Sony Pictures Image Works organized an event at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles to pay homage to the recently deceased visual effects virtuoso Stan Winston. Several big names from the film fraternity including film director James Cameroon, Shane Mahan, John Nelson, and actor Matt Winston (Stan Winston’s son) were in attendance and took a stroll down memory lane to remember the legend.
Winston was ahead of his time and etched his indelible footprints on visual effects. The event witnessed an outpouring of amusing anecdotes and veneration from the speakers who had known him. His protégé Shane Mahan, who worked with him during Terminator 2, announced that he and partners from Winston Studios are forming a new studio, Legacy Studio, as a mark of respect for Winston.
Winston worked on movies like Terminator and Jurassic Park that are remembered for their groundbreaking special effects as they set the bar higher for future movies. Cutting-edge is an adjective generally used to describe special effects but perhaps it was this avant-garde vfx legend who best justified its use.
If not for the fact that I was able to actually make physical contact with David Hayter at this year's Capcom E3 press conference, it would've been a total letdown. The whole thing was just a giant shill for Capcom's Lost Planet film, and its reception was nearly as icy cold as the movie/game's setting. But in between cracking big, corporate grins and repeatedly uttering the Japanese equivalent of "So awesome," the Capcom big-wigs dropped a tiny bomb. See, as it turns out, Lost Planet had popped from Capcom's collective womb with a ticket to Hollywood in hand. The game was born to be a film.
As we've seen with movies like Doom and Resident Evil, and games like Guitar Hero, media convergence is inevitable. United we stand; divided, we make less money. And that just won't do. However, whereas other instances of convergence have taken two (or more) disparate media forms and none-too-subtly mashed them together -- casualties be damned -- Lost Planet, if all goes according to plan, will straddle the line between games and film. Instead of removing what makes the game special -- effectively neutering it with a rusty knife -- Lost Planet: The Movie has the potential to usher in an era of game-themed movies not unlike what we're seeing with comic books right now.
But is that what we want? Last I checked, comic book fans were a tiny niche, nearly fit for a somber, "Don't let these beautiful creatures die" commercial from the World Wildlife Fund. Yeah, I'm not sure comics are the greatest role model. Plus, do we really want cherished characters having their in-game appearances altered just so they can more aptly fit their roles as movie characters (See Nick Fury, among others)?*
So, are you ready for some top-notch game-to-movie conversions, or would you rather our hobby stick to the small screen, interactive and proud?
Today's Roundup features a big-name title that's already being preened for stardom, and wouldn't you know it, Electronic Arts is the, er, preener. Inside, you'll also find Rockstar decrying the hardcore/casual divide, a top-15 list of Olympic proportions, and massive success from a WoW competitor. Hurdle past the break for more.
It might not be well publicized, but there's a major war brewing between Microsoft and Adobe, and they're fighting for you. Each one of them wants to be your provider for rich media content, a task that has traditionally been served by Adobe with its Flash player, but one Olympic sized loss could change the game in Microsoft's favor.
It was Microsoft who won the deal to supply NBC with video-viewing technology via Silverlight for the Olympics in Beijing, and while Microsoft and NBC have ties that go back to their collaboration building MSNBC, Adobe could have been considered a favorite to the win the account based the mature nature of Flash technology. So how did Microsoft secure the gold?
"We talked about features like adaptive streaming, the ability to automatically keep checking how much bandwidth you have and deliver the appropriate quality stream and how to be smart about knowing what's coming up in the stream," said Rob Bennett, the general manager of sports for MSN.
In other words, Microsoft won the account on a combination of Silverlight's feature-set, and convincing NBC that Flash's scalability had never been put to an Olympic-size test, unlike Silverlight's underlying technology which is based on Windows Media technologies.
Of course, it's only one account, but it's not so much what Adobe lost, but what Microsoft gained. While download specifics have not been disclosed, we do know that it's registering 1.5 million downloads a day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, "in the last several days, more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already have Silverlight 2 installed."
Recently, I was flipping through the latest Electronic Gaming Monthly when I came across an ad for Too Human. The ad itself was nicely produced, essentially screaming "This game is about killing robots," with hero Baldur standing confidently before a heap of his slain foes. The plethora of robo corpses that cluttered the page wasn't what interested me, though. Instead, it was a small quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that drew my focus. After that, my first thought was, "Well, now I need to read up on Nietzsche to fully understand the point that Dyack and co. are trying to make with their game. Cool!"
But, by that same token, I've met and spoken with plenty of people who, after a long, exhausting day at the office, want nothing more than a little catharsis. With their brain already floating in a hazy cloud of near-unconsciousness, they don't want to think. Games as art? Who needs 'em? Some people just want to have fun.
So, which side of the line do you call home? Do you F5 Brainy Gamer all day long while extolling the virtues of story in games? Or did you think Metal Gear Solid 4 was a pretentious pile of crap -- treading on territory reserved for literature and film? Thought-provoking or mindless fun? Which do you prefer?
Today's Roundup has a little something for everyone. With a story about one of the artsiest designers out there packing up shop and heading for the PC, some big news concerning the most cathartic series in all of gaming, and a use for games that's neither art nor entertainment, no one will walk out of this theater with a dissatisfied frown. Jump past the break for the full thing.
The last thing you want to see while hanging from a wire high above a crowd of spectators is Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death lingering in mid-air, but that's exactly what happened to Li Ning, one of China's sporting greats. The incident took place during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and as Ning geared up for the torch lighting climax inside the Bird's Nest, stadium projectors beamed the BSOD onto the roof where it was clearly visible for all to see.
The BSOD came as an unfortunate side effect to using specialized theatrical computer controlled lighting equipment to light up the Bird's Nest, making the process not only automated, but susceptible to software failures. But hey, at least Windows was only running the light show and not the high wire act!
Technological trends may come and go, but every once in awhile they turn out to be more than just temporary fads. Consider that many of today's gamers weren't even born yet in the Atari 2600's heyday, yet 30 years later gaming consoles have become so popular that there exists an entire generation of FPS junkies who actually prefer lining up a headshot with a gamepad instead of using a keyboard and mouse. And speaking of videogames, let's not forget the 3D revolution sparked by the now defunct 3DFX (moment of silence).
More than just fun and games, recognizing lasting fads can prove lucrative for companies and upstarts who ride the hype, but it's not always easy predicting where PCs are headed. If we were to look back 10 years from now, what would we say were most influential technologies of the time? No need to hop into your time machine, because with the help of Gartner Inc., an information technology research and advisory company, we answer that question right now.
Hit the jump to see which of today's technologies are at the pinnacle of their hype cycle.
When I was a youngster, in between seven hour sessions of the latest 60 hour role-playing behemoth, I always told myself that I wouldn't be like those other adults when I grew up -- those adults who whiled away their days in front of a cramped desk, wishing they still had room in their busy schedules to work through their ever-expanding pile of shame. But here I sit, leg sandwiched between a desk and my chest, foot resting on my chair. Yeah, the prognosis isn't looking so hot.
These days, I'm happy to fit in some game time every couple of days, so it's only natural that my tastes have changed. While many vocal gamers whipped up sternly-worded message board posts after beating Portal in a single afternoon, I only grinned. I'd taken the tour, seen the sights, and gotten the ubiquitous tune stuck in my head -- in and out, no filler. If the credits roll within a mere couple of hours, so be it. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time; I see no reason to be dissatisfied. In the end, short games fit snuggly into the hustle and bustle of my life, while encouraging their creators to craft tightly-paced experiences. Win-win.
But what's your take? Do you prefer long journeys whose plot threads tangle you up and never let go? Do you gripe when a game doesn't include any sort of multiplayer? Or do you currently have Braid penciled in for this weekend, with all times subject to change?
Well, for those of you who fall into the former camp, today's your lucky day. This particular Roundup is all about lengthier titles -- from a day-long boss battle to BioWare (Need I say more?), and maybe a quick smoke in between. Jump past the break for the whole shebang.
According to a previous report by The Wall Street Journal, Google's open-source Android platform likely won't see the light of day until 2009, but that may not be the case. A new rumor hitting the web claims that T-Mobile will debut the first Android phone for pre-sale as early as September 17th.
Blog site TmoNews, who claims to be privy to this information based on a "trusted source," also says the new phone (codenamed G1) will cost consumers $399 - ouch! But that's when it goes fully public. TmoNews says the G1 pre-sale will last for one week and be available only to T-Mobile customers, who will be able to pick up the phone for $250 below retail. Everyone else will have to wait until mid-October.
The site also claims the G1 will come in black, white, or brown and include a 3-inch wide touch screen, 3G support, and a slide-out Qwerty keypad. Anyone that plans on picking one up will need a Gmail account, or so the rumor goes.
AMD Cinema 2.0 is a technology every gaming aficionado, game developer, movie buff and filmmaker would die for. Photo-realistic 3D rendering is the Holy Grail that researchers and developers have been chasing for a long time. Now that AMD is unwrapping its Cinema 2.0 tech layer after another, it seems as though the wall of technological disability that has stood between virtual reality and the real world is about to be razed to the ground.
But for more details of the groundbreaking technology you will have to make the "jump" to the rest of this entry.
Today, I finally got around to checking out the latest Futurama movie, "Beast with a Billion Backs." It was great, but aside from Pac-Man chess, had nothing to do with gaming. However, an awesome little bonus feature -- cut-together scenes from the disappointingly awful Futurama videogame -- did.
What really struck me about the "game," though, was its meticulous (and oftentimes hilarious) need to explain every gaming cliche in the book. See, the game itself was a trite licensed platformer, but its story went the extra mile toward making that a-okay. Additional lives, level restarts, and other gaming tropes made perfect sense within Futurama's twisted logic. But while I applaud Groening, Cohen, and co. for their creativity, I think story in gaming can do so much more.
Right now, we're sort of in an awkward teenage phase -- just beginning to shrug off the shackles of other media forms. Only now are we collectively realizing that our medium is unique, so our stories have shifted to convey that fact. Whether it's Futurama's wacky antics, Bioshock's "Would you kindly?" or other games taking sly digs at each cliche they so willfully employ, we've come to realize what our medium is, but we haven't even begun to break ground on gaming's well of potential.
So, my question to you: What topics would you like to see gaming explore? What stories need to be told? Are there any games out there that you think could very well be the next step forward for story in gaming?
This edition of the Roundup features, among other things, details on a story that could be one of this year's greatest. Additionally, you'll find an article about casuals becoming hardcores, and another about why I'm stupid for using the terms "casuals" and "hardcores." Jump past the break for more.