HERE'S the cover of the May issue of GAME!, the gaming magazine of our sister company, Hinge Inquirer Publications. The May issue includes a back-to-back feature of World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade and the World of Warcraft trading card game. Other features include articles on Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Monato Esprit; Lineage II's Human Race 101; an EVE Online space invasion primer; Rakion killing tips and tricks; and Tantra Online gaming mantra. You can shop till you drop with the latest steals from PangYa, Audition Online and Gunbound in GAME!'s Window Shopping section, plus get a chance to win one of two Sony PSPs in this month's raffle promo. GAME! is available at your favorite newsstands and magazine stores for only P80. For suggestions, comments, advertisements and promos, e-mail email@example.com or use their Feedback page.
April 2007 Archives
THE BAND Do'Ahou kicked things off at IP e-Games' Dom1Nation first anniversary celebration on April 28 at Le Pavillon, Roxas Boulevard by performing several popular anime songs. Here's the video I took for hackenslash TV.
WE all know that online gaming is huge in the Philippines -- and the market just keeps on growing. So we're curious about just how much you love online games. How many hours a day do you typically spend playing an online game? What's your favorite online game? Which Philippine online game publisher do you believe is number one? What do you like most about your guild and online community, and why do you think it's the best?
By Joey Alarilla, hackenslash Editor INQUIRER.net I'M HERE at Le Pavillon in Roxas Boulevard with hackenslash Reporter Alex Villafania for IP e-Games' Dom1Nation, the online game publisher's first anniversary celebration. It's almost hard to believe that it's already been a year since IP e-Games introduced the free-to-play model in the Philippines. Apart from bringing together the thriving online communities that have sprung up around its popular games such as RAN Online, O2Jam, Audition and Supreme Destiny, Dom1Nation will include the Philippine finals for its tournaments. The tournaments include RAN Online's Battle Royal Grand Finals, with the winner representing the Philippines in the 2007 RAN World Championship, and the 2007 O2Jam National Championship, with the winners flying to Jakarta, Indonesia fo the 2007 Asian Online Game Tournament.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net TWELVE years after he made the PlayStation the world's most popular home game console, Sony Computer Entertainment chairman Ken Kutaragi has announced that he is retiring from the company officially on June 19. Kutaragi made the announcement in a joint statement with Sony last Thursday, wherein he said he has been considering the move for some time. Kutaragi, however, will take up the role of honorary chairman for SCE. He will be replaced by SCE president and chief operating officer Kaz Hirai, who will be promoted to SCE president and chief executive officer. "I am happy to graduate from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. after introducing four platforms to the PlayStation family. It has been an exciting experience to change the world of computer entertainment by marrying cutting-edge technologies with creative minds from all over the world. I'm looking forward to building on this vision in my next endeavors," Kutaragi said in his statement. Kutaragi becomes the first top executive under the Japanese parent firm Sony to leave since the start of a major corporate reshuffling initiated by Sony Corp. CEO Howard Stringer, who himself is the first non-Japanese to take the post. Despite being credited for heading the development of all three PlayStation series, his last attempt at the newly-launched PS3 is said to have made a negative impact on the company, particularly due to its high price and lack of third-party support. Sony’s failure to deliver enough units during launch date in the extremely critical holiday period last year also caused many potential owners to buy the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii. Editor's Note: Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse.
WHITNEY MATHESON of USA Today blog Pop Candy got the scoop from DC Comics: Damon Lindelof, executive producer of "Lost," will write the intro to Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America hardcover, which is slated to come out on June 7. Here's an excerpt from her blog entry:
Do you like Lost? Do you like comics? I just got a scoop from DC Comics that the introduction for Brad Meltzer's forthcoming Justice League of America hardcover will be written by Lost executive producer Damon Lindelof. Yay! "I met Damon at the super-geek-happy-clubhouse (first rule of the super-geek-happy-clubhouse -- there is no super-geek-happy-clubhouse)," Meltzer told me via e-mail yesterday. "Damon is one of the kindest, nicest people around, so I just begged and cried and held tight to his ankle until he said yes.
GOOD news: Nintendo has promised to boost Wii production to cope with the huge demand for the gaming console. Here's an excerpt from the Associated Press story:
"We must do our best to fix this abnormal lack of stock," Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told reporters. "We have not been able to properly foresee demand."
The comments came a day after the Japanese manufacturer of the Wii -- which comes with a wand that can be used as a sword, tennis racket or fishing rod depending on the game -- reported that sales nearly doubled for the fiscal year, lifted by robust sales of the Wii and the DS portable, a handheld video game. Kyoto-based Nintendo Co.'s net profit jumped 77 percent to 174.29 billion yen (US$1.47 billion; 1.08 billion euros) in the year through March, up dramatically from 98.38 billion yen a year earlier. Sales soared 90 percent to 966.53 billion yen (US$8.13 billion; 5.96 billion euros). The Wii has pummeled its rivals in a head-to-head battle in next-generation video game consoles involving Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, which has been plagued with production problems, and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net ON WEDNESDAY, ABS-CBN Multimedia treated a few gaming journalists to a preview of War Rock, their new online first-person shooter game created by Korean firm Dream Execution Technology. The event took place at the popular gaming cafe Station 168 in Tomas Morato, Quezon City. With War Rock Philippines still in closed beta stage, what ABS-CBN Multimedia showcased was the original Korean version, meaning all of the text was in Korean. Luckily the game marshals already knew how to tweak the game so 16 players teamed up to battle each other. It is said that the game plays much like Counter-Strike, which it does since it has all the elements of CS: two groups teaming up to kill each other, either as a counter-terrorist or terrorist. But at first glance, War Rock closely resembles the more popular Battlefield series. As such, the main goal is to either capture the flags of enemy territories or wipe out foes. When starting, players will choose five types of characters: the Scout is basically the sniper, who can also call for artillery support; Combatant is the staple assault warrior; the Medic basically heals teammates; the Military Engineer can plant bombs and fix vehicles; and the Heavy Weapon is the one-man army with weapons that can tear down a building. The characters have specific walking or running speeds depending on the type of weapon they carry. Scouts and Medics are the lightest while the Heavy Weapons are the slowest but with the toughest armor. There are only two groups in the game, much like the counter-terrorist and terrorist groups in CS, but both are fictional: one is called the NIU and the other is the Derbaran. Both share the same types of characters with only slight variations in the weapons they carry. There are over two dozen types of weapons in War Rock ranging from pistols, grenades, assault rifles, sniper rifles and, surprisingly, a minigun. To those not familiar with a minigun, or think that it’s a small pistol, it’s a hand-carried Gatling gun, the type used by Arnold Schwarzenneger in "Terminator 2." This particular weapon, when used in a game, is powerful enough to destroy armored vehicles. However, the player is burdened by its weight so it moves slowly. As in Battlefield (and even perhaps the older game Operation: Flashpoint) there are various vehicles that can be used in War Rock. We were treated only to two maps with only a select number of vehicles, such as the Persian Gulf designed Humvee and an anti-personnel tank, as well as a motorcycle. The camera goes into an in-close third person view when riding on vehicles, each of which have different responses but all have the same ASWD basic control configuration. The tank is a particularly useful vehicle since one player can control the vehicle’s movement as well as its gun turret. However, it becomes vulnerable to frag grenades. One of the things I've noticed is that when using vehicles, there is less likelihood that enemies won’t be killed instantly when running them over. I’ve been run over by a Humvee and a tank twice with no noticeable damage, though I was killed by a sniper. Maybe it would be a treat if vehicles can be used to ram into groups of enemies and kill them instantly. There were other vehicles not played during the media event and among these are the jets and helicopters. Based on what was seen in the screenshots, these planes can be controlled from either outside or inside the cockpit. Would have also been a treat if these were included in the media run. Among the features from Battlefield incorporated into War Rock is the crouch- and lying-down positions, which can be toggled with the C button. These are rather useful when trying to duck enemy fire or hiding behind underbrush or walls. These are also useful when sneaking up behind enemies. However, it is best to use this sparingly as players in these positions will be vulnerable to snipers or enemies in close range. Two other features added to the game include duck-and-dive wherein the character rolls forward, backward and left or right. This can be done with the ASWD buttons plus the shift button. Perhaps this is the most useful move in the game as it prevents players from being shot at. The second feature, taken from another FPS game, SWAT 4, is peeking. Using the Q and E buttons, a player can take a peek over corners and lessen the chances of being shot. However, players holding on to long while peeking will also increase their chance of dying from a well-placed sniper shot to the head. I often did get shot while doing this. Of course, in Battlefield and Operation: Flashpoint, War Rock also features a capture the flag mode. There are at least four neutral flags strewn all over a map and the goal is to capture these flags to be able to respawn in these areas and also to make use of the available facilities such as healing stations and armament reloading. In doing so, players of the same group would have to defend their captured flag and pursue the other flags until the competing team is cornered. While War Rock is so similar to Battlefield, the gameplay is also tweaked to run really fast. The speed of the game is nearly twice as that of Battlefield and almost as fast as Counter-Strike so the elements of strategy and speed become necessary. Teamwork will also be a necessity to win, especially since the game has really large maps with many buildings and hiding places. Although I'm a CS and Battlefield player, I may have to retrain for War Rock. On the other hand, I may also have to buy a new PC as this game is a system hog: no less than a Pentium 4 PC with 512MB memory and a 128MB graphics card is required to play. Likewise, a DSL connection is needed to connect to ABS-CBN's game servers. Hopefully, DSL providers would lower their prices so that gamers can play their online games.
THIS is so cool! Got this teaser of Challenge of the Super-Duper Friends from Filipino comic book artist Jonas Diego, whose company made this animation. According to his e-mail, the animation, which is a tribute to those Saturday morning cartoons we watched when we were kids (well, when I was a kid, anyway, heh) and portrays several US presidential candidates and politicians as the Super Friends, took a month to create. Here's the YouTube clip of the teaser. Go to the site to sign up for the world premiere.
AS many people are discovering, Nintendo's Wii console is proving to be a good way to burn some calories. Just don't forget that, as with any form of exercise, you have to take precautions to avoid injuries. Here's an excerpt from the Agence France-Presse story:
The Japanese firm launched Wii in November last year. Its motion-sensitive console -- rather like a wireless remote control -- allows the movements of sports like tennis, golf, baseball, boxing and 10-pin bowling to be mimicked. But it has led to injuries like "Wii elbow," a complaint not dissimilar to the inflamed elbow joint common among tennis players, prompting warnings from medical professionals. "Gamers should treat a 'Wii session' like any form of exercise and warm-up adequately beforehand to prevent stiffness and possible injuries," said Tim Hutchful, from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). "Any unaccustomed exercise or activity lays yourself bare to problems that could occur from prolonged periods of active movements, so treat it like a gym work-out, warming-up and cooling down."
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net SAMSUNG PHILIPPINES and multimedia production outfit e-Sports have announced the start of the World Cyber Games 2007 Philippine leg and this time the organizers will have new event systems in place. In an interview, WCG Philippines team leader Tjader Regis said this year's games will again cover the WCG Asian Championship in Singapore and the main WCG Grand Final, which will be held in Seattle, Washington. The WCG Asian Championship will be held from August 2 to 5 while the WCG Grand Final will be from October 3 to 7. Regis announced the games included in WCG Philippines will be all PC-based, such as Counter-Strike, Need for Speed: Carbon, StarCraft and Warcraft III: Frozen Throne. However, there would be games for would-be representatives to the Asian Championship, including the PC games FIFA 07, Warcraft: Defense of the Ancients All-Stars, Warcraft III and the Xbox 360 game Dead or Alive 4. Philippine preliminary games will start on April 28 and the finals will be held from July 13 to 15. They have also chosen to limit the number of Internet gaming shops where they would be hosting the preliminary events. Unlike last year where they held it in Netopia Internet cafes, some of the games will be held in Villman computer shops, as well as the popular Internet gamings shops Hack You and Cyberteria. "We wanted to hold the event where the PCs are stable for the demanding games and also for the fast Internet connection. We want to turn these events into a fun spectator sport and when other players want to really hone their skills, they would know where to go," Regis said Likewise, the organizers have limited the number of areas wherein the preliminary events will be held. They have chosen a select number of Internet shops in Baguio, the National Capital Region, Cebu City and Cagayan de Oro for the competitions. The tournament rules have also been changed to lessen the number of players during the Philippine grand finals. Instead of having 16 teams or individuals playing against each other, there would be only eight during the finals. Regis said the rules will include a round robin competition to determine the top two players, then a two-group bracketing system wherein the top two players for both brackets will go for third to first place.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net THREE years since the group started competing in the World Cyber Games, the Counter-Strike team Horsemen of the Apocalypse has been consistently representing the Philippines in the prestigious global video gaming event. However, HoA has yet to win any medals for the Philippines. This time, however, HoA is getting ready for its biggest fight yet and has promised to "surprise everyone" in this year’s competition. "We'll be much better this year. We have new training strategies in place, something that we didn't have in the previous years," quipped HoA team captain Kris Romillo. The team, which has remained unbeaten in all of the WCG Philippines championships in the last three years but not anywhere close enough to getting into the semifinals in the massive WCG Grand Final, has been beset by training problems that they themselves have not realized. In fact, Romillo admitted that one of their stumbling blocks is the lack of a team strategy on what to do during a tournament. While they have specific roles during play, none of them were prepared well enough against other international teams whose strategies were like clockwork. "We played only by instinct but that wasn't enough because the other players were so precise in their styles and that’s what we're going to develop for WCG 2007," Romillo said. But their biggest problem, according to Justin Chan, another HoA member, is one of their members who cannot seem to cooperate well with the rest of the team. That team member is Kenichi Enda. While not going into details as to their problems with Enda, Chan said that he has already been "replaced" by a new player, Jupiter Mars Gaboy, whose nickname is "LG." "We got him from another really good Counter-Strike team, the guys from Fairview Gaming. We're preparing to play with him soon," Chan said. Home preparation As part of the team's preparation, Chan has volunteered his home to serve as the team's training grounds, unlike before where they would either go to an Internet cafe together or play online from different locations. There are five computers and five separate tables for the team to use. Chan also said they have subscribed to a very fast Internet connection at home. "We just hope the connection is fast enough so we can train," Chan said. The group plans to play at least eight hours a day on a four-day training week -- double what the group was doing before. To Singapore and back again Romillo's pronouncements that HoA will show some major changes this year are all born out of his experience in Singapore late last year, where he supposedly moved to study and to work, not surprisingly, as a professional gamer. Romillo revealed to hackenslash that he and five other Asian gamers were hired by a young Chinese national to form a professional gaming team that will compete in international tournaments, not just in the World Cyber Games. The deal, basically, did not prosper but Romillo does not blame the young Chinese guy, Richard Sun, for the failure in negotiations. "He was really sincere in creating a team. He even looked for a place for us in Singapore where we can stay and practice, then he hired a really good coach to train us." It was that hired coach, a Singaporean national who was only identified by Romillo as "Exodus," who gave Romillo and the rest of his team a taste of how professionals are being trained. "Exodus gave us a really strict training regimen. The first was trying to shoot specific targets of a non-moving character then he had us familiarize ourselves with the map. He made us repeat all of these over and over again until we got it right," Romillo said. From this experience, Romillo said he intends to integrate these in the group's training regimen, which also means less on the fooling around part and more on the serious side. "We'll make sure we have a much better fighting chance in WCG 2007," Romillo said.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net THOSE who grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and children growing up with the new generation of the TMNT franchise would be quite happy with the latest film about the four crime-fighting turtles Leonardo, Raphael, Michaelangelo and Donatello. It’s as enjoyable as the Saturday morning cartoons that turtle fans grew up with although it has a distant association with the current "TMNT" cartoon series. But for certain, fans of the original comic book series will find little resemblance between the turtles in the comics and the turtles in this film, largely because the comic book characters were more violent. In both the cartoons and the first three movies, the turtles were less on the bloodlust and more on the dialogue and comic relief. Similarly, the current CGI "TMNT’s" level of violence has been toned down although their fight sequences have been increasingly stylized to make for more visual impact. The new "TMNT" movie can be referred to as the "real" "TMNT 3" as it continues the original story set by the first two live-action films. In both earlier movies, Leonardo and Raphael (identified by their blue and red bandana masks, respectively) have continued to battle it over their differences in personality. Leonardo continues to admonish Raphael for his brazen actions and inconsiderate behavior towards his other brothers. Flash forward to the CGI "TMNT," Leonardo is being tracked by April O’Neil, who is working for a man named Winters to search for some missing stone artifacts somewhere in the Amazonian rainforest. Apparently, Leonardo has been sent to that place by Splinter, a mutant rat who serves as the four turtles’ sensei/adoptive father, apparently to train to become a better leader and team player. Meanwhile, Leonardo’s three brothers are left in the sewers in New York , having their own adventures; Donatello works as a technical support agent for a call center while Michaelangelo works as a kiddie party turtle mascot called "Cowabunga Carl," with only a big turtle headgear masking his real turtle face. Raphael is more withdrawn from his two other brothers and secretly works as a bike-riding vigilante named "Night Watcher." Of course, all four come back together to fight a horde of otherworldly monsters apparently brought about by the mysterious Winters. The turtles also fight againts the remnants of the Foot Clan, soldiers of their nemesis Shredder, who died in the second movie. The turtles and Splinter are helped by Casey Jones, a human vigilante who dons an ice hockey mask and carries a bag full of various weapons such as bats, hockey sticks and golf clubs. In reference to the first turtle movie, Raphael and Leonardo square off in an effort to prove who is the better turtle and who should lead the team. This part of the storyline tries -- albeit too much -- to put some emotional value in an otherwise action-packed movie. If kids are watching this, they might get the wrong impression that fighting one’s siblings is the best way to solve a problem. The CG animation in "TMNT" is not exactly one of the best-looking in the genre but it does a better job than the live action series in terms of the high-flying acrobatic skills of the turtles from the comics and cartoon series. There would be times when the movie becomes dizzying especially in one scene when Michaelangelo skateboards through the sewers. At some point, the action scenes in "TMNT" are similar to the battle sequences in the Japanese-made "Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children," though "TMNT's" battles happen at night so there is less to be seen. TMNT fans like me will have a good time watching their favorites reptiles in this movie though I don't expect many to have a fond memory of this movie unlike the first two live-action flicks. Nonetheless, it’s a movie worth the ticket price. Editor's Note: Check out Alex's review of the TMNT video game.
CHECK out this Sunday Inquirer Magazine feature on multi-Palanca award-winning writer Dean Francis Alfar, who is leading the way in promoting the growth of speculative fiction in the Philippines. Here's an excerpt:
"Speculative fiction is the term used to describe the literature of the fantastic," he explains. "Its roots are in the science fiction genre, when it was first used to describe stories that were premised on the idea of 'What if?' As time progressed, it became an umbrella term for stories of the non-realist genres, which includes fantasy, science fiction and horror as well as fabulist, magical realist and interstitial stories. For the purpose of generating interest in the literature of the fantastic, I've adopted this term to encompass the stories of the Filipino imagination, as opposed to stories that use the methods of social realism and domestic realism." Because teachers have tended to favor realism, Alfar says that it's very common for people to view speculative fiction as being kid's stuff. "There are many different types of stories, and none should be more privileged than the others," he says. "Speculative fiction celebrates the Filipino imagination and goes beyond mere escapism. The literature of the fantastic is just as capable of exploring and exposing the human condition."
SURE, some of you have been downloading PlayStation games from the online PlayStation Store using your PS3, but you could only play them on your PlayStation Portable. Until now. Sony Computer Entertainment America has announced that you can now play PS1 games on your PS3, which has been upgraded to firmware 1.70. Check out the GameSpy article for more details.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net FROM THE VERY start, this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game has one gigantic flaw: it's only a single player game! I put a lot of emphasis on this particular flaw because of all things, how can a console-based TMNT game lack a multiplayer option? I mean, the Xbox 360 has a four-player connectivity option and the PS2 has at least two controller ports available. Developer Ubisoft should have made an effort to at least stick to the old formula used in nearly all of the previous TMNT games, especially the four-player arcade version in 1989 and the home version in 1990. Even the 2003 Xbox TMNT game from the cartoon remake had a four-player option, despite its somewhat ugly gameplay. Perhaps Ubisoft was trying to copy the NES version in 1989, which only had one player and a lot of platforming but that was a generation ago and it was the time when a multiplayer TMNT game had yet to exist. But as the saying goes, the playing must go on. So, the new series of TMNT games for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and PC are all based on the recently released CGI "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie. The game was also released on the Nintendo Wii, GameCube and the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS. It follows almost every aspect of the movie’s storyline with a few twists in the story to make for an excuse for the turtles to visit some places, such as forests, swamps and underneath the sewers or above the skyline of a New York-inspired city. The turtles will be facing off against hordes of Foot Clan soldiers, extra-terrestrial monsters and statue-like enemies. These enemies are quite easy to beat and are the least most intelligent enemies with no sort of teamwork. They just pop up from anywhere and they can be beaten or pushed away. Most of the time you'll be mashing on a one button on the Xbox 360 or PS2 controller, or on one key of a PC keyboard to get some combos. The fighting styles of the turtles are almost the same except for a few moves that correspond to their weapons. Just the same, fighting only requires button mashing and hitting the targets. In some sequences, the turtles have their own specific skills. For example is Michaelangelo’s twin helicopter move with the use of his nunchuks, which his useful when the player can't make a long jump to another roof or ledge. Also, it’s difficult to die. Yes, your heard me right, difficult to die. Because the game has a lot of jumping and running, there would be times when the character would fall off ledges or make a misstep that would cause death. However, the dead turtle will just come back to life somewhere before the spot where it previously died. This has God Mode written all over it, thus removing much of the challenge. At best, the TMNT versions for the Xbox 360, PS2 and PC are a simplified version of the Prince of Persia series. That means the game focuses a lot on platform action, jumping from roof-to-roof, passing through holes and that kind of stuff. But this is targeted at a much younger generation of players. However, there have been other kiddie-like platforming games (read: Lego Star Wars series) that were difficult to finish but young players would basically know how to complete the game without thinking too hard. The game's camera is also awful to gauge; because TMNT follows the same Prince of Persia gameplay, the cameras are not always following the turtle behind. Instead, it shifts from one place to another depending on the location. This makes it difficult to estimate the distance to make jumps, which will happen many times in the game. It takes quite some getting used to. Apart from the other minor flaws in the game, it still has its fun moments. The platforming part has its quirks. There are only a few games that feature this type of platforming and sometimes it works well. The turtles can jump, float to other roofs, monkey bar or do wall runs. The games also features some double-teaming, notably when two turtles do a mid-air throw that sends the other to another sector part of the stage. One double-teaming technique was one turtle doing a twister throw of another turtle that hits several enemies at the same time. If anything, the platforming part still requires some skills to get through. Luckily, these skills would be familiar with kids who are supposedly the main target for the game. There are only a few differences in the Xbox 360, PC and PS2 versions; the first two are almost just the same in graphics since both are direct ports. The PS2 version is almost twice-removed in terms of graphics from the other two largely because of its lower graphics engine, though its gameplay is almost the same. Overall, TMNT should be a fun game to play for at least six hours and that's good for players who may not want to play the game again. It's finished as quickly as you would want to. Hopefully, the developers would do a better job of putting back the multiplayer option next time when they do a follow-up game. It’s not a TMNT game if it doesn’t have all four turtles playing as a team. TMNT Genre: Action Adventure Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft ESRB Rating: E (Everyone) Editor's Note: Check out Alex's review of the "TMNT" movie.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net ONLY the rare few ever get to enjoy the EyeToy that has given children and adults countless hours of fun. For those not familiar with it, the EyeToy is a webcam-like game accessory for the PlayStation 2. It works like the ordinary analog controller, only the action buttons are on the screen and can only be activated by a player's movement as seen through the camera. Since its introduction several game companies have developed games enhanced for the EyeToy, among them Konami, which created a specially-made version of Dance Dance Revolution for the EyeToy. In 2005, apparently made aware of the EyeToy's use of whole body movement for gameplay, sports apparel maker Nike partnered with its makers to come up with a holistic aerobic exercise game. Nike's Eyetoy: Kinetic was introduced, and thus, the term "exergaming" became a buzzword again. Just recently, Nike again released a follow-up exergame called EyeToy: Kinetic Combat. As the name implies, Kinetic Combat focuses more on combat-style movements and not just on aerobic exercises. It is also one of the very few games for the PS2 that is not targeted at younger players but is instead eyeing (pun intended) a much different set of gamers and that is the fitness enthusiast. It may still sound like a game, given that it's on the PS2 but seriously, this game literally kicks ass. The game is basically similar to all aspects of the first Nike Kinetic game wherein selection of the types of activities can be done by simple movement of the arms and even legs. Movement is detected by the EyeToy and then translated into a shadow-like outline that will be shown on screen. When a human outline is detected, the game automatically follows this outline. Luckily, the game executes the movement quite well. An EyeToy camera is required to play this game, as well as a wide enough space of at least seven square meters to allow ample movement. This could be a problem for most households, though. The room also needs to be well-lighted both above the exercise space and in front of the player so that the EyeToy can detect the entire movement of the player. One of the best parts of the EyeToy is that its motion sensitivity can be adjusted depending on the lighting. Not surprisingly, a large screen TV is very much recommended for players to fully view their movements. Anything smaller than a 29-inch TV would give players a hard time noticing their progress or at least estimating their movements during play. As a fair warning to all first-time players of EyeToy, it is recommended that they check with their doctors before undergoing any physical activity. Despite Kinetic Combat’s use of the EyeToy, it is still a game that requires strenuous exercise that may cause serious injuries to unprepared players. For starters, the game will be presented by two virtual trainers, Anna and Matt, who will give just about all the basic information to players prior to starting any activity. The developers of the game have been more than considerate in providing precautionary messages and tips when playing the game and these will be presented by the virtual trainers. Matt and Anna, who came from the original Nike Kinetic game, will be joined by a third trainer, Leon, who will provide the more advanced exercise of Hung Gar, a type of Chinese martial art that features a mix of graceful Tai-chi movements and also Shaolin movements. A bit of research into Hung Gar revealed that it has five animal elements; tiger, crane, leopard, snake and dragon. However, Kinetic Combat copied only two of the animal elements (tiger and dragon) but added two other animal elements, the mantis and the phoenix bird. A fifth element is actually in the shape of a human but this represents a small version of Chi-gong, another Chinese martial arts that is more of a breathing exercise than combat. These animal elements in the game represent five "zones" attributed to the types of combat exercises to be taken. As an added bonus, the four animal elements can be fought as bosses just like in a video game. Prior to starting the game, players will be required to give their complete height (centimeters or inches) and weight (kilograms or pounds). This is necessary for the game to actually make suggestions as to what types of exercises that can be more beneficial for players. The game will also ask if players would like to follow any of the preset exercises or to come up with their own routine, which usually last between four to 16 weeks (four months). Take note that players will have to stick to the routines they have set for themselves to get the full benefits of the exercise, which is exactly the whole purpose of Kinetic Combat. But players can just start right away if they feel like playing any of the exercises. However, the chosen virtual trainer will have to give a required stretching and breathing exercise before taking the more physically demanding play. The start of most of the routines will be fairly easy, which requires players to either punch or kick objects that fly into the screen. In the Shadow Boxing game, players will have to punch or kick the blue lighted parts of a virtual opponent while avoiding its own kicks or punches. There are also other parts of the game wherein players will have to be in constant motion to dodge lightning balls from a phoenix or even a dragon’s fiery breath for several minutes. These activities become more strenuous as they move along. Trust me when I say that even without any dumbbells or weighted objects the exercises will keep players' hearts pumping for quite a while. Like in a real training gym, the virtual trainers will also give words of encouragement while undergoing any of the exercises. There are also about 70 songs that can be played as background music while doing the routines. Kinetic Combat is perhaps among best exercise training simulator on any gaming platform, second only to the first Nike Kinetic game. It is also one of the few video games that might perhaps convince parents of younger children to play with the PS2 while the kids are not home. Unfortunately, the Nike Kinetic series is a very rare, if not non-existent title in the Philippines and can only be bought in retail shops in either Singapore or Hong Kong. Kinetic Combat would cost around P2,000 without the EyeToy (sold separately at P2,500 with an EyeToy game) but will be very much worth it. EyeToy: Kinetic Combat Genre: Sports Game Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment London Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net UPDATED: Level Up! made an error in giving the age of second-placer Ronel Mendoza, who is 18 years old, not 17 as previously reported.--Joey Alarilla UNIVERSITY of Asia and the Pacific student John Liu Gaisano III, 21, a fan of RF Online, wrote "War is Destiny," which depicted the world of RF Online and bagged him P10,000 in cash in Level Up!'s first LU Feature Writer Contest. Placing second in the contest was the story "Love Potion" written by 18
17-year-old Bicol University student Ronel Mendoza who narrated his romantic and comical adventures as a "noob" (newbie or new player) in Ragnarok Online.
Mendoza, who seemed to have found his special offline someone in Ragnarok, won P5,000 for his story.
In third place was 35-year-old Jose Enrique Mataverde, whose story "A Piece of History or Your Story" won him P3,000 in the contest.
Mataverde not only narrated his adventures in the game SilkRoad Online but also encouraged players to both learn some historical tidbits about the real Silk Road as well as change the course of history, at least on a virtual level.
Fourth placer Paolo Respicio, a 21-year-old De La Salle Health Science Campus student, won P2,000 for "The Perfect Summer Getaway," which gave 10 reasons why the casual game Fly for Fun (FlyFF) should be played during this scorching summer.
In an interview with hackenslash, Level Up! head for marketing Ramon Macutay said the LU Feature Writer Contest was developed only last March as a tribute to the many online players who wrote stories through their personal blogs as well as in the Level Up! forums.
"We also want to develop writing skills among our players and also to create a writers’ pool for Level Up! who will create the content for our forums and websites," Macutay said.
He said Level Up! hopes to make the contest a regular event.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net THE MONEY-MAKING underground economy of character theft and item trading in online games may be the next target of the Philippine National Police (PNP). In an interview with hackenslash, PNP Anti-Transnational Crime Division (PNP-ATCD) Superintendent Gilbert Sosa said they are in talks with one of the major online game publishers in the Philippines regarding the possibility of monitoring and perhaps prosecuting groups or individuals caught stealing online game characters and trading virtual items for real money. Sosa, who also heads the multi-agency Government Computer Security Incident Response Team, said they continue to receive numerous complaints from players whose game characters have either been stripped of their virtual items, as well as concerned individuals who know of players who trade items for real money. He added that they have only started investigating online game fraud sometime last year. He said they hope to bring down perpetrators of game character theft and illegal item trading soon. "We’re still investigating some of these but for sure it is a problem," Sosa said. Item theft and virtual trading has been around since the start of the online gaming boom a little over three years ago. Usually, game characters are stolen via a scheme called "keylogging" wherein a hidden program installed on a public PC, such as those in an Internet café, records the keystrokes of users who are inputting their usernames and passwords in the online games they play. Likewise, the trading of items for real money has also been rampant. While most items are sold at a few hundred pesos, extremely rare or powerful in-game items can rake up to 100, 000 pesos or more. Online game publishers, particularly IP e-Games and Level Up!, have constantly reminded gamers to take measures against keylogging and the trading of items, although hundreds of thousands of their players continue to trade items among each other.
By Alexander Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net PHILIPPINE online game publisher IP e-Games is very happy nowadays, with reportedly over one million players for the games that it distributes and still counting. At the Extreme Gaming Grounds in SM Mall of Asia, IP e-Games held an eyeball on April 16 for its upcoming Dom1Nation [pronounced "domination"], which drew about 500 players of RAN Online, Battle Position and O2 Jam, the games that made their debut along with the company almost a year ago. Despite the hot weather, players queued up outside the already crowded EGG, with the line stretching far outside to the next establishment. EGG itself could only accommodate 50 people. “We became sort of a security concern for the mall because of the huge number of players but that’s good for us,” quipped IP e-Games president Steve Tsao. Tsao said the year has been tremendously good for them as more players have joined their brethren in immersing themselves in the first online games the company introduced in the Philippines. He said the eyeball event will just be a preview of what the company has in store for Dom1Nation day itself. "We’ve lined up quite a program for them," Tsao said. The EGG eyeball gave players a glimpse of what they can expect on Dom1Nation, particularly a national competition for RAN Online, Battle Position and O2 Jam with the winners for these games competing against top players in the 2007 RAN World Championship and the Asian Online Game Tournament. Other events will include cosplay, live archery, dance pad, drum and jousting contests, as well as live band performances. IP e-Games will also feature new RAN Online episodes and expansions for Supreme Destiny, O2 Jam and Audition. Dom1Nation will be held on April 28 at the Le Pavillon hall in Roxas Boulevard near Mall of Asia. IP e-Games also showcased some of their sexy RAN Girls, who mingled with gamers during the pre-Dom1Nation eyeball. But Tsao promised that the RAN Girls will be real scorchers during Dom1Nation day.
THAT'S Mitch Padua (second from left), the head of ABS-CBN Multimedia, with the OJTs from UP Los Baños of our INQUIRER.net Podcasts partner Creativoices Productions. ABS-CBN Multimedia has been quiet for some time, so we figured we'd give Mitch as much time as we could to know more about War Rock and their new digital media portal Amped. Check out Episode 10 of hackenslash: the podcast and listen to Mitch talk about how Amped will not only become their gaming portal but also bring together ABS-CBN's traditional and multimedia content, including an iTunes-like service.
NINTENDO has released the full version of the Opera browser-powered Internet Channel for its Wii console. The browser will be available for free until June 30, after which it will cost $5. Here's an excerpt from the Nintendo announcement:
Users of the trial version will notice the improved usability of the full version. The browser now features a manual zoom, in addition to the automatic mode available in the previous version, allowing more viewing flexibility. When zooming in and out of a page, text is kept crisp and readable at all sizes. The new version of the Internet Channel also features improved scrolling functionality, as well as the collapsible toolbars and multiple on-screen cursors. As search functions have become an essential part of our everyday Internet experience, the Internet Channel now features a built-in function allowing users to search without having to select a search engine each time. Wii owners are given the choice of either Google or Yahoo! Search as a pre-selected search engine to power their built-in search button. The selection can be changed at any time, or a different search engine can be used by typing in that search engine’s address. Users also will have the ability to easily access Nintendo, Yahoo!, Google and My Opera from pre-loaded bookmarks.
THE LATEST issue of Wizard: the Magazine of Comics, Entertainment and Pop Culture features interviews with the stars of the hottest movies coming out this summer, including Tobey Maguire of what's undoubtedly one of the most anticipated blockbusters, "Spider-Man 3." Here's an excerpt from the press statement from Wizard Entertainment regarding Wizard magazine's "mega movie issue":
With the upcoming release of "Spider-Man 3," star Tobey Maguire sat down with Wizard to talk about the summer battle at the box-office, coming back for "Spider-Man 4" and what makes a project like "Spider-Man 3" so huge. “If there is a unique story and it’s written well… then I would definitely consider it at that point in time… I do feel like we’ve concluded a lot of storylines and wrapped a lot of stuff up.”
"Resident Evil: Extinction" beauty Milla Jovovich dishes on zombies, the Umbrella Corporation and drinking margaritas with co-star Ali Larter. "Ali and I would be so sun-stroked by the end of the day one margarita would take you over the edge. You’re like, ‘Woo Hoo!’" Iron Man director Jon Favreau discusses his choice of Robert Downey Jr., staying true to the comics and building the Iron Man suit. "I’m trying to achieve as much as I can graphically in this movie for a number of reasons… I’ve said this before, CGI is used more than it needs to be in film." ...Former WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin explains why he made the jump to acting, what his new movie ‘The Condemned’ is all about and why acting his more of a challenge then wrestling. “This is a hard, unapologetic movie, basically, a live snuff film. It’s a violent film.”
SONY has officially discontinued the cheaper, 20GB version of the PlayStation 3 in North America. Here's an excerpt from the GameSpy article:
Poor 20GB PlayStation 3, it never really had much of a chance. All the other PS3s teased it for having not having stylish silver trim, and not being able to connect to a wi-fi network. It can't even read the many different memory cards that the 60GB PS3s accept with ease, and then there is the size of its hard drive.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net MOVIES with epic battles have become a staple in Hollywood. Most likely, this became a trend after the smashing success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which cast tens of thousands of virtual warriors battling it out in open fields. Most recent epic movies with casts of almost or a little over a thousand were "Troy," "Alexander" and "The Last Samurai." But it doesn't take a large group of soldiers to make an epic movie great. In fact, it would only take a few hundred and this holds true in the movie "300." Directed by Zack Snyder, "300" is the movie adaptation of the 1998 graphic novel of the same name by renowned comic book master Frank Miller. As such, Snyder stylized the movie according to Miller's visual designs and comic strip shots. People familiar with Miller's work would also remember a previous movie adaptation of another graphic novel, "Sin City," which also used comic book-style cinematography. "300" follows the story of King Leonidas and his army of 300 Spartan warriors who faced the million-strong army of the Persian God-King Xerxes. Leonidas and his men prevented Xerxes from pursuing his conquest of Greece by blocking his army in a place called Hot Gates. Despite days of relentless attacks from Xerxes, Leonidas stood his ground and even exacted so much damage against the Persian army. However, the Spartans were betrayed by Ephialtes, a son of a Spartan soldier who was rejected by Leonidas for his deformity. Miller’s story itself is based on a real historical Battle of Thermopylae in Greece, which happened 2,500 years ago. Much of the context of Miller’s graphic novel stuck to the original story but there were inaccuracies, including the number of Xerxes’ army (it was said to be just about 250, 000 soldiers), Xerxes himself being an androgynous giant, Ephialtes ever meeting Leonidas, and even the type of armor worn by the Spartans (historical Spartans wore light armor plating covering much of their body while Miller’s buff Spartans looked like they were going to a Chippendale party). Because Snyder wanted to adapt the same designs as Miller's comics, he used computer-generated environments as backdrop in about 80 percent of the film instead of shooting in real-world locations. This did a fair job in replicating the hazy and gloomy graphic novel atmosphere, which also made the movie look like it was part of a video game’s 3D cut scene. The shots were done in blue or green screen stages wherein the background images are digitally placed as underlay to the characters in post-production. Many of the film sequences followed the same comic panels in the graphic novel so that those who have read Miller’s "300" could compare it with the movie. Sadly, the backdrop almost becomes increasingly bland over the course of the movie primarily because it looks so surreal and fake. The movie’s fight choreography also follows some of the basic fighting style of real Spartans, who only carried with them a short sword, a circular shield and javelin. In particular is the phalanx technique wherein the first layer of Spartans will serve as shield barriers against an onrush of enemies while the second layer will strike with their long javelins. However, the sword fights are overly done, somewhat toned-down version of Chinese wushu. This was done probably to make the hand-to-hand combat more dramatic. Of course, the most obvious aspect of the movie is the lack of any body armor for the Spartans, who showed more skin than clothing. Historically, Spartans would barely wear any clothing when exercising and joining sports but were known to wear light body armor to keep them mobile. In the movie, they only wore a helmet, leather briefs and flowing crimson cape. Their near-nakedness did manage to show off ripped, testosterone-laden physiques. Just goes to show that even men in their 40s can still get great-looking bodies. However, despite a good storyline and a stylized cinematography, the movie’s acting is less than stellar. Stage actor Gerard Butler seemed to be unable to let go some of his stage acting style, which emphasized a lot on facial expression and loud, perceptible voice. His character as Leonidas often made loud, expressive calls to his soldiers and he often bared much of his teeth that made him look crazy than determined. Meanwhile, Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro was made to look effectively effeminate as Xerxes in the film. A scene where Leonidas and Xerxes meet spills some sexual overtures. Again, historically, Xerxes never met Leonidas face-to-face. Of course, the movie has a parallel story about Leonidas’ wife, Gorgo, who has to convince a committee of old parliamentarians to send forth support for his husband. This part of the movie does not have any real connections to Leonidas’ own, only as an intermission from all the gory battle scenes. Perhaps the most insignificant part of the movie is in the last part where the Spartan Dilios, played by "Lord of the Rings" actor David Wenham, narrates the story of Leonidas to thousands of Spartans. Wenham’s character goes for a minute in a monologue that sounded more like an inspirational speech than a battle cry. The monologue should have been cut in half to lessen the dramatic effect for a movie that depicts gore and violence. That said, "300" is a popcorn film that should be watched if only for its epic battles and fancy depiction of Spartans. "300" is committed to giving Miller fans a visual treat of their favorite graphic novel but does not really give a lot of explanation for most viewers who might think that real Spartans are naked warriors. Hopefully, nobody would think that these add-ons are true.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net IN 2005, Kratos smashed his way to the PlayStation 2 in God of War, wreaking havoc in ancient Greece , stalking every Greek god until he ended up killing Ares, the God of War, and finally taking his throne. PS2 owners that time were amazed and wanted more. Two years later, their wish has finally been granted by the gods of Sony Entertainment. God of War II is a smash hit, just slightly better in graphics than the first one but with an even more amazing storyline and gameplay that has been improved to give players their hack-and-slash fix. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Actually, anyone who has not played God of War should tackle that first before starting with God of War II. God of War II continues the adventures of the new man-god Kratos not long after he killed Ares, the former God of War. Kratos has favored the militaristic city-state of Sparta , his homeland, with so much power that his countrymen have begun conquering other lands across ancient Greece. Distraught at the wanton destruction of the other Greek cities, the goddess Athena, who first sought Kratos’ help, is now pleading that he stop lest he sparks the ire of the other Greek gods who imbued him with powers and weapons to stop Ares. In fact, Kratos has become so destructive that he has even exceeded Ares’ own fearsome force. Of course, the badass Kratos shrugs off Athena and even argues that he does not owe her or any other god anything. The game’s ending is even better among all of the cut scenes in God of War II. If Kratos did every bidding of the gods in the original game, this time, he’ll be facing off with all of them. Take note that God of War II and even God of War borrow their stories from Greek mythology. While the first game focused a lot on Kratos’ destructive past, God of War II focuses on Greek mythology itself, especially with the battle between the Titans and the gods of Olympus. For those not familiar with this, the Titans were the first gods of the world and their children were the gods of Olympus, led by Zeus. It was Zeus who imprisoned all of the Titans after a great war (called Titanomachy). But while the Greek mythological elements in God of War II give a lot of factoids, it’s the action-packed gameplay that will keep players glued to their seats and plastered to the TV for hours on end. That’s because Kratos is imbued with more power, new weapons and more acrobatic fighting skills. Of course, the mini-games are still present where Kratos delivers more brutal and sadistic killing attacks against old and new enemies, many of which are quite a challenge to kill. These special mini-game/killing moves will require button mashing or at times a quick tap on the different action buttons. The killing moves are so varied that it’s more fun to use them on certain enemies than hacking and slashing with weapons. The boss stages are especially massive and even more challenging than those in the first game. Most of these require speed and skill in maneuvering Kratos away from the bosses’ special attacks. It will be a common occurrence for players to die a few times against some of the bosses, even in normal mode. The game also has a lot of puzzles that are usually easy to finish. The puzzles usually give players time to rest from killing sprees and instead focus on problem solving. Often the killing parts are interspersed with problem solving, thus giving a lot more challenges. Some of the puzzles are very difficult to solve and require memorizing parts of a map just to get through. For certain, there would be many moments when players would feel like throwing their controllers at the TV after spending almost 15 minutes looking for a way out. But essentially, all the puzzles may be solved with a little bit of common sense and finger skills. God of War II can be finished in about 15 hours in normal mode, but it’s something that players may want to return to, given that God of War II again leaves fans a little frustrated with the ending. Overall, God of War II feels slightly better than the first game, which has been given high ratings in the past. PS2 owners will be glad that despite the availability of the next-generation PS3, they’ll have a reason to hold on to their beloved PS2s. God of War II Genre: Action Adventure Developer: SCE Studios Santa Monica Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment ESRB Rating: Mature (M)
By Joan Carla Guevarra, hackenslash Contributor INQUIRER.net THE THIRD Otakuzine festival held on April 1 was a huge success. It was such a big hit to anime fans and curious onlookers that the line to get in Megatrade Hall 2 was so long that it reached the next floor and the building management had to talk to the event organizers. It was a daylong event that exceeded the estimated number of attendees, with roughly eight or nine thousand tickets sold out even before the afternoon ended. That day, with Yuna from Final Fantasy going around with Cloud and with "Death Note’s" Misa and Light in several incarnations, any hardcore anime fan would be hard pressed not to say that this was the anime event of the year. The event started early at 10 a.m. and it was quickly deluged by anime enthusiasts who attended the Palm Sunday Mass near the Hall. True to the magazine’s name, otaku came dressed as their favorite characters or in Tokyo fashion sporting highlights and the Loli-Goth fashion. With nine booths and 15 exhibitors, including a Level Up! Games station that drew a lot of players, Ozine Fest had fun activities for everybody to enjoy. All throughout the day, they held tons of contests, like the potato chip eating contest, ramen eating contest, chocolate eating contest, Bread Pan eating contest, Ponta drinking contest, SD Gundam Model Kit Assembly, karaoke singing, anime drawing contest, anime trivia and an exciting cosplay competition. Freebies were also a big part of the event as anime merchandise was raffled off by the hour. Ozine Fest also gave away the Wii, Nintendo’s latest console, as the main prize for the pre-sold tickets. A pink Nintendo DS Lite and two Motorola Razr phone kits were also given away towards the end of the event. Anime merchandise of every kind was also available at the event, from a local cosplay magazine; to keychains and posters of popular anime; locally drawn manga which the artists would draw and write on bond paper; anime and J-Pop CDs that were priced from P10 per episode to P100 per CD. Toys and collectibles were also displayed for hobbyists who were among the attendees. There were so many things to do and activities to join in that only a handful of bands were there to perform. Among the few who whipped the crowd to a frenzy in between contests were curcuit favorites like Neotaku and Doahou. Like every other anime event, the cosplay competition was the highlight of the day. Over 200 cosplayers registered to proudly strut their stuff in front of a huge crowd. Aside from an individual cosplay competition, there was also a group cosplay contest participated in by 10 groups. The crowd was adamant to go through all 205 individual cosplayers so there were no breaks for the judges as everybody worked the stage, from impersonating their favorite character right down to the fighting stance and some even adding comedy to their act by going yaoi or yuri. Arjay Navarro won the individual cosplay contest and the Street Fighter Gumi brought home the group cosplay prize. Editor's Note: hackenslash contributor Joan Carla Guevarra is a freelance writer who contributes to Hinge Inquirer Publication's GAME magazine. Here's a Slide Show I made using the photos provided by Joan:
HALO 3 is coming! The Halo 3 multiplayer beta on Xbox Live has been slated for May 16 and will run through June 6. Get more details over at Bungie.net. Check out this awesome screenshot of Halo 3 multiplayer madness on the Bungie site. Here's an excerpt from Bungie's announcement:
The Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta will go live on May 16th at 12:00 AM PDT and run through June 6th at 11:59 PM PDT. That means that folks who purchased specially marked copies of Crackdown, or won a spot in the Beta through the “Rule of Three” or other regional promotions, will be able to log into their Xbox Live Gold accounts, download and play the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta and enjoy an early peek at the multiplayer aspect of the game.
If you’ve been sitting on the fence, and are interested, you can still enter the Beta by picking up a specially marked copy of Crackdown, which would ordinarily be a chore, but thankfully Crackdown is an awesome action game which might ironically distract you from the Beta I’m pimping here. Bungie is also giving out a few Friends and Family spots to valued community members, but those are few and far between, so it’s safer to assume you’re not getting in that way.You could also check out the video clips in QuickTime (320 x 180 and 640 x 360) or Windows Media (320 x 180 and 640 x 360) format.
ONE of my favorite shows right now, apart from "Heroes," is the "Battlestar Galactica" TV series, which reimagines this cult classic that first appeared as a movie in 1978. I'm actually a late convert to this show, which I could never seem to catch on cable, and frankly once you start finishing a whole season in one sitting, it's hard to be patient with watching weekly episodes on your TV set, heh :) This might contain spoilers for those who haven't seen the show yet or who are still blissfully unaware of the reimagining, so you've been warned, OK? To me, this reimagining of the "Battlestar Galactica" universe is a thought-provoking examination of some of the scientific and moral dillemmas that face us in the real world. The show's creators have managed to pull this off without being heavy-handed (well, for the most part) and still making the series entertaining and action-packed. In a twist that riffs on themes that have also been explored by Isaac Asimov in his "Robots" novels, and by "Blade Runner" and "Terminator," some of the Cylons now look human. Heck, not only do they look human, in many ways they are human -- it's not just skin-deep, but extends to their organs, their blood and all, which appear to be real even when examined by doctors. More important, they also feel human, with the capacity to fall in love, and think like humans, even believing in the existence of God. In fact, the irony here is that some of these human-looking Cylons (there are 12 models of these human-looking Cylons, and many copies of each model), believe in God more than many of the actual humans do. The Cylons are also monotheistic, believing in just one supreme being who is the God of both Cylons and humans, while the humans believe in the Gods of Kobol, who are actually the Greek deities of myth. Some of the most fascinating, even chilling episodes involve scenes with the human heroes torturing Cylon captives, excusing their actions by saying these human-looking enemies are only machines. Even the most murderous of these Cylons is shown being capable of nobility, in resisting pain (instead of turning off their pain software) and forcing their captors to consider the possibility that they are just as human as the humans themselves. The characters in this series are not black and white cardboard creatures. The heroes are not perfect, and the supposed villains are not all evil. In fact, my favorite character happens to be one of the human-looking Cylons, who was unaware of the truth. It's a question the show poses again and again. Can machines fall in love? More to the point, can humans fall in love with machines? And when these two beings, who as a Cylon pointed out were both ultimately created by God, in that God created humans and humans created the Cylons, fall in love, who is to say that this love is less because it was felt by a machine, or was felt for a machine? In the series, as in the real world, we are shown that we have a tendency to demonize our enemies, to dehumanize those who are unlike us, to say that they are the Others who are unworthy of God. Yet what happens when the machine turns out to be more noble than man?
IF you're a Guild Wars fan, the good news is that publisher NCsoft and developer ArenaNet have announced that a new Guild Wars expansion, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, is slated for release in holiday 2007. Not only that, but the developers are now also working on the sequel to this popular online role-playing game, with the beta for Guild Wars 2 expected sometime in the second half of 2008. Like Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2 will not require a subscription fee. Guild Wars is distributed in the Philippines by Asian Media Development Group, which has recently reorganized the company and rebranded itself as AsianMedia. Here's an excerpt from the press statement:
ArenaNet developers are working on the first true expansion for the Guild Wars franchise, Guild Wars: Eye of the North. Due to hit store shelves during the 2007 holiday season, Guild Wars: Eye of the North will require at least one of the previous Guild Wars campaigns (Prophecies, Factions, or Nightfall) in order to play. It’s a game that will benefit long-time players of the Guild Wars games, with all of the content targeting existing Guild Wars characters... Set largely in the dungeons and caverns of the lands of Tyria that players first explored in Guild Wars Prophecies, Guild Wars: Eye of the North will have 18 large, multi-level dungeons, 150 new skills across all 10 Guild Wars professions, 10 new Heroes, 40 new armor sets, and even more items, weapons and titles.
And for those looking even further down the road at Guild Wars 2, Guild Wars: Eye of the North will provide a Hall of Monuments where players' accomplishments are memorialized and eventually inherited by their Guild Wars 2 characters, unlocking exclusive items and bonuses in Guild Wars 2.
By Alexander Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net SOME game franchises become boring over time, but thankfully a few seem to get better as they get older. On the Xbox 360, however, the latest edition of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW2) has managed to successfully give fans of the first one a great time, albeit a short one. Yes, GRAW2 is particularly short: its single player campaign is just almost 10 hours long and that can be finished in two sittings. In comparison, GRAW1 is a little over 12 hours long in normal mode but is 15 hours long in hard mode. But GRAW2’s short length does not necessarily mean it can’t be played again. In fact, I would dare you to finish the game in hard mode, most likely because the artificial intelligence in the game has been greatly improved as enemy soldiers try to look for better cover to avoid being targeted by your own soldiers. As it is, GRAW2 is a very close continuation of the adventures of GRAW1’s main protagonist, Capt. Scott Mitchell, head of a fictional four-man special strike team called the Ghosts. Mitchell has just recently returned from a successful mission in war-ridden Mexico when his team is reassigned to take on not just a mutinous Mexican Army but several other militia factions. This time, he and his soldiers are put back into Mexico, as well as the borders of the United States where the civil war in Central America threatens to spill over to US soil. This problem is compounded by the threat of nuclear annihilation as some of the warring parties seem to have their own stolen nuclear technologies. The story is just as good as military novelist Tom Clancy could ever pen for the series. The action is basically just the same as the first one with some slight changes in the controls of armored units and the ever-useful UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). Players of the first game could jump right into the action since all of the basic controls are there but newbie players will be given a short walkthrough with the controls. Essentially, the left analog stick is the leg movement of your character and the right analog is the head movement, which shows the target reticule. The same auto-hiding effect remains in the game. This is when the player’s character sticks to any solid object to lessen the chances of getting shot. The player’s game character is always viewed in close-third person with the camera just right behind the head. The only times the view goes to first person is when a gun with an optical scope is used for sniping enemies from afar. The four ABXY buttons are for the weapons selection, firing selection and toggling of the night-vision. The Select button activates the Cross-Com map, which gives the player a wide view of the map. There are only a few additions in the controls and one is the use of the other Ghosts’ cameras. Likewise, the cameras in the UAV and armored support units can also be viewed. The UAV becomes a very important tool as it tells you where exactly the enemies are located, which gives your Ghosts a chance to shoot at the right targets. Enemies are identified in red diamond-shaped reticules and will have these reticules as long as the UAV or the Ghosts have the targets in plain sight. They would only disappear when hiding behind tall buildings or are not seen by any of the Ghosts. Despite the game’s short playing time, GRAW2’s action are even more intense that the first one. Some maps offer more enemies, around 20 to 30 at a time to give players more things to shoot. But these enemies also play hide-and-seek, especially when they get shot, which adds a further element of intelligence in the game’s AI. In the previous game, enemies would just hide but not leave their place while in GRAW2, enemies that are severely shot but are still alive will try to move to another place. Likewise, the AI of the three other Ghosts that a player controls has also been greatly improved. Whereas before, an exposed Ghost remains in the open while being shot, in GRAW2 an exposed soldier will immediately look for cover. Their shooting capabilities have also been greatly improved and a player sometimes would not need to fire a single shot to finish off a group of rebel soldiers. Also, there are new additional dialogues among the AI Ghosts. The previous game would have Ghosts say that they have identified targets but GRAW2’s Ghosts can identify where enemies are ("Enemy sniper on the southeast corner of that building!" or "Bogeys hiding behind that gray truck!"). Considering that the Ghosts’ AI has been improved, sometimes Captain Mitchell (your character) is relegated to providing suppressing fire for the other soldiers. Of course, Mitchell can still initiate an attack while the other Ghosts would remain hidden to provide cover fire. GRAW2 fully utilizes the graphics processing power of the Xbox 360 and is one of the best looking games for that console. Structures, the lighting effects and even movement of soldiers and your units are very realistic. Even structural damage from explosions and bullet holes are evident. However, players of GRAW1 would notice few changes in GRAW2’s graphics -- perhaps only with the debris created from explosions. Nonetheless is graphics are among the best for any Xbox 360 game. Incidentally, GRAW2’s marching action background music has not changed from GRAW1 and sometimes it feels as if GRAW2 was just a patch job of GRAW1. There are a few new scores in the game but the most commonly heard action music is the same one used in GRAW1. It might be a nuisance for veteran players of the game but newbie players might enjoy the music especially during the middle of an intense firefight. GRAW2 is a game worth playing and replaying. Too bad it’s less than 10 hours long and can be finished fairly quickly. However, game developer Ubisoft seemed to have put more focus on the multiplayer aspect of the game rather than the single player campaign, particularly with the addition of several new weapons not available in GRAW1. There are also over a dozen new maps with several ones free for download over Microsoft’s online Xbox Live service. But this is only good for those who have the online service. However, the multiplayer option is good enough to encourage an Xbox 360 owner to go online. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 Genre: Tactical Shooter Developer: Ubisoft Paris Publisher: Ubisoft ESRB Rating: Teen (T)
DIGITAL Media Exchange president and COO Jojo Añonuevo (standing, holding plastic gun) jams with the hackenslash crew during the recording of Episode 9 of hackenslash: the podcast. With him are (l-r) Alex Villafania, Claire Chan, Joey Alarilla and hackenslash contributor Elena Torrijos. Photo courtesy of Jayvee Fernandez. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Jojo confirmed that dme bagged the rights to publish World of Warcraft in the Philippines, but obviously something happened because they never launched it :) Listen to the podcast to find out what Jojo had to say.
IT'S been an open secret that World of Warcraft Philippines was about to be launched when something happened along the way. As far as we know, however, nobody has gone on record to talk about what happened to WoW Philippines. Until now. Jojo Añonuevo, president and COO of Digital Media Exchange, was our "Hot Seat" guest in Episode 9 of hackenslash: the podcast, and he gamely answered my question about WoW Philippines. The podcast should be online in a while, so keep checking the INQUIRER.net Podcasts section and look for the hackenslash: the podcast portion in the bottom half of the page. 'Nuff said.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net A MODCHIP (modification chip) for the Nintendo Wii is now being sold in video gaming shops in Metro Manila, barely four months after the Wii was launched. The modchip being sold in the Philippines is mostly the China-made WiiKey, a thumbnail-size integrated chip that is claimed to be capable of unlocking Wii game consoles so that these can play bootleg Wii games. In fact, the WiiKey is also said to be capable of playing even non-original or "back-up" Nintendo GameCube titles. The WiiKey retails for between P2,500 and P3,500, but some shop owners sell Wii units that have been already modified. An unmodified Wii costs from P17,000 to P22,000, and some shop owners just add around P1,000 to P2,000 to the price tag of an already-modified Wii. The back-up Wii games are usually sold for around P200 while original games fetch between P2,500 to P3,500. This makes the Nintendo Wii the second next-generation game console capable of being unlocked to play bootleg titles, the first being the Microsoft Xbox 360. In Greenhills, San Juan City, which has many shops that sell game consoles, the WiiKey has been available since mid-March. Some electricians in these shops explained that the modchip is soldered on to a part of the Wii’s motherboard. However, they could not explain exactly how the WiiKey works. Some shop owners in Greenhills said sources of the Wiikey vary, from mainland China to Hong Kong. The developers of the WiiKey have even put up their own website detailing the WiiKey at www.wiikey.cn. The site explains that the WiiKey can play US and Japanese versions of Wii games and is also able to recover a Wii from a bad "flashing" of its firmware. The website even has a diagram and walkthrough on where to solder the WiiKey on to the Wii motherboard. The site also stated that the developers would come out with regular updates for the WiiKey.
THE FEDERAL Bureau of Investigation has been asked to probe the online gambling dens that have sprung up in the virtual world of Second Life. Second Life developer Linden Lab invited the FBI to conduct the investigation in the wake of a surge in gambling in the virtual world, which has hundreds of casinos. Here's an excerpt from the story which came out in CNETNews.com.
Hundreds of casinos offering poker, slot machines and blackjack can easily be found in Second Life. While it is difficult to estimate the total size of the gambling economy in Second Life, the three largest poker casinos are earning profits of a modest $1,500 each per month, according to casino owners and people familiar with the industry. The surge in Second Life gambling coincides with a crackdown in the real world by the U.S. government, which has arrested executives from offshore gambling Web sites. Most lawyers agree that placing bets with Linden dollars likely violates U.S. antigambling statutes, which cover circumstances in which "something of value" is wagered. But the degree of Linden Lab's responsibility, and the likelihood of a crackdown, is uncertain.
By Alexander Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net IT'S true: over half of the video games coming out depict some form of violent behavior. Many of them show the killing of some life form and about a quarter of new video games show some virtual version of blood and gore. Often, parents, school administrators and even lawmakers have sought to control video the sale of video games to minors, if not an outright ban. Despite that, the video game industry has kept its head floating and avoided any form of censorship. However, violence is absent in some video games that require players to just use their wits and deductive reasoning without shooting or maiming something in the screen. A few of these non-violent games instill good values. In fact, some are quite religious and are perfect for the Holy Week. What few people know is that there has been a healthy industry of Christian video games in the last 20 years and it is just slightly younger as the gaming industry itself. Christian video games account for only about less than five percent of all video games released but are in themselves targeted at a niche market of families who want to instill Christian values to their children in an interactive manner. Most of these video games had started coming out in the early 1980’s for the Nintendo Entertainment System, otherwise known to the Philippines as the Famicom or Family Computer. These were developed by the game developer Wisdom Tree, a company that was among the first to develop for Nintendo. Wisdom Tree’s first attempt was called Bible Adventures, which is a knock off of Super Mario 2. Bible Adventure’s themes were divided into the adventures of Biblical characters Noah, baby Moses and David and Goliath. The game was followed by Exodus, which is somewhat a continuation of Moses’ story when he was facing against the Egyptian Pharaoh. King of Kings depicted the life of a young Jesus Christ. The company also created a game similar to Legend of Zelda called Spiritual Warfare and in this game, the character is a soldier in the Lord’s Army who is tasked to save souls. Every year since the launch of Bible Adventures, several secular video games were introduced including Joshua, Super Noah’s Ark 3D, Captain Bible in the Dome of Darkness, Sunday Funday and The War in Heaven, all during the 1990s. The year 2000 did not see any letdown in the availability of religious video games and has in fact increased in both numbers and even genre. There were first-person shooters, adventure games and real-time strategy. One video game is a roller coaster racing game, aptly called Godspeed 3D, which has the player running down a path and avoiding "obstacles" like Deception, Confusion and Greed, while using special weapons like Hope and Love. Another game was Dance Praise; similar to Dance Dance Revolution, it requires players to use a dance pad to the tune of Christian songs. 2006 saw the most number of Christian video games launched in a single year with about two dozen introduced. This year, about three titles were announced. After Wisdom Tree started the trend, over a dozen companies followed the same mould of creating religious themed-games. Most firms’ names were reference to Biblical terms such as Day Studios, Brethren Entertainment, Covenant Studios, Cruciform Studios, Full Armor Studios, and Virtue Games XrucifX, among others. These companies are mostly located in the US, Australia and India. In an e-mail interview with hackenslash, Matthew Linder, owner of the Christian-themed game distribution firm GamePraise.net said there have been about 50 Christian video game developers with about 100 Gospel games already released. More companies are popping up, pointing to the strong market for such games. In fact, Linder noted that one Australian company called White Knight Games has co-created a game called Timothy and Titus with Filipino game development company Anino Entertainment. “There are many projects that are in the works and several of them are coming out in the next couple of years. Because of funding issues most Christian games are for the PC but a few have actually made it to the various consoles such as Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance,” Linder said. On the other hand, Linder said that ordinary video gamers do not think much of Christian games primarily because of the much lower production quality than most games. Worst still, religious games are thought to be boring. "While this statement is true in many Christian games because of the lack of funding there are many games that have overcome those obstacles to produce some great games," Linder said. Linder specifically identified Left Behind: Eternal Forces as having among the biggest reactions among Christian gamers and ordinary video gamers. It drew a lot of negative press due to some alleged misrepresentations and some form of violence against other cultures. However, Linder defends the game stating that none of the allegations could be found in the game. Nonetheless, Linder said: "Since so many children play video games which often times promote violence and questionable values it only makes sense that families would want positive and encouraging video games." Linder, himself an avid video gamer, said that he started his company over a year ago and said that a good Christian video game would sell around 30,000 copies. "This industry is still in its infancy but as developers gain more funding and produce higher quality games, it will grow. I think the biggest thing that will help out the industry is having more Christian games on the consoles because most gamers play games on consoles, not the PC."
THAT'S James Ronald H. Lo (third from left), president and CEO of Skyrocket Interactive, pretending to be a pirate and helping (l-r) Claire Chan, Elena Torrijos and me against the Alex Villafania (right), who was armed with the +9 sword of the "Father of hackenslash," Leo Magno. Photo taken by INQUIRER.net interactive media consultant Jayvee Fernandez. Check out Episode 8 of hackenslash: the podcast, as James talks about advergaming and sails the Seven Seas with the hackenslash crew. Plus, have another bite of Hero Sandwich. This episode was hosted by me, Jayvee, Alex and Claire, with hackenslash contributor Elena doing the voiceover for one of the characters.
LIFE hasn't been easy for Matt Murdock, whether as the costumed hero Daredevil or his real identity as a lawyer. Yet things have been looking up -- until a twist of fate has Matt defending one of his old foes, Gladiator, in a murder case. Check it out in Daredevil #96. Here's a Slide Show I made using the images of the cover and first five pages that Marvel provided:
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net COMPUTER users usually take for granted the usefulness of their keyboard and mouse. Often, they would even smash their keyboard and mouse on their desk out of frustration, simply because these are the lightest, cheapest and physically toughest objects in a PC setup. Besides, they’re less fancy to look at than a 17" LCD monitor or the black, aerated casing of the PC’s innards. But on the other side of the ordinary PC user are the enthusiasts who take the time to personalize their PCs by molding a fancy-looking case or painting their entire PC to match the user’s personality. Heck, sometimes they remove the bezel of their monitors and put in specially created plastic or metal frames that make them look more than a monitor. Even the keyboard and mouse are not left out; an ordinary keyboard would be turned inside out, stripped of its white (or black) casing, and painted over with different colors matching the PC case and the monitor. There are also keyboard-specific some accessories, usually stickers and small colored LED (light-emitting diode) lights. Not surprisingly, there would be a few PC peripheral manufacturers that would try to capitalize on the PC modding market. Saitek is one of them and it has just released the second incarnation of its Eclipse keyboard, simply called the Eclipse II. The Saitek Eclipse II directly competes with some of the keyboards sold by rival PC peripheral maker Logitech. This particular unit is about the size and shape of most cheap, ordinary keyboards that can be bought off the shelf, but is just slightly heavier than most. But the most unique feature of the Eclipse II is its three-colored backlighting that can be changed to blue, red and purple. These lights can also be turned off. Likewise, the keyboard now has four multimedia buttons on the upper-right part of the keyboard layout. These correspond to the basic multimedia player controls such as stop, play, next and previous song, volume and mute. Incidentally, in the middle of these buttons is a knob, whose main use is to dim or brighten the LED. Because the ordinary keyboard connector does not draw enough power to light up the LEDs, Saitek made the Eclipse a USB-only peripheral, which means it would take up one of the USB slots at the back of the PC. This could be a problem if the PC owner has no more than four slots and the other three slots would be reserved for a device cradle, a printer and an equally fancy mouse (incidentally, I’m using a Belkin mouse that automatically changes colors from blue, red, purple, green and yellow). Other features of the Eclipse are just the same as most ordinary keyboards: two plastic flaps underneath that can be flipped open to raise the keyboard’s height to at least an inch, a palm rest and rubber padding to prevent slipping. Using the Eclipse II for ordinary tasks is just the same as most keyboards and even playing games with it is just the same. However, this keyboard’s tactile response makes it just a bit noisy to use when it makes that “tak-tak-tak" sound. The noisiest key is the space button, which makes a sound even when your thumb is rested on it. Actually, the Eclipse II is no more than a fancy keyboard with colored LEDs and works just like any ordinary keyboard. But who’s complaining? It does look good on a modified PC. Simply put, the Saitek is one fun looking keyboard that PC modders would love. However, ordinary users would find the backlighting quite distracting. When they find out how much this cost (P5,000) they might faint. An ordinary keyboard only costs P200 off the shelf, by the way. For sure that’s more than enough reason not to smash it on the desk.