Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Blizzard Launches Diablo III Skill Calculator

Are you a hardcore Diablo player that's already creating a blueprint for your character's build? If so, Blizzard has just the tool for you: the Diablo III skill calculator.

IGN directs us to the new Diablo III skill calculator on the official Diablo III community site. The tool allows players to choose a character class, fill out the character's six active skills by exploring the class' full skill tree, and then socket in rune stones for each skill to create different effects.

"If you think you've found the deadliest combination for your class, be sure to export your build and spread the word!" Blizzard states, noting that the calculator features links to Facebook and Twitter. And once you create a build, you can even create a URL link to share your character anywhere you please.

If you want even more information about the characters you can create, be sure to check out our video interview with Game Director Jay Wilson detailing the five classes in Diablo III.

Diablo III is in development for Windows PCs and Mac OS. The release date remains TBA, but we're expecting an announcement about the beta any day now.

Major League of Legends Patch Incoming

League of Legends patch is on the way, and it's packing a host of changes to and the PVP Store, a ton to tweaks to champions, and introducing a new champion for summoners to do battle with, Riven, the Exile.

Ushering in Season Two of LoL, patch features redesigned PVP Store navigation, enhancements for improved performance, and Riven, the Exile, a new champion that looks like Riot Games' tribute to Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. Along with the new kid in town, existing champions like Mordekaiser, Orianna, Shaco, Shen, and Taric are getting some TLC. See how in a video by the lead champion designers below:

For the full rundown on the new champion, check out Riot's Riven preview page. And if you want specifics on everything the update will offer, surf on over to LoL's Riven patch preview.

Take Two Announces Civilization V Game of the Year Edition

If you held off on feeding your just-one-more-turn addiction when Civilization V launched last year, Take Two and Firaxis Games are back with an offer that could knock you off the wagon. It's the Civilization V Game of the Year Edition, it's brimming with add-ons, and it will retail for $50.

Since Civ V was released in September of last year, Fixaxis has added seven new civilizations and a host of scenario packs to the game for $5 each. With the Civ V GoY Edition, you get all the DLC (except for the recently released Korea and Wonders of the Ancient World Scenario Pack) and more.

The rundown on the Civilization V Game of the Year Edition:
Sid Meier's Civilization V (standalone game)
Civilization and Scenario Pack: The Mongols
Civilization Pack: Babylon
Cradle of Civilization Map Packs: Mesopotamia, Americas, Asia and Mediterranean
Double Civilization and Scenario Pack: Spain and Inca
Civilization and Scenario Pack: Polynesia
Civilization and Scenario Pack: Denmark - The Vikings
Explorer's Map Pack
Sid Meier's Civilization V digital soundtrack
Civ V GoY Edition will be available starting September 27.

Fallout: New Vegas Lonesome Road Trailer

Bethesda and Obsidian have brought us their Fallout take on cowboys and Indians and pulp sci-fi with the last two DLC packs for New Vegas, and with the upcoming Lonesome Road, it looks like the devs will be dipping into horror.

Bring all your weapons to The Divide, the narrator tells us in the new Lonesome Road trailer, a welcome message to Fallout fans used to leaving gear behind for DLC adventures. And it looks like you'll need it in what's billed as the end of the road for the Courier. Check the ominous trailer:

The rundown on the DLC from Bethesda:
In Lonesome Road you are contacted by the original Courier Six, a man by the name of Ulysses who refused to deliver the Platinum Chip at the start of Fallout: New Vegas. Ulysses promises the answer as to why he didn't take the job, but only if you make one last journey into the hurricane-swept canyons of the Divide, a landscape torn apart by earthquakes and violent storms. It's up to you whether you take the job or not.
Fallout: New Vegas Lonesome Road is set for launch on September 20 for $10 or 800 MS points.

Rockstar Releases Max Payne 3 Debut Trailer

It's been eight long years since Max Payne fans had their fix, but the wait will be over in March when Rockstar Games finally launches the anticipated third chapter in the noir shooter. And the build-up begins today. The debut Max Payne 3 trailer has arrived, and we've got it right here for your Bullet-Time viewing pleasure.

We'll refrain from any more jibber jabber and let you jump right in:

Max Payne 3 is in development for Windows PCs, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game is now available for pre-order and set to ship in March 2012.

Blizzard Launches Hub for Soundtrack Downloads

Call it World of Tunecraft. Blizzard has partnered with Apple to create a new section on its website featuring digital downloads of the music from its biggest franchises. Individual tracks from World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo can be downloaded (from iTunes) for $.99 each or $9.99 for full game soundtracks.

Blizzard Music is now live, offering nine original game soundtracks, various compilations, like Taverns of Azeroth, and hundreds of individual songs.

Because the downloads come from iTunes, Blizzard music shoppers must have an iTunes account and software. Like other albums on iTunes, individual tracks sell for $.99 and there are significant savings when buying full albums. For example, the 17-track World of Warcraft: Cataclysm soundtrack sells for $9.99. Launches World of Warships Website

At Gamescom last month,, the studio behind World of Tanks and World of Warplanes, announced it would complete its "World of" trilogy on the high seas with World of Battleships. The MMO's website went live today, a clear indication development on the game is full steam ahead.

Featuring a trailer, screenshots, and updates, the World of Battleships website is now the source of info for all captains anxious to test their sea legs on 20th century war ships.

"We're excited to launch World of Battleships website," CEO Victor Kislyi said in a statement. "We want to make it home for all those in love with naval battles and WWII-era warships."

When the free-to-play game launches, it will feature:
Multiple Warships to Choose from in three main classes of ships:
-- Aircraft carriers that provide both naval and air support
-- Battleships and heavy cruisers able to scarify the enemy with their looks alone
-- Light destroyers with speed and agility as their strongest points
"All the machines have their unique combination of firepower, speed, armor, and endurance," states. "A pack of nimble destroyers will tire out their opponents, huge battleships can batter down any target with a couple of main caliber salvos, aircraft carriers are capable of covering the allies from air or routing an aircraft cell towards the enemy."

The studio is currently putting the finishing touches on World of Warplanes, and that game is expected to launch later this year. has not announced a release window for World of Battleships.

AMD Sets Guinness Record for CPU Frequency

How far will PC enthusiasts be able to go with AMD's upcoming 8-core FX desktop processor? A group of the world's top overclockers decided to find out, and they wound up setting the Guinness World Record for the highest frequency of a computer processor by pushing an AMD FX to a ridiculous 8.429 Ghz.

On August 31, AMD gathered its "Team AMD FX" overclockers and the technology press in Austin, Texas to put the FX CPU to the test. And with some extreme methods, the team was able to push past the prior frequency world record of 8.309 GHz. See how they did it below:

"The record-breaking processor speed that resides in the AMD FX CPU clearly demonstrates performance gains for the new AMD 'Bulldozer' multi-core architecture, which will provide x86 computing power for this CPU and future AMD Accelerated Processing Units," AMD GM Chris Cloran said in a statement. "Along with world-record frequencies, the AMD FX processor will enable an unrivaled enthusiast PC experience for the money, extreme multi-display gaming, mega-tasking, and HD content creation."

AMD notes that all of its FX desktop CPUs, set to ship in the fourth quarter, will offer completely unlocked processor clock multipliers for easier overclocking.

Red Orchestra 2 Launch Trailer

Our review copy of Red Orchestra 2 is just about finished downloading, and we're already chomping at the bit to go and teach those nasty Nazis a lesson in Russian resolve. Thankfully we've got a shiny new multiplayer trailer to watch in the meantime, which we've helpfully uploaded for your viewing pleasure. Check it out while you're waiting for GameSpy's myriad of Red Orchestra 2 features, and check back tomorrow for our in-depth review.

Battlefield 3's Community Manager Speaks

Just what does it take to be a community manager for a massively popular online game? We asked EA's Ian Tornay -- community maestro for the upcoming Battlefield 3 -- about that very topic. If you've ever wondered what goes into this kind of job, well... read on. Chances are, it's not quite what you expected!

GameSpy: What skills did you need to be hired as the Battlefield 3 community manager?
Ian Tornay, Battlefield 3 Community Manager: Community management isn't what some people think it is. Sure, it'd be cool if my job was to play a game, make buddies and surf a forum all day long while giving out beta codes and t-shirts, but there's more to it than that. A good community manager, especially in the last few years, needs really solid social media chops. You need to know the ins and outs of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the general social media ecosystem; which networks are rising, which are falling, what's on the horizon. Having strong written and verbal skills is also a must. It's amazing how a few misplaced words can turn an entire day on its head!

I think that presentation and performance is a big part of community management as well. Oftentimes, it's a community manager's job to interpret information, translate it for a specific audience, and convey it in a way that resonates with that audience. So, whether you're trying to deliver complex technical information via Twitter to an eager userbase or you're trying to explain what "Wookiees r N00bs" means during a weekly marketing meeting, it's about presentation and performance.

You'll spend as much time in Excel and PowerPoint as you will on Twitter, too. Almost every community manager I know is directly tied to a marketing department, where data is king. Having a good head for data analysis and basic statistics is a must.

At the real core of community management, though, is passion and curiosity. You have to love what you're doing, be able to talk about it all day long, then come in the next day and figure out down to the smallest detail what works and what doesn't about what you're saying.
GameSpy: How did you hear about the job, and how did you apply? Was it a lengthy process?
Ian Tornay: When the company I was working for back in November of last year went under, I started looking immediately for my next gig. You have to stay up with the trends in community management or you can fall behind, especially when it comes to the social media aspect. So, initially, I had a conversation with EA about a role on the Command & Conquer team back in December. While that didn't work out, they kept my information on file, and when the Battlefield spot opened up, they contacted me.

From my first contact with the recruiter to my first day of work, it was exactly one month, which is really fast. Between phone calls, flying out for an interview, and packing up to move from Portland to the California Bay Area, it's been a whirlwind -- but I'm loving it.
GameSpy: Were you an active member of the Battlefield community before getting hired? If so, what were you doing in regards to the community?
Ian Tornay: I played a lot of Battlefield 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but I wasn't as deeply steeped in the community as you might assume. I like to play a lot of games at any given time, so I don't always wrack up to the hundred-hour milestone. For me, getting a diverse experience from a lot of different communities and appreciating different approaches to community is a more valuable experience.

At the same time, though, I do lurk on a lot of community sites and areas. I would get involved in them more often, but the problem I have is that once I start getting involved in something, I get really passionate and want to completely immerse myself for hours at a time. When I'm playing a few games at once, that's not always practical or possible.

That's not to say, though, that I didn't beef back up on my Battlefield chops when I first heard I would be interviewing for the job. I did the same thing for the Command & Conquer opportunity -- It was the Steam holiday sale, and I went on a real-time strategy buying and playing spree. To me, it's equally important that you're able to talk about a genre or publisher/developer's catalog at large, and not just focus on that one title you're working on.
Battlefield 3 Community Manager Ian Tornay -- the man, the myth, the legend.

GameSpy: What do you have to do on a daily basis as the Battlefield 3 community manager?
Ian Tornay: My responsibilities change, depending on what's happening. Some days, I'm trying to figure out what the best way to release new information is; other days, I'm analyzing the community's feedback and trying to find the best way to pass their ideas along while addressing their concerns.

What a lot of people don't know about community management is that it's a 24/7 "on-call" job. That means that if I'm at home sleeping, but a community issue blows up online? Too bad -- time to get up. Are you out with your friends enjoying a drink, and someone decides to hack your Twitter account? Too bad -- time to get to a computer. Luckily, EA has a really good infrastructure, and teams all around the world working around the clock to make this less of an issue than it could be.

Looking forward, I'm getting ready to attend a conference. Hands-down, my favorite part of the job is going to conferences and traveling to meet the people who play our games. I remember looking up to people who worked in the industry and being inspired by conversations I'd had, and I really hope that I can connect with someone in that way.

I've also been an adjustment, working inside a company as big as EA. It's amazing to be able to work on a huge title and to work with so many talented people, but it's also a lot different than working for the startup I was with at my last job. Everyone that I've worked with has been really cool, though, so it's been a pleasure.
GameSpy: Forums are renowned for having a vocal minority comprised of angry douchebags. How do you deal with them without wanting to punch someone?
Ian Tornay: A place where anonymous people go to post permanent things on a whim, where thousands will read it -- what could go wrong? But seriously, I like forums. Some of the best friends I've made in any community, I met through forums. A lot of the more familiar and friendly conversation goes on in places like Internet Relay Chat or instant messaging, but the forums are a really important place to meet people and find new perspectives. I haven't dug too deeply into the EA forums yet, but the interaction I've had so far has been great! Oh, and as a PSA -- if you have a problem and you figure out how to solve it on your own, don't post "NVM -- I fixed it!" Please actually post the solution. The Internet thanks you.
GameSpy: Do you round up reader feedback to give to the developers? If so, what's the process for doing so -- how do you identify key demands amongst all the clutter?
Ian Tornay: Absolutely -- it's a big part of my job. More specifically, I round up information to give to whoever requests it, or keep it ready in case someone asks for it. If you're posting to our Twitter feed, our Facebook wall, or sending us messages, we are getting them and reading them. We can't answer every question right away and we can't bend to every request, but your input matters. Sometimes, it comes down to me sorting through YouTube comments or blogs, looking at what people have said and literally counting out people's opinions. So even if you feel like we're not listening, I'm counting your "vote."

I won't mention specifics, because it would be a total nightmare if it happened every week -- but in my experience, when people really get together to write to us en masse about a specific issue, we notice, and it makes a difference. Maybe you won't get exactly what you're asking for (because it would break the game or you don't know the whole story), but it puts us in a position to work more closely and better with you, which is great for everyone. Another side note: Online petitions can be a great way to organize a cause and rally big numbers, but nothing really has the same effect just writing directly to us. So share your opinions with us and make sure to use things like vowels and proper grammar -- it helps!
GameSpy: If somebody wanted to be the community manager for their favorite game, what advice would you give them?
Ian Tornay: The first thing you need to know about working on a game that you love as a community manager is that you won't spend your time at work playing it. You'll spend your time reading and writing about other people that are playing it. Yes, you will spend some time at work getting paid to play, but it's pretty rare. The best way to get your foot in the door is to start getting involved with the existing community. Participate daily and consistently, almost like it's a part-time job. Help do some of the grunt work for moderators like diffusing arguments or, if you have the official story, direct people who are confused. Volunteer to be a moderator!

The next thing you need to do is get your communication and writing skills up to par, and there's only one way to do that -- practice. Really work on your writing. Learn proper grammar and how to appreciate the subtleties of composition. You're never going to get a gig yelling in l337 speak.

Make connections. Go to conferences like Penny Arcade Expo, and go out of your way to meet other community managers and people who you respect in the industry. Tell them that you're looking for a way in, that you're serious, that you understand it's not about playing games all day, and that you'd really like some guidance. I can't think of anyone I've worked with that wouldn't be really flattered and want to help you.
GameSpy: Anything else you'd like to add?
Ian Tornay: I'd encourage anyone that's looking to work in a passionate, genuine, and growing industry to look into games. I remember when I was in school, I put the industry up on a pedestal where I didn't really think it was attainable. Although it's a competitive field, it's also filled with people from a lot of different backgrounds. Yes, there are a lot of business, computer science, and marketing majors, but there's also room for the rest of us. I never thought I'd be in games (I was a music major), but now, I don't think I could work in any other industry. So if you think you've got what it takes get out there -- it's probably not as big a stretch as you think.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Failure to Launch: How Nintendo Killed 3DS Interest in 9 Easy Steps

Last year at E3 Expo 2010, Nintendo revealed the 3DS to the world, and shockingly, everyone in attendance went crazy over the thing. Folks who write about video games love criticizing Nintendo almost as much as they love neckbeards and jorts, but praise for the machine was pretty much universal. Yes, hype was at an all-time high... but in the year since, Nintendo seems to have been on a mission to systemically kill interest in the machine, to the point where it's now regularly being outsold by the dated DSi (and in Japan, the freaking PSP). Could Nintendo turn things around next week at E3 Expo 2011? Certainly -- but the game titan better have something big up its sleeves, because at the moment, only the "M" on Mario's hat is visible above the edge of the hole that's been dug...

When not waiting for something new to play on his 3DS, Nathan Birch also writes and draws the webcomic Zoology, and his work can be found in the book "You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News: Shocking But Utterly True Facts."

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The Interrogation Room: Mario Kart 3DS

Eric Neigher, Contributing Editor: Everybody loves Mario Kart, David -- but not everybody loves the 3DS. I watched you play for a bit, and while the little 3D effect started to hurt my eyes, and Nintendo's ridiculous bevy of cute booth babes distracted my mind, I must say it looked like a pretty traditional port of Mario Kart from the regular ol' DS. Any major changes or updates you came across?

David Wolinsky, Contributing Editor: This Mario Kart boasts the most tricked-out rides this side of Xzibit's body shop. It's got hydraulics, lifts, and purple neon lights in every car, along with bass-thumping radios and Nintendo Wiis in every trunk. Wait, no. It has none of that. Mario Kart 3DS takes to the air and briny deep in some portions of the levels I played, which may or may not be representative of final courses. When you drive off a cliff, a glider wing emerges, and you can careen around the air to make what's hopefully a smooth landing. I couldn't tell whether you could pick up extra speed in these sections, but it was fun... so that counts for something, right? The water sections don't change things drastically: Your car handles largely the same, but you have to steer clear of fish. So, yeah, nothing revolutionary... but they're nice additions all the same. Before you experienced temporary blindness from the 3DS, what did you think of Mario Kart? Is the formula wearing thin, or do you still find it engaging?

Eric Neigher: Purple lights and the car dances? I'm not sure we need that kind of influence in Mario Kart, man. As for the threadbareness of the series, I think that when it comes to multiplayer, Mario Kart still has a lot of love to give -- although we didn't get to actually play multiplayer, right? But when it comes to single-player, many better options abound for racing titles. Good thing nobody plays Mario Kart for the single-player! Anyway, the game looked fun and fast-paced, and doesn't seem to stray too far from the tried-and-true formula. How did you find the controls? Did the addition of the 3DS thumbstick make a difference in any way? Did you use the stylus at all?

David Wolinsky: Now that you mention it, the thumbstick made steering a little sloppier. It was far more useful in the hang-gliding sections, where you can soar in any direction... but it was a little more imprecise when it came to handling the normal road. And no, the stylus was locked away snugly inside the 3DS, so I'm not sure of its applications here, if any. It seems like the A.I. doesn't rubberband as cheaply as it has in the past, and if anything, that presents a nice (and honest) challenge. I had to claw my way to the front of the pack, finishing in 1st place only one out of three races. Then again, it was my first time playing it, and Mario Kart always gets easier once you know the lay of the land.

Eric Neigher: I do so hate that rubberbanding, I tell ya. Any new characters, items, track features, or anything else that we should know about?

David Wolinsky: Nothing immediately leaps to mind, but personally, I'm always glad to see the Koopa Troopa back in action and behind the wheel. It's tough to say what's going to wind up actually in the game and what was stuff made just to showcase the game for this demo. Ah, the uncertainty of stuff shown at E3!

Eric Neigher: Fair enough. These booth babes and their mendacious ways... if you can't trust a Mario Kart demo, what can you trust?

The Interrogation Room: Kid Icarus Uprising

David Wolinsky, Contributing Editor: You played Kid Icarus Uprising in single-player, while I tried multiplayer. What were your expectations going in, and did the game live up to them? What pleasant surprises, if any, did you stumble upon?

Ryan Scott, Executive Editor: This was actually a really weird game, but in a mostly cool way. As strange as it sounds, Kid Icarus Uprising reminds me a hell of a lot of Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. It's a third-person action game (and occasional on-rails shoot-'em-up), and your character movements are independent from your targeting cursor. Not quite what I expected a new Kid Icarus game to be!

David Wolinsky: That's a really great way of summing the game up -- it is an awful lot like Star Successor. My theory for this title has long been that it was originally intended to be another game completely, and then they swapped in Kid Icarus characters after the fact. It wouldn't be the first time Nintendo's done something like that -- Super Mario Bros. 2, anyone? -- but clearly even Nintendo felt it was a challenge in bringing series protagonist Pit into the 21st century. Twenty years is a long-ass time to wait for a sequel, and I wonder how many people eagerly awaiting it are even familiar with the original (and the routinely ignored Game Boy sequel), as opposed to saying "it's that funny-sounding angel from Super Smash Bros. Brawl" Anyway, the multiplayer was just as surprising. Two teams of three angels storm a small-scale battlefield with melee and ranged weapons, and whoever loses a life first gets resurrected as the "light" or "dark" angel. They're more powerful, but if that angel is killed, their team loses. Again, not exactly what comes to mind with Kid Icarus. Do you think it matters this is such a sharp detour for the long-neglected series? Or are the changes cool enough to win over purists?

Ryan Scott: Well, like you said, it's been two decades -- if Nintendo wants to create a new identity for this series, now's not a bad time. I found it pretty jarring, but fun. The single-player mode started off with a five-minute shoot-'em-up segment that could have been ripped straight from the aforementioned Sin and Punishment, complete with charged missile attacks and screen-clearing bombs. It then progressed to a ground segment with similar controls and full navigational freedom. Like you, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if we learned that this game began life as something else; I don't think it's going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it seems fun for what is. What did you think of Pit's catty new attitude?

David Wolinsky: As with everything else here, I found it pretty jarring. That doesn't mean it's necessarily bad, just that it's hard to acclimate that Pippi Longstocking-esque voice with the new Pit. I think, ultimately, everyone just needs to forget Kid Icarus' past and accept this game for what it is. Anyway, of the two different level styles you tried, which did you enjoy more? I'm curious to hear more about the ground-based portion.

Ryan Scott: I liked 'em both fine, but I think I did a little better with the aerial combat. The ground game involved a lot of dashing around with the 3DS' left analog stick, moving the targeting cursor with the stylus, and hammering the left shoulder button to fire on enemies. I had a few problems with the camera, and the person walking me through the game said it was tuned to be a little bit difficult for E3. I feel like we've done a lot of "Yeah, it's fun and all, for what it is, you know..." here. I hope we aren't just talking ourselves into thinking it's cool because of the name on the box. I'm really hopeful for it, though.

David Wolinsky: Oh, me too. For what it's worth, I ran into the same issues with the camera in multiplayer. I found it tough to juggle strategic strafing with keeping the camera trained on an enemy. Why doesn't it have a lock-on feature in combat, a la The Legend of Zelda? Seems like a weird oversight, but I kinda enjoyed the feeling of seeing my crosshair way off in the distance, and seeing my arrows sail through the field of vision and hitting their marks. I have a feeling Kid Icarus, at large, will be filled with tiny thrills like these. Maybe the 3DS can't meet greater expectations until after it's been more established -- but at least it's got promise, and reasons for us to stay optimistic.

The Interrogation Room: Super Mario 3DS

Eric Neigher, Contributing Editor: Hey man, so you got to play Super Mario 3DS while you stuck me with Luigi's Mansion 2, thanks a lot! So, just to clarify before we get started here: This is a completely new Mario game, yes? It's not a remake of that water-squirting one or anything, right?

Ryan Scott, Executive Editor: Yep, it's a completely new 3D Mario platformer -- though it's got a lot of Super Mario Bros. 3 imagery, such as the leaf power-up and the Tanooki suit. And hey, Super Mario Sunshine was not a bad game at all!

Eric Neigher: Wasn't implying that it was -- just saying that the water-squirting-Mario game was a game I could see being remade here. So, how does the 3D look with regard to the gameplay? Is it well-integrated, or sort of eye-piercing? It's cool that they're bringing back some of the Mario 3 paraphernalia -- any other new or remade features that fans should know about?

Ryan Scott: I'll be honest: I turned the 3D off within about 15 seconds of starting the game. That stuff messes me up, man. Anyway, I played what could be described as pretty standard Mario fare. I played a few stages, the first of which was an airship (more Mario 3 imagery!) with Boom-Boom as the end-of-level boss (Mario 3's fortress boss!). Even the side-scrolling levels -- such as this one -- have a 3D plane that you can move up and down in, which is cool. Oh ,and I should also note that "standard Mario fare" is usually pretty damn fun, and it certainly was in this case.

Eric Neigher: Good call. I hate that 3D effect, too -- and the games are helped exactly zero by enabling them. Your Mario knowledge never ceases to impress -- how do you move up and down in the 3D plane? And how would you say the difficulty level was here? Mario games (especially on the DS) have a reputation for being very hard. Did you breeze through it, or was that just a function of the fact that it was a demo level?

Ryan Scott: The 3D plane is just an up/down motion on the analog stick like it is anywhere else -- nothing fancy. As for the difficulty, I had a pretty easy time, because I'm good at games (fun fact: no I'm not). And I had the most animated, positive E3 booth babe in the world cheering me on the whole time. It was crazy. Anyway, this doesn't seem to be as difficult as, say, New Super Mario Bros. -- but I feel like 3D Mario games are always fundamentally easier than 2D ones. That's just the nature of 'em, I think. Although I did encounter some tricky platforming, with those switches that you hit, which cause a pathway of blocks to appear, and then slowly disappear behind you, causing the inevitable death plummet. I always mess that stuff up.

Eric Neigher: I am also a master of death plummeting, so I feel your pain. So did you get a look at any alternative game modes? Any multiplayer included here, like 3DS-to-3DS stuff?

Ryan Scott: Nah, it was a pretty thin vertical slice of the game, obviously set up for demo purposes. I suspect some kind of multiplayer component, but I didn't glimpse anything of the sort here at E3. But, I'll reiterate -- jumping around and throwing fireballs and doing Mario stuff is fun. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the Nintendo same-old same-old, but I liked it.

E3 2011 Nintendo Press Conference: Core Games for the Wii U Revealed

Nintendo's lack of third-party support for the Wii is one of the console's biggest shortcomings. The Japanese game maker revealed at its E3 2011 press conference today that it won't repeat that mistake with the Wii U, announcing a number of core games for the system.

Electronic Arts, THQ, and Ubisoft were among the publishers to pledge their support for the Wii U, and a number of developers revealed that they're already hard at work developing core games for the new system.

Batman: Arkham City, Ghost Recon Online, Assassin's Creed, Aliens: Colonial Marines, DarkSiders II, Metro: Last Light, Tekken, Ninja Gaiden 3, and Madden NFL were among the big titles/franchises to be announced for the Wii U.

Specifics on how these games will incorporate the Wii U's unique controller system were not revealed.

E3 2011 Nintendo Press Conference: Wii U Graphics Demo

Nintendo didn't share system specs for the Wii U at its E3 2011 press conference today, but it did say the system will deliver 1080p HD visuals, and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime rolled out a trailer demonstrating the Wii U's graphical capabilities.

Get a sampling of the Wii U's visuals with this cinematic:

The Interrogation Room: Rayman Origins

Ryan Scott, Executive Editor: People have been comparing Rayman Origins to New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Is it really that awesome-looking, or are they pulling my leg?

Will Tuttle, Editor in Chief: I definitely noticed a New Super Mario Bros. Wii vibe going on with Rayman Origins, and that's a very good thing. I had the chance to play the available levels twice, both by myself and with others, and the two experiences were completely different. That makes me very, very happy.

Ryan Scott: How does it play? It's a side-scrolling platformer, obviously, but what's unique about it?

Will Tuttle: The platforming itself isn't really that unique, as Rayman Origins takes its cues from both the original PlayStation Rayman game and from more recent titles like LittleBigPlanet and the aforementioned New Super Mario Bros. Wii. One button jumps and another punches, and the latter button can be held to wind up for a more powerful attack. It controls a lot like the original Rayman, which I consider a very good thing; when it comes to platformers, I'm usually of the opinion that simpler is better. As for players' motivation, the end goal is to make it through the level, but a number of special areas are accessible via portals scattered about. The aim here (as in the original game) is to smash the cages that hold Electoons, in order to free them. The game also features a lot of collectibles, some of which earn you extra lives or more powerful attacks. Also, the fact that Rayman Origins packs somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 levels makes me very happy. Have I mentioned this game makes me happy?

Ryan Scott: So what is it that makes this game so special? Does it have a cool art style?

Will Tuttle: Rayman Origins is definitely one of the most visually striking games I've seen this year. The vibrant colors absolutely burst off the screen, and I just love the overall design aesthetic to pieces. Something can always be said for good old-fashioned 2D platformers, and it's clear that the art team was given full rein to go nuts with their designs. Honestly, it's hard for me to do it justice -- I highly recommend that you take a look at the screens and the trailers and get a look for yourself.

Ryan Scott: Do you get any awesome power-ups? Fire Rayman? Flying Rayman? Tanooki Rayman? Hammer Bros. Rayman?

Will Tuttle: Wow, you're really taking this Mario/Rayman thing to the next level, huh? While I didn't see any of those Raymen, I did see a number of Rayman's old friends from previous games. Those old chums came to the forefront when other players joined in the game, as Rayman Origins allows for up to four friends to adventure simultaneously. I love that it supports hop-in and hop-out play, as this is a great kind of game to just jump in and play from wherever. It's a lot like New Super Mario Bros. Wii; at times, so much was going on that I died without even realizing it. But it was easy for my teammates to bring me back to life by simply touching my floating avatar. It was a ton of fun -- especially during one vertical level where we fled from a large plant monster that was chomping up the screen below us. Within a matter of minutes, me and the strangers I was playing with were hooting and hollering like we were old friends. If that's not the mark of a great multiplayer game, I don't know what is.

The Interrogation Room: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Eric Neigher, Contributing Editor: So, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Cool, right? What's new about this particular Zelda for Wii? Did you get to kill Ganon?

Ryan Scott, Executive Editor: I didn't get to kill Ganon (although hey, let's be honest, you know he's the bad guy). I did, however, get some hands-on time with Skyward Sword's motion controls, which included things like looking around by waving the Wii-mote, aiming the bow with the Wii-mote, swinging the Wii-mote like a sword, and using the Wii-mote for one of those awkward motion-controlled flying sequences that we all want to see their designers burn in the ninth ring of Hell for.

Eric Neigher: Sounds like the Wii-mote might not be the best fit for this particular game. Does it include an option to just use a GameCube controller? Also, what can you say about the story of Skyward Sword? What the hell is a Skyward Sword?

Ryan Scott: I didn't get to delve too deep (I played a stupid flying race, a bit of a dungeon, and a boss battle), so I don't know what all's available option-wise -- I'm sure Nintendo just has motion controls on the agenda with their demos here, since we're all supposed to think motion controls are awesome, right? In any case, I hear that the titular Skyward Sword is supposed to be one and the same with the series' ubiquitous Master Sword -- and this is supposed to be some kind of Master Sword origin story. The portions I played weren't too heavy on plot, though -- just motion controls of varying annoyance levels.

Eric Neigher: So I take it you weren't too high on the game -- a rarity, given your usual Nintendo enthusiasm. Did anything stand out as enjoyable and/or good? Better, even, than previous Zelda titles?

Ryan Scott: The art style's pretty cool, though I'm sure most interested gamers have seen that by now. It's sort of a cross between The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess' realistic-ish character models and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's cel shaded design. But the motion controls really bugged me, man. It feels so unnecessary and forced in games like this, you know? Anyway, damn, I'm being a Debbie Downer here. Assuming Nintendo includes some alternative control options (and why shouldn't they, since they sure existed in previous Zelda games!), it seems like it'll be... well, another fun Zelda adventure. Again, I don't know much about what's going on story-wise, but Zelda seems to be some sort of lovely island girl this time around (as opposed to royalty), and I can only imagine that she gets kidnapped somehow, because what else is she gonna do?

Eric Neigher: Cool, cool. I like my island girls. Did you get a chance to encounter any new and/or familiar enemies? Any bosses we should look out for? What tricks and items did you get a chance to use? The famous hookshot, perchance?

Ryan Scott: I messed around with the bow which, in terms of mechanics, isn't even as cool as the bow in Wii Sports Resort. So, that sucks. Link also has a flying beetle that you can navigate through alcoves to trigger switches in -- you guessed it -- a motion-controlled aerial minigame. Alas, no hookshot. But I bet I know how I'll aim it when I do get a chance to use it. I wonder if I'll make a wide swinging motion with my arm! Speaking swinging motions, the boss that I fought -- some David Bowie-looking demon with a sword -- was some arrogant I'm-gonna-act-like-the-real-villain-until-Ganon-comes-along kind of guy. He kept deflecting my awkward sword swings and then destroying me with a bunch of newfangled danged magic, so I was probably supposed to employ some mechanic (or fancy Wii-mote-manship) that I just didn't know about.

But alas, my swinging arm is all tired out now. Thanks, Zelda... I hope this turns out to be more enjoyable than the time you tried to "help" me fight Ganon at the end Wind Waker and wound up killing me about six times with your bow instead. Fingers crossed. On an analog stick. Without any mandatory. motion controls.

Battlefield 3 Operation Guillotine Teaser Trailer

Electronic Arts' marketing machine continues to churn out info on Battlefield 3, and today it comes in the form of a teaser trailer for a nighttime mission in the single-player campaign called Operation Guillotine.

Featuring in-game footage from Battlefield 3, Operation Guillotine takes us from the outskirts of a city at night to its downtown streets. Some features on display include launching mortar rounds, a melee attack kill move, and what happens when you throw a grenade inside a small room. Check the all-too-brief trailer:

Battlefield 3 is in development for Windows PCs, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game is set for launch on October 25.

F1 2011 Developers' Diary

Co-op Championship mode is coming to F1 2011, allowing two friends to drive on the same team and race for the Constructor's World Championship. And in the latest developers' diary for the game, the Codemasters gang breaks down what it will be like to race through an entire F1 season with a buddy.

Look across the garage in F1 2011's Co-op Championship mode and you won't see an AI bot, you'll see your friend. Learn more about the experience below:

F1 2011 is in development for Windows PCs, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game is set to ship on September 23.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Gameplay Demo

Journalists raved about Bethesda's near 30-minute gameplay demo of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at E3 this year, and now you get to see what all the fuss is about. It's been streamlined a bit, but more than 20 minutes of Skyrim gameplay is now ready for your viewing pleasure, complete with commentary from executive producer Todd Howard.

Featuring a detailed look at the game's new setting, its towns, people, and creatures, the demo will take you up to the snow-capped mountains, down into the depths of a dungeon, and back out onto the grassy plains -- with plenty of action in between. See for yourself in the three videos below:

Activision Announces PC, PS3 Release Date for Black Ops: Rezurrection

Xbox 360 gamers have been up to their elbows in Moon zombies for nearly three weeks, and come September 22nd, PC and PlayStation 3 owners will get the chance to join the Call of Duty: Black Ops Rezurrection fray. Activision and Treyarch announced the release date this morning, noting that the fourth DLC pack for Black Ops will herald another double XP weekend.

Featuring the all new Moon level and four re-mastered levels of Zombie lore (Nacht der Untoten, Verruckt, Shi No Numa, and Der Riese, the Zombie factory that started it all) Rezurrection is billed as a tribute to CoD Zombies fans everywhere. Check the trailer:

Rezurrection will be available for PC and PS3 download on September 22 for $15. For die-hard CoD fans who purchased the Hardened or Prestige Editions of Black Ops, Rezurrection (the Moon level, soundtrack, and theme) will be available for free.

Mind Games #6: Video Games and ADHD

Mind Games #6: Video Games and ADHD

Gaming is an interactive experience. We play games -- but at the same time, games play us. In this column, psychologist Nicholaus Noles explores how video games manipulate our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, all in the name of fun.

Pay Attention!

In a recent piece published here on GameSpy, writer Evan Hoovler -- who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder -- discussed how video games taught him skills that improved his life. At the end of the piece, our own resident commenter, Spy Guy, asked, "What do you think about scientific studies linking ADHD to video games? Are these brainiacs on the right track, or do they really have it all backwards?" Well, when Spy Guy asks a question about psychology, I feel that it's my job to give him an answer.

ADHD is characterized by inattention and impulsiveness. Although people with ADHD are sometimes stereotyped as hyper or bouncing off the walls, modern theories suggest their symptoms are actually caused by brainwave activity that is too low. When I talk about "brainwaves," I'm referring to the amount of electrical activity going on in your brain when you do different things. For example, when you're working or taking a test or even playing a video game, a lot of electrical activity can be measured in your brain. In contrast, when you get bored or start to fall asleep, the amount of electrical activity in your brain goes way down. The brains of people with ADHD often dip down into the sleepy range of brainwave activity or fail to become as active as they should be when they're trying to pay attention. This causes them to lose focus, and makes it difficult for them to stay on task.

Video games pop up in ADHD discussions for several reasons. Most importantly: the correlation between ADHD and playing lots of video games. Several scientific studies show that people who play two or more hours of video games per day find it harder to pay attention, and are much more likely to have an ADHD diagnosis than people who play an average of one hour of video games (or less) per day. Also, studies suggest that playing video games temporarily increases the attention problems experienced by people with ADHD, in some situations.

Now, this evidence seems pretty convincing. People who play video games are more likely to have ADHD -- so video games must cause ADHD, right? Well, not exactly; you see, a correlation occurs when two things are detected together, but a correlation does not necessarily mean that one of those two things causes the other. For example, if we open up all of the lunchboxes in the world right now, it's likely that lots of sandwiches with peanut butter on them will also have jelly on them. The peanut butter doesn't actually cause the jelly to appear on the sandwich, but they show up together all the time.

What's true to PB&J sandwiches is also true for video games: ADHD and video games show up together, with several reasonable explanations as to why they might co-occur. First, it could be true that playing video games causes people to develop ADHD. Second, it could be true that people with ADHD are really attracted to video games; video games are designed to grab and hold your attention, so they might be even more attractive to people with attention problems. Third, both of these explanations could be true: Video games cause ADHD, and having ADHD makes video games more attractive. Finally, it is possible that an additional unknown cause leads people to both develop ADHD and love video games.

It's obvious that simply playing video games isn't giving everyone ADHD. I've invested tens of thousands of hours into playing video games since I was a preteen, and I don't have ADHD -- and some young kids develop have ADHD without ever touching a controller or keyboard. If a simple cause-and-effect relationship existed between gaming and ADHD, the pattern would be obvious and widespread. Instead, we have a correlation between gaming and ADHD. One last bit of science: Recent research suggests that ADHD, like other mental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, may have a strong genetic component. If so, then we may have to change the way we think about the relationship between ADHD and video games. Instead of being the root cause of ADHD, excessive gaming may simply trigger a preexisting problem with attention, or cause preexisting ADHD symptoms to become worse.

It's tempting for researchers and news outlets to interpret research like this in the most exciting way possible. "Video games cause ADHD" is a big headline, but the complex reality of the relationship between gaming and ADHD is more difficult to explain. For now, we can only guess at the true relationship between video games and ADHD.

Nicholaus Noles is a dad and avid gamer. He writes about psychology, games, and the psychology of games. Nicholaus received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Yale University, and works as a developmental psychologist at the University of Michigan


AMD Bulldozer FX Series CPU Prices leak

We still don't have a firm release date on the desktop version of AMD's new Bulldozer CPUs, but now, thanks to a leak, we do have pricing on the AMD Bulldozer FX series.

The long-awaited response to Intel's Sandy Bridge, Bulldozer is the first all-new processor architecture launched by AMD since the Athlon 64 in 2003. The Bulldozer is billed as the first 8 core desktop processor with superior multi-threading throughput, and if the leaked pricing today is accurate, that won't mean a superior price point. The leak comes by way of pre-order pricing obtained by AnandTech:

AMD Bulldozer FX-series Processors
FX-8150: 8 core, 3.6GHz (4.2GHz Turbo) -- $266.28
FX-8120: 8 core, 3.1GHz (4GHz Turbo) -- $221.73
FX-6100: 6 core, 3.3GHz (3.9GHz Turbo) -- $188.32
AMD has stated that the desktop version of Bulldozer will make its way to shelves sometime in the fourth quarter.

Hard Reset Review

If nothing else, playing sci-fi shooter Hard Reset taught me this: We're all totally screwed. When our toasters someday gain sentience and machines rise up to crush their human oppressors, we'll get carved up like soft, squishy pot roasts. Pairing the cool cyberpunk vibe of Blade Runner with the classic run-and-gun action of Doom, this crazy first-person shooter illustrates two things with horrifying precision: 1) robots are not your friends, and 2) given the opportunity, they'll rip your limbs off and stomp your entrails into a fine bloody paste.

In the year 2436, the futuristic Bezoar City relies on soldiers from The Corporation to keep the peace. As a grizzled vet trying to enjoy a drink at the local bar after a long shift, your day gets a lot hairier when a rogue A.I. breaks its limiter and sends a throng of pissed-off automatons rampaging through the streets to shred civilians. You get called in to make things go boom. I find Hard Reset's "less plot, more ridiculous explosions and killer robots" approach refreshingly old-school; the sci-fi setup is slick but straightforward, and it does the trick just fine.

Hard Reset's dark, oppressive cityscape teems with psychotic droids to massacre, and the buggers aren't shy about popping up out of nowhere to try to eat your face off. Developer Flying Wild Hog nails the pacing here: With little downtime between tense encounters that send you backpedaling to stay alive, the frenetic shooter action is a nonstop adrenaline rush of flying debris, face-melting explosions, and wayward bullet fire. Much of Hard Reset sends you blasting a semi-linear, forward-plodding path through tight alleys, subterranean passageways, factory buildings, and garbage-strewn streets. The cold city environments bristle with the neon glow of future-tech, and the impressive game engine showcases just how far the PC has outstripped aging current-gen consoles in the visual department. But, as beautiful as the well-designed locations are, the real fun comes from blowing them to smithereens.

You can't blink in this game without something exploding and flinging burning shrapnel in all directions. Cars, machinery, barrels, boxes, you name it: Almost all of it can be ignited with great ease. I love the way the stage designs encourage you to use the volatile nature of each environment to wipe out large numbers of foes (and yourself on occasion) in one fell swoop. Both of your dual primary weapons -- a standard bullet-firing assault rifle and a sci-fi energy blaster -- can be enhanced using credits, to beef up their robot-thrashing potential. While some upgrades are less flashy (I'm looking at you, crappy grenade launcher), freezing enemies in place or frying them to bits with a close-range spray of arc lightning feels very satisfying.

Though they fly apart in little pieces as you whittle away at them, the robotic foes aren't pushovers. They attack from all sides and with such staggering ferocity that the ultra-violence of their assault is jarring, and some keep coming even after you blow their legs off. Even with a high-powered arsenal at my disposal, I still struggled through the normal difficulty mode, clinging to life by a shred. For me, it made the experience all-the-more thrilling and intense; getting mobbed by a throng of ankle-biters with whirling blades attached to their head is heart-pounding stuff, but the real fear sets in with the more aggressive adversaries. The sight of heavily armored droids charging at me like crazed quarterbacks sent me spewing curses and running for cover more often than I'd care to admit. Dozens of times, I watched helplessly as they cornered me and pummeled my corpse until the screen splattered crimson from my mangled innards. I was dead. They kept pounding away regardless. These bastards want to rip you apart in the most painful way imaginable; it's a little unsettling.

I have no problem with the straightforward simplicity of Hard Reset's hyperkinetic robotic slaughterfest. Running around sending demon-machines to the scrap heap yields a gorgeous and destructive romp that's a prime example of old school PC gaming ideologies, alive and well in modern times. But while the game's raw, visceral action burns hot and bright, it fizzles far too soon. It takes four or five hours at best to blast through Hard Reset from start to finish, and the story fumbles just as things get interesting. That's not a dealbreaker. though; the gameplay is tight and punchy, and the overall experience is so well-crafted that it's worth soaking up every last insane moment.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Minecraft 1.8 Adventure Update "Leaked"

Mojang said Minecraft 1.8, the long-awaited Adventure Update, would possibly be ready for prime time by today, and, in a backwards kind of way, it is. The officially leaked Adventure Update is a download away.

Minecraft designer Jens Bergensten has been providing tentative updates about the Adventure Update's launch via Twitter, and it appears he grew sick of speculating when 1.8 would be ready and decided to take matters into his own hands. With Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson's blessing, the Minecraft 1.8 Adventure Update "leak" is now available.

See what you'll be getting in the official trailer below:

Here's a rundown on some of the features the Adventure Update will be packing:
-- NPC villages
-- Randomly generated dungeons
-- New biome code
-- Fully working Creative Mode (and individual admins can enter Creative Mode on a Survival Mode server if they choose)
-- Critical hits
-- Sprinting and sprint jump
-- More farming options
-- Improved sunsets
-- Vines
-- New pig models
-- More dynamic mob-to-mob interactions
-- Animals will flee when attacked
-- Hunger Bar to manage how food heals
-- New lighting
-- Mineshafts and cobwebs
-- Experience orbs (earned when monsters are defeated)
-- Rivers and oceans
-- New mob: Endermen
(Thanks Joystiq)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS Review

I never played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. In fact, by the time I realized it's one of the most highly scored games of all-time, I had already finished both The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. With expectations based on its successors, how does Ocarina of Time hold up 13 years after its original release? Outclassed as it is by its descendants, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS still stands in a class of its own among modern adventures.

Though the peripheral circumstances always change, the Legend of Zelda games generally revolve around the three bearers of the Triforce: Ganondorf, Princess Zelda, and the player-directed protagonist (Link, by default). This installment employs the now-familiar "enter dungeon, fight and solve puzzles to acquire dungeon item, and use dungeon item to defeat boss" formula of the series with an added twist: time travel. After retrieving the ubiquitous Master Sword, you spring seven years into the future as a young adult (where most of the game unfolds in a Ganondorf-cursed future), but can return to the present by relinquishing the Master Sword in the Temple of Time. Even though only the adult hero can use the majority of quest items, you still need to revert to childhood in order to solve a few key puzzles. Additionally, the titular Ocarina of Time is used to solve many of the more obvious puzzles and serves as a convenient method of warping among the game's major dungeons.

Experience with the original Nintendo 64 version isn't necessary to see that Ocarina of Time 3DS technically outperforms it in every way. The graphics stand among the best the 3DS has to offer with sharp, expressive facial artwork, smooth animation and lush environments -- and the 3D effect intensifies the experience if you can deal with the added eyestrain in long play sessions. Perhaps a bit more surprising are the 3D audio effects that render sounds off to the sides (and nearly behind you) when you use the built-in speakers. Even on a portable system, it's truly immersive.

The game's controls also benefit from the addition of the 3DS' touchscreen. Not only are the dungeon/overworld maps visible at all times (though why the map doesn't always have an arrow representing your location and direction is a mystery), but the inventory is also a breeze to navigate. X and Y serve as item-assignable buttons, and the touchscreen also offers onscreen buttons I and II for lesser-used items. This is great news for gamers who are familiar with that one level: I enjoyed the Water Temple above all others with the hookshot on the X button and the iron boots at the ready on Y.

However, that isn't to say that the controls are uniformly superior in this remake. While the hero responds well to the analog nub, the absence of a second analog stick to reposition the camera really stings. I lost plenty of health being chased by fast-moving offscreen enemies with no way to see the action without risking damage, and a few of those enemies hit pretty damn hard. That lack of an analog stick sometimes spells death (or fairy-in-a-bottle resurrection), and -- if you're anything like me -- those cheap hits will certainly evoke streams of profanity in the ultra-hard Master Quest, unlocked after completing the main quest.

Control differences aside, Ocarina of Time 3DS contains the same expertly crafted dungeons as its forebear, which is mostly a good thing. Designed long before the advent of the kinder, gentler Nintendo that holds your little hand and makes sure you're never clueless about what to do next, Ocarina tosses out some maddeningly obtuse puzzles at times. This is mostly mitigated by the addition of Sheikah stones -- locations where you can watch brief video montages with clues on how to proceed -- which you can use freely and without penalty, but I'm almost ashamed to say that I still had to scour the Internet for a few puzzle solutions. That's a first for me in a 3D Zelda title.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS isn't the greatest game of all time; it's not even my favorite Zelda game. It is, however, a sterling example of epic 3D adventure done right -- the likes of which you won't find on any portable until Nintendo announces an original adventure or gives The Wind Waker the 3D treatment. I'd prefer something new, but if I'm going to relive decade-old stories, this is a helluva way to do it.

Nintendo Wii U Hands-on Impressions

We've gotten our hands on Nintendo's new Wii enhanced controller/doohickey, the Wii U. We're still not entirely sure how to classify it yet, but we've definitely developed a few early impressions. Read on as two of our editors sound off from the E3 Expo 2011 show floor.

David Wolinsky, Contributing Editor: So, for a moment, let's put aside the whole "is it a console or a controller?" confusion and cut right to the quick: What are your first impressions of Nintendo's Wii U? What potential do you see in it? Is your core aching all these hours later?

Ryan Scott, Executive Editor: I've been describing the Wii U to people as "an iPad with buttons." I think the concept of this touchscreen tablet controller (or... whatever) is pretty cool, but we just have no idea what they're going to do with it. A lot of the "games" we saw were glorified tech demos and trailers -- understandable at such an early stage, of course, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What did you think?

David Wolinsky: I don't know what to think! I'm so mystified by Nintendo's new device and its applications that it seems unfair to render judgment upon it. I don't think Nintendo was being coy in its press conference yesterday, but it sure did gloss over a lot of fundamental facts. I think this didn't irk you as much as it did me, but I was repeatedly told essentially "you're doing it wrong" by the Nintendo staffers. I wasn't standing in the correct posture. I wasn't moving correctly with the device. Maybe this isn't as much an issue to today's younger gamers, but to folks who grew up with non-motion controllers, I suspect they'll encounter the same initial hurdle of just getting used to it. Speaking of, the first demo we tried was Battle Mii, a sort of Metroid deathmatch where two players are on the ground and the Wii U user is in a giant ship. First and foremost, did you have fun trying out the Wii U on it?

Ryan Scott: It took a bit of getting used to, and I don't think I had quite the same level of problems you did (although turning from side to side using the Wii U's built-in accelerometer was mildly annoying) -- but I had fun with it. I think it worked really well; I certainly liked the Wii U portion of Battle Mii more than I liked the Wii-mote portion. And, I should mention, I totally killed you on both sides of this game. How did you feel after you finished playing it?

David Wolinsky: Hey, I know what side my bread is buttered on: I have to let the boss win! Seriously though, despite the initial awkwardness, I gotta say, I am optimistic about the Wii U's future. The Wii-mote has felt unnatural from the very beginning, but this basically transforms your TV into the DS' top screen. I didn't use the Wii U long enough to get used to its controls, but I can tell that after a couple of hours with it, that won't really be an issue. I didn't have an "aha!" moment like the first time I swung my racket in Wii Sports, but it's cool. The real question, in my view, is whether Nintendo makes good on the device's many applications shown at the press conference yesterday. This is a company that's historically backed out of a lot of promises (Wii Vitality Sensor, where are you?) and dropped support for things very quickly. Remember the Game Boy Micro? How about the Game Boy Printer? And do you care that the Wii U will supposedly double as a video phone?

Ryan Scott: No, that's what the Internet is for, if you're into that sort of thing. Do you care that Nintendo didn't firmly clarify whether this thing would prompt a new HD Wii system? Or whether we'll actually have a functional multiplayer gaming network to play Nintendo games on? The lack of talk about these two things really disappointed me.

David Wolinsky: Yeah, I noticed they didn't clarify those things either, and that's quite damning. I really had high hopes for Nintendo to reaffirm its position as being both innovative and savvy this week, but this doesn't quite cut it. They mentioned games like Batman: Arkham City and Darksiders II would be hitting the Wii U, but how? Do we need to buy another console to play those games? Arkham City comes out in a few months, and the Wii U isn't dropping until next year. Why would people want to wait that long, and buy an entire new console to play a year-old game? I don't get it, and I sorely want to. What do you make of the new system being able to keep pace with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3? Won't Nintendo just be another step behind when Sony and Microsoft's new machines are announced?

Ryan Scott: Well, some solid answers about the technology would help me make that call. And the supposed parity with other platforms software-wise is nice in theory, but I think the bottom line is that publishers won't be able to support it, because once again, they're likely to have to go out of their way to make a Wii U version of a game, as opposed to a relatively low-maintenance port. The cynic in me doesn't see it lasting, but I sure do want to be wrong.

David Wolinsky: Same here. This might just be some stopgap, or some great experiment, or just some holdover until Nintendo announces its true next system. Then again, we have so little information in the scheme of things that it's tough to say what exactly the Wii U has in store. It has potential... but for what?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Gameplay Demo

Journalists raved about Bethesda's near 30-minute gameplay demo of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at E3 this year, and now you get to see what all the fuss is about. It's been streamlined a bit, but more than 20 minutes of Skyrim gameplay is now ready for your viewing pleasure, complete with commentary from executive producer Todd Howard.

Featuring a detailed look at the game's new setting, its towns, people, and creatures, the demo will take you up to the snow-capped mountains, down into the depths of a dungeon, and back out onto the grassy plains -- with plenty of action in between. See for yourself in the three videos below:

Want the full rundown on all things new in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? Check out our detailed preview!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is in development for Windows PCs, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The game is set for launch on November 11.

Report: GameStop Creating Gaming Tablet

GameStop sent out a press release this morning announcing it would begin accepting Apple's iPad and other iOS devices for trade-in beginning today. Now we know why: the mega retailer also revealed today it plans to sell a GameStop branded Android tablet computer designed for gaming.

This morning it appeared that GameStop simply wanted to entice customers to shop at its locations with a huge fall lineup of games on the way. Company president Tony Bartel said as much when he stated, "By trading in iOS devices, GameStop customers have yet another source of funds to put toward the purchase of new and pre-owned games, DLC, digital PC games and more. This is especially significant with the great title line-up slated for this fall."

But now we know GameStop has other reasons for accepting iPads for trade-in: it wants you to swap Apple's device for one of its own upcoming branded gaming tablets.

In an interview with GamesIndustry (by way of Joystiq), Bartel said GameStop is currently testing the sale and distribution of an unspecified Android tablet that will be paired with a dedicated controller peripheral.

The goal, Bartel told GamesIndustry, is to combine the tablet with GameStop's in-development cloud gaming service and just launched digital distribution platform, Impulse. The retailer is even going to far as to work with game developers to create titles specifically for the tablet.

No further information was provided, but Bartel added the device should be ready for launch sometime in 2012.

Sony Confirms Production Stopped on PSP Go

Multiple price drops couldn't save Sony's PSP Go from a quick death. Launched in October 2009 without a UMD drive and sporting a hefty $250 price tag, the device failed to find a foothold at retail. Today, roughly a year-and-a-half after its release, Sony has announced production on the portable has stopped.

A day after reports of the PSP Go's untimely death began circulating on the Internet, Sony issued a brief statement to Japanese website AV Watch confirming that it will no longer ship PSP Go handhelds. The focus now, the company states, will be on continued production of the PSP-3000 and the upcoming NGP.

When we first got our hands on the PSP Go back in October 2009, we couldn't help but ask, "Who the heck is this thing intended for?" Turns out Sony didn't really have an answer for that question.

Sony announced its newest handheld, codenamed Next Generation Portable (NGP), in January. Featuring a 5-inch OLED touchscreen display, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, dual analog sticks, and games on flash memory cards, the NGP is set to arrive by the end of the year.

Sharkey says: The PSP Go, particularly with its $250 launch price, never stood a chance. It was a phone without a phone and a gaming device with cramped controls and no home for UMD games. Sony began referring to the device, after its less-than-stellar launch, as an "experiment." While the company may have learned a few things that it can incorporate into the NGP, there's no denying the PSP Go was an experiment that fizzled.

The Interrogation Room: Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Welcome to the Interrogation Room, GameSpy's signature pre-release game coverage format. Here, a GameSpy editor (typically one who's relatively in-the-dark about the game in question) grills his peers for information on a hotly anticipated game -- hopefully with more entertaining results than the typical boilerplate preview would provide.

Ryan Scott, Executive Editor: So, Nathan Drake's going portable, eh? What's the basic gist oh his first handheld foray, and how does it look on the Next Generation Portable?

Will Tuttle, Editor in Chief: Not only is Nathan going portable, his first handheld adventure is undoubtedly the crown jewel of the NGP's launch lineup. Uncharted: Golden Abyss takes place before Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, the first game in the series, although it's not a prequel or anything like that. This is a standalone adventure -- a good direction to take for a series that isn't quite a cultural touchstone yet. Sony could have made a prequel or sequel, but I think it would have angered fans who didn't want to shell out the hundreds of dollars that the NGP is sure to cost. As for the story itself, well, I don't know much yet. I only had a chance to check out one level, in which Drake and his new partner Dante spent a bunch of time in a jungle, climbing ledges and exploring ruins. Go with what you know, right?

Ryan Scott: How does it feel on the NGP, versus the series' PlayStation 3 installments? Does the system work well?

Will Tuttle: You know, I really wasn't sure what to think about the NGP. I remember being quite smitten with the PSP when it was first unveiled, then quickly fell out of love once it became clear that developers weren't supporting it -- and that when they did, the results were pretty weak. So I was on guard during these demos, but I left very impressed. Golden Abyss was a big reason for that feeling, as the game uses all of the system's bells and whistles in some really smart, non-gimmicky ways. The developers at Sony Bend really utilized the system's power to shove a bunch of impressive technical features into the game, including the same motion-capture and animations used in the PlayStation 3 games, realistic physics and water effects, and dynamic lighting and shaders. In case you don't know what any of that stuff means, here's the abridged version: Hot damn, does this game look good. The developers also mentioned that over two hours of cut-scenes will convey the story. Some people might find that annoying, but fans of the franchise's stylish storytelling know that this could be a very good thing.

Ryan Scott: What kinds of stuff is Nathan up to this time around? I mean, I'm sure PS3 Uncharted fans will be understandably skeptic of how well this huge series translates to a handheld, especially as the PSP is kind of noted as being home to watered-down versions of existing games.

Will Tuttle: This definitely doesn't look like a watered-down Uncharted game; this sucker was built from the ground up to take advantage of the NGP's unique control scheme. At first, I was afraid that any touch controls would feel gimmicky, but it quickly became apparent that they're actually better than the button/analog controls in some cases. I particularly liked the platforming elements, which are typically my favorite parts of the console Uncharted games. All I needed to do to climb from one ledge to the next was swipe my finger across the screen in that general direction, and Nathan would jump. The same went for shimmying along ledges. It may not sound like much, but it really felt quite cool, and I actually found the touch controls to be a bit more responsive than the face buttons and analog sticks. I think people will appreciate that you can play either way if you'd like, especially since you don't need to go into any menu to switch schemes. They even incorporated the system's tilt feature, as you can use it to lean into jumps from ledges or swing on ropes. It's all very simple and doesn't feel gimmicky in the least.

Ryan Scott: Any other cool stuff to discuss? Is this going to be an NGP launch title, and is it in competition with anything else for "killer app?" status?

Will Tuttle: Well, the combat seems pretty decent -- especially given the fact that the NGP has the dual-analog stick setup that the PSP was sorely lacking. I liked the way that mechanics such as reloading are handled, as all I needed to do was tap the weapon's icon on the screen to make Nathan pop a fresh clip in. The touchscreen can also be used to throw grenades, although the first time I tried it, I attempted to tap where I wanted the grenade to land, instead dropping it at my feet and nearly killing myself. What I should have done was press the touchscreen and held my finger on it, then created a throwing arc to direct the grenade along its chosen path. Golden Abyss even has a a touchpad-based melee system, although in many cases, I found myself resorting to the face buttons instead. This wasn't for any particular reason; it was mainly because my brain still hadn't completely wrapped itself around the fact that I could use the touchscreen.

As for Uncharted: Golden Abyss' launch date, well, that's still up in the air, since we don't even have a hard launch date for the system itself. My gut tells me that Sony will do whatever it takes to get Nathan Drake's latest adventure out the door with the NGP, since this definitely falls into the killer app category (with a handful of other games, like Wipeout 2048 and Super Stardust Delta). Regardless of whether or not it pushes people to run out and buy the system, this is undoubtedly one of the most impressive portable games I've ever seen.