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Fri, 29 Apr 2005

Guild Wars Promo

Guild Wars launches today after a big PR campaign which included giving journalists access to the pre-release game complete with guides and instructions.

Below is one enthusiastic take on the game's launch ...

Guild Wars is the debut online role-playing game from ArenaNet and it was almost a year ago that ArenaNet shocked the world by allowing everyone who had an inkling to do so to try out Guild Wars during the weekend of E3.

Guild Wars will not charge a monthly fee. Merely buy the game and you are in. The game will offer new modules in the future, and the modules will cost additional money, but no $10-$15 monthly fee will be charged, period.

ArenaNet's unique streaming technology forever eliminates the concept of patching a game. You don't have to wait a month for the next big patch to experience new content. Instead, the game constantly and intelligently streams new content to your computer in the background while you play.

Guild Wars is created to allow you to play with a group or to play on your own. It's true that some missions would most likely not be possible with just one player, but with a system of non-player characters called henchmen, you can fill out a group without other players joining your team. You can also use henchmen to enhance a team of players. Simply choose a henchman from any of four selected professions -- or one of each -- and head out into the mission. You'll find that the henchmen are able players, and contribute towards the gameplay in meaningful ways.

Character management is easy to figure out and combat is of the mouse click variety. Although your character can have many skills at his or her disposal, they are allowed only eight in any given mission. Regardless of the reference, the adventuring begins with the universal first step of creating a character. For at least the immediate future all player characters will be human -- male or female Some of the names are a bit unusual, but it's easy enough to recognize them for what they are. In a few instances, an NPC may grant you the option of exchanging some skill slots, but only in skill-related quests. New players’ characters are on a different server than yours; in Guild Wars, all characters live in one seamless world.

With each class currently offering 75 skills, the potential variations are staggering. Every combination of two classes results in 150 possible skills from which to choose and with six different classes that makes&well; we'll leave the calculations to someone else. You don't have to be a math genius to recognize that it's an unbelievable number of options.

Guild Wars takes the best elements of today's massively multiplayer online games and combines them with a new mission-based design that eliminates the tedium of those games.

Within a quest you have unprecedented freedom and power to manipulate the world around you: your magic can build bridges and open up new pathways, or it can burn down forests and tear the ground asunder.

Two main sorts of adventures await players. Missions, complete with cinematics, advance a high-fantasy "save the world" central storyline. Quests offer a less involved experience for those times when you're more looking to just get together with a couple buddies and go slay some monsters, or even if you want to go by yourself. For those times when no one you feel like grouping with is around, computer controlled henchmen hang out by the gates to help fill out your party as needed.

Guild Wars has an ability to let you take from it what you want. For one player, it could be all about playing through the story, doing side quests and adventuring either solo or with friends. To another, the quests and missions may only be a means to an end and once having reached high enough level focusing on a gladiatorial career for the glory of self or their guild. For most we expect it will be some combination of the two, but it's the versatility to enjoy whatever you feel like on any given day that's most promising. All that remains to be seen is whether it can deliver on the potential and become the next online fantasy star.

Guild Wars will be on most store shelves on April 28th, but preorder customers will be able to enter Guild Wars on 12:01 a.m. Pacific on April 27th. The period of Early Access will extend for 48 hours.

For all the  information on Guild Wars check

http://www.guildwars.com
http://www.computerandvideogames.com
http://www.gwonline.net

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Advertising in Games

Advertisers have traditionally viewed interactive entertainment with a
certain degree of trepidation. Videogames are unquestionably having a
major impact on the amount of time that people spend watching
television, listening to radio or reading magazines - all traditional
vectors for the advertising industry - and unlike those mediums,
videogames don't lend themselves to being interrupted by short bursts of
advertising creative.

The trepidation is, therefore, understandable. Games reinvent the rules
of media and leisure time, forcing advertisers to find new ways to
convey their message to a generation that's increasingly savvy - and
cynical - about marketing. To top it all off, the last time a new medium
emerged, advertisers got it wrong - and the online advertising boom and
bust has only in the last couple of years cycled back to more
sustainable, albeit still impressive, growth.

However, the planets appear to be aligning for advertising in games,
thanks to a number of key factors. The growing popularity of videogames,
and the slew of consumer research showing how much time young males
spend in front of their consoles, is kicking advertisers into action;
and the looming hardware transition, with all its attendant R&D costs
and margin pressures, is making game creators and publishers more
interested than ever in supplementary sources of income from their
products.

Product placement in games is nothing new, of course, but we can expect
to see it grow significantly in the coming years as more and more
mass-market advertisers jump at the chance to see game characters
quaffing their soft drinks, using their deodorants or dealing with
unsightly skin blemishes with their skincare creams. More innovative,
arguably, is the appearance of advertising hoardings for real-life
products in Funcom's massively multiplayer game, Anarchy Online. With
the next-gen consoles all set to go online, don't be surprised if
downloading new advertising hoardings automatically from the publisher
becomes a standard feature of sports and racing games, at the very
least. And it's not exactly in-game advertising, but Gizmondo's move to
subsidise the cost of its console hardware by pushing video ads over the
mobile network to its users is certainly a clever move, and one we
expect to see replicated on more connected devices.

Gamers expecting to see the price of videogames in general fall as the
medium starts to be funded by advertising will be disappointed, however.
In certain cases companies may try to use advertising to subsidise the
price of their products - Anarchy Online and Gizmondo are two good
examples, in fact - but in general publishers are talking about
advertising as a supplement to existing income. This shouldn't come as a
surprise to anyone, though; Hollywood has been courting product
placement in its movies for years, but the fact that the heroes of the
piece use Apple Powerbooks or Alienware PCs for their world-saving
exploits, possibly while sipping a Diet Coke, has never had any impact
on the ticket price at the box office.

However, both advertisers and publishers need to be careful about how
they approach this brave new world. Incremental revenues of several
dollars per unit are a hugely attractive prospect for publishers, just
as the ability to address the videogame-playing demographic - young,
tech-savvy and stuffed with disposable income - is for advertisers. It's
important for both parties to ensure that they aren't blinded by these
prospects, and end up killing the goose that promises to lay the golden
eggs by stuffing games with inappropriate or intrusive advertising.

It's a combination of that form of overkill and other factors such as
the lack of sensible metrics to measure response that burst the online
advertising bubble in the nineties, and while all sides seem determined
to get the metrics right this time, some of the rhetoric emerging about
in-game advertising creatives are more worrying. Gamers enjoy watching
advertisements, we're told. Product placement makes the game world seem
more real. Advertising deals enhance the game experience.

None of these things are necessarily untrue, but they all need to be
very heavily qualified. Advertising hoardings on a racetrack are one
thing; the sudden appearance of a present-day soft drink in a science
fiction universe is another thing entirely. One of the stars of a sports
game downing a Coke isn't the same as Solid Snake self-consciously
slapping on the latest Calvin Klein aftershave before a mission; and the
subtle, humorous or creative use of a product in a game isn't the same
as an extreme close-up on it to drive home the point, which will just
end up provoking derisory snorts from the audience you're so desperately
trying to look cool to.

Finding new forms of revenue will hopefully allow the games industry to
spread its wings creatively and reduce the risk of trying out new
things; it will help to smooth out the impact of the transition period
and keep smaller businesses profitable. Engaging with the advertising
industry is an obvious and arguably essential move - but publishers
shouldn't forget that the advertisers need videogames more than
videogames need advertisers on board. Games are putting the squeeze on
traditional advertising mediums, and have lasted for over two decades
without advertising dollars to prop the industry up. Both creatively and
commercially, this is an alliance that can happen on the games
industry's terms. Publishers just need to be sure that they don't hand
away the crown jewels in return for short-term profit.

Gamesindustry.biz has excellent daily news of what's happening in
the business part of the games world.

Mstation's view on this is that underhand advertising is just
that -- underhand. Programming kids in this way is especially
underhand. As for the money, let's face it, it's another chapter of
greed. 

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Fri, 01 Apr 2005

Splinter Cell, Chaos Theory

Gameloft, N-Gage

The Gameloft people have a really nice touch with interface design. This one is cool looking and nice to use. They've also pretty much got the balance right of how much you can get on the N-Gage screen. This game is in full 3D and has nice surface renderings as well.

This time we're somewhere in the Pacific and Sam Fisher's job is to stop an impending world war. To that end we can stealthily crawl about the place and then zap the baddies as they come along. There's a training section to get us started and then off we go. Once we're going we can play with three friends over Bluetooth or get onto N-Gage Arena and play with anyone anywhere. It's not too bad. (Mr Twitch)

Ubisoft, Xbox

Highly rated by all who have played it with gamers giving it a generally higher score than the critics who have worried a bit about thin plots and self-referential jokes. CT has effectively been made a little easier by the fact that Sam Fisher's attacks are more effective.

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Requiem of Hell

DigiRed, N-Gage

This is quite cute in a lot of ways even though it's rated 12+ ... mostly because of the concepts I guess. I mostly don't get ratings. Why is it that it's OK for people to be dismembered while at the first sign of a breast, or of the idea of sex (never mind the actuality) the ratings dears will be heading for their X stamps.

Anyway, one character used to be a prostitute and there's a lot of develish stuff about with the gate to hell having been opened and much death and pestilence resulting. Your job, should you accept it, is to, well ... guess!

There's a little pop-up fairy who guides you and gives you mission statements, and a whole bunch of nasties to dispose of in your task of saving humanity. The style is action adventure and it is kinda fun. (Mr Twitch)

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April Fools Notes

Big news this month is the PSP release in the USA.
Just how well it's doing is hard to tell as reporters
are variously reporting a sell-out or stacks of units
left on the shelves.

Whatever. It's a cool looking unit with nice graphics
and an interesting future as far as hacking it to do
other things is concerned. Already there's a bunch of
things that people are working on.

In London, England there was an announcement that
Game Stars Live, the new consumer show that debuted
last year is no more ... already! This is the show
that "took out" the older ECTS as well. Can these
people do anything right?

So the largest market in these parts is without a
consumer show despite the fact that last year's couldn't
have been anything other than a financial success.
If it wasn't, it certainly wasn't due to the gamers,
who turned out in big numbers to pay over-the-odds
money to get in.

According to reports the villains have been Sony,
Microsoft, and Electronic Arts. Now how predictable
was that?

Hang your heads in shame corporate games people! 
After dealing with some of the arrogant turds connected with
marketing we can quite see how this came to be but
there are good guys out there too so hopefully they,
as a group, will see it isn't just about them.



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Call of Duty

Activision, N-Gage

Hmmm, well, here we are in WWII again and it takes me
a little time to figure out who the bad guys are and
then to spot them once I know who they are ... and why
does that dorky guy keep yelling at me to give covering
fire irrespective of whether or not there is any
covering fire? There's no soft intro here. The game
opens and two minutes later I'm toast usually. 

Never mind. Practise, practise or that old saw "If at
first you don't succeed ... give up!"

There is a lot of detail here and a lot of stuff to do
including play with up to four players. If this is your
genre then I don't see why you wouldn't like it.
(toasted nails)

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Ape Escape

SCEA, PSP

An update of the old 1999 Playstation game which has a boy called Spike trying to stave off bad monkey stuff which includes rewriting history to make monkeys rule (they won didn't they). Anyway, it's a fun and attractive game that looks better now than it did then. The only quibble is the controls which didn't make the transfer quite so well.

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