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The Life of P

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The Collector’s Mentality

In the past few years collector’s edition releases of major videogames have become a popular way for publishers to convince hardcore fans to part with a little extra cash. An extra £5-10 for a fancy tin box, an artbook and an extra disc with behind-the-scenes development footage is a pretty easy sell. The cheap approach, often used to entice pre-orders, is free-to-produce in-game content like an extra outfit or gold guns (yes, that happened). This year, all that has changed as videogame publishers have decided to up the ante.

Assassin's Creed Black Edition

The price of a collector’s edition game has rocketed to around £60-70, which in a recessionary year may seem either ill-advised or a blatant attempt to bolter lacklustre mid-year sales by cashing in doubly over the always-busy Christmas period. But the contents are a world away from the old fancy box and book. Batman: Arkham Asylum includes a fullsize batarang (that’s 14” of vigilante justice, one supposes, in marketing speak) for the proud owner to display/fight crime. The “black edition” of Assassin’s Creed II contains an 8.5” statue of protagonist Ezio as well as the game’s soundtrack on CD (and I’ll be honest, I’m tempted by this one). But the crowning jewel of this year’s line-up is the £120 “prestige edition” of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which comes with fully working night vision goggles. Seriously. If next year’s Dragon Age: Origins doesn’t come with a real dragon egg, I suspect fans will feel cheated.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Prestige Edition

I’m a collector, I understand the mentality and, if we can find the right price-point for this stuff, it’s no bad thing. At least it’s real stuff we’re being offered. Unlike the new clothing and accessories for sale in Microsoft’s new Xbox Avatar Store. Paying a little to express oneself digitally is okay, but this stuff is all really advertising so I find the future plans to unlock related clothes through in-game achievements far more appealing. The problem again is pricing. 80 points (about 70p) for a t-shirt or a hat might be okay. But it shows that they know us far too well when they charge 400 points (about £3.50) for a virtual lightsabre, and it almost seems worth it.

Xbox Interface Overhaul

New Xbox Interface

I’ll discuss the weekend’s wonderful trip up to Cambridge once I get hold of some photos from the panto (I didn’t take my camera up with me). In the meantime I have a few thoughts on Microsoft’s new interface for the Xbox 360, which went live last Wednesday. I am not buying into their NXE moniker. “Experience” is somewhat overstating the product — it’s an interface not a skydiving holiday. It is the first time a console has undergone such a radical overhaul, though it is a logical step for a software giant like Microsoft. With so much strong content being released it would be wrong to say this update breathed new life into the three-year-old console but it was certainly welcome – the old blade interface was already arguably better than its competitors but as the games library grew, finding items online became a chore, scrolling through a list of hundreds of titles.

The other big change it brought was the introduction of avatars, undoubtedly inspired by the Wii’s Miis but a natural evolution with far more detail, taking advantage of the console’s superior processing power. Interestingly the facial customisation is arguably shallower in that one can select parts in various shapes and colours but there is no ability to alter positioning on the face. This is presumably to facilitate more detailed facial animation on the dashboard and in games.

However a large part of customisation is in clothing, which proves far more than just novelty outfits (although in future games may unlock new themed outfits) or exaggerated stereotypes. A behind-the-scenes video showed artists at Rare sketching concepts with fashion magazines as reference, which frankly seemed a bit excessive. The result, however, is that one recognises friends as much from their avatar’s fashion as their appearance – indeed my sister’s is most instantly recognisable from her choice of jumper. That I had not expected.

"Luck is the residue of design."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2021 Priyan Meewella

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