Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Real Game Teeth Talk

What is up with games today and all of the characters having really nice teeth? Even in Resident Evil 7 where you'd think a group of people with no access to dental care for 3 plus years, you'd think "hey, they should have some gnarly teeth." Nope. The teeth are pearly white.

I'm having issues overcoming this with Horizon: Zero Dawn and can't stop watching character's mouths because their teeth are too perfect. Here we have a post apocalyptic, robot dino world and I'm too busy wondering why everyone has nice teeth. There is something wrong here, and the realism game is weak!

The Geek Spot will be back tomorrow with more dino bots, less dental hygiene.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Twitch Streamers to Sell Games

Twitch is taking the next big step in the game market by turning itself into a retailer. Since the purchase of Twitch by Amazon, it was just a matter of time until the streaming service began to peddle gaming wares. Starting this spring, Twitch will begin selling games and in-game content through streamers, allowing viewers to buy from predominant retailers as well as independents. Partners will get 5% of sales, and 70% to the content creator.

People who buy through Twitch can also, potentially, get exclusive in-game items (because we need more exclusion in gaming) as well as Twitch-related items. A "Twitch Crate" if you will, that includes badges, emoticons, and Bits. Games will be available in English first before localization.

A number of publishers have already signed up, but you may see a few of the bigger names absent for a while. Notably EA Games, which has their own service, Origin, that is a direct rival to this type of program, Square Enix, and Activision/Blizzard. But Ubisoft and Telltale Games are on board, so that's a start. The current most popular games to stream, such as Counterstrike, DOTA 2, and League of Legends are absent as well. Hopefully deals can be worked out to make these games more easily accessible to the Twitch audience.

It could upset the balance with other platforms like Steam, that offer a direct conduit to gamers. Twitch is a bit of a different market. While wildly popular, you have to go through streamers to get your products sold. This could prompt developers to pander more to streamers to ensure their products have greater visibility on Twitch. It's not exactly the healthiest mindset for marketing. Twitch will have to be very careful about this if they don't want to hit legalities. Their rules need to make it clear that streamers playing games for money, paid by developers, need to be open and honest about it. They can't talk about how much they love a game and get paid under the table, less they want to run into another Shadow of Mordor incident.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

If you see some changes to icons and images, don't be alarmed. My YouTube page is getting an upgrade to better match my Twitch Channel and reflect the content I'm producing. It won't affect The Geek Spot.

But enough of that. Let's get to the Weekly Link Round Up. Where we'll have some of the best, worst, and strangest gaming news on the internet, available in one stop! Here's what we've found:

- Kotaku wants to show you all the creative ways to throw your controller. They came up with 13 of them. Thirteen! Why? I don't know. Slow news days? Destroying your home seems a bit extreme...

- CulturedVulture would like to present 7 games that could break the video game movie curse. The list includes Mass Effect and Metal Gear Solid, both having been confirmed and picked up as movie options. So toss those choices off the radar. But The Legend of Zelda and The Last of Us? I don't know. Those games tell magnanimous stories and are already pretty touching. Trying to remake them into movies could easily cause a rift between gamers and Hollywood.

- BioWare released another teaser for Mass Effect: Andromeda, this time with actress Natalie Dormer of 'Game of Thrones' fame. If you are a GoT fan, and you see Ms. Dormer wearing an N7 hoodie, you kind of freak out a little bit. Like I did! Dormer voices Dr Lexi T'Perro, the ship's doctor. Curious to see how she incorporates her personality into the character. Hopefully not like Margaery Tyrell.

-  Some classic NeoGeo games are available through XBox Live and the XBox One for...reasons. I don't know what the reasons are, but nostalgia is a pretty hot seller right now. Currently available at World Heroes, a 1992 SNK production that looks like Street Fighter, and Neo Turf Masters, a local co-op golf game that was one of the few to re-produce actual courses from around the world. More are expected to be released in the upcoming months if you are a Geo fan.

- The Smithsonian is starting a program to help preserve the legacy of gaming pioneers. Yea! This will include oral histories to be recorded, papers, artifacts, and personal items. Games are more then the final product; they include the people behind them. Hearing their stories and seeing their early sketches are worth saving.

- Whelp, it's almost official. The robots are taking over. The AI nicknamed 'Philip' developed by MIT has bested humans in Chess and Go. Now it's beating people at Super Smash Bros. Unlike the other games that have thousands of resources and strategies online that can be easily dissected, this isn't available for Smash. The AI had little to study with, and had to base their decisions off of the opponent's reactions. It's an interested case to look at. While some argue that the AI was too fast, having a direct link into the system and not having realistic reflex times comparable to a human, he did manage to best a few players in a game that it knew very little about.

- Pokémon fans! February 27th is Pokémon Day, in honor of the first game released in 1996. The mobile game, Pokémon Go, as well as Sun and Moon will have some events available that you might be interested in. There were also be some rare collectable toys, action figures, and the like available for purchase. Go forth and catch thee!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

SAG Strike Boiled Down to $3,300 In Residuals

Almost a month since my last post and there is still no resolution with the video game voice actors strike (SAG-AFTRA) against gaming companies for unfair wages and compensation. Several months in and the concern for additional labor disputes is rising. It may not be long until programmers and coders join the fray as unreset continues.

However, the game companies targeted in this campaign still feel that the additional compensation to voice actors is unwarranted. In the February issue of VICE Magazine, they spoke with actors, SAG, and game developers to get the full story - or as much of it as they could, and compiled one heck of an article. Game developers are still sticking to their guns, and would rather have a general pay increase of 9% across the board for voice actors instead of providing residuals for games doing well. Tommy Tallarico, a game composer and founder of the Game Audio Network Guild, said that developers won't back down because of principle. The reasoning? Coders work longer hours and they don't see additional payments, so why should a voice actor working 4 hours get those bonuses and they don't?

Sam Singer, a legal representative for the gaming companies involved in the strike, echos this same opinion. That it's "not fair" to the other 99% of people working in the industry if only the voice actors see residuals. The argument is that voice actors make up 1% of the people working on video games, therefore they don't count as much and shouldn't be paid more. They also claim that it'll cause unrest to their current staff who won't see the same benefits (which is true - even though coders are typically paid more then a voice actor, if others got residuals for a game I helped make, then I'd want in on that action too).

Aside - voice actors sure do a lot to keep us interested in games. Where would we be without the vocals for Snake, Master Chief, or Uncharted's Drake? Those actors made the games come to life on a level we never imagined. The stories were powerful; more compelling. I don't believe Halo would be where it is today if the Chief had no voice.

It's almost like they are playing out a really bad "this is how to negotiate with unions" playbook from the 1940's. Johanna Weststar, a professor who specializes in labor issues (who has also run surveys in conjunction with the International Game Developers Association) counters in the article that this "it's not fair to everyone" attitude is the general response most employers have when faced with unions.

When you crunch the numbers, what SAG-AFTRA is asking for is actually pretty reasonable. For every 2 million copies of a game sold, with a cap at 8 million units, they are asking for a performance bonus to be paid to voice actors. That amounts to potentially four session payments per principal performer. Video game companies would have to pay up to another $3,300 to primary actors for games that hit that 8 million units.

$3,300. Seriously. That's it! If you have 4 principle performers in a game, that's only $13,200. While that could be an issue for independent developers to pay up if they have a small team, it would be easy to add clauses into contracts to adjust for this. If you are Activision/Blizzard or EA Games, you can pay that residual. Don't act like you can't. And in the case of voice actors, much of their work revolves around yelling, screaming, grunting, and losing their voices in the process. Those "4 hours" of work can result in the actor losing days of potential income once their voice is gone. They can't work until it's returned and they are not on a salary. They are not making anything extra from the job. They are out. Having the potential for residuals helps make those days not feel so doom-worthy when you can't work.

I'm not saying that developers, graphic designers, and coders shouldn't also get some form of bonus for their work too. But this mentality of "it's always been like this" doesn't work. It never does! Any union in the world can tell you that. Game companies need to get out of their heads, realize the world around them is changing, and provide a solution.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gamer Dies During Charity Stream

A well-known streamer of the game World of Tanks, Poshybrid, died while running through a 24 hour charity stream. The Virginia Beach Police Department confirmed it with Kotaku yesterday, but the cause of death is unknown. About 22 hours into his stream, the user stepped away to take a smoke break and never returned. Some assumed that he fell asleep, but several hours later a friend attempted to message him on Discord, and a response came from a police officer investigating his death. It's sad that this happened, that a young life was taken away, all while he was raising money for a charity. Fans and his game group have been leaving condolences on his Twitch channel.

Why am I bringing this up? I don't want people to freak out about streaming and get caught up in media sensationalism. Charity streams are a great thing. They have brought awareness to causes and bring the community together in an impactful way. I'm seeing a few stories outside of gaming sites talking about the danger of playing games for too long. Yes. Deaths have happened before. It is a concern.

But sitting down and playing a game for 2 hours is not going to result in your death unless you have preexisting medical conditions - and even in those situations they are really, really rare and still probably not caused by someone sitting down.

If you do plan on gaming for longer then 4 hours, streaming or not, you should always listen to your body. If it's telling you to go to the bathroom, pause the game, get up, and go. If it's telling you to eat something, pause the game, get up, and make yourself a meal that doesn't consist of caffeine, soft drinks, and pizza. An actual meal can do wonders for your body. Always listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel your eyes straining, pause, get up, and walk away. Focus on other, non-digital things to have your sight readjusted. Get up and walk around for a few minutes every couple of hours so you can spur more circulation to your legs. Stretch your arms. Do a few toe touches. Whatever you want to do - it's important to move if you've been sedentary for 4 hours.

Have fun and don't ignore your body.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

That Video Game Movie Thing

Psst. Metal Gear Solid fans. Kojima may no longer be involved, but that's not stopping Konami from pursuing the movie deal set up years ago. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (whom has directed a few episodes of Funny or Die and Single Dads) spoke with Collider to confirm that the movie is still in the works. The script is underway. He even met with Kojima recently to talk about the past games. So yeah...even though MGS is not a game that can easily transition into a movie, Konami still wants to try and milk that cash cow.

At least Vogt-Roberts seems genuine in keeping the movie as close to the original content as possible and not pull a Resident Evil.

“That is a property that I will fight tooth and nail to make sure is done properly because it’s so easy to screw it up and so easy for a studio to try and make it into G.I. Joe or try and make it into Mission: Impossible or try and make it into something that it’s not. Metal Gear Solid needs to be exactly what it needs to be, which is Metal Gear Solid.”

On his mind right now are the key plot points in the script and if the movie is going to go the way of Deadpool or Logan, where the serious content bumps the rating to R and could become an obstacle for teenage fans of the franchise. If Konami has a heavy hand in the editing, the movie could be chopped up to conform to audience's tastes and then the rating won't mean a thing. It'll be a crap film.

Vogt-Roberts claims that he's a n MGS super fan. He does reference a few characters in the interview and plot points from the games that most fans would know, so that's a promising start. At least he appears legitimate in his assertions that he cares about making an MGS movie that's true to form and not...Resident...Evil. (I know I should stop picking on those movies but come on. Dudes. At least TRY to make the story in line with the games just a little bit.)

Curious to see what will be produced, but I'm cautious. Given the current movie/game environment, it's easy to give one's hopes up. And they better have some damn good dubbing in place for David Hayter. He will always and forever be our Snake.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hold Up. Let's Talk About the Switch/FF14 Rumor

The European Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest occurred over the weekend. While gamers contemplated the information of the latest expansion pack, Stormblood, some honed in on producer Naoki Yoshida's comments that they are looking into the possibility of bringing the MMO to the Nintendo Switch.

I like how this has exploded on the internet, because anything involving a Final Fantasy MMO and console use always ends with "possibility" and doesn't materialize. FF14 has been under review for the XBox One for over 2 years with no updates. So before you get all crazy about an MMO on the Switch, SquareEnix has not confirmed that it will happen; just that they are looking into it. Despite what some news outlets are reporting. Which means it won't happen, but that's the cynical gamer in me speaking. Always fact check everything you read.

Unlike most MMO's, SquareEnix has been one of the few companies to invest time, and successfully produce, cross-platform playing. Someone on PC can play with someone on the PS4, on the same server. (FF14 is also available on the PS3, but with the introduction of the latest expansion, they plan to end service for the system.) Having different companies talk to each other to allow this type of interaction to happen was groundbreaking for Final Fantasy XI. It brings a new level of inclusion into the MMO market dominated by PCs.

Right now, one of the biggest questions with the Nintendo Switch is online game play. If it will be available at all, since Nintendo is pretty strict. At their conference in January, we were informed that the Switch would have a capture and share button for screenshots. We know there will be a monthly service fee, chat channels, and some online gameplay. The extent of that gameplay is in the air. Will that be Call of Duty levels of online, or more like Mario Kart Wii? Both are distinctly different types of online gameplay. We also don't know if Nintendo or the Switch would be capable of communicating with other platforms. If Nintendo has showcased anything consistantly in the past, it's their willingness to not work with other game consoles. They weren't jumping on board with FF11 or other MMO's or MOBA's that wanted to tackle this. So that leaves FF14 with a Switch only server. Unless SE can see customer numbers proving the time and money to invest into a Switch server would result in a profit, it's not worth their investment.

Also keep in mind file sizes. The Switch will come with 32 Gigabytes internally. Players can add on more with microSDHC or microSDXC cards. The first base game, A Realm Reborn requires 20 gigs of space. With the first expansion, another 10-12 gigs. That's all of the Switch's internal storage (which wouldn't be able to fit because you have to account for the Switch's operating system, which will take up some space). We have to think practically here that the Switch is not meant to hold down an MMO of FF14's size without you, the consumer, spending more money for additional SD cards.

And then there's the game itself. FF14 is still very pretty for something re-developed for 2013, when compared to other MMO's on the today's market. The minimum system specs look something like this:
  • Operating System: Windows Vista 32/64bit, Windows 7 32/64 bit, Windows 8 32/64 bit, Windows 8.1 32/64 bit.
  • Processor: Intel Core2 Duo 3GHz.
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Geforce 8800 Series, ATI Radeon HD 4770.
  • Memory: 2GB (4GB recommended for 64bit OS)
Here is the Nintendo's Switch's Processor and Graphics content:
  •  CPU / GPU - Nvidia customized Tegra processor
That's it. We don't know. It's "custom." This isn't to knock the Switch. It's very possible that the system can play FF14. But until we have the information, speculating is just going to cause more false rumors to fly about.

So keep your pants on. Don't get into a tissy that FF14 may be on the Switch. Until it's 100% confirmed by SE or Nintendo, it's not worth thinking about. Let's just enjoy the fact that we're getting increased inventory size for Stormblood. I know I am.

Friday, February 17, 2017

PewDiePie Media Fallout Continues

It's another PewDiePie story today. Sorry. Like it or not, the man is one of the biggest internet celebrities and many look to him as the voice for gamers. He plays a lot of games, and if he likes one, people buy it. This is why the FTC went after Warner Brothers for a series of sponsored video, one featuring PewDiePie, that didn't accurately portray gameplay. He gave it a good review, sales went up, and customers complained later that the content didn't match what the YouTube video showed.

PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg) has released a 10 minute video stating that the media is falsely labeling him as anti-Semitic, specifically The Wall Street Journal. Even though the stories were released after he was let go from Disney, he Kjellberg feels that the articles are not portraying him correctly; that the media is cherry picking and taking the content out of context.

“Old-school media does not like internet personalities because they are scared of us. We have so much influence and such a large voice, and I don’t think they understand that,” he said.

Sure. Traditional media platforms are afraid for their lively hood with the rise of the internet. But they have adapted over the years and have their own online presence. That doesn't mean they outright slam every YouTube personality at every chance they can.

The string of Nazi "jokes," as Kjellberg claims, occurred over several videos in late 2016 and early 2017. The last video that caused the most controversy, included Kjellberg commenting on another video of two men who held up a sign with anti-Semitic rhetoric. According to the YouTube personality, this was just to show how crazy our modern world is, that people will do anything for money - specially with the website Fiverr, a freelance website that allows people to try and obtain services for $5.

Jokes or not, there are some lines you do not cross. And you can't blame anyone but yourself for that. Even if you are an "amateur comic." That's not a facade you can hide behind. Even those who are not comedians know that making light of tragedies or events where people died is not funny.  It's not the The Wall Street Journal's fault that you were fired from Disney and YouTubeRed. That is all you, Kjellberg. For now, he'll continue to make his videos and receive ad revenue on YouTube. But it may hurt his annual income and his fan base from the fallout.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

There are some strange things happening on the internet. Guess that means it's time for a Weekly Link Round Up! Hosting some of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet...this week. Here is what we have in store:

- Did you know that you could learn chemistry in Minecraft? A University of Texas at Dallas team is researching to see if real world science, when applied to a video game, can be more engaging. Before you answer "well yes, obviously" do remember that video games typically don't follow the laws of physics, thermodynamics, or biology. This isn't an easy task, but the group is up for the challenge. By crafting a tool/mod called "Polycraft World," the team was able to input chemical reactions into the game. Check out the rest of the article for the results!

- Want to get better at games? Tokyo-based company Youdeal is offering home tutoring services for gamers. The GameLesson program is to compliment their game production and public relations services to give customers the full gaming package to compete with on the job market. With games like Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros. on the docket for $39.53 an hour, hopefully one is able to learn a lot from these tutors. That's a lot of money to spend for an hour of gaming!

- LEGO Worlds is finally launching this March. Yea! The long beta testing period is coming to an end and the next competitor against Minecraft is up for the challenge. If you like anything about LEGO's, then you'll probably enjoy this game. It even carries in the same charm as the super hero games while making it more about the building process. You can still check it out on Steam, and pre-orders for the XBox One version are now live.

- Oh WhatCulture. What have you released now? '10 Storytelling Clichés That Need To Die'? Okay. The list includes 'kill the cutie,' 'choices not meaning anything,' and 'event triggers' where you have to press or hold a button to continue an action. I don't know how those last two have anything to do with storytelling, but sure. Let's roll with this for a second. The list does bring up some good points for "story fouls" that need to be addressed. Such as moving backward to go forward, i.e. a narrative grind where you have to revisit places that you have already cleared in order to progress in the story. If your content is minimal or you have to stretch yourself to make a player go back, you should review your story. Or open world games where side quests distract you from the "importance" of the main narrative. There are some story aspects to games, like movies and television, that could use an update. But as a whole, this list sucks and lacks "storytelling clichés." It focuses more on silly game mechanics.

- The ESA is taking shots at the new U.S. presidential administration, particularly with the reckless immigration policies they are attempting to put into place. ESA president Mike Gallagher wrote a lengthy response to the new laws in the works, and what he hopes will happen for 2017. It includes a strong commitment to gamers to allow them to work socially and politically through gaming, the public showing of E3, and South by Southwest.

- Financial analysts expect the digital gaming market on mobile devices to grow to over $100 billion this year. Not just with downloads, but in spending money on in-game currency and items to continue playing the games. The current leader is developer Supercell (Clash of Clans) ushering in further growth of this sector of gaming. Particularly in China where the market continues to grow as newer, cheaper mobile phones become available. While this won't wipe out console and PC games, it's no wonder Konami wants in on the action.

- Finally on Gamerranx, a list of 10 games that changed graphics forever. Now this isn't necessarily making things prettier. Most of this list focuses on technological changes (the first game to do X) and game mechanics never seen before (destructible environments). So it's not the best list. But it is kind of cool for some quick trivia that you probably didn't know (Star Wars: Dark Forces was the first FPS where you could look up and down).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Apocalypse Now Game Starting New Crowdfunding Venture

My knowledge, once again, prevails! With only 9 days left in their crowdfunding efforts, the Apocalypse Now game has only earned $172 thousand of their $900k goal from Kickstarter. Instead of going through the traditional routes, the developers, Erebus LLC, opted to keep the game independent and Coppola endorsed crowdfunding the game. Unfortunately the jazz behind crowdfunding has dissipated in the past year. The number of games announced in 2016 on these platforms was down, as well as the amount of money pledged to these campaigns. It wasn't a good year for start-ups seeking investments from gamers, and that ripple effect pulled through to 2017 and affected Apocalypse Now.

The game developers have decided to move the project to it's own crowdfunding platform under ApocalypseNow.com. This will give them more time to gain the funding needed to continue building the game. All 459 days of it and a $5.9 million dollar goal. Ouch. The team announced the change on their Kickstarter page once they realized that the money wasn't coming in as fast as they expected.

"When we launched this campaign, we made a mistake. We forgot that many of you have been disappointed by overreaching games and overreaching promises. We had stopped paying attention to the Kickstarter world[.]"

Friendly reminder to those looking to crowdfund: don't ignore your platform. Watch the trends. See how other games have succeed and failed so you can learn what not to do. Erebus LLC did not and now they get to suffer from the fallout.

For those who have already pledged on Kickstarter, a free upgrade is being offered on the ApocalypseNow.com site if you opt to pledge again. And the game itself doesn't look bad. Maybe a bit too late given the type of gamers that play right now (or maybe this was a game that couldn't exist until today with the advances in technology?), but Apoc Now has AAA dreams and they're asking fans of a movie that's nearly 40 years old to donate. A movie that is rated R so most of the fans have to be in the 58+ years, if they saw the movie (legally) when it was first released. Not the ideal demographic of gamers.

I wish them luck. They are going to need a whole lot of it. An investor or two from a company couldn't hurt either.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

YouTube and Disney Drop Biggest Internet Gamer

PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg), arguably the biggest name in streaming video games on YouTube, has made a huge misstep that could damage his career. The internet personality is known for being crude but in a childish manner. His demographic skews younger and his content is more potty humor, less R-rated. And even with his recent slew of stunts to try and push people's buttons, they're still pretty tame.

Yesterday, Disney announced they were dropping PewDiePie from their network for anti-Semitic videos (irony!). For those who don't know, Kjellberg's YouTube Network is called Revelmode. Revelmode is owned by Maker Studios, which is a collection of thousands of YouTube channels that produce original content. Disney purchased it in 2014 and Kjellberg has been with the Disney company ever sing. In 2016, they gave PewDiePie free reign with his channel, thinking he would stick to the content that he'd been producing up until then. However since September, he's been pushing the boundaries on what's acceptable content for YouTube and Disney. He's shown clips of Hitler's speeches, posted fan art of swastikas, among other offenses that go against YouTube policy.

Maker Studios has opted to drop the star for going too far with the commentary, though PewDiePie maintains that it was all in jest to see how much people would be willing to spend/donate for him to do stupid stuff. The last video which involved two men dressed in loincloths, holding an anti-Semitic banner while Kjellberg commented on it was the end of the line for Disney.

But Kjellberg's woes are not done. YouTube is removing PewDiePie from YouTube Red. His show 'Scare PewDiePie' was renewed for a second season, and it's argued that it was one of YouTube's highest rated series - YouTube does not provide viewer numbers or advertising sales for this content. Since the announcement of being dropped by Disney, YouTube is stepping away as well. He's also been removed from 'Google Preferred' which is a search-safe verification service for advertisers. 

PewDiePie will still be on YouTube and he can still make money off his videos, but not as much as before. His channel is still active and he posted content as recent as 22 hours ago, as of the posting of this blog article. 

For those who say people are being too sensitive, that's your opinion. YouTube and Disney have content guidelines and allowed Kjellberg to get away with a lot because of his earning status. But that doesn't make him immune to the rules. Saying "death to all Jews" or even inferring it is not funny. It's scary. And we live in a jacked up world right now where what you say matters, even in jest. Kjellberg can claim that he's doing it for laughs and doesn't really mean it, but when you do it repeatedly, it's difficult to maintain that position. Antisemitism is not funny. Ever. Anything that involves harming or the threatening of death to another living creature is not, and will never be humorous. That's not being sensitive: that's being a human being.

We'll update the story as more information becomes available.

Monday, February 13, 2017

New Game Series Announced for Netflix

So this is an actual thing: a Castlevania TV series was announced by Netflix and will be available later this year. Feel free to laugh and chuckle for the next few minutes. It sounds like the oddest of choices given the gaming climate right now, and the popularity of the franchise is reserved to us "old fogies." The last game in the series was released in 2014, Lords of Shadow 2, and had limited availability or marketing behind it. Konami hasn't kept it the franchise up to date, and they have shifted their focus from consoles to mobile games. Castlevania is 30 years old and pretty much out of the gamer mindset, unless you're a fan of the series. Old world vampire hunting isn't as cool as Halo.

With this franchise seemingly coming back from the dead, how the heck did this happen? Why Castlevania? Gizmodo sat down with the producer Adi Shankar to talk about the series. It's a funny interview. Shankar really likes video games. A lot. He called them "dope." I snickered a bit. Shankar was the producer behind movies such as 'The Grey' and the 2012 remake of 'Dredd.' He also helped get that 2015 over-the-top 'Power Rangers' mini movie online. The series will be animated by Frederator Studios ('Adventure Time' and 'Fairly Odd Parents') and written by comic book icon Warren Ellis. The kid-friendly studio tied in to a gritty comic artist is weird, but okay. Whatever floats their boat.

Shankar is still really excited about it! He hopes to keep it true to the source material and provide a more stylish, "r-rated" version of Castlevania. Not to be edgy for the sake of being edgy, but that the content requires it. It's already made clear that most of the puzzle solving aspects won't be included, since they don't fit in well to a TV/movie format. There may be elements and Easter Eggs of puzzles in the game, but they won't envelope the main body of the series. Again, it makes sense, even though it is a big crux of the gameplay.

No release date has been announced, but this is something that I plan to watch and review. If anything, for the lulz. I can't imagine Castlevania as a movie or TV show. So prove me wrong, Shakar.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

It's Friday! Thank goodness. What a long, demanding week this has been. Am I right? Time for a Weekly Link Round Up to cleanse the palette. Here's the best, and worst gaming news on the internet this week:

- South Park: The Fractured But Whole is being delayed until 2018. Honestly? I'd be okay with it if Ubisoft's pre-order program wasn't crap. The game was announced at E3 2015 as a surprise to fans and gamers. Having seen portions of it at PAX West 2016 and at E3 last year, what was completed looked fairly polished. But it's apparently not enough for Ubisoft or the South Park creative directors. So another year of waiting it is, after already having been delayed once from a December 2016 release. I don't mind games being delayed - for something like South Park where the team has a lot of investment into the quality of the product, that's fine.

But Ubisoft's pre-order system blows. Since pre-ordering the collector's edition (because I'm a South Park fan and they have some neat things I would have bought on my own anyway), I receive a notification every 23 days to confirm I still want my order. Every. 23. Days. And since their site upgrades, my account exists but my order is no longer visible. I've been assured by 3 customer service reps that the order is there, but I can't see it. I can't touch it. I can't make any changes to the order. But I can still confirm I want it every 23 days. So that's the game I get to play until The Fractured But Whole is out. Thanks Ubisoft. #sarcasm

- Kotaku hit it on the head with the one thing so many of us hate about video games: randomness. It's the bane of the MMO gamers experience, but we deal with it because we know that's the only way developers can keep us paying to play. With the recently released Fire Emblem: Heroes for mobile devices, one of the those random factors occurs from the start. Your team becomes a bevy of who's who in the Fire Emblem universe and they are chosen for you. You don't get a say in your party! Enjoy that lovely feature, and lament in it.

- Stanislav Costiuc, a game designer at Ubisoft, has a great op-ed piece on Gamasutra about games don't need to be fun. In fact, games should stop trying to focus on the "fun" aspect and be what they are. And be sure to stick around for the comments, where they continue the discussion on replacing "fun" with "entertaining." It doesn't get salty.

- Need a round up of all of the Superbowl commercials but don't want to suffer through YouTube? Forbes has you covered with all of the nerdy commercials, including TV shows and movies!

- Discord is the new chat go-to for gamers, particularly with Overwatch and Pokémon. But it's also a growing pool of hate and bigotry that have been a challenge to tackle. Discord's rules clearly state that harassment and hate speech is not allowed, but with their small team and no way to provide feedback, it's up to the chat's moderators to handle everything. Moderators who are not trained and have no affiliation with Discord. These are fans of games and other groups who wanted to create a Discord chat for people to meet up and hang out to talk about the things they like. They didn't sign up for harassment. It's a growing problem with no solution in site.

- WhatCulture is getting all up in our feelings with a list of 10 games that will emotionally break you. Unsurprisingly, this list sucks and will cause you to scratch your head. This War of Mine, Inside, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons are just some of the games listed. Inside is a unique story, but it doesn't stir me emotionally on the same level as Final Fantasy X. When someone says "emotionally break you" I relate that to sobbing on the floor in a fetal position as my heart explodes. It needs to wreck me. NieR will do that. Not This War of Mine.

- Want to better manage your game time? See How To Beat.com for your gaming needs. It's an odd website that requires you to create a login and share your Steam collection so they can review your stats. From there it compiles the information on each game to see how long it took you to finish it, including side quests and miscellaneous attributes. You can also search other games to see if it's worth the time investment to complete it. The Witcher 3 could take you over 100 hours for full completion, and 47 hours on the main story alone. Resident Evil 7 comes to about 8 hours for the main story. It's a fun website to browse, if you're okay with sharing your Steam info. And if it helps a gamer manage their time more efficiently, then it's served it's purpose!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

NBA Creating eSports League

The NBA and 2K Sports, the publishers behind the NBA games, are gathering their resources for a new venture: eSports. Announced yesterday, this will be the first official eSports organization sponsored by a sporting group. NBA 2K eLeague will focus on, of course, the NBA 2K franchise of games. It's unclear how many starter teams will be joining the group, but the 5-person teams will be managed by an NBA franchise. Just imagine being a part of the Dallas Mavericks without having to play physical basketball. Sweet.

The competitive schedule will mimic the NBA games with a regular season of head to head matches, and then a championship tournament done by brackets. NBA commissioner Adam Silver commented that he is looking forward to the organization's first year. 2K Sports has done a fair job with their own in-house gaming competitions. The release of NBA 2K16 dropped a $250 grand prize for the best player. eSports is continuing to grow at record pace across multiple games. The development of the 2K eLeague is a good stop forward. A sporting group is recognizing how intense eSports is and wants to support it. That's another win for gamers!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

E3 2017 Open to the Public!

This is not a drill. I repeat. This. Is. Not. A. Drill.

E3 will be going live to the public starting in 2017. That means you, the average consumer, can go to the biggest gaming show of the year for industry members.

Fair warning, it's not going to be cheap. Ticket sales will start next week at $150 for all three days for early bird customers, limited to 15,000 passes. Most will cost $250. Unlike the E3 Live event last year that took place in L.A. at an event hall, these are legitimate passes that bring you up front and center with the booths at the convention. The announcement just dropped - so fast that not even the E3 website has had a chance to update.

Mark your calendars for February 13th at 12PM PST. E3 2017 will take place June 13-15th. Yes that's the middle of the week. Yes that's totally normal for E3. Yes Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will still probably hold their press conferences on Monday and Tuesday.

Expect a flurry of new rules for the event in light of this. Cosplay is probably not going to be allowed, and cameras might be restricted, so pay attention to the rules before you buy!

'Resident Evil' Movie Formula Still Works

To continue with the Resident Evil talk, the "last movie" in the series was released on January 27th just in time for RE7 to hit store shelves. 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter' is pretty much everything that you would expect from the series at this point, when it comes to the movie version. Action. Adventure. Lots of shooting of zombies. And so many plot holes with 0 relationship to the video games. Audiences like it. Critics don't. Like any "last movie" there's an ambiguous ending that makes you wonder "is this really over?" Because surely if this movie makes enough money (so far earning over $100 million on a $40 million budget) they will shoe-horn in another.

The state of the 'Resident Evil' movies is a curious one. To date it is the most well known and successful of the video game genre. They have made the name last for 15 years and maintain a connection to the audiences to keep them interested for that long. Most movie franchises can't and don't do this. Unless you're 'Star Wars' or 'Lord of the Rings.' But if you look at movies that try to make sequels 20 years later like 'Independence Day' it doesn't work. We saw how fast that movie fell out of the public consciousness and people weren't lining up for it. It may have made a profit, but that doesn't make it a good movie.

What makes the 'Resident Evil' movie series work is that they don't play out like the video games. Unlike 'Doom' which tried to capture more of the gaming essence, even using camera shots that were in first person, it didn't make the film experience enjoyable.

What makes the 'Resident Evil' movies so annoying to watch is that they have little in common with the original source material. Names about the only thing you'll find as the connecting thread. There's Alice, Claire and beefy big brother Chris, Albert Wesker, and....yep. Names! The movie version of the characters don't act like their game counterparts at all. Alice is too much of a Mary Sue in the movies. Wesker's fall from grace isn't showcased - he's a bad guy because the movie says he's bad and he wears black. The writer/director/producer, Paul W. S. Anderson, is a self-professed RE game fan. Made all the more amusing that the movies do not replicate the games at all. They work independently of each other. And maybe it's better this way?

I'm still of the mindset that the movie-going audience is being cheated out of the creative, and dastardly story-line of the games. I fully understand that a shot by shot remake of a game is not going to happen with a movie. Some sub-plots and characters have to be removed to fit that two hour time-slot. I get it. But those limitations shouldn't give writers the license to write whatever they want. The content needs to connect to the games with more then the names of the characters. What's the point of having source material if you're not going to use it? The 'Tomb Raider' movie did a nice job of blending the original content with a new story. The movie felt like it belonged in the Tomb Raider legacy, as if it were an extension of the games. The 'Mortal Kombat' movies and even 'Street Fighter' psuedo-worked in this manner too. While they were a bit more off the wall in the settings, the characters, the actions, and the stories flowed well together that they could be seen as byproducts of the games. (By the way, Mr. Anderson directed 'Mortal Kombat.')

So now we're in this odd time of trying to figure out what to do with video game based movies. According to ticket sales, 'Resident Evil' is doing something right. And the movies are highly revered among audiences then 'Warcraft' or 'Assassin's Creed.' The later films stayed more true to source with some changes to the content to fit modern audiences, and did make a profit. However they too suffered from the bad reviews phase and the US crowd did not respond favorably. If you were to look at all video game movies that have been produced up to this point, you'd go after the 'Resident Evil' model to make your own. It works. It sells. Audiences seem to enjoy them.

'Resident Evil' has set an example for what future video game movies should look like.

I want to believe that gaming movies will get better. It took a while for comic books to hit their stride. They have found their niche and pulling in bigger box office numbers and higher ratings by critics. Much of this could be attributed to finding a balance between the comic book fans and the general audience both finding enjoyment in the content. Movies like 'The Avengers' have a strong focus on the source material without cluttering up the screen with decades-worth of content. Sure they do things differently and spin the story to fit the current audience interests, but they also don't shy away from making Captain America, Captain America. He's not a gritty, beat-up, down on his luck version of the hero. He's the stand up guy we have always known him for in the comics. That resonates with audiences. There's a reason why we enjoy the 1980's Superman movies more then today's version (Zack Snyder needs to stop making everything "edgy" and bring back the Superman we love). When you are using a story and characters from a preexisting property, you have to make those personalities pop on the big screen the same way that they do in the video game. You can't change who they are. Fans will know.

My two cents. I know not everyone will agree with this opinion since clearly 'Resident Evil' did something right to keep making money. I just wish the movies were more 'Resident Evil' and less 'we used some character names so we can call it Resident Evil.' Maybe next time...

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Resident Evil 7: The Review

Capcom has had a rough time selling the idea of Resident Evil to Western audiences. RE6 received one of the franchise's most divisive review scores. Some enjoying the fast-paced amalgamation of over the top mechanics, while others turn away from Capcom's attempt to tie the series together. Which is interesting given that it's one of the company's best selling games with over 5 million units. The only "well reviewed" RE game that comes to mind is 4. Everyone seems to love 4, and it's something a number of fans and reviewers long to see again with Resident Evil.

Enter Number 7.

I had a chance to play a unique demo in VR at PAX West, and it sold me. Not just on the game, but on VR in general. My heart was racing. My palms were sweaty (it probably didn't help that I was wearing gloves). I felt the fear. I knew I had to get RE7. So far this game is topping out to be my favorite of 2017. It's only February 7th and that will probably change next month after a slew of new titles drop, but to start out the year with RE7 was the way to go. It's everything wonderful about Resident Evil while providing new content, new plot lines, and different ways to scare you that pull you into the action.

To note, I do not have a VR rig so I didn't play this game to it's full, discorded potential. It didn't make my experience less harrowing or challenging. RE7 serves up plenty of tasks to keep you busy, and some crazy boss fights that will test your reflexes in new ways. Spoilers below, but I won't give away any key plot details.

If you have played any of the demo's, you already know what to expect. And the cool thing I appreciate about the demos is that they didn't spoil the main game. You play as other characters that end up getting captured; you run through a small piece of the backstory. The setting takes a dramatic shift back to the early days of Resident Evil where you are confined to a rural home out in the swamp of bumpkin nowhere. It's clear from the get-go that RE7 is going to be very different from it's predecessors. While in the demo's you don't have the opportunity to utilize weapons, you do see everything from a first person perspective - it's no longer over the shoulder like in past games. You can tell that 7 is trying to update itself to better fit within the horror games that we see today. There is a greater emphasis on exploration, finding clues, and unlocking secrets (Five Nights at Freddy's and Layers of Fear). You'll see more dark spaces, shadows, and looming figures created by the environment (P.T. and Silent Hill). But you will also see some classic RE traits that make the games so enjoyable, such as the boxed in hallways and rooms, and the use of sound to heighten the atmosphere. The jump scares feel more intense in an RE game because they don't use it as a crutch.

7 is all about scaring you out of your wits. With a little bit of 'Deliverance,' um, charm wrapped up in this concept, you play as Ethan Winters. An every-man, man, who is on the hunt for his missing wife, Mia. He receives a video tape (and yes, it's totally a video tape even though they magically seem to have technology to make limbs REGROW!) from Mia years later with a general idea of where she is. Hung up on his love for her, he travels to Dulvey, Louisiana and finds the home of the Baker family. Their weird home looks like a run down bed and breakfast, with dead animals littering the landscape (some of them stuffed) and some freaky rooms with plastic babies hanging on the wall. Oh and monsters that look like they had a bad case of the Uroboros. The house that you play through in the demo is way bigger in the game. There are multiple floors including an attic, basement, and additional cabins outside. Plenty of opportunity to walk around and see the landscape in it's gurgle, creepy nature.

As you seek out Mia, you find her trapped in a cell in a pseudo-dungeon and try to break her out. It ends up going awry as you find out Mia has been officiated into the Baker family and transforms into a monstrous version of herself - this happens several times at the beginning to allow you to learn the game mechanics (blocking, dodging, aiming, etc.). Mia is captured again and so are you. When you awaken, you meet more of the Baker family and learn quickly that the game is all about you surviving. And trying to save Mia because damsel in distress.

Unlike the recent versions of Resident Evil that focused on hoards of zombies, your enemies in 7 are few. You've got Papa Baker as your primary villain, and a couple of other baddies roaming the Baker complex. There are some unique monsters, but very few of them. The game's sole focus is on you surviving in an extreme situation. The close quarters combat and the diversion/stealth mechanics are essential to upping up the intensity and Capcom did an amazing job of portraying the fear this round. A number of fights in this game can be avoided by eluding your captor. That's never really been an option with other horror games; you seem expected to kill everything in your path. But in RE7 you can pull a Metal Gear Solid routine, save some bullets, and continue seeking an exit.

And like Resident Evil games, there are inventory restrictions! Because realism. You can't carry everything on your back, but they were kind enough to give you save points and a chest that will magically transport across the map so you can store items in there. The inventory slot system reminds me a lot of Diablo. You have blocks in your inventory. You can either carry a lot of smaller items until the blocks are full, such as a handgun and a load of herbs, or you can carry 3-4 larger items/weapons and go for broke. Classic elements such as combining herbs and weapons are still in 7, as well as the rareness of bullets. Make all of those head-shots count. You will need every one of them.

As you make your way through the home, you find out more about the Baker family and the circumstances that allowed them to become super human. I don't know what else to label them as because they have some weird powers. They have apparently lived for a really long time, they can not be killed (Papa and Mama Baker are your primary enemies that will hunt you from the moment you step foot onto their property). They have super strength. Their limbs regenerate. They can break through walls. You can decapitate them and they will still come back! The villains have not been this daunting since RE 2/3. And somehow they get kicks out of torturing people that enter their realm. Within the first 20-30 minutes of the game as you learn the mechanics, Ethan will have his left hand cut off (thanks Mia) and his right foot hacked away by a shovel. A shovel!

I mean...what the hell Resident Evil? I'm already scared but now you've got me caged in with this lunatic family that wants to tear me apart.

What makes it intense is that the Baker family gives you potions and healing kits to reattach your limbs. They want you to be in one piece, so they can pull you apart again and again. It's a very twisted approach to horror and makes the game all the more terrifying.

I'm having too much fun with this game, because it's kind of sick. I'm scared. I'm horrified. I'm disgusted (but not too much - not like Saw). And I'm intrigued.

My favorite aspect of the game thus far is picking up video tapes and being able to replay them in your "safe rooms." You can experience other people walking through the house, just like the demos, and use their knowledge of the space to avoid traps that would harm Ethan. It's a very clever use of mechanics that give the player more opportunity to make decisions on how they want to proceed.

There are some aspects that flop. The puzzles are too generic and simple. They're not meant to test your meddle too much since your goal is to get out the house as soon as possible. But I didn't feel that they challenged the gamer on the level that they should have. It's a lot of "find this and put into slot to go forward." Woo. I guess if you're not big on puzzles it's fine, but for me it was flat. I also felt that the fights and excessive boss battles were unnecessary - no one should be able to regenerate a torso that quickly to prompt another fight. You miss out on the scenery of the game by focusing so much on defending yourself. The quiet moments are wonderful in RE7. Eerie and indepth. The loud moments are really loud and can clutter up the game. The battle system is great. It's streamlined from previous RE titles, but it felt like too much for an isolated area. We're not battling hundreds of zombies; just a weird family.

But if you need a good scare and some fun, puzzle-inducing game-play, pick up Resident Evil 7. You won't be disappointed. Glad to have you back in the family, RE.

Monday, February 06, 2017

A Super Hero Game to Best Them All?

Marvel and Square Enix (SE). It seems like a good match for video game content and could finally yield us a good Marvel game. Super hero games, in general, are fairly lack luster. The LEGO style games and the Batman: Arkham series are the only bright lights in a sea of utter disasters. Superman 64 anyone? At their press conference for Final Fantasy's 30th year, SE announced that it was teaming up with Marvel/Disney to produce a new Avengers project slated for 2018. An interesting decision given that Disney has closed their gaming division and handed over most projects to EA, all within the span of a year. One would have thought that EA would have complete control over Disney properties, but apparently Marvel was left off the table. EA handles the Star Wars titles for now with potential for more games in the future.

Marvel gets to continue to be the special snowflake and SE has been given the task to provide a proper video game for the crime-fighting Avengers team. A game was in the works, but cancelled in 2015 and the content for it that was released looked nice. Even passable by gaming standards. With SE at the helm, this could be the much-needed boost for super hero games to start a resurgence in the gaming world.

In general, Marvel hasn't had many games on the market. DC has been the king of comic book games, both good and bad. Outside of the Marvel vs. Capcom series, there were a few Spiderman games and the LEGO Marvel game. But that's the jist of it. Maybe it was done to protect the franchise name? Maybe Marvel felt that games weren't up to snuff with producing the content they needed (again, see Superman 64 as an example)? Whatever the reasons, this announcement should make gamers and Marvel fans quite happy. It's SE so you know you're going to get a solid product out of the collaboration, even if it's full of glitches.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

I'm SO GLAD it's Friday. It's been a long week and we could all use a break. The U.S. in particular. We are getting horribly screwed by our government right now. (Checks and Balances? What's that?) Between life, politics, and work, the weekend is sorely needed. So let's start off on the right foot with the Weekly Link Round Up! The best, worst, and silliest gaming news on the internet. Here's what we've got:

- Facebook has been ordered by a Texas court (it's always Texas) to pay $500 million to ZeniMax Media Inc., whom claims that their VR technology was stolen by Oculus. Facebook purchased Oculus in 2014 and has been developing the VR kit for consumers. ZeniMax claims that one of their former employees, John Carmack, used his knowledge of their technology and provided it to Oculus when he was hired with the company in 2013. The jury ruled that none of the defendants misued ZeniMax's trade secrets, but the code for the Rift did infringe on their original copyright. ZeniMax's next step is to put a stop to Oculus using the code for the Rift, which could completely stop sales and production of the unit. We'll have to wait and see what's next.

- The European Union has launched an investigation into 15 companies that are restricting online sale of video games and electronics to prevent people from buying products at a fair price. This includes companies like Valve, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax (yep, the same company from the last story). All are claimed to be using geo-locating tools to increase prices on products to prevent people in European countries from getting fair bargains on games. Companies convicted could face a fine of up to 10% of their global turnover - right now the EU is working out dates to begin proceedings.

- Sometimes we just want to play games and not have a long-ass opening sequence. That's the opinion of Alex Olges for the Daily Toreador, and I'm inclined to agree with it. Unless it's a game like Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid where I know the product is going to be drawn out from the moment I see the title screen, it does become cumbersome when the game play is slowed down to make room for the tutorial and long animations. There's nothing wrong with them, but when you want to jump in and play, it's a hassle. I just want to start building my digital world, not spend 20 minutes listening through a tutorial.

- A lot of people are calling out Nintendo for having a small line-up for their Switch release, coming next month. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will take the top spot, but the rest of the games are per-existing titles available on other platforms. President Tatsumi Kimishima, Reggie, and Iwata have all given their 2-cents on the issue. The biggest response being that in the past, Nintendo was known for releasing a lot of games with each system, that they felt each title didn't get a chance to shine on their own. It also meant longer spans of time between game releases for a system that developers had a hard time keeping up with consumer demand. By spacing out game releases, Nintendo feels it can better accommodate to the customers.

- Odd-ball article on Investment U, part of the Oxford Club, looking at the rise and fall of brick and mortar video game stores; specifically GameStop. They've been having a rough week, so why not kick them when they are down, eh? (I may not have the best history with this company, but I don't want people to lose their jobs over the CEO and board's stupid decisions.) But what Investment U does get correct is that the traditional store models are starting to fade away for games. People are going digital where it's faster to receive your product and cheaper, typically. More developers like Capcom, Ubisoft, and Square Enix are selling collector's edition games only through their stores and no where else, cause fewer people to shop with other retailers. Even used games don't hold a flame to digital. The GameStop store fronts may soon be a thing of a past as they move more towards the online space. And there's no further proof of this then going to your local strip mall and seeing the rows of empty stores.

- Hey look! WhatCulture is back on the weekly review! This time they have 20 reasons why 2017's biggest games will probably suck. Some of them include vast open worlds of nothingness, no one caring after one play (Nintendo Switch), and lack of character transfers (Destiny 2). All good reasons, but with such a huge gaming year lined up, I doubt most people will care unless they are game-breaking concerns.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Learning With Games - The Continuing Struggle for Teens

Education and video games have had a rocky history. Unless you're an 80's baby, then you probably grew up with some of the best learning games out there: Mavis Beacon, Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I would play Where in the World constantly, and loved the game so much, I even tried out for their short-lived game show. You'll find that a lot of "top 10" lists for educational games focus on the 80's and early 90's. Games that may not have held an interest with teenagers, but they were good for kids.

But today's market of edutainment is a bit lacking for the gaming crowd. As the industry grew, more focus went towards making games "fun" and less on "education." Few developers poured money into new IP's for educational games, which is why you'll find a sea of Mavis Beacon sequels and spin-offs all related to the main title. And unfortunately educational games have not aged with gamers. So much of the focus is on Pre-K and Elementary School-aged kids but not on Middle School or High School. Even television follows this trend with shows like 'Sesame Street' and 'Dora the Explorer' - meant to kids, not for anyone over age 10. This has created a huge void for edutainment. Even a quick Google search you'll be hard pressed to find a list of games for the 10-18 crowd that doesn't involve bird spotting or Monopoly.

I'm not against educational games. I think they provide a great bridge between fun and learning by putting a new spin on classic teaching methods. Especially in today's tech-heavy environment, having a different way to reach out to kids of any age through a medium they currently utilize is key to their growth as adults. And we know that games can teach kids how to problem solve and improve their reaction time. The problem is so many companies are stuck in the past. They feel the best games are behind us and were only meant for kids. They didn't grow up with us, so a number of teenagers feel that educational games are just for babies.

Sure there are games like Brain Age and Civilization (though sometimes inaccurate and you get to botch up history) but two games out a sea of thousands for kids is not ideal. So I've done some digging and played through a few games that I think could easily be added to your list of games for 10-18, and even for some adults:

- Parable of the Polygons. A flash game that is part puzzle, part sociology. Using shapes you have to move pieces across the board until that square or triangle is "happy." They want to be with neighbors that are just like them. The format of the website is direct with a concept that is easy to grasp. And it's a great tool for students to learn about the importance of diversity; not just in their classrooms but in their daily environment as well.

- Duolingo. A mobile app for learning languages that is completely free. With 27 languages available, students can listen, read, and repeat the lessons to gain points, play games, and spend coins that they earn to unlock additional lessons. It's rated as one of the top apps in 2013 and 2014 for it's ease of use and fun games.

- SchellGames. This is a company and not a particular game, but has been rated highly by PBS Kids and Yale University for educational content ranging from Preschool to Middle School, and recently trekking into the VR realm with I Expect You To Die. But the variety of games is quite astounding, ranging from problem solving to puzzles about the environment, sociology, history, and math.

- Virtonomics. A web-based game based on real world economics, your goal is to create a profitable business. You choose the industry you want to pursue, receive starting digital capital, and set goals for your company. It's been toted by several schools as a great resource for high school and college level micro-economic courses, allowing students the opportunity to see what it's really like to run a business. The fun is in the numbers, competing against others to build a better company, and using what you have learned to put towards your future investments.

- Immersed Games. Another company on the list, but a recent start-up with big dreams. Their goal is to develop games that prompt for problem solving and encourage dynamic thinking in students. They want for the learning experience to be more than fun; but a necessity in life. They are in the process of developing an MMO, but you can look at their recent release Tyto Ecology which allows you to create your own ecosystem in a bio-dome. You can watch animals and plants grow and interact with their environment. In the process you learn about the delicate balance of nature and management skills to maintain your bio-dome.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

ePeen to the Max!

Typically the week after PAX I will feature a few games that caught my attention. It also means I needed to be a responsible adult and remember to bring with me the business cards I picked up and have access to the photos. My bad. So we'll save those posts for another time and move on to more important things in the gaming world: dick sliders (images in the article NSFW).

You read that right. Dick sliders (images in the article NSFW). The new Conan game, Conan Exiles, will give gamers the opportunity to adjust the size of their junk. PC Gamer got a first look at the new online survival game, and the game promises blood, gore, and nudity from both genders. Huzzah! The endowment slider works on men and women, giving female avatars adjustable breast sizes. You can also change how much nudity you want in the game. So if you want full nude, you can change the settings to accommodate. Or if you want to play the game as is, you can keep clothing on. And just like the Terminator (heh), your avatar starts out in the desert completely nakie. You'll have to find your way to safety with your super nude body before you can gear up, and cover up.

Just to make it that much better, the game also sports a vanity camera. Smack the V key and you can adjust the camera to look at every angle of your body.

The game was developed in the Unreal 4 Engine, which means funny physics and detailed schlongs. It's the stuff of modders dreams.

Why is this is a big deal? For one it's silly. But mostly as a gamer it's very rare that care and consideration is given to the male avatar on adjusting their features. Usually the focus is on the female characters and being able to tailor the character to fit your needs. Male avatars tend to have a "one size fits all" mode. To have a game that wants to give you a more immersive experience, even with a dick slider to customize your avatar, then that's progress. Silly progress, but progress none the less!