Bungie cracks us all up

Knock knock, why did the chicken cross the road and other such dreadful jokes have got themselves a new friend, that Bungie are making an MMO for Activision. I know, it’s barely even funny but according the the official site, comments by lead network engineer David Aldridge were taking out of context and where nothing more than a joke.

On one of the slides Aldridge used in his presentation at GDC, there was a line about Bungie hiring for an MMO but after the internet blew up with apparent confirmations of the studio’s next game, this was posted on Bungie.net: “An industrious journalist noticed the final slide from David’s GDC deck which apparently proclaimed that we were hiring for a ‘massively…multiplayer action game.’ Ruh oh. Now, in rehearsal Aldridge was convinced that everybody got the joke. It was all in the delivery, he assured us, and he was certain it was clear that he was playfully riffing off of the recent rumors. Unfortunately, most people can’t figure David out – they can’t process him. And we don’t expect them to.”

Surely if you don’t think a comment like that would be understood for being a humorous stab at rumours then it’s a little odd to include it in the first place. Especially now that it’s causes even more whispering and speculations amongst the gaming media. It should be noted that neither Bungie or Activision have gone on record denying an MMO is in the works, just that they’re not announcing anything right now. And that everything you’ve heard so far is purely intended to make us laugh. It didn’t.

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Mining for pirates

A lot of interesting talks are coming out of this year’s GDC and at the Indie Games Summit (via Edge), Minecraft creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson gave an alternative view of video game piracy. He believes if you pirate a game, then it shouldn’t be considered as theft but the potential to obtain new customers. The assumption of course is how those choosing to pirate a game will cease doing so and start buying products. I find that a little hard to believe. Persson compared piracy to other types of theft like stealing a car saying it differs because, “If you steal a car, the original is lost. If you copy a game, there are simply more of them in the world.” More that people are not paying for however. But Persson hypothesised that maybe there isn’t such a thing as a ‘lost sale’ concerning piracy because couldn’t a bad review also be considered a loss?

I think there are mixed messages going on here and the concept of piracy differs depending on the game. Take Crysis for example. Crytek has twice now been stung by people illegally downloading and distributing their product, impacting sales. They state a committal to PC gaming despite these leaks but a business can’t continue supporting a platform whose users are abusing it. Remember, we don’t actually own the copies of games, merely the license to play them, kind of like watching TV. The overall product may still exist and be seen or played by a larger audience but I fail to see how publishers can easily turn the pirates into consumers.

But like I said, it’s a different situation for different games. Persson referred to his own game, Minecraft and Rovio’s Angry Birds suggesting that because they’re constantly updated, it provides a better experience for gamers who will be less inclined and unable to pirate it. He said: “Treat game development as a service. Make a game last longer than a week. You can’t pirate an online account.” That’s fine for those kind of games and something that EA are seemingly working towards with their EA account, having players log into it when gaming. But certain genres and game types don’t work the same way as the likes of Angry Birds. With something like that, you can offer more and more content over time without it massively impacting the experience of people with vastly different gaming habits. When you propose this idea to a more traditional game, they begin to take on the episodic format which so far hasn’t been able to work for all genres.

I agree in theory, if you can win over the potential pirates and give people a reason not to steal your product, everybody wins; publishers make a profit and continue producing games, consumers feel satisfied that what they’re getting is true value and do not or simply cannot easily pirate it. Until we reach that point, piracy is still theft.

Gear up on the 3DS

Along with the pretty exciting Super Mario 3D news harvested from Satoru Iwata’s GDC talk yesterday, plans to release GameGear games on the 3DS via the eShop were also announced. For those who are too frightfully young to remember, the GameGear was Sega’s answer to the GameBoy at the start of the 90s and was supported all the way up until 1997. Even though it featured a colour screen, the higher price tag, lack of key developer interest and hunger for power (taking six AA batteries) doomed the GameGear from the start. I now own one of these beasts and enjoy it as much as any other retro console of mine but rather than hunting down old copies of games, I can download them straight to the 3DS when the service goes live later this year.

What games can we expect to kick off the backlog? Andriasang posted a list and screenshots including, Sonic & Tails 2, Sonic Drift 2, The GG Shinobi, Dragon Crystal Shirani’s Maze and Columns. The last game on that list is what a lot of people will remember the GameGear for because Columns came with the system and was Sega’s very own Tetris-like game. Apart from Sonic Drift 2, which I completely forgot about until today and maybe Dragon Crystal Shirani’s Maze, I don’t know if there are a great deal of GameGear games that I hold dear to my heart and wish to play again via the 3DS. That could be because I was always a GameBoy fan and leered with jealousy at my cousins who had GameGears so never built up a fondness with the software. But for any ex-GameGear aficionado, I’m sure there are a good few games you’d like to get your hands on once again. Sega didn’t reveal any pricing structure for the games which is hardly surprising since Nintendo are still to do the same for their retro line-up.

The return of the Tanooki suit?

At this year’s GDC, just a few hours ago, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata took to the stage and spoke about the troubles gamers had with Mario platformers when the franchise moved from 2D to 3D in Super Mario 64. It’s been almost 15 years and now Iwata with his compadre Shigeru Miyamoto believe they have the answer thanks to the 3DS, officially announcing Super Mario 3D. The clever folk behind the highly celebrated Super Mario Galaxy are said to be currently working on the new Mario game with a temporary logo, seen above, including what appears to be a tail. Iwata referenced the tail in his talk but only to say they’ll be discussing it in greater detail at this year’s E3.

I’m not one to jump to conclusions, oh who am I kidding? Of course I am and can only think that the suggestion of a tail would point to the return of Mario’s Tanooki suit, the furry get-up which first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3 allowing the hairy-lipped Italian to fly. This would add up with Miyamoto’s statements at the start of February when the project was first revealed in an Iwata Asks feature. Mario’s metaphorical father excitedly said “I want to show everyone as soon as possible what the new Super Mario Bros. will be like on the Nintendo 3DS,” specifically using the name Super Mario Bros. whose third game is often argued as the best in the series. Because it is. Super Mario 3D‘s logo and presumably the name isn’t set in stone so could well become Super Mario Bros. 3D adding credence to the idea that the tail is indeed part of a Tanooki suit. The spanner in said theory is how the Super Mario Bros. name is incredibly popular so omitting it at any stage would seem a little odd. Roll on E3 to find out just what’s going on.

I am one of the people Iwata spoke of, those who find jumping in 3D Mario games to be a tad tricky. I can do it, I’m not a complete loss but have always favoured the jump mechanics of the 2D titles while appreciating the ever unfolding creativity found in the 3D games. If Nintendo have cracked it thanks to the optical 3D of their new handheld and have the brains behind some of the most imaginative Mario games working on it, Super Mario 3D could be reason enough to own a 3DS.