Janet is watching



Janet is watching, originally uploaded by Chasinglilly.

ANOTHER new photo in my set. TWO in ONE DAY!! This must feel like the greatest day of your life! Check out my Flickr if you haven’t. It will keep getting better as I put more stuff I like up.

Happy Trails,
Sam.

Sun.Set



Sun.Set, originally uploaded by Chasinglilly.

I guess I forgot to explain why I haven’t posted as much lately! Well other than the usual, I also got a new Canon Rebel T2i camera. My first DSLR, and I’ve been having lots of fun with it! This is one of my favorites so far. I’ll be posting them on my Flickr, so keep checking back there! I’m starting a new photo project, but I’m going to wait a little bit until I reveal the full details on that. Enjoy!

Happy Trails,
Sam.

Transformers: Dark of the Poo

This made me laugh so much: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2011/06/23/shia-labeouf-transformers-dark-of-the-moon-is-the-greatest-3-d-film-ever-made/

Shia LaBeouf on the new Transformers:

“It’s the greatest 3-D film ever made. It’s an amalgamation of ideas from Jim Cameron, Steven and Michael…. The only artificial element is the robots. You’re really blowing Chicago up. It’s really an invasion….”

That’s just a really stupid statement. Then:

“The last hour of this movie is the greatest action sequence of Mike’s career, which would put it on the same level as the greatest action ever made,”

…Well that’s a little stuck-up of Shia to say, especially considering how bad the second movie was. Then he says…

“You don’t breathe for the last hour. There’s just no letup, but it’s also not completely overwhelming and disconnected, as the second movie was”

The problem was that the second movie was dumb, uninspired, and even made the constant explosions boring. It was nonstop action, and it sounds like the third is gonna suck just as much… Too bad. Heck, Michael Bay says the new movie is “way better than the second”… Now when both the lead actor and the director say a movie sucks, you know it’s bad!

Review of the second movie from Rolling Stone: “beyond bad, it carves out its own category of godawfulness.” It apparently also won the Razzie that year for worst director, worst script and worst film. I had forgotten that, but it’s pretty obvious it’s going to be lame. But then again, who cares? I don’t think I will ever be able to take Shia LaBeouf serious when he’s standing in the middle of the street screaming “OPTIMUUUS!!!” It’s just silly.

In other movie news, Green Lantern was lame. Thor was okay. Super 8 was fantastic! I loved the new Pirates of the Caribbean (one of my favorite film series!). The new Cars looks a little disappointing, though I love Pixar like nothing else and hope it’s just as amazing as everything they touch! In fact I’ll probably go see Cars 2 tomorrow and let y’all know what I think. Transformers… yeah… we’ll see.

Love,
Sam.

Nintendo’s ‘Project Café’ has a ways to go…

This is the second post in my five-part series about the current state of Nintendo. In today’s post we’re [obviously] covering Nintendo’s code-named ‘Project Café’ console. What’s it all about? Why now? Is it a good idea? What about… STOP asking questions and let me talk about it already! Sheesh!

The Wii is done. Why? Everyone already owns one! Those news organizations who’ve been pumping out stories about how the Wii is “losing ground” to the Xbox and PS3 are just being plain silly. The PS3 won’t outsell the Wii unless Sony sticks to their “10 year life-cycle” claim for the PS3, and it looks like they won’t. The sales are dropping, and even the first-party support for the system has all but disappeared. The only game worth waiting for is The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and there’s even talk of it being a launch title for Café. Just for the record, I hope it’s not.

So what did the Wii get right? Affordability. Mass-market appeal. Innovative gameplay. It was a surprise! It was radically different from the competition. Nintendo was going to expand the market exponentially with or without the help of Sony and Microsoft’s silly little graphical powerhouses. And it paid off in billions. And they don’t even have a legitimate online portal like Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. That’s crazy! (Btw, I’m not advocating that Nintendo doesn’t need an online solution. In fact, I’ve got a whole post planned for that! It’s just surprising given the fact.)

What did it get wrong? The games. Ahem, let me reiterate: the third-party games. The first-party games were usually incredibly fun and very successful. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption were two of the best core games this generation of consoles had to offer. And Mario Galaxy 2 just so happens to be one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. But the third-party efforts were just. plain. LAME. The only thing I can guess is that third-parties see Nintendo’s games as pretty much impossible to contend with. I mean, who can contend with Mario and the gang? Aside from a few concerted efforts from developers (i.e. Epic Mickey, the Conduit), most publishers quickly realized the Wii wasn’t too third-party friendly. It also cost more to make games for the Wii, which usually required a separate “lower-graphic-quality” version of the game to be produced since PS3/Xbox 360 titles couldn’t just be ported to Wii. Want proof? Sega’s Sonic Team recently announced they’ve cancelled the upcoming Sonic Generations for the Wii because the system’s hardware is incapable of the “vivid, high-definition graphics” they wanted. Those other games that have been “down-ported” to the Wii are always identifiable as… well… crap. Only desparate parents looking for a Christmas gift would pick some of the obvious shovel-ware from the Walmart shelves. I mean, “Shawn Johnson Gymnastics“?? Seriously!? I saw two copies of that game at my local GameStop just yesterday. That would never be allowed on the Xbox or PS3. That’s just sad. And probably not even the worst example! The “Nintendo Seal of Quality” on the back of those game cases used to really mean something! But things have changed. In general the Wii’s become a dumpster for “lower quality” games. And what consumer wants to buy “lower-quality”? Most cross-platform games tended thus to be sports games. And those tended (usually) to suck on the Wii, as well. The Wii-wheel is a great idea and I loved it for Mario Kart. But even that wonderfully innovative idea was driven into the ground (something I will discuss in detail in a later post in this series). It seems like Nintendo’s the only company trying to innovate on their consoles.

Let’s take the example of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Of course games like Call of Duty were available on the system. But even in the case of blockbuster games like Modern Warfare, the process of a separate developer “dumbing” down the game to work on the Wii just doesn’t sound as appealing to most people. And for obvious reasons! Now Modern Warfare for Wii did actually sell very well… for a third-party Wii game. Compared to the sales on Xbox 360 and PS3 it likely didn’t make a big difference. Even for me as a fanboy, I was not about to buy Modern Warfare for the Wii. I know in the back of my mind the Xbox 360 version will be a much higher-quality experience. It’ll just be a much prettier, bigger, and more-stable experience on the other two systems.

So let’s talk graphics. The Wii proved you don’t need high-end HD graphics to make obnoxiously fun games and dominate in sales. “Gameplay before graphics.” Nintendo took that mantra and fleshed it out to an entire gaming philosophy. I personally think the philosophy is true. Wii Sports proved that. The Miis proved that. The huge resurgence of arcade-style 2D games recently speaks to that. You don’t need to see a character’s armpit hair or their dripping mucus, you just need a perfected gameplay element. But that doesn’t mean graphics don’t matter. Nintendo has defended this by saying the graphic style should be a compliment to the gameplay. That’s fine for Mario games. But apparently Nintendo hasn’t ever heard of a “realistic” gameplay style, which would by their very statement be impossible on their system due to its limitations. Of course, I’m hoping this is a major reason for Project Café’s existence. To bridge this gap.

It’s really a pretty gutsy move by Nintendo. In their own way they’re kind-of saying “this console generation is over, we won, and it’s time to start looking towards the future”. It’s a bit of a genious move in terms of software release and availability for Nintendo. Project Café will have significantly more horsepower than the PS3 (and thus, Xbox 360 as well), so it will be able to play any and all new multi-platform releases. In addition, they have the full past catalog of PS3 and Xbox 360 games publishers can port to the system. That sounds really great to a lot of people. And it is, but only to an extent. Knowing how publishers can be, we can only pray that Project Café doesn’t quickly get flooded with an endless stream of direct ports labeled as “new” games. It’s gonna happen, but how much we can’t say yet. My guess is Project Café’s first year will include a large number of direct ports mingled with one or two first-party releases, the latest sports offerings, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Modern Warfare 3 isn’t yet announced for Project Café, but if they can’t get MW3 on it there is going to be some serious eyebrow-raising.

The rumors of a $400 price tag? Probably true. I hope they can pull it to $350. If it’s any lower, there’s no way Project Café will have the hardware that’s needed to make it worthy of “next generation”. In fact, it would simply mean they’ve finally caught up to “this generation” five years late. But with a higher price-tag and many ports expected, how can the average gamer justify the purchase. Why would [even] I, as a Nintendo fanboy, pay significantly more just to play the same games I already can on my PS3 for far cheaper. I believe ultimately the justification is going to lie with the hardware and its innovation.

I don’t want to speculate too much on the actual hardware or controllers/peripherals of Project Café. There’s plenty of rumors out there for you to much on Google. There’s really no point in speculating when the announced reveal date is only five days away. Let’s just wait. However, one of the most prolific rumors is that the Project Café controller will include a touch screen and camera. My friend/cohort Will McCarry mentioned he thinks this is just a ripoff of the Sega Dreamcast design, which featured a controller you could view things of. I, however, don’t think the thinking behind it is very related to the Dreamcast at all. Nintendo has been fooling around with multiple-screen gameplay since The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures came out with its GBA-link feature on the Gamecube. Nintendo often experiments with innovative design ideas they may not actually be able to implement for years to come (Read as: Virtual Boy –> Nintendo 3DS). Therefor, I don’t want to give too much credence to this particular rumor, but it does seem rather likely.

Nintendo systems have never been very “connected”. The Nintendo eStore is annoying to work with, Nintendo Wifi Connection is nothing so-far except an individual games’ ability to connect to the internet, and the music and video capabilities are very low. The later is likely due to Nintendo’s insistence on using small on-board HDD’s. There’s just no space to store music and movies and DLC. That’s all gotta change with Project Café. It’s gotta have considerable memory capabilities for next-generation games. And if Nintendo doesn’t offer a legitimate online-experience, as well as useful DLC capabilities, it’s going to be a near-impossible sell for hardcore gamers.

There’s also the issue of media playback. Currently Nintendo systems can only play MP3 and AAC music, for example. That’s understandable since those are open formats, but the Xbox and PS3 can do far more. I want to be able to plug my iPod into Project Café, for example. And media on discs? So far it looks like there’ll still be no DVD or CD playback, and certainly no BluRay playback. That’s a shame since part of the main reason so many people got a PS3 was simply because it could play BluRay movies. I want Project Café to be an all-in-one home media solution. That’s really where gaming systems are headed, and Nintendo needs to jump in soon.

Nintendo has made a name for themselves by being the “master” innovators of the video game industry. There’s no way they’re going to be able to follow up the innovative magic of the Wii with a plain system. There’s gonna be some big change-up. Obviously it will include motion. Obviously it will be backward compatible with Wii and work with Wii controllers. I will most definitely have a great deal of 3DS linkage and support. But it’s gotta have it’s hook to set it apart, and not simply be what many gamers may view it as: a late-comer to the hardcore games scene that just wants to get a few chumps to cough up more cash to play the same games they already can on a cheaper system. My guess is augmented-reality. They’ve implemented it amazingly on the 3DS, and a powerful game console with a controller which includes a screen and camera could be pure magic!

I don’t mean to sound too critical of Nintendo in this post. I’m sure I’ll love Project Café. In fact what I’ve heard about it so far makes me very excited! Nintendo has tons of money, and I think they’ll use it to acquire exclusive games rights from third-parties. That’s what they should do, anyways. Even a few major exclusives could change the tide in the console race. Portal 3 or the next Mass Effect or the next big Rockstar release as a Project Café exclusive? You Sony/Microsoft fanboys might be scared to death at the prospect! But it would be fantastic for Nintendo and their marketing. It would look like they’ve gained the third-party support at last. It would also be good marketing for Project Café being “next gen”. The public might think “this is an exclusive because the Xbox and PS3 just can’t handle this game”. But how do you meet that hardcore crowd while still catering to the casual audience? Nintendo has a lot to live up to here. That’s why it makes me excited when I hear third-parties like Ubisoft say they’re “more than confident that Wii 2 will live up to this” and that Project Café will be a huge success.

The future is a big giant question mark. The scene is changing. The curtains are closed and we’re all sitting in a big intermission. We’re moving on to a new Act in the video game marketplace. Nintendo’s said they’re trying to shed their conservative, “classical” approach to gaming and reach out to the core market. And in what I believe to be a market-changing move, Sony’s backing down. Ken Kutaragi’s great vision for PlayStation always having the best possible hardware available is being left behind. They just can’t afford another PS3. Sony spent billions marketing the PS3 only to have very low sales when it released. Let’s be honest, no one was going to buy the PS3 at $599! So Sony had to cut prices and sell it significantly below cost in order to make a real consumer base. Sony gave millions to R&D then lost millions on the units themselves. All the spoils went to us! While that’s very nice of them, it’s a terrible business plan for Sony. Thus Sony announced they won’t invest as heavily in the PS4. As Sony CFO Masaru Kato said, “It is no longer thinkable to have a huge initial financial investment like that of the PS3.” Sony’s even cutting the NGP specs due to the Nintendo’s 3DS specs (but let’s discuss that later!). Basically it looks like the next “console war” is going to be between Project Café and the next Xbox. Microsoft’s more than likely going to make the next Xbox with the same mindset in which Sony made the PS3 (AKA tons o’ power). Nintendo’s going to have to deal with that, as well as the massive appeal of Xbox Live. Not to say Sony won’t put up a fight. My guess is Sony will ride on with the PS3 until both Project Café and the next Xbox are on store shelves. At that point they will be able to make a system with competitive power at competitive prices with newer technology without losing billions. Until then, it’s up to Nintendo and Microsoft to duke it out. Maybe Sony will still have a chance getting out the gate in far last.

Nintendo’s coming out of the gate super early for this console cycle. Microsoft has stated the Kinect will extend the Xbox 360 lifetime well into 2015. Sony’s always said the PS3 would have a 10-year lifecycle. As early as February this year Sony reaffirmed the PS3 will have a 10-year life cycle. They only recently announced the PS4 is now in development because Nintendo and Microsoft have both said they’re developing the next system. Nintendo’s head start gives them the reins to control where this next console cycle goes and how it is viewed. They can set the standard. Nintendo has an amazing change here. But in order to make the best of it, Project Café has to be able to distance itself from the PS3 and Xbox 360 and prove itself worthy of the title “next generation console”. Otherwise it will look like another pointless (and expensive!) investment for gamers.

In the next post, we’re going to deal with the Nintendo 3DS. Keep checking back! All this is leading up to the Nintendo’s E3 conference on June 7 where they’ll unveil their future plans. I’m excited!

Happy Trails,
Sam.