I wasn’t able to do a dump (not that kind) last week, because Brian Crecente was on holidays. I can only write so many soul-revealing personal posts 24 hours, you know?
But the Dump’s back this week. My notebook’s got some extras.
The IGF Gavel: I’m spending part of my weekend finishing my first round judging duties for the Independent Games Festival. This is something I always want to write more about, but I think judging for VGAs IGF awards and other awards I’m not running is best kept private. Nevertheless, it can have a major influence on what I write based on the exposure it grants me to more games (Being a VGA judge, for example, got me to see Assassin’s Creed II a little earlier than I would have otherwise). As far as the IGF judging goes, I’ve enjoyed doing it each of the past few years, getting a chance to see some wonderful, small, mostly PC games early. I played Braid more than a year before it was released, and World of Goo about half a year before it was out. I’ve played side-scrollers that you control with a Guitar Hero guitar and eventual award-winners such as Blueberry Garden. I don’t want to say much about the 17 first-round games I’m judging this year yet, but just imagine having to judge a game called Don’t Shit Your Pants on a scale of 1-100 in matters such as graphics, design, sound and so on. It’s a fun exercise. Once I’m further into the process and I get the OK, I do hope to turn some of these IGF playing experiences into posts.
EA’s PSN/XBLA Future: I interviewed EA CEO John Riccitiello a couple of Wednesdays ago and published a bunch of articles from it. But not everything. It’s amazing how much you can fit in to a one-hour chat. I still have big chunks of the interview that I didn’t publish. Some of that isn’t post-worthy. Other stuff is good food for thought that I’ll use as a basis for reporting in the future. Here’s a bit I thought I’d get to but doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to advance any time soon. He had mentioned EA’s commercially and critically successful 2009 XBLA and PSN game Battlefield 1943 a couple of times in our chat, and I asked him what his take on that market was. EA had, to the best of my memory, published only one downloadable game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 before that. He said: “We looked at [the XBLA/PSN market]and saw there’s a lot of stuff up there that generates about $US500,000 in terms of revenue. And they’re generally spending $US495,000 to a million in dev. And while that equation is very cool, it’s a hobby, it’s not a business. And while the gamers are having fun with it, they’re not having that much fun with it. And to be honest, how many board games do you want to play on your Xbox? So we looked at that and said, ‘This isn’t being addressed in the right way.’ So we tripled our budget and made something we thought would be really good, with no understanding of what was going to happen. We got a really great outcome with not just highly profitable business but one where consumers far and wide lauded it as a great game. We’re learning from that and there will be more like that.” Got that? More big XBLA/PSN games coming from EA.
Next Year, Already: There’s some other stuff in my notebook about games that I can’t write about yet. Publishers are always setting up new dates to define when a game they’ve offered an early glimpse of can be covered. It’s part of the deal of seeing this stuff in advance. Let’s just say there were games at Sony and Ubisoft events this week that remain under such embargoes. More exciting, though, is that I have preview copies of a trio of 2010 games that I know people will be excited about, and I’ll be able to write impressions of them on Monday, Tuesday and the Monday following. I mention this as a way to show how the years keep churning. I just wrote my last disc-game review of 2009 on The Saboteur and I’m already shifting in to playing major-label 2010 games. Some folks rightfully lament the gaming media’s constant look to the next big thing. It feels like eons since we last covered Halo 3: ODST in any meaningful way, for example, though that game was a big deal, just three months ago. We’re trying to look back a little at least with some of the catch-up reviews we’ve been publishing. Hopefully we’ll find other ways, too, to keep an eye on the games of recent past and the experiences gamers have with them.
Review Addendum: I always jot notes down in my notebook before I write a review, but I realise now that I omitted from my review this week of The Saboteur something that I thought was a telling problem: It takes three button presses to go from in-game action to a pannable view of your full game map. That’s got to be a no-no, no?
Games I Got In The Mail This Week But Didn’t Write About (Yet?): Tekken 6 (PS3 with fancy fighting stick), Hello Kitty Party (DS).
Check for my weekly review round-up a little later, but otherwise, make way for the night and weekend crews!