June 2006

Backwards compatibility, again

So , Peter Moore didn’t apologize for his words by the end of the week. It took him a full eleven days. But it’s not even that important now, because Tim Schafer, genius behind works like the PC game Grim Fandango and the Xbox game Psychonauts has began an email writing campaign to get Psychonauts supported by Xbox Back.Compat. If you don’t read Double Fine Action News shame on you, but you should at least read his latest post where he kicks the campaign off. (I think it’s safe to say you’ll be addicted.) Send your email by clicking here, and do your part!

As I had mentioned before, the choices made in what to aim for in BC seems a bit odd to me. Of course, we don’t know exactly what they’re aiming for, just that seemingly each time they do they get a few extra games by welcomed accident. It seems that the best thing they ever did was to focus on the Tom Clancy line of games and have them all work in one update. That’s smart, and rather obvious. You’d think that they’d repeat this approach by trying to ‘theme’ every release, or at least have one big game each time. After asking a few folks, I’ve come up with a list of games that they could get working to appease us slightly more ‘hard core’ players.

-Psychonauts. Yes, over a week ago this game came in first and with good reason. Its artistic style is beautiful, and its design clever in exemplary fashion. Not playing this game results in your loss of credibility as a gamer. Also, if you own an Xbox and choose not to play this game, you are no longer my friend.

-Panzer Dragoon Orta. Some people just love on-rail shooters, and if you even remotely like them, you need this game. It’s a great entry to a great series and perfectly pinpoints the arguments made in this fight for backward compatibility. Microsoft should provide this because, after all, where else can gamers get it?

-Jet Set Radio Future. Who didn’t love skating around in a cel-shaded wonderland painting the city to the coolest of soundtracks? Only people with no heart, and no sense of rhythm.

-Mech Assault. Until Halo 2 came out, Mech Assault was the number one game on Xbox Live. Mech Assault 2 was a solid game in its own right, and would no doubt climb the ‘most played’ lists again given the chance. Nowadays gamers tell “back in my day” stories of discovering Doom’s deathmatch. One day they’ll do the same for Mech Assault and Crimson Skies.

-Steel Battalion. Yeah, that’s right. Steel Battalion. Not only should they get this game to work, but they should do it in tandem with a hardware manufacturer to get the expensive controller to work with the X360. While this is the least likely game that they’ll ever get working, their doing it would be a significant achievement toward the hardcore gaming community and mend fences greatly. Honestly, I was surprised it showed so well.

-Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. While completely overshadowed by Oblivion, this game did rather well in my little poll. I guess even when you have a brand new, shinier, world to explore, it’s kind of hard to forget about the old world. Sometimes it just feels like home.

-Shenmue II. Look. Shenmue is a game that even sold a few non-gamers on buying a Dreamcast. It was just that good. And this is the sequel that continues the story that all hardcore gamers want to see finished. Sure the voice acting sucked (“How about a game of Lucky Hit?”) but the game was wonderful. Of course, if Microsoft really wants to impress us, they could give us the entire Shenmue story, which creator Yu Suzuki still assures us will be completed and released.

-Others. Of which there are many niche favorites like NFL2K5, Guilty Gear 2X #Reload, Spider-Man 2, Otogi, Chronicles of Riddick, and more

It’s games like these should be seen as a boon to the Xbox gaming console library, and treated properly. Microsoft should look back in two generations and still be able to say “See? Our consoles have a long history of providing timeless classics that you can still pick up and play. Yes, we hope to sell many games, but it’s also important to us to sell good games.” But I guess that just makes sense, so we can’t do that, huh?

FYI, you can see the actual votes and ‘other’ suggestions here.

Re: Other Blogs

Comments (0)


Identifying gamers

I once had a good idea. Yes, in all of my twenty-five years I’ve had at least one; that much I’m sure of. And really, even it was a gimme. But maybe Nintendo will end up using something like it.

Nintendo had already announced that each Wii controller will contain a separate profile, so that instead of having to assort your relevant game saves on a single memory card and take the card and a controller to your friends house, you can just pick up your controller. (This may not seem like a big deal, but for many it’s the small things like this that matter.) Now Nintendo announces that the “Wiimote” will have a customizable caricature of the player attached with it, but what info will be included in the profile has not yet been finalized. I’d like to suggest some information to be included as a profile. It started as something I called ID-Gamer, (herein .IDG,) but I never finished. I thought it would be a fun tool for Interactive Fiction at least, if not typical games, (easily supportable in arcades with SD cards or USB drives,) but like any good project I started to set my scope too large to keep my attention for that particular task and lost interest. This may make me interested in it again, though. What basic info could developers use to incorporate a properly similar-yet-just-generic-enough avatar for every gamer?

First, middle, last, and sur-names.
Preferred title (Mr., Ms., etc. Player picks from a field.)
Email address (arguably could get ugly, but I trust most devs.)
Date of birth (Date, month, and year.)
Skin tone.
Eye color.
Height and weight (proportion and body tone would be easy enough for Nintendo to program, though I never touched it.)
Strength (derivative from height, weight, proportion, and body tone.)
Speed (derivative from height, weight, proportion, and body tone.)
Reflex speed (easily measurable with a Wii minigame.)
Hair color, length, and style (choice from a field.)
Favorite color.
Favorite number.
(Of course as a programmer you’d also want a ‘version number’ of this information in case this was ever extended.)

Sure this adds up to lots of info housed for a single player, I think it entirely reasonable given the possible uses of the data and how I think it would help in the interactive experience from which games derive their exclusive artistic approach. Players are starting to get over the idea of graphics being the driving force of a game. Let’s woo them with the amount of non-physics/graphics game data that can be juggled.

I’d love to open a new game and instantly be able to be myself. Sure this is an obvious choice for sports games where you already spend a lot of time creating a character, but how great would Guitar Hero 2 be if you could choose someone who already looked like you to rock? In the first one I wanted to be the other hippie guitarist like everyone else, but even more I’d like to be Harmonix’s version of me! Or to be the space marine Jeff “Jeffool” Bridges who shares lots of my features in some FPS! (Developers could choose to have me a little thinner… I don’t want to be too easy a target.)

And how about including information from other Wiimotes on my games? Want to add a friend as a supporting character in your game? Have them bring over their Wiimote and go to a Wii system menu and choose ‘import->ally’ and have your friend point/click at the screen. Done. Then in games you could simply toggle a “.IDG support” option which replaces in-game characters with your friends. I could even add my brother, and have him used for any game in which the main character has a brother. (Could you imagine Bad Dudes with you and a brother/close friend?)

But, I’ve probably just got my hopes too high. I’ve already written negative articles about Sony and Microsoft. Sadly I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until Nintendo messes up… But here’s hoping they don’t.

Project X

Comments (0)


June First, 2006

A day that will live in infamy. Today I saw a story linked on Evil Avatar where Peter Moore told Xbox fans to kiss Microsoft’s feet for being so gracious as to support a few hundred games, after promising to support them all. GamesIndustry.biz reports:

“Nobody is concerned anymore about backwards compatibility. We under promised and over delivered on that. It’s a very complicated thing… very complex work. I’m just stunned that we have hundreds of games that are backwards compatible,” he said.

That doesn’t mean we won’t get more backwards-compatible games – indeed, “more are coming” – but “at some point, you just go, there’s enough, let’s move on, or people aren’t as worried about a game being backwards compatible – and I like to think we’ve upheld our end of the bargain in making at least two or maybe three hundred games backwards compat.”


“Our goal is to have every Xbox game work on Xbox 360,” Xbox PR manager Michael Wolf told GamesIndustry.biz at the time – a goal from which Microsoft now appears to have retreated significantly.

So, why will today live in infamy? Because I expect Moore to apologize before the end of the week. Apologize and assure us, again, that more games will be added to the list. And today will garner so much ill will that this begins the era when disc-based gaming machines will always support predecessors libraries. Period.

I don’t even have an Xbox360. Why not? Partially because I’m poor. When my Xbox broke a few months ago I couldn’t really be mad. It was a Thomson drive; I had gotten my money’s worth out of it. But I had to make a choice then. Would I get my Xbox fixed, or save a bit and buy a Xbox 360? Well, if I had gotten a X360, what would I have gotten? Geometry Wars and a few XBL Arcade titles that would be fun to play with friends. Maybe GRAW. But I know that I enjoyed swinging around the city in Spider-Man 2 when bored. I also like firing up Full Spectrum Warrior every now and then and, after cussing out the tutorial, playing a few levels. And god damn it Peter Moore, I like Psychonauts. You hear that Peter Moore? Psychonauts! These are the types of games you want your console associated with! Quality ones! (I still contend that if Gabe wrote up a demand and posted it on Penny Arcade that Psychonauts would be working on the X360 within a month.)

Hell, popularity isn’t even an issue. (These numbers are Xbox-only from March 2006, as found on WikiPedia.org.) On the highest-selling-Xbox-games list, numbers 13, 14, and 15; are Madden 2005, Madden 2006, and ESPN NFL 2k5. None of those games are backwards compatible. Spider-Man: The Movie and Spider-Man 2 both topped a million, but neither is supported. I’m surprised to find that Morrowind didn’t top one million for Xbox, but it’s not supported either, despite being hailed as completely kickass. (Which it was, despite the bugs.) Only the newest games in each Tony Hawk line (THPS4, THUG2, and THAW) are backwards compatible, even though the only Tony Hawk game to top 1 million is the first THUG. Hitman 2: Silent Assassin was the only Hitman game to beat a million, but Hitman: Contracts is the only one supported.

No, it’s not a matter of good games being backwards compatible, nor is it an issue of best-selling games. No, it seems that the issue is an interesting mix of convenient games, which explains lots of Tom Clancy games at once, or Barbie; and recent games. Ones that don’t have immediate sequels for the X360, but are recent enough that people may rent them and try them in their Xbox 360s. But hey, that’s just a glance, I may be wrong about that…

But I think I’m still right about one thing. Today, things changed just a little bit.


Comments (0)