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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 09:57 GMT
The mobile future blog: day three

ENTRY ONE: MORE GEARS FOR THE XBOX 360

Microsoft has faced some criticism in the last few months that its 2008 line-up was looking thin and that a resurgent Sony PlayStation 3 would trample on the console.

People pointed out that in 2007, despite a line-up which included Halo 3, Mass Effect and Bioshock, the console was only truly dominant (ie heavily outsold the PS3) in the US and UK.

The Nintendo Wii of course outsold both the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

At the Game Developers Conference Microsoft decided to pull out one of its big guns and try and stave off the growing chatter that the console was in for a difficult 12 months.

At the end of a keynote speech delivered by the firm's head of Live services, John Schappert, Microsoft announced a follow-up to the multi-award winning Gears of War.

A teaser trailer was shown to delegates, which really gave nothing away, and the game's lead designer Cliffy B said it would be out in November and would be "bigger, better and more badass".

Crucially the game's developer Epic had been on stage earlier in the keynote showing off the latest features of its Unreal engine and used Gears of War characters and locations to show what it was now capable of.

It's no leap of logic to assume that those features will appear in Gears 2.

They include: more dynamic lighting, destructible environments, new water effects and flocking attributes for large numbers of characters on a screen at one time.

For Epic Gears of War 2 will be the ultimate poster boy for what its engine is capable of.

For Microsoft Gears of War 2 will be the ultimate rebuke to those who feel the console will suffer in the months ahead.

The game comes as no surprise - the first title was such a success Microsoft would have paid anything to get a sequel.

The criticism that Microsoft faces is that a blockbuster title like Gears of War 2 does nothing to bring new audiences to gamers; it just keeps the fan boys happy.

ENTRY TWO: SID MEIER GETS CIVILIZED

Sid Meier is one of the games industry's true giants - so when he speaks about games people tend to listen.

The queue outside the Q&A session told its own story, wanting to hear from the man who co-founded Microprose, developed Railway Tycoon and, of course, Civilization.

He is this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developers Conference and still highly active, currently at work on a new Civilization sequel, called Revolution.

"We're starting with a blank slate on Revolution. But I also want to do the things I wish I'd been able to do the first time," he said.

"Designers dream of being able to go back in time and repair the past."

Meier, together with Bill Stealey, pioneered simulation games on home computers.

His biggest success, Civilization, is one of the most popular strategy games of all time.

"We went into it with the philosophy of making it as fun as it could be," he said.

"I did not expect the game to be as addictive as it was. It was quite scary.

"We had broken through to a new level of seeing the future of games. We were struggling at that point with being seen as geeky people.

"It was a kind of portent of how games could be something people want to spend a lot of time playing."

His insight into why people play games was fascinating.

"People actively enjoy learning as part of playing games. People don't like to be educated but they do like to learn."

He also explained why he still created games.

"I write games to play a game that hasn't been written yet. I do feel the games I create are games that haven't been written yet but fill a void."

But most pertinently when asked why his games were addictive, he turned the question on its head.

"I'm more intrigued why people don't play games: I think they are tonnes of fun and a great way to exercise your mind and do cool things you could never do in real life."



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