UPS: Brings back classic adventure-style gameplay; puzzles are clever and at times surprising; great animation and voice acting; captures all the style, humour, levity, and charm of the cartoon perfectly; seems to use original voice actors.
DOWNS: Some puzzles might be a bit tough for XBLA players who are unfamiliar with adventure gaming; version we played had some bugs that are hopefully all worked out in the final version.
BOTTOM LINE: A must-buy if you’re a fan of old-school adventure games or Wallace & Gromit, or if you’re just looking for a game to test your brain rather than your reflexes.
Available on PC and XBox Live Arcade, the first episode of the new Wallace & Gromit game brings players some light-hearted fun in the same vein as old Lucasarts and Sierra games, and is sure to please fans of the almost-extinct adventure gaming genre.
Based on the innocent and entertaining animated claymation shorts from Aardman Animation, Fright of the Bumblebees is the first in series of episodic games released by Telltale Games. For those that aren’t familiar, W&G is an animated show about Wallace, a bumbling, air-headed inventor of ridiculous contraptions, and Gromit, the dog who begrudgingly puts up with Wallace’s hair-brained schemes and does his best to keep his owner out of trouble.
Like all Telltale fare, such as the Sam & Max series and the Strongbad games, W&G is an old-school adventure game in which you collect items and use them to solve puzzles. For some reason this style of gaming has fallen out of favour since its heyday almost two decades ago, but Telltale is looking to bring it back into the mainstream. And more power to them I say; it’s always bewildered me that adventure games went out of style so badly, and I believe the adventure game genre is one in great need of a revival.
And with W&G, Telltale Games have done a fine job at bringing back this classic style of gameplay. Like any good point-and-click-style adventure game, W&G gives you a problem to solve and a few seemingly useless items, and forces you to put on your thinking cap and come up with a creative solution to the unlikely problems you are faced with.
The game is easy to get into, for adventure gamers and newbies to the genre alike. The player is introduced to the mechanics through a quick tutorial, and the controls, though not standard point-and-click adventure controls, are simple and will fit the XBox controllers very well. The tutorial, controls, and inviting style of W&G make it very easy to jump in and start playing.
The world of W&G is a perfect fit for the adventure gaming genre, with its light hearted characters, silly jokes, and wealth of crazy inventions to centre puzzles aronud. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to make a special flower-growth formula from rag-tag ingredients, or trying to shoot giant bees out of the sky with a porridge gun, W&G surprises you with creative solutions to problems that make you say “Ah-ha!” while also making you smile as the whimsical events unfold.
I don’t want to spoil anything by giving away too much of the story, but the basic premise of the game is that in his quest to deliver a truckload of honey to one of his customers, Wallace unwittingly releases an army of giant bees on his quaint English town. To get rid of the bee menace, players will use both Wallace and Gromit to solve some smart and challenging puzzles.
The story is classic Wallace & Gromit fare, and any fan of the cartoon will be very familiar with its playful style and fantastical hijinks. Telltale has managed to capture the feel and style of the Wallace & Gromit cartoon completely, with the result that playing the game is basically just like playing an episode of the show. From the characters and voices and animation style, to the very good direction and cinematic style, W&G draws the player into the game’s world and its story. Particularly entertaining is Wallace’s walking animation, in which he constantly holds his hands in front of himself like an overly-polite British person who is in a hurry but doesn’t want to bother anyone else by showing his anxiousness.
W&G also presents some unorthodox and interesting puzzles to the player, keeping the game fresh and compelling. For example, when Wallace first unwittingly releases the giant bees, the player gets the chance to shoot them out of the air with a porridge gun. But what at first looks like a straightforward reflex mini-game actually turns out to be unique puzzle that strays from the usual adventure game formula. W&G does this a few times, making the player think outside the box in order to solve some puzzles that diverge from the usual use-item-on-object formula of old-school adventure games.
The early version we played had a few bugs, which will presumably be ironed out for the final version. Also, despite W&G’s very light and charming style, some of the puzzles can actually be a bit difficult, especially for someone who just downloaded the game off XBLA and isn’t familiar with the adventure game genre. The light and cute style of the game may give people the impression that this will be a simple game, but that would be a mistake; many of the puzzles require a sort of creative thinking that most games wouldn’t involve.
But overall, if you’re a fan of old-school adventure or Wallace & Gromit, or you are just looking for a game to test your brain rather than your reflexes, or you just want a hcange of pace with an innocent and fun stroy, then Wallace & Gromit, Fright of the Bumblesbees is well worth your time. Though the game is technically the first episode of four, it actually includes a surprising amount of content. As a fan of adventure gaming, and Wallace & Gromit, and good games in general, I’m looking forward to the next episodes.
Wallace & Gromit, Fright of the Bumblebees is available on XBox Live Arcade and PC, and costs $34.95 for the entire 4 episode bundle.
How would you like to play an Massively Multiplayer Online game where you are freely exploring the Marvel Universe? At one point in time, Microsoft Studios was developing a Marvel Universe MMO with Cryptic Studios for the Xbox 360 and Games for Windows.
Sadly, the project was scrapped, and Cryptic Studios decided to put all their programming work to good use and work on Champions Online, another MMO that takes place in an established universe full of superheroes. The only difference between Marvel Universe Online and Champions Online is that Marvel contains superheroes that the average public has probably heard of, while Champions Online is based on a superhero universe from an obscure role-playing game from the eighties.
Is it just me, or is Gazillion’s Marvel Universe MMO going to face some competition with DC Universe Online, the joint venture of Sony Online and DC comics. Surely this was one of the reasons why a Marvel Universe game was even inspired.
A start-up company named Gazillion Entertainment has won this MMO lottery. It has been reported that Gazillion has four development studios working on other MMO games.
The first is NetDevil, who is working on a LEGO Universe MMO. I cannot wait to see this particular one. I actually think that I would like to play in a world of interchangeable bricks, rather than one where I have super powers.
The second is Amazing Society, who is already working on another superhero related game known as Super Hero Squad, due out in 2010. I have never heard of that particular superhero universe, but it is based on some Cartoon Network show.
The third is Slipgate Ironworks, who are developing an unannounced original MMO. I’m guessing there are no superheroes or building blocks involved in this one. I mean, if it is going to be original.
And the fourth is Gargantuan, who has a gargantuan project of the Marvel Universe. You can’t help but wonder how they intend to go about this effort. After all, Gazillion is probably going to account for the fact that two people cannot play the same superhero. I’m sure that if fans had their choice, many of them would want to play Wolverine, arguably one of the most popular superheroes in the Marvel or any other superhero universe.
I am guessing that the player will create a character who will more than likely interact with major characters from the Marvel Universe as NPCs. In other words, you won’t be able to fight side-by-side with Spider-man, but he’ll probably give you a mission. That was Cryptic Studios model for City of Heroes and City of Villains. You couldn’t play one of the members of the main group, but they would talk to you.
So I’m going to guess that this new Marvel Universe MMO is not going to allow you to play Marvel characters. After all, the Marvel Universe is filled with characters who have their own books and groups that each of them are a part of. You do not want to disrupt that continuity!
Actually, if I had the chance, I probably would. Marvel has been using its popular characters for years, and they don’t really change much. Then again, such is the way of the comic-book hero, to stay alive so readers will be entertained. I suppose the Marvel Universe MMO gives you the chance to feel like you’re making a difference.
Today Derby, England based Strawdog Studios announced their first iPhone title, called Turbo Duck.
Strawdog Studios are the makers of the upcoming XBox Live Arcade title Bounce, which we wrote about earlier in an article about 9 XBLA games to watch for, so we can most likely expect Turbo Duck to be a light-hearted and enjoyable game.
Turbo Duck will be Strawdog’s first foray into the iPhone/iPod touch world. In it, players will control Turbo Duck, a duck that can turbo, not surprisingly. The goal is to guide Turbo Duck through a bathtub obstacle course in a race against time.
Of course, Turbo Duck will make use of the iPhone’s unique accelerometer and touch screen controls, allowing players to navigate Turbo Duck into flags, which give you extra time, and around hazards like toy boats and mines, all by tilting and touching the iPhone.
According to the Strawdog press release, Turbo Duck will include:
20 Levels of bath-time fun
Submerging (and surfacing) submarines
Bonus Bread (Ducks like bread!)
Overall, Turbo Duck sounds like it is going to be a silly and fun game that is perfect for the iPhone, giving players a light and entertaining game with simple but fun mechanics.
After Turbo Duck is released, iPhone gamers can likely expect more Strawdog games on the Apple hardware. According to Dan Marchant of Strawdog Studios, “The guys in the office think the iPhone is a great piece of technology and a fun platform to develop games on. Turbo Duck is our first dip in the iPhone pool but certainly won’t be our last.”
Turbo Duck will be available in English, French, Italian, German & Spanish for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. It will be out at the end of March 2009 priced at $1.99 / £1.19/ ¢â€šÂ¬1,59.
Skate 2 is probably the best skateboarding game ever made. It has a huge world to ride around in, an incredible control scheme, and is so realistic that you can do all the half 360 flippy trick varial slam jams that real skateboarders do.
But let’s face it: the most fun in the game is the epic bails. Everyone loves seeing that virtual skateboarder slam into the ground at speeds that break the sound barrier, so we’ve collected some of the most entertaining crashes, bails, slams, accidents, and crazy glitches we could find!
And here they are, for your viewing pleasure:
I was THIS Close
I Don’t Even Want to See What Happened Earlier
Always Remember to Wear Your Helmet Kids
I Fought the Law, and the Car Won
“Why is this car going so slow? Speed up! You’re going too OH MY GOD NO”
They Have to Stop Cleaning Those Windows so Well
If You’re Going to Fall That Far, Might as Well Make the End Quick
Face, Meet Rail
Excuse Me, Your Face Is In the Way of My Foot
“Oh my God, look honey! An icecream stand! Let’s get around this body that just fell from the sky and bounced around like a superball and get some!”
“Oh, today’s sesh was also bad. I ended up flailing around wildly and launching through the air again.”
It’s Not the Fall That Hurts, It’s the Slamming Into a Railing With Your Spine at Terminal Velocity
Learning How to Properly Distribute the Impact is of Crucial Importance
Face, Meet Metal Girder
I Swear to God it Was Like it Was Happening in Slow Motion
Actually, It’s Not the Fall That Hurts, It’s the Slamming Into the Pavement So Hard that Your Spine Bends Backwards
At Least That Fence Broke His Fall (And Body)
Somehow he Lived Through the First Impact, But He Made Sure the Second Counted
Telltale Inc. further expands their Xbox Live Arcade arsenal with the lovable and wacky Sam & Max game series.
Dog with hat and manic rabbit-thing are appearing for the first time on Xbox Live Arcade with the first two â€œseasonsâ€ of Sam & Max being released simultaneously. Both games will be released as full-season bundles, jam-packed with otherworldly mysteries to be solved and ass-kickery to be had.
Season One, which takes the duo to the US Capital and the moon as they follow the tracks of a hypnotic adversary, will be tagged Sam & Max Save the World. Season Two, which involves time paradoxes and bizarre aliens, has been dubbed Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space.
“With Sam & Max coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade and the approaching retail launch, we’re reaching a larger audience than we ever have before,” says Telltale CEO Dan Connors. “These new releases give us an opportunity to better communicate the imaginative stories that make the Sam & Max games so special, and to strengthen the unique identity of each season.”
We’ve seen Sam & Max featured in video games, comics, an animated TV series, and featured in a web comic. The six-foot dog and sawtooth-grin rabbit have traversed the different mediums in their quest to clean up society’s trashiest villains and right the wrongs that have been committed. Their journey to the 360 is just another step towards world domination.
The second Sam & Max season has received praise from IGN and PC Gamer as best adventure game of the year and has received several awards for best comedy writing, best gameplay and more. The second season will soon be seeing release on PC and Wii’s Virtual Console as well.
“Hello? Yes, Commissioner! Yes?… Yes?… Yes?.. Holy jumping mother o’God in a side-car with chocolate jimmies and a lobster bib! WE’RE ON OUR WAY!”
— Sam of Sam & Max, the Freelance Police
There’s no denying that the videogame industry is becoming a powerhouse, and with that we are seeing more high-budget, blockbuster games coming from massive developers than ever before.
But what about the smaller games, from smaller developers? The games with charm and style and character? The games that take risks and experiment with gameplay styles that big developers might be unwilling to try?
Luckily, with the seemingly unstoppable growth of the industry is coming something of a renaissance for indie-style gaming; online gaming portals like XBLA are not only giving us a way to get the little guys’ games easily, but they’re also giving those smaller developers a way to make a living of their games, by harnessing the profit-making potential of the throngs of console gamers out there.
The result is that some of the smartest, most exciting, most experimental, and most interesting games are making their way to the mainstream. So without further ado, here are nine of those games!
BOUNCE (Tentative title) (Strawdog Studios)
Not a lot is known about the tentatively titled Bounce, other then that it may have cute little cartoon animals in it and may also involve bouncing.
What we do know for sure is that it’s from the same developers as Geon, which is described on its XBox Arcade profile page as a “fast-paced abstract sports game that lets you explore your emotions as you compete against opponents.”
Sound weird? Well, it is. But it’s also a lot of fun. With Geon, Strawdog Studios made a game with the simple gameplay and charm of old-school classics like Pacman or Marble Madness while managing to keep it relevant to today’s gamers. It’s safe to say we can expect some of the same entertaining, frenetic, off-the-wall interpretations of classic arcade-style play in Bounce, which is definitely a good thing.
According to Dan Marchant of Strawdog Studios we can look forward to some updates about this game in the near future, including a name change, so stay tuned for more info!
In the meantime a video of Geon’s gameplay ought to tide us over!
Wallace & Gromit, Aardman Animation’s popular dog and inventor cartoon duo, are pretty much the perfect characters for an old-school point and click adventure game in the same vein as King’s Quest and the Lucasarts series of games; Wallace & Gromit’s charming style, whimsical humour, and wacky adventures in invention mean the game is pretty much half done already.
All that’s left is for someone to develop it, and that’s just what Telltale Games is doing. Telltale Games are the same people who brought us the Sam & Max and Strongbad episodic adventure games, so you can rest assured that Wallace & Gromit are going to get a great videogame treatment.
Classic adventure-style games have almost become extinct in this day and age, so it’s good to see this game bringing back the fun, puzzles, and story-telling of this style of gameplay. Plus XBLA is pretty much the perfect forum to distribute episodic games with, letting people buy the game in discrete chunks at a reasonable price.
And on top of all that, this will probably be the first instance of the term ‘cracking toast’ being used in a videogame, which in itself is noteworthy.
Cletus Clay is essentially a platformer like any other, with sidescrolling, shoot ‘em up action through a series of different worlds, except that the main character is an inbred, alcoholic redneck who regularly kills aliens with a shotgun.
Oh, also, every character, monster, and environment in the game is rendered completely with real clay and stop-motion animation.
This very uncommon approach to game art gives Cletus Clay an unmistakable style, and was enough to win Cletus an award for Excellence in Art at the Independent Games Festival. It’s great to see smaller developers taking novel approaches to graphics like this, and even better that we get to see them professionally distributed on XBLA; so few big-name developers would be willing to take the risk of taking such a radical approach to game art.
But Cletus Clay is not just pretty, it also looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun too. If you’re a fan of enemy-filled side-scrolling action in the same vein as Super Mario, then keep your eye on this game. If you’re also a fan of XXX hooch, then this game will be a must play!
Darwinia was originally released on PC a few years ago to critical acclaim, but is still difficult to describe. Essentially it is a blend of the real-time strategy, action, arcade, and god-game genres. But this description probably doesn’t do it justice, as the game manages to blend all those different genres seamlessly to make something that doesn’t quite resemble any of its individual influences. To put it simply, it has to be played to be understood.
The goal of Darwinia is to save the Darwinians — little digital life-forms who live in a virtual world — from attacking viri. What makes the game unique is how you go about doing this; controlling the little Darwinians involves more than just clicking on them and telling them to attack, because you have to manually choose where they shoot, making the game more than standard RTS fare.
The entire game is full of this sort of genre-twisting gameplay, but it doesn’t stop there. Darwinia’s award-winning graphics and art are also striking and original. Its portrayal of a virtual, wireframe world with 2-dimensional inhabitants is both sparse and lively, and somehow manages to give the world’s simple-looking inhabitants more character than the most painstakingly rendered models.
Darwinia has all that, and for the XBox release will even include Multiwnia, the multiplayer version of the game!
From Jeff Minter, sheep enthusiast and developer of the insane, trippy, sensory-overloading, musical sort-of-shooter Space Giraffe, comes Gridrunner+++.
The original Gridrunner++ was a vertical space shooter for the PC that was released long long ago. Since then, Jeff has developed a very unique, psychedelic style for his games that is one of a kind, and the new Gridrunner+++ looks like it is going to embody that development, both in visual style and gameplay.
So what can you expect in Gridrunner+++? Well, “sheepies” that you use as powerups, non-stop streams of abstract bullets all over the screen, and a vertical shooter experience that is far from conventional. According to Jeff, “rather than dodging through bullet hell you become bullet hell.”
By using gravity points, players can make their bullet streams arc, which will combine with the beautiful, colourful and kinetic graphics to give a classic arcade shooter-on-3-hits-of-acid look, making Gridrunner+++ a game that is not only a fun reflex space shooter, but also a graceful and beautiful experience.
But my mere words probably can’t do it justice. For an idea of Jeff’s style, check out the video of Space Giraffe below!
This game just looks like it’s going to be downright enjoyable. Looking kind of like Worms put through an old-school, real-time, 2D console blender, Rocket Riot may just be the game that will remind you of what it was like to play videogames when you were a kid.
The game will include, among other things, some very neat, pixelated 2D-in-a-3D-world graphics that look like a love letter to 8-bit gaming, hilarious sound effects, and destructible levels with tons of different missions to accomplish.
It basically looks like a charming throwback to days when games were a straightforward affair of firing rockets at enemies and collecting powerups, but it also looks like it is going to be a genuinely strong game that can compete with any modern blockbuster in entertainment value.
As usual it’s hard to describe just how fun this game looks, so check out the video!
Zombies!!!, the cult hit tabletop game that has spawned loads of expansions throughout the years, is set to make its debut on XBLA in 2009, bringing with lots lots of zombies (and exclamation points.)
What is Zombies!!! about, you ask? There’s not a lot of info on the videogame version just yet, but if it’s anything like its tabletop predecessor it’s going to involve an ever-growing horde of zombies for a group of players to escape from, and plenty of opportunities to mess those zombies up. And who doesn’t love messing up zombies?
Nobody, that’s who.
It’s always great to see an underground classic tabletop game make its way to a big-time forum, and it’s good to see that XBLA is making it happen. A lot of these tabletop games are well-crafted examples of get-together party games, but don’t get as much exposure as they deserve because of their unusual (and nerdy) medium.
But with a release on XBLA, more players get exposed to a great game they might never have known about before, the developers get some serious support, and alternative styles of gameplay get just a bit more mainstream love.
Plus, I mean, there’s zombies in it.
Continuing with the tabletop gaming theme, we have Quarrel. Quarrel is a game about words and strategy, like a mix of Scrabble and Risk. This probably sounds insane, but the combination of the two is actually quite ingenious.
Denki is a developer focused almost totally on making games that are fun. They go about this by fashioning games to be digital toys that are entirely designed to entertain and engage, and Quarrel is no exception to this strategy.
The goal of the game is to take over as many territories on the map as possible, like in Risk. The difference between this game and its tabletop influences is that instead of rolling dice to see whether you succeed in taking a territory, you play a word game and try to out-vocabulary your opponent in order to claim your stake on a piece of the map.
Clever game mechanics like these — that re-imagine the way classic games work by finding the crappy parts of good games and replacing them with fun parts — are what creative game development is all about. By removing the random element of dice-rolling from table-top style gaming, Genki are making Quarrel a game that is all fun and is accessible to everyone. The results look like they’re going to be a truly entertaining party game that will get everyone fully involved, by making the outcomes of the game depend on simple and familiar mechanics.
Plus it looks downright charming!
Finally on our list we have Blobbies Wars. Originally a DS title, Blobbies is ostensibly a cute little game about little blob things that eat each other to death. But there is much more to it than that.
As Blobbies makes its way to XBLA it will become what its developers are calling the first ever turn-based tactical party game.
Like Quarrel, Blobbies Wars is a blend of two seemingly disparate game mechanics, and just like Quarrel it looks like it’s going to combine them to draw the maximum amount of fun and minimum amount of suck out of each.
Blobbies Wars is made up of two parts. The first part is a tactical strategy game: Teams battle on a hex-based map by getting their blobbies to attack one another each turn, with the goal being to eat the other team’s blobbies. By using magic, special abilities can be performed to give your blobbies an advantage.
The second part, which sets Blobbies apart from other strategy games, is the mini-games. During the downtime of your opponent’s turn you get to play rhythm and reflex-based mini-games in order to get yourself more magic.
This is a brilliant twist on the genre that gets people involved with engaging mechanics, kills boring downtime, making everyone have fun all the time, brings an exciting and visceral aspect to the normally very dry turn-based genre, and finally, forces players to take their turns quickly, so that other players only have a short amount of time to accumulate magic.
I’m a big fan of turn-based games, but even the most die hard fans have to admit that turn-based tactical games aren’t exactly accessible to the average gamer. Blobbies looks like it’s going to bring turn-based to the masses, and I’m proud of the guys at Fishing Cactus for having the ingenuity, understanding and foresight to do it.
And with that concludes the list of games to look out for on XBox Live Arcade! Keep an eye out on our site for updates on these games and their release dates. And if you have any suggestions for games we missed, let us know in the comments, because we always want to hear about games we’ve missed!
Recently, I had a chance to speak with Steve Swasey, the Vice-President of Corporate Communications for Netflix. Netflix is the well known rent-by-mail service that now also incorporates instant streaming on an ever expanding library of movies. With unprecedented growth in the past year, Netflix has been astounding investors, as well as wowing customers with both an excellent product, as well as top notch customer service.
MINUS: Let me start by saying that I have been a subscriber to Netflix on and off since the very beginning. Working at a video store for a long stint is the only thing that ever drove me away from Netflix. How long have you been with Netflix?
STEVE: I have been with Netflix for 4 years. I found the position posted on the internet, and was fortunate enough to get the job.
MINUS: Are you working in the area that you initially started with Netflix in?
STEVE: I am working in the same area, but was promoted about 2 years ago. I was initially hired on as a director, and was promoted to VP.
MINUS: Has digital distribution been a goal from the beginning of Netflix, or a technology that was later observed as needed by the company?
STEVE: From the very beginning, it isn’t a coincidence that the company is named Netflix, not DVDs by mail or something like that. Netflix didn’t initially know exactly how it would be implemented, but it was the intention from the start to offer digitally streamed media.
MINUS: There are so many new devices like Xbox 360s, Mac, TiVo, etc. What made now the right time to incorporate all of these new media hubs?
STEVE: The technology has existed for some time, but now that consumers are embracing the technology, and the studios are embracing this same technology on a wider scale, it is at this time that streaming content could become a widely adopted reality.
MINUS: While the play quality has been superb, it is a bit of a hassle to have to use my computer to add movies to my Watch Instantly queue. I’m sure all Xbox 360 users would love a more powerful interface. Any plans on a more usable interface for the Xbox 360?
STEVE: Currently, there are no announced plans to change this. The interface is currently designed for use on the PC and Mac. You use the browser to search and select and the device that connects to your TV to display and play ¢â‚¬â€œ what they’re both best at.
MINUS: Another option I am curious about, are there plans to implement methods of sorting movies in the “Watch Instantly” queue?
STEVE: We’re always looking at ways to improve the functionality but nothing that has been announced at this time.
MINUS: Approximately how many new movies, as well as “older” titles are being added to the “Watch Instantly” section weekly?
STEVE: While there are currently more than 12,000 titles available for streaming, the weekly additions vary. The rate at which movies are added is a product of cost and availability. Netflix strives to give its customers the most movies possible, but not all titles are available for streaming due to the expense or licensing issues.
MINUS: Are all of the major studios allowing their titles to be streamed? Even to the Xbox 360?
STEVE: Availability is negotiated on a title by title basis, and we have terrific relationships with the studios to keep adding content.
MINUS: I thought it important to make it known that Netflix also accommodates smaller and even independent studios to use Netflix as a distribution method. Can you elaborate on this?
STEVE: There are a number of independent titles “3 days in Paris” and “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days to name a few, as well as many documentaries, etc. Currently, Netflix won’t pursue exclusives as we believe the consumer should have maximum choice. And, filmmakers tend to want as large a distribution as possible for their movies. Exclusives don’t help the movie reach a wider audience.
MINUS: Any major new directions Netflix is going in?
STEVE: Netflix is a very transparent company that keeps good relations with many media outlets to keep the blogosphere aware of our current projects.
MINUS: Are there any major directions Netflix ever considered going in, but decided against?
STEVE: Last year, Netflix experimented with Red Envelope Entertainment, which was essentially a movie studio for independent filmmakers, but this was contrary to the core business model and took away from the focus of DVD rentals and streaming. We want to keep our customers happy by focusing on their experience, not expansion in other realms.
MINUS: While Netflix offers Blu-ray at a premium membership price, HD streaming is more than just a reality now. Netflix has many titles that are streamed in HD. Do you foresee Blu-ray discs being dropped anytime soon?
STEVE: Over 700,000 members are Blu-ray preferred members, and that number is growing. While we do have many titles already streaming in HD, they stream in stereo, not full Surround Sound. While this hasn’t been a problem for anyone, this causes delay on initial adopters who are video/audiophiles. We didn’t have any HD titles last year, so progress has been impressive. Streaming to TV wasn’t introduced until May. Now, a plethora of devices are included. Early adopters have been patient as this exciting progress has been made.
MINUS: Has Netflix ever considered an online streaming game service similar to Valve’s Steam? What about game rental by mail service like Gamefly?
STEVE: No, we are not a game company; Netflix will stay true to movies. Netflix is a video company. We want to have the best movie service.
MINUS: Are users often confusing problems with their ISP with Netflix problems?
STEVE: Many of the consumers who are streaming at this time are tech savvy, and are able to discern where the problems lie. As the user base continues to expand, there will be more users who are unaware where problems can be encountered. There is no sense in pointing fingers, Netflix just aims to fix problems and continue to improve the viewing experience. We stand by our products, and don’t plan on dragging other companies’ products and services down. When shipping failures have occurred, due to problems outside of Netflix, we offered credits to our customers without pointing fingers and without waiting for complaints from our customers. We just fixed the problem proactively.
MINUS: Do you have anything you would like to add?
STEVE: Netflix was named the #1 video rental service by Consumer Reports of all services, not just online services. This seems to be a well deserved recognition, as ForeSee Results analyses web traffic, and since 2005 (4 straight years), ForeSee Results has rated Netflix number one in customer satisfaction.
Overall, Steve has just confirmed what I think most of us already knew: Netflix is determined to be the best, and stand behind both their work and their products. Thanks to Steve Swasey for taking the time to speak with me, and if you haven’t already, check out Netflix today via their free trial.
More of Netflix in the news:
Taste in music is always a touchy subject. What is a masterpiece to one man is often nothing more than another man’s vile ear-garbage. What I like, you might find worth listening to only as a bizarre form of self-flagellation, bringing yourself to let its slimy, musical tendrils into your ear-holes exclusively as a form of punishment for some mortal sin.
Nonetheless, there are songs that one can imagine are just objectively bad; songs that have literally reached the maximum level of crappyness (that level is somewhere around one Air Supply, I believe) and cannot be considered by any rational human to be any good. No enjoyment can be gotten from these songs, because they have been proven by science to be perfect examples of audio despair, which no person should have the displeasure of experiencing.
Likewise, no person should ever have to simulate the playing of such terrible songs in a video game format; forcing someone to merely listen to bad music is cruel, but forcing one to actively engage in the execution of bad music is an act that may actually destroy an important part of that person’s soul.
With the news that Harmonix has made the somewhat insane decision to release another Grateful Dead song pack tomorrow, with six whole, meandering, pointless, hippie anthems to absent-mindedly sway back and forth to, it seems fitting to go over what songs should be in Rock Band, and which ones have no place being anywhere near any person’s XBox, Playstation, CD player, iPod, 8-track, gramophone record player, or any other physical music medium for that matter.
So join me for the 10 songs that Rock Band needs to get, and get rid of!
SONGS ROCK BAND NEEDS TO GET RID OF:
I know, you can’t actually get rid of songs from Rock Band, mainly because they are written permanently onto the disc via some sort “burning” process.
So we’ll just look at this list as a lesson for future generations. The soul-searing pain we have felt as a result of having to listen to and mock-perform these songs will be our gift to those people down the line who will never have to sing lyrics like “because it’s nice in the afternoon” again. We are taking a rock and roll bullet to the audio processing portions of our brains, so that generations to come will not have to do the same.
Or you could just be selfish and try to literally scratch these songs from the surface of the disc, as I have tried many times.
Panic at the Disco – Nine in the Afternoon
Forget for a moment that the afternoon does not extend until nine o’clock, and in fact turns into something called “night time” several hours before nine. Forget for a moment that this song’s lyrics border on being nonsense due to the redundancy and blatant obviousness of their subject matter. You could, ’cause you can, so you do? I have absolutely no idea how you managed to use so many words there.
Finally, try to forget that this song is like an inescapable specter, haunting every appliance you own, including your TV, radio, and even your copy of NHL 09, a game that should by all rights be as Panic at the Disco-less as possible.
Even if you manage to forget all of these things, you will not be able to escape the fact that this song is the audio equivalent of a massive worldwide recession wrapped in a pink bow: it is the cheeriest looking thing to make you want to kill yourself in the last year.
Interpol – PDA
When you think about rock and roll, what words come to mind? If boring, repetitive, incredibly long-winded, and no redeeming qualities are the first things you think of, then Interpol’s PDA is for you.
But if you are not insane, then this song will make you wish you could build a Rock Band-playing machine to automatically perform it for you while you sit in a sound-proof room, preferably thousands of miles away.
Duran Duran – Hungry Like the Wolf
When did the 80s become cool again? In the 90s all anyone ever did was make fun of the 80s. It was basically a full time profession back then. And the reason everyone made fun of the 80s in the 90s was because everything in the 80s sucked really really bad.
Duran Duran is no exception. It’s just that Hungry Like the Wolf is one of those songs that has somehow permanently burrowed itself into the soft, fleshy mass of our collective consciousness, where it resides to this day. Once inside it released its alien pheromones, modifying the chemical balance of our brains so that its horrible true nature was hidden from us, making us think it was actually a good song.
But you can’t trick me, Duran Duran. I know this because every time I have to play this song I have the sudden urge to shove a screwdriver up my nose into my frontal lobe, proving that your vile demon-larva are lodged in all of our craniums, just waiting to be reamed out with hand tools.
Ratt – Round and Round
I mean, are you kidding me?
If Winger ends up in Rock Band 3, please shoot me in the face.
Miranda Cosgrove – Headphones On
Okay, this is actually a download, so its not necessarily part of Rock Band. But it is a free download, which means there is a very high percentage likelihood that you will download it because its free, and why the hell shouldn’t I download it when its free? How much could that hurt?
Oh it can hurt, in so many ways. I made the mistake of downloading this song, and I repeatedly punch myself in the face every day as punishment for my folly. If you enjoy the current state of your face, in which it isn’t being punched by your own furiously clenched fist all the time, then don’t download this song.
Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot
Maybe I’m just prejudiced against Sonic Youth because of how much I hate them for needing three guitar players to make every one of their songs sound like a mess, but this song should not exist in Rock Band. “Noise rock” is pretty much the least fun sounding genre imaginable, and playing this song in Rock Band proves it.
Rob the Prez-O-Dent – That Handsome Devil
File this song under Makes Absolutely No Sense. The production of it is such that you can’t actually hear what’s happening. I have no real problem with that; some of my favourite bands have recordings that sound like crap. Its just that when I’m trying to play a video game version of a song, sometimes it helps to be able to tell what the hell is going on.
Add to that the fact that some of the drum parts you have to play in it are essentially just a jumble of coloured bars mashed next to each other, and this song basically turns into a screwed up game of Simon with a bad soundtrack, interspersed with random gun shot sound effects.
Linkin Park – One Step Closer
I don’t know why they called it “nu” metal, cause playing this song is getting pretty old! Haha.
God I want to kill myself.
Abnormality – Visions
I know, I know. Death metal (or black metal, or doom metal, or sludge or goop or crud or gunk metal or whatever the hell it’s called) bands have a lot of technical skill. They use weird time signatures like 15/Pi, play at tempos in excess of nine million beats per second, and are known to breathe fire on innocent civilians when they’re not playing at shows attended entirely by other bands.
That’s all well and good. I get it. But please don’t make me play their songs in Rock Band. Their riffs were not made for normal human appendages, my plastic guitar controller probably can’t even register notes as fast as these guys are playing them, and this song has all the musicality of the dying groans of a goat being crushed by a flaming boulder. That unique sound only means “party” for people who wear white makeup all the time and use real sheep heads as stage props.
Every Bonus Song - All of Them
We know that you guys at Harmonix are, like, real musicians and everything. We appreciate it, a lot. Your musical experience lends the game a very authentic feel, we are glad you know what you’re doing, etc. etc.
But that having been said, we have to tell you something: your friends’ bands are kind of a downer.
They always show up at our parties and get really drunk and start talking too loud and then get in the way when we just want to play songs that we actually like, and it gets really annoying.
I mean, it’s gotten to the point where I intentionally avoided downloading the 20 extra songs for Rock Band 2, even though they were free, because I didn’t want to dilute my song selection with their incredible mediocrity.
Oh, and don’t try to sneak your friends into the next party by taking away their “bonus” tags like you did in Rock Band 2; we know which ones they are (they’re the ones that suck that we’ve never heard before) and we’ll have a door man waiting. You’ll thank us when you give in to peer pressure and are too cool to even look them in the eye any more.
SONGS ROCK BAND NEEDS TO GET:
It’s nearly impossible to whittle this selection down to ten songs, to the point that even choosing seems almost blasphemous, but what must be done must be done, in the name of Rock and Roll.
Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song
The game is called Rock Band, yet Led Zeppelin is not in it. This is essentially a logical contradiction in its most fundamental form. It is like explaining to someone that 2 plus 2 equals 4, then asking them to tell you what 2 plus 2 equals, and when they tell you “It is 4,” you punch them in the throat with a pair of brass knuckles.
I’m sure there’s some petty legal reason why Led Zeppelin hasn’t graced the Rock Band disc yet. But if you are reading this, Jimmy Page (which you are definitely not) then know this: putting your songs in Rock Band can never do as much damage to your reputation or credibility or any other aspect of your career as did the raping of Kashmir called “Come With Me” featuring Mr. Sean P Puffy Diddy Daddy Combs himself.
Dio – Holy Diver
Okay, I take back what I said about the 80s; everything except Dio (and all the other songs in this list that were released in the 80s) sucked. Three important facts to know about Ronnie James Dio: 1) He pioneered the use of the devil horns as a uniquely metal form of non-verbal communication, 2) He played the role of a rock and roll God in the Tenacious D movie, which required no actual acting on his part, and 3) He has rocked like freaking mad for every minute of every day of his entire life.
In fact, the entire Holy Diver album should be made available for download.
Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train
Hey Rock Band, guess what? Guitar Hero: World Tour has this song, and you don’t.
By not having it in Rock Band you are literally urinating all over Randy Rhoads’ long-dead, plane-crashy corpse.
Green Day – Basket Case
You can love them or hate them, but it is undeniable that Green Day is one of the biggest bands in the world.
Their absence from Rock Band is strange, to say the least. Even Metallica (who at one point sued everyone on the planet for thinking about downloading Napster to maybe download copies of Metallica songs) are in Rock Band and are even being featured in their own game, so there’s really no legal reason why you shouldn’t be, Green Day. Get on it.
The Band – The Weight (or Cripple Creek, or really anything by them, because everything they did is fantastic)
If you’re going to put country music in the game, why not try putting in country-influenced bands that aren’t marketed towards people who think that Reagan’s trickle-down economic plan is fantastic, follow a policy of carrying one gun per article of clothing during hunting season, and actually think Brad Paisley is good?
Queen – Another One Bites the Dust
While Bohemian Rhapsody may well be one of the most rocking songs of all time, I decided against it because the game is called Rock Band, not Epic 10 Minute Piano Song Game.
Another One Bites the Dust is recognizable, rocking, and full of killer riffs and awesomeness, making it perfect for Rock Band.
(PS: No AIDS jokes will be made in this article.)
Van Halen – Hot for Teacher
Hey Rock Band, guess what? Guitar Hero: World Tour has this song, and you don’t.
By not having it in Rock Band you are literally urinating all over Eddie Van Halen’s crazy, double-tapping, soon-to-be-dead-of-cancer-or-alcoholism-or-something corpse.
Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City
While we’re on the other games have this song so why don’t you train of thought, let’s hit up some GnR. Burnout Paradise, a game about cars or heroin withdrawal or something, has this song in it, but all Rock Band could get was a song from the Axl Rose and Some Other Guys edition of Guns N’ Roses?
Shame on you Rock Band.
(And yes I know one of those other guys was Bucket Head. Please don’t send any letters.)
Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
There is a surprising lack of Jimi Hendrix in Rock Band, which is, frankly, inexplicable.
Simply put, All Along the Watchtower is chock full of riffs and drum beats and notes and other rock and roll stuff that would be incredibly fun to pretend-play. Plus it would do double duty by getting more Bob Dylan into the game.
(Note: Make sure to open all your windows before setting your controller on fire, as plastic fumes can cause all sorts of rock and roll-inhibiting ailments.)
Thin Lizzy – The Boys are Back in Town
There are plenty of fantastic Thin Lizzy songs that would absolutely kill in Rock Band, but I went for the easy one, because everyone already knows it, whether or not they know that they know it.
The problem is that very few people know who actually wrote it, nor do they know that Thin Lizzy was one of the best rock bands of the 70s, nor do they know that there is a life-size bronze statue of the lead singer Phil Lynott in Dublin Ireland.
If having a bronze statue of yourself is not rock and roll enough to get you into Rock Band, then I have no idea what is.
And that concludes the list! I hope I have done a service to those of you who have yet to play all the songs in Rock Band, and cherish the integrity of your ears.
(Commence rabid, vitriolic insult-throwing about other people’s musical taste… now.)
Over at Metallica’s website, they’ve revealed that the release date for the Metallica-focused Guitar Hero: Metallica is March 29th for XBox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The game will essentially be Guitar Hero: World Tour, with real venues, real members of Metallica, and a lot more Metallica than your average rhythm music game. 28 Metallica songs will be included, and if they’re anything like the downloadable Metallica songs for Rock Band, they will be incredibly difficult.
In an interesting choice for a game that has Metallica in its name, the game also includes some bands that aren’t Metallica, such as Slayer, Machine Head, Alice in Chains, Queen, and Foo Fighters. I guess Guitar Hero: Metallica, with special guests Slayer, Machine Head, Alice in Chains, Queen, and Foo Fighters was a bit too verbose.
Most importantly of all, Guitar Hero: Metallica will include an expert-plus mode, which will include double bass pedals, for those who are truly masochistic enough to want to play Lars’s full bass beats. I’ve played some of Metallica’s songs on drums on expert in Rock Band, and they turned my legs into quivering jelly, so I can only imagine how hard double bass will make this game.
Check out the trailer!
Five best moments in Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead has come and we’ve been killing zombies for over a month now. After sitting down for some long nights and entertaining LAN parties, I’ve opted to state the five best, funniest, or frankly most awesome things to happen with me and my group. Without further ado, number five:
5) Boomer Teabag: If you thought being puked on was bad
It was an epic defeat, the team (in versus) had barely just left the safe house, with three of their members pinned, and the boomer quickly took care of the other. Although it may not have much of a use, the Boomer can squat So, if your team happens to be doing particularly well, and the boomer is feeling cocky, a boomer teabag may be in order. Now, don’t think that I condone this activity: it’s unsportsmanlike, rude, braggish, and all around disgusting in all games. However, to see this giant fat zombie squat up and down on the face of a human survivor as his team around him is killed as he struggles to try and save someone, it’s hard to not be entertained. Although, sadly, his gut does not bounce like a bowl full of jelly.
4) Hunter Overshot: If a zombie could fail
Imagine the scene, at the top of No Mercy hospital: I’m dangling off an edge, knocked back and covered in vomit. When it all clears out my teammate comes to rescue me. Up on top of a nearby building I see a hunter and yell, Watch out! Which soon is blocked out by the ever familiar cry of the hunter as it pounces for the kill
Only for the awesomeness of the scene to be interrupted as the hunter overshot and flew off the edge of the building. The irony was ever present, the hunter’s greatest weapon turning into it’s demise. Speaking of great weapons
3) Epic Duel 1 on 1 with the Tank: When you promise your team you’ll kill it.
So there I was, my teammate was on the ground, all of the others were dead. Cries of, you can make it, you can make it! rang out from the mouths of the deceased. Just as I started to pick up my friend (the only one still breathing), a tank came rushing down the corridor, barely avoiding a hunter, and hitting a boomer from afar. I strafed around and dueled to the death with the tank. Man had become the winner after an epic battle and a spent Molotov. But alas, I knew I could not make it. It was still a long run to the house of reprieve. So, I decided I’d not let myself get turned into a zombie, because I’ve killed too many. Surely I wouldn’t be invited to any of their zombie games (read: Hordes). Picking up my teammate’s Pipe Bomb (he bled out), I headed to the crescendo event.
Soon enough, after gathering all of the gas tanks at a crescendo event, I activated it, and as I was engulfed by zombies I threw down a pipe bomb, killing myself and all of the zombies in the process. I feel as if it was an epic Left 4 Dead story that always makes me think that I did the right thing. (Note: I didn’t earn an achievement as my incapacitated buddy helped, but I think it’s for the best. Achievement Unlocked would’ve totally killed the epicness.)
2) Run. Like. Hell.
We finally made it to the safe house with three of my team members. Another one was slowly weaving his way around a witch. Suddenly, a hunter pounced at him (albeit missing), startled, he startled her. Rings of, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit were screamed over a headset as he jumped down and made a mad dash for his life down the narrow alley towards safety. Don’t close the door! he screamed, as the witch was wailing and flailing, right on his tail. My entire team of survivors were unloading their clips into the beast, shots impacting my friend, and just at the last second, screams of, Don’t close the door! changed to, Shut it! and it just kept her out, with sighs of relief and praises of life. . . Then we saw the rewards screen and were reminded we were only playing a video game.
1) No Mercy Finale: No Man gets Left Behind (Zoey included).
The ever wanted and loved sound of, the helicopter’s here! rings out and the team decide to run for it. Prepared to leave, people can often get cocky and not stick with the group. Me and three teammates made a break for it as another one administered first aid (to himself.) Little did he know of what was about to happen. As we ran he tried to catch up, but as we were all in the copter, a Molotov had been thrown. The survivor took it, and kept on running through. Suddenly, the tongue of a smoker stretched out through the fire. Damnit ran through all of the team members’ minds, except for one. No man gets left behind. He yelled, as he ran through the blazing inferno, saving the friend, but getting knocked down from his burns.
The other survivor bent down to return the favor, but just then the squeal of a soaring hunter was ever apparent through the growls of running undead, and it was on target, and the currently incapacitated survivor struggled to shoot the flaming hunter off of him. Now both were low on health, the one man taking pain pills, we then saw them run through the fire, with one of them limping. The other holding back the horde as the tanks began to rush up to the landing, my entire team was now spurring lead, and they jumped into the helicopter and got once last glance at the once imposing zombies. That’s when we made it; that’s when we all made it.
Thus concludes the list of the top five awesome-est moments in Left 4 Dead. Although many of them are personal moments, I’m sure that at least somebody will get some enjoyment from reading the adventures of the survivors, and I know that I enjoyed experiencing them.
But! That’s not the end of it, if any of you Zmogo readers play Left 4 Dead and have some epic, scary, awesome or funny stories, feel free to share them in the comment box below. Look forward to some more ” Top Five Moments” In the future.
(All images are copyright Valve)
P.S.: None of the images are screencaps as I played it on Xbox Live.