Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rovio Developing New Gaming App

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Gaming Art of the Book

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It Reeks of False - The Fake Gaming News Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be safe with your clicks, vault dwellers.

Monday, November 21, 2016

'Mortal Kombat' Film On the Radar

That Mortal Kombat movie is still floating around in the minds of some Hollywood insiders. It's being reported by Variety that Simon McQuoid, known for directing commercials, will be taking over the directing duties for the movie. Before you brush off McQuoid, he has created several commercials in the past for Sony, Microsoft (Halo in particular), and a number of other gaming companies. Since the two season web series 'Mortal Kombat: Legacy,' was released, New Line Cinema has been working on making a new movie come to life. It's clear by the show that there is an audience, old and new, that will embrace the crazy MK antics.

But the production team knows that they must walk carefully on the subject. Game movies are known for their sordid past. While the first Mortal Kombat movie raked in $70 million, the second one tanked. Hard. Yes the first movie is not a masterpiece, but it was very Mortal Kombat-like in how it approached the story, action sequences, and the campyness. Good gravy was it campy. MK2 was just bad, trying too hard to be serious and taking the audience to another realm while recasting half of the actors and throwing the original plot out the window.

If there is anything that we have learned from video game movies, it's that too few truly embrace the full insanity of the games themselves.

Mortal Kombat is over the top. That's why we play it. And the movie should not hold back. We want the over the top Fatality kills, the gregarious special attacks, and the flippant personalities of the fighters. I'm a reasonable person and understand that the studio may have to tone down on the Fatalities to keep the movie in an R rating. But don't shy away from doing them!

With another game movie in the works, one wonders if any of them will finally break the curse? (You could argue that 'Warcraft' did just that, but only internationally.) 'Assassin's Creed' is set to release December 21st, just in time for the Christmas break for everyone to see. No reviews are available yet but it at least the movie looks like it belongs in the AssCreed universe. All we can do is wait, and hope that someone in Hollywood will finally understand how to craft a video game movie.

Oh, and don't kill off Johnny Cage so soon. That was harsh.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

Man. Long week has been hell-long. I think we can all agree that 2016 has sucked the big one and we are ready to move on to 2017 and maybe the universe will stop screwing around with us. But hopefully I can lighten the mood a little bit with the Weekly Link Round Up!

- Breaking News! VR is not just for video games! Yes, that was sarcasm. And if you didn't know that VR could be used for multiple applications, then I can't help you. No one can.

- The real world sucks right now, and a number of people may be turning to video games for comfort. Heather Alexandria's op-ed piece on Kotaku right now is fitting for the mood as we look for heroes to make the world a better place. Which digital characters inspire you?

- Hate video games? Then why are you here? IGN has a list of 11 games that are great for non-gamers. Maybe you want to quiet your gaming friend who keeps bugging you to join them on their other-worldly adventures. Or maybe you are interested in games but don't know where to start. The list is okay - there are a few games here that are not newbie friendly. Skyrim? Really? Until Dawn? What? But Lego Star Wars and Nidhogg get a thumbs up here for new gamers.

- Curious about how the voice actor strike is going? SAG-AFTRA picketed Insomniac Games yesterday, with over 350 showing up to march. And neither side is letting up. Nearly a month into the strike and there has been no consensus on how to move forward. The response from SAG is pretty blunt: "We’re open to coming to the table when the employers are open to a serious negotiation.” So what's the deal devs?

-The FBI and IRS have just busted open a $16 million dollar scheme involving EA's FIFA games. As reported a month ago, the UK has their own investigation going on regarding a YouTuber and gambling with FIFA. But this scheme in the US was more malicious. Four men, at various locations around the country, were able to break in and instruct the servers into believing that thousands of in-game matches were complete and collect on the game currency. Then they sold the currency for real-world money. With the recent issues revolving around this game, EA will probably be looking into clamping down on the game-money exchange market for future releases.

- Game companies are finally realizing that we all want swag and cool gear to wear. This year in particular has been a major boost in nerd-ware are retailers. And Christmas will be no different. Check out the sweaters and jumpers that are available. The N7 Mass Effect one is my favorite.

- Hello Games, the developer behind No Man's Sky, has been smacked this week. Head designer Gareth Bourn has left to work at a rival studio. And they have been given a warning by The Game Awards that future content will have to be screened prior to show and ensure the content matches what's in the game. That last one is going to have a resounding effect as The Game Awards preps for their December show. Instead of trailers, there will be more focus on game play and finished content, less on hype. The show feels some responsibility for how fans reacted to No Man's Sky and wants to provide more transparency to viewers.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Using Fitbit to Help Your 2K Game!

Fitbit and 2K Sports have announced a partnership to reward players who are active in exercising. Starting November 25th, if you have a Fitbit you can sync it to your copy of NBA2K17. And then walk 10,000 steps. Walk 10k in a day and you'll receive an in-game bonus: a 5 point buff to your MyPlayer stats that lasts for 5 games. The more you walk, the longer that bonus will last.

This is different from the Wii console of the Microsoft Kinect that have games that allow you to utilize motion controls to play. With the partnership, Fitbit and 2K are trying to get players to be active. You need to do actual exercise to receive the game bonus.

The MyPlayer feature allows users to make their own custom NBA player. As you play, you gain experiences and stat bonuses - but it's a slow process. So having that extra boost from a Fitbit can be beneficial.

You can learn more about the program here. But there you go. Games are still trying to make us exercise. What jerks! :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Clueless Gamer Final Fantasy XV Playthrough Tussles Fans

Clueless Gamer, a segment on The Conan O'Brien Show, has taken off in recent years as a top place for large game companies to market their product. Coco hits the target demographic that publishers are trying to reach. And his antics of not being a gamer are what make it enjoyable. You put a controller in his hand and he's going to make fun of whatever comes across the screen while trying to capture the enjoyment of the game.

So why SquareEnix signed up to put Final Fantasy XV on the show is beyond me. It's the first time I've seen a Clueless Gamer segment and Coco did not look like he was having fun. Even with Elijah Wood at his side, the two looked confused and despondent as the game progressed. Not even female Cid could rouse their attention with her busty, um, bust and short shorts.

The problem with short segments like this is that it can be difficult to get an RPG to translate well with the audience. RPG's are time sucks. That's a known fact among gamers. If you want to showcase something like Skyrim or Dragon Age you have to pair down the demo for these reviewers to highlight the"cool stuff." That means lots of battle sequences and crap flying through the air. Less talking, walking, and waiting. Unfortunately the FF15 content used for the show looked similar to the demo where it's a lot of talking, walking, and waiting. At one point the fancy car breaks down and both Coco and Wood lamented at the time it was taking to see, well, anything.

The one bit of action that 'did' happen, after Coco gave up control and went to stare at a wall (because that was more interesting), it was lackluster. An Adamantoise appeared. That got Wood slightly interested in the game again. Until nothing happened once more! He couldn't attack the beast. His goal was to suss him out as the source of earthquakes in the area (that Wood predicted would be the situation from the moment the quest was given). And that was it! Nothing else occurred. Quest ended and they were done. What? At that point Coco and Wood were informed that this monster takes 72 real world hours to defeat.

Coco admitted that this was the longest Clueless Gamer segment they have ever filmed. And it was a whole lot of nothing. Coco was not impressed. Neither was Wood. Nor some of the staff on set by the look of things. As a Final Fantasy fan, I wasn't floored by what SE opted to show off at this stage with release looming around the corner. You couldn't give the man an active battle sequence? You had to give him the long strings of endless walking and talking about a wedding dress? If I were playing this demo, I'd probably be equally as unimpressed.

In the end, Coco said that the game was an "aggressive waste of time."

Some fans on Reddit and other forums think that the review was too harsh from someone who hasn't experienced the full game, and doesn't play games in general. Fair point. We need to keep in mind that this was just a small fraction of the game and doesn't represent the whole; that probably needed to be said in the segment as well. And most people know that part of Clueless Gamer is to point out the ridiculous idiosyncrasies in games by someone who hasn't been immersed into the environment. Games do some stupid things, and sometimes they need to be called out for that.

So fans, chill. It'll be okay. At least people are talking about FF15 in a FPS heavy winter release cycle. If you are going to buy the game, I doubt that Clueless Gamer had any effect on your purchase decision. SE may not have made the best decision on what content to show, but it did get enough buzz for people to talk and post about it. I'm sure they consider that a win in their book.

Just to make the whole situation that much more awkward, reps from SE were sitting just outside of the room where Coco and Wood were gaming. They heard every word, and neither man could leave without passing them. Whoops.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Amazon's New Game Trade Policy

If you're a fan of trade ins on Amazon, you'll find that the online retail giant has updated their system and will now allow customers to receive their credit almost instantly. Even while you have the game still in your hands!

The new service was unveiled earlier this morning and is currently limited to games and accessories. Consoles are excluded at this time since they are higher valued items and require additional screening. But if you have a game you want to get rid of now and not drive to your nearest store, you can do it on Amazon; receive your credit, and buy something new right then and there. This new feature is just in time for Christmas and waives the 10 day waiting period for Amazon credit.

Of course there are rules and stipulations. Due to pawn shop lawns in each state, you can't do the trade in program unless you are legally 18 years of age. Your participation in Instant Payment may change at any time, without notification. And if you decide to never mail out that game to Amazon, you're going to have to return that credit. Make sure you are honest about the quality of your product - if it's missing the box and manual or has scratches on the disc, say so. Don't claim it's "new" when you've opened the package. And Amazon may dispose of your trade-in if it doesn't meet their standards.

A lot of this does fall on the honor system with customers. But it's a nice gesture that they are willing to help out people during the holiday season for faster cash back.

Monday, November 14, 2016

42 Years Later and We Still Love DnD

Nerds and geeks of the world, our games are making it into museums in droves. Announced on Thursday, tabletop king Dungeons and Dragons is now in the National Toy Hall of Fame. With an estimated 20 million players around the globe, DnD is well loved. Even Vin Diesel breaks all stereotypes and is an avid player. But DnD is more then just another table game. A number of early video games in the 80's and 90's owe their livelihood to the influence of DnD in their lives. BioWare wouldn't be here without DnD - Neverwinter Nights and Balder's Gate are well linked to the DnD rules.

When DnD initially released in 1974, it became one of the most popular table games of it's time. After 10 months, they sold out of all first prints and had to print twice as many copies. It gave children and adults the chance to allow imagination to be an active part of gameplay. While today we understand how important imagination is to development, in the late 70's and early 80's, DnD was demonized for promoting non-Christian values. The game was blamed for suicides and keeping boys inside instead of out working and getting a wife. How sexist of the 80's. We may laugh at the "DnD is evil!" pamphlet today, but it was a concern to a number of parents to warrant attention.

It didn't stop people from playing. And it's still an active part of today's gaming culture. PAX would not be PAX without DnD. Today we salute Dungeons and Dragons and wish them many more years of success.

Friday, November 11, 2016

'No Man's Sky' Updates In The Works

If you still play No Man's Sky, Hello Games wants you to know that they are still working to bring you the game that was promised. Their vision is still in the works, and an update will be on the way soon with major changes. Goof-ball and somehow the go-to man for all things games, Geoff Knightly, spoke with Sony Interactive Entertainment executive VP and COO Shawn Layden about what consumers can expect from No Man's Sky. Neither Sony nor Hello Games have given up on the project. They see a good future with the title. And as Layden says in the video "you just don't get all the way there at the first go."

Well, maybe today's games consumers are okay with unfinished products being released but I'm come from an old-school system. When I drop $59.99 on a product, I want the FULL game.

Words aside, Hello Games plans to release updates over the next year, including downloadable content that will be free that will add base-building (a sorely missing feature that was promised at the beginning). Both Layden and Hello Games are being quiet about the time-frame for the patches and what will be included, and that's coming with a mix bag of results. The biggest issue with No Man's Sky after it's release was that the company went quiet. They were not responding to customer concerns or news sites to address the problems with the game. It caused a lot of turmoil and huge turnover in players. By not putting out there that patches were in the works, they lost people. But! they are also timid about releasing info right now. They don't want additional backlash. It makes sense, but they could be shooting themselves in the foot on that one.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ueda and Studying the Gaming Climate

Fumito Ueda has been watching the gaming market since his first foray into the world since his first game D, a psychological horror game for the 3DO (anyone remember that system?), as an animator. You may know Ueda as the creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

His latest game The Last Guardian is set to release on December 6th and currently there are no additional plans to delay it. They are being produced onto disc and packed up for consumers. And after a decade of waiting for this game to release, expectations are high. Ueda knows that and has been doing everything he can to make the game the best it can be.

In an interview with Engadget, Ueda comments on the current state of the gaming industry and how that's affected The Last Guardian. Including the ill-fated No Man's Sky. A game that experienced similar hype and was on the minds of many gamers after the first delay.

"I try not to think about the pressure that has been added or is probably assumed to be added to this title," he says. "But, having said that, I don't think all pressure is always negative. It's actually kept us motivated because of the expectations that people put on our next game. What that does is it creates this weird cycle, in a good way, where the pressure that we feel is then turned into motivation, and then that in turn helps Sony and our partners and our team to have even a stronger belief in the product."

Ueda is aware of the pitfalls that come with a game that has been long awaited. Which is why you haven't seen the man out and about pimping The Last Guardian. Knowledge of the game is limited, and he's not boasting promises that he can't keep. And Ueda is honest about the concern of if the game is going to be accepted. So many people have waited for it, will it be revered or a disappointment? Even now it hasn't sunken in to Ueda that the game is done. (The plight of the game developer.)

But as a man who has watched the gaming market, he understands that what he's putting out there is unique. It's not going to be riddled with DLC packs nor exclusive in-game content. There are no betas or early releases. Everyone who buys the game will get the same product - different experiences, but the same game none-the-less. And maybe that's just what we need in today's DLC heavy landscape? A game released in a classic style.

As much as I ragged on the delays in the past, I'm still curious to see what The Last Guardian becomes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Is the SAG Strike A Sign For Future Labor Disputes?

It's possible! Past labor issues in the film/TV/radio industry have coincided with each other. What may start out as a dispute with SAG-AFTRA and voice actors could soon balloon to include other labor groups. And if the unions merge, it could spell more trouble for the gaming industry. Because it's not just about the actors. This strike could include people working for the companies - EA, Activision, and Microsoft gaming employees that see 60-80 hour work weeks, crunch-time pressure, and no additional pay for their efforts.

While a number of gaming companies are standing their ground that the voice actor strike is only hurt SAG-AFTRA's members, but so far it's not slowing down. In fact, they are also fighting NBCUniversal over the pay given to Spanish actors and the BET over the series "Being Mary Jane." They are flexing their muscles.

Imagine if the rest of SAG joined in, or the labor unions for film set workers, or the game coders?

The stalemate will most likely drag on for a while. Time will tell what happens next.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Weekly Link Round Up

If you are a U.S. Citizen, today is election day and it's probably going to suck. So I'm here to help make it a little the internet a little more tolerable with a Weekly Link Round Up! All of the best, and worst, gaming news that there is to find. Here's what is on the table to clean your palette from election news:

- If you go to Shenandoah University, keep an eye out for a Spring video game tournament that can net you free textbooks! Last year the school started the small program to help students off-set the costs of textbooks, and if you've been to college you know how pricey they can be. With the increasing number of interest, they are adding in a Spring tourny. I wish I had this when I was in school!

- Video games are boring, according to Brie Code. Before you raise the pitchforks, take a moment to read through her article on Games, and how her cousin changed her outlook on gaming. Since then, she has created her own studio to bring together other gaming designers who want to change our outlook on games - more story, less blowing stuff up.

- News Flash: YouTube and other streaming platforms are not ideal for 4K.

That should be pretty obvious anytime you open up the app on your phone or watch on your computer that even at the highest resolution settings, it's still a bit pixilated. Content is being transmitted through the tubes of the internet, not directly from a Blu-Ray disc. Transferring all of those bits of data produces a lower quality. I mean...duh? Obvious much?

- TechSpot has a love letter to the keyboard and mouse. Gaming's greatest invention that wasn't meant for gaming.

- Pokémon Go is getting another update! After the success of their Halloween event, they are going to release additional monsters into the wild for Thanksgiving, and tweak the spawn rate on some of the more rarer mobs. The October update has helped changed the spawn rate, and it will carry over into the November update. Locations that use to spawn a lot of Rattata and Pidgey's may find other Pokémon about.

- Does anyone remember the Nintendo Power Line? It was a game tip phone number you could call for help with virtually any Nintendo game from the early console days. In honor of their NES line-up being released, Nintendo is reactivating the phone number this weekend only: November 11-13. The phone line will be automated, but should help you through the tricky Mario levels.

Enjoy the madness and be prepared to run for the hills!

Monday, November 07, 2016

VR Games and When Can We Play 'Skyrim'?

Holy fudge. So much gaming content this weekend. Between PAX Australia, BlizzCon, and Extra Life, the brains of gamers have started to melt into puddles of gooey awesome-ness.

A topic that has cropped up during PAX was the future of VR and when we can expect to see games like Skyrim on the docket. Hosting a panel at PAX, broadcaster Nic Healey asked the question to 5 local (to Australia) VR developers. It's not about the manpower of putting Skyrim into a VR set-up. But can the human body handle it? VR experiences are different from traditional gaming systems, where they are measured in minutes - not hours. Utilizing your whole body for VR is a different beast when compared to using a controller and only your hands.

Let's be real here for a moment. None of us can swing a sword around for 6 hours. I'm not saying that to indicate that gamers are out of shape. Not even the most physically fit person can last an hour at DDR or a Kinect game without feeling some form of exhaustion.  Our bodies are built to exert a certain amount of energy. When we start to tire, that's our body's warning sign that we need to rest. You can build up your stamina over time through exercise and training, but the bottom line is that even supreme athletes can't swing around an axe for multiple hours in a VR world. Skyrim would take years for people to complete instead of a month by VR standards.

This isn't to say that a full game like Fallout can't be VR ready. There would need to be modifications with controls to remove the need for the gamer to stand and utilize their whole body for actions. You can still retain some of the experience without putting your body at risk. Because let's face it, for a popular game like Call of Duty to go VR, people would play for hours on end. They'd make themselves sick from exhaustion or what-not and that puts the developers in danger of backlash and lawsuits.

Eventually there will be a balance between the quick, 10-15 minute VR games and the 50 hour games. Something to think about today. Enjoy!

Friday, November 04, 2016

Extra-Life - Another Round To Commence!

It's more Extra Life pimping. You should be use to it by now.

But my fellow readers, I'm in a bit of a struggle. So far I've only raised about half of my goal. With $100 left to go and 12 hours of game time, I fear that I won't reach it. Because if I don't reach it, I won't be able to participate next year - I'd rather spend my 24 hours helping out charities and donating my time then to not see any monetary donations at all. And all that does is hurt the kids. :/

So if you have a dollar to spare, please donate! I, and my team (DAS Team), do not see a single penny of it. It all goes direct to the Children's Miracle Network.

Catch out my stream tomorrow on Twitch and Game On!

Thursday, November 03, 2016

New Updates to Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is getting the updates it needed, and should have had back when the app first launched. While the game isn't drumming up as much use as it did in July, it's still pulling in millions in purchases daily, and ranks between #1 and #4 on app stores (depending on your service). It made $250 million within the first few months of being on the market. So people making those "in memorium" memes can step back and take a breather. Go is far from dead.

The latest update will now give users bonuses for logging in daily and catching Pokémon. Finally.
  • If you catch a Pokémon every day, you'll get 500 additional experience points and 600 stardust.
  • You'll get 2,000 experience points and 2,400 stardust for catching a Pokémon seven days in a row.
  • If you spin the disc at a Pokéstop every day, you'll get 500 experience points and more items.
  • You'll get 2,000 experience points and even more items for spinning a Pokéstop disc seven days in a row. 
Daily bonuses exist in mobile games to give users an incentive to log in daily. The more logins, the more likely you are to stick around and spend money. It was surprising that Go launched without a daily bonus. But they were also under the gun of hype and wanted to cash in while there was interest in the game.

Pokémon Go is not done yet. There are still plans in the works for trading pocket monsters with other users and battling. But this daily bonus could help those grinding for levels.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Absurd Study about Star Trek and Women in STEM

Let's face it. The world of video games, science, math, and computers tends to be dominated by men. But that doesn't mean that women aren't there. We can be just at boisterous, outspoken, and nerdy. And when the culture shifts to the realization that "hey, there are chicks here too," the realm evolves into a more welcoming environment.

Women are not in STEM careers and studies because of the culture around them. This I will not disagree with. I have my own stories and struggles with the reality of the male-centric ideology behind STEM that caused me to drop out of computer science. But the root of the cause has nothing to do with pop culture, as a study published in the American Psychological Association claims.

According to Sapna Cheryan (Associate Professor at the University of Washington) and Sianna Ziegler (an EMC research analyst), women are not joining STEM because of 'Star Trek' and 'Dungeons & Dragons.'

Let that statement soak in for a moment at it's utter absurdity. I'm pretty sure there are strong, female role-models in both 'Star Trek' and DnD who are actively part of the story. A lot of women like the TV shows, movies, and the games. They actively participate in the geeky/nerdy culture associated with 'Star Trek.' So where did Cheryan and Ziegler come up with this theory?

They reviewed over 1,000 research articles to determine what distinguishes the gender-based fields. The conclusion drawn at the end of the review was that fields in STEM were focused on cultures. Male-oriented stereotypes favor them in computer fields. And according to "work in [their] lab," when women entered the space and saw 'Star Trek' posters on the wall and men talking about DnD, they were more likely to leave and drop out of the course.

They also claim that college women who have a two-minute interaction with a male STEM student wearing a 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' shirt and doing the "stereotypical nerdy, loner guy" routine, those women are less likely to sign up for STEM courses. However if that same man was wearing normal clothes (because an MST3K t-shirt isn't normal?) and is more interested in 'The Office,' then women are more encouraged to attend STEM classes.

Can we take a moment to review the borderline insanity of this research?

When you read the summary posted by Cheryan and Ziegler on, you can't help but feel there is an inherit bias. The article starts out with one of them lamenting about how they were isolated in high school by the DnD crowd in their computer classes. They claim that teachers called on the "DnD nerds" first, they had their homework done earlier, and they performed better in the class. All because of DnD? Yeah. We are not buying that. The students that did better in that computer class were attentive and studied. They were called on because they knew the answer. If Cheryan and Ziegler raised their hand first, they would have been called on. It had nothing to do with DnD. That's similar to stating that 'all criminals wear shoes.' Well...hell! Nearly every person in the world wears shoes so does that make us all criminals? No. And just because you like DnD does not make you a computer genius. Cheryan and Ziegler disproved their entire theory within the first paragraph of their overview!

Studies like these don't promote progress in STEM. They hold it back. Girls and women, study STEM because you want to. Don't conform to the supposed stereotypes, because guess what? Most of them are not true. Yes the fields are male dominated. Yes it sucks because there is a longstanding pressure from professors and those who have been in the realm for decades to keep it male-centric. A number of men in the millennial generation don't want it this way. They have grown up to understand inclusion and the benefits of having diverse people in their fields. If you like Star Trek, awesome! It's not going to play a role in whether or not you move forward in your STEM career. And if you don't, that's cool too! Do the work. Do your homework. Study. That is what will move your forward, not your knowledge of DnD trivia. The culture that needs to change is the idea that only men can handle STEM fields. Inclusion, not exclusions. Star Trek and nerdy things are not the barrier.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Cost of Making a Game

A user on the popular question/answer site Quora asked "why have game budgets skyrocketed?"

Aside from the obvious that technology has improved and people are demanding more from their game, thus making them cost more, it's important to point out that only AAA, big studios are seeing profit from this system. Mid-tier studios are feeling the crunch more. Where as small studios the budgets are going down.

Steve Theodore, GDC board member and former director at Bungie, broke it down to give gamers better insight into the industry.

The average game budget has gone down. The average games are not big titles but indies. Have you seen Steam lately? They are littered with smaller developers breaking into the business. For every 1 GTA you are likely to see 200 small games. And that's because of the technology. We aren't working off of RPG Maker these days. Software and hardware has gone down in price drastically in the past decade, and as new models release yearly, it continues to become more affordable for smaller studios to start their own gaming business. Please note that just because it's affordable, it doesn't mean that the games make a profit.

The two drivers in the budget increase for larger and mid-size studios are content cost and marketing. I would not be surprised if EA spends a huge chunk of their budget on marketing. TV ads, radio spots, movie promos, fast-food tie-ins - these are not cheap. And those pre-order bonuses and demos? Those come out of marketing budgets as well.

Content production has also increased to be a multi-person task. It's not one person making one character, but a dozen people working together for multiple weeks. That's more people to pay to create a prettier looking Master Chief. And it's also why a number of people go indie to hemorrhage the costs and the staff into something that's manageable. If you're in the middle? You better hope you get bought out.