Wednesday, January 31, 2018

eSports Major Win for NA Counter-Strike Team a First!

When a North American team takes home a trophy for a Counter-Strike game, it's kind of a big deal. Cloud9 became the first to win a Major for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. They are also the second NA team to reach grand finals after any major.

Check the stats and you'll find that a number of the top teams, and fan favorites, are from Brazil, Australia, and Portugal. It's rare to see a Canadian, US, or Mexico team crack the top 20. And yet, here we are. A franchise that is decades old and still pulling it's weight in the eSports world, Counter-Strike boasts some heavy-hitting gamers. What makes the game so appealing to eSports is that it consistently focuses on skill and strategy. To have a North American team take home a big win could help produce more viewers in future years. eSports is a growing business.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

'Rampage' Movie and The Video Game Curse

Rampage, that game you probably played in the arcades in the 80's and then at home in the 90's, has a movie coming out this year. Starring The Rock, because of course it would. Director Brad Peyton (who also actioned up The Rock in 'San Andreas') thinks his flick will be the one to break the video game movie curse. So much so, that he wasn't aware that there was a curse until the film was near the end of it's shooting schedule. So...that means he has nothing to worry about?

In an interview with IGN, Peyton talks about how the film came to be and provides more details about the plot. Rampage, for the uninitiated, allows you to control one of 3 monsters and you are set lose to destroy a city. Buildings. Cars. Signs. You name it. The more you destroy in the time limit, the higher your score. If you beat the level's score, you can move to the next city. That's it! But it was a mindlessly fun arcade game that stuck with a lot of fans.

Since the plot is very basic in the game, it does lend itself to having a film adaptation that is open to interpretation. The only concern for the production team is making sure that the 3 monsters look and feel like they came from the game. That's it. The movie will have The Rock playing primatologist Davis Okoye. Through a set of circumstances, his best friend George, a gorilla, is mutated and turns into a beast that terrorizes cities. Okoye must try to save his friend, and stop the other monsters that have evolved. Some corporate baddies will try to stop him. Probably the police and military too.

It's still a very straight-forward plot. But this movie isn't trying to take itself too seriously, according to the interview. It's meant to be a fun, and scary kaiju film. They did take the time to think about how logical it would be to turn a gorilla into a giant, but it's still a kaiju movie at the end of the day.

And maybe that's what we need from our video game movies? Not heavy plot-driven narratives that we adapt to film. Instead, maybe these films need to be good ol-fashion summer action pics. We can throw down Max Payne, Dungeons & Dragons, and Prince of Persia as examples of what not to do with a game-based movie. But the reason those movies failed may be why 'Rampage' will succeed at the box office. A lot of video game movies try to adapt by going the serious route. Or the 'Resident Evil' route and ignoring everything the games did. In doing so, the content becomes convoluted and fans miss out on what made the game special. Hollywood needs to accept the fact that games are meant to be fun. They can be insightful, fulfilling, and meaningful too, but they are also games. Where physics doesn't matter. Where you can propel yourself in an arena of rocket cars to play soccer. Where a blue hedgehog can run at super speeds and do loop-d-loops in his sleep. Film needs to embrace the strangeness of video games in order to succeed in future ventures. I don't think 'Rampage' will be the one to break the curse, but it could be the silly action movie we need to get the conversation going.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monster Hunter: World Breaking Capcom Records

With only 3 days since the game launched, Monster Hunter: World has exceeded expectations by shipping over 5 million copies to retailers. This is a very good indication that sales will be high for game. Retailers typically purchase enough to cover pre-orders, and an additional 5% to cover walk-ins for the week. If you try to purchase the PS4 version of the game off of Amazon right now, there is a 2-4 week wait, unless you go for the digital copy.

Gaming industry veteran Hirokazu Hamamura predicted that the game would sell 10 million copies over it's lifetime. Needless to say, Capcom has to be thrilled about this outcome. Posting a press release through their website, MHW has set a series record for most shipped in the first 3 days of sale.

Monster Hunter is a niche game that has an odd place outside of the Japanese market. Fans in the NA/EU countries love it with a passion. But the franchise never found a solid foothold with sales. It always did well enough to warrant another version, but not at the runaway levels that we're seeing right now. The updated look and feel of the game has helped modernize the MH structure. The open beta didn't hurt either, allowing fans and newcommers a chance to experience what the new game has to offer. MHW also incorporated a dynamic living world that requires you to be online. Even if you don't use your PSN or XBox Live account to play, you do need an online connection so the world can update as you play. While that may concern a few people, the transition seems to be working and allowing people to experience new elements of gameplay they wouldn't have been able to in years past. Also connecting with other people in MHW and a cat companion helps too.

Will this game break the 10 million limit by the end of the year? When the PC version releases, we'll see another uptick in sales.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's that time again! Friday. Hopefully a less-stressful day for all. Because it's almost the weekend and I think we can all use an easy day with how crazy this week has been. So let's get going on the Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week:

- An opinion piece on Gamasutra asks "Are Video Games Underpriced?" While a number of us may immediately respond with "no," from an economic standpoint games may be selling themselves short of their full market value in order to reach more people. This can backfire if a customer feels that the product isn't good because the price seems too low. A lower priced is sometimes equated with lower value. On the larger scale of things, video games are at a modest price. It's when companies begin adding on DLC and loot box requirements to advance the game, that's when we question if the base product is too high for it's current value.

- A study found that video games are not accurately portraying the consequences of drug use. In general, drug use is down since the 1970's, and there have been studies showing that it may be due to video games. Instead of spending money on drugs, we get hooked on video games. Hey. At least it's a healthier alternative. The study looked at a handful of M rated games, determined if the drugs used are real or fictional to the game, and how they are presented to the user. Sometimes a drug is used to provide a temporary skill boost. What does that mean to the gamer? That's hard to say. The study doesn't focus on how people view the drugs after playing. Rather, the goal of the study looks like it's a big advertising ploy. The "study" was made by the Arch Stone Recovery Center of Palm Beaches, which helps providing counseling and recovery options for alcohol and drug addicts. The last paragraph is how you can call to help yourself or a love one get over their addiction. So yeah - take this "study" with a giant grain of salt until a real medical center in a scholastic journal creates a paper about the effects of drugs in games on the human mind.

- Want to see someone play of the most difficult games ever made? Enjoy this 1:30 minute clip of Trap Adventure 2. And prepare to hate yourself.

- If you're interested in video game records, the name Todd Rogers (Mr. Activision) should be familiar to you. A superstar in the 80's, he still holds a number of speed and high-score records to this day. However a YouTuber named Apollo Legend has created a video that exposes how some of Rogers' scores are technically impossible. This isn't the first time that Rogers' has faced questions of cheating. Last year his Dragster time was brought up, even though he was able to replicate the feat multiple times by Activision. The video is worth a watch and you can come up with your own conclusions.

- WhatCulture has a list of 9 Fan-Made Mods That Make Great Video Games Even Better. On the list is the 'Brutal' mod for Doom, and recreating the 'Game of Thrones' map in Crusader Kings II. To be honest, these game choices are random. The selection of games picked range from XCOM to Just Cause 2. While they are okay titles, they are not great video games by default. Already the title of the list is incredibly misleading. The mods selected are also not the best selection. There are some incredible modders in The Sims, Fable, and Dragon Age communities that should have been mentioned. And all three franchises are solid games with a large following. This list is another fail by WhatCulture. At least it was an interesting enough premise to click on it.

- Ubisoft wants you to play games with their A.I., named Sam. No, not SAM from Mass Effect: Andromeda, but I was thinking that too when I saw the name. What's the point of playing with Sam? It'll help build better, more engaging video games in the future. It's also creepy. The machines are going to take over! >.>

Thursday, January 25, 2018

How Is 'Battlefront II' Doing?

We haven't talked about Star Wars: Battlefront II in a while. What has happened to the game since it's release and the microtransaction/loot box fallout? The exposure from the controversial business decisions EA made has a lot of developers carefully re-working their in-game transactions. Which is good! The loot box situation was getting out of hand. But how has this affected Battlefront?

From a business stand point, EA is doing well. Their stock shares are back up to normal. The dip in November/December has quickly recovered and it's no more then a blip on the radar. However game sales are still down. The game sold 1.3 million copies within the first week, but compared to Battlefront's 3.6 million sales, it's abysmal. Battlefront II is still struggling to hit investor expectations, even after factoring the increase sales from Christmas and the release of the 'Last Jedi' movie. By no means is 1.3 million a loss. For a number of studios, that's still a hit. But for EA with over-the-top expectations of the game, the lack of sales did hit their bottom line. In Europe, GTA5 is still selling better than Battlefront II (as well as AssCreed: Origins and Destiny 2).

The microtransactions have yet to be turned back on. It's a good time to try it out if you want to be on a more-level playing field. The fact that microtransactions are still not available is surprising. This is a huge revenue miss for EA. I think many of us have assumed that it would have returned by mid-December; just in time for the holidays. As of the latest EA/DICE posting about the game's upcoming updates, there have been no mentions of microtransactions.

Interesting. Strange. And weird. It's like they are listening to gamers and realizing their crazy money scheme wasn't going to work on us.

Over the past few months the game has been steadily updated to add a map or two and items to the base multi-player without requiring players to pay extra for them. There are also ongoing server updates and continual discounts of the game. I haven't seen it available at full price since it's initial release. Though I'm sure some retailers are still trying to peddle it for $59.99, there isn't a need to buy it for full retail when the sales are abundant.

It seems like there is enough of a core audience playing Battlefront II for EA to continue to push out updates in a timely manner. There are enough predictions that the game will bounce back. While it won't recover from it's "poor" (and I use that term relative to EA and other big AAA studios) start, it will turn a profit for EA over time.

The game is even going to go through with a revamped progression system. This was one of my biggest complaints with multiplayer. It's good to see that the developers are listening and wanting to make this a game that fans and newcommers will enjoy. How long will it last before microtransactions are back? Who knows. It's guaranteed that they will return, even though it will put off a number of players in the process. The game might be better to get rid of the notion entirely. But come on. It's EA. That won't happen.

For now, Battlefront II is holding steady. Games are selling. People are playing. That's enough for EA to handle right now until the next controversy crops up.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Real Reason Why #MeToo Isn't Taking Off In Gaming Yet

With the surge of the #MeToo movement, and allegations against the owners of Quantic Dream, will the video game industry see the same shake-ups that have occurred in Hollywood, news, and politics? An article in The Guardian argues otherwise stating that the gaming industry isn't ready yet for #MeToo.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Curious Case of Destiny 2

Let's talk about Destiny 2. Granted I have not played the game. Nor the first one. My knowledge of the story, characters, and how this psuedo-MMO realm works is limited. But that doesn't stop me from diving into all of the articles about the series sordid past.

Destiny is a curious case. When the first game was released in 2014, it became clear what type of game this would be: hardcore fans only. The metacritic scores are still good for the game, though it averages a 6 from users. But I remember hearing from cohorts that the biggest issues they had with Destiny was lack of endgame content, low support from the developers, and no character growth. Big things that you have to have in an MMO world. And with Bungie at the helm, known for turning out great products with the Halo franchise, the game quickly turned into a disappointment.

So I was surprised when people were quickly jumping into Destiny 2 once the first set of game trailers released. On the one hand, it's great that they were willing to give the franchise another shot. On the other, it seemed early on that the problems of the past game were going to haunt the sequel. The developers had a lot to prove that this game wouldn't be like it's predecessor.

The current state of Destiny 2 is questionable optimism. For some players, the game is better then the first. Others say it's worse, most likely due to continuing issues since the game's release. The metacritic scores are all over the chart. Most user reviews are not favorable. You can't go to a gaming site without seeing articles about Destiny 2 that follow the latest updates, or pan it. And of course, more merchandising! Some regular streamers are jumping ship, while others are picking it up for the first time. Bungie continues to apologize and work towards making the game better. While other gamers are praising Bungie for their efforts and continue to support them. Even the content creators are struggling to figure out how to approach the game. Negative responses get more clicks, but some streamers and YouTubers want to show off the things the game does well.

What is this game? Destiny 2 defies all logic on consumerism. Is it the Bungie-Halo effect? Is it the loyal fanbase? There is something very unique in Destiny 2 in being able to defy the odds and continue to press forward where other games with controversy have faded into the background. See Star Wars: Battlefront II. The brand name is strong enough that if Bungie were to announce a Destiny 3 for next year, I have a feeling everyone would be on board. No questions asked.

As I stated at the beginning of this article, I haven't played the game. I have enough MMO's in my life that taking on another is more then I can handle. But I've watched people play it. The game looks nice. The progression system feels a little clunky. The emphasis seems to be more on the look and less on the substance, but maybe that will be patched in later. It's not a game that would normally catch my attention - endgame is important in all MMO's and I've been told that Destiny 2 lacks that.

But people are still supporting this game. This isn't like Final Fantasy XIV where the game was so unplayable that the best option was to destroy it and start over. Destiny 2 is very much a playable game, but not necessarily a viable MMO in it's current state.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Bungie and Destiny 2 in the coming months. Will they continue to press on and provide full support to this title? Or will they cut their losses and move on to the next project? This is Bungie. This is a studio that won't shut down from 2 confusing game outcomes. But will that affect their fanbase? Will it cause people to turn and question about quality control/business decisions?

I can't help but be curious about where Bungie will go from here. Destiny 2 continues to baffle and amaze me with it's resilience.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Overwatch League - Will Trash Talking Ever End?

Hey guess what? I still don't have the PAX South wrap-up done. The IRL job took precedence so, I've got nothing. But I appreciate your patience while I carve out time in my non-existent free time to type out a review.

In the meantime, let's talk about the growth of eSports, the Overwatch League, and how players are expected to represent their teams. If you follow the League, then you already know about a member of the Dallas Fuel, Félix Lengyel, being suspended after uttering a homophobic comment at an opposing player. He'll be benched for the remaining first round of tournaments. This isn't the first suspension, and will most likely not be the last. But it is a case study into how future players should be expected to hold themselves in the sport.

eSports is young and must overcome a juvenile image to be taken seriously. I.E. "games are for kids." Many of us know that this is not the case, but in the wider world of sports, this is the stereotype. All sports, from Futball to Hockey, require players to conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner on and off the field. eSports should not be any different. This is why the teams are cracking down on the behavior of their players. Blizzard certainly won't put up with it, so the teams shouldn't either.

The problem is that trash talking is considered a sport unto it's own. Getting into the heads of your opponents with vitrol words to throw off their game. This has been part of the gaming lexicon since the days of arcade brawls. And for a number of younger gamers, they expect it. They watch the streams, play the games, and assume it's part of the culture. As such they grow up knowing their favorite eSports stars as trash talkers, and want to emulate them.

It's a lot for the Overwatch League to overcome if they expect people to take gaming seriously. Will these slate of suspensions help curb bad behavior? Or will this always be an ongoing issue with eSports without a resolution?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's Friday! And we haven't had our Weekly Link Round Up yet so lets do that. We'll go over some of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news that you'll find on the internet...this week. Here's what we've scrounged up:

- Video game revenue grew by 18% last year, marking a $36 billion dollar profit in 2017. This number includes all hardware, software, and in-game purchases. With the release of the Nintendo Switch, and a fancy line-up of games, 2017 was always going to be marked as a monumental year for gamers. Even upgrades to current gen systems, i.e. the PlayStation 4 Pro, released in late 2016 had stellar sales throughout 2017. What does that mean for 2018? Every publisher will have a high bar to compete with if they expect to break 2017's record breaking year.

- PUBG, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, is one of those games that won't stay out of the news cycle. VentureBeat takes a look at the game's history, how it's fairing today, and why it's steadily taking over the world of online gaming. Fun fact: The game is still technically unfinished! Though it's sold over 20 million copies as of November of 2017.

- Another interesting article worth the read is on PasteMagazine, asking when is using minimalism in a video game considered a cop-out. Understandably, not all developers can afford the fancy programs that AAA studios have, so they make do with their existing resources. But there are times where the style of the game doesn't match the tone/story. In turn, it's a distraction. Sometimes it works, such as the 8-bit sections of Five Nights at Freddy's, when it becomes unexpectedly creepy. For other games it detracts from the ambiance, like with Layers of Fear. If you pick any one article to read today, go with this one and tell us what you think!

- ArsTechnia would like for you to meet Mat Dickie, or MDickie. He is one of the best, bad developers of games out there. He created Wrestling Revolution 3D, a nearly impossible game to play, with graphics that make the N64 look like a Picasso painting. This is easily one of the most intriguing, and amusing glimpses into a developer's life that we've read in ages. It may cause you to question your sanity as you download Wrestling Revolution 3D.

- Clickbait article incoming, but a funny one at that. If you are in one of the few states with marijuana is legal, well Inlander has a story for you! It's a list of games that you can play while high. How they determined that these games were worthy of keeping you entertained while on the Mary J? I don't want to know, and we are not going to ask. But if you're you go.

- No Weekly Link Round Up is complete without a feature list from WhatCulture. This time it's 9 unannounced games for 2018 that you need to know about. The problem with this list is we have no way to verify how accurate it is. Unless the developer straight out says "yep, we're doing that." It's all rumors and hearsay. Such as Fable 4. Lionhead studios, the developer of the series, closed in 2016. All projects were cancelled. It's very unlikely that Microsoft picked up where Lionhead left off. That doesn't mean there won't be another Fable game in the future, but it's unlikely - and it won't have the same umph without Lionhead at the helm. But until Micorosft 100% confirms it's happening, don't believe a word of it on the internet.

Note: The Geek Spot is going to get another facelift, but this one will be minor. A logo and banner change. So don't be surprised when you see the update. You probably won't even notice that it happened.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Future of Nintendo is Cardboard?

Yesterday Nintendo announced their next update to the Switch that will, undoubtedly, continue to cause head scratching for gamers. Capitalizing on doing things no other company would do, Nintendo Labo is taking the Amiibo to a whole new level, with cardboard.

Launching April 20th with a starting price tag of $69.99 USD, Labo is all about making your Switch even more interactive by building cardboard devices that connect with the system. Make and create whatever you'd like. In doing so, you'll unlock new ways to play with your Switch. Build a fishing pole and go to a digital stream to catch some fish. Create a proton-pack and bust some ghosts. The starter kits provide some general guidelines for building pieces to house the controllers and the system, with the Variety and Robot kits.

How does it all work? The JoyCons have a camera at the back, that you may or may not have known about. The camera acts as a sensor and can create sounds or provide an action based on the color it's seeing. This is where the "discover" aspect of Labo will be a key component to driving Nintendo's sales of this product. You won't be limited to the kits.

The kits will include the game along with a variety of cardboard building accessories, string, stickers, and walk-throughs for basic building. The major downside I see to this is these are made out of cardboard. LEGO's are not as fragile, and those models easily break apart when they fall a few feet. I can't imagine that these will be durable for long term use. Understandably, these are meant to be for quick building and easily accessible to everyone. You can find cardboard everywhere. But at a $69.99 price tag, you're paying a lot for cardboard sheets.

We'll see where this goes. Is it a quick cash grab for Nintendo or a potential product with longevity?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Used PC Games May Have New Platform for Resale

The one thing most people probably don't like about the used game market is that PC products are pretty much absent. And for good reason. With DRM's, license keys, and the need for outdated hardware, PC games are not feasible for resale. We all know how difficult it is to get Microsoft Office installed on a new hard drive if you've already used the disc 2 or more times. A new company, Robot Cache, wants to change that by allowing people to buy and sell used PC games, and letting publishers keep a high percentage of the profits.

Brian Fargo, who has been developing games since the 1980's, is launching this new company that will be similar to Steam. But with a focus on buying and selling used PC games. The company will create a new crytpocurrency and allow publishers to receive about 95% of the sales, compared to Valve's 70%. It'll allow publishers to have a better direct connection to consumers without the middle man. And unlike EA and Ubisoft's platforms, this is all about getting rid of PC games you no longer play. In doing so, customers will get a title at a discounted rate.

The cryptocurrency called Iron will be available to purchase through an initial sale. You can still use credit cards to buy games through Robot Cache. But to sell the game, you will receive Iron. In turn, you can use Iron to buy more games or to exchange it for cash. The company will only make 5-10% with each transaction. Publishers will then be able to set a price for the "used" PC games.

This is one of the few instances where publishers will be able to make a profit from used games. And it does require a lot of cooperation from their end to make this a seamless transition for the consumer. The last thing I person wants to deal with is DRM policies that prevent them from playing the game they've purchased. But it also means Robot Cache will have to be more intrusive then other stores to ensure you have indeed removed the game from your PC before selling it. The company is looking to raise $15 million when the sale of Iron commences. And if it works, it could give Steam a run for it's money. What publisher wouldn't want a 90% take from sales?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

French Developer Accused of Harassment and Hostile Work Conditions

Remember 2 months ago when I posted about harassment in video games? The change is coming.

Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream is in a heap of trouble, with 15 current and former employees and 3 news sources reporting that it's a hostile and sexist workplace. Much of this culture perpetuated by studio heads David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumière. A number of the employees claim that the lude and harassing behavior even occurred while Cage's wife was at the studio, and she was present during the alleged incidents.

The concerns first appeared last year, when the IT head brought a wrongful dismissal complaint to the Paris labour tribunal. The employee initially complained about inappropriate photoshopped images of employees in sexist or bigoted scenarios - all available on the company's server. Some were shopped wearing Nazi uniforms. Others in revealing clothing with homophobic slurs written on them. After the complaint was made, the images were claimed to have been removed, and so was the head of IT. Feeling that the firing was a retaliation, he went to the labour tribunal.

Other employees have commented that the environment is particularly hostile to women. Not only because of the 83% male dominated work-place, but the culture that has been cultivated there. Drawings of male genitalia are on a wall. Women are hit on, talked down to, and told smutty jokes. It's been noted that Cage has said inappropriate things about actresses that have worked on games with the studio. At company events and parties, Cage and other male colleagues would forgo polite greetings with female employees (the cheek to cheek air kiss), and go for lip contact and inappropriate touching.

There are also claims that employees are working up to 60 hours a week, including weekends, without compensation. A work-week in France is 38 hours, and employees can not legally work for more then 10 hours a day.

Both studio heads deny the allegations. Cage has been quoted stating "You want to talk about homophobia?" he said. "I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights. You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the USA... Judge me by my work."

Note: Working with people who fight for the LGBTQ community, civil rights, women's rights, and equality, does not absolve you of your bad behavior. See Harvey Weinstein. A producer with a very strong history of supporting multiple artists who have pro-equality backgrounds. But that didn't stop him from being a sexual predator.

Quantic Dream is based in France, and has become one of the larger gaming exports from Europe over the past 20 years. Their lineup of games includes Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls, and the upcoming Detroit: Beyond Human. The last game is one that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. Needless to say, I won't be buying it nor will I be supporting a studio that allows such behavior. As of this posting, I'm going back to my previous post and crossing it out.

The developer will have a long uphill battle over the coming years as they work towards a resolution. Needless to say, this is just the beginning. I would not be surprised if we see more of these revelations occur in the coming year.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Don't 'Swat'

Good Monday everyone! Back from PAX South and still looking over my notes, so it may be a few days until can post my annual review. Instead, let's talk about 'swatting.' For the uninitiated, 'swatting' is a harassment tactic where a person or group convinces emergency personnel to send a response team to another person's address. This is done by creating a false report - such as a terror threat, bomb threat, suicide warning, etc. In the U.S., people can be prosecuted with a crime of 'swatting' as a federal offense for misuse of emergency services. California requires pranksters to assume the full cost of dispatching such services, up to $10,000 USD.

Unfortunately that has not deterred people from stopping the practice. Case in point, the recent death of a Kansas man. But we've seen it on Twitch/Mixer streams and YouTube clips. Police breaking down a door, storming in, and stopping someone from gaming.

Why do people do this? What's the psychology behind it?

It's hard to say for certain what people are thinking when they decide to 'swat.' Sometimes it's for payback - i.e. if you're playing against someone who is doing well in a game, and you resent them. Or you want to get recognized by your favorite streamer, so you send a fake 911 call to their door and disrupt what they are doing. It's funny watching them freak out that the police are ripping up their place...right?

It's not.

The rise in 'swatting' hasn't been helpful for emergency services. Instead of focusing their time on real criminal activity, they now have to waste their resources to respond to bogus calls. Unfortunately most police stations are not equipped in being able to determine which calls are real or fake. Part of their duty is to respond to every call. In the fast paced world of technology, a number of public services are still attempting to catch up. We've only recently established some cyber laws within the last 2-3 years, but they still lag behind on the robust system we need. Cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, cyber-defamation, cyber-anything is not punishable in a number of U.S. states. Police are not equipped with handling how to address people who have been threatened online. And that's why it's easy to pray on emergency services. Because they must respond to each call, 'swatting' is an easy prank with deadly consequences.

Here's the thing peeps: unlike the movies, your call can be traced within seconds. Thankfully it's fairly easy for police to trace a number back and arrest the prankster. In the U.S., that can mean jail time and a hefty fine for abuse of emergency services. But we don't do enough to show the consequences of 'swatting.' Usually it's reserved to the victim. People see it as a joke. The police back down. That's that. What you don't see is all of the property damage, the mental stress from having your house broken into and guns pointed at your face. SWAT is trained to treat everything as a real threat. They will investigate it as a prank, but it is a serious matter.

What can be done to stop it? For one, cyberbullying laws need to be current with today's climate. No more slaps on the wrist. No more apologies. Consequences for actions must be enforced. 'Swatting' laws need to be introduced and we need to start showing what happens to the pranksters. But we also need to teach kids, teens, and young adults that the prank is not funny. It's harmful. It's dangerous. And it can be deadly. The aftermath is on your hands, not the police/emergency services. We also  need to stop showing 'swatting' as a funny YouTube gag. We need to stop marking those videos with smiles and laughs.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018: What We're Looking Forward To in Gaming

Now that we are a little more settled into 2018, let's look at some of the games hitting the market. But I want to take it a step further and lay out some of my hopes and expectations for the industry. 2018 might be the year of change we all need - or at least the start of the change to come.

A big game I'm ready to play and see more then the demo is Monster Hunter: World. While the small taste left something to be desired, the game looks great, the matchmaking is much improved, and the controls felt a lot smoother than past Monster Hunter games. They've even made their Loot Box system one of the least controversial of the bunch by keeping it to cosmetic only. Weapons, armor, and items will all be obtained within the game without having to use Loot Boxes. Thank you Capcom for listening to your audience.

Speaking of Loot Boxes, after the fallout from EA and Star Wars: Battlefront II last year, you bet developers/publishers are going to be cautious about how they roll out future systems. My hope is that more websites begin factoring in Loot Boxes to their reviews, like OpenCritic. I'm aware that this means some reviewers will have to update their content after the games are released, or start a new review style with multiple mini-posts. Some companies don't ship their games in full to reviewers, leaving them unaware of the loot box system. But it's something customers want and need to know. Don't be surprised to see changes to how your favorite reviewers look at games with loot boxes.

Detroit: Beyond Human has also caught my interest. I like games that play out as visual novels. When you have the creators of Heavy Rain behind a project, you know it's going to catch people's attention. The neo-noi sci-fi thriller will be another branching story game, with a focus on humanity and androids in the future. A group of androids are rebelling against society and are fighting against the humans hunting them. It sounds like 'Blade Runner' but it doesn't look like it. Curious to see how the game will hold it's own in 2018's market (release date still to be determined...) As of 1/16/18, The Geek Spot will no longer be supporting Quantic Dream, in light of recent allegations of their workplace conditions and harassment.

And then there's Red Dead Redemption 2. The game people have been clamoring for since the last one, and RockStar being dead silent on it until late last year. I'm still under the impression that they are messing with us. With the exception of the GTA franchise, RockStar rarely does sequels. I was hoping for a new IP, but RDR2 is a good trade off. With a supposed release date of 2018, a posse is coming into town...and that's all I know. I'm not going to make assumptions about the gameplay or the story. There are so many websites spreading false information, and this will not be one of them. Let's wait until RockStar officially comments on the content.

Among these Triple A games, I am always excited to see what indie studios bring to the table. My trip to PAX South this weekend will give me a glimpse into what we'll see for 2018. InnerSpace is finally releasing, which I played at PAX South 2 years ago. I had a blast with this title and I can't wait to see it in it's full form! There's also Nour, a game about playing with your food. You slay monsters and cook them in a competitive environment. Monster Hunter meets Top Chef. We'll see more crazy ideas in 2018 with the growth of this market.

I'm also looking forward to some of the potential biggest bombs of the year. Metal Gear: Survive tops that list. The first Metal Gear title post-Hideo Kojima, Survive is...something. The demo showcased at TGS in 2016 got a surging negative reaction from fans. Survive takes place after MGS5 where, through space magic, you are whisked away into an alternate reality with zombies. It's no longer a sneaking game, but an open world co-op survival. Yeah. Strange. It's almost like Konami is trying to kill off the franchise by making this game nothing like Metal Gear. I won't buy this game, but I am very curious to see how it fares when it releases this year.

Another trend that I hope to see continue to grow is inclusion in gaming. Meaning more diverse protagonists and developers providing more tools to gamers to report harassment. Two prong concept, but both are in need of being reviewed, discussed, and resolved to help gaming move forward. And I don't mean having female or POC leads because we ask for it. The stories for them need to make sense. They need to have proper character development. Token characters will no longer work for today's audience. We have grown up, and so should our games. At the same time, we need to ensure that everyone can play without feeling threatened for doing so. Developers need to be involved in providing means to let people report bad behavior, verbal abuse, and threats of violence. AND follow-up on those reports. Too often the reporting tool does nothing and the abuser is allowed to keep playing. This needs to stop. Developers are just as responsible for this as gamers. This is a growing issue, and we are ready for changes.

Happy 2018 and happy gaming!

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

NVidia's New Game Streaming Service Set to Impress at CES

CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, is going on right now. Companies around the world are showing off their technical wares from televisions to electric toothbrushes. And NVidia may have already stolen the show by playing modern video games on a $200 laptop. Yep. NVidia is touting their new and improved GeForce Now, which has just launched on Windows platforms. A game streaming service that is so smooth that you can play on virtually any computer and get the same speed, graphics, and frame rate as a high-end PC rig.

Originally presented last year, the company faced some delays and push-back from gamers for the servers being slow. Stability with internet connections will always be an issue and one's streaming speed between the data center and their home computer will vary. But based on what we're seeing at CES this year, if you have an internet connection on a business line or 100 megabits, you're going to want GeForce Now.

While it is available now, it is still in beta testing for North America and Europe, after it was released on MAC's last year. It is free, but there is a wait list to access it. It will become a paid service eventually. The list of games that are supported will grow over time, but popular titles such as Overwatch and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are there. Even World of Warcraft and Minecraft. The streaming service is still sticking to it's original promise regarding saved game files. I.E. if you install a game with Steam,, or Ubisoft, your saved files can be carried over to NVidia's services so you can continue your same game on any PC.

It's cool that you can play PUBG on a $200 system, but that doesn't mean it's going to look great. The one thing NVidia will never be able to control is your monitor. If you don't have a monitor that can hold up to the quality and frame rate of the game, then the game isn't going to look nice. At the very least, if you're playing off a $200 PC, get a nicer monitor. Otherwise, for the cash-strapped gamer this is a great alternative! It will be interesting to see the pricing structure and what games are added down the line.

Monday, January 08, 2018

6 Hours Into FF15 and I'm Convinced It's a Bad Game

If you've been following my streaming antics over the past few Sunday's, you'll notice that I'm steadily working through Final Fantasy XV with my brother. It's been over a year since the title was released. A few DLC's are out and some of the glitches have been addressed. Even some story elements were changed. Multiple times. Has the game improved? Is it truer to the narrative that SquareEnix wanted to tell?

Well, I don't know. But I can certainly say that this is not a Final Fantasy title.

Sure there's Chocobos, Cid, a sword called Ragnarok, and even Iron Giants. But from what I've seen so far, this is not Final Fantasy. Why? Because if there are two things FF games do well it's story and character development. FF15 has little to none of either.

My disinterest hit around the 4 hour and 30 minute mark. We had finished a fetch quest that would allow us to travel on to a boat to our next destination. I remarked that we should go ahead and go, push the story forward. So we did. And we were treated to a bunch of plot nonsense that unhinged me.

Let me roll back a little bit and talk about the very basic plot. You play as Noctis, the Prince of a city called Insomnia. Charming name. You are engaged to an Oracle named Lunafreya to help solidify a peace treaty. But you've known her since childhood so it's all good. Your father, the King, sends you out to travel to the wedding with your 3 cohorts (bodyguards? friends?) with a road trip. Because...reasons? You stop to help out the people with random quests, figure out the battle mechanics (if you skipped the tutorial), and that's about it. Brotrip because the King is a cheap ass, clearly doesn't care about your safety or the alliance, and wants you to miss out on your wedding.

You learn a tiny bit about the distinguishing features of the main cast that you will probably be stuck with throughout the game. Noctis likes to fish. Another likes to cook. One likes to take photos. And the last likes to camp and do outdoorsy things. Very little story development happens here. When you reach your first chapter end, the dock that leads you to the boat, that's when the sh*t hits the fan.

You are treated to a cutscene that is a mesh of action, minus all dialogue and sound effects. A semi-somber song plays over the sequence. There's a fight between the King and some random guy in armor. The city (I think it's Insomnia, but the game never states where you are and you never see a full shot of the city like Midgar or Balamb Garden - you only see a small section of the techno-pimp castle) puts up a shield over itself, but then it's disabled. The King is stabbed and the scene ends.

Okay. Um...what the fudge just happened?

My brother had to explain to me that what we saw was from the FF15 Kinsglaive movie. He has seen it. I haven't. Whatever story happened at Insomnia in-between Noctis and his team leaving the city to reaching the docks, that's what Kinsglaive explains. Noctis finds out the news that his father might be dead, but he seems to take it surprisingly well. He whines for a moment, but then it's business per usual. In fact, the entire team is pretty calm about the attack on the city. The plot takes you back to the city gates to see what's going on, but you can't make it past the blockade. A cutscene triggers at one point with a news station revealing that your father is indeed dead, and the rest of the world thinks you and Lunafreya were also killed. Again, Noctis whines for a moment but then goes back to normal.

It was this point where I stopped believing that this game was worth playing.

First, the story. The intermission at Insomnia is fine but it needed context. It should not be assuming that everyone playing the game had already seen the movie. The gamer needed to come up with some grand conclusions to figure out what was going on during that sequence, where a bit of dialogue or a narrator could help clear up the story. Yes the King was killed, but why?

Heck, even showing that there was an invading army would have improved the context (this was noticeably absent in the cutscene). This didn't happen. It was a few close-up shots of the King fighting some guy, the city shield going up, and the King being stabbed. How were we suppose to understand how this affects the world of FF15? Who is this guy? Is it someone the King knows? Is it a rando trying to gain power? Who are the Imperials? Why do we care about them? Are they good? Are they bad? What does the city lose with their monarchy dead? How is the city still functioning?

It's lazy writing to assume that the gamer is going to gorge on everything FF15 before playing.

Second, the reaction of the team. If Noctis wants to be whiny and then cool about his father dying, fine. But the other 3 gentlemen? No reactions? No changes in their demeanor? Prompto seems like he would have shown some emotional response - even if it's surprise or horror and not necessarily sad. He's one of the few characters that shows a shift of outward emotions, and yet he never conveys any sorrow or concern over the King's death.

I'll take any response versus no response. One could argue that everyone processes grief in different ways. Where some may be weeping, others take the quiet and stoic route. That's fine. However no one else in the game changes their attitude. No one. Cindy is the same. Cid is the same. Sidequest Dave is the same. Everyone seems to take the news of their King dying pretty damn well. Even your 3 companions are chill with it. This is not normal, even in a video game. Barret showed more emotion when Aeris died then Noctis!

Third, this entire bit at the end of Chapter 1 made me realize that we were given no time to care about the King, Noctis, or their relationship. The only interaction we have between the two is at the beginning, before Noctis sets off on his road trip. It's a minute of communication and that's it. We don't know anything else about the King or why the marriage is important. We don't know about the Imperials or why they are bad/good and how they affect the kingdom. It's bland dialogue and off we go on a road trip! Yea?

Because of this, the gamer doesn't have a chance to imbue empathy towards anyone when the King dies. His death is nothing more then a plot device to force the story to move forward. It's not interesting. It's not sentimental. It happens and as gamers we're expected to accept it.

I don't accept it. 6 hours into this game and it has completely lost my interest. I am not impressed.

This is the grand story that SE has been wanting to tell? This is what we've been waiting for? This is the "perfect score game?" In 6 hours they managed to kill off a major character without providing any backstory or context to his being, didn't develop any relationships to allow the gamer to connect to the characters, and we are expected to have seen everything FF15 has to offer before playing it so we can understand the story.

That's not how this works. This is steadily turning into the game version of  'Jupiter Ascending.' Bland characters with little emotion. Sci-fi stuff and things blowing up because CGI. Inconsequential plots that require you to read them first before you play. I'm waiting on the ridiculous amounts of unnecessary exposition to begin before we go full-blown 'Jupiter.'

The opening screen where the game proudly announces that FF15 is a game for fans and first-timers is a farce. How are new gamers expected to approach this? How are fans? And to expect a gamer to understand all of the plots of FF15 that only exists outside of the game, that's downright bad story telling. My friend Dan said it best - it's like 'Lord of the Rings' bringing in Gandalf for a scene. Taking him away. And then telling everyone to go read 'The Hobbit' to learn more about Gandalf. Gandalf is a key figure in LoTR and you want to throw him away like a side piece? That's not how storytelling works.

Because I promised myself and my brother that I would sit through this until the end, I will. But I have to say, FF15, you have already failed me.

Update 1/22/18: Played another hour. I'm even more confused by the new plot developments and exposition that leads nowhere. What is up with this game? The struggle is real.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Happy 2018 and welcome to the first Weekly Link Round Up of the year. A gathering of the best, worst, and sometimes weirdest gaming news on the internet. With only 4.3ish days into the new year, what has the gaming world brought us that's worth sharing?

- Nintendo is happily touting the fact that the Switch is the fastest selling console of all time in the U.S. If you're lucky enough to find one of these online or on store shelves, you'll know that it's a difficult system to come by. Still. The system has sold over 4.8 million units within the first 10 months of it's release. This beats out the Wii at 4 million units during the same window. Nintendo branded games make up the majority of purchases and console play as well. But again, it's only fun if you have one. It's still difficult to come by and once again Nintendo controls the chains of supply and demand with annoying success.

- Cloud-based gaming 'Shadow' is starting sign ups for customers in the U.S. to join their services and provide you with games to rent without you having to store anything on your computers. Over the past few years we've had mix results with other companies attempting this route, with varying degrees of success and failure. OnLive is probably the most notable. But the French start-up Blade hopes to make this a good gaming model by providing an online streaming service with little to no lag, all for a monthly fee. Everything is stored in a secure data center. You don't have to worry about a game eating up your hard drive space. It'll also allow you to play games at their best quality if you don't have the latest computer. As long as you have a monitor that can keep up with the FPS rate, then you're covered. How will this service fare? We shall see.

- GDC is around the corner, and this year will be the first for a film festival at the conference. The documentary and narrative festival will focus on the art and culture of video games. Screenings of the films submitted will be March 19 through the 21st. Also returning is the retro game play center and alt.ctrl.GDC.

- Wired would like to remind us that even realistic games like Call of Duty won't help us win real wars. No. Duh. Read this is you need a good laugh.

- Amazon released their list of the best-selling games of 2017. And it should be no surprise that a lot of Nintendo products are on there. Once again proving that you don't have to make M rated games to be popular. Only 3 games fall into the M category: Horizon: Zero Dawn, and the PS4/XBox One version of Call of Duty: World War II. That's it! Everything else is Nintendo, Switch and 3DS, and the latest Zelda ported to the Wii. And these are games for everyone. Kids are not the only ones grabbing up Super Mario: Odyssey and Mario Kart 8. We're all in on what Nintendo is offering.

- Our roundup isn't complete without a WhatCulture entry. This time it's a list of the 10 video games that are so bad, that they are good. And for once, someone did their research on this list! The entries include Two Worlds, South Park (the N64 version), and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. Yeah...remember when rapper 50 Cent wanted to have his own video game series? Bad call. These are games that suffer from technical issues, bad glitches, unfortunate voice acting, bad story, or low to no character development. South Park  (64) is probably one of the better entries since it's a series a mini games disguised as an action/adventure title. It's a horrible game to play, but you can't help but be enchanted by how awful it is. You want to keep throwing snowballs, hitting turkeys, and crashing into the residents of the town. Good job on this list, WhatCulture. Sometimes you redeem yourself.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Crowdfunding Favorite 'Star Citizen' Continues to Raise Ridiculous Amounts of Money

When video game Kickstarter successes are few and far between, Star Citizen continues to rub more salt into the wound. The crowdfunding project that has been years in the making, the developers claim that the game has raised more money then all video game Kickstarter projects combined. For a second year in a row. $34.91 million USD has been collected for the game.

How did they do it? Where is that money coming from and where is it going?

Star Citizen has an interesting past with a very loyal fan base. From the mind of Chris Roberts, the creator of the Wing Commander series, the game is an MMO with a persistent world. Action. Adventure. The whole deal. It's been commented on as The Lord of the Rings, but in space. It's taking all of those Wing Commander years and turning it into one big game. And it's been in production since 2012. The game has a fan convention for project backers, 4 years and going. It even has Wing Commander fan favorite Mark Hamill on board.

Alpha versions of the game are in backer's hands, but the game hasn't officially released. Note the word Alpha. It's not in Beta yet. This isn't like other MMO's on the market; out and constantly updated with weekly/monthly patches. Star Citizen isn't available to those who aren't backers. And Roberts is a great hype man who generally lives up to his promises. So people flood the company's website, spend money to support the game, and get their copy of an Alpha. Money goes towards subscription fees, in-game rewards, and purchasing digital land.

But it's also been in quite a bit of legal trouble for it's delays. One backer sued for a refund of the $25,000 he donated as he was not happy with the results of the project. Another high-dollar backer has also asked for a refund. And then there's Crytek, which has sued the developer for breach of contract. The game uses Crytek's CryEngine system. Star Citizen has been split into 2 games; an MMO and now a single-player version. The developer didn't up their contract to pay for the use of the engine with the second game. If Crytek wins or they don't come to a resolution, Star Citizen's development could be halted.

The devs need whatever good news they can hold on to, and ensure people spend more money. The bounding success of their fundraising continues. Good for them. Hopefully the legal troubles clear up and they are able to provide a finished product to backers sooner rather then later.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Pokémon Go Entering Chinese Market in 2018

With all the hype around Pokémon Go, you might be surprised to find out that the mobile game is still not available in China. Or not, because it is China after-all. That will change this year as Pokémon fans get their first official taste of the game this year!

Niantic has partnered with China’s NetEase, which was also part of a recent investment in Niantic for $200 million USD, to help bring Go and future games to the country. While a number of users already play in China using cracked and illegal downloads, this official release will provide a stronger support structure for gamers. The biggest problem that both Niantic and NetEase will have to overcome is placing all of the Gyms and PokéStops. Pokémon Go utilized their other mobile game Ingress to map out these hot points. Ingress is not available in China. Niantic is going to have to place Gyms and PokéStops manually. That's going to be a very time-consuming process, all while keeping in mind China's laws - which are much stricter about mobile/game/tech use in some public areas, such as temples and shrines. One mis-step and Go could quickly be pulled from the country.

Between this launch in China and the Harry Potter mobile game releasing world-wide, Niantic is going to have another big year.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Geek Spot 2017 Year in Review

We're following up the worst year on record with the second worst year. 2018 is up in the air, but we will try to keep  things positive. At least 2017 was a great year for video games. Lots of new stories, some good sequels, and unexpected stories that may shift the future of gaming.

Continuing the long-standing tradition, let's take a look back on all of the posts for 2017. Using Bloggers stats as well as Stat Counter, we look to see what are the most popular posts of the year, favorite search terms, and so forth.

Top Searched Terms: violent video games, apb, anime classroom, anime, droopy dog

You people search for some strange things. However, porn is noticeably absent. Are we maturing as an audience to not search for such a thing? Probably not.

I'm still constantly confused on how All Points Bulletin keeps showing up as one of the most searched terms. It's an anomaly that I have yet to comprehend. The 'Reloaded' version is available to play, but none of my articles cover this version. Instead it's the beta and downfall of the original game (so much wasted potential). Something about it still must interest you all to keep searching for it.

As for Droopy Dog, I made a comment one time about how it appeared in a search term and it always manages to find a way to weasel back into the top 5.

Browser: Chrome is steadily taking over as the browser of choice with now 43% of the views for the year. Which is not surprising. More people are converting to Chrome and Blogger is under the Google umbrella. But Firefox is still holding on strong at 35%. Even better IE is at 11%. 11! How? It makes me feel slightly bad for Safari and mobile browsers since those are coming up dead last on the list.

Country: Given that I live in the US and mostly report on gaming content that happens here, of course views from the USA are going to be at the top. What interests me are the 4 that follow. For 2017 it's Russia, France, Germany, and the UK. That seems to be the trend for the past few years. Those 4 countries are constantly swapping positions with each other. Though Russia holds the #2 position with an extra 40k  hits this year, versus 10k last year.

Most Viewed Posts: Here are the numbers for 2017, and if you are a long-time reader of the blog, some of these should look very familiar.

The Feminist Stands on Bayonetta -15,450. Yep. This one again. And the trolls were viscous. I have blocked and reported spam comments on this post more then any others. My crowning achievement on the internet!

Academic Anime - Anime in the Classroom - 11,232. Again another one of those posts that will continue to be on the top. There are some things that will never change on The Geek Spot.

Kickstarter Video Games on Decline - 8,535. This is a story that I didn't expect to see make the Top 10, let alone the Top 5. After so many video games have been funded on Kickstarter, and the low return rate, 2017 was not a good year to start a Kickstarter for your game. Funding and pledges were much lower then in years prior. We're hit the cap! But table top games are still going strong.

EA and SquareEnix's Business Decisions are Freaking Gamers Out - 8,153. This was also a year where gaming companies were making some strange choices that concerned us. A lot. And this was before EA announced it's bombshell microtransactions for Batltefront II. Nope. This is when SE decided to sell off the developer behind the Hitman series. While some stuff has worked out for the best, a few months ago this was a head scratch.

Review Time: Horizon Zero Dawn - 7,864. I'm kind of surprised that of all the reviews I posted this year, and there were a lot more then usual, that this was the most read. I didn't get much of a chance to fully play through Horizon. With only a week and a half to get through the game before NiER: Automata was released, I did my best. But I think my perspective translated well in the review.

Have a Happy New Year everyone! Get out there. Make a difference in your community. And be excellent  to each other.