Going through Rapture, meeting Andrew Ryan, and monkey wrenching hordes of splices were experiences in videogaming that was truly in a level of its own. The plot itself was worth a read if it came out as a novel. The political and social philosophies that can randomly be uncovered within the underwater city are intensely deep and absorbing. Bioshock is a true classic, one of the best games ever produced. Ever.

And yes, a sequel will be out sometime in 2009 -- Take Two and Irrational Games wants it out by then, it is a franchise born out of the genius, and some say demented, Kevin Levine -- of course they want to milk the franchise for all its worth, even heard a movie's in the works.

One minor gripe: What else is there to explore within the Art-Deco architecture inspired city? What more can Rapture offer? Andrew Ryan’s dead, history of the city has been explained thoroughly through audio journals. How else would Irrational expand the gaming universe?

Recently breezed through an article recommending the whole setting to be moved to a new location, and a new timeline -- a feasible option. Perhaps in a more futuristic setting on a space station? Has too much of a System Shock-ish feel to it though.

What would sound better -- is to continue directly the plot from the first Bioshock right after the ‘evil’ alternate ending where the splicers controlled the submarine and the nuclear missiles.

Start off the story where the missile launched from the sub, assuming the splicers activated the launch, was intercepted by F15 US fighter jets and NSA/CIA sends out a recon team to investigate the sub and the area around it.

The players would take control the captain of the five-man recon team. And instead of settling with just one area to explore, the player would return to Rapture (note: new locations within the city) only to find out that Andrew Ryan was revived through some sort of a newly developed plasmid and has regained control of Rapture once again by killing off the player from the previous game. To add some spice to the plot -- the player later uncovers various locations of multiple Rapture like cities scattered around the world that are on the brink of imploding.

In the end though, it would be up to take Take Two to make damn sure that the Bioshock sequel trumps its predecessor. Its highly anticipated, the air of hype surrounds it -- it has a lot to live up to and a lot of expectations to fulfill.

The Mist

Has anyone seen The Mist? Its a movie based on a Stephen King novel. One of the best movies I’ve seen in recent memory and can’t help but think the whole plot, setting and atmosphere were built for a game...

Imagine, the mind blowing graphics using Unreal Engine 3.5 where it can render the retail market and environments in an unmatched detail, the conversation branches presented within Mass Effect -- all presented in first person glory. And no, it won’t be an FPS rather a fusion of genres in a first person perspective, think Bioshock but with stronger focus on plot progression and non-player character interaction. Most of all, consistently pushing gamers to make choices -- the hard ethical ones or more commonly known as moral deadlocks.

This game would match anything in the next-gen lineup, it’ll be a classic in the purest sense. I see this game’s length round 5 to 6 hours, since the setting is simply within a town and later on concentrates on two key areas -- the retail store and pharmacy, plus a bit of driving in the latter part. And the game would retail for around $40, charging consumers $60 for a game with that length of play time? Insane. So I recommend the sweet spot for gamers, $40 should do.

Add in some arcade machines within the retail supermarket area and tons of mini games and you’ve got a shenmue-ish kind of gameplay.

Watch the movie, amazing. As for the game -- it won’t come out anytime soon.

Free Service = Crap.

Xbox Live as of late has been cannon fodder for pissed off and irate online gamers. Its service has been inconsistent recently with a highly publicized Live server issue a few months back making its customers wonder why are they paying $50 for a crappy service when they could get a similar service for no cost at all on the Wii and PS3 -- Giving an on the spot onus to Microsoft to justify to its customers the Xbox Live membership fee they charge every year.

I undertstand and even sympathize for the cry of the majority for Microsoft to create a free service that Sony and Nintendo pushes for, but what the majority don’t see is the holistic quality of service Live has when its pitted against its online rivals. Where does that $50 dollars go to - well, it pays for the quality and experience. What’s in the experience? Intuitive interface, vast amount of content, stable performance -- true, service bogged down, but there was a reason and there was a resolution.

Would it be even rational to say that Nintendo and Sony would maintain the same degree of service for something they’re not compensated for directly? They may have other business models but if those don’t work, what’s next? Leave the whole service unchecked?

I’m talking about a centralized approach to which gaming experience is standardized and objectified. Folks, thats what Live offers. It offers you a complete package, rich in service and quality. Making each activity/transaction as smooth and as simple as possible.

Perhaps if majority of consumers see it in a broader perspective, the value Live offers becomes apparent.

Physical vs Digital storage

Recently, a piece featured Virgin Media will be implementing significant upgrade in speed for broadband consumers (50mb), estimating HD downloads within Xbox Live to decrease from 4
hours in a matter of 15mins.

Having this speed available for consumers, utilizing Microsoft's online service for movie rentals and purchases seem to get more tempting. Rather than go to the local retail shop and purchase a Blu-ray movie, that is - assuming if you have a PS3 or a blu-ray player, wouldn't you rather stay home and simply download the film?

The First Move Factor

During the latter part of last year, after the holiday season was nearing its close -- Xbox Live bogged down, disabling the normal day to day activities of X360 owners. The LIVE team quickly handled the issue, and with regular updates through their head honcho, strangely acting as their impromptu PR guy, to calm damn the millions of pissed off gamers -- it was later on resolved but with a few lawsuits here and there which were dismissed by the courts.

Enter January, pieces from various blogs and gaming sites began to spawn rumors and predictions for the year ahead. All had a consistent theme - Microsoft’s demise. Left and right, writers, analysts, and Sony fanboys alike strongly believed (and still believes) that this is the year of Sony’s Playstation 3 and X360’s downfall, majority proudly claimed the latter has peaked and sales will slow down drastically.

But stop right there. These predictions -- are merely predictions, educated guesses at best. True, NPD came out with Jan and Feb figures, Microsoft’s camp is trailing due to a supposed supply constraint -- which they proved later on by having to sign up a second manufacturer from China in able to curtail and chances of having hardware shortages in preparation for Grand Theft Auto 4’s release next month.

Xbox 360 isn’t dead simply due to two obvious factors:

First, It’s still got a powerful lineup versus Sony’s. No one can’t deny the immense power content has, Sony does have a more well seasoned release schedule for the year, however, Microsoft still has tons of possible ways to curb the momentum through the release of Gears of War 2 and some other first party exclusives. And with the help of Microsoft’s marketing arm, who’ve mastered the art of attracting consumers through mainstream media -- Halo 3’s monster marketing made them gods in this craft, their exclusives may well sell in the millions each.

Second, price. Microsoft recently cut their prices in Europe which saw a surge of nearly 40% in sales for the first weekend, and school holidays is right around the corner, plus GTA4 will be released in a less than a month. They have the opportunity to spur momentum that would run through the slow summer season and early third quarter of this year before the Holiday season goes into full gear.

Being much cheaper than PS3 for the X360 pro and Wii for the Arcade SKU, the system has truly gone mainstream(in Europe at least), this is the time for Microsoft to leverage its first year head start, and that is through price cuts and value deals that would surely attract consumers - the obvious luxury of being first in the market. Seriously, Sony right now, with its price and games are targeting to convince the same old hardcore market which Microsoft has dominated for the past two years and Microsoft is ready to move on to the casual market that would help them achieve significant increase in sales.

In fact, Microsoft hasn’t even given in to the idea of slashing the prices in the US market. Most probably they’ll do it a week or so prior to the release of GTA4, which would hurt Sony’s chances of securing that ‘momentum’ to which they so arrogantly proclaim.

Microsoft’s system is the most flexible amongst the current gen offerings. It can tap to numerous competencies to create the perfect mix to entice both the hardcore and casual market. The Console wars is all about the value each console manufacturer offers to consumers, and Microsoft has the upper hand.

An Empire's Downfall

Electronic Arts (EA), once known as the most influential and most powerful publisher in the industry, has been losing market share -- Activision Blizzardʼs, since it’s historical merger, has been eating up EAʼs share of the market with ease, with franchises like Guitar Hero and Call of Duty theyʼve got the right mix to woe gaming consumers in purchasing their overdone sequels and ʻsqueezed to the last dropʼ intellectual properties - which EA simply did so exemplary well.

One obvious way for EA to come crawling back to the top - create more original IPs. Black for the PS2 and Xbox was a great effort. I personally loved the game, perhaps if they do more of that through different genres they’d have a whole lineup of titles to rule the industry once more.

Acquiring Take Two with its gem - Grand Theft Auto and some worthy titles such as Bioshock - might help EA in the short term but to regain its market leading position they’d need a whole new excellent lineup of games, alleviating that stigma on the quality of their titles amongst gamers.

What happened to EA was a case of overdone corporate bull over creativity. Profits over quality, quantity over quality which were so ignorantly pursued -- really, how sustainable can that be? Sure Psychonauts barely sold any copies and yet it was a critical success but EA has the marketing arm to sell a new IP which the mentioned game didn’t have.

It’s the norm to say that it’d be an oxymoron to state in a phrase, “EA and New IP.”

Make that change EA, make gamers respect you again.

A Condemned Choice

Yesterday I came acroos a review in of Monolith’s Condemned 2: Bloodshot for Xbox360 and PS3 -- they gave a straightforward and praise-wrothy A-, which got me pumped, thinking these guys are the same pool of skilled game journalists from EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly). They’re well known for credible and an untainted reputation in delivering honest to goodness reviews, neither influenced by management nor clients. Therefore, whatever review they churn out, its credible and the assurance of accuracy exists.

However, it eventually seemed contradictory to other reviews that cropped up from other well established gaming sites. The game had a mix rating of average to above average. An aspect was consistent though, the game doesn’t bomb. Which brings me to my dilemma, I have a religious practice of purchasing games that are recognized for its critical status, for its reputation within the gaming community, but with this game - if considering other reviews and especially readers posting comments on how good it is, though not even near greatness, the urge to purchase the game seems to dwindle more.

Well, being a gamer for more than a decade, in purchasing a game, never rely on a single reviewer, ergo the purpose of and other sites catering to service gamers in helping them make that 'informed choice'. And might as well read the comments from pockets of readers of gaming sites, perhaps they have some insightful remarks that you’d find very useful.

My conclusion, hold off the purchase - when Halloween's round the corner, might as well grab a heavily discounted copy of the game.

Political Ramblings....

Earlier in the week, a US governor, known for his ultra conservative remarks against Take 2's Grand Theft Auto, was discovered to be part of an elaborate client list of a high - class prostitute syndicate. And this was his statement back in 2006:

"Media content has gotten more graphic, more violent and more sex-based ... Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buyin ... a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute ..."
- NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer (source:

Well, politicians are politicans, and we all know the phenomenal level of hypocrisy this segment of society has -- probably was riding on the band wagon during that time -- gain publicity of sort. There is nothing inherently wrong in videogames simply mirroring what society does - whatever the norm is. And to portray videogames as a medium mainly targeted at kids is an obsolete and old-aged notion.

A generation or two from now, politicians like these will simply fade -- by that time, future politicians would have grown up with videogames, and they'd certainly have a much more lenient and non-conservative stance regrading this type of entertainment medium.

Blu Apple

A friend of mine wrote this piece, pretty fresh -- check it out:

My PS3 Blu-ray Summer Hunt 08.

by Jonathan Yu

With the High Def vs. Blu-ray format war is over, Blu-ray has decisively won the standard for high definition. Hence, Sony is now on a mission to creating $200-$300 ( P8,200 - P12,300) affordable Blu-ray DVD players by 2009. For this year, Playstation 3 (P15,000 or up ) still holds the most affordable Blu-ray DVD player that you can find in our market - Here's one reason to get the PS3 this year.

With the PS3 prices going down, plus the upcoming releases of the most awaited games (MGS4, Gran Turismo 5, Street Fighter IV) and the numbers of 3RROD piling-up on Xbox 360s console, Playstation 3 will definitely get Filipinos to make the big jump to the Blu-ray caravan this year. I, for one, am definitely hunting now for the best PS3 deal across Manila, these searches also includes retail stores,, and For those people planning to stay-at-home and enjoy movie marathons instead of the usual summer vacation, try checking the Blu-ray experience and be amazed on its clarity and sound quality. Although the Blu-ray movies are a little bit pricey as of the moment, I’m pretty sure that its just a matter of time these things will drop prices.

Hence for this summer, the Playstation 3 is my choice as the all-purpose entertainment console with features that extend beyond the realm of gameplay. Although it is a bit pricey at first, but when you start comparing its cost to a stand alone Blu-ray DVD player, I think it's worth the purchase.

Jonathan Yu is the Marketing Officer of the top Apple retailer in the Philippines - PowerMac Center.

Afterthought: Mass Effect

This is crazy, started on my third playthrough with Mass Effect - Bioware has simply outdone themselves. Highly addictive gameplay, riveting storyline. Haven’t been ‘stuck’ with a Bioware game since Baldur’s Gate came out back in 1998 for the PC. Although a bit shorthanded on game length this game really takes a life of its own.

Whatever other well known reviewers say bout the game, giving it a measly above average grade, this game would stand the test of time. I simply can’t wait for the other two iterations (its a planned trilogy) whether it be a multiplatform game or not.

I’ve been reading a lot for the past few weeks with regard to the sex scene within the game - an utter overreaction by Fox Network and concerned ‘parents’. Videogames tagged as a medium of entertainment targeted at kids is so early 90s. Let me guess, groups calling for the crucifixion of Bioware and EA are the same bunch of people who desired Midway’s demise back in the early 90s when Mortal Kombat was released for the SNES and Genesis - a bit of an exaggeration, but hey, still the same argument.

Gamers can’t simply agree more with EA mentioning that compared to what Mass Effect visually presents on screen, FOX apathetically exhibit more of that through their various raunchy collection of TV series.

Industry of the Damned

Wrote this a couple of years back for (had to cite my source, since clickthecity owns the rights for this article):

From a historical point of view, no analyst, no retailer, no investor, no parent, no politician can deny the influence of videogames in the past quarter of the last century and beyond.

Industry of the DamnedIt has shaped generations for nearly four decades. From the days of Magnavox, Pong, Atari2600 and Coleco, to the videogame industry crash of 1984 and its resurrection during the late 80s, along with the start of Nintendo's dominance with the Family Computer (Famicom as known in Japan) and eventually SNES (Super Nintendo System), to the rise and fall of Sega with the failed Dreamcast system - people witnessed the rise of a giant who took the industry by surprise - Sony and its Playstation back in 1995, and the arrival of Microsoft with its powerful Xbox in 2001.

The videogames industry is currently on the verge of a transition to the next-generation of console gaming: Microsoft's Xbox360, Sony's Playstation3 and Nintendo's Wii (formerly known as Revolution). The events in the past 35 years have brought about an era of gaming and technological advancement never before seen in any market except for the personal computer or PC. It has affected pop culture and spawned an industry currently worth about $37 Billion. It separated itself from the toys market to become an industry on its own competing head to head with the much-praised revenue rich movie industry.

One has to ask - where does the Philippine gaming industry fit in to all these figures? Is there even a market existing within the country's shores? How bout the retail section, are distribution channels for gaming products growing, expanding, raking in millions of pesos? Unfortunately, the Philippines barely has any slice of the ballooning sales and growth figures.

The country has a market of course, and this is in a legal context. Local gaming companies acquire revenues through a niche genre, and indeed a hit to urban gaming lifestyle - Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games a.k.a. MMORPGs. Games such as Ragnarok, Rose Online, World of Warcraft, and Everquest just to name a few.

Industry of the DamnedHowever, no matter how much revenue these companies do make in their respective business fiscal year, the figures would surely be meager comparisons to the collective sales figures of shops and stores retailing pirated/copied games. The latter would be enough to shun any gaming publisher and development house from investing and setting up studios in the country. The Philippines is plagued with piracy and weak Intellectual Property laws, and the State itself is pretty reluctant in aggressively pursuing such activities by syndicates and local thieves.

Retail section and distribution are simply non-existent. Software gameshops such as Data Blitz import their videogame library from the US and every other shop happily provides shelf space for copied games due to the fact that consumers do prefer the much cheaper alternative.

But what's keeping the average Philippine gamer from purchasing original games since quality is indeed assured and gaming experience optimized? Simple. Videogames software are too expensive. Prices of such games can reach near the 4 thousand mark - an amount the average wage earner would rather spend on more relevant things in life.

Thus, two questions lurk in the midst of Filipino gaming consumers: can Pinoy gamers afford this hobby? Can videogames reach critical mass and create a multi billion-peso market?

Far from it. As long as piracy runs rampant, disposable income for the middle class remains stagnant and little or no growth year after year, as long as the government maintains their apathetic stance regarding Intellectual Property, the conception of a robust and rich videogames industry, having the probability to spur up the economy and create thousands of high paying jobs, can never become reality and will remain so till issues mentioned have been addressed and dealt with.

Sad indeed when a third world nation strives to attain a certain level of luxury western countries take advantage of only to realize in the end that such a luxury is simply economically unfeasible.