Now here’s something you wouldn’t expect to come out of Bryan Fuller’s NBC serial killer thriller Hannibal: A GAG REEL! And a fine one, at that. Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen and the rest of the Hannibal cast do not disappoint this absolutely hysterical peek behind-the-scenes of the darkly violent and gruesome show. In my opinion, Mads steals the show at the dinner table when he calls Freddie Lounds…well, you’ll see!
To find out what’s in store for season 2, watch Fuller, Dancy, and exec producers David Slade and Martha de Laurentiis spill the beans in an informative and entertaining video interview conducted by TVLine that’s embedded after the break. (Click here for more…)
This Tuesday Kanye West releases his sixth studio album Yeezus. Pictured above is what the physical album will look like in stores. Its minimalist design features no album album artwork, only a transparent jewel case with some red tape. There is no link from iTunes or Amazon to preorder the album. It drops June 18 and that’s the day you can snag it. ‘Ye hasn’t done much in terms of promoting the album in the traditional sense. He performed on SNL and after that he projected images and sound on buildings around the world for fans to flock to and discover his new sound.
The most hype is emitting from a recent interview he conducted with The New York Times. In it ‘Ye opens up about his past mistakes, his problem with the Grammys, the inspiration behind previous albums 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, parenthood (his girlfriend Kim Kardashian gave birth to their daughter days after the interview posted), fashion, and more. Expectedly, Kanye stroked his ego more than once throughout the back-and-forth describing himself as “the Michael Jordan of music” and saying about his career “I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen.” He also calls himself the “Steve [Jobs] of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture.” And he concluded the interview with this:
I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: “This is the level that things could be at.” So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.
It’s a must-read for fans of the undoubtedly talented artist who has certainly evolved in many ways since his 2004 debut The College Dropout. Read the interview in full here.
Now what can you expect from Yeezus? The Times‘ Jon Caramanica describes it as “a turn away from [Kanye's] reliable maximalism to something more urgent and visceral.” He describes the songs as “becoming more skeletal and ferocious.” He goes on to say, “The music of Yeezus — spare, direct and throbbing — is, effectively, a palate cleanser after years of overexertion, backing up lyrics that are among the most serrated and provocative of his career.”
And even Mr. West, who thinks of himself as a “black new wave artist,” shared some of his influences: “It’s like trap and drill and house. I knew that I wanted to have a deep Chicago influence on this album, and I would listen to like, old Chicago house. I think that even “Black Skinhead” could border on house, “On Sight” sounds like acid house, and then “I Am a God” obviously sounds, like, super house.”
After the break, a brief clip of Kanye rapping new track “I Am A God” on headphones with an appearance by collaborator Rick Rubin. Under that, a short film inspired by the movie American Psycho starring Kourtney Kardashian’s boyfriend Scott Disick (who actually really does resemble the movie’s star Christian Bale) and Kim’s friend Jonathan Cheban in the role orignially made famous by Jared Leto.
Update 2 (6/25): Yeezus debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 327,000 copies in its first week. For more stats surrounding Kanye’s latest release, head over to Billboard.com. (Click here for more…)
This summer the critically acclaimed AMC drama Breaking Bad returns for its final stretch of eight episodes. Series creator Vince Gilligan, a master of his craft, is currently wrapping up the third-to-last episode and work on the penultimate hour is nearly underway. Denise Martin of Vulture sat down with Gilligan and just yesterday posted an informative interview that delves into the mind of the showrunner as he cautiously sprints toward the highly anticipated series finale.
When asked about the evolution of Walt’s fate: “I had this strange confidence in the beginning that I had an idea [for the ending] that was sound. But I look back at the life of the series and realize I cycled through so many possible endings, it would be disingenuous to say I had always had it figured out. It has evolved in the last five years and probably has some evolving left to do.” He added, “We try to have a surprise around every corner but inevitability as well. The opposite of surprise. It’s something that I feel should and will be an important component to the end of the series. To me, that is an interesting thing and a thing to be embraced, that feeling of ‘I think I know where this is going.'”
Will Walt be brought to justice? Gilligan won’t say for sure, but here’s what’s going on in his head right now: “I’m very cornball in my own view of the world. It just makes sense to me that bad people should get punished and good people should be rewarded. I know it doesn’t work like that in real life, but there’s always that yearning. Oddly enough, I don’t feel any real pressure to pay off the characters, morally speaking.” (Click here for more…)
Tomorrow (9/18) the highly anticipated G.O.O.D. Music album Cruel Summer drops. Earlier this week the album became available to preorder, and if you eyed the official tracklist you surely noticed a featured artist’s name you might not have seen before. On the eighth track “Sin City” G.O.O.D. Music signees John Legend and Cyhi the Prynce headline with Malik Yusef.
A five-time Grammy award winner, forty one year old Yusef is a longtime collaborator of Kanye West’s, having co-wrote a whopping seven songs from West’s impressive 2010 release My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He also dipped his creative hand in helping produce West’s Runaway short film, and he went on to co-write two tracks off West and Jay-Z’s collab album Watch The Throne (2011). With a youth literacy foundation under his belt and an eye for high fashion, Yusef is a philanthropic member of West’s G.O.O.D. Music team, and his sense of style, word choice, and ear for a solid beat make him a vital member of the formidable team ‘Ye built in the rap community.
Jump after the break to read experience-it-all‘s exclusive interview with Malik Yusef. In it the spoken word artist discusses what it is like working with Kanye West in the studio, what G.O.O.D. Music stands for, he’s asked about the Chicago rap scene, and hypes a new, up-and-coming artist by the name of Tyran Brown. (Click here for more…)
We’ve seen Kid Cudi cover don the cover multiple times, but now nearly every member of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label has the time to shine in this month’s issue of Complex Magazine. In a four-page interview (available online and in print), Complex’s Noah Callahan-Bever talks with G.O.O.D. Music members Big Sean, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Common, John Legend, Q-Tip, and 2 Chainz about what it’s like working with Kanye West inside the studio and how he helped jumpstart and innovate their careers. Since ‘Ye advocates a “no press” policy, this makes for an interesting read for all fans of ‘Ye and his labelmates because it dives into material that otherwise would never make it out in the open.
The interview starts off with the artists talking about what G.O.O.D. Music means to them. John Legend sums it up nicely when he says, “We want to be known for quality. We want to be known for stuff that we all can be proud of. That creativity, that attention to detail, that quality control—that’s what distinguishes us from other folks who might just be chasing a hit. Kanye picks artists who care about making great art. We all want to make money and do well, but we also want to make great art that’s important and interesting.” From there they discuss how Kanye carries the torch and gets involved in their respective music making processes. In the end, these hip-hop musicians are a family, and under Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music umbrella they help each other push out quality music that pushes the boundaries of the genre to new heights.
Read the interview in full right here. Look in the gallery below to browse pictures from the zine’s photoshoot. Jump after the break to watch a behind-the-scenes video from said photoshoot; in it you’ll hear the various G.O.O.D. artists expound their statements put forth in the interview.
And, for those of you wondering, the G.O.O.D. Music album Cruel Summer is now set to release September 4.
Update: During the photoshoot, Complex pulled Kid Cudi aside to ask him a few questions regarding his relationship to ‘Ye and Cud explained how his mentor will always remain an integral part of his music making process. He also comments on his upcoming solo album dubbed Indicud saying, “I’ve been writing some really serious raps. I’ve been writing some sh*t that’s going to fu*k people up. And it’s about that time that I let n****s know.” Read the mini interview here.
Dan Harmon was fired from his show Community this past spring just as the third season of the cult NBC sitcom came to a close. This week he sat down with G4’s Attack of the Show guest host Marc Maron and opened up about his recent ousting. Is he bitter? Maybe a little. But he was actually anticipating the show getting cancelled due to low ratings and so the firing didn’t make him sink into a deep depression after all. Watch the 11-minute interview to hear what Harmon has to say about the situation (his feud with Community star Chevy Chase is not discussed, however) and what he has planned for the future (a multicam comedy, perhaps).
The date is May 23, 2012. Exactly two years ago on this day the cult ABC drama LOST aired its series finale to much fanfare. In a word, it was polarizing–some accepted it and enjoyed it, while others were extremely disappointed by the lack of answers. In an interview with The Verge’s Josh Topolsky, LOST showrunner/executive producer/writer Damon Lindelof ends his radio silence and discusses the ending of his six year long tale of mystery and connectedness. Topolsky sides with those viewers that remain bitter about the ending, and Lindelof came prepared to admit faults and also defend what came to pass. There are way too many choice quotes to transcript here; so if you’re a fan of the addicting roller coaster that was LOST set aside half an hour to watch this educational video. (And it goes without saying…but…MAJOR SPOILERS here, so beware.)
No matter how you felt after the series wrapped on May 23 in 2010, there’s no denying that LOST kept you in a trance for six whole years and impacted you in some way, shape or form. Though I find myself in Topolsky’s camp (I wanted answers, dammit!), I must say that LOST will forever remain one of my favorite TV shows of all time.
Take 2. Due to the World Series airing on FOX last Friday, the next pivotal episode of Fringe–you know, the one where Peter Bishop comes back into existence and reunites with his partner Olivia and father Walter–was pushed to the following week. Well, I am excited to report that a week’s time has indeed past and the episode titled “Novation” will air tonight! Before watching tonight’s installment, take a moment to hear what Fringe showrunners J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner have to say about the return of the younger Bishop. “What are the consequences of Peter being back?” posits Pinkner. Tune in to find out.
Fringe airs Friday nights at 9PM on FOX. Bonus video after the break! (Click here for more…)
Whether or not you’re a little Monster you should do yourself a favor listen to this 88-minute interview featuring Lady Gaga. Radio host Howard Stern is known for his ability to pry open celebrities and dig into their personal lives, and surprisingly Gaga opens up to almost all of Stern’s questions. They talk about her rise to fame, her drug problems, her family, and so much more. Even if you’re not a fan of her music, the interview is really intriguing as it closely examines the life of a modern pop star. Towards the end of the interview Stern asks Gaga to play two songs; before she plays “The Edge of Glory” and “Hair” she explains to the listener how these songs originally came together. After listening to “The Edge of Glory” and almost on the verge of tears, Stern called it “one of the best performances we’ve ever had on the show.” Go on and take some time out of your day and listen to the candid interview in full below (complete with NSFW language):
Jump after the break to watch Gaga perform “The Edge of Glory” and “Hair” from inside Howard Stern’s Sirius Satellite Radio station. (Click here for more…)
Can you remember way back to June 2010 when a live action Mortal Kombat-themed video hit the ‘Net and instantly went viral? The nearly eight-minute short film garnered critical acclaim and its maker Kevin Tancharoen (Fame) quickly climbed the latter of popularity. Tancharoen’s intent was to pitch his vision for a reimagined Mortal Kombat movie to Warner Bros., the company that owns the rights to the video game and film franchise. Taking baby steps, the studio has granted the director/choreographer the rights to make a 10-part web series based in the MK universe. The web series–now officially titled Mortal Kombat: Legacy–will serve as a promotional crossover as it will debut April 12, one week prior to the release of the new Mortal Kombat video game. It has been confirmed that the following actors from the the 2010 viral hit will return in the upcoming web series: Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager) is Sonya Blade, Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight) is Major Jackson ‘Jax’ Briggs, and Darren Shahlavi (300) plays Kano. This week the production team unleashed this all-too-brief fight sequence from the series which stars Jax taking on Kano (update: and this trailer).
If this web series turns out to be anything like last year’s spectacular reboot, we are all in for a very big treat. Anticipate the 4/12 debut and on that day point your browser to Machinima’s YouTube channel at precisely midnight PST.
Update (4/12): Episode 1 is out now! I’ve replaced the embedded video above with the twelve minute ep, which happens to include the Jax/Kano fight sequence teased late last week. The production value is through the roof, something that shouldn’t come as a surprise if you watched the summer short. Episode 1 introduces many of the main characters and places them in a stylistically gritty MK universe I think you’re going to fall for. No more chit-chat, mash play and enjoy Mortal Kombat: Legacy, part 1 of 10. Keep tabs on this YouTube channel for upcoming eps.
Update 2: Character stills have been found and placed in the gallery below. Also, jump after the break to watch a video interview featuring director Kevin Tancharoen, stars Jeri Ryan and Michael Jai White, and MK co-creator Ed Boon. In it they discuss the making-of the web series and what’s in store for the future.(Click here for more…)
In an interview with MTV News, Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski talked about the movie’s Blu-ray release, calling it the “definitive version” of the visually-splendid spectacle. Though he worked on the film for four years, Kosinski still held onto gripes concerning the soundtrack after sitting through the theatrical cut on premiere night.
“Around the release, it was really hard to watch it,” he admitted. “I couldn’t even sit through the premiere. I just saw all the things I wanted to fix. Luckily for the Blu-ray, I was able to go back to Skywalker in January and fix all those things in the mix that were bothering me. We have a whole re-mastered soundtrack for the Blu-ray.” He continued, “[The] visual effects I’m really happy with… But on the sound mix, I really felt like we needed another week and I finally got that time after release. It’s now the definitive version.”
When asked about sequel rumors he spilled that he’s on board and early conceptual stuff is being worked on as we speak. He goes so far as comparing the next Tron to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Check it:
“We’re working on the story right now. Now that we’ve got the backstory out of the way and we know this world and we know these characters, there’s a lot of freedom that comes with the next film. When you look at Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight, sequels that were able to take the stories and characters to whole new places because you’d done all the hard work ahead of time, that’s a really exciting thing. For now, I’ll just say it’s very exciting.” He continued, “For us, the storytelling will be easier because we won’t be saddled with 28 years of backstory. From a technical standpoint, in order for it to be a Tron movie, we’re going to have to push the envelope.”
This all sounds exciting to me. Pick up the definitive version of Tron: Legacy and head over to MTV News to read the complete interview; in it Kosinski also discusses the sheer amount of work that went into creating the demanding film and he also touches upon the decision to incorporate a young Jeff Bridges, calling digitized Clu “the most ambitious thing in our film.”
[Via MTV News]
This week EW’s Jeff Jensen sat down with Fringe executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman to discuss the future of Fringe and thoughts about FOX’s decision to shift the sci-fi program to Friday nights. Here are some choice quotes from the interview.
Wyman on the parallel universe episodes: “You definitely haven’t seen the last of the ‘over there’ world. We’ve established that both of these worlds are linked in a profound way. We are going to attend to that. We are going back ‘over there.’ It’s not going to be forgotten about, but we’re not going to be ‘one on, one off’ right now.”
Pinkner on FOX’s “initial resistance” to the parallel universe storyline: “They were really concerned that if the episodes didn’t have ['over here'] Walter or Peter in them, it wouldn’t feel like our show anymore. We said that not unlike a show likeLost, Fringe has to constantly evolve, to move and grow and go forward, otherwise we’ll get bored, the cast will get bored, the audience will get bored.” Adds Wyman: “The alternate world storyline really allowed us to explore the characters deeper via their doppelgängers, to illuminate characters we already know. It’s been a real gas for all of us involved in making the show.” FOX eventually fell in love with the concept, along with the viewers.
Pinkner on the move to Fridays: “It doesn’t feel loaded to us. It’s not like Fox is saying to us: ‘We’re falling out of love with the show. We’re burning it off by moving it to Friday.” .. “For a year and half now, we’ve been asking and our fans have been asking — to take us off Thursday because the landscape is crowded.” Adds Wyman: “The research shows that people love the show, but they don’t really want to watch it on Thursday night. Thursday is more of a romantic comedy kind of night, not a hard science fiction night,” says Wyman. “We hope our fans follow us to Friday night. It’s a much easier marketplace, and Fox is going to really support it; they think there’s a real opportunity to reinvent the night.” Pinkner concludes: “If this felt like a vote of no confidence from Fox, I’d be concerned. But they’ve verbalized the opposite. They think we have a better chance at staying on the air for years to come, which, of course, is what we want, because by design, we have years of story left to tell.”
Yeah, I added the bold font there for effect. Isn’t this wonderful news? The Fringe execs just confirmed that there’s “years of story to tell” meaning the show will most likely live on past season 3 and potentially even a fourth season. After reading the news about the Friday move I felt a bit weary of the situation, but all of their words of encouragement are really comforting. In the interview the producers also hinted at what’s to come in the second half of the season. The mystery of The First People will receive some attention, and the January 21 returning-from-hiatus episode is called “Firefly” (an ironic nod to the ill-fated 2002 FOX sci-fi series moved to Friday nights, ironic because the name was decided upon before the writers heard about the scheduling shift) and it will focus on The Observers with a special guest appearance by Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) as an old friend of Walter’s.
Fringe returns Friday, January 21 at 9PM on FOX.
Remember way back in 2004 when Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a nationally televised Hurricane Katrina relief program? Six years later the former president is ready to share his thoughts on matter. In an interview with Matt Lauer promoting his book Decision Points, W. called the racist incident “was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.” He went on, “He called me a racist. And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it, it’s not true.”
During the taped interviewed which airs November 8 on NBC, Lauer reads aloud from the upcoming book: ‘Five years later I can barely write those words without feeling disgust. I faced a lot of criticism as president. I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low.’ Bush goes on to say that at the time this was the worst moment in his presidency. (Really now?) Final choice quotes. Lauer: “You’re not saying that the worst moment in your presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana. You’re saying it was when someone insulted you because of that.” Bush: “No, and I also make it clear that the misery in Louisiana affected me deeply as well. There’s a lot of tough moments in the book. And it was a disgusting moment, pure and simple.”
One day after these quotes leaked Kanye called up a Houston radio station to bring things full circle. “I definitely can understand the way he feels, to be accused of being a racist in any way, because the same thing happened to me, where I got accused of being a racist,” Kanye said. “For both situations, it was basically a lack of compassion that America felt in that situation. With him, it was a lack of compassion of him not rushing, him not taking the time to rush down to New Orleans. For me, it was a lack of compassion of cutting someone off in their moment. But nonetheless, I think we’re all quick to pull a race card in America. And now I’m more open, and the poetic justice that I feel, to have went through the same thing that he went [through] — and now I really more connect with him on just a humanitarian level.”
There’s the new Kanye for ya. Having lived through the Taylor Swift incident has taught the rapper many lessons it looks like. Hop after the break to hear the Ye’ audio clip in full. I’m just glad this bizarre happenstance has finally been put to rest. Everybody, move on!
Update (11/11): Kanye West appeared on the Today Show and spoke with Matt Lauer about the recent revival of his racist remarks against Bush. Video after the break.
Check out this IGN interview video featuring Rob Corddry, the creator and star of web series-turned-TV show Childrens Hospital. In it he explains the unconventional nature of the show and hints at what’s to come for season 3.
In the October issue of Complex Magazine Kid Cudi opens up to his fans by journeying back to his not-so-distant dark past. Beyond opening up about his heavy drug use, his night in jail, and the big reveal that he has a daughter, Cudder talks about his competition (or lack thereof), the meaning behind the tracks “REVOFEV”, “Wylin’ ‘Cause I’m Young”, “Erase Me”, and “Mr. Rager”, and the encompassing theme behind his upcoming second studio album Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (11/9).
On why he opted to create another dark album, instead of making a fun collab: “When I started making records like “Erase Me.” I wanted this album to be fun, but the dark sh– was my life at that time. I was fighting not to write that sh–. It got frustrating writing a collab album—I just lost interest, and it became more of a task, rather than something I wanted to do. That’s not how it’s supposed to feel. The day it becomes work, you need to retire.”
On MOTM2: “I want my sh– to be like you’re reading a novel, not a Dr. Seuss book. I felt like the last album was too short. This one is a little bit longer, it’s 18 tracks and counting. It’s just ten times better on all levels. The story’s deeper, darker, with no holding back. It’s beautiful, man. It’s an emotional album.”
Head over to Complex to read the explicit three page interview. Look in the gallery below for some stills from the photoshoot and after the break to find a behind-the-scenes video.
At this year’s Comic Con in San Diego, a panal called “Visionaires” brought my two favorite people together: J.J. Abrams (MI: III, Cloverfield, Star Trek, Lost, Fringe) & Joss Whedon (Serenity, Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse). The panel, conducted by Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jenson, is literally packed with all sorts of intriguing information. Jenson starts things off with the question, “When did you guys decide you wanted to be storytellers?” Whedon and Abrams are also asked about their takes on comic books, 3D movies, the current and future states of television (including what it wants and supports, the waning of serialized story format), and the outlook for new media (shooting for the web, web content). They also delve into their respective past and upcoming projects. Whedon makes it official that he is directing Marvel’s The Avengers and briefly elaborates on the direction he plans to take the movie; he also talks about his now-on-hold horror flick Cabin in the Woods and what’s up with the impending Dr. Horrible sequel. Abrams shares an anecdote surrounding his super-secret Super 8 movie (which is set to start production this September) and the collaboration with producer Steven Speilberg. During the 3D movie discussion, Abrams confirmed that Super 8 will not be shot for 3D; he pans 3D and that it adds an unnecessary barrier between the viewer and film. Although Joss is “totally into” watching 3D flicks, he hopes that his upcoming Cabin in the Woods doesn’t get the streoscopic treatment. While going back and forth about the state of the serialized story format for TV, Abrams spilled that his upcoming NBC show Undercovers will be self-contained episodes (meaning you can miss a few episodes and still know what’s going on), but there will be an overall mythology to keep week-to-week viewers satisfied. Speaking about mythology, Abrams also shares his thoughts on the final episode of Lost (spoiler: he loved it). Whedon continues the conversation by bringing up the demise of FOX’s Dollhouse. All in all, it’s a great watch and interesting look into two very successful film and TV artists that shouldn’t be missed. Head over to EW to access the 5-part stream. Or click here to watch an abridged interview.
OnLive is a gaming on-demand cloud-based service that’s able to stream video game titles from massive servers around the U.S. straight into your home. Man is that a packed sentence. Let me break it down for you. OnLive has three data centers in the country (east coast, central, and west coast) that house large servers; these servers act as hosts to a bunch of video games. If you sign up for the OnLive service and become a member of the community, the servers will pump video game content from the data center nearest you to your Internet-enabled PC or Mac. Again, it’s essentially gaming on-demand. After installing a plugin in your browser, you can launch OnLive and gain access to a growing library of video game titles. It’s that simple, really.
The OnLive interface is neat. There’s a game marketplace that allows you to choose from a wide selection of games. With a single click you can play a game; or you can find out more about the game before you dive in by watching game previews & trailers. You can even watch other OnLive members play the selected game in real time. The interface drags you into the action of other players, and this is a great way to get a glimpse of a game’s visuals and game style. Besides strictly being there for on-demand gaming, the service hopes to form a community of gamers with features like profiles, friends lists, and brag clips (you can record gameplay and share these moments with other OnLive members).
What’s most exciting about the OnLive service is that it does away with the need for over-the-top and expensive hardware requirements for games. Crysis, a game that is known to be hardware intensive, will play smoothly and look great playing off an old Macbook or PC laptop. The secret formula is OnLive’s proprietary video compression chips that pump out the games from the servers over the Internet and to your computer. As long as you have a 4-5 Mbps Internet connection you will have no problem playing what used to be hardware intensive games in HD (a 1.5 Mbps connection is recommended for SD quality). I really want to hit this point home as well: Since this is gaming on-demand, the service brings together games from all major game consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, PC) and enables you to play them right on your PC or Mac. No need for proprietary hardware and cables. All you need is an Internet connection, a computer, and a keyboard and/or Xbox-type USB controller.
There’s gotta be some lag, you’re thinking to yourself. I was skeptical at first, too. But I gotta say, after playing Just Cause 2 off an old Macbook over the OnLive service, I did not notice the slightest bit of latency between my controller button-mashing and the on-screen action. It truly felt as if I was playing the game locally off a computer or video games console. And what’s fascinating is that Just Cause 2 was running off a server more than 500 miles away in Santa Clara! Though there likely is some latency if you want to get all technical, I honestly did not pick up on it during my brief session of gameplay. I was told that as long as you are within a 1000 mile radius of an OnLive data center you should not experience noticeable latency.
Now let’s talk pricing and availability. OnLive is available to use today (in fact it was turned on a day after my interview took place). You sign up for the service at their website. The “OnLive Founding Members Program” is backed by AT&T and it offers the first year of use for free (!), followed by a $4.95/month fee for the second year. There’s no contract requirement which means if there’s a month you don’t feel like using the service just don’t for it that month. Right now it looks like the company is slowly opening the gates to the OnLive community; if you want to sign up to play you have to sit on a waiting list. Bummer, I know, but the service is still in its infancy and I’m sure the company does not want to overload its servers this early in the game.
And what about software partners? You will not be disappointed on this front. Just announced was partnerships with Sega, Capcom, Konami, and Square Enix. Popular publishers like EA, Ubisoft, THQ, Warner Bros. Interactive, and Disney Interactive are also bringing their titles to the service as well. I’m told new publishers are jumping on the OnLive bandwagon all the time, and this is great news for gamers.
Beside the addition of developer support, OnLive will be adding their MicroConsole to the mix later this year. Basically it’s a small (and I’m told inexpensive) piece of hardware that will allow members to play the streaming games on their HDTVs. It will support up to four wireless controllers, multiple Bluetooth headsets, and it packs two USB ports for wired controllers and keyboards.
Is OnLive the future of gaming? Though it’s too early to tell, you can definitely see the potential it brings to the table. With OnLive there’s no need for high-end graphics cards and to run to a store to purchase a game disc. No longer do you have to worry about upgrading hardware to play the latest and greatest games. If you’ve got the proper Internet connection and live within range of a data center, you are golden. I’ve experience it with my own two eyes and thumbs–the latency was non-existent on the show floor. Though my skepticism has been lowered down a notch, I’m still going to wait for a final verdict after I give the service a try on my own computer at home. Even if OnLive doesn’t catch on and become widely popular, replace game consoles and eliminate the graphics cards arms race, you can bet everyone from industry leaders to gamers will turn to this service as an example of how the next phase of video game distribution was imagined and first put into place.
Game: Tron: Evolution
Developer: Propaganda Games
Release date: Holiday 2010
Tron is back, people. Coming soon to a theatre and video game console near you are all new experiences from the famed Tron universe. Tron: Evolution bridges the gap between the original Tron movie (1982) and the upcoming Tron: Legacy flick set to hit theatres later this year on December 17. In the game you play as a system monitor who investigates “mysterious goings-on” that’s happening in the digital Tron universe. The controls are best described by comparing them to Mirror’s Edge gameplay. You are a parkour champion and you move through the levels by completing wall jumps, among other high-flying, fast and fluid techniques. These are known as “mobility moves”. In combination with “combat moves” you will successfully defeat incoming enemies and move on through the game. Combat moves include typical melee fight style with punching and kicking, but you can also climb a wall and pounce your enemies from above. You wield a disc that can be thrown at top speeds towards enemies to knock them out. And if you have a few seconds to spare you can charge up your attacks and this results in a more powerful and effective combat move. In the demo above you can see all the different types of combo moves you can perform (there’s disc-disc-melee, jump-jump-disc, disc-jump-melee, and so on). Another neat gameplay features involves how you pick up health. Through the various environments there are glowing white lines that run along the walls. You can jump and vault along these lines to increase your health and energy meters. This encourages you to use mobility moves and always be aware of your surroundings.
And this wouldn’t be a Tron game without the use of Light Cycles. In the demo I hopped onto a Light Cycle and was being hunted down by enemies on their respective Cycles. These Cycles beat out the ones played in the original Tron arcade game; thanks to a full physics model the vehicles don’t just turn at 90 degree angles. Controls to accelerate and brake are simple. You can also throw your discs to hit enemies off their rides as you speed past them. This part of them demo was quite fun. As you’re trying to escape from your enemies the world is falling apart and collapsing around you. It’s you vs. the enemies vs. the environment. The only fault I have with the Cycles is that they’re not fast enough. If the devs bump up the speed this part of the game will be a whole lot more exhilarating.
A couple other odds and ends: Whatever you earn in the game can be used when you switch over to multiplayer, and vise-versa. When I asked about PlayStation Move support I was told “there’s still some issues to be resolved in that department.” We all know the movie will release in 3D, but what about that game? The dev I spoke to said “it would be fantastic if we could get the game in 3D” and he seemed a whole more positive about 3D support than Move capability. So we shall wait and see…
Overall Tron: Evolution is panning out to be one of the better game to movie to game adaptations I’ve seen in some time. The visuals are slick, the gameplay is fluid, and story should excite Tron fans to no end. Look for its release to coincide with the movie later this year.
Game: Epic Mickey
Developer: Junction Point Studios
Release date: Holiday 2010
A while back I reported on a new Wii title called Epic Mickey. After playing the expansive demo at E3 I am so happy to report back that Epic Mickey is everything I hoped it would be. In fact, it was my favorite game of the show! The visuals, the controls, the characters, and the environments all blend together to make an exciting Disney experience with our good pal Mickey Mouse at the helm.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what type of game Epic Mickey really is. It takes cues from platformers, role-playing games, and third-person shooters, even. It meshes 2D and 3D gaming to produce stunning color and black/white visuals that stem from classic Disney history. The first part of the demo took us to Wasteland, a place where old, washed up, and forgotten Disney characters hang out. Characters like the pirates Smee from Peter Pan and Scurvy Pat are there to give you tasks to perform. In a beautiful cut scene that features 2D paper animation, Smee is crying because all of the pirates are being turned into robot monsters. It is up to Mickey to save the pirates from their demise. At the Wasteland I was instructed by Tiki Sam (he looks sort of like Goofy) to find three masks that are hidden throughout the area. There is a lot of trading and bartering that goes on between all these different characters; one decision leads to another and this all eventually lands Mickey in the appropriate situation to help stop the machine from destroying the pirates. Your decisions to either help or ignore the characters around you will affect the outcome of the game.
The game is split into three different areas: quests, transitions, and actions. Wasteland is a quest area; it’s a place where interact with other characters to complete certain tasks. Transition areas take place in-between quest and action areas and they usually contain special items and collectibles that will help Mickey elsewhere in the game. The transition area I jumped into was a movie reel and it transported me to a 2.5D sidescroller based on Mickey’s first appearance in 1928’s Steamboat Willy black-and-white cartoon. There are about 40 of these sidescrolling adventures in the game; they are all based on classic Disney cartoons. Playing through Steamboat Willy was a ton of fun. I am really looking forward to discovering all the other transition areas in the game. There’s nothing like classic Disney lore.
At the end of the Steamboat Willy level I jumped into another movie reel that brought me to a new area in the game called Skull Island. This is an action area where Mickey will run into enemies to defeat and conquer and it’s the place where I’ll find a way to stop the machine from turning the pirates into robots. My first mission is to find three anchors to save Smee’s ship from sinking into the ocean. There’s no better time to talk about controls then right now. In the game Mickey wields a magic paintbrush. Paint is used to create objects in the environment. If you stumble upon an area and you’re stuck, more than likely a spray of paint will reveal a bridge that connects the gap to crossover. Paint thinner is used to destroy objects around you. It can also be a helpful tool to find hidden objects that reside inside rocks or trees. Throughout the game there are clues guised under dark silhouette shapes; if you keep your eyes open for these subtle hints you can use your brush to uncover what’s there. When it comes to enemy interaction you have one of two options. You can use paint thinner to erase them or paint to strategically turn them into friendlies who will fight for you. Mickey can also collect objects called “sketches”. In the demo I picked up a TV sketch; at one point during the Skull Island sequence the TV sketch was used to distract an enemy. Mickey literally places a TV in front of an enemy and while he was distracted by a scene from the original Steamboat Willy cartoon I picked up a missing anchor piece. Humorous, fun, and effective.
At its core, Epic Mickey is a true-to-form roleplaying game where your decisions will effect the way other in-game characters perceive you. If you use paint thinner to erase elements from the environment around you more than you use paint to create, characters will take notice. In this case, they will be less friendly and willing to help you solve missions. In fact, a little green sprite named Terp follows you around and lets you know what type of “play style” you’re currently engaged in (too much thinner or paint or a mix of both). And since your decisions alter the game, you can literally play through it numerous way and every time will play out differently. With intuitive controls, an engaging story with fun and challenging missions, and spectacular visuals, expect Epic Mickey to take over your living room when it release this holiday season exclusivel for Wii. The game truly is a sight to behold. And and if you’re a fan of Walt Disney creations you will certainly not be disappointed.
Game: Super Scribblenauts
Developer: 5th Cell
Release date: October 2010
The concept of the original Scribblenauts that debuted at E3 2009 really blew my mind. It was a game that allowed you to type whatever you wanted and poof! the object would appear on-screen ready to be interacted with. Due to a number of control issues the game did not successfully execute where it should have. Super Scribblenauts leaps ahead of its predecessor with improved controls, adjectives support, and better levels. The most exciting controls update allows you to manipulate Maxwell’s position (including walking and jumping) on-screen with the D-pad and action buttons; you are no longer forced to use the stylus and touchscreen to make him move. The addition of adjectives greatly increases the number of objects that can be spawned into the world. In the first game you could easily produce a “pogo stick”. In the sequel you now spawn an “angry armed metal pogo stick.” (That’s right–you can assign more than one adjective to an object.) As you can see in the demo above, the angry pogo stick will annoy and bump into you. By adding a “protective metal box” to the environment, it will protect you from the pogo stick. So in other words, objects can enhanced with artificial intelligence by adding an adjective before its name. With the addition of thousands of adjectives, the game now supports over a whopping trillion different objects you can spawn. The only restrictions you have in spawning an object are inappropriate words and the 100 character limit.
With over 120 new puzzle-oriented levels to play through, tighter controls, and the ability to make all kinds of objects with adjectives, Super Scribblenauts will likely fulfill that promise of bringing unique gameplay on a portable platform when it releases later this fall for Nintendo DS.