SciTechBlog
May 5, 2010

Geek Out!: New 'God of War' will go back in time

Posted: 10:07 AM ET
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it, you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

When "God of War III" came out two months ago, it was touted as the end of the series for Kratos, the former Spartan warrior who sought revenge against the Greek gods who wronged him. But without giving away spoilers, the game left as many questions unanswered as it did conclusions to story lines.

"God of War: Ghost of Sparta" (Ready At Dawn, Sony) will be stepping back into Kratos' timeline to offer a glimpse into the mythology of his character. We talked exclusively with Dana Jan, Ready At Dawn Studios Game Director, about what would be new to the series and why they were ready to tell this story.

Why did you choose this particular time in the "God of War" timeline to tell this story?

When we started working on this project, we had a particular interest in exploring some of the unanswered questions of Kratos' story, especially the areas that have defined his character as well as the franchise itself. "God of War III" was on its way to complete the overarching story of the destruction of Olympus, therefore we had the freedom to pick where to place our game and found a perfect fit in the time between "God of War" and "God of War II".

This allowed us to expand upon events of both games as well as lead into the story of "God of War III", and reveal a lot behind Kratos' character and motivation. We've always tried to tell a more personal story in our games, and in this one, we took the opportunity to recount moments that have a huge impact on the entire franchise.

Was there anything learned from the Santa Monica studios production of "God of War III" that you were able to take advantage of in "God of War: Ghost of Sparta"?

We learned many lessons from the team in Santa Monica. One of the most important was that while making another "God of War" game, you had to come up with new and interesting gameplay moments that do not always revolve around the standard staples of the franchise. Of course, all the basics should be present — combat, puzzles, story, cool navigation moments – but there should be other aspects that someone who has played the previous games would not expect. These moments keep the game fresh and enhance the overall experience.

For example, we drew inspiration from some of the immersive moments that Sony Santa Monica created in "God of War III" where you have a chance to play Kratos in a different way and used that approach to not only build similar moments in our game but also to take them to the next level.

Another really good example is the cinematic cameras Sony Santa Monica used. There are a lot of moments in previous "God of War" games where the player would have a bigger god’s eye view of the landscape. We certainly have those moments as they are crucial in telling the story and in showing off the grandeur of the world. This time around they inspired us to create some really novel moments where the camera pulls in close to Kratos to show off his character, which in turn puts the player in Kratos' mindset.

Talk about the “never-before-seen depth of scale”. What does it mean to the gamer?

Scale is something that we knew we had to push in this game. In "God of War: Chains of Olympus", our thought had been to place Kratos in the biggest and grandest situations we could possibly realize on the PSP. We thought at the time that we had pushed the limits of the hardware. What we set out to do in this game is trump ourselves and push the sense of scale even further.

This was a two-pronged approach. First, we knew we had to create bigger and more bad-ass enemies. A good example is the first boss in "Ghost of Sparta." It's a gigantic creature that, in scale, could actually swallow the biggest boss from "Chains of Olympus." When you see this creature emerge to face-off against Kratos, you can see that it dwarfs Kratos but he can still interact with the creature by climbing all over it. This sense of scale is something we would not have dreamed of doing in "Chains of Olympus."

Another way that we’ve expanded the scale of the game is by showing the player the true repercussions of Kratos’ actions in the world. We wanted to show that Kratos was a destructive force of nature and that his actions had a certain domino effect that played out over the course of the entire game, from the start all the way through to the end. Through brute force he destroys the world to get what he wants.

Is it going to be tough coming out in the same year at the "God of War" finale? Will gamers still have an appetite even though Kratos is apparently done?

With "God of War III" being such a big success both critically and commercially, it shows that the franchise still has a lot to offer and that this universe is something that resonates with people. For PS3 and PSP owners alike, "Ghost of Sparta" will further expand the world of "God of War" and complete a huge part of the "God of War" saga. We have created a story and a game experience that is whole and will provide both fans and newcomers to the franchise a great source of entertainment.

And just for fun, we asked him this:

In your opinion, what is the difference (if any) between a geek, a gamer and a nerd?

Personally I fit into all three categories. If you ask me about tech, I sound like a nerd. Ask me about Star Wars and I sound like a geek. Ask me about God of War and I sound like a gamer. As a game director I tap into my inner geek, nerd and gamer to make the best game possible.

"God of War: Ghost of Sparta" will be released exclusively on the PSP later in 2010.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Geek Out! • Sony • video games


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April 7, 2010

Springtime for Harry, Mario, Tiger, Samus

Posted: 11:24 AM ET
Harry in the showers
Harry in the showers

The next three months of game releases are going to be light compared to the first three months of this year. Expect a lot of downloadable content to come out for previous released games, but not as many blockbusters.

There are some big names coming out this spring, though. Mario makes a return as well as Harry Potter, Tiger Woods and Metroid. And there are hints about something that has been nearly 12 years in the making.

April kicks off with "Splinter Cell Conviction" (Ubisoft), as hero Sam Fisher gets some new moves and tricks to make him even sneakier than before.

A new "Mark and Execute" command lets Fisher take down opponents faster, but stealth is still required to make your escape.

"Splinter Cell Conviction" is rated M (blood, drug reference, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language) and available for the PC, iPhone and Xbox 360 on April 13.

"Monster Hunter Tri" (Capcom) is a RPG game for the Wii in which you battle monsters with huge, oversized weapons, collect loot and then do it again. The Wii controllers make it more than just a button-mashing game and the early release in Japan is doing very well.

"Monster Hunter Tri" is rated T (blood, use of alcohol, violence) and available only on the Wii on April 20.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa kicks off in June, but why wait to see who will hoist the gold trophy. "2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa" (Electronic Arts) will let you carry your favorite team to glory and includes all 10 stadiums that will be used in South Africa as well as regional stadiums.

The game is not rated yet, but will be available on the PS3, Xbox 360, PSP and Wii on April 27.

May marks the return of the Prince as "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands" (Ubisoft) takes us back to the deserts. Our hero is forced to do whatever is necessary to save the kingdom. The Prince gets a partner in this chapter of the saga, but wait until you see at what cost.

"The Forgotten Sands" has a tentative rating of T+, but that rating is not final. The game will be out for the PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii and DS on May 18.

"Modnation Racers" (Sony) has been called a cross between "Mario Kart" and “Little Big Planet." Players can customize their vehicles, the drivers and just about everything else.

If you aren’t feeling creative, there are many pre-made elements to let you dive right into the racing portion. "Modnation Racers" is rated E for everyone and will be out on May 25 for the PS3 and PSP.

June begins with the next installment in the now-classic series in golf games, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11" (Electronic Arts). This version integrates the Ryder Cup into the mix as well as online team play.

Tiger is also sharing his cover art this year with Irish golfer Rory McIlroy to give it more of an international flavor. "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11" is rated E and will be out on June 8 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PSP.

Snake is back and ready to kick tail. "Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker" (Konami) takes us back to the 1970s where the "Soldiers Without Border" group gets its start with Snake in the lead.

Gaming Web sites are already touting this as the PSP Game of the Year, but hold those expectations in check until the final version comes out on June 8.

It is a PSP-exclusive and has a tentative rating of M. There are also reports that Snake may be appearing in other games, so keep your eyes open.

"Metroid: Other M" (Nintendo) lets players switch from 2-D side-scroller to 3-D action-adventure as Samus' past is explored. It is going to be a Wii-exclusive title so expect some unique gameplay using the Wii controllers. "Metroid: Other M" is expected out on June 27 with a T rating.

June will also be the premier of Harry Potter – in Lego form. "LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4" (Warner Bros. Interactive) chronicle the boy wizard’s adventures in "Sorcerer's Stone", "Chamber of Secrets", "Prisoner of Azkaban", and "Goblet of Fire" in blocky, Lego fun.

"LEGO Harry Potter" will be available for the Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Wii, PC, PS3 and PSP in June (no specific date yet).

Plenty of other games will be filling in the gaps including some movie tie-ins ("Iron Man 2", "Clash of the Titans") and a new Mario game ("Super Mario Galaxy 2") that offers up some new powers for the famous plumber and his faithful dino, Yoshi.

Casting a long shadow this summer is the expected release of "StarCraft II" (Blizzard). They've been working on this title for years and released a closed beta to select gamers for testing. A spokesman for Blizzard said they are on track for a mid-2010 release, so don't be surprised if Terrans, Zerg and Protoss descend on your PC this spring.

What are you looking forward to in the next three months? New titles or DLC for ones you already own? Let us know!

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Nintendo • Sony • Tiger Woods • video games


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March 5, 2010

Sony to launch challengers to iPad, iPhone

Posted: 12:26 PM ET

Sources have told the Wall Street Journal that Sony is planning on making a challenger to Apple’s iPad that will have all the capabilities of a netbook, a Sony Reader and a PSP, the company's handheld gaming device.

At a Sony news conference in Tokyo, Sony’s CFO Nobuyuki Oneda didn’t provide any details but expressed the company’s desire to compete against Apple’s newest gadget, due in stores next month.

"That is a market we are also very interested in. We are confident we have the skills to create a [great] product," said Oneda. "Time-wise, we are a little behind the iPad but it's a space we would like to be an active player in.”

The WSJ also reported Sony is making a new smartphone - containing Sony Ericsson mobile technology and capable of playing PSP games - to compete against the iPhone. Both devices are expected to work with Sony Online Services, an online store due to launch in March and sell music, movies, books, and other downloadable applications for mobile products.

The iPad challenger and the new smartphone are expected to launch sometime in 2010, but no details about specs, price or design have been released.

Sony has tried to get into the phone/gaming gadget arena in the past. A patent was filed in 2006 for a device that looked like a PSP on one side and a smartphone on the other, but such a device has never hit the market.

Apple sold 8.7 million iPhones in the last three months of 2009. The company announced Friday that the iPad will be available April 3.

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Filed under: Apple • iPad • iPhone • smartphones • Sony


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March 1, 2010

Leap-year bug bites PlayStations

Posted: 11:17 AM ET
PlayStation Network
PlayStation Network

Sony said problems with its PlayStation Network that kept some PlayStation 3 users from playing games on or offline has been resolved.

A posting on the PlayStation blog said Sony officials have identified the cause as a leap year bug in the clocks on their older PS3 units. The newer slim PS3 consoles were not affected.

The posting said the internal clocks wanted to treat 2010 as a leap year, making March 1 into February 29. When the clocks rolled over to March 1, Sony “verified that the symptoms are now resolved and that users are able to use their PS3 normally.”

Sony suggests that anyone continuing to have problems should adjust time setting manually or via the Internet.

But the outage frustrated many PlayStation users, who lit up blogs and message boards with angry comments. One PS3 user said the episode prompted him to go buy an Xbox 360 console.

“I've stuck with Sony through the years, but ... this failure by Sony pushed me from thinking to doing,” a user named Jumping Ship posted to CNN.com's Tech blog. “Sony lost a customer. You have to think there are more people out there doing or contemplating the same thing.”

“I find it completely unacceptable they allowed most of their customer base to endure this outage. Sony waited this out rather than take action to resolve the issue,” wrote Jamesg, another CNN.com reader. “I believe Sony was aware this would be a problem and had a plan of not addressing it. Sony should be held accountable for allowing a known defect to manifest itself in a 24-hour outage for millions of their loyal customers.”

Some Xbox 360 owners took the opportunity to taunt rival PS3 users online about the problem, while PS3 owners fired back about the “Red Ring of Death” glitches that have plagued the Xbox.

Other PS3 owners decided to wait it out and were rewarded for their patience when Sony announced the problem had been resolved.

In a post on its Web site Monday, Sony addressed the symptoms of the outage. The company said error messages and glitches included the following:

• The date of the PS3 system may be re-set to Jan 1, 2000.

• When the user tries to sign in to the PlayStation Network, the following message appears on the screen; “An error has occurred. You have been signed out of PlayStation Network (8001050F)”.

• When the user tries to launch a game, the following error message appears on the screen and the trophy data may disappear; “Failed to install trophies. Please exit your game.”

• When the user tries to set the time and date of the system via the Internet, the following message appears on the screen; “The current date and time could not be obtained. (8001050F)”

• Users are not able to play back certain rental videos downloaded from the PlayStation Store before the expiration date.

iReport: Were you affected by the PS3 outage?

Sony said there were more than 40 million users in its PlayStation Network as of last month. There was no official word on how many were impacted by the error.

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Filed under: Sony • video games


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February 19, 2010

Is there a PlayStation3 shortage?

Posted: 11:00 AM ET
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 3

If you didn’t get one of the 1.36 million PlayStation 3 consoles that were sold over the holidays, you may have a hard time getting your hands on one now.

Sony officials are warning about a possible retail shortage due to massive sales in December. Sony is cautioning that the next few months will be tough for PS3 shoppers as the company tries to get more consoles on store shelves.

"We're working very hard with our retail partners to meet consumer interest, but the demand is tremendously high for the PS3 and we expect tight inventory in the coming months," Sr. Director of Corporate Communications Patrick Seybold told IGN.

Retailers are reacting. Best Buy is telling people they can’t pick the PS3 up at stores when ordering online and will have to wait until late February or early March for delivery. Amazon is changing their purchasing policies and limiting each household to only one unit.

A statement on Amazon's site said, "In an effort to provide as many customers as possible with the opportunity to purchase PlayStation 3 120 GB, we are limiting the total number of PlayStation 3 120 GB units that can be purchased. As a result, each household may only purchase one PlayStation 3 120 GB unit."

There has been speculation that the recent success of the PS3-exclusive “Uncharted 2,” plus anticipation for the upcoming final installment in the “God of War” series, may have boosted demand for the console.

Did you buy a new PS3 over the holidays? Why? And are you having trouble getting one now?

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Filed under: Gaming • Sony • video games


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January 20, 2010

Sony delays its new PS3 controller

Posted: 12:51 PM ET
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 3

Sony has delayed the release of its motion controller for the PlayStation 3 until this fall.

The electronics company announced Wednesday it will release its new controller, originally promised for spring 2010, with games that can actually use the device. Those games will also need the PlayStation Eye camera, which will detect the movements and reflect them in the game.

A statement from Sony said the yet-unnamed controller will be released “in fall 2010 in Japan, Asian regions and countries, North America and Europe/PAL territories together with an extensive line-up of exciting software titles.”

The delay will no longer give Sony the jump on Microsoft’s expected release of its Project Natal system. The new motion-sensitive controller for the Xbox 360 is due to be released in the fourth quarter of 2010, in time for the holiday season.

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Filed under: Gaming • Sony


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December 7, 2009

'Dead Space 2' vows to 'scare the daylights out of you'

Posted: 01:38 PM ET

It was only a matter of time.

On the heels of "Dead Space's" successful debut last year, Electronic Arts has officially announced that the game series' storyline will continue with the creation of “Dead Space 2.” Hero Isaac Clarke will return to battle necromorphs with new weapons.

Visceral Games will be producing the new saga, which had been rumored for months. A press release from EA says that survival won’t be the only thing on Isaac’s mind in "Dead Space 2" – "this time, he calls the shots."

Released in October 2008, the original action-horror game won nearly 100 industry awards and received a score of 89 percent from gamerankings.com. Earlier this year EA released “Dead Space: Extraction”, a prequel story that was exclusive to Nintendo's Wii system in an effort to win over a new audience.

Executive producer Steve Papoutsis said, “Expect plot twists that will surprise you and a huge cast of twisted, disgusting monsters that are sure to scare the daylights out of you.”

“Dead Space 2” is being developed for the PS3, Xbox 360 and the PC. No release date has been announced.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Microsoft Corp. • Sony • video games


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December 4, 2009

Mixed bag for early holiday console sales

Posted: 09:28 AM ET


As the holiday shopping season ramps up, video game console makers are keeping a wary eye on early sales.

Sony, maker of the PlayStation 3, claims it got off to a rousing start during the Black Friday week ending on November 29.  Patrick Seybold, Sr. Director of Corporate Communications, said the company sold more than 440,000 consoles, which was an “all-time high.”

Those sales numbers are up from October (320,600 units sold) and Seybold believes Sony's software will help sell its hardware.  “We have no doubt the momentum and demand will continue,” he said.

By contrast, Nintendo said it sold 550,000 consoles during the same Black Friday week.  It also announced its DS Lite and DSi portable gaming devices combined to sell more than 1 million units during the week.

In September Nintendo cut the price of the Wii for the first time, by $50 to $199.99.  Last year, the company shipped 800,000 Wiis to the U.S. for Black Friday week.

Microsoft has not made any announcements about sales of the Xbox 360 during the intense shopping week.  Aaron Greenberg, Director of Product Management, posted on his Twitter account that the Xbox 360 had its biggest sales week of the year.

When asked about hard numbers, Greenberg tweeted that Microsoft was waiting for the official industry numbers before commenting.  The game review site, Gamespot, extrapolated previously reported numbers from October to come up with approximately 124,850 consoles sold during this past Black Friday week.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Microsoft Corp. • Nintendo • Sony • video games


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November 27, 2009

An e-reader shortage for the holidays?

Posted: 11:03 AM ET

It seemed like this was going to be the holiday shopping season of the e-reader.

But that was before Barnes & Noble told customers it had run short on pre-orders of its new electronic book reader, the Nook. That device was poised to be a big holiday competitor to the more-established Amazon Kindle.

Barnes & Noble says customers who pre-order the Nook now won't get the device until the week of January 4 - after the holiday shopping season. A limited number of the devices will be available for sale in some of the "highest volume" Barnes & Noble stores.

In an e-mail, spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said early sales of the Nook beat the bookseller's expectations.

"We had expected strong interest in Nook and pre-orders have exceeded those expectations. We’re excited to have such a wonderful response from customers," she wrote. Keating did not specify how many Nook readers have been sold.

Customers can pre-order a Nook gift certificate in time for the holidays, according to a B&N blog post.

The Sony Reader, another e-book competitor, also is not guaranteed to ship by the holidays, according to Sony's Web site. "Pre-orders will ship Dec. 18 thru Jan. 8. Actual delivery date cannot be guaranteed," the site says.

Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division, tells the NYTimes that the company is being cautious. “We may be able to hit it [the Christmas delivery date]," he told the Times' Bits blog. "I just don’t want to promise someone a gift that arrives after Christmas. We may be giving up sales by saying that, but we are in it for the long haul."

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment, but the company's Web site says its Kindle device can ship to customers as soon as the day after it's ordered.

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Filed under: Amazon • e-readers • Kindle • Nook • Sony


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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