is that you can now go look up that bastard who corpse camped you for half an hour. Now I know that I was only one of 49514 (Contrast that with my lifetime kill count of 2372, which unfortunately I was never able to add that bastard to).

I play on a PvP server because quite frankly it makes everything just a tad more interesting. I'm one of those people that actually enjoyed Ultima Online's PvP system. Nothing made your heart beat quite as fast as having the bounty board's number one menace riding towards you. Likewise with WoW, the possibility of random PvP adds a wild card into what could otherwise just be a standard RPG grind.

However, PvP is only really fun when it's relatively even. And unfortunately the design goals of the endless MMORPG gear grind are at odds with the design goals of fair PvP. Even WoW's reward for PvP is just more gear. Which is a bulletproof "rich get richer" game design. That would maybe work if the PvP matchmaking brackets were based on gear value, rather than the mostly useless measure of Level (given that there's a level cap and everyone's at it). Supposedly they've fixed that and added a better matchmaking system for the Arenas, but those aren't "casual" friendly as they require you to form a regular team of consistent players. Essentially leaving no real viable outlet for the occasional PvPer.

But this is all part of the appeal of MMORPGs, I guess. In a singleplayer RPG, you're always the hero. You rise up and save the world. You're special. But in an MMORPG, you're competing against thousands of other potential heroes just like you. Which means you're guaranteed to be outclassed by a large percentage of them, making your digital self just as mundane as your physical one.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

That was easy

It took me not much more than a week after I entered the Gamerscore Challenge to get the required 1500 points. The bulk of those points were earned by playing dirty: a friend from work lent me a copy of NBA 2K6. Which is a fine basketball game, I guess... if you're into that sort of thing. But NBA 2K6 is notorious for having one of the easiest set of achievement points ever. You can literally get all 1000 points in a single game. And I would have, except that I'm such a basketball n00b that I had to look up what a triple double was before I could complete the final achievement.

I'd feel dirty about whoring it out to this game, except that I did get some educational value out of the whole experience. You see, I don't play sports games. I don't understand the appeal. For me it's very important that my video games be unrealistic. For example, I can't stand simulation style racing games; my racing games better allow me to recklessly crash into stuff and/or throw crap at my competition. The focus of most sports games is to completely replicate a real sports event, right down to the pimples on the point guard from the team photo. And I couldn't care less. I'd rather the money I slap down for a game go to real development, not licensing (Thank you GTA for giving me an Infernus instead of an Acura NSX). Anyway, my whole experience playing NBA 2K6 was totally surreal - like stepping into the shoes of another gamer. But I like my shoes better.

The remaining 500 points was filled in with my weekend of Crackdown and topped off with a little bit of Kameo. The reward for my efforts: Contra for Live Arcade, 100 MS points (valued at a little over a $1), and an Old Spice gamer picture. Okay, so I guess it wasn't about the rewards, was it...

Monday, March 5, 2007

At last she is mine

It's been a long time coming, but at last I now have a Wii of my very own. I never knew exactly how the moment was going to come. Apparently waiting in line opening day wasn't meant to be, nor was randomly calling every game store in a 20 mile radius every couple of days. I never would have suspected that my Wii would arrive via my friend OBsIV. But I'm eternally grateful to that one, as should be any of my other friends who might had grown sick of my daily pining.

There are a lot of games on my list to try out. But I decided to keep it simple at first and focus on multiplayer-friendly games that demonstrated the power of the Wiimote. Namely, Wii Sports and Warioware. So right now there's a lot of jumping around like a crazy person going on in my living room.

What's up next? Well it's a long list. Zelda, Trauma Center, Monkey Ball, Rayman, Wii Play... and that isn't counting the upcoming titles like Smash Brothers, Metroid, and Mario.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Crackdown (Xbox 360)

Well, that didn't take long. I finished Crackdown (links: GameSpy, GameSpot, GameFly) before I was even able to add it to my "Now Playing" list. Which you think would have me fuming about value or something. But I'm not. I actually had a blast playing Crackdown. I'd recommend you rent it, not buy it, but it's definitely a really fun game that's just different enough from the other games out there to feel fresh.

Crackdown takes place in a big open city where you can wander as you please, much like the Grand Theft Auto serious. But Crackdown has much less of an emphasis on driving. As the game progresses you level up skills that make you increasingly superhuman. The value of driving around is quickly eclipsed by your ability to leap from rooftop to rooftop (or even from ground floor to rooftop). The superhuman agility and strength that you achieve gives the game a little bit of a Matrix-like feel. You can even pick up vehicles and use them as weapons (kinda like Jet Li in The One). A lot of the gameplay actually feel a bit like our very own Science & Industry, with the spawning, superhuman enhancements, and weapon capture elements. Just rebrand the game to include more of a corporate theme (instead of gang warfare) and include more high-tech weapons and you're good to go.

The game revolves around you seeking out and assassinating a series of gang bosses. Which is definitely fun, but unfortunately is the only primary goal of Crackdown. There are car and foot races to do on the side, which are kinda fun but mostly function as achievement point syncs. The core gameplay of Crackdown is great (leaping around never gets old), but it is a bit disappointing that there wasn't more content. Still, it's a great way to spend a weekend.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Nintendo DS M-06 Guitar Simulator

Check out this video of the M-06 guitar "game" for the DS. It may come on a cartridge, but it's not really accurate to call it a game. It's more of a portable rhythm guitar simulator.

You might look at that game and say "Why not just play on a real guitar?" Well, a real guitar takes up space, and makes noise. Both of which are not bus friendly. And I'm always on the lookout for new ways to pass the time during my daily commute.

The DS of course is very bus friendly. But most of my DS hours are wasted away on time devouring RPGs (which only barely qualify as active entertainment). I certainly wouldn't mind having the ability to do something a little more constructive. This little toy looks like the perfect fit for a commuter that wants to compose on the go.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

How You Killed Your Brand

Check out this YouTube music video.

I try to hold back and not bash Sony. But as an avid gamer it's hard not too. Still, I try. I've currently topped off my GameFly queue with PS2 titles (Okami and Bully, soon to be followed by FFXII), and I don't even own a PS2 (I've temporarily traded for my Gamecube).

But Sony has completely missed the boat on this round of consoles. The Wii is mastering the art of fun. The 360 is nailing the hardcore and online markets. And the PS3 is wasting everyone's money by whoring out their game console as a trojan horse for a DVD upgrade that no one wants. They've managed to set new records for cocky statements, yet completely underdeliver on the sorts of things gamers actually care about. Somehow out of all of this, Microsoft has come out looking cool. You've gotta screw up pretty bad for that to happen.

Anyway, watch the video. It's funny.

WoW Online Profile

Blizzard recently made a great step in the right direction recently with their new Armory web portal. It allows you to check out your WoW characters (and other's) offline (well, not offline, but rather not logged in and running the WoW client). In other words, there is now yet another way to get distracted at work.

There's a lot of people freaking on the WoW forums over this breach of privacy. I personally could care less. There are already plenty of census sites for WoW - this one just makes it official and does it better.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, here are my top 3 WoW characters:

This whole topic of web presence for MMOs reminds me of an interesting post on Raph Koster's blog. It sounds like Lord of the Rings Online is going to have a bunch of great community features like a gamelore wiki, character blogs, and a Google maps view of the world. Which all sounds really really cool. The whole definition of an MMORPG is that it's an RPG, but with gobs and gobs of people. Any feature that reinforces that "M" is a good thing.