Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nestle Sued for 'Breakout' Clone & Advertisement

More courtroom drama! Atari is suing mega-brand Nestle for copyright infringement on Breakout. The game where you bounce a ball at bricks to break them, in order to clear the screen and escape. It's been around since the early days of gaming and you've probably seen some variation of it over the years. You can play a variation of it right now on Google, done in homage to the original game. But these games are given the green-light by Atari and come with a copyright fee, or something of the sort.

In the U.K., Nestle used Breakout for a Kit-Kat commercial. Instead of blocks of random colors, they turned into Kit-Kat bars.

Nestle's commercial "leverage Breakout and the special place it holds among nostalgic Baby Boomers, Generation X, and even today's Millennial and post-Millennial 'gamers' in order to maximize the advertisement's reach," states the legal team for Atari. The commercial, which is no longer online, features 4 people of different ages, all playing this Nestle version of Breakout, asking people to join in and "Breakout" with a Kit-Kat.

Atari today is more of a corporate entity then what it use to be; taking it's trademarks and copyrights to heart and turning them into legal cases. They once tried to sue for the use of the term 'Haunted House' in video games, claiming they owned the right to be the only company to produce such content.

Nestle has not commented on the legal matter. But Atari does have a solid case if Nestle used the Breakout name and game, with tweaks, without seeking Atari's approval - or not paying for use of the copyright.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Gaming Room

Nerd conventions, we need to have a talk.

As the culture of geeky-ness expands, fan-themed conventions are doing their best to grow with the times. What once was a comic book only venue may now host content for anime, gaming, cosplay, tabletop, LARP, and other nerdy content. All to attract more people to their event. And that's a good thing! The nerd cultures should mingle and expand their horizons by communicating with those on the other end of the fray. It brings people together and allows us to enjoy our fandoms without fear of retaliation from the outside world.

But one of the areas that I see fall flat year after year is the gaming room. You know them by now. Loads of conventions carry them. They're usually tucked away in a small corner, or lingering around on the tallest floor that a hotel has available, in the tiniest of spots. The amount of gaming content for consoles is always thread-bear. There might be 12-20 games available and 10 consoles in the room. There is always Smash Bros and Street Fighter. The rest is a concoction of dance games and, if you are lucky, Rock Band or Guitar Hero. There are few stations. More often then not there are more tables then there are consoles and chairs. This has been happening for years, decades even since I began attending conventions (anime, comic, etc.). Even gaming-centric conventions that offer free-play areas for consoles, or open arcades and tabletop, they tend to shuffle them to the smallest areas and rarely promote the content. When they do promote, it's always over-the-top compared to the products that are showcased.

When gaming tournaments are involved, unless it's a top-tier gaming convention, it's usually volunteer staff members handling the events. And in many cases, they don't know what they are doing. That's not a slight on them as volunteers. The gaming world can be tricky to maneuver when you have to handle tournaments. You need people who understand how the process works, from set-up to the rules to what happens if there's a disqualification. Few do. Those that know the process are being paid to handle tournaments - they don't offer their services to conventions for badge compensation (which doesn't cover food, hotel stay, or travel; let alone a check to cover the bills).

Fan conventions don't give the proper care to their gaming content. This was very apparent to me over the weekend when I saw the "arcade" room at an event I attended. It was kind of sad. I only remember seeing 8-10 console stations and a load of empty tables. It was a lot of Smash and one Rock Band. That's it. The games available were Smash, Smash, and Smash. I understand that Smash Bros. is a popular game for multiplayer but there are other games. The room was bare. The staff seemed less then impressed. Some of the consoles were dusty and worn. There was a thick layer of dust on a PS4 - it was disgusting. One system was running updates, making it unusable.

And yet we accept these adequate conditions. They have become part of the norm, and it's made the gaming sector at cons feel so lifeless. We're seeing fewer people sign up for tournaments, prize pools are dwindling, and donations are dropping.

Fan conventions. If you want the gaming crowd to return, you have to step up your game - pun intended.

Listen to the community. Ask them what THEY want and try to provide it. Get gamers on the gaming room staff so they can help the area grow. Don't cheap out and only accept donations. Invest in the gaming room. Buy systems and controllers that work. Keep them clean and up to date. Engage gamers by getting them involved in the process. Gamers are a big part of the fan community now, and giving them sub-par content will only push them further away.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Prime Discount New Game Releases Gone!

Bad news Amazon Prime Members: Our 20% discount on new game releases (physical copies) has been removed.

Most game pre-orders will still hold their 20% off savings, but for new games that have just released? It looks like that's been removed. Take a look at some of the games released in the last 2 weeks and you'll see that their discount has vanished. Sonic Mania, Agents of Mayhem, Sudden Strike 4: our 2 week grace period for the 20% off is no more. It does appear that Amazon has updated their website and FAQ to reflect the very recent change. A message has been sent to Amazon for details, and awaiting a response.

But as a gamer, this nice perk is no more. One of the things I appreciated about having that 2 week extension for the discount is that it gave me time to read game reviews on a product before jumping in to make a purchase. As more developers hammer in the "do not talk" rule on new games until their release, it's been difficult to make well-meaning purchases. Reviews generally guide us in determining whether or not we buy a game. I know it's not all of the time, but for most of us, we look to game reviews as a means to verify if a game is worth our money. We don't want to drop down, $59, $69, $79 dollars on something that ends up being a poor product. Returning it for a refund isn't an option with a majority of retailers - trade in is your best bet and you're out money.

There are also a few games, such as Destiny 2, that are exempt from the pre-order 20% off discount. It could be a developer-specific reason, but it still sucks. Best Buy still has their $10 reward associated with Destiny 2 if you are a member of their program. So, what's up Amazon? That perk of yours that I really appreciated has vanished, and it'd be nice to have some answers.

If Amazon responds for clarification, I will update this post.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pokémon Go Fest Aftermath

Did you attend Pokémon Go Fest this year? The inaugural festival to celebrate the one year release of the game ended up being a technical minefield, about as bad as the game's initial launch. Which is oddly appropriate, all things considered. For $20, attendees would receive day -1 access to the newest legendary Pokémon and the new battle system that required people to form teams to catch them. As well as unique PokéStops, increased Pokémon spawns, an in-app medal, and some various things one would expect at a festival: lounges, photo ops, and overpriced food.

The new battle was a flop and users spent the entire day trying to log in, only to be disconnected. While Niantic staff tried to contain the situation, the long, hot day ended with a lot of disappointed fans. Few were able to catch monsters before the game crashed, and many people were not able to get past the loading screen. The event was all about catching Pokémon, so there weren't other activities available to attendees. Niantic has paused future events as a result of the Chicago festival failure. In an update to players, they are refunding tickets (if you bought them directly from Niantic for the $20 price - if you got them from a scalper then no refund for you), $100 in Pokécoins, and auto-delivery of the first legendary Pokémon Articuno. It doesn't make up for the travel costs many endured to get there, but it's a start.

A lawsuit with 20 attendees has been filed against Niantic. They are not satisfied with the response from the game developer and are seeking further damages to recoup the loss from travel expenses. Chicago-based attorney Thomas Zimmerman is representing the group: “The issue is, what was promised, what was the incentive that people relied on and the representations that people relied on to buy a ticket and make travel plans and fly to Chicago to participate in this festival, would they have done that had they known that that was not going to be lived up to and they weren’t going to get the experience that was represented?” They are only seeking compensation for the money spent on travel and hotels, and nothing more. At least they are not trying to milk the situation for more then it's worth.

Needless to say, Niantic will be reeling from this event for a while and continue work on server stability before trying again.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Houston, We Have a Healer Problem

MMO Examiner recently posed an important question: Is there a shortage of healers in Final Fantasy XIV? I'd argue that this question not only applies to FF14 but to all MMO's as the games begin to age and change to accommodate new audiences.

Since the release of the latest expansion Stormblood, FF14 has been hit with a decrease in healers - at least visually. Strolling around cities and out in the world, I have noticed that there aren't as many White Mages, Scholars, or Astrologians as usual. It doesn't mean that they aren't there. I'm still able to queue in duty finder as a damage dealer and get a party in 20 minutes or less - which is about average for my server. PVP is easily 5 minutes. But other servers have reported 40+ minute waits for a healer; an unusual length of time when you have cross-server population pools to utilize, What happened with this expansion to cause the healer population to drop? (Note: I've been playing FF14 for 2 and a half years, mostly as a healing job. The following are my personal observations and experiences may vary from server to server, and game to game.)

First off, the battle mechanics completely changed. Stormblood brought in a whirlwind of new changes to better balance out the combat so as not to overpower the newer jobs that would be introduced. White Mage (WHM) took a major hit and was stripped of 15 abilities - now no longer able to offer some healing alternatives, it's main priorities are Cure 2 and Stone. Whoopie. Scholars (SCH) and Astrologians (AST) also had some abilities removed, but not as severe. They also gained new abilities, including different healing tactics. SCH and AST are now the go-to for raid healers, offering better party balance compared to WHM. Many people who were WHM's are giving up the job to move to another healer. But as I've found out with WHM, to go from a simple job to one that's incredibly complex like AST is enough to turn some people away.

Adding on to that, one of the favorite abilities for healers was 'Cleric Stance.' This allowed you to flip your Mind and Intelligence stats around so that your few damage spells could do actual damage. This was an ongoing ability and allowed you to swap back and forth between healing and damage with a short cool-down. Now, it only gives you a minor spell "boost" for damage and healing for a few seconds and a 120 second cool-down. In the game right now, it sucks to try and dps on a healer when you have to solo content.

Next, Stormblood introduced two very long awaited job classes: Red Mage (RDM) and Samurai (SAM). The population flocked to them. Samurai is now the DPS darling with a lot of damage output in a short time. It also looks really flashy. Red Mage is a good balance of DPS magic and can take down enemies quickly, while being able to manage themselves to not need a tank/healer to support their efforts. It also looks really flashy. I personally like how RDM was designed. It's got sprinkles of FF11 involved, but it's a job that requires tenacity and ingenuity to play. I still enjoy AST, but if given a choice, I'd go RDM first. It's a more fulfilling role then AST.

Third, people are a-holes to healers.

That is a universal truth. World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Guild Wars, Overwatch, Team Fortress - if it's an online game that includes a healing class, you will be blamed for any and all mistakes if you play a healer. I wish I were joking, but it's sadly true most of the time. It doesn't matter if the team dies because the tank didn't hold hate, or if a DPS didn't follow the boss mechanics, or if the "right" gear didn't drop from a mob - it's always the healer's fault.

That is a horrible situation to be in: instantly blamed for any and all errors that are outside of your control. And when it's just a game that you want to have fun, why put yourself in that position? So instead of healing, people play other jobs where they don't have that burden placed on their shoulders.  It doesn't matter how amazing you are at healing, you will still be blamed. The only exception I have found to this rule is that if you are with a stable group/guild/linkshell. Then they tend to put the blame on the people that caused the problem. Randoms outside of your group? Good luck dealing with them.

Fourth, not all healers are created equal. There's a high expectation when playing a healing job to already know what to do right off the bat. The reality is, you don't know until you go in and start playing! With FF14 in particular, each dungeon has a different approach for healers. It's fun and frustrating. Sometimes you can play DPS and rarely heal. Other times you can only AOE heal and spam it until you run out of MP. It can also vary depending upon your tank and if they decide to take it slow, or try to train the whole dungeon. When you are a first time healer, it can be intimidating to jump into healing with a group. With virtually all games, your first handful of levels are done alone. You learn the game mechanics, pick up a few quests, and get a feel for the content. With DPS, it's pretty straight forward. You punch/stab/slice mobs until they die. When you are a tank or a healer, you don't get the chance to try our your intended job roles until it's dungeon time.

Good parties will take the time to help healers learn what they should and shouldn't do. Most parties don't care and just want to get the dungeon done 'now.' Even in these instances, I try to help out healer's who seem to lag behind. They may not know how to run the dungeon, it's their first time, or they may not be experienced with this tank's style. But still, it takes time. It's all a learning process. Like #3, people expect healer's to already know what to do. The reality is we don't. Not until we get into a dungeon and start playing with you. Unless it's a group we've worked with before, we don't know how you play. We have to accommodate our style to you so people don't die. While it's a fast way to weed out the good healers from the bad ones, it's also a quick way to discourage people from continuing to heal.

It's not just FF14 with a lack of healers problem. It's all MMO's. Until developers can get on the ball with making the jobs fun, flexible, and able to provide DPS support that's reasonable, the issue will get worse. I wouldn't be surprised to see raid groups start camping out healers on other servers, trying to entice them to swap over to their side for perks.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What. The. Heck?

Today's post is not video game related. Sorry folks! There is too much going on in the country right now that I'm having a difficult time focusing on a topic to write about. I've always maintained this blog as an escape from reality. A chance to take a mental break from the weariness of the world and enjoy video games. But sometimes, when sh*t hits the fan, the real world can't be ignored.

I'm not going to play the naive card and say that I thought hatred and racism was gone. It's always been there, but not as pervasive as it once was. Living in the Southern U.S., you hear things. A lot of the actions are verbal, not physical. Words that hold strength, but aren't typically followed up with an action. Is it disheartening? Absolutely. I will never understand why people hate others because of skin pigmentation, religion, etc. The concept of hate is bonkers. The human race is so unique compared to our animal counterparts. We have such a diverse array of culture among us, and it is fascinating to study! Hating someone for being "different" is absurd. WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT!

Yes, I'm a white female gamer, but that doesn't mean I'm an exact copy of all white female gamers. I don't hold the same opinions or religious affiliations as all the others. It's damn near impossible for all of us to be copy/paste models in every aspect of our lives.

After the events this weekend, I had hoped that humanity was better then this. I had hoped that there was some sense of good in all of us. I had hoped that we WERE doing better after the centuries of racism, sexism, and religious persecution.

We have a long way to go.

This isn't meant to be a bashing post, or one asking for political insight.

I just wanted to post how disappointed I am in humanity right now. We are imploding and lashing out on one-another in a fight for supremacy instead of trying to come together and resolve our differences, like rational beings that we should be.

I'll try to have a gaming post up tomorrow.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Google is Building an AI to Kick Your Butt at 'StarCraft'

Google is trying to teach an AI how to beat the world's best StarCraft 2 players.

Because it's Google and they have the power to do that.

In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind, a company focused on artificial intelligence research and application. The company has worked with games before on the Atari to try and surpass human players. But StarCraft is a different beast, focusing on complex problem solving and the random variable of the human mind. You may think I'm going to construct an additional pylon, but what if I decide not to and instead pull a Zerg rush with my Protoss crew (always rolling with team Protoss)?

But that's exactly the type of environment DeepMind and Google want to jump into to further develop AI technology. They need those random variables. The company is partnering with Blizzard and have already released a new set of tools to help advance the project. This includes a release of content of the game for Linux, for the first time ever.

StarCraft has long been used as a test subject for AI and ML research. For a game with a 20 year history and a heavily devoted fan-base, you can bet that some of the best players in the world cultivated from the StarCraft arena. The game requires you to manage multiple functions at once: gathering resources, building up a base, defending your territory, etc. Players have to balance out the primary objective with the ancillary goals - an AI must do the same if they want to win. And unlike an Atari game with 10 actions a player can make at any one time (up, down, left, right, button), StarCraft can have up to 300. That is a lot of content an AI has to review.

Google and Blizzard hope that with the release of the tools and the research paper will drum up interest in the project and participants may be willing to throw themselves into the pool to be act as data/test dummies. It will be interesting to see what results are produced from the project.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Attraction of Video Games

What makes video games so appealing?

Before you click away from this blog post, take a moment and think about why you play video games. Is it for the action? The adventure? Being involved in a different reality? Do you like the fantasy element of games? Do you enjoy the mental break from you day? Or is it the mental stress from puzzles and platformers that keeps you going?

For a seemingly simple question, there are a multitude of reasons on why video games appeal to us. I don't always get personal on this blog, but today I want to take a break from reality and talk about what appeals to me about video games.

I fully admit that I'm a TV and movie junkie. I have 3 degrees in film. I also love to read - novels and short stories, and prefer fiction and sci-fi over autobiographies. Movies like 'Star Wars,' 'Indiana Jones,' and 'Blade Runner' drew me in. Not because of Harrison Ford. I didn't like Han Solo much when I was growing up (I can hear the anguished screams of fangirls). But seeing such fantastical stories told on film - I was hooked from the start.

For me, video games were a natural progression of my curiosity with storytelling. The joke in the family is that my brother and I popped out of the womb with a controller in our hands. We've always had a console in our home, starting with the Atari 2600. We were born in the mid-80's and we grew up in the 90's, when everyone was figuring out how to incorporate technology into our homes. Our Atari was used mostly for Pong and Pitfall. Entertainment was the initial goal with video games, much like film and television were. The Nintendo Entertainment System was our first glimpse at games with stories. They were simple stories, like saving a princess held in a castle...somewhere. But they were stories that took on their own life beyond what a movie could offer. Instead of being a passive viewer, you were now an active participant.

Final Fantasy IV is what hooked me for life. The pixeliated characters taught me more about life, friendship, sadness, anger, hate, sorrow, trust, and redemption then anything I learned in my decades of schooling. It was a game that had everything I wanted in a movie or book, but so much more. Because I could be a part of it all. Yes the story was scripted, but I was more invested in the activities of Cecil and his cohorts then I was of Luke, Han, and Leia because I could direct the characters innate actions.

The ability to control the game, as much (Mass Effect) or as little (Super Mario Bros.) as the content allows, is what makes video games appealing to me. That level of immersion is something film has been trying to capture for the past decade as game sales continue to dominate the industry. The fact is, film will never be a video game. It just won't work - not until a movie is able to break it's 4th wall and have people control the story. Those experiments are not something that I see moving past short art-house films or temporary exhibition pieces. Mostly due to the nature of film, but the disconnect between film and the audience is much shorter compared to a game. With a game, we know it's digital. We know it's not real. Even with the most human of actions, we are still able to separate reality and fantasy. Film and television are different. Outside of animation, when one uses living people to portray characters, it takes on a new level of realism. We connect to actors because they are human. We understand their needs because we too are human. They have to eat, sleep, use the bathroom, go to work, etc. With a video game, characters can ignore all laws of logic and physics to do things. Even in a crazy action movie like 'Atomic Blonde,' where the impossible seems feasible, there is a grounding of reality by having human actors. This is why movies can't be games - we are unable to break away from the reality of the actors. Controlling a bandicoot to jump and spin doesn't hold the same weight as telling a soldier in a movie which bunker to explore. The bandicoot is a bandicoot. You have 99 lives and can try again if you fail. The soldier has 1 chance to make the "right" decision, and most of us would not be able to face the reality of the situation if s/he failed because of us.

So there you go. Those are my reasons for video games being appealing to me. I enjoy the fantasy; the ability to be swept away into another realm and ignore this one for a few hours. But I'm also fascinated at how the stories are told. How we can take those plot points and make them our own with a level of immersion that can't be beat.

How about you? What about video games appeals to you?

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Casinos Attempt to Woo eSports Gamers

As with anything in life, if something is big enough, casino's will find a way to incorporate it into their field to turn a profit. There are themed slot machines (Dolly Parton has her own series of slot machines), miniature Nascar and horse racing tables, eBay chance games: you name it. So it shouldn't be a shock to anyone that casino's want to capture some of the hype behind eSports. But unlike traditional gambling, where hotels will comp rooms, food, and drinks to keep people sitting at a table, eSports gamers are willing to pay for those amenities to get the best seats at a tournament.

Gamers are a difficult market to capture. We see through the bunk of casinos, so we're less likely to pony up money to spend it at a poker table. But it won't stop them from trying! Some venues, such as Caesars Entertainment in Atlantic City, hosted a small tournament in March that drew 900 people. The results were instantaneous. While the gambling side didn't see a bump, the growth in room reservations and the sale of food and drink were worth the investment. And if attending a casino to go to a video game tournament turns them into gamblers, then that's a plus for the hotel.

eSports is a growing industry, expected to hit $1 billion by 2019. Casino's know that their target audience of 20-30 year olds are not their traditional customer. They don't have the disposable income to gamble. But they are willing to travel for tournaments - which means they need lodging and food. It's a fairly straight-forward concept that more casinos could try to embrace. Does it mean changing their marketing tactics to woo these customers? Absolutely. But that's the case with every demographic. What gets a 30-40 year old into a retail location requires a different approach then a 50-60 year old.

Is it underhanded? Yeah. I'm not going to sugar-coat it and say that the casino's alternate motive isn't the best. Getting younger people in to try and start gambling. But it is their business model and that's what they do. As long as addiction doesn't grow from it, and one is responsible with their finances, gambling is fine in small quantities. We'll just leave it at that.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Newest LotR Game Has Microtransactions

Remember when video games didn't have microtransactions and pay-walled content? You could buy the game as it was for $39.99-$49.99, play it right out of the box, and not have to worry about these crazy things called bugs and glitches, or having to buy DLC to get additional content. The game was all right there in front of you. Done. Ready to play.

Dudes, those were good times.

This isn't an older gamer asking for nostalgia. While I appreciate the games of my youth, some of today's games are far superior to anything I played as a kid. But one thing that I do miss and wish gamers would stop falling for is not having to pay extra for games after you buy them. Microtransactions and DLC's have messed up the gaming market.

WB Games has announced a new "market" system, as they call it, for Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, the latest in a string of 'The Lord of the Rings' video games. Shadow of War allows players to build their own Orc army, and you obtain NPC's by exploring the world and meeting these warriors in towns, fellowships, etc. The "market" also allows you to buy them with cash and you can skip doing all of that video game stuff. You can also buy XP boxes, gear, and xp boosts for your Orc army.

Even better, there are 2 types of currency in the game: Mirian and Gold. Mirian can be found in the game. Gold you have to purchase with real-world cash, which can be used to get "better" boxes. While the FAQ states that buying Gold is not required to advance in the game, and that a person playing without buying Gold will see the same results, we know the reality. If a person has a standard army and plays against a person with a Gold army, we know who's going to win - the one that's equipped with the Gold gear. (Note: the game has no online play; this is just an example.)

The "you don't have to pay extra to play" is a buffer statement every developer is using these days to not drive away core gamers who don't want to, or can't, shell out anything extra after buying the product. And yes, the game doesn't block you behind a pay-wall. That much they have made clear. But if you want certain cool Orc to be in your army? You gotta pay up. Whether that's farming for hours to get Mirian or paying for Gold.

This is our gaming reality. Where we can't have single-player content without the looming nuisance of microtansactions.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Weekly Link Round Up

First things first, the images should be working again on the blog. Sorry about the delay! Photobucket use to be cool, but then they had to go and get all corporate on us so now image sharing is apparently a bad thing. Go fig. But if you see any other image errors, leave a comment and it'll get fixed.

Now! Onto the Weekly Link Round Up! The list of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week. Here's what we've got in store:

- I'm sure by now you all have seen NASA's new job opening for Planetary Protection Officer. Of course Commander Shepard (bro and fem) should be the top choice, but Forbes has put together a list of 7 video game characters that would fill the roll nicely. Yes that job opening is real. If you think you've got what it takes to protect the planet from inter-stellar forces, go for it!

- For the first time ever, a basketball franchised game will feature players from the WNBA. About. Damn. Time. This Fall's release of NBA Live '18 will use the current roster of WNBA players and contain at least 8 teams. The rest of the game settings will replicate the male players. This isn't the first time EA has added female teams to their sports games; see FIFA 16. But it's nice to see it actually happening. As much as we focus on male sports, women have just as many fans.

- Random video! This is what it looks like to play a video game in 16k resolution with a bunch of monitors. Sharing because it's silly and pretty.

- Hong Kong's first eSports and music festival is expected to bring in over 50,000 visitors. Created by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, teams from around the globe will be competing in multiple events, including a League of Legends tournament. Gaming is a big deal overall in China, and to have an event dedicated to eSports is a big step forward for China; Hong Kong in particular. Curious to see if there is any backlash from this. Because it is China.

- The power of Grand Theft Auto V continues as stock market shares for Take Two Interactive have continued to climb. The company continues to generate quite a bit of revenue from GTA Online, with a thriving user-base that's not afraid to plunk down real world money for in-game items. In light of this, the company has increased their revenue forecast for the rest of the year. Stock market junkies are going to be watching this one closely.

- J-Gel, a Japanese branded hair product, has a new spokesperson: Guile from Street Fighter. He's been "commissioned" to be part of the team and there is an advertisement out as well as an "interview" with him. To be fair, Guile does have some extreme locks and they always manage to look near perfect in the ring. J-Gel hopes that his influence will bring in a new brand of consumers their way.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

'Unsung Story' Kickstarter Has New Developer

It's a Kickstarter kind of week for video games. With the big announcement on one of the most infamous Kickstarter projects gone wrong, we have to talk about it.

Some of you may remember Unsung Story. Marketed as a "spiritual successor" to Final Fantasy: Tactics, the project set up camp on Kickstarter with a $600k goal, which they reached in February of 2014. Since then, backers have been treated to a whirlwind of woe and disaster with every post from developers, Playdek. That is, when Playdek posted at all. There are many months where the company went silent, and until August 1st of this year, there have only been 56 posts. MST3K launched their 11th season revival in November of 2015 and have posted 59 updates (this doesn't include exclusive e-mails direct to backers, and I think I'm sitting at 89 messages) from the beginning until today; if you need a comparison on just how poorly Playdek has been communicating with their backers.

Unsung Story sounded like everything us turn-based, strategy RPG fans wanted. Yasumi Matsuno was designing the story. Akihiko Yoshida and Hitoshi Sakimoto, whom also worked on Tactics, would provide art and music. Tactics has long been praised as the ideal for this type of game, and to have another one on the way with such amazing talent behind the project, it was a lovely dream!

After receiving it's full funding, that's when Playdek's communications with backers began to break down. If you want the full timeline, Kotaku goes into great detail on everything that happened leading up to Kickstarter, and the fallout after. Mostly, Playdek would start out stating that they would be bringing weekly/monthly updates and provide a timeline on when to expect content, and then go silent for several months. We know that developing a game is lengthy, but the game was originally stated for a July 2015 release.

And then the excuses began along with the delays. Month after month of silence, followed-up with an apology post and more set backs. The few screenshots uploaded from the developer look horrific. The mention of PvP only threw more backers into a frenzy. This was suppose to be a single-player gamer - Tactics was not an online game. What was going on at Playdek?

3 years later and no game has emerged.

Until August 1st! The fate of the game has changed. The rights and all current development properties to Unsung Story have been sold to Little Orbit.

The new developer, which currently creates games for multiple system from licensed products such as 'Barbie' and 'Adventure Time,' has already broke the news to backers that they are starting from scratch. They've read through their comments and want to bring Unsung Story to the original game that was promised. Which means starting over! They are also going to try and honor the backer rewards and will send out confirmation e-mails over the next few weeks to verify shipping addresses.

In all this time, not a single refund has been provided. Why? Because Playdek isn't required to do so. No one is on Kickstarter. If you back a project, it's all done in "good faith" that the creator will follow-through. Most do. Some don't. Any and all issues to resolve are between the backer and the creator. Kickstarter has banned businesses that broke TOS, but it doesn't happen often. As long as Kickstarter is given proof that a creator has been attempting to complete a project, they don't have a reason to ban them.

This could be a new, better chapter for Unsung Story. People may finally get the game they backed. But many are still wondering what happened to that $660,126 that went to Playdek. 4 people spent $2,500 that they will never see again. No one at Playdek has provided an outline of where the funds went. While we hope that Little Orbit will do right by the backers, they too have already stated that it's impossible to refund backers - they (Little Orbit) are not seeing a single penny from the Kickstarter.

The saga of Unsung Story will continue to be updated as events unfold.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

WoW Gold Surpasses Value of Venezuela Currency

When video games get too real: Currency in World of Warcraft is now worth more then the Venezuelan Bolivar.

This is not a joke. Right now a monthly "food bag" is worth about 10,000 Bolivar - you can figure out the math from there. While that seems cheap by our Dollar, in Venezuela, the rate of inflation makes the price moot when minimum wage is $45 USD a month.

Which is why World of Warcraft currency is worth more then the Bolivar. This isn't the first time it's happened. Since President Nicolas Maduro came into power, the economy in Venezuela has been in a constant state of distress. Food shortages have led to increased prices and inflation in the market. Minimum wage has not kept up with the soaring costs. While the government recently passed laws to increase the wage by 60%, Venezuela's inflation is expected to grow up to 720% this year and over 2k% next year. Yikes.  Unfortunately efforts by the government to ease the inflation have been having the opposite effect.

So how much is WoW gold? 10k gold is worth roughly $1.21. 11,185.95 Bolivares is worth $1 on the black market. If you're an effective gold farmer, you could make $14.52 over 12 hours. 7 days a week for 30 days, that's $435.60 - more then the minimum wage in Venezuela. This might be a worth-while venture for those looking for alternate jobs that would provide better pay. While I don't condone the activity of gold farming, when your country is on the brink of famine and you have nothing to lose, at least this would put food on the table.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Kickstarter Video Games on Decline

Unsurprisingly, the boom of utilizing Kickstarter for video game projects has hit it's peak. It seems like every few months I was posting another story about the crowd funding website. Even with a rash of sham game sites, and uproars over unfinished projects, Kickstarter has done well for itself as the market leader for crowd funding. Eventually, the donations were going to hit a peak.

First the first half of 2017, over $9.4 million was pledged to successful video game campaigns. In 2015, it was $19.98 million. That's a big drop. Unless a large title is announced for this second half of the year, the amount of pledges will continue to steadily fall.

But it's not all gloomy for Kickstarter. Video games still remain one of the more popular topics for people to back. "Video Games are keeping the same rhythm as the previous year, with roughly 30 projects per month getting funded," said ICO's Thomas Bidaux. As long as the pattern continues throughout the year, it'll still be a successful run for Kickstarter. Just not as much as it has been. Understandably, 2015 was a big year. Shenmue 3 broke the record for highest funded video game; fans donated $1 million in just the first day. There was a lot of hype behind the Friday the 13th game, which is out now, as well as loads of indie titles include the critical hit That Dragon: Cancer. 2015 was a good year to fund games.

Why the decline? It could be that fewer games are hitting Kickstarter for funding. Or that people are still reeling from the long wait times for projects to be complete that they'd rather see results first before deciding to back a title. Unlike other products, the time-table for games can take years. Donating to a project that may end up unfinished can be a daunting proposition. Or it might be that games are being more reasonable about their budget expectations. Instead of funding the full development cycle, teams may only need enough to add finishing touches to the game. So they crowdfund that instead.

Kickstarter is expecting to see a rise in tabletop games. The sector has been growing for the past decade, and could surpass video games soon.