Friday, September 21, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Yea Friday! Or yea, end of the work/school week for some of us! Time for another Weekly Link Round Up! A smattering of the best, worst, and sometimes weirdest gaming news we can find on the internet. Here's what we've found:

- The biggest news of the day is that China has blocked Twitch and it's been removed from the Chinese Apple store. A spokesman for Twitch confirmed the block this morning, but was unable to comment further. The app was the 3rd most popular, and became a big hit last month when Twitch broadcasted the Asian Games for eSports competitions - something that nearly all broadcast stations in China had avoided. People flocked to the app to see their teams play. Without details, it's difficult to know why China made this decision. What we can be certain of is that the country has been cracking down a lot lately on video games and digital media. Twitch is another casualty.

- A Quartzy article is saying Fortnite is so popular, that it's killing all other types of games! The problem is, the article never addresses how Fortnite and other battle royalle games are actually destroying other genres. Instead, the focus is on how popular the game has been with streamers and audiences. That's it. We already knew this info. But Fornite being a trend right now does not mean that other game genres are magically disappearing. Hearthstone, FIFA, Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter-Strike are all still very popular games with growing fanbases. Are they Fortnite popular? Maybe Overwatch. But that doesn't mean their type of format is going away anytime soon. Fail article is fail.

- Google's DeepMind AI has been steadily chugging away these past years and is finally developing "retro" style video games that have potential. The AI is given levels from several games to review their construction, and how the mechanics of the game work. Then it creates it's own version after developing the rules. New titles such as Killer Bounce and Death Walls, which take on a Breakout style of gaming - using a block to bounce around the screen and destroy the landscape in order to reach the end point. The games designed by the AI are meant to use mechanics that will feel familiar to players, but not outright copies of other titles.

- ScreenRant has a list of 9 last minute changes that hurt games, and 11 changes that saved them! That's a list of 20, if you're keeping count. How does ScreenRant know that these were "last minute" changes? It's difficult to say. Some of the games mentioned are based on original story drafts that were never meant to be taken as the game canon - these are designs that were altered before the game began production. Some are assumptions. Because "last minute" does not exist in game development. Any major changes to character, plot, locations can take months, if not years, to update. So any alterations would have had been planned out well in advance. On the list of "saves" there's keeping Axel alive in Kingdom Hearts II (really?), cell shading to Borderlands (okay...but...I know people who work at Gearbox. This style was ALWAYS intended for the game), and changing the tone of Conker's Bad Fur Day. Most of the "hurts" are related to the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Another list of fail for all to enjoy!

- VICE asked their readers to send in stories on how they found love in video games. The article does start out kind of condescending and almost questioning why or how people could find love online (it's 2018. Time to grow up), but the stories provided are endearing and worth the read. If you need to feel a restoration of faith in humanity, here you go!

- YouTube is updating it's gaming hub once more, before killing off their gaming app. The app will be removed from stores March of 2019, with more emphasis on the hub. If you are on the hub, you'll see more personalized selections of games and YouTube channels to watch, live games, and new videos from your subscriptions. They are also adding a "highlight" section to promote upcoming streamers that produce video game content.

- The BBC is getting back into video games, with a revamped licensing model that they hope will spur continued success. Their past attempts with titles from 'Doctor Who' in the 80's did not fare as well as they had hoped, so the BBC knew to back off from gaming. Now with so many people more tuned in to games than television, they are trying again. They have seen success from mobile games with 'Who' and 'Top Gear.' They also own the rights to the 'LEGO Dimensions' series and 'Forza,' so you know they're reaping some nice rewards from those properties. As long as the BBC is modest about which products they license, and who they give them too (I don't think any of us want an Ubisoft 'Doctor Who', they can have a comfortable future with gaming.

- Capcom is in a bit of trouble after the company released the theme song for Dante in Devil May Cry 5. The song is performed by Suicide Silence. However, Capcom missed the memo that last year, the front man for the band was accused of emotionally and sexually manipulating a teenager - allegations that he doesn't seem to deny! So! Now they have a song for Dante that, well for one it's not a good song and does not represent the character of the game style at all, and was created by a sexual predator. Capcom spoke with Kotaku about the situation. They are planning to remove the song from all promotions, and will see if it's possible to remove it from the game entirely (resources pending). While some of you all may cry foul, that a person's past and his acknowledgment to do better shouldn't inhibit them from working. But listen to the song and tell me that's something Dante would want? It's bad. For the sake of Dante, Capcom can do better.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

LA Times Expanding to Target Video Games

As billionaires begin scooping up newspapers to help turn them into a profit once more, the new owner of the Los Angeles Times is looking to video games as a means of engaging people with the news. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong purchased the LA Times for an undisclosed amount, but is already hard at work revamping and updating the publication. His company NantWorks recently invested in Daybreak Game Company (H1Z1), where mobile versions of Daybreak games are likely to come soon with this new cash infusion. But what does that mean for the newspaper?

Soon-Shiong believes that video games can be used to combat "fake news" and create renewed interest in the news among the younger generation. In general our shift in how we obtain news has changed. Newspapers were once the reliable source, but as technology has evolved, so have we. Instead we look to the internet and social media for content - which has also created a market of b.s. "news" that we apparently have trouble sniffing out from the real deal. Soon-Shiong wants the LA Times to reach out to potential readers on other platforms, like video games.

“The most evolved engagement engine is video gaming, Fortnite . . . the Millennials, across Twitch, interconnect and communicate,” said Soon-Shiong. “We could take an engine like this and find a way to enhance a different form of social network, and games add an element of storytelling,” he said.

The Washington Post has started their test into Twitch with a news channel. It's not surprising that others will follow. Newspapers are becoming new media platforms and transforming their image to accommodate today's tastes. This could work in the short term, but in the long run it's difficult to say what will happen. The news, in general, has been a valuable resource in helping us understand what is going on beyond the comfort of our home. It keeps us accurately informed at a time when we need to be critical of our politics and the like. And the news can not stray from this. We don't need more multi-media companies trying to push messaging and branding to us. We need the facts. If the LA Times can't deliver on this, then the move to "modernize" will have failed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Yep. Sony Is Releasing Their Own Mini System

Nintendo was the trend setter, and now all others will follow. Sony has unveiled their mini PlayStation console for a December launch. Just in time for the holidays, of course! And before you ask, yes. Final Fantasy VII will be one of the games featured.

Unlike the PS One, the PlayStation Classic will look like the original system at 45% of the original size. 20 games will be included such as Jumping Flash, Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. Additional games will be announced at a later time. The console will include an HDMI cable, USB cable, and 2 controllers. The games will be in their original format. And the selection of the December 3rd date is no coincidence - this was when the original console was released in Japan.

The system does not come with an AC adapter, which can be purchased separately. Instead it's like a cell phone battery and uses the USB port as the source of power.

The PlayStation Classic is staying true to it's original style, even including a disc eject button. Though the system lacks an actual disc reader. Instead, the button will swap games pre-loaded in the library. Even the controllers maintain their same look and feel.

Hopefully Sony has learned from Nintendo and will have enough stock available to meet with demand.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Global Gambling Commission Signs Agreement to Review Loot Boxes

Loot box concerns continue to mount as the globally, gambling regulators are coming together to assess the growth of in-game, random luck purchases. On Monday, 16 regulators (15 from Europe and 1 from Washington state) have signed an agreement to work together and research the impact of loot boxes - do these in-game incentives constituent as gambling?

We've discussed the issue of loot boxes multiple times on this blog. As more games attempt to tackle microtransactions, we can expect to see more governments trying to tackle the problem. Loot boxes are more than receiving shiny objects that can sometimes give you a boost in a game. More often than not you end up paying some form of real-world money to buy the boxes, or to buy game tokens to use on the boxes, to receive the content - which is randomly selected. There are no guarantees on what is in the box. And you may end up dumping tens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars to get the 1 item you really want. From the flashy graphics and animations to the quirky sound effects, loot boxes are designed to entice people to buy them.

In some games, you need those rare items in order to advance. Assassin's Creed: Unity was notorious for this, with sizeable portions of the game locked behind paywall treasure chests. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War wouldn't allow you to progress without spending in-game funds on loot boxes (which has recently been dropped after much pushback from gamers). Star Wars: Battlefront II received huge backlash against their loot box program, which gave advantages to gamers willing to pay for boxes in multiplayer. EA opted to not release the game with the questionable system, scrapping it entirely in 2018.

Governments and gaming oversight committees have been watching. China requires all video games released to have information about what is contained in loot boxes. The ESRB and PEGI now have labels on games indicating if there are microtransactions. Belgium is striking back at several gaming companies, asking for changes to their loot box system or removal of the content entirely before the games are allowed to return to be sold.

This new agreement could potentially yield more decisive action against game developers and publishers to provide content that doesn't scream "gambling." While some may still argue that loot boxes are not gambling nor addictive, one can not deny the attractive appeal of opening up a card pack in Hearthstone, with random odds that provide no guarantee that you'll "win" what you want.

Monday, September 17, 2018

South Korea Developing Bill To Combat Digital Sexual Hassment

According to the Soeul newspaper Naver, the South Korean National Assembly’s Gender Equality and Family Committee is formulating a bill that will make sexual harassment in video games a punishable offense. Earlier this year the committee made cheating or using hacks in online games illegal. So why the sudden focus on sexual harassment?

Kim Su-min, a secretary of the National Assembly Women's and Family Committee whom spoke about the bill, called out video games for chat systems where harassment is "rampet." Overwatch was named specifically, most likely due to it's popularity. And yeah, one of the reasons I rarely play it or bother with voice chat is the numerous amount of sexist comments I receive for existing as a different gender. The currently laws in South Korea offer some protections within the work place, but little else. With the growth of the digital age, few laws are in place globally that provide support to harassment or assault victims when the crime is committed online.

The bill to be introduced will include language that a person can be punished "who has committed sexual harassment that causes humiliation or disgust to the other person due to sexual intercourse or sexual demands outside the workplace, including information and communication networks."

If the bill passes, South Korea would be one of the first countries to provide legislation for harassment in digital spaces. Since game developers haven't done much to help protect their customers, it looks like the law has to get involved.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Friday is here! Which means it's another Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week - all in a nice, bite-sized chunk for you to consume. Let's see what's on the menu:

- Mashable has a list of the top 10 most date-able video game men. Yeah. I groaned too. But wait until you see this list - it's terrabad! It starts out #10 with The Prince from The Prince of Persia series, and immediately he's labeled as a pompous douchebag. So yeah. Mashable is choosing some real winners here for us ladies and gents! Even Kratos from God of War is on the list, and this editor must not have played any of the games to realize how dumb of a suggestion that is. Kratos is doomed to forever lose the people that he loves. The whole point of the first 3 games was to get revenge against the gods for killing his wife and daughter! Who the heck wants to get attached to that mess? No thanks. This easily ranks as one of the worst "top 10 lists" of the week.

- Engadget takes a look in inside THQ Nordic. A developer known for taking old gaming properties and re-invigorating them for the new era. They currently hold over 200 licenses, including Curt Shilling's financially-woeful MMO Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. THQ Nordic has been holding onto the license for a while, and there are murmurs that the company may re-release the MMO with lots of upgrades. It's interesting to see how a company takes an unexpected business model (buying old games, revamping them, and re-releasing them) and make a profit from it.

- Spider-Man fans, you're probably not going to like what CNet writer Mark Serrels has to say about the game. In his commentary about the game, he writes that Spider-Man is the same game we've played before. And when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, what about Spider-Man is different from it's predecessors or other games on the market today? Frankly, not a lot. It has an open world, a show-horned in leveling up system, skill trees, and crafting. Serrels remarks that Spider-Man is an atypical Sony game. While I haven't had a chance to play this yet, watching a few review videos, I can see how one can come to this conclusion.

- PhD student Matthew Guzdial and associate professor Mark Riedl at the Georgia Institute Technology have created an algorithm that produces video games by "feeding it" videos of human players going through gaming levels. It would then take this information and produce it's own level of a game. While this advancement in technology is cool, and still needs a lot of work, I don't think we have to worry about the robots taking over. The human elements of emotional touches, such as character development and story telling, will always be needed in a game.

- According to a study by the Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, 67% of Americans play video games on at least 1 device. While the study only focused on responses from 5,000 people, that's still a much larger sample size than most groups. Roughly 90% play on their smartphones or a tablet, in conjunction with other devices. PC took the second spot. More proof that it's not just kids that play video games.

- Can video games teach children empathy? A new study says yes! A team created by lead researcher and professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison, Richard Davidson, developed a video game called Crystals of Kaydor. The game requires the player to communicate with aliens on another planet to help them, but there is no common vocal language. Instead, players need to determine how the aliens are responding based on their facial reactions. Is the alien happy, sad, angry? How do we react to it with our in-game decisions? The results overall have been positive, and that the message to take away is that games don't disrupt empathy - they help imbue it based on the messaging.

- Finally, The Weather Channel is going extra high-tech as of late, providing simulated projection models of weather damage using immersive "mixed-reality" technology. The virtual visualizations allow reporters to show how high water levels can be for a flood, or how hurricane winds will tear down trees. The models are created by the Future Group which uses the Unreal Engine. While some may cry out that this is all fake, The Weather Channel does not ever state that these images or videos are real. They make it very clear throughout the reporting that everything the viewer is seeing is a simulation of what they are predicting will happen in a storm. It's also very obvious by the renderings that it's computer graphics and not the real deal. So, chill out folks. The Weather Channel is trying something new and give people an idea about the severity of weather - something we shouldn't play around with. It's kind of cool how they are taking a different spin on technology to provide helpful information to the public.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dance Animations in Dragon Quest XI Have Me Hooked

In a year where I had hoped to provide more game reviews, the universe deemed it necessary to keep me grounded in reality and handle life situations. While I still feel like I have a good grasp on the news and issues within the gaming community, I feel very far behind on playing games. I still have Hyrule Warriors for the Wii-U in it's original packaging. That's how bad my backlog is right now.

Yet the lure of Dragon Quest XI could not keep me away. While everyone else in the US is swinging from buildings with Spider-Man, I've been hunting down metal slimes and watching ridiculous dance animations. I've been running around the world and exploring towns, mystified at how much detail they were able to put into this game. For art by legendary character designer Akira Toriyama, the look of the game doesn't detract from it's natural beauty. This feels like a very natural progression in the Dragon Quest style without feeling cartoon-y. While some have been pondering Easter Eggs, I'm trapezing the landscape for mini medals and trying to figure out where I can see my stash in the menu! (I finally figured it out after an evening of level grinding - it's the same screen where you can see how much gold you have.) And while you might be dismayed that Peter Parker is, once again, losing his uncle, I'm laughing at the ridiculous dialogue and silly sincerity of the companions Erik and Veronica (the dialogue is more engaging than I remember from other versions).

And this is only 10 hours into the game! I've barely scratched the surface, knowing full well that I can sink 100+ hours into this title.

While the hype and positive reviews for DQ11 have been soaring, we all know that the majority of gamers are all about Spider-Man right now. At least DQ11 has the #2 spot in sales. Maybe it'll convince SquareEnix to continue with localization of past and future DQ games.

But I understand the hesitation to want to try DQ. It's a big game. It's a very traditional Japanese RPG. It has the number 11 in it, so it may scare away some who think that they need to play the other games in order to understand what's going on (hint: It's like Final Fantasy. The numbers don't matter). It looks like Dragon Ball but doesn't play like Dragon Ball. The formula for the games is tried and true.

On the surface it might seem like another Dragon Quest game with a shinier package...that you can flip over to reveal the original, way better, box art (SquareEnix, we know you're trying to appeal to Western audiences, but we are wise to your tactics). There are a number of staples in DQ11 that you'll quickly recognize if you've played any of the other games. But there are also quite a lot of new changes: Open world design - no random battles (this is the first main-title game to offer this, remakes for the 3DS have moved to the no random battle model) - new job abilities and "ultimate" powers - interactive and destructible environments (the sound of the pumpkins when you stomp on them is hilarious) - more save points (one of my biggest pet peeves has been resolved) - and a sprint button (my second pet peeve). As Tim Rogers of Kotaku has remarked about this franchise, it's a series that provides comfort. It's a bed time story that you tell your kids before tucking them into bed at night. It gives you a sense of relief and wonder after a long day. There's a simplicity on the surface to it that makes it elegant. A well-polished game with incredibly complex algorithms that make up the Pep Powers and the array of games in the casino (Pep Powers is the "Limit Break" for DQ11. How a character achieves it is a randomly generated number/system that has yet to be fully understood).

Dragon Quest XI is a game that I know I can play and it will have my smiling. It's good for picking up before bed and toddling around for an hour while feeling the full immersion (seriously developers - thank you for adding more save points). Dragon Quest is comfort food that continues to tweak it's formula, making the game more delicious. Yes, games do need to evolve beyond the a-typical straight, white, male lead that must save the princess. But there is also nothing wrong with sticking to what works. Mario has done it for decades. So has Dragon Quest. The difference is that both of these franchises have made small changes to keep their content engaging. Like dance animations. Okay, it's more than the dance animations. I still like the little touch to the dances and the idle stances.

This is a game where you know what you expect. But this is one of the best in the franchise. I can't wait for the weekend so I can get back to playing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

About That Spider-Man Proposal...

If you were on any part of the internet this weekend that had an involvement with video games, you probably heard, or read, a story about a marriage proposal with a "sad" ending in the latest Spider-Man video game. In May of 2018, Tyler Schultz sent a tweet to Insomniac Games asking for help with a proposal. He wanted to do something in the game to ask the question and Insomniac was happy to help. When the game released, scrawled across a theater marquee were the words 'Maddie, will you marry me?' As gamers attempted to figure out what this hidden gem was suppose to mean, Schultz posted a YouTube video (which has since been deleted) about the situation, calling this the "world's saddest Easter Egg ever." The developer offered to remove the content from the game after the video was released. Schultz instead requested that the text be changed as a memorial to his grandmother, who bought him his first Spider-Man comic book.

What you probably remember about the original story was Schultz response to the Easter Egg. According to Schultz, his girlfriend broke up with him 3-4 weeks prior to the game's release to date his brother. Schultz was the jilted boyfriend who wanted to do a special proposal for the woman he loved.

Here's the problem with this situation: in all of the commotion to get Schultz's story and a response from Insomniac Games, none of these publications reached out to speak with the ex-girlfriend. There are always 2 sides to every story in a relationship. Cutting out the former girlfriend's perspective is not only callous, it's bad reporting. You need everyone's perspective to be able to provide a decent article. This is journalism 101 material here. Unfortunately, many gaming publications have overlooked this vital component. It wasn't until a Houston Press reporter stepped in and noticed the lack of representation from the ex-girlfriend's side. People were quick to blast her in the comments after the original Kotaku article was posted (which has since been majorly edited to reflect the other side of the story) without knowing her perspective.

Writer Jef Rouner spent a few minutes on Facebook to find the former girlfriend and was able to talk to her. Madison Gamble gave her story, stated she wasn't contacted by any other news outlets to present her side, and the Houston Press was able to publish a complete narrative to the Spider-Man game saga. In the Houston Press article, Gamble stated that she and Schultz were having issues over the past year. She tried to make it work and stuck with the relationship as long as she could, but in the end it wasn't meant to be. She did get close to Schultz's half-brother after the relationship ended, but they never dated nor did she call off the relationship because of the half-brother. In fact, Gamble doesn't care for video games. She sat with Schultz through his gaming sessions because she wanted to express her support for his hobby. Showing support is something that a lot of adults do when they care about someone - this is what people do in all forms of relationships. The impact of the marriage proposal wouldn't have been as important for Gamble because her life does not revolve around video games.

You'll notice that a number of articles about the "world's saddest Easter Egg" have now been updated to reflect the findings of the Houston Press. Some have gone so far as to change their headline. Unfortunately it's too late. Gamble will continue to be the butt of jokes for this Easter Egg. She'll be pummeled in comments on the original stories. The publications won't make any public announcements about corrections, nor will people seek out updates.

It's important as journalists, regardless of our area of expertise, that we do our job right the first time. Find all of the facts. Do the research. Get all sides of the story. Present an informed and accurate narrative. Don't make assumptions. Don't skip important steps. Verify, re-verify, and verify once more all of the sources to ensure the statements are authentic. Being a video game reporter does not negate the journalistic oath. In a time where the news is constantly questioned, we need to prove to everyone that we take our jobs seriously - that we will always provide the right information.

An extra 20 minutes of work and the Kotaku article would have been fully fleshed out. Instead, it's another example of poor journalism with a dose of sexism.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Yep. Someone 'Had' to Bring Uwe Boll Back

If you thought that the world of movies and video games was done with Uwe Boll, well he's not done with us. Boll returns with a documentary by Prairie Coast Films titled 'F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story.' Charming title, which has been censored for this blog.

The trailer was published 2 days ago and doesn't have the ground breaking number of views that the production team had hoped for. The film is currently touring the independent festival circuit, but it will most likely get a release to DVD/YouTube by next year. The focus of the documentary is a look behind the lens at the "most hated man in Hollywood," according to the movie's tagline. In it, viewers will see Boll in all of his horrible glory. Yelling on set. Belittling crew members and actors. And telling the interviewer that he gives no f's about what other people say or think.

This is why his movies suck.

Boll has never put forth effort into his films to try and capture anything beyond over-the-top, nonsensical violence. Story, character development, editing, pacing - no big deal. Throw in a bunch of dumb, unappealing, tasteless action and you've got a Boll movie! The problem with Boll's work is that it's very clear he does not care about the sources for his movies. Bloodrayne, the focus was on bland gore and the most awkward sex scene you'll ever witness on screen - the only connection the movie had to the game was 1 or 2 characters carrying the same name. The rest of the plot had no involvement with the game. The same can be said for FarCry and the rest of his knock-off movies. He also used the questionable German laws to get around licensing and copyright issues to make these movies without fear of being sued by the game developers. If Boll cared, there would have been effort made. And with effort we can find redeeming qualities about his movies. There is nothing positive to say about Boll's work.

While it isn't mentioned if this is Boll's attempt to return to movies, the trailer was enough cringe to make me concerned about giving this man a platform at all. That type of behavior on and off the set is abhorrent and should not be celebrated. Given the limited views on the trailer and unfavorable comments, this documentary looks like it'll be doomed. Boll is not the most hated in Hollywood. He's a bad filmmaker with a horrible personality. Other than mucking up video game movies for decades, most people in Hollywood probably don't know who he is. How can you hate someone you don't know exists?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Nintendo and Cloud Saves - They Still Don't Get It

As much as Nintendo is trying to catch up to the 21st century with technological innovations such as online game play, there are still a few areas where it's lacking in self-awareness. Take cloud saves, for example. PC, PlayStation, and XBox have been on top of this since it became available. Gamers around the world have been able to safely store their game data on remote servers, knowing the content is safe in case something happens to their consoles.

Nintendo doesn't share the same sentiment.

Game Informer discovered that the upcoming Pokémon games for the Switch and re-releases for Dark Souls will be lacking in a cloud save feature. While a number of games on the Switch do offer this option, some don't like NBA2K 19, FIFA19, and Splatoon 2. Nintendo responded to the concern with the usual flair of tone-deaf:

"The vast majority of Nintendo Switch games will support Save Data Cloud backup. However, in certain games this feature would make it possible to, for example, regain items that had been traded to other players, or revert to a higher online multiplayer ranking that had been lost. To ensure fair play, Save Data Cloud backup may not be enabled for such games. To ensure that Save Data Cloud backups cannot be used to unfairly affect online multiplayer rankings, the feature will not be enabled in Splatoon 2."

In essence, it's a security concern and to ensure that ranked games like FIFA are not tampered with. Because people haven't been doing that with Splatoon before. Players have been able to edit their local saves with ease before going online to play matches. Cloud saves help eliminate the modification and ensure a more even playing field. It would be no different with an MMO - you need cloud saves, otherwise people can go into the DAT files and give their character epic gear before they logged on.

One day Nintendo will catch up with it's peers, only to be out of sync again when Sony and Microsoft stay up to date.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Quick Geek Spot Update

Because the universe, or karma, or whomever has decided to really hate on me this year, I managed to burn my hand this morning. 3 hours later and it still stings. As such, I will be skipping a few posts over the coming days while my hand heals. I'm only typing with one hand in the meantime, and I do not have the patience for it. Hopefully we'll be back to a normal schedule next week.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Chicken Distributor Getting Into Gaming Business

Video games are so popular right now, even a chicken supplier wants to get in on the market! Hong Kong-based company Leyou has created the publishing label Athlon Games. They've recently scored a deal with Amazon to develop a AAA title for an upcoming 'Lord of the Rings' project. Amazon is currently developing a TV series and the video game will tie into it.

Anthlon has not stated which parts of the game they will create, but they are working with another developer for the project. The press release describes the game as a new experience with cooperative elements and the story taking place long before the events that we knew in Middle-earth.

This isn't the first time Leyou has dived into games. They purchased Digital Extremes (Warframe), and Splash Damage, while previously investing millions into Call of Duty and Halo. It's mostly funny that a chicken-based company would be so heavily interested in video games. The times are changing!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

IOC President Certain Video Games Won't Be At Olympics Until "Violence" Is Removed

Speaking with the Associated Press, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach isn't sure if or when eSports will be included in future Olympic games. In the Saturday interview, he made his conditions for gaming clear - no violence what-so-ever. Which means games like Overwatch and DotA II with huge followings are not likely to ever be included in the Olympics, in spite of their low violent rating compared to other first person shooters/tactical games.

“We cannot have in the Olympic program a game which is promoting violence or discrimination. [T]hey, from our point of view, are contradictory to the Olympic values and cannot therefore be accepted.”

Ironic given the violent nature of a number of sports already in the games, such as wrestling, judo, hockey, and the winter biathlon where one skis with a gun to shoot at targets.

The IOC has been considering video games ever since a July forum. eSports is being held for the first time as a demonstration sport in the Asian Games this year. But it will take quite a bit of convincing with Bach before eSports can transition into the Olympics. While it might pave the way for card games like Hearthstone, there isn't as much attraction to the title as Overwatch, with it's first year in eSports proving to be a big success. The IOC will need to find a balance between their concern for "violence" and the competitive spirit.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's Friday, Friday, F-R-I-D-A-Y! Which means nothing to me, but it is time for another weekly link round up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet. Here's what we've found:

- China's leader Xi Jinping stated yesterday that too many children in China needed glasses and the cause for bad eyesight was video games. The day ended with billions being wiped from the stock market for predominant gaming companies. The Ministry of Education has issued new rules to limit the number of games approved by the media regulators, add more physical activity to children's lives, and reduce the amount of time they play video games. Because Chinese regulators, in general, have power over every aspect of their citizens lives, people will listen and follow. Thus the tumble in stocks. While some of the issues "might" by the fault of children not giving their eyes time to rest, one does not gain nearsightedness because of video games. Genetics plays a big factor.

- Continuing news in China, within the past 2 weeks the government has been cracking down hard on bitcoin and cryptocurrency to the point of being an almost ban, but not quite yet. Regulators begun blocking websites that focus on cryptocurrency, or imposing heavy regulations on them, such as WeChat. Search engines like Baidu are blocking any terms for cryptocurrency. Why the sudden surge in blocking? No announcement has been made, but it's likely that the government feels threatened by the growth of cryptocurrency - no ways to track or trace owners and thus it's not something the government can regulate.

- Oh hey...more news from China! It's one of those days. SquareEnix have signed a letter of intent to enter into a "strategic alliance" with Tencent Holdings. Details on the agreement are unknown, but the overarching plan is that both companies will create new games and license existing properties to other countries. Tencent has similar dealings with Riot Games, Activision/Blizzard, and Ubisoft.

- With Amazon Prime's amazing pre-order discount gone, where are gamers to go for their cheap new games? Well the options are very limited if IGN's article is anything to go by. You've got Amazon's new program for $10 Prime credit that you can only use on some merchandise and it's only available after the game ships. There's BestBuy's updated rewards program for $10 off a future purchase. And then GameStop with discounts on used games. IGN. Why did you bother to write this? There are no pre-order benefits here! Lame.

- The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) will start issuing warnings for in-game purchases. The icon of a hand holding a credit card will act as a signal to customers that the game contains microtransactions. With the rise of concern over loot boxes, it's good to see that one regulator is trying to give customers a heads-up.

- Fandom has a very click-baity article on the 5 ways PAC-MAN has influenced modern video games. It's silly, but also light reading. So if you need a break from the doom and gloom of the day, here you go!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Nintendo Continuing Take-down on Fan Gaming Community

Nintendo is going legal happy and sending out more cease and desist notifications. This time it's for 'Pokémon Essentials,' an RPG creation tool for people to make their own variations of Pokémon games. The kit has been available since 2007, and now a decade later it's no more. What's even more surprising is that Nintendo also went after the 'Essentials' Wiki. It too has been removed and now the cumulative history and knowledge of the tool is gone.

'Pokémon Essentials' has been the major kit behind most fan-made Pokémon games. Voluntary Twitch, Pokémon Uranium, couldn't have made the game without 'Essentials.' And the game was downloaded over a million times before Nintendo stepped in. Fan games are always a questionable minefield, and most companies seem to be okay with letting them go as long as the creators don't profit from them.

Nintendo seems to have other plans as they continue to pursue more legal action against creators to maintain copyright. From their perspective, it makes sense. They don't want bad representations of their brand out there for consumption. They want to control it. It's no different than what George Lucas did with the 'Star Wars' property when the licensing for video games went crazy. As such, he created LucasArts to bring everything back into the fold for quality assurance. But on the other side of the argument, fans are feeling attacked for showing how much they love Nintendo's products. They want to celebrate Nintendo and their achievements. Instead they are threatened with lawsuits. Even if the fans make no money from their endeavors, Nintendo sees a problem with it.

At this point, how far will be too far for Nintendo? Will they start policing costumes/cosplay? Original fan art designs? Forum avatars? Will they claim that they invented the pixel so you can't have any references to 8/16/32 bit art? Only Nintendo knows, and it smells like trouble for the rest of us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

With Discount Gone, Amazon Is Adding More Pre-Orders

Now that Amazon Prime 20% off pre-order deal is forever gone for members, what shall we do to get our discounted new game fix?

Well Amazon is already pushing new pre-orders onto their site that have either never materialized, or were originally up and then removed months ago for unknown reasons. Such as Spider-Man, as Kotaku discovered. The web-sligning game has had high praise and interest since it's E3 2018 showing, but was not on Amazon for long. Why it was pulled? Who knows for certain. Either Amazon or Sony made the call. But that pre-order deal could have been disruptive to Amazon's bottom line if enough people purchased it.

Miraculously, the game is back up for sale and, oh look! No more 20% off deal.

2018 has been an odd year for pre-order offers on Amazon. A number of big title games have been missing or did not appear until the last minute. I ran into this issue with Wolfenstein II, where the game wasn't up for pre-order until 2 weeks before it's scheduled release. But you could reserve it at WalMart, Target, and GameStop months in advance. Highly anticipated games like Red Dead Redemption II and Days Gone still remain missing on the website - at least their physical versions. The 20% discount only applied to hard copies of the game; not digital. Even Battlefield V has been absent, with only a digital code offered. I was hoping to at least reserve Dragon Quest Builders 2, but alas. It was not meant to be as Amazon still does not have the game listed.

When retailers make a decision to end a program, it's a months-long process and decision-making. The fact that a number of pre-order titles did not appear on Amazon until recently is no surprise. If the company has been working to discontinue the 20% off offer, they would use it to their advantage and offer less content. Once the discount is gone, throw the games up for reservation.

Video game analyst Mat Piscatella predicted that we'll see a lot of games become available for pre-order on August 29th. There will be no surprise here if that's the case in the coming weeks.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

Yeah. We have to talk about it. As much as I try to keep this blog a space where you can take a break from reality, even in it's most heated moments, there are some events I can not overlook.

Yesterday in Jacksonville, Florida, a gunman opened fire at Jacksonville Landing (a shopping pavilion) during a Madden 19 tournament. The suspect has been identified by police as 24 year old David Katz of Baltimore, Maryland, who had been attending as a player and won the tournament in the past. Two people were killed in the shooting, and 11 injured (9 with gun shot wounds). The gunman is believed to have killed himself and was found dead on the scene. What made this all the more real for so many gamers is that this event was live-streamed. The shooting happened on camera for thousands to watch. This event was a regional qualifier where the winner would go to Las Vegas for the finals.

Whatever the gunman's motive was, we may never know. But in the coming days, weeks, and months, we'll once again hear the same rhetoric: "Video games are violent." "Thoughts and prayers to the victims." "This isn't about guns, this is about video games."

Gamers, we know that what happened at Chicago Pizza and Sports Grille is not reflective of who we are. That type of violence is not us. Also, making callous jokes about DLC and micro-transactions when people died  is not representative of who we are. Stop it.

We, as a country, can no longer ignore that we have a serious epidemic on our hands. As of yesterday there have been 234 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2018. We are on day 239. That is almost 1 mass shooting every, single, day. Most first and second world countries haven't experienced a single one this year. These are not countries with radical ideologies. They are countries with citizens that are not much different from us: they enjoy playing video games, going to the movies, talking about 'Game of Thrones' and 'Star Wars', go to work, and want to create a better life for themselves and their community. They also understand how deadly guns are and have enacted laws to ensure they are used safely and kept in the right hands.

We can't ignore this issue any longer. All of our safe havens and places of entertainment have been harmed. We need to act and make change happen in our politics, in our policies, and in our community. I'm not saying this will be easy and it will take a long time, but I'm sick of the violence. I'm sick of always having to be on my guard to go to work. I'm sick of reading this news of more gun deaths every day. I'm sick of what the future will hold for the next generations. We need to leave the world a better place for them.

This is no longer a question about video games being violent and causing aggressive behavior. Games are not responsible for someone pulling the trigger on a gun.

- Note: I understand that gun ownership is a contentious issue in the U.S. While I'm a strong believer that we should have stricter laws, no sales of automatic weapons, and harsher criteria for owning a weapon (ideally Japan or Sweeden's laws), I'm not against someone owning a weapon. But there has to be a responsible way of doing it. What we have on the books now is not it.

Please do not leave sexist, racist, or insulting remarks on this post. They will be deleted. Debate and discourse is fine, as long as you present your arguments in a thoughtful, rational manner.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Yep. It's that time again. A time where we can share the world of video games in a bite-sized chunk that is easy to digest. It's the Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet. Here's what we have in store today:

- It shouldn't be a surprise that Nintendo dominated sales charts in July. What's more surprising is that the top game was a small-time JRPG and games that have been out for nearly a year. New releases like Mario Tennis Aces barely cracked the top 10. While not necessarily the signal that the tastes of gamers are changing, it is important to note that the gaming audience is diverse and wants lots of things. It's okay to add something new to the line-up and get good results from it.

- As the struggle with China's video game board continues, Bloomberg takes a look inside Tencent and how the company has profited over the years by bringing popular video games overseas. For being one of the world's largest markets for gamers, it is one of the strictest. And even Tencent is not immune from the gaze of regulators. How does this company stay on top?

- Amazon's game studio is ready to start touting a release: The Grand Tour Game. Meant as a tie in to their original TV series, The Grand Tour Game will be an episodic release that coincides with the show. Players will be able to reenact content from season 3, with weekly updates as the show progresses. The game was officially announced at GamesCon this week with a playable demo for journalists. A release date has not been set yet.

- Reminder about Amazon Prime Benefits: The video game 20% off pre-order will go away August 28. Pre-order your games now while you can. Yes I hate that I'm advocating pre-ordering games. Yes I still don't like to pre-order. But it's better to order now and get that discount than to wait later and pay full price. You can always cancel if you decide the game isn't for you. Plus you are not charged until the item ships!

- If you're worried about AI's beating us at video games, don't worry. The bots at the DotA championship lost 2-0 in a best of 3 contest. Go flesh-meats!

- Speaking of AI, NVidia is using AI to help produce better gaming hardware. On Monday the company announced a new video gaming chip with the latest 'ray tracing' technology thanks to AI. The chip updates how light bounces around an environment to feel more realistic. It's meant to product more accurate reflections and shadows like one would see in reality. And AI's are helping to make it happen!

- And hey, here's another tie-in to the last story! GamesCon is this week with loads of content being dropped by developers. The large gaming event has seen the announcement of release dates, new games, and even a potential August 2019 date for Shenmue 3. What games are you looking forward to thanks to GamesCon?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Paramount Greenlights 'Monument Valley' Movie

Paramount Pictures has gained the films rights to the mobile game Monument Valley, with plans to produce it into a movie directed by Patrick Osborne. Thankfully, Osborne is an animator (and Academy Award winning one at that) and knows a thing or two about story-telling. Monument Valley was a success in 2014, earning it's developer Ustwo nearly $6 million in the first year of release. It was even featured in an episode of Netflix's 'House of Cards.'

The problem is, this is an odd game to choose to transform into a film given it's aesthetic and premise. It certainly won't attract the same attention as Angry Birds or Tomb Raider. Monument Valley is a puzzle game, where you play as princess Ida as you manipulate the world to jump through mazes and optical illusions to reach the next level. On the one hand, that leaves the story very open for liberal interpretation by Paramount. On the other, it's like taking Tetris and cramming a story into the cartridge. The fit is weird and does not leave a lot of room for error. Osborne and Paramount need to capture the narrative precisely if they expect to see a profit from this.

In speaking with Deadline, Osborne commented "Monument Valley is a one of a kind experience, at once small in its meditative, simple gameplay, as well as enormous in its sense of history[.]" And he's right. Monument Valley is a one of a kind experience that will be difficult to replicate into a film that will mix both live-action and animation. Given the legacy of gaming movies, maybe it's best to have low expectations on this project.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Video Games: Psychological Boost

Here's a thought: what if one's obsession with video games is not about their addictive qualities, but obtaining unmet psychological needs in the real world?

That's the premise behind an article written by Andrew Kinch, found of GameAware, and Nir Eyal, a businessman turned blogger who looks at the psychological aspects of consumerism. Kids are not only drawn to video games for it's bright sounds and colors. It helps them feel fulfilled on a mental and emotional level.

The article states that kids are looking for 3 key things in their life: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. The same can be applied to adults. We wanted to achieve mastery and growth over an activity, freedom from control, and be able to believe that what we are doing has an impact. There are very few outlets in reality that allow us to tackle all three. Video games, however, allow us to save the kingdom, learn tricky jumping moves, and stop the bad guy. Games are more in-tune with our psychological needs than what reality has to offer.

Are there children and adults with more obsessive gaming compulsions that border on the destructive? Of course. But for the vast majority, video games offer a chance to fulfill our mental and emotional needs in a way the real world can't. There is nothing wrong with that.

The article continues with suggestions for parents on how to foster a healthier attitude on games: give your children some freedom both in games and outside of games. Let them choose what to eat, or what time to play or do work. Parents also need to be involved in the games and allow their children to become tutors - giving them a sense of satisfaction knowing that they are teaching their parents. And it's important to be vulnerable and show weaknesses. It's okay to tell your child that you are not doing well at a game, but that you want to do better - the life lesson of failure is one so often overlooked and needs to be instilled in children early on to ensure a healthier attitude later in life.

It's nice to see a psychological perspective about video games that doesn't bash the medium.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Amazon Updates Prime Benefits for Gamers - It's Not Good

If you are an Amazon/Twitch Prime member, check your e-mails. Amazon is changing some of the perks for gamers. Unfortunately...

The current system for Amazon Prime customers allowed customers to pre-order games, or purchase new games within the first 7 days of release, at a 20% discount from the retail price. It was a good incentive to get gamers onto Amazon, and that perk transitioned to the Twitch Prime membership after Amazon purchased the streaming company.

The new change to begin August 28 will now give customers a $10 Amazon Credit to use on select pre-order titles. No longer will the 20% off be a blanket rule. The $10 credit will be applied to a customer's account within 35 days after the pre-order is released and/or delivered. The credit is only valid for 60 days. Use it or lose it. I think a resounding "lame" is in order.

This change is in line with other discontinuing discount programs, such as Best Buy. It's not surprising that Amazon is updating their offerings, but it is disheartening that it is such an extreme change from what it once was.

So, gamers. Pre-order before August 28 to get that 20% discount before it's gone.

For those who are in it for the Twitch benefits, that's changing too! Subscribers will start seeing advertisements on channels starting October 15th. Anyone with an Amazon Prime account was able to watch Twitch streams without ads as one of the perks. Amazon essentially footed the bill for all Prime users to have a Twitch Turbo account. But now if you want to watch Twitch without ads, you need to get a yearly subscription to Twitch Turbo before September 14. Yes, that does include Prime members. You need to pay an additional $8.99 a month for Turbo. For channels that you have given you free subscription too, you can still watch those ad free. Here's the catch: If you have an annual subscription to Amazon Prime you shouldn't see changes. This will only affect the monthly subs. Hopefully that is still the case when the update happens.

Amazon is getting a lot of flak from gamers over these updates. Our last spot of hope and discounts is being removed. It's not going to be pretty.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Yes, gamers! It is that time once more where we search through the tubes of the internet to provide the Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet. Here's what we've found:

- If you're interested in how StreamLabs was formed, the website that allows users to easily set up Twitch content for tips, chat logs, and what-not, Money Magazine spoke with CEO Ali Moiz to get the details. The conversation even touches on how StreamLabs makes money, since the service is mostly free!

- Tying in with an earlier story this week for Monster Hunter: World, China's video game regulators have reportedly not been approving licenses for several months. Only a small number of games have trickled through the system while the government branch works through restructuring. Tencent Holdings has shed nearly $160 billion in market value due to this announcement. That is way too much money. Other game developers such as Nexon and Capcom have seen slight stock drops due to the freeze. Games that are waiting in the system will be there indeterminately. Games that have been pulled from shelves to be checked again, will have an even longer wait ahead.

- Random factoid: In 35 years, Nintendo has sold over 725 million consoles. Yes, that does include handheld consoles like the Game Boy and Nintendo DS variants. That's a lot of plastic!

- If you thought Ash from the 'Evil Dead' series would be done forever, you are wrong. After Starz cancelled the series, many fans thought Bruce Campbell would hang up the mantle. But he's turning his love of all things Ash to the gaming world. An Evil Dead game is in the works with Campbell voicing the beloved Ash Williams. Details about the game are spotty. There is no word on the developer, publisher, or a potential release date. But we'll be happy to have Ash back with his boomstick!

- More from the loot box controversy: Australian researchers are calling for stricter regulations, citing that the boxes are a form of gambling. In that the flash and allure of the boxes is similar to a poker machine - which could cause one to overspend while being influenced by the game. Calls to the government was in the early stages to review current laws. If any country is going to start heavily regulating loot boxes, other than China, it'll be Australia.

- What does it mean to buy a video game today? That's what this Kotaku article tackles. Unlike a dining experience or going to the movie, video games are a much more fluid, and divisive product. What should one expect when buying a game? What should be the grounds for returning it? Can one ever be satisfied with an evolving product? This is your "thinking" article for the week.

Have a wonderful weekend, gamers!

Image: Freshly Tech

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

'Ninja' Won't Stream With Women, And Why That's a Problem

I don’t play with female gamers."

Top Fortnite streamer Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins spoke with Polygon about his choice to not play with female gamers, and it has set off a flurry of responses. Blevins' decision to stream alone or only with male gamers has to do with respect for his wife, and to ensure no rumors are started between him and other women. He's open about his relationship with his wife Jessica “Jghosty” Blevins, also a streamer and his manager. He doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize their marriage.

Given how quick people are to assume anything and everything these days, he has a fair point about caution. If he chats with a female gamer and someone thinks they are flirting, a user needs to only clip the Twitch stream, upload it to YouTube, and it becomes click-bait fodder. "#1 Fortnite Streamer Cheating on Wife!" The click first, ask questions later format is getting the better of us.

As upstanding as Blevins' concerns may be, it points to a larger problem with gaming and the streaming community: alienation of women. There are very few women and POC at the top of the streaming charts for Twitch, YouTube, and Mixer. The headliners are white men. Seeing someone who doesn't fit the white and male archetype is an anomaly, when it shouldn't be.

Women face a harsher up-hill battle with finding a voice on gaming streaming sites. More often than not we're called Twitch Thots; women exploiting their looks to get paid for views, thus not being "real gamers." We are not given the same level of respect or credibility as our male counterparts. We're harassed more often by viewers and have to wade through a literal minefield with our relationship info - once it's out there, women are hounded for their single/partner/marriage status. While my friends and family know of my relationship, I keep that content off Twitch. Which makes it much more difficult for people to find a connection with me. Thus lower views, lower results, lower turnouts, and lower revenue. It's also one of the major reasons I very rarely use a web cam. The first comment I receive 99% of the time when that web cam turns on is "Wow! You look pretty! What's your number?" or "Show your boobs!"

Pass.

This isn't occasional harassment. This is every time I stream from Twitch. It's annoying. Twitch won't ban these people, and male streamers continue to perpetuate the myth of Twitch Thots. Blevins' deciding to not stream with women further exacerbates the notion that female gamers are not worth our time. "Men can't be friends with women. Men only want sex. Women don't know about games. Blah. Blah. Blah." We know these statements are not true. However, this is message sent across the gaming sphere when big-time streamers like Blevins decides that he doesn't want to work with women.

Noble intentions can have disastrous consequences if there is a long-standing problem in the community. Prove that you're an honorable human being and stream with all types of gamers, regardless of gender or skin color. Show your fans that yes, you can have a successful marriage while working with women and men! What a novel concept...that most of the world handles every day at their job/school/home.

In the end, it is Blevins' decision on who he streams with. But it is as important for us to realize that there is a problem with diversity and inclusion in gaming. Blevins commentary further proves it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bethesda to Sony: We Want Cross-Platform or No 'Legends'

Bethesda might be the first in a long line of developers that is issuing a hard stance on it's future games: Sony needs to allow for cross-platform play, or some of their games won't go to the PlayStation 4. This is according to Pete Hines, Bethesda's senior vice president of global marketing and communications. Talking with GameInformer about the upcoming release of The Elder Scrolls: Legends for consoles, Hines was committed to ensuring that the game be available on all systems, but that cross-play is required. That's one aspect of the game they will not budge on.

"It is our intention in order for the game to come out, it has to be those things on any system. We cannot have a game that works one way across everywhere else except for on this one thing. The way the game works right now on Apple, Google, Steam, and Bethesda.net, it doesn't matter where you buy your stuff, if you play it on another platform that stuff is there. It doesn't matter what platform you play on, you play against everyone else who is playing at that moment. There's no 'Oh, it's easier to control, or it has a better framerate on this system.' It's a strategy card game. It doesn't matter."

And the bottom line is Hines is right. There is no reason why a card game like Legends or Hearthstone can't be cross-platform when the content is able to work on a phone. There are no framerate updates. There are no graphical improvements. It's the same game regardless of what you play on.

However, cross-platform is a big deal. In the past year Microsoft has been more willing to work with PC's and Nintendo to allow gamers to play together, regardless of the system they play on. XBox One fans can hang out with the PC friends or their Nintendo Switch pals while playing Fortnite. Sony is the reluctant party for a multitude of reasons: loss of revenue by people not buying a PS4/games and not signing up for online services, giving access to other developers and consoles makers to their coding/systems, opens potential for more hacking incidents; to name a few of the concerns.

Sony isn't the only bad party here. While many gamers are dog piling on them, keep in mind that Sony does offer cross-play for a number of games with PC users, and has been for well over 16 years with Final Fantasy XI. Sony was one of the first companies to allow for cross-platform play with the PS2 and PS3. Microsoft and Nintendo are the hold outs for MMO's and other games that have a PC/Sony connection for the same reasons: revenue, coding, hacking, internal policies, etc.

The bottom line is that the lack of cohesive cross-play among all gaming systems (phone, tablet, console, computer) is the fault of everyone in the industry. This isn't Sony's fault.

But we are all very aware that the way we game has changed. Twitch and YouTube have promoted an "always-available" style for gamers, and we want content to be at the tips of our fingers. We want to play on our PC's, take that same game data to consoles, and then share screenshots with friends/family on our phones. Cross-play is a necessity in today's gaming world. All of the console makers need to realize this and act on it if they wish to survive the next cycle.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Latest Monster Hunter Pulled from China Days After Release

Monster Hunter: World, one of the biggest titles this year, was pulled from Chinese shelves after the government received "numerous" complaints about the game. Details on what those complaints were are currently unknown. Neither the government nor Tencent Holdings, the distribution company, are talking.

After a month of rigorous testing, Monster Hunter: World was released in China via Tencent's 'WeGame' platform. The site is a Chinese-language mix-use format, allowing streaming, support tools for gamers and developers, and sales of PC games. The site was launched last September and has become China's biggest PC game distributor. Monster Hunter passed the checks and was allowed to be sold. But the complaints from consumers forced WeGame to remove the product from sale.

Servers are up, but that too could change soon. Those who have purchased the game are entitled to a refund upon request, and have until August 20 to request it. Those who wish to keep the game will get a small credit from WeGame at 30 yuan ($4 USD). While this setback shouldn't affect Tencent's bottom line, it is a blow to gamers in China. Without any details, there's no way to know if Monster Hunter will be back on the market at all. It's in the hands of China's 'The State Administration of Radio and Television' to determine if the game should be further edited for content.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's the Weekly Link Round Up, and thank goodness! The world has somehow survived another week, so we can use it to talk about video games even more. Huzzah. The Weekly Link Round Up is a collection of some of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet...this week. Here's what we've found:

- We know Germany has a strict ban on anything Nazi related. And for a very good reason. Well, something unexpected has happened. The Entertainment Software Control (known as the USK) in Germany announced that it may now allow swastikas and certain "[s]ymbols of anti-constitutional organizations" in select video games - depending upon the game's age rating. Games rated T or lower will most likely still require the imagery and symbols to be banned. But this is a pretty bold move by Germany to allow for less censorship. This only applies to video games and other media are still expected to abide by the country's laws. Games like Wolfenstein could potentially not have to go through severe edits in order to be available for sale in Germany. This could have longstanding ramifications, both good and bad.

- NASA's satellite data is helping make video games more hyper-realistic. ASTER (the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) has helped NASA map out topography on Earth in a level of detail we have never seen before. Gaming companies like EA have been able to take advantage of this knowledge to create base layers of terrain before adding their creative flair. It's a cool way for science, technology, and entertainment to merge together.

- We knew this day was coming soon - Discord started selling video games yesterday on it's platform. The gaming chat system has exploded over the past 2 years, with over 150 million users. The beta is live for paid memberships to get free games, and a traditional digital store front for non-subscribers. But, there is a catch. The beta is only available in Canada to a random selection of 50,000 customers. Those selected will see an upgrade to Discord Nitro, and the beta is only available for PC, Windows users. Their aim is to take a nick out of the digital gaming sales market that is dominated by platforms like Steam. Even if it's a small sliver, it would be a huge profit boost for Discord.

- Kotaku has an article on why video game characters never remove their clothes. I can explain why BioWare does it really quickly - did you know that the number of pixels in Kaidan Alenko's (Mass Effect 3) chest is the same amount as an entire body for other characters? It was such a resource suck that it couldn't be replicated. That's why we don't have naked Garrus. Sorry peeps.

But really, the activity of removing clothes is a challenge to animate because of the technology. Clothes are grafted onto the characters as if it were their own skin to provide better animation. You basically get 2 sets of a character - the nude model and the clothed model. Transitioning from one to the other is something the programs don't know how to compute. Yet. That's the summary, but it's still funny to see an article about it.

- NBC News looks at how the quality of video games are overpowering the industry - short stories with strong content are taking out the big names who provide flashy visuals and not much else. While AAA titles reign supreme, many of the best games from the past few years that come to mind are titles like Cuphead, Gone Home, Her Story, That Dragon: Cancer, and Papers: Please. Sure there's Assassin's Creed: Origins, but fewer people talk about that game than Cuphead. Even the recently released Octopath Traveler (independently developed and published by SquareEnix) sold out fast and has been difficult to keep stocked - people didn't expect a game with simple graphics to sell well. Shiny images don't always sell a game.

- A happy 10 years to Giant Bomb, the gaming website that was one of the earliest to adopt full-playthroughs of games and provide YouTube-like content before YouTube was a "thing." Variety has a good write-up about the history of the website, and the founders vision.

- Facebook is going further into gaming development with AR games that work with their Messenger chat app. The games are meant to be social and require 2 people or more to play to make use of the camera features. There are some simple shooting spaceship games, Don't Stare which is exactly what you think it is, as well as fun backgrounds and camera filters. It's a new way for Messenger to be more engaging to it's users.

- Finally, the best list we could find this week because it is weird: The 5 best Video Game Currencies. Yep. It's as silly as you think it is. Of course Fallout and Super Mario Bros. is listed. It would have been a crime to not have them included.