Welcome to the hundred-twelfth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column!
After a "short" hiatus, the Currents Column is back for a new year of events and commentary. This issue kicks off with a few industry stories that caught my eye and the new Staff Participation section. Staff Participation is a really fun feature where I ask as many staff members as are willing to participate to share with us their thoughts on a particular subject matter. Often times it's a real pain to get everyone to answer whatever question I asked them, but the results are often revealing of our personalities. So whenever something interesting pops up, you won't have to wait until the podcast to see what staff members think.
And now, on to the NEWS!
Satoru Iwata Talks about next DS
The real question is what do we want as consumers...
President of Nintendo Satoru Iwata recently commented in Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper about the features that a successor to the DS will have. He mentions that it will have highly detailed graphics and a sensor to read a player's movements. There has also been talk in the past that Mr. Iwata was very interested in implementing something similar to the Amazon Kindle's Whispernet service, which is always connected to the Internet via 3G.
Really it's not much to go on, but implementing an accelerometer similar to the one in the iPhone, or even Nintendo's upcoming PokeWalker peripheral just makes sense. It would allow for a lot of high quality iPhone games to be ported over to a DSiware-like service, and an always on connection would mean you could download small games and applications just about anywhere. It also goes without saying that the DS successor will have highly detailed graphics, especially if the rumors about the NVida Tegra 2 powering the next DS turn out to be true.
But enough of what makes sense or what Mr. Iwata wants. The real reason I wrote this article is because I want to know what you readers want from a true successor to the DS line. I personally want a smaller form factor, a digital storefront so I can download full games, and at least GameCube level graphics. I'm a simple guy, what can I say? So I throw it out to all of you, what do you want?
Rockstar San Diego's Degrading Work Conditions
I thought EA spouse law suit was the last we'd hear of something like this...
Recently, an anonymous letter was posted on a Gamasutra member blog with the screen name "Rockstar Spouse" that discussed the degrading working conditions at Rockstar San Diego, the developer behind the upcoming game Red Dead Redemption. This letter states that it represents all spouses and describes the working conditions that employees have to suffer through. These conditions include mandatory 12-hour work days for six days a week in addition to false deadlines. The letter goes on to say:
"The managers at Rockstar San Diego continue in their dishonesty, pushing their employees to the brink promising temporariness fully equipped with the knowledge of another deadline just around the corner. The reigns whip again, and it becomes mandatory to work close to twelve hours a day including Saturdays, regardless if an employee has finished all his duties prior."
These conditions have caused some employees to become depressed, and the letter states that the degradation is not only limited to the employees of Rockstar San Diego, but includes their family members as well. The "Rockstar Spouse" finishes the post by stating that s/he will take legal actions if the working conditions are not changed soon.
What goes on behind the scenes at development studios is often a real mystery, and to see these grievances aired out in such a public forum is telling. There is certainly more than one side to this story and there is obviously a lot more to learn about this situation, but I can easily see this story getting bigger over time. If this turns out to be another EA Spouse lawsuit, expect a lot more dirty laundry to be aired.
Xbox's Avatars giving PSN's Home a run for its money
Let's be honest, everything is better than Home...
At Microsoft's CES keynote last week, it announced a new service called the Game Room for its Live service. In the Game Room, users can purchase arcade games which are represented as classic arcade cabinets that your avatar can interact with. These arcade games include cross-platform online leaderboards, achievements, and the ability to play with friends. The pricing structure for these games is: 400 points or $5 to play on both the Xbox 360 and PC, 240 points or $3 to play on just one platform, and 40 points or $0.50 to play a select title for "two quarters" worth of playtime. Players can also try out games when they visit their friends' game rooms.
Once the Game Room launches, Microsoft will have a total of 30 arcade titles available. Microsoft plans to release new games every week so that in three years, the Game Room will have over 1,000 titles to choose from. Microsoft also mentioned that the Game Room will have several customization options. The Game Room will be free to download and is launching this spring.
While Microsoft's Game Room is similar in appearance to PlayStation's Home service, you can't manually control where your Avatars moves in the 3D space. Instead, you select which cabinet or area you want to interact with and watch as your Avatar moves there on its own. If you are looking for an experience similar to Second Life, this won't be it. On the plus side, this also means there will be no waiting in line to play games and no random dance parties springing up in the most inappropriate locations.
Gaming Resolutions for the New Year
Some new habits for a new year.
It's still pretty early in 2010, and I thought I'd help start off the year right at RPGamer by getting some fellow staff members to commit to some gaming resolutions for the next year. Here are our resolutions, check in with us periodically and see if we are holding up to them.
Emanuel "Risingsuntzu" Merino:
Often times I feel pressured to play the latest releases so I can talk about them and keep up with the rest of the staff and community. This year I'm going to take my time with the games I'm playing and not rush out to buy every new release.
Phil "JCServant" Willis:
I have 2 resolutions:
I'm allowed to buy a certain $ of games based on how much weight I lose. My other resolution is to not buy any platform or PC game at full price. These things go on sale in 6-8 months... sometimes as much as 80% off retail.
Glenn "SeventhCircle" Wilson:
My resolution is to replay some last gen games this year, Ive kept about twenty last gen games because I plan to replay them someday, but I've completely ignored them.
Sarah "noodle" Mcgarr:
I want to finish Aion before my pass runs out! I also want to get to level 75 and finish Chains of Promathia in FFXI.
Micheal "Macstorm" Cunningham:
My resolution for the new year is to play more non-RPGs along with the flood of RPGs incoming. I doubt it will happen, but it doesn't hurt to try.
Sam "Nyx" Marcello:
I hope to buy less and finish more of what I own.
Becky "Ocelot" Cunningham:
OK. My gaming resolution this year is to learn to block! I'm generally a "the best defence is a good offence" kind of person, but sometimes you just need to put up that shield or cast that preventative spell. This year I'll spend more time trying to save my poor characters' skins.
It feels good to be back in the routine of writing columns. I really enjoyed getting together all of the staff responses for the Staff Participation section. I'll be sure to do more of it in the future. How silly of me! I just realized that I didn't ask you RPGamer fans what your gaming resolutions are. Ok, so in the comments, tell me what you want from a new DS and what your gaming resolutions are for 2010.
Until then, See you all next issue.
Send me a letter!