['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]


The rush of autumn special issues seems to have abated a bit, so I'd like to start out by showcasing a couple things that caught my eye. First off, Retro Volume 2 may be found at some newsstands right now. A compilation of the Retro sections from the past few years of British magazine gamesTM, this is 260 pages' worth of full-color classic game coverage, from Sonic and Shadow of the Beast to interviews with all sorts of old UK game folks. It costs thirty dollars in the US (!) but is still quite a nice volume to have by the bedside.

Second off, could whoever it is who keeps on sending me issues of Ferrets magazine stop, please? Yes, I know I subscribed to it, but that subscription should have run out 10 months ago. I don't want to dress up Dena in a foppish winter cap, for Chrissakes! Arrgh! Why do my subscriptions to mags I don't like never run out, yet my subscriptions to mags I sincerely want to subscribe to take over half a year to get processed? Someone needs to do a scathing expose' of some sort, I swear...

Regardless, coming right up is coverage of the six US game mags that crossed my desk over the past two weeks. Read on, please. [Click through for more.]

MASSIVE Magazine Issue 1


Cover: What's next for the MMOs of today and tomorrow

MASSIVE is a quarterly title from Strategy Plus, publishers of Computer Games magazine, and as such it can be summed up pretty quickly: It's a mag about MMOs done in the style of CGM. This is absolutely a good thing, especially when compared to the relatively amateurish efforts of Beckett Massive Online Gamer.

A lot of the ground they cover is the same (ooh, here are some new expansions coming up, ah, here are some new MMOs coming up), but the rest of the mag is filled with stuff that'd actually be interesting to read for a genre fan. There are CGM-style editorials by all sorts of well-known MMO folks -- Richard Garriott, Brad McQuaid, Raph Koster (SOE's chief creative officer), Richard A. Bartle (co-creator of the first MUD), and so on. There's the usual features on guild wrangling and the history of MMOs (which I think Beckett did in its first issue as well), but the layout, design, and writing make them less work and more fun to get through. Another feature's on gold farmers, which approaches the subject from a bit more genial perspective than PC Gamer did this month -- one sidebar tells the story of a WOW guild who recruited a Chinese farmer for shits 'n giggles and actually found it a culturally enriching experience (until he got fired). Maybe it's factually informative (so was Beckett), but it's also fun to read, and that's the most important thing in a print magazine.

The other standout: Is a feature giving the play-by-play on a system crash that happened on EverQuest II last year and almost wiped out the entirety of users' character data. I didn't hear about because I'm not an MMO person, but the article is both superbly written and something I'm amazed SOE would allow coverage of.

Speaking of SOE: They have a disc in this issue with trials for five of their games, trailers, and a bunch of other junk. Despite that and the wide page size, the newsstand price is still only $5.99.

Conspicuously missing: An advertisement from king-of-all-gold-farmers IGE.com, which has been resident on Computer Games' back cover for a good couple years now. It may have to do with all the support MASSIVE has received from the game publishers themselves, and it may also have to do with writer Mark Wallace discussing the company fully in the gold-farmer feature: "For some games, so much currency flows through the site that players who don't use it find themselves at a distinct disadvantage, since it's far easier at this point to acquire gold on IGE than by actually playing the games."

Computer Games November 2006


Cover: Lord of the Rings Online

Sometimes I wonder if the folks at Computer Games are too shy to actually let anyone else have a look at their magazine. I didn't realize it until it was too late, but I totally missed the October 2006 issue simply because it did not arrive at any bookstore in Houston. OK, OK, perhaps that's my fault for not having a subscription, but I do have a subscription -- in fact, I paid for it five months ago, and I still haven't seen an issue out of it.

Regardless: I'm glad I found November, because as usual it's full of unique features. Accompanying the eight pages on Turbine's ring-y MMO is four more written by "Tolkien scholar" Daniel Greenberg about why there haven't been very many good Lord of the Rings games, despite many, many attempts. There's a bit on GenCon as it rapidly stops being about board games, as well as two more on online protests and army-themed games which aren't quite as original but still nicely done.

Official PlayStation Magazine November 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

The OPM podcast has been hinting at the identity of this cover for a little while, but now that it's out, we find that it's the hot-sclusive unveiling of PS3 Oblivion (not to mention a separate, Oblivion-themed PSP dungeon hack). Indeed it looks lovely, and it's nice to see OPM take the high road and not take every opportunity to pick on the Xbox 360 version. Just some of the opportunities.

Interviews: This time around we've got Atsushi Inaba of Clover Studio and Alex Ward of Criterion. Inaba comes off as a laid-back surfer dude stickin' it to the man while making whatever kind of game he wants, while Ward's piece is a lot more interestin' -- while freely admitting that he hates getting interviewed, he still opens up enough to spill out his entire early career in video games, from manning Acclaim UK's phone line to laying out ceiling tiles for a living.

The disc: The highlight this month is probably the Guitar Hero II demo, even though it's hard to imagine enjoying it much if you don't own the controller. Other top hits include demos of Need for Speed Carbon and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, as well as movies of...well, a bunch of random stuff, mostly, of which .hack//G.U. is probably the most fascinating.

Scarface watch: I can't help but make special note of the Scarface reviews so far because there seems to be no middle ground with this title. Print-mag reviewers have so far either loathed it (OXM, PSM, Play) or loved it (Game Informer). For OPM, Robert Coffey is overall positive, writing that the game's a lot more limited than at first glance but still a ton of fun.

NIntendo Power November 2006


Cover: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon

I suppose you can't help but go back to the old standbys now and again when you're Nintendo Power. This cover (the twelfth fully devoted to a Pokémon game in NP's history) proves it well -- even though the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games have been out for weeks and there's a new console launch to hype up, the cover's devoted to a long, deep, and very Nintendo Power-like strategy guide for the newest Pokémon games, the sort that would be right at home in the very first issues of NP. Some covers just sell themselves, after all.

There's also: A bit on Wii Madden which, good heavens, now that I look at how the assorted movements, you'd have to be Baryshnikov to play this well.

Tips & Tricks November 2006


Cover: Destroy All Humans! 2

For someone who may, perhaps, not be in such a desperate need for tips or tricks, this issue is interesting just for all the cool stuff it points out to the reader. First off, Volume 2 of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show is out now. Lord, there's another DVD I'll buy but never quite get around to watching. Second off, Vampire Hunter D (PS1) is quite cool. There's a page on it in this issue (part of the "Animation Station" column), and it reminded me of exactly how superb the graphics are, even though the game was from Jaleco, a name not exactly synonymous with high production values.

Finally, Collector's Closet this month showcases the "Krybor Demon", one of the three silver-painted dinosaur-airplane hybrids that decorate the completely outrageous boxart of Demon Attack (2600). The figure (still owned by game coder Rob Fulop) is a little dinged up, but is still in great condition, even sporting painted toenails that weren't visible in the original cover art. Fancy.

Also: Make a note of the two-page interview with Michael Madsen, on the eve of the Reservoir Dogs video game. It sounds like he's pretty good buds with Uwe Boll -- maybe because he finally got to pay a sort-of hero in the BloodRayne movie, instead of all the bad guy roles he usually winds up with.

Game Developer October 2006


Cover: Top 20 Publishers

This issue marks the fourth annual top-20 feature for the magazine. Number one is EA, as it has been every year so far, and Nintendo (shooting up thanks mainly to all the great DS games they've made this year) and Activision round out the top three. Buena Vista Games and NCsoft are the only newcomers to the list over last year, with Codemasters leaving the top 20 to make room for them.

These rankings are based on six measures: annual turnover, number of releases, average review score, "quality of producers" (based on a survey of developers), reliability of milestone payments, and quality of staff pay/perks.

The postmortem this month: Is on Titan Quest, which (judging by the "What Went Wrong" section) I can't help but wonder where they got the money from to complete it, it ran into so many delays. Good work, men.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]