A little birdy reveals Dragon Age III. Anyone surprised?

As is the norm for modern day reveal, BioWare have chosen Twitter as a good place to coyly announce the development of Dragon Age III. Yep, a third is on the way, hot on the heels of the second which released just a few months ago. Senior director of creative development, Alistair McNally, tweeted the studio’s need for “exceptional environment artists,” purposely using the tag #DragonAge3 to cause all kinds of “OMG”s on the social site.

It’s no surprise that game number three is in the works for a franchise as popular as Dragon Age but it amused me to read the want for more environment artists after the criticisms of DA2. One of its sticking points was how you seemingly visited the same location over and over again, heavily relying on recycled backgrounds. Are BioWare looking to right the wrongs of repetition? It would appear that way.

Lets hope the team get a little longer to work on Dragon Age III than they did with the second though. A famously short development timescale soured more than an ignorable number of gamers but EA boss John Riccitiello has gone on record (via That Video Game Blog) with his desire for annualising the publisher’s top properties. That could very well mean Dragon Age, Dead Space and Medal of Honor (to name a few) would have yearly iterations instead of the 18 month – 2 year breathing space that is good for certain IPs. This may not be a such a bad thing as it clearly works for Call of Duty and sport games so why not for all types? Well we’ve seen the crushing effect of milking a franchise for all its worth with the demise of Guitar Hero and subsequently Rock Band too. Given the breadth and scope of fantasy RPGs like Dragon Age, the more time they have, they better then experience and less likely they are to have you running around a dungeon wondering whether you’ve been there before.

Still, a third Dragon Age huh? Cool. I’d best get cracking on the second one just in case it does appear around March 2012.

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Rhythm-action games yet to peak

The latest issue of Edge has an interesting article about rhythm action games and whether the poor sales in 2009 is the beginning of the end for the genre. Their year-over-year sales dropped a whopping 46% in 2009 though it was the best selling genre of December so it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, Harmonix ceo Alex Rigopulos thinks it’s quite the opposite:

“I absolutely do not believe that rhythm-action gaming has reached its peak.” Really? I do but go on; “Of course, 2009 was a tough year with the recession, which especially affects music games given the relatively high price point of instrument bundles. But in the long term, people’s passion for music isn’t going away, and rhythm gaming will continue to provide people with a deeper level of engagement with the music they love. So, yes, I do think that future music games will exceed the sales success of the last generation.”

Valid point about the recession but since gamers have broken that cycle of re-buying the same plastic guitars and drum kits not to mention how the new discs aren’t vastly different to previous year’s, is it really safe to say that future sales will exceed latter generations? Ever the ying to Harmonix yang, current Guitar Hero developers Neversoft disagree:

“As far as sales exceeding GHIII’s in the future, only time will tell, but it’s a tall order,” says project director Brian Bright “I think user-created content is key to the evolution. If you can’t create or edit licensed music due to copyright laws then you’re limited to pretending to play someone else’s music. I think the key is to create music, but make it compelling to create, so the game is in the creation, not the playback.”

Rigopulos agreed and took the opportunity to plug the Rock Band Network which allows unsigned bands to showcase their creations via Rock Band. If indeed user-created content is the future as is the popular and healthy DLC tracks then hopefully we’ll see a shift from gradually redundant disc-based rhythm games to more of an iTunes model. Like Bright says, only time will tell. Check out E211 for the full story.

Ghouls & Ghosts spook the iPhone

Ghouls and Ghosts

The devilishly difficult but oh so rewarding Ghouls & Ghosts has been released in Japan for the iPhone and iPod Touch reports Andriasang. Going under the Japanese name for the series, Makaimura (Ghouls & Ghosts) Kishi Retsuden can either play as traditional Authur or newbie Lancelot. Much like the Rock Band App, we’ll have the option to buy more content for the game post release such as infinite lives and power-ups. Hang on, infinite lives? Doesn’t that remove the challenge and enjoyment? There’s still no news as to when it will come to the west but I can’t imagine it’ll be long before we get to cramp our thumbs on the virtual d-pad used for controlling the game.

Pants!

Video game pants from Target

Do you classify yourself as a hardcore gamer? Do you wash your body with control pad soap singing the theme to Halo in the shower? If so then you probably already have a pair of these video game underpants. Joystiq spied these bad boys while shopping in their local Target and in terms of game franchises, it looks as if there are only Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Halo pants. But you can also get your hands on (no pun intended…) the Atari logo, Xbox 360 and PS3 controller underwear if you so wish. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be specific styles for women so no Halo thongs I’m afraid. I don’t know if that’s a pity or a blessing…