Scribblenauts Could Be the Greatest Game Ever

What will you feed the cop?I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m ridiculously excited to play Scribblenauts. The new trailer makes the game seem even more incredible, and it made me realize something I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of before:Scribblenauts has almost infinite replay value.

I know that sounds odd, because it’s clearly one of the main features of the game. So maybe it’s not that I didn’t think of it, but that the concept just didn’t seem very real. There aren’t many games I find truly engrossing enough to enjoy a lot of replay. Sure, there are all the games with great multiplayer features, but I don’t consider those “replay.” For real replay value, I consider the story mode of a game – the part of the game that follows some sort of narrative progression from beginning to end. Even with games like Mass Effect, where there are countless options available to the player on replay, I find it hard to jump back in and relive the same story, despite the various nuances that come from different decisions.

Scribblenauts is different, in part, because it’s more like a puzzle game. There’s not necessarily that same, narrative progression with bigger titles. But even puzzle games can get boring, and it takes a special kind of experience to make me come back for more. That’s exactly what I expect from 5th Cell’s little creation – a rare gaming experience.

My expectations exploded when I first heard the concept for the game, and from everything I’ve seen, it can’t really disappoint. The most shining example, though, is from the new trailer. Our intrepid hero is stuck staring at a centaur with no way around. How does he hope to make it past? Why, by summoning Medusa, chopping off her head and using it to turn the centaur to stone, of course! Okay, so that doesn’t solve the problem of getting around the centaur (and actually the trailer does seem to show this “solution” as no solution at all), but it does make good on the promise that anything is possible. There are obviously thousands of other ways to get your ‘Naut out of this little pickle, and that’s what makes the game so great. I’m already imagining spending hours just playing my favorite puzzles, the ones that offer the most modularity for solutions, just to see how many ways I can think up to solve them.

With opportunity for expansion packs, increased dictionary size, and more item interoperability, Scribblenauts could quickly become one of the greatest franchises ever. To see more of what I’m talking about, check out the trailer below.

Xbox Division Sees a 66% Profit Loss

Xbox 360 logo.Microsoft’s Xbox Division may have shipped more units this year than last, but they certainly didn’t make more money. Not by percentage anyway.

This is the type of story that’s a little difficult to quantify, but I’ll do my best to make the mess of it all fairly clear. Yes, Microsoft’s Xbox division is reporting profits to be down some 66% from last year. Yes, they made $161 million less than last year. It’s all sort of difficult to place, though. The company sold 2.5 million more consoles this fiscal year, and Xbox Live subscriptions were up some 73% in June. So while dollar percentages may be down, and yes that’s likely due to some price reductions, it’s tough to say that Microsoft isn’t doing well.

Of course, no one’s doing well right now. The economy has had a taxing effect on our video game industry, but if you look at the full story, Microsoft is doing what I’ll call “okay.” All in all, not a bad quarter, Microsoft.

Plants vs. Zombies Confirmed for XBLA

Plants vs. Zombies.That’s right, folks. PopCap has officially confirmed the development of Plants vs. Zombies for Xbox Live Arcade. There’s still no word on release date, achievements, multiplayer modes, or anything of that nature. It’s definitely coming, though, in all of it’s zombie crunching glory.

For those of you who don’t know about the Plants vs. Zombies phenomenon, you may not want to get started. Chances you’ll get sucked in are nearly guaranteed, and from there, your productivity is only destined to plummet. Here’s a quick snapshot of PopCap’s “key features” for the game.

    * Play five game modes: Adventure, Mini-Games, Puzzle, Survival, plus the stress-free Zen Garden
    * Conquer all 50 levels of Adventure mode — through day, night, and fog, in a swimming pool and on the rooftop
    * Battle 26 types of zombies including pole-vaulters, snorkelers and “Zomboni” drivers
    * Earn 49 powerful perennials and collect coins to buy a pet snail, power-ups and more!
    * Open the Almanac to see all the plants and zombies, plus amusing “facts” and quotes
    * Browse Crazy Dave’s shop for special plants and tools to stem any zombie assault
    * Amazing graphics and soundtrack, plus a bonus music video
    * Infinite replayability: the game is never the same experience twice!

Check back for more news – we’ll let you know as soon as PopCap issues a release date.

Source: WorthPlaying

Sony Considered Second Analog Stick for the PSP Go

The PSP Go hands-on.Stories like this make me want to smack someone at Sony. Hard. Preferably on or around the mouth. In the most recent issue of Game Informer, Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida said the company had “a very serious discussion” about adding a second analog stick to the PSP Go but decided against it for fear of splintering the market.

Judging by the latest NPD numbers, that was a totally brilliant strategy. Nintendo’s DS sold more than 4 times as many units as the PSP, which came in at a meager 163,500. I’m not sure why you would be so concerned about splintering the market when you’re actually losing it. And for what? To stick to the 10-year plan for all consoles? That’s what Yoshida says.

“We are talking about the mid-life cycle of this platform,” he told Game Informer. I’ve got news for Yoshida – you might not make it to the end. Ignoring your customer base is a sure way to produce abysmal sales numbers. If the PSP keeps tracking as is, the next five years will be one ugly ride.

Scribblenauts Hits the US on September 15th

Scribblenauts! heads to The Peaks.Question of the day – will I buy a Nintendo DS by the 15th of September? For now, I’ll say no, but I can’t promise anything.

Regardless of my ownership, Scribblenauts will still be dropping like it’s hot on the 15th of September. As you may recall, the game was voted best of E3 this year and has been the subject of much speculation/adoration for several months by industry critics, Yours Truly notwithstanding.

In honor of the official announcement, the guys at 5th Cell have dished out a few additional screenshots to whet your likely insatiable appetite for the game. Every time I see a new level I try to think of interesting ways to solve each puzzle. I love the giraffe solution for getting a cat out of the tree. I only hope to be so elaborate with my solutions some day.

Sam Raimi to Direct Warcraft Movie

What will a Warcraft movie look like?Today Warcraft is synonymous with long hours grinding, more long hours raiding, and potentially socially destructive behavior. But do you remember the franchises humble roots? The simple graphics? The excellent campaigns? The franchise has been pegged for a movie for some time, and now there’s finally some real news to speak of. According to Variety, Sam Raimi has officially been pegged to direct the upcoming Warcraft movie.

Raimi, who is famous for movies like Spider-Man and Darkman is excited about the project. “At its core, Warcraft is a fantastic, action-packed story,” said Raimi. “I am thrilled to work with such a dynamite production team to bring this project to the big screen.” Who’s the dynamite production team? That would be Chris Roven’s Atlas Entertainment, the folks behind The Dark Knight. Production is set to begin after Spider-Man 4, which Raimi is supposed to finish in 2010.

There are still a lot of details missing from the movie. No one yet knows whether it will be live action or CG, and there’s still that issue of release date. If they’re not getting started until 2010, we’re years away from actually seeing the thing, time during which the franchise’s flagship, World of Warcraft, is likely to see slumping subscriptions in the face of new IP.

Then there’s the ubiquitous concern about games turned into movies. They’re notoriously horrible, but hopefully with Blizzard and Universal involved this one might be the exception to the rule.

Ghostbusters Game Cost $15-20 Million to Produce

Marshmallow Man wants another movie.The Star-Telegram in Texas got to sit down with the development house for the new Ghostbusters game, Terminal Reality. The game, which released about a month ago to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first movie, has apparently sold over a million copies. That’s pretty impressive for a non-franchise launch (games like Halo blow through the million mark). Perhaps more surprising, the game cost between $15M and $20M to make according to Terminal Reality.

No, that’s not huge for a blockbuster title, but is Ghostbusters a blockbuster? I remember when I first heard about the game I immediately dismissed it as another cheesy movie knock-off product. Apparently it’s a bit more than that, though there are a whole load of complaints about the PC and PS3 versions of the game. i

The most interesting part of this whole thing, though, is something Terminal Reality co-founder Mark Randel has heard. Apparently someone told him the success of the game has sparked interest in a third movie, one that would pick up where the second film left off. Yes, you read that correctly. A movie that picks up where this very game picks up. A new movie set off by a game that was made to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a movie that was made and a franchise that got revived by a game made to stand in as the third movie. It’s all very convoluted you see.

Could this possibly be true? I’ll say yes, though I’d be surprised if it was the game that really made the franchise interesting. Would a movie version of the game turn into another Hitman or Silent Hill film? Or is there more meat to Ghostbusters because it was a movie first and a game second?

Historical Battle Map Pack is Live for Halo Wars

New Halo Wars maps.Everyone’s favorite Major updated early this morning to let everyone know that the Halo Wars Historical Battle Map Pack is now live and ready for download. The DLC will run you 800 MS Points (can’t wait for them to do away with these things). The maps come with some familiar names – Blood River, Glacial Ravine, Barrens, and Memorial Basin. So that last one is a newish name.

Here’s the blurb from Nelson’s blog:

Expand your Halo Wars experience with the Historical Battle Map Pack Add-on. These four new maps highlight key turning points in the epic war between the UNSC and Covenant forces. The maps include: Blood River – battle a single opponent over a treacherous natural chokepoint; Barrens – engage your enemy in the midst of the Flood; Memorial Basin – two vs. two team play in one of the bloodiest battles in Halo history; and Glacial Ravine — three vs. three action as you fight to control a narrow corridor flanked by energy walls.

Got $5 sitting around? If so, you can go get yours right now.

Image: CVG

Microsoft Opens Opt-In Style Live Preview Beta

Xbox Live downloadable games.There’s a lot of pride and one-upping that comes along with beta testing in the video game world. It’s not exactly the same for OS upgrades, but for the super nerds out there, OS betas sport the same clout.

Microsoft has just unveiled their version of an OS beta via Xbox Live update previews. To sign up, just sign in to Live using your Gamertag, fill out the Xbox Live Update Preview Sign Up survey and you’re good to go. From there, Microsoft will select “multiple thousands” to participate in the preview for load testing.

What’s in the update? You’ll get access to the new Games on Demand section, Netflix Movie Parties, and Avatar Awardables. Not a bad lineup for the new update. The program will be open to both Gold and Silver members, with preference given to the Golds. Microsoft said they’ll be contacting people who have been awarded a spot in about a week. Stop back and let us know in the comments if you’re one of the lucky few (relatively speaking, of course).

Key to Scribblenauts: Move Slowly

Scribblenauts water level.Ars Technica recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Jeremiah Slaczka, creative director and co-founder of 5th Cell, the gaming studio responsible for the upcoming Scribblenauts. You remember that game that the entire world is raving about, right? The one where you get to write stuff in and it magically appears on screen to help you solve the game’s many puzzles? I thought so.

The best part of the interview deals with the development process, which Slaczka gladly lays out. The development team started with their object handler, named Objectnaut, which was just a database framework for all of the objects players would be able to use and their methods of interaction. From there it was just a matter of words.

Scribblenauts makes use of a massive word database, the only exceptions being proper nouns, copyrighted or trademarked words, and nothing vulgar. It took five people about six months to come up with the initial “tens of thousands” of words that would be used. Then it was just a matter of playtesting to see what was left out. When asked how many objects players could actually use, Slaczka simply said, “More than you’ll ever be able to use!”

The game almost has me worked up enough to go buy a DS, though for now I’ll wait. We already know the game could be coming to other platforms. I just hope I can wait that long.

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