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Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Written by Jason Kwong

Monday, 03 April 2006

Che Chou has broken into the industry after a storied career in video games media. We decided to interview Che to learn more about how he got his break, which lead into his current job as Community Manager at Microsoft Game Studios. I was lucky enough to get Che away from playing Oblivion to share his experiences with us.

NeoGAF: Tell us how you got your break into your first paying media gig. Who was it for?

Che Chou: When I say I stumbled into the industry, it isn't too far from the truth. And as sad and particular as it may sound, in my situation, it really was a case of who i knew. Back in 1998, I hung out on an IRC channel called #vidgames a lot because I was heavy into importing Japanese games. Through that channel, I met a lot of folks -- some had aspirations to do their own gaming sites. David Zdyrko who ran Dave's (Sega) Saturn Page, and young Sam Kennedy and Dave Toole, who ran Gaming-Age, as well as more "legit" game writers from Ziff-Davis magazines like EGM and OPM.

At the time, I was kind of slacking and making good money at Netscape, but I knew the gig wouldn't last. AOL had just bought the company and Netscape's browser was complete shit. Plus, I wanted to try my hand at "writing" for a living. I'd always wanted to be a writer in high school, and wrote a ton of fiction, and then majored in English in college so I did plenty of essay writing too. My first few gigs were writing for DaveZ's Saturn page and Gaming Age -- both fine sites, I might add. Did it as practice, you could say. I didn't get paid but it was okay. Once in a while, they sent me a game to review and because I already had a job, I really didn't need the money.

Once my writing started hitting its stride on Gaming Age, I began to get noticed by Joe Fielder and Jeff Gerstmann over at Gamespot, who began freelancing me to do reviews. Not just any reviews, the worst of the worst N64 games they could shovel at me. But I whipped out the text, sure as ever. Towards the end of 1998, John Ricciardi, who was the reviews editor over at EGM at the time, told me they had an opening on the magazine. I was pretty entrenched with my life in the South Bay Area of SF and didn't know if I wanted to move out to Chicago to pursue what I saw at the time as a hobbyist, dead-end career. I mean, if you love what you do for a living, there has to be a silver lining, right?

Like I said, Netscape was going down, and San Jose -- if you really think about it -- is a complete dump. So I packed up my things and drove out to the Midwest. Once I got to EGM, it seemed that I had found my calling. The year and a half of web writing I was doing was paying off in spades. That's pretty much my origin in the industry.

NG: So you paid your dues, which is great, because a lot of people just assume that new hires just walk into something.

CC: Nah, I paid plenty of dues. Oh and let me just mention that my starting salary at EGM was, even at the time, pretty pitiful. I had to take a pay cut from Netscape to work there, which is a large part of why I didn't think writing about games had much of a future.

NG: Yeah, I think people who really want to get into that type of career don't realize that most people in publishing don't make much money salary-wise.

CC: Yeah. If you're a complete n00b, starting salaries start around 35k.

NG: I came from that background too, so I know about meager paychecks and how that affects your spending habits in a region that has high costs of living.

CC: Well, luckily for me, Chicagoland was very affordable, so even while I was making 35k, I was very comfortable.

NG: Yeah, but you just can't do that here in the SF Bay Area

CC: I know quite a few ex-interns-now-employees who do make something in that range and are living in SF. You can do it, but you probably aren't going to own all 3 next-gen consoles in 2006. :)

NG: So how did 1Up form?

CC: Well, it's kind of a full-circle thing with 1UP. The site is a result of the Ziff-Davis Games group wanting to take their business online, and a return for Sam Kennedy (the original Gaming Age guy) to his roots. As far as I know, it was entirely driven by Sam and my ex-editorial director John Davison. I'm pretty hazy about the beginnings of 1UP because I was on Xbox Nation at the time, too busy trying to make an avant garde games magazine. :) The site started in earnest in 2003, but I didn't get involved with it until 2005, when sadly, Xbox Nation was shut down.

NG: And you then became Managing Editor...

CC: Yeah. Just previously, I was executive editor of Xbox Nation... which is different than managing editor.

NG: Just for clarity's sake, can you describe the managing editor position?

CC: As executive editor, I was more shaping the direction and content of the magazine, worrying less about production details and deadlines (although everybody worries about deadlines sooner or later). As a managing editor, that's primarily all you're worried about -- making sure you're running a tight ship and things are getting turned in on time and posted in a timely manner. If need be, you crack the whip. Essentially, you play the bad cop vs. the editor in chief, who is usually the good cop.

NG: Heh, what, no aluminum bat? (I've heard about Bill Donohue...)

CC: You didn't see my Condemned lead pipe?


So given that definition of what a managing editor does, I think I was probably ill-suited for the job. In retrospect, I think I did a pretty crap job of handling the purely managing editor duties, which were to just stay on top of folks turning stuff in, planning out a daily schedule of editorial content, and just making sure there's follow through on what you plan.

The problem is, I'm more of the creative type, and really, from the moment I stepped into the EGM offices, I was bred to be more of a writer and a brainstormer for content. Plus, having been senior editor for Gamers.com, reviews and previews editor for EGM, and then executive editor for XBN, I was getting pretty good at talking to PR folks and trying to get exclusive stories. So that was my specialization, and so I did a lot of the more executive editor (i.e. creative) stuff for 1UP... which was good and I'm proud of the stuff I accomplished there, but what really suffered was our ability to have a "tight ship," so to speak. Trust me, it isn't easy managing a group of 14 or 15 people.

By the time Jane (Pinckard) and Ryan (O'Donnell) developed the 1UP Show, I kind of fit right in. Again, it draws on my strengths of being more creative, coming up with concepts, calling companies for stories and access, that sort of thing.

The guy who took over as Managing Editor, Garnett Lee... he's excellent at the managing editor duties so I think everything worked out for the best.

NG: Is it safe for me to assume that being managing editor gave you incentive to work for your current employer, or did you get some bitchin' offer?

CC: Oh, again, the winds of fate blew me over to Microsoft much in the same way it did way back in 1999 when I went to EGM. Sure, I have the skill set to do my job at MS, and that's why they hired me, but opportunity came knocking because I knew the right people. Having worked with MS and Bungie when I was on XBN established friendships and relationships. So it was natural of them to think of me when a position opened up.

When the job first landed in my lap, I didn't even want it. I was quite comfortable at 1UP, and I was passionate about what we were doing with the 1UP Show. Perhaps it was because I went into exploring the MS opportunity armed with this knowledge and confidence that helped me get the job, I don't know. But now that I'm here, I can say that I've made the right decision. I felt like I was hitting a ceiling over at Ziff. It had nothing to do with the fact that I couldn't someday get promoted to a higher spot.

It was more about challenging myself to learn something new. I could probably be an editor for the rest of my life, to be honest. But, I don't know, I'd feel like I wasn't really living up to my potential. Maybe if I were to become the Lester Bangs of games journalism or something. But there simply isn't room for a publication like XBN to exist, and after a while, I didn't even want to do new games journalism because it felt belabored.

NG: So what do you think you will miss the most about working for Ziff Davis, or more precisely, 1UP?

CC: I'm going to miss the people. The Ziff group really is a tightly knit family of friends... most of my best friends all worked under the same roof. It was pretty remarkable. Sure, sometimes it could get a little bitchy or dramatic, but it's totally worth it.

NG: That's has to make being a managing editor somewhat difficult. Even if you're supposed to separate professional and personal relationships, it can play a factor.

CC: Yeah totally. I guess what you gotta remember is that when you're in that kind of a position, your job isn't to make friends.

NG: What did you dislike?

CC: Well very little. Like anything you do for a long time (in my case, 7 years), you kind of just burn out of doing the same routine over and over again. Also, if you're doing online, trade shows are a total whore. Some people were born to hustle like that. It really does require a certain mindset and personality. For online, it's more like, walk around all day, look at games, talk to PR folks, go to appointments, then stay up all night writing it up.

NG: Tell us how most games are reviewed, with more emphasis on the process, and not so much on criteria.

CC: Well, I can't speak for other places like Gamespot or IGN but having friends at all those places, I imagine the process is very similar and really bland. Companies typically send out games 2-3 weeks before it ships or goes to certification so print magazines can put it into their issues and offset lead times. Reviews editor gets the games in, assigns them out to the best person on the staff to handle that style of game. (Although there's no exact science to this -- sometimes you want to mix it up.) Then the reviewer plays the shit out of the game. How long they play it for will vary with the genre.

The truth is, it isn't always possible to finish games. I mean, some games you finish, some you can't. Nobody would review FFXII or RE4 without finishing it, but how do you finish a game with a heavy online component? It could be really fun for a few days online, but then it could get old and become kind of shit, and vice versa. you might hate it at first and then you discover how awesome it is later. So, I say online reviews are the biggest challenge for any publication.

Companies will also call you up all the time to bitch about bad review scores. At which point, it's up to the person who wrote the review to defend his score by citing specifics and talking with the developer. Usually they just end up agreeing to disagree. Sometimes, it turns out the reviewer made a mistake or didn't finish the game or play it enough... that's when you're fucked.

NG: So you better hire people with a backbone.

CC: Or people with good review ethics. I mean, there is no conspiracy. I know it's shocking, but there are no moneyhats, at least not where I worked. And yeah, we disagree with each other's scores all the time, but at the end of the day, we knew it all just came down to personal preference, and not because Konami gave somebody an oriental massage or something.

NG: What's your opinion about payola? We always read about editors and junior reporters being flown in for some event, and being put up in some hotel for a day. We read stuff about guys getting XBoxes for an XBox Live event

CC: Hmm...the funny thing about this question is that, it's such a hot topic in the forum community, and there's so little of it actually happening. Obviously I can't speak for anyone except for the publications I worked for, but I have friends all over the place and -- I swear to you, Jason, nobody has EVER gotten an envelope filled with money, or a check, or a hat made of cash, for giving a game good scores.

That being said... the games industry is no different than any other industry, entertainment or otherwise. Yes, editors are flown in from all over the world, and those without scruples will let the game publisher pay for these trips (which, contrary to popular belief, may not even be very extravagant). Ziff-Davis has a pretty strict policy about not letting companies pay for these junkets, but really, I think that's just a gesture of integrity. Because the apparent hypocrisy there is that every editor in the biz gets free games...

NG: What about review copies? I've heard of some independent sites that take the copies and eBay them.

CC: I suppose that's the real source of payola. Just an endless flow of free games. Again, there are no conspiracies. However, there are relationships that need to be maintain so I can see why people go soft on scores... because you don't want to fuck yourself over for that next big exclusive. But personally, I have never seen a blatant case of review fraud.

NG: So big exclusives... how does that work?

CC: No big conspiracy here either. Game publishers usually give big exclusives to mags and sites with the highest circulation or traffic numbers. It's kind of fucked up for the little guy because it's a vicious catch-22 -- you can't get a scoop because you're small-time, but damn, if only you could put yourself on the map with a few big exclusives, you'd get more traffic, and hence, get offered bigger stories. I've worked on big mags and small sites before. Fighting that system is pretty tough and can be discouraging. When you see smaller sites with big stories, it's almost always because someone on the inside worked a miracle through a relationship. That kind of stuff is always good to see.

I can't stress enough the importance of maintaining good relationships in this business, by the way.

NG: Is there anything you'd change from your experience ?

CC: I know it sounds cheesy, but you can't ever change anything in life without that difference completely impacting who and where you are now. I could say that I'd want XBN to have survived and have sold a lot of copies when we were at our most experimental, but who knows how that would affect the outcome of everything around me? I might not be here today, working on the other side of the games business, helping develop a game.

NG: Thanks for taking time from playing Oblivion to share your thoughts. Undoubtedly, you'll be at E3, so I'll owe you a beer at the Gordon Biersch inside the convention center.

CC: Haha... deal...

Comments or questions? Squawk back at:
the NeoGAF Forum


Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Written by Chris Faylor

Tuesday, 02 May 2006

In this special we'll be investigating video game review metamessages and the often conflicting review scores associated with review text. Blind trials are performed to determine whether actual scores fit perceived scores in reviews, conclusions are drawn, and solutions are examined.

There's no denying the ever-expanding popularity of video games. Labeled "the fastest growing sector of the entire entertainment industry" by Douglas Lowenstein, President of the Entertainment Software Association, the global revenue of the field has ballooned from $10 to $25 billion dollars in the past ten years.[1] Likewise, the realm of video game journalism is one that symbiotically grows in popularity with each passing year. Across a variety of mediums, including magazines, newspaper, radio, television and online websites, the latest coverage of the video game industry is relayed to the gaming community.

This coverage can generally be split into three distinct chunks: news, previews, and reviews. Ideally, news articles are relatively free of editorialization, focusing on the facts of a recent event, such as the announcement of a title in development or the shipping of a game to retail stores, with little room for judgment. Typically, articles of this nature are based off the press releases provided by a company.

Previews, which provide an advance look at upcoming games, are a little more subjective. The content of a preview is generally a mix of facts provided by a company, known as a Fact Sheet, and the author’s impressions of their experience with a game thus far. As previews tend to be written after only a few hours of time with a game, often when the title has yet to be completed, these articles tend to express an open-minded sentiment, the harsh, stinging criticism reserved for the judgmental review.

Of the three article types, reviews are the most subjective. After spending a substantial amount of time with a “Review Build” or “Review Copy” -- a copy of a game the company feels is indicative of the finished product -- the author then types up an analysis of their thoughts regarding said game. Though there is no set formula for the whole of game reviews (as proven by outlandish examples such as a comic strip and a faux-blog), reviews typically include a comprehensive examination of the various aspects of a game, including presentation, gameplay, and length. A score is assigned alongside the text, ranking the game on a relative scale. Different publications use different scales, some using a numerical score, ranging anywhere from 1 - 5 to 1 - 100, some using an alphabetical scoring system, ranking the game on a scale of A - F.

Together, the review text and score are meant to provide an indication of the quality of a given game. This is accomplished through the use of metamessages, the underlying implications of a statement, defined by Dr. Deborah Tannen as, “the meaning gleaned from how something is said, or from the fact that it is said at all. "[2] The text and score of a review are intrinsically tied, their individual metamessages meant to justify one another. The text is the reasoning behind the score; meanwhile, the score provides a quick summary of the text. In this regard, the composition of reviews is unique in that, by design, they carry two metamessages.

But just as the metamessages of scores and text can work together, they can also work against one another. If the two metamessages were to disagree, this would damage the overall metamessage of a review. A disparity between the metamessage of a review text and a review score would leave the reader confused, questioning both the credibility of a piece and their own interpretation of the piece's metamessages.

This concept is nothing new for those who spend their time reading game reviews and participating in the online discussion thereof. However, the very nature of internet discussion makes using these discussions as proof of conflicting metamessages problematic. Various participants in online discussion have their own agendas which can potentially discredit their contributions. Inexplicably, some users have a bias against certain publications, and will go to amazing lengths in their attempts to discredit the claims of that publication. Other users show a loyalty to a franchise or system, and will likewise employ numerous methods to ensure their favored product appears favorably.

As the internet discussion boards couldn’t be trusted to prove or disprove the existence of mixed metamessages in game reviews, an experiment was conducted using a group unfamiliar with the field of gaming journalism. The concluding paragraphs of two contrasting reviews were stripped of their scores and supplied to a small group of participants, along with a copy of each publication’s respective review guidelines.

The working theory was simple: According to standard rhetoric, the conclusion of a piece is meant to summarize and reinforce the key themes established throughout the writing.[3] Thus, the metamessage of the review text should be made quite clear in the concluding paragraphs. After reading each sample, the participants were then asked to assign a score based off the detailed review guidelines provided by each publication. The closer their guesses to the actual score, the clearer the metamessage of the text.


In the first sample, only half of the group’s estimates were within a point of the actual score, 7.6 out of 10. Of those that were within a point of the actual score, not one person assigned the correct score, though interestingly, no one overestimated either. Overall, the average assigned review score was 6.3, with a difference of 1.3 between the average estimated score and the actual review score.

In order to compare the results of the second samples, numerical values have been assigned to each of letter grades according to the chart below. The values for the conversion were obtained from GameRankings, a site that allows viewers to compare reviews from various outlets.



Results from this sample were more in line with the actual score, an A / 9.5 out of 10, though still discouraging. As with the first sample, no one correctly estimated the proper score. The average assigned review score here was an 8.7 (roughly a B+), with a difference of 0.8 between the average estimated score and the actual review score.

click to enlarge

In analyzing the results of this survey, one could conclude that as Sample B had a smaller difference between the average estimated score and the actual score, Sample B therefore has the clearer metamessage. But this analysis is rendered moot as Sample B still has a difference of 0.8, close to one point, between its average estimated score and the actual score. Furthermore, not one participant correctly estimated the score of either sample. This proves that both samples have unclear metamessages. And if the metamessages of a two haphazardly-selected reviews don’t match up with the metamessage of their review scores, that means the field of gaming journalism has a problem with conflicting metamessages.


Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Written by drohne

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

This year's E3 has passed in a flurry of $599 expletives and furious wand-waggling, and NeoGAF's most wicked wit was on-site to share his unique experiences.

Wednesdayton and Thursdayton

I went to E3 this year as a member of the imaginary media. Last year I went to E3 as a member of the actual media – I wrote 10,000 words of piffle, lost my taste for videogames, and drove around with Chespace. That had its charms, but I think I prefer the imaginary media, and it pays little worse.

I should've arrived Wednesday just in time for the GAF meet-up. But I didn't see any Gafers. Maybe I was in the wrong place...or maybe I’d just forgotten what Gafers look like. I think I know what Wellington looks like, but I sort of have him mixed up with Tiki Barber. Alas, I'm sure I know what Matlock looks like. Matlock wasn't there.
First things first: I betook myself to the Capcom booth and played Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins. Ultimate G+G was the game of the show, if you like. Its obsessively detailed textures and solid little models approximate hand-pixeled graphics as closely as polygons can. The controls have just that Makaimura drowsiness. And the pace, oh the pace -- you have to fight for every little step or jump of forward progress. Makaimura is trench warfare in two dimensions. The polygonal enemies take advantage of their 3d-ness to swarm at you from oh, all sorts of angles. The two-stage E3 demo gave you hella lives and multiple hits per life, so it wasn't as hard as it needs to be, but no doubt I'll be able to correct this when the game is properly mine. There was a graveyard level, and then a level in a cave, and then a boss fight outside the cave. If I talk about every game at this length, I'll never get through this post. So I'll step lively. Hup.

Okami is pretty great -- I didn't play it last year. It's like Zelda with “good art” and lively action. Some Capcom programming voodoo makes the "Celestial Brush" feel uncannily graceful. On a fucking Dual Shock. Strangely it outshines a similar mechanic in a Wii game -- though we won't do Wii yet. We'll do Wii Friday. God Hand is awful. But I like its music.

I live in Los Angeles, and E3 involves a lot of driving for me -- whether an L.A. commute is tolerable or intolerable depends entirely on the music you're listening to. I was listening to a lot of Sam Cooke. So yeah, good fucking commute, as commutes go. I was singing "Sugar Dumpling" under my breath the whole day Wednesday -- I must have looked like an idiot.

I don't know what I did Thursday. I wasn't there long. I played Virtua Fighter 5 some -- Sega had an arcade cabinet there. It's like VF4 but completely different. Moves that would float now stagger, moves that would hit staggers now whiff, and my Akira beat some dude's Wolf, but with no style I'm afraid. It looks as good as practically anything on PS3 or 360. Well done, Sega.

You know...attractive girls are paid to stand around in sexy clothes at E3. And the prevailing atmosphere is such that you quickly lose your scruples about staring. There were two black-haired girls in silver minidresses at the Ubisoft booth doing...something. It may have been dancing -- but man, it was filthy to see. And I stood there and looked for a couple minutes. That's what I remember Thursday.

As long as we're talking filth, I like to see the office ladies at E3. They look so prim and flustered in their power suits. There was a Filipina office lady who couldn't have been far out of her twenties, pleasingly sleek and compact in black pinstripes. And there was this blonde with a terrific Roman nose -- she looked like John Lennon, only attractive and female. They should pay office ladies to stand around at E3. In power suits. Actually I guess they do.

I saw the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer on Konami's big theater screen, and then on Sony's nicer one. What a trailer. And how well it fits a big screen. There are a lot of nice videogame trailers at E3, but the originality and melancholy and visual style of this one are something else altogether. Halo is a smart game and the Halo 3 teaser rocks, but...it's not Metal Gear. It's not a Metal Gear trailer. And you know, as I was telling eXxy when I accosted him on the outdoor walkway between the south and west halls, the first MGS4 trailer wasn't a Metal Gear trailer either. Not altogether. It looked great, but it could've been anything. This one is unmistakably Metal Gear.

Complete digression now, but the big problem with MGS games as stories is the dialogue. It's really bad. Rambling, nakedly expository, never conversational. You become inured to the bad dialogue as you play MGS, but if you come back later and watch isolated cutscenes, it really strikes you. I think I could take MGS seriously if they'd do something about the dialogue. I don't know how much of it is the translation.

Friday was the Wii line and very little else. Just walking to the back of the Wii line was an experience -- it went on at comical length, like the starship at the beginning of Spaceballs. At first my line neighbors were a couple exceptionally ripe Nintendo fanboys. They were lambasting Sony for “stealing the motion sensor” -- strange to hear these things actually spoken. One of them had defaced a Sony ad and put it around his neck. A Nintendo employee took notice of the sign and shuttled the Nintendo fanboys to the front of the line. I was more grateful than they were. My neighbors thereafter were a couple broadcast journos -- I forget their names, but they were cool, which E3 attendees as a rule aren't. Witty fellow, one of them, in a little beard and a suit jacket. I spent most of my three preposterous hours in line playing Gradius and Mega Man on my PSP -- I've never liked my PSP so well.

"How long have we been standing in this goddamned line?"

"When we got in line I didn't have this beard. It grew in."

"When we got in line it was still called the Revolution. While we were waiting they changed it to Wii."

"And we didn't get here in time to stop them."

By the time I got to the end of the Wii line I didn't feel like playing Wii: I felt like going home and reading a book: E3 will do this to you. And now that I’ve got to the end of this post I don't feel like writing about Wii: I feel like taking a shower. More later, I suppose.


Alright, where did we leave off? Wii line -- end of the Wii line. I can see into the Wii room now -- the walls are blinking with a million little blue lights, and just as I'm about to note the resemblance to a Hype Williams video, the broadcast journo with the beard launches into the chorus of "Hypnotize." Witty fellow.
The bouncer lifts the velvet rope. I stop talking in mid-sentence, leave the Wii line and enter...another small internal Wii line. Some unbelievable pedant in an official blue Nintendo shirt is describing the contents of the booth for us -- "there's the peripherals case on the left, if you'd like to take a look," etc. I want to shout ":rolleyes," just like that: "colon, rolleyes." And the Asian gentleman a couple spots down from me is doing the pee-pee dance. Finally the pedant lets us go. Before we get to the Wii stations proper we pass through a sort of...I don't know...gazebo-like structure, with a recessed central pit from which a genial young black man resembling the ship's pilot from the Matrix sequels is leading a crowd in a chant of "Wii will Wii will rock you." How ugly that looks in type. The gazebo is luminous white, and seems to have been built of the carcasses of a thousand iPods. I...just wanted to play Mario.

So I go line up at a Mario station. The line is long and oddly shaped -- people are having to step over cross-legged queuers who've deposited themselves in the aisles with their messenger bags. A bossy blonde attendant is having none of it: she grabs two perplexed targets by the arms, says "I'll place you," and takes them the Devil knows where. Then she comes back and does it again. This somehow leaves me a couple spots away from a Mario demo.

E3 is weird. You see and hear things that stick in your head. Ahead of me in line are two representatives of a fansite I won't name -- I know them by their t-shirts. One of them is naming Xbox 360 games: Halo 3, Gears of War. The other is unimpressed: "I don't like those first-person shooters. I like RPGs, like Final Fantasy. And platformers. And I like, you know, Gradius. Shooters like that." He pronounces "Gradius" correctly, rhyming with "Thaddeus" rather than "radius." He's terribly thin, with a beaky little face. And he's blooming with pimples. He's so nerdy it isn't funny -- he's so nerdy your heart aches a bit for him. And here's his nerdy vulnerability on full display. I like Gradius too.

So Super Mario Galaxy -- it's pretty damned good. And actually it's nothing like Mario 64, though the controls are similar. You go from one planetary orbicle to the next in a roughly linear fashion, completing little tasks -- I say "roughly linear" because I think the guy ahead of me took a slightly different route. There's this one flattish planet: its purple rock surface is scored with electric fences. I jump around it and can't figure out where to go. I jump over an electric fence at the very edge of the planet, sort of unthinkingly -- and the whole planet flips over to its other, grassy side, which I hadn't suspected was there. A Bullet Bill is flying benignly around. And I’m pretty happy. While I'm playing, this guy to my right is asking me moony questions -- I don't know if he's a journalist or if he’s just in some guy in an overflow of Wii-induced jollity. At some point he asks me: "is it more about the gameplay, or is it about the experience?" I don't know what to tell him. "It just feels like Mario," I say. Which is about right. On account of the lines and the time, I’m only permitted five minutes with Mario. I have to stop just as I get to the octopus in the lava.

I haven't even mentioned the waggle wand. It's funny, but I hardly noticed the damn thing -- it was just there, moving a cursor around. I don't know if I held it at arm’s length and flailed around, or if I made subtle wrist movements, as Wii cognoscenti tell us we ought. The wand doesn't do anything terribly interesting in Mario: mainly you point the cursor at certain things and waggle furiously to make them spin. But it’s hard to object. The cursor is always jittering somewhat. It's a bit like the name entry screen in Virtua Cop -- the cursor there jitters more acutely than Mario's, but it feels akin. The waggle wand is like a slightly broken mouse. That you don't need a desk for.

After Mario I line up for Monkey Ball. I don't care for it. You roll forward by inclining your wrist forward -- which is fine. You roll sideways by rolling your wrist from side to side -- which isn't that bad. But when you try to do both at the same time you start throwing awful cripple poses, and then your monkey falls off the board.

I watch the orchestra game for a bit -- the Zelda theme sounds fantastic. The guy playing looks as if he knows what he's doing. I’ve sat in any number of school orchestras, and his conducting swing is perfectly orthodox. But it seems like he's doing rather badly at the game...actually now the orchestra has practically stopped playing. He protests that he was a music major at Northridge -- and he looks the part with his tangle of brown beard. He abandons his proper conducting and hacks the wand up and down in rhythm -- the orchestra picks up again, and I move on.

As I’m standing in line for Wario Ware I see a little scene -- the Wii room is damnably loud, and it's happening a little way off, so I can't hear what's being said. But I can tell what's going on. A fratboy type with close-cropped yellow hair has cut to the front of a line. The nerds behind him complain for a bit to the booth girl and then sulk. The girl -- tan, leggy in shorts, breastless -- reminds one of a camp counselor. But she’s rather pretty. Now the fratboy is shaking his head "no" and putting his hands up in feigned perplexity. And how angry the girl looks as she hands the fratboy the controller. I decide to go home. I go home.

Thoughts? Discuss it at the NeoGAF Forum.


Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Written by Chris Faylor

Sunday, 03 September 2006

One of the most notable features of the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was its distinct humor and charm, and with the recent release of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories continuing the tradition, we were curious about what it takes to translate a game with such notable wit. To that end, we talked with Steve Carlton, a two year veteran at NIS America who served as the Localization Coordinator on Disgaea 2, using many of the questions submitted by NeoGAF users.

NeoGAF: How big was the team that localized Disgaea 2? What titles have you worked on in the past?

Steven Carlton: We had five people on the Disgaea 2 Localization Team, working on the game itself, and we had six debuggers during the Quality Assurance phase. I have worked on Atelier Iris 1 & 2, Makai Kingdom, and very minorly on Generation of Chaos.

NG: How long does it take to localize a game like Disgaea 2?

SC: Disgaea 2 took about 6 months to localize.

NG: What's the process when deciding on a game to localize, and what input does the localization team have on this decision?

SC: In most cases, we will have multiple members of our team play a game and evaluate it. We get to present our opinions about the game, and if we believe our fans will enjoy it, we’ll pursue it for localization.

NG: Can you walk us through the steps of localization once a game has been selected? Where do you start? Do you spend a significant amount of time playing the game and getting familiar with its intricacies, or do you just focus on dialog and text?

SC: Once we secure the rights, we’ll begin by going through the text files and playing the game. We examine the characters and the major systems within the game and determine the names and terminology that we’ll either keep or have to change for the localization. Then, the translator translates the texts into English, and then the editor edits the translation. By this time, we’ve played the game pretty thoroughly, so we know how the characters should speak and react to one another, which helps a lot. Then we record the voices, send everything to Japan, and then wait for the English version to arrive. Then we test and update the game as needed until it’s ready.

NG: How much polish does a localization undergo before it's considered final? Is there an emphasis on proper spelling and grammar, or is the priority in ensuring the text is understandable?

SC: We try to polish the text as much as possible. Proper spelling and grammar is good, but sometimes a character’s personality or traits may shove those rules aside. We’d rather have our fans remember our characters for who they are, not for their knowledge of using who and whom.

NG: What type of considerations do you make in regards to culturally-specific humor that may be more difficult for North American gamers to understand?

SC: One of our highest priorities is to give the North American audience the same kind of experience, if not better, from playing our game as the audience in Japan had when playing the original. To that end, we feel that it is important to capture the same tone and feeling of the humor when replacing it for a western audience.

NG: How much creative freedom are you granted? Do you keep contact with the original development team during the localization process? Do they have a threshold for how far you can stray from the literal translation?

SC: We generally have total creative freedom, but we know that a significant part of our fan base expect and demand a certain degree of fidelity to the original. With that in mind, we just want everyone to have fun.

NG: The first Disgaea made use of some time sensitive humor to poke fun at then-recent events, and many other games contain references to then-popular internet catchphrases. Some claim this practice dates a game and limits its appeal several years down the line, while others believe these jokes and references help to strengthen a game's appeal. What are your thoughts on this subject? How does this affect the translation process?

SC: When done right, it’s a great way to add a little extra charm and humor to a game. If you mix in pop culture references, it’s best to make references from both classic and new sources. That way, it’s not dating itself to a specific time. This doesn’t really affect the translation process because they will usually pop in by themselves.


NG: With the original Disgaea published by Atlus and the sequel handled by NIS America, how did this affect the localization process of Disgaea 2? Did you feel obligated to maintain a certain tone, translating things in a manner that stayed true to the original?

SC: Being a huge fan of the first Disgaea, and especially of the characters, I spent a great deal of my free time replaying it until the characters were engrained into my frontal lobe.

NG: What other games and companies have inspired your localization process?

SC: All I know is that this is how we’ve done it since I started working here.

NG: Have you ever had to cut content out of a game before? If so, why?

SC: I’ve never cut out material from a game before, but I have noticed that occasionally, parts of a scene that is in our files and that we had localized was cut out of the original game, and thus was never included in our version.

NG: What conditions and factors determine if a game will retain its original Japanese voice acting in addition to the English dub?

SC: We always try to keep the original Japanese voice acting in our games. We know that our fans love the ability to choose which language to listen to, and we are more than happy to oblige. The only reasons I can think of as to why we would not include the originals would be if there’s not enough space to include both, or if there was a programming conflict of some kind.

NG: If you could localize any game, what would it be?

SC: Well, localizing Disgaea 2 really was a dream-come-true for me. But now that I’ve done that, personally, I think it would be fun to do a Fire Pro Wrestling or maybe a Cromartie High School game.

NG: Can you think of an instance in which you would refuse to localize a game? Why?

SC: I can’t think of a reason why I personally would refuse to localize a game. I may strongly suggest that we not pick up a game, for whatever reason, but once we get a game, I will do my best to make it as great as possible.

Special thanks to Nao Zook and Steven Carlson for arranging and participating in this interview.

Thoughts? Discuss it at the NeoGAF Forum.


Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Written by Panajev

Saturday, 09 September 2006

GAF's top technical-minded gamer Panajev gives us an extraordinarily in-depth exploration of a recent patent application from Sony's Chief Technical Officer. This patent describes a scenario which could revolutionize the way used games are treated.

”United States Patent Application 20060069752
Kind Code A1
Chatani; Masayuki (Chief Technical Officer of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.)”

Title: Incentivizing software sharing through incentive points

A method for incentivizing sharing of a software product through awarding incentive points utilizing unique identifiers including removable storage identification, user console identification and user identification. The granting of access permissions and the awarding of incentive points are facilitated through a host server.

Web link: Go see the patent!

It’s All About The Entitlements

Section I: Introduction

People buy games, lend games, and sell games. This reality is well known, it is familiar to us users and we enjoy the benefits it gives us, such as the ability to buy used but fully working games at a cheaper price than brand new ones and to sell what we do not use any more. In all fairness, it is also something that is not under the control of the Intellectual Property (IP) owners of said games and we know that when money is involved the lack of control is not something said IP owners enjoy. While reading this patent, as we shall do together soon enough, it is tough to ignore the comments against the used games market made by various publishers and hardware makers (for example Sony to name one) interested in collecting royalties on each title sold to customers. Software publishers in general have never shown much enthusiasm about what they perceive to be the effects of the used game market on brand new games: lower volume of sales at full-price leading to quickly dropping MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of said new game titles. Still, before we put our tin foil hats on let’s try to understand the idea behind this patent application (Note: it has yet to be granted, but it is the latest evolution of some other patents that Sony Computer has filed in the past few years).

[0005] Disc storage media, such as CD-ROM and DVD-ROM storage discs, are typical storage devices for commercially available software programs. For example, publishers and manufacturers of games for electronic gaming systems use read-only storage devices such as CD-ROM discs to distribute and sell their products. Discs may be passed and shared among users; however, there is no effective system in place to account for the potential multiple users of commercially available software products.

[0006] Even though discs may be shared without any constraints, it may be that discs are shared only between small groups of users without widespread distribution among the entire user population. The software product is not widely shared, thereby forcing others to purchase their own copy. The software product does not achieve widespread advertising either, limiting the potential for a larger consumer base. For example, the publishers and distributors of game software would like their products advertised to a wide customer base as well as purchased by a wide customer base.

[0007] A system that would offer an incentive to a user of a software product when this user shares the product with others, or when the user plays the product, is a concern of publishers and distributors of software products. A user may tire of a product on a disc, but instead of storing the disc away, maybe never to be seen again, the user is offered an incentive to share. Therefore, the user may be more inclined to share a software product with others. Such a system would (1) promote the product, (2) attract other users who may purchase more products in the future, and (3) offer all users incentives to purchase more products.

The basic idea that Mr. Chatani is trying to convey here is that many games, due to maybe poor marketing efforts or other causes such as a high price-point, fail to reach mass-market penetration, limiting their exposure and thus their ability to capture the attention of as many potential buyers as possible. Customers tend to buy games from stores (new or used ones) and keep them, maybe they lend them to some friend of theirs or they sell some of them back to a store; the latter is a somewhat welcomed tolerated scenario because quite often the money received by the store is spent in the store for other video-games even though there are some stores that do give cash for your used belongings. So, the incentive users have to “share” their games can be monetary, if they happen to sell their games, or it can be their friends’ appreciation, if the owners lend the games to their friends. In both cases though, the original owners cannot play the games anymore unless they buy the game discs again or they get the games back from the people who have borrowed them. From the patent it might appear that perhaps sharing a game without transferring its ownership might not exactly be what the patent author had in mind, but then how would such a plan deal with game rentals (example: Blockbuster)? What do we imply when we talk about transferring ownership from a user to another one? Also, painting the concept of “restricted sharing = forcing others to buy their own copy (thus limiting potential user-base)” under a bad light would seem to conflict with the idea that the only and rightful way of sharing a game would be to transfer the game’s ownership to the player that receives the owner’s game. Truth to be told, it is possible in theory to transfer ownership for free (or almost for free); that is the other user would not need to pay the original owner at all if this was their agreement, but we will see more about that once we get to the meat of the patent. Look then for the explanation of the term Transfer Charge, as used in this patent, later on in this very article for a better idea on how this particular solution can be achieved.

Returning to the idea of “game sharing”, according to this patent many people evidently do not feel the need to help the games they like get much coverage beyond talking about them with their close friends and on some Internet message boards, but “seeing is believing” as the saying goes. It certainly would help to promote games more effectively (saving important advertising dollars too ;)) if people could see what a platform can do, the games it has available first hand, and that they could do so in an affordable way. It might push people to buy the console, to buy a particular game, its sequels or similar games to it. Basically, to make a long story short, one of the elements the gaming industry wants to focus on is this: bringing the “word of mouth” advertisement concept to the next level.

One thing that does bother software and hardware publishers is that they have neither data nor control over how games are used and shared: if they are borrowed by someone, if they are sold, or if they are purchased new or used. It is a massive amount of data about game users, about their behaviors and the games they play: a resource of information that many marketing people and executives inside big game publishers would be salivating at the idea of being able to access. It is not something new, or an uncommon practice these days -- or do you think that Google gives you all that many on-line services for free just because they are nice?

Section II: It smells in here, but I took a shower!

Let’s first bring together some of the particularly mellow parts of the earlier quoted passage that show just how much they care about us not being able to simply share our games with as many other people as we could:

Even though discs may be shared without any constraints, it may be that discs are shared only between small groups of users without widespread distribution among the entire user population. The software product is not widely shared, thereby forcing others to purchase their own copy.


A system that would offer an incentive to a user of a software product when this user shares the product with others, or when the user plays the product, is a concern of publishers and distributors of software products.

A user may tire of a product on a disc, but instead of storing the disc away, maybe never to be seen again, the user is offered an incentive to share.

Look boys and girls, at least someone for once thinks about our wallet too! And we selfish ones that were trying to keep our games hidden away rather than let other people enjoy such treasures. Shame on us!

Ok, now you got me interested, I want to redeem myself; what do I gain by being nice? In the official Sony lingo the word would be Entitlements, but if you are familiar with the Xbox LIVE world then you can think of the Microsoft Points that you are able to purchase and spend on LIVE’s Marketplace. So, you gain on-line currency that you can then spend on the PlayStation Network in a variety of ways: sell the old game and use the rebate to purchase this year new edition, buy a new game and earn points to purchase items for Sony’s “Marketplace”, or you could give them to a fellow gamer as part of the payment you owe him or her for the new cool custom level he or she just made.

Points have value, and may, for example, be redeemed for rebates on disc purchases, publisher promotional items, updated versions of discs or user consoles, or may be traded among users. The foregoing examples of point redemption are not inclusive, however, and points may be redeemed for other items as well.

So far so good; they gain a wider audience appreciating their games and we gain “PlayStation Dollars”.

Not only that, but this portion of the patent gives an interesting emphasis on user created content sharing similar to how the PC market operates, instead of the more consoles-centric approach of giving only to officially licensed developers the right and ability to generate and distribute more content to complement the games they released. I do hope that the PlayStation Network is thought in such a way to allow and encourage this approach as it could open the floodgates to more advanced level editors and tools usable directly within your PLAYSTATION 3 game that you can make available through the network. It would also be quite welcomed if PC tools (think UnrealEd) allowed you to generate custom levels and art formatted in such a way to allow you to simply sign on the PlayStation Network from the PC and upload your content directly to Sony’s “store” or to your own PLAYSTATION 3 as an intermediate step.

So, article finished? No, I do happen to be irked by the “seemingly” purely philanthropic argument they are using to sell us this system, it smells and it smells a bit fishy and I want to dig a little bit deeper before I start praising their next miracle.

It does feel like the ass-kissing “customer reward” program might have a catch, but we could give it the benefit of doubt and assume that when they say “forcing others to purchase” they are honest and that they mean “forcing others to choose between either paying full price for the game or not getting a taste of what the final game is about beyond the scope of maybe an early and unpolished demo”.


I have to admit that I did go through the classic stages of grief, like a common human being that feels a sudden shock, as I was reading the patent and talking about it with friends and I am sure the difference in tone of some passages, as the article was edited, can show it very well, but my main worry is to be able to give you some useful introduction to the problem at hand. I want to do so before you decide to jump in the heaven that is reading the patent in question on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website and go through various levels of fear, anger, or excitement as the case may be. Coming up next we will see the backbone of this idea, how the system is supposed to award the points and what it might mean for the “privacy” or anonymity we have enjoyed so far as regular Joe’s inserting a simple disc in a sometimes not so simple machine.

(continued in next post)


Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Section III: Big Brother For Dummies

Let’s start from section [0019] of the Invention Description and proceed forward trying to understand how the system is supposed to work. The concept is based around some key pieces of information:

* User ID: this is a unique ID and your PlayStation Network “gamer-tag” is linked to it.
* Game Disc ID: each game-disc has a unique ID that identifies it individually.
* Console ID: also known as set ID, each PLAYSTATION 3 console has such a unique ID which can be used to distinguish users in place of the User ID.

Naturally, information is not worth much unless you have systems to store and access it:

* User ID Database
* Game Discs Database
* Publishers Databases (we can restrict the category, for simplicity reasons, to Game Publishers in this case)

Key elements of this picture are the concepts of a Centralized Network, a Host Server and several Publishers-run servers that presumably connect to the Centralized Network. Such a network could be thought of as the centralized PlayStation Network or PSN that Sony has been talking about for quite a while.
Let’s proceed in steps:

* The device in question is your PlayStation Network aware console: whether we are talking about PSP or PLAYSTATION 3 makes very little difference.
* This device is able to access content on a physical read-only device (UMD or BD-ROM as you might see fit).
* The device has at least one interface connected to a local network (LAN o WLAN) and through that local network the access to the centralized Network would be performed.
* The device, known in the patent as user console, is configured to access some form of removable storage, a “Memory Card” like a USB pen-drive, a Memory Stick card, a Compact Flash card, a Secure Digital card, or a Hard Disk Drive (HDD), which can be read and written by the user console.
* The first time the console is turned on you are asked to configure some settings and to register at the Host Server of said Centralized Network. We can really think of this process as being similar to creating an Xbox LIVE gamer-tag and registering it on Xbox LIVE web-servers.
* During this process the Console ID and the User ID will be respectively extracted and assigned to the user so that they can also be stored in the Users Database and the Discs Database the Host Server has access to.
* The Host Server has access to also the Publishers’ servers which manage sub-accounts. The sub-accounts are tied to Game Discs Unique IDs and stored in appropriate Databases.
* Each disc has a Data Access Area, a Disc Unique ID Address, and a Disc Unique ID.
* Audio, Video, and Program data are recorded in the Data Access Area while the Unique ID Address and the Unique ID might or might be not recorded in the Data Access Area.
* The Unique ID Address is the address on the disc of the Unique ID.
* The Content of the disc cannot be accessed by the user console unless, upon completion of the “registration” process mentioned earlier in the article, the Host Server submits access permission.
* You do not believe me, do you? Fair enough... in the patent’s own words:

The DISC UNIQUE ID 230 uniquely identifies the disc 110. The contents of the disc 110 cannot be played on the user console 115 or other devices without access permission for the disc 110.

* The Host Server’s User Database is itself composed of multiple fields:
* User Account Information: this includes the User ID as well as additional information such as Address and Billing Information, user-name (your gamer-tag in Xbox LIVE terms), and user-preferences of each PSN user.
* Point Account Information: this includes information regarding Incentives and Reward Points for the user, keeping track of their totals as well as other information that the patent’s Points Management System needs in order to operate.
* The Disc Database is also something worth exploring. It is divided in two major categories:
* Disc Information: it includes the Disc Unique ID, the associated User ID, a field called “user consent” (used to save the identity of the user authorized to access the Game Disc by the disc’s current owner), title, publisher, type, date of purchase, and transfer charge. The system is designed to account for and track the transfer of ownership of said Game Discs. Inside the transfer charge field there is stored the amount of payment due by the user to the owner of the Game Disc for the transfer of ownership, and we might possibly also see other charges due to the actual transfer of ownership. The way the transfer charge is defined leaves room for giving your game away for “free”; it covers the user-to-user sale process without establishing a minimum amount due by a user to the user who is the owner of the Game Disc, but it only mentions “other charges”. Such “other charges”, in a context of a free PSN, would seem as simple fees to be paid to Sony for facilitating/allowing the transfer of ownership between users. In this case, your friend would only need to pay some small transaction fee to Sony and you would still be awarded Reward Points further encouraging you to share your games.
* Sub-Account Information: each Disc Unique ID is associated with its own sub-account which includes Incentive and Reward Point informations linked with the Disc Unique ID.
* Another piece of the equation is the Publishers Database:
* The Publisher server manages sub-accounts associated with each Disc registered by users and this data is stored in an appropriate Database.
* The information stored in the Publisher Database seems to closely mirror the structure of the Disc Database mentioned earlier.
* A user may have multiple sub-accounts with each publisher and the user can transfer points from his/her Points Account in the User Database, managed by the centralized Network’s Host Server, to any sub-account stored in one of the Publisher Databases the game publisher uses.
o A good example of this would be the practical “behind the scenes” handling of purchasing a game’s download-able content or as the PR folks would say performing MACRO Micro-Transactions: transferring X points in the Y sub-account you have for game Z in the publisher W’s own Database system.

Some of the wording of the patent might be applicable and extensible also to PSP and maybe to the PlayStation 2 once the PlayStation Network is fully functional and accessible, but for those platforms, especially for PlayStation 2 if the system is even used at all, it might not be for all existing, as time of writing, titles on the market. To be honest, the patent does not even worry about the user being able or not to connect onto the network (it is taken for granted) and thus being able or not to receive authorization instructions; what would happen if you did not have access to the Internet?

If you are now thinking “well when I play some games I will not be on-line with the console” to side-step the problem then think again as it is not such a difficult proposition to cache data on a permanent storage device included with every console ( I am looking at you PLAYSTATION 3’s HDD).

In order to examine the case of someone simply stripping a game of its Disc Unique ID, it is better if we open a short parenthesis: a system is in place to determine if there is a Disc Unique ID Address (and thus the Disc Unique ID itself) and if such address does not exist the execution is continued and the program inside the disc is started, but it would be naive to assume that such a system does not also try to establish, under some internal rules, whether or not there should be a Disc Unique ID Address on the disc itself for anti-piracy reasons. If the Disc Unique ID Address exists on the disc, but there is no Disc Unique ID recorded on the disc the program execution is stopped. If this Unique ID is present, it is read by the console and the process would proceed to its next step.

If a “Memory Card” (USB, MS, CF, SD, or HDD) is not present in the system then the User ID, Game Disc Unique ID, (and the Console ID) are sent to the Host Server every time the disc is booted by the console. When the Host Server is contacted, changes in disc ownership and the awarding of points to the user account take place. The console will also need to be saving the Disc Unique ID, User ID and the rest of the access permission related information onto the “Memory Card” of the console.
If the “Memory Card” is present then the information needs to be submitted only once to the Host Server. The following times the game is booted the console will use the information residing in the memory card to determine if the disc can be granted access to or not.
When you connect to the Host Server to authorize access to the disc, the Host Server determines if the user is a first time user or not. If you are, you will be asked to register the console (like we have already seen) and then you will be assigned a unique User ID; if you are not, then your console will need to send either User ID or set ID (or both) as well as the Disc Unique ID to the Host Server.

Accessing the user Database associated with the User ID received, the Host Server determines if the just received Unique ID matches any of the Disc Unique IDs already tied to that particular User ID: it goes without saying that this is a great method to understand if you ever played that disc, but it is easily extensible to check if the disc is brand new and has never been tied to any User ID before or not, which is exactly what the patent’s writer thought of when he wrote:

If the received DISC UNIQUE ID 230 does not match any of the DISC UNIQUE IDs in the user table 310 in step 630, then in step 645 the host server 130 searches for the received DISC UNIQUE ID 230 in other user's user tables. If the host server 130 does not locate a match, then the disc 110 associated with the received DISC UNIQUE ID 230 has been purchased new by the user and never played.​

You can be awarded incentive points for playing that disc, also different schemes based on a variety of factors might be implemented that assign you points you differently based on, for example, such things as publication date of the disc, the disc’s popularity or your “achievements” obtained in this disc or other discs your User ID is tied to: as we saw earlier you can also be assigned reward points for such things as buying a new game and registering it as well as for selling your game to another user whom you will have to authorize in order for him/her to enjoy the disc’s content. In fact, if the Disc Unique ID sent to the Host Server matches a Disc Unique ID tied to a different User ID, then it is clear to the system that someone else is the owner of the disc. The Host Server then looks in the owner’s Database for consent data and checks if the user currently attempting to play the content of the disc has been authorized to do so: if permission was granted by the owner of the game disc to the current user then access to the disc is granted and the disc Unique ID is untied from the original User ID of the previous owner of the disc and tied to the current user’s User ID, else access to the disc is denied. To summarize, the process of moving the disc Unique ID from one user to another, as result of the former giving access permission to the latter and giving the latter also the disc itself, happens as result of a “transfer of ownership” transaction being successfully completed by the two parties (old owner and new owner).

Even when not expected, good news seems to arrive though: the patent makes the case that before granting access permission to another user, the owner of the disc can save the content of the disc onto a Hard Drive (presumably his/her PLAYSTATION 3’s HDD) which presumably still allows him/her to play the game after he has “given the disc away”. If that were the case and you could save the game to the HDD and lend the game to others which could also install the game and then lend the disc to others and so on, you would have the possible scenario of one person buying the game and everyone else playing it for free unless safeguards were put into place. The easiest safeguard would be to make the user pay a fee to “activate” the game image saved on the his/her console’s HDD: it could be a fee quite lower than the game’s full price, just there so that users would not install the game and keep playing it for free even after giving the game disc away. Until you paid the “activation fee” your HDD installed game could be used in “Demo” mode with limited functionality. With the information they would collect with such a system in place, it would be far too easy to place similar additional content access restrictions on users that try to abuse the rules. Unfortunately the patent does not provide any insights on this issues: you seem left to assume that giving disc access permission to another user simply involves transferring disc ownership to that user, while being able to have that same game stored on the console’s HDD, a simple concept which while being reasonable leaves many questions unanswered.

Section IV: Should you care?

Is this whole concept the great revolution that the used sales market system might have needed or a way towards its demise? Let’s see what a fellow big-time gamer has to say about it:

It would seem that Sony's handling of this system would allow you to give your disk to someone else, whilst retaining a playable copy on your HD, which is commendable.

However, I suspect that there are details that are not being fully disclosed. Initially when first announced, people thought that Entitlement points were the equivalent of MS Marketplace points -in fact, it looks very much like Entitlement points act as the currency in the Sony Live world in the same way that MS has it's points for purchasing downloads.

Regarding the notion of ownership transfer, I suspect that this transaction will NOT be free. If it were free, this would allow unlimited transferal of games between friends.

I suspect that what will happen is that when the game is inserted into the machine of someone who is not the original owner of the machine, then that person will be asked to pay a fee in entitlement points roughly equivalent to the price of a second hand game. I suspect a percentage of this fee will then be passed back to the previous owner - although with Sony stating that the reward should really go to the original purchaser perhaps a sell on bonus is returned each time the game changes hand.

This helps Sony and the publishers in a number of ways - but the obvious big gain is that the second hand market now generates revenues for the people who created the games in the first place, and it allows the prices of second hand games to be dictated entirely by publishers.

What it also opens up is the possibility to have a 'hire from friends' system - theoretically, this system could easily be adapted to allow people to play the game for a limited time with a entitlements point fee going back to the original owner.

--David Coyles​

Thoughts? Discuss it at the NeoGAF Forum.


Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Written by Jason Kwong

Monday, 11 December 2006

David Jaffe talks with us about next-gen, the video game industry, and Indiana Jones. Listen to the hour-long audio interview, exclusive to NeoGAF.com.

David Jaffe is the Creative Director at Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc, Santa Monica Studios, and was able to sit down with us and talk about how he got his start in the industry, his projects, and his opinions about next-gen. Several of the questions asked were originally posed by NeoGAF users in this thread back in October.

This interview is uncensored, so if you're sensitive to occasionally rough language or you're playing loudly at work you have been warned. There is also a God of War spoiler within, so skip from 34:47 to 35:00 if that is a problem.

Download the audio interview (mp3 format, 62 minutes)

Discuss it on the forum


Expansive Ellipses
Staff Member
Written by BobTheFork

Tuesday, 09 October 2007

A story about Insomniac's Resistance: Fall of Man Tournament through the eyes of one of the top players in the United States, NeoGAF member BobTheFork.

About two and half months ago, I was in the usual Resistance: Fall of Man NeoGAF Clan-Night match. We were almost done for the night when fellow user Efertlis (Beatbox) mentioned the tournament. Resistance accounts for the most time I've ever put into a first person shooter, due mostly to the dedicated NeoGAF clan, so I was immediately interested. The Global Gaming League was holding a single player and team (3v3) competition. Aeon712, Eferlisdotcom,and Sutdawg decide to form the only team to represent NeoGAF: Team Philly. Since I coudn't find two extra players at the time, I decided to enter the single player contest. My goal was really to just win one match since I had never even attempted to enter a gaming competition before. The tournament would have 512 player slots (first-come, first-served), broken into 16 brackets of 32 players. The more I read the rules, the more I felt like I had a decent chance of winning a few matches before I lost. I made it to the Elite Eight, scoring a free trip to New York, 150 dollars, a resistance infantry jacket, and one of the best experiences of my life. Before I break it down, I have one main piece of advice.

Read The Rules!!!

I cannot stress this point enough. The rules for a contest like this are determined far in advance, and are heavily legal. Mercy will not be shown if you don't know what you're doing. The number of people who seemingly signed up for the tourney without even glancing at the official rules was astounding. If you've ever complained about useless posts on NeoGAF, by all means sign up for the Resistance tournament site and scan through the Global Gaming League forums. By the time the signups actually started, I must have read the rules four or five times, just to make sure I couldn't screw anything up. There were tons of questions people asked and every single one was answered in the offcial rules. Not only that, different threads with the same question would appear ten times a day. It really bogged down the mods' ability to do their job and help with actual issues. You'll be able to save yourself a mountain of trouble if you read the rules a few times and check the website at least once a day to keep up with any changes or developments.

The first night after the sign ups, the forums were a flood of threads such as, "you have to be 18?" "You have to be a U.S. resident?" and "why can't people from *insert state* enter?" The worst part was that once someone successfully registered for the tournament, the player couldn't be replaced. It tooks less than 24 hours to fill all the slots in the one on one competition. The problem this created was that around 30% (my estimate) of the total contestants entered in the single player tounament were ineligible. Some of these people chose to continue playing anyway despite the fact they could never win a prize, but most of them abandoned their respective matches.

All the invalid entries resulted in a large number of first round byes, and several players that went as far as round three without playing a match. I, however, wasn't so lucky. In fact, I was the only contestant in the finals who played all six matches to advance. If I had to pick one thing that hurt the tournament, its the fact so many people who wanted to play were shut out by ones who should have never signed up. No one was required to submit any personal information until they made it to the finals, so there was no way to eliminate invalid entries. Since it took six rounds to get to New York, I don't feel like it hurt the tournament in the long run. It just made the first two rounds a little boring until the action picked up.

What kind of mentality does it take to win? Its hard to say, but I think you just have to be as realistic as you can. There are lots of players online who could beat me cold and I knew it. Despite that, I felt like I had a decent chance of success. One-on-one competition is extremely different than the game's usual twenty on twenty. The matches were comprised of short rounds, with 5 lives each round. Most of the maps used were fairly small, and the game's two cheapest weapons (the rocket launcher and shotgun) were prohibited. These rule decisions all tilted heavily in my favor. The best approach is to consider the match yours to win or lose. You need to have a gameplan, stick to it and try to minimize mistakes. Above all else: BELIEVE!

Even though I had played nearly everyday since launch, I had to be honest that I was good, not great. Since I wasn't taking any classes this summer, I played for nearly five hours every night. Now I understand most people can't put in that kind of time, but thats what it takes. You have to get to the point where you don't need to think about what to do, just react. I really tried to overthink the training (as my forum thread will attest), and I had lots of fun coming up with different strategies. We went over map layout, weapon locations and spawn points. I'd set up as many practice matches (with tournament rules) as possible and received tons of help from my fellow NeoGAFers.

There were maybe a half-dozen players I felt I couldn't be seeded against if I wanted a realistic chance at New York and I was very lucky not to have to face of them. Honestly, of my six matches, I'd say 4 of them were complete walks. The opponent involved either weren't ready for 1v1 play, relied to much on a single weapon (mostly the 40mm grenade) or just didn't have the skills to stand up to me. The other two matches kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time and were fun as hell. With only 5 lives per round, most players attempted to hide as much as possible. Even the easy matches were extremely tense and drawn out. You would slowly pace the level, checking every corner and hoping they didn't spawn behind you.

My 5th opponent, G8wall, was a real beast. More that just skilled, he was a master of enforcing his will. Even on the largest map available (the Bus Yard), I felt like I was pinned into a corner the entire time. He stayed just outside my radar range and kept lobbing grenades around the level trying to draw me out. Once he found my position, he used the sniper rifle and flame thrower to contain my movement. If he had kept his distance and continued his sniping tactics, I'm almost sure I would have lost, but he was too aggressive for his own good. Not patient enough to wait until I showed myself, he left his sniping point when I hid behind a wall for a more than a few seconds. If you haven't played Resistance before, I'll just point out that the Auger (having the ability to shoot through walls) is my favorite weapon and IMO the most useful. I buried myself in the gas station on the far side of the map and preceded to send an endless volley of fire at him as he approached. Most of his deaths were the result of explosive barrels I shot through the wall. The match ended in classic fashion, tied 1 round a piece and each on our last life. We jumped to the roof of the gas station at the same time, not knowing the other was there. The game registered a double kill, but my final bullet had connected first, and I was awarded the win.

The night before I left, I finally started to get a little nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had never met any of these people before. I think we can all agree that when it comes to online gamers, you're dealing with a mixed bag. It was obvious from the forums and match posts that many of these people and groups didn't get along. To be honest, I was half expecting a fight to break out in the Gamestop. At the very least I was bracing myself for one embarrassing moment. With one exception (more on that later), it could not have been a nicer group of guys. Even FreyDog, who talked more smack than anyone during the prelims, had some real class, talked to everyone and congratulated his opponents and rival teams.

In my long tradition of travel problems, my flight was delayed nearly six hours (and 4 pints of Guiness) for reasons I still don't fully understand. By the time I finally got checked in at my hotel it was 1am and I was exhausted. Luckily, being in New York, I found a great place for beer and pizza less than a block from my hotel. I'm a bit of a pessimist, so I was almost expecting to stay at a Holiday Inn outside of town and get bussed in for the match. To my surprise, the Global Gaming League really came through on the accommodation. All the players stayed at the Hotel Pennsylvania, right across the street from Madison Square Garden. The hotel itself is very old, but it was huge and had serious style. That night I went to sleep at around 3am; the first match would be the next day at ten.

The next day, I walked two blocks to the tournament site, a Gamestop at the corner of 33rd street and Broadway. As far as GS stores go, it was huge. It had a complete second story (which was dedicated entirely to XBox, painted core green, and included that giant Bioshock statue), while the ps3 consoles were set up on the main floor. Now, no one knew exactly how the systems would be laid out. We learned a few days before leaving that the finals would have different rules than the previous matches. The games would be conducted as a deathmatch without a limited number of lives. The race selection was now mixed as well, meaning you could choose to be a chimera for the entire match. The truth was, the matches we had played until then were failrly short and not suited for television. The players weren't really thrilled the rules had been changed, but that's not what concerned us. Basically everyone was forced to play standing up at one of those demo displays you see at Best Buy. The worst part of this was the fact that like the demo displays, the controller was attached to the flexible arm that held it up. This made it much harder to use the SixAxis to shake off fire and bullseye tags. (The screen was also placed very high so it could be seen by the camera.) I had played every previous round in my own apartment, on my couch, sitting level with my screen, with a beer on the table. Now I was playing standing, looking up at a screen, holding the controller at my waist. None of the players were really happy with this kind of setup, but you get over and move on. We weren't expecting an ideal setup in a Gamestop, but we all had to deal with it and to be honest, it leveled the playing field quite a bit.

I was placed into the second match, versus Kotec123. After we sat through a rules/orientation meeting (we received our t-shirts and player passes here), I finally got meet the myth, JStevenson. It's really strange to finally meet someone you've spoken to for so long but never seen (he looks much less like Sam Cassell than I thought). After some conversation and nervous hand wringing by yours truly, if was finally time for my match. I won't go into much detail but I lost and it wasn't as close as I wanted it to be. Kotec123 (who went on to win the tournament) was as skilled as they come and he was ready for everything I tried. I can't even tell you how tough is it to take a beating like that with a straight face while being filmed for television. I'm really glad the GGL filled all the time they needed and didn't use any footage except the finals. Basically, I had a stupid smile on my face the whole time, while I tried to pretend I could come back at any second. No disappointment though; I made it farther than I thought I would, and I sure as hell can't complain about a free four day trip to New York. GGL is sending a DVD of the finals to me with my prize and since the embargo it finally up Ill upload the finals when I get it.

On the issue of embarrassment, the notable exception I spoke of earlier was a player called Freeway_rick. He was well know by all the elite players in the game, and all of them claimed he had someone else play for him so he could advance that far. Now, I have no knowledge on the issue so I can't comment, but after what happened in his match against Rankman (who won his first finals match), I can say he's a grade A loser. With a combination of lucky spawns and 40mm whoring, he managed to pull out a victory by one kill. Rankman walks around the console to shake his opponent's hand, when Freeway_Rick procedes to give him the finger, on camera, right in the middle of GameStop. Now, if you can't control your anger after losing, that's pathetic but I expect it from some people. Flipping off his opponent after winning was just about the most classless thing i've seen someone do, and just made all gamers look bad.

After my match, I was interviewed by JStevenson for the Insomniac Podcast. It was the first time I had ever been interviewed for anything other than a job. JS is a great guy and I'm glad he trimmed the interview down and made me sound more interesting. The producer of GamePlay HD (the Dish Network station broadcasting the finals) asked a few of the losers if we could help them do a trial run of the live taping they planned for the finals. The taping took place on a sound stage at Rainbow Studios, a fairly famous studio located a few blocks from our hotel. The place was covered in gold records and signed pictures of musicians. My last official act in the Tournament was picking up my Resistance jacket from one of the Insomniac reps. When I grabbed my jacket it was Saturday at 4pm, with the championship match taking place the next morning, and my flight home two days later.

We weren't allowed to stand around the studio to watch the finals, so I basically had two full days free to myself in NY. Seriously, If you've never been there, try to make it your next vacation. Aside from the hotel, food will definitely cost you the most. Sightseeing is relatively cheap, and if you're a student it's even cheaper. I'll upload some pictures, but it really must be experienced, its truly unique. I had a blast just walking all over town just looking at buildings and parks. I must have spent eight hours walking on both days, but that's still not enough time to cover ground. The subway is a hot, humid, smelling mess, but it certainly is convenient and fast. The city is completely infested with taxis if you have the money. In two days, I managed to see Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Bronx Zoo, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I just barely managed to get it all in.

For my first experience with competitive gaming, it really was outstanding. I met a ton of great people, made some new friends, saw lots of amazing landmarks, and the most fun I've had in a while. The tournament certainly wasn't perfect, but you just have to have a good attitude and take it all with a grain of salt. You're bound to run into more than enough immature, whiny, trash talking jerks, but it's no different than anywhere else in life. You let them have their tantrums and then take care of your own business. It's cliche, but above all else you have to remember to have fun; hopefully why you started playing the game in the first place. Once again, I just want to thank everyone at NeoGAF that wished me luck and congratulated me, expecially the Resistance clan.

Highlights of the trip

-Frey-Dog proposing to his girlfriend on camera at GameStop the morning of the first matches. I sure wasn't expecting to see that.... ever. Congratulations to him but yeah, we laughed our asses off.

-Rankman (age 19) got absolutely hammered in a club the night before the first matches. He was out cold all morning and nearly missed his match. About 5 minutes before he plays, he runs outside, throws up in a garbage can, comes back in and wins his match. That is truly a hardcore gamer.

-The text message I got from JStevenson after I arrived at the hotel: "RankMan shows up in a mother fucking Gears of War shirt, Seriously wtf!!"

-Finding My great-grandparent's names engraved on the wall at Ellis Island. (Frank Spacek and Rosalia Bartol)

-Eating White Castle for the first time. It was pretty damn good. crinkle fries > straight fries

-Splitting a few cases of beer up in a hotel room with all the players. I think we all got along really well, and it was fun to talk about everything we liked and didn't like about the tournament. Not a single one of them had ever heard of NeoGAF...so they say.

-NYC! I loved New York. Denver is great but it becomes a ghost town an hour after last call. It was amazing to see a city with so much happening 24 hours a day. If I ever get a chance to go back, I could easily spend another 3 days and only see new sights.

-Seeing Freeway_Rick receive the single most epic pwning every caught on tape, and I mean ever. It must have been karma; He was killed 51 straight time in the ten minute final. If you've never played Resistance let me tell you that's absolutely absurd. Given that its take 5-6 seconds to respawn, he was hunted down and killed in an average of 5.5 seconds. That must have been unbelievably embarrassing and no one deserves it more.

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