2009

E3 2009: Nintendo and Sony Press Conferences

E3 2009 
It is once again that time of year. The time of year when not only does yours truly become another year older, but also a time when the entire video games industry goes into a frenzy of elusive reveals, shocking announcements and mind blowing revelations. It is a dream of mine to one day attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) in Los Angeles. Consequently, that dream may, hopefully, be closer than I realise but more on that later.

This has been the first year that I have managed to stream and successfully watch all three E3 press briefings from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Yesterday was Nintendo and Sony’s chance to shine, given how Microsoft blew everyone away. So, how were the other conferences?

E3 Nintendo 2009

Oh my guava! Nintendo never stood a chance! For a company which has always been proud of innovation and catering for children, this was most probably one of the most boring conferences I have ever seen. Not just mind numbing, but also completely lacklustre. What happened to the spark that Nintendo used to always have? The energy and playful youthfulness? Instead there were just ‘suits’, talking in monotonous tones and droning on about sequel after sequel after sequel *yawn*. What happened Nintendo?

The following constitutes the main and most exciting Nintendo announcements:

  • Facebook photo uploads for the DSi
  • Wii Remote Plus – adding precision and functions which should have been there from the start
  • New Wii Titles: Super Mario Wii, Metroid Prime M, Wii Sports Resort (successor to Wii Sports), Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • New DS titles: Kingdom Hearts, Golden Sun, COP: The Recruit, Mario VS Donkey Kong,
  • Biggest announcement: Wii Vitality Sensor

Okay, so let us get something straight. The biggest and best announcement for Nintendo’s E3 showing, which will apparently usher in a new era of game play, was… a heart rate monitor?! Are you kidding me? Seriously? Seriously! Nintendo, what the heck? I can just imagine what it will be like:

“Hey, who is up for some Wii? Let’s play. Oh, but wait, before we do, let’s check our ‘vitals’ to see if we’re healthy enough. You can never take your health too seriously you know, what with Ronald McDonald and all”. Alternatively, “I’m  sorry little Johnny, but you can’t play Wii anymore. The Wii Vitality sensor says your heart might explode if you do”. Oh yeah, fun times – The Wii Vitality: Every obese child’s worst nightmare!

Granted, if you are a devout Nintendo fan you would most likely have enjoyed the press conference, especially the announcement of the new Metroid and Mario games. Granted some of the announced games do look good, but only less than a handful are exclusive to the Wii. The rest can be found on other more capable consoles. In the end, I stand by my opinion that Nintendo’s conference was the most uninspiring of the three. Better luck next time!

After Nintendo’s dismal showing, anything Sony did would have been great. Thankfully, Sony didn’t disappoint.

E3 Sony 2009Last night, just as the Sony press conference started, we had a power outage. Turns out that one of the ‘phases’ from the municipality blew out. Thankfully we have a three ‘phase’ house, so we switched the main power over to one of the other ‘phases’. As a result, and after an hour of mild *cough* cursing, I finally managed to watch the show.

Sony’s conference was great. From the fantastic club beat, before the show started, to the announcement of over 364 new games, over the three available Sony platforms, I was left feeling pleasantly surprised. In truth, Sony did a good job of making the show as flashy as possible. Even so, it paled in comparison to Microsoft’s E3 press event, which featured celebrities, exclusive announcements and technology that is truly revolutionary.

The following constitutes the main and most exciting Sony announcements:

  • PSP-Go officially announced: $250, 50% smaller, 40% lighter, Bluetooth, 16GB internal memory, Memory Stick Micro support, slide form factor, no UMD drive
  • Most notable PSP game announcements: Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Gran Turismo
  • Most notable PS3 game announcements: God of War 3, Agent (new Rockstar franchise), Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV Online, Gran Turismo 5, MAG (256 players online), The Last Guardian (New ICO game), Modnation,
  • Most surprising announcement: Playstation Motion Controller

The big trend this year was ‘motion control’. Ironic, considering how Nintendo introduced and commercialised motion controls with the Wii while, at the time, both Sony and Microsoft shrugged it off as a ‘gimmick’. Two years later and each of the gaming industries titans now have motion controls of some kind. Go figure!

Sony’s new motion controller resembles a Wii-mote with one major difference… a colour changing golf ball like protrusion on the top. Furthermore, the new controller uses the Playstation eye for motion capture, similar to Microsoft’s Project Natal. In essence, Sony’s motion controller is a mild mix of both the Nintendo Wii-motes and Microsoft’s Project Natal (but no where near as sophisticated). However, and in my opinion, I do believe that Microsoft’s Project Natal is the true evolution of game play mechanics and will emerge as the victor in this battle for motion control supremacy. Just think of what Tom Cruise could do in Minority Report, using just his hands, face and voice – that is Project Natal!

The conferences this year were great. Microsoft completely stole the show, allowing Sony to take a respectable second place while poor Nintendo struggles to learn from past, and current, E3 blunders. Since this has all been about E3 and you all know how it is a dream of mine to go, and since my birthday is in a few days, I thought that I may answer the statement that I have been alluding to.

Next year I will be turning 25, which is a quarter of a century and halfway to fifty. Consequently, for my 25th Birthday, my father has agreed to send me to tour the states for a month or two, as well as to attend E3 (I almost screamed when he told me, I am so excited). The best part? I get to take someone with me to enjoy the experience! How cool is that? Well, when it happens, you can be sure that I will blog and Tweet every moment of it!

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

 

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E3 2009: Microsoft’s Press Conference

Electronic Entertainment Exposition 2009

It is once again that time of year. The time of year when not only does yours truly become another year older, but also a time when the entire video games industry goes into a frenzy of elusive reveals, shocking announcements and mind blowing revelations. It is a dream of mine to one day attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) in Los Angeles. Consequently, that dream may, hopefully, be closer than I realise but more on that in another post.

Microsoft's E3 Press Briefing 2009 For the very first time I managed to stream and successfully watch the entire Microsoft E3 press briefing. All two hours of it. How was it? Absolutely mind blowing! Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson managed to sum it up perfectly: “E3 2009 may not have officially kicked off yet, but it’s already been a show to remember. After all, it’s not every day you get to see the likes of James Cameron, Paul McCartney and Pele chatting about videogames. Nor is it every day you get to have a conversation with a virtual 10 year-old or play Burnout with an imaginary steering wheel” (Project Natal Hands-on, Eurogamer, 2009). Yes, it was that good!

The following constitutes the main and most exciting announcements (For the full press release, please click here):

  • Facebook integration
  • Twitter integration
  • Last.FM integration
  • Xbox Live Video is now Zune Video On-demand: all content is 1080p (full HD) with 5.1 surround and is streamed (no queues or downloads)
  • Avatar Marketplace: buy new clothes and props for your Avatar as well as Avatar “unlockables” via achievements.
  • Most notable game announcements: Beatles Rock Band, Crackdown 2, Forza 3, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, Metal Gear Rising, Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach.
  • Most surprising/awesome announcement: ‘Project Natal’ – You are the controller via facial recognition, voice recognition and full body motion capture. Think Minority Report like functionality, for all games and all of the time. Simply incredible!

In all honesty, the Microsoft E3 press briefing was astounding. Short of announcing a successor to the Xbox 360, no one could have suspected the true capabilities of ‘Project Natal’. This is truly an evolution in video game play. The Nintendo Wii came close, but from what I have seen, ‘Project Natal’ blows it out of the water!

Here is an excerpt from an IGN article by Scott Lowe (full article here) )with impressions of the Microsoft E3 press briefing demo of ‘Project Natal’:

“Surprisingly, Microsoft not only unveiled the initial details of Project Natal to the media today, they also demoed the product live and in person. Members of the development team demonstrated two tech demos — a painting game and a kickball-style game. The painting game essentially has players using virtual cans of paint to splash on a canvas and create images. The painting game really showed the technology’s ability to detect arching movements and swift, but subtle hand motions. The kickball scenario, on the other hand, displayed how the camera could intelligently detect a player’s arms, legs, and head’s orientation and velocity in 3-D space. For the kickball game, the player swatted, kicked, and headbutted kickballs to knock down distant objects. What was impressive about both demos was the speed and efficiency of the device. As far as we could tell, there was little or no lag between a player’s motion and the in-game reaction. Equally impressive was how effectively the camera detected the precise angle of a player’s thrusts, jabs, and kicks, and how accurate the subsequent in-game representation was” (Scott Lowe, IGN 2009).

Microsoft Xbox – ‘Project Natal’ Product Featurette

 

There is so much more to discuss about ‘Project Natal’ that I will dedicate an entire post to this revolutionary form of game play in the near future. However, if you cannot wait to learn more, check out these videos:

Tonight is Sony’s conference and tomorrow is Nintendo’s. Microsoft have undoubtedly set the bar high and only time will tell if the other video game giants will be able to compete or outdo the competition.

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

 

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Happy Mothers Day – 2009

Since Google is wishing all tech savvy moms a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’, I figured I would too!

I would just like to give a shout out to all of the mom’s out there and wish you all an absolutely fabulous day. May you all be spoilt rotten!

An extremely special thank you, with tons of love, to my very own adoring mommy, whom I love tremendously.

Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
Hundreds of shells on the shore together,
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of lambs in the sunny weather.
Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the world wide over.

(Unknown author)

With broken arm and all, I still managed to covertly buy a gift for my mom for Mothers Day, consisting of: a musical card, written with my left hand (looks like a nursery school kid did it), a huge ‘Me to You’ bear and a light pink cubic encrusted Nomination charm for her bracelet. My mom loved it all!

Unfortunately my mom was not feeling too good, her gout was kicking in again, so we simply ordered in and spent the day watching ‘Private Practice’. It was actually really nice and we all had a great time together.

 

 

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

 

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South African Elections 2009 – Voting for Change?!

It is Wednesday 22 April 2009. A seemingly ordinary day, but with a difference. It is starting to get colder as winter makes its approach, but, more importantly, today is the day of South Africa’s fourth independent and democratic elections.

For the last several months, South Africans have been bombarded with voting paraphernalia and propaganda. Whether it has been through the radio, television, flyers, social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) or even via text messages; the message was clear – the time for choice is once again upon us.

As it happens, our voting station is less than 5 minutes from our house, near a Golf Course. My father and myself went to vote just after lunch, at about 14:30. We were not sure what to expect. I have heard some real horror stories regarding the voting procedure – wait times of over 5 hours, mugging’s, deaths, births… Okay the last one I made up, although its not impossible, but I’m sure you get what I mean. So, understandably, I was quite nervous, this being my first time and all. That is correct, until today, I was a voting ‘Virgin’ and had yet to have my finger molested with voters ink.

I can tell you, we were actually very lucky. There was only a queue of about 20 people. The whole process took us less than 15 minutes. I turned out to be the 990th person for the day at our particular voting station. I know this because before you are allowed to vote they scan your ID, give you a ‘receipt’ of sorts and then they proceed to rape one of your well manicured fingernail’s with ink. I have heard that one can apply clear nail polish before voting for easier removal after the ‘marking’. However, that would not have worked in our case, since the person dedicated as the ‘Marker’ decided she’d be liberal with the ink and not only mark the white quarter moon of my thumb’s nail but also whatever she thought resembled the cuticle.

All in all I was rather impressed with my voting experience. However, I now know that this was not the case for everyone. A simple glance at the ‘status updates’ of my Facebook friends indicated that most waited in queues for no less than an hour. Some waited for almost four hours. Ah, such are the perks of living in the East 😉

Interested in real-time voting results? Just click here.

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

 

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An Unforgettable Spirally Fractured Easter

Happy Easter Milieu-nairs!

Have you ever wondered where Easter Eggs come from? As you can see, a picture is worth a 1000 words – “Easter Bunny at work”! Love it!

I trust you have all had a fantastic Easter filled with tons of delicious chocolate surprises and much needed family time! As most of you already know my entire family makes a huge deal out of Easter. Every year we all go away together, to some remote location, where we bond, fight and have a jolly good time! This years familial Easter retreat was no different! Check out the photographs!

This year I ended up having one hell of a ‘cracking’ time, often ‘spiralling’ out of control and then ending with an unexpected ‘break’. Literally!

What you are reading now, I have had to type with one hand and on my mobile phone – no easy feat and one that is definitely tiring. I am using my none dominant left hand to be exact. Say what?!

Yes… I managed to break my right arm, on Saturday 11th April 2009 at approximately 14:45. My first broken bone too… So much for self-preservation! You know what I have just realised… This falls into my The Year of The New resolution of New Experiences that I blogged about *OMG moment*. Damn… I need to be more careful and definitive in future when I make resolutions because this year has been crazy thus far!

Well, as fate would have it, I am now sporting a Spiral Fracture of the right Humerus. How? Simple really… Through ‘Arm Wrestling’!

No, I’m not joking. I broke my arm via arm wrestling, of all things. Okay, you can stop with the incredulous look and vehement sniggering now. As it turns out, this kind of injury is actually quite common with regards to arm wrestling – just Google it and/or check out these links: Body Building Forums and Scientific Journal. I mean… Who knew?! Furthermore, I was, as a matter of fact, winning before my arm snapped! Subsequently, and before you have to ask, no there is nothing wrong with my bones nor are they weak or brittle. I did read somewhere, the source evades me at this moment in time, that the bicep muscle is often, like in my case because I was winning, a major cause of the fracture, strange but true. Just goes to show how strong our bodies can actually be.

A lot of people have asked me what it was like the moment my arm broke and how painful it was. Look, to be completely honest, I cannot recall any pain at the moment my arm snapped. I just remember hearing an awful crack, my arm wobbling like jelly, an intense numbness (courtesy of a pinched nerve) and an inability to move my fingers and hand (which, thankfully, only lasted for a few seconds). I immediately knew that my arm was broken. I just knew. I grasped my arm close to my chest, instinctively holding it in an ‘L’ shape and moved away from the arm wrestling table all the while attempting to move my fingers. I would describe the pain as a deep, untouchable and continuous throb when held still. Obviously any movement of my arm resulted in piercing sweat inducing stabs of pain. The entire family witnessed my arm break. It is now a historical moment that will be remembered by all and for years to come *sigh*. I can hear it already, for instance: "No arm wrestling kids, remember when Hansie broke his arm" or “Be careful Hans, we don’t want you to ‘break’ anything else”. I have already been labelled as the ‘One Armed Bandit’ *rolls eyes*.

 

Thankfully I do not require surgery even though the break is quite bad. According to the Surgeon the only benefit between surgery and healing ‘conventionally’, in my case anyway, is the recovery time. Turns out I may also end up with a slight kink in my arm, but I reckon that will just make me truly unique. Living with only one working arm has been tough. Tougher than I thought it would be particularly because I have to keep my arm as still as possible. My folks even have to bathe me and I cannot drive, not yet anyway. The loss of my autonomy has been rather hard to deal with. As a result I truly have even more sympathy for the less capable, since I now have a ‘first hand’ (mind the pun) experience of what having a handicap could be like.

 

Arm Wrestling – A compilation of "breaks"

Curious to see what happens when your arm breaks, specifically during ‘arm wrestling’? Then check out the video above. I cannot help but cringe every time I watch an arm break since I now know the pain, trials and tribulations associated with a broken arm.

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!