And then some…

17 05 2005

And from someone who was over excited on friday from the 360. Suddenly takes some of it back, and realises why Sony has the lion’s share.
These look amazing.
but hold on a minute, where is the new game play.
This is like Cannes announcing, war film, crime film, driving game, fighting game, oh and alien war fighting game with time travel.
where are our heroes.
i give you Brenda Laurel from GDC 05:
“Games keep essential social myths in place. So we have tropes in our business. Criminals are cool. The commercial game business is a non-consensual relationship between middle aged men and young boys. It’s worse than the catholic church. These are guys who have really big tyres on their trucks … and we all know why! [laughter] So the fantasies of these guys position these boys as tiny little clones: so they force you to take your genius to create this .. this .. we can’t have that fellas. …
GTA. I talked to 22 little boys in LA, all of them wanted to see that game. With only one exception, the thing that they wanted to see was to be able to drive by their house. They weren’t interested in stealing cars. Or the criminals. Or the back-story. They weren’t interested in that, they wanted the simulation of driving by the house.

We model male ethos in the games we design: soldier, super athlete, criminal. Anyone who was born with internet and computers are prosocial. Skaters are mainstream. We have two models of alpha maleness: skaters and ballers … we need heroes, but what kind of heroes are we making? Where’s Malcolm X, or Chavez? There hasn’t been a game about geopolitics that was worth a shit since Hidden Agenda! We should be giving people rehearsals for citizenship and change.”

and this isn’t going to help

Sony launch the games of tomorrow

17 05 2005

Sony showed off a lot of PlayStation 3 software today. It put Microsoft to shame somewhat, and that’s from somebody who was really excited on Friday morning after Xbox 360 landed and what we got to see what it was. Inevitably there was little talk of gameplay evolution at Sony’s conference, with the emphasis firmly on next-generation technology, but that’s not to say there was none whatsoever. The following rundown of games that we saw in video form touches on little innovations wherever it can, and there’s a degree of putting two and two together, while the focus remains getting the point across about each of them. Hopefully you’ll find it useful; what is particularly inevitable, given the strength, volume and variation, is that you’ll find something you’re interested in. More on these, hopefully, later in the week.

Devil May Cry 4 (Capcom) – Apart from a few shots of what looked like DMC3, there was a brief glimpse of Dante atop a snowy mountain, but little else. It’s on the way though, which is good news for fans.

Eyedentify (SCEJ) – One of the most intriguing games unveiled during the Sony press conference, Eyedentify calls to mind Japanese title Lifeline/Operator’s Side, which involved directing someone using voice input. Here it’s a similar idea, but the implementation is exponentially more interesting and, hopefully, a bit more convincing. Your face appears in a voice comms window, and you talk to a pair of gorgeous anime-esque girls rendered in startling detail – as is everything on the console – who appear to be assassins of a sort. “How’s it going out there?” you ask. “Target’s in sight and all’s going to plan,” you hear back.

Fifth Phantom Saga (SEGA) – Another game of which relatively little was seen, and it probably ranks as one of the least impressive demonstrations. But then it’s all relative. It looked incredibly detailed anyway, and had a Half-Life 2-style gravity/physics manipulation angle to it, picking up bodies and hurling them about. “Crazy physics, big guns,” it says in our notes. Which, given that SEGA’s involved, means it’s one to watch regardless of the fact it probably fits Hirai’s assertion that some demos would be less impressive than others.

Fight Night Round 3 (EA Sports) – This one got more air time than the others for the simple reason that Larry Probst was on stage to announce EA’s support for the PlayStation 3, and in doing so had the chance to show off. We’re glad he did. Fight Night Round 3 conveys so much detail through body language and facial expression that EA Chicago’s Kudo implied that status indicators would be completely done away with. And judging by the reaction of the nice French lady sitting next to us, who repeatedly winced and turned away as a knockout punch was replayed, his other assertion that the sight of the killer blow would make you reel as much as it would were you at ringside was true enough too. Frankly, even steel-stomached types would struggle to watch a man’s lower jaw being virtually severed by a killer blow so many times over at such a level of detail.

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Formula 1 (Liverpool Studio) – Studio Liverpool did well with this demo to demonstrate the power of the PlayStation 3. Think F1 with fairly ridiculous high resolution visuals and that’s it. Fumes erupt from exhausts, helmets bob in seats, everything has a soft edge, the individually modelled members of the crowd perform a Mexican wave en masse, wheel arches buckle as cars spin into each other and the debris scatters across the track. But even so, it’s a Formula 1 game, and the proof of its worth will be in the handling and realism of the driving experience of 70 laps; not in its visuals. And judging by the way cars darted around with an unrealistic rate of acceleration and a slightly weightless look, it might not get there. Comfortably gorgeous, but uncertain.

The Getaway “Screen Test” (Team Soho) – The Getaway was more of a technical demo than an actual game at Sony’s pre-E3 conference, but all the same it looked good. It modelled a London street in a lot more detail – though not quite to the degree that it was convincing, it has to be said. There was still an unrealistic, slightly too clean look about the place, and the lighting – that horrible grey cloudiness that isn’t quite light but is only half edging toward dark that we’re so used to – was proving very difficult to get right. But in terms of the quality of the environment, the cars, the people, Team Soho is clearly on the right path. We just hope that it’s closer in spirit to the first game than the second, and a fair distance from the pair of them in mechanical terms. Your correspondent and editor Kristan both enjoyed the original Getaway immensely, but it wouldn’t work now.

Heavenly Sword (Ninja Theory) – Ninja Theory, formerly Just Add Monsters, seem to have found their way into a publishing arrangement with Sony judging by the “SCEE presents” screen preceding this demo, and if true then we can see why. This appears to be a game involving a heroine with a big gun and a big sword who fights entire armies. Surrounded by enemies in an opening shot, she explodes into life, fighting them with a chain weapon, smashing them through splintering objects, kicking tables around, spearing two at a time, going into slow motion attacks, fighting in mid-air and floating back down, and then, in the second sequence, taking on an army comparable to the Armies of Mordor, using rockets to carve holes in enemy lines and then fighting literally thousands at once. Games often try to make you feel hard when you’re fighting; Heavenly Sword looks like a Matrix Reloaded simulator.

I-8 (Insomniac) – Insomniac’s PS3 effort, dubbed “CRAZY ASS WAR GAME” in our notes, looks like a cross between Call of Duty and Half-Life 2. Which is to say that it has squad-based battles in towns and forests amongst overturned cars, everyone decked out in army green wearing helmets and looking a bit 1940s, whilst also having enemies with huge jaws, and Strider-like giant four-legged enemies that spike people. Not as impressive in a technical or conceptual sense as some of the other titles on display, but Insomniac is no slouch.

Killing Day (Ubisoft) – It’s always nice to put a name to a face, and in gaming terms it’s always nice to discover that a name found on the bottom of a press release moons ago actually turns out to be a first-person shooter with breathtaking visuals that sees glass shop fronts explode like fountains of reflective death scattering over equally reflective marble flooring, and in which it’s possible to duck behind a marble statue to reload and watch bullets gradually chip away the statue’s extremities as you frantically fumble for another magazine.

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KillZone (Guerrilla) – Amazingly, given the incredibly underwhelming PS2 version, Killzone could well be the best-looking first-person shooter we have ever seen. Beginning with a descent on World War II-style landing craft – except flying versions – it’s the next-generation of beach landings. Helghast rockets send the one next to yours into a skyscraper, while another is blown to smithereens behind you on landing, and troops all around trying to secure a bridge as a kind of beachhead are being pulverised by bullets. The detail on your weapon alone is enough to make Half-Life 2 look like a cartoon, but the most impressive thing is that it made yours truly, who hated Killzone, suddenly whack it to the top of his Most Wanted. Remember the awesome TV adverts? This looks better.

Mobile Suit Gundam (Bandai) – Another game that in the previous generation brought only “meh” to mouths of us and ours, the Gundam demo at Sony’s conference suggested that stompy robots could be reborn in the next generation. Towering over buildings is a bit blasé, ya see, when the buildings look like regular everyday third-person level geometry. In the Mobile Suit Gundam trailer, the environments look utterly real even when you watch the action from inside a building. Think of it this way: the power of the PS3 means the incidental rooms, doorways and rooftops that you watch from and windows you peer into are capable of looking better than anything would on current generation hardware as the focal point. And into this utopian gaming environment march ten-storey-tall robots firing enormous rockets at each other…

MotorStorm (Evolution Studio) – It’s a testament to the strength of the PlayStation 3 showing that this, a brand new franchise, stuck out in our minds as the most memorable part of the event. It was a non-stop car and bike chase through muddy desert-like environments, full of explosions, flying mud and, as with the others, a level of incidental detail that doesn’t so much suspend your disbelief as engulf it in tangibly searing flame. At one point, mud splatters the windscreen of the car the camera’s shooting from within so violently that the wipers are brought into play, smearing it rather than getting rid of it, only for the problem to be wiped away entirely by a bike landing on the roof. There’s evidence of awesome physics, particle effects, convincing mud behaviour, an overwhelming sense of speed, and some fancy little touches – like the way driving through fiery wreckage sees little bits of flame emanating from bits of your car, and even licking up the windscreen. Watching the trailer was more fun than actually driving. Even when it’s in LA and Pat’s behind the wheel.

NioH (KOEI) – One of KOEI’s titles, this looks like Kessen Next-Gen. Warlords lead armies racing into battle against each other, huge war beasts scything through frontlines, warlords fighting and contorting, blades smashing into each other and all hell breaking loose on a large scale. As an attract sequence it does its job.

Tekken (Namco) – A relatively weak demo this, but proof positive of Namco’s support of the console, and a demonstration of the swanky visual effects it’s possible to pull off. All you see is a character from Tekken – this writer isn’t going to be pretend he knows which one; a karate-looking muvva funster – whose muscles are bulging so voraciously that steam is rising from them, and whose punching action sends a shower of individually modelled and charted sweat drops flying past the camera.

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Vision Gran Turismo (Polyphony Digital) – Gran Turismo like it’s supposed to look, to deal with it in short. Familiar tracks, cars and actions are detail levels previously only seen in still shots, demo movies and Kazunori Yamauchi’s head. “From partial reality to complete reality,” the demo boasts (amusingly followed by a shot of a mechanic whose leg isn’t touching the ground he’s supposedly kneeling on), and it gets it 95 per cent right. This is going to be huge. Forza may have impressed on Xbox, but if Vision GT sees Polyphony taking bolder steps to liven up their racer than this year’s GT4 did, it’ll be one of those unfair races that earns you a medal but zero A-Spec points. Just millions of sales.

WarHawk (Incognito) – Finally, and it’s by no means a bad one to go out on, there was WarHawk. Incog are probably better known for Twisted Metal, but don’t hold that against them (or to yourself either). This demo begins with mean-looking troops prowling through subterranean bricky tunnels, before heading into the air to zoom around with planes. Lots of planes. Hundreds of planes and enormous floating aircraft carriers that swarm menacingly over gorgeous valleys in the direction of a cityscape.

Xbox 360 has been officially unveiled by Microsoft.

13 05 2005

by: staff
Confirmation that it was “Xbox 360” came just after 2AM BST as Microsoft’s J Allard delivered the immortal words in official context for the first time as part of a streaming video presentation (direct link) that capped off the company’s viral marketing campaign. “You are the colony,” Allard beamed, before launching into a glitzy look at the making of the system.

Media-wise, our sister-site is hosting official photographs, shots of the “Guide”, and four “poster pics”.

The video confirms that the design seen in leaked shots earlier this week is real, and that the controllers seen in those shots are indeed wireless. The presence of a removable hard drive module is also confirmed, although it’s still not clear whether a version of the console without this module will be launched.

It also confirms the launch period: Holiday season 2005, with the suggestion based on aggregated sources being a November US launch – eerily and perhaps deliberately close to the original Xbox launch date – with European and Japanese releases following shortly after. Perhaps even within 7-10 days, according to some.

The special also reveals what the function of the large Xbox 360 logo seen in the middle of each controller is – it’s a button to pop up the Xbox 360 Guide, a menu system which gives access to a variety of multimedia, online and offline features of the console, including a host of features designed to link up with Windows Media Centre PC systems.

The system design was the result of a massive process that involved as many as 20 rejected prototypes, and the idea of the final design – which is about the same size as a PlayStation 2 – is that the “dual concavity” gives it the look of something breathing in. It can stand on its side or upright without the need for support.

Full system specifications of the system followed as a worldwide embargo lifted at 2:30AM BST. The console will be powered by three IBM PowerPC CPUs, each one running at 3.2Ghz and with the capacity to run two hardware threads simultaneously – effectively meaning that the system can process six threads at once. Each core also has an on-board vector unit – and the whole system uses a water-cooling system to keep the temperature down, much like the high-end Apple PowerMac G5 desktop computers, which use similar PowerPC chips.

The ATI graphics processor in the box will run at 500MHz, with 10MB of embedded DRAM on the graphics part, while the box itself has 512MB of GDDR3 RAM, which is shared between the CPUs and the graphics chip. This will drive Microsoft’s vision of an “HD era”. Although Xbox 360 will not require a high-definition television set to run, Microsoft is heavily behind the idea, and all games will have to support 16:9 widescreen resolution, 720 progression-scan and 1080i, as well as anti-aliasing, and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround and custom soundtracks.

As expected, the system will not use either of the new high-capacity DVD standards, instead opting for a standard 12X dual-layer DVD-ROM, while the hard drive will ship in a 20GB base unit, which can later be upgraded. Memory card units, two of which can be plugged in at once, will start at 64MB – it’s not clear what exactly their purpose will be, as yet.

The system will support up to four wireless controllers, and also has three standard USB 2.0 ports. As well as the built-in network port, it is also “Wi-Fi Ready” – although it appears that the Wi-Fi adapter will be sold separately. Specifications have it supporting 801.11b, 802.11g and 802.11a models – the full range of likely options.

Xbox 360’s also listed as “video camera ready”, and it’s known that the video camera will be sold as an optional extra that allows for video messaging amongst other things. The camera will support VGA 640×480 resolution at 30 frames per second and takes 1.3-megapixel photos.

In terms of multimedia functionality, Xbox 360 will boast DVD playback out of the box. A clever idea is that the X360 will power down its noisiest fans when it plays back video content, allowing users to enjoy things without distraction. Equally curious and bound to be popular is the news that alerts will be able to pop up during television or DVD playback, allowing you to, for example, sit and watch a DVD of The Simpsons whilst waiting for a friend to pop up and challenge you.

There will also be the opportunity to rip music to the hard drive and play content from Windows Media Centre PCs across the network. Interestingly, it also promises the ability to play media from portable music devices and digital cameras – and leaked details from a Danish games magazine specifically mention the iPod, raising the possibility that the system may be happy to play media even off portable devices from Microsoft’s competitors in this space.

Microsoft also unveiled the Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote, which features backlit buttons and allows you to browse content on the system, controlling music, pictures and more, and extensive Windows XP Media Centre Edition functionality. There’s even A, B, X, and Y buttons for basic control of the Xbox 360 itself.

Of course, the announcements wouldn’t be complete without some reference to the customisation being touted so strongly by J Allard – so the unit itself can be completely customised with new face-plates, much like clip-on covers on mobile phones. Many are visible in the OurColony video.

Last night’s dramatics also confirmed what’s already been said about Xbox Live, and more. Users will have a choice of packages – a Silver option, which allows them to download content including new levels, weapons, game demos, community-created content through Xbox Live Marketplace; and a Gold option that opens the door to full online play.

Players will be able to personalise Live with their own snapshot from the camera, engage in video messaging conversations, online tournaments and ladders, play with celebrities and join sponsored tournaments. What’s more, the first month of the Gold “premium” service will be free, and various free showcase weekends should follow.

Microsoft has also indicated that you’ll be able to avoid players you don’t enjoy playing with by ranking them based on the experience.

the new tomorrow

13 05 2005

2 Days to Vegas (Steel Monkeys) – A third-person action-adventure involving gangsters, car chases, shootouts and lots of stuff that takes place during a 48 hour period, according to IGN.

Alan Wake (Remedy) – Alan Wake, which is set to be unveiled in more detail at E3 in a cinematic presentation, is Remedy’s first game since Max Payne 2 and is a psychological action thriller according to the developer.

Blue Dragon (Mistwalker/Microsoft) – One of the two games Microsoft’s signed Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi up to make for them, Blue Dragon is said to be

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Call of Duty 2

Call of Duty 2 (Infinity Ward/Activision) – While current-gen consoles are getting a squad-based game focused on the American 1st Infantry – subtitled Big Red One – the Xbox 360 looks forward to the same content PC owners can expect. Infinity Ward is at the controls, and the expectation is that CoD2 could be the World War II game to end them all.

Condemned: Criminal Origins (SEGA/Monolith) – Monolith’s next-generation title is a first-person crime thriller which sounds very disturbing. It sees an FBI agent tracking down serial killers in increasingly horrific environments, pursued by “the Condemned” – people who appear to be under the influence of mind-twisting evil.

Dark Sector (Digital Extremes) – Apparently Dark Sector uses a first-person shooter control system in third-person environments, and the polycount is ridiculously high.

The Darkness (Starbreeze/Majesco) – This is a film and comic book adaptation about an assassin with power over the shadows, but the really interesting thing is that it’s being developed by Starbreeze, the Swedish group behind The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay

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Dead or Alive 4

Dead or Alive 4 (Tecmo/Microsoft) It looks like Dead or Alive 3 with a leap in detail levels. .

Demonik (Terminal Reality/Majesco) – Announced prior to E3, Demonik is a third-person action game from BloodRayne developr Terminal Reality, in which the player wreaks havoc as a nasty man. Most interesting though is that it’s being developed as a film and game project that sees John Woo joining forces with Clive Barker…

Dimitri (Lionhead) – Again, this one hasn’t been officially confirmed for X360, but figured in a GameReactor magazine article created in collaboration with Microsoft. It’s another brainchild of Peter Molyneux. “It’s a game about… You,” he said recently. “It allows anyone who plays the game to relive their life, their entire individual life. That’s a pretty ambitious concept.”

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda Softworks) – A series with real pedigree, the previous effort – Morrowind – kept EG sometime-contributor Ronan occupied for almost an entire year. Oblivion has been in development since 2002 and, if Bethesda can keep up the standard, could be the first great Western RPG on the Xbox 360.

FIFA 06 (EA) – Set to be unveiled at E3, this is, we’re guessing, a lot like EA’s previous football games except with a lot more detail and, probably, some kind of gimmick.

Frame City Killer (Namco) – A late addition to this list, FCK (brilliant!) is an action game based on Unreal Engine 3 due out by the end of the year in the US and Europe. You play a chap called Crow, an assassin sent to Frame City to eliminate “Khan”.

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Full Auto

Full Auto (SEGA) – This sounds ingenious. Rather like Prince of Persia, it has a rewind feature that allows players to turn back time on events that don’t go their way. Except it’s a racing game. So you’ll get Burnout-style spectacular crashes followed by the chance to undo them again. It looks mightily impressive, and word is it was the basis of the gorgeous XNA “Crash Test” demo shown off at the Game Developers Conference in 2003.

Gears of War (Epic Games) – One of the most impressive looking of a bunch of action games where “impressive looking” is roughly all we have to go on. Featured in numerous Unreal Engine 3 tech demos, and then everyone licensed Unreal Engine 3.

Ghost Recon 3 (Ubisoft) – The screenshots demonstrate something called Cross-Com, which enables you to basically micromanage soldiers on the battlefield. Should bring something new to the squad-based shooter series.

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The Godfather

The Godfather (EA) – Francis Ford Coppola isn’t all that keen on it, but that won’t stop EA, which is marching forward with its adaptation of the Mario Puzo book/Coppola film undeterred, with various of the actors on board and a GTA-style premise that involves becoming intimately involved with the Corleone family, complete with voice acting from the late, great Marlon Brando amongst others..

Halo 3 (Bungie/Microsoft) – Unconfirmed, but in the GameReactor piece, and, well, would you be all that surprised if it appeared at Microsoft’s pre-E3 2005 press conference on Monday 16th?

Kameo: Elements of Power (Rare/Microsoft) – Looking, similar to the way it looked when we thought it was coming out on Xbox, this third-person adventure fuses exploration and puzzling with real-time combat and transforming creatures. “Launch portfolio” title, says Peter Moore.

King Kong (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft) – Ubisoft’s planning to show this off at E3 too and is working very closely with Peter Jackson. The Montreal Studio’s handling it.

Lost Odyssey (Mistwalker/Microsoft) – Aha, Hironobu Sakaguchi’s other RPG. You play Kaim, a man sentenced to live for 1,000 years, and in his shoes you wander through several generations, falling in and out of love and affecting people. Soundtrack’s being provided by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, although the game itself is being handled by Feel Plus, a company featuring yet more former Square Enix exployees.

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Madden NFL 06

Madden NFL 06 (EA) – American Football

NBA 2K6 (Visual Concepts/2K Games) – Visual Concepts’ basketball series

NBA Live 06 (EA) – Basketball

Need For Speed: Most Wanted (EA) – Potentially steering itself away from the shackles of the neon-doused Underground label, Most Wanted sounds more like the old-school Hot Pursuit NFS titles.

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Ninety-Nine Nights

Ninety-Nine Nights (Q Entertainment) – Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Xbox 360 title, featuring lots of very, very shiny men. It’s full of jaw-dropping vast battles and sees the developer angling away from his usual musical influences in a game that looks more like Dynasty Warriors than anything else.

RalliSport Challenge 3 (DICE/Microsoft) – Unconfirmed, but mentioned in the print press.

Perfect Dark Zero (Rare/Microsoft) – It’s the sequel to the Nintendo 64 game Perfect Dark, .

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Possession (Blitz Games) – Imagine a strategy game in which you order zombies around.

Project Gotham Racing 3 (Bizarre Creations/Microsoft) – Accurate racing sim

Saint’s Row (THQ) – Briefly mentioned on MTV – we’re going on other people’s testimonials here – Saint’s Row is said to be a third-person action game with big guns, cars and action.

Quake IV (Raven Software/Activision) – Mentioned last night and blown open on the PC at least in a number of arranged pre-E3 mag exclusives, Quake IV marks a return to the storyline of Quake II (since Quake III didn’t really have one), and sees the player take control of a chap called Kane in a fight against the evil Stroggs. Improved AI is something we’ve seen mentioned. Hrm. Naturally though it’s incredibly detailed. More at E3.

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Test Drive: Unlimited

Test Drive: Unlimited (Eden Games/Atari) – This could be a launch title, apparently, and involves racing around in a persistent online world.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (EA) –

Tomb Raider: Legend (Crystal Dynamics/Eidos) – If the shots are anything to go by, it could be good.

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (Neversoft/Activision) -Presumably having dumped the increasingly tedious Jackass influence, Neversoft and publisher Activision are building this around a free-roaming LA environment. It could be much the same, but it will at least have BMX bikes in it to keep us interested.

Unreal Tournament 2007 (Epic Games/Midway) – Epic Games brings its multiplayer series to Xbox 360.

New new new

13 05 2005

I remember this from last time. The time we went to the emotion engine, the time Microsoft entered the game. The time Nintendo gave up.
it was a rollercoaster
I said I wouldn’t get so excited this time
I said I’d be cool

but I must say I still get excited by the technology.
we all talk about the mass market, when games become a place when the tec doesn’t matter. But we are some way off right now. Well for me anyway.
3 cpus. 3
and nearly a gig of ram.
and the video chip.

UK Games council

11 05 2005

today i was introduced as the man who will create the UK Games council.
and i hope true.
but a little over strecthing ideas.
cart and horse and all that.