Black Rock’s First Disney Game

15 02 2008

Black Rock Studio

Black Rock Studio have revealed their first Disney Interactive Studios game:

First game from Black Rock (formerly Climax Racing) is off-road racer Pure

Obviously building on their existing strengths, but I wonder what kind of spin the game will acquire from Disney.

GTA IV Wanted Posters

13 02 2008

GTA IV Poster

Bruce Everiss points out a viral campaign for GTA IV, and several reasons why it’s a well orchestrated one. The comments are a bit of a standoff over old media and new media, and the GTA IV campaign is an example of both working together.

I really wouldn’t like to look like Nico (The character on the poster) and live in the US right now, because most people will only register the word “wanted” and the face 🙂

Destiny of Post-Production

13 02 2008


Good post on the Skillset blog about post-production, with this part applicable to game development:

<blockquote>Now, we need to forget the demarcations of “post”, “tv”, “animation” etc, and start instilling the concept that where ever you sit in the industry, you are part of a value-added chain: the ‘creatives’ come up with the concept, the ‘production staff’ make it a (in some cases, virtual) reality, and perhaps the role of our future “First Post” stars is to maximise the opportunities for generating revenue from that content – as Adobe now say, “from screen to screen” – getting the content from tv to phone, from cinema to game, from blog to e-zine.  But what is also lacking in the industry is the entreprenurial management and leadership skills to spot these new opportunities and exploit them.

So, any answers?</blockquote>

Management and leadership skills? There’s not really much codified yet. For instance, the current writer’s strike in the US is a baby step on the way to dealing with the new environment. It’s going to take quite a while for any adequate methods of dealing with this to filter up and become routine, and even then, games won’t necessarily be out of the woods: While plenty of people have been talking up a storm about the running of UK game development studios for the past six years or so, even non-media companies in well established industries have difficulty recruiting good management.

Mass Effects

24 01 2008

Mass Effect

Mass Effect recently received a proper hatchet job from Fox News and a writer named Cooper Lawrence, who’d never seen or played the game but leveled various accusations at it. EA have actually mounted an incredibly cogent defense, first seen here at Kotaku:

Your headline above the televised story read: “New videogame shows full digital nudity and sex.” Fact: Mass Effect does not include explicit or frontal nudity. Love scenes in non-interactive sequences include side and profile shots – a vantage frequently used in many prime-time television shows. It’s also worth noting that the game requires players to develop complex relationships before characters can become intimate and players can chose to avoid the love scenes altogether.

FNC voice-over reporter says: “You’ll see full digital nudity and the ability for players to engage in graphic sex.”
Fact: Sex scenes in Mass Effect are not graphic. These scenes are very similar to sex sequences frequently seen on network television in prime time.

FNC reporter says: “Critics say Mass Effect is being marketed to kids and teenagers.”
Fact: That is flat out false. Mass Effect and all related marketing has been reviewed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and rated Mature – appropriate for players 17-years and older. ESRB routinely counsels retailers on requesting proof of age in selling M-rated titles and the system has been lauded by members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. In practical terms, the ratings work as well or better than those used for warning viewers about television content.

At the very end:

The resulting coverage was insulting to the men and women who spent years creating a game which is acclaimed by critics for its high creative standards. As video games continue to take audiences away from television, we expect to see more TV news stories warning parents about the corrupting influence of interactive entertainment. But this represents a new level of recklessness.

Do you watch the Fox Network? Do you watch Family Guy? Have you ever seen The OC? Do you think the sexual situations in Mass Effect are any more graphic than scenes routinely aired on those shows? Do you honestly believe that young people have more exposure to Mass Effect than to those prime time shows?

This isn’t a legal threat; it’s an appeal to your sense of fairness. We’re asking FNC to correct the record on Mass Effect.


Jeff Brown
Vice President of Communications
Electronic Arts, Inc.

Emphasis mine. You can watch the original Fox News segment here.

It’s quite astounding to see this letter after years of watching the games industry do an appalling job of defending itself, at best being merely litigious, at worst provocative and childish. It’s quite a big step for EA to take such a reasoned approach.

The same can’t be said of Mass Effect fans, but their reaction is quite a funny fulfillment of the words “Don’t fuck with the internet”: and have recently seen a sudden influx of reader reviews on product pages attributed to Lawrence’s book ‘The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace with Your Inner Overachiever’ after she participated in the scathing attack against Mass Effect.


Currently 346 ‘one star’ reader reviews have hit the product page in the wake of the FOX News item, with gamers venting their spleens vehemently at Lawrence through a variety of damning criticisms against her and her book – including product picture submissions calling her reputation and credibility into question.

Channel 4 Education Commissions, Six to Start

14 01 2008

Channel 4

Channel 4 have revealed a few things they’re commissioning for education in 2008, and overall they have an interesting focus:

The new commissions for 2008 – announced today – are part of the £6m educational budget for 14- to 19-year-olds which involves Channel 4 dropping much of its TV programming in favour of online projects.

It seems like a spot on approach to such a high-risk, unfamiliar environment as online.

Alice Taylor, the Channel 4 commissioning editor for education, said the broadcaster was not expecting every project to be a massive success.

“This is about flexibility and learning,” she added. “There are no hard and fast formulas we can trot out. We have to go out and experiment, figure out what works and do that next year.”

The piece also mentions Six To Start, who are certainly a company to watch. Among others, it was set up by Dan and Adrian Hon (formerly of Mind Candy), and they’ll be working with James Wallis. They make ARGs, but nothing we’ve seen from them so far has been a marketing tool.

BBC Denies Push Into Games

10 08 2007

Earlier this week a rumor broke that the BBC were going to announce a major move into games at the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival. It was quickly refuted:

“The presentation will not reveal a major move into the games industry and is in fact just reflective of the way in which various sectors of the entertainment industry are now converging and can learn from each others methods of working.”

It turns out the news was nothing particularly new, and apparently an exaggerated misunderstanding about the software used to develop the new MMO:

 The game, based on an upcoming kids show, is being developed by a company called Nice Tech. Their development process, which updates playable builds for those working on the game weekly, is apparently what all the fuss was about.

The above, from Joystiq.

Wii Steals TV Time

12 07 2007

The Times Online reports that the Nintendo Wii is being blamed for a decline in primetime viewing figures:

The Nintendo Wii – the games console that is outselling Sony’s Play-Station 3 by three to one – has begun to “steal” prime-time television audiences in Japan.

The Nintendo machine, which was specifically designed to repackage video gaming as a family-oriented affair, is believed by media insiders to be responsible for an unprecedented decline in early-evening viewing figures for Japan’s top-rated shows.

via Wonderland:

I’m sure this will be a temporary big-dip, and Japanese TV will recover; but there’s always the risk that it won’t recover to its previous levels, as is the case of terrestrial Brit TV since the invasion of satellite …

Yannis Mallat: Ubisoft’s Future of Digital Entertainment

19 06 2007

Yannis Mallat of Ubisoft talks about their future plans. While somewhat vague and potentially heavy on hype when it comes to the plans themselves, the interview has some interesting tidbits around the periphery of them:

What kind of people are you hiring into this? Are you hiring from the game space mostly, or are you also hiring film students?

YM: Both. In five years, we don’t want people to be saying, “I am an animator for the video game side,” and “I am an animator for the CG side.” We want people saying, “I am an animator for Ubisoft Montreal.”

You want the line between CG animation and real-time animation to blur, so that there is no such thing as uninteractive content, right?

YM: Exactly.

No such thing as uninteractive content.

Charles Cecil: Only Blockbusters Work at Blockbuster Prices.

24 05 2007

Charles Cecil speaks about videogame price points and diverse markets on today:

Gears of Wars was clearly a blockbuster, people are happy to pay GBP 40 for that and feel it’s good value. But then we have all these smaller games like Katamari Damacy that get very well reviewed and perceived very fondly by people within the industry, but don’t sell to a wider audience. My view on that is you can only sell something for GBP 40 if it’s truly epic. Therefore, what we need to do is explore ways of bringing these highly innovative and great games in a different way. And that’s more like the TV model where you sell something cheaper and find ways to distribute it to a wider audience and maybe advertising can cover some of the revenues. We’ve got to find different models where we have the epic games on one side and the more ‘indie’ games on the other.

Ludocinematic Future?

21 05 2007

News broke last week of Michael Bay receiving a 25M USD budget to develop an FPS game.

While this is certainly part of a significant trend, Clint Hocking weighs in with some well founded scepticism:

“Nonetheless, company executives say they have a competitive advantage: a network of A-list directors that includes David Fincher (“Fight Club”) (8.6), Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) (5.7) and, of course, Bay, whose latest movie, “Transformers,” is one of the summer’s most anticipated releases. Most film-based games are developed through third parties, and filmmakers often have little or no creative control. By contrast, Digital would let filmmakers direct their own games.”

So they don’t mean it only in the purely business sense. They actually think that they can just hand over lead creative on a game to someone who made some movies and that will work.