Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Great Gaming Exploits!

I made an attempt to work up an interesting blog post today. But it's been one of those morning that I wish had ended the moment the alarm clock went off.

So instead, you get an early link round-up with a list: 8 Notorious Game Exploits, brought to you by IGN. Why? Well they made me giggle. I used the Super Mario and Mario Kart 64 Rainbow Road mishap all the time. That trick is a time saver if you nail it - or it completely screws you if you miss the jump and fall off the track. Rainbow Road is an evil mistress.

But I also learned about other exploits that I was completely oblivious about. Skyrim with 'Bucket Head Burglary?' I need to try it now! And the flying tank in GTA3? I knew that once you got a tank in GTA3, you were nearly invincible and you could do a lot of crazy things with it. But flight? Yep. I need to try it now.

Edit: I fail at life. The English version of the first Katamari game was released Sept 21st, 10 years ago! All hail the Katmari!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Destiny Bug Letting Users See Some Upcoming Content

Sort-of...but if you've been playing Destiny, the MMO from Bungie, a lot lately, then you have probably maxed out your Guardian as much as possible and trying to figure out what to do with all this free time you now have. Bungie is taking care of that after forcing to announce 2 DLC's after a few bugs were found in the game. While the content has not been unlocked for users, they have stumbled upon it through messages such as "requirements not met" and "expansion required" over new maps and missions that have popped up during a patch over the weekend. Whoops.

If you're really interested in the full rundown of what's to come, this reddit post has the best comprehensive overview of all of the happenings. While it is always the warning that nothing is set in stone, having a bug in game that is active and allows people to see where the content is going...it's fairly safe to assume that what's being seen is going to happen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Weekly Link Roundup

Time for another weekly round-up. There are a few...interesting stories surfing the internet this week. And it would be wrong of me to keep them all to myself, so it's time to share!

Video games may influence war in the future - This is according to the U.S. based think tank Atlantic Council. In a project titled "Art of Future Warfare," they are data mining narrative fiction and interactive media for real-world insights. The idea is to alter the perception of war from how we traditionally view it, and in turn it may change the face of conflict altogether. They even called in Call of Duty director Dave Anthony to assist. So war may, one day, be an alternate reality video game...maybe.

Kabedon - Awkward translated it means "wall thump," and a Japanese marketing firm is using that as a way to sell dating simulation games. How does it happen? Well take a semi-agressive, but still endearing, gentlemen, and trap a woman against a wall. Tell her how pretty she is and there you go. I know, it sounds weird and kind of scary but it's something that's done in movies and in a LOT of Japanese anime and manga all the time. There's a thrill and sensation to being cornered in such a way, but to still feel safe because the man before you is handsome and not likely to hurt you. >.> Yeah it is weird. But leave it to the Japanese to make it a thing that they use real-life simulation to promote video games at the Tokyo Game Show. Prepare to be uncomfortable!

Video Game Incubator - It really isn't what you think it is, but it sounds very strange. I almost wish that they used the term "think tank" or "educational council" instead of incubator. Because, again, it sounds strange and it's probably confusing people. But it's a group of developers and gamers that want to educated and build a technical community. Incubator. Bad word choice. And it's used all over the article!

Venezuelan steel workers are demanding video games in their contract - It's actually something they proposed in their contracts, along with more pay to improve their living conditions. Not to actually game on the job, mind you, but to provide for their families.

Oh, and Hyrule Warriors is out. Go forth and game!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bayonetta 2 - Weak Game Sales?

According LazyGamer, via a report on game sales in Japan, Bayonetta 2 is tanking right now. After just one day of release, it has pushed 38 thousand units. For one day, that's not bad. It's in third place behind other Nintendo titles Super Smash Bros. and Yokai Watch 2, both on the 3DS. Given the international popularity of Smash Bros. and the rising fame of Yokai, that's still pretty good. I wouldn't call a first day of 38,000ish sales bad at all!

Smash Bros. over a 7 day period (September 15-21) sold 321,363 units. That is roughly 45,909 units a day on average - only 7909ish more then what Bayonetta 2 sold on one day. Yokai Watch 2 has sold over 56,000 units within that same 7 day time-frame. The day Bayonetta 2 released was the end of the weekly cycle, so it was settled into third place when it easily could have overtaken Yokai.

Personally, I think LazyGamer is overreacting just a bit. It has only been ONE DAY. The rest of the numbers will come in. It released on September 20th in Japan and will be here in the U.S. on October 25th. Let's let the sale cycle continue for this week and check the numbers for September 22-28 and then a more accurate statement regarding the numbers can be presented. Chill pill everyone. I know the Wii-U is still trying to find it's foothold and could use third party developers, but at least give the non-Nintendo games more then a day to impress the public.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Titan MMO Cancelled

My Facebook feed blew up yesterday when the news that Blizzard was cancelling the 7 year project dubbed Titan, the next MMO in their lineup. It was a game that wasn't publicized, but everyone knew about it. When one of the largest companies that hosts the biggest MMO game out there is making another one, it's difficult to keep it under wraps.

So what went wrong?

After reports last year that the game was going back to step one, sadly, it was inevitable that this would happen. Seven years is a long time to develop a game, and after spending 6 of them, only to start all over, was a huge setback for the company. Even for one as profitable as Blizzard, you have to look at the cost and effect. It was costing much more for the do-over then what the company was raking in. And it may have been another 5 years until the MMO was released. Would it have been worth the financing?

Money aside, CEO Mike Morhaime points to a big problem with the game: lack of fun.

"We didn't find the fun [.] We didn't find the passion. We talked about how we put it through a reevaluation period, and actually, what we reevaluated is whether that's the game we really wanted to be making. The answer is no."

And it's better that Blizzard found that out now, even though it's 7 years into development. They have cancelled games before, such as Warcraft spinoffs and StarCraft Ghosts, and they turned those failures into learning experiences and presented better games to the public. Because they owe that to their customers. They would rather cut a game that has taken them years to build if it's not up to their standards, then to destroy the trust of their consumers.

I'm okay with it. Titan sounded promising and a good concept as a whole, but the little details concerned me. I guess I was right.

For now, Blizzard doesn't have any plans to start up another MMO and will redistribute the team members to other projects. But there is always a chance. It could happen.

And there's still World of Warcraft. That will not go away anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Panama Dictator Suing Activision

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, you may know him as the mayor with the best name ever, and his law firm are joining Activision in a legal fight against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whom is suing the game company over the use of his likeness in CoD: Black Ops 2.

Noriega, who is currently in prison for a multitude of charges ranging from trafficking, drug possession, to murder, claims that the game used his image and depicted him as an "enemy of the state" without his consent. Giuliani argues that if the dictator's claim is upheld in court, it could set a precedent for all media and historical figures: i.e. their heirs could have veto powers over every instance of their use. Ever. No more Abe Lincoln movies for us. He also doesn't want the dictator to prosper while in jail. The man was convicted of murder, after all.

Activision is arguing for free speech protection. The company has used many historical figures in their games before, such as John F. Kennedy. Fidel Castro hasn't raised a finger about his depiction. Noriega is in the game aiding the primary villain, but only appears for a few moments and was never included in any of the game's marketing material. Honestly, you'd have to know who the guy is for gamers to have paid attention.

This isn't a new area for Activision. No Doubt sued them over their music series when their in-game avatars were allowed to perform other songs, when they believed they were to only be available to players for No Doubt music. They're still in a feud with Axel Rose about the appearance of Slash in Guitar Hero 3. Why? Well Rose contends that in an agreement (though none can physically be found), Slash or his band Velvet Revolver were not be allowed as a playable character at all. That case was thrown out, but Rose is still going through appeals.

Because Noriega is considered a historical figure in this instance, Activision has a stronger case. Particularly when you tag on "fantasy" to Call of Duty and present it as such, their defense will hedge on how well Noriega's attorney can argue that the use of his client's likeness was done with the intent to harm.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Games For Ice Cream To Raise Domestic Violence Awareness?

Throughout the month of October, the Marin County California will have a buyback program for all violent video games and toy guns in exchange for ice cream. Why? Well to raise awareness for Domestic Abuse. Because, you know, abuse starts with kids playing video games and toy guns. Right?

Well that's pretty much the thought process we've all concluded from this attempt - another one from California to pull video games from the hands of kids. District Attorney Ed Berberian had a firearm buyback program 2 years ago that was so successful, they had to find donations to help cover purchases towards the end. This time he is joining with Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and the Center for Domestic Peace to get families to live a "violence-free" lifestyle by turning in their games. Again for ice cream, because that will always motivate kids to give up their toys. Any cash donations will go to the Center for Domestic Peace. Not sure what will happen to the games or toy guns. They'll probably get sent to a landfill.

"As we know domestic violence incidents almost always have children present and these children develop over time imprinted images of the family violence[.] These children then carry those experiences into their adult lives and often repeat the pattern of violence in their own family units."

Basically, he's equating violent games to affecting children and in turn, they'll grow up to be violent adults responsible for domestic abuse.

Yes. It's backwards logic given that we have no decisive evidence that violent gaming can affect children negatively. A quick search through The Geek Spot and you can see the results. For as many articles that exist that 'try' to prove it, there are twice as many that rebuke the claims with facts.

Now this isn't to say that we shouldn't focus on domestic violence. It's good to see a community coming together to talk about the issue and bring awareness to it. But by lumping in video games and toy guns overshadows the true reasons on why violence happens in the first place: family life, mental illness, substance abuse, etc. By shifting the focus onto video games, the buyback program is doing the opposite of its intent. Video games are not the problem. Dig into the family situation to understand why the violence is occurring in the first place.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Temp Home For VGM - Possibly

Frisco, a suburb of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metoroplex in Texas, is looking to have a permanent home for a video game museum. City leaders want to donate up to $1 million dollars in funds towards this endeavor. If the Smithsonian accepts games, then why shouldn't other museums?

The Video Game History Museum, established in 2009, has been a roaming cornucopia of gaming history, and now boasts one of the world's largest collections. Even their 2011 Kickstarter campaign gave them worthy internet buzz to keep the project alive. But since it's creation, founds John Hardie, Sean Kelly and Joe Santulli have been looking for a stable home to house said collection. There were rumors of it popping up in Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, but none of those panned out.

But Frisco wants the collection to take up a permanent residence in Texas. The site is expected to be the Sci-Tech Discovery Center, which also houses a children's museum and an art gallery. Renovation of the space is estimated at $1 million (thus the funds!) and start-up costs. City planners are dubbing it "National Videogame Museum 1.0" as a 'beta' version to see how well the idea sells with visitors, and if a permanent home should be built for just the museum. Yeah. I thought that was a corny name too. Una McKeen, the Video Game Museum's director of development, is excited at the prospect, and it sounds like they are already moving forward with...moving in to Frisco. They have already estimated that visitors for a yearly basis will be 42,000 (which seems low, but that's pretty normal for a non-profit museum), and look to open their doors in April. Space will be a factor, since it is a building housed by other non-profits. So the entire game collection will not be made available. If everything is finalized within the upcoming month, DFW will officially have the first gaming museum in the United States. If it does come to fulfillment, I'll be there opening day to experience everything the museum has to offer.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why I Will Not See Frozen...Yet.

Geek blog. Not a full on gaming blog. I dive into other topics too. So if this is not your thing, I'll be back tomorrow with another gaming moment. But today, I want to talk about Frozen, the animated Disney movie that exploded snow and glitter all over the faces of American children. The film released nearly a year ago, November of 2013 to be exact, and every aspect of the movie is still overwhelming our senses. Visiting department stores with the Christmas gear going up, you can hear the soundtrack overhead; it has become that involved in our daily lives. "Let It Go" is no longer a simple phrase to say when someone should get over whatever is bugging them. Now it's a song that sticks in your head all day long. If I hear that playing at a store, I start heading out. I have heard so many parodies that the original context of the song has lost all meaning.

As a convention-goer, Frozen is everywhere. In that setting, you are guaranteed to see at least 5 Elsa's and Anna's on a daily basis. Minimum. I have yet been to a convention this year where I haven't seen a Frozen character. Even at PAX East, a video game expo, there were cosplayers dressed up from Frozen. Don't get me wrong. I applaud anyone who dresses up as their favorite character and would never single them out for their choice. I was even asked as a judge at a costume panel I was hosting "what cosplay I am tired of seeing?" My answer was Frozen, which made the questioner distraught. Guess what her contest cosplay was? You got it. Elsa, with an Anna to boot. I didn't penalize them for their costume choices. That's not fair to them, and something I would never do. You must be objective as a judge. They have every right to wear those costumes, and I focus on the craft, not the character choice. Digressing a bit there; seeing Frozen costumes at every convention, constantly, and having no break from the onslaught of the movie in my daily life, it gets tiring.

My friends talk about it enough to insist that I watch it and be amazed. It fills my Facebook feed. At least now it's weekly. It use to be daily. But if the conversation on the movie isn't from them, it is somewhere else.

I have been saturated by Frozen to the point that I no longer want to see the movie. I know some of the songs, but do not care to find out about the characters that sing them. I have been smacked in the head once again with, what I dubbed as, 'Citizen Kane Syndrome.'

What is CKS?

Have you have ever been told how "awesome, amazing, fantastic, wonderful" a movie is, only to go watch said movie and become dissatisfied at the results? "This was the 'best movie ever' that everyone was talking about? This is terrible!"

You have just experienced CKS. It is the plight of every film student. Each semester we were forced by at least one professor to watch Citizen Kane. We were always told it was the best movie ever made. He or she would go on, and on, and on...and on about the history and legacy it left behind that all movies should be compared to.

And then we watched the film.

It was crap.

And every semester we had to bs a 10 page essay on why we feel it is the greatest piece of cinema of all time while questioning the sanity of our professors. Why this movie? What makes it the "best movie ever?"

It is because we have been built up to this forecast of greatness, that the movie has no where else to go but down. We are filled with expectations and beliefs that best fulfill our scenario on awesome films. Anything less and we will hate it. Only when you have no pre-conceived notions are you able to appreciate the film for what it is.

Personal opinion: Citizen Kane is still a 'meh' movie. From a sound designers point of view, it is very unique from its predecessors. It brought in a new era of sound production that focused on the effect sound and music can have on the audience. As a story, it was lackluster and floundered between Orson Well's performance and directing style.

This is the state I am currently in with Frozen. I know that if I go rent the movie today and watch it, I will not like it. I have been tainted by the rest of the world that no matter how "great" Frozen may be, I will see that movie as crap. The movie is in the now, hip and culturally relevant, that any additional contact I have to it will further taint the outcome of watching said film.

So feel free to continue going Frozen crazy in your corner. You can keep trying to pressure me to see it, but I think it is in everyone's best interest that I wait until the commotion dies down so I may appreciate the movie for what it is - not by the influence of others. I've had enough CKS to fill 5 lifetimes that new films should not suffer the same fate.

I will not be convinced to build a snowman or to let it go.

It is not the first time in forever, nor will it be the last. Sadly.

My heart is frozen, solid on this.

And you really don't want me to be that anti-Frozen person. I'm a founding member of the EA hate train. You can see how much I dislike them. Imagine that with Frozen posts. Let's not add to it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Photography - More Stuffs!

While still not a common sight, taking photos within video games to express an artistic viewpoint within that world is still a thing. A cool thing. I probably spent more time in The Old Republic and GTAV taking photos with the in-game camera equipment then playing the games themselves. Okay maybe not GTAV. I do a LOT of driving as well. And even without modding Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (though most do), you can get some amazing stills that could be 100% art in their own right.

So seeing the headline from Time Magazine "This War Photographer Embedded Himself in a Video Game," I was curious. Rarely do we see known journalistic publications take a stab at gaming that doesn't cover product reviews or media's effect on violence. But what I did find, I was a bit disappointed by. Ashley Gilbertson is a known war photographer. He (and yes, that is the right pronoun) has been in conflict zones and areas of the world we wouldn't dare to imagine, to capture life as it happens when war takes over. But this idea of going into a video game, immersing oneself into the environment like he would in reality, was not his idea. It was Time's. And they chose the game too: The Last of Us, Remastered. For me, this is problem one. We have a journalist who wasn't interested in the content. I'm not saying that he had to be a gamer in order to get involved with the project. I like seeing alternate points of view. But by being placed with this task, he wasn't able to keep an objective perspective. At least if there was interested in the project, he would have been more in-tune with providing full coverage. The first few paragraphs read like a typical gaming critic (in this case, I'm using critic in the negative sense as one who thinks all games are bad), using lovely buzz words of 'hyperviolent' and 'pseudo-sexual.' Okay that last one was in reference to a zombie, and zombies are never to be viewed as sexy. Ever. That's just...ew.

Second thing that bothered me was Gilbertson handing the controls over to someone at Time who was a gamer, and he became the passive observer. While I can understand from a photographer's point of view this can make sense in the real world. You're not the one holding the gun, you're taking a picture of the guy with the gun. But in this change, the photographer is missing out on the heat of what makes video game art so different from everything else out there. The fact that you experience the action as it happens, and you're in control of the events around you. Is it possible that you'll miss great photos while you're dodging zombies? Absolutely. But you can also capture breathtaking moments during those tumbles and falls that you wouldn't have experienced otherwise. And when you play as secondary viewer, you miss those experiences. Instead you start focusing on angles, composition, colors, and lighting. Your brain goes into "photographer mode" and can't separate it from the game in front of you. The beauty of gaming photography are those moments where you are diving, ducking, and weaving between enemies. There is so much to be captured there, and now you're missing it because you are a bystander looking over the gamers shoulder.

Third was this quote: "None of the game’s characters show distress[.]" Well...duh? But this is something where if Gilbertson had actually played the game, he would understand why the characters were not showing as much emotion in-between cutscenes and on the general "battlefield." This is an infection that has taken years to spread. It's become commonplace to see zombies and the infected. Humans have become numb to the situation presented to them, much like one would in reality. So yes, your "virtual daughter" (argh! if you're going to be a spectator, at least pay attention to the story!) is lacking emotion when it's not in cutscenes or a Clicker creeping up behind you.

I wish Gilbertson had more of an open mind about the experience and taken charge with the assignment. Maybe then he would have understood how art exists in a video game world. Pretty scenery is nice, but it is those moments where you're on the field, dodging bullets, that you see the beauty in something instinctual to a gamer.