January 23, 2008

Culdcept Saga Interview Reveals All in 20 Minutes

In his latest podcast Gaming Steve sits down with Nobu Taguchi, localization produce for Culdcept Saga from Namco Bandai Games.

Due out in early February, Culdcept Saga merges a TCG oozing with Japanese culture with a board game, then squeezes into disc-form to be eaten by your Xbox 360.

It sounds like just our thing. The game sports a single player campaign mode, and online play, where players can unlock cards in either mode. With nearly 500 cards there are going to be a lot of collecting going on, including a betting feature where players may ante a number of cards in both offline and online bouts.

Culdcept forgoes the booster model to level the playing field, and that’s cool with us; 500 cards is a lot for a single game release, seeing as that’s nearly two sets of or normal TCG / CCG releases.

The interview picks up 43:00 minutes into episode 68 of the Gaming Steve Podcast. Don’t miss it, and be sure we’ll keep you posted of news and reviews of other Culdcept Saga as we near release. More information can be found on the Culdcept Saga Wikipedia page.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 11, 2007

Scene It? Comes to the Xbox 360

The DVD Trivial Game Microsoft continues the trend of brining the world of Social Gaming to the Xbox 360 with a 360 version of the DVD trivia “Scene It?” [Amazon, Funagain], which was announced during last night’s Electronic Entertainment Expo Press Conference in Los Angeles, California.

It looks like the Xbox board game adaptations aren’t just limited to Xbox Live anymore, as Scene It? will ship in an off the shelf boxed version. Included in every package are four of these colorful remotes which you see here. Sure, they’re not made of rugged space-age durable plastic, but you get four in the same box as the game, and at the same price as a standard 360 title. For such lack of cost the visual quality seems A-OK for now-- maybe we’ll change our minds when we get our hands on them.

Step 2 is trying to find a place to hide them while we’re not playing trivial with the family. Talk about some ugly living room clutter.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 27, 2007

Carcassonne on Xbox Live

Carcassonne for Xbox Live ArcadeMicrosoft today released the Xbox Live port of our favorite Eurogame: Carcassonne! The download is available through the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace for 800 points (~ $10 ) and includes both the original Carcassonne game, and the popular 12-Tile Rivers expansion. The game sports single player support, online support for up to five players, and - for those family oriented gamers - hotseat support for four players on one machine.

The first Eurogame release of Catan Live has been quite a success, and we have high hopes for the Carcassonne treatment as well. We have a diffenret developer this time around in Sierra Online, but the change-up really doesn't concern us too much; Sierra has been responsible for a successfully string of online parlor games dating back to their Sierra Online service of the early 1990s.

But we are a bit disappointed to learn that the other Carcassonne expansions aren't included in this release. It would have been nice to mix up some multiplayer games with a mistmatch of the expansions. Yeah, sure that would have required Sierra to put more work into produce a larger set of art assets and the addition of some flexible AI code, but it would have paid off in spades with any Carcassonne lover.
Carcassonne Looks Pretty Sweet in Semi 3D
Also we're a bit concerned about the flow of gameplay in Carcassonne, too. Online matches might succumb to analysis paralysis, and become quite the snoozefest. Hopefully there's a mechanism for players to reach out across the virtual table and smack opponents out of their brain loop. We hope Sierra has figured out a dynamic warning/penalty system rather than the stock, overzealous and utilitarian turn time limit which usually makes the whole gaming experience so cold. Of course, that's probably what we'll get.

Anyway, we still have high hopes for Carcassonne Live. We'll check back in with our impressions once we have a few games under our belt. It's going to torturous work.

Read on for the official details.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 4, 2007

Catan Xbox Live Impressions

'Catan' on Xbox LiveCatan officially launched on Wednesday. We didn't write a story then because we figured that our previous coverage from earlier this week already kept you on top of the news. Call us self-critical but we didn't want to sound like a loudspeaker bullhorn pumping out the consumer propaganda. At least not until we had a chance to wrap our hands around the game so we could give you our impressions, and let you know if it’s worth the 800 points on Xbox Live (~ $10.00 US).

The Good and the Bad
Catan Live is a great translation of the classic board game. Those who have played the Settlers of Catan enough to know the details of the game backwards and forwards will be very much satisfied with their play experience on Catan Live. However, those players who are unfamiliar with the Settlers of Catan board game might need to a bit of convincing to see where all the excitement is at.

This isn't really because Catan has any obvious shortcomings that shoot up a red flare of FAILURE. However as the first release of a board game on the Live service, this title might have a tough time luring a console gaming audience into the world of Catan – where most of the excitement comes from the outcome of a pair of dice - when many of the Xbox Livites thirst after explosions, chainsaw kills, gibs and car wrecks. Even worse, it's a bit confusing to determine exactly what's going in a game of Catan given the game's UI - the graphical presentation of card trades and gathered resources is done well, but it fades very quickly in order to keep the game moving at a good pace.

We think players new to board gaming like to learn by observation, keeping track of other players behave in certain situations, and that's pretty difficult to do for a beginner of Catan on Xbox Live. We could see how players new to Eurogames - who might be itching for any reason to dismiss the game - could get confused and lose interest almost immediately due the game's hasty presentation.

It took a while even for us to get used to what was going on. For instance, in a face to face game, there’s a part of each Settlers when people call out which resources they gathered after a dice roll. We’ve become used to this being a good thirty second production where excitedly demand their well-earned resource cards, etc. The audible and physical presence of the in-person Settlers makes each turn an event, and thus easy to remember ‘who got what?’ even from a few turns ago. But in the console Catan game, the whole resource awarding phase ends in about 3 seconds, and it takes a few games to realize that you’re not paying enough attention to a very important part of the game that almost seems to be brushed aside for the sake of efficiency.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 30, 2007

"Catan Live" Wednesday May 2nd, 2007

'Catan' on Xbox LiveThose of you who keep on top of things - like today's date - should immediately realize that Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 is only two days away. And it's about time.

Only two days until the first major board game release hits XBox Live for the XBox 360 console. And with many more Euorgames and American board games on the way, this is only the beginning. Here are the official details as presented by Xbox Live's Major Nelson:

"Catan" for Xbox LIVE Arcade puts players in the role of colonists on a newly discovered island, where they vie for control of valuable territory and resources through strategy and trading. The game can be learned in just minutes, but will challenge players of all skill levels, even the experts!

Klaus Teuber, creator of the original Settlers of Catan board game, had this to say about the collaboration with Big Huge Games: "I had no doubts that Brian Reynolds would do a great job, and the first version of the game exceeded my highest expectations. The AI is so clever that I even lost several games in a row! Hands down, this game for the Xbox LIVE Arcade is an amazing achievement."

"Catan" will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone."

More information can be found on the Catan Live Official Website. We'lll see you in-game on Wednesday night. Woot!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 6, 2007

Puerto Rico to Join Xbox Live Eurogames, But at a Cost

SMASHThere were rumors going around late last week that the acclaimed board game Puerto Rico was going to join Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra in the new line of Eurogames titles on Xbox Live.

We've made it pretty clear that we're a huge fan of playing these social board games on the Xbox Live service. Our group keeps losing players to distant parts of America with cheaper real estate, warmer weather, and fewer taxes. These Xbox Live titles will be a great way for us to continue playing some of our Eurogame favorites in a clean, easy to setup environment. And with voice chat, we might add.

But The addition of Puerto Rico to the Xbox Live roster has a very unfortunate side effect -- Xbox Live has snatched up exclusive rights for the online version of Puerto Rico. Key word there: exclusive. The rug has been pulled-out from beneath the feet of those fine folks who played Puerto Rico on other online web services, like www.brettspielwelt.de.

There's a huge potential audience of players in Xbox live who haven't been introduced to Eurogames, and the horizon for Eurogames on consumer electronics is looking bright. But do video gaming mega corps really need to snatch up exclusive rights to these titles? We're pretty sure the www.brettspielwelt.de and the Xbox Live gang aren't eating at the same diner, so why can't both groups have their 'Rico and play it, too?

So now we're back to being less enthusiastic about Xbox Live Eurogames. In one hand is an exciting newborn puppy, cute and innocent, full of potential, but we're using the other hand to feed it the freshly killed corpses of established Eurogame communities.

This is the sort of stuff that keeps us up at night.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 26, 2007

Xbox Live: Catan Interview on Joystiq

'Catan' on Xbox LiveWe've sat back and enjoyed a scotch and a Valium since posting our frustrated article last week about the delay of Catan, as in the Settlers of. It turns out that there's already a new date set for the release of the new Xbox Live title: sometime in March '07.

Honestly, though, the reaffirmed release date isn't what calmed us down. It's more about the exciting details revealed in the Joystiq Interview with Big Huge Games' CEO Brian Reynolds. As it turns out, Brian is a tournament player of Settlers of Catan, which of course means that this upcoming Live release will be done with love and enthusiasm for the original title. Also, Brian was handed a very in depth set of strategic data to serve as the foundation of Catan's Artificial Intelligence code, from none other than Settlers of Catan designer Klaus Teuber.

It's great to hear that Klaus had some significant hands-on contributions to the project.

So although we're a bit dismayed that we're not amidst office wars with Catan right now, at least our outlook of the game has changed for the better. We have a feeling this isn't just hype either: Catan might be the groundbreaking adaption that lays the groundwork for a slew of Eurogames to appear on the Xbox Live service. Cant' wait, and here's hoping!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 22, 2007

Still No Catan on Xbox Live

SMASHBack in August we heard that Xbox Live was gearing up to bring some of our favorite games to their Xbox Live Service, including: The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra. Then in January the Xbox Live team announced a list of ten titles that would be released in the month of February 2007, and on that was Big Huge Games' adaptation of the Settlers of Catan.

Microsoft just announced that the title scheduled for release Wednesday (their normal release day) was delayed due to quality control issues. They didn't mention the name of the title, so we can't be certain if it was Catan, but that means we're now three Wednesdays into February and only two of the ten scheduled games have been released for Xbox Live.

Either next Wednesday is going to be a huge day for Live, with eight new releases, or Microsoft will sideline Catan for a while. Boo. Also, rumor has it that Microsoft has purposefully slowed Xbox Live releases in order to create a gaming vacuum around their latest blockbuster release Crackdown. So either Catan has been sidelined due to it being a poor implementation, or Marketing has determined that blowing crap up with a gun is better than wholesome family fun. Sigh.

'Catan' on Xbox LiveWe thought the success of their Uno title on the Live Service, and then the announced addition of three Eurogames to the Xbox Live service, was a sign that Microsoft might be taking the board game and social gaming scene seriously. However this latest bit of news - combined with the latest from the rumor mill - has us a bit depressed. We really hope Microsoft doesn't start a trend of skirting potentially great titles to the periphery even before they're released.

We're still hoping for the best, but now with a little less confidence.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 8, 2007

Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning: Early 2007 Preview Roundup

Warhammer Online is slated to ship in late 2007Every few months Mythic Entertainment opens its doors and the gaming journalists rush en masse to research another round of preview articles for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. We're always very excited to read each wave of content about this game, because it really does seem to be shaping up to be something special, but the last couple of preview article iterations haven't really provided us with a lot of new info. It's been a while since we've been wowed by something fresh and new.

However, this time is different. We just entered 2007 - the year that Warhammer Online is scheduled to launch. With the mammoth Springtime E3 tradeshow pushing up the daisies through freshly lade earth, the Games Developer Conference '07 in early March will pick up the slack and carry some of the of glitz and glamor itself, becoming the first major showcase of the upcoming titles for 2007. And lo and behold, Mythic Entertainment seems to have begun to take the wraps off of their baby a month before the show, not only demoing the game to members of the press, but allowing them to go hands-on with the Player versus Player gameplay of their Massive Online Role Playing Game.

Over the last week a lot of our usual PC gaming haunts have posted interviews and hands-on experiences to their websites. Our favorite so far is the the Gamespot Article with the not-so-concise title: "Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Updated Hands-On - Bright Wizards, Magi, and More Player Versus Player." [link]. OK, so while the article's title isn't concise, the content is: the two pages are probably the quickest way to get an up to date idea of what to expect out of Warhammer Online. For instance:

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 31, 2007

Settlers of Catan on Xbox Live in February

'Catan' on Xbox LiveMicrosoft, the software behemoth behind the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live service, has released a press release listing their Xbox Live titles scheduled for release this February. On the list is the board game version of Settlers of Catan! The official press release can be read here.

As we reported earlier, Microsoft plans to bring three major board game releases to its Xbox Live service on the Xbox360: Carcassonne, Alhambra, and the Settlers of Catan.

The release of "Catan" in February will mark the first board game release on the Xbox Live service. What has us particularly excited is that the Xbox Live version of Uno become a huge success, and hopefully this line of upcoming Eurogames will also make a big splash in the online gaming community. If so then we can expect to see even more games bridging the divide between Computer/Video Gamer and Board Gamer.

But above that, the most important thing to us will be the chance to play some classics with friends who've moved to all corners of the country! Voice chat will really bring it home. Can't wait!.

There is no exact date for the release of "Catan", but expect it to be released on any Wednesday in February (which is the traditional release weekday for Xbox Live). And of course we'll keep you posted as soon as we find out when the exact date is.


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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