Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Choppin' Wood with Amazon's Lumberyard

 Lumberyard is up there on the "what the heck were they thinking" naming list along with Wii and Ouya. But Amazon is hoping to turn heads with the 3D engine they have developed and are offering absolutely free to anyone who wants it. The bold news was announced this week, as Amazon's growth into the gaming industry continues to move forward.

So who can use it? What does it do? What are the limits?

Lumberyard (it's still a silly name, but I understand what they were going for) is a cross-platform, 3D engine designed to be on the same level of the gaming engines that companies like EA and Ubisoft use. It's fully integrated into AWS Cloud storage and Twitch. With the capability to save and store your project anywhere, along with the ability to communicate with gamers as you build your product can give developers a unique opportunity in the way they build their games. Oh, and free, full source code. So indie kids, have fun with that! There are fees with AWS since storage space will vary from team to team, but you only pay for as much as you want.

The engine is available today for beta download to PC and consoles, with mobile and VR currently in development. And it sounds pretty darn incredible for indie devs. The platform for building is all there; you just need to figure out what you want your game to be.

I'm sure your next question is "is it really going to be free to use, develop, and distribute games without paying Amazon?" Sort of. There are licensing notes to be aware of (because free is not always free), such as you can't take the Lumberyard source code and build your own engine, nor can you release the source code to anyone. What is built in Lumberyard stays in Lumberyard. But if you want to release you game on Steam, go for it. Amazon is hoping to build up the community and trust from developers by making their money off of AWS and any game releases to Amazon (where sellers give a portion of prophets to Amazon for listing the item).

As a whole, this is kind of nifty. I could see a few friends looking into this as an option versus building their own engine from scratch. The forums could use some work. That's your next project Amazon - get on that.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Unravel Brings In The Charm

The quirky, and somehow cute tale of Unravel managed to capture our hearts at E3 last year. Yarny is becoming the the EA equivalent of SackBoy (Little Big Planet). You can  make your own, with the help of a handy guide from the development team.

Last week, for those with EA Access, they were allowed to try Unravel, releasing today officially, for up to 10 hours and play through the first 2 levels absolutely free. I've been very interested in this game since it was first announced, so I signed up for EA Access to try it out. I will most likely regret this decision later. You also get the game for 10% off if you signed up, so there is that. I'm still fairly certain I'll regret doing so later. (EA Access allows you to try unreleased games a week or two prior to release, and save 10% on future purchases for $4.99 a month. Thank goodness I got the trial version - and I did it for Yarny!)

Developed by Coldworld Interactive and picked up by EA, Unravel has been striking a cord with gamers for it's unique look and story concept. The game was inspired by a series of photographs from a team member's journey. So what you play through is another person's scrap-book. That may be odd for some people, and I think as we see more reviews on the game released we'll find a balance on opinions. I'm still uncertain if I like where the story is headed, but I'm intrigued. It's not just Yarny playing a unique journey; and maybe that's a good thing. Open world stories are filling the landscape these days. Having a set path with unique ways to get there is a nice change of pace.

Part of the charm of Yarny is being able to take his yarn-like body and utilizing it to overcome obstacles. You can whip your yarn tail and careen over "mountains" (which are piles of dirt) to avoid pits of water. Or you can grab cans, fruit, small rocks, and other items to solve puzzles that open up the next section of the level. The platforming elements are retro but have a twist to them that they feel fresh. At it's worse, the game sometimes forces you make split-second jumps that ultimately end up with you falling to your yarn-doom. You don't get a chance to really enjoy the scenery around you in those moments - which does a disservice to the game. But if you're played any of the Little Big Planet primary story, you'll be able to easily pick up the controls on this one and run through Unravel with ease.

The visuals of Unravel are lovely. If Journey and Little Big Planet had a child, this would be it. Beautiful pastels make up the background that it almost looks like you're walking through a painting, or an expansive art gallery. The environment makes up a huge portion of the story, and a lot of care went into the details. It shows. I could sit and take pictures for an hour instead of playing the game as intended. Though those platforming jumps make that quite difficult when you have to make quick decisions. Some of the joy of Unravel is to sit and let the environment move around your character. I think that's where the game really shines. The puzzles are all well and fine, but the unique design of the world and the character stand out in this sea of AAA titles we're use to seeing from EA. It's a nice change of pace.

With access to only the first 2 levels, I made the most of them. Reviews out are stating that there are 9 levels in all, and you learn a new game mechanic on each level. Unfortunately, this makes for a very short game. I was able to complete these levels within an hour, even with my "ohh that's cool" stop and look moments. You can take more time to solve additional puzzles pick up collectible pieces, and what-not, but at the end of the day it's still a short game. I was hoping that it would open up and add new possibilities as you progress, but it seems to repeat the add-age of every platforming game where you make it more difficult as you go until it ends.

But I am curious enough to continue playing it. It was a delightful experience, filled with very mild frustration at the platforming jumps, with an overall wonder of where Yarny will go to next. Maybe I'll make it my streaming game for this week.

Monday, February 08, 2016

So Long to GameTrailers

I knew this was coming, but was not allowed to post until they made the official announcement. As of this evening will be closing down it's business for good. Their last Twitch stream will be this evening at 6pm PST. And it's odd because if you visit the website right now, it looks perfectly normal. Nothing to indicate that the site is going to be removed from existence.

Unfortunately there isn't much information up on the company's page or through their Social Media outside of "we're calling it quits this evening."

GameTrailers was founded in 2002 when gaming magazines were hitting their stride. The internet was still "new" enough that no one had the market on video game content, particularly when it came to videos. GameTrailers changed that and became a hub for all videos related to video games, including commercials. I'm a big fan of their Retrospective series, particularly the Final Fantasy segments for their wit and wonderful game summaries that captured the essence of the games quite nicely.

In 2014, Defy Media bought the company and made quite a few layoffs as they attempted to turn the site around. The rise of YouTube and Twitch put the need for GameTrailers out of people's minds. And even with a very recent website redesign, Defy is shutting the place down. There's no word on exactly what's happening to the site. If it'll remain as an archive, what will happen to the old videos, and if they will maintain the YouTube channel. We won't know until after the Twitch stream this evening and hopefully some questions will be answered.

Good luck to the staff members of GT and to their future.

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Inspirational and Weird Games of PAX South 2016

These are the games that may not get the biggest crowds or the best sales. They may not even be released if financing falls through. But they are darn impressive and deserve to be recognized for bringing creativity to the fore-front. And for being weird. Because creativity comes in all forms, including the crazy stuff. Here are my picks on the games from PAX South that inspire, and sometimes tilt our heads.

paxsouth16-168Color Thief - Puzzles with colors. That's the best way I can describe this game. It's a third person game where you are a lizard (because they can be very colorful). Your goal is to unlock puzzles and roam around the world by using color as your guide. You can touch a color palate to have it transfer to your character and then move it to other spots around the world for your puzzle plight. What makes this a little more special then traditional puzzle games is that the world is persistent. If you use blue paint and touch it on the ground, it'll turn into water. Pick up the brown paint and touch a tree, the leaves will begin to grow. Pictures don't do it justice - it's really neat to watch the game in person as the world changes with your actions.

It also allows you to unlock secrets in the game, new puzzles, and the like. The story is told through the environment. The paint is energy and allows you to discover new aspects to the story. It's a simple concept with a very complex design - I can not wait to see more from this developer as they continue to polish this product.

Omnibus - Be a bus and hit things. Here's one of those "head-tilts" that I was referring to. As a Devolver developer said in describing this game "we just wanted to make something fun. Games don't have to always be serious." Good point! That's where Omnibus delivers. It's a game where you are a bus and you drive around to complete course objectives. There's a single player story-mode which mostly involves obstacles and bonking your bus-face against bosses, and a multi-player in a Mario Kart fashion where you outlast your enemies as you bonk them off the screen. It's weird. It's wacky. It's hilariously entertaining. There are different buses, from traditional singles to super-long buses, double deckers, and a gravity bus that can help save your butt from falling off the cliff in multi-player.

And yeah...that's about it! It plays nicely, though there are some control issues you have to figure out with each bus (some flip over more-easily then others). But it's a fun, time-killing game that can be quite entertaining with a group. Possibly while you're drunk. Now that could be interesting to see.

paxsouth16-173Brawlhalla - SSB for PC. And that's how the game should bill itself.

This could easily be a multiplayer hit for the non-FPS crowd on PC. That's always been my trouble with PC games. If it's not an MMO or an FPS, few people want to play. But this action-fighter could really make a name for itself with the computer crowd.

You have a series of characters you can choose from that all look like they came out of a anime-driven Norse book of myths. Each of them has a set of special powers, weapons, and abilities to help you defeat your enemies. Up to 4 people can play on a time on various stages and you pick up weapons as you go. Some are swords, others are daggers and pop-guns. There are mines, throwing weapons, you name it. What makes this a bit different from SSB is that you have a larger collection of weapons at your disposal, more combos to work out, and you can do a bit of character customization. I found this a lot of fun to pick up and play even when I was getting my ass handed to me by a Twitch streamer who had been practicing on the game all weekend. But really, this is SSB for PC. Not the most original idea, but it'll sell.

paxsouth16-024Enter the Gungeon - Be the hero by fighting guns! Another Devolver game that made me wonder what the heck was going on. But it had a dog sidekick as an option, so you know it's already full of win.

You pick from a cast of characters ranging from an convict, to hunters and mages. From there you are tasked to enter the Gungeon and try to make it as far as possible before the enemies kill you. Each level gets increasingly difficult as you progress and the layout can change every time you restart with a new character. Your enemies are other guns. Yep. Bullets. Torpedoes. Bats with lasers on their heads. Anything that's a weapon is anthropomorphized into a living object for you to destroy.

The game play can be as fast or as slow as you want it to be. I found the controls to take a bit for me to get use to since the movement and aiming sticks are reversed (usually it's left thumbstick to move, right to aim). When you get the hang of it, it's fine, but it's annoying for the first few minutes when torpedoes are trying to kill you.

Devolver added in a multi-player mode to give more quality time to couples looking to shoot bullets at bullets. Unfortunately it forces player 2 to be a mage, and this may change in the future after the feedback they heard on the show floor - they did this to help balance out the game play and not have the PC's overpowered with other job combinations. Looking forward to playing this game when it's released with a cohort. Dibs on the Hunter! I want that puppy companion!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Most Anticipated Games - PAX South 2016

The big draw to PAX is the ability to play a lot of games for 3 days without anyone judging least not inside the walls of the convention center. Some titles are already available on Steam and devs are trying to drum up a few more sales. Others are brand new and have yet to hit the scene. I had a chance to dive in and really play up the indie crowd this year and wow...there are going to be some awesome games coming out that are not Triple A funded. I have 2 favorites that I'm looking forward to sooner, rather then later.

Most Anticipate Mobile Game - Like A Boss

Amusing title aside, Like A Boss has the elements one needs for a great mobile game: action, adventure, story, compassion, heroes, villains, witty banter, and the ability to kill a lot of time with very little effort.

Developed by Fire Horse Games, the title clearly is derived from one too many internet memes, and it makes sense when you fire up the app. You play as the epic of most epic bosses in an MMO. Your task is to survive an incoming raid of "heroes" as they attempt to kill you for loot. It's fairly straight-forward. You get a series of abilities and can obtain more as you progress through each level, with the difficulty increasing at each interval. What stood out to me about this game was it's ease of letting new gamers in - that anyone can pick up and play for casual fun. But there is an ever-building story with your Boss character as you move forward in the game.

paxsouth16-163<World of Warcraft. That may seem low-tech by today's standards with games, but for a phone and tablet? That's pretty darn nice.
And though most of the game is played out arena style, where you have a "spawn" area and kill the heroes around you, the world feels lived in. The heroes banter back and forth hoping that you will drop the loot they need, or yelling at each other to stop being n00bs. It's quite entertaining to see what they'll say next instead of killing them off with a few taps of the screen.

paxsouth16-160 In the same vein as so many free-to-play apps, there are restrictions on game time. It's like Candy Crush in that as long as you keep winning, you can keep playing. You have a set number of lives, so if you reach a hard level and die a bunch, you have to wait on the gamer timer to refill your bar before you can try again. The staff on the floor didn't say exactly how long those timers were - if it was 30 minutes or 3 days. You can buy more lives in their digital store, or earn power-ups throughout your Boss-ly journey.

On the surface it may seem like a mindless game, but there is content that expands past tapping your screen to destroy the heroes. The fact that the story is focused on the villain is a nice twist to a traditional mobile game. I can't wait to play it later this spring!

Most Anticipated PC/Console Game - InnerSpace

To say I'm obsessed with this game is an understatement. If the Expo floor wasn't closing Saturday night with 10 minutes left, I would have stayed and continued to play.

Developed by PolyKnight Games, InnerSpace is a flight game focused on exploration. That may not sound all that glamorous, but stick with me for a few moments. You take on the role as a cartographer. Part of your job duties include flying into plant cores, collecting relics, and discover the history behind the planet. Each planet will have unique features, such as jungles, oceans, and life that is different from another, and you have to navigate through complex landscapes, and puzzles, to obtain each relic.

What I really adore about this game is the design scheme mixed with the controls. You fly around on an inverted axis, and on a curve. Think Super Mario Galaxy (SMG), which made the team on the floor chuckle when I made this comparison. Each planet is going to have it's own gravitational force, so how you fly, spin, and dive will alter with each location - just like SMG. You're always flying on a curve, and have to rotate with the planet - just like SMG. If you've played Galaxy, you can play this game. And I found myself memorized at how fluid the controls were. I didn't even bother looking for relics. I spent my entire time flying around in awe of the feel of the game!

The graphics are simply beautiful. They are reminiscent of Journey while still feeling very unique to their game. Blocky landscapes with the rolling hills of the oceans. Soft hues of blues, yellows, reds, and cremes give an alluring, other-worldly vibe to the landscape. You'll still experience the cool, crazy things that one would expect with new planets in a sci-fi movie (see the screenshots), but the calming effect of exploring these worlds is amazing. Someone had mentioned that the team has been approached a few times by clinics to bring this game in to help patients with PTSD since the game has that calming effect. After a few minutes of play I felt more relaxed and stress free - it was weird and cool at the same time. Once you really get into the flight controls, you tend to ignore the real world for a little bit. Whoops!

What's also cool is that you can alter the environments around you by using your ship to slice through rocks, ropes, and other things tethering the world together. While they'll help you get new relics, you'll also change the world you're exploring. We didn't go deep into this topic, but my hope is that over time your actions in the world will have consequences for when you return to explore new content. That would be cool.

Seriously, I can't gush about this game enough. I want it now. The target date is Q3 for 2016 on PC, Linux, and MAC. I strongly encourage you to get a PS4 controller to get a better feel for the game's mechanics. It was so smooth on a controller that a keyboard would not do it justice.

More PAX South news coming up!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

More Pax South Things - The 2016 Edition

I'm back from PAX South 2016 - with a cold. Not the PAX Pox, thank goodness. Though I'm seeing my social media news feed blow up with people who are now feeling the effects. Speedy recovery everyone! I guess you can never have too much Vitamin C at an expo.

It was another fun time at the event, even with the sickies trying to bog me down. We got to experience a lot more new games, some that I'm really excited to see later this year. Which I will feature these games throughout the week with Indie spotlights as PAX South was clearly the showcase for all things indie. Let's jump into my overall review.

There were some improvements to PAX from it's first year, and some things that won't change due to issues with the location that are out of their control. You may find that a number of these things will be repeats from last year:

1.) Cell reception still blows massive monkey balls. Monkey balls. See what I did there? But really, the reception sucks and good luck finding any wifi connection as even most of the Starbucks in the area can't offer it for free (which is a staple) since the signals are so shotty. This is made even more amusing when you find out that there is an AT&T tower only a few blocks away. It's not just the convention center with crappy wifi service (which you have to pay $79.99 a day to get access to it - talk about a ripoff). But the entire city of San Antonio. An extra 50,000 people descending on the 1.4 million sized city shouldn't affect wireless signals so badly. There are times where even going into the mall your call will completely drop and you will only have access to emergency phone numbers. And this is a normal, every-day occurrence in San Antonio. Locals confirmed this for us.

What made it more of a kick in the pants is that the convention center PAX is held in just opened a new expansion early last week. It looks really nice except it's missing a key feature: access to wifi. Yep. Never built into the plans to get a reliable wifi service up and running for people to use for a "reasonable" fee or for free. The city is not designed for tech shows and they need to fix it. Fast. This is 2016 and everyone is on their phones for digital content. This will, unfortunately, hurt PAX in the future if the city can't get their act together. And it's completely out of PAX's hands!

2.) Layout Change Much Improved - But Dev Booths Not Flashy. I've already seen people gripe at the new layout, but I think it worked to the benefit of the convention center. Last year, attendees could enter into any door and it was difficult to manage traffic flow especially in front of main events. This year, they had a designated entryway (they need to do this with an exit as well) and it helped keep hallways clear for big panels. This did mean more walking, however. But to me, it made sense. And it gave the indie devs more facetime as the expo hall queue line butted up right next to the tabletop space. Perfect!

However there were a number of booths that lacked imagination. The Tron booth was abysmal. I don't know if this was something where they got the space at the last minute when another company backed out or what, but it was the saddest booth I had ever seen. And it was a big booth. There were 2 consoles set up on opposite corners with two plastic chairs at each station. Inside the "booth" there was a photo-op area where you can be green screened onto a Tron background. That's it.

It's freekin' Tron! You have so much at your disposal with that world, you can make one of the coolest looking booths on the show floor that it would have put Dreadnaught to shame. Instead we got...nothing. Which is silly. The game itself was quite good. It's focus is more on the Tron Universe where you are the program sent into the games and have to make you way through obstacle courses, races, battles, etc. to survive. Very clean. Didn't notice any bugs. I really love the music and the complexity of the challenges. But the booth was virtually empty all weekend (haha, made a pun) and I would argue that a lot of it had to do with the lack of draw from the design of the booth itself. There wasn't even a sign up for the game! I just know it's the Tron game. (I've googled and found that it's called Tron Run.)

3.) Second Year Expos Are Always Testers. Look to PAX East as an example. Their first 3-4 years had a lot of headaches. And PAX South ran very smoothly. Yes they didn't have as many big name developers there this time (the absence of both Bioware and Gearbox was noticeable), but it's giving South a framework for future events to work out the kinks now before they develop into big issues over time. Everyone on staff did a great job this year and should be proud of their efforts. It was an efficiently ran expo.

4.) San Antonio - Great for Crowds and Food. See #1 About Wifi. Again, this will hurt PAX South in the long run.

paxsouth16-0105.) Panels Were A Downer. We didn't feel compelled to visit any panels this year. And after hearing reviews on the ones I considered attending, I'm glad that I didn't. This year's content was more fan focused and a lot of tournaments, less on developers talking about their products and company. With the exception of how to mod for X-COM 2, not much was going on for panels. The video game theory panel I thought about turned into a general chat on why the panelists like games. And the "turn your craft into a business" were held by artists that I've never heard of. If it were Volpin Props or Sanshee hosting that panel, I would have been interested. People who use their crafting as additional income on Etsy is something I already do so...nothing I could learn there. Compared to last year, I felt that the panels lacked the spark needed to bring people in. The Expo hall felt much more crowded compared to last year and now I understand why.

6.) Dev Access Still There! This is the cool thing about PAX and why it's fun to go: you get to talk to developers as you're playing their game. You get to learn about their thought process, their inspiration, their goals, their hopes, and become an on-the-spot QA tester as you break their game. It's fun! That's something I really enjoy about the PAX experience that I hope never changes. I enjoy talking to people about why this game. What makes this project special compared to all others you've worked on in the past? And just like last year, YouTube gamers walked around with the rest of us without a barrier in-between (for good or ill). I met Commander Holly (Konrad) and took an awkward selfie with her. My duty was fulfilled!

7.) Dev's Caught On to the WiFi Issues Last Year. So instead of posting parties the day of online, they had events figured out weeks in advance. Thanks for that - you all have no clue how much better that made everything instead of having to fight with the lack of internet service. There were still newbies to the floor that asked us to follow their Instagram or Twitter accounts for free stuff while you're in their booth. It didn't always work. But to those who knew better then to try that gimmick, thanks.

8.) Anime Fans and AAA Game Fans Looked Confused. PAX South is setting itself up to be the indie game central compared to it's counterparts in Boston, Seattle, and Australia. And I'm all for it. It may not be what the big dev fans are looking for, but it's an area of gaming that is gaining a lot of support. It's good to see PAX through it's weight behind it.

paxsouth16-237Anime fans still think they're going to a convention. They'll catch on one day.

9.) Gamers and PAX Pox. Sadly, still a thing. That's never going to change. I just wish people would understand the value of bathing. Daily. Please.

10.) However, Lots of People Wearing Masks and Hand Sanitizer at Booths! While it's not going to stop the spread of germs completely, it does help limit the amount we encountered throughout the weekend. So thank you to those people who cares about our health. Thumbs up to you. You're also some of the funnest, most enjoyable group of people in any nerdom to hang out with. So thank you for being such an inclusive group of people! We need to stand up for our brethren more as we exemplify what it is to be a gamer. Not what the loud minority of bigots and jackarses have been spewing over the past few years with their hate speech.

Overall, I had a great time. I'm looking forward to going back and trying out the next crop of indie games next year. And who knows! Maybe some of the peeps at Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Sony will show their faces next year and have something cool to bring along.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

No. Pikachu is Not Going to be Voiced by Danny DeVito

Apologies for not posting yesterday and disrupting the schedule. I was stuck in bed with a massive case of sickies. Not the PAX Pox, but pretty close to it. I'll have reviews of my favorite games from PAX South later this week.

For now, we must talk about something very serious and equally amusing. Danny DeVito. For some reason people want him to be in a Pokémon game. So much so that they created a petition to try and convince Nintendo to cast the actor to voice Pikachu in the upcoming Pokémon Detective. Almost 40,000 people have signed up to attempt to make this happen.

Let's be real here.

It's not going to happen.

Nintendo has a very clear path for Pokémon, and Danny DeVito does not fit into their framework. This is clearly someone trolling that turned into a craze for our amusement.

And amusing it is. Let's just integrate some quotes from him as Frank Reynolds, a character on the show It's Always Sunny in Philidelphia, to the tune of Pokémon. Just imagine your trainer on the field, and Pikachu as Danny DeVito saying this as part of the party banter:

"This is a brilliant idea, hobovertising! Come on it looks good, beer 'em."

"God what the hell has gotten into you the last couple days?"

"Look, if I cave on this, I'm gonna be bailing you guys out for the rest of my life. I'm putting my foot down on this one. You bitches gotta earn your own money!"

"You've got a lot of balls, stealing my money. This shows leadership, I am promoting you to management."

And it goes on. Chances of it happening: 0. But thank you internet for bringing us something to laugh about today.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Away to PAX South I Go!

Year 2 of PAX South begins today, and I'll be returning again for more nerdy gaming coverage.

Last year PAX settled in nicely to the new event. I know a number of people will disagree with me because it didn't have a bevy of big name developers nor panels (though I argue otherwise as I felt the panel content was not only expansive, but varied), but given the history of PAX first year attempts, they did a phenomenal job. We even broke the record for highest attendance for a first year. The convention ran very smoothly. With the exception of Riot changing their panel at the Expo and not notifying PAX (thus leading to a lot of very confused gamers), I was impressed at how much PAX improved the first year experience.

This will still be another trial run for PAX. This time around there are even less big developers on the floor. Why? A few reasons:

This time of year is weird for developers. Most new products are not released, let alone announced, until closer to E3. Which is why you see a bigger push for marketing in March/April.

It also means that January and February are crunch months. Beta testings, fixing coding issues, refining last minute changes - it's a busy time for game developers that there's little time to go out and promote your game.

Whereas with indie games, they can release as they see fit. They're typically not under the same time constraints or contracts as the big devs that if they decide to release their game next week, they can. That's their call. So it's easier for them to take a weekend away from the desk to promote their new games.

But that's one thing I enjoy about PAX in general. While people focus on how many big develops go to Prime and East, they seem to forget that the other 80% of the floor is covered by indie games. PAX has a great history of promoting the unsung heroes of the gaming community. The people who work 7 days a week for years on end to put their $1.99 game out on Steam, and then dive right back to their computer to create another. PAX supports indie. And I'm glad that they do! Some of the biggest names in games in 2015 started with a booth at PAX.

So I'm really looking forward to seeing all of the new games from new developers. The floor is littered with them!

That isn't to say that I'm not a bit sad-face that Bioware won't have a presence. They typically have a standalone panel room that they dub their "base" of operations and have fun events throughout the weekend. But they appear to be skipping it this year. Which is fine, they're allowed to. It's just odd given that their big MMO studio is in Austin. You'd think they'd at least do something for us Southern-folk. Throw us a bone every now and then. Oh well.

But all is not lost! The highly anticipated X-COM 2 will be making a debut at PAX South with demos and even a tournament, where they are flying in X-COM professional gamers to duke it out with the rest of us.

Panel-wise, there is quite a bit of content for diversity in gaming, developing indie games, the rise of YouTube gaming along with the ethical questions it poses, and the usual random panels - RoosterTeeth is going to teach us long division. I'm also looking forward to the Omegathon challenges. This is one of the few times where they have listed the games beforehand, with the exception of the final round. I kind of wish I was chosen. The first game is Beautiful Katamari. I would have kicked ass at that.

Given that last year I met and spoke to Sid Meier, who is in my top 5 people I hope to meet before I die, I highly doubt any other PAX will surpass that. But I'm looking forward to what South has to offer this round. It's going to be a fun weekend and I'll report back on my findings.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pulling Another Plug on a Kickstarter Game...But Wait!

Another Kickstarter video game has bit the dust, but in an honest twist, the developers opted to pull the campaign a week into the funding because they felt they would be able to give enough to backers. How thoughtful of them.

Hero's Song, a retro hard-core RPG, cancelled it's quest for $800,000 on Tuesday. While they felt they put a lot of time into developing the Kickstarter campaign, they didn't focus on the needs of the backers, nor did they have enough content available to showcase game footage. They were asking people to back their project based on promises but very little physical, or digital, evidence.

And after 7 days they were only $136,000 into their $800k goal. They would have needed to raise almost $29k a day to reach their goal before the deadline. Based on the slow start, that was probably not going to happen.

The game itself sounds interesting. It has Diablo-like point and click action and allows you to take your time with each move you make. Friendly Fire is always on, so your party members can, and will die if you mess up. They mean it when they said they wanted it to be "hard-core." But they also enlisted the help of NY Times Bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss to help create the story, which is an ever-changing dynamic world. Every time you start a new game, you get a new story. Elements of the backstory will be pervasive, but can alter with each new world you create. With the addition of online play, this sounds like a potentially winning indie game.

But don't fret! Those who backed the project or are intrigued by the design, there is hope. Investors have stepped in to help with additional funding to ensure that the game is completed in time (they are shooting for October of this year with a $20 price tag).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Life is Strange Scholarship

How about a more happy-feels post today?

DONTNOD, the developers behind Life is Strange has announced a $10,000 scholarship contest for US and Canada, dubbing it the Everyday Heroes Fund. For those age 18 and older who are currently in or looking to attend an art school, you can submit a photo of yourself or someone you know who is a hero in your life. The fact that it's art school specific does put a smile on my face. There are so very few art scholarships out there and it is damn near impossible to get a hold of one. College and University fees keep rising ever year, so anything to help with the costs is nothing short of a miracle for kids today.

There are of course runner-up prizes including signed copies of the special edition of the game. To note, the scholarship must be used for schooling purposes only. So don't expect to buy a new computer with it. But what a heck of an opportunity for students and fans of the game. It's another way to promote the arts and help bolster the community. Yea!

Contibute to WhatCulture?

I have given flack to WhatCulture in the past because their articles are ridiculous. Very rarely are they worth the time it takes to read them and they are cluttered with lists to try and get people to click on more pages. They don't provide the content that elevates video game dialogue. Not to say that creating Top 10 lists are bad. I've made a few over the years. Sprinkling them in on occasion isn't a bad thing, and can help prompt some interesting discussions/debates. But to only focus on lists isn't the type of gaming content that the community needs. If we expect for our hobby, our passions to move forward, gaming sites need to do the same.

Why am I talking about WhatCulture? Well yesterday they sent out a call to action to add more contributors to their website. It's a paying gig of .40 pounds for every 1,000 views your article collects. The current exchange rate puts that at .57 cents USD. While they state that top articles can click tens of thousands of views, that's only $5.70. Not exactly a money-making opportunity here.

I do want to encourage those who are looking to break into writing about games to consider the offer. As crazy as that may sound. It allows for your work to be on a public space and to obtain more feedback so you can improve and add this to a resume. But I also want to encourage you to not fall into the trap of making Top 10 lists. Or Top 20. Or Top 18. Or Top 7.

Those articles are too easy.

You can make a quick $.57 off them, but they won't provide the content or diversify your writing portfolio enough to be noticed by more credible gaming sites. And really, if your Top 10 article never hits 1,000 views, then you've wasted your time on a crap product.

The crazy thing is that WhatCulture does have non-list articles. Weird, right? They sadly don't get as many hits because the website pushes the lists to the fore-front to prompt for more clicks.

But this could be an opportunity for yourself and the gaming community to try and class up the place a bit. I doubt that the lists will go away, but throwing in some thought-provoking articles is what the gaming circle could use right now.

Hell, even I'm considering applying, knowing full well that I may not make a penny. And that's okay. It's about improving my work and getting more people to think about video games with a critical mind.

Even though I don't agree with how WhatCulture handles providing "gaming news" there are a number of people that do, and will jump on the opportunity. For those who are list-happy, at least consider throwing the community a bone and put out a thoughtful article once in a while, hm?