It’s the DLC, stupid!

Recently details came out about Guitar Hero: World Tour. It will have a fancy drum kit with faux cymbals. It will allow for music composition (sweet on paper). It may or may not be backwards compatible with DLC to date (depends on what article you read). It will feature approximately 85 master track songs, and will have a stronger downloadable content stream. It will also feature improved peripherals. Pricing will be “competitive” with Rock Band.

Rock Band 2 was just announced. It will feature improved peripherals, as well as support for third party peripherals. This is a great idea, because the equipment business sucks, and if Harmonix can find someone else to make better equipment, they can focus on their core competency: the music (we’ll get into that later). DLC songs will not only be forwards compatible, they will be backwards compatible: even if you choose not to upgrade to Rock Band 2, you will be able to continue to purchase new DLC and use it. →  Read the rest

Rock Band – The rant

Ever since it was released, some folks have had it in their minds that Rock Band would destroy Guitar Hero. Their logic ranged from “It isn’t being made with greedy Activision at the helm” to “four instruments are better than two, amirite?” These wonderfully spun arguments failed to recognize important things, such as the fact that Rock Band was being published by greedy EA and that Harmonix is owned by greedy MTV. Nevermind the fact that the game would be a massive undertaking and was completed in less than a year. These warnings were not heeded by many. Caution was thrown to the wind. It was Rock Band or bust.

Congratulations; you just paid to beta test an unfinished and rushed game. Sadly, most people are doing it with a smile. →  Read the rest

Are you ready to rock? … well you can’t.

Way to go EA / MTV. Way to f up the launch of what should have been your biggest title this Christmas season. Rock Band launched today, or so gamers were told. In reality it seems like there were only a handful of units shipped to retailers with little or no warning about the shortage. The only press release I’ve seen even hinting at production shortages was unearthed yesterday, in which the EA spokesman said that there might be a little supply crunch … until MARCH OF 2008!

Best Buy held midnight launch parties at about two dozen locations across the US and reports are coming in that a large majority of those stores got shipped a paltry number (one store in Kentucky received two PS3 bundles, and that’s it) or no games at all. →  Read the rest

Sunshine, lollipops and – Rock Band?

I’m not sure what to name the Guitar Hero/Rock Band fan community, as they are far from the only rhythm games in the world, and “western rhythm games” sounds retarded. Let’s just say that in this not-yet-named community, the majority of fans realize and accept that both Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band have strengths and weaknesses. Some players may prefer one over the other, but they also have enough reason to give them both a try, and maybe even a purchase.

Still, while the mass market seems to stand by Guitar Hero and its now titanium strong name brand, there is a contingent of folks who have sworn an oath to Harmonix and Rock Band, citing that a game with more instruments just has to be better (amirite?).


As anyone who has played Guitar Hero knows, whoever doesn’t get to play lead guitar in co-op is often screwed over with a really mundane bassline. →  Read the rest

Review – Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s

In my time with videolamer, I have been very, very kind to Harmonix. I began to fall in love with them with Frequency and Amplitude, games that changed the way I thought about the rhythm genre. Then came Guitar Hero, which changed my gaming habits significantly. The sequel made me a bona fide fanatic (I own one of each official controller).

Now comes the cliche: I think Harmonix is starting to sell out.

Funny how the company making music games has the history of a rock band. They started off small and simple, making some great products that only a few really tried to appreciate (Frequency and Amplitude). They got a nice little break from a big “label” (Konami and their Karaoke Revolution series), and grew to have a stable fanbase. →  Read the rest

Virtual Console Previews/Reviews – Week of April 9th

Wii Virtual Console:

30000 high score? n00b.

Galaga (NES): I don’t really need to explain this one to the people who would be reading this article. Galaga was an awesome arcade game and the NES conversion was good enough to recommend this purchase to any fan of classic shooters.

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Sega Genesis): A horrible game. I have no idea who is deciding what titles are released for the Genesis, but they should be fired. Seriously … Alex Kidd?!? Before Earthworm Jim, the NHL series, Road Rash, etc.? This game is worthless.

Bravoman (TG16): Another good game for the TurboGraphix this week. Bravoman is a platformer that moved between classic side-scrolling play and pseudo-3D shooting levels (think 3D World Runner for the NES) with some great level design and perspective tricks. →  Read the rest

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 3.30.07

PS3 sells well in Europe
Is this a sign that Sony is turning a corner? I recently noticed that the PS3 has a lot more well-reviewed titles and fewer games the critics hate than the Wii. Surely that’s a sign things will start picking up for Sony.

But then there’s the recent news that Devil May Cry 4 is going to be on both the PS3 and 360. A lot of smart people have said stupid things about this generation not being about console exclusives. Considering the Wii will have Nintendo first party titles and the 360 already has a number of good exclusives, I wonder if the sentiment that exclusives are dead is really just a nice way of saying, “Exclusives still matter but it’s depressing to think about how many Sony is losing.” →  Read the rest

I can’t shut up about Guitar Hero

A slew of news about the franchise I can’t get off my mind. Come and get it!

– Rumors of a possible pedal accessory for future installments. A cool idea that could backfire. As Tycho at Penny Arcade mentioned, a peripheral for a peripheral is getting a bit crazy, and who knows if they would actually be a pack in or sold separately. Then there’s the question of whether they would have a direct effect on scoring. I would love to see it, but it would have to be done well for it to become an essential part of the game.

– I discovered that GH2 has a code for “hyper speed”, which is the same as a speed mod in a Bemani game. It basically makes the notes move faster, and thus become more spread out and easier to read (I know that might sound very confusing – it did to me at first. →  Read the rest

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 1.12.07

Analyst who predicted PS3 shortages till June worries about units on shelf
I generally support any news that doesn’t support Sony but my disdain for analysts trumps even my resentment towards Sony. The analyst in this case has already predicted Sony’s triumph this generation but is now “troubled” by recent news of PS3s sitting on shelves. At least Captain Obvious makes four times as much as the average American.

This one is called “Don’t be a 2nd player hater.”

i am 8 bit exhibit = awesome
If you are a game buff and have some money to blow on crap to hang on walls, check out i am 8 bit. “I’ll have one art, please!”

Kaz Hirai talks shit
Kas says a few things that are worth contemplating. First, is the technology in the PS3 actually cutting edge like he claims? →  Read the rest

Weekly News We Care About Wrap Up – 12.22.06

Resident Evil 5 not coming in ‘07
1up has reported that the next proper sequel in the Resident Evil franchise will be coming in 2008, if not later. I don’t know where I’ll be living or working in six months and I’m supposed to care about a game that may not be out for three years? Human life probably won’t even exist by that point, and if it does, we will surely have evolved gills and other radical changes that will make gaming obsolete. Capcom might as well just say that Resident Evil 5 is never coming out.

Good games coming to the Virtual Console this Christmas
Some people have bitched about the low quality of Virtual Console titles. For every Zelda, Nintendo gives us a Solomon’s Key, Altered Beast and Tennis. →  Read the rest

Videolamer’s Holiday Shopping Guide

Knowing what game to buy for whom is a job all in itself, especially for out of touch parents. If reading review after review of technical mumbo jumbo sounds like too much work, the videolamer Holiday Shopping Guide is for you. Simply identify which grouping best fits the lucky recipient of your gifts then follow every word of advice to the letter and Christmas/ Chanukah/ Kwanza / Ramadan/ Festivus/ Dhanvantari Trayodashi will be saved.

The Indiscriminate Eye

Who they are: We all have that friend or relative who seems to have had their taste assigned to them by pop radio, Howard Stern and MTV. While it would seem these people should be easy to shop for, they actually react quite violently to anything that is unpopular. These people are the “mass” in “mass appeal.” →  Read the rest

Review – Frequency

Tron? Rez? A seizure?

So here it is, Harmonix’s first console game, Frequency. The gameplay is essentially the same as playing DDR with a pad; notes cascade along the screen, and you hit buttons along to the beat. But Frequency isn’t about simulating dance steps — the angle here is on music generation and remixing. In this respect, the game manages to provide a unique experience that is only possible thanks to the nature of videogames. On the other hand, like DDR on a pad, there’s only so much fun that can be had with such basic gameplay. Harmonix tries to add some features to make it more like an arcade shooter, but ultimately Frequency walks a very fine line between being an actual game and just an interesting tool.

Frequency has the player float along through an octagonal cylinder (think Tempest) that sits in one of several neon, glowing Tron-worlds. →  Read the rest

Market research is stupid

A few days ago I got a call from a friend looking for “hardcore gamers” who were willing to be part of a focus group. This friend has a friend who works for a research group, so through a friend of a friend, I ended up taking part in a video game focus group. The important part was I’d be getting paid.

Hmmm... I wonder

It would be wrong of me to tell you what company the commercials were for, so I’ll just give you a hint.

I was a little disappointed that the group was just to get feedback on some commercials; I’d hoped to get to influence the design of a game (“more explosions, bigger breasts, less reading!”). I’d penned a few crazy sounding comments with Pat before the meeting, but sadly didn’t get to recite them. →  Read the rest

Capitalism in the video game market

Uh huh huh
MTV’s sole contribution to the arts.

Recently I read a letter to a magazine that said a games quality can be determined by how well it sells. If we are to accept the generally accepted American view of capitalism, this should be true. But then why do terrible pop artists always dominate the charts, why does MTV exist, and why has no one murdered Bill O’Reilly? Clearly, there is some sort of flaw in the system.

While it would be fun to give a socialist lecture, I will stick to the video game market today. Why do good games not always sell? The first obvious reason is that games are expensive so the consumer cannot try all of them. A cheap product, like a pen or mayonnaise, can easily be purchased by most segments of society.

 →  Read the rest