Feb 25, 2010

Nintendo In 2010 Does Exist

By Andrew Shin

So far gaming in 2010 has been a plethora of excitement for the Xbox 360 and PS3. With hot new releases and exclusives gracing both consoles early this year, it seemed as though the Wii was quietly sitting back and watching from the sidelines. Well not anymore. Yesterday, Nintendo of America announced some significant releases for the first half of 2010. The announcement covers both new hardware and software releases.

Here's a rundown of the list:


The new Nintendo DSi XL hand-held system launches March 28 at a suggested retail price of $199.95. The screens of the Nintendo DSi XL are 93 per cent larger than those of the Nintendo DS Lite and also feature a wider viewing angle. The Nintendo DSi XL comes loaded with pre-installed games Brain Age Express: Arts & Letters, Brain Age Express: Math and Photo Clock, as well as two free applications: the Nintendo DSi Browser and Flipnote Studio.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 launches May 23rd for the Wii.

Metroid: Other M is the new Metroid game developed for Wii by Nintendo and Team Ninja. The game launches June 27.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies arrives in summer 2010.

Monster Hunter Tri from Capcom launches April 20th.

Sin and Punishment: Star Successor a new shooter game for Wii from developer Treasure will launch on June 7.

FlingSmash for the Wii and playable only with the Wii MotionPlus accessory, will launch this summer.

Picross 3D for the Nintendo DS handhelds releases May 3.

100 Classic Books for the Nintendo DS handhelds launches on June 14 with 100 literary works from authors such as William Shakespeare, Jules Verne, Jane Austen, Mark Twain and more.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands from Ubisoft will launch May 18 on both the Wii and Nintendo DS platforms.

Disney Guilty Party is a fun and hilarious mystery party game set for release in the second half of 2010 exclusively for Wii.

Ghostwire: Link for the Nintendo DSi uses augmented reality technology through the Nintendo DSi Camera. Launching this October, the game lets players become a ghost hunter as they interact with the paranormal.


Nintendo also announced a variety of games for download directly to the Wii console via the WiiWare service and for the Nintendo DS via the DSi Shop and DSiWare services.

For WiiWare:

Mega Man 10 launches March 1 with a completely new adventure rendered in classic 8-bit style.

Max & the Magic Marker launches March 8 from Press Play and turns the Wii Remote into an orange magic marker that’s literally magic. Players draw lines and objects to help Max reach objects and his ultimate goal.

Cave Story comes to WiiWare with new game play, artwork and music enhancements on March 22.

WarioWare: D.I.Y. Showcase is a standalone product exclusive to the WiiWare service and available only from the Wii Shop Channel. The game launches March 29.

Art Style: light trax puts players in charge of a white beam of light as it engages in a surreal race against other beams across a dark track. The game launches this spring.

Art Style: Rotozoa will have you absorbing tiny organisms that match the colours of your tentacles. Art Style: Rotozoa launches this spring.

Rage of the Gladiator from Ghostfire Games is an intense fighting game set for launch this spring. The game is compatible with the Wii MotionPlus accessory.

And Yet It Moves from Broken Rules requires players to rotate the world to help their line-drawn protagonist progress. Launch is this spring.

Super Meat Boy from Team Meat and the Independent Games Festival Seumas McNally Grand Prize Finalist is scheduled for release this summer.


For Nintendo DSiWare:

Photo Dojo launches this spring. The game asks players to pose for 13 pictures and input 10 sound effects. Then the player becomes the main character in a side-scrolling fighting game. This game is for the Nintendo DSi or Nintendo DSi XL system.

Metal Torrent launches this spring and delivers a frantic barrage of gunfire on the screen. The goal is to try to convert opponents’ bullets into cubes that, when collected, increase their score and fill an energy meter that powers special weapons.

X-Scape from Nintendo and also launching this spring and immerses players in an exploratory adventure involving more than 20 planets. Players will pilot their tank through 3-D tunnels and battle ancient weapons that resemble giant robots.

Feb 23, 2010

Steve Tilley, Ben Silverman Join Reviews on the Run Daily, Launch Date Announced

By Paul Hunter

So, heard that Reviews on the Run is going daily have you? Well, over on the Electric Playground forum, Executive Producer and Co-host of the show Victor Lucas has announced more details of the show's evolution.

According to this discussion thread, some industry veterans have been cast on the new daily show, including returning hosts Steve Tilley from the Toronto Sun and Ben Silverman from Yahoo! Games.

Newcomers have also been brought on the show such as Raju Mudhar from The Toronto Star and Jeff Cannata from The Totally Rad Show. Special guests hosts such as industry expert Tom Russo, and other familiar faces are also expected to periodically appear on the show.

The current hosts of Reviews of the Run, Victor Lucas and Scott Jones, will continue their lead role, hosting the show from their brand new studio in Vancouver, B.C.

The new daily version of Reviews on the Run will begin starting March 1, 2010 and will be airing on CityTV. Online versions will also be available on g4tv.ca and the show's website, reviewsontherun.com.

[pic]

Here Comes The Rain

By Andrew Shin

Today is the official release date of the much anticipated PS3 exclusive Heavy Rain. Quantic Dream has put a lot of time and effort into developing a game that would break through every conventional recipe for a video game. Moral choices you make decide how you play out the game's story and how it ultimately ends. With over 20 possible endings (according to Quantic Dream), the paths you can take are abundantly varied.

If you have picked up the game already, then I'm sure you're probably enjoying it. If you're on the fence about it, my recommendation would be to at lease download the demo available on PSN and take it for a spin. I gave my own impressions of the demo which can be read on the Future Shop tech blog.

Are you ready for the rain?

Feb 22, 2010

Let Wonder Vag Teach You the Ins and Outs of Sexual Health

By Paul Hunter

One of the more interesting pieces of news I read last week came from the Montreal Gazette which published an article about a new sexual health video game from the Middlesex London Health Unit.

This made-in-Canada Flash game called "Adventures in Sex City" stars a group of superheroes known as the Sex Squad and consists of four members: Wonder Vag, a virgin who believes in true love and promotes abstinence until marriage; Willy the Kid, who's out to prove that size doesn't matter; Power Pap, a sexually active woman who, after a close encounter with an STI, now dedicates her life to regular testing and pap tests; and finally Captain Condom, a scientist that had a freak accident in the lab and is now half man, half condom.

In the game you face off against a super villain name the Sperminator, a jacked wrestler wearing a lucha libre mask and has penises for arms. Each round you're asked a sexual health question, after which the Sperminator will shoot his wad at you. By correctly answering the question, your superhero will erect a shield and deflect that nasty sperm back on his face. Answer a question wrong and you'll get spooged real quick.

While I can't see myself playing this game long-sperm, err term, it was a fun little romp to pass some time this evening.

Game: Adventures in Sex City

Source: The Montreal Gazette

Pure Pwnage Production Blog Episode 6 is Full of Balls and LOLZ



By Paul Hunter

N00b pwner Jeremy returns in the sixth installment of the Pure Pwnage production short. In this episode Jeremy gives his insider tips on how to set-up the ultimate gaming area to maximize your performance. While his recommendations might help, I still like to think our gaming set-up tips are just a wee bit better. I'll let you be the judge on that one.

Enjoy.

NGP Invading Toronto's Mario Kart Wii Tournament

By Paul Hunter

NextGen Player is gearing up for a night of racing, Mario Kart Wii style, this Thursday, February 25th, 2010 at 7:00pm. Best of all -- you're welcome to join us!

The fine folks at Offshoot, a Toronto-based interactive marketing firm, will be hosting their second gaming tournament at The Bait Shop, a unique and multi-faceted gallery space that serves as a recreational hub for skate and extreme sports culture. I checked out their December tournament and had a blast; if you're interested, some photos can be found in my impressions post on the Future Shop Tech Blog.

The Bait Shop is located at 358 Dufferin St. Suite 117 in Toronto west's Liberty Village district.

To RSVP for the tournament, or to attend without competing, go to:

http://www.relivethewizard.com

Once there, simply fill out the information to enter the tournament for a chance to win some serious prizes. Oh, and of course, the chance to be crowned the prestigious title of Mario Kart King/Queen.

For those looking to be spectators, there will be a room full of entertainment including a live DJ spinning tunes, food and drinks, and a great vantage point to watch the gamers triumph and fall during the competition. Feel free to cheer, hiss or boo at your leisure!

A Facebook event page has been created so click through if you want to announce your attendance or chat with some of the attendees.

For more information, please contact the event organizer, Zoe Hamilton, at zoe@offshootinc.com.

Just a warning -- space is limited and if you're not on the guest list you won't get in. Hope to see you there, vrrooom vrroom!

Feb 20, 2010

Here Are Your Most Wanted Wii and DS Games for February '10, Canada

By Paul Hunter

I received Nintendo of Canada's monthly eNewsletter yesterday, and that means it must be time for another round of Canada's Most
Wanted
. New this month we see Pokémon Platinum Version, the soon-to-be-released director's cut of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, debut on the DS chart at #7. Aside from that, there are no major shake-ups to speak up.

It is worth noting that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess still hangs on to it's 11th place spot on the Wii most wanted list; pretty impressive for a three year old game. Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl retain their high positions in the chart, speaking volumes to the evergreen nature of Nintendo's line-up of games.

On the DS side, I'm surprised to see two of the company's latest RPGs, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, place so low on the charts. You would think, or at least hope, these excellent titles would be in higher demand then, well, Personal Trainer: Cooking. Just goes to show you can never underestimate the power of unlocking your inner chef.

Here are the full lists:

Wii

1. Punch-Out!!
2. Wii Sports Resort
3. Mario Kart Wii
4. New Super Mario Bros. Wii
5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
6. Excitebots: Trick Racing
7. New Play Control! Mario Power Tennis
8. Metroid Prime Trilogy
9. Wii Fit Plus
10. Animal Crossing: City Folk
11. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
12. Wii Music

Nintendo DS

1. The Legendary Starfy
2. Personal Trainer: Cooking
3. Personal Trainer: Math
4. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky
5. Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
6. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
7. Pokémon Platinum Version
8. Rhythm Heaven
9. Fossil Fighters
10. Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day
11. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
12. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
13. Style Savvy

Feb 17, 2010

Dear Gabby: Boletarian Wanderer Needs Chicken Soup for the Demon's Souls

By Paul Hunter

DEAR GABBY: With Valentine's Day come and gone I've had an awful lot on my mind. Take for example last Thursday when I heard that the world tendency in Demon's Souls was turning Pure White for five full days, giving me 120 potential hours to uncover all the secret events only available during this special alignment. I was faced with an important decision: do I risk taking my fiancee out for dinner and lose precious Demon's Souls Pure White time, or do I feign scurvy and tell her I'm too weak for love. Since we both rarely eat grapefruit, and regularly play Age of Booty co-operatively, I figured not only would would faking the illness be believable, but entirely probable.

The next thing I know it's 6pm on Vday and not only am I still at home and playing Demon's Souls, but my fiancee was kind enough to make me a kiwi smoothie using my favourite Yoshi travel cup. It was really quite sweet and it reminded me why I proposed to her over Xbox Live.

But now it's Tuesday, the world tendency has turned to Pure Black and I've been stuck in soul form for hours. The enemies are so tough to beat and all I want is a Blue Phantom to save me from this demonic hell. The worst part is with all this repetitious dying my mind has been wandering away from the game. I can't seem to shake this feeling that perhaps I should have gone out for dinner with my fiancee, or at least accepted her PSN friend request. How can I make these guilty thoughts go away? -- BOTHERED BOLETARIAN WANDERER IN WHISTLER

DEAR BOTHERED BOLETARIAN WANDERER IN WHISTLER: I'm not sure what this tendency talk is all about but if you want her to feel like a star, give her a pair of boxing gloves and ask her to punch you in the face while you're preoccupied with Demon's Souls. If she times it right, a few effective hooks and she'll be ready to give you a super blow that's sure to knock you off your feet. Not only will you forget all about the weekend, but you might forget about your fiancee all together. Presto, guilt is gone. Yaaay!

If you have a question about love, life or video games for DEAR GABBY, write us at comments@nextgenplayer.com

This Is How Ubisoft Montreal Celebrated The Holidays



By Paul Hunter

Want to know how Ubisoft Montreal celebrated Christmas? Of course you do. But don't let me tell you what happened -- I wasn't invited. Luckily for all of us, Ubisoft's Employee #1 was.

Is that Florence Duomo made out of orange peppers, baby carrots, trimmed asparagus and...uhh, lotus roots? Riiight.

Holy Bejeezus, Reviews On The Run Is Going Daily

By Paul Hunter

A teaser Facebook wall post on the Electric Playground's fan page has let slip that the Canadian-based video game review show Reviews On The Run will soon be going daily. The show, currently in its 9th season, is hosted by Victor Lucas, executive producer and co-host of Electric Playground, and Scott Jones, who has contributed to many high profile publications such as Playboy, Sports Illustrated for Kids, GameDaily, and GameCritics. The 9th season of Reviews on the Run kicked off the week of January 18 on G4TV Canada and CityTV.

While no announcements have been made regarding who will be hosting the new daily version of Reviews on the Run, or if there will be any format changes, according to the show's Twitter account, more details will be revealed "very soon".

Sit tight folks, as soon as we hear more developments on this story we'll be sure to post the updates. No guarantees that the updates will be daily.

NextGen Player Preview: Alice In Wonderland

By Leif Conti-Groome

Where's the first place you envision when you hear "tea party"? I bet it's not downtown Toronto; however, that's exactly where Disney Interactive Studios decided to threw one for little old me. While I had never actually been to a tea party before, after experiencing this is one I can't help but think it's one pastime that we should bring back.

Now, I don't say this because the cupcakes and crumpets were delicious and the tea cups were absolutely charming; I say this because it's the perfect way of being thrown into the world of Alice in Wonderland for the DS and Wii. Disney Interactive Studios have been working on two accompanying games for the upcoming film all of which will be due early March.

Alice in Wonderland for the DS thankfully will not be a scaled-back port of a game built for the Wii. Instead, the handheld version sports cartoony graphics, clever platform elements, intriguing puzzle design and a completely separate storyline than the one found in the movie and console version of Alice in Wonderland.

Absolem, the Catepillar, has a scroll that tells the future of Underland (as Wonderland is refered to in the movie) and here is where the DS game takes place. Alice and supporting characters are sucked into the parchment and they must piece back together this world which is represented by actual pieces of a puzzle.

Gameplay mixes platforming elements found in The Lost Vikings and Yoshi's Island. In both versions of Alice, the player does not control the titular hero but guides her with the handful of colourful characters (A decision that I was told was a direct request from Tim Burton) that inhabit Carroll's book. The Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, Absolem and the Cheshire Cat can all be swapped in and out with a slash of the stylus and, in typical video game fashion, each one has unique abilities to pass certain areas.

'Unique' is the appropriate word here with gravity, time, visibility, space and perspective all being manipulated by the supporting cast. Need to get across a pit but a ledge is missing? Just get the Cheshire Cat to make it appear. A wall too large to scale blocking your way? Get Absolem the Catepillar to reverse gravity so you can walk on the ceiling. Of course, these abilities cannot be used anywhere and there are hotspots for all of the characters (that are highlighted to the player with question or exclamation marks) to strut their stuff. As limiting as that sounds, the powers still create cool effects. For example, Absolem's anti-Gs turn not only the character upside down but also the DS display. The reverse gravity space may have been small but it was cool and a little disorienting walking on the top of the lower screen.

Notice the Hat Icon?


The emphasis of the handheld Alice is definitely puzzles as some obstacles will take three or more steps (usually with different characters) to get by. Our supporting cast also gain abilities over the course of the game to add even more elements to solving difficult scenarios. At one point, I saw the Cheshire Cat wall jump multiple times to get to a portal that lead to a broken clocktower which had to be turned around via the Mad Hatter's perspective power (the 2D plane literally flipped) to see the invisible gear inside which, when reappeared, would start the clock that needed to be frozen by stopping time itself with the White Rabbit. To say some puzzles are multi-faceted is an understatement.

The combat portion of the game that I tried was not as strong. Stylus swipes and tapping on enemies felt loose and enemy design was somewhat uninspired. However, aspects like the world being represented by puzzle pieces (which could be arranged to have different entrances and exits between areas) and simplistic yet Burtonesque graphics were enough to make me want to play through the entire game.

The Wii game however, if seen through a looking glass, or any glass, or eyeball carried the same dark aesthetic as the upcoming movie. Most characters and environments like the white Rabbit or the Red Queen's castle looked great on Nintendo's not-so-powerful box. The artists and programmers have done quite well bringing Tim Burton's imagination to life but certain things, most notably the human characters, looked kind of stiff.

In spirit, the Wii game shares a lot of similarity with the DS version. You still swap between multiple characters (this time around the Catepillar sits out and is replaced by the Field Mouse and the March Hare) and each one still has unique abilities that are combined to surpass obstacles. The aforementioned environments were not just pretty to look at, they added nice touches to the 3D puzzles. At one point on the moat of a castle, the March Hare can use his ability of telekinesis to push a gear broken in half into the water. From the watery surface, the incomplete gear fuses with its reflection to create a whole cog.

However, the greatest example of environment-based solutions come from the Mad Hatter. Once again, perspective was his tool (his 'unique view of life' as my game-guide Matt described it) and from special pedestals found scattered around the world, the player is able to move the camera from the Hatter's POV. "So what?" you ask. "Being able to look in 1st person view in a 3rd person action/adventure is nothing new! You should be shot!" Well Boyo, from Mr. Depp's view, you are able to able to position objects located in different parts of a room so they match up like a puzzle. For instance, in one room only half a door existed while the other half was found in a nearby picture. Even though the frame was much smaller than the actual doorway, the two were the same size from where you could look through the Hatter's eyes. And when matched up, the doorway suddenly became whole and enterable. If you've ever played echochrome, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

One of the Hatter's podiums.


Again, while playing the Wii version of Alice, it seemed that obstacles would require various characters to be passed. However, as a E10+ game, the game is quite user friendly and all it takes is a button press to highlight all the interactive spots in one area. The hotspots are even colour coated so you know which character to use for each one. Speaking of controls, I'm happy to report that the game is not one waggle fest. Movement is controlled by the direction buttons and the camera via the Nunchuk. The pointer is used to interact with the environment and for combat.

Fighting this time around is not as uninteresting as the DS version, but still doesn't feel as thought out as the puzzle elements. Abilities may be used against enemies to shake things up a bit by highlighting the baddies with the Wii Remote and this addition gives a bit of depth to the button mashing and controller shaking.

One instance, I was invited to fight an obvious choice for a boss, the Bandersnatch. The large hound circled around Matt and me in a circular area that had a stone pillar in the centre. However, the pillar hid in the ground and could only be snatched by the March Hare. The beast was too fast to raise the column while he ran by so with the time powers of the White Rabbit, I slowed the Bandersnatch in order for Hare to work his magic.

This is an example of the drop in and out co-op play that Alice in Wonderland supports. While there are no puzzles that are designed specifically for two players, having a friend along really does speed up certain things as I saw with my battle with the hound boss. I'm guessing that's not going to be the only area that switching between two characters quickly will be necessary.

Collectibles and an achievement system have been worked into the game much to my pleasure. I was told the achievements would be like the ones found in PS3 and 360 games (story progression, exploration and being adept with skills in the game) and both games will include currency known as 'impossible ideas' that can be used to unlock new skills and buy purely decorational items.

It feels like French developer Etranges Libellules are putting a lot of effort into making both Alice games better than your average licensed game. While the two versions fall into the trappings of the action/adventure checklist (half baked combat, multiple upgradable characters, bosses with one or two patterns to be memorized) the puzzle elements really do have me excited to get Alice to fall into the rabbit hole of my DS and Wii (I guess the Wii doesn't really have a hole but a slot for the disk, damn you metaphors!) I'm going to have to buy a bunch of tea, fancy British cups and a checkered tablecloth so I can prepare to bring back the awesomeness that is a teaparty and have an Alice in Wonderland night. I think it'll go over well with my manly GoW-RE5-Modern Warfare friends, don't you?

Halo Legends Impressions

By Alice Stancu

Halo Legends was released today on retail shelves nationwide, and to celebrate the occasion, Warner Home Video invited Paul and me to a VIP showing of the movie on Blu-ray. The screening was at the Hazelton Hotel, whose private theatre is legendary among attendees of the Toronto International Film Festival. Being possibly the only vegetarian gaming blogger ever, I passed up on the cute mini hamburgers in favour of the curiously addictive cheese cup-a-salads. After the screening, there was a raffle for a very cool-looking limited edition Halo print, and gift bags for everyone. Suffice it to say, the experience was awesome.

Having seen (and loved) The Animatrix, a similar Warner Bros. production, I came to the viewing expecting the same sort of presentation – and for the most part I wasn't disappointed. The animation styles were generally excellent and the soundtrack was spot-on. However, one thing that The Animatrix excelled in doing and that Halo Legends fails to embody is the way in which the seemingly random stories come together as a cohesive whole. A number of the stories feel very similar and uninspired; there are no surprises, no little miracles or mercies. The stories are not only predictable, but predictable in the exact same ways. Again and again, the hero sacrifices himself to save his company. Again and again, the faceless, silent, and super-powerful stranger ends up being a woman.
The effect is like watching seven movies at random and finding strong connections between them that shouldn't exist. These similarities are unsettling and they detract from what could have been a brilliant collection.

Having said that, Halo Legends is definitely worth watching – really, a must-see for any Halo fan. The highlight of this collection is probably the aptly-named Odd One Out, a humourous Dragon Ball-esque parody revolving around the inept Spartan 1337 and his adventures fighting a Covenant-made monkey monster. While this short is pure comic relief, I do wish some of the other shorts would take a similarly lighthearted air – a good story doesn't always have to be serious. Following that, my favourite was The Babysitter, a short about the rivalry between ODSTs and Spartans. The story was realistic, with the type of sweet and bitter humour that is so intrinsic to real life but is rarely shown in drama. Homecoming was another solid piece, shedding light on the tragedy that is fundamental to the creation of Spartan soldiers; very dark but also touching. The Origins stories are essential to the collection, and narrated in a way that is engaging even for those who already know the history.

As for the less-than-stellar pieces: Prototype had some potential, but ends up being very generic anime stock, especially compared to similar and more engaging pieces, particularly Homecoming and The Babysitter. The Package looks great, but feels more like a playable in-game cutscene than a short film – and while the battle scenes are breathtaking, they're not enough to support the flat story. It's the sort of movie you want to be playing rather than watching. The least interesting short of the collection is probably The Duel, a samurai fight-for-honour piece with a flat storyline matched with an eye-burning choice of animation style. The studio tried to give the piece a “moving painting” look – a nifty idea, for sure – but they ended up using a watercolour filter that looks more like a high school media studies project than professional animation. Interesting attempt at innovation, but ultimately unsuccessful.

All in all, I recommend Halo Legends to any fan of either Halo or anime, but with the suggestion that you watch each short separately . When condensed in one sitting, the stories blur together – so take each one on its own and enjoy it for being an entertaining audiovisual Halo experience.

Feb 15, 2010

Toronto's Hand Eye Society Social, In Pictures

By Paul Hunter

As Andrew Shin mentioned last month, the very first Hand Eye Society Social for the year took place this past Thursday, February 11, 2010.

At the social, two video game world premieres took place. The first came from creator Kris Piotrowski, who unveiled his new WiiWare project called "Heartbeat". Following that, a three-way collaborative project was shown named "Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP". The game features the award-winning pixel artwork from Superbrothers, the sound of Juno nominated music recording artist Jim Guthrie, and the engineering capabilities and game design talent from Capy.

So that's the background, and now, here are the photos:







For the full photo album, check out the Flickr album here.

Photos courtesy of Mark Rabo [Thanks!]

You're Invited To Toronto's Rock Band Jam Session

By Paul Hunter

Remember Blogamoke? It's back, and it's evolved beyond singing. And you, our loyal readers, are cordially invited.

On Saturday, March 6, 2010 the NextGen Player team, along with many top gaming bloggers in Toronto, will be making our way to Rockie Raccoons for our second social gathering. The host of the evening, semisolidmedia.com, will be running a Rock Band Jam Session. What is a Rock Band Jam Session you ask? Think karaoke in a bar, only substitute in Rock Band 2 for the Xbox 360.

This is your chance to meet the team, engage in some hardcore gamer talk, and challenge us to a game of Elite Beat Agents on Nintendo DS. Rocky Raccoons is located at 2579 Yonge Street, just north of Yonge and Eglinton, and the event runs from 9:00pm - 2:00am.

A Facebook page has been created for the event and can be found here.

For a complete list of all available Rock Band tracks, check out the online song request book. [Note: it's a PDF link]

B.C. Gamer Tips Off Police About Potential School Shooting

By Paul Hunter

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that an Xbox 360 gamer from Port Alberni, B.C., tipped off the local RCMP after a failing Texan high school student revealed intentions to gun down targeted classmates, along with detailed plans about how the shootings would unfold.

While playing the unnamed game on Xbox Live, the conversation began with the student explaining his academic failings, but the chat quickly turned grim when plans were disclosed to enter his school armed with firearms obtained from a friend in the Marine Corps. When the gamer starting questioning the apparently distraught and misanthropic student, he abruptly exited the online chat over Xbox Live.

The encounter was so disturbing, the gamer immediately contacted the Port Alberni RCMP and informed them of the student's plan. Working with Microsoft's Law Enforcement Security, the RCMP were able to identify the owner of the Xbox 360 who lived in San Antonio, Texas. Local police were passed the information and after an investigation the high school was arrested and now faces charges.

The lesson here: If you disclose murderous plots over Xbox Live, even if you're full of angst and talking hypothetically, expect local authorities at your door and your story on national headlines.

P.S. Somebody please inform the Vancouver Sun the picture they're using is the original Xbox. Really now?

Source: The Vancouver Sun

BBC Networks Launch on Canadian Zune Video Store

By Paul Hunter

The Canadian Zune Video Store got an injection of new TV content earlier this month, courtesy of the largest broadcaster in the world, BBC. The network is bringing their award-winning programming, including classic comedies such as Black Adder and Little Britain, and natural history documentaries such as Blue Planet and Galapagos.

For more details on this exciting new addition to Xbox Live, check out the article I posted over on the Future Shop Tech Blog. From the article:

"For launch, it appears that BBC is limiting the number of seasons available for download per show, and curiously not all shows start at season one. For example, for both Black Adder and Doctor Who, the only accessible season is four; for Top Gear, seasons eleven and twelve are available. BBC have announced that more titles will be added to Zune video on Xbox LIVE Marketplace in the coming weeks."

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

Feb 11, 2010

GDC Pitch Workshop Aims to Help Ontario Developers Reach Their Max Potential

By Leif Conti-Groome

Sure, I know a lot of people can make games with their fancy programming skills and unique art styles, but can they promote their gems so someone outside their indie posse will play it?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) are teaming up to increase the chances of Canadian video game companies attending this year's Game Developers Conference having their titles being picked up by those big, successful developers. To achieve this, the two organizations are hosting a free workshop called “Sharpen Your Pitch for GDC".

The session will be divided into two parts; one will be an interactive webinar, and the other, an in-person workshop where attendees are taught promotional skills and will have a chance to practice with the group. The webinar component will be a virtual classroom setting where a few chosen experts will prep attendees on the basics of pitching. The online session will be held tomorrow, February 12, at noon (Eastern Standard Time) and will last roughly an hour. During the webinar there will be a Q&A sessions where attendees will be able to ask the experts questions. The link to the webinar can be found here.

Attendance for the webinar is not mandatory, but it is advised for those attending the "Sharpen Your Pitch for GDC" session. The event, which takes place on Monday February 22nd at noon, will bring indie game company representatives face-to-face with selected coaches who will help them navigate the world of game promotion. The session will last until 5pm and will include a free lunch, which is incentive enough for me. Writers have to eat too!

A select number of company reps will be selected to have a chance to present their game to a panel of undisclosed experts to wrap-up the session. And, the luckiest of the lucky will be selected from those selected to receive private coaching with the experts some time before GDC in March.

The featured coaches of the day will be Catarina Von Maydell from Innovation Synergy Centre of Markham Investment Network and Brian Brennan from Max Potential. Both companies provide business mentoring and executive coaching to help employees gain confidence for those particularly daunting presentations. Neither of these consulting firms have worked specifically with video game developers or publishers but I have been assured that "(the coaches) will be doing research on the industry to prepare" by workshop organizer, Candice Rice. Both ISCM and Max Potential have quite the list of accolades and clients that can be found on their respective websites.

Interested developers can find more information on this link found on Interactive Ontario's website. If you want to attend the workshop on February 22, and find your MAX POWER POTENTIAL please e-mail Candice Rice at Candice.rice@international.gc.ca to RSVP.

Feb 7, 2010

Pure Pwnage Production Blog Episode 5 Likes It Messy

By Paul Hunter

The Pure Pwnage crew have released another production blog video short to promote their imminent jump to national TV. This episode is a little messy, but if you're a fan of the web series you're probably used to it, maybe even like it.

Enjoy. Hope you're wearing a bib.


Interactive Ontario Hosting INplay, New Children's Entertainment Conference

By Paul Hunter

In response to the explosion of casual, mobile and social media gaming markets geared towards children, Interactive Ontario have announced a brand new international event called INplay, to take place in downtown Toronto on May 18th and 19th, 2010.

INplay is designed as a forum for game developers/publishers, and other content producers (TV/film/toy/book/magazine/comic) in the kids industry.

Game developers/publishers listed on the Partners & Sponsors page include Capybara Games, Corus Entertainment (they have a sizable children gaming presence through their Teletoon and YTV brands), Astral Media (they have a 50% stake in Teletoon and also operate a games room on the Family website), and zinc Roe Design.

Aside from the date and city, information on the event is a little sparse at present. Interactive Ontario have stated on the event's FAQ page that the conference programme is currently being worked on in collaboration with the event partners.

Stay connected to NextGen Player for more updates on this event as we draw closer to the date.

2K/Digital Extremes Hosting Bioshock 2 Media Launch Party in London, Ontario

By Paul Hunter

I just caught wind that 2K and Digital Extremes will be hosting an exclusive media launch party for their upcoming multiplatform title Bioshock 2. The event will take place on Wednesday, February 10, at the DE headquarters in London.

While we unfortunately are unable to attend, our Canadian brethren from The GAMES DAY Podcast will be there in full force. Their weekly video podcast, which airs Wednesday's starting at 8:30pm Eastern, will be streaming live from the launch party.

The team has set-up a Facebook discussion thread and are encouraging Canadian viewers to submit questions for them to ask Digital Extremes live on air.

Non Facebook people are encouraged to email their questions to fans@gamesdaypodcast.com, or better yet, join Facebook.

Sounds cool, I'll definitely be tuning in next Wednesday.

[Thanks for the tip Mathew!]

Feb 6, 2010

B.C. Bows To Pressure, New Video Game Tax Incentives Announced

By Paul Hunter

Rejoice B.C. developers! Your reprieve from the harsh recessionary climate may soon be upon you.

The ruling BC Liberals announced earlier this week that they are proposing new tax incentives for the province's languishing television and games industry. Specifically for game developers, the government is seeking to introduce a new interactive digital media tax credit of 17.5%.

I wrote a comprehensive overview of what this means for the Canadian video game industry over on the Future Shop Tech Blog earlier this evening. From the article:

"The pressure on the B.C. government to step up and support its interactive entertainment industry has been mounting for years now. The province is home to Canada's largest gaming hub, surviving largely without the generous tax incentives seen in Ontario and Quebec. Last year, New Media BC and video game developers in the province expressed concern that without government tax breaks the province could soon slip to second place in Canada, behind Quebec."

To read the rest of my thoughts on the proposed new tax breaks, check out the full article here.

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

Blogamoke, As Told In Photos

By Paul Hunter

Well Blogamoke came and went and much fun was had by all. How much fun you ask? Perhaps we should let the pictures do all the talking:

Crazy Joe and NextGen Player's Paul Hunter sing Kris Kross's "Jump"

NextGen Player's Alice Stancu writing in her doodle book

NextGen Player's Andrew Shin strikes a pose

NextGen Player's Leif Conti-Groome side profile

Shaun Hatton from Toronto Thumbs

Mike Guglietti

Lori Dance from CoupleOfGamers.com

Crazy Joe doing the YMCA

Plenty more event photos can be seen on NextGen Player's Flickr page.

We're already planning our next outing, stay tuned soon for details!

Canadian Gaming Flyers: February 6th Edition

By Paul Hunter

It's that time of the week again when retailers across Canada entice us into their brick and mortar stores with gaming deals, freebies, and exclusive bonus offers.

Since it's early February, as expected, most deals fall into the okay category. There are a few exceptions however, such as Best Buy offering $20 off a Bioshock 2/Dante's Inferno bundle, as well as Bioshock for $9.99. If you haven't played the original Bioshock you really need to check it out at that price, it's less than we're used to paying for a movie ticket.

The $299 360 Elite bundle at Future Shop, which comes with Pure, Lego Batman, Prince or Persia, Assassins Creed is a great value. The four games are a bit old, but they still hold their own.

Zellers is offering $20 off the DSi and the floundering PSPgo, not bad.

Here's the full list of Canadian gaming flyers for this week:

Best Buy

Dante's Inferno 360/PS3 $69.99 PSP $44.99
Bioshock 2 360/PS3 $69.99 PC $59.99
Bioshock 2 CE 5 per store 360/PS3 $99.99 PC min 1 per store $89.99
Bundle Deal-Buy Bioshock 2 and Dante's Inferno and save $20
Bioshock 360/PS3/PC $9.99
360 Wireless N Adapter $79.99 Save $20
PS3 controller and Blu Ray Remote $69.99 Save $10
Buy DSi get Broken Sword Free #179.99
Some bargain bin DS Ubi Soft games $10 off $9.99-$19.99

Pre order the following games and get a $5 gift card:
Heavy Rain
Battlefield BC 2
FF XIII
GOW III
Splinter Cell Conviction
Star Craft II

Trade in 2 games and get Bioshock 2 or Dante's Inferno Free, 3 days only Feb. 9-11th details bestbuy.ca/tradeingames (info will be up on friday)

Future Shop

Bioshock 2 360/PS3 $69.99
Bioshock 2 CE 360/PS3 $99.99
Street Fighter IV 360/PS3 $24.99 Save $10
God of War collection $29.99
Star Ocean:The Last Hope PS3 $59.99
White Knight Chronicles PS3 $59.99

360 elite with Pure, Lego Batman, Prince or Persia, Assassins Creed $299.99

Trade in 3 games (Min $9 TIV, 360/PS3/Wii,must have case and manual) get one of the following games free:
Mass Effect 2
MAG
Dante's Inferno
Bioshock 2

Toys R Us

Free $10 gift card with purchase of any 2 of these games: AC2, MW2, Wii Fit Plus, New SMB Wii, DJ Hero ($104.99), Lego Indy 2 DS, Tinkerbell DS, Zelda ST DS
Buy Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, get M&S at Olympic Summer Games 1/2 price ($39.99 DS, $49.99 Wii)
Buy Wii Play or Wii Remote, get Nunchuk for 1/2 price
Buy Mario Kart Wii or Excite Bots, get Wii Wheel for 1/2 price
Bioshock 2 PS3/360 $64.99

Buy one get 1/2 off all $19.99 and under Wii/DS games

Zellers

DSi $159.99 Save $20
PSP Go $229.99 Save $20
Xbxox Live $54.99 Save $5

EB Games
http://www.gamestop.ca/gs/weeklyad/default.aspx?&wt.mc_id=020510eb

Source: Cheap Ass Gamer [thanks Princess Zelda!]

Feb 4, 2010

NextGen Player Review: Dragon Age: Origins

By Clinton Ma


There are a few reasons why you're only just seeing a review for EA/BioWare's Dragon Age: Origins in February of 2010, over two months after its release. For one, I am a notorious snail gamer. I'll admit that the idea of doing a speed run never appealed to me. I'll sniff out almost every corner, open every chest and drive you mad if you try to watch me play a single-player game.

Then you have to consider the size of Dragon Age itself. The game is massive. It is the very anti-thesis to a speed run. Played briskly, the campaign has been projected to take 50 hours, perhaps 40 if you are good. Fifty hours! Who plays a single game for that long nowadays? The better question might be: is the game even worth 2 hours of your precious time? Read on to our review for an answer to this and so much more...

Dragon Age: Origins (DA:O) basically takes everything you know about fantasy RPGs and everything you know about Lord of the Rings and repackages it for you in an updated, refreshingly un-ironic sort of way. Bad? Not exactly. There are the elves, dwarves, dragons and mages we all know and love. Zombie-like creatures known as Darkspawn stand in for the role of orcs but they are essentially orcs for all intents and purposes. And there's nothing new to see in the various castles, towns, forests or dank, dingy dungeons. And while the story driving our adventures is textbook Tolkien boilerplate, the writers behind DA:O twist around some of our most cherished fantasy tropes just enough to add that unique wrinkle or spark to ignite your imagination.

In the land of Ferelden, city-born elves are kept as borderline slaves and are segregated from humans into ghettos known as the Alienage. In this brave new fantasy world, mages are not wizened, beard-brushing eccentrics but rather feared outcasts who are either locked up as life-long academics in their magi tower, or hunted down as dangerous heretics by holy knights known as templars. And the dwarves... they're not just the stereotypically jovial, beer swilling lugs. Dwarven society is caste driven, deeply traditional and they play a lot more politics than you'd ever expect from guys who look and sound like Gimli from the LoTR movies.


Dragon Age: Origins is very much an update on the classic, old-school style of RPG dating back to the AD&D Gold Box series and and it's a formula that's been perfected by BioWare over the last decade. And when I'm talking about old-school game play, I'm referring to things like tactical combat, 4-man parties, invisible dice rolls and deeper conversational choices. In DA:O you bring up a custom character selected from a choice of 3 races (human, elf or dwarf) and 3 classes (warrior, rogue or mage).

Unlike any current RPG of its ilk, your character choices at the outset may vary to the tune of 6 completely different origin stories, ranging from the human noble origin to the dwarven commoner. Each of these introductions takes two to three hours to complete and they are so distinct as to be well worth the time to play through them all. Key characters in some origin stories will make reappearances later in the core plot and many other fascinating relationships are given additional subtext through one's playing of multiple origins.

While a choice of only 3 classes may seem a bit restrictive to players brought up on the overwhelming class selection of Dungeons & Dragons, BioWare has crafted a deceptively simple character development system. They've stripped the sometimes arcane AD&D-style rules to its barest essentials. Skills are neatly organized into groups and laid out in a linear grid, showing progression from basic to advanced levels of any one skill. It's less of a skill tree than it is a mix n' match restaurant menu. It works wonderfully for the purposes of the game while still providing the depth for player who really pay attention to how they build their characters.

All the better to effectively manage your party of adventurers. Yes, a party. Along the way you can recruit over a half dozen additional companions to your cause. You may take only three with you on field missions but allies can be swapped in and out whenever you are back at camp. The array of tactical choices and customizations increases that much more as you equip and tailor your party members to create a balanced team of elite darkspawn slayers. Thankfully, casuals who are merely interested in moving the story along can gloss over the fiddly details and auto-level all of their characters.

Very early into the game, you are recruited into the ranks of the Grey Wardens (read: Jedi Knights), a sacred order of warriors sworn to defend the land from the Darkspawn hordes. The start of a Blight -- a resurgence of the darkspawn that occurs every few centuries -- is at hand, and it's up to you and a handful of surviving Wardens to unite the various factions of Ferelden and create an army to defeat the Blight.

BioWare makes few concessions with their epic RPG. Aside from the dozens of main and side quests, the countless battle encounters and the somewhat cut n' pasted dungeon crawls, there are hours of conversation to be had starring a gigantic cast of NPCs, all fully-voiced by actors ranging from competent-to-excellent. The scripting is up to BioWare's usual high standard. Beyond the cutscenes involved with the main plot, there are a dizzying number of optional conversations to be had with party members back at camp, the romances and even the impromptu interactions between party mates while in the middle of a quest. The sheer amount of story-related elements in Dragon Age is perhaps rivaled only by its consistent quality. BioWare's world-building skills are astounding.

I'll admit that I sometimes wished the story would pick up the pace a little. Side quests are relatively quick affairs and there's very little open-world exploration to lead you astray from the mission critical path. Yet the game drags considerably in a number of spots. The main quests are usually nothing more than a succession of increasingly ponderous dungeon crawls. You really have to be into your epic fantasy minutia to stick with it for the long run. Upon experiencing the game's thrilling climax, you're just as likely to cheer as you are to breathe a sigh of relief: "It's finally over!".

Surprisingly, despite its epic length, DA:O almost demands a second or third playthrough. Disregarding the origin stories, there are a number of Xbox Achievements tied to your moral approach to the game's key conflicts. Your choices in-game will also affect which party companions are added to your team and unlockable class specializations. The finale itself is a culmination of the vast array of choices you've made through out your adventures. The number of possible outcomes is very impressive and you should hang on to multiple saves in case you want to backtrack and try something different. The morality system itself is pretty subdued and is based largely on pragmatic cause-and-effect relationships as opposed to casting down a binary ray of judgement over your actions.

Were it only as polished as it should have been, Dragon Age would walk away with a perfect score. That's a pity, because the game is a hodge-podge of technical gaffs. Bizarre cutscene behaviors can result in odd poses and awkward blocking angles. The audio likes to cut out during a dramatic speech, a problem not easily remedied by the subtitles, which are inexplicably placed at the top of the screen. The game hard locks on a few occasions and is not inclined to autosave quite as often as it should. The overall unpolished feel to the game is topped off by some glitchy AI behaviour which sees melee fighters constantly forgetting who they're targeting, not pulling aggro or just pathfinding the longest possible route to their destination.

I may have my quibbles but the fact remains: a game like this doesn't come around very often. The amount of craft put into Dragon Age: Origins is simply astounding. Even with its many flaws and BioWare's sexier sci-fi epic competing for your attention, Dragon Age is a masterpiece in fantasy gaming and a must-play for any hardcore RPG fan.

Pros:
- Epic dark fantasy tale: peerless world-building & excellent scripting
- Deep, challenging tactical combat
- Full stat levelling and character customization: great re-playability
- Six interesting, completely distinct origin stories

Cons:
- Epic & exhausting: game length artificially prolonged by dungeon crawls, overly difficult battles & too much damn dialog!
- Unremarkable graphics and art design
- Awkward console-centric interface issues with target selection & party management
- Audio drops and bizarre glitches during cutscenes break immersion

NextGen Player gives Dragon Age: Origins a...


Feb 3, 2010

Halo Legends Contest On Now

Halo Legends ContestBy Andrew Shin

If you are a Halo fan, then this contest is definitely for you. The Halo Legends Contest was launched recently in support of the upcoming DVD release of Halo Legends - the acutal release date is February 16th. By entering the contest, you'll have the opportunity to win a Behind-the-Scenes Trip to Microsoft’s 343 Industries, Xbox 360 Elite & Blu-rays/DVDs of Halo Legends.

Here's an official press release with complete details on the contest:

Halo fans can dip even further into the mythology of the upcoming episodic Halo Legends film release by participating in the Halo Legends Heroes Journey Sweepstakes. Starting January 28, 2010, fans are invited to make an active search for special codes on the film’s social networking pages, and entrants will be eligible to win the coveted grand prize – an exclusive, behind-the-scenes trip to Microsoft’s 343 Industries, the production company behind Halo Legends. Other prizes include the Xbox 360 Elite, as well as Blu-rays and DVDs of the film, which will be released by Warner Home Video on February 16, 2010.

Fans can enter the sweepstakes through http://HLSweeps.com. The sweepstakes centers around a virtual trading card game hosted as a Facebook application.

Collecting up to four distinct codes each day provides access to Halo Legends virtual trading cards and additional sweepstakes entries. The cards are organized into sets which, upon completion, grant to exclusive content (video clips, still images, information) from the Halo Legends movie. In addition, each card expands in size and provides additional details about its place in the episodic film.

Daily codes are available on http://HaloLegendsDVD.com, http://facebook.com/HaloLegendsDVD, http://myspace.com/HaloLegendsDVD and http://twitter.com/HaloLegendsDVD. Each unique code equates to two additional cards and one sweepstakes entry. Fans can invite their Facebook friends to their Heroes Journey Squad to trade virtual cards and help complete collector sets – in order to more quickly unlock the exclusive content. Facebook participants can also create a wish list of up to five cards, and feed an alert about the cards on the wish list to friends.

Collector cards offer fans new insight into Halo Legends. The collector cards are created from both character models and still images from the film, and are displayed across 40 (??) individual, beautifully-designed virtual cards.

The sweepstakes features a Grand Prize for one (1) lucky winner plus one (1) guest to take a 3-day/2-night journey of their own to 343 Industries in Redmond, WA for a private screening and a chance to meet some of the creative team behind Halo Legends. In addition, the Grand Prize winner will receive an Xbox 360 Elite and Halo Legends on 2-Disc DVD or Blu-ray. There will also be three (3) First Prize winners who will receive an Xbox 360 Elite and a Halo Legends on 2-disc DVD or Blu-ray. Ten (10) Second Prize winners will receive a Halo Legends standard edition DVD. The sweepstakes is open to all residents of the United States and Canada (excluding Quebec).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER. Sweepstakes begins at 12:00:01 AM Eastern Standard TIME (“EST”) on January 26, 2010 and ends at 11:59:59 PM EST on March 2, 2010. Open to individuals who are, as of Entry, registered users of Facebook, 18 years of age or older; legal residents of, and physically located within the 50 U.S. (including D.C.) and Canada (except Quebec).

This Sweepstakes is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by FACEBOOK, nor is FACEBOOK associated with the Sweepstakes in any way. Any questions, comments or complaints regarding the Sweepstakes must be directed to the Sponsor or Administrator, and not to FACEBOOK. Void in Quebec and where prohibited. Go to: http://HLSweeps.com/Rules.html for official rules.

Feb 1, 2010

Hand Eye Society Call Out: PAX East Road Trip

Yeaahhhh!  Road trip!By Andrew Shin

So I was checking my inbox this evening and saw an email from Mark Rabo of Gamercamp announcing plans for a road trip to Boston to attend the PAX East 2010 event taking place from March 26th to 28th.

The overall plan for the road trip is to stop in Rochester to visit the National Centre for the History of Electronic Games and stay the night. Then continue on the following day all the way to Boston in time for the weekend event.

There's a survey that you can fill out to show your interest in taking part in the road trip. For additional information you can check out the Hand Eye Society's website.

Sounds like a good time and maybe some debauchery and mayhem to boot. So are you up for it?