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November 2007

Galaxy Co-Star mode passes the mother-in-law test

Mariogalaxy_25 Super Mario Galaxy is the most pure fun I've ever had playing a video game. It's a masterpiece of level design, play mechanics, and art direction. If you haven't played it yet, I strongly encourage you to get your hands on the game as soon as possible.

If you don't own a Wii, buy one to play this game. It's that good. If you can't find a Wii, hijack a Wal-Mart truck, grab a Wii, bury it, get arrested, pay your bail, dig up the Wii, go home, and play this game while you await your trial. It will be worth it.

One of the unique design features of Super Mario Galaxy is its cooperative simultaneous play, dubbed Co-Star mode by creator Shigeru Miyamoto. Player 1 performs all the platforming, enemy bashing, and coin-collecting;  while Player 2 collects star bits, stuns enemies, and generally functions as Player 1's assistant.

Nintendo has been trying to figure out how to create a compelling auxiliary player mode for over 10 years, beginning with Kirby Super Star for the SNES (AKA Kirby's Fun Pack in Europe). That game featured the addition of a "helper," which was an enemy-turned-friend that could be controlled by a 2nd player using a separate controller. It was an interesting, if not completely successful, experiment, and Miyamoto discovered that cooperative simultaneous play was a greater challenge than he expected:

Friendly two-player play is something that’s easier said than done. It’s not a problem in competitive play where the two players are equal, but in scrolling games where one player is the main player, the question of whether the other player could really enjoy the game was just one long-term challenge. With those games, it always seems like the second player is being forced to play, and at times it’s not much fun.[1]

As good as SMG is, I was initially skeptical about its co-op mode. It sounded gimmicky to me, and I couldn't understand why anyone would want to be Player 2. Now that the Thanksgiving family crush has ended, I finally see the light. Single-player SMG is great fun, but playing with a helper is even better, especially if that helper is a young child or a person curious but intimidated by video games.

I completed the Fountain Galaxies with my mother-in-law, and it was a blast. She played without fear of losing or impeding my progress. I focused on navigating and progressing (and a little showing off), and we explored the indelibly wonderful galaxies together. When she got distracted ("I just like looking around," she says), it was no big deal. When she got tired, she dropped out, and I continued.

What truly surprised me was how much fun I had being Player 2 when she decided to give it a go as Player 1. As she wandered around learning how to move Mario, I kept the Goombas at bay. When she became disoriented I could point at a bridge or a pipe with my Wiimote and suggest she try going there. I have loved making Mario jump for 25 years, but it turns out it's a lot of fun helping someone else discover that little piece of joy for herself. 

Super Mario Galaxy's co-op mode will never be confused with Gears of War, but there's much to be said for synchronous gameplay that allows players of different skill levels to play together by design without handicapping, ala Guitar Hero. SMG provides two very different styles of play, rather than the usual "easy," "hard," "expert" modes, and it's a design choice that works remarkably well.

Now I want to see other games implement their own versions of Co-Star mode. I can easily envision a racing game, for example, in which the primary player steers, brakes, and generally races the car - while the co-op player functions as pit crew chief, monitoring the vehicle's condition, calculating fuel, and scheduling pit stops. There must be other genres that could benefit as well.

I realize SMG's version of co-op isn't for everyone, especially hardcore gamers. But Co-Star mode is a valuable and innovative step forward--one that makes an instant classic like Super Mario Galaxy accessible while sacrificing none of its challenge. I hope we see more of it in games to come.

Meet the newest Brainy Gamer

Zoe_2 Zoe Marie arrived on November 25 and weighed in at 8 lbs 1 oz. and measured 20 and three-quarters inches. Mom and baby are doing is still a bit shaky.

I want to sincerely thank all of you who posted comments and sent email wishing us well. I read every one aloud to my wife this morning, and she was quite moved. I'm very lucky to have such thoughtful readers, and I really can't thank you enough. You guys are terrific.

I'll be back on the blog train shortly. I can happily report that while we await discharge from the hospital, my wife and I have been waging some epic Meteos battles in between feedings. She remains, even after childbirth, unbeatable!

Childbirth - it's go time!

Babydelivery My wife and I have gone to the hospital for the birth of our baby. The Brainy Gamer will be on hiatus--I'm a devoted blogger, but not THAT devoted ;-)--and I promise to report back soon after she arrives. Please keep us in your thoughts. I look forward to letting all of you know (with pictures, I hope) about the debut of the newest Brainy Gamer!

More soon.


Mass Effect: The game that wanted to be a movie

Masseffect201 I am thoroughly enjoying Mass Effect: The Game. Its futuristic story is richly imagined, chock-full of lore, and populated by characters with layers of backstory. Its RPG elements work beautifully, striking a nice balance between complexity and accessibility. Despite some frame-rate issues, the game looks fabulous, and I'm head-over-heels about its retro-inspired art design.

If you're old enough to remember Disneyland's Tomorrowland before its recent makeover, Mass Effect will bring a smile to your face. Star Trek fans will even recognize a few homage logos and uniform insignias.

And there's the music. Mass Effect's soundtrack may be one of the finest scores ever composed for a video game, and situation-specific music is fully integrated from menu screens to action sequences. A whole lot of love went into the making of this game, and it shows.

Mass Effect: The Movie is a different story.

From its inception, the designers of Mass Effect conceived of the game as a cinematic experience. In the booklet "A Future Imagined," included in the collector's edition, Project Director Casey Hudson clearly states his view of the game:

MASS EFFECT is not a space opera or a space western. It is a serious and artful cinematic experience, rendered with a unique combination of starkly realistic visuals and hauntingly powerful musical scores.

Art Director Derek Watts echoes Hudson's sentiments on the same page:

When we began, we knew we wanted MASS EFFECT to be unlike any other game: clean and realistic, with a true cinematic feel.

BioWare clearly wants Mass Effect to be a cinematic RPG, and they half-succeed. Mass Effect is a terrific RPG, but it is, unfortunately, an awful movie. As interactive storytelling, the experience is rich and varied, but as interactive cinema it often feels awkward and aesthetically shallow.

Unquestionably, BioWare makes great RPGs. Since Baldur's Gate, it has specialized in coupling remarkably deep role-playing with immersive storytelling. As the years have passed, BioWare designers (unlike their counterparts at Blizzard or Bethesda) have increasingly relied on the language of film to communicate content to the player. The Aurora toolset for Neverwinter Nights allowed players to create their own in-game "movies." Knights of the Old Republic added narrative cutscenes and POV conversations. Jade Empire ramped up the cutscenes and attempted to depict interactions between the player and NPCs in more film-like ways. It should come as no surprise that with Mass Effect, Bioware is attempting to complete the transformation.

At times, the game delivers the "artful cinematic experience" promised. The opening establishing shot reveals a planet observed from orbit, then slowly pulls back to reveal Shepard gazing wistfully out a window as we overhear a conversation assessing Shepard's prowess as a soldier. The virtual camera then holds on Shepard's expressionless face. We cut to a hand-held sequence tracking Shepard from behind as he walks among officers who respectfully acknowledge him, finally arriving on deck as the camera swings around and pans up to reveal Shepard's face. The star of the movie has arrived...and gets a close-up. And since you're the casting director, you get to decide what Shepard looks like, as well as whether Shepard is a man or a woman.

The big things in Mass Effect look great. The problems emerge with the little things. Basically, Mass Effect fails Filmmaking 101. Dialogue scenes are a recurring series of over-the-shoulder shots intercut with close-ups. Conversations occur in static space with no movement or camera blocking. Scenes tend to have no more than 3 camera setups, so they inevitably lack variety and visual interest.

While there is nothing specifically "wrong" with these techniques, major portions of Mass Effect look like they were shot and edited by film school freshmen. They lack imagination, expressiveness and point of view. The game offers itself to the player as a rich cinematic experience, but too often it looks like a generic B-movie.

Click here to play an example scene - Quicktime required

We generally overlook such awkwardness because video games that employ filmic techniques are usually borrowing the language of film rather than appropriating it as a core design aesthetic. When a Final Fantasy game looks like a movie, it tends to look like a very well-produced movie. When it looks like an RPG, it drops nearly all its cinematic pretensions.

Somewhere along the line, game designers have become convinced that realism means cinematic. Players understand the language of film, so it makes sense that designers would wish to leverage this powerful and highly evolved semiotic. The irony, of course, is that film manipulates time, space, and image to achieve its so-called reality. This construction relies on a combination of tools borrowed from its predecessor (Theater) and tools it developed on its own (continuity editing, montage, etc.).

A video game can clearly make good use of film language--as Mass Effect often does--but if it over-relies on those tools--if it fails to develop and exploit its own expressive toolset--it inevitably risks looking like a thin man wearing a fat man's suit.

The other issue that crops up in Mass Effect is the faces of the characters. Close-ups and new-tech facial animations get us closer to film acting--and the voice actors are mostly excellent--but striving for such photorealism means that every bit of failure is magnified. Lips don't match words, shadows arbitrarily appear and disappear, and certain animations are repeated too often. BioWare is getting very interesting results with its facial expression algorithms, but it has a long way to go if we are to accept what we are seeing as "real." Mass Effect is truly a trip to Uncanny Valley. (For more on this, I recommend Clive Thompson's essay, The Undead Zone: Why realistic graphics make humans look creepy).

I plan to continue playing Mass Effect to the end, and I may even roll another character and try it again. BioWare has lavished its trademark loving attention on this game, and my complaints should not dissuade you from giving it a go. There's much I could have written about the moral choices presented or the compelling side quests offered. Mass Effect is a fascinating and admirably ambitious RPG that every serious gamer should play.

Still, I can't help wondering how far we're going to go with cinematic games. Most players and reviewers equate highly cinematic with highly effective:

The cinematic design is nothing short of masterful. This is a game that takes the aspects of film that make cinema so compelling and crosses it with the interactivity of games with unprecedented success. [IGN review of Mass Effect]

So I know I'm swimming upstream. My guess is that if BioWare decided to address the issues I'm raising, their solution would be to improve the facial animation algorithms or upgrade their virtual camera technique. In other words, try harder and apply better technology to make it look more like a movie.

Have you heard the one about a fellow named Sisyphus?

Face time with Mass Effect

Masseffect1 The big brown truck will deliver my copy of Mass Effect tomorrow, and my curiosity is fully piqued. I've purposely avoided reading reviews or articles on the game, which hasn't been easy given all the attention it's receiving. For once, I want to have a "pure" gaming experience with as little prior knowledge rattling around my brain as possible. Adding to my anticipation is the fact that my friend Angela (from ThumbBandits and Lesbian Gamers) has been playing the game for a week in Australia and tossing around phrases like "astounding."

What especially interests me about Mass Effect--aside from the fact that it's a BioWare game--is its focus on characters and narrative. My training is in the theater, so I come to video games with a strong predilection for vivid characters and well-told stories. And of course, we thespians have been role-playing since the 5th century BC., so a good RPG always gets my attention.

BioWare knows how to tell compelling stories--as Baldur's Gate and Knights of the Old Republic proved--and its ability to populate games with memorable characters has set it apart from its competitors. BioWare NPCs have a knack for sharp dialogue and motivated action, and its gallery of memorable women--from Jaheira in Baldur's Gate to Bastila Shan in KOTOR--is unrivaled by any other game developer.

Where BioWare runs into trouble (and it is hardly alone) is conveying genuine pathos through its characters. Limited technology has restricted the emotional expression of virtual characters to the voice actor. We hear the suffering in a character's voice, for example, but we don't see that emotion convincingly rendered in her face or body.

Mass Effect means to change that, according to its project director Casey Hudson. In an interview with the New York Times (okay, I allowed myself ONE article on the game) Hudson says Mass Effect will live or die on its ability to engage the players' emotions. The vehicle for that engagement is a visual storytelling style that features what old-time directors used to call "face acting" and plenty of close-ups.

If the action in our game is exciting, it’s because you care about the story situation. And what makes the story exciting is emotion. And what makes emotion is wrinkles. When you take the wrinkles away, you just have parts of the face moving around like a cartoon, and it really takes away a lot of the subtlety we intuit in human emotion.

The Times calls this "digital acting"--which both intrigues and unnerves me--but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to see (and feel, I hope) what BioWare is trying to achieve. I hope they know it's going to take a lot more than wrinkles to get the job done.

So I will await the brown truck. Meanwhile, I'm having the time of my life gallivanting across galaxies with Mario, whom I notice has no wrinkles at all.

Beowulf: The video game-movie-video game

Angelinajoliebeowulf Much has been made about the convergence of film and video games. The latest exhibit in the apparently unavoidable morph/collision is Robert Zemeckis' new film Beowulf. If you've seen the trailers you know that the CGI-rendered film basically looks like one long well-produced video game cutscene, with Angelina Jolie giving new meaning to the term "digital assets."

I haven't seen the film yet, but Chris Kohler over at Wired has, and he offers some interesting observations:

Game industry watchers who have long predicted that the revolution in video games would be about games evolving and becoming movies, as it turns out, had it all backwards. It'll be because movies are becoming video games.

I've spoken about the "films becoming video games" reverse convergence at several colloquium events in recent years, and I've often referred to the Spiderman series as evidence of entire movie sequences being designed with video game play in mind. It's hard to argue the reality of such cross-media convergence when the game designers are at the table with the filmmakers from the beginning of the project. If they weren't, the all-important movie/video game joint releases could never happen.

That said, this PG-13 film is laden with so much near-nudity, sexual humor, and gratuitous violence that it would certainly garner an M rating if it were slapped onto a video game console -- if not a full-on Adults Only, for the sex jokes and digital ass. If Beowulf truly does represent games and movies intermingling, then perhaps it will help expose the double standard that currently draws a thick black line between them.

Kohler's point about the ratings double standard seems a bit more complex to me. While it's certainly true that the kinds of violence and sexual content we see in movies could never be included in video games targeted at the same age groups, I do think the interactive aspect of video games complicates things a bit.

Is there a significant experiential difference between passively watching violence and "committing" it via an avatar? Conversely, perhaps the voyeuristic nature of film is more insidious than the straightforward activities I engage in via my avatar. Tommy Vercetti may be a bad guy sometimes, but at least he's not a creepy peeping Tom. Hitchcock weirds me out way more than Scorsese.

You can read all of Kohler's essay here.

What the next Gameboy can learn from the Amazon Kindle

Bezoskindle I have no idea if we'll ever see another GameBoy. But if designers in Kyoto (or Redmond, perhaps?) are secretly working on it, they would be wise to consider taking a close look at the Amazon Kindle.

Jeff Bezos is nobody's fool. Since he started it in 1994, Amazon has grown to become the largest online retailer in the world with continually expanding revenue growth. Plenty of people thought Bezos' initial slow-growth business plan was doomed, and plenty of those same people thought he was crazy to expand Amazon's product line beyond books. Amazon stayed the course, and Bezos was able to steer Amazon through the dot-com bust that sunk most other online ventures.

Bezos has devoted the last 3 years to developing the Kindle. Since it was officially announced yesterday, legions of naysayers have been piling on the hate train pointing out all the things wrong with it. It's ugly. It's too expensive. It lacks a touchpad. People prefer the tactile feel of books. It's doomed.

Maybe. But even if it fails, the Kindle has much to teach about features we ought to expect in a handheld gaming device. Among the most important Kindle-inspired lessons:

  1. Make games available for purchase directly from the device. No syncing to a computer. No cables.
  2. Wireless connectivity should be a no-brainer. Turn on the device and download games. No worries about hot-spots, wireless contracts, data plans, etc. It should just work from virtually anywhere.
  3. Online purchasing should be easy. Shop, buy, play. An iTunes Music Store experience.
  4. All games are backed up on the provider's side (unlike iTunes) in case of loss or theft.
  5. Subscriptions should be available for frequently updated content. I want Sam and Max to appear on my device automatically every time they have a new adventure.
  6. I should be able to subscribe to RSS feeds like Kotaku and Gamasutra (and, of course, The Brainy Gamer), and the device should update those feeds on a schedule I determine.
  7. Saved games should be randomly accessible, more like bookmarks than save points. Why can't I go directly to level 2 of the 3rd dungeon in chapter 5 if I want to?
  8. Free demos of all games.
  9. The device needs a next-gen non-glare screen usable in almost any environment. From all accounts, the Kindle's long development time was spent mostly on designing a screen that would meet users needs.

I won''t make any predictions about the success or failure of the Kindle, but Amazon has clearly thought hard about how to make an e-book people will want to use. With its game library, Nintendo would seem to stand the most to gain by copying some of these ideas, but I'm sure Sony and Microsoft are paying attention too.

After all, stealing good ideas isn't really stealing, right? It's...uh...corporate flattery. Yeah, that's it. That's the ticket.

Best co-op games for the holidays

Andyfamily2_3Wondering what to do when the football games are over and the eggnog wears off? Nothing says home for the holidays like a little family fun around the console.

We're hosting a variety of gamers from newbies to hardcore this year, so I decided to compile a list of co-op titles that encourage people to play together.

If I've omitted one of your favorites, let me know. All games listed are available on recent hardware. I can't be dragging out the Dreamcast when I've got a turkey to baste.

Click HERE for the full list.

Blacksite: Where's my subversion?

Blacksiteface_2 Blacksite: Area 51 was supposed to be a subversive game. Its lead designer Harvey Smith (of Deus Ex fame) had me thinking this game would go in narrative and thematic places few games have gone. I admire Smith and his thinking about video games, and I was particularly impressed with Peace Bomb, his response to the GDC's Game Design Challenge last year:

...a game played through the Nintendo DS, which organizes flash mobs of players to do constructive projects. A gameworld in which Earth is crushed under the jackboot of a soulless government/corporation. Players come up with ideas in a community-driven format, where the participants can create good ideas. If the idea gets enough good karma from other players, the game 'creates' the flash mob by asking players to show up and do something specific. Examples include donating money or clothes to a shelter, cleaning up an economically depressed area, or donating time to a Habitat for Humanity project. The game would feature the ability for others to vote on a project idea. It would also allow users to sign petitions with the DS stylus, and similar.[1]

How cool would that game be?! I also loved the original Deus Ex, so when Smith began talking about Blacksite: Area 51, his first new game as Studio Creative Director at Midway, I got excited and posted about it. Smith promised a game that would invite the player to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of American foreign policy in Iraq.

Look, I'm really fucking angry right now. Everything I read pisses me off. You can do this two ways: you can be super heavy-handed and propagandize -- and I wasn't interested in that -- or you can try to organically weave something through the entire work. If you do that, you run the risk of minimizing it so much that nobody notices it.

...It's very much there...It's subtle stuff, but moving into the first mission where you're about to be briefed, you're going past people and cars and checkpoints that have been quarantined. They're going, "Hey, you guys can't do this," and somebody else is saying, "The hell we can't."

Then it just gets more and more subversive from there...The whole theme is, "Who is the enemy? Look at the enemy -- do I look like the enemy to you?" One year, somebody's a freedom fighter, the next year they're a terrorist.[2]

Smith is describing a game I would very much like to play. Unfortunately, that isn't the game Midway released. Blacksite: Area 51 is a shooter, and that's basically it. Yes, it begins in Iraq and yes, it contains mission titles like "Misunderestimated" and "Cut and Run," but once the aliens start coming at you, the game unfolds like any other standard shooter. Your squad mates are cliche-spouting stereotypes, the enemies are mostly locked in place, and the game doesn't require much in the way of strategy. The graphics look good--especially the Nevada locales--but the environments add little to the actual gameplay other than scenery.

The message Smith intended to "organically weave...through the entire work" simply isn't there. I'm disappointed, but I can't say I wasn't warned. The first commenter on my original story cautioned me:

You shoot aliens. Kuma War this ain't. Just because they're willing to put a name to the country in this game where Call of Duty 4 won't doesn't make this third Area 51 game any more about the real world than the other two games in the series. [Posted by: Simon | November 09, 2007]

You got me there, Simon. I guess I'm left wondering if it's possible to combine a pure shooter with a socially compelling and thematically rich narrative. Sure, Bioshock and Half-Life 2 move strongly in this direction, and I admire both greatly. But neither really go where Harvey Smith said he wanted this game to go.

Taking him at his word (and the interview quoted above is only one of several in which Smith states his objectives), Blacksite was supposed to politically activate me. It was supposed to immerse me into a contemporary real-world war and confront me with some kind of harsh reality. It was supposed to make me contemplate the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. It does none of these things. Instead I shoot aliens.

Is this simply the wrong game to hang that concept on? Would another genre be better suited? I'm curious about Call of Duty 4 (which I haven't played yet). Does it succeed in its storytelling where Blacksite fails?

I haven't given up on Harvey Smith because from what I can tell he's too smart and too ambitious to ignore. I hope he gets a shot at making the socially conscious game he seems to want to create. I don't know what that game would look like, but leaving Area 51 would probably be a good start.

Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 5

Catatmic_2 Why the fun is back in video games; a Zack and Wiki love-fest; what's wrong with a game canon; and news from the blog - all in this edition of The Brainy Gamer Podcast!

  • Listen to the podcast directly from this page by clicking the yellow "Listen Now" button on the right.
  • Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes by clicking here.
  • Download the podcast here. (right-click and choose save)

Video game canon

Warcraft2b At the most recent Game Developers Conference a panel of distinguished figures--game designers Steve Meretzky and Warren Spector, Joystiq editor Christopher Grant, and game scholar Matteo Bittanti--revealed the first 10 games to be listed in the Digital Game Canon:

Yes, groundbreaking games like Pong (1972) and Adventure (AKA Colossal Cave Adventure, 1976) should have made the list, and the absence of even a single RPG seems an oversight. I also have concerns about the whole notion of canons and their inevitable aesthetic, ideological, and political biases. For what it's worth, I discuss the game canon and these concerns in the next podcast, which will be posted in a day or so. If you're interested in any of these issues, be sure to listen.

Having said all that, I think it's a good list and I'm grateful to the IGDA's game preservation group for working hard to ensure that these games and all their related materials are available to future designers, scholars, and players. It's a noble effort, and no list of 10 games could ever satisfy everyone. Fortunately, this is an ongoing effort, and the list of preserved games will continue to grow.

If you'd like to listen to Spector, Bittanti and the others inducting these games, the IGDA has made the audio files and their accompanying slide presentations available here. You can also download PDF versions of all the presentations with accompanying MP3 files.

Listening to one of the true gaming gods, Steve Meretzky, discuss why Zork and Civilization matter so much is a real treat. Thanks to the IGDA for sharing it with all of us.

Dear Nintendo: Mario deserves a bigger push

Super_mario_galaxy Super Mario Galaxy has finally arrived to near-universal acclaim. EGM's Shane Bettenhausen calls it the game of the decade, and others have hailed it as the best platformer ever made. My copy arrives from Amazon tomorrow, and I can't recall feeling this excited for a new Mario game in years.

I saw a Wii-owner friend of mine the other day whom I would describe as a casual but devoted gamer. I asked him if he planned to play Galaxy and he replied, "There's a new Mario game?"

Where is the marketing push for this game? In Japan, mass transit trains are running Galaxy ads on LCD screens, and there are nine separate Galaxy commercials running on Japanese television. Perhaps I don't watch enough television, but I have yet to see a Galaxy commercial in English aside from the one posted on YouTube. What I have seen on television are several clever Brain Age ads running on various networks.

Even Nintendo's own web site lacks any meaningful promotion of the game. A visit to the home page reveals a flash animation ad for Galaxy that is replaced ten seconds later with an ad for the new Phoenix Wright game. No other information about the game appears anywhere on the page. Clicking on the Wii link takes you to a page that continues to announce that "Metroid Prime 3 is available now." Worse yet, the official website for the game ( isn't even ready yet.  The page loads with the message "Official site coming soon!" The game is out now. Why isn't the website ready? [See update below]

I don't ordinarily concern myself with game company marketing budgets or strategies, but I'm unusually concerned about Nintendo's lack of push for Galaxy, and I'm trying to figure out where that's coming from. I'm sure there's a nostalgia factor at play. I actually care about the Mario franchise. I see it as a pivotal series that helped create an industry. I also see it as a franchise that has innovated gameplay more consistently than any other, and this new title is apparently a stellar example of Nintendo's genius for design and polish.

Perhaps Mario games sell themselves, and perhaps Nintendo knows exactly what they're doing. The soaring stock price would suggest they need no help from me bringing consumers to their products. Fair enough. I want Nintendo to succeed for admittedly sentimental reasons, but I have no personal stake in the corporation. I do, however, have a legitimate personal stake in the Mario franchise. It means something to me and to lots of other devoted gamers as well.

Placing the design for Galaxy back in the hands of the famed EAD Tokyo team indicates that Nintendo is serious about maintaining the franchise's  high level of excellence. Failing to promote it vigorously makes no sense to me and raises questions about Nintendo's real commitment to the game.

Update: The Super Mario Galaxy official website is now online. Thanks Nintendo!