May 31, 2009

Video Games Live Announces New Canadian Tour Dates

By Paul Hunter

I received an email note from the team at Video Games Live that they have officially set the dates for some additional Canadian tour dates as part of their 2009 World Tour. The video game symphony show has already performed nine times in Canada so far this year.

The new tour dates are for Winnipeg, Manitoba, and will consist of 2 different concerts (July 6 & 8) and a special festival day in between. These concerts mark the return of VGL to the Centennial Concert Hall with music performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. VGL has stated that the two shows will contain different content and that a Guitar Hero competition will happen at the Special Festival on July 7th. Tickets for the special 3-day Winnipeg stop are available now through the VGL concert page.

As always, Future Shop will be sponsoring the pre-concert events, beginning at 6:00pm each night. Typical pre-concert events include game competitions, video game stations, raffle and prize give-a-ways, game industry meet & greet and the popular costume contest. I went to the February 2008 concert stop in Toronto and there were some pretty cool Zelda, Link, Mario, and Mega Man cosplayers on hand. At roughly half-way through the show they brought the top three finalists on stage where the winner was selected by audience applause. Very cool and interactive.

VGL is also currently planning their Eastern Canadian tour for sometime in September as well as return visit to Vancouver. Stay tuned for more details.

Pro Gaming League Teases Their 'Revival!!!'

By Paul Hunter

Canadian-based Pro Gaming League have stated on their website that the organization has been revived and they are about to reveal some "big news" and a "huge tournament" to mark their comeback.

Considering the pro gaming group recently hosted a major tournament this past February, I didn't even realize the league had gone into hibernation. I guess a lot can happen in three months.

According to the note on the PGL's homepage, they will soon be rolling out large-scale tournaments both online and live. Best of all, they promise big prizes! Too bad don't give out boobie prizes in recognition for terrible performance because honestly, I'd be a shoo-in.

Gaming Expo Featured Guests Officially Announced

By Paul Hunter

They teased it, now they've made it official. Hobbystar, organizers of the mammoth Fan Expo event that takes place in the heart of Toronto each year, have officially announced on their website the 2009 Gaming Expo featured guests.

Taking a cue from this year's Calgary Entertainment Expo, the voice actor for Halo's Master Chief, Steve Downes, will be headlining this year's expo. Other featured guests include Victor Lucas, from Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run fame, Jess Hartley from White Wolf Publishing, and Ed Greenwood, the creator/author of Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. Forgotten Realms is the setting for numerous PC role-playing games, including Pool of Radiance (1988), Baldur's Gate (1998), and Neverwinter Nights (2002).

If you're interested to know who came to last year's Gaming Expo, you can find the list here.

For a full list of the announced Gaming Expo guests, including some additional special appearances, check out the Fan Expo website.

Best Buy Canada Pilots Trade-In Program

By Paul Hunter

It looks like the used gaming market here in Canada is about to heat up even more as Best Buy Canada have announced on their website that they have launched a trade-in program at their 4 Edmonton stores.

The FAQ hints that future Best Buy stores will also roll-out this program by stating:
"We will continue to add trade-in gaming to other stores as we obtain licenses."
Best Buy joins Future Shop, EB Games, Blockbuster, Rogers Plus, and HMV who have all announced, or currently have a used gaming program here in Canada.

Much like the Future Shop trade-in program, used games traded in at Best Buy will earn you store credit for anything in the store -- not just limited to video games. The company will be accepting PS3, PSP, PS2, Xbox 360, NDS and DSi, and Wii titles for trade-in. It looks like you can trade in a maximum of three copies of the same game per day per person, which begs the question: why would anyone have more than three copies of the same game (aside from those shady scalper types)?

Unlike other trade-in programs, it looks like Best Buy has opted to post the trade-in values (TIVs) of quite a few recently released games, and the TIVs seem reasonably good. For example, you can trade in Fallout 3 for $40, Mario Party 8 for $30 and Motorstorm: Pacific Rift for $35.

It'll be interesting to see when/if this program expands into other cities and provinces across Canada. Stay tuned to NextGen Player for further updates as they roll in.

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May 28, 2009

Canadian Gaming Flyers, May 28 Edition

By Paul Hunter

Some weeks we get great gaming deals, other weeks not so much. Fortunately for all of us, this week is much more of the former. Not only did plenty of worthwhile PS3 games get inducted into the 'Greatest Hits' collection (resulting in a permanent price reduction) but retail flyers this week are just brimming with gaming deals!

Let the fun begin:

Best Buy

The Sims 3 PC $49.99
Collectors Edition Sims 3 $69.99
Age of Empire: The Asian Dynasties PC $19.99
Flight Simulator Gold Edition PC $19.99
Empire Total War PC $44.99
60GB 360 with Prince of Persia $299.99
Red Fraction Guerrilla with free Mining Walker Figure 360/PS3 $69.99
Guitar Hero World Tour Complete Band Kit 360/PS3 $149.99 Save $60
80GB PS3 with NHL 2K9
Resistance 2 $39.99
Motorstorm: Pacific Drift $39.99
Wii with Nights:Journey of Dreams $279.99
Wii remote and Nunchuck $59.99 Save $10
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 with Wii Motion Plus $69.99 (available June 7th)
XBOX 360 Wireless Controller Game Bundle $69.99 with Viva Piñata Trouble in Paradise and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts and a wireless controller.
PSP 3000 Core System with Wipeout Pulse, Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice, Carrying Case and Cloth $169.99
Nintendo DS Lite $139.99 with Free Zelda Accessory Kit (great for carry everything and it has extra Styluses).

Future Shop

PSP 3000 Core System with Hot Shots Golf, Buzz Master Quiz and Resistance: Retribution and a carrying case $169.99
The Sims 3 PC $49.99
Collectors Edition Sims 3 PC $69.99
60GB 360 with Prey $299.99
Fallout 3 Expansion Pack $24.99
Prototype $69.99 (June 11th)
360 Family Games Bundle including: Your in the Movies, Scene It? Box Office Smash, Banjo-Kazooie $69.99 (June 3rd)
Gears 2 $39.99
360 Wireless Adapter $89.99
Guitar Hero World Tour Complete Band Kit 360/PS3/PS2 $149.99
80GB PS3 With Dark Sector $399.99
Infamous $69.99
Resistance 2 Collectors Edition $49.99
Killzone 2 $59.99
Socom with Headset $39.99
NBA 09 $29.99
RedFraction Guerrilla $69.99
Wii with Battle of the Bands $279.99
Wii Fit $99.99
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings $49.99 (June 9th)
NHL 2K9 $29.99
EA Sports Active $64.99
Nintendo DS Lite with Boogie $139.99

Walmart

Rainbow Six Vegas 2 PS3/360 $19
My Fitness Coach Wii $19
Shaun White Snowboarding PSP/DS $19

Real Canadian Super Store

80GB PS3 $379.99 Save $20
Dual Shock 3 controller $49.99 Save $5
Sims 3 PC $49.99

[Thanks Princess Zelda!]

My Predictions for E3 2009 (Sony)

By Paul Hunter

If you're like me, then that bubbling sensation you were feeling last week has probably grown so tingly that can hardly count the days until the kick off of the grandest gaming spectacle of the year - E3.

During the E3 festivities, which runs from June 1 through June 4, we can expect to be stunned, overjoyed, and likely, floored at least once or twice.

As the final console maker presenting at E3, Sony's press conference has a lot riding on it. Will they end the show off with a bang, or a whimper? Let's do some educated guessing, shall we...

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

More PS3 Greatest Hits Titles

PS3 Greatest Hits
By Andrew Shin

The Greatest Hits line up of games for the PS3 has just been expanded with today's announcement that six more best-selling games have been added to the library. Beginning June 16th, PS3 owners will be able to purchase the following new Greatest Hits titles for $29.99 CAN.

These include:

Army of Two - EA's co-op shooter that teams up a couple of hired guns with bad attitudes and equally bad jokes.

Battlefield: Bad Company - Military FPS that is a blast to play. Plus, being able to destroy virtually anything in the environment around you is a bonus.

Devil May Cry 4 - Take control Nero and his entire arsenal of explosive attacks and superpower moves. String together some cool combos for furious action.

Grand Turismo 5 Prologue - Polyphony Digital's hit franchise racing simulator comes to the PS3 full force. Get a taste of true racing dynamics and physics in some of the worlds fastest and exotic cars.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - Hideo Kojima's 4th installment is heralded as the best and most significant Metal Gear Solid game. A PS3 exclusive that is a must play for all PS3 owners.

Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction - It's classic Ratchet & Clank. Great controls, great weapons, great content and extremely fun to play. Enough said.

So there you have it. Six very good games worthy of the Greatest Hits label. Keep an eye out for them in mid June.

May 26, 2009

An Interview with Bill Henderson, President of Offload Studios


By Clinton Ma

I crossed paths with the people at Offload Studios once at this year's ELANs press conference and again at the awards show in April. Founder Bill Henderson was kind enough to tell us more about the history of his young company and their unique product. While not of the video game variety, Offload takes their inspiration off the screen and creates tangible works of art you can touch or hold in your hand.

NGP: Offload Studios emerged in 2005 out of an institution you founded called DXLAB. Can you please tell us more about DXLAB and the inspiration that lead to the founding of Offload?

Bill Henderson: DXLAB was a consulting company that brought the Entertainment sector together with Education. We provided training for digital artists and worked with local studios in creating in-house training programs. Also during this time, we developed an online curriculum for high school aged game artists where we explored the application of 3D printing and digital art. We were amazed at how few companies existed to meet the needs of the professional artist and studio. In May of 2008, we purchased our first production equipment and launched Offload Studios as an answer to that demand.

NGP: DXLAB sounds like it was ahead of its time in the way it blended work, in-house training and education. What is the state of the online curriculum for high school students now? If I was a teenager today, I know I would jump at the chance to sign up for the programs.

BH: There are a few online courses available through LearnNowBC, but the student will have to be creative and look for courses that will lead towards Video Game development. The series we developed were shelved when we departed to focus on Offload Studios.

NGP: Your company specializes in fabricating physical sculptures from a digital source. It's very impressive technology: how does it all work?

BH: The core technology was derived by MIT in the late 80s. Fundamentally, the software takes the 3D virtual object and slices it into a stack of cross sections or layers. The hardware then prints each layer on top of each other much like a bubble-jet printer on paper except we use plaster instead of paper. This method allows for a color surface treatment in which the artist's painted texture is applied. This process takes around an hour per inch of height.

NGP: Can you tell us some more about the various tools used to create these digital outputs?

BH: No question, there is pretty cool technology that we work with, but by far, the most important asset in our production process is the people. We have both highly skilled digital and traditional artists working to produce the highest level of quality available.

NGP: I have this impression that a sculpture just rolls out of an oven-like machine. Is there any "hands-on" work done by a person or is the process largely automated by software/hardware?

BH: Our approach to production is that it takes an artist to work on art! The production process produces the raw sculpture and our artisans take it all the way by employing a variety of assembly and finishing techniques.

NGP: What else can you tell us about the various tools and techniques one of your artists might employ to add those finishing touches to a project? How tactile does it get for them: are we talking hands-on-sculpture process at some point?

BH: The magic starts with the clients file. We have a series of checks and scripts we run to identify areas that need attention (thin bits, floating sections, etc.). The digital artist makes slight modifications to the file to ensure that what is printed can actually be produced and handled. This is no simple task as strange things such as shipping have to be considered when analyzing the files. Fragile parts have to be made to be separated, for assembly at their final destination. The Laws of Nature are a major factor which places limitations on the final work, funny how things in the computer can be anywhere in 3D space, but in the real world, fall to the ground!

Once the ‘printer’ has produced the figurine, our post-production team takes over. And again their task is as unique as the piece they are working on. Fit and assembly for some pieces, custom surface treatments for others. It is a beautiful thing to watch an artist bring another artist’s work to life! The care and attention to detail is amazing!

I have included a couple of photos of a print that failed half way through completion. You can see the colour is applied to the outer 1 mm.

NGP: This method of sculpture manufacturing seemed to really gain traction last year, when coverage spread of another company that used "rapid prototyping machines" to create high quality models of World of Warcraft avatars. What are the differences in Offload's core technologies and the techniques that you employ when tackling your own projects?

BH: The WoW avatars are produced using the same core production equipment as ours. We initially positioned ourselves to work with professional artists and studios, typically on one-off pieces. In doing so, we've established the highest standard available in this medium while at the same time establishing a portfolio of creative solutions for the digital art community. For example, our greatest strength is the emphasis on communication with the artist and building lasting relationships based on mutual respect for their art.

NGP: You have a range of clients, from artists to corporations, and you have made inroads into the world of video gaming. How has Offloads area of expertise linked up with gaming in the past? What are some of your plans for the near future?

BH: We've made inroads by establishing grassroots with the artists and their art directors. We plan to continue expanding our expertise and client base. Further in 2009, we'll see the release of high profile, Offload Studios brand intellectual properties.

NGP: Well it looks like you’ve already got a fan in Greg Juby of Electronic Arts. Offload Studios worked on some Facebreaker figurines last year. What were these figurines used for? What doors opened up for you after this collaboration with the games software giant?

BH: These figures were completed as reward Trophies for the dev team that worked on Facebreaker. We have worked with several different EA titles, but this year has not been the year to be working on innovative components for video games. Most of the teams we did initial work with had their projects cancelled as a result of the economic situation of late ’08.

NGP: So imagine you’re speaking to a room full of console and PC gamers. What kind of details can you provide to them about video game-related products and initiatives that Offload will launch in the next 6 – 12 months?

BH: Sadly, we have to get the economy rev’d up again! One title we are still working with has had its ship date extended a year. Many of the initiatives that are in the pipeline may stay there for a bit longer. But certainly, look for the ability to customize and buy your own avatar in many games over the next few years.

NGP:At the ELAN Awards, you showed me what looked to be a custom-painted model in the shape of a large egg. Can you tell us more about what this egg represents to the general consumer?

BH: A perfect example of an Offload in-house development! The concept mirrors that of user avatar creation seen in video games today. Essentially, the user will be provided with an interface to design and texture an egg shaped character which would be uniquely produced as a custom figurine. The advent of user created, custom merchandise has begun!

NGP: Tell us more! You’ve gotten everyone here at NextGen Player curious about this. What’s the barrier to entry for people who want a custom egg but who aren’t the most artistically inclined?

BH: For those without artistic talent, they will still be able to pull together a creation from stock imagery (eyes, ears, mouths, etc). Compare the Egg Project to creating your own Mii. But for those with art talent, there will be a 3D designing/painting interface for complete customization of surface detail, and the ability to accessorize the creation with 3D objects, such as headphones, hair, capes, etc.

NGP: So I’m totally new to the Offload experience. What would be the steps I’d take to create my own custom-design egg character?

BH: Full details available once the site is launched this summer!

NGP: Are any more shapes/styles in the works for people who don’t fancy eggs?

BH: You bet! The egg is just a simple organic shape to prove the concept. The options will be endless! Hearts, dolphins, horses, people… Wait until we combine the 3D Online Modeling course we created with an online 3D modeling interface!

NGP: I attended the recent ELAN Awards in Vancouver and the Offload Studio-crafted statuette was a prominent sight. How was it you became involved with this high profile video gaming event?

BH: The power of word of mouth! A client of ours in Los Angeles recommended us to the artist who designed the sculpture (Chris Nichols from SpinPro). Chris put our name forward to his boss, Doug Campbell, who sits on the board of directors for the ELANs. We were commissioned to create the physical prototype of the new award – the results convinced the ELANs that we were top choice for the production of these custom trophies.

NGP: What was the inspiration behind the design of The ELAN statuette?

BH: Holly Carinci, a co-founder of the ELANs and inspiration behind the award, explains the name ELAN comes from ELectronic and Animated. EL is the god of video games, AN the goddess of Animation and VFX.

The original trophy concept had Canada connecting to the world and now the characters are standing on top of the world indicative of the positive direction the award show is going. The screen represents all digital arts and the figures are looking upwards into the future.

NGP: Thanks for having this chat with us, Bill. How game savvy is the staff at Offload? Are you a gamer? If so, what are the games keeping you up late at night?

BH: My first video game I got to spend rolls of quarters on was Pong. Yes, I was an early addict in 1975. Later, Robot Odyssey and Prince of Persia (version 1!) filled my time. There were the mods/hacks of games like Duke Nukem and Half-Life, that we built in the 90s that made game playing a truly personal experience! Sony sent us some console gear, so the team at Offload rocks out occasionally with Rock Band, or relieves stress with a good fling of Jarvis in PAIN PS3.

The under 30 members of the team enjoy finger blisters with titles such as Far Cry 2, Assassin’s Creed, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Age of Booty.

By far the most exciting games to play are those that are still months from shipping. As we prepare tactual assets for games, understanding the game and player experience helps in the development of ultra cool solutions.

May 25, 2009

Punch-Out!! Impressions: A Long, Gallant Comeback

By Paul Hunter

It's been 15 long years since Super Punch-Out!! released on the SNES and after such a long hiatus, Little Mac is finally back and ready to fight.

Developed by Vancouver's own Next Level Games, Punch-Out!! is a reimagining of the classic NES original that started the franchise all the way back in 1987. For Punch-Out!! purists, this latest game pays homage to everything you've come to enjoy in the series.

The game pits the scrappy 5'7, 107 lbs, Bronx-born pugilist Little Mac and his portly coach Doc Louis against a multifarious cast of boxers determined to outwit our unsuspecting hero.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

May 24, 2009

Will Nintendo Please the Hardcore Gamer at E3?

By Paul Hunter

Ah lazy Sunday, my favourite day of the week. Nothing really to do aside from talking about video games and playing video games. I wish every day could be a lazy Sunday, just imagine how many more achievements and trophies we would have.

Since it's relax day, that means it's time for another round of Mind Games, a feature where we ask you, the reader, to join in our discussions or answer our burning questions. We've recently been talking a lot about E3 here on NextGen Player, it I thought this week's conversation would follow the same topic.

If there's one thing that I'm sure is on a lot of gamers' minds lately, it's whether or not Nintendo has learned from last year's (arguably) disappointing E3 showing that all but ignored the hardcore gamer. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata even went so far as to apologize for their media briefing shortcomings and reassured long-time Nintendo fans that hardcore titles are coming.

There are plenty of eyes on Nintendo this year, and rumours of hardcore friendly titles such as a new Kid Icarus and even Pikmin 3 that Nintendo claims is in development -- but will we see these, or other hardcore-friendly titles at E3? Well my friends, I certainly don't have the answer. Maybe you do?

Dammit, we want to know:

Will Nintendo Please the Hardcore Gamer at E3?


NextGen Player In The Raw Podcast - Episode 3

By Andrew Shin

Well, it's been a while but finally we have a new episode of our In The Raw Podcast available for your listening pleasure. This is episode 3. In this latest podcast we also welcome for the first time Clinton Ma, our newest writer.

Also as a note, this is the first podcast in which we used Skype to communicate and record. We had some technical difficulties during the podcast recording and so you'll notice some interruptions during certain points in the episode. Aside from that, it's another great podcast.

Here we discuss:
- latest NextGen Player announcements
- games we're currently playing
- 2009 E3 predictions

You can listen to the podcast on our Mevio channel by clicking below:
http://www.mevio.com/episode/156189/NextGen+Player+In+The+Raw+-+Episode+3

Or as always, you can subscribe to our iTunes feed by clicking here

Enjoy!

May 23, 2009

Talk To Us, We Love It

By Paul Hunter

At NextGen Player we're all about listening, it's what we do. We may have lost 20% of our hearing listening to Our Lady Peace on volume 11, but thankfully we don't need cochlea function to hear what you have to say. So keep those fingers typing and keep on sending all that great feedback to commentsATnextgenplayerDOTcom or leave a note below.

Who knows, maybe your feedback will get implemented on NextGen Player and you'll feel like a star. Who wouldn't want that?

Oh, and before you ask, if you feel like a star and think you might be invincible, just remember that only works in horseshoes, hand grenades, and Super Mario. You've been warned.

[Pic]

Canadian Gaming Deals, May 23 Edition

By Paul Hunter

Gaming deals. I love them. You love them. We all love them. You'd be a fool to think otherwise.

Whenever I am sad, gaming deals cheer me up. Whenever I am feeling alone, gaming deals provide rejuvenating company. In summary, gaming deals are the panacea to cure any affliction, no matter what the scope. Yes, even that bastard of a recession that is plaguing our times is no match for the cost cutting gaming deal blade.

Beg for mercy regular prices, your time has officially expired. Want proof? Just look at this smattering of deals:

Best Buy

Infamous $69.99 with free strategy guide
80 GB PS3 with Rachet and Clank and Socom with Bluetooth headset $399.99
60GB 360 with Gears 2 $299.99
XBOX 360 Wireless Controller Game Bundle $69.99 with Viva Piñata Trouble in Paradise and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts and a wireless controller.
DSi with the golden compass game $199.99

Walmart

Wii $259
EA Active $64 (save a freakin' dollar!)
UFC:Undisputed $68

Toys R Us

Buy a Wii console, get one of Mario Tennis/Pikmin/Donkey Kong JB for 1/2 price

Zellers

20% off all regular priced 360, PS2, PS3 and PSP software and accessories.

For a full list of this week's flyer deals, check out Princess Zelda's post on the Cheap Ass Gamer forum.

May 22, 2009

GDC Canada Final Wrap-Up: Workshops


By Clinton Ma

Hi readers! GDC Canada is a week old but I still see fit to finish up my coverage of the event. I've already covered the keynote addresses and the expo floor, plus our chat with Izora de Lillard. That leaves the real meat of the show, which were the plethora of workshops put on by industry pros, covering everything from art and sound to marketing and production.

With multiple workshops running each hour I made it a point to check out sessions hosted by a Canadian-based studio. I'll get into some more detail about the more interesting workshops I was able to attend.


An Army of Two Post-Mortem - Deconstructing the Mercenary, Reid Scheider (EA Montreal)
Reid Schneider served as the producer on last year's co-op shooter Army of Two and he spoke quite candidly about the many challenges facing his team during development. Among them were the inherent hurdles of working within a newly formed studio and trying to market the idea behind a new IP to the higher-ups as well as the team itself.

Schneider used a mantra adopted by, Gore Verbinski ("There is no 'they'") and used the famous director's work on Pirates of the Caribbean 3 as a jumping off point for his lecture. In essence, they had to stick to their vision of creating an extremely co-op focused shooter about private military corporations and they couldn't bow down to the wishes of the naysayers, or, the "they".

While the team managed to nail down most of their design objectives, such as implementing co-op moves into core play mechanics and integrating an MMO-style "aggro meter", Schneider admits to some aspects of the game that didn't go down as smoothly. During the Q&A, I asked him about how the jarring contrast between the leads and the serious tone of the backstory. As it turns out, the mixing of juvenile buddy-movie backslapping and themes about PMCs and terrorism weren't very well received in the European market and definitely raised a few eyebrows here in North America. It was clearly a clash of gameplay mechanics and narrative goals. Schneider assured the audience that the next game (Army of Two: The 40th Day) would be more consistent in tone.

Realism in Animation: Misnomer or Oxymoron? Owen Harley (Relic Entertainment)
How do you judge a virtual character or its animations to be realistic? How can animators' journey towards realism achieve exactly the opposite effect? Owen Harley, a senior animator at Relic, laid out an argument that convincingly rendered and animated characters are at least 10 to 15 years out despite the technological advances the industry has seen up to now.

He of course used Masahiro Mori's famous concept of the uncanny valley, along with a parade of recent examples in both gaming and cinema to illustrate the pitfalls of "going realistic". We were treated to clips of The Polar Express and the vacant stares of its digital cast, juxtaposed with Valve's keyframe-animated trailer for the Heavy of Team Fortress 2 fame. Shown also was the 2006 casting interview demo reel for Quantic Dream's upcoming PS3 adventure-thriller, Heavy Rain.

The purpose of these demonstrations was to challenge the audience to ask themselves what benchmarks were used to judge realism. Was it the ultra-detailed rotoscoping and texturing of Tom Hank's visage or the caricatured yet wonderfully expressive performance of the TF2 Heavy?

Harley presented a fascinating topic briskly and with humour, ultimately making a case for the survival of keyframe animation and its increasing integration with more "realistic" techniques.

Square Pegs, Round Holes: Integrating a Writer into your Studio
Marianne Krawczyk (Monkeyshines Entertainment), Susan O'Connor (Susan O'Connor Writing Studio), Pete Low (Hothead Games)

This workshop was a great primer for any budding games writer as well as developers of any other disciplines seeking ways to properly utilize the writers in their teams.

Although the speakers outlined many of the usual pitfalls of writing for games (brought in too late, kept away from the story, etc.), they also laid out many tips for success for writers and their teams as a whole.

In conclusion they emphasized that writing is design and not simply another asset to be bolted onto a project.

A shining example of how to do it right? Exhibit A: Ken Levine (BioShock)

Making Great Multiplayer, Daniel Irish & Stephane Morichere-Matte (Threewave Software)
Much of what Morichere-Matte had to say about designing great multiplayer levels seemed painfully obvious. Funnily enough, it's exactly that kind of stark common-sense that gets easily lost under deadlines, overstretched ambitions and shoddy QA testing.

Threewave Software has a lot of experience in this area, since the studio has established itself as developer exclusively dedicated to creating multiplayer modes for games. Morichere-Matte showcased their latest endeavour, the co-op multiplayer design for the multi platform Ghostbusters revival.

This workshop was very nuts and bolts, even getting into the finer technical considerations of hosting types, server farms and the importance of stress testing your maps to perfection before arting it up.

Building Strong Teams Around Gameplay, Ken Yeeloy (Next Level Games)
I've attended enough developer workshops now that my eyes begin to glaze over when I hear people start talking about the importance of communication and iterative design. So it's a credit to Yeeloy's speaking skills that I stayed engaged for most of his lecture. As a producer at Next Level Games, Yeeloy wasn't content to regurgitate broad concepts but instead got into detailed specifics on team building, management, accountability and even offering up nuggets on the nuances of office politics. Much of his lessons were drawn from his own work experiences, lending him a lot of credibility and respect from his audience.

Instead of being a drag, the workshop was motivating and clearly inspirational. At the close of the Q&A segment, Yeeloy gathered a flock of appreciative attendees. From an outsider's standpoint, he really painted an interesting picture of the producer's role as a crucial team member with many balls to juggle, yet does very little work on the actual game itself. They really are the glue that binds any large development team together. Protector and coach but also a father/mother figure, ambassador and when needed, a taskmaster.

May 21, 2009

DLC Impressions of Fallout 3: The Pitt

By Andrew Green

It's a bleaker future than the Penguins without Sidney Crosby in Bethesda's second Fallout 3 DLC release, The Pitt. As you might remember, NGP took a look at Operation: Anchorage back in February and we've decided to keep the DLC train rolling with The Pitt. Descend into Steel Town with me, won't you?

One of the issues I had with Operation: Anchorage was the integration of the DLC into the greater Fallout universe. It felt a little too much like a different game using the Fallout 3 graphical assets. Additionally, the combat took centre stage while some of the elements associated with the Fallout franchise like dark humour were somewhat diminished from the main game. The natural question is how did The Pitt address these shortcomings, if at all?

The narrative of The Pitt (I confess, my main interest in any game) is stronger than its predecessor. The slave rebellion in which your character may partake, suppress or ignore carries a greater sense of importance to the Fallout world than a mere military simulation (as in the case of Anchorage). The stakes feel higher in the Pitt, and when you conclude the DLC it will likely be with a sense of having impacted the world in a meaningful way, other than some new swag and achievements.

While Alaska offered some stunning vistas and rocky mountains for the player to admire, The Pitt gives some up-close looks at what happens when a major city descends into near-madness. It is a city of foundries, ore collection, metal and grime. The Pitt offers the player a chance to profit from or assist those who have been co-opted into rebuilding the shattered city, and the backdrop for this ultimate choice really enhances the experience.

All is not perfect with this DLC though, some flaws did appear during my time with the game. For starters, it's short. I'm sorry I bring this up in nearly every DLC review, but I feel like companies are getting a free pass on this. The Pitt is over quickly, just when you start to feel acquainted with the city and the characters it's time to be on your way. Whether you decide to stay longer in search of achievements could add some time to your experience.

Additionally, it is entirely possible to complete The Pitt having lost your previously accumulated gear, and I do mean everything. I'm not giving anything away by revealing that you are forced to turn over your weapons, with the implication of being able to retrieve them at a later time. I strongly urge you to do this at your earlier chance, lest you find yourself stripped of all the cool ninja gear available in Operation Anchorage. I was a sad wasteland wanderer on that day.

All in all, The Pitt is a transitional relationship, rather than the one-night stand that Anchorage offered up. The 3rd DLC release, Broken Steel hopefully will represent a longer-term union that will leave both parties satisfied. This reviewer will gladly offer up his body for the cause...and hopefully won't get hurt again. Oh DLC...why must you only love me for my wallet?

My Predictions for E3 2009 (Nintendo)

By Paul Hunter

Greetings my fellow gamers! Welcome back for part two of my crazy and zany E3 predictions. I say that because, well, the whole point of E3 is for the big three console makers -- Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft -- to knock us off our feet with their bold reveals, and only the truly nutty would try and guess what surprises await us enthusiastic gamers. If you ask me, predicting isn't about your scorecard after all is said and done, but rather the fun and excitement that comes with trying to foretell the bombshell announcements we all know are looming on the horizon.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

May 20, 2009

Swine Flu Takes Out Dead Rising 2 at E3


By Andrew Shin

With the recent outbreak of Swine Flu affecting Mexico and other countries around the world, it has now worked its way into the gaming world. More specifically with Capcom's scheduled showcasing of Dead Rising 2 at this year's E3. Capcom was to demo an early development version of the game but due to the Japanese government's travel restriction advisory have cancelled such plans. Japanese citizens are being asked to avoid international travel due to the large number of reported cases of Swine Flu in Japan.

In fact, the first case of Swine Flu was reported in Osaka where Capcom's head office is located.


This news might seem a bit odd considering that Blue Castle, who is developing the game is located in Vancouver, Canada and obviously far from Japan. That said, Kenji Inafune the executive producer on the game, is based in Japan and will not be making the trip to E3. Mr.Inafune was to personally demo the game. As reported by Kotaku, Chris Kramer - Capcom's Senior Director, Communications and Community - made the following statement, "Dead Rising 2 is the only game we won't be able to showcase at E3, because it's at an early stage of development and the team is not comfortable having anyone else demo the code."

So...here's a question, no chance the demo could be done remotely? Damn you Swine Flu.

May 19, 2009

My Predictions for E3 2009 (Microsoft)

By Paul Hunter

You know that bubbling sensation you're feeling? It's E3 excitement about to unleash itself! With the expo kicking off in approximately two weeks, I thought I'd use my second post to discuss my predictions for this year's event. Since there's so much to talk about I think what I'll do is start off with my Microsoft predictions and I'll be back later in the week with my best guesses for Nintendo and Sony.

[Read the rest of this article]

This article appears on the Future Shop Tech Blog where I contribute three times weekly.

An Interview with GDC Canada's Director, Izora de Lillard


By Clinton Ma

As the sun set on first day of GDC Canada, NextGen Player sat down for a quick chat with the event's content director, Izora de Lillard. In our fifteen minute interview we discuss the expansion of the GDC brand, the challenges of selecting keynote speakers and their commitment to serve the needs of all variety of professionals in the video gaming world.

The interview can be listened to in full on our Mevio page:

Listen on Mevio

Interview with Patrick Fortier about WET and Bethesda


By Andrew Shin

By now, everyone in the gaming world should be aware that Montreal based A2M finally found a publisher for their much anticipated game WET. In case you are one of the few that are unaware, that publisher is Bethesda Softworks. You know...those guys who brought you Oblivion and Fallout 3.

NextGen Player had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Patrick Fortier, Creative Director for WET about the recent alliance with Bethesda as well as more details about the game itself.

NGP: The recent announcement confirming Bethesda Softworks as the publisher for WET was welcome news for many gamers. What are the key factors A2M considered in deciding to partner with Bethesda?

Patrick Fortier: After the merger between Vivendi and Activision, A2M really didn’t want Wet to get lost in the shuffle, so they decided to buy the game back themselves. The goal there was to have time to look for the “right” publisher, meaning someone who understood what we were trying to do with the WET, appreciated its “retro 70’s action movie meets spaghetti western” vibe and was in a position to dedicate the time and attention we felt it deserved. Bethesda met all those criteria and more!

NGP: Bethesda is definitely a well recognized company in the gaming industry. How does A2M feel about the opportunity to work with Bethesda?

PF: It’s been wonderful working with Bethesda. Since they also make games internally and have already experienced everything first-hand, it makes it very easy to communicate with them. They’ve provided the perfect environment for us to concentrate on finishing the game and their energy and professionalism have proved a big source of motivation for the team.

NGP: Bethesda is primarily known for their RPGs and so it would seem a game such as WET is a bit a departure for them. Do you feel any pressure to deliver a game that can get people to look at Bethesda in a different light? Inversely, do you think Bethesda's reputation will affect gamers' perception of WET?

PF: I think Bethesda is a name that resonates with quality and right away that sheds a positive light on WET because they clearly wouldn’t have picked it up if they didn’t believe in it. In regards to their “RPG” reputation, I think Wet is a great vehicle for them to showcase how they are expanding as a publisher and are willing to go outside their current comfort zone. I think WET is one of the projects that can really help people associate Bethesda to publishing and not only to internal development.

NGP: How much input or influence will Bethesda have in the final output of the game?

PF: Actually, a big reason why Bethesda was attracted to WET in the first place is because the style and gameplay pillars were already so well established, so there are no plans for any significant changes. It is great to have them on board during this final polish phase however since they have a lot of experience and have a fresh eye on the game. Obviously though, their biggest impact is really in the marketing of the title and bringing it to shelves in a successful manner.

NGP: Control mechanics can make or break a game. How has A2M approached this for WET?

PF: As we are taking a unique approach to 3rd person shooting with the acrobatic nature of our gameplay, we spent a lot of our time figuring out the controls and going through different iterations. Many different things were tried regarding dual targeting, camera control, slow motion or no slow motion, etc, until we found just the right mix of “easy to play, hard to master”. Right now players can have a blast when they pick up the controller for the first time, but they can also develop their skill and pull off head-shots and crazy chains of acrobatics once they really master the controls.

NGP: At this point in time, how much of the game is completed? Are there any recent or upcoming new developments for the game?

PF: We are currently putting the final touches to the game as we are quickly headed towards release. Most of our time is spent playing through all the levels, balancing different values and debugging the game!

NGP: Confirmation on a release date?
PF: WET is set to release in Fall 2009

May 18, 2009

Gaming Expo to Announce Featured Guests on May 26

By Paul Hunter

It looks like in eight days Hobby Star Marketing will be announcing the special guests that will be coming to this year's Gaming Expo. The event is part of the larger Fan Expo Canada, a multigenre fan convention showcasing comic books, science fiction, anime, film/television and more. This year's expo will be taking place on August 28-30, 2009 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Last year's event attracted over 45,000 guests and filled the entire South building of the Metro Toronto Convention Building. In case you've never been to the Convention Centre, it's roughly half the size of L.A. Convention Centre, the location of this year's E3. That's pretty darn big.

Considering the caliber of last year's line-up, which consisted of Electric Playground, Mega64, Pure Pwnage, Amp Your Game, MLG Canada, and plenty of gaming's artists, writers and personalities, I have high hopes for this year's special guest roll call.

In case you missed my photos of the über awesome Gaming Expo cosplayers from last year, check out our Flickr photos.

May 17, 2009

Is This The Teaser For Metal Gear Solid 5?

By Paul Hunter

Holy cow! The Kojima Productions teaser website for the "Next" Metal Gear game is now showing a countdown timer with the number 5 flashing in the background whenever it lightnings. Is this the official announcement of Metal Gear Solid 5?

Wow, this will be hot news if true!

100,000 NextGen Players and Growing Strong

By Paul Hunter

Today marks another milestone in NextGen Player's history as we embark on our mission to be the #1 source for Canadian gaming news. As of noon today, over 100,000 NextGen Players have visited our blog since we launched in April 2008.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal readers who have supported us over the past year and let everyone know we have much more great content planned in the year ahead. You can expect more coverage soon on GDC Canada, the Amp National Rock Band Tour, and we also have some interesting interviews coming your way.

Thanks again for your support - we couldn't have done any of this without it!

May 16, 2009

Will the Xbox 360 get MGS4?


By Andrew Shin

With E3 just around the corner, there has been tremendous buzz surrounding Microsoft's BIG announcement for the event. One specific speculation has been the possibility of a port of the highly successful and critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid 4.

In fact, a mysterious new Twitterer going by the name Game Fork has been tweeting quite a bit about "MGS+O" (Metal Gear Solid + Oxide) and even confirming it will be announced at E3. While we all love to speculate about potential announcements at E3, it's important to stay grounded and really think about what is truly plausible. That said, the possibility of MGS4 coming to the 360 seems doubtful to me. In Metal Gear Solid 4, Hideo Kojima designed a game that was tailored to utilze and take advantage of the PS3's powerful hardware and capabilities.

It would seem highly unlikely that Kojima would tinker in anyway with MGS4 in order to have it play on the Xbox 360. Well, at least that's my take on it. But let's turn it over to you, our loyal readers. What's your take on this? Will the Xbox 360 get MGS4? Vote now and discuss!



Canadian Gaming Deals, May 15th Edition

By Paul Hunter

I'm not too sure who originally decided that video games should cost a pretty penny, but that person clearly has many pretty pennies. For the rest of us, slogging through this pitiful recession can be made a little easier with a dab of frugality.

This week's video game deals run the gamut from Hmmm, to woohoo!, to Ouch. If you're in the market for a new gaming console though, boy are you in luck! It looks like Best Buy, Future Shop and Dell are all selling PS3s with a bundled goodie or two. Best Buy and Super Store are having some decent deals for Xbox 360 consoles as well. Finally, Future Shop is throwing in a free copy of Big Brain Academy for shoppers who pick up a Wii this week.

So why wait, let's jump into the weekly deal highlight reel shall we?

Future Shop

80GB PS3 with Uncharted and Hot shots Golf $399.99
MGS4 Limited Edition $29.99
Far Cry 2 $19.99 (PS3/360)
Spiderman 3 $9.99 (360)
GH:Aerosmith $14.99 (PS3/360)
360 60GB With NHL 2K9 $299.99
Wii with Big Brain Academy $279.99

Best Buy

80GB PS3 $399.99 with Rachet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Socom game w/ a headset
Patapon 2 $19.99
360 60GB $299.99 with Borne and All pro Football
Wii with Mario Tennis $299.99 save $10

Super Store
Xbox 360 all Sku's $30 off. Arcade $169.99, Pro $269.99 and Elite $369.99

Dell
PS3 80GB Blu-Ray Player Bundle with Remote and HDMI Cable $379.99

For a full list of this week's flyer deals, check out this post on the Cheap Ass Gamer forum.

May 15, 2009

It's Official, NGP Contributing to Future Shop's New Tech Blog

By Paul Hunter

Hello there faithful NextGen Players!

I have an exciting announcement to share with all of you, starting today I will begin a new role as an official contributor to Future Shop's new Tech Blog. You can visit it at www.futureshop.ca/techblog. I will be taking on this exciting opportunity on top of my writing duties here at NextGen Player.

As the #1 news source for Canadian gamers, I am really excited that NextGen Player will be collaborating with Canada's #1 retailer and e-tailor of consumer electronics. Future Shop's Tech Blog will be a great opportunity for us to spread the love and joy of Canadian gaming with a whole new audience.

On the Tech Blog I will be joined by five other electronic and technology gurus, including:

Brad Grier
Mathew Kumar
Buzz Bishop
Tris Hussey
Klaus Boedker

To check out my inaugural post on the Future Shop Tech Blog, click here:

Press Start - A Personal Introduction From Paul Hunter

I hope you'll join us here - and on the new Tech Blog!

inFAMOUS Q & A

With inFAMOUS only a few weeks away from launch, the folks at the PlayStation Blog got up close and personal with Sucker Punch's Bruce Oberg, Co-Founder and Lead Programmer and Chris Zimmerman, Co-Founder and Development Director to tackle some questions on the game.

Below are videos for part 1 and 2 of the Q&A. Some good questions and great insights into the game. Check them out.

inFAMOUS Q&A Part 1 with Bruce Oberg




inFAMOUS Q&A Part 2 with Chris Zimmerman


GDC Canada 2009: The Recap Part Two


By Clinton Ma

No industry conference is complete without an exposition area. The inaugural GDC Canada was did not buck this trend, gathering a variety of exhibitors together into a cozy room up front and center near the registration desk, yet mercifully out of the way of pedestrian traffic.

The expo floor acted as a home base during my visits to the conference. Predictably, it also turned out to be the hub of networking for the event. The morning coffee service held there might have had something to do with that, but there were a number of interesting exhibits spread through out the floor to keep attendees coming back for more.

From a consumer standpoint, there was nothing of real interest on the expo floor that could not be gleaned from a quick jaunt to Google. Radical had a booth showing off a Prototype trailer we've all seen. Likewise, Blue Castle was in attendance with the weeks-old Dead Rising 2 trailer playing on one of their TVs. The biggest crowd attraction was undoubtedly the playable copy of Punch-Out on the Wii. With the game still set for releaes on May 18th, it was the closest thing to a consumer trade show spectacle.

The real value in milling about the expo area was to participate in all the ripe networking opportunities. The business card swapping was fast and furious. And a job seeker would be a right fool to have shown up without a resumé in tow. It seemed like everyone was hiring, including the aforementioned Radical and Blue Castle as well as Next Level Games, the studio behind the new Punch-Out game.

Considering a career in video games? Three Vancouver-based schools vied for your attention at the expo: the Vancouver Institute of Media Arts, Vancouver Film School and the Great Northern Way Campus (Masters of Digital Media program.

May 14, 2009

Why is Wipeout HD so Ego Shatteringly Hard?

Feature - Confessions of a Trophy Whore - Admission #2

By Paul Hunter


If there's one thing that I'm proud of when it comes to video games, it's that given some time, I can generally become quite proficient at the software I play. Take for example the zombie survival game Resident Evil 5. Out of the box, the game came equipped with 51 trophies - 38 bronze, 11 silver, 1 gold and 1 platinum.

As you would expect, most of the bronze trophies are achievable over the course of a single play-through. You've got your standard trophy for beating each chapter, trophy for getting a specified number of kills with a particular weapon, and fun off beat trophies such as Egg Hunt which is awarded for discovering four different types of eggs. Simple fair, and easy enough to collect.

Now striving for the silver and gold trophies does add an additional level of complexity; however, most of these trophies are exploration-based (e.g. Badge of Honor awarded for finding all BSAA emblems), or grinding-based (e.g. Take it to the Max awarded for upgrading all weapons). In order to acquire these trophies really all you need is a lot of determination, time, and perhaps occasionally some serendipity.

Overall, I found the only intensely challenging trophy to obtain was the one gold trophy - War Hero - awarded for completing the game on Professional difficulty. Admittedly, that was a pain in the butt to get, although by that point you probably have at least some weapons with infinite ammo making the game tough, but not impossible.

Now Wipeout HD is another beast altogether. I've been playing the PSN downloadable game off-and-on since it released in September 2008. To my embarrassment, I've only managed to achieve 29% trophy completion. Of course that begs the question - do I just flat out suck at the game? Honestly, I don't think I do! The game, at it's core, is just so ludicrously hard, it's boarderline punishing. To date, I have 21 out of 38 trophies.

You should see me race against the computer AI on Elite difficulty - it's an utter farce. Every race you begin in last place, and more often than not, I stay in that position lap-after-lap-after...well you get the idea. Really, I'm not sure what SCE Studio Liverpool was thinking when they tested the three difficulty settings in the game. Perhaps it's bittersweet irony that whenever I drop down a difficulty setting, to Skilled, I can race into 1st place within seconds and maintain this position with relative ease.

Let's just be blunt here. The trophies for this game were designed for two types of people:

(i) Insanely dexterous racers that defy all normal human limitations; and

(ii) Masochists

There's really no other way to put it. If you don't believe me, take a look at this video of a gamer achieving the Zone Zeus trophy. It's out of this world. Supersonic speed is so blisteringly fast it makes my eyes water just watching a grainy YouTube video.

I just don't get it. I thought I was pretty good at video games but Wipeout HD makes me believe that there is this whole class of super human gamers out there able to achieve trophies my hands and thumbs could only dream of. That my friends, is a little ego shattering if you ask me.

Damn you Zico for your 30.82 second Speed Lap on Anulpha Pass. Damn you to an anti-gravity hell!

GDC Canada 2009: The Recap Part One


By Clinton Ma

The inaugural GDC Canada came to a close yesterday afternoon. The 2-day event evolved from what was once known as the Vancouver International Game Summit. As a joint production between Think Services Game Group and Reboot Communications, the re-branding to GDC Canada can be viewed as a sign of Canada's growing prominence in the global games business as well as the rapidly ballooning influence of the conference itself. This year sees the GDC brand expanding into multiple markets, with an additional event for the US (Austin) as well as Europe and China.

In coordination with New Media BC, the first ever GDC Canada was featured as part of the Vancouver Digital Week, an overall initiative to promote digital media arts in the province.

GDC Canada is still very much the GDC we all know and love. Although smaller in scale than the flagship GDC conference held in San Francisco, the Vancouver-based counterpart similarly positions itself as a forum for game developers and business leaders to network, put on seminars and learn from one another.

So, what did we learn at the GDC this week?


Keynotes

Day One:

GDC canuck-style kicked off with the keynote address, or rather conversation titled, "The Evolution of the Canadian Game Industry: A Conversation with Don Mattrick". The current Xbox and Games for Windows boss was joined by Victor Lucas (Electric Playground) as they discussed Mattrick's journey through the games industry and the state of Canadian video game development. There were very few surprises here as you might expect. Mattrick had some Microsoft cheerleading to do yet kept mum on a variety of product-related questions. Lucas even made a slight joke out it, beginning his talk with a slew of soft ball questions designed to flex Mattrick's talent at saying "No Comment".

While the "good stuff" will understandably be revealed at next month's E3, it was still interesting to listen to Mattrick recount his early days growing up in Vancouver as a nerdy gamer boy, running his own studio at the tender age of 19, joining the ranks of EA at the ground floor and finally moving all the way up to his current position as the Xbox head honcho. He's definitely one of those rare success stories and remains a bit of a poster boy for the local game development community.

Day Two:

The second keynote address was put on by the good doctors of BioWare, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. Titled, "Emotionally Engaging Narrative: Gaming`s New Frontier", the doctors spoke about what they and BioWare do best, which is tell great stories in video games.

The keynote was slide and video intensive as they used the visual aids to show the evolution of storytelling in their own games, going all the way back to Baldur's Gate. They then moved through the years, showing off cinematic and dialogue reels from Jade Empire, Mass Effect and finally the upcoming Dragon Age: Origins (which looks absolutely amazing I might add).

For a talk about story it was surprisingly technical. Zeschuk and Muzyka explained how they adapted Richard Bartle's character archetype classifications for MMOs to their single-player games. The play and story interactions are categorized among four dimensions: Killers, for the action and combat-oriented moments; Achievers, which covers character progression and customization; Socializers, the story and character interactions; and Explorers, which is of course exploring the game world and the design elements that facilitate this exploration.

While explaining their current model of story design, the doctors liberally dropped hints at what to expect in their upcoming games. They talked about engaging players in an external narrative through the act of publishing player stats and achievements on the Dragon Age community web site and allowing players to actually change the game world in Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO.

The interweaving of internal (contained within the game) and external narratives is one of their ultimate goals, as well as seamlessly combining compelling stories with non-linear game worlds. With these kind of ambitions, it only made me more eager to see the results of their labour in something like Mass Effect 2.

As a whole, this was a jam-packed and very educational keynote. Dr. Muzyka and Dr. Zeschuk are great champions of video game storytelling and the session was not to be missed by both designers and writers working in games today.

In my next recap installment I'll talk about some of the other attractions at the conference, highlighting some of the developer lectures and the exhibits set up on the expo floor.

And we have photos. A bevy of images has been posted to the NextGen Player Flickr page, so I invite you all to take a peek.

GDC Canada Photos on Flickr

May 12, 2009

Wii on Sale @ Best Buy - Limited Time


Starting today BestBuy.ca is having a sale on the Wii console for $249.99 - that's $30 off the retail price. This sale is in effect from May 12 to May 14. If you've STILL been waiting to pick up a Wii, then now's the perfect time. Also keep in mind that BestBuy.ca is currently running their Nintendo in-stock guarantee promotion - you're practically assured the availability of a console to purchase.

For more details, check out the BestBuy.ca website.

May 10, 2009

An Interview with 1 vs 100 Director, Jo Clowes

By Paul Hunter

Over on the GeneralGames blog, Canadian gaming enthusiast Justin Amirkhani recently sat down with the Director of the first Xbox Live Primetime game, 1 vs 100.

If you want to get a good sense about how the exclusive Canadian beta will work, what types of prizing Microsoft will be giving away, and how to join in the on the fun - check out the video interview below.

May 9, 2009

Canadian Gaming Deals, May 7th Edition

By Paul Hunter

Another week, another round of Canadian gaming deals to feast your eyes on. This week's deals are a little ho-hum aside from the GTA deals circulating retail flyers. Wal-Mart is advertising the Canadian exclusive GTA IV 360 Elite Bundle for $398 (which includes GTA IV, 400 MS points and 2 Stickers), and Future Shop is selling a DSi bundled with GTA: Chinatown Wars for $219.99 (a savings of $20).

Fellow NGPer Andrew Green recently picked up GTA: Chinatown Wars and has been raving about it. Something about putting a smelly fish inside a mobster's car air conditioning. Yeah, I didn't get it either. I guess it's one of those games you just have to play for yourself to get the joke.

In any event, here are some quick highlights of this week's deals:

Best Buy

80 GB PS3 Bundle with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Brother's in Arms: Hells Highway $429.99
360 Elite GTA 4 Bundle with GTA 4, Chrome Hounds, and The Darkness $399.99
360 Wireless adapter $79.99

Future Shop

DSI Bundle GTA: China Town Wars $219.99 (Save $20)
XBOX 360 Wireless Controller Game Bundle $79.99 with Viva Piñata Trouble in Paradise and Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts
MGS4 limited Edition $34.99
Patapon 2 $19.99

Walmart

GTA 4 360 Elite Bundle $398 includes GTA 4, 400 MS points and 2 Stickers.
Lego Indiana Jones DS $24
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga DS $19

Toys R Us

360 Lego Indy $24.99
360 Assassin's Creed $29.99
360 GTAIV/Halo 3 $44.99 each

For a full list of gaming deals this week, check out Princess Zelda's post on the CAG Forums.

Will FFXIII Release in Japan for Xbox 360?

Feature - Mind Games

By Paul Hunter


It's another lazy Saturday which means time again for another edition of Mind Games, a feature where we ask you our loyal readers questions that are slowly eating us up on the inside.

For this week, I'd like to reminisce for a bit back to July 14, 2008: that fateful day when Square-Enix President Yoichi Wada took the stage during the Microsoft press conference to anounce Final Fantasy XIII would release on the Xbox 360. Many pundits quickly professed that cataclysmic announcement spelled ruin for the beleaguered PS3 with yet another highly anticipated *exclusive* gone multi-platform.

However, buried beneath this megaton announcement was a footnote stating that Final Fantasy XIII would be multi-platform in North America and Europe - Japan conveniently not mentioned. Of course as the story goes, Yoichi confirmed that FFXIII was remaining exclusive to PS3 in their homeland of Japan.

Well that was last year, and as we've learned, not many games stay exclusive this generation. With PS3 hardware sales surging in Japan, and the Xbox 360 trailing behind the Wii in a distant third place, the announcement of FFXIII could be just want Microsoft needs to gain more traction in the land of the rising sun. Surely Microsoft wants to see that happen.

With that said, I want to hear what you guys and gals think on this subject.

Dammit, I want to know:

Will FFXIII Release in Japan for Xbox 360?

NextGen Player Team Grows to Four

By Paul Hunter

Just like the Lernaean Hydra once did in the great myth of Heracles, NextGen Player has sprouted a new head. It is with great pleasure that I announce to you the newest member to join NextGen Player's ranks - Clinton Ma.

Clinton joins us from Vancouver, B.C. and will be reporting on all things west coast. For those of you loyal NextGen Players, you'll probably recognize Clinton from his extensive coverage of the VFS Game Design Expo and The ELAN Awards.

So if he's been writing for us for a few months, why am I only announcing his appointment now? Well, we have a little thing here at NextGen Player called a probationary period, and trust me when I say this - his work has far exceeded our expectations!

In only three months Clinton has made quite a splash here at NextGen Player. He's had the extraordinary opportunity to interview gaming luminaries such as Scott Dossett of Epic Games, Kelly Zmak of Radical Entertainment, Drew Murray of Insomniac Games, Ellen Beeman of Microsoft Game Studios, and many more.

Clinton has also contributed some great reviews to the site, including F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, and his impressions of the UFC 2009: Undisputed demo.

We are also very excited that Clinton will be officially representing NextGen Player at the inaugural GDC Canada from May 12-13.

Clinton is an avid gamer and fellow blogger who manages his personal blog Play With My Box, on top of his duties here at NextGen Player. Drop by and say hello, I'm sure he'd appreciate the company.

From everyone here at NextGen Player - welcome to the team Clinton!

Here Are Your Most Wanted Wii and DS Games for May 09, Canada

By Paul Hunter

Yep, it's that time of the month again. We just received our monthly Nintendo newsletter that highlights the most wanted Nintendo Wii and DS games, according to Canadian gamers.

While there are no big changes in the upper echelon of Wii titles, May has seen the debut of New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. It looks like those GameCube Wii-makes are proving to be quite popular. On the DS front, we have a new leader, and funny enough it's not even a game!

But enough of this chitter-chatter, here are your Most Wanted Wii and DS titles for May '09, Canada:

Wii

1. Wii Music
2. Animal Crossing: City Folk
3. Mario Kart Wii
4. Wii Fit
5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
6. Super Mario Galaxy
7. New Play Control! Pikmin
8. New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis
9. New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
10. Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree
11. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
12. Wario Land: Shake It!

Nintendo DS

1. Nintendo DSi
2. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
3. Personal Trainer: Cooking
4. Personal Trainer: Math
5. Pokémon Platinum
6. Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
7. Kirby Super Star Ultra
8. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness
9. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time
10. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
11. Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day
12. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
13. Mario Party DS
14. Flash Focus: Vision Training in minutes a Day!

Well, Let Me Explain What a LeetBeatMeat Is

By Paul Hunter

I've been asked on numerous occasions about my euphemistic gamertag, and whether I'm aware of it's insinuations. People also seem interested in it's origin, just how does one become a LeetBeatMeat? Let's start at the beginning.

For starters, if it's not already obvious I have little, or no shame. I mean honestly, just look at the crazy things I do. So while many people would not choose to have an edgy gamertag, I have no such reservations.

Now, as far as the birth of my gamertag, here's the backstory to fill you in:

I jumped into the next-generation consoles back in November '06, right around the time of the Wii and PS3 launch. At the time, the video game I was wholly addicted to was none other than Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS. You know, cover bands playing an eclectic mix of 80s, 90s and top 40 hits, tacky black suit wearing Agents combating an evil alien race known as Rhombulans, and plenty of groin-numbing leg splits.

So anyhow, I was hanging out with fellow NGPer Andrew Green when I was brainstorming gamertag names, and I told him about my fascination with Elite Beat Agents. I further elaborated and mentioned that if I was ever to become an Agent myself, I would want to be called Agent Meat. For some reason Agent Meat conjured an image of a burly, hulking Agent capable of kicking some serious Rhombulan ass.

Well, one thing lead to another and the name Elite Beat Meat was tossed out as a potential candidate for my gamertag. It was close, but not quite as stylish or absurd as I would have liked. So, I clipped out the spaces, swapped out Elite for Leet (I've always this peculiar fascination with leetspeak) and LeetBeatMeat was born. Viola! See, not nearly as interesting as I'm sure you imagined or I lead you to believe.

Oh, and for anyone wondering why my PSN name (LeetBeetMeat) has a slight spelling variation to it, well, let's just say that Sony implemented a filter into PSN that doesn't allow users to have "beat" and, umm..."meat" in their gamertags. No wonder iNiS decided to partner with Microsoft.

May 8, 2009

Microsoft Acquires BigPark; There Be Job Openings


By Clinton Ma

Microsoft just acquired Vancouver game design firm, BigPark in the wake of a senior Xbox executive resignation and two rounds of layoffs across their entertainment and in-game advertisement divisions.

The software giant has certainly felt the sting of the economic downturn in recent months but this new acquisition points towards their devotion to the success of their console business.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Xbox & Games for Windows boss Don Mattrick co-founded BigPark two years ago with Erik Kiss, Wil Mozell and Hanno Lemke. While the sentimental link is there, the business angle is also sound when you look at BigPark's resume of work on some of EA's top franchises including Need for Speed, SSX and FIFA Soccer.

And if BigPark's website is anything to go by, they are on a hiring spree, holding an open call for every type of development job under the sun. So it's time for you local game design grads and the newly unemployed to shake off those economic downturn blues and polish up those CVs.

Source: paidContent