Keyboards for Rock Band 3?

Harmonix released a teaser picture for it’s upcoming Rock Band 3.  Notice the new icon including a keyboard?  Hmmm….sounds interesting and makes perfect sense.  I figured it was only a matter of time before this happened, but I wonder how many instruments can actually be plugged in at any given time?  With my current RB 1 & 2 on my 360 the USB peripheral allows for upto 4 devices, but then again, the 360 has anotehr USB port on ther front as well, so maybe 5 devices isn’t a stretch afterall.

But also notice the microphone icon….it has multiple mics….Is it possible we’ll be singing harmony ala Beatles?  I guess we’ll find out more details come mid June when E3 2010 drops.

I’m looking forward to RB3, although my friends and I have’t finished RB1 or 2 yet.  Not sure why as we always have a blast playing.  It’s just been getting harder and harder to round us all up.

In other music gaming news, I’ve almost completed DJ Hero on medium.  I have no fricken idea how people are scoring 5 stars on Hard or Expert modes.  Now that I’m ending my tour on medium, I just think how hard my hand/eye cooridination was on a few beats/sonsg in the Vinyl Cuts section, especially with the cross fader.   Here’s hoping that Activision throws a few more songs our way before DJ Hero 2 drops as well.  I understand the game didn’t deliver the sales numbers they were hoping for this past holiday season, but come on…the game did retail for over $120 on debut during a recession and just after The Beatles and sucky Tony Hawk’s Ride dropped.  Tough market to compete in, and thus they didn’t follow up with DLC support for months.  It was months before a second set of DLC was released after the initial offerings.  That’s just not cool when RB & Harmonix are pumping out tracks on a weekly basis.

Games I’m currently working on: Dragon Age Origins, Assassins Creed II, Modern Warfare 2, and beleive it or not, I still have an un-opened copy of Mass Effect 2.  Haven’t even had time to play Tiger Woods 2010, let alone think about Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Borderlands.  By the time I get to those, hopefully the price will drop on all of these to $29.99-$39.99

And Natal?  I can’t even think about that right now.  Though I am curious to any news of upcoming games for it.  I think it has a ton of potential, but I’m just really scared that there may be a lot of shovelware crap like the Wii.

An onslaught of titles for the 360

Whew….

It seems a damn busy time in the realm of console games for personal consumption over the next few weeks.  With so many A & B titles being released for my 360, I have no idea on which ones to grab first.  With the average price being $60 each to, I really have to be careful in my choices.  Hopefully for our 5th wedding anniversary, my wife will also be getting me a certificate for one of the store to help out.

So let’s see, what do I have to choose from:

  • Fable II: I loved the first Fable and had a blast completing it on my original Xbox.  I like the idea of revisting the world of Albion, especially with an AI dog as my companion and the co-op online mechanic.  Reviews of this game have been highly positive and a reads like a great solo casual RPG that isn’t overly complex.
  • Far Cry 2: I never played the original, but I like the idea of the open style sand box of a 20+ square miles of Africa.  The visuals look lush, and decisions really do count in the game and affect how you progress.  I also like the idea that the game never breaks for pauses if you need to look at a map or inventory….It’s all real time.  Explosions and fire mechanics look great.  Another highly reviewed game, although there is a comment about inconsitent damage to baddies.
  • Fallout 3: I never played the originals, so I’m a bit unfamilar with the Fallout universe, but hey, it’s Bethesda.  A lot of great hype is surrounding this game and the visuals I’ve seen are also fantastic.  Promises over 100+ hours of game play with a lot of RPG elements and special effects.  Can we sat VAT and PipBoy?  Yup…I’m in for this one.
  • GH-WT: Though I am just scratching the surface of my recent Rock Band 2, I totally play these games with my friends and can spend hours on the music rhythm genre.  Much more customization and a killer song list.  I’m also jonesing for the re-tooled guitar (bigger, badder).  There will be a lot of late night weekends coming up with my house band rocking the party soon.
  • Tom Clancy’s End War:  Voice controlled RTS set in the Clancy universe. ‘Nuff said.
  • Gear of War 2:  I may put this one on the back burner for now as I still need to complete the original GoW.  I figure I’m about 50% done on that one?
  • BIA – Hell’s Highway:  I’ll get this eventually.  Maybe when the price drops or it becomes a Platinum Hit.  Got above average scores and I enjoy that kind of strategic FPS’s.
  • Dead Space: Also looks good.  I like the story line premise, even though it may not be super original.  Reminds me of the original ‘Alien’ movie.  Already out and the user community says its a nail biter.  Maybe another I’ll wait for the Platinum Hit price drop.
  • Banjo Kazooie – Nuts & Bolts: I like the cheaper price point of $40 and it looks to be a fun ‘casual’ style platformer.  I’ve never palyed any of the Banjo games before, but I really like the ‘Lego’-ish aspect of collecting parts and building my own creations to solve puzzles. 
  • Call of Duty – World at War: Another in which I suppose I should finish CoD4 before I buy this one.  Although I’m tired of WWII games, it is CoD afterall, and the idea that it’s in a different theatre now…along with flamethrowers makes this look interesting to me.
  • Wrath of the Lich King: Okay, so technically not a console game, I do love my WoW and this will be a must buy on my list.

All the games I listed here either just came out this past week, or will be out before the end of November.  That’s a lot for such a small window of time.  Thankfully there’s nothing I really see on the horizon after November that I’m really stoked about as the games above (even if I end up getting 2 or 3) should keep me busy for many months to come.  My 360 will be very busy.

I think my top runners right now are Fable II, Fallout 3 and Guitar Hero: WT.   Now I just need to prioritize and come to the realization that a few will not be purchased until sometime in 2009, and hopefully by then, many of the prices will indeed drop.

PAX 2008 gaming coverage – part 1

PAX 2008

PAX 2008

The Penny Arcade Expo was held this last week up in Washington State and helps showcase many small time and independant video game developers.  However the last few years, it has grown in scope to include major developers as well including Nintendo, Microsoft, EA, etc.  In addition to new video games be showcased, attendees can alos be seen playing both fantasy inspired table top games like Heroclix, Warhammer, and collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering.

This year attendance broke a new record with over 58,500 tickets sold and plans are underway to expand it once again, and even to hold an east coast version to be held in Botson, most likely in March of 2010.

So in no particular order, here is some information that was either revealed at PAX itself, or coincided in timing with the expo.

Gear of War 2: Confirmed this would be an XBox 360 title only, meaning no port to PC.

Fallout 3: Nearly completed.  Going through final bug clean up and beta testing.

StarCraft II: Blizzard announced a delay from late 2008 to early 2009.

XBox: It has been confirmed there will be an upcoming price reduction in Japan, making it the cheapest next gen console available in that country.  This most likely strengthens the rumors that yet another price cut is coming to North America sometime in early September, possibly as early as the 7th.

Mirror’s Edge: DLC content may only be PS3 exclusive once released.

Demigod: Developer, Gas Powered Games shown game play of their upcoming RPG/RTS currently scheduled for a Feb. 2009 release.  In the demo I saw being played, it looks very pretty and very unique with a lot of depth in its skill tree models (RPG element).  Has some steampunk elements to it as well. 

Rock Band: There are 3 PAX inspired tracks as DLC that were made available on September 2nd.  You can buy the tracks at a reduced price individually or as the PAX 2008 Collection.

Guitar Hero World Tour: Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan will be a playable character within the game as well as debut their new upcoming single ‘G.L.O.W.’ as part of an upcoming Smashing Pumpkins Track Pack as DLC for the game.

E3 2008 – Microsoft press conference – Day 1

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

E3 2008 - Los Angeles

I sorta geeked out with the anticipation of rushing home from work on Monday so I could watch the G4 TV 2.5 hour live press conference (I taped it) that Microsoft was presenting for Xbox 360 owners. 

The show was a break from the regular X-Play episode as both hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb were onhand to give the at home audience a sneak peak at things that will be coming to the XBox 360 owners over the next year.

So without further ado, here were some of the highlights (in no particular order):

  • Live Interface upgrade: The 360 GUI interface will be getting a complete overhaul sometime this fall.  Microsoft explained that while the current interface works well, they wanted to make it even more user friendly and accessible to all and to showcase many new features including ‘avatars’ and live interactive content.  Personally, while some of the features look pretty cool, I’m not sure I’ve been sold on it.  The thing is, it doesn’t look as if Live users will have a choice but to have this automatically installed one day when they turn on their systems this fall.  It’d be nice if they gave us a choice, but I can understand why they don’t want two interfaces to supports and are going to move forward with this.  The most blatant change is the inclusion of personal ‘avatars’, or 3D customizable animated representations of an online gamer.  Think of it as a ‘souped’ up Wii Mii.  I imagine this is a direct response to Sony’s reported upcoming interface, ‘Home’ and Nintendo’s Mii’s.  The big question I have is what do we do with our gamer pics and themes we’ve become accustomed to the last few years.  Will MS credit back Live Users for their previous theme and gamer picture purchases?  For all intents and purposes it looks like gamer pictures and themes will disappear altogether which would suck if you invested a lot of MSP’s into the last few years.  Another interesting aspect in the new emphasis on ‘parties’ and interactive game-shows.  While I personally have no need or real desire to share my pictures and other live content in a ‘party’, I do look forward to being part of a interactive game show like the demoed “1 vs. 100” they showed.  That looks pretty cool.
  • Netflix:I am pretty stoked about this feature as I already have a Netflix subscription.  This feature also debuting later this year will allow Netflix subscribers to instantly download/buffer movies on demand from the ever expanding Netflix library.  This may just push my need to get a Blu-Ray player back even further as I have no need to rush out and buy one to watch movies in HD.  I believe I will indeed be taking advantage of this quite liberally when it is available.
  • Gears of War 2: They demoed a quite lengthy run within the game and it look just awesome.  As a relatively new GoW player myself (I just recently picked it up when the price dropped to $39.99) and only done with chapter 2, the sequel just looks incredible!  Besides the improved graphics, there appears to be many more moves and weapons available and very, very creative levels with adrenaline pounding action, atmosphere, and sound design.  Yay!
  • Fable II: I completed Fable I years ago on my original Xbox and loved it, so this was already an automatic buy for me when it was announced sometime back.  They showed some co-op play and it looked pretty darn good as well.  I’m excited they included a dog as a pet for the player, and the pet AI and mannerisms look pretty neat.  The one quirky thing I’m not sure what I think about yet is ‘player orbs’ for multi-player.  supposedly, you can see your friends online within the game when they are on as they are represented by orbs.  You walk up to an orb, press a button, and ‘whammo’, your friend is now in your game.  What if you don’t have many friends who own the game?  What if you invite a friend and they screw with your unique world?  I’ll still get, but I figure I’ll be playing a lot of solo.
  • Fallout 3: Another ‘must buy’ for me.  Atmosphere and sound that Bethesda put into this game looks phenomenal.  They claim the world is an open world, much like Oblivion was and it did look pretty vast from what they showed.  The combat VAT engine looks very easy and intuitive, and the weapons showcased were awe inspiring.  Bethesda claims that when the game ships it will have 100+ hours of content with even more available as the develop DLC for it.
  • Guitar Hero III & World Tour:  Said a Metalica album will be be available for both later this year, but they really focused on World Tour.  Drum kit is wireless and will ship with around 85 new songs.  They mentioned the ability to create your own songs, but did not show examples.  There will also be some exclusive tracks from Led Zepplin and Guns ‘N Roses.
  • Lips: I don’t know what to think of this either.  This looks like a total social party game geared for young adults or kids.  They had UK pop star Duffy sing her hit Mercy.  I could have done without that.  Anyway, Lips is a karaoke game with light-up microphones (WTF?), and supposedly you can play music from your Zune or iPod, but they didn’t say if these supplied words or not.  I can’t figure out if the ‘word’ versions of songs are DLC or not.  Wish they would have talked more about this.
  • Rock Band 2:The only significant thing they said here was that all RB 1 songs are forward compatible with RB 2 as well as the instruments.  They announced 84 master tracks on CD will ship with the game as well as at least 20 free DLC songs by launch, and by the end of the year RB 2 will support a library of about 500 songs.  That’s impressive.  You can find the track listings elsewhere so I won’t repeat it here, but I am happy to see some more alternative bands like Talking Heads and Blondie to be appearing.  Exclusive tracks will include Bob Dylan and AC/DC as well, but since I don’t care for either of those, I probably won’t get those.
  • Resident Evil 5: Long way to go on this one as I think they said it will be available in March of 2009.  Showed off some co-op which looked pretty cool with head-shots and obstacle puzzle solving, but the zombies looked so slow.  While they showed a decent length demo and it was interesting, I’ll wait and see what develops because in 8 months, a lot can change….and the zombies just looked slow.
  • Square Enixannounced progress on already three announced games and showed a trailer for the next Star Ocean series.  The trailer looked absolutely beautiful and sounded great, but that’s all it was… a trailer showing in-game cut-scenes.  No actual game footage, and no description on what it was or what the story is or the goal.  It was pretty commercial that told me nothing about the game at all so that was a disappointment.  The biggest news out of Square Enix is they announced Final Fantasy XIII for the 360, a big blow to Sony where it was an exclusive franchise for them up to now.
  • Banjo Kazooie & Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise.  More kid friendly games, however, Banjo looks pretty interesting as a casual platform/puzzle solver and is worth a closer look.  VP uses the camera and cards to place rare pinatas and other effects in game like weather and items.
  • Social games & Arcade: They showed a few various games like Geometry Wars 2 and Galaga 2 as upcoming live arcade titles.  Social games eere a mixed bag of cool looking thing like the previously aforementioned 1 vs 100 and Scene It, but a real crap-fest in “You’re in the Movies”…I honestly can’t see this one making it big and even the demo they showed was clearly out of synch and looked low-tiered.  It was funny watching the MS reps really trying to sell this one and of all the game presented up to this point, this looked the most amateurish.
  • Not shown: Halo Wars, Too Human, Force Unleashed, CoD 5.

Now that Microsoft opened with some pretty big guns and some big news with Final Fantasy XIII and a system interface overhaul along with Netflix, it should be very interesting to see what both Nintendo and Sony have to offer.