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Sound Off Vol. 3

Welcome to the third edition of Sound Off – a feature so intense that it sat for over five months in our staff forum without receiving any new responses. Prepare yourself to be blown away by outrageous answers that involve risqué subjects such as toe amputations, the oh-so evil Luca Blight and John Wayne. Cower in fear as you get an in-depth look at just how lazy the Thunderbolt Staff can be. Keep reading, if you dare!

Josh Kramer’s Question: If you had to decide between getting your big toe amputated or never playing videogames again, which would you choose?

Nathaniel Greenleaf’s Semi-Response: Man, I’m sure that would look so cool to the ladies.

Girl: So you lost your big toe in the war?
Me: No I gave it up so I could play video games.
Girl: Oooh sexy!

Chris Lamanna’s (our undercover forum bloodhound – Ed) Official Answer: Video games are probably one of the most important hobbies in my life. Of course, it isn’t something I enjoy all day long, every day of the week, but it is a very agreeable hobby. How important are video games to me? Would I get my toe amputated? Hell yeah! So I’m missing a big toe, whoop-de-doo. What’s a toe going to stop me from doing in real life? People run in the Special Olympics with an artificial leg, why can’t I run (since I would have a missing toe of course)?

Video games are way too important to me to give up for one lousy toe. If you say you would give up video games forever, instead of an amputated toe, come back to me on November 9, when Halo 2 is released for Xbox. Oh yeah, ain’t so positive now are ya champ? (this response was made prior to Halo 2’s launch – Ed)

Chris’ Question: If you were forced to live the rest of your life with ONLY a 133 Mhz computer with a one gigabyte hard drive and running MS-DOS, what programs would you have on it?

Sophie Cheshire’s Answer: Baha! My first PC was a 133 Mhz with just over a gig hard drive and a 2 MB video card. I had a lot of fun with it, and it was instrumental in bringing me back into the gaming fold. So I would play what used to play on it…and STILL DO!

Theme Hospital
Dungeon Keeper
GTA
C&C Red Alert
Fallout 2
Lemmings
Carmageddon

All of these games are now on my spiffy P4 PC and have very much stood the test of time. I’d probably chuck Doom and a few others in to, but these are the ones that keep me coming back for more.

Sophie’s Question: Do you think certain types of games suit women better than men and vice versa, and if so why? (for example: very few women play FPS games and shooters; yet strategy and online RPGs have a fairly large female followings).

Phillip Morton’s Answer: You could pick out extremes all day long, but there’s ultimately no denying that the majority of men and women have different tastes when it comes to just about anything. Entertainment choices are probably one of the most distinct divides, along with cars – when was the last time you saw a woman driving a Nissan Skyline or a man driving a Ford StreetKa?

When it comes to games, certain genres attract different audiences and sexes. Online shooters appear to have almost exclusively a male audience, whilst online RPGs have an enormous female following, with 50% of Everquest’s players being women.

You could conclude that the games either sex is drawn towards depends on instincts and genetic programming; men favouring games where they act as the hunter, with women preferring more socially orientated games. I think that largely, this is applicable, but with genres that have traditionally been solely a male domain becoming more social through the use of voice communication and friends lists as on Xbox Live, we could see the scales begin to balance out.

Phil’s Question: Who do you think will be first off the starting blocks in the next generation of consoles and do you think the head start will be worth it (once again, this question is dated; the Xbox 360 has not yet been announced when it was posed – Ed)?

Chris Parham’s Answer: As to the first part of the question, that’s a bit difficult to say. Based on the last round, one would expect Sony to be farthest along in its development, but they seem confused still about the role of this console in being a media center, game machine, or whatever, let alone design specifics. My gut feeling though is that all three manufacturers will rush to release in time for Christmas 2005. That seems to be the pivotal date, as a huge amount of user base will likely be established over that season (bzzzzzzzzzzzt, wrong! No more using the crystal ball for you, Chris! – Ed).

Whoever gets the head start, it will certainly be worth a little something, but I expect it to be far less pivotal than it was for the PS2. There, Sony’s lead over Nintendo and Microsoft was more than a year, allowing them to create a huge user base before the GameCube and Xbox were even visible on the market. This time around, nobody ought to get a head start of more than a few months, and with all three systems likely enjoying better marketing, consumers will be more cognizant of the choice they are making. I expect early strength in this round of consoles to come from launch or soon-after-launch exclusives that will attract gamers to choose one console or another. With each system possessing strong franchises, it should be an interesting race.

Chris P’s Question: Along those lines, who do you see leading the handheld race, PSP or the Nintendo DS?

Matt Wadleigh’s Answer: People are already beginning to take sides on the DS and the PSP, but when it all comes down to it, I think a good majority of people are going to pick up the PSP over the DS. The DS has a unique look and style to it, and for the most part seems like it has more longevity in it than anyone would have guessed initially, but with the PSP, you’ve got on major thing over the DS: a market. People flock to anything PlayStation, and the idea of a PlayStation Portable, a handheld system with lots of flashy gizmos plus the powerful Sony to back it will make the system a sell-out on it’s launch days in Japan, North America and Europe. The system also looks extremely sleek and stylish, where as the DS looks, well, like a video gaming system. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that at all, but I think more adults are going to be attracted to the PSP’s look than the DS.

Matt’s Question: In your PC games, if you have to choose, what do you want more: great multiplayer or great single-player?

*crickets chirp*

Matt’s Second, Hopefully More Successful Question: How important is online with the next-gen consoles and your thoughts on that.

Jim Smith ponders: What’s wrong with Matt’s original question?

Josh Kramer’s Smart Ass Remark: Nothing, except the fact that it scared people away from posting in this topic for 3 months.

Matt: Hahaha.

Jim: Oh, is that why no one bothers with Sound Off any more…

*two months slide by…*

Josh steps up and tackle’s Matt’s question: I definitely think that online multiplayer is going to be important, but maybe not quite as vital as everyone seems to think. Even today when people beg for some sort of online functionality to be included in every game regardless of genre, only a very small percentage of console gamers actually consistently play games online. And with many games, the online functionality is hampered by issues like lag, disconnects or a simple lack of options.

Don’t get me wrong: online gaming is fun, but it’s still fairly limited due to a lack of true innovation. If Microsoft or Sony could come up with plans that genuinely revolutionized online gaming, like allowing football titles to be played online with every single person on the field controlled by a different player, then it could end up being a make or break issue during the next generation console wars.

Josh’s Question: The most dastardly villain in a video game. Who is it and why?

*a month passes…*

Phil: Maybe try a different question. This one’s not been replied to in a while.

Marc Golding’s glorious moment in this feature: Haha, nobody likes any of the questions.

Jim: It appears this ol’ talk back section is fading… More reviews!!!

James Frazer’s Quasi-Answer: Thing is, I rarely play games with villains – sure Man Utd isn’t my cup of tea in PES and I hate anything Porsche-based in racing games, but that would be a pretty dull write up.

Anthony Karge to the rescue: I’ll answer it! Dear lord, I will answer it!

The most dastardly of all villains eh?

*SUIKODEN II SPOILERS. I’M WARNING YOU. SERIOUSLY!*

My numba one contenda would be Luca Blight. Not only is he bad, but he’s also sadistic. He makes simple peasants bark like dogs before slicing them up. He kills random people just for being near him! Not only that, but he provides us with the best RPG boss battle EVER. It takes 3 parties of 6 people just to weaken him, and then he has the balls to fight you one on one. After you beat him in that, it takes a volley of arrows to down him, if I remember correctly. That pansy Sephiroth has no chance of taking down the Prince of the Highland.

Anthony’s Question: This was one hell of a season for videogame sequels (Half-Life 2, Halo 2, Metroid Prime 2, GTA: San Andreas and so on). What new game released this year would you like to see become a franchise?

James’s Answer: This year saw the release of one of the most used genre in cinema history. John Wayne made a career out of the Wild Wild West – you can usually catch a classic Western film on TV over here in the UK on an afternoon, yet you can’t find any videogame dedicated to it; until Rockstar released Red Dead Revolver.

Playing as Red on a trail of revenge for those who killed his father, gamers experienced all of those classic Western scenes, from jumping along the top of a racing train to high noon shootouts. The atmosphere here was amazing – no touches were left out. During shootouts in the desert, enemies would scale tall rocks and shoot down at you whilst others sprinted along below from tree to tree and using the odd turned-over wagon for cover. Tumbleweed would fly past, guns made that ‘PEEYOR’ sound and enemies would go down in a dramatic scene, holding the chest and making 5-minute speeches. Literally.

Perhaps the drawback for Red Dead Revolver – and the reason why a franchise should be made – is every experience was rather short lived. You ran across the top of a train, had a gunfight and ducked down between carriages when a tunnel came, and then the level was over. What would be better is if Red Dead Revolver was to appear in segments, focusing more on individual episodes and exploring in those ideas than simply taking the highlights and fixing them together.

Various stories could be made, like Rockstar have been doing for years with their blockbuster Grand Theft Auto, using all the classics such as searching for a sheriff’s kidnapped daughter, fighting the ‘injuns’, protecting towns, etc…

The possibilities already laid down by the film industry would easily last at least a decade, making the Red Dead Revolver franchise both profitable for Rockstar and exciting for gamers. I for one would gladly give up a few months social life to play my part in The Magnificent Seven.

James’s Question: With the term ‘Terrorism’ now a huge part of our lives, and games such as Desert Storm 2 and America’s Most Wanted using Middle Eastern-type landscapes and stereotypes as a selling point, do you think that games as a whole should concentrate more on fictional storylines or mirroring real-life occurrences?

Phil’s Answer: While some of today’s games appear to be a little too stereotypical and cynical of the whole situation, there’s no denying that people like to play games about what they see around them. If it’s a big year for World War 2 movies, then we’ll see a rise in sales of games that show that exact same period. The news has an even bigger effect on our lives in that we see it every single day, so developers and publishers are bound to take advantage and ultimately, we like to play the hero in some distant conflict without actually getting shot at for real. So I don’t think that games should have to concentrate on either because there’s a huge market for both and as long as developers fill our appetite for what we want to play, we’ll keep on playing and buying games.

Phil’s Question: Nintendo’s GameCube was a logical business proposition which made a profit, but it was outdone by Microsoft who put the Xbox’s image before its profitability, leading to Nintendo losing out when the prices fell to comparable levels. With the profitable DS handheld now facing the same type of threat from Sony’s PSP which will put its image before losses, do you think we could be in for a re-run of the last console rivalry?

Matt’s Answer: Nintendo was once one of the most cutthroat and ruthless companies out there. They fixed prices, pushed around little guys…and then they didn’t. Once they got to the top…they fell without a fight. They didn’t have a chance when the N64 went up against the PSOne because they didn’t try hard enough. The N64 had a lot of great games – Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Zelda, Mario 64 – it’s just, Nintendo had gotten so used to being the big dog that they didn’t know what to do when they got bit by another dog. They ran away into a corner and kind of huddled there while Sony took control of the rest of the room, and finally killed off Sega, which Nintendo didn’t ever do.

Microsoft stepped in with the Xbox and marked its territory all over Sony’s room. It’s pretty much a given that Microsoft has a lot more money to push around, and Microsoft was able to get a lot of people on both ends of the software (developers and consumers) to get into the system. Sure, PS2 will outsell Xbox – no one’s denying that. But the Xbox will outsell the GameCube. Nintendo’s last hope seemed in its impenetrable handheld department.

I think we’re going to see a much more aggressive Nintendo when the PSP emerges. Nintendo has unquestionable experience in the handheld market, but that doesn’t matter. Nintendo needs to go out there with a strong advertising campaign and convince the developers and consumers that the DS is the way to go. They need to focus on price (the PSP will be more expensive than the DS) and exclusives and make it cheap for developers to make games for the system. I think Nintendo knows this. I think Nintendo should also focus on the GameBoy Advance SP however. Though the DS has come out, I think Nintendo should continue supporting the GBA SP through the next year at least, as it offers an alternative to parents not wanting to drop $150+ dollars on a handheld system.

Who knows what Nintendo will do though? In five years, we might be saying “was Nintendo’s decision to sell itself to Microsoft a good one?” or something like that. It’s all up to Nintendo.

Matt’s Question: PC games have made a startling come back this year. Games like World of Warcraft, Doom 3, Half-life 2, and others have showed the amazing capabilities of the PC and have proved profitable. After years of hearing about the death of PC gaming, do you see these big releases ushering in a new Golden Age for PC gaming, or as too little, too late?

Josh’s 1.5 Cents: I would answer this, but I’m allergic to questions about PC gaming.

Matt pleads for a response: Anthony? You play PC games…and so does Sapharos, if he’s even alive.

Anthony states the obvious: Yeah, but I’m lazy.

Phil steps boldly forward: I’ll answer it tomorrow if no-one else has by then.

*one month passes…*

Jim pinch-hits for Phil: I’ve got some thoughts on this one – and I don’t usually get too involved in these threads – so here goes.

I would argue that the resurgence of PC gaming is due partly to the explosion of broadband as a worldwide phenomenon and partly due to the age of the current batch of consoles.

It’s like this – consoles are of static specs and as such they can only possibly market lead for 3-4 years tops. Take the PS2: it’s the leading next-gen console in terms of sales but it’s by far the weakest in terms of performance. Well done Sony, then, for being the first one off the starting line and securing that lucrative fan base.

But as the consoles age and drop below that £/$ 100 mark, the top titles just can’t cut it, which is why the likes of Half-Life 2 stay PC only…

Group that with the already massive PC based broadband market and you have your answer.

Jim’s Question: When the NEXT generation of consoles pour out next year (2006) will the PC market dry up for the following 12 months?

*five months go by with nary a response*

Josh throws his hands up in frustration: Ah %@&$ it, let’s just publish this thing and get it out of the staff forum.

So, is this the end of Sound Off? Can the once vibrant feature recover from a five-month hiatus to encapsulate even a glimmer of its former glory, or will the pure laziness of the Thunderbolt staff doom it to remain in the fiery depths of our Secret Volcano Lair? Keep checking back to see what will happen next in this nail-biting, stomach churning, tear-jerking drama of epic proportions!

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in May 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @Joshua_Luke.

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