Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interviewed on Global News, Here's The Video Clip

By Paul Hunter

Yesterday was X'09, Xbox Canada's annual preview event for media and devoted community members. At the event Microsoft facilitated an interview between me and Global News to discuss the heated holiday season console wars.

During our roughly 10 minute chat, I gave the Global reporter a rundown of what I feel are the strengths and weaknesses regarding all three platforms, and a global perspective on this generation of consoles.

While I knew only a small portion of our conversation would end up landing on the 6pm and 11pm news, the one quote I was hoping they would use wound up being the one selected for the news report. So, I couldn't be more pleased.

It's a great video, and certainly asks a question I'm sure is on a lot of gamers' minds -- which console is going to dominate the sales charts in Q4 of 2009? I have my opinion, we'll see if it pans out in January.

Here's the link to the Global News video clip: Console Wars

(or click the image above)

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Taco Bell Fill Up On Game Gear Promotion And Tour

By Andrew Shin

So here's one of the better gaming related promotions I've come across in a while. As you can see on our website, we are currently advertising Taco Bell Canada's Fill Up On Game Gear campaign in Canada. The promotion consists of a contest and tour that is making stops across various Canadian cities.

The contest offers up some fantastic prizes to be won including:

- 50 Nokia N95 8GB
- 20 Headplay Personal Gaming Systems
- 50 Razer Carcharias Gaming Headphones
- 20 Razer Lycosa Gaming Keyboards
- 50 Razer Deathadder Gaming Mice
- 50 Gunnar Optiks Gaming Glasses
- 50 Amp Energy Gaming Jerseys (North of 49 - Canadian Pro Gaming Team)
- 192 Every Store Wins Prize Packs
...and...get this...
- 1 redonkulous Emperor 1510

What is an Emperor 1510 you say? Here, let me tell you:

It is a brand new gaming station that brings new meaning to the term "game set up". The Emperor 1510 is developed by Canadian based company NovelQuest out of Quebec City.

The Fill Up On Game Gear tour has already kicked off in the GTA with stops in Richmond Hill and Scarborough. Next stops include Whitby on October 1st and both Brampton and Vaughan on October 2nd. There are also events being held in other Canadian cities including Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Surrey and Coquitlam.

At these events, you'll have the opportunity to try out some of the game gear prizes listed above - including the Emperor 1510 - as well as win other prizes.

For more details on the Taco Bell Fill Up On Gaming Gear promtion, visit the Taco Bell Canada website at www.tacobell.ca.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Canada Drains Sports Dev Talent from UK

By Clinton Ma

It wasn't long ago when I would lament on the state of Canada's new media and tech industries and the brain drain to our neighbours in the US and overseas. The market was still small, companies were young and the talent pool was sparse. Things have looked up dramatically in the last few years, at least in the case of our video games industry. We've nurtured our homegrown talent, established better educational programs, grown our industry associations and the government has gotten into the act with tax incentives and long-term initiatives targeted to the creation of interactive media.

Canada's growth as a games production powerhouse has not gone unnoticed. We've now overtaken the UK as the third largest video games producer in the world. A recent story suggests the UK games industry is starting to feel the pinch of a very significant brain drain across the pond into Canada. Specifically, some prominent sports game talent has been lured onto Canadian soil, bringing with it the development duties on some high-profile sports titles, such as EA's distinctly European, FIFA Soccer 10...

There's a feeling among UK-based studio heads and Tiga, the trade association that represents them, that government tax breaks are needed to create a more favourable business climate for games publishers and studios. It's a valid hurdle to overcome. We've seen it done before in other industries. Tax subsidies, government funds and a ready pool of hungry talent has had a tremendous impact on B.C.'s film production industry for years and has done much to earn the region its moniker of, "Hollywood North".

And now we are seeing the Canadian government taking a more active hand in shaping the health and future of our burgeoning video games sector. Just look at the recent announcement by Ubisoft to open a brand new studio in Toronto (and crowning the inimitable Jade Raymond as studio head no less). Far from being a decision born from a random spin of a globe, the government of Ontario actively courted Ubisoft over the past two years before the publishing giant was ready to pull the trigger on their expansion plans. The implications for the Toronto gaming scene are, of course, massive and likely on a similar scale of EA's acquisition of Distinctive Software in the early '90s.

But back to the point of tax breaks: yes, they are extremely important. They are also hardly the only factor in the equation. As far as Canada is concerned, I like to think that we have other things to offer besides lower operating costs, things like our livable cities, our culture and lifestyle, closer proximity to our American partners and our already established network of first-class development studios. And I haven't even touched on our growing talent pool, all those bright university graduates with art and software degrees along with the young blood coming out of the game development schools and technical colleges.

On a financial level, Canadians have only just started to recognize the importance of video games. The UK government would do well to do the same if they are to grow their video game output. Nevertheless, I think regions on both ends of the pond are still struggling to recognize games as cultural works on the level of importance as music, performing arts and film. And that's a PR battle that will continue on for quite some time.

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NGP's Must-Read List: Toronto Thumbs

By Paul Hunter

See that guy there? That's Mike Jackson. I don't know him, but I do know we have one thing in common -- a mutual appreciation for the Canadian-bred video game website Toronto Thumbs. I like the website so much that I've nominated for the very first edition of NextGen Player's must-read list.

So how does one get awarded such a prestigious distinction? First of all, it has to be Canadian. I love dozens of international websites, but you know what, many of them seem to hog the limelight. This ongoing feature here at NextGen Player will spotlight some lesser known, but equally as deserving websites in the Canadian gaming landscape. Next, the website has to be quality through-and-through. Absolutely no hack websites are even being considered. As the games industry matures I feel the writing has to keep pace. Gaming isn't kids fair anymore.

That's pretty much it for the criteria, Canadian and quality. Let's have a look at our first recipient, Toronto Thumbs.

I first stumbled upon the website in July of 2008, a few months after founding NextGen Player. To my surprise, it was very Canadian-focused and that immediately attracted my attention. You see, the reason I started NextGen Player in the first place is because I saw a clear lack of quality Canadian gaming blogging. It wasn't until I landed on the Toronto Thumbs website that I realized that there were more professionally run, Canadian-centric gaming blogs out there. I suppose sentimentally, that's why I have such a strong liking for Toronto Thumbs.

The founder of the website is Shaun Hatton, a true gaming connoisseur and an all-around great guy. We decided to meet-up earlier this year over tacos in a Mexican joint downtown Toronto and basically spent an hour chatting about games. Trust me when I say this -- the guy knows his stuff. One of the best reasons why I enjoy Toronto Thumbs is simply because Shaun and his staff write insightful, thought-provoking articles.

Another great aspect of Toronto Thumbs is the community-focused elements such as the Forum, the podcast, and the consistent commenting on the blog. There always seems to something to chat about on Toronto Thumbs, which makes the blog appealing for return visits.

All-in-all, it's a fantastic Canadian gaming website run by a bunch of great guys. If you haven't checked out Toronto Thumbs, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Stay tuned in a few weeks for our next must-read feature article.

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Ebay Canada Says Holiday 2009 Will See a "Retro Revival"

By Paul Hunter

I received a note from Ebay Canada not too long ago that I thought was interesting and made the vintage gamer in my smile broadly. According to their internal data crunching there's a retro revival going on now at Ebay.ca with classic and vintage consoles and games topping the wish list for many.

The data also uncovered some interesting facts including:

* Based on search results on eBay.com, Atari moved up 22 places in searches from June ’08 to June ’09.

* There are almost 6,000 listings in the Vintage Games category, including almost 300 items that are new and have never been used.

* When it comes to vintage consoles, Nintendo and Atari top the list of popular searches.

* There are more than 1,000 sports-themed games available for classic consoles like the NES and more than 60 games currently available for the Atari.

* There are more than 300 classic racing-themed games available for the NES and Sega Genesis.

Personally, I just recently got into buying used games on Ebay.ca and have had a good experience overall. The main recommendations I have are to always check the reputation of each seller and if you're Canadian, be sure to check the shipping and handling charges when making a purchase. I tend to buy from Canadians if there's a seller simply because you can avoid international shipping and I find the games ship quicker.

What I actually find just as interesting as retro games is all the gaming toys and other merchandise. I've been eying a lifesize Sora keyblade for months now. I really want one.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

GameON: Finance 2009 Early Bird Registration Extended to Oct. 6th

By Andrew Shin

GameON:Finance has decided to extend its early bird registration for this year's event to be held on October 27th and 28th in Toronto, Ontario. The early bird registration is available until October 6th. Start up passes are sold out.

Click here for early bird registration.
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Jade Raymond Visits With Ubisoft Toronto Employee #1

By Paul Hunter

The Ubisoft Employee #1 Facebook videos keep on rolling in. In this episode, watch Jade Raymond and Derek as they search for a location for Ubisoft Toronto:


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Help Us Frag For Cancer

By Paul Hunter

My good friend Evan Oberman is a lead organizer of Frag For Cancer, a Canadian-based charity that hosts a series of events to raise money for a real-world 'bad-guy', that being cancer. The organization came to be after a gamer lost his father to cancer and vowed to raise awareness, funds and philanthropy in his community.

This year to raise money to combat this deadly disease, the charitable organization has an auction going on right now for The Beatles: Rock Band Limited Edition (for the console of your choice) and an Autographed T-Shirt signed by designers, artists, testers and other members of Harmonix, the makers of The Beatles: Rock Band, as well as a swag pack of stickers and pins to go with it.

Here's a picture of the signed t-shirt:


Right now there is 8 bids, with the current bid at $76 US.

At NextGen Player we feel it's important to bring the Canadian and international gaming communities together to create awareness and raise money for a good cause. Please help spread the word, and consider donating to this excellent cause.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ubisoft's CEO Hints They've Selected Toronto Location

By Paul Hunter

A few weeks ago Ubisoft launched a brand new Facebook Page that will follow the story of "Employee #1" at Ubisoft Toronto. His name is Derek and he's been hired to document the opening of the company's new studio in Ontario's capital.

In the first video, Derek meets up with Yannis Mallat, CEO of Ubisoft Montreal & Ubisoft Toronto, where they exchange a few interesting words:

Derek: "Mr. Mallat, I am officially employee #1. Can you tell us, where are we going to be located in Toronto?"

Yannis: "I could, cuz I know."

Well Yannis, if you know then tell us already! Such a tease.

Here's the video:


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Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes Demo Impressions

By Paul Hunter

Over on the Future Shop Tech Blog I wrote an impressions piece on the recently released Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes demo which is available for download on Xbox Live Marketplace and on the Playstation Network.

From the article:

"What the Clone Troopers lack in force abilities they certainly make up in weapon armaments, including blaster guns, rocket launchers, thermal detonators and EMP grenades. Unlike the Jedi mission, which involves plenty of close-combat scenarios, you'll find the Clone Trooper mission often involves shooting from afar and strategically utilizing the in-game cover system. The EMP grenades are particularly effective against the droid army since they not only heavily damage them, but also disrupts their circuitry causing instant immobilization -- after which you can mock your motionless foes as you blast them to smithereens."

[Click here to read the rest of my impressions of SWTCW: RH]

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

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21 Ultimate Pictures of the Ultimate Gaming Experience

By Paul Hunter

While at the Rogers Ultimate Gaming Experience yesterday, getting my hands on a personalized LeetBeatMeat graffiti tshirt wasn't the only attraction (far from it). You see, there was lots going on during the event including gaming tournaments, martial artist performances, a cosplay contest and well, general gaming.

Needless to say, I snapped quite a few photos while perusing each attraction. Here's but a small taste of what the UGE had to offer:

For the full album, check out our Flickr page.






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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Pre-Order Bonus at EB Games Canada

By Paul Hunter

With crossover RPGs all the rage these days (think Cross Edge or Dissidia: Final Fantasy) it comes to no surprise that next Tuesday will see the release of yet one more with Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. This Disney meets Final Fantasy RPG will be releasing for the Nintendo DS.

If you're thinking of picking up the game, and knowing the popularity of the KH series that would be many of you, it might interest you to know that GameStop and EB Games Canada are offering a pre-order bonus consisting of a limited edition poster and five postcards.

As a diehard Kingdom Hearts fan this is something I'm seriously considering. Have a look at the pre-order goodies after the break:


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Is That a LeetBeatMeat T-shirt I See?


By Paul Hunter

Your eyes are not deceiving you, that is indeed the world's first authentic LeetBeatMeat gamertag t-shirt. It was created by a graffiti artist at the Rogers UGE event that took place this afternoon downtown Toronto.

I had a blast and I'll be sharing plenty of experiences, photos and an exclusive interview with the head organizer of the event.

Oh, and for those of you not in the know, here's all the background you need to get an understanding of what exactly a LeetBeatMeat is. Mmm steak.

>> Read more

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NextGen Player Review: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

By Andrew Green

Whether it is an eager child opening presents on their birthday, or the story of Pandora and her unfortunate curiosity, boxes have long-held a fascination for those who can't help but to sneak a peak. When an ominous box surfaces with the power to kill any who choose to look within it, it falls to London's finest archaeologist and his young apprentice to lift the fog of mystery. The full review of Professor Layton and Luke's latest adventure after you perform the ancient clicking ritual.

At the heart of every Professor Layton game are the puzzles. Everything else within the games is window dressing designed to move you from one challenge to the next. Thankfully, the story in this game was more interesting than the first iteration. Rather than being confined to a single sleepy village, you will instead travel upon the Molentary Express, an old fashioned luxury train that makes stops in numerous locales (each of which has numerous puzzles and mysteries to solve). These changes in location keep the game feeling fresh, and these locations are varied in atmosphere, appearance and the people who inhabit them.

I've always liked the art style of the Layton games. The backgrounds that you meticulously comb with your stylus for hint coins are often warm and detailed in such a way that you'll want to examine every inch of them. The characters you meet (and in turn, receive more puzzles from) are fun, exaggerated personalities that will probably get a chuckle or two out of you with their various quirks. The Professor remains his usual gentlemanly self, and Luke provides some mild comic relief with his youthful enthusiasm and voracious appetite.

The puzzles themselves are decent, yet I was a little disappointed to see some repetition with the puzzle types. Some were just more difficult versions of a type you had likely encountered earlier in the story, or even within the first game. Somewhat understandable given that only so many puzzle types exist to put into the game, but it did take away from the experience slightly. Thankfully, clearing the story mode is only the beginning of the game, as you will be able to unlock more difficult puzzles with Picarats, the currency you receive for solving puzzles within the story mode. Additionally, there are more puzzles available for download via the DS' wireless capabilities.

As well, there are a few mini-games to occupy your attention should the main quest become too frustrating. They're not overly complicated (assembling an old camera from various pieces or brewing different blends of tea), but when you get to the point of wanting to snap your DS in half because of a tricky task, they come as a welcome distraction. These mini-games also confer rewards within the main story, so it is in your interest to revisit them as often as possible.

Professor Layton is a series I would like to see thrive. It's a franchise that has a lot going for it, and it's a 3rd party one to boot, something the DS needs more of. Diabolical Box does a lot of things right in working towards this goal. More dialogue is voiced than the first game, the animated sequences are entertaining and the music is light and provides suitable accompaniment while you work on the latest brain-buster. I can't help but wonder if this series will run out of gas if it merely stays the course though. Eventually, the recycling of puzzle types is bound to catch up with them, and that's ultimately what keeps Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box from a stronger showing.

NextGen Player gives Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box...


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MIGS 2009: Early Registration Ends Sept. 25th

By Andrew Shin

Here's a friendly reminder for those of you who are planning to attend MIGS (Montreal International Game Summit) this year that early registration closes after September 25th - that's means only two days left.

Remember, you can save up to $210 by taking advantage of early registration.

MIGS 2009 takes place in Montreal on November 16 & 17 at the Hilton Montreal Bonaventure Hotel.

Click here to register.


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Breaking News: Nintendo Drops Price of Wii


By Paul Hunter

It's Tokyo Game Show time and the hot news is already starting to roll out. Nintendo of Canada has announced that beginning Sunday, Sept. 27 the Wii will receive a $60 price drop bringing the console down to $219.95 Canadian.

Looks like summer/fall 2009 will be known as the seasons of price drops with all three console manufacturers dropping the price of their respective machines. Happy holidays everyone.

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Dell Introduces New Alienware Gaming Systems

By Andrew Shin

Today Dell announced a line up of five new Alienware gaming systems comprising of four overclocked** liquid-cooled desktops and a new 15" laptop that they claim is the "most powerful gaming laptop in the universe". Some key highlights include:

• All-New Alienware Gaming Systems Include the M15x Laptop and Aurora and Area-51 Desktops
• Alienware M15x Features the New Intel® Mobile Core™ i7 Processor
• Alienware M17x Laptop Receives Up To 145 Percent Graphics Performance Boost with Addition of Dual 1GB ATI Radeon Mobility™ HD 48701
• Alienware Peripherals, Including the New Alienware TactX Keyboard and Mouse, Offer Gamers a Fully-Integrated PC Gaming Ecosystem

You can read Dell's full press release below.


ROUND ROCK, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--PC Gamers now have five new ways to level up with a fleet of high-performance gaming rigs from Alienware, including four overclocked** liquid-cooled desktop systems and the most powerful 15-inch gaming laptop in the universe.

Jointly developed by the Dell and Alienware teams, and featuring the latest technologies for maximum performance, aggressive designs and unmatched customization and personalization through Alienware’s exclusive Command Center software suite, these systems represent a new era in PC gaming.

The All powerful Alienware Aurora, Aurora ALX, Area-51 and Area-51 ALX desktops and the Alienware M15x laptop join the M17x, launched in June, to expand the Alienware arsenal and reaffirm Dell’s position as visionary and designer of the industry’s most coveted gaming systems.

The News:

• Alienware M15x – The most powerful 15-inch gaming laptop in the universe. Sporting Alienware’s acclaimed new mobile ID which debuted with the M17x laptop, the M15x offers Alienware performance in a compact package guaranteed to appeal to mobile enthusiasts and hardcore gamers on the go. The first Alienware laptop to feature a mobile Core i7 processor, the M15x also offers a 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M GPU* and up to 8GB DDR3 1333MHz memory* to take on, and dominate, even the most intense game titles. Prices start at $1,499 and additional technical specifications are here.

• Alienware Aurora and Aurora ALX – The Aurora is the most upgradeable and the Aurora ALX is the most powerful MicroATX desktops Alienware has ever created. Featuring the latest Intel® Core™ i7 processors, including an optional Extreme Edition overclocked** to 3.6GHz, the Aurora line of desktops are designed to deliver the power needed for hardcore gaming, pro-level HD audio and video editing, 3D animation and more. To crank up your gaming performance, Aurora and Aurora ALX have options for dual 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards, up to 24GB DDR3 1333MHz memory* or 12GB DDR3 1600MHz memory, respectively, and up to 2TB of hard drive storage – all in a compact, MicroATX chassis for taking up less desk space. Prices start at $1,299 and additional technical specs are here.

• Alienware Area-51 and Area-51 ALX designed for extreme gamers and tech enthusiasts who demand only the latest, most advanced equipment, the Area-51 line of desktops features Intel Core i7 processors factory overclocked** to an intense 3.86GHz for peak performance. To max out your graphics benchmarks, these systems offer the quad-GPU power of dual NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 295 graphics cards. Other featured specs include up to 12GB DDR3* memory clocked at 1333MHz or 1600MHz, respectively, and six easy-access, cable-free hard drive bays that support both 7,200RPM and 10,000RPM drives, solid state drives and RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10 configurations. Prices begin at $1,999.

The ALX brand denotes a distinguished class of Alienware systems that deliver both unique designs and peak performance. Both Aurora ALX and Area-51 ALX offer technology options beyond their respective standard editions, allowing for higher benchmarks, extended future-proofing and all-around increased bragging rights. Aurora ALX features design elements not available on Aurora such as the Active Venting louver system, internal theater lighting and cable-free hard drive bays. Area-51 ALX ups the ante with an anodized aluminum body and motorized front panel. All Alienware desktops also offer CPU liquid cooling right out of the box which allows the ease of overclocking that deliver extreme computing.

Also announced today, Alienware customers can now configure the M17x laptop with the intense power of the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870 in both single and ATI CrossFireX configurations for up to a 145 percent graphics performance increase1. The result is an immersive, cinematic experience when playing the latest HD games and movies.

Alienware users can build out a complete, high-performance gaming ecosystem with the recently announced Alienware TactX Mouse and Keyboard, and the Alienware OptX™ AW2210 Monitor which features a 21.5-inch full HD screen for experiencing the latest generation games and HD movies in glorious 1080p resolution.

The Aurora and Aurora ALX start at $1,299, and are available for order immediately at www.alienware.com.

The Area-51 and Area-51 ALX start at $1,999, and will be available to order in the coming weeks.

The Alienware M15x starts at $1,499 and is available for order immediately at www.alienware.com.

The branded peripherals can be ordered immediately at: www.alienware.com.

Alienware is one of two brand pillars within Dell’s broader consumer portfolio. Dell’s Alienware gaming brand delivers high-performance computing for enthusiasts and tech lovers alike, and complements the Adamo by Dell brand, which offers unmatched style, design and craftsmanship. Alienware and Adamo are the standard-bearers of Dell’s personalization efforts, which extend to the entire consumer portfolio, including Inspiron and Studio and Dell Design Studio, which reinvents the way people can customize their laptops as extensions of self-expression.

Quotes:

“These newest additions to the Alienware lineup represent the culmination of months of hard work, bringing together two world-class teams to create a family of world-class products targeting PC gamers,” said Arthur Lewis, general manager of Dell’s Gaming Group. “Our current offering of desktops, notebooks and peripheral products signals our commitment to providing the best PC gaming experience possible and to being the global industry leader for PC gaming products.”

“Alienware systems are, and always have been, our benchmark for PC gaming performance,” said Michael Tatelman, vice president of sales and marketing for Dell’s consumer business. “Through the Alienware brand, Dell is committed to offering gamers the richest possible PC gaming experience with the latest technology and coolest designs.”

“The new Intel® Core™ i7 mobile processor redefines expectations for performance, flexibility and extreme gaming on mobile platforms,” said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel. “We are pleased that Alienware has designed the Intel® Core™ i7 920Xm processor into their latest mobile gaming laptop.”

“As the first-ever DirectX® 11-capable graphics card, the ATI Radeon™ HD 5870 is the pinnacle of PC graphics performance,” said Matt Skynner, Vice President & General Manager, GPU Division, AMD. “By pairing the awesome power of this card with Alienware’s reputation for industry-leading technology, gamers can expect an unmatched gaming experience.”

Associated links:

Allpowerful.com
Alienware.com
Dell.com/Alienware
Alienware’s Facebook page
Follow Alienware on Twitter
Alienware’s MySpace page
Alienware’s Flickr Page

* Memory: Significant system memory may be used to support graphics, depending on system memory size and other factors.

** Overclocked: Dell does not recommend operating the processor or other system component beyond factory settings. This may cause system instability and reduce the operating life of your system components.

1 Based on Futuremark 3DMark Vantage Extreme benchmark tests performed by Dell using NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M graphics card as baseline.



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Halo 3: ODST - Video Interview with Microsoft's Jeff Rivait

You saw the Halo 3: ODST media preview pictures, now, here's the video interview with Microsoft's Product Manager, Jeff Rivait, hosted by the one and only Alice Stancu:



If you're interested in reading the Halo 3: ODST articles I wrote on the Future Shop Tech Blog, check them out here and here.
>> Read more

Playstation Canada Giving Away 5 Batman: AA CE's

By Paul Hunter

Holy contest Batman! On the Playstation Canada website they have a brand new promotion where they are giving away five copies of Batman: Arkham Asylum Collector's Editions. It's simply enough to enter, just enter your name, location, email address and birthday. Voila, you're in. The draw will take place on October 7, 2009.

In case you can't decipher from the image above what's included in the CE version, here's the rundown:

- Batman: Arkham Asylum game
- Waynetech Batarang Storage Box
- 14" In-Game Bataran (stand attached)
- Dr. Young's Journal
- Behind the scendes 5 chapter series DVD
- Exclusive Collectors Edition Challenge Map DLC
- PS3 exclusive Joker Challenge Map DLC

For those of you who already have the game, they're also giving away 10 Batman: Arkham Asylum PS3 poster sets. I'm not normally too keen on posters but these are surprisingly cool looking. There are six poster images on the Playstation Canada website and five posters appear to feature one of Gotham's criminals. I can see Killer Croc, The Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Bane. The sixth and final poster seems to be an ad for the exclusive Joker Challenge Maps.

Damnit Batman, those posters look good.

>> Read more

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Witness The Halo 3: ODST Toronto Training In Action

For those of you who live outside of Toronto or who couldn't make it out to the Halo 3: ODST Toronto Training, here's a video of what went down on Monday.

[Thanks to Jeff for sharing the video]



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NextGen Player Interviews 3Pod

By Andrew Shin

The video game industry in Canada has been growing tremendously over the past few years. With hotbeds such as Montreal and Vancouver leading the way and with Toronto as the next emerging Canadian gaming city, it's no wonder Canada continues its strong presence in gaming. With this growth means opportunities in the form of jobs.

Understanding this growth, Canadian based 3Pod was formed to address the needs by both gaming companies and those looking to work in the industry. 3Pod was founded by Frederick Brassard and along with Pierre-Luc Labbée, the two provide a unique offering as a recruitment agency specializing in the gaming industry.


I had the opportunity recently to interview Pierre-Luc Labbée, Partner Recruiter at 3Pod. Check out the interview below.

NextGen Player: Pierre-Luc, can you provide our readers with a bit of background on 3pod?

Pierre-Luc Labbée: Well, 3pod has been around for the last 3 years. 3pod has 2 major recruiters in the industry. Frederick Brassard, who worked at Ubisoft for 10 years, and myself, Pierre-Luc Labbée, who worked at A2M for more than 2 years. Frederick Brassard founded 3pod because many people in the industry were constantly complaining about recruiters who had no idea of what was done on a production floor. Before, there wasn’t any recruitment firm that consisted of people who really knew how to make games, people who actually evolved in the industry. That is why 3pod was founded. Frederick and I really know what these guys do. Frederick has an undoubtedly strong networking and business development experience and I have experience in international recruitment, relocation, and visa management.


NGP: What are some of key services provided by 3pod?

PL: Our main services are recruitment and consulting. We help companies in their recruitment for key and senior positions that they have a hard time filling. We first meet with them to precisely determine what they are looking for. We take into consideration not only the technical aspects of the position but also the core values of the companies to make sure we find candidates that really "fit" their values. After that, we search around the globe, through our network, to find exactly what they are looking for. We also advise companies that are planning to move to Montreal, so they can manage more effectively the different aspects of setting up a studio in Montreal.

As for our work with the candidates, it consists of many services that start with helping them build a strong and appealing resume. We also introduce them directly to the clients, usually to a director, therefore avoiding them the mayhem of anonymous web application. By taking advantage of that shortcut, candidates not only save time but also avoid the risk of being lost in the handling process. We also advise them on how much they should be asking for and we give them a real feedback on their interviews. Basically, we make sure they are presented to our clients at their best and maximize their chances of getting their dream job.



NGP: How does 3pod source opportunities within the industry?

PL: We are connected. Seriously connected. Always connected. This is one of our major strengths. We talk to everyone in the industry and that way we always know what’s going to happen, who needs what, who’s planning to make a move, etc. For both sides, potential companies and candidates, our goal is to be everywhere! We try not to miss an event and we make sure that everyone knows we are there, always looking to make great matches within the industry.


NGP: Being a Canadian recruitment company, what do you feel are some of the strengths and advantages 3pod has?

PL: 3pod is based in Montreal, where many companies are established, and that allows us to work closely with many important clients. Also because we live in Montreal, it’s easier for us to describe to our candidates what it is like to live in this diversified, multi-cultural and dynamic city. We have more credibility when we say that Montreal has all the advantages of the big cities with a very low cost of living. We are definitely in the middle of the action. Being Canadian, we are greatly advantaged by the exceptional proximity we develop with the important players of the industry and by our inside knowledge of the Canadian reality. Whether it is for immigration procedures, lodging and living or just for suggesting a good place to go for a drink, we have firsthand experience.


NGP: The Canadian gaming industry is growing at a fast pace. Can you share your thoughts on its current state and what you see for the future in terms of careers and opportunities?

PL: In my opinion, it can only get bigger! Government is putting a lot of efforts and money to attract new companies, and also to help existing ones grow. The opportunities are already huge, and many schools now offer great training, which is very good for the future of the industry.


NGP: Based on your experience working with game companies, what do you feel are some of the key characteristics or abilities a candidate should have in order to be successful in this industry?

PL: The first quality a candidate should have is talent, of course. But many people don’t really know how to present their talent in a resume, or in a portfolio. The first step in getting a dream job is to create a portfolio that really represents them. I often meet some very talented people that are not called for interviews simply because their resume or portfolio is not representative of their talent.

Once a person is hired, I’d say that the quality all game makers have in common is passion. Every person on a project is passionate about his or her work, and it really shows. So, a good candidate that has talent and passion is definitely going to make his or her way in. I have no doubt about that.


NGP: We’re seeing an increasing trend of investment in Canada’s game industry at both Federal and Provincial levels. What are your thoughts on the government’s role in contributing to the game industry’s growth?

PL: It has a huge effect on the industry in Canada. When a company is "shopping" for a new office location, the government is always there to offer great investments and support. If you add that to the skilled local labour, you get a powerful mix that obviously works.. These investments are sometimes what make the companies decide between Canada and the United-States or Asia.


NGP: Is there any upcoming news or developments with 3pod that you’d like to share?

PL: 3pod is expanding its expertise very fast. 3pod’s consulting services are used more than ever by potential video game developers who are considering Montreal as their next location. Over the last years, 3pod’s team has taken its expertise to a global level by advising companies as well as guiding candidates in their job research around the world. 3pod now has a great list of clients and has a diversified choice of candidates that are very talented. I’d say that 3pod was focusing on Montreal in the past, but now has an international vision that is growing very fast. We are now working with companies and candidates around the globe, which is very exciting.

NextGen Player would like to thank Pierre-Luc Labbée for taking the time to do this interview. For more information on 3Pod, visit their website at www.3pod.ca.


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Monday, September 21, 2009

NextGen Player Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

By Andrew Shin

I’ve been a big fan of the Dark Knight for as long as I can remember. In fact, ever since I began collecting comics as a young child, Batman was always one of my favourites. So naturally, I absolutely had to experience Batman: Arkham Asylum as I’ve been waiting a very long time for the prospect of a really good video game based on Batman. The last Batman game I played and enjoyed so much was The Adventures of Batman and Robin for the SNES. I remember being so hooked on the game that I played it over and over again. It had it all with great gameplay, engaging fight mechanics, fun level design and memorable boss battles.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a game that easily offers up all of these features and more. And by more, I’m not kidding. Let’s start with the game’s voice acting. It is absolutely superb. Veteran voices in the form of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker are not only spot on, but more so a necessity. For those unaware, both Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill famously voiced Batman and The Joker respectively in Batman: The Animated Series that ran in the early to mid 90s. Not having either to provide their voice talents would have been complete bats-phemy. The supporting voice cast is also fantastic and nicely compliments the entire package – Wally Wingert as The Riddler and Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn are fine examples of this. Another great quality of this game is the story. In keeping with the connection to Batman: The Animated Series, Paul Dini who penned many episodes as well as other Batman animated shows and movies wrote the back story for Arkham Asylum. And it shows...it is classic Paul Dini with a gritty edge and sharp delivery that can only do justice to the Dark Knight. Add to it just the right amount of Joker-esque satirical humour and you’ve got yourself one entertaining game.

Gameplay is equally good. The game's FreeFlow Combat System offers up a very satisfying execution when ‘throwing down’ with enemies. The concept is simple; however the actual mechanics requires co-ordinated timing and the right directional movement. What this means is if you button mash, you’ll likely take a good amount of damage. Most of the fighting within the game is against multiple opponents of usually 3 – 5 and a good handful of them against 10 or more. In these situations, it is necessary to anticipate the need for counters and to be able to rack up enough multiple hit combos in order to then pull off a variety of special moves. Once you’ve managed to get the FreeFlow system down, fighting is pure bliss. Even the added touch of a slow-mo animated sequence when taking out a final opponent is sweet, sweet eye candy. To compliment Batman’s skillful and effective hand-to-hand combat, there are a number of gadgets at your disposal. Items such as the grappling gun, Batarang and explosive gun all come in quite handy. But the most useful is the detective mode. When in detective mode you can assess your entire environment in an x-ray like scan. This allows you to see and anticipate enemies and discover hidden items that would likely be covered or missed. While this is a great feature, it can at times be too depended on to make the game that much easier to play through. I found myself having to forcefully turn off this feature consistently so as not to lessen the difficulty of the game.

Another notable area regarding gameplay are the boss battles. As Batman, you will go head-to-head with some of his greatest foes – and there are a good amount of them in the game. Without having to give away too much, I will say that the ones against Killer Croc and Poison Ivy are likely the game’s best and offer up a good test of Batman’s skills. In addition to foes that you physically engage with, you also face off against The Riddler throughout the entire game. There are a total of 240 riddles that can be uncovered in the game and as you find more of them, The Riddler will communicate with you through a private radio frequency to taunt you along the way. Solving all 240 hidden riddles will allow you to take care of The Riddler in a certain fashion. What that is, I won't say...you'll have to find out for yourself.

I mentioned the term eye candy previously and rightfully so. This game possesses a level of visual quality and artistry reminiscent of the Gears of War series. Not at all surprising given that the game was developed using the Unreal Engine 3. All of the game’s characters and environments are stunning and such a feast for the eyes. Batman is wonderfully created in the demeanour of the worn and battled vigilante that he is while The Joker is very detailed with a look that is both sadistic and calculated. Lighting and shadowing are so well done and easily set the right tone and atmosphere to enhance the overall mood. It is unmistakably Batman in his best element – dark and imposing.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is such a great game and offers so much in one package that I felt I needed more at least in the story mode portion of the game. I really could have used a few more hours to truly satisfy my Batman video game appetite. Sure, there are the challenge maps that offer up some great extended and competitive gameplay (especially being able to play as The Joker if you have the PS3 version of the game), but depending on how interested you are in leaderboard rankings, that could get old quickly. But all that said, this is a wonderful game. Perhaps the greatest Batman game yet and one that has likely set the bar for all future Batman games to come.

Pros:
- Superb story and graphics
- Superb voice acting...Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill...enough said
- FreeFlow Combat System is a joy to execute
- Great array of gadgets to use
- Memorable boss battles

Cons:
- Detective mode can potentially make the game a little too easy
- Single player story mode could use a few more hours in gameplay

NextGen Player gives Batman: Arkham Asylum a...




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Join Me At The Ultimate Gaming Experience

By Paul Hunter

If you were at the Fan Expo 2009 this past August you probably noticed a strong Rogers Communications presence with their huge gaming arena showing off their new 50 Mbps Ultimate Internet. This was the same booth featuring Halo 3 competitions against the world's youngest pro-gamer, Lil Poison.

During the event a Rogers rep tipped me off that the company will be hosting a huge gaming tournament at a secret location some time in September. As it turns out, the tournament is called the Ultimate Gaming Experience (UGE) and will be taking place on September 26, 2009 from 12pm - 5pm at The Courthouse in Toronto.

The competition is open to residents of Ontario who are 13 years or older and registration is open until 6pm EST on September 25. The company organizing the event is Playgrounds, which is the same group that hosted the Street Fighter IV Tournament on the 103" plasma screen at the Fan Expo.

When registering for the UGE, you are to select your preferred gaming platform (Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo) and your genre of choice (Fighter, Shooter and Sports). On the day of tournament, entrants will compete against each other for high scores/best performances in each gaming category.

It's a single elimination style tournament with the finalist given the title of Toronto’s #1 Gamer. The winner will also receive an Ultimate Gaming Prize Pack valued at $4,000 and consisting of a 50’ Plasma TV, three consoles (Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii), along with five video games.

I signed up and will be out to compete on September 26. My expectations are low because I picked Shooter on the Playstation family which probably means one of Killzone 2, Resistance 2 or Call of Duty, all of which I'm pretty average at. I'm doomed.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Early Bird for GameON: Finance 2009 Ends Soon

By Paul Hunter

Interactive Ontario's upcoming investment forum, GameON: Finance 2009, is mere days away from wrapping-up their early bird ticket sales. The discounted tickets are available until September 24.

There are significant savings -- to the tune of $100 -- if you act soon. This event is targeted specifically at the interactive games industry and connects game developers, investors and industry leaders. The two-day investment forum will feature case-studies and panel sessions on the unique prospects for growth within the dynamic video game industry.

Members of the Canadian Interactive Alliance / L'alliance interactive canadienne (CIAIC) receive the additional benefit of an extra $100 off ticket prices.

There are also a limited number of Start Up passes available to assist small games companies in gaining access to the event. These tickets are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis, and if your company meets certain criteria, so get cracking if you think your company might qualify.

For more information on tickets to GameON: Finance 2009, visit the passes & pricing page.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Halo 3: ODST Toronto Training Looking For Recruits

By Paul Hunter

Think you've got what it takes to prove you can make it as an ODST? On this Monday in the distillery district, downtown Toronto, the Xbox Canada team will be hosting a training session for recruits that want to get their hands on Halo 3: ODST early. The game doesn't officially drop until Tuesday, September 22.

In true military style, at the event participants will be required to sign-up at "the Barracks" before gaining admission. The Firefight co-operative multiplayer mode will be playable on the training grounds.

Here are the pertinent deets for all who want to attend:

Date: Monday, September 21, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Location: The Fermenting Cellar, The Distillery
Street: 55 Mill Street, Building #58 suite 200
City/Town: Toronto, ON

Xbox Canada have set-up a Facebook event page for those who are into RSVP'ing.

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Almost a Dozen Pictures from the Halo 3: ODST Media Preview Event

By Paul Hunter

On Thursday Alice and I had a chance to visit the Microsoft HQ for some hands-on time with Halo 3: ODST. I took a bunch of photographs and wrote about the experience over on the Future Shop Tech Blog.

From the article:

"Inside the gaming room there was three major stations -- a single-player campaign area, a co-op campaign area, and a Firefight co-op area. Since we only had limited time at the event we decided to check out the brand new co-op mode Firefight to see what it had to offer. To basic set-up is this: up to 4 players can test their might against endless wave-after-wave of Covenent rounds with survival as the goal. The catch is, you only have a limited amount of lives as a team and every time one of your members perish, your pooled life count takes a hit."

[Click here to read the rest of my impressions from the Halo 3: ODST Media Preview]

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

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Xbox 360 Modern Warfare 2 LE Console Will Hit Canada

By Paul Hunter

You didn't have any doubts, did you? The Xbox 360 limited edition Modern Warfare 2 console will be invading Canada on November 10. The consoles will have an estimated retail price of $429.99 Canadian.

Not only will you get the hotly anticipated follow-up to 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, you'll also get a 250GB Hard Drive, two Xbox 360 Wireless Controllers, as well as an Xbox 360 Headset. Oh and a "high-speed, low-drag, battle-ready design". That's hyperbole for the console looks kick-ass.

The limited edition console will available for pre-order by the end of this week.

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Midnight Openings For Halo 3: ODST at GameStop and EB Games Canada

By Paul Hunter

Proving that Halo 3: ODST is looking to be as big as a console launch, GameStop and EB Games Canada have announced via their weekly flyer that there will be Halo 3: ODST midnight openings in Canada. The participating stores will join the 3,600 in the US that will also be hosting launch parties.

According to the ad, at the event gamers can enjoy "a number of great offers at the GameStop launch pad" whatever that means.

While there is no list of stores that will be open in Canada, the fine print reads:

"Some GameStop and EB Games Canada locations will be opening at midnight while other locations will be opening early. Please see a sales associate at the store nearest you for exact times."

Looks like you'll have to do some legwork if you want to find a participating store. You know, why is it that whenever GameStop announces US midnight openings they always provide a handy PDF file containing the participating stores, but here in Canada it's always check the store nearest you?

Seems to me that their US counter-parts are a little more organized.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

49 Stick-tastic™ Photos of the Future Shop NHL 10 Launch

By Paul Hunter

That's right, I just made up a word. Stick-tastic™. See that tiny, superscripted "tm" that means I lay claim to the word. But I'm a philanthropist at heart and I hereby release stick-tastic into the public domain under creative commons attribution.

If you're interested in checking out the 49 stick-tastic photos I took at the Future Shop NHL 10 midnight madness party check out our Flickr album.

To read my thoughts on the event, I encourage you to visit the write-up I posted yesterday on the Future Shop Tech Blog.

Here's a sneak-peak of what you'll find inside:




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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Scribblenauts Rooster Hat To End All Rooster Hats

By Paul Hunter

Well there you have it -- the ultimate Scribblenauts Rooster Hat submission.

In an act of true generosity, Sony's Senior PR Specialist, Kyle Moffatt, gave me permission to post his rooster picture as linked on his Twitter account.

To be perfectly honest, no one is going to top this picture so I'm officially ending our little Scribblenauts hat game. Congratulations to Kyle for participating in our light-hearted game -- you are our undisputed winner.

Running our 15 minutes of quasi video game fame game has been so fun I think we should have another later in the year. If anyone out there has a cool game idea send me a note at paulATnextgenplayerDOTcom.

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Eidos Montréal Hints At New Title

By Paul Hunter

Ah Twitter, you have to love how developers are using this new medium to tease us with new games and announcements.

In the latest use of microblogging corporate hinting, Stéphen D'Astous, General Manager at Eidos Montreal, has implied on his twitter account that the developer is working on a third, unannounced title.

The two known games the studio is working on are Deus Ex 3 and Thief 4.

Considering how large the studio is it's quite possible they have the resources to take on a third title. With the acquisition of Eidos by Square-Enix back on April 22, 2009, the possible franchises at their disposal is quite vast. Or could it be a new IP? Hmm.

Source - PS3center.net

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A Third Scribblenauts Rooster Hat Emerges

By Paul Hunter

Everyone, meet Laura. Laura, meet the world.

Just when we thought we received the last of our Scribblenauts Rooster Hats out of the limelight comes one more.

Laura, lest you have any doubts, this photograph proves definitively that you are made of epic win. For this, the entire team at NextGen Player salutes you.

It's become abundantly clear to all of us here that these rooster hats are filled with contagious smile. Just look at how happy they make their wearers.

5th Cell may well have given out the best pre-order bonus of all time.

Anyone else looking for 15 minutes of quasi video game fame? Send your rooster hat photo to us at comments@nextgenplayer.com. We'll post the best ones here on NextGen Player!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

May I Present To You, The Second Rooster Hat of Epic Win

By Paul Hunter

I now officially declare that tonight is the night of epic win. By popular demand, I'd like to take this opportunity to official announce our second winner of 15 minutes of quasi video game fame courtesy of the undeniably en vogue Scribblenauts Rooster Hat.

Thank you Jules, you have earned the rank of "Legendary" which, while not having any real-world value, is something you can brag about for the rest of your life. Especially to n00bs.

From the entire team here at NextGen Player let be known that we dub thee a child of the epic win.

If anyone else wants to wear their Scribblenauts hat for 15 minutes of quasi video game fame, send your photo to us at comments@nextgenplayer.com.

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Yes, We're On Twitter

By Paul Hunter

Lately I've found myself getting more and more addicted to Twitter -- I'm on there nearly every day now. If you want to keep up-to-date on what we're up to here at NextGen Player feel free to add us on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/nextgenplayer

I always enjoy meeting new gamers so drop me a line on Twitter if you have something cool, or completely random to say.

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

By Andrew Shin

It's that time of the month again. That's right, Nintendo of Canada has sent out their list of top Nintendo Wii and DS games for the month. Looking at this month's list, it appears as though overall rankings are still the same compared to last month.

No surprise here. Here is your list Canada:

Wii

Punch-Out!!
Wii Sports Resort
Mario Kart Wii
Wii Fit
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Excitebots: Trick Racing
New Play Control! Pikmin
New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis
New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Animal Crossing: City Folk
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Wii Music

NINTENDO DS

The Legendary Starfy
Personal Trainer: Cooking
Personal Trainer: Math
Personal Trainer: Walking
Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
Kirby Super Star Ultra
Pokémon Platinum Version
Rhythm Heaven
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Mario Party DS
Flash Focus: Vision Training in minutes a Day!


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The First Scribblenauts Rooster Hat Crows, So Awesome

By Paul Hunter

Last week I said that if any of our readers snapped a photo of themselves wearing one of those very stylish Scribblenauts Rooster Hats that I'd post it on NextGen Player and give the person instant fame.

Well, congratulations to our first reader whose submission was voted a unanimous insta-post by our staff. Known only as "M", you can just see the liveliness and pacification this hat bestows upon its wearer.

"M", you are a true Scribblenauts hero in our eyes. A role-model for the rest of us.

If there is anyone else out there bold enough to don their Scribblenauts hat and want 15 minutes of quasi video game fame, snap a photograph and send it to us at comments@nextgenplayer.com.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

MIGS 2009: Full List of Speakers Announced

By Andrew Shin

Earlier this month MIGS announced their full line up of speakers for the 6th edition of the event. MIGS 2009 takes place on November 16th and 17th at the Hilton Bonaventure Hotel in Montreal. This year's event boasts over 80 North American and European speakers participating in conferences and roundtable talks. A full list of speakers can be seen here.

For a quick glance, here is a sample of speakers lined up for MIGS 2009.

Business Track:

- Jeff Goodsill, Vice President and General Manager, Tencent Boston, Planning for Success in the Chinese Game Market;
- Warren Currell, CEO, Sherpa Games Inc., Pitching your Game Title or Development Services: Best practices;

Artistic Track:

- Jakub Dvorsky, Game developer, Amanita Design, Machinarium - hand-made robots
- Randy van der Vlag, Lead 2D artist, Big Blue Bubble, Big Worlds on Small Screens;

Design Track:

- Ken Rolston, Lead Designer, Big Huge Games, A Narrative Designer's Toolkit;
- Scott Rogers, Creative Designer, THQ, Everything I Learned about Level Design, I Learned From Disneyland;

Production Track:

- Dorian Kieken, Development Manager, BioWare, What is a Living Plan and How Can We Achieve It;
- Paul Winterhalder, Senior Manager, Playbrains, Building Your First Console Downloadable - What You Need to Know;

Techno Track:

- Jacques Deveau, Program Manager, Audiokinetic, Dynamic Audio Mixing for Games - Strategies for Interactive Sound Mixing;
- Liko-Paul Pinsonnault, Software developer, Artificial Mind and Movement, The Art of Dying | Where Animation Meets Physics


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Are You Canada's Biggest Halo Fan?

By Paul Hunter

Listen up all you Halo fanatics, Xbox Canada has a Facebook contest happening right now that's just for you. To enter all you need to do is become a fan of Xbox Canada on Facebook and post proof of your fandom on the wall. The grand prize includes a trip for two to Toronto, the ultimate Halo prize pack and VIP access to the biggest Halo event ever held in Canada. There's only one day left in the contest so if you're interested -- get posting!

On September 15th Xbox Canada will choose the best entry and send that person on a trip for two to Toronto with one-night accommodations, an exclusive Halo 3: ODST prize pack and full VIP treatment with front-of-the-line access to an exclusive session of Halo 3: ODST Training.

In addition to the grand prize, Xbox Canada will also be giving out five Halo 3: ODST prize packs during the contest.
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