Friday, May 30, 2014

They're Baaaaaaaack.

No, not the Poltergeist. I'm talking about Heroes of Cosplay. It's not 'technically' Season 2, but more of Season 1 part 2. A Season 1.2 if you will. It's extra content and conventions that didn't fit within the shows original 6 episode airing, and were held back should SyFy decide to not renew. Well they did, and now we have another 6 episodes of cosplay extreme-ness. I know that's not a word, but it's fitting for the show. The series returns with it's core cosplaying folks such as Yaya Han, the ladies of CrabCat, and Chloe Dykstra (who is SUPER NICE if you ever get the chance to meet her). The first episode of 1.2 introduces a new face to the cast, Indra Rojas, who's casted as the cosplay veteran returning to the contest scene.

The format hasn't changed, and why would it? SyFy renewed the show based on the premise that ended up working, and has ordered a second season. In fact, they may still be doing auditions for the second season, if you live in Atlanta or LA that is. So expect more of the exaggerated drama that almost never happens when you cosplay. Speaking from the point of view of someone who has been "on the scene" for years as staff, judge, and contestant, it's really not that drama filled. But, SyFy is trying to make an entertainment show. They want to draw in viewers and what sells is drama, drama, and romance. So that's how episodes will be edited.

But continuing on, the layout of the episodes are the same as before: cosplayers want to compete at a convention. They propose their idea to the camera on what costume to make. 20 minutes of frantically last-minuting their costumes (I would not do well on this show if this were the real format- I give myself at least 2 weeks before a con to rest with my costume done and ready to go, so this may be an editing choice by the production crew), and the rest of the show is spent at the convention, in the conventions, and talking about their cosplay troubles.

Yep. Same show.

This last, first episode focused on Comikaze, particularly the new Stan Lee costume contest. Chloe managed to get Holly and Jessica out of their comfort zone by doing a burlesque costume (which I have to say, they looked amazing in and those women do not get enough credit for their work and boldness to go against the grain and doing unvoncentional, non-stereotypical feminine characters). And it's not as "drama filled" as previous episodes. This was more cosplayers being cosplayers and enjoying themselves without as much stress as usual. Oh there was still stress. Jesse was rushing his helmet for MegaMan. But maybe the community backlash actually clicked something in SyFy to make them aware that maybe they should tone down the insanity, and turn up the crafting. Maybe...not likely but worth a shot.

Heroes of Cosplay airs Tuesday nights at 10/9 Central on SyFy.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Happens With A Game Company Moves Out?

In the case of THQ, the bankruptcy was quite sudden. None of us expected them to be undergoing troubled times, and South Park's Stick of Truth was a golden nugget of hope for the company's future. But it wasn't meant to be. They filed for Chapter 11, employees took what they could hold in their hands, and the building was abandoned.

One Reddit user works for a company that moved into the building, and has posted photos of the treasure trove of stuff left behind. It really looks like people just picked up what they could and left. Televisions, computers, promotional art, so many things were still left. Even notes and scribbles for a stand-alone Saints Row 3 expansion pack. I cool would that have been? You can see portions of the photo gallery linked here, but it's kind of eerie how empty the place looks. Almost like a virus wiped them out. Creepy. I could only imagine the money that could be made for some of those items. Collector's would love to have those art pieces. No notes on what exactly the new company plans to do with the excess stuff, but I suspect some dumpster diving will be in the future of gamers local to the offices.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lame post is lame.

Apologies in advance for the really lame post. Honestly, work is dragging away every single second of my "free time." I should get double pay for this...

Anyway, weekly video game criticism on Gamasutra. Go look.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WoW Movie Has Already Finished Live Action Production Work

Filming for the World of Warcraft movie has wrapped!

It seems like just yesterday we were talking about it... And now, it's happening. The film is still slated for a 2016 release due to the massive amount of post-production and special effects work, courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic (as if they won't be busy enough with the new Star Wars film). Dominic Cooper, who is one of the primary characters in the film, has been upfront about how daunting the entire prospect is.

"There have been people creating that world for many years and it's got a very specific look, [a]nd the characters within that, people have already made their minds up about who they are and what they mean to them...So that's quite a lot of pressure, in that you feel obligated to give the people who have spent the majority of their life playing it what they expect for it."

Duncan Jones, the director of the movie who is best known for the general audience Source Code, was excited to announce the movie being wrapped, at least for the physical actors. The digital ones are still to come. Both Blizzard and Legend have done a nice job about keeping the story quiet. We still don't know what the central focus will be, or who the main characters really are. It could be anything from an origin of WoW story to plucking random adventurers to create the most epic of quests. I'm still wary about the prospect, but curious for the results.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Where Boys Can Be Bad: The Landscape of Video Games

In researching for her new book Masterminds and Wingmen, Rosalind Wiseman (the one who wrote the book that became the movie Mean Girls), wanted to focus on the following topic: Are the characters in video games themselves, and by extension those who make them, encouraging bullying? In the same breath, are they also reinforcing stereotypes about how boys should act (i.e. not show emotions, not cry, be tough, be aggressive, etc.)?

Good questions. She teamed up with actress Ashely Burch of YouTube fame for her gaming skills, who left the gaming scene for some time because of bullying. Sadly, their findings so far pretty much reinforce what we already know. Video game heroes are emotionless robots that emphasize the need to be "manly." In turn, this may produce un-sportsmanlike behavior, such as verbal harassment of other gamers. What Wiseman and Burch want is for developers to be more involved in how they create their characters. Men can cry too! is what they are basically saying, and developers should hold themselves responsible for the behavior of their customers.

As one example, Riot, the creators of League of Legends, has been pouring money into researching and developing ways to encourage good sportsmanship amongst it's users, even providing rewards to those users for in-game items and punishing those who have been rated as abusive - like removing chat functions. And Microsoft is slowly improving their abusive report system. Slowly. There is still much to do and it'll take time before we see changes. But should we hold developers responsible for creating the games that may, or may not, influence young minds that this is appropriate behavior?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Going Pro Is A Job

Even ABC News is slipping on their integrity as reporters. A story that was filed this morning for Good Morning America goes into the "lucrative world" of eSports and video game competitions. The premise is that you too can make a hundred thousand dollar yearly sallery just by playing video games! Heck, even one kid and his father have a Call of Duty pay-per-view type system and now, he has a college fund that will carry him through.

Sounds easy, right?

What ABC News does not cover is, well, everything else that's involved in eSports. Such as why people enjoy going to the venues, the lure of gaming, and the difficulty of playing said games. Yes. It is difficult to be in eSports and to be on a team, just like any physical sport activity out there. There is a very common misconception that playing video games is easy. Being on a team to play games all day is easy. It's not. Don't believe me? Try it. You are under constant stress and pressure to perform at your best, less you lose a sponsor and a paycheck. You can't make a mistake, or it may cost your team a chance to enter the finals. You have to practice for hours on end, no breaks, even to eat, sleep, or use the restroom. There is a persistent nagging that won't allow you to slip.

It's the same level of stress that we see with a number of professional sports athletes. You want to be on top. You don't want to fail, particularly when you are a part of the team. One wrong move, misstep, one bullet from a digital gun not fired, can change the outcome of a game.

First, getting into MLG (Major League Gaming) is a challenge all of it's own. Tens of thousands of people around the world consider themselves professional gamers, but only a few hundred are actually sponsored by the group for international competitions. Many pro gamers pay their own way, or have to market themselves to outside sponsors in order to get a foothold into the business. And yes, it's a business whenever money is involved. Marketing yourself to companies is equally as taxing as playing the game. You have to prove to these people to spend money on you, and in turn they can make money by you showcasing their brand, whether it be soft drinks, gaming gear, or a mouse pad. "I only play with Logitech" can have a big impact on sales if you are the top Starcraft II player in the world.

So let's assume you are a good enough gamer to be a pro. Your game is Super Smash Bros Melee. Why only one game? Well if you're one of the best, you have to focus on that one game. Not because of tournament schedules overlapping (which tends to happen quite a bit) but your attention can only hold so much. If you split it between multiple titles, you're more likely to slip up. It's a human thing. Michael Jordan for example, fantastic basketball player. Not the best at baseball or golf, but he tried a few times. And in doing so, he slipped a little on the bball court. When he solely focuses on one game, he's fantastic. When he was ONLY a golfer, great work! When he was ONLY a baseball player, great. But all three at once? Nope. It's an all or nothing deal. So you get your one game and that's it. Be the best at it.

You've paid your way through to a few local tournaments and managed to scrounge up the funds for a national event. You've made it into the finals. This is your big break, right? Well no. Now you have to hob-nob with all of the businesses and convince them to sponsor you. Try to make them see that hey, you're just a regular guy like them, but you are awesome at playing this one video game. Even the MLG has strict requirements before it accepts newcomers. And in today's tech world, you should already have a website, Twitter, FaceBook, and Twitch account along with business cards. Anytime you are not gaming or practicing at that national tournament, you need to get your name out to every person that you pass. Let them know that you exist, otherwise why would anyone want to sponser you? Because even if you do with the national Smash Bros tourny, no one knows who you are if you do push yourself to the businesses.

So you go home, keep gaming, and stick to the local circuit. Maybe it earns you a nod from a local gaming store. But those who make it will tell you that half of their day is spent practicing their game. The other half is trying to stay on top of the business. Because when you become known, when people want to watch you and are willing to pay to watch you, you have to always be on and ready. There is no down time. You are always working.

Being a pro gamer is not easy. It requires constant work and vigilance. Fun? Maybe. But there are some days, and this I'm positive of, where the gamers want to be normal. Even that father/son Call of Duty team mentioned in the ABC story have had to work hard to get his college fund rolling. They are constantly out there promoting themselves through the internet and at local gaming events. There is no time to rest and enjoy the game as it was. Now, it's a business.

I always found it interesting how athletes are paid so much for their work when they throw a ball around a few days out of the year. But it's more then that. Those few days can be make or break situations for an entire team, and can determine that athlete's future with the club they have joined. The rest of the year focuses on practicing to be better. They don't experience life in the way the rest of us do, and that's where the larger paycheck comes into play. They are being paid to be the best, and to makeup for the loss "real world" time they would have with families and friends. eSports is no different.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dallas Comic Con 2014 Quickie Review

Check out the full photo set on Flickr.
Within the past 3 years, the size of Dallas Comic Con has doubled at nearly each outing. Going from 6 thousand, to 12, then 24. So the move to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas was a necessity this year. Ticket caps would have made for a lot of angry people.

And with that, over 50,000 people showed up to display their comic geekyness. Wow. DCC officially became larger then A-Kon! I'm going to guess that the celebrity line-up really helped out.

But even with the move, DCC felt like the same convention. The same friendly faces and staff members, the fast badge pick-up line followed by the long ass Exhibit hall line where it takes an eternity to get into on Saturday and Sunday. And con cooties. Swear, every time I go to a DCC event (they hold 3 each year, 2 small conventions, and the 1 oversize one) I get the con plague. I thought I kicked it this year with Sci-Fi Expo in February, but nope. It returned! Damn them.

What I appreciate about DCC is that it still maintained it's core values even when it grew to this new level. It was a place for fans to be fans with limited restrictions. There is decent access to celebrities, more so then what you would see at SDCC, NYCC, or WizardWorld, and prices are reasonable. I can already hear some people yelling, but by comparison to what some memorabilia is worth, signatures and photos are decently priced by comparison. The new levels of badges were less then stellar. FanExpo, who now owns DCC, created 4 tiers of passes. Standard (if you buy on site for same-day or weekend), Deluxe (full weekend, prepaid pass), Premium (deluxe with a bag), and VIP. VIP was $299 before tax. Yep. There is tax on your pass, unlike most cons where it's a flat rate. VIP guaranteed you line jumps pretty much everywhere, but you still had to pay for everything else. Basically, a glorified line jumper is your title for that cash. Yippie! Was it worth it? Maybe to those that could afford it. I had the Deluxe badge, and while I didn't get front row seating, I still made it in to everything I wanted to attend without issue. I still got my autographs and my photos. I still got dealer room purchases. It just wasn't front row. I'm okay with this.

Size and scope of the place was well thought out. they only used a portion of the convention center. Imagine if they opened it all up over the next few'll be massive the amount of content they could bring in. And parking wasn't too terrible. DCC had the foresight to contract out to a parking lot company to allow customers to reserve parking spaces for a fee. I went this route, and while there were issues on Sunday, it is not something I can blame DCC or the parking company for. Rather, the fault lies with the drivers who chose not to read the signs and parked in "reserved" spots clearly labeled and didn't pay. So yes, a tow truck was involved.

Minus the insane badge pricing, I'm really happy with how DCC is progressing. I don't think the staff could have imagined it growing so quickly over the past few years. And now, it could easily rival any of the comic conventions in the country. Next year is going to be massive.

Also...Nathan Fillion and nearly full Firefly cast. That says it all.

From a personal stand-point my trip was marred by bad timing, doctor visits, and an eye that wouldn't stop leaking. But being at the con made the weekend better and well worth the trip. I can not wait to see what DCC comes up with next.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Web Link RoundUp!

Well, another con plague has hit. I'll have a Dallas Comic Con review posted eventually. But today, you get a web roundup.

Can Video Games Teach Your Child To Be A Better Person? I don't know, but hey, it's a Yahoo story that is not a paid advertisement! And the follow-up, Finding the Good in Video Games. They were stretching with the article.

5 Games To Play With Your Significant Others. And not just any games, but the best! Ryaman Legends and Mario Kart Wii are two I would agree with. So, okay list. You can exist.

There's a Pastor in Cincinatti who is using video games to promote critical thinking skills. That's quite a lofty goal. Read that as "he's using the games to teach kids about the Bible." But really all he's doing is asking kids what they play, and then turning it into "this is what the Bible teaches us." Unless I'm reading it wrong.

I'm sick. Leave me alone.

And finally, What Video Games Teach Us About World War II. Okay, now this could be a good article. There are a number of war games on the market and quite a few strive for an authentic experience. Well actually if you read through it, the writer points out some of the key mistakes a lot of those games make, and the need to scrutinize these products because they are not accurately teaching history. Well, no they're not. They are games meant to entertain. Nothing on the box says it's an educational tool. But I can understand where the writer is coming from. Games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty are prompting people to want to learn more about history. That's great! But the influence of those games can turn and cause more trouble.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Twitchy Google

Google may be buying up Twitch, and creating an online video empire by having two of the largest streaming services on the web. Don't forget, they own the YouTube. According to the WallStreet Journal (apologies that the only link available requires you to have an account to see the full story), the talks on acquisition are in the early stages. But other sources are saying that Twitch has already solidified the deal for $1 billion USD. Another states that Twitch would only offer up shares of the company, but enough to give Google majority stake.

Still, big news! Google is taking over. I told you so.

What does it mean to gamers? Well on the plus, sharing videos from Twitch to YouTube, or even direct streaming to YouTube with games could become a likely reality. There are ways to do it now, but the work arounds are tedious and not always reliable. On the negative, this will change Twitch's policies with the XBoxOne and PS4. Copyright issues are always a challenge with YouTube and many companies take action against those posting videos of games. Most of the time it's a request to remove the video. Sometimes, legal action is involved. If the ability to stream to YouTube becomes seamless, you better believe there will be more restrictions on the Twitch app to prevent this from happening.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Listing Day!

I woke up this morning to an inbox full of "gaming" lists. Top 5 this. Top 10 that. I'm busy today, so you know what? Reposts!

5 Video Games That Should Be TV Shows. I don't understand the MegaMan entry or LittleBigPlanet, but okay. Why not.

10 Things That Have Changed Gaming Motion Capture Over 10 Years. Note that a lot of those changes were heavily influenced by Hollywood and the increasing use of animation to act as stunt doubles for explosions deemed unsafe even to stunt doubles. And to shoot fake people into space.

The 5 Best Burgers In Video Games. Thinking cap time. I can only recall burgers in GTA and Ace Attorney. So where are the rest of the burgers coming from?

10 Games In The Guinness Book of World Records. It's not a typical list, but interesting to see what qualified.

Have a good Friday everyone!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I Can't Stop Watching "Let's Play" Videos!

As I'm rushing to get costumes and panels completed for the next convention run, I have been running out of TV shows to have on in the background as I work. I like to have some type of noise, generally music, a movie, or TV, because it helps me focus. Not random noise from dogs or the neighbors lawn mower. Those are annoying noises. But one can only burn through so many seasons of South Park and Breaking Bad before you need a change of pace.

For this, I completely blame my brother because he has been watching Rooster Teeth's Let's Play sessions and linking them on Facebook. I watched one for "Things to Do in GTAV." Bowling is so far my favorite and I would be willing to write up a sheet to do the full 10 frames with friends. If I had the time. For such a simple concept, RoosterTeeth does much more post then the typical "Let's Play" videos by providing different viewpoints and eliminating sizable sections of downtime, these videos can be quite addictive to marathon through. So much so that now I have them running continually in the background while I work.

Which is also quite distracting because you can't help but look up and watch the mayhem, laughing with the player through their follies and cheering with their triumphs.

But why "Let's Play"? Anyone can make these videos. More often then not, it's a group of friends messing around-seeing what trouble they can cause in the game world amongst themselves. It's something we all do, but on a public scale. And some people are getting paid to do this. I direct you to Machinima and Twitch as examples.

I think that a major factor in why we like to watch these videos is the simple nature of said gaming. Also the camaraderie of the gamer to the viewer. We can easily picture ourselves with the players, messing about and laughing. And because it's an action that we all have been involved with, that we can all easily relate to with their experiences, we're more likely to enjoy watching them. Again, association! It's why we like 'dem movies with characters we can relate to. (And that is about as 'Southern' as I'll go this week.)

It's not rocket science. We like these videos because they are made to entertain. Whether you sit through a 50 hour stretch of Chrono Trigger on YouTube, or the edited stylings of RoosterTeeth, we can all agree that the camaraderie keeps us coming back.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Twitch App To Be Free On XBox Live Silver Plans!

Coming soon, Twitch will no longer be restricted to "Gold Membership" on XBox Live!

Yes, the bane of my existence is XBox Live. Why? Because you have to pay for it. You buy the system. You buy the games. You have a monthly fee to have internet access. You pay for the DLC. You pay a lot to play one video game, and then Microsoft likes to hammer the nail in just a bit deeper by offering different levels of online gaming: Silver and Gold. Silver means you can get system and basic game updates to fix bugs. That's it. Gold gives you everything. Silver is free. Gold requires a monthly fee, $49.99 for 12 months. It doesn't seem bad, except that you're paying to gain access to buy more stuff. Woo.

This is why I appreciate Sony for having free internet services with the PS3. I wish they would have extended it to the PS4, but there you go. (Note: Microsoft's model didn't work because people are paying. It worked because the system has a butt ton more FPS. Just an FYI.)

Well yesterday late in the afternoon, XBox Wire announced that Twitch and other services such as Netflix and HBOGo will now be available to Silver users! Yea! About damn time guys! Paying for enough of this stuff already; why do I have to pay more to watch it on my console when I can use my PS3, Wii, or computer? On the internet service I'm already paying for, and not the extra services of XBox Live? Can you tell I'm still not happy about it after all these years?

The update will occur in June and applies to the 360 and One consoles. The app on the 360 will allow you to view prior and live broadcasts, and have basic Twitch functions, but not streaming. Steaming will be available in full to One users. Thanks Microsoft for pulling your head out of your butt and realizing that sucking money dry from your users is not the best way to maintain brand loyalty. At least let us keep our free apps free!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

BitCoins And Video Games

Bitcoin is becoming the currency dejour.  The P2P digital paper (hah!) is making it's way to gaming stores with a second-hand business based in London buying and selling used games with Bitcoin instead of physical currency. The company, CeX, announced on Monday that it's stores will accept most electronic trades, games, DVD's, and phones, for the virtual cash, and even extended the service to their Scotland stores for 3 days this week.

While most of the transactions for the company are online, their physical stores in England and Scotland are getting in on the trend as well. Heck, if Richard Branson says it's okay to use to book space flights, then who are we to argue?

But the pixiliated moolah has it's pitfalls. It's not tied to any bank and the value of the coin is as much as people make it out to be. 1 Bitcoin today could be worth $5.00 USD. Tomorrow, possibly a penny. It's worth is what you make of it...just like physical currency. The difference is that physical currency is backed in case of a crash in the system. You're not left dirt poor, for the most part. There are fail-safes in place that will allow you to keep your home and a marginalized version of your livelyhood. With Bitcoin, once it's gone, it's gone. There is nothing in place to prevent you from loosing your money, real money, should something happen to Bitcoin.

It's a gamble, but the UK company is the first in Europe to have a full adoption of Bitcoin for retail stores, and may move the trial to the U.S., where it has outlets in 5 states.

Monday, May 12, 2014

GLADD, Why No Games?

After Nintendo made it abundantly clear last week that it will not include same-sex relationships in the upcoming Tomogachi game (many of their products do not touch on the notion of love and romance anyway...they're kid games for the most part), with GLADD firing back, and a subsequent apology,  one game developer asked why the group has yet to include video games in their yearly media awards.

Good question!

"Wouldn't it be great to honor and recognize outstanding examples in video games who strive for inclusion, rather than weigh in on this issue in a public manner for negative reasons instead of positive ones?" ~ Justin Amirkhani of Vagabond Dog

I think so! There are a number of games out there that embrace the reality of the complexity of relationships and gender. GLADD's awards even give praise to comic books. Comic Books! A male domain where same sex concepts are as rare as a blue moon. Or a chicken that won't peck out Link's eyes. So if GLADD can see the good in comic books, why not video games too? And given how in-depth video games can depict people and relationships, and making the experiences more interactive, it seems rather silly to not have them included in the annual awards. From a technical stand-point, more goes into the development of a character then a comic book or tv show because the image, personality, voice, movement, etc. all need to be built from the ground up. It could be argued that more emphasis to create a real character is placed on game worlds, and as such, relationships become as much apart of the development as anything else.

So GLADD, what say you?

Friday, May 09, 2014

Gay Fish Kanye West and Sexist Gaming

I didn't know what to focus on today for gaming stories. So you're getting one and a quarter.

Kanye West (who shall forth be accompanied with the phrase "gay fish" for the rest of this blog, thanks to South Park completely warping my mind - in a good way), released a song with another artist, Future, in April titled "I Won." According to both artists, it is a song intended to empower women and openly discuss interracial marriage, because we all know that, that's exactly what a lot of rap songs do. Oh. Sorry. That probably sounded racist. I assure you it wasn't. It was meant to be sarcasm, ala feminism style. My bad.

For those who don't know Future, he also creates 8-bit video games for his songs on occasion, and "I Won" received the same treatment. But what turned from a song to 'uplift women,' as they claim, is being blasted for sexist treatment of women. Why? Well the game stars you, sitting on a beach, with gold jewelry and chains at your disposal. The goal is to hit as many of the beach clad girls that cross your path, and turn them into trophy wives.

Yep. That's quite an "uplifting" message for women. (Please note the additional sarcasm.)

Kanye (gay fish), has also dabbled in this medium before in 2013 releasing an RPG titled Kanye Quest 2030 (gay fish). So one would think that these two musical personalities would know better. Well, they're obviously pandering to their audience quite well. Future's Twitter feed prompted responses and so far, the few that have played, enjoy the game. Also, I hate Twitter. Not the concept, but the fact that it gives people an excuse to have terrible grammar and spelling. You can still be articulate and show general knowledge in English with 144 characters. Be creative!

This is my favorite Tweet:

"fuk ya Haterz -@MrsBreezyforeva

@1future How u cum up wit a amazing game like dat"

Probably 10 seconds of bantering. "Hey. Let's throw gold chains at women." "Do it."

As a game...the mechanics are okay. It's a really basic principle. How badly can you screw up a Duck Hunt style game? It's browser based (which I refuse to link to and provide them with more web hits. If you're really curious, just Google it) where you use your mouse to throw the jewelry. But the message it's putting across, that women are objects and if you throw shiny things at them, they'll become your property? Not good. Thanks but no thanks for taking us another step back, Kanye (gay fish) and Future.

If you need to not be inundated by Kanye West (gay fish) today, The Washington Post covered a story over Reason, a monthly Libertarian magazine, and it's video game issue. Basically gamers and Libertarianism go hand in hand. Interesting argument and well thought out. All all gamers libertarian? No. Are all libertarian gamers? No. But based on the discussion and reasoning, it's easy to see how to two can coexist unlike other political parties and gamers. Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Nintendo Joining Figurines

With the success of Skylanders and Disney Infinity, Nintendo is jumping in and wants to bring physical products into their digital worlds. Nintendo licensed, branded products, mind you. Using the Wii-U's NFC (Near-Field-Communication) capabilities, Nintendo wants to have more interaction with gamers with a program called NFP (Nintendo Figure Platform). 

Nintendo did give investors a glimpse at the concept, showing a Mario figure on a platform. But to take it one step further, this isn't limited to just the Wii-U. The program could function on 3DS systems via a wireless adapter. This could be another huge leap in multi-platform gaming. One of the biggest issues I have with games today is that so few (I can only think of Final Fantasy 11 and now 14 being available on the PC and PS4), that allow gamers on multiple systems to interact with each other. The technology and capabilities are there, but companies don't want to work with each other. They want you to buy their system to play with your friends. No exceptions. But even this step with the NFP is a good leap forward. There are many of us who do not have a Wii-U. I personally refuse to purchase one because I still don't know what it is (Nintendo has yet to openly call it a system). But there are a few that play, while the rest of us are on the 3DS. Being able to play the same game on both systems with customization is becoming more of a reality. Right now several games on the Wii-U can go portable to the 3DS, but the transition isn't always as smooth. The  Wii-U works better using it's tablet interface then making the leap to the 3DS.

Competition is healthy in any marketplace. But I still dislike having system restrictions. In order to play with this friend, I have to have this system, and this monthly plan, and these games, when I have the same games without additional costs on another console. Just let me play with my friends how I want to, dangit!

Rant. Sorry. A full reveal from Nintendo is expected at E3 with additional details.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Doc About Gaming Students Getting a Job

The Art of Game, a documentary produced by 2K Games and Story Telling, following a group of game design students from the Academy of Art University San Fransisco (hey, my brother went there!), and their quest to find jobs while navigating the stereotype that games are still considered a waste a time. Director Matthew Davis Walker is looking to this film as a platform for potential change, and showcase how games are made with the same delicacy as a Hollywood movie or television show. Is there fun and joking around? Of course. But isn't that the case with any job that you enjoy? It also will focus on the ingenuity of the students, and how ruthless finding any work in the business can be no matter how talented you are.

There is a trailer up, and the full film will be available for free starting at 1pm this Thursday via Twitch with a 6pm repeat (PST). It will also be available through the Facebook page. However, I'm not entirely convince on the direction of the piece. The trailer doesn't offer too much info, other then pandering to what's popular (video games) and trying to showcase struggles of getting a job. Well of course it's a have only so many positions open and 50 times the people wanting to fill them. Maybe the film is much different then how it's currently making itself out to be, but right now it feels like fluff. We'll see after Thursday.

Aside: IGN changed their layout. Looks good.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Ebb And Flow of MMO Cities

Thank you Gamasutra for including this on your weekly VG Criticism. I would not have found this gem of a piece from Samantha Nelson at AVClub about the abandoned cities of World of Warcraft.

As WoW hit it's peak, and it's initial interest in new towns with the release of each expansion, eventually begin to taper off in their population and players move with the money. Mules make their way to larger cities to sell goods. High level players prance around the town to show off their super shiny armor, and tug at other high levels to go to a dungeon. In the wake, the other cities, starter zones, outlyers, areas that once saw a bustle of activity are now left alone with only the rumbles of the zone's music, and NPC actions to give any hint that the area is still alive.

This isn't restricted to just WoW. Dozens of MMO's, and dare I say pretty much every one of them, experience the same thing. This was habitual with Final Fantasy XI during my years playing the game. With every new expansion pack, people would migrate to the new areas and the towns would be busy once more. The Wings of the Goddess expansion pack in 2007 attempted to draw users back to the starter towns and become more involved in their home nations. And it worked for quite a while, until people began to complete the missions and drifted back to Jeuno, the core of all commerce in the world, once again making some of the cities and towns desolate of real player activity.

It's eerily beautiful.

There's a calm in knowing that, for both new players and veterans alike, that you don't have to deal with the throng of crowds in certain areas when you want to do the fetch quests, or you need a place to silently craft in peace without being bombarded by the chat bubbles of others.

Nelson brought up an interesting point at how unlike human cities, these digital spaces do not decay. You can go from town to town and see it exactly like you remembered months ago. Well...until WoW and FF14 blew up their worlds, but some of the core cities are still in one piece. I would be curious to see an MMO with an ever evolving landscape. Literally. If people migrate away from Town A to Town B, it would be interesting to see Town A change as it happened. Over time to watch the town actually decompose, I have to wonder if that would prompt players to be more active in those zones? Less they want to see their previous world fall apart. experiment time!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Revenge Of The 5th...Day

Yesterday was May the 4th, which is unofficially dubbed as Star Wars Day. (May the 4th Be With You). And today is Revenge of the 5th. I didn't post a Happy #StarWarsDay here as I celebrated with my podcast, dawning a Hello Kitty/Boba Fett shirt, my Emperor and Vader earrings, and Amidala head dress. I uploaded a few photos to my Facebook cosplay account, and laughed on Twitter at Window's UK's fail attempt at wishing Star Wars fans a happy May 4th. The tweet and photo has since been removed, but not before we all took a ton of screen shots. (Trekkies? Really Microsoft? The one thing you couldn't possibly confuse and you still did. Fail.)

And today we celebrate the Empire and the Sith. Steam has a 66% off sale on all Star Wars games few a few more hours. Get it? 66% off? Order 66. Hah! Silly Jedi's.

Disney is doing their special pins for today, and Lego Stores have 15% off a number of slect Star Wars merchandise, including a limited edition Darth Revan figure...who is now no longer canon. Thank you once again Disney.

And less we forget, Saturday was Free Comic Book Day! A glorious time to be a geek. All hail the Empire.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Lionsgate Wants To Game

Lionsgate, the studio who was smart enough to pick up The Hunger Games series for movie distribution, wants to jump into video games.The division will be headed up by ex-Nerdist Industries.  CEO Peter Levin. He'll be in charge of procuring new IP's for the gaming company as well as helping develop concepts for preexisting products that Liongate holds.

"Gaming has become one of the most explosive growth areas of the content business, and Peter's mandate will be to build a portfolio of premium digital properties as we expand our leadership in films and television programming into digital content as well."

Sounds like they want a chunk of that gaming business money.

The first question was, will there be a Hunger Games, game? We don't know. But Lionsgate does hold quite a number of titles that could make for amusing video game content. The Expendables. Twilight...okay I'm taking that back. Not Twilight. Weeds. Mad Men.Yes, they did produce a few television series. All possibilities under this new gaming division.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Draw Your Game

Pixel Press has launched it's first app via iTunes, and if I haven't covered this nifty project before, well then I suck. Pixel Press began last year as a Kickstarter, with the concept of drawing your own video game. How do you do that? Well you literally draw out your game levels with pen/pencil or paper, snap photos of it with your iPad, and the app would turn them into a working game. Pretty cool idea, right? The game play would have to be pretty rudimentary and I'm sure there are quite a number of restrictions. There is no programming by the user at all, so if you want a complex battle system, this is not the app for you. But it's a nifty way to make a side-scroller when you're really bored at work.

There are some tools within the app to help flesh out your level design, such as power-ups and cleaning any extraneous lines. The first app is titled Floors, and requires you to print out graph paper that has designed specifically for the app. And you can't draw out random ideas yet. You have to work within the confines of the apps mechanics. Reviews so far are great, but the app will have flaws. The more complex your level design, the more work you need to put into the product. The simpler, the better. Also the iPad camera is not the best on the market, so if you don't have bold, thick lines, it won't pick up on the details of your drawn image. But no programming experience required to make your own 3-D iPad game? I'm okay with this. The team plans to release an iPhone and Android version in the near future.