Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nintendo eShop Has a Humble Bundle

Get those wallets ready. The Humble Bundle has managed to do something that we didn't think possible: team up with Nintendo and release their brand of indie games for this week's sale. 

Let the awe and astonishment wash over you.

For those who don't know, the Humble Bundle began with a simple idea. Let gamers pay as much or as little as they want for games, and send the proceeds to charity. Since then it has grown with the support of companies such as EA and Valve. You get a myriad of games, old and new, at whatever price you want to pay. And you have a say in how your funds are divided. Do they all go to the developer or do you send it to charity, or maybe you do a split? That's up to you.

Games such as Mighty Switch Force and SteamWorld Dig are up for grabs, with more games to release later this week.

So why is it a big deal that Nintendo joined in? Well one, it's Nintendo. This isn't to say they are against charities, because they're not. They tend to have very traditional values with their company and almost never break out of their mold. So to see them willingly give up their content and allow customers to pay whatever they want is unheard of. Second, it's all indie games. Nintendo and indie typically do not mix. At all. I can't imagine how much of a challenge it is to develop something for the 3DS and Wii-U platforms with Nintendo's protocol to run through.

Maybe this is the year where Nintendo turns it all around and starts to look more like Sony and Microsoft? They're working on mobile games so...maybe it's not just a fluke? Maybe there is a monumental shift going on at Nintendo to catch up to the rest of the world?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Selling Cheats In Japan Will Still Get You Arrested

Last year, a stir began in the gaming community of Japan. Those who were caught cheating at a game, online games in particular, could be charged and punished by local law enforcement. It sounds strange. It may not be unusual for the company to pursue legal action against a customer if a lump sum of money was taken. In the situation linked, developer Nexon had over $80,000 (USD) stolen from them by 3 men, ages 17 to 18. But apparently that was enough of a loss that when the story broke, police officers were quick to go in and arrest the 3 men, which Nexon states they had no involvement with.

Not to be deterred, cheating still occurs in the gaming world. But the law officials in Japan do take it seriously because it can negatively impact business, and in the case of Nexon, was theft with the amount of money stolen.

Well, another arrest has occurred that now has more people worried. A man in his thirties, Akihide Yamamoto, was arrested for running a web store that focused on game cheats and exploits, specifically aimed towards the game Alliance of Valiant Arms. To note these are not GameFaq's guides, so don't freak out people. This was a store that specifically targeted issues in the games code and exploited it to give the cheater an edge. Yamamoto was arrested for violating Japan's Unfair Competition Prevention Law. And this isn't the first time that's happened for Yamamoto. He's been arrested several times in the past for the same reason, but with different games. The cheat sellers are being charged, and not the cheaters, because the sellers are the ones most likely to benefit from the transaction, and can disrupt the business of others.

Being in a country that has a high crime rate by comparison to the rest of the world, junking up the legal system with video game cheaters seems counter-productive. But I'm also in a state where they are about to make open-carry of handguns legal, possibly on college campuses as well. My perception on what is, and is not a valid crime, is askew because now I'm going to think everyone is a criminal if I see a gun in their hands. Yea Texas. Thanks for that.

But I'll play the devil's advocate on this one. Given Japan's history and how their culture has grown, what may seem like a silly offense to us could be considered harmful to Japan's society. Their mindset is focused on the country as a unit. What you do for Japan effects everyone in Japan. Your goals are to make not your life better, but the country better. So one person profiting from the harm of another is considered bad for Japan. Therefore, legal authorities must step in and resolve the issue. While it doesn't resolve the issues and, clearly, people are still going to cheat in games, I can understand from their perspective why Japan finds it harmful. So laugh at it if you want. But their priorities are a little different from ours in the U.S.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Weekly Link Round-Up

We're starting the weekly link round-up early due to the number of unusual stories that have appeared on my feed. Maybe it's a Memorial Day thing where everyone wanted to post their stuff asap so they could take the rest of the day off?

Wired has an interesting article about sex games. They're designed to make you feel weird. That's the point. They dive into the world of independent sex games. Nina Freeman explores her teenage years with her games, and the awkward realization of what sex is after smashing two Barbie dolls together to figure it all out. Another is Robert Yang's Hurt Me Plenty, which is very BDSM-material. All of this is to get people to think about sex and relationships rationally and in a real-world sense. The things we see in Triple-A titles are flashes of boob, if that. It's not sex but an image to entice the male gaze. So yes, sex games are meant to make you uncomfortable, but that's to get you talking about it in a healthy, natural way.

- TechCrunch wants to talk about subscription services, and how Sony and Microsoft can use it to win video games. But wait, aren't they already doing this? They are. But Tadhg Kelly recommends that for the companies to grow and solidify their audience, they need to cater to their needs. One suggestion is to have tailored subscription services. Start tracking gamer's play habits (as if they're not already doing it), and customize the experience.

If a player is a daily user of XBox Live, then give them discounts and perks that a once a week user may not see. If a gamer is only playing EA products, work with EA to provide a subscription that fits that gamer's needs. I can forsee a big issue with this idea: fairness. Why should Person A get to pay less then Person B if we're using the same stuff? Good in theory, but not feasible. I don't think the current subscription system will go away anytime soon.

- Geniuses at Duke University in conjunction with Microsoft's research center may have found a way to cut down on the bandwidth for gamers on mobile units. Named Kahawai, the idea is similar to "collaborative rendering." A portion of the game's rendering is done via "The Cloud" while the other is handled by the internal processor of the mobile device. Too many games rely on bandwidth to distribute content, and very little utilize the device itself. But Kahawai's system allows it to happen, and cross platforms without worry about compatibility issues. Tests are still underway, but so far they seem quite promising.

- Coconuts (interesting site name, I know) decided to take a trip to Japan and check out some of their strange games, and they are hosting a "weird game night" in Bangkok. So if you're in the area, check it out. Be amazed by Incredible Crisis or Paradious. You'll wonder how such a country was able to create Mario after watching the videos.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rocketing Bottles - Changing the Corporate Mindset with Creativity

Bottle Rocket Studios, one of the top mobile app developers in the country (creating gaming apps as well), does something a little bit different then most of the corporate working world. They give their employees time to play and indulge in their curiosity.

From April 30 through May 1, the company was unavailable to it's clients and allowed their staff to spend the time doing whatever they want. They can learn to paint, code, buildtheir own mobile apps, create a new board game, whatever they like, in what they dub the Hackathon. That's pretty darn nifty. Part of the stigma of working for businesses is that we are expected to follow protocol that seems fairly universal in the U.S. culture. Even the companies that you would assume would be different, such as video game developers or toy makers, still follow the tried-and-true creed that everyone needs to be in a business suit and be dull.

So seeing a company take a few days off and focus on their employees is kind of revolutionary, at least here in the U.S. The CEO's don't look at is as a waste of time. They feel that everything can be beneficial for the company, and to improve the quality of life for their staff.

Essentially everyone comes into work and spends the day alone or in teams to work on whatever they choose. Then on Friday it's show-and-tell day. Bottle Rocket has released some of the ideas, that may now be in development later this year such as: a jet fighter simulator, with movements based off your hand and not a joystick. Or a fitness app that syncs with Spotify, that will suggest songs for you based on the pace of your workout. There's a Telsa coil that was able to turn on a light bulb from over 2 feet away. Or how about the Kitty Litter Hunt? A monitor is placed inside a kitty litter box and when it needs to be changed, it texts the owner. There were some misses as well: a retro gaming cabinet was built from scratch and programmed with classic games, but it crashed when it was plugged in.

And you know what? They were okay with that. Bottle Rocket supports the successes and the failures, because that's how people grow.

That shouldn't be a novel idea, but it is in this day and age.

If that was a little too touchy-feely for you, then I have a follow-up: Daybreak Game Company has a new ultimatum for banned cheaters who want to get back into their online, zombie-survival game H1Z1. Apologize publicly and they'll let you back in.

Yep. Make a YouTube video and apologize for your cheating and Daybreak will review it, see if you're worthy of returning. After a massive ban of over 30k accounts, the challenge was issued. This wasn't designed to humiliate the users, but to let them know that their actions won't be tolerated. You cheat, you'll be banned. It's as simple as that. But they know that not everyone who has cheated is a long-time offender. It may have been their first time, so they want to give everyone a chance to redeem themselves. One of the first apologies sent in focused on the fact that the user didn't realize how much he lost out of the ordeal: he dropped over $200 on the game and in-game items. His cheating cost HIM money.

So if you're one of those who has been banned for cheating, there's your ticket back in. But remember to apologize to your fellow gamers. Not the company.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Call of Duty - Probably Not Going to Give You a Mental/Physical Ailment

You're more likely to develop a mental illness if you play Call of Duty, according to the NY News Daily.

Well. Crap. I could have told you that years ago. Have you ever tried to hold a conversation with a CoD player? If they're not talking gun specs, they're wandering around aimlessly in a WalMart, looking for more Mountain Dew. Clearly those gamers have a mental condition.

All kidding aside, the title of the "story" had me rolling. Of course I had to read it. Unfortunately for Melissa Chan, it's a pretty crummy article. At least link to the source you are using to twist the story to fit your perception. The claim is that Canadian researches in Montreal have found that habitual gamers are more likely to develop mental and physical illnesses over time. The biggest shift in brain power was during high-action games like AssCreed, and GTA.

Comments were quick to point out Chan's flaws in the story. I just find it highly amusing that the story specifically railroaded against CoD. I wonder if NY News Daily is related to Fox News. Hmm...

For those who want the real story, there was indeed a study conducted by the University of Montreal in Canada. Taking 26 gamers and 33 non-gamers, they saddled them through a series of tests where they monitored brain activity and eye movement. The gamers were more likely to use the area of the brain called the caudate nucleas, which has been known to lead to the loss of grey matter (the area where memory is accessed). This appeared more often when gamers and non-gamers were playing action related titles that focused more on instant-gratification rewards.

What the study focuses on is only a short-term sample. Many are looking at the results and seeing confirmations of what they already knew, but not in a negative way. Such as gamers are more likely to view objects and scenarios differently then non-gamers by being able to comprehend and react quickly in time sensitive situations (Professor Chris Chambers, Cardiff University).

There are counter-articles already on the prowl, many of them noting that games have helped improved memory and cognitive reasoning in Alzheimer's patients. Again it's another study where there are too few subjects, too many flaws, too few variables to make it completely objective.

It's just amusing as all heck that the click-bate article for NY News Daily had such a great headline.

Call of Duty will ruin us all! It'll make us idiots, take away our brain cells, and we'll forget everything!

I'll sit here and wait while you all finish laughing at the absurdity. Other then suffering from a lack of taste of quality gaming products, you're probably not going to get a mental illness playing CoD.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Finger Lickin' Good

As fast food companies look to rebrand and retrain themselves to market towards the 25-35 age range, that now make up a chunk of the spending power, KFC has released a flash game: Colonel Quest.

It involves face-punching and saving babies. 

Well. Okay then. 

The retro-inspired games takes you though the life of Colonel Sanders, the imaginary figurehead of KFC. Spokespeople for the fried chicken company state that it's based on real events. Or as real as an imaginary person can be. In one level, you have to save falling babies by bouncing them on a trampoline, apparently an homage to when the Colonel was an amateur obstetrician. In another level, the Colonel is a lawyer, trying to defend himself and must punch plaintiffs in the face to get drumsticks and prove his innocence. Because punching people in a courtroom is exactly how you prove you didn't do it.

The appeal to gamers isn't new. Denny's attempted this last year by partnering with Atari to bring a series of their classic arcade games to the diner's mobile app. Play the games while you're waiting on your double order of eggs.

McDonald's has been spot testing ideas: building your own burger (a favorite of Whataburger fans), McBrunch, Kiosk-style ordering, and the like. None of them have gone full scale, but at least they're trying.

But are these attempts working or are the customers seeing right through the ploy and ignoring the change? The app promotion with Denny's died out months ago. McD's attempts have not proven fruitful and their profits steadily fall world-wide each year.

For the very rare few of us, we remember when chains did this one before in the 80's and early 90's. The Noid, Domino's Pizza's mascot and Cool Spot, 7UP, are just some of the businesses that attempted to capitalize on the craze. As kids, we enjoyed playing, but it didn't always encourage us to buy the products advertised. As adults, we find them to be classic gimmicks of our youth and nothing more. Playing Spot didn't encourage me to drink 7UP. I thought it was a game to pass the time. If we happened to have 7UP in the house, great. If not, no big deal. There were other drinks to take up the shelves. So I don't see the KFC game going far beyond the gimmick phase. We'll play. We'll laugh at it's lunacy. But it won't encourage us to subconsciously buy more chicken.

What do you think? Does Colonel Quest stand a chance at winning over adult customers?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gaming Cupcake Passion

Growing up, we all held some form of gaming dreams. Whether it was to make them, or to simply play them all day, video games have become apart of our daily lives. But maybe not to the extent that we once hoped for as children.

Today's story is one childhood dream turned into reality. A business venture for Misty McAlhany, the owner of Lolee's CupCade in Enterprise, Alabama. It's a bakery based on gamer and geeky themes, but caters to all customers that walk through their door. She's been planning to put this idea into place since she was 14. Being a gamer girl wasn't exactly the "coolest" thing to do. She was a tomboy just like so many of us, and wanted to take the fun of gaming and put into into something she wanted to do for a living.

What makes CupCade different? Well it's not just a bakery. Half of the store holds arcade centers, consoles, and social activities for kids and adults. Over time McAlhany wants to host tournaments and get local gaming groups involved with a designated gathering location. Maybe buy a cupcake or two while they're at it.

Cosplay is encouraged. Local gaming conventions, and a permit to stream BlizzCon from Twitch, will be on the television, mounted along the walls of the shop. They also offer pizza by the slice. It really is a little kids (and big kids), dream spot.

It's great to see dreams come to life. It may not be as grand as building a video game, but creating a tasty confectionery can be equally as daunting.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Weekly Link Round-Up

An early link review this week, full of approval, sorrow, and laughter. We'll start out with the sad faces first to get it out of the way:

- Guillermo Del Toro feels pretty slighted by video games right now. He's had 2 titles in development go under, and now he's not sure if he can attempt it again. He spoke with IGN regarding the fall of Silent Hills and his vision with Kojima.

"What we wanted to do with the game – and we were very much in agreement on this – was to take the technology and make it as cutting-edge as we could in creating terror in the house. The idea was very, very atmosphere-drenched."

Because of this mess with Konam, Del Toro doesn't feel like he can go back to games. They will be a medium he will not conquer after the unexpected changes.

- On the lighter side of things, released a list of 11 video games that are good for couples to play. And for once, the list is good. Really good. I questioned a game or two, such as Nidhogg, only because they may breed resentment when you kick your boyfriends ass. He may pout about it for a few days.

But as a whole, this a strong list, including well known, Triple A titles, to independent developers. If you haven't played Monaco yet, I highly recommend it. It's a top-down sneaking game where you can play as one of 4 character types. Your goal is to win the heist for each level without getting caught. It's simplistic game play is well balanced with the stylized art, so you feel more involved in the action then you would anticipate.

The suggestion for Borderlands 2 is also great, but your partner needs to have a childish sense of humor. There's no way to avoid it.

- This last one will have you shaking your head at the utter failure in editing. Which is why it's so darn funny. The Nottingham Post released an op-ed by one of their staff writers, on the Top 10 Retro Games. If you're fooled by the images, I was to.

Whomever the editor was in regards to the digital content failed at it. Miserably. Most of the images do not properly reflect the content on the list. Final Fantasy 9 for Final Fantasy 7? Pokemon Sapphire for Red/Blue? Metal Gear Solid 2 for MGS1? And the images used for GTA3 are a modified version of a "fan remake" done through photoshop.

A 5 second Google search would have yielded better results. Way to go Nottingham Post. We will laugh at your failure today.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mobile Games: Konami's Future?

I didn't want to report on this until additional sources confirmed the news: Konami is going mobile.

Over the past few weeks we have seen some crazy things going down with the publisher. Hideo Kojima was ousted and MGS5: Phantom Pain will be the last product from him in the franchise. The Silent Hills game was canceled for seemingly no reason. Strange things were happening and now we know why.

In an interview with CEO Hideki Hayakawa, they want to peruse mobile games aggressively. They see the success it has had, and the future in it. As such, they are moving towards mobile games as their main platform of content. Not consoles.

This isn't along the lines of Nintendo where they are partnering up with app developers to create a handful of mobile games. They want to shift their company's focus to mobile gaming and lesson their presence on consoles.

It explains a lot, but why the shift? I'd imagine with Konami's reputation that they weren't exactly hurting in terms of the bottom line. Not when you can pay to have Kojima on the staff. It's all....mystifying. Maybe they see a future where consoles truly fade away and they want to be ahead of the curve?

The story will be updated as comments are receive by Konami.

Art and Mad Max

Not quite a Link Round-Up, but these are two stories that I wanted to call to attention and not let them pass by.

I'll start off with the head desk laughter that is Mad Max: Fury Road. Not the movie itself, but a small group of misogynists (and they call themselves as such, so please don't send hate mail my way) on the blog Return of Kings. They have called for a boycott of this action flick, that is 120 minutes of car chases and explosions. No really. Every critic is saying that, and they're perfectly okay with it. The movie doesn't try to shove anything else into your brain. You want 2 hours of fun? You got it!

So why would these misogynists want to boycott a notoriously male dominated feature? It's because of Charlize Theron. Her character is apparently "too feminist" for the blog's liking. She tough. She holds her own. She doesn't take crap from anyone, male or female. And for these few men, she's too intimidating and encroaching on stereotypical gender stereotypes. Oh no!

I recommend avoiding the comment section, but the article is still funny to read.

And secondly, street art! Specifically 8-bit art in Hong Kong by the artist Invader. Two years ago a movement to introduce art onto the streets of China was wiped out by the government. Now the reclusive artists is back with more gaming icons, and with the laws approval! His art is now appearing on street corners and in galleries, with Mario, Donkey Kong, and pixilated replicas of Bruce Lee. Really cool stuff. Check it out!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Minecraft Superiority

Just in case you needed additional clarification that Minecraft is one of the world's most played video games, YouTube announced late Wednesday some interesting stats over their 10 year life-cycle. One being that Minecraft is the most viewed, most-streamed game in YouTube's history.

Yep. The block building game is still maintaining it's interest in kids and adults alike, and doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon.

So you don't have to stray too far, here's the Top 10 list of most viewed video games on YouTube:

1. Minecraft
 2. Grand Theft Auto
3. League of Legends
4. Call of Duty
6. Garry's Mod
7. The Sims
8. Five Nights at Freddy's
9. Puzzles and Dragon
10. Dota 2

I've done quite a bit of digging and I wasn't able to locate a press release from YouTube directly to confirm numbers and stats. Mostly I was looking to clarify details such a which GTA, CoD, FIFA, and Sims are they referring to? Their Press Room leads to their "trending" blog that focuses on the rise of Let's Play videos and features PewDiePie in particular. I'll keep digging for the details.

What we do know from the announcement is that there are over 42 million YouTube videos involving Minecraft on YouTube. It's also the second most searched term. Because of the massive numbers involved, it would be interested to see if this comparing to one GTA (GTA5 being the most internet savy), or all of them, as a number of people do stream the earlier games to Twitch for speed runs.

42 million videos can't be wrong.