Monday, February 29, 2016

Rage-Quitters Beware: Capcom Fixing Street Fighter

So remember when I posted the one good thing about Street Fighter V is that if you get disconnected during a match online, you're not penalized (with all of the server issues, it seemed like the one saving grace)? Capcom is changing that.

Starting this week, Capcom is going to take action against those who rage quit during a match. I.E., they are losing so they opt to disconnect and not have their ID penalized. There isn't a date for a permanent solution, nor are there details on what it may be, but if you are rage quitting on SFV this week, Capcom staff will be watching. They have also asked the community to help record matches and people rage quitting, uploading them to YouTube and Twitch to link back to Capcom directly. Bold move.

Of course the other concern is for the players that may be penalized for a true internet connection issue. What about them? Capcom's servers are still not the most stable thing to be on and making the distinction between "rage quitters" and those who have been booted from the game due to server issues, well it's needed. People shouldn't be penalized if they have legit connection issues. Until Capcom can guarantee a 100% stable internet environment on their end, they shouldn't implement the rage quit policy yet.

Matchmaking has also been tweaked since the game's release. While most of North America and Asia are normalized, there are still issues in Europe and the Middle East with this feature - sometimes not working at all. Capcom has stated that they are looking for a resolution, but did mention that wait times have been decreased in the lobby.

If you'd like to contribute to Capcom's plan, you can share your videos at @SFVServer on Twitter.

Oscars 2016 - The Continuing Story

Warning: here's one of those non-gaming posts I sometimes concoct from time to time. Feel free to browse the archive for some past favorites, or go to Google and play the doodle image today. It's adorable. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow. Or hey, check out Kotaku, which has a breakdown of the new combat system in Minecraft that will really change the way you play.

Let's talk about the Academy Awards!

I once was a film student (though you never really stop learning with film so you're always a student in some form or another) with 3 degrees under my belt. The Oscars are my one "must watch" show each year. And I make an effort to watch as many of the nominated films as I can. Which is difficult as I live in a city that doesn't have many "art house" or independent films on their roster. Even the "indie" locations still rotate in 'Deadpool' to get ticket sales up. But I still do my best and I think there was only 2 movies this year that I missed out on. Thank you Netflix for having such an open library to include international movies as well.

Why do I watch? I look to the Oscars as the pinnacle of peer review for the medium. It's what others among the community feel is the best of the best, and a myriad of factors are taken into consideration when the final nominee list is released. Were there some hits and misses? Sure. Just like with any award show, some people should have been nominated that weren't. Will Smith for 'Concussion.' Not a good movie, but he acted his butt off. He did get noticed by the Hollywood Foreign Press for the Golden Globes, so there is that. I think the hype over 'Straight Outta Compton' was too much. I don't believe any one person in that film really acted on the level as the individuals nominated this year. But they did have a fantastic script. One of the more well-written movies I have seen in a while.

We can argue about appropriation and the lack of diversity in the nominees (the focus has been on Black actors and actresses, but let's not forget the foreign film categories, shorts, documentaries, which show a diverse nature - and the director for 'The Revenant' Alejandro González Iñárritu is Mexican). Yes there should be more diversity, but we shouldn't have to have POC in the awards to appease the masses (as in, we shouldn't intentionally put in POC into nominee lists for the sake of "we have to have a Black guy" - re-examining how one gets nominated is a must, along with changes in the industry). Yes Hollywood needs to stop being the white man's playground and allow for more POC, women, and the like onto the screen and behind the camera. Yes the whitewashing of characters is out of hand and needs to end. Know how you can resolve that? Stop spending money on movies that you don't want to see. Your wallet speaks volumes. Don't like that a movie about Hispanic immigrants are being acted by white people? Don't go! You'd be amazed at how much the industry can change simply by you keeping your wallet closed.

I also think that a number of people are taking the issue of "asking women more questions" beyond "who are you wearing?" are not understanding what the point is. Even Chris Rock poked fun at it last night and it was off-key. The problem is not that people are asking us "who are you wearing" when it comes to a fancy outfit. It's that it's the ONLY THING they ask us about. Men can get a myriad of questions about their craft, why they chose a script, their acting ability, the works. Women it's all about clothing and if they are dating someone. As if those are the only aspects of our lives worth talking about. This Funny or Die bit with Kristen Steward and Jesse Eisenberg is a fantastic example of what women experience while being interviewed - just in general! I get this crap a lot when I'm meeting new people or being interviewed at work for press events. It sucks. We're not saying that we can't talk about our dresses, but there is more to us then the dress. If you can ask the men more diverse questions, you can do the same for us.

If you haven't figured it out by now, the Oscars was all about the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag roaming the internet since the nominees were announced. Chris Rock's opening monologue was well-versed, it hit the heart of the matter, but it wasn't so off-putting that people would ignore it. The problems rose when the theme became pervasive all night long. It took the form of Stacey Dash, and it was awful, uncomfortable, and in a "did not need to go there" vibe that I'm surprised Chris Rock went through with it. Short story: Dash, who may look familiar thanks to 'Clueless,' supports equality, but feels that we need to stop separating each other for this to occur. So no more Black History Month, BET, things like that. She's not very well liked by a number of people because of her bold stance. The laughs you heard were uncomfortable and strained.

The only lighthearted moment was when Chris Rock had the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles come out to sell cookies to the audience. Because like any parent, he wants his girls to beat out the other den mother who gets the award for most cookies sold every year. Apparently Batman likes Thin Mints, which is awesome. They are officially the best cookie ever. Batman endorsed it.

The rest of the show was dull and borderline too much with pushing the diversity issue. The problem with a number of these affairs is that people with money get preachy on the general population to make changes to the industry. But as the general public, we're not rich. Our only influence is where we choose to spend our $20 on movie tickets, and with the limited choices we rather choose something to keep us entertained for 2 hours then nothing at all. Changes have to happen IN Hollywood by those who are in charge. There's only so much we can do as the movie-going public. We can close our wallets, but that's not going to solve the problem.

Feel free to agree or disagree with me. My opinion may not be the most popular because hey, I'm a white woman. What the hell would I know about diversity issues, other then the fact that most of the people in the movie industry who are not "actors" are white men. Good luck finding a woman behind the screen that are not shucked away into make-up and wardrobe. You should have seen me cheering when 'Mad Max: Fury Road' won Best Editing. Their lead editor was Margaret Sixel. A woman. While she is married to the director, she has a vast history of editing work under her belt long before she married George Miller. And she pieced together the story of Max in a way no one else could. Lead editing gigs are once in a blue moon for women, so this was a huge step forward - not to mention damn. The 'Mad Max' crew was super diverse!

All of this to say, while I know that there was emphasis on POC actors and crew to address #OscarsSoWhite, it's not just the general public that can help make a change with our wallets. The majority of the work has to come from the people up top who make the decisions.

The winners themselves, some were expected and some were not. I was actually a bit surprised that 'Mad Max' won as many awards as it did, beating out favorites such as 'Star Wars: Episode VII' and 'The Revenant' in visuals and sounds. Why? Because this was a big action movie that the general audience loved. It's incredibly rare for 1, action movies, and 2, blockbusters, to win Oscars. The panel has a hard-on for the unknown, simple films that are well acted. Even the costume design went to Max and not to 'The Danish Girl' or any of the other 1900's period pieces. It was not what I had imagined, and that is what makes it so awesome. People in Hollywood are seeing the value of great action movies that break the barriers on what we know.

I was also happy to see 'Ex-Machina' win on visual effects. I know this was a point of contention with a lot of people. Why not 'Star Wars'? Well with Ex-Machina the effects revolve around the human body. They had to make the human actresses look like they had android parts and seem real. I don't know if you all have done this, but making effects on a human is hella difficult - more so then any laser blast or explosion. Trying to animate on a human is a painstaking process. And it's so easy for it to look cheesy if you're off by a nanometer. The fact that the android parts on the actresses look too real to be true means they did it right. I never once questioned how they made it happen when I watched the film: which is damn impressive because I'm always sitting and wondering about effects of that nature. I was able to lose myself into the movie and not question a thing. So 'Star Wars' nerds, you can back off a bit on this one. If it helps, your precious Poe and Hux are in the movie too.

Overall, it was just an okay show. Nothing to write home about. The performance of the night certainly goes to Lady Gaga and her riveting song to survivors of sexual abuse, along with a message on changing the conversation about assault, from our Vice President Joe Biden - who is apparently friends with Gaga. Who knew? Sadly, the performance lost its luster thanks to the editor in the control room and bad stage-hand who couldn't keep the "white frame" steady as a camera moved in to Gaga on stage. He also made himself known by showing his face and hands in the camera before going wide-eyed and ducking out of the way. The camera angles were a nightmare and too fast, cutting from an overhead wide shot, to an uncomfortable close-up, and then back to a low angle near the piano - it was a mess. They should have kept it simple and maintained a 2 shot-camera system: one wide to show the stage, and a medium on Gaga. They needed elegance, not flashy.

Speaking of elegance, the In Memoriam section was beautiful. Thank you Dave Ghrol for accepting that difficult task of playing the music to accompany the slideshow. It fit perfectly. He was brilliantly poetic and classy.

Will I watch again next year? Of course. This is my thing. But the show needs to be re-examined on where and when its a proper platform to preach to the general public, when we can barely afford our mortgages. And you want us to talk about climate change? Yeah, okay. We'll get right on that.

Oh, and Leonard DiCaprio got his Oscar. Like we all knew he would. The internet is going to be inundated with meme's for weeks. Even leading up to the award, Twitter was full of photos with him in a tight shot of his face, with that serious look he gives and the words 'SOON' underneath. Enjoy your social media feeds!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Gaming Graphics - The Legacy of Greats!

I feel that I have let you down, dear readers. In the Weekly Link Round Up yesterday, we didn't have a nod to WhatCulture, a staple at The Geek Spot. I'm fixing that today.

The gem of a list that's currently up on WhatCulture is the 10 Games That Forever Changed Video Game Graphics. It's clear that the writer put some thought into the list, but I think this was more of his personal choices, less about what advanced gaming. There are some unique choices, like Hang-On and Infinity Blade, but they are not the titles that come to mind when you think of "groundbreaking; changed visuals forever," games. Doom, Final Fantasy VII - absolutely. Those should be on the list, and luckily they were. There was a major shift in the industry on production after these titles released. But Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island? Not so much.

Inspired by the WhatCulture list, I've cobbled together my own directory of games that had that 'Earth-shattering' impact and altered game graphics forever.

- Populous. For some of the younger gamers, you may not know this title, but for us who have been gaming since the 80's, Populous was the first God-game and changed how PC titles were designed. Created by Peter Molyneux (Fable), Populous set the rules of of play and design, offering an angled top-down look at the world. It allowed you to manage everything on the game well, and still gave you details you craved in seeing your buildings and the people come to life, leaps and bounds beyond anything PC gamers had experience (mostly text and Atari-like graphics). Without Populous we wouldn't have Sim City, Starcraft, League of Legends. It's amazing how so many of today's games, and even in different genres, still utilize the Populous look to convey details without depriving the style.

- Doom. All I need to say is that first person shooters would not be as visually appealing if Doom didn't happen. It's a fact.         

- Mortal Kombat. Say what you will about the graphics. Back then, they were stellar and unlike anything we had ever seen in a fighting game before. The only game to top it would be Virtua Fighter when the arena became a 3-D render in a 3-D space. With Mortal Kombat it provided a sense of realism we never saw with gaming until then. Street Fighter was there, but it always had a cartoonish look to it. looked like real people fighting. It was completely different from any game that was released on the Sega Genesis (soon after on the SNES but with less gore) and transformed the arcades into a popular hang-out once again. Fighting games were never the same after MK and continued to evolved with their graphics after the title was released.

- Grand Theft Auto III. Did you know that GTA use to be a top-down PC game? It was like Pac-Man, but with a limited field of view and you could run over people in a car. GTA3 was the first foray into a 3-D realm and holy mother of pearl, everything with games changed after this title was released. Look at games before GTA3 and look at games after. It's incredible how one game completely transformed the landscape of graphics. It provided 3-D representation not just to the characters, but to the world itself, with buildings, vehicles, weapons, sand, dirt, plants - you name it. Everything was rendered to make the world feel lived in. Without the likes of GTA3, we wouldn't have a fraction of the games we see today. This title broke everyone out of the 2-D shell.

- Final Fantasy VII. By today's standards FF7 might look blocky (Cloud. Hold back on the steroids a bit). But when FF7 was released it was a visual masterpiece utilizing the power of the PlayStation while the console was still young. What makes FF7 stand out is the use of 3-D characters along multiple background types, flat, landscapes, painted, etc. And! the cutscenes. Cutscenes. Cutscenes. Cutscenes. Square was not new to cutscenes, but the manner that they handled them for FF7 set the template for all others to follow. They were designed and developed to look like mini-movies, providing action, drama, and everything in between to capture the ever building story of Cloud and his band of misfits. They were also visually stunning. Since then, games have upped the ante on providing cinematic quality to their cutscenes, such as Call of Duty, Mass Effect, and Gears of Wars. Without FF7, we wouldn't be inundated with so many pretty moving pictures.

- Crysis. The game itself is just okay. But when it came to PC rigs, the only thing that mattered was being able to build up your system to play Crysis on full settings. This is the game that would burn every kilobyte your graphics card had to offer. It was a visual powerhouse utilizing the best of the best on the market to give you an orgy of colors, shading, and freckles. The shadows are jaw dropping gorgeous. How the heck can shadows be beautiful? Even long after the title's release, so many PC gamers would base their rigs off of being able to play Crysis. I remember Alienware and other computer manufacturers using Crysis as a litmus test. "Our PC can run Crysis on max settings for hours!" You know you have the market on graphics if you're the standard PC gamers want.

This isn't a definitive list, but they are titles that should be in the legacy of gaming greats when it comes to their visual prowess.

Pokémon Direct...Just Watch It

You know you want too. Kotaku has the livestream up now. GO!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

Spring is in the least in Texas. Maybe where you live it's a little bit warmer then usual and not the crazy low temps we expect at this time of year. Hopefully there are no more left-field snow storms that shut down half the country.

What's with the random topic? It's the signal for the Weekly Link Round Up! Here are the best, and weirdest, gaming stories on the internet this week:

- Do you remember Leland Yee? The former California Senator was one of the writers behind the bill that would ban sales of violent video games to minors. After the bill was struck down by the Supreme Court, Yee became the focus on an investigation for bribery and wire fraud charges. This week he was sentenced to 5 years in prison after admitting to the charges against him, including political corruption. Why does it seem like the crusaders against video games always seem to have karma bite them in the butt? Jack Thompson, we're looking at you.

- Kidzworld, a very family-friendly website, has a list of video games that they would like to see rebooted. Now before you start making assumptions that this site is going to rag on game violence, and that they are a waste of time, this is one of the few family-oriented sites that approves of video games (in moderation, of course). Just a few months ago they released a kid-centered article on the history of gaming. And this list of reboots is something I would approve. Even though I'm sick of all of the movie reboots and remakes, with the plethora of games on the market that could make a fantastic comeback for this digital age, I'd be okay with it. On the list are Primal Rage, Pokémon Snap, and Power Stone, to name a few. Can you imagine an update to Snap with the Wii-U peripherals and the upcoming Go? It would be one of the most interactive games to date!

- The University of California has released a study about weight loss and motion control games. Their results are pretty straight forward: use a thinner avatar and you'll be more active while playing. It's all about our mind, and body, playing tricks on how we perceive the avatars. A larger avatar makes us feel sluggish and less likely to move, where as a thinner avatar allows us to believe that said avatar is active and fit. You could argue that this is a result of body dis-morphia and stigmas, less to do with the games themselves. The research, sadly, does not dive too deep into the "why."

- The Escapist has created a list of video games that need anime adaptations. Among them is Mass Effect (which has an anime titled 'Paragon Lost'), Legend of Zelda (which...also has an anime/cartoon)...I'm starting to think they didn't put much time into creating this list. I can't imagine seeing any of the games mentioned as anime. Particularly the likes of Skyrim where you can have multiple plots and story lines that would drive the average anime fan bonkers. And it's not bishi enough.

- Looking for a different way to kill time today? Games Radar has a quiz on video game quotes. Test your knowledge on who delivers the infamous "barrel roll" line from Star Fox. Okay that one is totally not on the quiz (how to do the roll is, though), but the quotes range a variety of games over the years, include action buttons (because those are quotes?) and who the lines were directed to. I only missed 2. One was Call of Duty related. No surprise there.

- ActionTrip has a list of 10 video game mechanics that need to disappear. I'm arguing against the multi-phase boss fights. I think those can add unique elements to the action, and teach patience. So much patience. But the unskippable cutscenes, random quick time events, and NPC guiding? Yeah. Those can go away. I hate babysitting NPC's. It's become a trope ever since Goldeneye and it's never really improved over the years. It's the one set of levequests I avoid in FF14.

- It took 24 years, but someone finally figured out the hidden menus in the original Mortal Kombat arcade, which also appears in MK2 and MK3. Honestly? It's not that exciting. It's coding that allows you to update the leader-board initials, run a diagnostics, and an option called coin bookkeeping (which probably relates to the arcade cabinet itself as there is no in-game money). But's been found. Rejoice!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

No Really, A Developer is Making a Jay and Silent Bob Game

When I initially heard about this game idea, I thought it was another joke article. Someone making some amusing digital graphics of Jay and Silent Bob, to share and have a few laughs at. But it's true! Someone is trying to get the funding together for a video game, titled Jay and Silent Bob: The Game. It has Kevin Smith's, creator of all things Jay and Bob, and Jason Mewes seal of approval.

Interabang Entertainment, which has created games for Adult Swim, is teaming up with Smith for the project and they are looking to crowdfunding to help supplement some of the funds. But not with Kickstarter! They are using the platform Fig to ask for donations. Fig works a little bit differently in that it offers backers an opportunity to own a piece of the company or work, thus having input on the creative direction of the project. The more money you pay, the more you own. It's a creative alternative to other sites that allows for a more personal touch with backers. Like Kickstarter though, they only claim the funds if the campaign reaches it's goal. So it's possible that this project may fall out of favor if there isn't enough interest in fans to bring the game to life.

The company is looking to raise $400 grand over the next 36 days, currently at a $69k of their goal.

So what's a Jay and Silent Bob game going to be about? Well in this side-scrolling action-adventure title, Jay and Bob have lost all of their customers. They don't know where they've run off to, and want to find out why, less they lose their only means of income (for those who don't know, they sell drugs). Their search leads them all around their town, classic locations from several of Smith's movies, a new mega mall, and the like. The game includes unique moves for each character that you can learn over time, along with a dialogue tree for those RPG fans who need their fill of witty commentary. The plan is to launch the game on PC via Steam first and then roll out a version for the PS4 and XBox One.

I may fund this because it's a Jay and Silent Bob game. I don't need another reason. I'm a sucker for all things Kevin Smith. Except 'Jersey Girl.' Everyone knew that was a bad idea from the get-go. But as the gamer in me looks at it, it has the plotline quirks of South Park: The Stick of Truth with the fighting style of Marvel vs. Capcom mixed in with Donkey Kong Country. It's got my interest.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Evolution of Video Games as Art in the MoMA

It's been nearly 4 years since the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), considered one of the premiere museums on contemporary art in the world, added video games to the repertoire of paintings and sculptures. Including a personal favorite of mine Katamari Damacy. How has the collection been fairing since then? What has been the reaction of patrons once the initial news and conversation died down? Paste Magazine tackled the subject by speaking with one of the assistant curators and a collection specialist in the Architecture and Design department (where the games are housed). And it's more then one part! I'm looking forward to Part 2.

MoMA never thought that the addition of video games would be that big of a controversy. Maybe a few murmurs from the art world...but let's face it. It's video games. We stick "art" in front of it and people are going to talk. Even with their inclusion in the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, I still find myself defending film as an art form when conversation crops up regarding the subject. But for MoMA's Architecture and Design department, they looked to video games as the next logical step to include in their collection. They had a number of prints and posters but lacked a lot of digital content that makes up the art of architecture and design. Video games have been around since the late 1960's. In MoMA's eyes, they were will behind the curve by only starting in 2012 to do research. The backlash behind games going into the museum was nothing new (art and controversy go hand in hand); rather the team was mostly frustrated at how vitriol and closed-minded a number of people were about the prospect.

There is also the topic of violence in video games. A number of the pieces in the collection are considered constructive violence, such as Street Fighter, instead of Grand Theft Auto. If there is one part of the article that you should read, it's how the MoMA approaches this subject when selecting their games. They can't outright omit violence. A number of video games contain them in some form or another (from cartoonish to war). The MoMA's philosophy has always been to showcase works that do not "venerate the value of human life." Which is why you won't see weapons in the museum, but a photograph of a warzone is acceptable as the art was created as a response from the violence. But even this perspective is changing as the museum opens up more exhibitions tackling the subject of violence and art.

Seriously. Can not wait for Part 2. I hope it's posted soon!

Edit 2/24/16: Part 2 is up, and it's just as good as the first.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Man Behind E.T. and His Story

The BBC caught up with game programmer Howard Scott Warshaw for an interview about a well known, craptacular game called E.T. The game has been the source of blame for the start of the video game crash in the early 1980's, and the subject of documentaries. In defense of Warshaw, when Atari purchased the rights (reportedly for $21 million) for the E.T. brand, they had 5 weeks to develop and release the game. When you have a very limited amount of time to get a product out to the public, it's going to be a massive challenge just to complete the darn thing, let alone worry about glitches.

What was Spielberg's, the creator of E.T., first impression of the game? 'Why couldn't it have been more like Pac-Man.'

Warshaw wasn't an unknown to Atari or Spielberg. He designed and programmed the Raiders of the Lost Ark game and was given a certifiable seal of approval from the boss-man himself. So when  Atari's CEO's asked him to make E.T., they expected it to happen. In 5 weeks, with 2 days to develop a concept and show it to Spielberg. Turn-around time for Atari cartridges was 6-8 months in those days.

I can't imagine being in Warshaw's shoes. Talking to a director that you idolize (I do too) and trying to explain to him why a Pac-Man-like game wouldn't work for E.T. It's an innovative movie. You need an innovative game. That takes some balls to convince Spielberg to move outside of his vision of the game and put faith into this programmer.

We know what happens next: the game was finished, it wasn't the best, but Atari felt it would sell because it had the E.T. name on it. I know for a fact it did because my dad bought the darn game for his Atari and we played it as kids long after the game crash. It's still not a well designed game, but for 5 weeks to put together, that's damn impressive.

Atari put too much faith into the game, issuing an initial run of 4 million copies in hopes for Christmas and holiday sales to coincide with the movie's release. E.T. did sell 1.5 million copies, which is amazing for any game. But when you spend the money to make 4 million of them, the profit margins dip drastically.

Warshaw comments in the article that he thinks it's great that his code could have single-handedly brought down the gaming industry, but we all know that the truth is much more complex then that. Video games had over-saturated the market by that point. PC's were becoming popular and the fad was wearing thin. Warshaw ended up leaving Atari not long after and moved into real estate. Then back to gaming and made the trek to writing for television.

Despite all of his notoriety for E.T., Warshaw created some of Atari's best selling games such as Yars Revenge (often credited as one of the best games produced). He takes the E.T. situation in stride, and was even able to find closure by attending the New Mexico dig to unearth old E.T. cartridges.

The BBC article is an amusing, and inspiring read today. Take a look at it.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Games That Should Be Movies: Part Deux!

It's been a few years since I last approached gaming movies and what titles would work for the big screen. As more studios are looking to turn video games into the next break-out genre to topple comic books, we are constantly reminded of the past. Video game movies haven't really worked, aside from Resident Evil. You could argue it's due to the very liberal license the RE movies have taken by not following anything in the games, with the exception of names. That may be why RE has done as well as it has where other gaming movies have faltered.

While I was wrong about Need for Speed being a potential best hope as a framework for future good gaming movies, because clearly it was Ace Attorney, I wanted to go back and examine my original article, and hopefully add to the list. Because gaming movies are going to happen. I can't stop them. Neither can you. Even when we close our wallets, studios are still looking to invest in them. But maybe, just maybe, they'll listen to us for once and realize that you can't simply copy/paste a game into a movie format. It doesn't work. The vast majority of games are designed to be games, not as stories asking you to be passive. Interaction is the key. When you're not using a Nintendo controller to move a plumber in red overalls as he stomps on goombas, it doesn't feel like Super Mario (even with the creative direction taken on the movie).

In the years that have passed since my 2012 article, are there any new games that could break the barrier into movies and give us the quality we've been looking for?

- I still believe that Infamous would make for a good movie. It has a solid framework that is open to interpretation. The story is straight-forward while allowing the gamer to experience the open world aspect and not feel overwhelmed. How you get from A to B to C is up to the scriptwriters. By comparison to GTA, Infamous is much more manageable in character development and plot lines, that you could cut out chunks of the side quests and still have a solid story to back it up. With GTA, part of the fun are those random things you can do in the game that have no effect on the primary story.

- While this is not a recent game, I don't know why this one didn't pop into my head in my initial post: Dead Rising (DR). Action. Adventure. Comedy. Zombie Apocalypse! It's got it all! The concern here would be that it's trying to ride on the coattails of "Zombieland" where humor meets horror. Even though DR did some first, it would need to set itself apart from "Zombieland" and other dark comedies. Like Infamous, DR has a simple and solid plot line that can easily allow for you to remove the excess side quests and still maintain the meat of the story. Lead character Frank West is not only memorable, but necessary for the plot to work. His brand of humor is made for movies without de-emphasizing his heart of gold. Or platinum. I'm not sure what color his heart is, but it's good enough to want to help people in a mall full of zombies. And it's a story that gives writers the ability to throw in secondary characters without it mucking up the plot. Unless there's another useless romanced involved. One day Hollywood will see that women don't care about that crap. We like zombies just like anyone men. So let us see the gore!

- Five Nights at Freddy's (FNAF). I'm interested to see how Hollywood tackles this project. And with the creator Scott Cawthorn on board, it has a good chance of succeeding. I still feel that it's simple story and jump scares make it very appealing to horror producers because it would be so easy to turn this into a film. And the ambiguous nature of the security officer allows for much more creative freedom for scriptwriters. Again, as long as they don't throw in a lame romance. There's no need for that in FNAF. Keep it to the solitary security guard as he figures out why the hell the pizza parlor is haunted with mechanical fuzzy robots, and we're good.

- Maniac Mansion is another humor-horror game that comes to mind. Do you see a theme here? I see a theme. Anyway, most of you are probably too young to know of this work. Created by Lucasfilm Games for the Atari, NES, and Apple II (to name a few systems), the game is about a teenager trying to rescue his girlfriend from a mad scientist in a scary mansion. And like most computer games in the day, it was a puzzle game. So puzzle, horror, humor, what could go wrong?

I think this could work as a movie, in an odd way. Maybe a made-for-TV movie, but a movie all the same. And that's because this game was developed from the get-go to be a play-through movie. The writers created a story that allowed gamers to explore the Mansion, but told it through the perspective of a movie-goer. It had quite a few cut-scenes, dramatic pauses, and dialogue shifts that are very movie-like. And like a number of Lucasfilm Games in the early days, it's quirky. It'd be a fun project to see spring to life as a kids movie.

That's my updated list so far. I can hear the screams from gamers across the globe. "Why not Journey, or God of War, or Shadow of the Colossus?" Simple - I don't think they would sell well at the box office for being poor adaptations. In the case of God of War, over the past few decades movies that centered around mythology or anything "ancient" have not been smashing hits. The remake of "Clash of the Titans" is the only one of recent memory that held a decent reception, enough to make a sequel. But it wasn't of the pomp and circumstance of the original. Historical movies of ancient days just don't hold up for audiences...right now. Maybe in a decade this will change and War will have it's chance at the spotlight.

With Journey and Shadow, they are way too artistic and wonderful as video games that they would be terrible movies. The beauty of Journey is discovering the game world with strangers and developing your own story. You can't do that in a movie. Ever. You need to have a plot line with a solid beginning, middle, and end. To make those two into films, you'd have to shred them a part and create new stories from scratch. Basically, pull a Resident Evil and only use names but develop new content to have a movie plot. I couldn't bear it if Shadow was destroyed in such a manner.

But that's the list! I'll update it over time as new games release. Maybe some non-horror will be added in the future.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

It's that time again. Where we dust off our gaming mice and start surfing the internet for the wonderful, and weirdest stories of the week. It's the Weekly Link Round Up!

- WhatCulture, because we know how much I have fun poking that nest, has a list of 10 Video Games that Take a Genius to Beat. On the list is Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, which makes use of VR and team work to defuse a bomb through several levels. You do NOT need to be a genius to win this game.Case in point: Rooster Teeth. While the games listed are difficult to beat, they are not impossible and do not require you to have an IQ on the level of Einstein to win.

- The Creator's Project has a fantastic interview with 'girlplaysgames,' one of the few female modders who's currently active in the gaming community. Many of her mods tend to skew feminine, but she doesn't approach a game thinking "let's make this more girly." She's attempting to add variety, options, and more personality to games that have the stereotypical "butch" female characters. A woman can be feminine and a bad ass. :) Great read and I highly recommend this for your morning routine today.

- Digital Spy has a list of 10 weird things from video games that people have made real-life replicas of. It's a list of a bunch of cool props. Because...that's what it is! And I so want a Worthog. I don't care how much I have to pay for it. I would love to drive that to work. Daily.

- Did you know that DICE is going on right now? Well in a fun and unique twist, magician/comedian Penn Jillette and Gearbox mogul Randy Pitchford gave a rousing presentation about video games, magic, and art. For those who don't know, Pitchford loves magic, and performs tricks almost every time he takes the stage. The two are collobrating on a remake of Desert Bus for VR, a game developed by Jillette for the olden Sega days that never took off, but is currently used yearly for fundraising. But back to DICE. It's cool to see the unique take people have on video games, and how much magic is involved in the final design. There's no video available of the panel, yet. But Gamasutra has a good summary available for reading.

- An editorial on may have you questioning if video games are indeed art. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but are they artistic enough to be on the same walls as paintings? My response is why not? They're just as unique, flavorful, colorful, and dynamic as any sculpture you can see in a museum today. Another interesting read this week on the interwebs.

- Gaming addiction articles! I do love to share these for their sheer lunacy at not properly understanding what addiction is, and using very basic assumptions that would make any gamer look like they have a problem. Talk about gaming during other activities? Yes. I'm a gamer. Gaming to escape real life problems, anxiety, and depression? Yep. People do this with movies, music, television, reading, and theater too.

Let's just make this easy on all of us - just because you play a video game does not make you an addict. If gaming is actually inhibiting you from living your day to day life, causing strife among your friends and family, causing you to miss work and school, then yes. You may have a problem and you should talk to a psychologist about it. But if you like to play games from time to time, use it to help relax, de-stress, and help with your anxiety, that's totally fine! Don't let these "are you an addict" articles scare you.

- From an unlikely source, Kim, which my last brush with the website involved some misunderstanding with XBox and how they store credit card info, has a positive article about gaming. In this case, how games are saving the lives of veterans. Games are helping out vets around the world with acclimating them to life after the military, helping with depression, PTSD, and the like. It even goes into a program called Honor Everywhere 360, which is taking 360 views of memorials and providing them to vets through VR headsets so they can visit the locations, digitally. Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

- And another list to cap off the day of not 10, or 15, or even 25, but 50 Video Games that Should Become Movies. That's a lot of games. And for extra annoyance you can't see the full list. You have to click page to page for each entry, because that's how they get paid. It's all in the clicks! Not only does it give you the list, but even options for actors and what type of movie genre it would be. Life is Strange is on the list, and this SHOULD NOT BE A MOVIE. Ever. It's brilliant the way it was designed and putting it into a movie format would completely destroy the tempo of the story. They also list Ace Attorney, which is a movie, but in an anime style. The movie is brilliant already. Let's not sully it with an anime variation. The list leaves something to be desired as it attempts to rehash games that have already been turned into movies, such as Resident Evil which has a longstanding franchise of it now. Kudos for trying, but they may want to go back to the storyboard on this one.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Street Fighter 5 - Server Crashes. No CPU Arcade. Why Buy?

Street Fighter V is broken.

When Capcom has to create a Twitter handle specifically for server issues the day of release, you know it's not a good sign. When the game's producer, Yoshinori Ono, apologizes for the problems, that's doubly bad.

Opening day for Street Fighter V was much anticipated after a quiet few years of the gaming giant. But it came with a bang of server errors and lack of content that have left a number of fans disappointed. This is Capcom. For them to release something this riddled with problems is unheard of. On a Street Fighter game no less! They have a strong history of releasing quality products. I'm not talking about the game content, rather they ensure games are released that have little to no bugs, glitches, whatever it may be. You know you are buying a game that works.

Even I'm surprised at this turn of events given that I saw #5 at PAX South and it seemed to be working just fine. But! Those were not global internet matches. And only a few players were accessible. And it was a controlled environment. Other then, it looked nice. I enjoy the update to the watercolor art and some of the new character moves (though others may disagree).

Gamers have been reaming Capcom with bad reviews of #5 over Steam, Metacritic, and everywhere in between.

What's been going on that's causing so much ire?

To start, Capcom pulled a Sim City reboot on us and made most of the game content online only. Even as a number of paid reviewers are praising the game, they too feel slighted that there is no solid Single Player or Arcade mode. You can do character stories, like in prior versions of Street Fighter, but that lasts for 4 fights. Yep. Four. Fights. You don't have the option to play tournament style where you can go against all 16 characters.

Four fights. And then you have to go online if you want to keep playing. That's a huge misstep on Capcom's part.

Some PC users have sent in tech support requests that their Fighter ID would become corrupted after a few online matches. Your Fighter ID is like your PSN or XBox gamer tag. It holds all of your stats. If you are someone who cares about your stats or you're a pro-gamer, that's a big problem where simply remaking a new ID doesn't resolve it.

Even some of the basic features that any PC game should have, such as like language selection/support, are not available. The game detects your language based off your boot system files and there are no options to change it. Awesome.

And then there are the servers themselves. The lack of external beta testing of the servers was icing on the cake of fail. (Note: I'm sure they tested servers internally. But when you have a game of this scale with mostly online content, releasing with potentially hundreds of thousands of people wanting to play at once, you have to break outside your 100-500 man development team to test. It's just common sense at this point. Given the number of server stability problems, it's clear that they didn't do this. In fact, we would have known that they had done this! I would have gotten my butt onto beta testing and posted about it. I have a soft spot for Street Fighter. It's my childhood.)

Because of this forced online mode, gamers have not been unable to log in and play. They paid for a $59.99 game that is virtually unusable at this time. 

On the upside, if you don't finish a match because of server issues booting you from the game, you're not penalized. There is that...not that it resolves the lack of Arcade or Single Player mode to a depth and quality we expect from Street Fighter. But broken servers will not damage your online score.

I was able to play for roughly two hours before I gave up. The servers were just too much of a bear to handle waiting, and waiting, then being disconnected, and then waiting some more.

But I don't want to completely brush this game off. There are a few things that I do like about it, even though I'm heavily encouraging people to not purchase it until 1-Capcom is able to fix the server stability and 2-Releases Arcade mode DLC for free. Street Fighter without single player arcade is beyond silly.

- The V-Skill. It's a replacement to Street Fighter 4's Ultra Meter. It rewards you for mastering new abilities and combos to allow you to charge your V-Trigger for special moves. You'll still get points for the V-Trigger when you take excessive damage and all that, but it's nice to see that you are rewarded when you have learned new tricks.

- Some character moves have been overhauled, for the better. Vega is the one that stands out to me. Him and Cammy are my go-to's. With Vega, you can swap between fists and the claws. In the past, losing your claws put you at a disadvantage. That's no longer the case. Claws give you more long range ability, but you move slower for having that benefit. When you switch to fists, you gain more mobility and dynamic take-downs. It's good to see that he is a more balanced character then he has been in the past. But even with Cammy, Ryu, and Chun-Li, they have done tweaks to make the character abilities stand out more, without making them overpowered.

- I like the visuals. I like the water-colored, painted effect on the hair and clothing. I like the vibrant backgrounds. It may not be everyone's preference, and seems more cartoonish compared to 4, but the look emphasizes the campy quality of Street Fighter.

Okay so that's 3 good things I've said about Street Fighter 5. That's all I could come up with this morning when I sat down to figure out my feelings about the game. I was done with 4 character stories and waited over an hour for online matches to work. This is a product that COULD be good. Very good. But the lack of CPU Arcade and an inefficient online mode have made this a waste of time and money for gamers.

Capcom. You are much better then this. I want to like the game, but I can't. They are working on some fixes for the servers and PC users to curb game crashes, but this was a bad opening day that is unlikely to get better until content issues are given as much attention as the server instability.

Save your money and don't buy this.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Joy of Playing Games in New Ways

I hoped, when I clicked on Cheat Sheet's '5 Video Games Played in Ways Their Creators Never Intended,' that it focused more on doing things within the game that went against the original design. That list was more about playing the games in a silly way - such as Punch-Out while blindfolded. Still fun! Don't get me wrong. Trying to watch someone play three Mega Man X games at the same time is interesting, unique, and exhausting.

But one thing that I enjoy about video games is when people go against the grain and choose to play the game differently to reach the end goals. Like being stealthy and not firing a single shot from a weapon in The Last of Us. By the way, not feasible if you include cut scenes and having to progress through plot points requiring you to kill a Clicker. Still a viable game play option, just not 100% possible.

And I've touched on this subject before about if there is a right or wrong way to play video games. It's always good to look back at your past words and see how much you've grown from then.

I really haven't in this regard. I still believe there isn't any one right way to play a game. Nor do you have to be "good" at a game in order to play, talk, or review it. We all interpret how we play differently. And I feel that is what makes video games such an amazing entertainment medium. You don't HAVE to follow the story or design set up by the video game creators. If you want to spend 40 hours in Metal Gear Solid V riding on your horse, you can do that! Play Super Mario Bros. with your nose? Have at it! Video games are not like movies, books, or television where you are confined to a pre-determined plot with no options to deviate from the plan. You get a choice on where you watch the movie, what you can eat, and how loud the volume is. But you can't go in and edit the movie to play differently - not without incurring the wrath of the copyright police. With video games, there are endless possibilities.

So today's post is about the fun of playing video games your way. What do you do that makes your game play stand out from someone else? What is your favorite thing about playing games? What are the unique ways that you have played through a game that went against the initial design?

One of my favorite things to do is to play Grand Theft Auto by not playing GTA as it was intended. For example: the "hooker cheat" was discovered by people who were thinking outside of the box. Yes the hooker was always designed to give you health after you pay for sex. But! the designers didn't expect people to kill the hooker after to get their money back.

What I like to do in GTA is everything but play the main missions. GTA Online in particular has really opened up the opportunities to create compelling, crazy maps that have nothing to do with playing the main game. Like bumper cars, KING, kamikaze, shopping excursions, the fastest to fill up their "crazy" meter, you name it. The game doesn't tell you to do these things, but they are all possible.

Games like GTA and Final Fantasy XIV allow me to appreciate how open developers are to allowing gamers to do whatever they please. If you want to role play and fish, you can. No one is stopping you.

But these are open world games. What about stuff like Mario or Smash Bros. where you have specific goals you have to meet to win? You can still play Mario without squashing a single Goomba. Or play SSB without throwing a punch. I'm not saying it'd be easy, but it's definitely not the intent the game designers had in mind.

So sound off with the fun and crazy ways that you play games!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Serious Talk to Get Games into News More?

Guys! Gals! We need to take video games seriously! Like super-cereal seriously!

That's what Naomi Alderman, a British novelist and game designer, is preaching on The Guardian today. If you are into the literary thing, look up 'Disobedience' and 'The Lessons.' From the games library, well I haven't heard of these products but according to Alderman they have sold millions. There is Zombies, Run! which was a Kickstarter funded game that combined fitness with outrunning the walking dead of the apocalypse. On Google Play and the Apple App store they have the game listed in the 100k-500k download category - free to play with in-app purchases. I'm not including "Doctor Who" as it's labeled as a novel, not a game, by Amazon and is available in hardback and paperback. Maybe it's meant to be an interactive novel? I don't know. It seems that Alderman's work is more from the writing side of the game design aspect, and there's nothing wrong with that.

This isn't about taking apart Alderman's credits as a writer or contributor. It does put a new perspective on how to read her article for The Guardian, which focuses on why authors are getting more air-time for books then video games, which has been a rising entertainment medium. Alderman's argument is that the gaming industry doesn't care about wooing news reporters with their content, so they don't bother to push for their award shows to be publicized.  Her books that sell ten's of thousands of copies get more air time then "her games" which sell millions of downloads. Leading to the question 'why isn't it the other way around?'

I think Alderman is overlooking a few aspects that can very well explain why gaming award shows are rarely, if ever, televised. Let alone why so few game designers are interviewed, unless it's a controversial game that spurred interest with politicians to bash against. (Yea GTA!)

- Gaming is still a young medium. Like television, movies, theater, and books before them, it takes time for people to become accustomed to the new kid on the block. People will eventually accept games as a valid form of art, in time. When the first Academy Awards were held, everyone thought it was a joke. Movies were still viewed as a fad, something that would quickly fade away, and it took decades for it to become the respected art-form that we see it as today. Even with Adam Sandler. Comic books are still trying to find that market where they move from kiddie fun to art. It's a long transition that doesn't happen overnight. When games get there, we'll start to see them more on the news for legitimate discussions. Not to bash them for destroying the youth of the world.

- The gaming community has too many award shows. The one's linked are just the big players - it doesn't include the hundreds of online, regional, or magazine awards that are handed out each year. There are a dozen indie gaming awards just for Texas developers that I could name. It's an area that hasn't been reigned in by creators, no matter how much Geoff Keighley attempts to do so. If Alderman expects more game awards to be aired, they need to limited the number of shows. Give a bit more prestige to them. Too many awards can have the opposite effect and they "big ones" no longer feel special. It's too much for any one person to keep up with.

- We've got eSports. This past year has been a huge boost to gaming around the world as eSports competitions begin taking center stage on ESPN. To claim that today we are not seeing more talk of video games in the news is rubbish. 2016 is going to be one of the biggest years where we see gaming everywhere.

- If you're a gaming news site, it's quite easy to get new games. Well, unless you piss off the developer. One of Alderman's points is that she has to spend hours making calls to get her hands on a game to review. Sorry Alderman, but you're not working for Kotaku, Game Informer, Gamasutra, or any of the dozens of top name gaming review sites. You work as a correspondent for The Guardian who makes maybe a handful of posts a year in their gaming column. The bulk of your articles that I've found have been related to writing and your books. Does it suck having to spend time calling around to get a game to review? Yes. But everyone who isn't Kotaku has to do it. My blog is 95% dedicated to gaming and I have to hustle if I want my hands on a game to review and not have to pay out of pocket. Because I'm not Kotaku. Just because you  make your own games, doesn't give you a free pass.

- Games work on a different time table from books, movies, and television. While it's not the sanest way, games have the luxury of being edited and de-bugged weeks before release thanks to technology. We can't do this with movies. It's not easy to jump in and edit an entire sequence in Star Wars without massive delays in the release date (a minute of footage can take up to 5 hours to edit, just as a general rule of thumb). So while it may seem weird to send out a game a week before release to review, and expect the writer to drop everything and play in one night, they'll do it. It's what we've been trained to do. It's not the ideal scenario for television review shows that require weeks, sometimes months, to prepare for each episode.

I think video games are starting to be taken seriously more then what we've seen before. We are seeing an increase in open discussions about the medium taking place outside of the internet. eSports is making a huge statement on ESPN that new shows are in the works. Yes there are people who still find it childish. But it is getting better.

Edit 2/15: For some reason...this posted my original version and not the last edit before publication. Sorry everyone! Blogger likes to mess with me sometimes. I've got this fixed to the latest draft. Thanks!

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Respond When You're a Gamer

No. I'm not going to talk about the Deadpool movie today. Maybe next week.

Perusing my morning papers (physical and digital, because I'm not completely ready to give up a real newspaper quite yet), the NY Times Fashion & Style section with their 'Social Q's' column had a reader asking how to handle conversations regarding her husband's job. You see, he's a game designer. That's still a dirty word in a number of circles, even as the climate changes and gamers are starting to grow up and become your clients, your employees, and your bosses. But still, people think gaming is for kids and ponder horrible things of it. Video games are the 21st equivalent of comic books. They're fun to play and fun to hate on.

The reader was distressed. She supports her husband's passion, but dislikes the conversations that arise when people ask about his job. It leads into the inevitable responses of "Oh! How horrible! What a waste a time. He's making bad things for kids!"

The NY Times response is cheeky. Either you politely say the business is complicated, and I'm doing my job to cater to people's desires. Or you throw it back at them - you respect their position about violent video games, so what are you doing about it other then running your mouth?


Over time this will be a non-issue as more kids turn into 30-somethings and take over the work-force. But until then, we all get to bear witness to the arrogance and ignorance of the masses as they try to talk down to us about why playing video games is bad. I'm sure you all have been there. If not by our parents, then by our friends (though this is less the case then it use to be, yea!) or by teachers, relatives, church officials, co-workers, you name it. After a while you learn to say "I'm going to a digital media expo" instead of a gaming convention. People will still give you a look, but they're less like to admonish you.

As gamers, I think what's important is presenting ourselves in a positive manner throughout any interactions. If someone starts reaming into you about how games are bad, don't fight back with vulgarity. Take the higher ground and be polite (nothing pisses off people more when you are the calm one in a situation, and it's always amusing). Explain in a clean, concise manner why you like video games. Don't be afraid to throw down some facts. 4 out of 5 U.S. households have a gaming console in their living room - that's for families, couples, and singles. The average age of a gamer in 2014 was 35. And of all of the entertainment mediums out there, video games have consistently ranked as having the best, easy to understand, most monitored system of all - always at the top in the ESRB rating system, stores ensuring only adults buy M games, and the like.

People are responsible about games and their consumption. The problem is most are not aware of it, and rumors against gaming have been a staple since the 1980's. Television and news have not been helpful on this at all since games are considered their rival. They want our attention and will turn against video games to make it happen.

To the reader of the NY Times who submitted the question, here is my response for you that will both empower your family and leave your new acquaintance with something to think about:

If the first answer you hear is something negative about video games, you don't have to stand there and listen to it looking for a way out. The moment you can get a word in, do so. Say that you support your husband and his job of choice. This was his passion and he loves it. You are both happy and love that he is able to use his skills to provide entertainment and joy to the world. That you know video games have been a staple for decades, have produced some of the brightest, most creative people of our time, are still gaining popularity, and will soon take over football as a national sport to watch. That the facts show that what has been touted about gaming in the news is anything but the truth. Games are not all about violence, hatred, or evil. Over 75% of the games produced today have no violence in them at all. So if you (as in the person picking at your husband's job) are going to stand there and admonish my husband's passion, then it would be best if we part ways here.

Give them something to think about, and be secure in your response. People who are more focused on your husband making video games and hating that part of him are not worth your time.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

It's that time again!

With all of the PAX South talk and gaming, I have neglected The Geek Spot's one true love - internet hunting for some of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming stories of the week. We hope you can forgive us for this grave error. So we'll have a super-sized version of the Weekly Link Round Up for you to enjoy.

- Nintendo released a Super Smash Bros. video of all 7 downloadable fighters released since March of 2015. And for some reason it's blowing up my Facebook feed this morning. I don't know why...they are all available characters. It's not like it's ground-breaking news. There's no new content, but whatever floats your boat.

 - Kojima is launching a YouTube channel called Hideo Tube and the first video may be released today, with his top 10 movie picks of 2015. He's been promoting the channel in both Japanese and English, so it's likely that they are producing these with English subtitles (and you don't have to fiddle with YouTube's inaccurate CC). The channel sounds like it's more of a fun project for Kojima, and not intended as an extension of his new gaming deal with Sony. Kojima is already joking about the content being produced will mostly center around movies, and that shouldn't be a surprise. His games are filled with so many movie references, it'd make the average film student quiver in fear.

- Entertainment CheatSheet is gracing us with a list of 5 Video Games Everyone is Sick of Hearing About. I'm going to assume like all lists that this was based on the author's personal opinion, because two of the games mentioned have only been recently picked up steam among gaming blogs and forums - No Man's Sky and The Witness. And the latter is silly to tack onto the list, given the game was released late January and people are engrossed in the puzzle antics. So of course people are talking about it. The game was recently released.

I have no qualms about the rest of the list. I think we're all tired of The Last Guardian, which keeps getting touted every E3 for the past 5 years, and has been in development since 2009. At this point, I've given up on following any content on TLG until a physical copy of the final game is in my hands.

- Metro UK has a sound-off series for gamers to send in their opinions and open-ended questions. It probably helps that with the site based in the UK, the content is rather polite and thought-provoking. Less of the hate speech I'm use to seeing, and smacking the spam button on, at The Geek Spot. One gamer asks whether video games can do romance properly? As it stands our only go to is BioWare and they are not always...real, to say the least (I talked to you about your family and that means you want to bang? What?). There's even a thoughtful mini-review on Mario Kart 8. I need to start looking at the UK sites more often. The readers are great!

- When professional, physical athletes are turning to Twitch and YouTube for streaming as extra income, you know gaming is a big deal. Kotaku recently highlighted UFC Champion Demetrious Johnson and his interest in video games. Even with his heavy work our schedule, he still finds time to stream 15 hours a week, and has made a decent wage from it with sponsorship and donations. I'm guessing the random drug inspection that occurred while he was streaming Bloodborne didn't hurt his follower increase either.

Street Fighter II is 25 years old! I was 6 when the game was released and I remember being heavily involved in it at the arcades and again on the Super Nintendo with my brother. My parents trusted me to know the difference between reality and fantasy. Gamasutra reached out to game developers and those within the industry to talk about the legendary game, and for a number of them, #2 changed the landscape of video games.

- The A.V. Club created a list of the 10 Sexiest Video Game Songs. For Valentine's Day, of course. And this isn't a rehash of GTA playlists. This is actually...a pretty good list. All containing original music specifically designed for the games. It ranges from Catherine to Beyond Good and Evil. From the heavy beats to uplifting tempos, I'm actually kind of surprised someone created such an eloquent list. A.V. Club, you get an applause for today.

- A zoo in Melbourne, Australia is letting their corral of orangutans play video games. They state it's to help improve the attitudes and positive welfare of the animals. I think they just want an attraction so people can come in and play against the monkeys. My two cents.

- The Independent Journal Review is not shy to remind us that one time, a video game correctly predicted who would be the next president of the United States. It was 1992 and the game was Power Politics. Bill Clinton won the office, and won in the game. The author of the article ran the game again using the current candidates (though this could be altered dramatically since they are using all current individuals running for the nomination instead of one person to one party) and it's claiming that Mark Rubio will win. In a similar, though different program, it's predicting Hillary Clinton. We'll just have to wait and see if the guesses are correct.

- Adam Clark Estes works as a contributor for Gizmodo. He's 31, the same age as me. And the other day he surrendered his credit card for YouTube Red to watch and review the first episode of PewDiePie's first video series: Scare Pewdiepie. And now he feels old and out of touch with society. The article is not intended to make one depressed. But I found it amusing to have someone of my age exclaim that they feel old and unworthy around today's youth, because of Pewdiepie.

- The ESA is fighting back again, this time on an opinion piece written by the CEO of SuperData Research Inc. Which sounds like the name of a company that would be in a video game, or headed by a Superman villain. The summary of the original opinion was that the ESA is becoming increasingly irrelevant and unhelpful to the gaming industry. We all know that's not true given their extensive history on going to court in support of free speech in games, and providing some of the most comprehensive studies on how people are consuming games. But one aspect SuperData pointed out that could use some work is that the ESA only contains 33 members. While millions support them, it couldn't hurt to open up the group a bit to add in more mobile, indie, and digital developers.

- And finally, I don't know how accurate this story is so please don't shoot the messenger until there are official movie stills by the production company, along with a release date: Sonic the Hedgehog is getting a movie. I'm in denial since so many games are being bought up lately for movie rights, that this could be just another one of those situations. The movie may never come to fruition, and I hope this is the case. The rumor right now is that it would be a live-action, animation hybrid managed by Sony Pictures. Which sounds awful. Sonic does not deal well with humans. This is just a bad idea all around. But seeing how Sonic has never entered the realm of "reality" with humans, I'm wondering if this is even a legit story at all. It just sounds, and smells rotten.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Choppin' Wood with Amazon's Lumberyard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Unravel Brings In The Charm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 08, 2016

So Long to GameTrailers

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

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

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

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

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