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by the NWR Staff - September 26, 2000, 5:43 pm PDT

It's time for another edition for the PlanetN2000 mailbag! Topics covered in this issue include the Toy Factor, Thornado, yucky loading times, movie playback, and much more....

Dr. Worm says, Apart from any actual news from

Spaceworld, the thing I've been reading most is the less than favorable reactions to the

design of the Cube itself. After 2 years now of relative silence about the Dolphin, we get

this total barrage of information, and finally footage of what the thing is capable of.

Now that it's the Gamecube, all of the info seems to have taken a backseat to the design.

Everything from, "I love it, it's awesome" to, "it's a lunchbox" or

"a Fisherprice toy."


The Sony/Sega fans are saying how horrible and boxy it is and how it will be the final

nail in the coffin for Nintendo, and the Nintendo fans are on about how gross it looks

"but I'll still buy it... I don't know about the rest of the world tho."


That's the point. It was shown at Spaceworld, IN JAPAN to the Japanese market. This

doesn't necessarily mean that the Gamecube you saw at Spaceworld will be the Gamecube you

take home from your local EB. A good example is the different versions of the Super

Nintendo in the NTSC and PAL markets.


The NES and Super NES were the systems to beat in their times, but they looked awful and

had ridiculous, yet functional, names. No one seemed to care. Why? Because they were damn

good fun and the graphics were awesome. This is being unveiled before out very eyes, yet

everybody seems to be focusing on what the console looks like instead of what it can do

looks like.

Jonathan Says: In many ways,

I very much agree with you. As a hardcore gamer, I don't really give a crap what the

system looks like, and of course, nobody did back in the days of the NES or even the SNES.

Back then, gaming was still very much a niche market, or at best, a kids' market, in which

the exterior design doesn't much matter. But of course, these days we live in a world

where gaming is quickly becoming a mainstream industry. So Nintendo now has to deal with

people who haven't been gamers most of their life like you and me, people who go to the

store with their birthday/Christmas money and have no idea what system they're going to

buy. Those people, unfortunately, do indeed look at such silly things as a system's color

and shape in their purchasing decision. Of course, it would be easy for us, as hardcore

gamers, to say, "well, screw those people, Nintendo knows we'll still buy their

stuff". True enough, but one of the benefits of popularity in this industry is that

you can attract more and better developers to your system. So you see, it's to our benefit

for the Gamecube to look good, even if it doesn't matter to us personally. Luckily, I

think it looks awesome...let's just hope the rest of the world thinks so too!

Mike Says: I'll side

with pretty much everything Jonathan said. I don't give a rat's ass what it looks like,

but by reputation I believe we're going to be in for some kick ass games. I consider it

just a perk that the system looks the way it does because I grew to like it as Spaceworld

progressed. As I said before, there is not a lot of aesthetic license available for

something intentionally built for smallness. I will predict, though, that the design will

be almost identical across the board. I expect some changes from the one we saw, but the

finish product will be used for all countries and formats. Take that with a grain of salt.

That said, I cannot say I have grown warm to the PS2

design yet. Yeesh.

Max Says: Good point Mike, I'll agree the PS2

looks more plain & generic than Gamecube. Personally, I don't see what all the hoo-ha

is about. Names, shapes, colors... Are these aspects of a game machine really worth

so much fuss?


Jon's absolutely right that things like shape/color do matter to some

consumers, especially as the market expands. Still, keeping an eye to Nintendo day-in,

day-out (as the Planet must vigilantly do) finds me tired of such aesthetic complaints...

Apparently, much like our question-asker, Dr. Worm. I care what is inside the system and

even all that hardware/specs/guts of the machine are less important than the type of games

available & how good they are. After all, it is a games machine, right? Not a

work of art.

Commentary aside... The shape/colors and/or vary

between now & release (or even now & E3) but I don't expect much shape variation

between regions this time around. The GC's still a long ways off, giving plenty of time

for people to get over "shape problems."

Ed Says: Well, looks like the other guys

pretty much covered this one. That's what I get for being slow. One thing I would like to

add, though, is that the general cube shape of the system (besides fitting the console

name) helps make the system more distinct. While it may not be the most beautiful thing in

the world (I kinda like it though), the NGC will probably be the most distinctive looking

of the consoles... which can be helpful to Nintendo who are looking to separate themselves

from their competition.

Big P. asks, Is Nintendo or

someone else coming out with an exclusive magazine for the Gamecube? This magazine could

be similar to DC magazine and not only include exclusive info and interviews, it could

also include a demo disc that would contain playable demos and enhancements, cheats,

secrets, etc.

My second question is about Thornado by Factor

Five, one of the first Gamecube games mentioned. I was wondering if there have been any

specific details revealed about it? It sounds like it is going to be great.


Ty Says: Well, Nintendo's one and only official mag is Nintendo Power. I

wouldn't be surprised if we start getting demo discs in that.

As for Thornado, there's precisely two significant

morsels of information about that. One is the MP3 available for download (one location at

mp3.com/huelsbeck ... check out some of Chris's other work, too) ... the other is IGN's

impressions of a closed-door viewing. (

href="http://cube.ign.com/news/24116.html">http://cube.ign.com/news/24116.html)

Jonathan Says: I don't really think Nintendo

Power will ever include demo discs on a regular basis, but maybe they'll do it once a year

as part of their January bonus issue, and/or include one when you subscribe and renew,

like how they give out free strategy guides now.

As far as Thornado, I've always gotten the

impression that Factor 5 intends it to be a pseudo-sequel for the Turrican series. Which

is good news. ;-)

Mike Says: It wouldn't surprise me if a 3rd

party magazine exclusive to Gamecube were to be released, but we won't be hearing about

any of them for another year, for competitive reasons. Certainly, Nintendo Power will make

the slow transition from N64 and GBC coverage to Gamecube and GBA. Demo discs would be

cheaper than VHS demos, but I have a feeling their marketing dept. will stick to what they

know, and use tapes. Though neither can be ruled out.

Who am I kidding? I am clueless on that one. Your

guess is as good as ours. Discs, tapes, it doesn't matter to me.

Kosta Says: Without a doubt there will some

magazines in the future that will feature Gamecube as their predominant object of

information, as for demo discs, we'll have to wait and see. The idea has worked well for

Sony and Nintendo will, in my opinion, at least give it a try. Australia on the other hand

has a crappy official magazine called NMS (Nintendo Magazine System) that is merely a

recycle of the U.K mag, which shows their lack of respect for us Aussie Nintendo-philes.

In fact the whole video game media in Australia is way below par, but that's a story for

another time.

Max Says: Yeah, you don't want to get a

Nintendophile from "Down Under" going -it's never pretty!


Anyswayz, Nintendo Power is as "official" a mag we'll ever get. Demo discs are

pretty big right now (not to mention playable) in the realm of game mags, so cross your

fingers! Other than that, we're bound to see other (unofficial) GC/GBA dedicated mags

manifesting themselves around/after E3 2001.


PlanetN2000 should have previews (including Thornado) coming soon, though I'm afraid I've

had the elusive boy who promised to format them assassinated by Ninjas, so be a lil'

patient for 'em. Meanwhile, a short run down on Thornado is that it looks to be a 3D

Metroid/Turrican explorer/shooter, with Bionic Commando-like grappling & two-player

co-op play. Sounds effin' yummy, huh?

Ed Says: I'm hoping there'll be a Gamecube

magazine in the U.S. but I think it may depend on how successful the console is. Sure

there'll always be Nintendo Power for official coverage, but I'd like to see a Ziff-Davis

or some other gaming magazine publisher come up with something else, as the official word

is not always the most reliable (can you say company bias?).

dadams4530 asks, Nintendo is touting a slew of

Gamecube features like online gaming, modems, writable memory cards, and connections to

the GBA. But frankly, I don't give damn. As far as I'm concerned THAT stuff is straying

too far from pure gaming (you don't want to know what I think about PS2). All I care about

are games! I don't even own a memory card for my N64. I realize that Nintendo has to ditch

the cartridge, but I for one will miss it. I don't want to save stuff to a memory card! I

don't want loading times! Am I the only one that feels that way?


Jonathan Says: Yep.


Heh, just kidding. Actually, Nintendo could have taken the easy way out and

put in some built-in system memory, like the Saturn had, for saving games. But really, the

removable memory is a good concept that works well most of the time. It's especially

appropriate for Nintendo's style of games, where you're encouraged to build up a character

or what-not, and then take it over to your friend's house for a multiplayer game using

your own personal data. It's also very expandable; once on-system memory runs out, you

have to start deleting stuff to make room. With removable memory cards, you can always

just buy another card, and voila, you have twice the storage space. So yes, the move to

disc-based media has forced Nintendo to slightly change their style, but I certainly don't

think it's making them stray away from pure gaming. Nintendo is doing everything in its

power to keep the Gamecube defined as a gaming machine; you must simply realize that a lot

of people consider online play and system interconnectivity to be at the forefront of pure

gaming. Sony's move away from gaming is based on movie playback, digital media

manipulation, etc., and certainly not on simple peripherals. Peripherals are a way to

enhance your gaming experience and allow games to branch off in new directions; if you

don't like the sound of that, don't buy any of the peripherals. But I dare

say you're gonna start pining for a memory card once you've played Metroid for four hours

straight and realize that you can't save your game.

Mike Says: It's easy to

understand Nintendo's intentions of keeping the Gamecube's focus on games. The link up to

the GBA, the memory cards, networking plans, and all things I think are extensions of

their "pure" gaming focus. These options can confuse people, but they are still

ways that can improve or possibly redefine gaming.


Surfing the web, watching movies, waxing cars, ringing the White House's World War 3

phones, and all these other things are more plain examples of breaking away from the path.

It's not necessarily a bad thing for them to do, but if someone were to ask me if it

causes confusion, I'd say yes. Nintendo's Cube accessories? Maybe a little bit. But their

focus seems firm.

Kosta Says:

face="Verdana Ref">Gamecube. The name answers your question.


But seriously when you look at it Nintendo are indeed taking a very "pure

gaming" approach to their new console and they have stated this many times. As

Miyamoto said, it will be the "ultimate gaming machine" so if the big man

himself is telling you like it is then there is no need to worry.

How can modems take the focus of

gaming? Online and multiplayer gaming are a definite part of the industry and to some the

most fun and rewarding. To allow people around the globe to come together in one place and

play all things Nintendo (Wave Race, Smash Bros, Pokemon), this is a brilliant thing

indeed.

GBA connectivity a deterrence? Nope, a

definite advancement. If Pokemon Stadium taught us enough, it's that we haven't seen

anything yet. Nintendo are poised to change the way we look and play games with the

Gamecube/GBA whilst at the same time remaining familiar in that Nintendo kind of way.


Memory cards are a must if you are to save your game and this is due to the change in

medium. If you believe that Nintendo should have stuck with cartridges for the Gamecube

console, then that is a very uneducated and selfish view on the matter. Nintendo are

moving forward with technology and that is a good thing.


If they were to say that the Gamecube would play all your DVD movies, start

worrying. If Nintendo said that the Gamecube will let you do your online banking, start

worrying. It's statements like these that switch the focus off gaming. Everything Nintendo

has done up to now has been 'gaming' orientated. The Gamecube will definitely be the

"ultimate games machine". If it's games you want then that's what you'll get. So

please don't worry.

Ed Says: Well, if you don't

think memory cards and online modems are pure gaming, then more power to you. However, I

personally don't see how they intrinsically detract from the gaming experience. Sure there

is a certain convenience to saving on a cart, but memory cards allow you to take data to a

friends house without bringing the cart. And online play, yes, if that quality is used to

cover up holes in gameplay then that's a bad thing. But online gaming can open up new

experiences as well.

What we're seeing with these new

features is an evolution of the gaming medium. Sure, there'll be growing pains, as not all

changes are good. But without trying new things, gaming would surely stagnate and the

industry, and more importantly, our games would suffer. So, be wary of the changes ahead,

but don't be too closed-minded. I trust Nintendo to know how to make games fun, and I

don't think these new features will detract from the experience, but instead, they will

take gaming to a new level.

Max Says: I dunno if you're the only

one who feels the way you do, but I hope the soothing knowledge of my fellow staffers has

helped you realize that some of your concerns are unfounded. I will personally agree with

you that memory cards can sometimes be a pain & I will miss the convenience of

"cart savin," but Nintendo is adapting to the times. Hardware may be numerous

and varied but Nintendo's focus on games remains intact.

What do the rest of you think? Is

dadams4530 alone in his feelings? Send any extra thoughts to us at

href="mailto:mailbag@planetn2000.com">mailbag@planetn2000.com.

Chad asks, PS2's movie

capability is indeed competition to Gamecube, but it's also competition to PS2 games,

along with the broadband network and PSX games. I don't think developers will be happy

with their sales even long after launch. When do the profits come in? PS2 isn't lucrative

and that alone will garner Gamecube tons of third party support. Gamecube isn't competing

in the DVD market, so the system sales won't be comparable to PS2, the DVD player that

plays games. Once the hype dies down and reality sets in, developers will defect from

Sony's ship. What do you guys think?

Jonathan Says: I think you may

just have it right on the money, especially considering that PS2 is reportedly so

amazingly difficult to develop for. I also think we may all be surprised; the PS2's US

launch will be a far cry from its Japanese launch, and no one can really say what will

happen in the 12 months between its debut and the onslaught of Gamecube and XBox. Unlike

in Japan, many of the people planning to buy a PlayStation 2 already own a DVD player,

either on their PC or in their living room, so they are going to be looking for some

quality software for the system. And, believe it or not, they may actually get some. The

system's US launch will include not only a larger selection of titles than the Japanese

launch did, but a much better variety of games. Then again, it may turn out that the games

all suck, and in that case, I'd say your scenario will hold true. If the PS2 can't prove

itself to be a great game system early on, it will inevitably fall back on the other

features built in, especially the movie player, and eventually the PS2 software market

will dwindle because no one is buying games for it.

Another factor to consider is the price

of software. In Japan, PS2 games are pretty expensive, in the range of $60 to $70US. I

don't know if that will change or not for the overseas launch; I do know that Sony fanboys

would not be happy to go pick up Tekken Tag or Ridge Racer V only to find that the games

are priced in the N64 range that they've always laughed at.

Mike Says: The numbers speak for

themselves. About 2.3 million PS2 systems sold. 4.1 million games sold. That's less than 2

games sold per system. Nintendo claims the low game sales are due to the system being

bought as a cheap DVD player. Is Sony allowing their console to compete with itself? I

guess by that definition, yes. They aren't going to make money if people buy it for

movies. The PS2 has few system-selling games, and that has also worked against them. As

the saying goes, if they make it, they will come. All in all, it was not a tremendously

successful launch.

I do not count the system down or out

at all, though. There is a massive amount of potential in the box, and I believe it will

be tapped. It may be a dog to program for, but it's sure to improve.

Max Says: No doubt. The PS2 is a

pretty system and will experience a lot of success, simply based on hype alone. However,

it is not the all-powerful juggernaut Sony promised that many were looking forward to, and

some were fearing. I think a lot of Nintendophiles (prolly Nintendo too) are a bit

delighted by Sony's over ambitious pratfalls.


Try as the Sony-loyal might, it's impossible to escape cries of developer difficulty w/

game creation. Not to mention outrageous high prices of system & software which have

quelled any desire within me to pick up a PS2 any time soon. Fortunately, the

coveted DVD-playback function makes the thing a DVD player. Backwards compatibility makes

it a PSX. Good thing too; if games are in the $50-$70 range (multi-disc games will run

higher) it'll be a lot cheaper to use the system for those other things! So, definitely,

Sony are shooting themselves in the foot a couple ways.

Ed Says: Chad, your scenario is

definitely realistic. I don't think PS2 will be anywhere near as successful as its

predecessor. But, I don't want to count PS2 out until after it launches. Sony have

certainly left openings for their competition to take them out, but until that actually

happens (which is a distinct possibility in my mind), I will give them the benefit of the

doubt. It's pretty much the sports mentality of giving the reigning champion the nod until

he falls. There's a grudging respect, but there's also a strong desire to see them fall.

We posed the question to you (readers)

in the last edition of the Mailbag. When graphics no longer sell video game systems, what

will? We got a lot of replies, and many people seem to be in agreement on a broad scale.

Here are just a few samples:


Aaron Oman says,

When graphics no longer matter, from that point on, it'll be a mixture of both gameplay

and creativity that will matter the most.


atjones says,

I personally believe that's when companies will become "Nintendo-like" and have

to become more game play conscious.


Bryan says,

After graphics capabilities become so great that a mere difference of a few million

polygons don't mean anything, the deciding factor in games will be gameplay.


PAC Skorpion says,

As far as the real next gen system, I think the next revolutionary thing will be a TRUE 3-dimensional

system.


Your voices have been heard. So, what do Planet Staff members think will identify the next

generation of video games?

Mike Says: The

next round of consoles will be extremely powerful, but polygons and all their fancy

features and names are superficial. Certainly, by nature, we can be impressed visually,

but the "WOW" factor fades. What has always given games their staying power has

been their gameplay, and I like how many people are in agreement that gameplay will be the

selling factor in the future. To me, this has been true since the beginning, and will

continue for as long as there are video games as we know them.

Jumping from 2D to 3D was a leap in

gameplay. Most games selling on the market today are now 3D or pseudo-3D in nature. The

question is, what will symbolize the NEXT leap? Until systems start working at 1.21

gigawatts, I doubt we're going to be seeing any 4D Mario or Zelda games. We're gonna have

to settle for 3D environments for a while.


So what do I think is the post-Gamecube/PS2/DC

harbinger? We're going wired, dude. We saw what going from 2D to 3D did. We saw what going

from 2-player to 3- and 4-player did. We see what online multiplayer games are doing to

bring PC games back to life. Since the Gamecube, PS2, and future systems will represent a

maturation of sounds and graphics, I think we're also going to see a maturation of

multi-player.


The world is going wired, and video games will go along with it. I don't believe it will

happen successfully on a wide scale during this round of system wars. Sony's only

networking method is broadband, but they are pushing it too hard too fast. Broadband is

not widely accessible or affordable yet, and by the time it is, the PS2 will be at least

in the second half of its lifecycle. As Nintendo learned from the 64DD, issuing

accessories late doesn't work. Industry-wide, 56K usage is still increasing faster than

broadband. Sony is a step ahead of themselves, and so is anyone counting on broadband for

their "today" business.


Sega has introduced Sega.net, and if your connection is worth a damn, it can

be a cool experience. Nintendo has huge plans in the works for Gamecube, GBA, and beyond,

they are just not talking yet. Obviously 56K is going to be the method of choice in the

near future because that's what's readily available. Broadband will be the holy grail down

the line.


The future of gaming? Gameplay (duh). What will advance it? Going wired.

'Nuff said.

Jonathan Says:

After graphics start to even out, I really think sound will become a much bigger factor in

games than it is now. We're finally starting to see consoles come out with really powerful

sound hardware inside (the N64 didn't have any), and I'm really looking forward to

developers making use of that stuff. I think you'll start to see (or hear, rather) fully

orchestrated soundtracks, top-notch voice acting, and foley-style sound effects engines

being put to use a lot more within the next few years. And of course, you just can't go

wrong with surround sound.

Ed Says: What's the next step in

gaming? Well, Mike, you just helped focus some of my thoughts. The last big step was from

2D to 3D gaming. I don't know if you were joking with the 4D comment, but I think that's

certainly viable, with the fourth dimension being, of course, time. Sure time exists to an

extent in games, but how much does an action at one point of playing affect another? And

how many things actually take place in the gaming environment even if your character is

not around? Furthermore, how will your treatment of an NPC develop the relationship with

that character later in the game? Having a constant flow of time throughout an entire

gaming environment would introduce a new factor of consequence (both long and short term)

to gaming. This could certainly could be the "next big thing"... which could

actually be a while given the many technical considerations in developing in

"4D".

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