What happened to StarCraft Arena?

What happened to StarCraft Arena?

I’ve had a few emails from people asking me if I know what happened with StarCraft Arena, formerly hosted at www.starcraftarena.net. The truth is, very people know for certain what happened, but I’ve picked up on some rumblings and rumors that paint a pretty reliable picture.

StarCraft Arena was basically a portal for HD StarCraft and Husky to post their StarCraft 2 commentary videos and replays. The site also had forums where fans of the game and both HD and Husky could talk about StarCraft 2 strategies, events, and news. At times the site would go down, and it would stay down until the fans of HD and Husky made enough of a fuss to get the issue addressed.

When the site went down this last time, many people figured it was another blip and that it would be back when Husky or HD got around to addressing the issue. Unfortunately, this time it seems that site is gone for good. Reports are floating around that HD and Husky have had a falling out of sorts and they’ve decided it’s just best to go their separate ways and leave the domain to die. Nobody seems to know what triggered the squabble, but it appears to have been the final nail in the coffin for a site that already had issues from time to time. Additionally, both HD and Husky are contributing replays to the incredible sc2casts.com website and mobile application. With this new place to share their casts, there’s really no reason to attempt to patch things up and revive the StarCraft Arena site.

If you’re looking for an easy place to catch replays, I highly suggest checking out www.sc2replays.com. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet, definitely download the free app, as it’s even better than the website.

The Sony NGP (PSP 2) was unveiled

Late last night for us North Americans Sony unveiled the successor to the PlayStation Portable. As of right now, it’s being called the Sony NGP, rather than PSP 2. NGP stands for Next Generation Portable. While it’s odd that they’re dropping the PSP brand name, maybe it’s a good idea to start a new legacy as the PSP has had some issues in recent years. Below are some photos of the device. It certainly looks like a powerhouse with its 5″ OLED touchscreen, rear touch pads, dual analog sticks, and raw processing power. With the official product shots, I’ve included a size comparison image, courtesty of Gawker Media. It sure looks nice. Click on image thumbnails to enlarge.

I’ll have more detailed reaction on the podcast tonight, but here’s my first reaction after the unveiling. I think the handheld looks great, but I do have a few worries. Let’s start with the worries so we can end on a high note. First of all, it’s a bit big. I know it has to be big given the 5″ screen, but that’s pushing it for a handheld. I like the move to cartridges, but that kills the UMD format completely. No going forward with your library, whereas the 3DS can play all DS games. The d-pad looks really close to the edge of the handheld, and I wonder if it’s going to be like the current PSP and cause hand cramps. It just doesn’t seem like they addressed the form factor issues at all. Lastly, and most importantly, almost everything shown was a mere tech demo. At this point Sony needs to be showing actual and announced games for this thing. Just about all that was shown was ported PSP or PS3 games as a tech demo. That’s a troubling sign. Also, the GUI on that thing is horrible, hopefully lots of tweaking is left to be done there.

Now, for what I did like about the Sony NGP. The screen is gorgeous! OLED technology is amazing and anybody who has seen a cell phone using an OLED screen will agree. I also like how thin the device is and how cool the idea of the touch pads on the back are. There has to be tons of great ways to use the three touch inputs on this. The dual analogs are nice, and some have said that they feel more like true sticks than a slider nub. I think everybody can be happy about that.

Nothing has been said of price, but this thing is probably not going to be cheap. For Sony’s sake, this thing better not go over $300 or we’re probably going to see a repeat of the PSP/DS war. Handhelds need to be priced noticeably lower than consoles.

We’ll have more details and reactions on the upcoming podcast, so check that out.

2010 Top Selling Games (disc sales only)

Here are the top 10 best selling games from 2010 at retail. Download sales are not including in this data, but more than likely the rankings would hold about the same. Looking at the list, Halo: Reach was right up there, but you can see how the extra platforms helped to propel Black Ops into better positioning. It will be really interesting to see how Bungie’s next project fares. The Wii had the most exclusive titles in the top 10 with 3, while the 360 had one. The PS3 didn’t have any exclusives in there, though I imagine God of War III had to be close.

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS)
  2. Madden NFL 11 (360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP)
  3. Halo: Reach (360)
  4. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
  5. Red Dead Redemption (360, PS3)
  6. Wii Fit Plus (Wii)
  7. Just Dance 2 (Wii)
  8. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (360, PS3, PC)
  9. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (360, PS3)
  10. NBA 2K11 (360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, PC)

Note: All games listed included their combined SKU numbers. For example, Call of Duty: Black Ops includes all standard, limited, and collector’s edition.

The Stupid Gamer Podcast #51

Episode 51 is here and it features our 2010 game of the year awards, some information on the Nintendo 3DS launch, and what we’ve been playing. Editing is a little rough, and my dog Bowser is probably going to be heard in the background at one point, so you already know that 2011 hasn’t blessed us with any additional professionalism.

Enjoy!

2010 Game Awards and Overall Game of the Year

My list comes out a little later than others, mostly because I had some catching up to do on a few 2010 titles before I made my picks. A few games didn’t end up getting enough play for serious consideration, but I guess that’s just due to other games being engaging enough to keep me glued to them. I hesitated as to whether or not to do a top 10, and I’m still deciding, so for now enjoy the category-based awards. 2010 was a fantastic year for gaming, this wasn’t easy to put together!

Best Graphics of 2010

Winner – God of War III

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain

This was a tough pick, because one could argue that God of War III is just a really shiny and higher poly God of War II, but that would be ignoring the massive scale of the game and the rock solid framerate and overall fluidity of the visuals. Simply put, few games really have pushed a console so hard this generation as God of War III.

Best Audio of 2010

Winner – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption

Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption challenged for the title based on the strength of their soundtracks, but it would be really hard to deny Bad Company 2 this year. The gunshots are incredible in this game, as are the booming explosions and crunchy sounds of vehicles rolling over debris and vegetation. Whether the sounds are close up or the muted sounds of a distant skirmish, Bad Company 2 really showed how a battle should sound.

Best Story of 2010

Winner – Red Dead Redemption

Runners Up – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Mass Effect 2

Both the method of delivering the story and the progression of the storyline were bright spots in the overall experience Red Dead Redemption offered. When you reach the end of the game (the true ending, not the first one), it’s a powerful moment and one that will pry a fist pump out of even the most unemotional gamer. Red Dead Redemption isn’t just a great story for a video game, it’s just great for any medium.

Best New Character of 2010

Winner – Bayonetta

Runners Up – John Marston, Legion

It was hard not to give this to John Marston, but as great as he was he sort of fell into the typical Rockstar main character trappings of being made to serve fate. Bayonetta was just something so insane and crazy that I had to give her the nod when she managed to pull it off. The hyper-sexualized heroine was something that is sure to spawn horrific fan art and cosplay costumes, but hopefully great sequels as well. In the end, Bayonetta will have the longer impact on the gaming industry than any other new characters of 2010.

Best Online Multiplayer of 2010

Winner – Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Runners Up: StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call me crazy, but Bad Company 2 easily provided the best online multiplayer for me this year. The way that the game rewards team play but also allows for lone wolves to do their thing is truly admirable. With the different classes, gamers can play how they want and still contribute to the team’s success. While it lacks the audience and stat tracking of Halo: Reach, Bad Company 2 is more accessible to newcomers and fosters a greater importance of teamwork. StarCraft 2 could have taken this award if it was more friendly to new players, but the game can be quite daunting even for those that put many hours into the campaign.

Best Sequel of 2010

Winner – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Runners Up – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, Mass Effect 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Not an easy award to settle on with such a big year for sequels, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 took the award because Nintendo basically perfected the 3D platformer genre with this year’s effort. Galaxy 2 doesn’t just give us more of what we liked in Galaxy 1, but it does so with so much more imagination and polish than we could have expected. Mass Effect 2 could have taken this award if the game didn’t wrap up so quickly after assembling the team. It seems like as soon as you have everybody on board, it’s time to go up against that final boss, who was a pretty ridiculous boss if you really think about it.

Best New Franchise

Winner – Bayonetta

Runners Up: Angry Birds, Vanquish

Platinum Games had a great year. They gave us two franchises that I think have some solid staying power. Bayonetta, in its first effort, put Capcom and Team Ninja on notice. There have been some great action games this generation, but I feel that Bayonetta stands above them all; and that’s quite impressive for a first effort.

Best Xbox 360 Exclusive of 2010

Winner – Halo: Reach

Runner Up: Alan Wake

Halo: Reach was a fitting curtain call for Bungie under Microsoft care. While it might be feeling a bit familiar at this point, the game still stood out above all other exclusive releases on the Xbox 360. Alan Wake could have made a more serious threat to win the award, but the repetition and ho-hum combat held it back.

Best PlayStation 3 Exclusive of 2010

Winner – God of War III

Runner Up – Heavy Rain

This was an easy pick for me. God of War III is a fantastic first entry for the franchise and it offered up strong action, amazing graphics, and a varied experience that keeps you engaged from start to finish. Heavy Rain, while really disappointing from a story resolution standpoint, needs to be commended for its bold approach to both storytelling and gameplay techniques. The impact Heavy Rain will have going forward will be noticeable, but I can’t shake how unsatisfying the reveal of the villain ended up being.

Best Wii Exclusive of 2010

Winner – Super Mario Galaxy 2

Runner Up – Kirby’s Epic Yarn

It’s hard to top Mario when he’s on his game, and he really was in 2010. Kirby’s Epic Yarn might be the most imaginative effort from Nintendo for a while, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is no slouch in that regard and the gameplay is unmatched on the Wii for 2010. It remains to be seen if there will be a Galaxy 3 or if Mario will change up his formula once more, but I’d be happy for more spherical planetoids and funky gravity at some point.

Best PC Exclusive of 2010

Winner – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Runner Up – Civilization V

I probably spent more time on Civ V than any other game this year, but it didn’t quite provide the same balanced experience as StarCraft 2 did. Besides, how many other games foster such a large e-sports scene that is as much fun to watch as it is to take part in? Especially in the past few months, if I’m not playing StarCraft 2 at my PC, I’m probably watching match replays or reading up on emerging strategies. Few games were as exciting in 2010 as StarCraft 2 on a global level, and even fewer will remain as exciting going forward.

Best Multiplatform Game of 2010

Winner – Red Dead Redemption

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

For its incredible story, delivery of plot, and cohesive and immersive world, it’s tough to deny Red Dead Redemption the top spot here. I’m a documented critic of Rockstar, and the Grand Theft Auto franchise in general, but I was blown away by their effort with Red Dead Redemption. My favorite story moment of 2010 was when the Red Dead Redemption title card flashed up as the game’s true ending took place. It was satisfying and true to the Western genre. Mass Effect 2 was no slouch, but the recycled plot, only with a less cool enemy force than ME1, was just enough to drop it down to runner up status.

Best Game of 2010

Winner – StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty

Runners Up – Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Galaxy 2

Honorable Mentions – Civilization V, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

This was one of the most hotly contested years in gaming history. 1998 is often pointed to as the best year in gaming, but 2010 wasn’t too far behind. In fact, 2010 might have provided a higher volume of quality titles, though it wasn’t as top heavy. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty leads the 2010 pack because of its strong showing on both the single player and multiplayer sides of things. The single player is fantastic for gamers of any skill, and multiplayer offers an amount strategic depth and balance of depth that’s nearly unmatched. Furthermore, the StarCraft 2 community is among the most healthy that any game in history has ever enjoyed, with heavy competition taking place around the world. If you haven’t looked into the emergence of e-sports, take a look at the competitive StarCraft 2 scene for an eye-opening look into the future of competitive gaming. For its overall impact on the industry, quality of experience, and longevity, StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty wins 2010’s award for best game of the year.

Frogger should be banned!

Some guy in South Carolina decided to play Frogger earlier this week, but he wasn’t playing the original arcade version or any of the console or handheld ports. This guy actually ran out into a 4 lane highway and started trying to dodge cars. It ended how you’d expect, and he was struck by a car and sent to the hospital. This wasn’t some stupid 6 year old kid, either, it was a 23 year old man. Obviously the temptation to copy what we see in video games is too strong.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101229/ap_on_re_us/us_frogger_wreck

November NPD results are interesting for once

For the past few years November and December have been completely dominated by Nintendo. It seemed like a given each holiday season that Nintendo was touting record breaking numbers and impressively dominating margins between themselves and the competition. This year we had the first holiday season for Move and Kinect, Sony’s and Microsoft’s respective motion control peripherals. Both companies have been spinning PR  like crazy trying to look like the clear cut winner, but the NPD was able to shed some light on how things actually played out. One thing that was for sure, Kinect had some serious buzz going into the month. Here are the top 10 games for the month.

  1. Call of Duty: Black Ops – 360, PS3,Wii, PC, DS
  2. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood – 360, PS3
  3. Just Dance 2 – Wii
  4. Madden NFL 11 – 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP
  5. Fable 3 – 360
  6. Donkey Kong Country Returns – Wii
  7. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit – 360, PS3, Wii, PC
  8. Gran Turismo 5 – PS3
  9. NBA 2K11 – 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, PC
  10. Wii Fit Plus – Wii

Hardware isn’t reported, but it’s been clear based on NPD summaries that the Xbox 360 had the biggest month of all, selling 1.37 million consoles, thanks to the Kinect. The DS was the biggest hardware seller at 1.5 million, but that shouldn’t diminish what the 360 did at all. Sony’s numbers haven’t been put out at this time, and I don’t think we’ll get them as they’re surely under what Microsoft already shared. Kinect bundles were reported to have sold 5 to 1 in comparison with the Move.

The things that really stand out is that Call of Duty: Black Ops broke the sales record with 8.4 million sold, Gran Turismo 5 sort of stuttered, Wii Fit Plus is still on people’s minds, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood did better than expected. Based on actual NPD reports, it seems that the Kinect really had a big impact and the big marketing push really put it into the forefront of shoppers’ minds over the Move. It will be interesting to see how the momentum holds up through 2011 and if it will end up extending the life of the generation or not.

Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization V

Note: This review will also appear on Gamer Theory when it launches later this year.

When intsalling a game like Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Civ V) to your PC, you better know what you’re getting yourself into. There are games that come by once in a while that will grab you, fascinate you, and then refuse to let you go. After days worth of game time logged, I can safely say that Civ V is definitely one of those games. Firaxis Games has enjoyed a loyal following and huge success with the Civilization series, but they’ve never been averse to allowing the series to evolve with each release. Civ V makes some rather significant leaps forward in regards to presentation, pacing, and unit management among others. The result is a game that’s more approachable yet more challenging and nuanced at the same time.

For newcomers to the series, Civ V is easily the best place to get started. While there is a massive amount od depth to the strategy in the game, Firaxis Games has done a very effective job at implementing a great tutorial and a very helpful tips system to keep players from feeling overwhelmed. Also, at the easier levels the AI aggressiveness is toned down to the point where novice mistakes aren’t punished too harshly. While earlier Civilization titles are available on the cheap these days, Civ V really is the best place for a newcomer to get into the series.

For the experts out there, Civ V introduces a few new features that will make the game feel familiar, yet fresh at the same time. One of the biggest changes made to the game include the transition from square to hex tiles for the world map. This change seems minor at first thought, but it really makes movement around the world a more fluid and natural undetraking for units. Cities also expand in a much more organic way as well with the hexes breaking up the tiles in a more complex pattern. You can see clearly how the hexes work below.

Another big change is that units are no longer able to stack up on tiles with the exception of a single military unit sharing space with a worker. In the past players could stack multiple military units on a single tile, which often lead to nasty bottlenecks where a player or AI had decided to stack units for defensive purposes. This change is a welcome one as it forces you to manage your military units more carefully and always be concious of where you’ve left each unit.

All the changes made make Civ V a more tactical experience in all aspects of the game. Winning via science, military, diplomatic, or culture will take a very deliberate approach that demands that the player adapts to ever changing conditions. Quite often I would start the game with the idea to win under one condition, only to have to aim for a different one due to the AI’s agenda not jiving well with my own. This makes the game very replayable, even if multiplayer isn’t something that interests you.

The game isn’t without its flaws, but Firaxis Games and 2K has been working to improve the game via updates and patches. As of now, however, the AI could use some additional tweaking and improvement. The AI is tuned to constantly exploit advantages, but often times it flies in the face of logical behavior. If you get too powerful or too large, at times the AI will just flat out refuse to cooperate with you, even if it would benefit their civilization greatly. At other times the AI will engage in trade agreements that are quite obviously skewed in your favor. These inconsistencies should be addressed over time, but as of the time I wrote tihs review it was an issue.

AI oddness aside, Civ V is a fantastic PC gaming experience that is engrossing, addictive, and different each time you approach it. Between this, StarCraft 2, and the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, it has been a strong year for PC releases.

5 Stars out of 5

Help send Panic to the IGF

Panic is an independent game developed by Blake Leftwich of Salute Games that takes the classic brick breaker gameplay and introduces some cool and innovative twists. Unlike many brick breakers, Panic introduces some simple physics into the mix aside that affects ball speed and travel distance. Additionally, Panic has some really interesting bonus rounds in between sets of stages that are wildly addictive. As a nice feature, you can also play the bonus levels by jumping into the options menu from the main startup screen.

A couple of gameplay notes:

  • As the ball rebounds off of blocks it builds up a score multiplier. You have to click the left mouse button to “bank” those scores. Allowing more hits to pass between banks yields a higher score, but it also increases the risk of losing the points if you don’t bank them before losing the ball.
  • The bonus games can be found under the Options menu, as well as a traditional non-physics based brick breaker.

Give Panic a try and feel free to donate to the cause, right here: http://salutegames.com/panicdonate