News from the virtual world:
ONE WITH EVERYTHING: Back in the previous century, when I was an editor at Games Magazine, we published a fake ad for a device that would play any kind of electronic game, from PC disks to Nintendo cartridges to Simon. We got hundreds of letters from people wanting to buy the thing -- and the dream still lives.
The ball got rolling again when Gerhard Florin, Electronic Arts' head of international publishing, told the BBC, "We want an open, standard platform, which is much easier than having five which are not compatible." Mr, Florin envisions a single set-top box that would have a Nintendo channel, a PlayStation channel and an Xbox channel, with each company developing technology for the unified console. He acknowledged that such a device was probably 15 years away.
Dennis Dyack, the founder of the Silicon Knights studio (Eternal Darkness, Too Human) chimed in with a column in Official Xbox Magazine. The current console battle makes it impossible for publishers to decide which platform to focus on, he wrote; a unified console would make games "better in quality, cheaper and more widely available." Mr. Dyack added: "It can happen. Better yet, it's inevitable."
I'M WITH THE BAND: Activision's Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is now out, and most of the serious shredders we know have already plowed their way through its hefty playlist. They'll probably finish up the expert level around Nov. 20 -- just as the competition, Electronic Arts/MTV Games' Rock Band, arrives.
EA and MTV want you to do more than just buy their game, however. They see Rock Band players as a potential community and intend to relaunch the rockband.com Web site as a hub for wannabe rock stars to create their own sites, blog about music and post "photos" of their virtual bands.
The publishers are also trying to duplicate one real-life aspect of the road to rock 'n' roll glory: the "musicians meeting musicians" classified page. The rockband.com classifieds will let you advertise your own skills or search for talent to fill out your own lineup. And because players around the world can hook up, a singer in Omaha could end up with a drummer in Osaka.
BRUTAL HONESTY: Another rock legend is scheduled for an appearance on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sometime in 2008. His name is Eddie Riggs, and he's the hero of Sierra's Brutal Legend.
According to creator Tim Schafer, Riggs is a roadie who is pulled back in time, where he leads an army of demons on a mission to drive the ancient world into the Age of Metal. Sounds like the lyrics to a Tenacious D song -- which is appropriate, because the D's Jack Black is providing the voice of Riggs.
YOU KIDS TODAY: Nolan Bushnell, the guy who invented Pong, caused an uproar recently when he told the Electronic Design Web site that today's video games are "pure, unadulterated trash."
But the old codger doesn't hate everything. In a follow-up interview with GameTap, Mr. Bushnell praised Spore, Wii Sports, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution for their innovation. He still hates Grand Theft Auto ("It values antisocial behavior" -- hard to argue with that) and called Halo 3 "really Doom 1 in different clothing."