Top 10 Recent Annoying Trends in the Games Industry

With the economy getting fairly rough and the games industry getting hit with a multitude of closures and layoffs, it’s no surprise that game companies have reverted to “make a quick buck mode” these days. This has caused more than a few annoying trends to pop up within the industry whether it be on the publisher side or the developer side. Without further ado, here is a list of the top ten recent annoying trends in the games industry.

Relying on post release support far too much

Post-release support is a great thing for gamers and developers alike.  In most situations any sort of bugs get ironed out of the game fairly quickly if the developers missed something, and even downloadable content keeps people playing the game long after they are finished with the main areas.  The problem is that in this new digital age, most tech companies assume that everyone has access to the internet and other commonplace services that many take for granted.  In this situation there is a new trend popping up where companies print and release unfinished games to meet a deadline, and then force everyone to immediately update the game when they get home.  The problem being that not everyone can do this, so two versions of any said game could exist: the fixed playable one, and the terrible buggy one.
Paying for “add-ons” that are just part of the game blocked off

Another trend is for these guys to release DLC immediately after the release of the game, making folks suspect that it honestly could have been on the disk, but the consumer is getting gouged for that extra little bit of cash.  I noticed this most recently while playing WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011 on the PS3 I just got.  Granted, the game came out a while before I got it, but some of the early DLC seemed sort of suspect, as if it was originally in the game but blocked off in some way.  The same game has another ace up its sleeve in that game companies are trying to curtail game rentals and used games sales by forcing people to pay for the online services of a game if you didn’t buy a brand new copy.  The aforementioned game in question charges ten dollars for those that want to play online, which isn’t too bad, but would make me pretty angry if I bought the game used, especially when most used stores only make the game five or ten dollars cheaper around release time.
“Cinematic experiences”

I’m all for video games to make the leap from a kid’s toy to a mature art form, but I feel that a few game directors are using the media as a backdoor into the films industry, completely forgetting that the term is video games not video movies.  I’m not going to call any games out here, as that would start a flame  war, but any game that has multiple 30 minute cut scenes with little or no interaction held within is on a slippery slope.
Announcing an announcement

A few companies have started a practice where, to drum up anticipation, they hype up an “announcement”.  This gets spread around all of the popular game-centric websites until it hits a fever pitch.  Comments like: “What could this game be?” or  “I bet it’s a new game in X franchise” are commonplace and only help intensify the resentment and disappointment once the “announcement” is finally revealed.  Turns out in many cases, the “announcement” is simply letting people know that the company in question is about to announce a game.  What!?  Are these guys seriously announcing an announcement?
Announcing games eons before they are released 

I’m not a huge fan of Nintendo’s new plan of only announcing games six months before they release to stop stagnating expectations of said game, but other companies also seem to do the exact opposite.  There honestly has to be a middle ground, because in situations like Gran Turismo 5, we knew about the game seemingly as it was first conceived by Sony.  After years and years of fan speculation, missed released windows, and mis-information I honestly think it would have been better to not announce it so early.  Most fans of the series had their expectations built so high for so many years, there was no way that the game, or any game for that matter could meet the expectations.  Here’s hoping Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t end up being critically panned for the same reasons.
Wii rail shooters

As a fan of arcade-styled rail shooters I initially loved the huge wave of these guys popping up on the Wii.  Games like Ghost Squad, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and even the VERY dated Mad Dog McCree took me back to the days when arcades were still around, and folks actually used them.  This sadly started a trend where all companies thought that rail shooters were a golden ticket to Rich-ville or something, completely over-saturating the market.  Almost all of these games have done poorly and lost money for their respective companies.  This leads us to the next point:
Blaming gamers for company mishaps

It’s a story we have seen way too often:  a big game company wants to support a game system they don’t really understand, so they make a game atypical for it.  In this case we could either talk about Wii “hardcore” games or Japanese games on the 360 as both are good examples of this.  They hype the game up to get attention, and then the bitter realization sets in: nobody wants this game on this system.  Rather than keeping the failure internal, or make a classy little “my bad” press release, some of these guys have started to talk poorly on the system and its fan base at trade shows and other media.  Suddenly the heads of multi-million dollar companies are saying things like “The Wii audience is nothing more than children” (nobody did, just a possible example).  This does nothing more than anger the core audience of that system, and cause boycotts.
DRM mismanagement

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a good way for game companies to protect their multi-million dollar investments, and make sure that the coders, artists, developers, and even actors get paid what they deserve.  What most of these systems entail is activation by way of some sort of a code, and limitations on the games installation on other devices.  Valve basically pioneered the practice with the release of Half-Life 2 way back in the middle of the last decade.  Steam was met with harsh criticism at first, but has become a benchmark for what DRM should be.  Sadly much more intrusive DRM schemes have popped up that undermine the consumer’s ownership of the game, and others have even hurt the consumer’s computer such as the case of Sony’s music DRM from a few years ago.
Take Ubisoft for example: under their DRM scheme used in such games as Assassin’s Creed II, the game has to constantly authenticate itself on an online sever, thus rendering the game unplayable if you do not have a steady internet connection, pay by bandwidth usage, or use a mobile device such as a laptop.  The word finally got around that folks hated it enough, and it was removed.  In an interview with Kotaku, Valve’s Doug Lombardi chimed in with the following:
“The key to making a good authentication system, Lombardi says, is to not stand in the way of customers enjoying what they bought. A bad system is like telling a customer "Wait, before you go on this roller coaster you need to change your shoes,"
Competitive multiplayer for the sake of it

Some games are simply not made for multiplayer, and forcing all games to have an online mode of some sort is really stupid.  To further the point, most games DO NOT need any sort of competitive multiplayer if some sort of multiplayer is indeed needed.  Keep it cooperative guys!  For me there no greater offender in this regard than some of the earlier Nintendo DS games; games that added multiplayer simply to test out the systems Wi-Fi connectivity.  After playing around two rounds of competitive New Super Mario Bros. one is pretty much done with the mode forever.  Luckily they fixed it with the game’s younger brother for the Wii, where a cooperative multiplayer shows how it’s done.
Games that are far too short

With the advances of graphical technology and the overall timeframe needed to make modern games is making certain games way too short.  This is especially prevalent in many first person shooters, as the campaign, or main story of the game, has been getting shorter and shorter in recent years.  I know that the main draw for these games is the multiplayer, a mode that is executed fairly well in most cases, but most folks want a competent single player experience as well.  Terminator Salvation almost immediately comes to mind when speaking of this trend, a game that was barely longer than the movie that it was a tie-in for.  I blame yearly releases or “Madden-itis” for this problem as many companies are forced to crank out a new game every year with minimal technological upgrades, a problem way worse for developers making shooter than yearly sports games.    
There you have it! What are some annoying trends popping up that you don’t like?

The Top 10 iPhone 4 Apps (2010 – 2011)

1- Angry Birds: [Pricing: $0.99]: Developed by Chillingo, the company who sold 1 million copies of their latest app, “Cut the Rope for iPad” Angry Birds has been rated the #1 Game for the iPhone this year! The Angry Bird for iPhone is an exciting, fun packed game where the Angry Birds have to fight the green pigs who stole your eggs. The Angry Birds is a Must Have iPhone game! Now you can get the latest update where the birds have special abilities and new levels!
2- Fruit Ninja [Pricing: $0.99] Fruit Ninja has been designed for both the iPhone and the iPad. This fun and addictive gaming app has be developed by the Halfbrick Studios. Fruit Ninja has sold over Two Million copies after the release The latest update [Nov 03] comes with multi-player. It has been rated as the #1 Paid App in Norway, Russia, Czech Republic and Germany! And comes after the Angrybirds in USA! Recommended!
3- Cut the Rope [Pricing: $0.99] Designed and developed by Chillingo, Cut the Rope is available on both the iPhone and the iPad. It’s really fun playing this game, and has been a very successful app this year! In the story, you receive a mysterious box with an unknown creature inside, he loves eating candies, so start feeding because he never stops! :)
4- Dragon Dictation [Pricing: Free] Dragon Dictation for the iPhone is one of the best apps that you can give your iPhone 4! It’s a simple yet powerful voice recognition app for your iPhone developed by the Dragon. How to use Dragon? Easy! All you have to do is to tap the app and start speaking, tap when ended and watch your narrations in email or text, it’s that simple! You cannot miss this one!
5- Kindle for iPhone [Pricing: Free] App developed by the Amazon for both the iPad and the iPhone. This creates an amazing experience for the book readers. The text looks clear and crisp on the beautiful screen of the iPhone. Once you install it on your iPhone, you will be able to access 725,000+ books via the Kindle Store. You will also be able to get your hands on the best sellers and the new releases!
6- Twitterrific for Twitter [Pricing: Free | Upgrade to Premium $4.99] Available on both the iPhone and the iPad. This universal platform Twitter application has been specially designed for Tweeple! It has a very clear and smooth user interface, you can start tweeting with Twitterrific for Twitter with a few taps. Latest features include, instapaper, filter tweets and themes!
7- The Karate Kid [Pricing: Free] The movie was a Hit and the app designed by the Sony Pictures for both the iPhone and iPad is amazing. Keeping the same stunts and karate style, the developers have done a great job with this amazing iPhone App! You’ll love it!
8- Siri Assistant [Pricing: Free] Designed and developed by Siri, it’s one of the best free Productivity Apps for your iPhone. This beautiful and intelligent iPhone app is very cool, all you have to do is to speak clear and plain English, let’s say, “How to make Khiladi Sizzler”. And within moments, Siri Assistant will start gathering information and you’ll get the reciepe, Cool na! :)
9- Public Radio Player [Pricing: Free} The Public Radio is an amazing iPhone app which turns your iPhone into a Radio! The latest release also includes the background audio support. Features like the timeline, pause/rewind, show-schedule and an alarm clock make it even more killer!
10- Backbreaker Football [Pricing: $0.99] The Backbreaker Football has very cool and amazing graphics and gives the user a more Realistic backbreaking football experience! The game environment and the transitions are very smooth. Already downloaded 3 Million times!
Okay, that’s it! This was the List of The Top Ten iPhone Apps for 2010. I hope you guys will love all these!

Top 10 Animated Short films to Enter Oscars 2011

LOS ANGELES, USA – The Academy Awards announced today that 10 animated short films will advance in the voting process for the 2011 Oscars. 33 films were entered into this year’s race.

The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:
* “The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger,” Bill Plympton, director (Bill Plympton Studio)
* “Coyote Falls,” Matthew O’Callaghan, director and Sam Register, executive producer (Warner Bros. Animation Inc.)
* “Day & Night,” Teddy Newton, director (Pixar Animation Studios)
* “The Gruffalo,” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang, directors (Magic Light Pictures)
* “Let’s Pollute,” Geefwee Boedoe, story-design-animation (Geefwee Boedoe)
* “The Lost Thing,” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, directors (Passion Pictures Australia)
* “Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary),” Bastien Dubois, director (Sacrebleu Productions)
* “Sensology,” Michel Gagne, director-producer (GAGNE International LLC)
* “The Silence beneath the Bark,” Joanna Lurie, director (Lardux Films)
* “Urs,” Moritz Mayerhofer, director (Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg)
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting in screenings held in New York and Los Angeles.

Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members will now select three to five nominees from among the 10 titles on the shortlist. Branch screenings will be held in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in January 2011.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.
Short films at the Oscars

Top 10 Moments at the Golden Globes 2011

The only thing I can figure about last night's Golden Globes TV show is that those Hollywood Foreign Press jerks called a last-minute meeting and, like a whore picked up by the cops with a john's pants already unzipped, tried to get respectable fast. It wasn't just the media, including me, ragging on them mercilessly last week: It was their former publicist Michael Russell suing them for $2 million because he had objected over the years to "unethical and potentially unlawful" deals under which members of the so-called nonprofit association profit by taking payments from studios or producers to lobby fellow members for votes. Hey, hasn't that been an open secret for decades?

My theory is the HFPA called an emergency confab, changed their ballots and picked winners that would jibe with the critics and the Oscars. They showered The Social Network with awards they didn't mean. How could an organization that nominates The Tourist and Burlesque for Best Movie have a genuine urge to honor anything "smart"?

Still, while the results were boring by being unobjectionable, the show still held interest for being what presenter Robert Downey Jr. termed "hugely mean-spirited and mildly sinister." For that, we mostly have to thank host Ricky Gervais, who broke the rule that governs any occasion in which Hollywood congratulates itself, by actually speaking his mind.

Gervais let insults drop like mortar fire. Noting the presence of undeserved Tourist acting nominees Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in the audience, Gervais denied the HFPA chose them merely as glam ratings grabbers for its awards telecast. "Rubbish," Gervais joked. "That was not the only reason. They also accepted bribes."

The comedian also laughed off rumors that a free trip to Vegas to see Cher constituted conduct unbecoming: "Now how was that a bribe, really? It's not, because it's not 1975 Choice stuff."

To commemorate an evening of priceless sham and disgrace, here are the Top Ten moments at the 2011 Golden Dildos:
1. Ricky Gervais claiming he had to pull HFPA president Philip Berk off the toilet and "pop in his teeth" to get him onstage for welcoming remarks. Berk wasn't laughing. "Ricky, next time you want me to help qualify your movies, go to another guy," said the pissed-off Prez, not even seeing the irony of his responding to anyone's special pleading.
2. Christian Bale, justifiably winning Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter, and referring to the Hollywood Foreign Press who gave it to him as "those awful characters."
3. Robert De Niro accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award by mocking his own bad films, including Little Fockers, and moving on to the HFPA voters who insisted on posing for photos with him.
4. The face of Johnny Depp in the audience, looking increasingly uncomfortable every time Gervais took another dig at The Tourist. Gervais claimed he hadn't even seen The Tourist, asking, "Who has?"
5. Gervais claiming surprise that the Globes hadn't nominated the widely panned Sex and the City 2—I was surprised too; those girls are ratings magnets. Then came the crack on age: "I was sure the Golden Globe for special effects would go to the team that airbrushed that poster. Girls, we know how old you are. I saw one of you in an episode of Bonanza." Ouch.
6. Pregnant winner Natalie Portman ignoring the sham and radiating mischief in accepting the Best Actress Globe for Black Swan. She reminded the audience that her baby daddy, the film's choreographer Benjamin Millepied, played the cameo role of the dancer who said he wouldn't sleep with her. "He lied," she grinned.
7. Steve Buscemi winning Best TV Actor for Boardwalk Empire. His enthused response repped one of the rare displays of genuine pleasure all night.
8. Aaron Sorkin took home the prize for writing the screenplay for The Social Network (the best script of the decade in my opinion) and thanked the women present for proving to his daughter that "elite is not a bad word, it's an aspirational one." Did he mean the Kardashians or Megan Fox?
9. I never appreciated Gervais more than when Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, the moral voices of Woody and Buzz in the Toy Story series, ragged on the host: Hanks said he remembered when Ricky "was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian." To which Allen seconded, "Neither of which he is now." Come on, guys. To infinity and beyond, kindness is not what the Globes call for.
10. Michael Douglas entered to cheers, successful so far in his battle against throat cancer. "There's got to be an easier way to get a standing ovation," said a smiling Douglas, an acting nominee for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and the evening's one indisputable class act. He entered three minutes before the show ended. But, hey, this is the Golden Globes. We'll take class where and when we can get it.

10 Hip-Hop Artists to Watch in 2011

Every year offers the promise of earth-shatteringly fresh music and new faces worth keeping an eye on. 2011 is no different. While no one on this list will shift 10 billion units or become the next Jay-Z, they all make remarkable music. They all deserve to be heard. Let the show begin.
10. Big Sean

Big Sean has been patiently waiting in Kanye's wings for years now. He signed to G.O.O.D Music in 2007 but only has a bunch of guest verses and two ominously titled mixtapes to show for it. Look for Sean to expand on his Finally Famous mixtape series with the release of a similarly titled debut sometime in 2011. Pharrell, No I.D. and Yeezy are on board for his debut album.
9. Preemo

Preemo has been bubbling under the radar for most of his career. Despite dropping a stunningly impressive album, Concrete Dreams, and a brilliant mixtape, Flight 713, in 2010, he didn't get the attention he deserves. The Texas native isn't in a hurry to compromise his sound for a shot at fame. Preemo is so proud of his work he could die a content soul. And for good reason; Concrete Dreams is enjoyable from cover to cover. It’s the kind of music Kanye was making when he first broke out – dark, raw, personal. He's going to be a headache if given the opportunity.
8. L.E.P. Bogus Boys

Chicago's own L.E.P. (Lower End Professionals) Bogus Boys offers that rare blend of wild ambition, inventive videos, and creativity that's often absent in street rap. Part of what makes the duo so charming is that they continually strive to connect with the listener, even while rapping about some of the grimiest crime in South Side Chicago. Common and Lupe Fiasco may speak for the thinking man, but Count and Moonie are the voice of the streets.
7. The Niceguys

Niceguys (Yves, Candlestick, Free, and Christolph) are generous with bombastic drums but stingy with flimsy boasts. Slivers of style abound in their music, but they take a back seat to metaphor-driven rhymes, humor, and emotional depth. Their 2010 album, The Show, was a fun-filled opus that nudged them further into hip-hop consciousness. If the Houston group follows up with a strong outing in 2011, they certainly won't go unnoticed for too long.
6. Boog Brown

In a perfect world, Boog Brown would be a star. There's always an undercurrent of emotioinal nuance in her voice. One moment she's projecting a somber elegance. The next, she's singing beautifully in a calm, confident tone. Think Lauryn Hill at her most sepia-toned. Last year, Boog collaborated with Apollo Brown on the sleeper LP, Brown Study. If that album revealed one thing about Boog Brown, it's that she has a way of infusing despair with charm.
5. Kendrick Lamar

K.Dot tried. He really tried doing the safety dance and all he got was an empty soul. When that approach left him with an unsettling feeling, he changed his rap moniker and vowed to only make the music he can be proud of. Once he made that leap, Kendrick Lamar effectively placed himself on the path to greatness. His mixtapes bump harder than most albums. He raps like he's fighting a cold, but once your ear adjusts to his voice you're in for a helluva ride.
4. Cyhi da Prynce

Cyhi da Prynce was already sitting on a Def Jam deal, but one freestyle altered his musical journey. Kanye West caught a whiff of the Atlanta MC's remix of Yelawolf's "I Wish" and immediately went looking for him. Ye and Cyhi later flew to Hawaii to rub minds and vibe in the studio. Three weeks later, Cyhi da Prynce entered into a partnership with one of rap's biggest royalties. The 26-year old lyricist spent much of 2010 killing freestyles and wrecking guest features. He's a classic example of seizing every opportunity to shine. Look for his GOOD Music debut in 2011.
3. Big K.R.I.T.

Close your eyes and pretend it’s 1996. UGK's Ridin' Dirty is oozing from every Cadillac in Houston. J Dilla and Outkast are dominating the airwave in Detroit and Atlanta. Now fast forward to 2010. Throw the three aforementioned acts in a blender and sprinkle a hint of 8Ball & MJG. Open your eyes. Welcome to the world of Big K.R.I.T. The Mississippi MC is the complete package. I'll be surprised if he doesn't have a big year in 2011.

OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) isn't for everyone. While most new artists succeed on the strength of universality, this L.A. posse succeeds by annoying the hell out of people who want nothing to do with their odious rhymes about coke, rape and swastikas. Their 19-year old leader is the mastermind behind one of 2010's best rap songs, "Bastard." No bright stars here. Instead, Odd Future seek to express a shared universal pain. The wealth of their substance and the depth of their roster make them a force to reckon with in 2011.
1. Danny Brown

Danny Brown has a way of making the familiar sound original, whether griping about his state of penury or telling female friends to squeegee his third eye. He's also a heartbroken rapper. Where Nas once saw hope in the face of poverty and told us that "the buck that bought the bottle could've struck the lotto," Brown is scared he won't ever find an answer to the ugliness he sees in the world. "F-ck the lotto," Brown barks, "the buck's on the bottle."

The Top 10 North American International Auto Show American Debuts 2011

As the biggest auto show in the world’s largest automobile market, Detroit’s North American International Auto Show's (NAIAS) importance cannot be overstated. Manufacturers bring only their best to Detroit, transforming the show floor into automotive nirvana for two weeks in January. As the home show for Detroit’s Big Three (Chrysler, Ford and GM), a strong showing here is all but guaranteed.

Continuing their shift away from oversize SUVs, the Big Three populated their 2011 booths with smartly engineered, “right-size” vehicles. High-tech, small-displacement engines and alternative powertrains ruled the NAIAS floor, showing that America is ready to take charge and innovate in an increasingly fuel-conscious market. Of course, the 2011 NAIAS showed that America still knows how to do big motors. To keep up with the shifting trends of American vehicles, here are the Top 10 American rides of the 2011 North American International Auto Show.
No.10 Chrysler 200 Super S

Chrysler debuted its Sebring replacement -- the 200 sedan -- at last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. To keep interest up in the car -- and perhaps to distance the new car as far as possible from the unloved Sebring -- Chrysler unveiled a tuned version at the 2011 NAIAS. Built by Mopar and dubbed the 200 Super S, this sedan doesn’t look like a rental-ready embarrassment, though it does seem that its modifications are mostly cosmetic. Sprayed in two-tone tungsten on matte black, this SEMA-ready ride features a louvered hood, a revised grille and a Mopar-designed aero kit. The ride height has been dropped 3 inches, and the sedan now rides on 19-inch rolling stock. The result is a car that is rather attractive -- and maybe even attractive enough to make everyone forget about the Sebring.
No.9 Chrysler 300

Chrysler’s $1 billion investment in the redesign of its 2011 300 sedan has resulted in a sleeker car with a classic, more refined appearance. The bricklike styling was tossed in favor of a more conventional look, likely due to the fact that this car is slated to be sold as a Lancia in Europe. Bold, brash and defiantly American cars just don’t work over there, apparently.

Corners appear softer, the gun-slit side windows have been enlarged, the front windscreen leans back an extra Fat Joe-approved 3 inches, and the headlamps and Bentley-inspired chrome grille have been tossed in favor of more subtle pieces. The interior -- long the weakest part of any Chrysler product -- has been revamped and features materials that are actually pleasant to the touch and an 8.1-inch Uconnect infotainment system. No mention yet of an SRT version; the standard car will be powered by a 292-horsepower V6.
No.8 Buick Verano

Buick continues to crank out fresh, new product as it transforms from a stodgy brand for the geriatric set into a symbol of modern 21st-century luxury. Making its debut at the 2011 NAIAS was Buick’s smallest offering: the Verano. Riding atop the same platform as Chevrolet’s critically lauded Cruze, the Verano is GM’s compact, entry-level luxury sedan. With just a 177-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four driving the front wheels, the Verano wasn’t designed to be a BMW-shaming screamer. Buick instead focused its efforts on creating a well-finished, hyperquiet ride. Still, it’s 8.0-second 0-60 time is respectable, and its estimated 31 highway mpg will surely be appreciated. Those with a need for more speed will want to hold out for the 2.0-liter turbocharged mill that will be available post-launch.
No.7 Chevrolet Sonic

Formerly known as the Spark, Chevrolet’s Sonic replaces the not-so-loved Aveo and has been designed to earn GM conquest sales in the highly competitive subcompact market. Pulling consumers away from loved nameplates like the Fit and Fiesta is tough, but GM is hoping to win buyers over by offering them more -- namely, more features and more power. Available features include remote start, heated front seats and OnStar. Power comes from a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter, 135-horsepower four banger. The turbocharged 1.4-liter, 138-horsepower motor from the Cruze -- mated only to a 6-speed manual -- is also an option. Corvette engineers were called upon to handle suspension-tuning duties, a fact that suggests the Sonic will be a rather fun car to drive. We’re holding out hope that the Sonic Z-Spec, which includes Brembo brakes, BBS wheels and Recaro seats, makes it out of the concept stage and becomes an actual production vehicle.
No.6 Ford C-MAX

A favorite in Europe, Ford’s Focus-based C-MAX people carrier is finally coming to America. The 2011 NAIAS featured the world’s first look at the next-generation C-MAX as well as a look at Ford’s first ever 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost motor -- a powertrain option for the standard vehicle. Two additional versions of the C-MAX get some form of battery assist: the C-MAX Hybrid and the C-MAX Energi. Ford is keeping tight-lipped about the Hybrid, saying only that it is able to achieve 41 mpg -- a better number than that of the Fusion Hybrid. The C-MAX Energi is a plug-in version of the Hybrid, with a claimed range of 500 miles. Expect more information on these vehicles to come closer to the standard C-MAX’s release date later this year.
No.5 Tesla Model S

Though no longer new, Tesla brought out its Model S luxury sedan prototype back to Cobo Hall for the 2011 NAIAS. As nice as the sedan is, the production vehicle still doesn’t have a solid release date, and throngs of car fans and pundits still deride the vehicle as vaporware. To show the world that, yes, the car actually is still in development, taking center stage in Tesla’s booth was a deconstructed, preproduction Model S body-in-white. Opting to lets its aluminum frame do the talking, this beta chassis was left naked so as to show (or at least hint at) the vehicle’s final tooling, which, in turn, would hopefully send the message that a production version would be arriving shortly. The Model S is slated to be ready for sale by mid-2012 and will carry a base price of around $57,400.
No.4 Ford Focus Electric

Ford’s first purely electric vehicle -- the five-door Focus Electric -- is scheduled to hit showrooms in late 2011. Looking to improve upon the competition in more ways than just looks, Ford is claiming that its handsome all-electric Focus achieves a better mile-per-gallon equivalent than Chevrolet’s Volt and recharges more quickly than Nissan’s Leaf. Total range numbers have yet to be announced, but the torque-happy electric motor will briskly whisk the Focus Electric to a top speed of 84 mph. Ford’s Focus Electric also appeals to the gadget crowd, with technologies like SYNC connectivity, a MyFord Touch system unique to the battery-powered car and MyFord Mobile, which lets users pair their smartphones to the car to monitor vitals such as charge cycles and vehicle settings.
No.3 GMC Sierra All-Terrain HD

Looking more like Master Chief’s Warthog than a standard work truck, GMC’s Sierra All-Terrain HD concept is GM’s concept of a potential Raptor fighter. Rumored to be more or less production-ready, this four-wheel-drive truck boasts a wider-than-wide stance, an increased ride height, heavy-duty suspension components, and 35-inch BFGoodrich mud tires. Powering this beast is a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel V8 that churns out 397 horsepower and enough torque (765 lb-ft) to alter the Earth’s rotation. Expect the standard, non-mountain-jumping version of the Sierra to look similar to this truck -- minus the hard-core off-road gear, of course.
No.2 Ford Vertrek Concept

The kinetically styled crossover you see here is Ford’s Vertrek concept, rumored to be the replacement for the North American Escape and European Kuga. Built upon the same global C-segment platform as the Fiesta and C-MAX, this vehicle is made more for style than towing or off-road ability. The European chassis will likely give a production version of this CUV engaging driving dynamics, and the 1.6-liter EcoBoost four banger with Ford’s Auto Start-Stop technology should deliver ample performance and fuel savings. As the Vertrek is officially just a concept, Ford hasn’t bothered with listing any numbers as far as expected engine output, performance or fuel economy. Ford also hasn’t mentioned if or when a production version of the Vertrek will be released, and if it is released, whether it will be called the Vertrek or retain the Escape name.
No.1 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA Race Car

Few cars fill us with sheer desire the way Cadillac’s CTS-V Coupe SCCA Race Car does. Built with the singular purpose of dominating the Sports Car Club of America World Challenge GT racing series, this Caddy was built to go fast and look good while doing it. The first race of the season is still a couple of months away, and much like those “demonstration of concept” cars we see at SEMA, Cadillac and the builders are keeping mum as to the work that has gone into this race car (due either to secrecy or to the fact that the car may not be finished yet). We almost left this car off the list because of the fact that it will never be available to the public, but with the tarmac-hugging ride height, side-exit exhausts and NACA ducts galore, this Cadillac is hands down one of the coolest cars at the NAIAS, and is therefore more than deserving of a place on this list.

Top 10 Movies to look forward in 2011

We are now within the confines of 2011 and with the New Year comes a whole new swath of great movies to look forward to! While there are others I want to see too, these are the movies I’ll be going to on opening day!
I’m betting some of them are on your list! Let’s find out, shall we!
10. Paul
The Shaun of the Dead guys meet the alien Seth Rogen directed by the Superbad director. Sounds like awesome comedy to me!
In Theatres: March 18th
9. Sucker Punch
The director of Watchmen and 300 directs kick ass women in some weird dream that is filled with CGI. The ultimate popcorn movie!
In Theatres: March 25th
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Kind of tired of Captain Sparrow. There, I said it. That said, this is an adaptation of the award-winning Tim Powers novel. Therefore I have to see it!
In Theatres: May 20th
7. Captain America
Intrigued by this, since it is set during WWII and stars the Human Torch and Elrond!
In Theatres: July 22nd
6. Thor
One of the great stage actors directing James T. Kirk’s father as the God of Thunder!
In Theatres: May 6th
5. X-Men: First Class
Can the X-Men franchise redeem itself? Guess we are going to find out!
In Theatres: June 3rd
4. Green Lantern
Can Deadpool help lead one of my favorite comic book characters? In brightest day, in darkest night, we’ll find out!
In Theatres: June 17th
3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
No Megan Fox? Who cares! It’s still big robots bashing each other at the whim of Michael Bay!
In Theatres: July 1st
2. Super 8
Move over, Cloverfield. Let’s see what else J.J. can do with another mysterious marketing plan!
In Theatres: June 10th
1. Cowboys & Aliens
Indiana Jones and James Bond against aliens by Iron Man’s director! Nuff said!
In Theatres: July 29th

Be Ready for: Top 10 Social Media Blogs 2011

We received over 330 nominations for our second-annual Top 10 Social Media Blogs contest (the blogosphere’s biggest contest for social media blogs).

The list of 23 finalists is pretty impressive! Take a look for yourself below.

The Judges: Our judges include David Armano (Edelman), Debbie Weil (author, The Corporate Blogging Book) and Rick Calvert (CEO, BlogWorld). They are currently finishing up their reviews of these sites.

Here are the finalists (in alphabetical order):

How We’ll Pick the Winners

1. Initial qualification: A blog must have a strong social media focus, must have been nominated multiple times by multiple individuals and must be regularly updated. If someone nominated more than one blog, only the first nomination was counted.

2. Final winner selection:
* Quality of posts: Our judges will examine and score the quality of posts on each blog. Educational and discussion-spurring posts are more valuable than self-promoting posts (55% of decision).
* Frequency of posts: Blogs that feature multiple posts per week will score higher. This is a sign of the blogger’s commitment to blogging (15%).
* Reader involvement: Blogs that have regular comments from readers are another sign of a healthy blog. In addition, the numbers of nominations for a specific blog play a part in this (15%).
* Blog ranking: The number of other blogs that link to the nominated blog shows the value of the content (15%). We’ll use accepted third-party blog ranking systems for this portion of the score.

Congratulations to the finalists! We’ll announce the winners here soon!

The Top 10 Transfers Of Winter 2011 []

Which players have been the best buys and top movers?

Each European transfer window, International decides on the best acquisitions, in order from 1 to 10, and we encourage you to let us know your thoughts.

We judge based on:

* The player's overall ability (this being the most important factor)
* How the player will fit into his new line-up
* How the player will adapt to his new surroundings, and vice-versa
* The transfer fee payable, if any, and any other financial details known. (Transfer fees unconfirmed by either club or otherwise unknown are given as approximations and are marked in italics.)

For the reason that players arriving on permanent deals tend to be more adaptable and often more important, there is preference given to full transfers over loans. That is not to say that loans, co-ownerships etc. cannot be included, but players must be extra special to justify a space on such a move.

With all of that explained, it's time to see the list! This was last updated at 02:50 CET on Tuesday January 11th.

Last week: 2

AC Milan - Sampdoria - Undisc.

Antonio Cassano is an enigma to say the least, but there is no doubt at his best he can give a massive push to Milan's Scudetto bid. Capable of creating goals and scoring them in abundance, his talent alongside the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have attacking football enthusiasts' mouths watering. His superb start so far moves him to the top.
New entry

Manchester City - Wolfsburg - €32m
Dzeko's mammoth transfer fee is right now the only thing separating him from top spot. If he can hit the ground running, though, he could turn out to be one of the best success stories in Premier League transfer history. City are in the running for the league title, remember, and a(nother) top-class name up front is hardly going to hurt.
Last week: 1

Barcelona - PSV - €3m

The versatile Afellay will provide Barcelona's squad depth with a huge boost. He has plenty of experience despite his young age, and he should fit in easily into Barca's football philosophy. For a reported €3m fee, he comes very cheap, but how much he will play in the first team at the start remains to be seen. When he does, expect fireworks.
Last week: 3

Bayern Munich - Hoffenheim - 15m

Luiz Gustavo arrived in Germany from Brazil in 2007 and quickly established himself as a success wherever he went. As a left-back in the 2. Bundesliga, he was great. As a centre-back and defensive midfielder in the top flight, he was even better. He's just 23 and is set to shine for Bayern for years.
Last week: 4

SIMAO Sabrosa
Besiktas - Atletico Madrid - €900k

The ambitious Turkish side will glady welcome an experienced, flamboyant winger who will give the team more attacking width and dimension. Eventhough he's already 31, the Portuguese still has great pace and dribbling skills and his set-piece deliveries are as sharp and potent as ever.
Last week: 5

Malaga - Roma - €2m

Over 4,000 Malaga fans descended to welcome Brazilian attacker Julio Baptista back to La Liga. Here, in the Spanish league, Julio is a proven success: his final days at Real Madrid were actually quite good. The Andalucian side can call on his big-game experience when it counts.
Last week: 6
Federico MACHEDA Sampdoria - Manchester United - Free (loan)

We saw what 'Kiko' could do in his Manchester United debut. Now it's time to see what he's capable of in Serie A. Antonio Cassano is a tough act to follow but the 19-year-old seems to have everything it takes to succeed.
Last week: 7

Atletico Madrid - Corinthians - €7m

A left-sided central midfielder with true attacking flair, Elias cost Atleti big bucks from Corinthians. The 25-year-old has been on the Brazilian circuit for years and counts national team coach Mano Menezes as his biggest fan. Voted best player in his position in Brazil in 2010 - a class act well worth following.
Last week: 8

Inter - Genoa - €12.5m

Something of a gamble for Inter, Ranocchia's signing could go either way. The Italian international will solidify what has been a weak position for the Nerazzurri over the last two years, provided that he adapts quickly. If he does he will be a very useful starter.
10Last week: 9
Parma - Genoa - Undisc. (co-ownership)

A very talented winger who is at his best playing on the right or left of a 4-3-3, on his day Palladino can be truly sublime but he is very inconsistent and can sometime disappear during matches. But his ability and potential is without question and he could shine at Parma.

  • Reference/Source: By Ewan Macdonald [Jan 11, 2011]