September 30, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless
Ah yes, time to try a more conversational style for select GameSetLinks, just because I realized that there were some things I wanted to witter on about in a little more detail - tragically for you.
This time, it'd be the Blizzcon PPV-ing, Mirror's Edge pre-prod goodness and Scrabulous history that deserve microscoping more than our more 'specialist' links, which will stay happily in GameSetLinkDump. Huzzah:
Is BlizzCon The New UFC?
This headline is only slightly sarcastic, given that, yes, BlizzCon is now pay per view on DirecTV, and you can pay $40 for 16 hours of HD coverage of the Blizzard-themed mega-event taking place in Los Angeles on October 10th-11th.
For those who don't know, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has built an empire partly out of these $40-$50 pay per view events - as revealed recently: "By 2007, UFC was, according to Forbes, generating about $250 million and about 90 percent of all mixed-martial-arts revenue [in pay per view fights]." That's some serious money, guys.
And, sure, you may not get quite that revenue out of a single event, but there's a lot of good stuff in here for World Of Warcraft (and other Blizzard game) fanboys. Let's see, you get footage of: "Main stage presentations including opening ceremony... Select panels featuring Blizzard Entertainment developers... Closing ceremony with comedian Patton Oswalt and all-Blizzard rock band Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain... Tour of Blizzard Entertainment HQ." Quite compelling, no?
What's more, in UFC you go away with just a memory of the beautiful knockout punches delivered and armbars executed on. But when you order BlizzCon on DirecTV, you get an exclusive WoW in-game object, yesh - the "...BlizzCon 2008 World of Warcraft in-game flag waving murloc on a polar bear mount." And as select games build huge enough fanbases, events like this don't seem entirely insane any more. Pay per view satellite transmission based on the events, though? A little doolally.
Through The Mirror
1UP has a pretty interesting feature going behind the scenes on Mirror's Edge at the EA-owned DICE - strangely paralleling an EGM article which is not online, I think. It's definitely interesting to see the concept sketches, showing the thought behind the initial stages of the game - quite a departure for the Battlefield franchise developers, after all.
But what's particularly neat is the proof of concept video hosted on GameVideos.com. It shows a largely flat-shaded prototype of the first-person view eventually used in the game - with canned animations testing out the viscerality of the physical first-person view.
The tank-like, artificial nature of first-person games has arguably forestalled proper immersion for some time. Thus, Mirror's Edge is genuinely somewhat of a breakthrough. Sure, it's been done before, but not to this degree - and you rarely see concept movies from early in production to see what's changed, so kudos to the newly open EA for releasing it.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Mirror's Edge can keep up the dash and run parkour mechanics for an entire game and not make it feel stale. But it's got the bright gleaming freedom angle down, visually, and that's a great start.
I Am Scrabulous, Please Quarantine Me
Finally, David Edery was kind enough to provide a detailed 'postmortem' of the Facebook app Scrabulous on his Game Tycoon weblog. It explains handily how the Scrabble clone built up steam, a fanbase, and was eventually knocked off due to the inevitable lawsuit.
But what's most interesting, perhaps, are the tangled rights that have resulted in a v.odd alternative to the original, global app: "There are no less than four parties who claim a stake in the digital rights to Scrabble — Hasbro, Mattel, RealNetworks, and EA... This multi-party rights issue has resulted in an awkward situation on Facebook. There are now two official Scrabble games — one offered by Hasbro/EA (but only to users in the USA and Canada) and one offered by RealNetworks/Mattel (to users everywhere else.)" Oh dear.
The problem here, for me, is the lack of imagination used by the original Scrabulous developers in so obviously riding on the coat-tails of Scrabble. I just don't have it in my heart to defend them for that. But though Scrabulous was a bald, basically identical Scrabble clone with an intentionally similar name, this whole discussion certainly gets into the whole 'casual game cloning' area.
We've covered this contentious issue a number of times before. Actually, I really like Colin Anderson of Denki's take on the matter, as he explained on GSW a few months back:
"Game cloning is not the bogeyman the market seems to think. It forces developers to innovate, polish, reinvent existing styles and above all, to be creative and think about the consumer. The alternative is the scary option. Individual genres and control methods controlled and licensed by a brand/patent owner. That's a world where fun doesn't have a place in the games industry."
Still in doubt? This man helped make Go! Go! Beckham, you must listen to him. Done and dusted, sonny.