Tuesday, May 24, 2016

E3's First Public Event

Something really cool was announced this week: E3 will have a separate event outside of the convention center for gamers called E3 Live. Completely free. Though tickets have all been claimed, it does offer gamers a chance to see what's inside and experience the new games coming out this year and not have to sit on their computers, waiting for updates from GameSpot. The event will take place Tuesday through Thursday in downtown Los Angeles. They will also have exclusive merchandise that you can only get at E3, gaming competitions, music, and some of the devs from across the way will make appearances.

For those who couldn't get a ticket? That's okay. E3 is planning on having a live stream through YouTube and GameSpot to allow people to see more of the show floor and game play then they have in the past. YouTube just launched an E3 gaming hub.

I have to say, I'm kind of happy with the direction E3 is going. Hopefully this works out for them. The past few years have been iffy since the expo didn't have a stable direction. They were trying too hard to please developers that they shut out gaming fans. And then they tried to please gaming fans, but then didn't satisfy investors. It's been a weird dance. But with these updates, it looks like they plan to cater more towards the gamers - we are the consumers. The whole point of the show is to develop hype for people to buy.

Expect nerdgasims to rise on social media in 3 weeks when E3 opens.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Minecraft in China

I'm posting so much about Minecraft lately and I almost never play the game due to my busy schedule. But it's news, and important news at that. So I shall continue to post! And this news  will put Minecraft in one of the most sought-after locations by the gaming industry right now: China.

Microsoft, Mojang, and NetEase announced on May 20th a 5 year exclusive deal for the licensing of Minecraft in mainland China for mobile and PC. Mojang will tailor the game to fit within China's gaming restrictions. Players in China will have access to most things that are available in the game today, but I have a feeling some of the skeletons, zombies, and adventure mode aspects will be removed to conform to China's policy.

But this is a huge step forward in an untapped market that's ready for something new. A country of 1 billion plus people and Minecraft, which currently sells 10,000 copies daily with 100 million registered users. Sounds like a money-making recipe.

It's estimated that China's video game industry will be worth $24.4 billion this year. If a company can get even 1% of that, that is a lot of extra cash flow.

"We'll always embrace opportunities to bring Minecraft to new players around the world, widening our community, and giving us a new perspective on our game. [N]etEase understands our long-term vision for Minecraft and supports Mojang's ideals, so we're delighted to have them on board. We look forward to welcoming China's builders and adventurers to the world of Minecraft." Jonas Martensson, CEO of Mojang.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mario Minecraft Hitting YouTube Wall

Nintendo is causing trouble for Minecraft YouTubers with the latest update to the Nintendo Wii-U version of the game. A few weeks ago there was the announcement that a Mario update would be added to the game for free to all Wii-U users. It added new skins and textures to turn your Minecraft world into Mario.

I had joked in that post that hopefully Nintendo may not ban people for their Mario creations. I spoke too soon.

While not a ban, YouTubers are getting the brunt of the Nintendo arm through copyright notifications from their uploads. According to Nintendo's Partners program, the Minecraft update would be exempt. For those who don't know, in order to show any type of Nintendo content on YouTube, you have to sign up for their program as well as YouTube's adshare services. This splits any portions of profits you may receive with not only YouTube, but Nintendo as well. Not many people like it because Nintendo takes a pretty big chunk out of the revenue.

Since this is Minecraft, and the promise was given by Nintendo and 4J Studios, the team behind the add-on, that the copyright rules would be exempt.

And that's not happening.

YouTube uploads are getting hit left and right for music violations - but most likely it's due to YouTube's Content ID system, which automatically detects images and sounds and videos and flags them if another user (Nintendo in this case) has already claimed the content.

Both Nintendo and 4J Studios are looking into the issue. Which may turn into a bigger challenge then what they expect, depending on how YouTube's Content ID system works. Oops.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

It's the weekly edition of the Weekly Link Round Up.

I know that wasn't the most riveting opening line, but work with me today. It's been a tough week, personally. So let's liven it up a bit with snippets of the best, and weirdest, gaming news online! What's on the menu today?

- Where's a cool place to work? Well according to USA Today, it's EA's Tiburon office. They have a ball pit. In the middle of a conference table. Apparently that's all we need as adults to make us happy.

- GamesRadar looks at gaming trailers, and the most important component to them: you. That may seem like a cop-out response, but it's fairly accurate. Without you, the trailer means nothing. A trailer is the developer's opportunity to get you into the game. And this article by Alan Bradley takes a good look at the process.

- And for another proof of concept, GameRant covers how video games can positively discuss mental health. It provides some great insight into the growing world of indie games and the content being produced to tackle the issues surrounding hundreds of millions of people.

- As many of you know, Lionhead Studios is no more. The Guardian has written a fantastic overview on the history of the company, from birth to the end, and the numerous innovations the developer game to the gaming community.

- Sometime over the past few weeks, Senator Al Franken has questions about privacy and the Oculus Rift. Since Facebook owns the company and it'll link users to their Facebook account, of course privacy would be a concern. Facebook does quite a bit with our data that you may not be aware of.

- Looking for a quick laugh? There's a Tumblr for that. Kotaku shared a Tumblr designed around bad video game press releases. And yes, it's as silly as it sounds. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Nintendo and Miitomo Privacy Addressed

A few weeks ago Kotaku posted an article about the creepiness of Miitomo, Nintendo's first mobile game/app that allows users to create a Mii and interact with friends by asking random questions to learn more about each other. I still believe it's a silly app. Not quite addicting, but a good 10 minute time waster. The Kotaku article prompted questions on what Nintendo does with all of those answers. Are they selling the information to other companies? Seems plausable given that sometimes the questions that pop up are "What commercials have made the most impact on you?" and "What is your favorite movie?" Those can easily be sent off to marketing firms to tweak advertising messages.

Nintendo has responded to the data privacy concerns to reaffirm that they are not selling the information to anyone. They are using the responses to tweak and tailor content for Miitomo to fit what the majority of people want. Some of the Mii outfits and special Mii Drop events have been adjusted in the NA market to reflect the responses people have provided to questions.

And really, who the heck in marketing would care why I like ninjas? Ninjas are so 1990's. It's all about zombies, superheroes, and a pirate comeback these days.

If you're ever concerned about your data in Miitomo you can always pull up the agreement you signed by going to your account page within the app. Legally Nintendo has to inform consumers if they sell data. Otherwise they face not only lawsuits but hefty fines from the FCC. Their current agreement shows no indication that they do this, so you're in the clear. Most of the questions are pretty silly and meant to be ice breakers, so don't go 'big brother' on Miitomo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mass Effect Ride - Now Available!

Yesterday, the Mass Effect ride at California's Great Adventure opened up to an early preview for a limited audience. IGN was among the crowd and brought a live video stream of the ride via Facebook. Later, they had an additional video of the full ride, from line-up to the exit. The ride comes with a costumed performer, portraying Conrad Verner...and I heard a collective groan from the blogging audience on that one.

The ride is a 4D landscape, meaning a 3D video with your seats moving, along with sprits of water and steam that may hit you to coincide with the action on the screen. Which is something that's difficult to capture on a video camera, so you can't really get the full experience of the ride from the video. The story is that you are on a "vacation tour" in the Mass Effect galaxy, and you're being guided by Conrad to one of the planets as you leave the Citadel. Or at least I think it's the Citadel...the bay doors like to stay closed during take-off. You set off on your cruise spaceship (har har) to go through a Mass Relay, you happen to run into the Normandy where Conrad freaks out and fanboys (which is kind of amusing to see that the actor really gets into it), and make it to your destination plant...which is currently being attacked by a Reaper. So it's up to your weird cruise ship and the Normandy to take it down, with cameos from a digital Garrus and Wrex. When you exit the ride, artwork from the games can been seen in some of the hallways. The cosplayers in the video, including Rana, the model for Samara and Morinth, are not part of the attraction. Just an opening day promo. But at the front of the ride line there are replicas of Shepard's armor, both male and female. Curious to find out who built them.

Ride response from the videos has been mixed. Some people like it, and others find it just okay. It reminds me a lot of the Star Trek experience in Las Vegas, but without the bar and extensive gift shop and museum. They had a 4D ride as well and it was fun. Cheesy, but that's what you pay for. You block out the world for 3-5 minutes by being a Star Trek nerd and go about your business. They could have gone in a multitude of directions for this attraction, but given their space and size limitations, it's nifty. I think kids will like it, or at least Mass Effect fans who understand the nuances of Conrad or what the heck a Reaper is. Bwahhhhh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Great Reviewers Do Not Need to Be 'Good' Gamers

HeatStreet has posted an opinion piece about the website Polygon asking why some of their staff members suck at playing video games? Recently Polygon reviewed the latest Doom and posted a 30 minute game play video. It didn't take long for comments to appear criticizing the way the reviewer played the game. He wasn't moving and shooting at the same time. He didn't read menus or interfaces, and started firing randomly at objects that require a key card or a button press to open. A new, and very tiny, YouTube channel created a mini-video looking over the common errors in the Polygon game play, which has been viewed almost 250k times as of this posting. The Polygon video did have their comments section removed when the heat got to be too much.

The article on HeatStreet poses the question looking for answers, but doesn't dive into what the answers may be - other then Polygon needs to explain themselves. And it's not the first instance of Polygon being called out for how they play games. There have been instances in the past with a few games, such as The Last of Us, where Polygon bucks the trend of giving out good scores because they couldn't get a good handle on the control scheme, the pacing, or the game play itself.

Back in 2012 I wrote a piece titled "Do you have to play video games well to be a good reviewer?" Seeing the HeatStreet article reaffirmed my stance. No. Because we all play differently. There isn't a right way or wrong way to play a game. You don't have to be a master at Mortal Kombat to be able to review it - in fact part of the uniqueness of video games is that with the multiple genres and game play types, you can have people from different gaming backgrounds review a product and come up with unique conclusions. An RPG or FPS gamer reviewing Street Fighter? They could create amazing reviews by looking at the product in a new perspective. It doesn't diminish the quality of the review if they don't play it the way you expect them to.

What one person may think of as a "bad gamer" may seem totally normal for another. So who's to say that the Polygon reviewer was playing Doom incorrectly? What rules state that someone has to run and shoot at the same time? The person was still able to complete the game's objectives. They didn't run into any issues. They played the game the way that felt best to them. Over time as they learn the game, they can change up their tactics. But just because that person did not play to your standards doesn't make them a bad gamer.

I appreciate the fact that a multitude of gaming sites have a variety of gamers to provide us with reviews from their perspective. Sure, they may not know how to work the Wii controls, but if Nintendo is trying to grasp that "family" market, you're going to have non-Wii gamers in the mix who are in the same predicament. If a non-Wii gamer can't figure out the controls at Polygon, that's a good indication that the rest of your non-Wii audience will have trouble as well. And of course that will affect the review. We would be silly to think otherwise. Controls make up an important aspect of how we look at a game.

I'd argue that it's the same with film and literary critics as well, something HeatStreet mentions in their article. It's true that in those fields we don't expect them to watch movies or read books well, but we do expect them to understand their content, provide insight into the mind of the creators, figure out the depth to the story, and crack it open for the general public. Video games are the same way. I don't expect anyone working on Polygon, Kotaku, Gamasutra, Destructoid, GameSpot, or anywhere to be the best at the best in gaming. If they were, they would be peddling their talents with eSports leagues (and get paid a lot more money for less internet flack). They don't have to game well. But they do have to provide insight in a way  few other gamers can - and that's through research, reporting, and reviews.

I'm going to quote myself here, but the point is still valid today as it was 4 years ago: "Just because you may play and review a game differently then how I would, it doesn’t discredit your point of view."

Monday, May 16, 2016

Nintendo Is Going To The Movies!

I...um...what?

Nintendo wants to make movies. That's according to an interview from The Asahi Shimbun with current President Tatsumi Kimishima. And look, I linked the interview! Not that hard to connect information to the source, news outlets. Just saying.

But that's a pretty big deal given the train wreck of the past movie attempts, where Nintendo's involvement was simply to license the product name. Maybe having a hand in developing the films will help create some credibility? Kimishima mentioned that they have been in talks with several studios globally to look for a team that can fully dedicate itself to producing films, but that they want to do as much of the work themselves as they can. Keep the Nintendo label clean and bug-free, so to speak.

As far as details, that's about as much as you're going to get today. There was no mention of what games would be licensed to films, or a turn-around time. Some outlets are reporting 2-3 years, but it could be longer then that. What Nintendo does want is to make films as part of a standalone business in conjunction with their games. They want something that will translate globally for all audiences. And they want something that will represent the company in the best life. So no 'Super Mario Bros. II.'

Frankly, I'm surprised Nintendo is going down this path. Gamers have hopes for the new AssCreed movie (hopefully Kanye West-gayfish-free after the trailer release), but as a whole the genre has been stagnant. Nothing has propelled game movies forward for people to take them seriously. And Nintendo is not known for taking these kinds of risks. It's interesting to review...and maybe this is exactly what game movies need?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Game for Change - Sea Hero Quest

I think I sense the start of a new series of blog posts. Hmm...

Researchers from the University College London and Alzheimers Research UK have created a mobile game that collects data about player's cognitive abilities. The game is Sea Hero Quest. By playing the game and recording user responses, they hope to find more of the causes, and understanding behind dementia. The game is available on both Android and Apple and was developed by the company Glitchers.

The video promo for the game looks like an odd cross between Moses and Noah's Ark, but it's not. Promise. In the game you play the son of an explorer, who has a journal of his memories and documentation of all of the sea creatures he has seen. The explorer no longer remembers his adventures. As the son, you now must take up the steward of the ship and help your digital father reclaim his memories.

The University and the Research center believes that if 100,000 people play the game for 2 minutes they could gather almost 50 years worth of data in that time frame. Not much is known about the cause of dementia or Alzheimers, and it's a growing issue among the aging world population as more people are diagnosed. The game tests a players ability to make choices, navigate, and estimate orientation - all focused on cognitive reasoning.

If your concerned about your information or your results being made public, don't worry. All of it is submitted anonymously without your name attached to it.

I may download this today and give it a whirl. Anything for science!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Keep That Web Slinger in Your Pants

It's another Cosplay post! 
The topic of dance belts in spandex suits. It's cropped up again. I had a couple of messages hit my Facebook inbox from page fans asking why there is a call for dance belt awareness.

I should preface this post is meant to be informative. A general awareness post, because I feel that a number of individuals don’t realize there are a multitude of undergarment options available. As women, we’ve known for decades. For men outside of theater, dance, and sports it's not as common knowledge. TLDR: Strongly encourage everyone (male, female, trans, all people) who cosplay to invest in undergarments. If you opt not to, that’s your call. Remember, just because it’s cosplay doesn’t mean that it bypasses all laws and physics.

As men, or anyone who chooses to not dress in female clothing, you may not be aware of the number of undergarments women put on in their day to day life. It’s not just a bra and panties. For quite a few we wear body shapers, hosiery, control tops and bottom, dress slips, etc. Not all of these pieces of underwear are meant to adjust our body shape - they exist to keep everything neat and smooth so garments can sit correctly on our body (i.e. no bunching). And in some cases, like dress slips, it’s to help those garments where the fabric and lining used are translucent - the opaque slip is an extra layer of comfort and protection from prying eyes.

Underwear is there to complete the outfit and help create the final look with seamless lines. Without it, you see all the jibblies.

That’s the real issue with the dance belt topic, which can get overlooked in the comments.

As a cosplayer, without the undergarments I won’t look or feel as fantastic in the outfit. Everyone has some part of their body they are not happy with. I wear dance tights because my legs look horrid and I’m prone to bruising. I wear a control top so my garments will sit clean on my body and there won’t be excess wrinkling. I wear the extra undergarments because it takes my costume to that level of amazing. It’s a necessary expense.

Especially in spandex costumes.

Men, you are not immune from this. There are plenty of undergarments out there that can do the same. From dance belts (Google 'full back dance belt' if the "thong" concerns you) and jock straps, to shaping underwear (yes these do exist for men at large stores like Macy’s and Amazon) and tops, there are a myriad of options available to help pack in your manly parts. And you know what? It’s not uncomfortable. *gasp*

That’s one of the biggest concerns I see on this topic. While I don’t know what it’s like to wear one, I can tell you from male friends (first timers in spandex and habitual users) they find them no different than wearing speedos. If you could wear a jockstrap for your high school sport years, you can wear a dance belt. Or you can wear one of the hundreds of products in men’s shapewear. They do the same thing, and those are more like traditional briefs.

If you want to argue that women are not upheld to the same rule because their boobs and butts are out, you can. My counterpoint is that we’re still covered up. We’re still wearing the dance tights and pantyhose. We’re still wearing the underwear. Our nips are still kept hidden behind fabric. You can have a very provocative costume and wear appropriate undergarments.

Why is the dance belt thing such a big deal? Well...it’s not so great to see someone in a spandex suit with their baby making parts outlined for the world to see. I’ve seen them loose, squished, and at attention in spandex suits. It’s not a sight anyone wants to gaze upon. It makes your costume look half-assed. Not to be mean, but it’s the truth. It looks like you didn’t put any care into what you were wearing or that you were too lazy to be bothered with putting on underwear. It doesn’t make you look cool. And it is most definitely not a hit with the ladies, or the gents.

So you don’t rail against me for not calling out women - ladies who don’t wear undergarments, it’s the same situation. Cameltoe and a sagging top do not showcase your costume in it’s best light. It looks sloppy.

And, as with anything involving our community, you’ll get made fun of it too. How often do we see female celebrities get picked on by gossip magazines for having cameltoe? It’s no different with cosplayers, men and women.

If you still feel like you don’t need underwear when you put on that spandex suit, that’s your choice. You are technically covered up in accordance with decency laws. But think before you make the decision. When you wear that suit, go to a full-sized mirror and take a look at yourself. Would you go to work with your pecker and sack outlined like that? Would you want to show off your red and blue spandexed dilly to your grandparents and relatives? Are you comfortable with little kids running up to you and looking directly at your Peter and hoo-ha’s and asking you 'what is that?'

Strap down the dongle and keep the girls in place.

Weekly Link Round Up

We are almost at Friday and the gaming world has been busy talking about Disney's unexpected news that it would be closing their Interactive studios. But what about the other stories on the internet? I'm here to help break through the noise and bring you some of the best, and worst, gaming stories of the week!

- GamingBolt has a list of 15 video game prequels that you have to play. Both in slideshow and video format! The video is unnecessarily long through, so don't watch that. Some of the hits on the list are KOTOR, Dues-Ex, FF7: Crisis Core, and Halo: Reach. I'm meh about the Halo entry. Reach was just okay. Interesting, but I think a lot of the issues that plague the game have to do with multiplayer, internet connections, and odd control schemes. At times the game becomes a challenge to play through when all you want to do is duck and shoot.

- The Toronto Sun has an article covering 2016's biggest video game battles. Given that it's only May 12 and we're not even close to hitting that half-way mark for the year, I'm wondering what kind of battles are they talking about? Apparently they mean between gaming companies and products: such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Because we have to make everything a competition, even in a free market. TLDR: Ignore this click bait. The last entry on the article if for the Wii-U and the Nintendo NX. Um...guy. I'm pretty sure Nintendo is not trying to compete with itself.

- A study was released that suggests kids take in more fruits and vegetables when they play video games will help their brain function, or something like that. I kind of glossed over it when they only tested it with 400 kids for a game that is on the level of Veggie Tales, that intentionally promotes healthier eating. And the kids didn't even play the game, at least if the article is correct. They "watched" the game. Watching and playing are 2 entirely different things. I'm taking the John Oliver approach to this 'scientific study.'

- The AssCreed movie trailer was released yesterday on the Jimmy Fallon show. 1.3 million views and growing! I ended up muting it when a Kanye West (gay fish) song appeared out of left field. And I'm not alone on my distaste for the song choice that cropped up. Comments such as "Why Kanye" and "Totally took me out of the trailer" are popping up below the video. At least the visuals are nice...unless Ubisoft manages to push fast on the release date and totally botch up some coding. Jokes aside, I am curious to see how the film plays out. It's taking a universe that is incredibly game-like and trying to stick it into a movie format. As long as there is no more Kanye (gay fish). That was awful.

- Thanks to Gamasutra for the link on Game Career Guide.com with a "So you want to make games" job path. It's a nice little "how-to" in figuring out where you would fit best in a gaming company. With so many aspects to game creation, simply saying "I want to make a game" is not going to work. The mini guide gives an overview on where you might fit in the industry.

- It's not a Round Up until we have a WhatCulture list on the board. This week, it's 13 Video Games that prove that Superman is cursed in this realm. I'm not sure why the author felt they needed 13, other then to get more clicks. Because Superman 64 is all you need to say for definitive proof. It's #1 on their list so I don't know why the author would torture himself with trying to find another game. Spend 13 pages talking about the craphole that is Superman 64. Done!

- If you want to hate on life today, I give you a Arlington, Texas based pastor who calls men who play video games and the XBox sinners. Because...um...bible stuff? The video is on Vimeo and it's password protected, which requires you to pay a subscription to view. But Opposing Views has an excerpt of the transcript and it's brutal. This pastor is very clearly has the 'men work, women at home' type of mentality that makes you wonder how these type of people still exist. He also made local news for his stance on the government shut-down and made some racist commits towards President Obama. For those wondering, I can assure you, as a female liberal gamer living in Texas, not everyone is like this. Most are pretty chill. Unfortunately we have a few of these people with very extreme views that make so much noise, everyone assumes all Texans are like this. They're not. Promise. We've got a really big gaming club here and we invite all to join. Including the ass-hat pastor who thinks all men who play XBox are sinners. Talk to the games who are doctors, lawyers, and business men who will be happy to put you in your place. :)

- Brisk Insights, an analysis and forecast group, believes that the sales of video games will top $118 billion dollars by 2022. Damn. That's a lot of money. They break down their study by studios, regions, even the market by device type. You have to have a license to read the results, but wow! Look at that table of contents! That's a lot of research.