wrixel is happy to introduce a new feature “Gamer Gossip”.

Gamer Gossip - 9/24/09 - “Idiot Proof”

by D.S.
·      Games I’m Playing – Driving While Intoxicated - Driving games may be past their prime.  It’s really difficult to innovate what is a fairly straightforward experience (though Split Second, releasing next year, looks to do just that).  Lack of innovation is one of the reasons I typically steer clear of games of the driving variety.  The notable exception to the rule is Codemasters’ DiRT (a game focused on Rally racing which could really be seen as a motorsport for those who desire the unexpected and lust for automotive summersaults). So, with the recent release of DiRT 2, despite my overall dislike of driving games holding me back, I decided to get back behind the wheel.  After the initial trepidation and an awkward relearning of racing on the 360 controller, DiRT 2 was like buying a new pair of your favorite brand of pants (there are some things that take getting used to, but overall it’s a familiar experience).   When you start playing you immediately notice changes from the games predecessor starting with a more interactive menu which you navigate in a pseudo 1st person view rather than merely selecting text.  This all takes place in and around your trailer.

You travel the globe and choose different races to enter, earn experience (which unlocks additional races and locales), gain credit with other racers (Ken Block and Dave Mirra being the most prominent), gain money and buy new cars (though some classics of Rally like the Ford Focus, Citroens, and Peugeots are suspiciously absent),  and customize their liveries among other things.  The game is visually outstanding… even stunning.  The levels, especially those in picturesque Utah, Morocco, Malaysia, and China are photorealistic.  One of the most exciting new additions to the game are the Path Finder races which are similar to point to point rallies but take place in much more open environments  at absurdly fast speeds.  The cockpit view is arguably the best of any racing game out there, especially on Rally and Trail Blazer levels.  Tweaks in the gameplay have created some interesting and challenging new elements.  For one, you now have to deal with puddles which when hit at high speeds become a veil of mud and water causing you to drive blind until your windshield wipers frantically remove the residue (there’s nothing quite like doing 90mph down a dirt road and taking a turn blind because you failed to see the giant puddle on the inside edge).  Another subtle but excellent addition is the contrast between driving through light and dark areas (Utah is a great area for this).  When you’re out and the sun is shining bright, it makes the transition into shaded areas difficult to see.  The game also allows for multiple cars to be on the track at the same time in Rally and Trail Blazer races at spaced at intervals as they would be in actual racing.  This results in realistic situations such as a potential for crashes (which you need to avoid), passing opponents if you can, in a persistent environment that can be manipulated by drivers.  DiRT 2 is an outstanding racing experience by any measure, even for people who aren’t fans of racing.  It offers uniqueness in a world where most racing games feel pretty much the same.  To get the full effect of this game, I recommended riding on a wooden rollercoaster, preferably one @ Cedar Point, while someone sprays mud in your general direction.

·         News – For the Love of the Game - With the game industry becoming harder and harder to “break” into as it matures the business world has turned its full attention to its risk aversion… and why shouldn’t it?  With the huge budgets required to make games these days, very few investors feel comfortable throwing seemingly innumerable dollars at some “unknown unknowns” looking to make the new sliced bread.  However, it appears that future digital Picassos and Mozarts have been handed a torch, not from a publisher as this might first appear, but from an unlikely supporter, Gamestop.   Apparently Gamestop, along with SMU|Guildhall and the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, have been running a game creation contest, called the “Indie Game Challenge,” where they allow entrants to submit their demos, video, etc to be judged by people from each of the 3 sponsors mentioned above.  There are some big prizes including $100k, a chance to have your game published by a major game publisher, and a $50k scholarship to The Guildhall.  Those are pretty good prizes for aspiring game developers.  It’s almost a “battle of the bands” for games.  The contest has slots for professionals, anyone who’s worked in dev for 2+ years or has been credited in a game, and non-professionals, those that don’t fit the criteria prior criteria.  It’ll be interesting to see if any good games come out of this.    It’s good to see GS giving back to the little guys… of course if their game gets made it will likely, at some point, end up on the used game shelves… but in the end, isn’t it all about getting the game in as many hands as possible?     http://www.indiegamechallenge.com/

·         News - Dateline: Moron Predators - “There’s a sucker born every minute,” is a phrase that is oft credited to the late P.T. Barnum (though it may not be what he actually said).  Nothing could be more true with a recent, and incongruous, offer by Best Buy to “setup” a newly purchased PS3 for $129.99.  The “setup” includes the following:  Setup and configure gaming console, Installation of latest firmware updates, setup and configure local user accounts with parental controls, and setup and configuration of one online account (wait… they don’t offer to play some games for you to help you get by particularly difficult sections???).  It’s hard to decide whether this is predatory behavior or just natural selection at work (has anyone seen Idocracy).  Honestly this is a “shame on” BBY.  To even have this sign in stores does a disservice to both the customer and Sony.

Firstly it implies that the PS3 is such an advanced piece of machinery that it requires a lengthy setup process and may be too difficult for the average bear.  Secondly, it essentially raises the price of the newly discounted PS3 to $430… “Take that bargain shoppers!”  If this is how things are going, we’re probably not that far from being able to go to Bed Bath and Beyond buy an electric toothbrush and have the option to pay an extra $30 to have an employee return with you to your house, plug your toothbrush, brush your teeth for you and then show you how to attach a new brush head.   Gee thanks.  Perhaps book stores will soon offer to read to their customers for a fee… oh wait… books on tape already exist.  http://kotaku.com/5363264/seriously-this-should-be-illegal — can they really still be called “books on tape”?

- D.S.