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Retro Champion: Achievements and Trophies for Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection

Stubborn and rooted in my Old Ways as I am, I recall being moderately offended when XBox first unveiled their Achievements system a few years ago. The strange, obsessive things I always tried to do in games (like make it as far as I could through Streets of Rage 2 without taking damage—which, by the way, requires absolute mastery of Axel’s uppercut technique) seemed like a mark of pride: there are certain things gamers did because they love their games, not because they wanted to be rewarded.

Like a tantalizing piece of moist, delicious cake left on the counter, however, Gamers will not refuse a reward—particularly if it’s something that proves their dominance over other Gamers. I can’t say I’m any different, and if you present me with a list of difficult things to do in a game I enjoy, I will exhaust myself doing it.

Achievements and Trophies are a built-in part of any console game today, so why even raise the topic? Well, as classic games are re-archived and brought out for the new systems, there’s an interesting opportunity—to turn obsessive pleasures (and frustrations) from our youth into shiny Trophies and Achievements. Who am I to resist?

To wit: The Achievements/Trophies have been released for Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, which is due to hit stores on February 10th. The complete list is at the end of the post here.

Many of the achievements are reminders of what’s fun about these games in the first place: Talking to another dolphin in Ecco the Dolphin, for example, earns you “Communication is Key”. Ecco was one of those games that seemed otherworldly the first time I played it; gorgeous and eerie in a way that games are seldom allowed to be. Using sonar to get cryptic floating messages from your podmates was a part of this, and it does bring a smile to see that small act rewarded. Less connected to the eerie beauty of Ecco: an achievement/trophy that’s earned for eating 200 fish (“Tastes Like Tuna”). Now we’re talking!

Kill it with fire! For fun and profit. And trophies and achievements.Is there anybody out there...?

Lastly: There is also a Golden Axe achievement for collecting 20 blue potions. In the Golden Axe games, one does not simply find potions lying around on the ground—one must take them from the gnomes who carry them. As I covered in a previous post, beating up gnomes and stealing their treasure is awesome.

I applaud the sensible game design that creates an official structure to acknowledge this noble pastime.


P.S. : Check back tomorrow for a look at the unlockable games and features available in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection!

'Hold still, yah daft wee gnomey, so I can thump yah with mah mighty axe!'

Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection: Achievements & Trophies

Get Rich:Alex Kidd: Collect 1,000 in currency
Don’t Die: Alien Storm: Reach Mission 3 without losing a life
Enter the Beast: Altered Beast: Collect 100,000 pts or higher by the end of the first level
Holy Water: Beyond Oasis: Unlock the Water Spirit
Stealing Points: Bonanza Brothers: Reach 40,000 points on the first level
Easy as Pie: Columns: Get 20,000 points only on Easy Mode
Hardly a Hero: Comix Zone: Complete first episode
Get Ahead: Decap Attack: Collect 5 Bonus Coins
Communication is Key: Ecco: Talk to another dolphin
Taste Like Tuna: Ecco: The Tides of Time: Eat 200 fish
Suit up: E-SWAT: Obtain the Combat Suit (Complete Mission 2)
Don’t Get Lost: Fatal Labyrinth: Progress to the fifth level of the labyrinth
Getting Chicks: Flicky: Collect 80,000 points
Garden Gnomes: Golden Axe: Collect 20 magic power-ups
Tower Up: Golden Axe II: Complete Tower Level
Saved by Magic: Golden Axe III: Use magic 10 times
TGIF: Kid Chameleon: Collect Maniaxe
Twinkle Twinkle: Ristar: Collect 5 Yellow Stars
Yatta!: Dr. Robotnik’s M.B.M.: Complete the game
True Ninja Skills: Shinobi III: Complete first level without using continues
Complete Chaos: Sonic The Hedgehog: Obtain a Chaos Emerald
A Different Tail: Sonic 3: Collect 100 rings with Tails anywhere on Angel Island Zone
Flicky to the Rescue: Sonic 3D Blast: Rescue 20 Flickies.
Lots of Zeros: Sonic Spinball: Get 10,000,000 points in the first level
Get to the Chopper: Super Thunder Blade: Score over 1,500,000 points in the first level
Three Times a Charm: Streets of Rage: Complete 1st Level using all 3 characters
Good Day Mate: Streets of Rage 3: Unlock Roo the Kangaroo as a playable character
Super Charged: VectorMan: Collect 500 photons
Can You Dig It?: VectorMan 2: Reach Scene 11
Blast Processing: Play all Genesis Titles
Master the System: Unlock Everything
No Life: Watch Every Video
Critique: View all Artwork
Only in the ’80s: Play all Arcade Titles


PlaySega thoughts: Aquatic Word Burst & Ice Shuffle

I spent a lot of time the past few days with the PlaySega games, in theory play testing for bugs and such. As it turned out I spent a disproportionate amount of time “bug-checking” Ice Shuffle and Aquatic Word Burst.

Let’s start with Ice Shuffle, and specifically the music for Ice Shuffle: it’s a pleasant, catchy little tune, one that instantly recalls 8-bit gaming sessions, where the same few hypnotic bars of a game’s music hum over and over in your head while you dedicate yourself to some insane task (in this case, blasting pucks around an obstacle course), hunched over a monitor until all of a sudden it’s 2 in the morning and you were supposed to be play testing the new PlaySega site. Dang.

x23 multiplier in a 500 zone!

What’s cool about Ice Shuffle is it gives you the chance to play any way you like—getting through the levels, especially some of the later ones, is a fun challenge that requires some clever use of angles, momentum, and, um, luck. If you’re the obsessive type, then you can replay levels as many times as you want for maximum points, something I have italicized to indicate how truly awesome it is. I like getting maximum points in anything. Getting a massive score and making the tough decision to drop that score to try for an even more maximum score appeals to me on a very primal level.

Allegedly, Ice Shuffle is a kind of version of Curling, but all I know is that it invokes the same frictionless physics that made games like the NHL series so appealing, where objects zoom around on a pleasant, gleaming surface at unnatural speeds. Lowering friction coefficients in video game physics is a move that says now we are having fun!

Ice Shuffle, tricky shot!

Also, the last 3 levels of Ice Shuffle are some nasty inventions indeed (see the above image). I literally had to pry myself away in order to move on to Aquatic Word Blast.

In Aquatic Word Burst, a large green fish encourages you to form as many word combinations as you can from 6 available letters. The “casual mode” is untimed, and you earn fewer points for playing that way; the “challenge mode” is timed, and you have to get a certain number of words each round in order to proceed. Both are fun, but it would be dishonest to say that I really tried the “casual” mode. I like to know that my ability to cull words from random letters is being matched against a ticking clock. Also, if you want to get all the words on a given level, you will invariably need to learn words such as “bight” and “Mahout”.

If you don’t love word games like Boggle or Scrabble this probably won’t appeal to you—but these games appeal to me on a very primal level. I was only able to tear myself away from Aquatic Word Blast to go back to, um, Ice Shuffle. Arranging all 6 letters into a satisfying word (Fracas! Devout!) scratches the same itch that, say, a headshot in a First Person Shooter satisfies.

Ere there were Jester seers in the trees, jeering...

Incidentally: A “Mahout” is “the keeper and driver of an elephant, particularly in India or the East Indies”. So that’s kind of awesome.



Sonic Odyssey (and Tails Illiad)

When I first came to SEGA almost a year ago, I’ll admit that I had kind of big eyes about it—I grew up playing the Sega Master System and Genesis, and my respect for Sega mythology has always been deep. So it was a strange, somewhat surreal experience indeed when my first task here was to help respond to fan mail, written by young folks with the same enthusiasm for the gaming and for SEGA that I’ve had (I’m not the only one who answers the mail here, but it can be a big job—if you’ve written to us, it can take a while to hear back, but we do try and respond to everything!).

The vast majority of letters written to SEGA are, of course, about Sonic. Not just about Sonic, himself, though—they’re about the whole of the extended Sonic the Hedgehog universe, and we receive opinions, ideas, drawings, and even fan fiction about all the games and every imaginable character, from Amy Rose and Shadow to Big the Cat and, of course, the Chao.

Until coming here I hadn’t really played all the way through a Sonic game since Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles for the Genesis. I was vaguely aware that, aside from Sonic, a universe full of anthropomorphic hedgehogs, squirrels, crocodiles, and omnipotent chaos-energy wielding echidnas existed in the Sonic mythos—but I could not have named them for you. I could not identify them on sight. I could not tell you what the romantic triangles were, or which characters might actually be holographic projections of super-advanced A.I.. Interacting with a devoted fan community changed this: I have learned quickly.

The Sonic universe, when I last left it sometime around the dawn of the Dreamcast, consisted of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and the good doctor. Reading countless letters, playing the newer games, and delving into the comic books published by Archie Comics, I quickly learned just how deep the Sonic universe went. Video Games, at their best, are a kind of narrative that takes place between the gamer and the game makers, and when people give as much back as the fans of the Sonic series have, it can lead to some pretty incredible results. For my own part, I don’t care if a hero is named Odysseus or Knuckles: I enjoy seeing a world that is self-contained, populated with its own history, heroes, and villains.

I know not everyone agrees with this, too—there are Sonic purists out there, and people who only like the 16-bit games, or like the Dreamcast ones the best, or don’t think anyone other than Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails should ever be in a game. That’s fine—I respect the old-school opinions (heck, I grew up playing this game), and likewise I’m delighted there are so many fans of the obscure characters and plotlines that make up the Sonic mythology. The letters I’ve read and the terrific fan artwork & stories I’ve seen do sort of hammer home the point that these are characters people love & are attached to.

In future posts I’ll steer this blog away from just talking about Sonic, and I’ll maybe even delve into my own back catalog of classic SEGA goodness—but right now, we’re in the middle of the hype for the upcoming RPG and, of course, Sonic Unleashed, so my first post here seemed as good a time as any to talk about my own history with the blue guy. I’m going to have to wrangle myself a Nintendo DS to play Chronicles on—I think it’s pretty awesome that a company as savvy as Bioware is developing an RPG for these characters, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.


Penny Arcade Expo 2008 pt. 2

Friday, August 29th, 2008

So today is the first actual day of the convention, we got got up early and grabbed some grub on our way to the convention center. As I predicted, even hours before the doors officially opened, there was a sense of anxious energy on the streets surrounding the convention center as i adjusted my eyes to the dawn. I walked in the main entrance of the hall and headed up the elevator to the 4th floor. Walking into the registration area I saw a massive line of a few hundred people already sitting patiently awaiting the showroom doors to open in a few hours. Since I was lucky enough to be working the show I found one of the many ‘ENFORCERS’ on duty to help manage the event to escort me to the showroom where i could prepare for what I can only assume at this point will be the massive ‘Hard Days Night‘ scene that was about to explode through the doors.


The showroom itself was pretty massive, although only exhibitors were inside, so the spaciousness may have added to the perception of space. We did get a chance to run around a little bit to check out other peoples booths. We even swung by the Harmonix booth to see a couple folks starting their day off, not with Folgers or Eggos, but rather a little  ‘Pinball Wizard’ on Rock Band 2. We were pretty impressed with their overall skill and asked if we could maybe jump up on stage later to represent our inner SEGA rockness — they were more than overjoyed at this idea, and the seed was planted.

So once we got our chance to kind of scour the layout a bit before the show opened, we headed back to our booth. Once there myself and my fellow SEGA folks got a few moments to collect ourselves preparing for the big first day madness. At this particular show we brought a couple cool games to demo and allow the fans to get their hands on. In addition to Sonic Chronicles, which I would be demoing, we had playable versions of Valkyria, Yakuza 2, Bleach: Dark Souls, and Dinosaur King. Since PAX is a huge consumer show, it essentially means that tickets are open to purchase to the public in advance of the show. This allows for a pretty good time as the fans get to actually see and play a lot of the stuff we have only read about on blogs, or that publishers have been keeping behind closed doors. I took a couple shots around the floor of some of thereally cool or creative booths, as well as some of the more highly anticipated games coming out in the next few months.

This was the shortest day the 3, starting at 2pm, so we were able to blaze through the hours on the floor with our games. Christopher Kaminski, the producer for Valkyria and MadWorld was a champ delivering what seemed like a nonstop barrage of interviews with various websites, bloggers, and other media folks who had made contact with him to talk about Valkyria. Just from the first day I could tell this game was going to be very popular amongst the fans by the amount of attention it was getting. Rightfully so, the game both plays and looks fantastic. When I got my first hands-on with it, being an RPG fan, I found it incredibly intuitive, which im sure made Chris’ job of demoing and discussing the game much easier in the long run.

At the end of the day we were all pretty tired, but there was a Meet and Greet event being held in the main exhibit hall where we all were for exhibitors to get together, have some food and drinks and hang out after the hall had closed for the day. We bolted over to where the food and drinks were, which was, conveniently, by the Rock Band 2 stage setup we had been loitering by earlier in the day. The three of us had be excited to get up on stage and rock, but now we had a CROWD! How could we pass this up? We divided up the duties, I was playing guitar, Mabel would rock the bass, and Chris would be fronting our little group. Of course, we were one short of a drummer, so I talked one of the Harmonix guys we had hung out with earlier into jamming with us. Our excitement was overheard and shared by one of the guys from SouthPeak. After a little friendly discussion we decided it would be fun to have a SEGA vs. SouthPeak battle of the bands. We had our crew assembled, and they put theirs together.

They took the stage first performing an amazing rendition of the Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ that had me in stitches. The bar had been set high, but little did they know, we had the human equivelant of ‘God Mode’ on our team with our newly acquired drummer. We selected ‘Give it Away’ by the Chili Peppers thinking it was a good tune to get the audience on our side. Unfortunately, the guitar work on that song was a bit trickier than i had anticipated, but Mabel held it down, and Chris summoned the rockstar in him to evoke a good amount of cheers and whistles from the crowd. After we had finished, the TRUE ringer band went on stage (all the Harmonix guys) and made both us and SouthPeak feel ashamed for even attempting such a feat with their SPOT ON rendition of Cheap Trick’s ‘Hello There’. All in all it was good fun and a great way to wrap up the first day of festivities.

More on the rest soon: Pt. 3



Penny Arcade Expo 2008 pt. 1

So this last week marked the 5th annual Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, WA. A few weeks back I was asked to demo the new Sonic Chronicles game at the show and as I had never been to PAX previously and have been loving the game since I first got my hands on it, I jumped on the opportunity. Plus, what a better excuse to kind of give the inside scoop on what PAX is all about for those who weren’t able to be there themselves. So here is the blog of my journey north to one of the coolest gaming expos going on right now.

Thursday, myself and our motley SEGA crew headed down to the San Francisco airport to begin our journey. Lucky for us, Seattle is a mere hour and a half plane flight away, so we were able to touch down early enough in the day to explore the seemingly quiet city hours before the streets would be lined with thousands of gamers, publishers, developers, and just fans of all things awesome.

First thing that stood out to me about Seattle was how nice it was. Now, San Francisco has some really nice areas (as well as some dodgy ones), and I definitely believe it to be one of the greatest cities in the world, but Seattle was so CLEAN! I was amazed. The downtown area was spotless and tidy, everything in its place. The weather was also superb for this time of year. With all the horror stories of 360 days of rain in Washington, and San Francisco just beginning our traditional Indian Summer, the fact that we were greeted with perfect skies and t-shirt temperatures was mind boggling.

We had to go out and soak it up before the show kicked off and we would be banished to the recesses of the Seattle Convention Center for the next 72 hours. My buddy Chris had just been in Seattle recently and knew of a cool little spot down by the water where we could go get good, cheap grubs, so we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and made our way west to the Pike Place market.

Remember how I was raving about how clean the city was? Well, although I could almost promise you that the 5-second rule is indeed in effect here, Chris showed me this infamous (albeit sort of disgusting) landmark at the Pike Place Market — the Gum Wall! This wall is, well, as advertised — a huge wall of gum in an alleyway in the Pike Place Market. Patrons, workers, tourists, and locals alike have over the years have been leaving traces of themselves and their journeys along this wall with their pre-chewed saliva repositories. I wasn’t too worried though as Chris and I saw a unique ‘neighborhood watch’ sign in the window of one of the nearby stores letting us know that ‘Earnie’ was taking care of business. I took a couple shots with my phone to give you a little insight as to the magnificence of this huge confectionery masterpiece.


So after our dinner and mini tour of one of the more popular Seattle tourist traps, we head back to the hotel to get some sleep and prepare for our first day onslaught of the convention. Supposedly this event is supposed to have upwards of 30,000 attendees! Thats a great deal of people to fit into a few city blocks, but should yield some pretty interesting events as well as some fantastic people watching.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my journal from Day 1 at PAX



Sega Employee Inter(n)view

For the next few blog entries I am going to be interviewing some of the employees here at SEGA. I have scheduled meetings with them throughout the week and will be asking them a few questions about working in the gaming industry. My goal with these blogs is to get people that are interested in working in the videogame industry some info about different types of jobs available in the industry and how to get there.

Today I interviewed Mike D. He is the Manager of Web Design here at SEGA and his job is to manage the web design projects and some flash design for the various Sega websites. He has worked at Sega for about 10 years with some work at Konami and EA in between. Here are some of the things I got to talk to him about.

Q: How do you define a gamer?

A: I would say a gamer is someone who plays games on a consistent basis. It doesn’t have to be everyday. For instance, I wouldn’t consider someone who bought a Wii and played Wii Sports for a week and then stopped, to be a gamer. But if they bought it and continue to play it regularly and buy new games regularly, they are a gamer.


Q: Are you a gamer? If so, what are the last three games you played?

A: Well my wife uses the term “addict.” So that’s a yes.

1.      Soul Calibur IV

2.      Gears of War

3.      Ninja Gaiden II


Q: What is your favorite game of all time? Current favorite?

A: My favorite series is the Final Fantasy series and my favorite game in the series is FFXII. I love other franchises also, such as the Resident Evil and Metal Gear games, among others. The current game taking up most of my time is Gears of War because it is so intense, tight and generally polished. I try to play online as much as I can.

Note: (but he usually finds himself getting cut down by my chainsaw. Haha.)


Q: Any games in particular that you are looking forward to?

A: I’m most looking forward to Gears of War 2. Ever since the launch of the first game I have been playing online with friends. When new games like Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3 came out, I played them through single player and a little bit of the online multiplayer but always end up going back to Gears pretty quickly. I like the fact that getting killed in that game impacts the rest of your team rather than being killed again and immediately respawning every 20 seconds.


Q: Do you have a favorite console? Of all time? Currently? Why?

A: My favorite console right now, and maybe of all time, would have to be the XBOX 360 mostly because of the online aspects.  It’s also because it has such a solid lineup of games that have come out.


Q: What other jobs (even not game related) have you had prior to this one?

A: While in high school, I worked odd jobs until I landed a position at a video game retail store. While working at that store, one of our customers was a game tester at Sega and gave me the inside scoop on how to get a job there. Within weeks I started my career in the gaming industry as a tester. I briefly left testing for a job at Interact Accessories where I worked as a product designer but later came back to Sega and worked my way into the web team.


Q: How did you make the transition from testing to web design?

A: While I was testing I was also going to school for multimedia. The web team at Sega was very small (about three people at the time). There was an opening for a programmer that came up and I applied for the position. The rest is history.  Being a tester really helped me in getting this job – if gave me the foot in the door. I’d recommend it to anyone trying to get into the industry. Even if you only work as a tester for a few months before moving on, it really gives you an insight to how a video game company works.


Q: What School did you go to?

A: To learn about building stuff for the web, I went to a multimedia tech school. I attended school 4 nights a week for 18 months while working by day as a tester at SEGA. Most of the things I do in my job today are self taught, but the schooling helped with learning all the basics for the tools and programs I use.


Q: What kinds of projects are you working on right now? Any you are particularly proud of?

A: Sonic Unleashed is the current project I am working on as well as some other Sonic titles. I guess I am most proud of the Sonic Chronicles microsite that I recently finished. It was an idea I’ve had for a website for a long time and I really enjoyed working closely with the developers.


Q: What is your favorite part of your job and why?

A: My favorite part of working here is seeing everything about games that I was always curious about as a gamer, the behind the scenes kind of stuff. I like seeing everything from the other side of gaming that not everyone gets to see.


Q: What is your least favorite part of your job and why?

A: Shifting schedules. It’s frustrating for me as both a gamer and a worker in the game industry. As a gamer, there is nothing worse than hearing that the game you are most excited for just got pushed out another 6 months.  And as an industry worker, things are on such a tight schedule that if one thing changes it can easily interfere with other things on the agenda.


Q: What kinds of things do you like to do outside of gaming?

A: I love having fun with my family, be it going to the park or just relaxing at home. I also love building games in Flash for fun.  It’s a good way to practice what I do while making fun and interesting things for others to play with.


Q: Do you have any advice for people that would like to get a job in the gaming industry?

A: Start at the bottom and work your way up. Working as a tester or an intern is a great start for anyone that wants to work in the gaming industry. Just being around everything in the company can help a lot. Getting the most experience you can starting from the bottom and moving up is easier than trying to come into the industry in the middle somewhere. It is generally easier for a company to hire someone from within that already knows how everything works. Almost everyone I know working as a Game Producer started out as a tester. But working in test is not what everyone thinks it is. While testing a video game, you do things like jump into a pit for 8 hours or drive along a wall for 8 hours. It’s not always the exciting position one may think it is.  It is also pretty important that you play games, and not just one type but a wide variety of genres and are tolerant of working on those genres you may not like.


Some people think that working at a videogame store like EBgames or Gamestop will guarantee them a job at a videogame company.  In my case, a customer of ours kindly gave me the information I needed to apply for a job as a tester, but most people I know working at retail have been there for years and are still waiting.  And some of those that have made it end up in customer service as that most closely translates to the experience they had at retail .But it would be a good alternative for people that don’t live somewhere near a videogame company and would like to work with games without moving. 



What I’ve Been Playing June

So it’s been a little while since we had our last little nerd-out blogging session over our recent gaming obsessions. I’ve been a ‘casual gaming’ fan for ages — not so much because I don’t like hardcore games with depth (I cut my teeth on RPGs and RTS titles, so ive paid my dues) but rather because when my life has gotten especially busy at various different points, ive found these to fill the void quite nicely and offer a bit of a different experience than my usual fare. That being said, I guess this month’s theme is more on the games that I play that are a bit more outside the box. So without further ado, I give you EggShen’s personal addictions, romances, and Wiinjury updates.

Boom Blox (Wii)

One of my good friends moved into the empty room in my apartment back in May and along with him he brought his Wii. We didn’t have a Wii in the house prior to his recent residency, so I was subjected to mooching Wii time at friends houses or sneaking some time in at work when the opportunity arose. Shortly after his arrival, he asked me if I knew of any cool Wii games — since I had been playing a bit of Mario Galaxies over at my friend’s house I suggested he pick that up at Best Buy and that we could bring some games home from work (he also works with me here at SEGA). It just so happened that he made his trip down to the store the same week that Boom Blox had come out,  and since it had pretty good buzz surrounding it, he snagged a copy of that as well as Galaxies. I had only a brief background of what Boom Blox was all about, but once he fired it up, it seemed simple enough. We both jumped right into chucking baseballs and bowling balls at a plethora of various block formations. Essentially there are a few different game modes to choose from all surrounding the same gameplay but with slightly different strategies or objectives — think Jenga-meets-Kupie-carnival-games with freaky little square cows, pigs and bears dancing around in the background. It’s the kind of game you can get sucked into pretty easily as the levels go pretty quick and you can repeat them for higher scores which unlock new levels. One of the cooler features I really enjoyed was the throwback-to-Excitebike “Build Your Own Level” feature. Throughout the course of the game you can unlock new items and blocks with which to construct your own Boom Blox mousetrap or Rubix Cube level for yourself or your friends to play. It’s cool to incentivize high scores on the single player levels and also allows you to tap into your creativity — see: spending hours trying to build the ultimate Boom Blox Rube Goldberg Machine. Make sure to stretch though if you plan on putting some time into this one though as after our first night of intense competition I woke up with my first official Wiinjury manifesting itself as a sore right elbow. Never underestimate the intense power of wanting to harm annoying little square farm animals and always carry tube of icy-hot with you.

Mob Wars (Facebook)

Now I’m not one of those Facebook people that downloads every application known to man and sends out incessant invites to everyone on their list while they’re bored at work or in class (i swear if i receive one more Little Green Patch invite i am going to scream) I fell across this application when one of my co-workers told me there was a game on Facebook that was like Drugwars (which helped me make it through high school math class back in the day of the trusty TI-82 calculator). For those of you familiar with the old Drugwars game, Mob Wars is essentially an upgraded, more encompassing version of that concept. You are  mob boss with money to buy weapons and vehicles and property. You can carry out various crimes to earn experience and money to help you advance and buy more items that will help attack and defend against other mobsters. One of the cool features is that now that this game has come online, youre actually competing against real people, friends and strangers, across the world trying to kill or be killed while racking up as many monetary assets as possible along the way. I’ve found a strategies that work for me and have a pretty solid flow of cash coming through (to be laundered of course). It doesn’t take a ton of time to get the hang of things, but is generally pretty rewarding and entertaining which is how i think these Facebook apps/games are supposed to be. All in all i havent gotten bored with it yet, so thats definitely a good sign — right? If you havent already become Made yourself, you are more than welcome to join my Mob — the more the merrier, right?

Fifa ’08 (Xbox 360)

Although I never followed much soccer — growing up in the US soccer isnt generally promoted on SportsChannel or the front page of the Sports section of the newspaper very often, I did play a bit when I was younger and understood the sport. Baseball games pretty much dominated my gamer life from Bases Loaded for the NES to MLB The Show on PS3 today. However, I have quite a few friends that are all big soccer fans and really only a handful that even follow baseball in the slightest. It seems with the excitement of the recent EuroCup 2008 that my friends and I have found a renewed interest in Soccer games like Fifa. Most often sports games are more fun when you can compete with your friends and can smack talk each other throughout the course of a match or series of matches. So it seems it hass become quite a tradition at my house that late at night, when everyone comes back from an evening on the town that the smack talk begins — with the only way to settle it has become a good competitive match of Fifa ’08. The game is a bit more of the Arcade style with a fairly complex set of controls (if you become advanced enough to master them) as well as the ability for noobs to button-mash their way to near victory. All in all the game and the (most of the time) friendly competition has definitely resparked my interest in the sport of Soccer. I’m still no master of Fifa however, as I’ve only been able to eek out a few victories (in sudden death goal kicks) but I still enjoy some good competition.

Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball (PC)

My newest and most horrendous addition — Fantasy Sports. Well, its baseball season(actually halfway through baseball season already even). I got suckered into playing fantasy basketball through a friend a couple years back and it was truly the gateway drug to one of the most intense text-based competitions ive ever had the please of being involved. Essentially the concept behind fantasy sports is that you are the manager of your own ‘fantasy team’ of whatever sport you choose (they even have fantasy bass fishing — wtf!?!). You have a draft day in which you select your players from a pool within a randomized draft order with the other teams in your league. Once your team has been selected you are free to totally ruin any chance you had manage your team as you desire adding, dropping and trading players. Mind you, all of the points you will earn in fantasy sports come from the very real performances of your players throughout the year. So basically fantasy sports is one part scouting, one part guts, and one part complete and utter luck — much like real sports i imagine. the scoring is pretty straightforward for the most part — you put your players into your starting lineup every day, they play the game that day, and you accumulate your team stats from their performances in the predetermined categories (Hits, Runs, RBIs, HRs, etc.). Each week you are matched up with one of the other teams from your league and you essentially get wins and losses based on your team’s performance as compared to the team you are matched up with that week.

Obviously the main strategy comes into play by each manager depending on your opponent each week, how your individual players are doing, etc. and trying to rack up the most wins that you can each week. The season lasts around 21 weeks or so (depending on your customized league rules) and has a playoff at the end with the top 6 teams (as determined by wins-losses in head-to-head categories each week.) You can invest as much or as little time into your team as you want, scouting new rookies, checking the split match-ups to have a better guess as to who will perform better on any given day, or just kind of let your team do their thing and hope that luck ends up on your side. It can be one of the most frustrating and rewarding experiences ever. I’ve also found that as a lapsed baseball fan (becoming very discouraged and jaded after the strikes of the mid-90s) it has gotten back into the loop of what is going on with the sport. It has also renewed my interest in sports video games as I am more involved in keeping track of the season, the players, and the stats. It may not seem like the most action-packed way to spend your evening before bed, but until you’ve gloated your credibility away with a 1st round pick who gets a season-ending injury two weeks deep in the season and then pick up a random rookie your buddy gave up on who somehow manages to be the best performing all-around hitter that season you’ll understand (Thank you Ryan Braun for cleaning up my messes in 2007).

So we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’ if you will. We cant always be plugged into our 360, and sometimes online multiplayer death matches arent what the doctor ordered. So what weird games are keeping you guys busy?



So you want to work at SEGA? (Part 2)

One of the biggest things one must get accustomed to here at SEGA is that not everything is quite as it seems. This was a truth I experienced firsthand a few weeks ago, when I returned to my desk one morning to find my cup of coffee missing – and, in its place, a small, golden ring.

At any other office, finding a golden ring where your coffee used to be would probably be interpreted as some entirely nonsensical proposal for marriage. Here at SEGA, it can mean only one thing: your hard-earned, oven-roasted, delectable, warm-brewed coffee was just swiped (and probably quickly consumed) by none other than one especially speedy and fiercely fast hedgehog. …At least, that’s who I think it was.

It’s been almost three months since I started working here at SEGA, and time certainly has flown by quickly. In the world of PSU things have been just as fast paced – big events, billing issues, scamming, updates, and the ever-crowded live support.

Yesterday we moved most of our stuff into our new offices, got everything set up, and then noticed a little later that Clumsy had the camera out, and was taking pictures! (This was the cue for Sonic and Shadow hats, which you’ll probably get to see in a blog post by Clumsy in the future.) Overall things went pretty smoothly and all seems to have gone well in the initial stages of the move.

If you’ve read the blog lately, you may have also noticed that SEGA has been giving away a lot of nice stuff recently due to the move – games at discounted prices, Sonic comics, and even a massive matted NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams poster, which I grabbed just before leaving for the break last week. It was a hard choice deciding whether to have it moved or take it home, but after thinking twice about carrying an admittedly bulky and thick poster of some flying purple dude home on the thirty minute walk and forty minute train ride, I decided it would probably be easier just to have it sent to the new office. Still, if you’re ever walking in or around San Francisco someday and see a guy lugging around a big NiGHTS poster – it’s probably me.

Speaking of NiGHTS, I managed to snag a copy of the original at the games sale last week, and was really stoked to have gotten a copy in time. I played the original way back in the Saturn days and loved it, but a certain little brother of mine spilled stuff on it and left it without cleaning it – the result was a (mostly) ruined original NiGHTS disc, so getting a new copy was a great surprise. More on the intrinsic evil nature of little brothers in another blog entry soon to come – we’re just getting started on that topic.

In the next installment of the working at SEGA blogs, we’ll take a trip down memory lane to a little under four months ago: the job interview. Be prepared for excitement, horror, suspense – and cake. (…I’ve been playing too much Portal lately.)

That said, back to my cup of cof –

Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.


So you want to work at Sega? (Part 1)

In all honesty, it’s a fairly daunting moment.

Those first few steps as you exit the elevator, cross the stretch of carpet to the other side of the floor, and enter – heart racing just a little bit more now – into the SEGA of America lobby. Sign the guestbook, take a nametag, please have a seat. They’ll be ready shortly.

I’ll admit it – I’m kind of a SEGA fan boy. I grew up on titles like Sonic the Hedgehog 3, NiGHTS into Dreams, and Phantasy Star. I treated my Dreamcast as if it were my child (in retrospect, I would have been a terrible parent – I literally played the thing until it died), and shared in every DC owner’s disappointment when SEGA finally announced they were pulling out of the console race. Even after the third-party transition, I was still a huge fan – for the most part – of a number of SEGA titles.

Given this history, I had always thought it would be awesome to work for SEGA – though if you had asked me two months ago what I thought the SEGA of America offices looked like, I probably would have painted a picture more akin to the Holy gates of Heaven than to the reality of office cubicles, deadlines, and group meetings.

Then one day that little dream suddenly became a reality, and after a number of e-mails and two flights later, I found myself sitting in the lobby of Sega of America, nervous, excited, and wondering if a little man in a Sonic suit would soon run up to show me to the interview room. (Sadly, there is no such man employed here. Yet.) It was a little nerve racking at first, having back-to-back-to-back interviews with people I had only really talked to online, and in some cases never even met before. Things became more comfortable as the day went by, I avoided doing anything too stupid, and the next thing I knew I had left the offices to catch my plane back home.

Two and a half weeks later I stepped off of the San Francisco plane again, this time with a considerably larger amount of baggage, and a single thought process firing in my brain:  I had left everything (Including my Wii, God bless it) behind me to work at SEGA. I was pretty excited, but even finding a temporary location to stay was an experience in itself – San Fran is a pretty big place, especially compared to the small, Midwest town that I grew up in. Major props to Chillaura here, who not only saved me some major headache trying to find a place to stay on day one, but also showed me around town. And then, one week ago, I officially began work here in the SEGA offices.

It’s been an experience already, and I’ve no doubt there’s much more yet to come. If it’s your dream as well to enter the gaming industry – and I know there are a lot of you out there, because I was among you not one month ago – my advice is to never give up trying and to get as involved as you can. You never know when doors may open – and that’s it for this week’s dose of sappy inspirational blog lines.

Other titles that I’m a fan of include Shenmue, Skies of Arcadia, old school Sonic, anything Smash Bros, PSO, and most recently PSU, where you’ll be able to find me in-game as the newest Game Master for the series. This is also a good chance to mention again our live support during PSU’s Max Attack G event starting this Friday, where we’ll be talking to players on all servers for a few hours each day to discuss issues and help out with questions.

Normally I’ll be blogging about PSU, but if people are interested, I may also continue to blog here about working at SEGA and about some of the challenges that come with the territory. It won’t be a reality T.V. show (I can’t stand those, sorry), but if there are enough of you out there listening, I’d be happy to make it a more regular thing.

Nice to meet you everyone, and all the best here in the world of SEGA.

– Ruby

P.S. – If you’re interested in finding out emplyment opportunities with SEGA, this page may be of interest:


What I’ve Been Playing – March/April

MLB 2k8/MLB: The Show 2008 (360/PS3)

Always a sucker for a good baseball game, it appears that with the season once again starting we see the release of new video game fare as well. Last year saw a couple really solid titles come out including MLB 2k7, the arcade style The Bigs, and MLB: The Show, which could possibly be my favorite baseball game of all time. This year we see slight modifications to these titles but no major overhauls, which in a way is probably a good thing for the most part. I’m still not super fond on the pitching/hitting controls on 2k8, although the game looks and animates beautifully. One of my favorite features that sucked me into The Show last year was the engaging and intuitive career and fantasy modes. I’ve been in love with the ‘role playing’ elements of building players and teams since the early Baseball Stars days, and this game has taken it all to insane levels without making it so complex that it takes too much effort to navigate. With the current MLB season starting up, I look forward to having both these games at my disposable in the coming months as I continue to nurse the thought that the Giants will once again be contenders.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (DS)

Days of Ruin is a really cool RTS tactics style game that Clumsy turned me onto recently. Another staple in the Advance Wars series, Days of Ruin comes from the same guys that brought us NES classics like Metroid and Excitebike (two of my very early favorites). As an avid simulator, tactic, and RPG nerd, I was way into this game almost immediately. The gameplay is surprisingly easy to get into, and once you dive in, you realize the limitless possibilities utilizing the map builder and WiFi to pick up games against friends or just random players. Although this is my first experience with games in the series, it definitely has me hooked and I’ll probably pick up some of the others as well. I’m a huge fan of WiFi capable strategy games as you can usually find a decent challenge as opposed to just running against the CPU AI all the time – nice way of mixing it up.

Dead Rising (360)

Although this game was released quite a while back, I recently revisited it as the legal controversy surrounding the theme and setting of the game has been making headlines recently. It’s pretty much a straight forward 3rd person action game with the traditional surrounded-by-hordes-of-zombies-in-a-mall-who-want-to-eat-your-brain storyline. What I do always love about this game (aside from the fact you get to create piles of bloodied zombie bodies) are the ridiculous items and weapons you get throughout the course of the game. I mean, who can resist launching golf balls at zombies in the parking lot, pinging frisbees off their faces, full-on squirt gun assaults, or just beating the undead silly with a toy light saber? Plus, I can never keep a straight face when I get to see my character in a cut scene wearing a lego helmet and short shorts.

Guitar Hero III/Rock Band (Wii/360)

This game doesn’t really need an introduction, I suppose. I was always a bit of a skeptic of this whole ‘guitar game’ fad and the potential negative effects its popularity may have on music in general. Yea, yea, I know – its totally cliché and likely will promote a lot of music or drive interest in people to learn real instruments than it will deter them, but there was a legitimate question to be had there. Anyway, back to the game – I love this thing. I’ve yet to actually sit down and play this one by myself for hours on end, but it’s a great game to throw on with friends to play simultaneously, or watch as individuals take turns. On a recent trip to Austin, the big selling point for a lot of us staying in instead of going out until the wee hours of the morning were Rock Band tournaments at my friends house. It’s not every day you have enough people around and willing to fill out the entire Rock Band musical lineup (including vocals) but we were able to get it done and had a blast doing it. I’m pretty sure my friend’s neighbors were less excited about hearing Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So being blasted full force at 2am on a Tuesday night complete with scream-along harmonies from the entire crew on the chorus. Oh well, I suppose they’ll survive to tell the tale.

Viking: Battle for Asgard (360)

Kind of a different game for me to be stoked on in general, but its got all the ingredients I needed to peak my curiosity. Vikings, blood, gore, and well, more gore. When I got the chance to take a first look at this one a while back, it honestly looked pretty cool, but I didn’t think for a second it would be a consoler that I would honestly invest any time in. As the development continued though and I got to see a better direction of the actual battle dynamics and it reminded much more of the cool arcade style action games I grew up playing. Better yet though, this game was like a pure bloody onslaught complete with beasts, giants, the undead, magic and all sorts of other ‘totally sweet’ Viking type stuff. I hopped into the game once it was finished to get a real feel for the gameplay and just a better grasp on the game itself. I have to be honest, once I trudged through learning the battle system, offensively and defensively the game really took off. It’s definitely a hack-n-slash, but the battle system is complex enough that developing skill is necessary and will keep you from dying 8,000 times and re-running certain missions. What I really love about the game’s playability are the task-based achievements and leveling that keep it from being entirely one-dimentional. So instead of just bashing through the hordes to gain levels, you actually earn bonuses and skills through completing tasks and missions successfully.

Gauntlet (XBLA)

What? So Gauntlet is almost older than I am. Big deal. It’s still just as awesome and frustrating and ridiculous as it was 20 years ago. Not only that, but now you can play it on the Live network. What a better way to kill time when you’re all burnt out during the week than grabbing one of your friends online and suiting up the Warrior, Elf, Valkyrie, or Wizard and slaying a few ghosts and barbarians before bed. I never really did take this game all that seriously when it was in the arcades and then was ported to the NES when Reagan was still in office. However, now revisiting, I’ve actually found that the impossible challenges aren’t so impossible and that with a little strategy and hours logged in, I’ve been able to unlock levels I didn’t even know existed in this game. Sure, they’re all essentially the same basic blocks moved around, but its more varied than you would expect with challenges and puzzles built into the design of each level (warp zone mazes anyone?). So yea, Gauntlet on the Xbox Live Arcade has been getting some love from me recently, and I’m happy to say it has been giving the same love back – Elf needs food badly.

Up Next:

I just recently grabbed a few new games as well that I will hopefully get the chance to dig into over the next few weeks. Plus there are some releases just around the corner that definitely have my attention (GTA IV anyone?). I’ve been tracking the progress of Warhammer as well as they seem to keep unloading bundles of screenshots and videos as the prject continues to get pushed back. What has everyone else been playing? Any hearty recommendations?