Thursday, December 08, 2016

2016 Games to Play

The theme with today's news centers around the Best Games of 2016 (don't listen to the Paste Magazine article. No Man's Sky made their Number 7, so you know it's all click bait.) I wish I could contribute to this pile, but I can't. There are too many games out there that to limit the scope feels like it would be doing a disservice to the rest. And there are still a few games that I have played released this year that I haven't finished yet (due to time and/or life restrictions). Such as Dragon Quest Builders. I had fun with it and I still load it up from time to time to work on my sand castle. Yes I'm making a giant sand castle. No you can't have the code until it's completed. But I haven't completed the main story so I can't give it a full, and fair assessment. Same with Dishonored 2. I'm enjoying the change-up in the action and the dynamic landscapes, but it takes a lot of time to play through each stage. I can't pick it up and put it down in an hour. It remains incomplete. Not to mention most of these lists only focus on AAA, big gaming developers. The indie crowd on Steam, XBox Live, and PSN are typically overlooked for the $59.99 Call of Duty titles.

I don't know what the best games of 2016 are. The market is saturated and no one has played all of them. Instead, I want to throw out a few suggestions for 2016 titles to consider and add to your gaming list. Titles that inspire, that shake, that confuse, and are fun for the sake of fun. Here's my list of 2016 Games to Play:

- Firewatch. It's Team Fortress visuals taken up a notch with a hauntingly engaging story that ebbs on the line of dark humor. You play as Henry, a man trying to escape his past in Wyoming while becoming the new watch guard for a forest. Strange events turn up and it's up to you to find out what's going on. The story transforms from this simple premise into a detailed look at his relationship with the radio operator Delilah, who guides you on your adventure. This title is difficult to put down. From the moment you set out on your own, you want to finish the story. The open-world adventure narrative takes a huge step forward with Firewatch.

- The Witness. If you enjoyed Myst as a kid, you have to get this game. Inspired by the game within a game dynamic, The Witness is a puzzle fiend's dream. You wake up on an island by yourself. There are no animals or music to guide you. You have to figure out who or what you are, what happened, and how to leave the island. But of course as you move forward you will find that it's not as simple as solve this puzzle to leave. There is so much more to the story with each task you complete. The visuals are beautiful. Jonathan Blow (Braid) opted to step away from a graphic intensive experience and stripped the landscape down to geometric patterns and colors. Surprisingly this creates a more immersive experience. What I enjoy the most about this game is that the landscape is often used for the puzzles. I don't mean "move rock here to solve." You have to change your camera angles, walk your character into tight corners, and look around until you see tree branches take shape and form a the next puzzle. It looks cooler then I'm making it sound, but it's worth the purchase. Promise.

- Genital Jousting. Warning: Adults Only on this title, because it involves manly parts and jiggly physics. The point of the game is to be a random party title that will produce fits of laughter. You and your friends pick a "character" and you have to prod each other to gain the most points. I have no idea how else to phrase this game without it going into R-rated territory. The graphics are clean for a small title and it's easy for anyone to pick up and play. Great use of saturated colors. What else is there to say but you get to enjoy being a "dick" for 10 minutes...It's not a great game, but it's entertaining as hell.

- Inside. From the crew that gave us Limbo, Inside is a dystopian game where you play as a young boy trying to flee from the terror that is turning people into husks (zombie-like creatures but have the ability to listen and follow to their master's orders). It's 2D platforming done right. Lots of puzzles (all relatively easy) and problem-solving skills that take full advantage of the landscape. The visuals are also quite dynamic for being a black, white, and grey game. No spoilers for the ending, but you will want to settle in for the 4-5 hours to finish. It's trippy.

- DOOM. Bloodbath of yesteryear rendered in today's technology with a kick ass soundtrack. It's a modern Doom expertly crafted.

- Battleborn. I wish more people would have given this game a shot. Sadly the delayed release placed it too closely to Overwatch and it was buried by Blizzard. From Gearbox Software (Borderlands), this game is an online FPS incorporating MOBA elements with more of a co-op feel. You and a team complete map objectives to level up and unlock the story of the game. Unlike Overwatch there are very active story elements throughout the game play. Initially slated with 25 heroes (which has expanded since then) each one has their own history that is ingrained in the universe of Battleborn. That, to me, is the most charming part of this game - being able to see everyone's story and finding that emotional attachment to them. It's not only running and gunning. And I would argue more strategy is involved in completing objectives. Unlike unlocking the golden gun, every time you start a match you move back to Level 1. It's up to the skills of the team to designate how people level up and spend their abilities.

- Clustertruck. This is Mirror's Edge on trucks with all the parkour one would want. Clustertruck is straight foward: get to the finish line without dying. Using your leaping abilities you will jump across trucks as they move to get to the end. As you move forward, levels ratchet up and include more obstacles, fewer trucks, and sometimes require you to leap hundreds of feet below to catch the next vehicle. How you jump and how fast you reach the end nets you points that you can spend on special abilities. What keeps me coming back to this game is that it is constantly being updated. For the small one-time fee, you will see this game evolve. The developers always look at user feedback and change the levels, add more content, and provide new experiences. And there is never one right way to the finish line! Each element and truck has their own AI; aka lots of chaos. The stripped down visuals add to the game by lulling you into a false sense of security that you're going to reach the goal.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Fall's Games are Overcrowding the Holiday Line-Up

There are a ton of games on the market this season. And I don't mean one or two more. I said a ton and I mean a ton. From October to December of 2016 expect to see 50-70 more games on the market compared to last year. And I'm not including the VR games or indie/Steam titles. These are games from medium to large developers that have some form of A to AAA status. With so much content available, it can be a challenge for gamers to slog through it all. How can they play everything? It's not possible, even if your job is to review games for a living.

It shouldn't be a surprise that this season's titles are not fairing as well as expected on the market. I actually forgot that another Call of Duty game was released (but that was my bad - they ALWAYS release a game every Fall). There are too many big titles pushed this season that it's overwhelming for the staunch gamers like myself. And it would also explain why Titanfall 2 was being advertised frequently on The Game Awards. The odd one out this time is Assassin's Creed, opting to break their yearly cycle to develop a finished product that will be ready for next year. And that was a good call by Ubisoft. They don't have to worry about slogging it with the rest of the games for your money.

With Battlefield 1, Dishonored 2, Watch Dogs 2 (I'm still surprised that this got such a fast turn-around on release given how middle of the road players were with the first game), Gears of War 4, FIFA 17, Forza all out on the table, there were plenty of products for gamers to choose from. But we can't forget about the E3 titles and long-awaited games. Final Fantasy XV, The Last Guardian, ReCore, Civilization VI, Batman: Return to Arkham, The Witness: it's been a very heavy gaming season. A number of these titles could easily take 25-50 hours to complete the main story before you consider replay value with DLC and online matches.

And there are a string of games released earlier this year, and Grand Theft Auto V, that are still hitting the charts. Overwatch is still a hit title and has not slowed down, doubling it's user base in October. While GTA5 manages to keep it's users up to date with it's ever-evolving GTA Online. They added in 'Tron' lightcycles recently. It is awesome.

We could discuss about the quality of the games, or people waiting to buy them when prices drop. Maybe there's a growing backlash against pre-orders (finally). Or maybe after the folly of No Man's Sky consumers are withholding their money until game reviews are made public.

It could be all of these things and more. But let's not overlook the obvious: there are too many  games on the market and we don't have time to play them all. Pick and play at your own accord. Don't let the hype trains sweep you away. You are not going to be able to play all of this season's games before December 31st and that's okay. You can wait a few months and enjoy the game at your own pace. The marketing teams and the publishers should start looking at how they space out games if they don't want another repeat this season.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Glitch Galore and Still a Good Game?

If you haven't noticed, I am not playing Final Fantasy XV. I initially pre-ordered as a copy to add to my FF collection. I followed the development in 2006 when it was first announced as the sequel to Final Fantasy XIII (then called 13-2 before it morphed into Serah's story). Which then turned into it's own game that would be linked to the FF13 world. And then it became it's own entity.

It took 10 years to develop. In that time Final Fantasy XIV was built. Twice. SquareEnix (SE) bought Eidos Interactive and made quite a few Tomb Raider and Hitman games. They have released 223 games from the time 13-2 was announced until 15 was on store shelves.

By any account, 10 years is an insane amount of time to work on a game. The Last Guardian, for all it's setbacks, took 7 years.

In all this time, I can admit as a Final Fantasy fan that I wasn't happy with the direction of 15. I always found the titles to be empowering to all genders. Characters were diverse, included all manners of people, shapes, sizes, colors, and beliefs. And somehow they all managed to work together, overcome their diverse backgrounds, and save the world. When 15 announced that it was going to be an all-male cast, I instantly became disheartened. Final Fantasy is a franchise known for developing strong women in a creative field that typically casts them aside as eye-candy. They were as over the top as Terra or as down to earth as Rosa. Or as energetic and childish as Selphie and Eiko. It was something I always appreciated about the franchise. Even if I didn't connect with the lead characters, someone would. It also didn't help when SE announced that they would only add a playable female character as DLC if enough people asked for it. Meaning the option to play a female character can only be obtained by lots of begging, waiting, and paying more money for it. Thanks SE. Thanks a lot. With the introduction of Cindy, the female version of Cid, in short shorts, a bikini top, and excessive cleavage, I was done with FF15.

I cancelled the pre-order and I'll wait until the game is in the $5 bargain bin. It will still be in brand new condition, never opened. Why add it to my collection at full price when I can wait on the sales? I'm not going to play it anytime soon.

As I've been reading reviews for the game, again I find myself even more dissatisfied with the outcome. A number of outlets are giving the game a positive score in spite of it's glitches, story set-backs, and winding side-quests that produce little to no reward. There are piles and piles of images, videos, and articles covering the glitches. Some of them do break the game and cause players to lose hours of progress. But that's okay, it's still a good game? This is on the level of Assassin's Creed: Unity glitches. Twitter and Facebook feeds are littered with images and GIF's of FF15 glitches. We all remember giving Ubisoft a hard time for it, so why is SquareEnix not given the same treatment? Ten years to develop a game. A Final Fantasy game. With it comes the expectation that you provide a product to the public that is as clean as possible. The only thing gamers joke about with FF titles are translation issues ("Spoony Bard"). Glitches are non-existent to the 99% of the people who play the games. So when you have an FF title release that is covering social media walls with images of glitches, that is not good. I'm still surprised that reviewers are giving the game high scores given the game-breaking glitches. As a reviewer, if I ran into a glitch that caused me to lose 2-5 hours of my progress (because no auto-save and no insta save when you feel like it, wha? we still use save points?) that would be deduction in score. No hesitation. With ten years of development, you could have resolved this.

I'm perturbed by this. The game reviews have been a mixed bag of results, but they still provide high scores with the glitches and the mish-mash story? Maybe it's to save their butts from being blacklisted from future products. I don't know. This isn't Goat Simulator, a game that was built with the intent on glitching and creating as many weird issues as possible. This is a AAA studio.

A part of me is glad now that I couldn't get tickets into the FF15 demo at PAX West. Even when entering the Expo floor before 10 am, the line was capped every day from the get-go. The demo was 45 minutes long making it impossible to shuffle more then 200 people a day through the booth (which was a rip-off given that it's a 50-80 thousand person event). But I went through their "Warp Drive" experience and got to see some people playing the game as I stood in line. It was a lot of running around in the desert. Pass.

To give the game some credit, it looks pretty. I've read from a few reviews that the character development is well thought out, but the story lacks the narrative needed to be a Final Fantasy title. Part of the problem being that they squish 2 stories into one and switch the battle system after you buff up your character - it all gets stripped away and you have to start again. Talk about a grind-fest.

I'm not against Final Fantasy trying new things. Every iteration does something different. FF7 made the PlayStation a success and it's neo-Tokyo, post-apocalypse style was a far cry from the castles of FF4. And FF10 created a new era for gaming, voice acting, and player interaction by provide a new world of fantasy that wasn't old or new but a weird mesh of something between. FF15 is a bold direction. They tried for something new and some people like it. That's great. But maybe the focus on making the game look so shiny did it a disservice? They learned that was a problem with FF14. Now that player reviews are starting to surface, it's further solidifying my decision to not play this game.

I'm not looking for nostalgic Final Fantasy. However, I do want a good game. FF can deliver it. 15 is most likely not it.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Keeping Retro "Fresh" for the Future

So many people are clamoring over the big news coming out of the Sony PlayStation Experience this weekend. Lots of sequels, game re-releases, and VR. If you want the summary, best to look it up on Kotaku. They have the best overview and stories so far.

Today I'd like to talk about our gaming history, and how difficult it is to preserve the titles of yester-year. Games produced before digital downloads can only be found on cartridges and CD's. Original prints of some early titles no longer exist due to poor storage and no back-ups. Like the early era of movies, a lot of companies felt that games would be a fad so they didn't save originals or copies of their products. Once the items was out of stock and the print run was done, the game files were disposed to make room for more content. This is partly why it's so difficult to find early Atari and Calicovision games: they no longer exist in a format that is easy to disseminate. You have to hope you can find the cartridge.

But it's not just the games that were released. There are thousands of games that never made it to store shelves that are just as much in need of preservation as anything else. Why? Because they tell the story of the creative process. They give insight into the development cycle that few get to experience. And they provide knowledge, content, sometimes new technologies that future games will utilize.

While sites like the Internet Archive are trying to keep digital versions of games from falling to the hands of time, it doesn't help the physical versions. Also, developers. People like to keep their secretes in the gaming world. Developers are going to be the biggest obstacle to overcome to preserving older or unreleased titles. They don't want people to have the codes, to have the originals, to have anything. And that sucks.

What are so ways to keep your floppy discs, cd's, and cartridges in good condition? Store everything in cold, dry, and dark places. No moisture. No sun. Both are the enemy to video games. Try to avoid cardboard boxes for storage, as they deteriorate over time, and look into Rubbermaid bins and tubs. If you play these games still, store them outside of their original boxes. Opening and closing some of those original NES, SNES, and N64 boxes does cause wear and tear along the edges. Only open those boxes if absolutely necessary.

But the best thing you can do is talk about retro games. Get people interested in learning more about your favorite titles to help preserve their history.

Friday, December 02, 2016

The Game Awards 2017: No Better or Worse Than Last Year

Let's talk about The Game Awards. In it's third year, #thegameawards is still trying to improve upon it's success from the previous attempts. With Geoff Knightly's promise to gamers to try and provide more game play and trailers that are rendered in game, after the folly of the No Man's Sky hype, he sort of delivered.

The Game Awards this year started with honoring Hideo Kojima. After last year's win for Metal Gear Solid 5, Konami barred Kojima from attending the event to accept the award. The hate for Konami was swift. So everyone knew that if they could make it happen, he would return for 2016 to get his award. Kojima's speech was short and sweet, and he dropped a new teaser trailer for Death Stranding. All you need to know is winking Reedus-fetus. It is trippy and glorious.

The rest of the show was fairly bland. There were moments where you felt that The Game Awards was really achieving something ideal for an award show. Such as the speech from the creator of That Dragon, Cancer, winning for 'Games for Impact.' It was heartfelt, emotional, and full of love of video games. And then they would go to a music segment from some B-rated rap group that made me think that this was the Spike TV Game Awards show all over again. The in-show advertisements were horrible. Schick Razor Hydrobot? Playing a game of himself? What? I understand having sponsors to put on the awards but did you have to have in-show advertising? There were commercial breaks. You could have put the ad spots there. Not during the show.

It was equally as bad for the 'Assassin's Creed' movie. They showed off 2 scenes, but they were so poorly edited (choppy transitions that appeared to cut out whole swaths of the sequences) it did not entice me to want to see the film. It had the opposite effect. I am HOPING that is not the edit of the final version. No one will be able to sit through it.

If you catch a recap of the 'experience', the only things worth watching are the Death Stranding and Mass Effect: Andromeda trailers, the DOOM music performance (by the band that created the music), Nolan North's acceptance speech for Best Performance, and the speech for That Dragon, Cancer. The rest of the show is too much like Spike TV that it will melt your brain cells.

The show was okay. Tolerable. At least it was only 2 hours and 15 minutes long. It could use more video game music (stop with the rap that no one cares about), and no in-show advertising. You don't see the other award shows put a Schick Razor Hydrobot on the stage to dance around.

By the way, the final "World Premiere" word count was 15. The Game Awards has thrown my drinking game into disarray! I'll have to edit it for next round.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Game Awards 2016

The Game Awards is going live! I am once again live tweeting it, and I already have a poll up asking how many times you all think the words "World Premiere" will be dropped. Enjoy!

Is Now the Time for the Game Industry to Unionize?

That's the opinion of the day from Katherina Cross, a PhD student in sociology, via a Gamasutra article. With the SAG-AFTRA strike still going, it's raising some questions about the industry as a whole. It's not as though we are unaware of how unnerving some of the working conditions can be for developers. The crunch times of 60-80 hour weeks, without any additional compensation. The low pay and hostile environment from overzealous managers. Fanboys and fangirls don't help much in the self-esteem department either as social media has taken over and made developers an easy target for their ire. Any little info that you post about a game that they don't agree with, you can expect a snide, hateful, sometimes violent comment in return.

"But they do it for the love of the game! They do it for art!"

That's true, and why you are seeing more independent games on the market and at gaming events. Developers are tired of that 'work, work, work, hate yourself, hate your life,' mindset. So they move to a smaller, start-up developer or create their own game. It is a big leap and doesn't lead to financial security, but being sane is much more important then bringing home an acceptable paycheck. 

And right now there is no oversight on how gaming employees are treated. Which is nuts. For all the industry has done to regulate itself on a rating system so it didn't turn into a government-run program, they did a piss-poor job of taking care of their employees. How is it that studios in the states are able to get away without paying for overtime, covering certain benefits, or can allow for stress-enducing work conditions? (Since I don't know the employment/employee legal rulings in other countries, and it can easily vary from country to country or even province to province within a country, I'll be focusing on the U.S.)

It all depends on the state and the law. Technically, as a country, there is no overarching law requiring overtime pay. Recently the Overtime Pay mandate that was issued by President Obama, which would have been a relief to 10's of millions of workers who earn $35 grand a year or less, is currently being held up in court. Because politics. Depending on the state, the government either requires you to provide some type of compensation or none at all. That's an easy one for developers to work around. If the state requires it, they can pay you less. And after all these years, many newcomers now assume that overtime and crunch time are just part of the job as a developer. The industry has made it a mandatory expectation.

Benefits? Well it's simple there too. Prior to the Universal Healthcare Act (UHA), most employers were not required to provide any form of health care, life insurance, or "perks" to their employees. There are exceptions to this with certain industries such as construction and oil - sectors with unions that have fought for the safety of their employees. Even with the UHA, only companies with employees of 50 or more are required to get insurance. Smaller to mid-sized developers can easily stay under 50 hires to avoid the extra expense here.

But let's talk about the day to day environment as well. Hostility and fear can rule the roost if you have a manager that only wants their way and nothing less. The input for code monkeys and artists is typically non-existent with mid-sized to larger developers. The director has a "vision" and your job is to execute it even if you don't agree with it, or think it's not possible. Doesn't matter. Vision or you're out and there are plenty of other budding coders that will take your place and easily fall in line. And if you do try to argue with management, it's easy to be singled out and ostracized by the rest of the team. It sounds silly but this happens all the time. Not just in the gaming industry but every type of business. There are a number of articles outlining these issues and we have reached the point where everyone assumes it's okay. That's "just how it is." (Look: Here's a story from 1999 and the conditions have not improved!)

Why do people subject themselves to these conditions? It's the fantasy that they are making art, doing what they love, and will have a chance to move forward and BE the manager in future games.

That usually doesn't happen.

So, union. Can the gaming industry make it happen? Now might be the best and worst time. Political climate aside, the industry is so stuck in it's proverbial rut that it will be a challenge for most to consider creating a union. As mentioned before, people assume that this type of behavior is part of the norm. 80 hour work weeks without extra pay. The added stress and pressure of finishing a game on a set date. The harassment of co-workers for not "being a team player." No health care or safety regulations.

I think it would be prudent for the industry to consider a union. The non-managers and managers alike need to look at protections and making their environment a place that is worth investing in. How that will happen, I have no idea. It's a huge hurdle to overcome to get enough people invested into building a union. Strikes and unions against large industries always come with a mix bad of results, and a lot of lost jobs. But if SAG-AFTRA is any indication, we could look at a strike from within the studios themselves for not providing better working conditions to the code monkeys.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rovio Developing New Gaming App

Rovio, the gaming developers behind the hit mobile app Angry Birds have announced a new company called Hatch Entertainment, with the intent to develop a mobile gaming service similar to Spotify. Looking for a "fresh beginning," Vesa Jutila (formerly of Rovio, now head of content at Hatch) wants Hatch to be a place where gamers can play, share, and watch your favorite content. Hatch has been in development for a while, but as the project grew into a new scope, Rovio felt that it needed to be spun off into it's own entity. It will be a subscription based service and starting early next year they will hand out invite only testers on Android. From the way they make the app sound, it's going to be a mix of Twitch, Facebook, and Spotify. Just merging all the platforms into one easily digestible format. The app will be free to download and use, but will have ads. The subscription service will remove the ads.

What's interesting is that somehow you can play the game from your phone, and Hatch says it'll be big mobile titles. Ubisoft Mobile is listed as a developer that has signed on. Hatch will allow other gamers to watch as you play, comment, share, and the streamer can invite others to join in and play as well.

Unlike console and PC games, mobile games are typically a solitary experience. There are a few games that allow you to have online interaction with others, but they don't include chat rooms or any means of communication that don't involve you playing the game. This could be the app that starts a new wave of game types for mobiles.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Gaming Art of the Book

In an era where print media is becoming obsolete, books are on the rise once more with their crafty antics. I know that sentence seems like an irony, and it totally is. But what's helped in sell books has been not the traditional market of content. It's not just 'Harry Potter' that has been driving sales. The boon of the adult coloring book genre and coffee-table pieces are the reason people are buying physical books these days. Sure you can draw on a tablet, but it's not the same as whipping out a box of crayons and color pencils and going to town.

As for the coffee table books, these are no longer limited to the 'Time Magazine Photos of the Year' collage. Now they include cosplay photographs and gaming memorabilia. Who would have thought 'Art of Atari' would be a need-to-have gift? The collection of gaming books, compiled on Destructoid, you can pick up this year are quite a sight. And these are books that you can't simply read on a tablet or eReader. They only work in their physical form. The easy answer for this is that everyone has slightly different screen resolution so the true look of photos and advertisements is never realized on a digital format. But on print, you see the artist's final work in all of it's glory.

'Legends of Localization Book 2: EarthBound' is a wonderful example of this. The book is over 400 pages long so it's not a traditional coffee-table book. But the shot by shot comparison between EarthBound and Mother 2 is so vast, that the book wouldn't work in a digital format. It looks beautiful when you can crack open the binding and flip the pages.

My favorite are the art books. If you have the money to plop down, get into the BioWare and Star Wars art books. It is page after page of environment and character designs, from concept to completion. All of them will make your eyes go wide with wonder. Sometimes it's costume porn (holy crap I'm so happy I got this book before it went out of print) and other times it's jaw-dropping landscapes. It's inspiring to see people create these worlds, cities, towns, and people out of thin air. And having them captured in a book makes it all the more rewarding to flip through.

So go forth and get them gaming books! One day manuals and strategy guides will become a collector's items. Just wait.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Can 'No Man's Sky' Ever Be The Game We Were Promised?

I don't think anyone but the developers, Hello Games, can answer that question. But it's something that a number of gamers are hoping for. The team announced an upcoming patch, which was confirmed by Sony, and that they are still dedicated to bringing the full game to life. The patch went live yesterday morning, much sooner then expected. The PC patch will arrive at a later date. Known as the "Foundation Update" it provides more items and options to players on building their home base on the planet of their choosing, and adds two new modes of gameplay: survival and creative. The patch is said to be the "foundation" for things to come. Har har.

This is the first big content patch that has been released for the game (the September patch was to mostly fix bugs and save files) and includes a number of features that were originally toted by Hello Games, but weren't available during No Man's Sky launch. But will this lure gamers back in?

While the content looks interesting, those who have already tuned out the game are long gone and have moved on to other prospects. They may return, but it will take time. Those still playing, are in it for the long haul.

No Man's Sky reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy XIV. When FF14 was released, it was bad. Real bad. I remember getting into the beta for that game and hoping that we were only seeing a small fraction of what was to come. Sadly, the beta offered everything for the game that was available. The leveling system was more damage focused - so healers were left in the dust and hard to find. The main story was locked behind leveling and required you to achieve goals that were absurd before you could move forward. You had to reach level 20 on a combat job to start the main story. It was annoyingly frustrating. And while the game was trying to help the gamers that couldn't log in daily with resting XP and bonuses, the gamers that were on daily got no perks. Everyone had to grind for XP. Everyone had to share mobs and gathering nodes. These are just a few issues, but it was a right mess. About the only good quality the game had was that it looked pretty. It blew WoW out of the water with the visuals.

FF14 knew it was in trouble when their subscription base dropped off after the first month. SquareEnix built it up to be the next great MMO and it fell flat on it's butt. They brought in a new team and redeveloped the game from the ground up. Some of the original concepts of the game are still there, but with a new, functioning system. They allowed those still playing to keep going for free, test the new content, listened to player feedback, and provide the Final Fantasy experience that was worthy of the title. It took me 2 years to return but I went back to the MMO and it's leaps and bounds better then ever.

No Man's Sky is going through the same transition. The game won't see a rush of people returning with this latest patch. Or with the next. Or several patches after that. It's going to take time, patience, and understanding that they hurt their user base. Now they have to rebuild trust and deliver the game that was promised.

Will that happen? It's up to Hello Games to figure that out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It Reeks of False - The Fake Gaming News Problem

Video games have a fake news problem too. Every news type does these days. As more content is pushed online for instant likes, shares, and retweets, the truth becomes buried or lost entirely. It's been more pervasive as of late as Facebook becomes the hub for content for all things real and fake. Searching for content to discuss here on The Geek Spot is a daily challenge. More often then not I will see "GTA6 Confirmed!" scrawled across my news feed from websites that provide no sources or fact checks. If there's a quote involved, more often then not it's entirely made up.

The fake news is starting to outweigh the real gaming news, and that's not good. When the first thing that appears is "GTA6 Confirmed!" after typing "video games" into the search bar, there is trouble afoot.

For the record, no Rockstar Games has not confirmed a GTA6. Please do not spread that nonsense, okay? Be patient and wait for the word to come direct from the developer, not a gaming news site.

So why the burst in fake news? For some writers it can be a quick claim to fame or a fun way to troll. For most, it's all about the revenue. Websites like TheBitBag pay writers based on the number of times articles are viewed. If a news piece is shared over 10,000 times on Facebook, that could net quite a bit of money for the website and the writer. This is why we have click-baity headlines like "Microsoft Kills Halo 7." If you're a Halo fan, you are probably going to click on that article regardless of how absurd the headline is. And that is partly why fake news is doing so well in the digital age. People are quick to click on headlines that catch their interest and accept the content as truth because it's from a "news source." It does not matter if the article is untrue. The website and the writers get paid from the increase views, and continue to pump out more fake articles. Sadly this can result in real harm over time. As more people view the fake news sites, the legitimate gaming content gets pushed to the side. GameSpot could face cutting back their work force to accommodate the loss of income.

What can we do to thwart it? Well for one, STOP CLICKING. If you see an absurd headline, then it's probably not true. Don't feed the machine.

Do your research. If you are reading a story from an unknown gaming site double check the resources. Good articles will typically link back to their source materials or provide links on where you can learn more. Big gaming sits like Gamasutra, Kotaku, and GameSpot will most likely already have the content. They report on everything gaming. Now there are very rare occasions where they slip up and let a fake article that looks too real slip through the cracks, but for the most part they are reliable sources to confirm news.

Use common sense. If Breitbart News is claiming that only liberals play video games, it's a fake article. If a user on BubbleNews (which is 100% user based and has no researchers or writers on staff) posts that the next Fallout will take place on Mars, ignore it and go about your day.

Yes it does mean that we will have to vet the legitimate gaming news sites too. But as a writer, I welcome it. I want you to fact check me and my peers. Because we give a crap about what we post and we want it to be accurate!

Be safe with your clicks, vault dwellers.