create your own game



If you're one of those people who thinks the game industry's gotten away from its maverick roots and now exists simply as a tool to funnel gabillions of dollars into the vaults of megalithic corporations -- and we do -- here's a chance to make a difference.

Microsoft plans to make its just-announced XNA Game Studio Express available to all comers by the holidays. The company says the GSE is "a revolutionary new set of tools" that will "democratize game development" and allow hobbyists, students, indie developers and studios alike to compete on level ground in the game-making field.

The GSE software is free for anyone with a Windows XP-based PC. Of course, if you want to use it, you'll have to join a "creators club" that'll tap you for $99 a year.

The beta version will be available Wednesday as a free download. The final version will be available by the holidays.

A second, more-advanced toolset will be released in spring of 2007.

Can't refuse, Part 2

EA's bringing its videogame version of The Godfather, released last March for the PS2, Xbox and PC, to the Xbox 360 next month with tweaked graphics and gameplay and a ton of new features -- not to mention exclusive content that will be available for download online. Also look for The Godfather: Mob Wars, a Grand Theft Auto: Vice Wars-style jaunt for the PSP, at the same time. Word on the street says you better play it -- or else.

Five minutes left ...

Still giddy over the fact that at least seven Americans watched this year's World Cup, EA has announced a lineup of soccer superstars who will grace the cover of the coming FIFA 07, due in stores Oct. 3.

Brazil's Ronaldinho, a man so rich and powerful he can have anything he wants except orthodontia, will be featured on all seven international versions of the FIFA 07 cover. Other stars will appear alongside him. In the U.K., it's mild-mannered Wayne Rooney of Manchester United; Lukas Podolski of Bayern Munich gets the call in Germany; David Villa of Valencia is the choice for Spain; and Juninho Pernambucano of Olympique Lyonnais butts his way to the top of the heap in France. Meanwhile, in North America, Landon Donovan of the L.A. Galaxy and Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca of SL Benfica share the last five of their 15 minutes in the spotlight with Ronaldinho. Sadly, the U.S. version could probably be released with Popeye, Santa Claus and the AFLAC duck on the cover, and only about three people would be any the wiser.

Classic Genesis

Been saving that old Genesis with the thought that you might someday again want to roll up on old-school gems like Altered Beast and Phantasy Star? Toss it out. SEGA's announced it's making its best Genesis games available in one title for the PS2 and PSP.

The SEGA Genesis Collection features more than 30 games, including Shinobi III, Golden Axe and the original Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sure you could download all those classic titles for nothing on dozens of Internet emulator sites, but then you'd miss out on the bonus fun -- like interviews with the game developers, a virtual museum, tips and tricks, and some classic SEGA arcade games.

Look for it sometime this fall.

Madden 07: The champ speaks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Alex Smith gave this year's version of Madden NFL a big thumbs-up when he got a sneak peek at it during training camp a couple of weeks ago.

Why does that matter? Because Smith won the NFL players Madden Bowl last year, besting Baltimore receiver Mark Clayton in the championship game.

"It's nice," Smith said of this year's model. "They always come with some new stuff. "They've got different features where you control linemen and, of course, the graphics always get better and better. I like that they put my ratings up a little higher. I've got a pretty good high grade. I'm getting up there."

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