Thursday, May 31, 2018

'Active Shooter' the Full Story - Oh and 'Fallout 76'

Barely 24 hours ago Bethesda dropped a teaser trailer for a new Fallout game, Fallout 76.

While I could spend today's post speculating about what it means, like everyone else, I'm not. Loyal gamers are aware of Bethesda's tactics. They're going to tease this constantly and provide little to no updates until the game is out on the shelves. Or they'll feel like dropping more hints at a random moment when people least expect it. But we won't get full info out of Bethesda until the last possible second. There's no point in speculating because Bethesda will be Bethesda. When they feel the need to tell us about the game, they will. Not going to get my hopes up or yours.

Instead we're going to cover the history of Active Shooter; a game that put the player in the position of being a violent school shooter. It looks like a badly modded Counter-Strike map, full of weapons and a innocent/cop kill counter. It was set to release on Steam June 6th. But it has been pulled from the store. The game was quick to pick up attention in the news, a few weeks after the Sante Fe High School shooting in Texas. It played on the fears of people across the U.S., as we continue to see a rise in school shootings and the nation becomes more complacent in the violence. I've been watching this story unfold from the corner. I've had feeling from the beginning that this was someone playing a sick joke and trying to troll Steam and it's users.

It turns out I was right.

The game was developed by a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev. He was removed from Steam last fall for violating Steam's policies and having a history of trolling, customer abuse, user review manipulation, and publishing copyrighted material. He's published games under names like Revived Games, ACID, Interactive, and Elusive Team. TLDR: Active Shooter was destined to be pulled because of Berdiyev's past. The heightened press coverage and backlash from survivors put more focus on the game. The vast majority of us would agree that this game did not need to exist. Most of us would have never played it, and would have filed a complaint with Steam knowing it would be removed. The content of Active Shooter does not represent the breathed of content available in video games.

Unlike Super Columbine RPG, which was created as a means to address gun violence and engage players in the debate, Active Shooter is not. It's clear from video clips that this game was meant to be trash (no tongue in cheek here). It's a standard first person shooter in a horrible setting with the goal of killing civilians. For all of the Call of Duty, Metal of Honor, and Counter Strike games on the market, they don't focus on harming innocents. In many cases missions require you to save them. Active Shooter was created to piss people off.

Valve released a statement to Deadline about the game, and that the company would look at their content policies. Some news outlets have pointed out that Steam didn't remove the game because of the content. The focus on Valve's statement is that Berdiyev is a known harasser whom has broken Steam's rules multiple times before. While the game's "plot" is abhorrent, removing it based on content could have an unfortunate snowball effect that would blanket ban most first person shooters. Valve has to tread lightly to ensure all games are on an even playing field with the rules.

For now, Active Shooter is offline and the person known as Berdiyev is banned once more. We will see how long that lasts until he sneaks back on to cause more havoc.

Edit 6/1/18: The video from YouTube is no longer allowing for shares/embeds. Unsure why. Removed video coding until it's resolved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

'Star Citizen' Is Asking Gamers to Spend More to the Tune of $27k

Star Citizen, the Kickstarter funded video game that won't give up, has dropped a new donation tier that is excessively expensive. For $27,000.

Yep. You read that right. $27,000 for the Legatus Pack. All in-game items. No physical content.

And you can only gain access to purchase this pack if you have donated/spent $1,000 previously. It's more like a $28,000 Legatus pack.

The high price is not only unusual, but one heck of a marketing ploy. At least with Saint's Row IV Million Dollar pre-order you got physical items including 2 lavish vacations, spy school training, and a car. It was a Prius, but with the insurance covered. A Prius can be pimp.

What do you get with the Legatus Pack? All 117 spaceships in the game and 163 other pieces of content, like skins and ship upgrades. $27k for 117 digital ships.

Cloud Imperium continues to pull in donations for this game ever since it's 2012 Kickstarter campaign. It's fascinating to watch how this one game is still pushing for completion when others would have fallen. Even with high profile lawsuits and refund requests from unhappy backers, Star Citizen is still moving on. They've officially signed other actors like Gary Oldman and Gillian Anderson for voice work. The alpha-stage MMO (yep, it's still in alpha) has over 2 million users registered, and the company has raised nearly $200 million.

While the pack seems excessively overpriced, there will be those gamers with the income who are happy to buy in. Why waste time farming and amassing your ships when you can pay to win?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

PUBG Suing for Copyright Infringement

Unsurprising to no one, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds studio PUBG Corp., a subsidiary of Bluehole, is suing Epic Games' South Korean branch for copyright infringement in Fortnite. With PUBG Corp. having a tendency to sue, this was long on the horizon. According to the Korean Times, the lawsuit was originally filed in January, claiming that the Battle Royale mode copies PUBG's interface and items.

What has most likely kept the two companies in a tentative no-sue zone is that Tencent owns shares in both developers. When you have an overarching business that holds control, it's easier to willing to play nice to a point.

PUBG Corp. has had a reason to sue the more obvious clones of it's original game. This new fight against Fortnite is one that I'm not seeing a reason behind. Watching videos of both games in "battle royale" mode, their interfaces are not showing similarities that immediately speak out as "wow, they copied that!" The same with the items. There are going to be some matching concepts such as a health potions revive hit points - but that's the case with the majority of games on the market. So what is PUBG's ultimate goal here? Probably to knock Fortnite down a few pegs to help get gamers back. But we'll see what happens next in South Korea's court system.

Monday, May 28, 2018

ESA Presdient Standing Firm on Loot Boxes /= Gambling

At the recent Nordic Game Conference, ESA president Mike Gallagher addressed the issue of loot boxes. Specifically that government interference "challenges our industry’s freedom to innovate, and impairs our ability to continuously test new business models, which drive creativity and engagement with our audience."

Gallagher spoke with an audience of developers this weekend about the recent opposition to loot boxes from the gambling authorities of the Netherlands and Belgium. Both countries have investigated loot boxes, with Belgium finding several games in violation of their gambling laws. But Gallagher is insistent that the industry can regulate itself, while pushing loot boxes as not a form of gambling. The reasoning: because players win something with loot boxes every time. Unlike real world gambling where sometimes you win nothing at all. "Video games never take money from a player and leave them with nothing. They never do."

While on the surface that sounds okay, but the issue of gambling with loot boxes is not about leaving players with "nothing." A number of slot machines you'll find in casinos now run off a "loot-box" like mantra where you get something every time you play, even if it's the same coins or less back. It's about the addiction to the loot boxes. The enticing graphics when you open a pack/deck/box. The over-the-top music and sound effects that capture your attention. The thrill and excitement of waiting to see what's in the loot box. The need to spend more money to obtain the item you really, really want. Those are the "gambling" factors that commissions and countries are looking at.

Getting "something" doesn't negate the gambling feeling that loot boxes provide. The ESA president can talk around in circles as much as he'd like. And the developers/publishers that get it "right" won't always win against those that get it "wrong" - see EA; they're still very much in business and promoting loot boxes. I'm all for the industry regulating itself, but we need to acknowledge that we have a loot box problem and strive to resolve it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's the Weekly Link Round Up! We survive another week. Rejoice! Which means it's time to amass the collection of the best/worst/weirdest gaming news on the internet...this week. Here's what we've found:

- Apple has decided it doesn't want to play nice with Steam, and plans to block the company's app 'Steam Link.' Valve had planned to release a free mobile app that would allow gamers to utilize their Steam dashboard to stay up to date with friends and continue playing their games remotely. Variety was the first to report on the app not being approved by Apple, and the company has not released a statement as to why. Most likely, it's because Steam and Apple are direct competitors in the gaming market. While Apple focuses on mobile games, they may see Steam Link as a viable threat to their bottom line. Why would people spend money on downloading games through Apple when they can use Steam instead - with a direct line to their home computers? Steam's app may be delayed for iPhones indefinitely.

- Tencent is getting bigger, acquiring controlling interest in another game studio: Grinding Gear Games. The company is known for buying stakes and shares in start-up gaming companies with the intent of maintaining sole rights to publish the product in China. A smart move given China's censorship laws. Tencent can ensure games are produces to meet China's standards. With a market that continues to grow, they are the top gaming company in Asia, if not the world.

- Fans of TotalBiscuit are likely to be aware of the news. After announcing that he was stepping back from game reviews and critiques earlier this month, John Bain passed away yesterday at the age of 33 after a long battle with cancer. While I did not follow his work, I know many who did. May his family find the peace they need during this time, and well wishes to his fans.

- With all the E3 leaks, Ubisoft has decided to reveal their presentation lineup early. Except for the rumored games and the surprises, of course. Beyond Good & Evil 2, For Honor, Rainbow 6 Siege, Tom Clancy...okay you get the drift. It's what you'd expect from Ubisoft. Their E3 briefing will be on June 11 at 1pm PT.

- Apparently there's a video game call out in the 'Solo' movie to Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (movie spoilers here if you click). Ignore AppTrigger/Fandsided argument that it's the worst Star Wars game. I'm still confused on why this was even brought up in the movie. Someone offhanded mentions that they learned how to fight through the art of Teras Kasi. Weird.

- With E3 around the corner, GamingBolt has a list of 15 games you'll never see at the annual conference. And while some of the games on the list make sense, such as Blizzard products (given that the company has their own expo specifically to announce content), others are giant question marks on logic. Like Shenmue 3. The game was announced at E3 to help bolster crowdfunding. That's how it made so much money so quickly! Other games are lost hopes of fans that will never come to fruition, such as Bully 2 and Dead Island 2. Or they are games like Agent which were also announced at E3 but have not been touched since then. Nice try GamingBolt, but you may want to do more research on this one.

- Because a Weekly Link Round Up would not be complete without a WhatCulture list, here are 10 open-world video games you must play before you die. If you think that this list is mostly made up of games released in the past 5-8 years, you would be correct! Horizon: Zero Dawn makes the list (which shocked me), as well as The Witcher 3 and so many repeats of the same ol' same ol'. I think people have forgotten about the lost time of the PlayStation 1 and XBox, which had some really cool open world games from Bioware and Squaresoft. Go give the first NiER game a shot and see what happens.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ego Check for Battlefield V

Settle in readers. We're in for a doozy.

I don't want to be that person who types "what is up with the white male gamers and their fragile egos?" But I can, and will, and did.

EA and DICE released info about Battlefield V ahead of E3. Given the spade of leaks from retailers and sources within, EA was stemming the tide and pushed the content out now to give gamers something to chew on. Some of the most surprising news is that the game will not have a premium pass - a big departure for EA, whom typically love to rack up those microtansactions. They are most likely pulling back a bit from the pass-heavy mode after the fiasco with Star Wars: Battlefront II. EA also confirmed that the game will have "single-player stories" and a battle royale option. Features from past games such as Operations Mode will return. The game will take players back to World War II though it's unique brand of wild story-telling.

So what has a select segment of gamers up in arms?

There's a woman and a black gentleman in the trailer.

What? Gasp! "That's not historically accurate," they cry! These bros are in need of a history lesson. Women have been active in the U.S. military since WW2, and have ties dating back to the American Revolution. Over 2.5 million African Americans registered for the draft for WW2. And before the argument arises that Battlefield V appears to focus more on British soldiers, feel free to catch up on your history with woman and POC in WW2.

The spade of sexist/racist comments arising from the #notmybattlefield hashtag is disgusting. This is an instance where I'm glad I don't work for a major publication, because I would probably need to wade through all the slop to find the golden nugget of comments. And I get enough insults on my blog for being a female gamer. I don't need to see it, en masse.

While Battlefield has always held an impressive lineup of graphics, game play, and semi-realism, the games themselves have never pushed themselves to be the definitive "war game." None of the battles are accurate. None of the scenarios are point for point historically the same as their real-world counterparts. They'll use names of battles, generals, and combat zones, but the end result is a shell of the real events. If the games were  exact copies of what happened in WW1/WW2, they would be ridiculously violent while restricting gamers freedom - you can't run off to shoot the enemy if historically your character stayed with his troops and held the line at Normandy. The stories developed by EA/DICE have always been far from the truth. If they were real, they would have included more women and POC from the start! For Battlefield V, the trailer shows a character with a claw hand, jeeps flipping in the air, bombing runs that don't kill our main team, plans crashing out of nowhere - what about these aspects make it a "historically accurate" game? None of it. Battlefield I allowed you to ride horses that were often impervious to tanks. That's all one needs to understand about the franchise's "historical accuracy."

So why the madness from these select gamers? Who knows. Maybe they weren't loved enough by their family as a child. Maybe they feel threatened that the gaming community is finally growing up and realizing that white straight men aren't the only ones who play their games. Maybe they don't understand that the world doesn't revolve around their fragility.

Maybe their concern is not the "accuracy" of WW2; rather the "accuracy" of their current cultural beliefs that support sexism, racism, and their supremacy due to their skin tone and gender.

Like it or not, Battlefield V is there. Let the "accuracy" complainers cry about it, and turn their hashtag against them. We don't want gamers like you in our community if you're going to whine about women and POC being in a fictional war game. A game where you can dab.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Support Your Support Roles

This is an unofficial "Part Duex" to Monday's post about how to make eSports more inviting to everyone. One of the comments on the original Kotaku article, which has sadly since been deleted, remarked that the reason there weren't enough women in eSports is because they only play support jobs.

As if support jobs are not important - say those who have clearly never cared about their healers, defenders, or bards. More than likely these people who are against support characters have never played those jobs thinking they are too "easy" and not worth their time. But auto-attacking on warrior or monk? That's a real challenge.

I've been a life-long support role in games. It's a job one does not take lightly. While it's great knowing you have the power of death in your hands, it's also a sacred responsibility. You may think this is all in jest, but it is no laughing matter. One has to be willing to wear the mantle of the support role. Keeping the team alive while they are scattered across the map, or maintaining an effective XP chain when the DPS are insistent on aggroging everything in sight, is no easy task. If your tank dies, the whole team dies. If you can't keep the XP flowing at a steady pace, you won't level at a reasonable rate.

Support roles require multitasking to an odd degree. Depending on the game, your job may require to be a pocket healer, damage mage, attacker, enemy debuff-er, or all of the above at the same time. Or if you are a cleric/healer, your job is to keep everyone alive. Which "sounds" easy enough, until you realize what that entails: managing your MP pool so you don't run out of mana. Not pulling aggro/hate from your heals. Balancing regen/refresh to party members without overhealing them (thus wasting mana). And still being expected to use DOT (damage over time) and magic attacks at the enemy.

Support roles exist to maintain balance in the game, and to, you know, provide support to a team. A group can't consist of only tanks and melee - if they expect to survive an encounter. Healers. Bards. Red Mages. These jobs ensure your party lives to fight another day. You need them as much as we need you. Don't believe me? Next time you run a raid in World of Warcraft, go in without any support. See what happens. And not an easy raid that you are overleveled for. One that's at your level and skill.

Being a support job is not easy. It never has been. It requires a different set of skills and stamina that you may not be accustomed to. And that's okay! But before you start bashing your healers and bards, maybe try their job for a few days and see how it's like. The short queue times are great, but you'll see why so few are willing to take up the task.

Thank your support jobs. Respect them. Throw them a commendation every now and then. They have earned it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Best Buy Ending Gamer Savings Program?

Best Buy appears to be shutting down their Gamers Club program, according to a leaked memo. Gamers Club Unlocked, for those unaware, gave a 20% discount to members for new games and pre-orders, along with a 10% savings on used games, and a 10% bonus trade in credit. All for $30 with a 2 year membership. That's a good deal if you're a Best Buy fan. Even if you only purchased 3 new games during those 2 years, you'd get your money's worth.

The webpage for Gamers Club Unlocked now directs people to Best Buy's generic rewards program. The company hasn't made an official announcement yet, but it should be soon. According to the memo, Point of Sales systems would stop asking customers who are purchasing video games if they would be interested in the club. Current users will receive the same benefits in store and online until their membership expires, with no option to re-subscribe.

Best Buy isn't the first, as more retailers like WalMart, GameStop, and Amazon roll back incentives to purchase new games with memberships. The value of the game is too great and was probably eating into their sales numbers. Here's some insight to the retail world you probably weren't aware of: most of a company's earnings from gaming products come from the games. Consoles are usually purchased for 3-5% below the retail price. Accessories like headsets and controllers, 20-25%. Games are anywhere from 45-85%. It makes better sense as a retailer to push employees to sell games. When you have rewards programs that eats into the potential earning of the game, the numbers quickly pile up.

So if you need a place to look for discount games, you'll have to bargain hunt like the rest of us.

Monday, May 21, 2018

How to Make eSports Open to Everyone

Spawned by this article from Kotaku last week, the numerous posts online that provide little to no solutions, and a friend's comment on the absurdity of one gamer exclaiming that women don't join eSports because they play "support characters" (unfortunately that person deleted their comment, but hopefully the internet will post a screenshot of it!), today's topic is about women in eSports. Specifically what we as a community, and event organizers, can do to encourage more people to game. Men. Women. Black. White. Transgender. Gay. Straight. Muslim. Catholic. There should be no barriers to gaming. What you play and how you play does not matter.

With the growth of eSports and gaming competitions, the incredible lack of diversity is discouraging. Not only in gender, but in race, sexual orientation, religion, you name it. As much as I enjoy watching the Overwatch League, now that some of the toxic players have been kicked, it's noticeable the lack of representation. As someone who has been on the competitive scene in the past, I know it's not because "female gamers don't exist." It's because we are pushed away early on from eSports that we have no invested interest.

eSports is still very much a "male" zone - not much different from most U.S. based sports or Futball. As much as women and the LGBTQ community try to break in, we're met with obstacles that prevent us from pushing forward:

- Abusive behavior from other gamers, typically verbal but sometimes physical.
- Shaming for our bodies because we are not "male."
- Stalking, doxxing, and "raids" with the intent to intimidate.

I'm only scratching the surface. The amount of mental fortitude one needs to break into eSports as a non-male white or Asian gamer is exhausting. And when you're cornered and harassed at every turn for simply being in a gaming space (because yes, this does happen even if you haven't seen it or experienced it - I've been harassed for attending an eSports event that I wanted to watch and wasn't competing in), more people see eSports and competitions as an impossible barrier to approach.

So today's post is addressed to all gamers on what we can do to make eSports more inviting to everyone.

First off, we need to start posting very clear rules on what is and is not acceptable behavior at an event and enforce them. If someone breaks a rule, they are disqualified. Harassment, smack talk, teabagging, inappropriate physical contact - this is just the beginning. But you'll find that very few competition spaces and eSports events have these rules in place. I know most people will shrug it off as part of the "gaming" lifestyle, but why does it have to be? No one likes it. No one "enjoys" being verbally degraded for their looks, gender, lifestyle, or how they play. So why does it have to be normal when you don't see it in other types of contests?

At the cosplay contests I help manage, we have very clear rules regarding sportsmanship and harassment. If you badmouth another competitor at one of my events you are immediately escorted out. No exceptions. It's not only poor sportsmanship to act in such a way, it reflects on you the type of person that you are. Do you really want to tell the world that you harass women for playing a video game? Probably not. If you are expected to act a certain way for kindergarten basketball games, then competing in eSports should be no different.

Next, provide security. They will not only help enforce the rules but ensure people don't act out of line. The presence of some form of authority or police is enough. And if you're thinking that events already provide this, they don't. You'll find most conventions down to the local gaming shop have no form of security on hand for video game events. People will feel more comfortable knowing that if a problem comes up, there is someone there to take care of it. And if attendees don't feel comfortable at your event, they won't return. It is that simple. If your event can't afford security, reach out to local gaming groups that have a good reputation for providing safe spaces so that help is available. And yes, those groups do exist. You have to do some research but they are there.

Don't mitigate or trivialize someone's past experience at gaming events. While you may not have experienced some form of harassment or hate, others may have. Because it didn't happen to you doesn't mean it won't happen or that it hasn't happen to others. Whether you are organizing a gaming event or attending one, be mindful of people's concerns. Listen to what they have to say. Part of the issue I have faced and have seen others run into is that gamers at events won't listen to us. Instead they play the victim card or try to act as though they are better than those around them. "It wasn't me. I didn't do it. So don't complain." or "Well that's how it is, and if you can't handle it than leave." We need to address the problems head on in order for gaming to grow. Not toss them aside and pretend they don't exist.

Make gaming events more official. While the small gaming shops for one time tournaments are fine, the fact that there is still no "official" Smash Bros. event by Nintendo is astounding. A game that has long been on the circuit and yet no backing from the maker. The more official the tournament, the more likely the rules will be enforced and people are willing to join. POC, women, LGBTQ, etc. we're more apt to play in tournaments if we feel they are being held to a standard that allows us to join and feel safe. We don't feel safe at local gaming shops. But we feel safe when we know officials are there.

Don't discourage open dialogue about sexism and harassment in gaming. We need to talk about these issues if we're going to see any improvement in our community. It's perfectly fine to hold panels with gaming pros, experts in gender dynamics, and what-not to talk about these issues. It should be noted that your panel should be diverse. If you hold a panel on sexism in gaming and it's 4 straight white men at the head of the table, no one is going to take it seriously.

Finally, gamers, call out those who are behaving badly. Ask them to stop and if they don't, report them. Don't let their actions and words slide by. We can be the change only if we act on it. And by acting I don't mean getting into a fist fight. Be a rational human being. Calmly explain why that person's actions are wrong. What they can do to correct their behavior. And lead by example.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Is it me, or does it seem like today should be Saturday? It's certainly hasn't felt like a fully-functioning proper week. Well, let's get the Weekly Week Round Up underway. A collection of the best, worst, and sometimes weirdest gaming news on the internet for the week. Here's what we've dug up:

- The NES Classic will be back on store shelves this June, to the surprise of no-one given how popular the retro system was. But Mashable argues that older games from the Atari and NES days are not living up to their legacy, and becoming more difficult to play with each passing year. From the simple button mashing mechanics to the graphics, are older games not as entertaining as today's modern fare? I'll have to agree to disagree with Mashable on this one. While some titles like Pitfall have not aged well, Final Fantasy III is worth the investment of one's time for the story. Way more than FF15. Fancy graphics does not equate to a better game.

- Kotaku makes a good point about today's games. We need more dogs, and we need to be able to pet them! Developers, get on it!

- Politico has rounded up a listing of the members of Congress who are also gamers. As we have aged and become more active in our communities and politics, it was going to happen sooner or later that gamers would be involved on Capital Hill. Though the stigma around gamers is still there, as on Lovett, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, commented. Binge-watching a television show is considered more normal compared to being a gamer. But the shift is coming. Over a billion people were playing a video game in 2013. That number has easily risen, if not doubled with the immediate access to cell phones these days - a necessary part of our lives. It won't be long until everyone in Washington D.C. elected in is a gamer.

- If you need a reminder that some gaming companies are making a lot of money, even with the loot box controversies, here's a list of revenue for 2017 for the top 10 developers/studios. EA is still sitting pretty in spite of it all.

- WhatCulture has pulled together a list of the 10 Best Video Games created by One Person. This is very much an indie list, but a number of these games have seen world-wide success since their creation, such as Minecraft and Braid. Even Papers Please and Tetris make an appearance. Are there better options? Sure. But for WhatCulture, this is a good list.

- On the other end of the spectrum, WhatCulture lists 8 Terrible Video Games Made By Amazing Developers. And yes, this list is true to the WhatCulture name by listing games that shouldn't be on there. Such as the Telltale CSI game, and Star Fox Zero from Platinum Games. Are the phenomenal titles? No? But are the terrible? Far from it. These are games that are enjoyable for a time and maybe don't call back to you to play again, but that's okay. You were entertained for a time, and that's what the game was meant to do. So WhatCulture once again evens out their score with their strange lists. Good job, team!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Shenmue III - The News You'll Guess Before You Click

Everyone, take a seat. I have shocking news for you this morning. You're not going to believe it. This may tilt your day and you might need a few minutes to recover.


Shenmue 3 has been delayed.


Honestly, who didn't see this coming? Delays are a natural part of the gaming business.

After the game was crowdfunded on Kickstarter and broke records, Shenmue 3 has been steadily in production and keeping up to the date with their backers - mostly to inform them of upcoming events where the game would be discussed. At least it's better than a number of other gaming productions that don't stay active with notifying backers.

The announcement on the release delay was made yesterday, to use the extra time to help polish the game. Yu Suzuki added an additional comment apologizing for the 2019 date. But given how long people have waited for this game prior to the Kickstarter, they are probably okay with another year. Though some more game footage and screenshots may help calm their anxiety.

So if you are a fan waiting for this game to release, it'll be another year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sports Gambling Law Unconstitutional - How This Affects eSports

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that a federal law banning sports gambling was unconstitutional because it violated states rights to make their own decisions. Unless Congress acts to regulate gambling directly, they can't use a blanket statement over states to not allow them to set their own laws. This overturns the law created in the 1990's with the help of the NBA and NFL (owners feared that players would intentionally "throw" games if people were allowed to bet on them.)

This has been a weird, ongoing issue that will have ramifications for video games and eSports. Because technically you can bet on sports in some form or another - see Las Vegas. But there are limitations to the federal law, such as a dollar max, when betting can take place, office pools, etc, that prevented the city from reaping the full benefits of betting. And then there was the rise of fantasy sports leagues such as 'Draft Kings.' Congress attempted to ban betting on "skill based games," which is a common line that fantasy leagues will defer to when they claim they are not gambling. And have been able to argue from that position long enough to not see huge legal ramifications from it. While Nevada and other states have tried to reign in fantasy sports, the companies are still going strong.

What does this mean for video games? Overturning the federal law now allows states to dictate if sports gambling will be allowed, and what the rules will be. This won't be an overnight sweep. So unless your state has already ratified new laws within the past 2 days, sports gambling is still very much illegal. For now. It'll be up to the states to decide if they want to allow it at all. And if you have a state where the growth of eSports is boosting the economy, like California, Nevada, or Texas, you have to factor them in. The sports gambling ban vaguely applied to the digital age in-so-much-as if real world money is being used to place bets, then it was illegal under the federal law.

We know people are going to be betting more and more on eSports in the future. It's a growing industry and will eventually overtake traditional sports in viewership. It's predicted that over 400 million people will be watching eSports in 2019. By 2022/23, that number could easily reach 1 billion. To assume that people will not gamble on this is silly. States in the U.S. now have the ability to regulate how the system will work. Hopefully they are mindful of the needs of the digital era instead of issuing blanket support or bans, much like the original federal law.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Yep. That Monster Hunter Movie is Still a Thing

According to Variety, Constantin Film will begin filming a Monster Hunter movie in September with...wait for it... director Paul Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt, and actress Milla Jovovich.

Let the groaning commence. Or continue if you've been groaning since 2012.

Anderson, Bolt, and Jovovich, are all responsible for the 'Resident Evil' series of movies. Constantin Film is currently working on a reboot of RE, taking place in South Africa. Executive Producer Martin Moszkowicz spoke with Variety at the Cannes Film Festival about the video game movie. Anderson has produced the script and there's a $60 million budget backing it. Moszkowicz added that a number of the production and visual teams behind the 'Resident Evil' movies are going to a part of this project.

Capcom would have to be on board with this for them to release the rights to Constantin Film. While so far Anderson is not set to direct and only write the script, it's certain that 'Monster Hunter' will be very similar to 'Resident Evil.' A few names will be taken from the game and the other 99.5% made up with no connections to the original content.

While I'm still against the 'Resident Evil' films and what they represent, their generic action-ness has enough mass appeal to have kept audiences entertained. There continued success is enough to show that there is money if they plug away at the same formula. So expect a 'Monster Hunter' Paul Anderson movie to come out sometime next year.

Aside, Constantin Film is responsible for the Fan4stic movie from 2015. Be worried.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Hello Friday! So good to see you again. It's time once more for the Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and wierdest gaming news on the internet. Here's what we've dug up for your eyeballs to peruse today:

- Turtle Beach, the gaming accessory go-to, has seen a huge rise in profits during the first quarter of this year at $40.9 million in sales. This is nearly triple from what they made in 2017, and they thank Fortnite for the success. And a lot of it has to do with their aggressive marketing. They saw the rise of popularity in the game and started pushing ads during Fortnite streams, providing free headsets to famous gamers, and offered giveaways during Fortnite events. It's smart marketing.

- A new study from the University of Southern California asks would a video game be better if you can play as an avatar of your real self? As the industry continually grapples with offering more choices for gamers, and push back from having only straight, white, male heroes, we may see more studies like this crop up. The TLDR version is that the avatar sense of self depends on the game. Sometimes having a look-alike avatar helps. Sometimes it doesn't.

- The Economist talks about how the latest video game "fads" that showcase DIY. Fornite and PUBG is a craze that may or may not die out soon, but the Minecraft-like style of crafting along with out-of-game modding have brought a new surge of creativity to the community. It's fun to see teens and kids get involved in modding once more to add to the wealth of content to games.

- With the re-release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Nintendo Switch, Polygon created a list ranking all Donkey Kong games. Though I'm surprised that the original DKC didn't rank higher. Somehow it's sequels did. Strange...maybe Polygon's writers are hitting the banana's a bit too early today.

- It's been nearly 6 months since Akili Interactive developed a game to help children with ADHD. Now the company has raised over $55 million to help market and build on the game. The company will still require clearance with the FDA before promotion of the game can begin, which they expect to happen later this year. But this would be one of the first on the market with a proven study backing it supporting it's proof of concept.

- WalMart Canada's website may have made an error this week, by accidentally listing the titles of games that have not been officially confirmed by the developers. A spokesperson said it was a glitch and only the developers can verify if the titles are coming soon, but the internet is speculating. On the list were Rage 2, Gears of War 5, Just Cause 4, Borderlands 3 Assassin’s Creed sequel #45, and The Division 2, and Dragon Quest 2. Borderlands 3 has always been a soft go-ahead from GearBox, so there's no surprise there. There are also oddities like Rage (no one at Bethesda will confirm) and Dragon Quest (which already has sequels out, including Builders 2 on the way). Maybe we'll find out at E3 this year if any of these are confirmed.

- Speaking E3, Facebook will have a booth this year. The space will be dedicated to streaming and several notable streamers will be in attendance. One section of the lobby will be a "shareable moments" center where gamers and developers can connect and "share" their experiences of E3 on Facebook. Finally they are teaming up with self-appointed game king Geoff Keighley to further their Women in Gaming initiative at the E3 Coliseum. Not sure what Keighley has to do with it, but there you go. Apparently Facebook couldn't get a notable female gamer, game journalist, or industry expert.

- Finally, God of War 4 has recently updated to add a photography mode. If you are thinking "well that's silly" you are right. While the game is an interesting cacophony of visuals, we know most gamers are going to use it when Kratos is making goofy faces during battle. The character settings now allow you to make facial expressions so you can make the moment even more magical by winking at the camera.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Another Retro Console is Coming Back in Mini Form

In an age where everything is getting rebooted and re-released, the Neo Geo is joining the fray thanks to SNK. In celebration of their 40th anniversary, the company is making a Mini version of the Neo Geo unit - an oddly contested console that old school gamers either love with a passion or hate. SNK teased the product a few weeks ago and made the official announcement yesterday.

The Neo Geo Mini will be based on the MVS arcade unit and not the home console. Which means proper arcade fight sticks. Sweet.

The unit will have a 3.5 inch LCD screen and pre-loaded with 40 games. The list of games have not been announced, but assume a full SNK line-up including Metal Slug and King of Fighters (hint, check out the top of the Mini to see some of the games listed). It will also have an HDMI port, if you want to blast the game on a larger screen, a headphone jack, and 2 controller ports for more people to play.

The Neo Geo Mini will come in 2 versions: Japanese and International, so it will make it's way over to the U.S. and Europe. No price point or release date has been listed yet.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

EA CEO Supports Current Loot Box System with Company

It shouldn't come as a surprise that EA is pushing back against the loot box volatility, by proclaiming that they are not a form of gambling. This is according to CEO Andrew Wilson during a quarterly investment call. The focus was specifically on FIFA after a Belgium commission ruled that the game did contain loot boxes that were similar to gambling.

Wilson spoke to investors about how the FIFA game boxes were not gambling: "Firstly, players always receive a specified number of items in each FUT pack, and secondly we don't provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money."

Wilson seems to have missed what the argument has been since the release of The Lord of the Rings: Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II. The "gambling" portion of the loot boxes is that the player never knows what they are going to receive. There are no statistics provided on what a person will get if they buy a box. The developer may say "well you're getting 4 items" that's fine. What's the percentage that it's a skin, or a weapon, or a rare card? It may take 1 box or 500 boxes for a gamer to get the item they really want. They can either farm for hundreds of hours to get the boxes, or pay for them with cash and enjoy the excitement of opening each box.

Secondly, when a game forces loot boxes on the gamer to act as the stop-gap between advancing in the game, that's a gambling issue too. It's like a dealer at a poker table saying "Hey. If you want to play you gotta drop $10, but if you want to be the coolest one here, drop $50 and you can hold these 3 spots and play more." The original loot box system for Battlefront II required players to spend in-game currency to advance. Loot boxes provided star cards, items for crafting, and rare weapons that were needed to progress. A gamer who drops money on the in-game currency to buy loot boxes would always have an advantage over the gamers who grind the traditional way. This is a gambling addiction in the making. When loot boxes are designed to alter the way one plays a game, people are going to spend real world money to get what they need.

EA is still riding on their successes as their earnings for the quarter beat estimates for $1.26 billion. But like it or not, the loot box issue is not going to go away. The company will have to find a balance between the laws and their revenue if they want to continue issuing them. I still argue that Overwatch system is probably one of the better ones since it's purely cosmetic and has no affect on your ability to play the game. Would percentages on the chance of receiving gold items be nice to see? Sure. But gamers don't have to worry about whether or not someone is overpowered by spending more real-world money in order to win a game.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Battletoads Rumor Doesn't Mean You Should Prank Call Retailers

There are a number of things I don't miss about working at GameStop Corporate's customer service center. The screaming customers over a $2.50 used game. The 30 minute lunch breaks (if we were lucky that day). The customers blaming you for all of their life problems when they can't get Halo 3 a day before the official launch. The supervisors siding with the customers when you were 100% in the right, and that customer who dropped their XBox 360 from a 10 story window should not get a replacement (Yes. This happened). The 19 months of no vacation, and then the employees getting blamed by HR for not taking vacation after we were told repeatedly by management that we couldn't (also happened). I'm fairly certain that none of my chronic digestive issues would exist if I hadn't worked for GameStop. I can blame them for at least one ulcer from the stress.

Through all of this, one of the worst things that could happen during your day in the call center was to have a customer ask "Do you have Battletoads?"

A prank that spread on the internet while meme's were still trying to get their footing. In 2007, a number of GameStop stores were hit with this question by an anonymous caller. They would keep the employee busy for 10-15 minutes searching for this game in the system, only to be laughed at and hung up on. Or the customer would curse out the employee and proceed to hang up. Why it was funny? I have no idea. I guess preventing employees from helping other customers is hilarious to some.

It eventually spread to hit stores around the U.S. and the call center. Our days would be wasted helping customers "pranking" us. Unfortunately with policy we were never allowed to hang up unless the customer became verbally abusive. Even then, it had to be an extreme because managers would get mad whenever we hung up the phone. Customers had to be the one to end a call. So there were moments where we spent 20, 30, 45 minutes with customers who asked us about Battletoads. Because it was funny for some unknown reason. And this prank still continues, much to my disdain. You only need to take a moment to Google and see the bevy of videos available.

At one point, we had a merchandising associate get so fed up with the store inquiries that he posted a dummy Battletoads game on the website. It only lasted for a few days before he was asked to remove it, but it did curb the prank calls temporarily.

As a former GameStop employee with an endless amount of empathy to the store associates, please stop with this stupid "prank." It's not funny. It takes away the employees time from assisting actual customers. It makes you look dumb for not coming up with a better prank. Stop it.

Which is why I was annoyed to see this rumor once again pop up: New Battletoads in development! This one comes from GameRant via David Wise, the composer for the original game's music. On his website he listed a Battletoads 20/20 in his bio, which was quickly updated to David Wise: 20/20. So far no screenshots can be found to confirm this. The content was on the site for such a brief time that cookies/cache have no record of it. We have no way of verifying if this is even accurate.

That being said, until the current IP holder comes out with an official announcement that a new Battletoads is being developed, please do not harass your local gaming stores. Do not call them to pre-order. Do not take up their valuable, underpaid time to mess with them. They are sick of it as we all are. The "prank" is not funny. It never was funny. And it never will be funny. For their sanity, I hope that this "rumor" does not become reality.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Atlus Still Blocks Streaming of Persona 5

We're steadily reaching the 2 year mark since Persona 5 was released (September 2016 in Japan/April 2017 worldwide). If there's one thing Atlus is sticking to, is that they do not want the story to be spoiled for anyone. Because you still can not stream the game through conventional methods without your PS4 blocking you.

Last year, after gamers and streamers called out Atlus over their crazy streaming practices, not much has changed. If you were one of those with a PS Plus membership and snatched up the recent Persona 5 deal, you're fully aware that streaming the game is a no-go zone. After the first action sequence, your PS4 will prevent from any additional streaming of the game by only airing audio content. I tried it yesterday with an exasperated sigh. I remember the controversy. I remember Atlus said it would ease up on it's restrictions and put streamers in "good faith" to stop streaming after a certain date in the story.

I didn't realize that the ban on streaming through the PS4 was still blocking the content.

Is it possible to still stream Persona 5? Yes if you buy a capture card, which can run you from $80-$100 for one of good quality. Streaming of the game isn't prohibited, technically. You can find full playthroughs with relative ease. But you can't use the capabilities built into the system.

Why is Atlus still doing this?

It's not uncommon these days, particularly among Japanese developers, to block certain segments from streaming with the PS4 or XBoxOne. Some argue that it's to protect story elements from leaking so people can "enjoy the game" without being spoiled. Kind of wish people would do that with 'The Avengers: Infinity War.' SquareEnix, for example, did this with the end of Final Fantasy XV when the game was first released. But generally after a few months have passed, the blocks are removed.

Persona 5 has been a worldwide release for over a year and people have seen what the game is about - even in passing. Why keep blocking it from general streaming services and force your players to use alternate methods? Streaming has morphed into an important marketing tool. It's a cheap and effective way to promote your content without needing to spend much in the process. The developer's core audience are the people who would want to buy games. Streaming provides a direct line of contact to gamers seeing the product. Versus spending hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, on a 10-15 second TV advertisement going to a supposed demographic. It makes sense to promote streamers and allow your games to be accessible to them. When you block the content, you throw away an easy opportunity to promote your game.

It's a conundrum that Atlus has yet to provide an update for. If Persona 5 ever gets a re-release, maybe then the restrictions will be lifted?

Friday, May 04, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's Friday! And you know that means it's time for another Weekly Link Round Up. Some of the best worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet in a bite-sized chunk for you to consume. Here's what we've found:

- Do you remember a post last week about about how video game text is too small to read to the point of making the product unplayable? Some people are trying to fix that and make games for the visually impaired. And it may surprise you to find out that EA is one of the leaders. Madden NFL has been a choice go-to for those with vision issues, providing options for the color blind and nearly blind to experience the game. Check out this snippet on NPR discussing how some developers are improving games.

- Another callback to a previous post: if you want to learn more about blockchain, Animation Magazine has a great overview on what it's all about and how it can affect video games in the future. It will be quite a technical marvel for developers, providing a means to protect their assets while giving more customization for gamers.

- Because I love pointless lists, here's one from Digital Trends about 5 games in need of a reboot, thanks to the success of God of War 4. The one thing the writer forgot to do prior to publishing is researching the content. On this list we have Duke Nukem, which has already been rebooted, and Turok, which is being remastered and the studio has already killed off the idea of a reboot for now. Good job Digital Trends. You're about 1 step shy of being WhatCulture-worthy.

- Speaking of WhatCulture, here's a list of 10 games with glitches and fake-outs that made gamers panic. If you guessed Metal Gear would be on the list, you are correct. Three times no less! Though I do think Ghosts n' Goblins needed a mention given that you have to play the entire game and (spoiler) once you reach the end you realize you're not done. The first round of playing didn't happen and you have to re-play the entire thing again! That was the worst.

- Polygon has an op-ed about how games make quitters out of all of us, and that's okay. The article is worth a read; if anything to help you figure out the type of gamer you are and if you agree with

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Atari Crowdfunding: Round 2

After last year's announcement that the Atari was making a comeback with a new "retro" inspired console, the company has hit a few snags along the way. Their last attempt at crowdfunding was put on hold for an unspecified reason. But they are ready to try again with pre-orders of the new re-named Atari VCS starting May 30. The starting price will be $199 if you sign up early, with an expected retail of $250-$300 at release.

The system is still slated to include a custom-built processor made by AMD, with an output for 4K monitors at 60 frames per second. And with any modern console it'll also have dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, USB 3.0 and on-board data storage. The console will include the "Atari Vault," a collection of 100 classic Atari games. The Atari VCS is sounding more like it's trying to be a living room PC than a throw-back to the original Atari.

Will the average consumer buy an Atari? It's hard to say for certain. So many are happy with our PC's, cellphones, and current gen consoles to make up our entertainment needs. The Atari's appeal is most likely to hit the interest of the 30+ gaming crowd. Those of us who grew up with the original system and would appreciate the call-back to our childhood. But as something that will replace our PS4 and XBox One? Not likely.

We'll be keeping an eye on the crowdfunding to see what happens next.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

"Teabagging" in Games Has Always Been an Issue

For those who are Overwatch League fans, you probably saw that Shanghai/Philadelphia game on Saturday match where said teabagging occurred. Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee of the Fusion eliminated Gi-hyeon “Ado” Chon of the Dragons in a Tracer v. Tracer stand off. Lee took a few seconds to hop onto the avatar's corpse, crouch on it several times, and waved with the "hi" emote before darting off. There was a very vocal negative reaction from the audience. Teabagging has long been in video games and, for the life of me, I never understood why it was funny.

If you look up the definition, the act is seeded in a history of sexual assault. That's not something we as a society should take lightly. Teabagging someone has serious implications beyond bad sportsmanship in a video game. This is openly saying that sexual assault is okay in digital spaces - TLDR: it's not. Ever. Anywhere. Yet it's standard to see players perform the action in most FPS competitions.

Games will never remove the crouch mechanic. And we know developers did not create these games with the intent of teabagging. You need to be able to duck and crouch to avoid enemy fire. This is 100% on the gamers to take responsibility for their actions and realize that everything they do has consequences. Even when showing off a game at PAX to journalists and other developers. (For reference in locating this particular issue, you'll find just as many "pro-teabagging" and "whiny sjw" comments. This also applies to the Overwatch League incident.) People do not play video games to be digitally sexually assaulted. No one does. Bottom line: when has anyone liked being teabagged? I can't think of a time where I enjoyed it in a game, nor my friends, nor any other gamer I've watched or spoken to. No one likes it. So why do we keep seeing it, knowing full well the type of insult it is?

Before the naysayers pipe in and comment "well it's just a game; you knew what you were getting into." Where does it say on the game box that "teabagging may occur?" I certainly don't see it on my copy of Overwatch or Unreal Tournament or Halo 1-5. While the boxes may have a stipulation that they do not control the content or actions of other gamers in the online community, teabagging is so abhorrent that it needs to be a bannable offense. None of us buy a game to have our avatar be teabagged. This isn't "sjw" commentary. This is logical sense. It's a crime in the real world when it's done without consent. It should be forbidden in digital spaces as the actions are always done after an avatar dies and the user can not provide consent.

So yes. What Lee did on Saturday during the match was more than disrespectful. It's disgusting. If the Overwatch League could get on board with descriptive guidelines on player behavior, then the consequences for teabagging could have prevented Lee from initiating the act. They have millions of people following the League. These pros are setting the example for future eSports events. They need to have the right attitude and the right mindset now or this venture will not last.

To put it into another perspective: If you would be disgusted by a U.S. football star scoring a goal, knocking down an opponent, and proceeding to rub his genitals in their face, then you should be concerned about teabagging in video games.