Comic Updated  July 23, 2008


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nintendo's Sataru Iwata has apologized for Nintendo's E3 Press Conference sucking. I can't be sure, but I think that's a first! Now, if Microsoft and Sony'll step up to the plate and present their corporate heinies for the hickory switch of public sentiment, we can get started on the BETTER E3 we should've had this year.

With Animal Crossing off in November -- and, admittedly, me not even owning a Nintendo Wii as of yet, though I now have a deadline -- it's worth looking at some of the other stuff that'll be hitting the street in the months beforehand. Like Fable 2!

I'll tell you flat-out, I'm a Peter Molyneux fan, even if I just misspelled his surname. I suppose I'm not enough of a fan to check. You know who I'm talking about. MollyNoo. I guess technically I'm a Lionhead Studios fan, 'cause it's not like he's in there coding the whole thing by himself, but two things I really admire about the guy -- one, he doesn't balk at dreaming. Even if he can't ultimately deliver on his insane promises, you can still look at him and think, you know, there's a guy who's approaching fifty, and he's absolutely STUCK in love with the art form. Early love, where he's still popping a mint in his mouth every time he talks with it, just in case.

Two, he loves Artificial Intelligence, and that -- along with animation -- is where I think the game industry really needs to focus in the current generation. We make our monsters easy enough, but bringing 'em to life? Not so good at that, yet. Mostly, these days, it's smoke and mirrors -- and even then, there are different grades of mirror and smoke suppliers.

For a ready example, look at the villagers of Fable one versus the townspeople of The Elder Scrolls Four: Oblivion. If we're looking at ACTUAL AI, not window dressing, we're seeing two sets of NPCs that are just about on par with each other -- they can walk around without bumping into (too many) things, and they can react to acts of violence. Almost everything else is a trick; carefully penned dialogue trees or pre-scripted reactions. And if we're counting, Oblivion's characters have a significant edge on the latter in terms of quantity.

Be that as it may, however, Fable's NPCs come across as FAR more real. For one thing, they sound like they should actually exist in that fantasy world, as opposed to Oblivion, which assigns  the same New York housewife accent (and dialogue!) randomly to numerous characters, be they Nord, Elf, or Orc. The Fable characters have distinctive animations, too -- workers tromp around the docks heavily under the weight of the crates they move, barmaids glide around with tankards of ale, drunks stagger around with tankards of ale -- whereas it seems that all humanoid Oblivion characters, regardless of function or appearance, use the same animation set. Fable doesn't have anywhere near the variety of character models as Oblivion, but it has FAR more characters.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Yes, we STILL have an E-comic store! It did not disappear over the weekend!

So, E3. Intense disappointment, and I'm happy to learn that it wasn't just me who thought so. Not that I mistrust my judgement (I mean, I DO mistrust my judgement, look where it's gotten me), but age skews perceptions. E3 used to be the gaming industry's Christmas and Mardi Gras, all rolled into one big, sweaty, excessive package. Game journalists thought it was a hassle, granted, but as I only worked on the fringes of the game journalism world and did not have to do any of the actual running around and hailing of cabs and battling of crowds and bargaining with bouncers, I really only got the good parts of the convention. BIG announcements! Big games! Booth babe attire in flagrant violation of dress codes!

And then came the purge. The show was downscaled, booth babe attire was upscaled, the convention went invitation-only. Old hands'll say that the convention had begun going downhill years earlier than that, but if downscaling was their solution to E3 becoming a sprawling,  chaotic, ineffective mess, it was the wrong one -- unless their goal was to turn E3 into a cramped, boring, ineffective mess, in which case, bravo!

People this year, well, they aint happy. Even Electronic Arts'  Renaissance CEO John Riccitiello was of the opinion that the show either needs to go back to the old, mad carnival that it was, or just die. A lot of analysts are leaning towards the dying. Companies have been moving progressively towards their own, smaller, independent venues, these last several years, and towards other conventions like GDC and PAX.

I say, cut out this foolishness. The world needs an E3, and it needs it to be huge and insane and drain the very life-force of everyone who participates in it. It's gotta be E3, because even if other conventions grow to byzantine proportions, well... they wouldn't be E3, and people know this. It's gotta be in America -- we KNOW excess, we inspire it in others. The benefit of huge E3 isn't to the journalists -- though they sure get their traffic spikes out of it, and it isn't necessarily even to the companies that exhibit there, who've long complained that the effort just doesn't justify the monetary returns.

The benefit of huge E3 is to the industry as a whole, because it aint about the news and promotion -- it's about the symbol. E3 is the gaming industry's Great Pyramids, or any other behemoth monument built by a megalomaniacal tyrant out of the blood and sweat of his people just to show the rest of the world how big and scary and awesome his nation is. The gaming industry's huge. We NEED the huge show, to whip up every gaming fanboy  and girl into a shame-filled frenzy once a year, so that even if the nongamers don't know WHY, they'll know that something in the air is different. Something in the air... tastes likes gaming.

Which can be remedied by brushing one's tongue a little.

Check out the e-Comic store, at the banner under the strip!


photo: Rachel Miller

copyright 2008 Spookingtons

Put on a shiny, sweaty trenchcoat; Daniel Hong bids us enter the Matrix with this snappy icon!

Crash-dieting works for Hsu and Chan, courtesy of Mike C.!

Sarah Miller brings us our favorite radioactive chipmunk as viewed in exotic Japan, where his image is used to market fish products to schoolchildren!

Max Huffman brings us a moody representation of the Tanakas' arch-nemesis, Satoshi Yamamoto!

Chris Matten presents a design of straightforward intensity! The overtly childlike charm of this icon submitted by the reader who identified herself as 7-year-old "Gail" is, shall we say, suspicious. But entries are a bit thin, yet, so... This spectacular -- and downright hard-boiled -- VM icon was submitted by Roberto Caballero. The reader known only as Osakaism presents us with the VERY iconic Gila Mobster!