Thursday, March 31, 2016

Microsoft Survey - Sell Back Your Digitial Games?

Microsoft began sending out the survey just over a week ago, and one popped into my e-mail last night. The focus was on digital games - general service, practices, and how people would respond to a buy-back program. If buying back digital products sounds weird, well it does. Typically with any PC game or digital item, once it's purchased that's it. There are no returns. The exception being the more recent rules for defective games or purchases under a certain time-frame/game-time if you have buyers remorse. It's okay. It happens. But games that have been long since completed and are taking up space on your XBox, PC, or PlayStation, those are pretty much there until you opt to remove them - and then download it again weeks later when a friend bugs you to play.

In the survey, Microsoft is looking into how people would respond to a buy-back system for digital games at 10% of the product's value. Keep in mind that survey's are not always proof that something will happen. Case in point: Rock Band. A survey was issued in 2010 and the latest game did not go the route a number of us were hoping. I'm still waiting on my Led Zepplin Rock Band. Just saying... But surveys can be used to gauge interest, and determine if changes or new programs would result in a response worth the investment (for time, manpower, and management).

There are few details listed on the Microsoft survey. It doesn't state if that 10% buy-back was for the original retail price of the digital product, or the current price (as it drops over time). It doesn't list any exclusions, because surely some publishers would be against this program and would have their products exempt. Nor does it state if the refund would be in XBox Live points, if the age of the game matters, and what would happen to achievements. This survey is purely hypothetical.

Some pro's to the buy-back program with digital products: free up hard drive space on your system. Get a little bit of cash back for games you no longer play, and put the funds towards a new purchase. Even at 10%, that's still something.

Con's would be the low buy-back percentage would be even less then some physical games, and for games that only cost $4.99, that's only 49 cents in return. Is the game worth the hassle for a buy-back at that point? And there's a question of if you want to purchase the game again in the future, can you get a discount for having previously owned it, or do you need to pay full price once more? What about receiving the game as a gift, or as part of a trade - are those products eligible for buy-back?

We'll see what happens in the coming years. Maybe Microsoft will surprise us with the buy-back program.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

Kicking off the Round Up a little earlier then usual. Lots of gaming news is on the loose today and it would be a disservice to you, as the reader, to not fill up your brain this morning. So here's a look at what's going on in the gaming world today:


- After a decade, SquareEnix is FINALLY going to announce the release date of Final Fantasy XV though a live stream event that will take place this evening - 10PM EST, 7PM PST. They are also asking fans to record themselves during the event and post reaction videos of the announcements where you could win a copy of the game (not on release date, of course). So edit those videos fast, because they are only accepting entries for up to 2 hours after the live stream. I will be fast asleep by then. I stopped caring about FF15 when they decided to make female Cid the least-respectably dressed female mechanic ever.

Someone used some inane glitches in Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo to make it like Flappy Bird. Basically it gives Mario the ability to fly and swoop through levels, thus avoiding a number of obstacles along the way. What makes it so impressive is that the person who came up with this did nothing to the game. No hacks. No crossing wires. These are all glitches that exist in the original version, combined into one.

- Speaking of Nintendo, more rumors are spreading about it's next system: NX. Between the fake controller that someone made with a 3D Printer and claimed it was the real deal, to release dates, it's hard to tell what is or isn't real at this point with so much misinformation spreading. So pro-tip time: unless the words are coming directly out of the mouth of a Nintendo executive, do not believe it. That's the only way to secure the truth at this rate. There are just too many stories to corroborate what is and isn't real - and Nintendo has been tight lipped on the subject. Best to wait until E3 when they talk about the console.

- Pokémon Go had more features announced yesterday., such as finally being able to customize your trainer's look (20 years and we're just now getting to this, Nintendo?), inventory limits (so no infinite bag of holding), and just like the past games in order to get a Pokémon into your Pokédex you have to encounter them. The game is currently in beta testing in Japan.

- And hey, more rumors! Sony's PlayStation 4.5 (with 4k resolution) is expected to be released prior to the PlayStation VR this October. While there is no confirmation on the date, what Sony has said is that this system is intended for a full 4k setup. The current PS4 does not have the ability to read 4k, both in the Blu-Ray drive and it's optical cables. Thus the need for a new system. No price point has been announced, but none of us can imagine it'll be more expensive then the VR, which is set at $399, without the PS camera.

- Welcome back the the Round Up WhatCulture! This time they have a list on 10 Incredible Video Games that you can complete in a few hours. And per usual, most of this list is crap. It's asking you to speed through the game and not really immerse yourself into the experience. Such as P.T. Why on Earth would you only give that game 2 hours to play? Unless you scare yourself, then good enough. Same with Until Dawn. That's not a 4 hour game. Easily 8 if you take the time to listen to the story, weigh your options (when you don't have those split second decisions to make) and TRY to keep everyone alive. I mean...that's totally possible! They also list Uncharted 2 and The Stanley Parable. Just...no. No no no no. Please do not rush through those games. Never. You are doing yourself a disservice by speeding. WhatCulture, you have disappointed me once again!

- Nerding it up to a new level, Canadian artist Kay Pike uses YouTube to transform herself into geek icons such as Superman by painting herself. It is really cool to watch as she turns into the comic version of these characters, as if they jump off the page and into reality.

- VR Sex as predicted by a 1993 news article. It is safe for work, and it is interesting to read just how incredibly off-key everyone perceived VR back in the day. At that time, the only VR tech available to the home consumer was the VirtuaBoy. And that was pretty bad. But the mock-up of the headgear itself? It's not that far off from what the Occulus Rift has become. Minus the giant dick. Keep it classy Kotaku.


- Finally, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D is on Steam. Right now. One of the greatest PC games of the 1990's is back! So why are you still reading this blog post? Go get it and play. Now!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Overwatch Character Change On the Radar

Overwatch, the upcoming Blizzard MMO-FPS, stumbled into controversy once more after a recent announcement by the game's director, Jeff Kaplan. The victory pose for the character Tracer, a female in a tight body suit, is going to be changed after a vast amount of input by beta testers felt that the action pandered to the male gaze while stripping down the power behind Tracer's persona - in a figurative sense. Tracer is spunky, quirky, and energetic. She isn't portrayed as sexy in an overtly conventional sense like another character in the game, Windowmaker (with a plunging neckline that would make Sharon Stone blush). To have an over the shoulder, hip popping pose, with her butt as the focal point is absurd. And the development team seemed to agree, thus issuing the statement that Tracer's pose was going to change. Some people were okay with it, and others are not.

The thread on the Blizzard forums are fairly polite, all things considered. But the claim among the internet is that the developers are caving into feminists and naysayers to try and attract that audience. Yadda, yadda, yadda. You all know how this argument goes.

I do agree that the pose should be changed. It doesn't showcase Tracer's attitude or personality. It's falling back on a tried and true trope of a pretty girl in a skin-tight suit. Therefore they must show off her butt (think what you will of Anita Sarkeesian, there's so much truth in the butt video that it hurts). The hip pop and her face being partially obscured only helps enhance where our focus should be - on her butt. I don't have a problem with a sexy pose, but it doesn't enhance the character's traits. It's merely a tool to sell Tracer's body and not her abilities as a fighter. It's like Cammy from Street Fighter. Cammy is one of my favorites in the franchise, but I despise her pose. Even with recent iterations that showcase more of her flexibility with the sway of her back bends, it's still a butt-centric victory pose that demeans the character.

Thumbs up to Blizzard for listening to their audience and realizing that this wasn't the route to go for Tracer.

As mentioned in the beginning, this isn't the first time Blizzard has been in trouble with the representation of women in Overwatch. When the game was initially announced at BlizzCon 2014, they showed off the designs for 3 female characters. All tall, thin, in tight bodysuits, and showing almost no diversity in body and face types. The only noticeable differences were skin and hair colors, and one happened to have more armor on her shoulders. Whoopie doo. A number of people were really unhappy about this, and rightfully so. It's 2014. You have a cast of very diverse male characters, short, tall, red, brown, green, purple, yellow, skinny, overweight, muscular, robotic, and everything in between! But we can only have 3 women who all look the same? That's poor character design.

About 6-8 months later, Blizzard announced Zarya to the cast: a female tank character that is muscle-bound and provides another class option that wasn't available to the other female toons. While there are some Blizzard "fans" and bugs on the internet who will claim that the studio is pandering to women and feminists, these changes are showing true, and necessary, progression in the industry.


Edit 3/29/16 - 11:30 am: Yeash. My social media feed blew up with this story. Everything from "this is Blizzard trying to drum up more press" to "SJW (social justice warriors) shut up!"

Here's my opinion: Blizzard has said NOTHING about removing all instances of sexuality and sexyness from the game. Windowmaker in all of her V neck glory and her fanservice poses are still there. The people who made the case against Tracer's pose mention nothing about the other characters of the game. They presented a thoughtful argument that the pose worked against Tracer's persona, and Blizzard agreed. The game is still in beta. With beta testing, people will make suggestions on how the company can improve on the product and, gasp, the developers will listen and determine if the suggestions are worth the investment. Who would have thought that in this day and age that beta tests worked like that?

Sarcasm aside, people. Chill out over this one change. Blizzard was always iffy about the pose, and their thoughts were confirmed by people in the beta test. They are making the change to better fit the character's personality. It's a good change. Deal with it. You can still get your fanservice and sexy from Widowmaker. Or play Street Fighter V. Lots of inappropriate butt shots in that game.

I have no issue with sexy characters - it all depends on how they are presented. And in the case of Tracer it didn't work. She's sexy in her own, funky, unique way. She doesn't need to pander and act like Widowmaker to be sexy. She needs to be herself, and that's what Blizzard is trying to do.

Monday, March 28, 2016

It's an eSports World Ripe for Commentators

The Toronto Star jumped into the expanding realm of eSports commentators, and the rising fandom behind video game matches. While it can be fun, being a commentator for any sport is a lot of hard work, and paychecks can be inconsistent. Most people think of sports commentators as the team working for ESPN, but that's just one facet of the market. There are also the minor league teams, high school athletics, middle school athletics, little league baseball, just to name a few. To be a commentator of any kind requires lots of repetition, knowing every and all aspects of a game, and being incredibly flexible. You can start out with one train of thought to talk about action on the field, and then you have to switch it up on the fly when something happens. And because sports have seasons, in order to maintain those paychecks all year you have to be knowledgeable in multiple sports - football, baseball, and hockey will get you through the year.

A good commentator is not only about having vast knowledge of the game, but being able to relate the most complex components to an audience at large. Not everyone is going to understand football, but if you can make the content relate-able to them, they may stick around for a few more minutes and who knows! You could capture a new fan for life.

eSports commentators are no different. And in a rapidly growing field, they are in high demand for online videos, live tournaments, gaming expos, and the like. A number of movie theaters are getting in on the action by investing into gaming tournaments to fill up empty theater space - Cineplex Entertainment in Canada has invest $15 million into such a venture. Cinemark and iPic in the U.S. have been testing this out as well over the past year.

Whether it's League of Legends or Call of Duty, you have to approach each game differently. With the high action of League, you'll find that the commentators tend to focus more on game play, and less on off-beat, humerus commentary. CoD has lulls in the play that allow commentators to talk about the gamers, their history, and provide more insight. The universal truth, as with any sports, is that fans will call you out if you don't know your stuff. So it's important to not only comment, but play; be up to date on the newest patches and content. We've all seen how vitriol some gamers can be. Imagine that on your social media feed daily if you don't properly call a game.

It's a lot of work for very little reward. Most eSports commentators are not sponsored. They don't have a standard 9-5 job. They don't have a typical paycheck. You have to stretch all of your resources to get a gig, and it'll probably be very low pay for a while.

You'll find a number of the more well known eSports commentators are working constantly, alongside having an active YouTube Channel and Twitch stream. Your visual presence everywhere will keep you on the forefront of everyone's minds. It's just as important as knowing your stuff. You could be fantastic at calling CoD games, but if no one knows who you are, then it's moot.

TLDR: eSports commentating sounds fun, but it's just as rough as any sports commentator. Do it because you love it, because you're sure to hate it some days. And if you think it's all about riffing and making jokes, you better look again. The top commenters can sometimes reach 350 words per minute - focusing solely on the match. I bet they go through gallons of water daily.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Non-Compete Brings Legal Case Against Studio Wildcard

Trouble is brewing for Studio Wildcard. The developer behind the surprise Steam hit Ark:Survival Evolved, a game where you are dropped off on an island full of dinosaurs and you have to hunt, build, and tame said dinosaurs in order to survive, was sued in December of 2015 by Dungeon Defenders developer Trendy Entertainment. In the lawsuit, Trendy claims that one of their former employees, creative designer Jeremy Stieglitz, is in a breach of contract. The legal documents state that Stieglitz signed a non-compete with Trendy and a no-solicitation clause.

Trendy also argues that Wildcard was being aggressive in interfering with the contracts, have impacted Trendy's business, and is directly competing with them for players and employees.

This is the point where I point out that Dungeon Defenders is an RPG Tower Defense game while Ark: Survivial Evolved is an action-adventure RPG. I don't imagine many people would go from the toonish-world of Defenders to the gritty, rabid landscape of Ark with ease. I'm not convinced on the "direct competition" stance.

The reason this is coming to light now is that a court date has been set for April 27. Wildcard claims that Stieglitz's knowledge of their studio was being used against them in the development of Ark. Trendy argues that was not that case, and Stieglitz did not have a major role on the project.

Non-compete contracts are tricky. Most retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Target, GameStop, will have one in place to prevent you from work for their competitor while you currently work with aforementioned business. When I worked for GameStop, I had to sign one of those contracts. And I understood why: they didn't want to have me represent GameStop at other places of business, or vice-versa. But when I left, I was allowed to work wherever I pleased as long as I didn't give away any company knowledge (which is a different contract entirely).

My more recent job that I left after 3 months (worse, employer, ever), had me sign the other kind of non-compete. This was the multi-year one that can royally screw you over when seeking new work. Basically you sign away your right to every work for that business type for a set amount of time. It could be 6 months (standard minimum) or up to 5 years. If you work for a plumbing business, for example, and they have you sign this type of non-compete, it can prevent you from working for another plumbing business in your city/state for up to 5 years.

That. Sucks. A lot.

And for a company to do that is all kinds of balls. If you have studied to be a plumber, work hard, do decently, but if you quit or you're let go, then that's it. You have to wait until that contract expires before you can work for another plumbing business. Now imagine that's your only career skill. You haven't done office work before. You haven't been in a call center - you're a plumber. That's your work. And now you've had that taken away from you for the next 6 months to 5 years.

Those type of non-competes are jerk moves. Companies claim that it's to protect their trademarks and business practices from being shared with competitors. Well then...have them sign a non-disclosure agreement. Don't take away that person's only means of obtaining work. Yeash!

When it comes to video games, having this type of non-compete seems extreme. But that's up to the courts to decide.

Wildcard is asking the court to dismiss the allegations; that this is an extension of the bad blood between Stieglitz and Trendy and should not involve the Ark developer. If the lawsuit is allowed to take the next step, it's very possible that Ark will be removed from Steam and XBox Live throughout the court proceedings.

Now, Stieglitz is not the golden child in this story. He's done some crap in the past that is questionable. While at Trendy, his leadership borderlined on insane with the work demands he had on his team, and allegations of sexual harassment. A number of people at the studio complained about him and after an investigation, Stieglitz was removed. According to Wildcard he acted as a consultant for Ark, not long after leaving Trendy, and did not have direct influence on the game.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

I'm in a peppy mood today. Not only will I be covering the opening of the National Videogame Museum next Saturday for a few media outlets, I've been asked to help open the doors for the first time at it's permanent home, and greet guests as my cosplay self. Yea! So let's have a good ol' Weekly Link Round Up!

- Network World is celebrating 30 years of tech magazine news with a review of some of the tech greatness over the decades with one of their key columnists. While some of you may roll your eyes, it always amazes me at how fast technology has advanced since the 1980's. In 30 years we have gone from huge blocky cell phones that required a briefcase to charge, to a device that is as powerful as a computer. It's mind blowing. Even if you haven't been exposed to tech from the 80's, it's good to remember just how far we have evolved.

- And if you want to stick to retro, check out some "vintage" Atari ads from the 1980's. What I find funny is that some of the ads look awefully like GameStop's magazine and newspaper ads. Some things never change.

- CityMetric wants to talk about game maps. Apparently game maps say a lot about the game itself. "Map design of this type suggests a design philosophy that is aware of the importance of a sense of adventure in a large open world environment – but one that’s keen not to waste your time if you’re just there to shoot people." Okay, I can get on board with that logic. Sadly the article falls flat by not expounding on the idea. Good try, though!

- Motherboard covers games and jobs. Specifically how more simulators are now taking on real world applications. There's truck driving, alongside goat and bears. This is one of the more in-depth articles I have read in quite some time. It will take a bit of your time, so be prepared. But it's clear that a lot of research went into this - showcasing how the simulators offer rewards and benefits that the IRL counterpart could learn from.

- The AIAS and ESA are opening submissions to an art show titled " Into the Pixel." The collection will be premiered at E3 this year. Unfortunately you do have to pay for submissions and not every piece will be accepted. Most who enter are artists working for developers, providing in-game renders of final pieces or concept art. Still, it's a nifty way to have your work showcased in a new light.

- Hate the Resident Evil movies? Good. So does a columnist on The Escapist. So if you need someone to commiserate with you on how much you dislike those films, you have a comrade in arms.

- And no Round Up is completely with a WhatCulture list. This one focuses on 10 Video Games that are a victim of their own success. Well...okay then! On the list are World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto III, and The Sims 4. Like a traditional WhatCulture list, this is 100% click bait. But in-between the crappy suggestions like Sims 4 (seriously, it's got a huge following, how is it a victim?) some of the poignant choices, like Assassin's Creed, are overlook. With AssCreed the victims are the fans. With the push for a yearly release cycle, quality and innovation have suffered. The release of Unity showcased all that is wrong with the franchise: too much emphasis on turning out a product, less on making a good game. People bought it because of the name, and blasted it for the same reason. Another valiant attempt WhatCulture. Keep trying. You'll get there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Nintendo Is Not Cancelling the Wii-U Yet

So let's take a breather everyone, before we all start foaming at the mouth at the knee-jerk reactions people are having. Yesterday Japanese publication Nikki started the rumor that the Wii-U would soon be ending production during the later half of 2016. They cite reasons such as the console (I think it's safe to call it that now) having low popularity and sales, difficulty for developers to conform games to the platform, and a new system will be announced soon to overtake the Wii-U. We already know about the later, code-named "NX" will probably make an appearance at E3 this year. But having a new console is not a good reason to end another. Nintendo is known for long life-cycles with systems, just like Sony, and produced previous generation systems, Gamecube, Super Nintendo, etc., while newer units were on the market.

As it stands as of right now, nearly 8am on Wednesday morning, 3/23/16, Nintendo is not confirming the rumor. A Nintendo spokesperson spoke to Japanese site IT Media: "This isn’t an announcement from our company. From the next quarter and thereafter as well, production [of the Wii U] is scheduled to continue.”

So why are people taking the rumor seriously? Nikki has a strong track record of accuracy with Nintendo stories. And given the poor performance to the Wii-U compared to it's predecessor (the Wii sold 67 million units world-wide by it's third year, while the Wii-U has hit 12 million in the same time frame), it's not an unfair assumption to make. Even the likes of Mario Maker, Super Smash Bros., and Splatoon last year didn't boost sales as much as Nintendo would have liked. The drop of third-party support from big publishers like EA doesn't help the Wii-U's case, either. And then there's the marketing...is it a peripheral? Is it a system? I don't know, and neither did the public for the longest time.

For those who are looking into a Wii-U this year, maybe wait it out until E3 to see what Nintendo's official stance is. There is supporting evidence from their years of business that indicates that they won't drop the Wii-U until long after the new system is up and running. We also can't forget about Amiibos. The sales of those suckers are still quite well, and they currently only work with the Wii-U and Nintendo 3DS XL (unless you get the separate reader/writer accessory). I doubt Nintendo is going to drop support on a product that works with one of their top selling items so suddenly. Give it a few years...or wait until E3 when the big announcements are made.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Public to Nintendo: Fix Mario Maker's Online System

Nintendo has a huge problem brewing with Mario Maker. The company's questionable practices for deleting levels is coming to light, particularly after a story posted on Kotaku by one speed-run streamer, who makes a living off of Mario Maker levels, GrandPOOBear.

I've played this game and I like it a lot. Though I don't have a Wii-U, I still crash at friend's places to play on occasion. It's Little Big Planet but for Mario. It's something fans have been wanting for years and to feel a connection to the plumber in the red suit. You can re-create classics or making something brand new and really warp people's minds. RPG stories have been created through the game, as well as crazy, over the top difficult that you have to wonder if Satan himself made the level. It's fandom in a way that has yet to be reached where Nintendo promotes creativity of their customers.

Sometime late 2015/early January 2016, Nintendo began deleting levels without providing any reason to their customers. Note: Nintendo's policy on Mario Maker has stated since the beginning that they can delete a level that is "unpopular" after a set period of time. The problem is they never outlined what "unpopular" is. Even levels that have been up for just a few days, not enough time to earn Stars, are taken down in accordance to Nintendo's unexplained policy.

Instead of likes a level can be ranked by Stars. The more Stars, the more popular your level is. Unlike Little Big Planet, however, once your stage is pulled by Nintendo you can't re-upload it. It's gone. If you want to put it back up, you have to make it from scratch. They also have a very easy reporting system so someone can flag your level and Nintendo will pull it. Trolling has since been a big problem, and the only resolution Nintendo can provide is that you call them and make a case on why your level should be reinstated.

First question that comes to mind is why Nintendo is deleting the levels at all? Yeah some of them are not going to be popular or the best of the best, but part of the game is that you can upload and share your level with friends and family. It's in the experience - says so on the box. By taking away that feature you're limiting your content to just the user and their system and that seems very anti-Nintendo (which harps on the group gaming experience). My logic on this is simple: if Little Big Planet and the tens of millions of levels can exist for years, so can all of the levels on Mario Maker. It's through the mistakes that we learn, improve, and create better levels. By taking them down as we experiment is a slap in the face to the designer; why bother making another level if Nintendo is just going to remove it?

The story has really taken off since GrandPOOBear was featured on Kotaku and his struggles with Nintendo. He initially had a level pulled from the game several months ago, one that had a high amount of Stars, without a reason (like so many others). He contacted Nintendo and recorded the conversation - the rep had no idea why his level was pulled either. There were no infractions for cheating or harassment. Rather it had to do with the name of the level where the word Poo was used, to tie it back into his gamer tag. And with Nintendo's policies, he couldn't change the name and re-upload the level. Once it's pulled, it's pulled. He asked to have the level reviewed, which means all of his levels would be checked for infractions - a gamble to be certain. A week later he received a call from Nintendo that his level would be reinstated. Huzzah! A win for the little guy!

Not so much. Turns out the rep misspoke and his level stayed offline permanently. A month later, all of his levels were removed. Obviously GrandPOOBear feels that he's being targeted since he's one of the few streamers that has publicly called out Nintendo on their poor practices with pulling levels. And since he makes a living off of streaming levels he's created and played, his score going back to 0 hurts his reputation. Another nugget of info to add: if your levels are removed so are all of the Stars that you've earned. So you can have an account with 500 Stars and they'll be gone. Just like that. Wow...thanks Nintendo.

The second point, and part of the argument that I've heard, is that this is how Nintendo has always been. You play their way or not at all. Which is all fine and good but it doesn't work when you add an online element to a game that requires a community for it to thrive. At that point, you have to loosen up the rules a bit or you'll face backlash for being too restrictive on creative freedom. Someone decides to spell Mario as Maria? Don't delete the level. You're creating bad juju with your community that they'll stop playing and the game will die. Nintendo needs to figure out a way to balance their rules with an online system that works. And provide their Customer Service Reps the tools needed to help resolve issues instead of placing blame on an automated system they have no control over.

The third issue I've seen arise is that GrandPOOBear didn't approach the situation tactfully by uploading videos of the phone calls. True. But in doing this he's shedding light on a big issue going on with Nintendo right now that has been happening to tens of thousands of users weekly. You can argue about GrandPOO's method, but he's showcasing an issue that people should be aware of.

Nintendo is within their right to police Mario Maker how they see fit. But clear, transparent guidelines would be in their best interest right now given how commonplace the problems are. aka Nintendo needs to get their shiz together on online gaming.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Game Development Crunch Time Needs to be Re-Examined

Remember last week during the Weekly Link Round Up I shared a story from Business Insider regarding the "crunch time" practice that is littered throughout the game development community? At GDC last week announced that the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) would be looking into this, by coming up with more precise data to see how often this situation occurs and develop more practical "crunch time" guidelines for businesses. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it is an archaic system and unfair to a lot of overworked, underpaid staff. Globally. It needs to be addressed.

Kate Edwards, the executive director of IGDA, announced he measures to enhance their current survey system.

"We know it is a persistent problem. Now, what do we do about it?"

VentureBeat interviewed Edwards for more details about the announcement, and what IGDA plans to do to penalize developers if they continue to practice extreme crunch time measures without providing proper compensation. Now what type of action that may be? Well that is yet to be determined. Edwards only mentioned that the companies would get publicly called out for having unfair crunch time practices. Whoopie doo...I don't think EA or Ubisoft would give two cares about their bad behavior going public. They are fully aware of what they do and people still buy their games.

Edwards is looking into creating some type of mechanism or website similar to Glassdoor.com that would allow developers to review their work experiences to an open public so companies can hold themselves a bit more accountable for their actions. While there are no hard numbers, there is some value in having Glassdoor like transparency for both employers and job seekers - such as providing clarity to employees and to customers alike that the business is practicing overtime pay. And the anonymity of this system would help employees be more truthful. The problem with the current survey is that it does mark out who is responding to what business. People are more likely to fudge and give a fluffed up answer to keep their job, instead of being honest and risk a pink slip.

The IGDA is looking to have the new survey and the changes in by Q3 of this year. With so much data already compiled, it's a good start to the program. But developers need a better punishment system then "we'll call you out publicly." If anything, they need to bump it up to putting their membership into jeopardy. Being in the IGDA offers discounts to some of the biggest gaming events of the year (which if you're a developer can be huge with your budgets), access to business and health insurance, tuition reimbursement, immigration assistance, educational resources, and more. If your company has really crappy crunch time practices and your membership to the IGDA was on the line, then yes - that would convince developers to take another look and retool.

It's not a perfect solution, but it's a start.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Miitomo - Nintendo's First Mobile Game

Nintendo's first mobile game, announced last year in a partnership with DeNA for a Spring 2016 release, is out and ready to play.

In Japan.

But don't worry. It'll come stateside soon enough!

Miitomo is a new social app that allows you to create a Mii, similar to the ones on the Nintendo Wii, interact with them, use them in photos, graphs, charts, and chat with other Mii's. The Mii's will even ask about your day. Kind of creepy, given that it's pre-recorded content, but okay. Let's roll with it for now. You can also dress up your Mii and drop money on Miitomo Coins to get fancier items. You get a daily bonus for logging in, so that helps a tiny bit. There is also a mini game called Miitomo Drop, kind of like the crane game. You drop your Mii onto a prize that can be used in the app. Sometimes it's clothing, or it could be more coins and exclusive, limited time items. You need coins to play, sadly.

This sounds similar to the Final Fantasy Portal App, where it's providing some mindless fun for people, and prompting you to spend money on digital goods that have no value. It may expand in the future to include Nintendo news, which would be a welcomed addition. Other then that...enjoy spending you cash!

There is also a concern that there are no content filters built into Miitomo, something that is always a red flag for Nintendo. We don't have a chat system on next-gen consoles from Nintendo for this very reason. So it's odd that Miitomo doesn't include blocks or filtered words. The reasoning behind this is fairly simple: the app requires you to sync to your Facebook and Twitter account if you want to add people to your friend's list. Meaning, they need to already be your friends. You can't friend random people and there is still a report feature for any abuse. But if you want to swear to your friends? Go right ahead.

Let's see how long that lasts.

So far the reviews of the app are positive. Bugs haven't been reported, or if they have they are minor and not really worth the time to note. It's fairly straight forward and easy to consume. The long development time was definitely worth it to have a clean, working app. Even if the content is Mii's playing dress up and you swearing at your friends.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

Praise be to the week that is almost over! It's time for another Weekly Link Round Up. Rejoice!

- The New York Times would like to remind everyone that video games are not just about violence and guns. Who knew? The article is part review of Firewatch, the Steam darling that has taken over the minds of gaming critics over the past month, and a brief glimpse at some of the other thoughtful games over the past year. Linking because it's nice to see larger publications taking notice of games that are not Triple A titles or brewing with media controversy. There is also another piece on the Times about games where there are no positive or happy outcome. Games for change, essentially.

- Romper.com has a list of how video games can teach people to be better parents. Interesting concept...let's take a look! Some of these may seem obvious, but put into a parental perspective where most see games as a waste of time, they are quite enlightening. Such as patience (you need so much in video games, particularly with the likes of Metal Gear Solid where you have to wait before you can sneak), perseverance (don't give up - your kid will learn eventually just like you did in Golden Eye 64), trial and error, and teamwork. But there are also some poignant lessons on this list that can be taken to heart, such as learning that being a show-off or the lead act is overrated. So. True. You and your kids do not need to be the star to have a wonderful life. It can be just as cool to be the sidekick and be happy (see Luigi). And imagination is a powerful tool in not only solving problems within games, but in daily life. Studies prove time and time again that imagination can help boost a child's learning prowess. It's an alternative perspective to using games in daily life; always a thumbs up in my book.

- Business Insider would like to remind you why it sucks to work in the gaming industry. Mostly due to long hours and unpaid overtime, that everyone seems to be okay with. Because hey! You got to work on a video game. 38% of people report going unpaid for extra hours during "crunch time" at the last phase of game development. And a lot of people overlook it because that's just how the industry is. Those who want to make games have such a passion for it that they are okay with being unpaid for a product to be finished. Which can be a real damper on one's mental and physical health over time.

- Curious about which best selling video games were made in Scotland? Well even if you're not, the Scotsman compiled a list of the top games made from their country. Here's the problem...some of those games were not developed in Scotland. The writer and the editor should have fact-checked. Minecraft, for example, was developed in Sweden. Now post release, it's very possible that a studio or two in Scotland helped with additional updates, but the home to Minecraft is Mojang in Sweden. Same thing with Grand Theft Auto. Not developed in Scotland. However, Rockstar has a studio in Scotland called Rockstar North. They took over the series starting with GTA3, but they are not the founders of the game. Fact checking is important, kids!

- This is another one of those "no duh" stories, but if you have any interest in Uncharted 4, you'll want to visit the page for the behind the scenes development video with the updated Nathan Drake. The "um...yeah" portion of the article is that game characters are getting older as series age and so do the developers.

I'll let that wave of shock wash over you for a moment.

Aside from the Captain Obvious moment, the video is pretty nifty with a better look at what to expect in the upcoming game. If you ignore all of the commentary, that is.

- Remember way, way back when Lindsey Lohan attempted to sue Take Two Interactive for using her likeness in GTA5? Not the actress character that is eluding the paparazzi, but the woman in the bikini on the cover, taking a selfie on the beach with a peace sign. Well New York Supreme Court Judge Joan Kenney gave a win to Lohan that the actresses claims are applicable. She's been given an extension to pursue the case further and Take Two's request to dismiss the complaint have been overruled. Lohan's argument was fairly loose to begin with since she wasn't able to provide evidence that the bikini-clad image is her. It's still surprising that she would choose to argue against that instead of the character in the game that is a parody of her. Lohan will have a tough battle ahead if she wants to take this further, as she's had poor luck with legal cases in the past, and Take Two, as well as other developers, have won cases on a similar bases.

- Finally, GDC Award's show hosted a fantastic tribute to Iwata with a 3 minute video. The illustrations are from David Hellman, the developer behind Braid. It's lovely and heart touching on a level I can not describe. Be sure to have tissues ready for this one.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Stream First - Twitch's New Gaming Idea Tested at GDC

Twitch announced earlier this week 2 new programs that they are looking to implement with both developers and gamers to re-tool the streaming service into a more interactive experience. 'Developer Success' would have Twitch working with devs to create apps or in-game content that would allow for easier streaming access when a game is released. The other big idea that people are talking about is 'Stream First'.

The idea is to provide games where streamers and viewers can play and watch in different ways, so that the experience of viewing isn't as passive. These are games that are designed to be streamed, from the ground up. It's not an add-on to the final game. In doing so, it'll prompt developers to re-think of how gamers and viewers play the game together to provide a new experience. At GDC this week, Twitch is showcasing 3 games that are utilizing 'Stream First'; Superfight, Streamline, and Wastelanders. The first is an adaptation of a card game that has you battling and bullsh*tting with super powers. Streamline is an 15-person arena game, that allows the streamer to create games on the fly to prompt viewers to join in and play with them. And Wastelanders is a turn-based strategy game where viewers can alter the decisions of the game by typing in the chat window.

Right now these games are in the early stages of what 'Stream First' is attempting to promote. It doesn't offer much beyond a more advanced chat interface of Twitch plays Pokémon. You talk, the character moves. So they don't give the full range of what 'Stream First' is offering. And right now, it's difficult to imagine a game designed around streaming that is beyond the "text to move" options. Twitch also mentioned in their presentation that there's a focus on the loyalty of audiences to streamers. So that people will be on board if the streamer's are...not exactly a safe marketing tactic.

The content shown on Kotaku with the new program is just okay. It sounds much more promising then the game play itself. Surely as time moves on and more games are developed based on streaming, and less onaudiences being passive and choosing actions for the gamers, it'll turn into something .

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Microsoft Cross-Network Announcement

Has the internet calmed down yet? Hopefully they have by now after Microsoft's announcement yesterday about a future update to the XBox One that would allow for cross-network play. What does that mean? You can play with people on other systems, on the same servers, at the same time, something that Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV gamers have experienced for years. Gasp! How revolutionary!

This is all part of Microsoft's plan with the Windows 10 Universal Windows Applications (UWA), discussed earlier this month. Any platform using Windows 10 can talk to other units and allow for better user integration of technology. While some may disagree with the premise, as it potentially locks in Microsoft to be the end-all be-all of PC content, to have a company as big as Microsoft open to the idea of cross-network/cross-platform play is a step forward for gaming.

So before you get too excited about the prospects of cross-network play, no one else has agreed to this outside of Microsoft. Sony, Nintendo, Ubisoft, EA, Rockstar Games, none of them have given a green-light to the process. And the vast majority of games on the market right now were not developed with this feature in mind, or with the UWA built in, because cross-networking was never a thing. It opens up a new door of possibilities, and legal issues. When an idea or property signs a contract with Sony, they now have to look into the implications of using that content on another platform. More money would have to change hands (if a property is going to be on multiple systems, any owner would want more money for the rights) and you lose exclusivity. Not to mention, Sony would have to play ball with Microsoft's UWA: read that as more money to Microsoft, less to Sony. I'm not even going to get into the issue of advertising within video games (which opens up a new level of legal headaches when you bring in advertisers).

It's a lot of little details to think about. And it's not something where Sony and the rest of the gaming field can provide an answer overnight.

Rocket League will be the first game to get the cross-platform treatment. Again we'd like to point out that this would exclude non-Microsoft systems/consoles. Rocket League's cross-platform will only pertain to the XBox One and PC's with Windows 10. Unless Sony decides they want in on the deal.

Lots to think about today, but don't get too excited until the rest of the gaming execs decide on a response. All of them need to determine if this is a good outlet for their business, or if console exclusivity is a better realm.


Update 3/16/16: Sony has responded to GameSpot, seeking comment about Microsoft's invitation. While they did not address them directly, they did state that they would be open to speaking with publishers and developers about cross-platform possibilities, and referenced Final Fantasy XI as an example as a past success. But did not provide a direct answer to "yes or no" that they would work with Microsoft.

Monday, March 14, 2016

SXSW Panels On Online Harassment - We Need New Voices and Ears

There looked to be an interesting article on Forbes today, which reports 56% of gamers prefer to game alone. However with the changes to their website to promote anti-ad blocking (that nearly every user has to pass through their "check" screen to proceed) and then inundating their users with advertisements, I couldn't get past the first sentence without having to mute and smack X on every ad on the screen - and giving up and looking for something else to spend my time reading. So...thanks Forbes for once again confirming why everyone hates all of the advertisements and we just want our news. Ads are fine. But they shouldn't take up the entire screen and control the volume. The ads are so bad I'm not even linking to the article. So if you can find it on your own, hopefully it's a decent read. If you have any script or ad-blocking software, be prepared to turn them off and mute your speakers.

So let's talk about harassment in video games. Because we haven't posted about that 6 ways to Sunday. But it's important after this weekends SXSW conference kicked off with an entire day devoted to online harassment. If you recall in October, SXSW originally cancelled two panels covering the topic after the conference and the presenters received multiple threats of violence. The panelists wanted to continue, but after the car crash in 2014 that killed multiple people, the conference has been on edge and looked to safety first. A number of people complained about the cancellations, enough for SXSW to re-examine the panels and devote an entire day to online harassment. Clearly if people are going to send in death threats over a panel, it needs to be talked about. They moved the venue for the panels to a hotel across the river from the Austin Convention Center, beefed up security, and made it known at every panel that if you leave something behind the Austin police will deem it a threat and destroy whatever it is. Harsh. But understandable. SXSW didn't want to play around. The day-long series included former state senator Wendy Davis and a number of national names that have felt the brunt of online harassment.

Here's the downside: very few people attended that were not female or reporters. SXSW also cancelled one of the live-streamed events that was promised to the panelists. A few people remarked that if these panels were about online creativity or open-sharing there would be a more equal ratio of male to female in the audience. It also didn't help that the panels were taking place at another location off-site from the main SXSW activities. Given how terrible traffic is during the season, it's easily 15-20 minutes by car or bike, up to 30 by walking.

Maybe that's the thing we should be focusing on. These panels were so poorly planned in location, staffing, the over-zealous security (where nothing happened), and how repetitive the topic is to those who have heard it before. The panels didn't reach out to new voices - only to those who have been at the forefront of the debate since the beginning. It's not going to change the culture of online harassment until others hear about the issues. We need new voices in the community and new ears to take in the message.

Some of my male friends are still amazed to hear that I'm harassed when I'm playing a game. It's easy to forget, or overlook, that we're not as progressive of a society as we like to think we are. The government is quite persistent on regulating the health and welfare of women's bodies. Men? Not so much. Rogaine and Viagra are not taxed (only the male versions, mind you - the female counterparts are still taxed) but tampons and sanitary pads are (a medical need for 50% of the world). What an awesome first world country we live in that cares about women's rights!

Sarcasm aside, a number of men are unaware of online harassment being an issue until they face it themselves. And a simple block/report/ignore does not work because there is no punishment towards the harasser. It also further justifies the "just stay quiet" mindset people have regarding such situations (see sexual assault victims). Extreme? Maybe. But if you're reading this and you're not a woman, you probably don't know how often we are threatened with violence, assault, etc. on a daily basis when it comes to the internet.

Short of stopping every man on the street and shaking them to listen, think about their own grandmothers, mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, cousins, granddaughters going through the same thing, I don't know how to get them to listen. We need some ideas and progressive thought put into this to open up people's minds and see just how serious this really is.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Diablo 2 Still Getting Upgrades!

You know what's cool about Blizzard? They really try to do the best for their customers and keep patching games long after their release. Sometimes even decades later! That's the surprise a number of Diablo II players received this week when Blizzard released version 1.14a, which includes an installer for MAC OSX, fixes some glitches, and boosted the hardware so the game can run on modern machines. Though it's been 5 years since the last patch, enough people are still playing the game that Blizzard felt it was worth the time investment.

Blizzard does plan to issue another patch in the future (no ETA on the date yet) and work on fixes to weed out hackers and bots. Still, if you're a fan now you have a bigger reason to be. In an age where games older then a year tend to get shelves by developers (unless it's an MMO), this is really refreshing to see. Thanks Blizzard!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Longer Games Destorying Industry?

The market is saturated with too many "long" games. That's the argument of today's topic, courtesy of The Verge and an article by Rich McCormick. The center of said argument is that they are time wasters, offering repetitive content that can be found in any other game, and don't improve the gaming landscape. (I'm expounding upon the initial article since the crux of the piece focuses on how much time it takes to finish a game - you have to read in-between the lines).

While a number of you may think that's crazy talk, because we're finally in an era where developers realize that we won't pay $62.99 for a 5 hour game, for those of us with school and jobs to handle, games can take a lot out of our limited free time to play through. Even MOBA's such as League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm can offer an hour or two of relaxation, but the games are designed to hook you so you'll return again, and again, and again. Taking up more of your precious free time to game it up. And when you're an adult, free time really is precious. Obviously I can't speak for everyone, but I know for my life the hours that I do get to game are few and far between. Funny, since I run a gaming blog. It is what it is. I have an 8 to 5 job, as well as my cosplay hobby, and I work a secondary job as a freelancer, and I handle social media for another company, and I try to have a social life outside of all of this - it's a butt to keep up with on some days that gaming takes a back seat. I have to make time for it. So when a product boasts 50 hours of game play, of course I need to sit and consider if it's worth my time.

And then I go and play Dragon Age: Inquisition 3 times and don't bat an eyelash at my 90 hour game time for one character. Priorities! I have them.

In fairness to the blog and to my game life, I have been carving out more time to pick up some of these longer titles. And I can understand McCormick's perspective in regards to the time-sucks that are video games these days. It doesn't offer you the opportunity to play a lot of games. The developers want you to keep playing their product and theirs alone. That's why there's DLC and microtransactions to keep you hooked. The longer the game, the more likely you're going to stay to finish it. If it hooks you, that is. Destiny and League didn't do it for me, and that's okay. Not everyone game is going to grab your attention.

But I don't think the market is saturated with longer games. I think it's centering too much on games asking for more money after the initial purchase, but too many long games? Nah. While it does create the issue of "which game do I play" it's also allowing developers to provide more story and character content then we've seen before. My biggest gripe with God of War III was the lack of a compelling narrative. It's Kratos still going on his journey to kill Gods and Goddesses in a gory fashion. Whoopie. I'd imagine that a 20 hour journey would have been stellar and opened up the depths of Kratos psyche that we haven't seen before. However the reduced time frame of the game really left it to hack, slash, and moving forward to kill more "bad guys."

We also have a myrid of really great indie games that are short and sweet, filling in those gaps of time where we only have a few hours to play, while still receiving great content.

Does the repetitive nature of the longer games get exhausting? Sometimes. I could do without the myriad of escort quests in Final Fantasy XIV, but I'm not required to do those quests. Just like a number of these longer games, you have options for missions on how to approach them and if you want to do them at all.

Keep in mind that you don't have to play one of the long games. It's your wallet. You choose what you want to pay and play. I think McCormick's article makes sense to those who mirror his lifestyle. When you have a job that requires you to play games, then yes. That's a lot to get through. But for the average person? I'll take the longer games. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

What? You didn't think we'd leave you hanging after the mini Link Round Up on Monday, did you? The full blown version is here with all the good, and weird, gaming news of the week. Here's what we've found so far:

- For those who were not online yesterday, it was International Women's Day, and everyone was smacking it in our faces to remind us how awesome women are. (You know what would make it more awesome? Gender equality, removing luxury taxes on tampons and Maxi pads, and equal pay for equal work. Just saying...) Last year Art-Eater posted an article about the woman in Japanese gaming that influenced some of the biggest designs and characters that are a part of our history - and it was circling again yesterday. Fantastic read for those who want to learn a little more about our video game past.

- With very little fanfare and almost no notice, Amazon Japan will now ship video game hardware and software intentionally. That's a big deal, if you didn't know, even if the Engadget article seems less then impressed. Why? Imports are hella expensive. A number of games and consoles are limited to a Japanese or Asian only release and never make their way state-side. The FF13 JP PS3 console comes to mind (that looked a million times cooler then the NA version they gave us). Economic and production restrictions would not allow for these items to make their way overseas without a really hefty price on your wallet. But now...it's possible! There are restrictions still, but worth the hurdles: the items can only be bought from Amazon Japan. No third party sellers, so it has to be an item in stock in an Amazon facility. Shipping is a $10 minimum (which is very reasonable for an international order). And not everything will ship still (there are some country restrictions that they can't override). But for collector's, this is awesome. Imports made easier! Rejoice!

- It's not a weekly Link Round Up without a WhatCulture list. This time it's the 10 Most Hated Video Game Characters of All Time. Hate is such a strong word. And this list is kind of bogus. I'll agree with the Duck Hunt Dog because he was incredibly annoying when you cackled at your missed shots. Maybe Ashley from Resident Evil 4 for having to lead her around the game and keeping her safe (RE4 is one long NPC escort mission). But what happened to Natalya from GoldenEye 64? She was a terrible, annoying character! Not just in how she was portrayed, but awful game mechanics. This list needs a re-make. Badly.

- Maybe their second list, 15 Horror Games That Failed to Scare, will make up for it. Yep! We have 2 WhatCulture lists this week. And some of the titles on this list could quality more for it's gimmicky antics, less on the "scare" factor. I don't know if this makes up for the last list, but it's a start. You'll find "winners" such as Friday the 13th for the NES, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Amnesia: Machine for Pigs. I don't agree with the addition of the Slender Man series or Five Nights at Freddy's. Those games have compelling, unique ways of alarming you with a refreshing take on the jump scare. Listing them at #2 and #1 is a disservice to their work at altering the horror game genre for the better. So...that's another list fail. Way to go WhatCulture. You were doing so well for a moment!

- GameZone marks out the 5 games that "need" a comeback/sequel. First things first, it lists 6 games. The writer needs to learn how to count - Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot are NOT from the same franchise. You can split those up and make a list of 6. It's okay. Otherwise, the list is pretty darn good. This isn't about rebooting the series and remaking the original games, but adding content to it. Hard-core Beyond Good and Evil fans have been frothing at the mouth for a proper sequel to the cult classic. And I keep hoping to see something for Dark Cloud (it's dungeon crawling with building mechanics) even though it's decades old and long out of the minds of the developers. As long as these are not rebooted and it's a NEW game, I would be a very happy camper.

- If you're one of the hundreds of thousands of people descending on Austin for the SXSW Festival, next weekend you can get a preview of Telltale Game's take on Batman! Take lots of notes and report back. I want to know all about it.

- IGN India, and yes that is a real thing, created a list of 5 mashup games they want to see. Ignoring the fact that a Marvel vs DC mashup will never, ever, ever, ever happen, some of the suggestions are ho-hum. Too obvious. If I want a zombie cross-over, I'd rather take Resident Evil with Dead Rising (and hey, they are both Capcom games, so it has potential). Star Craft and Warcraft already have a crossover in the Heroes of the Storm MOBA, so that's moot. I'm not feeling the lists this week - little research and virtually no creativity. If you want a video game mashup to happen, go for something that's completely off the wall. Something you never expect because it might just happen. I would like to direct you to Kingdom Hearts. The super cereal company of Square with the kiddy joy of Disney. It shouldn't have worked, but it did. Beautifully. That's how a mashup should happen. Don't be afraid to think outside the box on this one. Like Doom and Care Bears. Just think about it, and let your mind explode with creativity.

- Greg Toppo is back with an interview with author, game theorist, and developer Jane McGonigal. She's a keynote speaker at SXSW this year, and is one of the foremost authorities on psychology and gaming. Her TED talk has been viewed over 5 million times - it's no wonder she'll be a keynote speaker. Take a few minutes to read the interview. Great stuff!

- Australia, for all of it's greatness, has some weird laws about video games. How they are produced, promoted, packaged, and a number of companies have to alter their products just to get them into the country. You'd think they were like China...and with their laws, sometimes they are just as aggressive about game content. But game developers will bow to the changes - Australia is a large market for gamers and the loss in revenue is not worth the fight. So what's up their butt this week? Apparently a Target store in Australia decided to take all of the R18+ games and change the packaging to plain white boxes, with the R18+ label and a warning "you must be 18 years or over to purchase." It's very similar to the cigarette laws in the country, plain packaging with no stylish company labels. Any labels need to include a gruesome image about the ill-effects of smoking.

Target has since issued a statement that the lone store took matters into their own hands and created the packaging. This wasn't a company-wide policy and the concern has since been corrected. According to Australian law, stores must have a display clearly visible to customers marking R18+ games, or cover the games with an R18+ label (that doesn't take up the entire box art). Most stores have an endcap or title card above that section - which is Target's current method. So no need to panic Australians. Your games are still safe and maybe, just maybe one day you'll actually get a Street Fighter that hasn't been edited.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Ragers' Getting Tagged in Street Fighter V

Capcom is on top of those rage quitters in Street Fighter V, already sending a number of players scores crashing including the top-ranked player in the world. A week ago, Capcom promised to address the rage quitting issue with the game - at the time there were no penalties for those who disconnected from the game intentionally in order to maintain their good score. They asked for help from the gamers to provide video proof or any screenshots showing people quitting during matches where it's clear that they were rage quitting, and not a server disconnect. They also made a follow-up post regarding those who have server issues that they won't be penalized. If you DC every once in a while, you have nothing to worry about.

While Capcom hasn't fully outlined their policy for rage quitting or how they plan to monitor them in the future, the initial reaction has not been to ban. Nope. Instead they are kicking away their gamer scores to reflect the number of times they have rage quit, thus having an unfair advantage of a clean record. One user by the name of World_Combo was one of the first to reach the Super Platinum rank with 10k+ LP. An hour after the tactic was implemented, the user dropped to a Bronze ranking with 675 LP.

Ouch.

Capcom started last week with 30 players docking their LP. They have also no need for videos or screenshots at this point, as they are monitoring internet connections instead - since there should be an obvious trend with rage quitters and how often they disconnect. Capcom has mentioned in their latest blog posting that this is the current solution, but they are looking towards a more permanent idea in the future.

Still a few problems to work out, but it's a start.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Lionhead, Overwatch, and Bears. Oh My!

The internet kind of blew up with some big stories this morning, and it would be silly of me to wait until tomorrow to bring them to your attention. Consider this a mini version of the Weekly Link Round Up, with the full-size serving later this week.

- Overwatch! IGN made an oopsie and posted the wrong image to advertise the game with a release date. A release date that Blizzard has not mentioned and no one was aware of, until now. Blizzard confirmed that the release would be sometime in 2016, but no hard date. And then IGN posted the ad, and now the internet is spazzing. The date is listed for May 24th, with an Early Access starting May 3rd. Looks like we're getting the game sooner then later! Blizzard has not commented on the leak, yet. The date is subject to change, but we're curious to see Blizzard's response. It's possible that the date was a placeholder for the IGN ad - but given that most businesses make their own ads and just send them in to the gaming sites, this is possibly the final, and accurate, version. Joy!


- Lionhead Studios, owned by Microsoft, may be shutting down this year.

Wait. What?

I must have misread that. Hang on. Let's see, something, something, something, "in discussions to close the Fable developer."

I'm trying really hard to not drop the F bomb, but what the living f*** is going on? Microsoft,  explain yourself!

Earlier this morning, Microsoft and the XBox websites announced that the upcoming Fable Legends, a multi-player title, was cancelled and all work is being ceased on the project. Further, they are in discussions with employees at Lionhead UK to close the studio, along with Press Play Studios in Denmark and Sunset Development, both working on a game titled Project Knoxville.

And that's it. No real details on why they are closing such a legendary studio. It seems completely unexpected. Maybe the studio hasn't been pulling in enough funds as Microsoft would have liked? Maybe there were concerns about Fable Legends not showing as well (though it'd be one of the first cross-platform releases for the developer)? There's no real details. And that sucks. Microsoft. You owe us a lot of answers for this one. We haven't seen negative press about Lionhead over the past few years, or anything to indicate a problem. Details. We need them. Now.

Microsoft did provide an update to Kotaku regarding the potential closure of Lionhead, but it's only in-so-far as discussing options with employees.

Update 3/7 at 11:35am: Those who are currently in the beta for Fable Legends are still able to continue until April 13th. No new players will be admitted and the game will close servers at 3pm that day. Those who have purchased the Gold package in the game will receive a full refund.


- Bear Simulator, a Kickstarter project, has cancelled future updates after a poor review from Youtuber PewDiePie. The game racked up over $100 grand and was fully funded in 2014. The game premise is pretty straight forward. You're a bear. You run around and do bear things. Unlike other developers, only one man, Jon Farjay, was behind this project. He did finish the game and released it on Steam with promises to keep the game updated with new content. For the $14.99 price tag, unusually high for a number of Steam games at that level, it seemed like a good offer knowing the game would maintain updates. But on the latest Kickstarter update, Farjay has decided to stop all production on Bear Simulator. He'll finish up the "Kickstarter" island that was offered as a reward to those who funded the project, but that'll be it.

What got to me was how juvenile the wording is with the Kickstarter update:

"Well the game didn’t have a great reception, has a stigma against it’s name and there’s plenty of other problems so making any updates or going further is basically a lost cause now. Plus not skilled enough to make the game better than it currently is or write better updates than previously.

Was really hoping the Steam release would go well but why would it, should have just gave the game to backers and not bother with Steam.

Also don’t want to deal with the drama anymore. Can’t ignore it because that causes more drama and can’t do anything about it because that causes more drama."

I understand feeling down because someone big doesn't like your product, but dude. Could you take a step back and check yourself? You're letting down your entire Kickstarter fan base, the people who gave you money to make this game, because of one bad review? Do you think studios Bethesda and Coffee Stain (large and small developers alike) care when a Youtuber gives them a poor review on their product? Nope! They know that one review isn't the end of the world. They learn from their mistakes and move forward to improve the game - keeping the promises they gave to their fans; to the people that gave them money! This is part of the process with anything creative that you make. You're going to have people who like it and dislike it. How you respond, learning to move forward and grow, really solidifies the type of person and developer that you are.

The way Farjay is acting right now is childish. While it's great that the game was released, as we have seen many others not make it to that point, the lack of future updates is disappointing to those who backed the game. Again, another example on why it's tough to support a Kickstarter - there's nothing in the contract Farjay has with Kickstarter that requires him to fulfill all of his obligations to the backers. But it's something that he has to be mindful of, as if he expects any future projects he's pretty much kissed that option goodbye as fans are going to be more hesitant to support him and his career.

Cosplay Pro Tips - Group Cosplays

 Group Cosplays.

They are always the talk of a convention when you see multiple people working together to create costumes from a movie/TV show/game/anime series and strolling around as one entity. What makes groups stand out are when they all take their strengths and expound upon them.

And being in a group is not easy. You not only have to focus on your costume, but the costumes of your teammates. From material choices, to patterns, designs, wigs, even if you should wear contacts: all of these aspects of a group can come under scrutiny to ensure your team is cohesive in all aspects of the costume. It can be double, triple, sometimes quintuple more work to create a team costume then it is to go solo.

Here are some tips I have gathered over the years on taking your group costumes to the next level:
- Don't join a group for the sake of being with a group. This should seem obvious, but you might be surprised how often I read on social media about people being unhappy with their cosplay because that's all that was left with the group. Pick a series you love, and a character that you want to be. Nothing is worse then being in a group when it's a franchise or a character you don't like. It means you are not going to have fun and a costume you won't want to wear again. Why waste your time and money on something you don't want to wear? Love your costumes!

- Know your group-mates. It's really easy to say "oh yeah I'll totally make this for the con!" and then back out just as fast a month before. It's the same reason why I tell people to not pick their best friend, if they're fully aware that said friend has a terrible work-ethic. Pick people that you know will contribute their fair share to the group. Pick people that you will have fun working with. Pick people that are drama-free. Pick people that will not leave their share until the last minute. Nothing can break apart a friendship faster then trying to make a cosplay group on the fly when you all have completely different work ethics.

- Select materials as a group and do not deviate! This is always one of the trickiest things when it comes to group cosplays: making sure everyone uses the same stuff. It's incredibly easy to tell in a group of Sailor Scouts or Love Live Idols when someone opts to use costume satin over poplin for their skirt, and throws off the look of the entire group. What makes a group cohesive is looking like you all belong together - you may use other colors, have a unique cut in your jacket, whatever. But if you're all using different materials, it can look mismatched. If it's a new material you've never worked with before, ask for help, look to Google, or check out the next tip.

- Use the same sewing/armor patterns. Like the previous tip, utilizing the same patterns helps enhance the cohesive look of your group. With Sailor Scouts, make sure all of your fuku's match. With Power Rangers, use the same jumpsuit pattern. Cohesion is important with groups.

- Exploit your strengths. If you are fantastic at wigs, consider taking on the wigs for your group and pass off pieces of your costume to someone else who is a stronger sewer. Crappy with props but your teammate is a master? Take off his/her work-load in wigs and give them your props. Teams are multi-faceted. And they can look awesome when everyone shares the workload. You may think this causes you to look lazy, but you're not. You're divvying up the work to highlight people's strengths. Thus you will all look that much cooler when the costumes are done! My past groups have worked so well because of this: typically I take on more of the wigs since I have an extensive history of manipulating them for crazy hairstyles. In turn, my group tackles more of the armor and props. And there's nothing wrong with this! You're all working together to create these costumes. You shouldn't limit yourself to just your costume.

- Give yourself time to finish the costumes. Failure is always an option. And Murphy likes to mess with cosplayers. A lot. Don't throw together a group a month before a convention. That's not enough time to compensate for problems that arise, nor is it time to get together, plan, buy materials, etc. Learn how your teammates work and develop a time-table that best represents your group. 3 months. 5 months. A year. Whatever! Time can make a world of difference.

-  If you can't finish your tasks or something comes up that won't allow you to wear your costume, tell your group immediately! There is nothing worse then having spent 6 months on a costume, thinking you are ready to go, and the day before the con you find out half your group can't make it. Now it's you and maybe 1 or 2 other people making up your group and your plans have crumbled. It sucks. What sucks even more is when people in your group knew they couldn't finish their costumes a month plus ago, and are only bringing it up now. With a month, you can find the time to change your tactics, find some more people to replace the roles, or work with your group to debut the costumes at another time. The last minute notices only create more animosity. So do yourself a favor, and save the headaches to come. If you can't make your costume, if you have to cancel, tell your group ASAP. Do not wait. People are incredibly understanding when life stuff comes up. They are even more understanding when you tell them sooner, rather then later.

Groups can be a lot of fun, as well as challenging. But keep these tips in mind to help you along as you prep for your next convention.

Happy cosplaying!