‘Star Trek’ Gameplay Impressions

Jason Evangelho, for Video Game Writers:

Overall, the New Vulcan mission represented a good balance of suspense, exploration, co-op interactions, and downright intense action. Digital Extremes has certainly taken some cues from the Uncharted series in terms of scripted events and cinematic camera work, but it’s too early to tell if the gunplay has the kind of responsiveness we’d expect. The two quicktime events (a mechanic that needs to die an instant death) were brief and didn’t detract from the experience.

Graphically it still needs some polish (again, this is Alpha gameplay footage), but there is no denying that fans of the Star Trek universe and couch co-op in general should have a field day with this one when it releases in early 2013. Publisher Namco Bandai will certainly be teasing out more information as the release date gets closer, but from the two preview events we’ve attended thus far, Star Trek shows immense potential.

Considering Digital Extremes’s track record, the fact that this won’t simply follow the plot of the second movie, and that the gameplay is taking cues from the action-adventure series to beat for the last several years, I’d say that this game has a good chance of being a rather enjoyable experience.

Malcolm Gladwell thinks that history won’t remember Steve Jobs

Vlad Savov, for The Verge:

It’s for his latter work, not for how much money Gates made with Microsoft, that Gladwell expects him to be remembered some 50 years from now. As to Jobs, he suspects people would be asking, “who’s Steve Jobs again?” Though his language feels tongue-in-cheek, Gladwell’s broader point is about the fact that we’re idolizing businessmen for their money-making aptitude, whereas their long-term legacy will actually depend on the broader impact they had on the world.

Because no one is going to care about the man that revolutionized the music and telephone industries, created the market for the personal computer, and then went on to revolutionize that industry as well. Right.

‘WWDC Banner Confirms iOS 6 Announcement’

I mentioned this post on MacRumors yesterday on the podcast, but I never addressed it here. From the MacRumors piece:

With Apple having dropped numbering and other descriptors from its latest model of the iPad earlier this year, there has been speculation that the company may follow suit with other products such as the iPhone. Today’s banner indicates that the company will at least continue marketing iOS using its version number. 

The problem with this paragraph is that absolutely no one thought that the numbering scheme would be dropped for iOS. Apple doesn’t have a numbering scheme for any of the Macs it sells, yet Mac OS X is still numbered for each new major release, and that’s likely how it’s going to be for hardware running iOS in the future. 

Beyond that, I have an issue with the post and others like it on Engadget, AppleInsider, and elsewhere: everyone knew that iOS 6 would be announced at WWDC. Posting about a single banner simply makes the sites look desparate for page views (as if they didn’t look that way already).

Who wants a knockoff of a useless Android phone?

Jacqueline Seng for CNET:

The “Note” is actually Ainol’s Android phone, and, yes, it’s simply called the Android. This 3G handset comes with a mobile TV tuner and has dual-SIM capabilities.

It also has a 2,500mAh battery, although its 5-inch WVGA screen is slightly smaller than the Note’s 5.3 inches.

It’s ironic that this knockoff of the Samsung Galaxy Note is actually running a better version of Android and has a more usable form factor than the device that “inspired” it.

With that said, “Android” is a terrible name for a phone, because no one will ever find it via a Google search. Still, I guess it’s better than a random combination of numbers and letters. 

Best games of E3: The Last of Us

This is the post-apocalyptic game we’ve been waiting for.

If it wasn’t clear already, Naughty Dog can take any genre of video game and set a new standard for other companies to live up to. Platforming? Yup. Action-adventure? Done that. With The Last of Us, they’re taking the survival action-adventure formula and turning it on its head. 

The footage shown has everything we have wanted from the genre. There’s the sidekick who reacts realistically to player actions and actually helps out in a fight when needed and stays out of the way when she isn’t. There’s scavenging for materials and an item system that forces the player to make quick decisions. And then, there’s the combat.

If you haven’t seen the trailer I linked to, it’s brutal. Joel (the protagonist) smashes enemies faces into nearby surfaces, wrestles weapons out of their hands, and sets them on fire with Molotov cocktails. Hell, I cringed at the end when he shot the downed enemy in the face at point-blank range. This isn’t like your average first-person shooter, where players mow down waves of enemies with little emotional impact. These deaths are all dramatic, and carry weight to them, as they should. 

What Naughty Dog is expressing is the survival-of-the-fittest nature of the end of the world. There wouldn’t be enough guns and ammunition laying around for every conflict to go down as a major firefight. Instead, conflicts would be one-on-one as survivors compete for resources. And according to IGN, they didn’t just stop there when it comes to showing off the reality of the situation: players will have to scavenge supplies from those who couldn’t find it in them to make it through such a tragic scenario. That’s deep for an action game. 

I do have a few thoughts on the gameplay. First, according to that IGN article I linked to above, there will in fact be multiple ways to approach any given encounter. This is excellent news, as gamers who prefer stealth and distraction will feel just as at home with the game as those who like to run-and-gun. Second, I have to wonder whether the physical encounters with enemies are quick-time events or fought using contextually-aware buttons. I’m hoping it’s the latter, as the trailer doesn’t make it clear. Given the freedom suggested by the IGN article, it seems that players will be controlling the fighting, which makes the trailer all the more impressive.

Best games of E3: Watch Dogs

I can’t remember the last time I was this surprised by a game.

My first thought: This game must be coming on next-gen consoles. Maybe I’ve been playing too much Diablo 3 on my MacBook Air, but the graphics for this game look amazing to me. It’s all the little details in the city. The grates on the sidewalk have all the bumps you would expect, the individual tree branches blow in the wind, the lighting in the club is dynamic, and the rain towards the end of the trailer is beautiful. We’ve seen all of these details elsewhere, but not in an urban free-roaming game.

But as the last few years have shown us, graphics aren’t everything. Which is why I’m glad the story and gameplay are so intriguing. The interaction between the protagonist and his friend was like something out of a good television show, in that it was not only entertaining in its own right but also gave us insight into the characters shown. As far as gameplay goes, the way Ubisoft is approaching the hacking element looks great. The idea of “hack anything” is really promising, and will hopefully give players a variety of options for missions and not simply require us to figure the one specific thing we need to do to for progression.

Now, there was one worrying aspect of the trailer. The game world looks very dynamic and realistic, with people reacting to things as you’d expect – the man brushing is coat when splashed with water and the other mourning over his just-shot wife come to mind. But if these are simply responses that happen all the time in-game, they could get old fast. In the best case scenario, gamers simply decide to ignore these details and focus on the task at hand. However, if Ubisoft only programmed a limited number of responses, in might be rather irritating to hear the exact same crying every time that there’s a firefight (the citizen responses in Spider-Man 2 come to mind). 

Overall though, Watch Dogs looks like a great new IP that combines elements of two of gaming’s best series, Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed.

Jim Dalrymple on the Apple television

From TechPinions:

That’s the type of challenge Apple faces in the television market or any other market it enters. Apple will try to solve the current problems, while advancing what consumers can do. The home entertainment market needs to be shaken up and it will take a company that isn’t afraid to change the status quo to do it.

Some people think Apple will release a television with new menus or Siri integration. I don’t believe they are thinking big enough. If Apple enters that market they will disrupt it and change it forever.

Jim is absolutely right. If Apple enters the TV market, it won’t be with a fancy 1080p screen that has the Apple TV interface with Siri built in. It will change the entire market with a content distribution system unlike anything available today. Any less than that wouldn’t be worth Apple’s time.

Blogs worth paying for

I’ve always wanted to be a patron of the arts, the kind of guy where the rising painter unveils his work and says, “And all of this was made possible by the generosity of our host for the evening, MR. RUSSELL!”

Unfortunately, I am neither wealthy enough nor educated enough about art to pay for any young talent’s work. I am however, an avid reader and geek. I can tell you when a blogger is good at putting out interesting content on a regular basis and whether or not they have a style of their own or are just regurgitating press releases from Engadget/The Verge/TechCrunch/etc. 

And supporting these guys is pretty damn affordable. So if you’re like me and derive most of your enjoyment from homegrown blogs written by one or two guys, maybe you should think about sending a few bucks their way so that they don’t have to give up on this whole writing thing. Some blogs I’ve decided are worth paying for:

daringfireball.net  – While Gruber’s obviously raking in the money with his ads and RSS sponsorships, the quality of his writing and his connections at Apple make buying the t-shirts he sells every few months a no-brainer.

curiousrat.com – A less well-known blog than the others listed here, Harry Mark’s RSS feed is always full of snarky and insightful writing that pretty much skewers at least one lazy journalist per day.

512pixels.net – I love this blog because Stephen Hackett isn’t your average technology writer. He isn’t in the Bay Area and he’s actually worked on the front lines as an Apple Genius. 

loopinsight.com – A great Apple blog, but also a great source of funny/interesting videos and articles on topics ranging from music to new Heineken beer bottle designs. The free music Jim linked to from SXSW (over 7 gigs, all legal!) alone ensured my subscription for at least the next year.