Your Saturday Magazine

The Sims 3
Platform: PC, Mac Genre: Life/Social Simulation Developer: EA Blackbox / EA Play Publisher: Electronic Arts
he Sims 3 is the first game in the series to not be developed by Maxis. Stepping into Maxis’ shoes this time around are EA Blackbox (Windows) and EA Play (Mac) — the for mer are more renowned for their role in the development of the Need For Speed series of games. It’s also worth noting that Maxis were responsible for making hundreds of millions of dollars for EA with the first two games in the Sims series, which is also the largest selling game franchise of all time. Sims 2 and it’s gazillion add-on and expansion packs sold a preposterous number of copies, but complaints persisted — I suppose fans weren’t too happy shelling out cash repeatedly for new content. But with the popularity of the franchise, putting out Sims 3 seemed like the only logical step for EA. I think it’s fair to say that the first Sims game initiated the casual gaming movement. I mean, it pre-dates the Wii by nearly a decade, and over the years, has attracted millions of new players. With it’s relative simplicity and pick-up-andplay nature, a lot of non-gamers were drawn to the unique experience it offered. Besides, anyone and everyone could instantly relate to the life of their Sim in the game, as the game didn’t set any objectives or hassle you with goals to accomplish. You could simply play the game at your own pace and do whatever you wanted. The Sims 3 is no different. You can start playing by creating a Sim (your in-game avatar), a household (a family of Sims) or move into an existing household. The game comes preequipped with a number of families. The degree of customisation options offered while creating your Sim are staggering. You can edit name, gender, age, skin tone, muscle, weight, hair, facial features, clothing and even personality! You can also create a series of five traits for your Sim, which would cause him/her to respond differently to situations. For example, if you add the ‘vegetarian’ trait, your Sim will fall sick if he/she eats meat. There’s also a Good/Evil trait like in RPG games. You can also add other details like favourite genre of music, colour and food. The game also allows you to set a lifetime ambition which serves as the ultimate objective of the game, so everything you do in the game will be targeted at achieving that objective. Once you’re done creating your Sim or household, you can move in to any of the game’s available houses (you’ll have to spend

graphic novel
Book Releases
Adventures of the mAsk Edge City has always been tough for Stanley Ipkiss. He’s good-natured and decent, but nice doesn’t get you things. Stanley knows he’s destined for greater things, but how to get there? Enter the Mask, an ancient artifact that imbues its wearer with the power to do just about anything one desires. AwAkening hC The once peaceful city of Park Falls has been tainted by a series of gruesome murders and missing persons. Cynthia Ford, known as the town crazy, finds retired police detective Derrick Peters and relates to him her belief about what’s going on in town. Her explanation? Zombies! mArvel 1985 The Marvel Universe comes to life in this heavily anticipated story as you are transported to the year 1985. There, young Toby Goodman lives an ordinary life, filling his days with Marvel comic books as an escape from his mother and stepfather, and a way of connecting with his lazy but well-intentioned dad.

The New Indian Express Saturday, August 1, 2009


Game Invader
Anand Ramachandran
is a creative and business consultant specialising in gaming. He blogs at www.bossfight.in Feedback to this article can be sent to

There are times when this game almost consciously distances you from the life of your Sim, says Videep Vijay Kumar



Will Project Natal kill the controller?

some green for this purpose) or you can choose to jump into one of the game’s precreated households. Each pre-created household comes with its own stories and difficulty levels. If you’ve played The Sims 2 and it’s various expansions you’ll notice that some of the later additions such as cellphones and ability to own and run a business are available (at no extra charge, no less) in the game by default. Black box has done a commendable job in improving the Sims’ AI — they are now more adept at handling simple problems and situations without your help. There’s an option in the game where you can set the degree of ‘free will’ your Sims can have, so if you’re the kind of person who just wants to create a family and watch them go about their daily business, then you can set this at maximum. While the developers have done a great job of showing you your Sim’s workplace and a lot of the game’s entertainment spots, you’ll still find yourself staring at a random building that your Sim is supposedly inside. I’m sure this is all part of a grand EA plan to sell you more expansion packs such as ‘The Sims 3: Eating Out’. There are times when the game almost consciously distances you from the life of your Sim as they magically gain autonomy, and no inputs from your end are ‘valued’. On the other hand, EA are making life a lot easier for Sims fans with the Sims Exchange online, which allows you to pick up only the items that you want. You no longer have to shell out for expansion packs which have a lot of rubbish that you don’t care to have. Another big plus for The Sims 3 is that it will run even on modest hardware. Load times are pretty quick and there isn’t much disparity in terms of level of detail on high-end and medium-hardware systems. The graphics engine is a good improvement from that of Sims 2, suiting the game well. Music, is as usual, silly but , once again, it complem e n t s t h e g a m e ’s premise and graphics well.

weAsel pAtrol They serve! They protect! They run away! For the first time in book form, it’s The Weasel Patrol. Here to protect the universe and eat lots of cheezies, this fan favourite, family-friendly furry force features in 13 frantic, fun adventures. It’s one to enjoy and share with your kids.

Environment wins

No buzz Lost at Comic Con
John Horn provides a wrap of the major attractions and events at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego
any provocative questions arose at Comic-Con International this year. Why was Spider-Man playing drums in the Lego Rock Band booth? Was that dogeared copy of “The Vault of Horror” really worth $5,400? And who in the world was that guy clanging through downtown on a sweaty summer evening in a full suit of chain-mail armour? As interesting as those topics might be, the more important query for Hollywood is this: Which movies (and, to a growing extent, television shows) benefited most from their visit to the mammoth pop-culture carnival that folded up tents Sunday night, and which ones left San Diego worse for wear? Here’s a report on not only which projects performed well, but also which gained the most from the convention: — District 9: Although Megan Fox’s promotional appearance for Fox’s Jennifer’s Body in a hotel ballroom certainly sparked interest Thursday night, it was the screening of Sony’s sci-fi thriller in another part of the festival that generated the most heat that evening. Twitter blasts from the room were proclaiming District 9 to be among the best of its genre in a long, long time. With the film due to hit theatres August 14, the buzz generated at ComicCon (where Sony started an enigmatic marketing campaign for the film a year ago) is certain to give District 9 even more momentum.

Streets of rage 2
Tired of sitting idle through long introductory cut scenes? This one has the antidote, thrusting players into fisticuffs within the first minute of play. Ideally experienced with a friend in-person and better than even “Final Fight,” Sega’s second “Rage” is the ultimate beat-’em-up game, thanks to its profound assortment of moves. The brouhaha lasts only two or three hours at most, but when it’s on, it’s on.




on’t we gamers just love playing doomsday prophet? Over the years, we have prematurely announced the demises of so many aspects of gaming, you could write a book on the subject. Adventure games are dead. PC gaming is dead. Single player is dead. Arcade games are dead. Thankfully, none of these short-sighted claims came true. Now. we’re at it again. This time, the controller is dead. Thanks to Microsoft’s much hyped and high-profile demonstration of Project Natal, their ‘controller-free gaming’ experience, at E3 earlier this year. The last time we heard similar rumblings in the gaming industry wasn’t all that long ago — a mere three years back when Nintendo rocked the world by introducing their blockbuster console, the Wii. The Wii’s now-iconic motion controller, the Wii-mote, created an almost eerily similar impact when it first arrived. Gaming would never be the same, they said. The old controllers would become obsolete, they said. Now that the hype has died down, we know the effects that the Wii had on gaming. It broke open the market, bringing millions of new gamers into the fold — first-time console owners who were thrilled by the prospects of the racquet-swinging, jabbing and punching, and golf-clubswinging gameplay seen in the Wii Sports title that was bundled with the console. It’s interesting to see what happened next. While the Wii-mote managed to appeal to a completely new market, it didn’t quite kill off conventional controllers the way people expected it to, not even on its own console. Hardcore games continued to sell millions of units, and even Nintendo’s own blockbuster franchises such as Mario and Zelda largely continued to use traditional control schemes. It’s likely that Project Natal will see a similar product adoption curve. Sure, there will be a couple of breakout titles that will make intelligent use of the technology to create completely new gaming experiences. Many existing game genres will add features to their gameplay that use the motionsensing, facial and voice recognition capabilities of Natal. But our old friend the game controller is unlikely to go anywhere for many more years. Because there’s a very good reason why it’s so popular. You see, games appeal to us because they let us do things that we simply couldn’t in real life. In a videogame, I can run for my life from a pursuing T-Rex, leap across a gorge, acrobatically turn in mid-air and take down the beast with a well-placed crossbow-bolt to the eye. I can do such things because my controller lets me do them. Press X to jump. Press Y to roundhouse kick. It’s easy, and I can do these things sitting comfortably on my bean-bag, without the possible risk of broken bones or a twisted ankles. If I had to do this stuff by actually replicating movements in real life, I think I, and millions of gamers like me, would pass. Imagine what a session of Street Fighter would be like if you had to tur n somersaults, perfor m cartwheels, and acrobatically kick higher than your head to get Ryu to perform these moves in the game. I rest my case. The role of less-abstract input systems like Natal, at least initially, will be to make games more accessible, not more realistic. This will mean whole new kinds of games, as well as more accessible and interesting features in existing games. But it will be a long time before we see the end of gaming as we know it. Don’t throw out your gamepads and joysticks just yet.


The Britiish Council in Chennai held a Graphic novel Display in its library from July 15 to 31 that featured work by artists like Sarnath Banerjee, neil Gaiman and Peter ‘o’ Donnell. Parallely, they held a comic strip competition with the theme ‘Climate Change’. These are excerpts from the winning entry by nambirajan, a software engineer with TCS


the lone pilgrim
Scott Pilgrim is a contemporary strip meant for the iPod generation that would prefer to have things served straight up, says Amish Mulmi

If you’re a fan of the Sims, then The Sims 3 is a must-play. You can expect to get an easy 75-100 hours of gameplay from this one. —videep@gmail.com




short b u st



Easily the most innovative first-person game since the genre was born, “Portal” is four hours of rewarding brain-busters, witty humor and ear-to-ear smiles. Discovering the story twist stifles replayability a bit, but the gravity and optical illusion tricks never get old. Even better, you can get the expansion pack plus the original game for a mere $10, tasty cake and all!

cott Pilgrim is an unusual hero. He has his flaws — everything in his apartment, except for a lame ‘girl-ongirl’ poster, is bought by his roommate, including Pilgrim’s toothbrush; he doesn’t have a job and doesn’t seem in any hurry to get one, and he suffers, at times, from an attention-deficit-disorder syndrome. Despite these minor irritants, what endears him to the reader is a simple fact: He has to defeat seven evil ‘exes’ of the girl he wants to date. Also, all the ex-boyfriends come with a variety of powers — while one is a vegan super-psychic who can beam lightning and jump to the moon to prove his love, another are a pair of twins who complete each other’s sentences and are ‘expert roboticists’ — meaning, they can summon robots at will to annihilate Pilgrim. Therefore, we, as the reader, have a natural affinity towards the “cutish but an idiot” Pilgrim, the eternal underdog. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s six-issue saga employs a simplistic style reminiscent of manga, yet his drawings evoke a range of emotions. But what marks this series is how deeply embedded it is in popular culture. In fact, so much that the battles are a straight lift from role-playing computer games, and after defeating every boyfriend

(the last boyfriend, Gideon, is yet to be defeated), Pilgrim gets a) increased experience, b) sometimes, an item that could aid his limited powers (he misses out on a ‘mithril’ skateboard because he didn’t pass the skateboard proficiency test in grade 5), and c) money, that keeps increasing after defeating successive exes, keeping in mind

his extreme poverty levels. Mind you, the gifts seem irrelevant, and even inconsequential, when you discover that Pilgrim has to fight sonic waves and ninja-women in “sub-space”. O’Malley drenches the series in every possible pop culture outlet — a mall serves as the location for a fight between Pilgrim’s current and ex-girlfriend; a punk-rock band ‘Crash and the Boys’ that performs a song 0.4 seconds long and leaves the audience comatose with another; and Pilgrim’s revelations often come in a dream eerily familiar to The Legend of Zelda computer game. But despite all the punk interjections, the series at its heart is a simple love story, a breakaway from the traditional romantic ideas of a relationship. At the same time, it is also a cheeky counter to purists who believe comic books and other popular mediums cannot come together. There are no hidden references to esoteric writings, nor is there a mental baggage that comes with reading a comic book entrenched in cultural references. It cuts in as cleanly as the sword of “the Power of Love” Pilgrim gets when he tells Ramona he loves her — which equates to 9,999 experience points, and makes the point as simply as Pilgrim defeats Matthew

Patel, Ramona’s first boyfriend. But the coolest thing about this comic book is its nonchalant attitude, its selfdeprecating tone that sets it apart from the rest of the pop-culture imitations. It makes no bones about the fact that its protagonist is flawed, nor does it pretend to be a representation of urban youth culture. And that is what exactly endears itself to the reader, for he feels the joy when Pilgrim bashes the hell out of the evil twins with a knee in their faces. O’Malley is currently churning out the sixth and final book, in which, hopefully, Pilgrim will get to kick some serious Gideon-ass, and will walk off into the sunset with Ramona. But it’s pretty much confirmed what will it definitely not be — a raving, obtuse and sometimes obscure piece of comic book literature that ends up marking itself as a work of ‘serious literature’, as we have seen in recent times. Scott Pilgrim is a contemporary strip meant for this iPod generation, a generation that doesn’t believe in frills and speed breakers; rather, a generation that would have it served straight up than twisting and tumbling down. — amishmulmi@gmail.com

Call of Duty 4

Taking only six to eight hours to complete, 2007’s “Call of Duty” was categorically brief. But thanks to a range of playable characters and diverse situations — including the realistic “Death from Above” night-bombing level — “Modern Warfare” is nothing short of concentrated action. It’s even better than last year’s “World at War” sequel and effectively makes you feel part of something bigger, if only for a while.

Super Mario Bros.

antidep| Jaya Madhavan & Bindhu Malini

WWW.anTIDEP.Co.CC jayamadhavan@gmail.com

Do the math: 32 stages (many of which can be skipped with warp pipes) at a max allowance of 3 minutes per level equals just over an hour and a half — quite technically a short game. Granted, it’ll take most players more than a few tries to clear each board, but that’s part of the fun, if not the whole of it. After all these years, few games rival Mario’s addictive replayability. And while his first adventure is the shortest of them all, it’s still a masterpiece

One of the decade’s best adventure games is also one of the shortest. Clocking in at around seven hours from start to finish, “The Sands of Time” deftly blends gorgeous animation with acrobatic controls — and it even allows for some nifty time travel abilities. Not since the 1989 original has the Prince captured so much of our attention, nor has he since.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’

— Avatar: It would difficult to think of a movie better suited to the Comic-Con crowd than James Cameron’s sci-fi spectacular scheduled for release December 18, which thus set the Avatar bar very high; had the writer-director’s 25 minutes of footage disappointed, the word of mouth could have been ruinous. That didn’t come close to happening. The approving Internet buzz was instantly deafening. — The Twilight Saga: New Moon: The teen vampire sequel didn’t disappoint the cultish crowd, many of whose members camped out overnight for a scream-filled (not for scares, but for star Robert Pattinson) presentation. And lest anyone forget there is more than one vampire-themed phenomenon in the pop-culture universe right now, HBO’s True Blood also engaged with its own legion of devotees. — Johnny Depp: The actor’s surprise appearance for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, due out March 5 from Disney, almost created a riot. A brief 3-D teaser bore all the hallmarks of Burton’s singular visual style, and scenes of Depp’s flame-haired Mad Hatter whipped up some early excitement for the fantastical film. — Robert Downey Jr: The actor earned a wild welcome when he took the stage for the Paramount-Marvel Studios Iron Man 2 panel (the reaction was equally favourable for a brief glimpse of new cast member Don Cheadle as the bullet-spewing War Machine) and Downey’s appearance promoting Warner Bros.’ Sherlock Holmes was possibly even stronger. “I love you guys so much,” he told the raucous Sherlock Holmes crowd, which appeared to share the feeling. — Lost: It’s the sixth and final season for ABC’s smash and therefore the producers’ farewell to Comic-Con. They revealed absolutely nothing about the upcoming season. “We will be as honest and forthcoming as we never were,” producer Damon Lindelof joked at the beginning of the session. The “Lost” boys turned their panel into “fan appreciation” day, with surprise walk-ons, fan-made films and special gag clips but the enthusiasts ate it up and the scene became emblematic of Comic-Con at its purest: In the end, it’s all about the fans. — LaT-WP

sweet g

— www.msnbc.com

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