Friday, June 30, 2017

Jumanji or How Video Game Popularity is Holding Us Back

Today we're not going to do a Weekly Link Round Up. Instead, we're going to talk about Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Not the movie with Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst. I'm talking about the re-imagining, or the sequel. I actually don't know what this movie is, other then a very far cry from it's predecessor. The trailer dropped yesterday with some mixed reactions. With it, came a better understanding of the plot:

Four teenagers are serving detention. Instead of freaking out about health code violations or safety, the principal sends the teenagers to the basement to clean it out. They find a video game console (Atari, how retro), and a game called 'Jumanji.' So they plug in all the cords and use the television conveniently located there. They pick their characters and then they are all transported into the game, where they become the adult avatars that they have selected. Now they have to find a way to "beat the game" and get out alive.

This premise is why I'm talking about the movie. It's another twist on the "game" concept to use it as a plot device.

Full disclosure: I dislike the trailer. It was too predictable and contained so many cliché's I was losing count. The 4 teens were every amalgamation of stereotype possible: the thin, frail nerdy guy. The black athlete. The prissy, pretty popular girl. The loner, shy girl. 'The Breakfast Club' has already been done, and better then this. Stop trying, Hollywood. Then they all warp into the game, ala 'Tron' but not even a fraction as cool as 'Tron.' It was every kid show knock-off that we've seen for decades - name any television show from 1990 to present and you will find that most have used an episode about the kids trapped inside a video game.

And then there were the "game characters." The nerdy guy of course becomes Dwayne Johnson; because 'Doom' wasn't enough for his career. The popular girl of course becomes Jack Black. The shy girl of course becomes the hot woman with half a shirt and short-shorts. The black athlete of course becomes the funny black guy. Every step of this trailer you could call shot for shot exactly what was going to happen.

It's not original. It's not unique. It's mashing up a lot of existing concepts and doing the same thing over and over again. And I'm not trying to compare it to the original 'Jumanji.' As it's own entity, 'Welcome to the Jungle' looks like everything else already on the market.

Nothing about this film screams video game yet, so I'll reserve judgment for when the movie releases...on Netflix. I'm not paying to see this, unless I already have a monthly subscription service. I'm not even sure how a video game fits in with this premise, other then being another trope to move the story along.

I'm disappointed in Hollywood that this is the best that we're getting. After so many failed attempts at video game movies, the best we're going to get is original ideas like 'Wreck It Ralph.' And that's a great animated movie (even with it's odd flaws and need to "princess" everything). Shoehorning in a video game plot device is not how we elevate the medium. It just looks, and feels dumb. As though the writers felt they had to add in gaming to entice a younger audience to see the film.

You are welcome to disagree with me. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I find this to be another movie cashing in on nostalgia and half-ass clichés that should be long dead.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

U.S. County Sued for Extreme Pokémon Go Rules

It's Thursday, and for some reason Blogger decided it didn't want to submit the scheduled posts I had for this week. While I look into this technical feud, let's talk bout Pokémon Go. Yes the game is still quite popular and nets a hefty profit for the developer. But the immense initial interest when it first launch is leaving some lasting effects.

Milwaukee County, in Wisconsin, is being sued by developer Candy Labs AR, over the city's permit requirement. In March, the county enacted a law that required everyone to obtain a permit, if they wanted to play an augmented reality (AR) game in a public place. That means parks, walk/bike trails, sidewalks - anywhere that is deemed public. Similar to "Pidgey's Law," the county was concerned that the increased foot traffic would cause unnecessary side effects: more littering, more damage to the grass, etc.

Even more fun is that if you live in the area, and do decide to fill out the 10 page permit, and go through the screening process where you have to be interviewed by the Parks and Recreation department. the county reserves the right to not approve it for any reason they see fit. How very bureaucratic of them.

Candy Labs AR is currently testing a new poker game that uses augmented reality elements, and they are finding it impossible to comply with Milwaukee's law. It's also a pretty flagrant violation of first amendment rights for citizens. The county is only regulating video games - sports events or any general activities are not required to have a permit. And that's why the game developer is suing the county. The details concede that Milwaukee officials are allowed to regulate use of parks, but requiring a permit for video gaming is a restraint on free speech. If you are going to regulate one aspect, you have to regulate everything. A public park is a not a cherry-picked system. It's all or nothing.

If the county and the developer don't agree to a settlement in the upcoming months, the case will go to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin next April.

Monday, June 26, 2017

SNES Mini Is Coming

Back in April, remember when I posted that everyone should wait until Nintendo issues a statement before they go crazy about an SNES Mini? Well, you can freak out now.

Nintendo has announced an SNES Mini will be made available just before the holiday seasons. Retailing at $79.99, the compact Super Nintendo Entertainment System will be out starting September 29th and will include 21 games. Including the never released Star Fox 2. Yeah. You read that right. Star Fox 2. We've had spin-offs and newer versions of the game releasing with most Nintendo systems, but the fabled #2 never appeared. It will also have Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Donkey Kong Country, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Oh, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Who knew that would happen? There's also Final Fantasy III, but I don't know if that's Japan FF3 or NA FF3, which is actually 6. If it's 6, then hot damn - that's a good buy!

Systems are going to be stylized by region to reflect the "retro" look of the systems when they were released. In Europe, it means slightly different colors and markings.

But the big question on everyone's mind is will Nintendo be able to keep up with demand? Last year's Nintendo Mini release was lacking a lot of stock and a growing number of complaints from consumers. You were lucky if you got a system at all. And just when we hoped Nintendo would produce more, they simply ended production a few months ago. Barely 6 months on the market and only a lucky few able to wait hours in lines, or pay scalper prices, were able to buy the system. Nintendo is notorious for being the worst at supply and demand - much to the ire of fans. While it may work for them to drive up interest, it makes the company appear unfriendly to those who want the product. So don't expect Nintendo to change for the SNES Mini. Small stock and long lines are in our future.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Where Was the VR?

One thing you may have notice lacking at E3 this year were VR games. Last year, with the Rift and Vive around the corner, Sony pumped up their show to be all about the VR experience. Even my trip to PAX West (formerly Prime) last year, their booth was all about VR. This year, well other then Bethesda rocking on Doom and Fallout 4, it wasn't a blip on the radar. What happened?

VR got a much bigger boost in interest from investors then previous gimmicks like 3D. Many of us are thrilled that the 3D televisions did not take off, though Hollywood is still insistent on making 3D movies and tacking on a $15 surcharge to the tickets. But unlike it's predecessors, VR has been a very long building process trying to create a foundation. Everyone in the industry knew going in that once VR "launched" to the public, interest would be high at first, slow down, and then we would be left with a solid core to build future content off of. That's essentially what has happened. Rift's and Vive's are still on the market. SquareEnix, Sony, Bethesda, and Microsoft are all producing games centered around VR peripherals. Games such as Star Trek: Bridge Crew are racking up sales and YouTube hits left and right - this is an amazingly fun, team game and I highly recommend it to those who are not VR challenged.

VR isn't dead. Not by a longshot. It had it's big moment when sales began, and now developers are focusing on the foundation that was created to develop new games. The next step for VR is to fine-tune the equipment, make the content worth people's money, and possibly bring it out of the homes and into the real world. Don't count out VR yet. It's got a lot of life left in it. So it didn't make a big splash at E3 this year, and that's okay. It had it's moment in the spotlight last round. Now the real work begins.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

I'm calling it today. We're doing an early rendition of the Weekly Link Round Up, which will be mostly a Weekly Link List Round Up. There are so many top 5, top 10's, top 20's released on various gaming sites this week, that it would be a shame to let them all go to waste. We need to highlight the best, worst, and weirdest ranking lists today! Incoming lighthearted post to perk up your spirits:

- The Top 5 Best Selfies in Video Games. That one is not a joke, and yes it is a real article. Yesterday was National Selfie Day, which is also a real thing. GameRevolution celebrated by focusing on games where selfies make an appearance. On the list is D.Va's intro from Overwatch, and Grand Theft Auto V, which has a glorified "selfie" photo mode. But they focused on a very, um, Trevor image. It's creepy.

- IGN looks at the Top 10 Games that were Missing from E3. In all fairness, a lot of things were left out of E3, such as original/new games. But I'm surprised that a gaming magnet such as IGN was hoping for content from Shenmue 3 and Red Dead Redemption 2. Shenmue has opted to take the Kickstarter route and because of that, it has a much more modest budget to work with and not as big of a backing to produce. Getting that game to E3 would cost time and money the company doesn't have. Even with Sony showing "support" at E3 two years ago by inviting the creator onto the stage, that doesn't mean they are giving them money left and right to develop it. With Rockstar Games, have they ever really played ball at E3? No. They haven't. They do their own thing and that's why we love them. I understand that IGN is trying to drum up readers, but this list is off the mark, even for them.

- WhatCulture is gracing us with their presence with a list of the Top 10 Hotly-Anticipated Games Still to Come in 2017. No surprise here, all but 1 game is a sequel, prequel, or spin-off. That being Cuphead, a whimsical action platformer that looks like an animation straight from the 1940's. But at this point, 2017 can officially be called the year of game sequels. On the list there's Super Mario Odyssey, Wolfenstein II, and Ass Creed Origins. It's nothing really spectacular - I was hoping WhatCulture would throw in some twists to this list!

- Games has an...interesting article that only applies to game studios in the UK. Six Ways to Make the Most of the Video Game Tax Relief. In 2014, a coalition was launched to help provide tax relief and subsidies to gaming studios throughout the country to help boost business and create more jobs. So far it's working. As more developers settle in the UK, knowing about the tax relief can help improve their work environment and make use of the start-up help that so many need.

- Twinfinite will hit your nostalgic button today with a list of the Top 100 PS2 Games! The downside is that this list has no ranking, but maybe that's for the best. 100 games is A LOT, especially for the PS2. Narrowing down the list to only 100 is a feat on it's own. And it opens up the debate for people to talk about which ones are the best of the bunch! The list includes Dark Cloud 2 (one of my favorites and I'm glad that others see it too), Amplitude, Bully, Disgaea, and Psychonauts. What do you think are the best games for the PS2?

- Kotaku spent some of their time at E3 this year, asking attendees which video game character they felt would make a great roommate. An important question! With answers ranging from Mega Man to Nathan Drake, there are an endless array of options on who would be the perfect roomie.

- Sega has announced Sega Forever, a collection of classic Sega games that you can play on mobile. The best part, it's all free! Starting Friday, you can download their app and play a selection of Sega titles on the go. Every two weeks, the company plans to add more games, and it sounds like it'll be a rotating selection with some titles dropping to add in new ones. My thumbs are ready to test Sonic's speed limits!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Twitch Now Sole Provider of Blizzard Competition Streams

While Twitch has been a partner with Blizzard for multiple eSports competitions over the years, particularly with Hearthstone (courtesy of Geico) and recently Overwatch, two two companies have made the relationship official. From here on out, all eSports streaming for Blizzard games will be handled by Twitch.

Through 2018, Twitch will be streaming over 20 events and competitions for all Blizzard IP's, including Starcraft II and Heroes of the Storm. Both games are widely popular in South Korea and bring in millions of revenue. Twitch will be streaming regional and global events, including the Starcraft World Champion Series. Blizzard will still have their own stream for gamers through their platform. But Twitch will be the sole third-party provider.

There are also additional perks! If you are a Twitch Prime/Amazon Prime member, exclusive in-game items will be made available over the next year and a half for Blizzard games. Overwatch players can expect a gold lootbox starting next Tuesday. All the more reason to sign up for Twitch Prime if you haven't yet. Or if you already have an Amazon Prime account, simply link the two and you are set. Blizzard has always played well with Twitch, and the additional perks are a nice bonus to those who already subscribe to Amazon. It's another, good outlet to keep fans engaged and bring in new faces.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It's True: Atari Is Making a New Console

Famed video game console maker Atari is planning to release a new system, the first in over 20 years. You read that right, and we are mostly certain this isn't a joke. Last week, a website for the AtariBox popped up with a teaser trailer. Since then, people have been speculating as to what it could be. Is it a re-release of a classic Atari console? Is it something new? Is it someone pranking us? Will it have that wood grain we all know and find stylishly unappealing?

Atari CEO Fred Chesnais spoke with VentureBeat to confirm that yes, the company is making a new system. But he didn't provide much details beyond it using PC components and that they were still working on the design.

Since Chesnais' purchase of the company in 2013, he has been steadily putting the Atari name back on the minds of consumers. More recently it has been focused on the mobile market, helping develop and produce phone games. You can see product placement for it in the upcoming 'Bladerunner' movie.Chesnais feels confident that a system from the developer would be coming in at the right time. If it's a retro-console similar to the mini-Nintendo, they would have an instant hit. Hopefully they'll have more then 2 consoles at a store and not BE like Nintendo. We will find out more in the coming months/years.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sequels Rule the Roost

E3 is done! I hope they plan to open up passes next year for the public again, because I am camping those like a mofo and jumping in. While the content on the show floor looked amazing and it was great to see so much more of the event as it happened, the major developer presentations were just okay. I know some people are raving about how Nintendo won, or Sony won. But really, did anyone "win" this round?

E3 2017 is going to be marked as the year of sequels and remakes. What's more annoying is that all of us are going to buy the content. I am ready and waiting for the South Park sequel, as well as Mario Odyssey and the Crash Bandicoot re-release.

The fact is that franchises work and sell because they are something people are familiar with. It's why we have a billion CSI spin-offs, so many Marvel superhero movies in the making, Resident Evil 7, and more Mario games then you probably don't know all of them. Why do people like sequels and prequels? What keeps us entertained seeing the same thing over and over again?

Part of it is comfort in knowing what we are going to get out of the product. When we play a game for the first time, whether it's The Last of Us or The Legend of Zelda, and we love the results, we treasure those feelings. We want future games to be able to capture those same emotions. That's what sequels are about - eliciting those same tones to cause us to react favorably towards the product. We want more Mario games because of the joy they provided us when we were kids - and Mario titles excel at capturing nostalgia. We want more Resident Evil with the unexpected fear and scares, because no other title has frightened us as much as RE. Even when the sequel isn't very good (sorry RE6, but I do mean you), we still want it for those nostalgic feelings the game creates.

This feeling of sticking with the known, not testing the waters, is why we have so many copy/paste stories. Can you remember the last time that we've had an original game with new plots that we haven't seen before? Look at war games: Call of Duty, Battlefield, Men of War, Company of Heroes. Is there anything unique about these titles, other then the developers behind them? Even the box art for each title looks incredibly similar. Why? Because there's comfort in knowing what to expect. For as much as I praise Horizon: Zero Dawn, it's still a mash-up of dystopian stories that have been told before.

This isn't to say that sequels are a bad thing, but it does provide a pretty bland environment when gaming can be so much more. For a medium with no boundaries, it seems content on following Hollywood for it's sequel trends.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

It's the Weekly Link Round Up! All the news, reviews, and weird stories about video games on the internet this week. Even though it's been flooded with E3 content, there were a few gems to pull from the rubble. Here's what we've found:

- Niel deGrasse Tyson is making a video game on 'Space Odyssey.' I really don't need to say anything else. It's deGrasse. Making a video game. Coolness level 100% achieved! Go check it out and fund it!

- may not always have the best stories, but this one is worth a few minutes of your time. Political writer Amanda Marcotte recently interviewed Patrick Markey, co-writer of the book "Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong." The book is a sensible review on age/generation gaps and the looming stigma of video games. They also dive into the Golidlocks effect; the idea that every generation thinks what they are doing is right and everyone else before or after has done, or will do it wrong. Video games are stuck in this field when it comes to discussing it with older generations. I did not expect this to come out of, but there you go!

- EnGadget tackles the topic of video game violence, and how it has changed over time. As games have evolved and become more immersive, so has the gore. And developers are taking greater care to ensure the content they produce isn't as evil as politicians make it out to be. Jessica Conditt speaks with a few developers and their responses are very interesting.

- DigitalTrends checked out some of the hit, well, trends from E3 this year. Some of them are obvious, such as the jump-slow motion aiming thing that Horizon has made popular. Others are silly. Like bears. Apparently there were bears all over the place at E3 this year. In games. As plastic props in booths. People in costumes on stage...dancing. E3 is a strange place.

- Speaking of Bears, the W Hotel brand has launched a mobile game called Belle to Bear. The game is similar to Frogger and is being used to market their newest hotel in Bellevue, Washington. Players must guide a bear through obstacles such as trees, rivers, and bees, to make it to the hotel. There is currently a competition underway. The 5 highest scores will receive prizes, including a complimentary 3-night stay at the hotel.

- Did you know there is a Tour de France video game? Yeah. I didn't either. Announced in a press release yesterday, the 2017 game is now available on PC, PS4, and XBox One. Like most sports games, you can create your own racer, customize, and create your own racing team to compete with others online. There's probably an in-game betting system as well, because sports game. I just didn't know this was a thing. Anything can be a game these days!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Konami Buffoonery: The Legend Continues

When you thought Konami couldn't do anything worse, after ousting Hideo Kojima and steadily transforming the business to a mobile-only outlet, they had to go and pull another "dumb." According to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review, Konami Japan is apparently blacklisting former employees to ensure they no longer work in the industry.

Because...Konami is a dick? I really don't know why they would do that. Not only is it counter-productive to motivating the team that they should do better, but it also prevents new talent from considering your company for work. Knowing that Konami is going to blacklist you if you leave or if you're fired, then why bother working for them?

According to Nikkei, two months ago an unnamed Kojima Productions executive applied for Kojima to join ITS Kenpo. ITS is a health services company that focuses on those working in the video game industry. The application was denied as one of the board members is also on the board with Konami.

Former employees are also finding it hard to work just about anywhere if they try to use the "Konami name" on their resume. One employee stated“If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job."

"One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant."

If any of this is true, that's got to be an ethics violation that could lead Konami down some very treacherous legal proceedings. And given how many gamers have turned away from the company after the Kojima incident, this is more reason for fans to leave the company behind entirely. I mean,  EA is not a great company to work for and tends to release a lot of half-ass products without much thought. But at least they don't blacklist former employees to prevent them from getting work anywhere so they could, ya know, survive. Konami is on dangerous ground right now and will have a difficult time regaining the faith of consumers.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How to Be a Video Game Streamer Part 4: The Hard Truth

If you've been following along so far, good for you! You are on your way to setting up and running your own gaming channel. And if you haven't, be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 to start your journey.

Streaming and creating videos about you playing video games can be a lot of fun. And a lot of hard work.

What if your channel doesn't take off? What if you don't get tens of thousands of subscribers to your Twitch feed? What if you don't get any donations so you can quit your day job and do this full time?

Welcome to the reality check. Part 4 is going to focus on The Hard Truth. And what is that truth?

Not everyone can be internet famous.

That may seem obvious, given the billions of videos that are on YouTube right now, and many have no views. But when you are gearing up and jumping into streaming for the first time, you're excited! You are doing your best and giving it your all, knowing, and hoping, that you'll make money to do it full time. You don't think about how there are already thousands of well known streamers that people already donate to monthly and won't be able to give money to others. You don't think about the other hundred's of thousands of streamers (yes, there are that many now) who do this day in and day out and never gain new fans. You don't think about how competitive the market is for streaming to obtain viewers in hopes to get their attention, and their money. You just want this to work and have fun doing it.

"Streaming is so easy," they say. It's not.

For every one successful Markplier you have a hundred thousand streamers that have 0-10 followers and no reach. Being internet famous is no different then Hollywood famous. There are millions of actors and actresses in the world, but only a handful reach that notoriety of being infamous where we know their names. And being famous is completely random! Sometimes it's from hard work. Other times you catch a lucky break and another famous person/streamer talks about you and bam! You're on the front page. More often then not, fame is accidental. It happens when it happens and you can't guarantee it. Otherwise, we'd all be internet famous and no one would be making money from streaming.

Fame can also be fleeting. For those who were able to grab onto that 15 minutes, they worked hard to keep it. Most people will let it slide and your fame is gone. It's here and out the door a moment later.

What I'm getting at is, you may not be famous from streaming. You may not reach the same level of success as PewDiePie. And that's okay! You don't have to be like the others to enjoy streaming.

One of the best ways to keep yourself from falling into pits where you feel like you're failing, is to set modest goals. Be humble. Be yourself. And be honest with your work. Don't try to aim for 100,000 subscribers in your first month on YouTube. Go for 10. As your fan-base grows, so can your goals.

And while you are being honest, think about your personality. Are you a likeable person? Do others find you funny or entertaining? Do people enjoy being around you because of your comedic nature? It can be very difficult to force comedy. If you don't practice daily, you better have a natural talent for being charming. Audiences don't want to watch a streamer who is "faking it." They want genuine people with natural charisma to latch onto. The streamers that are successful are the ones that are the most like their real-world selves and not characters. If you don't have that natural draw, then streaming may not be a good fit for you.

Does that mean you shouldn't stream? No. If you enjoy it, do it! I don't have thousands of fans, but I still like to stream, I still have people that follow, and we have a great time chatting with each other. My goals are very modest and I don't expect to get monthly donations. All I want out of streaming is to have fun and meet new people through gaming. If it means that some days I talk to the void and no one is watching, that's fine. There are other days where I get a full house of viewers it's a great time!

Now it's not all doom and gloom. If you do want to play games for a living, and get paid for it, there is another route to take that many "streamer" articles overlook: Quality Assurance. Game studios are always looking for people to test their products. Your job is to play these games to find problems that need to be fixed. You are getting paid to break games. If you are the type of person who is inquisitive, that likes to find new ways to play a game, and have people tell you that you are a perfectionist, you'd probably make a good QA. This can range from studio to studio on the types of positions that are available. Some only hire QA's as needed for temporary work. Others need full-time QA's (MMO's and MOBA's).

Hours can range, and sometimes the studios are pretty flexible with you so if you need to work a second job or go to school for day classes, you can. And in a number of cases, your temporary QA job could lead to a permanent position. A number of today's gaming developers will tell you that QA is a good start into this job market. It gives you baseline experience in the development world. Yes, you'll have a boss. Yes you'll have to follow the company's rules. But you know what's awesome about it? A steady paycheck. And some companies will offer temporary insurance for QA! YouTube can't give you that. If you want to have a career in game design, this is a good route to go.

Well, I hope you found this 4 Part series helpful on your journey to become a video game streamer. Remember, be humble. Be honest. And find what you love about streaming and hold onto it. Don't lose that feeling; it will help you get through the hard work. Oh, and don't forget who gave you all this helpful advice should you become internet famous.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

E3 Major Conferences Round Up

In previous years I've had the luxury of being able to watch the streams live and comment on them almost immediately. Yeah, that didn't happen this time. I was at a convention and regret my life choices. So I was stuck waiting until I was at a desktop, because screw streaming to your phone on hotel wi-fi, to watch the madness unfold. Instead of going from conference to conference with each developer that showcased these past 3 days, I'm going to lump them all into one post for easy digesting.

Let's look at what the big guns have to show off this year!

- Microsoft: This E3 is all about Project Scorpio; now officially called the XBox One X. At least they are consistent about their naming nomenclature. Releasing November 7th, the system will retail for $499 USD while the original XBox One (S) will drop to $249. Launch titles to look forward to: Forza Motorsport 7 and, well, that's all they really focused on. But Forza is still a big deal for gamers, so they didn't need to do much else to push it. Other news from MC: Minecraft will get boosted to 4K for reasons, and the new BioWare game Anthem was featured. The presentation held some old and new things, but nothing really awe-inspiring. A number of the games mentioned are not exclusive or rehashes of past games in a different wrapping. It wasn't a bad presentation, but it wasn't great either.

- Sony: Last year Sony showed off some new games, talked about VR, and wowed us with a bitchin' looking God of War. This's pretty much the same thing, but better refined. It was more God of War, DLC for Horizon: Zero Dawn, Spiderman, and VR. Meh. The only big freak-out news was that Monster Hunter would come to PS4 and it looks glorious. But let's not hold our breath here. This was pretty subpar as a presentation and showcased nothing that would convince a person to buy a PS4. You can see The Verge's 5 minute wrap-up for the full breakdown.

- Electronic Arts (EA): The company is trying really hard to get us to buy into Star Wars: Battlefront. After mixed reviews from the latest revival, EA spent the last half of their presentation focusing on Battlefront II, which will expand the full Star Wars legacy of episodes 1-6, and multiplayer maps will be free to download so you can continue to keep playing the game. Most importantly, there will be a single player campaign. And it better be good, EA. Don't make it a 3 hour throw-away. EA also focused heavily on sports games, because it is what they do best, and that's really the bulk of their presentation. The other games mentioned, Anthem and A Way Out were blips on the radar that became overshadowed by sports and Star Wars.

- Bethesda: Other then trying to get us to continue to buy more re-releases of Elder Scrolls, the company did do another bump for VR - this time for Fallout 4 and Doom. Yeah. Doom is going VR. That sounds amazing and scary at the same time. Both titles are expected to be out by the end of the year. The company is also releasing Creation Club, a hub for modders that will allow people to access limitless content through all platforms, including Nintendo's Switch, to add content to their games. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus looks stellar and seems to have a very strong story to drive the content, outside of the typical war games. The company has never been afraid to dive into the political and social foray, and Wolfenstein is coming out at a time when we need it.

- Ubisoft: AssCreed. AssCreed. AssCreed. Oh, and Beyond Good and Evil 2 is a prequel. But mostly AssCreed. I think most of my memory of this presentation was wiped out by Beyond Good and Evil. We've been waiting on a sequel for 15 years, and the trailer came out of left field. No one was expecting it. I re-watched the presentation and was still floored by it. And I think the internet-wide freak-out will be enough fuel for Ubisoft to realize that yes, they need to continue with this project. Scrap it, and you'll have mutiny on your hands! So I don't really remember what else happened. Another South Park trailer, along with a phone game. More Far Cry 5 development. Skull & Bones, a "new" title that uses the Black Flag framework for more piratey goodness. That's about the jist of it.

Nintendo Direct starts at 9am PST today! Don't miss out.

Monday, June 12, 2017

E3 Expectations

I am EXHAUSTED. All caps. Underlined. And bolded for greater emphasis. It's been a long weekend, and probably the most I have worked at for a convention in, well, ever. So today's post is going to be light and nothing E3 related. In fact, I'll be cramming in E3 streams during my breaks and at home this evening while I render videos. Lucky me!

But let's talk about E3. This year keynotes started on Saturday, and I swear they get earlier and earlier every year. The show is technically Tuesday through Thursday, but developers and the big 3 consoles are already touting their wares! It's crazy and difficult to schedule around. Nintendo is the only one holding their conference on Tuesday, but we know most of the content already.

We know that Microsoft has already dropped the bomb on their newest system...that's smaller and supports 4k. That's all I know about it. Not enough to get me to buy. Nice try, MC. Not everyone has 4k - it's still too new and too expensive to have a monitor/television that supports it.

So what's this E3 going to be all about? For one thing, this is the first year the event is open to the public. We'll see what the result is with having fresh bodies on the floor and this no longer being a "developers only" conference.

But many gamers are looking to see what's next with Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo's new console has taken off, and the other two players need to show that they are on the ball with trends. Microsoft is trying. Sony hasn't announced any big plans yet. For all consoles though, games need to take center stage. The Switch may be hot, but it's game line up kind of sucks. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is nice and all, but where are the other games? Spending all that money on one title is not worth it. Both Microsoft and Sony need to lock in exclusive games, while providing interactivity to their customers.

And we need to see NEW games. Not sequels. Not prequels. Not remakes. New. Games. If developers expect to keep the momentum going on their products, they have to bring out the big guns. Hollywood has suffered from the repeats, and have seen sales slide as video games take over. Developers need to step it up if they want to see growth.

What do you hope to see from E3 this year?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

Who's ready for an early rendition of the Weekly Link Round Up?

I know it's only Wednesday, but it's a busy week ahead and there are already some good stories out there to keep us all preoccupied for the days ahead. Let's see what's in store:

- The ESA is filing a motion against the city of Chicago, Illinois over a recent re-interpretation of a city law that was instituted in 2015. The "Amusement Tax" charges a 9% tax to online gaming, meant to curb gambling and help increase the city's revenue. The original tax was applied to psychical activities and circuses, but has since morphed to include a "Cloud" version. This year, the city has included video games - that means Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and any video game publisher for mobile games has to pay 9% more in tax to be available in Chicago. The ESA is against this, for obvious reasons. The biggest concern is that if Chicago is allowed to continue this practice, who's to say that they can't apply that to all goods and services such as telecommunication companies, giving us the cable we need to go online? Or to movie theaters, television production companies, and local toy stores; those are places and objects of amusement. Taxes like these are slippery slopes that could cause long-term damage to the economy and industries involved. While the ESA is looking at this from more of a business/money perspective, nipping it in the bud now would save decades of headaches later.

- Kotaku has an amusing post regarding video game collectables. They have composed 10 Commandments that game developers should follow to make the experience both enjoyable, and rewarding. I am a fan of collectables in games, if anything it's because of my OCD. And these 10 Commandments get my approval. Obtaining these rare finds in games should be fun and challenging. There should be a payoff in the end that makes it worth my time. And there should be a clear note if I can't obtain something because I haven't progressed far enough in the story. Don't dangle the collectable in front of me and have it annoy me throughout my gameplay!

- Accouting and consulting firm PwC has released their annual stats over the growth of video games, and their predictions over the next 5 years. This year it's predicting a moderate growth of console sales, just over 6%. The focus was on eSports and VR, expecting to dominate the field by 2021. Read the story to get the full stats.

- You may not know this, but Fox has a gaming division called FoxNext. Trying to get into the gaming business, they recently acquired mobile developer Aftershock. With them, Fox hopes to release a series of mobile products tied in to the James Cameron movie 'Avatar.' There are no details on how much Fox paid or what any of these new games will look like, but there you go. More crap to put on the market.

- Air safety demonstrations and videos are something that travelers have all but tuned out. I know I do, but I fly 4-5 times a year and have been since I was 8. I know the spiel. But a mobile developer wants to make an app that will help people pay attention again. Developed by Italy's University of Udine’s Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab, 'Air Safety World' uses mini games to help walk passengers through what to do in an emergency so they can be ready in case they experience it in reality. Researches found that with the game, passengers were more attentive to safety protocols and likely to follow them.

- E3 is next week!!!! And the conferences are starting earlier and earlier. Which is kind of annoying. I have a convention this weekend and can't watch a thing on Saturday or Sunday. Sorry gang. No live-blogging this time. You can find a list of the big talks here, and everything will pretty much be streamed online. So if you miss it, you can easily find the presentations through the developer.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

YouTube's New Guidelines Explained?

As tensions continue to rise between YouTube and video content production, the company has finally released more comprehensive guidelines regarding what can be shown to receive ad revenue. Gamasutra reached out to YouTube for clarification. One of the new rules excludes violent video game montages from receiving any monetization. For most streamers, that won't be an issue. It's rare to see edited videos of game violence spliced together.

However for developers, that's another story. Flashy trailers and montages are part of the deal in trying to entice people to buy their game. It's not always violence, but YouTube doesn't specify the length of the montage or how much violence needs to be involved before it can revoke monetization. Is it 5 seconds? 10 seconds? A minute? Is it one person shooting a sci-fi gun or 20 people? Is there blood, no blood, or the illusion of death?

We don't know, and that's going to be a tightrope for developers to walk when they produce content for YouTube. And right now, they are in a bind. 5 billion videos are watched daily on YouTube. That number is not going to be curbed anytime soon. So if developers want to have a chance at enticing gamers and fresh eyes to their content, they have to put their trailers on YouTube and conform to their guidelines. Whatever they may be.

Monday, June 05, 2017

eSports in Europe Taking Off With Telecommunications

The world of eSports is still new, but a number of businesses see the potential for money by investing now. In Europe, the craze has been slow to start but will soon pick up speed in the coming years. JP Morgan Chase estimates that the audience for eSports will reach the same level as traditional spots games (Football, Baseball, etc.) in 10 years, about 40 years faster then it's predecessors. Global revenues are roughly $500 million USD, but expected to jump to $1 billion by 2019.

That's a lot of money to play with, and if you're investing, you get a piece of it. Which is why European telecommunication firms are starting to sign up with eSports teams across the continent in hopes of having the next hit marketing opportunity. While we know Mountain Dew and various gaming accessory makers will sponsor events, it makes a lot of sense to also have telecom companies. Gamers need stable, reliable, fast internet connections at every event. Having servers go down kills the frenzy. One major thing I noticed at the Overwatch Winter Finals at PAX South this year is how quiet the audience was when the games had to pause for technical issues. It was eerie. And a quick way to lose your viewers. If I had been watching this on Twitch, I would have tuned out. Getting telecom companies involved in the process is a win-win for eSports.

Telecom companies in Europe are not just sponsoring the tournaments and teams, but also providing new television channels and shows for 24 hour coverage. That's already a step up from what we have here in the U.S. While the numbers for how much is being spent are still under wraps, there's a clear message that businesses are ready to play with eSports. It's only a matter of time until others join in.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

We've made it! Did it feel like this week was longer then the last one? Why is it that returning to work after a holiday it's always like that? Well, we won't drag out the day any longer then necessary. It's time for the Weekly Link Round Up! The best, worst, and oddest gaming news on the internet. Here's what we've got:

- More Far Cry 5 details have been released, and the game's setting takes place in Montana. It's a big leap from the previous games, by focusing on a more realistic location and time. The fictional town of Hope County is based off the city of Poplar in Montana. The story focuses on you, and your team, fighting against a fanatical cult that has taken over the area. Ubisoft developers visited Poplar to scout the location, take photos and video, and use it as a reference for developing their fictional landscape. The choice for the state was to give Far Cry 5 more of a "rural" feel while giving players a chance to run through mountains, hunt wildlife, and fish. So...there you go. Montana!

- 'Games As a Service.' You may have seen that phrase pop up this week thanks to a Kotaku article. As more developers move away from the traditional game model (i.e. they make a game, release it, move on to the next game) and focus on episodic and DLC content, many are starting to refer to games as  "service." The idea being that instead of a one and done deal on a game, they can provide more to consumers by providing updates and content for 1-2 years and keep customers invested in a product.

Does anyone remember the days where you could buy a game, in full, and not have to pay more? I miss those days. Most games were bug free!

The problem with this mindset that games are a "service" is that companies begin to treat gamers differently. Instead of selling more content, they look at DLC as a privilege that they are giving more to gamers. It doesn't improve the actual "service" of the game: the servers that run multiplayer, customer support, technical support, etc. More resources are shifting towards making money and not providing support to the gamers in ensuring they can play the product they paid for. It's a very slippery slope, and MMO's seem to be the only market that seems to get it.

- This just in: Video Games are still popular. Sales last month reached $7.7 billion, following $8 billion in March. Apparently the slight dip is a bad thing, but this year is already on track to outpace prior gaming years. Dumb article is dumb in pointing out the obvious, but now you know how much money was spent on games over the last 2 months. Yea.

- YouTube is one again bringing coverage of E3 with Geoff Keighley, this time offering a 4K stream to the 20 thousand or so people who actually have a television or monitor with that pixel rate. This year they will offer 2 days of streaming instead of 1, and will include keynote addresses and demos on the floor. In 4K...that most people won't be able to view.

- Here's a guy playing a video game off a microwave. I have no witty retorts to add to this. It's too random and astounding to add any more commentary.

- It's not a Round Up without a WhatCulture list! This week, it's 8 Insane Things Video Games Ask Us To Do. Games do expect us to suspend our belief when we trounce about their landscapes, so what does WhatCulture find the weirdest of the weird? Well they list GTA5 and the stock market mini-game. There's also hacking e-mails in Prey, the Psycho Mantis battle in Metal Gear Solid, and killing the stripper nuns in Hitman. While those are crazy, they are very specific to the game and not universal of all games. You don't kill strippers in Mario. When I think of "insane things games as of us" I look at arcade side-scrolling action games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where you have to eat pizza sitting on the ground to regain your health. Now that is insane and nasty. How long has that pizza been sitting there? What are the toppings? Has anyone stepped on it or has a car driven over it? Think of all the bugs that may have crawled on it! And you want me to eat that to regain health? This is a common aspect in a lot of video games. Food on the floor? There's your health pack. Good try WhatCulture, but you can do better.

- Finally, The Verge wants you to review your game screenshots. While I don't like the lack of insight into this article, I did find the discussion in the comments interesting. What do you think your screen capture habits say about you? What type of images do you like to photograph or record? It's interesting to read the answers from commenters while looking at your own gallery.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

How to Be a Video Game Streamer Part 3: Video Time!

I said this part would take a while to complete, and I was not joking. I must have edited this down at least 4 times. Better late then never!

If you're just starting, welcome! I recommend that you catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 before diving into this section. The focus for Part 3 will be all about your video content! Producing, recording, and editing. In theory, it sounds really easy. In actuality, it's a massive time suck. Scheduling out your recording and editing time will be critical to ensure you meet your deadlines for uploading content to your channel. Even if your focus is only streaming directly to Twitch and not post-production, you'll find Part 3 to be useful. This is going to be the tech-heavy section, so it will apply to all streamers in some form or fashion. So let's jump in!

Before you start streaming, you'll need some equipment. If you want to be taken seriously as a streamer, you need to invest in good gear. If people can't see you or hear you, then they will tune out. The gear doesn't have to be expensive, but it needs to be quality that will last so you get the most out of your money.

Web Camera: Yes. You need a web cam. At this point it's become a standard among the industry and it's rare to find someone who doesn't use one when working on their videos. Some early adopters of YouTube and Twitch don't use these as often, but have steadily made the transition over to web cam. Luckily, technology in this area has vastly improved over the past few years that getting a good quality web cam, doesn't require a lot of money. It's recommended that you get one with a minimum of 720P, HD. This covers your basic needs and provides good video capabilities.

If you plan to stream your games in 1080P, then you do need to have a web cam that matches the quality. Logitech is one of my go-to's for web cams. I've yet to be disappointed by their products. The C920 is one that you will hear a lot from streamers as their preferred camera. Not only is the quality great, but the head swivels and it can be attached to a tripod. So you have the ability to move the camera around more freely instead of keeping it tethered to your computer.

Another one to look into is Microsoft Life Cam. I did not know Microsoft made web cams, and this one is pretty nifty. It's got a better frame rate and image stabilization compared to more web cams on the market. While it doesn't swivel as well as the Logitech, it does have a tripod mount as well and has a built in light optimization to help brighten the images in the camera.

Microphone: And no, you can't use the one that came with your web cam. While the audio quality is okay, it's not going to be as clear as you'd want it to be. You have to have a dedicated microphone, with a pop filter (these can run as low as $9.99 and are mostly made of the same material, so you don't have to pay top dollar for this), to get the most out of your streaming.

I personally recommend that you use a USB 3.0 microphone, cardioid/directional to get the best sound. Having not only streamed, but co-hosted a podcast for over 5 years, I've found that traditional microphones with a sound jack just don't do as well as advertised. But with a USB, I've never run into an issue on quality. The microphone seems to last longer and there are less hiccups in the audio.

Blue Microphones have become one of the standards for streaming. The latest Platinum Edition is leaps and bounds one of the best, affordable mics you will find on the market. The cool thing about this mic is that you can change how it records sounds. Directional, omni-directional, cardioid, stereo, it's all there. It gives you complete control in your sound design with little fuss.

If you want to go fancy and get a sound board involved, Audio-Technica is your best bet. They are an industry favorite for theater and radio. Their latest model has better sound quality and it's hands-free. It's easy to install anywhere.

Lights: Yep. This is a thing too! Who knew that you needed so much stuff to run a gaming stream?

A stand-alone light or a 2-3 point light set-up will help improve the quality of your video. Most streamers will swear by a 2-point LED system that sits on each side of your monitor. Now the great thing about lights is that you can also do these on the cheap and use your excess funds to get a better camera, microphone, or editing software.

I personally use a portrait mono light, similar to this one. It's a stand alone and allows me to move it around as needed to get the best lighting on my face. You would want one that has a cord and not battery, so the light doesn't drop during your recording. But if you need something fast and easy to move around, battery is a good way to go. You can also go to a local craft/hobby store and pick up some freestanding natural light lamps. The bulbs used in these lamps are long-lasting and don't have that weird yellow tint some traditional lights utilize. It helps give a "natural" look to your video.

How do you set up those lights? Luckily the internet is full of resources. Here are a few articles to read:

- What is 3 Point Lighting
- 3 Easy Steps to Improve Your Lighting
- Lighting Video on the Cheap for Streaming

So you've got the basics and you've set up your gear. But wait! There's still more that you need to prep.

Video editing software: Even if you are streaming live and not handling post-production, you should still consider editing software. You can use it for more then piecing videos together. You can use it to create intros and exits/outtros to your streams, provide theme music during your recordings, or create a trailer on your Twitch/YouTube page that showcases what your channel is about.

If you plan to turn this into a career, don't cheap out on the software. There is Windows Movie Maker and iMovie that come standard on Windows and MAC. But they are the bare-bones editors. They offer standard transitions, title cards, and the ability to add an audio track, but that's the extent of it. Other free editors on the market will each have their own quirks, but don't offer much else. Lightworks and Shotcut are good temporary editors, if you have a low budget and cant afford an editing program right now. These programs allow you to do some minor edits to lighting and color correction, and a few additional transitions.

The bottom line is don't skimp on the video editing software. Get something that will work for what you need. Luckily, a lot of software has gone down in price over the years and you have more options available:

- Adobe Premiere Pro. The latest version is available on the Creative Cloud for $19.99 a month. You can buy it outright, but there are perks to having the Cloud service if you want to access Photoshop, Lightroom, and other graphic editing software. Premiere was Adobe's answer to Final Cut, which use to be a MAC only based program. Premiere has a lot of the high-end features that Final Cut utilizes, with an easier timeline system. However plugins are kind of a hassle for new content. Adobe isn't very developer friendly and takes their time to answer questions. But if you need access to all of Adobes Creative features for a low price, this is a good option.

- Sony Vegas. I think this program tends to get a bad rap, but it's a great starter software that's easy to customize and add plugins. The current version retails at $79.99. It's similar to Premier by having an easy timeline, allowing you to add in multiple tracks and adjusting the frame size, opacity, and volume for the track itself without having to overlay effects. This makes rendering faster. It is missing some lighting and transition features that you'll find in other, more expensive programs, but the Vegas community is active with plugins. It's easy to find what you need! The only major downside I have with Vegas is that it can be a bit of a resource sucker during rendering, and if you're not accustomed to the types of "cuts" that are available, it can be a hassle to search for what you need.

- Final Cut. Still one of the most expensive programs on the market. Do you need it? As a film scholar and habitual editor, I can firmly say no. You don't need Final Cut. Now if you have the money and you really want it, go ahead. Final Cut is still considered the best on the market. It's got some of the best chroma-key detection, great with lighting and color tweaks. It's robust in that it allows you to do as much fine-tuning of your video as you'd like - more then other editors. That's the only major benefit with Final Cut. Otherwise, Premiere and Vegas can do the same stuff at a lower price.

As far as how to edit a video, that all depends on the software that you use. Each one comes with their own manual, and I highly encourage you to read through them before jumping in. It is a lot of reading, but these are powerful tools that can do a lot of amazing things. It's best to learn early about the limitations then to be halfway through an edit and realize that you can't do the 1 thing you really want to do.

If you need a basic "how do I edit" tutorial, Popular Mechanics has a good overview on the process.

Here are some tips that I've learned over the past 20 years of editing - this is everything from traditional reel to reel films, VHS, and digital:

- Before you start editing your videos, take notes from the channels that you like and see how they edit. Don't watch the content. Instead, watch how the videos are spliced together. Do they use straight cuts, or fancy transitions between segments? Do they speed up videos, slow them down, or provide overlays of web cams? Do they cut between the web cam and the game footage? It's okay to learn from streamers you like to see how they create their work. As long as you don't steal what they are doing, shot for shot.

- For every 1 minute of footage, expect an hour of editing. So if your video is 30 minutes long, anticipate 30 hours to edit. That may seem extreme, but once you dig in and edit your first handful of videos, you'll see just how time consuming it can be. Make sure to allot yourself more then enough time to produce your content.

-  Save often. Auto-save is not a good fail safe.

- That time you spent editing? Be sure to add another 2-3 hours for rendering. Rendering is the process in which all of the effects in your video are processed and applied to produce the video. Every time you add in a transition, fade, additional audio or video, lighting or color correcting, it all has to be rendered. The more you add, the longer it will take.

- Watch your video in full before you post it online. It's weird the first few times you look and listen to yourself, but you get accustomed to it pretty quickly. But it's a good habit to get into to review what you're about to post, to ensure you post a product that is clean and error free. As we all know, gamers love to point out bugs and inconsistencies. Don't let yourself fall into that trap! Sit through your videos, and if you see a problem you can edit it before you upload. There's nothing worse then having to go through the re-upload process on YouTube or Twitch after you find an error.

Audio recording and editing software: Every streamer should invest in some form of audio recording or editing software. Luckily, the best one on the market is completely free, easy to use, and incredibly robust! Even the big names like Markiplier and Rooster Teeth use it.

Audacity. You will love it. It's the all in one tool for audio recording and editing. And a lot of people develop plugins for it year-round. If you're looking to add unique sounds to your audio, or do some funny voice tracks, there's probably a plugin for it! Save your money here, and go free with Audacity. I've been using the program for over a decade and it's still the best one out there.

My recommendation with this program after you install it is to play around with the settings, recording a few things, edit, and test it out before you read the manual. You'll find that a lot of the things you need are easy to access. The manual can be a bit dry, and should be used when you have weird questions. Most of what you can do in Audacity, you can figure out in a minute or two. Yes, Audacity does record and edit audio. You can do both. And it can link to multiple video editing programs, such as Adobe, Final Cut Pro, and Sony Vegas - so you don't always have to export your audio and re-import it into your video software.

Are we done with the gear yet?

Not quite. Now you need to think about your Video Capture Software for your web cam and your game.

If you plan to focus on the PlayStation 4 or the XBox One, then you already know that they offer streaming services direct to YouTube and Twitch, thanks to their partnerships with the companies. If you are just doing direct streams and utilize your web cam through your system, then you'll be covered.

But what if you have a web cam running from your PC to improve the video quality, or you're playing a PC game? Then you need software to capture your video, or a streaming service (if you are not doing post-production work).

- Movavi is one of the top software you'll see today. It does include an editing program, which is good for basic cuts but not much else. It will capture your full screen of whatever you're doing on your computer with a few quick clicks. It also allows you to stream in multiple sound sources so it can catch your audio as well as the game's audio.

- FRAPS is my personal favorite, with a one-time fee and a life-time of support and updates. While it won't record your web cam, for game footage it is top notch. It provides very clear visuals and audio, and allows you to tweak the frame rates to get the best quality.

- Snagit is another web cam recording tool. It's not the greatest with game footage when the resources are dedicated to the game. It tends to result in a lot of dropped frames, but with web cams it works quite well. If you have a PC or laptop set to act as your recording studio, you could have Snagit act as your web cam software, and another program for your game.

If you're streaming content, Open Broadcast Software and XSplit will be your best friends. I have read a lot of arguments about which one is better, and honestly it comes down to personal preference. Try them both out, and pick the one you like the most. They both offer the same features, perks, and enhancements for Twitch and YouTube streams. I can't recommend one over the other, so you choose what works for you!

And with that, Part 3 can come to a close! I warned you this was going to be a long post. But now you have your equipment, you are set up to record, and you are ready to game - whether it's to a live audience or in private to edit later.

Stay tuned for Part 4 where we cover some do's and don't on your steam/recording.