The Bulletin

A dolphin from the Big Blue Kickstarter page who may or may not be Ecco The Dolphin (probably not, in all honesty). That would be an AMAZING coincidence.

Is There An Ecco In Here?

Metal Gear manages to make real life confusing, Ecco the dolphin comes back (sort of), and more in this week’s game news roundup.

By Sam Barsanti • April 1, 2013

The Bulletin is a roundup of a few game-related news stories from the previous week.

Ecco The Dolphin creator returns to the ocean
Big Blue

While Sega’s Ecco The Dolphin never developed the obsessive fanbase of the company’s more anthropomorphized mascots, some people still long for a new opportunity to bounce sonar waves off of friendly fish and awkwardly bump into underwater rock mazes. (People like me, for example.) Thankfully, Ed Annunziata, the creator of Ecco, has launched a Kickstarter for The Big Blue, a new underwater adventure game that is poised to be the spiritual successor to the series. As reported by Polygon, Annunziata intends to allow players to “explore, complete quests, collect and spawn life forms, and solve puzzles.” That all sounds a little generic, but anyone who is familiar with how absolutely insane the plots in the Ecco games were (ocean mammals are aliens that can travel through time!) should know to expect something a little more unusual.

DC is not satisfied with your paltry finite crises
Infinite Crisis

DC may be unable to get a Justice League movie off the ground, but that hasn’t stopped the video game industry from pushing on and trying to do something—anything—with the comic book publisher’s extensive array of superheroes. The Mortal Kombat folks at NetherRealm are already working on a fighting game (Injustice: Gods Among Us), and now Polygon reports that Turbine, the developer behind Lord Of The Rings Online, has announced the DC-themed Infinite Crisis, a “multiplayer online battle arena” game. (That’s MOBA for short. League Of Legends is probably the most popular example.) Basically, this means you’ll be encountering bizarro variants of heroes like vampire Batman and some kind of steampunk Wonder Woman.

The Phantom Pain is Metal Gear Solid V…or is it? (It is.)
Metal Gear Solid V Snake

Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins once said that there’s a fine line between stupid and clever, and the bizarre way that Konami announced Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain certainly lies somewhere on one of those sides. The convoluted saga began late last year at Spike’s Video Game Awards show, where a unknown studio nobody had ever heard of unveiled a game called The Phantom Pain that seemed similar to the famously complex Metal Gear series. At the time, sites like Joystiq could do little more than compile evidence that seemed confirm the existence of a new Metal Gear Solid, while Kotaku theorized that a mysterious interview conducted by GameTrailers’ Geoff Keighley was actually an elaborate presentation of a computer-generated face.

Finally, at last week’s Game Developers Conference, Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima confirmed that The Phantom Pain is in fact Metal Gear Solid V. That seemed to wrap things up nicely, until Joystiq remembered that Konami already announced a new Metal Gear last year, subtitled Ground Zeroes. When Joystiq reached out to the publisher to figure out what the hell was going on, a Konami rep explained that Metal Gear Sold V: The Phantom Pain and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes are two separate games. So we come out of this knowing barely more than we did before. Hey, just like a Metal Gear game!

EA figures that Battlefield should get annual sequels too
Battlefield 4

Just last week I talked about how some game publishers have no idea how to properly unveil a new title, and now we have another example: Battlefield 4. The short version of the story so far is that back in July, a pre-order bonus for Medal of Honor: Warfighter (truly one of the most creative game titles ever) included access to a beta version of the yet-unmentioned-anywhere-else Battlefield 4. Fast forward to last week at the Game Developers Conference, where a trailer and some screenshots leaked a few hours before EA’s planned official announcement. In the end, it’s another modern-day military shooter. Now that I think of it, we probably could’ve guessed that without all of these leaks anyway.

Harmonix refuses to accept the death of music games
Harmonix

Harmonix, the developer behind Rock Band and the good Guitar Hero games (the first two), recently announced that it would be ending its five-year streak of weekly downloadable song updates with Don McLean’s American Pie. Considering how long it lasted after people got tired of lugging out their plastic guitars and drum sets, it’s not surprising that Harmonix is already hard at work on its next project. Or rather, its next three projects. As reported by GamesBeat, the studio has pulled in some venture capitalist connections to help it flesh out a series of “stunningly envisioned” new games that “each [address] a different human-computer-interface paradigm.” I don’t know what that means, but it sounds pretty rock-and-roll, right? Right?

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40 Responses to “Is There An Ecco In Here?”

  1. His_Space_Holiness says:

    I tried to play Ecco the Dolphin once, as part of the Sonic Genesis Collection for the PS3, and I never got past the first area, the sunny lagoon with all the dolphins. I just could not figure out what I was supposed to do. I gathered from the game description that at some point a waterspout or something would take away all the other dolphins and I’d have to rescue them, but I couldn’t figure out what I had to do to trigger it. So I was just swimming around, reading the same couple of lines of dolphin dialogue and feebly jumping out of the water. My best guess is that a big enough jump would make something happen, but at that point I was too bored and confused to keep trying.

    • George_Liquor says:

      You were on the right track. In that lagoon, get a running–er, swimming start and jump straight up. That triggers the waterspout and begins the game. Then swim around some more, for another 12 hours or so, until it ends. Whee.

  2. duwease says:

    Just *mentioning* Ecco the Dolphin returning fills me with a rotting feeling of dread in my stomach.  I had hoped that the genre of “drowning-induced-panic-attack-simulator” had run its course.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       I actually liked the idea of Ecco the Dolphin–there’s not many games based in a marine environment–but the difficulty does ramp up really fast.  I don’t need some hand-holding easy mode (they did that already with Ecco Jr.), but I felt the timed elements (the irritating need to grab air to continue breathing) really discouraged exploration and experimentation.

      • neodocT says:

         Ecco Jr.! Man, this woke some weird childhood flashbacks.

        When I was a kid my younger brother had a thing called the Sega Pico. It was a weird (and, looking back, surprisingly cool) mix of storybooks, a console and a tablet, marketed towards toddlers and younger kids. Ecco Jr. was one of the few games we had on it, and we used to spend hours drawing and making songs with that rudimentary tablet, controlling Ecco with the pen. I do wonder what happened to that thing, it might even be laying around somewhere, to my inevitable disappointment if I manage to fire it up again.

        I looked around the internet and the other game I remember playing on the Pico was, apparently, called “Richard Scarry’s Huckle and Lowly’s Busiest Day Ever”. That title just rolls off the tongue!

      • duwease says:

        That’s my main issue.. the rapidly depleting air meter turned what could have been peaceful exploration into a panic.  I love exploring, but it felt more like being lost while I’m late to an appointment and my wife is backseat-driving me into insanity every time I hit a new dead end.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

           To the creator’s credit, they seem to be aware that this was the problem with those games, if the entries at the end of The Big Blue pitch page (under the heading “Risks and Challenges”) are any indication.

      • RTW says:

        I love games that take place in nature because they always always ALWAYS, at some point, turn fucking insane. All the Ecco games, E.V.O.: The Search for Eden, Tail of the Sun for the PlayStation, Seventh Cross Evolution for the Dreamcast ….. the list goes on. Ecco starts off with your pod getting sucked up into the sky, but doesn’t really start snowballing until you reach Atlantis; E.V.O. starts off as a fairly down-to-earth dog-eat-dog prehistory sim until you start getting into the mystery of the crystals and fighting bird-man soldiers in the Ice Age; and so on, etc.

        Ecco’s realism was much cooler in theory than in practice. You do eventually get infinite air, but only like two or three levels from the end of the game. The real problem with the game is the lack of checkpoints, which is acutely felt in many of the late stages, especially the boss fight against the Asterite and the final pair of levels in the Vortex mothership. It gets really tiresome doing the same five or six steps of “go through this, push this here, hit this glyph” before getting to the boss with inevitably only one or two bars of energy left, and then starting over from scratch EVERY TIME.

        Luckily, we live in the Age of the Internet, so you can now let the insanity of Ecco the Dolphin‘s plot now wash over you without any of the masochistic torture of actually playing it! Block off a 90-minute chunk of your day and watch with mouth agape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It_eOIPgCdE

        Word of warning if you ever decide to tackle this beast yourself: this longplay makes it look WAAAAY too easy.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      Underwater stages always give me a weird sense of unease in the pit of my stomach. Remember the first underwater level in Super Mario 64, with the eel? I hated it.

      Strangely, this only happens in underwater levels in games with three-dimensional environments. Two-dimensional games, like the early Mario games? No problem. Outer space, like Dead Space? Nothing. Underwater level? A primal part of my mind is whispering to me, telling to get out while I still can.

      • AnonymousPosterChild says:

         I have the same issue. The example that most readily comes to mind is going underwater in Half-Life. I hate it and avoid it if at all possible.

  3. Sam_Barsanti says:

    Also RE: the Metal Gear stuff, it looks like David Hayter won’t be voicing Snake/Big Boss/Whoever that is in the trailer.

    https://twitter.com/DavidBHayter/status/317002108115234816

    That’s the thing about voice actors. They can be replaced and nobody will know the ding-dong-diddly-difference.

    • Andrew Child says:

      The resultant nerd furor says otherwise; ultrafans are already petitioning and screaming “will not buy!”.  

    • beema says:

      Uhh, pretty sure everyone will know the difference without David Hayter. His voice is pretty distinctive. There’s a petition going on to bring him back, but I’d assume it’s too late if the game is slated for release this year :(

    • OrangeLazarus says:

      No one else can pronounce “Metal Gear!?!” with the appropriate mix of panic, anger and confusion.

    • Sam_Barsanti says:

      My fingers are crossed for Quinton Flynn. He’d be a good replacement, right?

    • KidvanDanzig says:

      Too busy being sad about The Watchmen flopping, I’m sure

      His VA work was never that great, is the thing, it was just familiar.

  4. Kevin Sorbo as Hercules says:

    I threw out 2 Rock Band guitars last summer.  I could have taken them to goodwill or maybe try and trade them in at Gamestop but I was too ashamed.  Too embarassed.  Then I was ashamed that I was embarassed. 

    I’m really excited about The Big Blue.  I thought Ecco’s plot was entertaining but the best part about the Dreamcast one was exploring the ocean. 

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      I would probably still play Rock Band if it weren’t for the shitty quality of the guitars and my inability to play the drums for more than five minutes without experiencing wrist pain.  As of now the instruments are in a box in storage.

      • lokimotive says:

        Edit: Well that’s a little frustrating. You can’t have an empty tag, Disqus will just go ahead and split it into a opening tag and an end tag. Oh well.

        • The_Helmaroc_King says:

          Will Disqus take HTML entity codes?
          <nerdery>

          Edit: It seems so!

          If you want to show a pseudo-HTML tag, you can use HTML entity codes. to show

          <something>

          try typing

          &lt;something&gt;

      • I’ve finally grown bored of the guitars, and I never cared for the drumming in the first place. I still love to sing, though. 

  5. Technically Battlefield is bi-annual, as BF3 came out in 2011, BC2 in 2009, and so on back to the first one.

    But yeah, even as a huge Battlefield fan, I couldn’t find an iota of excitement for that new trailer.  The message I want to send to EA is, I don’t care about single-player, that’s not your strong suit. Show me video of a dude flying a helicopter 2 feet off the ground, jumping out, hitting a tank with an RPG, arming an m-com station, killing a medic, picking up said medics kit, and reviving his team mate, then bro-fisting him as the m-com explodes in the background.

    That’s a trailer I’d be pumped for.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      Remember when DLC was supposed to replace over-iterative release schedules?

      Me neither.

  6. PugsMalone says:

    No mention of the Ducktales remake?

  7. Fluka says:

    OMG NEW DEUS EX GAME.

    Better boss fights!  Sexy moral choice!  Strangely familiar weapons and co-op characters!  New shapes and colors!

    (I honestly wish today weren’t today…)

  8. beema says:

    The MGS stuff was indeed ridiculous. They made it even more needlessly confusing by combining the trailers for Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain. It also makes it look like that franchise is going the way of “let’s squeeze every dime out of this that we can!” with two simultaneous games. Come on!  

    Afaik, Ground Zeroes (god I hate that name) is essentially a direct sequel to Peace Walker, following Big Boss once again, and leading up to a point where he is put in a coma. Then The Phantom Pain picks up the story 6 years later when he wakes out of the coma. You’re telling me that couldn’t just be one longish game?

    It kind of boggles my mind how much more canon they are shoving in to Big Boss’s story at this point. His games now span such a massive amount of time compared to Solid Snake that I wonder if it even makes sense anymore chronologically. (well, it never does, since these new ones feature tech that shouldn’t be around back when they are set). 

    Maybe next year we’ll get a modern remake of Metal Gear. I mean, they have to sync up Big Boss and Snake’s stories at some point since they keep going this direction.

    • Steve McCoy says:

      I’m thinking that these won’t be two full-priced games. Or at least, Ground Zeroes won’t be. In the Gametrailers interview, Kojima says that GZ will be “on a smaller scale”, and in the recent past, he’s been talking about releasing “pilots” for AAA games to test the waters for new concepts, as a way to allow for more creative freedom with less financial risk. Of course this is a Metal Gear game(s) and they seem ready to go whole hog as usual, so it won’t be quite the same, but I’ll bet something similar comes of it.

  9. Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

    I stayed with music games longer than most, and always figured I’d return at some point.  I never cared about the accuracy of playing an instrument, for me it was just about getting to hear great music while I had a lot of fun.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if harmonix has something up their sleeves.  The innovations in RB3 were pretty cool and really seemed aimed at pushing the genre forward rather than just selling units (as seen by the lack of units sold!)