Mr. Bill George Presents

Posts Tagged ‘Mr. Bill George’

Sony At E3 2009

In Technology, Video Games on June 2, 2009 at 4:18 PM

And last, but not least (well, technically it is in terms of sales) Sony had its own media briefing. And here is what went down:

Uncharted 2, M.A.G., Assassin’s Creed II, GT5, God of War 3 DemoedUncharted 1 was one of the PS3’s big exclusives that helped launch the system and the sequel looks pretty amazing in terms of graphics and intensity. M.A.G. is the 256 player online war game announced last year. But now we got to see it in action.

Is It A Big Deal? Uncharted 2, not so much. We’ve seen it already, this is just more of the same. Showing M.A.G. is a huge deal because everyone has been wondering how it looks and how it works. And if you ask me, it delivered. And of course God of War 3 is gonna be a huge, huge release and a major system seller in March.

PSP Go! Debuted50% smaller PSP with a slide up screen revealing the controls. 16 gig internal memory, downloadable games using built in Wifi etc. Sony says it won’t replace the full-on PSP but both will exist and be supported simultaneously. Available in October for $249.99.

Is It A Big Deal? Not for me, that’s for sure. Never been a big fan of the PSP (or handhelds in general) and the Go! is no exception. But if that’s your thing, then enjoy life without UMDs.

New PSP Games: Gran Turismo, MGS: Peace Walker, Resident Evil Portable, Little Big Planet, SOCOM et al. – Many games were announced and previewed including the next GT game for PSP and a new Metal Gear game made by the main team behind MGS4. Kojima says it isn’t a spin-off or a side story but a legitimate part of the canon. (Too bad it’s for the PSP…)

PSN News Final Fantasy VII now available for full download. And Home… well, it still exists…

Is It A Big Deal? FF7 is huge. Everyone loves that game (I’ve never actually played it… ssshh!) Home still stinks. Period.

Rockstar’s Next Game Will Be PS3 Exclusive – Sony announced the game Agent, made by the guys behind GTA etc.

Is It A Big Deal? Big time. Rockstar North seems to have the golden touch and the fact that their next game will be PS3 only is a big win.

Final Fantasy XIV AnnouncedIt’s PS3 exclusive (for real this time) and it’s online.

Is It ABig Deal? Yes. The announcement of a new FF is always big, not to mention it’s PS3 exclusive which helps Sony save face after last year’s surprise. And it’s an online game which will excite most fans.

Something Totally Original, Innovative and Never-Before-Seen in Video Games: Motion Controls! – Oh, wait… Anyway, in the spring of 2010, Sony will be releasing a motion controller that looks like a wand (similar to the Wiimote) with buttons on the handle and (for the tech demo at least) has a glowing sphere on the tip that the EyeToy tracks with 1-to-1 precision.

Is It A Big Deal? Believe it or not: yes. The Wii is finally getting 1-to-1 controls, Microsoft is doing controller-less motion and now the PS3 has its own 1-to-1 tracking that actually looks even more accurate than Nintendo’s (after watching the Resort demo at their briefing and comparing it to this). They made a  jab at Microsoft saying that buttons are necessary for motion controls, especially for FPS’s. And since it tracks the sphere itself and isn’t based on an IR sensor, you don’t have to worry about room lighting and sensor bars. Just the camera. It’s an interesting technology that could spice things up even more in the console war.

New Game Announced From Team-Ico The Last Guardian is a PS3 exclusive made by the team behind the phenomenal PS2 stand-outs Ico and (one of my personal favorites) Shadow of the Colossus.

Is It A Big Deal? You betcha. A lot of people have been waiting long and hard for what this team has to offer. And I’m sure it will not disappoint (even if it looks a bit weird).

Sony’s Overall Showing – Not too shabby. God of War 3, The Last Guardian and motion controls definitely stole the show and will keep people talking. Gonna be an interesting year for gamers, no doubt about it.

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Nintendo At E3 2009

In Technology, Video Games on June 2, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Nintendo just wrapped up their press conference from this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo, so let’s look at what we can expect from the Big N in the near future:

New Super Mario Bros. Wii A new Mario game for Wii in the classic style of a 2D side scroller. The twist being: 4 players simultaneously. Someone plays Mario, another Luigi, and two toads.

Is It A Big Deal? Yes. Almost anything with the name ‘Mario’ means sales and going back to the series’ roots sounds like a good idea to me. Looks pretty fun.

Wii Fit Plus Announced – A new release of Wii Fit you can purchase as a bundle with a board if you don’t have one yet, or as stand alone software.

Is It A Big Deal? Not really. Just another add-on to an already successful game. More activities and options, blah, blah, blah.

Wii Sports Resort and Wii Motion Plus Discussed – As previously alluded to in my Microsoft post, Nintendo is releasing an add-on to Wii-motes that actually support one-to-one motion and make them work the way they should. More parts of Resort were demoed on stage including sky diving and basketball. Also included was the announcement of games that will use motion plus such as Tiger Woods 2010, Grand Slam Tennis, Virtua Tennis and Red Steel 2.

Is It A Big Deal? In the grand scheme of things yes. As for importance to this conference, no. We’ve known about it for a long time, this is just reinforcement.

New DS Games Final Fantasy: Crystal Bearers, a new Kingdom Hearts. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, C.O.P., Style Saavy, some book club game, Mario & Donkey Kong with level creation etc.

Facebook Integration – Much like Microsoft, Nintendo has announced the ability to upload photos taken with the DSI directly to Facebook. Including the opportunity to edit them.

Is It A Big Deal? Just like I thought it was for Microsoft, I see it as a good move for Nintendo. Anything that gets people to spend more time on their platform and get more use of it, the better.

Vitality Sensor -Iwata gave us a sneak peak of a new device he is working on that clips to your finger and keeps track of your pulse and biometric information.

Is It A Big Deal? No idea. Depends on what they can do with it. This was a very brief glimpse.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Announced – Full sequel to the last 3D Mario game that won many ‘Game of the Year’ awards. Oh… and it has Yoshi!

Is It A Big Deal? No doubt about it. I said they needed a flagship game announcement and they delivered.

Metroid: Other M AnnouncedA new Metroid game made by Team Ninja that looks to be a Samus Aran origin story of sorts.

Is It A Big Deal? Absolutely. I’m confused by the gameplay in the video and am unsure of how it actually works, but it sure looks pretty and will sell a billion copies.

Nintendo’s Overall Showing – Lackluster. Too much time wasted on numbers, stats and the DS. But a new Mario and Metroid should satisfy most people.

Microsoft At E3 2009

In Technology, Video Games on June 1, 2009 at 6:53 PM

So, my fellow gamers, it is time once again for the Electronics Entertainment Expo. Of the big three (Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony) Microsoft kicked things off with its press conference this morning and they announced no small amount of stuff. So here’s the breakdown of what you may have missed:

The Beatles: Rockband – We’ve known about this one for a while. It’s coming out 9/9/09. Ringo and Paul came out to say how pleased they were with it. Ten of the tracks for it were announced and it was demoed on stage.

Is It A Big Deal? Yes, because it’s the first time the Beatles’ music has ever appeared in a game or anything of the sort. And whatever helps edge Rock Band over Guitar Hero, I’m all for it.

Tony Hawk: Ride – Mr. Hawk himself came out to demonstrate his latest game that includes a skateboard controller.

Is It A Big Deal? Umm, if you like skate boarding, sure, I guess. I couldn’t care less.

New Games Shown: Crackdown 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Forza 3, Alan Wake, Halo: ODST – I loved Crackdown, so a sequel will be nice. I missed out on the original L4D but have played it a few times and enjoyed it so maybe I’ll get 2. The new Splinter Cell has been delayed a million times so it’s nice to hear from it again. Forza I don’t care about. The Alan Wake project has been plauged with issues just like Conviction so it’s good to see it up and running. Halo: ODST we’ve known about for a while, I’m still not all that interested to be honest with you.

Is It A Big Deal? A mild yes in most cases.

Halo Reach Announced A new Halo game and it’s a prequel. Not a gap-filling half-game like ODST, this is the next big one and it’s looking at a 2010 release.

Is It A Big Deal? Yes. Any new full entry into the Halo series is huge for Microsoft.

Last.fm, Facebook, Twitter Coming To NXE – Streaming radio and the ability to check your favorite social networking sites will now be integrated into the dash.

Is It A Big Deal? Yes and a smart move if you ask me. Yet another way to get people sucked into spending time on the platform. I know I’ll try it out. Doing it through the PS3 or Wii in a browser is one thing, but having it integrated into the system and allowing screenshot uploading to Facebook walls etc, that’s something else. Good thinking.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising Coming To The 360 – The MGS franchise has been exclusive to Sony for years (just like Final Fantasy, but we all saw how that went last year). It has been their bread and butter and MGS4 is how they managed to get as many PS3’s out the door as they have.

Is It A Big Deal? More like HUGE. Big win for MS.

Project Natal – Probably the biggest bombshell of the conference. Microsoft announced a camera add-on for the 360 that will include facial and voice recognition and full body motion capture. No need for a motion controller like the Wii, instead you are the controller. They showed a video of a kid in a fighting game, two girls video chatting, operating the dashboard menus by waving your hands around etc.

Is It A Big Deal? Yes… on one condition: that it works. Just like when the Wii came out, it talks a good game but when you try it yourself something feels off. And Nintendo admitted something was wrong in the form of announcing Wii Motion Plus, the controller add-on that will make the system as responsive as it should have been from the get go. But as far as controller-less video gaming, I don’t see it taking over the industry anytime soon. I’ll believe it when I see it in action.

Ability To Download Full Retail Games From XboxLive – PS3 has already done it with a handful of games but now you will finally be able to purchase full retail games and download them directly to your 360’s hard drive.

Is It A Big Deal? Yes! Finally! I can’t wait until we get to the point of disc-less media and this is another huge step in the right direction that they have been dragging their feet on.

Microsoft’s Overall Showing – Impressive. A lot of content to the presentation this year as opposed to last. Nintendo is going to need a new flagship game (Mario, Zelda etc.) and Sony is going to need more than a new PSP to counter Microsoft’s early momentum.

Still ‘UP’ In The Air

In Film on May 29, 2009 at 2:36 PM

UP

Pixar’s UP isn’t as funny or entertaining as their best film Toy Story. And it isn’t as interesting as last year’s Wall-E. It isn’t even quite on par with some of their other entries like Ratatouille and The Incredibles. And, to be honest, I’d even place it lower on my list than some non-Pixar CGI films such as Antz and Kung Fu Panda.

All that being said, UP is still a wonderful piece of filmmaking.

It begins with an opening that reinforces the fact that animated films, when in the right hands, can have just as much of an emotional impact as any traditional drama. It is a beautiful, beautiful sequence.

The rest of the film trots along with less heart and more gags. Because of the targeted demographic, the story remains fairly obvious and predictable. It doesn’t have that same ‘anything can happen’ magic that the previously mentioned Pixar films do. Because this story is based on human characters and set in the ‘real world’ so to speak, it just doesn’t have the same panache. No matter how many balloons or talking dogs are on screen, it just ain’t the same as toys coming alive when you’re not looking, robots falling in love, or superheroes living amongst us with secret powers.

Besides the heartfelt opening, one more thing sets UP apart: the third dimension. I saw the film in Disney Digital 3D and enjoyed its use of the technology immensely. The film uses the depth 3D offers to subtly enhance the storytelling instead of distract.

The only drawback is that it softens the color palette a bit. During shots that had no depth I took off the glasses to check out how the film looked normally and it was much more vibrant. But I say the extra dimension was worth it (even for a few more bucks).

As with the previously blogged about Terminator Salvation, some movies just have the bad luck of automatically being compared to superior films based on name alone. In this case it isn’t the name of a franchise, but the name of a studio: Pixar. (Evidenced by my opening paragraph.)

Is UP a great family comedy that excels within the genre? Without question.

Will it be instantly remembered from now on whenever people discuss the Pixar catalogue? Perhaps not.

Memorial Day 2009

In Politics on May 25, 2009 at 5:37 PM

Today is the last Monday in May and thus, Memorial Day. A day to celebrate and commemorate those who have given their lives while in military service.

Instead of just accepting this as another long weekend (as I usually do), I decided to look the holiday a bit more this year. And what I found was the actual military order (General Order No. 11) that established this holiday.

It is so beautifully written that I felt the need to present it to you here.

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion.”

What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation’s gratitude—the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective.

‘Wolfram|Alpha’ Is A Go

In Technology on May 23, 2009 at 7:46 PM

Two words:

Game. Changer.

Wolfram|Alpha has been in the news since it launched a week ago and a lot of people have heard of it, but still don’t get quite get what it is. So I decided you should get it straight from the horse’s mouth:

What Are You?

That’s right, a ‘computational knowledge engine.’ Wolfram|Alpha is indexing all the information it can, and organizing it into a searchable, comparable format. It isn’t nearly complete yet but it is already astonishing.

No one can explain it better than the man himself: The inventor, Mr. Stephen Wolfram. Here is a 13 minute introduction video that first got me amped about the whole project (courtesy of future TIAW contributor Matt Rawding).

Within a few years there is no doubt in my mind this will fundamentally change how we gather information on the internet, and thus, it will change the world. Period.

It’s the ambitiousness of W|A that makes it so amazing. If someone made a computational search engine focused on sports stats, that’d be great. If someone did it using just mathematical and scientific formulas, that’d be good too. If someone made a database full of information on movies and television shows, that’d be quite useful (which it is: IMDB.com).

But instead of jumping between those separate sites, we are talking about one entity. One single location on the web where you can find data on virtually anything: Stocks, websites, formulas, popularity of names, weather, maps, locations, schools, genome sequences, finances, government, music, food, nutritional values, the list goes on. And it is in an easy to read, easy to understand, clean looking format.

Google shows you places you may find what you are looking for, W|A finds what you are looking for. (A whole generation of high schoolers are going to have to find a way to cite this thing ASAP.)

Is it perfect? No. At least not yet. It still doesn’t have NBA stats or information on commercial products, among other things. But both those subjects are  still being indexed along with many others. And sometimes it can be easy to over-think how you want to search for something and W|A gets confused by the input. But that’s where watching the video comes in handy. It gives you a great idea of what it can do and how you can do it. I’ve watched it about 3 or 4 times now and get something new out of it every time.

The best thing to do is just play around with it. One good starting point is looking up your birthday. Or search your first and last names to see their popularity. Or look for your hometown or school. And just experiment from there.

So, for those already familiar with Wolfram|Alpha: sound off in the comments. What’s your take? Or what’s your favorite thing to compute?

Double Feature: T:S + A&D

In Film on May 21, 2009 at 4:06 PM

I’ve had the pleasure (for the most part) of seeing two movies as of late. Most recently, the action blockbuster Terminator Salvation. And before that, the snooze-fest that was Angels & Demons.

The Terminator series is near and dear to my heart. T2: Judgment Day was one of the first movies I even remember seeing and is also one of my favorites of all time. Same goes for the original. Both are phenomenal achievements in filmmaking. They have a smart, thought-provoking storyline that perfectly integrates science fiction and time travel as well as human emotion… that, and they are full of bitchin’ action sequences.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has always made calling the franchise a ‘great trilogy’ dicey. Did it fail on a level that would make me choose to ignore its very existence? Not at all (I’m looking at you Matrix: Revolutions). It had some good action and it followed the canon well enough. As a stand alone action film I would have considered it well above average. But it has the misfortune of being judged as part of a pedigree that has set the bar tremendously high. And thus, most recall it poorly.

Salvation takes place in the near future that the other films only hint at or show snippets of. It is 2018 and the war against the machines (post judgment day) is in full swing. John Connor, while not technically leading the resistance, has become an inspiration to the survivors of the nuclear fire through the radio (as depicted at the end of T3).

This is only the first of what is set to be another trilogy, which I presume will end with the sending back of Kyle Reese that begins the original film. And I’m okay with that. I’ll take it.

Do these movies need to exist? No. The story has already been thoroughly laid out. Is it cool to see, with today’s special effects and stylization, what that war looks like? And on top of that, is it an easy way for the studio to drum up some cash using a successful franchise that requires no heavy lifting script wise? Absolutely yes on both counts.

So in the end, Salvation proves entertaining as fan service but doesn’t make any great strides one way or the other for the franchise. It’s a good blockbuster and it doesn’t mess anything up. Worth checking out if you are a fan of the series.

…oh yea… Did I mention I saw Angels & Demons? Umm, yep. I did. It was… yea. Not worth its own blog post even. I read The Da Vinci Code before seeing that film, this time I went in blind. And that helped me appreciate how poor these films are as products. There is no detail, no subtlety and no nuance. Which are the qualities that make the books so popular. But alas, none of that translates in this format. Don’t bother unless you read the book and can fill in those sizable gaps for yourself.

Cheerleaders: Yay or Nay?

In Sports on May 17, 2009 at 8:39 PM

I was at the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Final Game 7 between the World Champion Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic today and something at the game rekindled an internal debate I’ve been struggling with for years now.

Cheerleaders

I’m conflicted over their very existence. I still can’t decide if I am for or against them.

On the one hand, I think to myself: How could any self respecting woman take such a job? The whole concept is degrading. Sports teams hoping to maintain the attention of their main demographic (young men) during timeouts by throwing pretty women in skimpy clothing in front them. And on top of that, have them dance… shall we say, suggestively. It objectifies women and reinforces stereotypes regarding their role in society that should have been broken down decades ago.

But, then I think to myself: It’s a job. And I’m guessing a relatively well paying one. And I am certainly not in the business telling people what they should or shouldn’t do with their lives. If a woman is passionate about dancing (and/or enjoys sports), why not try to be a cheerleader? It’s a high profile gig that I’m sure will serve their dancing careers well down the road. You get lots of press and attention, you do good for the community when not at games etc. And it’s only temporary by its very nature.

So which perspective wins out in the end? I still haven’t decided. My heart says it doesn’t feel right and we should strive for better as a people. While my brain says, why not? Life is far too short to deny these girls a job opportunity and simultaneously take away some dude’s entertainment.

Overall this post solves nothing in terms of me reaching a conclusion on the matter. But I wanted to get my thoughts out there and see how others feel about the issue (or non-issue). Or I could discover I’m all alone on this one  and I just think too much. Sound off below in the comments section.

Cheerleaders

Movin’ On Up

In Society on May 14, 2009 at 12:34 AM

So, I’m moving. It’s just changing apartments within the same complex but it’s still a big deal. Anytime you relocate all of your Earthly possessions, I consider it a big deal.  This has lead me to reflect on the idea of moving in general and I’ve compiled a list of the top 3 and bottom 3 aspects of the process.

TOP 3:

1. You get a mulligan on your interior decoration decisions – Sick of that poster you put up? Wish you didn’t have to creak your neck to see your TV. Moving gives you the chance to start fresh with a new room layout and a new look.

2. It gives you a chance to clean – Mostly dusting. My computer, TV, and game consoles all need a good wipe down. As does my bureau and other furniture. And I’m not gonna move something that’s dirty obviously. Perfect chance to finally clean everything.

3. Junk is eliminated (only take what you need to the next place) – All that crap in my drawers will finally hit the bricks. You can’t move a full desk, so instead I go through and trash most everything. I follow my patented golden rule (or as I call it, ‘the prime directive’) that anyone who has ever worked with me knows: WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

BOTTOM 3:

1. It requires (sometimes strenuous) physical labor – I’m not exactly a model of physical fitness, as anyone who goes to Applebees with me can tell. (I can house a Triple Chocolate Meltdown in a minute flat.) So anything that involves, lifting, carrying, stair climbing, walking, moving, kinetic energy of any kind, sorta cramps my style.

2. Stuff gets lost in the shuffle – Whatever happened to my set of weights that I had in my old house in Reading? I still don’t know. It somehow never made it to Maine with us. Which might explain why I’m not into fitness anymore. I paid good money for those weights and I certainly am not gonna do it again!

3. You have to change your mailing address… on… everything… – Kill me now. My bank. Work. Driver’s license. Credit cards. Any and all online accounts. Everything has to change over and, of course, I’ll forget something and either lose mail or get it way too late.

How about you? Anything I missed? Anything about moving that you particularly love or hate? Any good stories? Share them in the comments.

Two Thumbs Beamed Way Up

In Film on May 9, 2009 at 6:58 PM

First let me acquaint you with my level of Trekkery so you know where I stood going into this rekindling of the franchise. (Side note: I just made up the word Trekkery and now realize how dangerously close it comes to sounding like ‘treachery’…) I have seen all the films. I watched the next gen television series occasionally but my knowledge is essentially entirely film based. Of the originals, I really enjoyed 2 (The Wrath of Khan) and 6 (The Undiscovered Country). Most of the others I remember seeing as a kid and thinking they were boring.

So going in I probably knew a good bit more than the average person. But my fandom remained in the realm of casual. Never have I considered myself to be a Trekkie by any stretch of the imagination.

Then I saw J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.

All I can say is, “Wow.” Sure, there were a few dodgy moments in the story and a few things I scratched my head over. But it succeeds… nay, excels, in so many areas that those plot points (read: holes) are quickly overshadowed.

I’ve known since Mission: Impossible III that Abrams was gifted behind the camera and he has outdone himself once again. He is one of those directors I find myself completely in tune with. His vision, his pacing. Everything. In my book, he does it all just right.

And it doesn’t hurt that he has oodles of cash at his back. The special effects in this film are second to none. The U.S.S. Enterprise is breathtaking. The bridge is gorgeous. And on and on.

The most astounding thing about Abrams is how he can take a franchise as seemingly stuffy and uninviting to the general public as Star Trek, and turn it into the most accessible, thrilling, fun blockbuster in years and not compromise its integrity or hardcore appeal.

Most of that success has to do with the superb casting. When dealing with such well known characters, casting young versions can be nearly impossible. But every single role is filled seamlessly. I was stunned.

This is one of those rare circumstances in which I cannot wait for sequels to be made, assuming that Abrams and the entire cast is on board (pun intended). Now that the franchise has been reestablished with such vigor and glory, I demand more. With this director, this ensemble and those special effects, the potential is limitless.