Advent Rising

The game, Advent Rising, is looking pretty interesting. Ships just next week.

While I'm not a fan of Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game", I can certainly acknowledge him as a good writer. It should be interesting how his skills will map onto a game.

The gameplay looks interesting, with plenty of combat. It almost looked like there is a little bit of psychic game play, a la Psi-Ops. It is touted as an action/adventure which is normally associated with things like Diablo, or D & D Heroes (which I enjoyed very much).

Watch for reviews next week (my favorite place is


Can it happen on the Xbox?

I've spent several months, umm... "researching" this very problem with Everquest II on the PC. Most aspects of an MMORPG can be done quite easily on a console. The environments, the skill system, adventuring, and even a continued evolution of places to explore (e.g. downloads from Xbox Live).

Halo 2 has shown how clans/guilds can work. Games like Morrowind and Ghost Recon (2) have shown us rich environments. Heroes, Morrowind, KOTOR have all shown varying complexity of skill systems.

But: all of that is simply gameplay action. What makes an MMORPG unique is having others there with you. Living in the same environment, (sometimes) competing for scarce resources, and interacting. With further elimination, you realize that the "living in the same environment" is also just gameplay. The existing MMORPGs have shown that it is technically possible. Cool.

Interaction is the key problem that consoles are going to face. On a PC, the MMORPGs all use an IRC-like system for communication. You have public channels, guild channels, auction channels, and many more. You type in whatever you want to say, over whatever channel. If a dozen people write in at the same time, you get nice little lines in your chat window for whatever each person types.

Consoles? Oops. No keyboard. You've got voice input, and you might have key phrases/emotions trigged from your controller. But no real text input. If game makers try to build an MMORPG, they will need to figure out how ten people can all talk at the same time on a (voice) channel. It won't be pretty.

But don't despair. Games like Rainbox Six have shown that voice recognition works for simple phrases. But this next generation has got some serious hardware. Why not dedicate one of those processors to voice recog? Translate your statements into text and drop it onto the target channel. When you're out adventuring with a few of your friends, fine: keep that a voice channel. But the guild? The world-wide auction channel? Voice recog, baby.

It can happen. It can work. Not on the current generation of consoles, but the next? You bet.

Now I just need to figure out how to get that two solid month sabbatical that I'm going to need. Need.

Backwards Compatibility

With the recent announcement of the Xbox 360, there are numerous stories with regards to backwards compatibility. "Will the 360 be compatibile with Xbox [original] games?"

The hardware should certainly be able to do it, given Microsoft's ownership of Virtual PC. The original Xbox has a 733 Mhz processor in it. The 360 has *three* processors all cranking at 3.2 Ghz. Emulation of the basic code shouldn't be a problem. The harder part will be the emulation of the old hardware.

Game developers are always going "around the system" to crank the last few cycles. I'm not familiar with Xbox development, but if game devs are doing this today, then it will certainly make it more difficult for MSFT to emulate the old box at acceptable speeds. But: MSFT has some bright peeps. And there is enough hardware in the 360. If they want to, I think the 360 can emulate the old xbox, whether or not people go around the system.

But does Microsoft care? Consider: if they don't make games compatible, then the original Xbox will have a longer lifetime [as people continue to buy the Xbox for their fav games]. With compatibility, the Xbox *might* die off in favor of the 360 [but price is a big issue]. But the PS2 versus PS1 showed us that even with compatibility, people still bought the PS1. Freaks, yes, but the market doesn't really lie. The PS1 continues to sell very well. It has a huge library, the games and the console are cheap, so families are snapping it up.

Blah blah blah. All so much speculation. If compat exists, then people will buy the 360 and be done with it. If there isn't compat, then a choice will come up: buy the more expensive 360 and its smaller game library, or buy the original? Of course, there is a small subset that will have both, but not everybody has that kind of expendable income.

Well. Crap. So what am I saying? Not a lot. Mostly "wait and see". There are a lot of considerations for backwards compatibility, and MSFT could come out on either side. Don't get your panties in a bunch... just hang in there to see what happens.