Friday, June 29, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's Friday! Another week is in the books. Time for a Weekly Link Round Up, pulling together some of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet for this week. What will make the Round Up this time?

- With all of the news stories focusing on WHO's classification of gaming disorder, it's nice to see some opinion pieces from professionals who understand that this is being blown out of proportion. Ryan M. Earl is one such person, a staff therapist and faculty member at Northwestern University with a PhD. He's also a gamer. It's proof that while some may be in a moral panic over WHO's decision, those in the field know it should be taken at face value. Let the pro's diagnose your kids.

- Are video game cartridges making a comeback? With the popularity of the NES and SNES Minis, gamers have been asking for new products on the old systems. Which means cartridges. And independent teams are stepping up to take on this challenge. Cartridges have their own flaws compared to today's CD's and digital games. For one, lack of space. Content needs to be immediate and accessible from the start. The other is making the cartridges, which opens up a new line of manufacturing that today's developers haven't had a need to consider. Who knew that the Mini systems would cause growth in an old sector of gaming?

- Despite all the weirdness going on with Elon Musk right now, his company OpenAI is doing some amazing work. Specifically, beating human opponents in Dota 2. The team's goal is to get the AI into the official tournament later this year and defeat professional players. Technology at it's finest, ladies and gentlemen.

- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will be hosting a forum next week to further explore the inclusion of eSports into the Olympics. In the most corporate statement I have ever read, the IOC explains that "[t]he aim of the Forum is to explore synergies, build joint understanding and set a platform for future engagement between the esports and gaming industries and the Olympic Movement." Synergies? Really? Didn't we dump that word in 2009? Anyway, the IOC wants to understand how eSports work and if it's feasible to bring them into the Olympics. 2020 will probably be too soon for the it's inclusion, but 2024 is on the table.

- Our WhatCulture list of the week is the top 14 most disappointing games of 2018 so far. Fair warning: you are not going to like this list. Monster Hunter: World is on there and A Way Out. The former, the lists claims, has poor matchmaking, a clunky UI, and the hunting is too repetitive. The argument for the latter is "overly linear cinematic gameplay, a number of laborious and repetitive tandem sequences, numerous jarring tonal shifts, and relatively wonky shooting and driving mechanics." The list is sad. There are much more disappointing games out there!

- This week the Australian Senate passed a motion to investigate loot boxes and if they are a form of gambling; adding to the list of countries who are openly reviewing or penalizing games with loot boxes. Knowing Australia's strict laws regarding violence in media, and with it being a big market, developers will cater to their needs. Which gives us even more hope that loot boxes might be tailored to not be so gambly!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Breaking: New Overwatch Hero Announced!

Breaking news!

Overwatch has teased us with their latest hero: a hamster in a metal ball.

While it's raising a few eyebrows, this is very much in line with Blizzard and their brand of off-the-wall concepts. Hammond, aka Wrecking Ball, is a hamster that rolls around in a mech. Outfitted with Gatling guns, the "resourceful tinkerer" could be another in the support class or tanks (which the game has needed new additions to for a while).

Welcome to 2018 in gaming, folks. Hamtaro will steal our hearts, and our kills.

FF14 'The Moogle Post' Founder Accused of Harassment & Blackmail

What happens to a gaming community when the founder of a well-known MMO fan site is accused of sexual harassment and blackmailing? That's going to be the test as fans, followers, and staff of The Moogle Post try to grapple with the recent allegations against Oldbear Stormblood. In a detailed exposé by PC Gamer, over a dozen women have come forward with their stories (and screenshots) of harassment by The Moogle Post creator.

Much of the harassment took place through Discord and Skype; mostly online. Rarely with staff members. His targets were women who were lonely, vulnerable, and looking for some form of companionship. The tactics employed are known as 'love-bombing.' One person showers another with an overabundance of affection, making them feel safe and comfortable. And then the affection turns into something devious: Name-calling. Trashing-talking. Mental and physical abuse when the recipient acts in a way that the first party does not approve of. This type of behavior can lead into coercion, where the recipient is asked to do or perform things they are not comfortable with. The backlash for not following instructions is severe.

This type of behavior happens a lot. More than we realize. And it's easy to capitulate in an online space where you feel closer to your MMO friends list than your real life. You want to appease them in order to stay involved in their group. Any dissent and you feel a part of you has been ripped away.

PC Gamer did an amazing job with verifying the stories of the women that came forward. Many instances shared similarities to how Oldbear ensnared his victims.

Initially Oldbear resigned from his position at The Moogle Post and handed it off to 2 lead staff members. The team quickly announced on Discord that they did not condone Oldbear's actions and will work to rebuild the trust of the community. However, what's been happening since the story broke has been odd.

Oldbear still maintains The Moogle Post's social media accounts, Patreon, and PayPal. The original announcement on Discord regarding his resignation has been removed. The Twitter feed was updated and reflected conflicting information. Oldbear is supposedly no longer involved with the online magazine, and yet he is. In a statement, he said that he never resigned but stepped away from the Discord server. Nothing more. He claims that a misunderstanding took place and others with The Moogle Post announced his leaving. (But the internet never forgets!) Since then, Oldbear has handed over social accounts to two people at The Moogle Post who side with him. And as of right now, those people are going to be taking over the project. The rest of the staff will be leaving to focus on a new venture. This is according to a reddit post from someone working at The Moogle Post (confirmed by moderators).

Whatever happens to The Moogle Post, it is never going to be what it was. The accusations against Oldbear are too strong; the remaining staff too loyal to him. Those who have left will be under the thumb of the fallout. Any new project they start may not last due to their former affiliation with Oldbear.

Another fan site will crumble and players will have to look elsewhere for their FF14 content. Most of them may not care. They see the drama. They want to be away from it. Doesn't matter what it's about. As long as they get their gaming content from any resources, they will be appeased.

Situations like this remind us that these abusive scenarios still happen. There are people, male and female, who are duped into relationships and become victims of coercion, sex, and blackmail.  While the community may not forgive Oldbear (though he maintains his innocence), there's nothing to stop him from scrubbing his accounts and starting over. Unless the women file a lawsuit against him for blackmail (sexual harassment laws are still an issue with U.S. courts that most accusers are not prosecuted), or SE steps in and decides to ban him from the game, this could happen again.

We need to continue telling the story of The Moogle Post and make people aware that this happened. We need to keep it on their minds to help prevent it from occurring again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

PUBG Drops Lawsuit Against Epic Games

Earlier this morning Bloomberg has reported that PUBG Corp. is dropping it's lawsuit against Epic Games for copyright infringement.

PUBG Corp., the creator of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, was suing Epic Games South Korean branch, claiming that Fortnite had copied assets from PUBG's Battle Royale mode.

PUBG Corp. sent a letter of withdraw to Epic Games on Monday and the court's website no longer has the case pending. Bloomberg reached out to PUBG's legal team to confirm that the case has been dropped, but did not provide any additional updates or if a settlement was reached. Representatives for South Korea's Epic Games have not responded for comment.

But at least PUBG can go back to suing the more obvious copy-cat games, while Epic's title continues to dominate.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

GameStop Still Trying Too Hard by Selling Comic Books!

While the details regarding GameStop's potential sale are still unknown, the company is operating with business as adding comic books to their retail lineup. A few weeks back, GameStop announced that they would be looking to add comic books to their shelves with a test program in 40 stores across the U.S.

Gizmodo spoke with director of consumer products Clint Walker to get more insight into why. And why now?

For GameStop, they see an opportunity to grow their business and enter a new market. They feel that the type of customers they currently attract are "collector's." With the growth of Think Geek stores across the country and ease of access to geeky products, the company feels this is natural next step. Their current plan is to start with a small set-up in stores with 1 spinner rack. Every side of the rack will be dedicated to comics with new weekly shipments. No backroom storage. No pre-orders, yet. The test stores will put all of the comics they receive out on the floor and once they sell out, they sell out. There are no immediate plans to offer older volumes/editions of comics, but that could change depending on how well the test works out.

The interview did not mention if trade-ins on comics would be allowed (most likely not, given that they plan to keep this a straight forward test for now), or if rewards customers would earn points with their purchase. But Walker sounds committed to taking this new venture as far as it will go, with testing for multiple quarters and an eventual release to all locations. They have a deal with Marvel and DC distributor Diamond to be the primary resource.

Regarding questions on how GameStop will change their set-up to accommodate the purchase experience for comic book fans, it does not seem like much thought was placed into this. GameStop is GameStop and it's not like the atypical comic shop that tends to cater to only men. Which is nice and could open up more opportunities for others to get into comics without the stigma attached to the retail side. However, it's also GameStop. While it's a bit more welcoming than comic stores, it's still a dude-bro culture. How the stores are designed to enhance the customer experience is key to sales. If GameStop isn't going to commit to the comic book lifestyle that many are accustomed to, they're not going to see growth.

The lack of details, but the arse-ton of passion is par for GameStop. If only they would stick to video games... The comic test will begin at stores in the coming weeks and most likely be centered around Florida and Texas, based on the interview.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Game Time - June

Here at The Geek Spot, I play a lot of games. My library is continually rotating with new AAA titles and indie one-offs that capture my attention. But I don't talk about what I'm currently playing as often as I would like. So I'm going to rectify this. Today's post is a peak behind the, err, post. A glimpse into my gaming life and what I've been playing. I haven't decided yet if this will join the rotation of scheduled blog posts ala The Weekly Link Round Up. This will be the first of many similar posts for the future. Hopefully.

- Rise of Industry (RoI). I streamed a bit of gameplay this past Thursday and had an active chatter asking a load of questions about it. This game is currently in Early Access on Steam. Meaning it's still in development and will continually be updated in the coming months/years until it's fully release. With Early Access, you are not getting the final game. What you are paying for is the opportunity to assist developers in finalizing their vision, knowing that the game will change multiple times before it's done.

Dapper Penguin Studios is the developer and, full disclosure, my brother works on their team. I did not get a free copy of this to try out. I paid for this game at full price (hindsight: I should have waited for the Steam Summer Sale). Regardless, I would have purchased this game because it scratches my itch for simulation/tycoon games.

RoI allows you to build a business from the ground floor. Utilizing the resources of the land, you can help the local economy by providing goods such as wheat, vegetables, and copper. Or you can develop yourself into a manufacturer for glass, booze, and car parts. The goal of the game is to not go bankrupt. And it is challenging. But it's a challenge I've been waiting for! A number of the recent tycoon/sim games are fairly straight forward: Build this. Research that. Make money. RoI instead wants you to focus on the economics of the world around you. What you sell can impact local businesses and change the market. Sell too much of 1 item, and you could see it's value drop. How well you interact with a local town/city can also affect your businesses - you could see a tax break in your favor, or poor road construction delaying your trucks. It's simple design produces elegant results with the type of active gameplay I've been looking for in tycoon titles. With an impressive roadmap for future updates, I'm curious to see how RoI will develop from here.

- Dragon Age: Inquisition. 185 hours were not enough to keep me away! I have no clue why I picked up this again. Maybe I missed the sordid adventures of my posse? I'm not sure. This is the first round where I'm doing some modding to create the Qunari I've always wanted to. With the release of some cool shaders and lighting effects, I may add those in too. No cheats. No 'Mary Poppins' bag of unlimited holding. Any mods I add will be purely cosmetic.

Curbing my natural instincts, and avoiding the romancing Cullen for the 10th time, I am playing this game very different from my past brushes with Dragon Age. I'll akin it to "renegade" mode on Mass Effect. My Qunari is a duel-hand warrior and will always make the most sardonic and aggressive choices. Pretty much everything I've never done in DA. Ever. Why? I like to test myself and review the results. It's the scholastic side of me that enjoys taking these risks.

- Final Fantasy XIV. I've accomplished a lot and not much in FF14 this past week. The major announcements involve the catfish beast tribe quests and obtaining the ultimate mount of greatness. And hitting level 50 on Dragoon to get that sweet, sweet armor. Aside, Dragoon is an odd job to play after Heavensward. It's best experienced while playing through that story - one of the primary figures in the job quests up to 50 is a huge plot point in the expansion. Now that I know what happens, it feels like the job is an odd time capsule that I'll never be able to fully appreciate after opening it.

My focus in the game is steadily shifting towards crafting jobs to get them to an acceptable level while unlocking master crafting/gathering books to utilize in the field.

Right now most of us are waiting for the next update to be released on July 2nd/3rd, which will finally bring us the new Deep Dive Dungeon, Heaven on High. A giant Jenga tower that has been teasing us since the launch of Stormblood last year. Soon we can visit it for more end-game action.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

With the excessive posting of E3 last week, the round up took a break. But it's back, with a vengeance! Or as close to one as it can muster. The Weekly Link Round Up is a gathering of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet...this week! Here's what we've found:

- Kids. If you didn't know already, you clearly live in a non-digital world. The Steam Summer Sale is up! Running! And taking no prisoners! If you have Steam Link and the controller some games are free, such as episode 1 of Life is Strange. Go forth and spend, geeks! Sale is on until July 5th.

- The Ringer has one of the most click-baity articles of the week. "Video Game Companies Want to Reflect [sic] America—They Just Don’t Want to Talk About It." The glaring issue with the headline and the article is that it's assuming that games released today are focusing on current politics. The problem is the overwhelming majority of these games have been in production for years, even decades. The stories were long drafted, the actors provided the vocals for the characters, the designs created, the concepts finalized well before any of today's politics. It would be impossible for Bethesda to remake Wolfeinstein II and meet their deadline with only a year into the current US regime. That doesn't mean their marketing departments won't take a jab at it. But to assume that all of today's video games turned their stories on a dime to talk about politics is unreasonable. And companies are allowed to choose what they want and not want to talk about. Bethesda has always been pro Nazi punching. A change in politics did not alter their stance.

- PayPal has shut down the account of Acid Software, the "company" behind the game Active Shooter. According to a spokesperson, PayPal has had a longstanding policy that their services can not be used to "pay for activities that promote violence." So, PayPal will disable an account if enough people complain, but they won't help you get a refund if you were conned out of a purchase. Or close your account without 20 forms of identification.

- Eric Lagel, producer and consultant for a number of large gaming companies, wants to know why shooting, violence, and gore is still the dominant focus at E3? "Here are some enemies, have fun killing them," he writes. And I can't disagree with him. So many games focus on maiming and destroying your enemies. Diplomacy, building meaningful relationships - this is rarely done and it's kind of tiring to have games focus solely on eliminating targets. Your food for thought for the week.

- The NY Times spotlights Amazon and Twitch, and how the online retail giant is king of streaming. Regardless of if you are a Twitch fan or not, this is where streamers live. They have an impact on gaming and advertising. If you need a review to catch up on what makes Twitch the top platform, this is worth a read.

- No Round Up is complete with WhatCulture making an appearance! 12 upcoming games that might be awesome. And if you thought staples like Call of Duty, Mario, and Crackdown would be listed...well you'd be right. There is nothing surprising on this list. It's your atypical, clicky article from WhatCulture. Sad face.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Future Star Wars Movies On Hold?

Collider is reporting that Disney and Lucasfilm are temporarily putting all spin-off Star Wars film projects on hold. The reason? 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' did not perform as well as the company would have liked at the box office. The movie has grossed $343 million world-wide backed by a roughly $275 million budget. However the budget doesn't state if this includes marketing, which usually adds another 50% to the total cost. In which case, Solo is still losing money for Disney. But if the final budget was $275, at least they made a profit! A number of movies would love to see that $300 million mark these days.

While neither company has officially confirmed this, sources within the Disney landscape were the first to break the news to Collider.

Admittedly I did not see 'Solo.' I didn't have an interest in it. I am very much not into Star Wars right now because it is everywhere. It has over-saturated the market on the same level as Frozen, another movie I still haven't seen. The trailers never captured my attention. While I am intrigued by Donald Glover as Lando and directing by Ron Howard, it wasn't enough to gain my interest in seeing the movie.

While I can only speculate why others did not see the movie, I think the general public is starting to experience Star Wars fatigue in various states. Some are still die-hard fans and will watch every movie, TV show, and play every game with the Star Wars label on it. Others are ready to turn off the switch so we can take a break from the space adventures. The rest lie in between of wanting to see a fun movie, but not falling for Disney's marketing tactics. Disney's grand plan of releasing one new Star Wars movie every year through 2020 is looking shaky.

But there is a silver lining to this news. The break could give Disney a chance to re-evaluate their intentions behind Star Wars and determine a better course of action. While sales for the last 2 numbered films did well, after the initial fervor died down, the reception by movie-goers has been mixed. 'Rogue One' seem to do okay at the box office and with audiences, but it still lagged behind the other films. With #9 in production soon, Disney needs to find a way to turn around the franchise and provide a Star Wars experience that will entice fans and the general audience. It wasn't just fans that stayed away from 'Solo', but the public at large. Finding a balance of pleasing fans and non-fans is a challenge - but if The Avengers can do it, so can Star Wars.

Shame. It would have been nice to see an Obi Wan film...but not under Disney.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Gaming Disorder Unclearly Classified with WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially added "gaming disorder" to their diagnostic handbook. Originally announced for a change in December of 2017, now that the verbiage is out it is not as helpful as some were anticipating.

Here is how WHO classifies "gaming disorder": gaming is strongly preferred over other activities, the patient does not stop even when there are negative consequences like doing badly at work, compulsive gaming strains the patient’s life or relationships, and all this has been happening for at least a year.

As a number of health experts are pointing out, you could replace the word "gaming" with anything else and it could be considered a disorder based on this language. Gambling. Drinking. Watching football. But now it's there and we're probably going to see a rise in misdiagnosis because of it. Why is the classification and verbiage important? Medically speaking, it helps distinguish what type of help a person needs. By having a broad definition we could have individuals with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or another health concerns, improperly labeled as having a "gaming disorder."

The medical research for gaming is still thread-bare and too full of mistakes. As has been discussed on this blog multiple times, the studies for 'video game violence causing aggression' has been torn asunder for providing invalid research. Too few participants. Too much bias in producing a specific end result. Manipulating of information. Yet these studies are part of the "gaming disorder" discussion that WHO has, unfortunately, relied on.

Is it possible for someone to have a "gaming disorder"? Absolutely. I think if a person hasn't been provided with guidelines in their youth, or has a family with addictive behavior, that can become part of their norm. There are some people with an addiction to gaming; having a classification with WHO can allow those individuals to seek medical help without being dismissed by physicians. That's a good thing. The problem is the classification and text on what this disorder is, is too broad. We need a more narrow, defined context of what is a "gaming disorder." Otherwise we are not helping the people who need it the most.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

GameStop For Sale?

Is GameStop about to be sold? That's the question of the day/week/month as Reuters reports that the corporation is talking to private equity firms to buy up the business.

Right now the deal is in the early stages and a lot of unknowns are in the air. Why the buyout ? What has changed with GameStop to cause this turn of events? Is GameStop falling from "retailer grace" for everything games? What will happen to the stores, with reportedly over 7,000 worldwide (including EBGames)?

The short answer is that GameStop is doing okay. Not as great as it was during the launch of the Wii and XBox 360/PS3 timeline, but it's still turning a profit. The past few quarterly earnings reports have surpassed their goals. Yet their stock prices have been in a steady decline since 2015. In 2016, the company closed over 150 stores in the U.S (no longer present in Puerto Rico). In 2017, the number was 131 globally.

Over the years GameStop has been attempting to become a strange amalgamation. A one-stop-shop for all of your tech and geek needs without being Best Buy. The company purchased Think Geek in 2015 and has steadily added collectables and merchandise to their line-up of products. 22.8% of last quarter's earnings ($260 million USD) can be attributed to these items.

But the company has also made a lot of questionable business decisions that didn't help the brand. They purchased web-based browser game maker Kongregate and did nothing with it. They held majority stake in Jolt Online Gaming (which closed in 2012). They purchased Spawn Labs and Impulse, two tech companies that focused on cloud-based gaming services. Spawn Labs closed in 2014 and Impulse's rebranded GameStop App/PC Services went away. It also purchased over 500 AT&T mobile stores and have tried to get into the phone market (this has been an ongoing project since 2007).

GameStop has tried to diversify it's portfolio by attempting to be everything gaming and technology. The problem is that GameStop never knew how to do it well. Once they began shifting focus away from physical gaming, they got into trouble.

For example: does anyone remember that horrible digital download system on GameStop's website back in 2006-2009/2010? While GameStop was one of the earliest adopters of digital downloads, it was a constant headache. Everything was handled through a third party company who had no customer service center. There were a lot of restrictions on what PC's specs could download games (even the best Alienware systems at the time couldn't run some of the games). No MAC's, because the company didn't want to support them. The third party site was a static 1990's style page with a contact e-mail and maybe a week turn-around time. If you're lucky! And you can see how long they stuck with that vendor before acquiring a new business to manage everything in house.

The website was always good enough to work. But not Amazon quality. It was never clear about shipping and the caveats. It was never timely with pre-orders or release date information. The search system sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. The online gift cards were sometimes okay to use in stores, but not always. The website was never quite right. But it did what it needed to do to sell games, and that was enough for GameStop.

Did you know that GameStop once accepted used MP3 players for their trade-in program? They tried to make a business out of that. The problem was they limited it to only the Microsoft Zune, the lackluster product that tried to be the next Apple iPod but never understood what consumers wanted. When everyone had iPods and were ready to upgrade, you couldn't go to GameStop to get cash for them.

More recently, there was the failed PowerPass Program, which was placed on "hold" 5 days before launch. Why? Because the company's systems could not handle it. I wouldn't be surprised if they were using the same DOS program from when I worked there 10 years ago.

And then there's MovieStop, founded in 2004 that focused on new and used movies. Like their other ventures, confusion in what the company would accept as a "used" product and the pricing forced the business to sell in 2012 to a private company.

GameStop started their business focusing on buying and selling games. It was a simple an effective model. Unfortunately the company has strayed too far away from it's origins and continually attempts to capitalize on consumer trends. But they never manage to get it right. They focus on what they, the CEO and board of directors, think is cool without asking the customers what they want. GameStop Corp is still worth billions, but they are a company that's on the verge of free-falling into failure for their short-sighted efforts. The shuffling of CEO's as of late has not helped matters. The change in consumer spending habits to go online has further highlighted the unbearable in-store experience (that Circle of Life policy needs to go away). The niche hold GameStop had on the gaming retail industry is no longer there. We can get better, more cost effective service elsewhere.

It's not surprising that GameStop is looking into selling to a private firm. Not for an infusion of cash, but to overhaul the system. What GameStop needs to focus on is what they do well. Get back to the basics. Go simple. And it might take another company buying them out to realize their mistakes.

Update 6/20/18: GameStop confirmed via press release that the company was exploring options for third party sale.

Friday, June 15, 2018

E3 Games Still Excluding Women as Main Characters

Regardless of how you feel about Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist Frequency's yearly Gender Breakdown of E3 games is worth reviewing. For 2018, the numbers are not much better than last year for gender representation with women. However a new category has been placed on the wheel: gender ambiguous. Characters that are designed in a way to not be distinctly "male" or "female" in accordance with society. Their design can be interpreted by the gamer.

Why is this Gender Breakdown necessary to read? Because it highlights where the industry can and should improve to provide representation. As we know very well by now, women make up a significant portion of the gaming population. Current studies have it averaged that around 45% of gamers are female. Yes, I am keeping in mind that this is beyond AAA games. This includes mobile and browser-based games - which are video games. Regardless of what your beliefs may be. A game, is a game, is a game. Platform does not matter. And being able to play a game where my gender is represented beyond the "damsel in distress" is important to me. It allows me to connect to the game's story and characters in a meaningful way. It also makes me feel more included in the community. While straight men shouldn't be the only ones allowed to fulfill their fantasies and wishes through a video game. Women, LGBTQ, PoC - we all want that experience and we shouldn't be pushed aside when we make up a large chunk of the gaming population.

The Breakdown focused on the big showcases that people were most likely to watch: EA, XBox, Bethesda, Nintendo, Sony, SquareEnix, Ubisoft, and PC Gaming. Games where multiple trailers were shown throughout several events were counted only once. Compared to 2017's numbers, the number of female characters who headlined or were a playable option for a game increased by 1%. Woo. 8% Female. 24% Male. 50% Multi. 5% Gender Ambiguous. 13% N/A. While it's better than 2016, the results haven't changed over the years. Games are still dominated by men or with the option to play as a male character. It's not worse, but it hasn't improved. I don't think it's too much to ask for to have PoC, females, and LGBTQ included in the lineup more often. (Pssst. Developers - having variety will encourage new people to spend money and play!) While it was refreshing to see a different angle to The Last of Us 2 in how they displayed their content, that was 1 out of 118 games.

Diversity. It's a thing. (Men, keep your shirts on. Everyone else has had to project their being onto white male characters for decades. You can project yours to a female or a PoC 1 time and you'll be fine. We promise.)

2018's numbers also point out that the presenters were almost always white men. For as much as I like Bethesda, they only had 1 female presenter (who was the butt of a joke for Prey). Come on developers. We know you have other people working in your businesses. Give them a shot! They might do better than most of the people you bring out on the stage.

Finally, the Breakdown includes a segment on combat vs. non-combat gaming. E3 presentations typically focus on action-oriented games. But this year it was refreshing to see more of a shift towards puzzles, platformers, dance, and non-war games. Because gamers want more out of their purchase. We want to be challenged and developers seem to be hearing our calls to make it happen.

Remember: It's okay to enjoy video games and to be critical of them. This is how we grow as a community, as an art form, and as entertainment.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Disney Airs and Censors E3 Presentations

For some reason Disney decided it would be a good idea to play the E3 conferences on the Disney XD channel. And then they censored the crap out of it.

Through a partnership with IGN, Disney XD streamed big presentations vicariously throughout the weekend and will continue until the show ends. However Disney is Disney. And Disney XD is a kids-focused channel. Knowing full well that a lot of T to M rated games are highlighted at these presentations, why would Disney want to tempt fate?

Well they did it anyway, opting to show footage from the event and cutting to an animated title screen of "IGN Live E3 2018" whenever content was censored. A YouTube video uploaded by Richard Crosby showed an instance of this during The Last of Us 2, just after the kissing sequence. The footage cuts to the animated title right after and it could have some questionable implications.

A spokesperson from Disney XD commented that "The Disney XD policy does not allow for gratuitous violence in programming that children may be viewing." Which is fine. But according to viewers some of the cutting was "sloppy" and poorly done - some of the violent content and harsh language still aired. Not to mention they were showing cinematics of T and M rated game content on a kids channel. You can't show that and cut away to a title card without drawing attention. Kids will go online and seek out the full stream/trailers. They are smart and they have the access.

Why Disney decided to air the event is beyond my comprehension. Maybe they're trying to be the next G4? They probably showed off Gears Pop since it didn't have violence in the teaser. This did not send the right message.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

E3 2018 Presentation Overview - Would I Watch Them Again?

The big question of the week that's on every gamer's mind: Who Won E3? Lots of speculation and debate have broken out on which developer or console maker held the best event for E3 2018.

When you get to the core of it, it's a silly question. Every developer is a little different. They produce content their way. They have games that don't compete with other companies. People who are loyal to the brand are already invested in the product. The presentations are about engaging new customers while reminding current buyers that more content is on the way. And trying to compare a Nintendo presentation to EA doesn't work. What Nintendo provides to it's audience will never be the same as EA.

Instead of trying to rank the presentations on "who won" or "who was the best," I'm going to review each event, provide pros and cons, and note if I'd watch the presentation again. If the event was engaging enough to re-watch it, then I think the developers did their job. So! Here is the grand overview of every E3 2018 presentation - a link to my full write-up will be accompanied with each event:

Electronic Arts - EA started the event 3 days early (per the new tradition) and highlighted the games that they felt best represented their brand. While the hardcore gamers may not believe this, EA Sports is a huge division of their gaming empire. So of course a portion of the program was going to focus on Fifa and Madden. But we did get some helping hands from BioWare and EA Originals to pad out the event.

Pros: The event went along at a steady pace and never felt too long, or too rushed. We got a little taste of everything that EA is working on. While we knew a new Battlefield was on the way, the additional content was nice to see. The small breakouts with the smaller studios under the EA Originals umbrella was quite refreshing. For all of EA's ire and ill-will, they are trying to be better with providing a platform for indie developers that may not have been seen by the general gaming public. Even allowing BioWare in was nice. Stage set-up was direct and not over-the-top on the flash and cheese. From a format stand-point, EA did what it always did - it's a tried and true method.

Cons: Awkward host and developer interactions. Some of this is first time jitters. Other times it's developers who have no right to be on a stage introducing content, and allow their nerves to get the best of them. Dudes - Please learn from Ubisoft's mistakes and never go into the crowd to hold breaks/interviews/memes. It ends up bad. The other con is that the event was very predictable. There weren't any new surprises or unexpected news. The choice of streamers to test out the mobile Command & Conquer game were random (people I never heard of), or borderline offensive (the Madden tournament winner is not the bastion of good sportsmanship). It was a flat presentation all around that left the crowd muddled (so little applause throughout).

Would I watch again? Nope. Not even a little bit. I'll wait on the Anthem videos to slowly upload on BioWare's channel and I'm already playing Unravel 2. That's all I needed.

XBox/Microsoft - Breaking with the traditional format that so many developers stick with (play a trailer, get the dev to talk about the game for 4-5 minutes and/or show off a questionable demo), XBox decided to throw a lot of games at viewers. For 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was a lot of content to absorb and more than what most would have expected from the company trying to rebound from slow console sales.

Pros: If there was an award for best stage set-up for the modern era, XBox would probably win it. Big. Bold. Lots of screens. Lots of computers. Shiny. They did good on the presentation of their stage. And provided some seamless transitions between the event stage and the video feeds with little interruptions to those watching the event online. In spite of the number of games, it was nice to see that Microsoft is trying to push to have more content on their system. Though it's not all exclusive, it does give gamers more options. It was nice to see a working version of Forza and that more content is being driven to the XBox Game Pass. We saw a first conformation that Devil May Cry is back, and we're getting some strange games like Gears Pop. was a lot of content. But, I think gamers appreciated the content and not the fluff.

Cons: It was a lot of content. I have a difficult time remembering the number of games that were dropped at this event and I'm continually going back through my notes. The problem with having so many games and little down-time between the trailers for an hour and 45 minutes (I'm not letting this go - there was no reason for the event to have been so long), is that our brains can only absorb so much information. We're going to start forgetting things that we were informed about a moment ago. That's not fair to the games being showcased, nor to the developers who have been working on the product. There needed to be more spacing between the content or a much shorter event. Nintendo and SquareEnix did a similar concept this year, but limited their events to 30 and 45 minutes respectively.

Would I watch again? Not a chance. I felt like I needed to take an Adderall after this conference.

Bethesda: With only recently dropping the news that another Fallout was in the works, a lot of eyes were on Bethesda to deliver the goods. Having been to QuakeCon, I know that their presentations can be quirky. Good, but unique. But it's also Bethesda, with a known history of being super quiet about everything they do until the last moment. So how will they handle an E3 event?

Pros: Being Bethesda, they did not do a traditional stage set-up. Instead they opted for a cat-walk like runway with stadium seating on both sides. Projectors lined the top of the stage for the audience to view content. It made for an interesting streaming experience - thank you to the camera operators for not breaking the 180 degree rule. There was much more talking here than the previous presentations, but the focus was on content. It wasn't fluff. We got more details about Fallout: 76 than I could have imagined. Very clear info about the future of Quake Champions and unexpected teasers for a new IP and The Elder Scrolls 6. It was worth-while content that was directed to the Bethesda fans. Also, Andrew W. K. Thumbs up.

Cons: Bethesda is the king of the awkward presenters. Some of those developers looked downright terrified to be on that stage. While some are fantastic, others looked like they needed to be consoled afterwards. They need to come up with a better vetting system on who should and should not present. I also found that some of the presentations were long-winded. Prey and The Elder Scrolls card games didn't need to be so long. Yes, it was nice to hear about updates, but the bantering and weird in-jokes could have been nixed.

Would I watch again? I think I could sit through the awkwardness for another go. In the end the presentation was fun. I was engaged enough to consider a second viewing.

SquareEnix: After a three year absence, SE came back with the intent to try and prove that they could continue to make a dent in the Western gaming market. Given the continual, and confusing, success of Final Fantasy XV, what does SquareEnix have in store for it's fans?

Pros: It was short and made for the home audience. Instead of wasting time and resources on creating a stage set-up to appease a few hundred people, they knew most of their fans would be watching from home. So the focus was on entertaining the people streaming the event. Which meant 30 minutes of trailers, with a few breaks from developers to provide more details about certain games, and lovely voice narration by Keith David. Good call there, SE. There was more depth provided to the new Tomb Raider title and Just Cause 4. We saw some gameplay and at least 2 new games, though no details on what they are going to be about.

Cons: It was dull. The content they highlighted were games we already knew were coming out or had been announced by Microsoft the day before. The trailers they played were the same ones shown the day before. Most of the updates listed for FF14 and Brave Exodus have been out for nearly a month. We got nothing new from this presentation. Short is fine, but if you're not going to bring the goods, then why bother? Everything was already announced/spoiled previously. And this is not about the FF7 remake. Anything else could have made this presentation better. Anything. If this is suppose to be the "future" of SE, they did not impress.

Would I watch again? No.

Ubisoft: If you had an Uncle Eddie, he is Ubisoft. This developer is full of crazy ideas that don't always come to fruition. They try so hard to do fun things, and fail at it spectacularly. They hold quirky events that never seem to go quite right.

I know that's a horrible way to look at a conference, but that's the joy of watching Ubisoft!

Pros: Ubisoft did what it did best and did not listen to the voices of gamers. Instead of opening the show with the latest Assassin's Creed game, they gave us a dancing panda. At least they followed it up with a nearly-4 minute cinematic trailer of Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Cons: The problem with Ubisoft's goofyness is that they are so predictable with their showcase. We knew before the stream began that they would talk about their banner franchises: AssCreed, Rabbids, Tom Clancy. We didn't have to bat an eyelash. And you could tell by the lack of reaction from the audience, they expected the same as well. While the opening was silly, it didn't make up for the rest of the ho-hum presentation.

Would I watch again? Nope. But thanks for giving us something with BGaE.

Sony: Sony would like to remind you that they are still very much in the club and want you to buy a PS4 even as the console nears the end of it's life cycle (already? I know!). But they took a very different approach from past years. One that will have polarizing opinions from gamers. You either liked this set-up or hated it.

Pros: The event began in the "Church of Sony" as I dubbed it. A large barn, wood walls, drop lights hanging along the beams, a simple stage, and one projector in the back. Very simple. This ended up being a replica of a room in The Last of Us 2 - which took us through a new trailer and in-depth gameplay. The idea of the presentation was to provide a "deep dive" look at 4 big titles coming to the PS4. Initially I thought "oh great, we're only talking about 4 games" but it ended up providing new announcements. The event was kept to under an hour and there was an intermission while attendees moved from the church/barn to a planetarium with super wide-screen views. The games highlighted were bold and unique. No two titles were the same and could capture someone's attention. We also got more answers and even more questions for Death Stranding. I'm all in for this.

Cons: While the concept was cool, the journey wasn't fully fleshed out. It ended up only being 2 rooms, not 4. Given the anticipation of Spiderman, I would have loved to have seen the audience in a crowded cityscape that replicated New York. Or in the mountains/vacant beach of Death Stranding. Stopping at 2 rooms gave unnecessary length to the presentation. My other big issue were the vignettes between some trailers. They were random and nonsensical. Created by Media Molecule (Little Big Planet) their purpose was unknown. It was never explained. It wasn't to announce a new project. Even the developers didn't know how their animations would be used (they spoke about their involvement on the post-show). Combined with the awkward pauses between trailers, it was an odd showcase.

Would I watch again? Maybe. I'm torn on this one because I think the concept of the presentation could have worked if they expanded it. Either go all in on the creativity or don't do it at all.

Nintendo: The last show typically goes to Nintendo. They have been tweaking their format over the past few years to shift towards an online audience (which is funny given how anti-online they have been for years until the Switch, and even that is limited). Like SquareEnix, instead of creating a presentation for a few hundred people at E3, they tailored the content for the majority of people watching at home.

Pros: 45 minutes and they used every second of it quite well. While the focus was mostly on Smash, the balance between Reggie's segments and the games provided a good flow of content. You didn't feel overwhelmed by the gaming news. It helped maintain a modest feeling throughout the presentation.

Cons: The presentation was very predictable. Looking back at my notes, I found that nearly everything I had guessed was shown during this event. New peripheral/accessory? We're getting a GameCube controller for Smash. Pokémon repeats? Yep. Mario Party? Ding. Fortnite on Switch? Bingo. You didn't have to be a mind reader to know what Nintendo was going to focus on. They gave their fans what they wanted, and nothing more.

Would I watch again? Probably for the Smash Bros. content. A lot of details were provided and I think a second viewing is needed to absorb it all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Nintendo Direct at E3 2018 - Final Screen!

The last big presentation for E3 is Nintendo. Today's conference should be a good round-up on the weird weekend of pre-E3 events. Nintendo has already announced a new Mario Tennis, 2 Pokémon games that will tie in with Pokémon Go, and a few games on mobile and/or other consoles are making their way to the Switch. So we're probably not going to get many surprises here. It's too soon for another Legend of Zelda game to be announced - same with a larger Mario title. I think the focus on the show is going to be more of Labo and some third-party games that will see new life on the Switch. Oh and Super Smash Bros. That's listed on their site as a topic. Maybe if we're lucky we'll get another accessory? More than likely Fortnite will come to Switch, another Mario Party will be announced, and probably a review of Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee.

Nintendo Direct will be live starting at 9am EST, 11am CST, 12pm EST.

11:45am mini-review: Turns out I was mostly right! While most of the presentation focused on the new Smash Bros. we did see a new Mario Party, Fortnite releasing at 10am PST today for free, and another quick look at Pokemon Let's Go. Mario Party appears to support mobile play for the most part, allowing systems to link with each other for co-op. New levels, new mini games, and hopefully some new characters.

Some more footage from Splatoon 2 is available, a couple of anime-esque RPG games - the usual Nintendo fare. Smash Bros. was the main attraction. The newest version will contain all fighters from the previous game, upgrades to the battle system (too much dodging will eventually slow down your character's dodge movements, 1v1 battles will do more damage versus an arena full of characters), ultimate changes, and 2 new characters - Ink Girl/Boy (Splatoon) and Ripley (Metroid). The biggest news is that the game is releasing December 7 this year and a GameCube controller will be released for players to purchase, with the Smash logo.

While it was fun to watch, Nintendo is still always predictable. They keep their presentations light, fun, and with some enjoyable surprises that are not Earth-shattering. And they know how to keep their content to the point! Thanks for not dragging the presentation on for an hour!

Gamers...that's it! No more presentations! Whew. The past 4 days have been extra busy. I think we could all use a nap.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sony E3 2018 Showcase

Up next we have Sony/PlayStation with their showcase of stuff and things! You can watch it live, and listen to the groovy tunes.

7:48pm: Tunes are still grooooovy.

7:56pm: Slightly different format for the first few posts, but here are my hopes with this showcase: 1 - That it will be only an hour long so I can do something else tonight before passing out into bed immediately after this. 2 - We'll get some exclusive games that are new titles and not another Uncharted. 3 -  Something from Square Enix that's new and not the same bad Kingdom Hearts III trailer. 4 - Please let this only be an hour long.

There is a strange animated short playing right now with 2 robots, a banana or a bean with a guitar, and someone stuck in a piano while something that sounds like Minions tries to sing...this might be weirder than Ubisoft's opening of the dancing panda.

- Now we're starting. Looks like they crowded everyone into a barn? Oh...a church? The Church of Sony? With nice microphone/sound setup. #sarcasm This feels like a 2002 presentation. How retro.

"We're going to take a deeper look at content we've talked about before." Lame.

- This is a very weird set-up and I don't know how well this will work. It's very much a "stripped down" barebones set. No fancy stage designs. A few strings of lights. A simple sound system. One giant projector on the stage. No filter between the stage and the audience. Most people are standing. A banjo player is accompanied by a very light backtrack with a flute and another string, but it's faint. Not sure if it's a song from a game or what it's for, but there's our show opener!

- Oh...okay the crazy ass barn makes sense now. It's tying in to a Naughty Dog game with a very similar look. Unfortunately with this set-up, the sounds is going to reverberate unless the feed cuts to a direct line to the audio as well as the video. So it sounds strange on the stream right now.

Looks like it's more The Last of Us Part II. Also, hi Glenn from 'The Walking Dead.' We miss you! From the cutscene we go right into gameplay. Much of this looks very familiar with the last game where sneaking is your friend. But instead of zombies, you're fighting against humans mostly. Combat seems more intuitive and making Ellie to be a superhuman. But without knowing what the gamepad layout is, we can only go off the video we were given.

- Sony is taking an intermission to move people to the next experience. It seems like they are moving people through multiple rooms that are themed to the games. That's my theory so far. In-between they have announcers/hosts to expand on what we've seen. Also, clearly, this is going to be long and we're not going to be done in an hour. 0/3 on hopes! It also looks like some additional trailers will be played during the intermissions so not all is lost - maybe we'll see something new! While Sony is not planning any big announcements or new titles, we should get some updates on some current games and projects we've known about for a while.

- Confirmed for God of War 4 will be a new game plus mode. Details will be released at a later date on the PlayStation blog.

-  Aside: I played Beat Saber at PAX. Congrats to the team for getting on the PS4 and for being recognized by PlayStation as one of their 5 new game announcements in their E3 countdown!

- Back at the presentation and in the second room! Ghosts of Tsushima. This room looks more like a planetarium with it's space and seating. A much larger projection screen. A man is playing the shakuhachi at the front with footage of a grassy field behind him. Cut to the projection screen and we see a lone warrior, possibly a samurai, during day nine of the Mongol invasion. He's overlooking a landscape and a town ravaged by the invaders. Visually, this is really beautiful. Borderline cinematic with film. And then the Samurai goes stealth! (Are gamers really into stealth these days? That's the trend I've been seeing with a lot with today's content.)

- The weird banana/bean showed up for a 5 second interlude. Unsure why. But okay Sony. You do you.

- A quick look at Control from 505 Games and Remedy. Inception meets game design. Set for a 2019 release. We can now confirm that Sony is giving us a bit more than 4 games and 4 themed rooms.

- Resident Evil! Sequence starts out with two men fighting in a super market and one ends up being a zombie, until our fateful hero steps in to save the day. The Raccoon City police logo was the first thing you could see on Leon's personage. Resident Evil 2 remake is coming out end of January in 2019! Back to Racoon City we go.

- From the creators of Rick and Morty, here's a game. Trover Saves the Universe. This is why we didn't get another season.

- Kingdom Hearts III again, but at least it's not the damn Frozen trailer. Sora, Donald, and Goofy are harassing Jack Sparrow from Pirates 3. So not only do you get to use a Gummi ship again, you can play on a pirate ship. This is officially way more ridiculous than previous games. I could give a pass on Tron, but when you start throwing in more live action movies, it gets silly. It's very clear that these SE/animated Disney characters do not belong in the same universe as Pirates of the Caribbean.

Also, the trailer stopped with the sound effects about 1 minute in. WHY? The sound mixing was atrocious. :( Oh, and there will be a limited edition PS4 with a collection of the 5 billion games affiliated with KH.

- Kojima time with Death Stranding and the Reedus fetus! We still don't know what this game is about. But we are getting some glimpses. Norma Reedus' character has the ability to see an invisible monster. He carries a lot of tactical gear and you're going to do quite a bit of exploring. We're seeing another character for the first time that isn't del Torro. Reedus character can somehow be reborn if he's caught by the invisible enemies. That might be where the fetus comes into play. Kojima, keeping it real...crazy.

- Quick teaser for Noah 2 that tells us nothing. More of the random animations.

- Onto Spiderman which continues to be one of the few superhero games that does well in spite of the flaws.Given the success of 'The Avengers' it's likely that this game will feature more humor and one-liners that are similar to Peter Parker's movie counterpart.

- Okay and....that's it? I think? That was weird and such an impromptu ending.

During the intermission I could have sworn that they said they were going to focus on deep dives of 4 games and it seemed like they were going to have 4 rooms with 4 stylish settings to take people into the games. That didn't happen. It was 2 rooms and that felt like a waste of time. They should have kept everyone in one space and not paused the event.

They also showed some other stuff - more than 4 games. We saw something different for Kingdom Hearts III, a confirm on Resident Evil 2 remakes release date, and Ghosts of Tsushima which I don't know what this is but I want to take photos of everything in this game.

It was an odd presentation. It had some weird transitions with the animations. But at least it was short and not a lot of fluff. It was content driven and provided us more weirdness of Death Stranding. Anything Kojima is an instant win.

But we're not done! Tomorrow it's Nintendo and the official opening of E3.

Ubisoft E3 2018 Conference

Ubisoft. Oh Ubisoft. You are so strange. Your E3 presentations are bizarre and unfocused. Sometimes they are downright offensive to all sense of sanity and taste.

Keep being you, Ubisoft.

The presentation began with Just Dance 2019 and a dancing panda. That's really all you need to know.

The big takeaways are a very shiny cinematic of Beyond Good and Evil II with a quick appearance of Jade. They also showed off some pre-alpha gameplay. The game can be played solo or in co-op, allowing the gamer to fly around in ships, on a jetpack, or walk up and smack enemies in the faces. The content they showed was very limited so we can't wait to see more. They have partnering with Joseph Gordon-Levitt with his project "Hit Record" to work in the game. Using collaborative efforts of Hit Record, you can contribute music to the game!

Of course there's Tom Clancy talk, The Division 2 after the XBox presentation dropped gameplay, more Mario Rabbids, and Black Horn, another pirate game. Pirates are cool right now.

Starlink is mashing up with StarFox to provide a weird collab. Because Ubisoft does that now. And of course AssCreed, this time in ancient Greece.

That's about it. Ubisoft is ho-hum on it's predictability with sometimes notable shiny moments. You know what you're going to get out of their event without having to bat an eyelash. Would like to see more BGAE though. Just saying!

SquareEnix E3 2018 Presentation

SquareEnix panel is live now at E3. Unfortunately I won't be able to blog this as it's occurring. I'm at work but I will be updating this post later this evening with the full rundown!

Right now I'm seeing a quick edit of the Patch 4.3 trailer for Final Fantasy XIV. Little old now but, hey. If you're not in FF14 it's shiny.

But wait...they threw down a Palico in the game. And, what's this? A Monster Hunter tie-in? What are you up to this time Yoshi P?

TLDR: No mention of Final Fantasy 7 or the anticipated Marvel: The Avengers. The brief pieces I was able to see were trailers that have already been shown at the XBox conference. It's content we knew was coming or was already out there: Just Cause 4, another Tomb Raider game, Kingdom Hearts III. Once again SquareEnix can't seem to make up it's mind on how to approach these events.

4:32pm: Okay! Recap time! SquareEnix's presentation: their return after a 3 year break was about as lackluster as EA's. With most of the narration performed by Keith David (Chaos from the Dissida series, or Goliath from Gargoyles if you're a 90's kid), the event was a speedy 30 minutes long and full of trailers with the occasional "dev chat" in between.

As mentioned previously, the content that Square chose to focus on has already been revealed either with announcements made earlier this year, or showcasing the same trailers from the XBox presentation. They started with Tomb Raider, which again looks like it'll be a nice raiding romp. Some game play was provided along with a crafting system. This appears to be more of a stealth game.

Immediately it jumps to Final Fantasy XIV latest patch: Under the Moonlight. With a Monster Hunter tie-in that has no details yet. Followed by 2 of the developers talking about Captain Spirit and how he fits into the Life is Strange universe. Than it's Dragon Quest XI. The Japanese version has been out for a while now, so there is nothing here we haven't already seen. There's a game called The Quiet Man which might be okay? Appears to be an action-oriented game? The problem is most of these are teasers and provide very little content to determine what's going on.

After that, Platinum Games teams up with SE again for Babylon's Fall. No details provided on what kind of game it is. We see a man slay another in really cool armor. That's it. This is followed by NiER: Automata the complete edition for the XBox One. And then Octopath Traveler, an RPG for the Switch that looks like Tactics but with a Harvest Moon face.

Several minutes are dedicated to Just Cause 4, with the team talking about how they wanted to make the environment even more destructive. Because that's exactly what the game needed: more violence.

Kingdom Hearts III was a disappointment in this presentation as it was the same trailer as yesterday. Even worse, the sound editing appears to have been completely intended. Maybe it was to focus on Utada's song playing over the dialogue? However, you couldn't help but focus on the questionable voice acting when there are no sound effects to accompany the game.

And with that, the presentation came to an end! 30 minutes of trailers with nothing new brought to the table. No FF7. No The Avengers. The same stuff we have already seen.

Square...what were you thinking? If you're trying to sell your status as a big name in the west, you failed. At the end of the presentation, the company prompts viewers to watch throughout the week as they make more announcements. Hopefully they are better than this event.

At the very least, the SquareEnix store is offering up to 80% off select titles until 6/18. That's something.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Bethesda E3 2018 Overview

Incoming Bethesda panel! You can watch it on Twitch.

Here's the recap:

- Starting the conference with a "here are the people of Behesda" to showcase that yes, developers ARE real people. Crazy!

- Pete Hines is happy that his team won the Stanley Cup.

- Rage 2 is first up, with a friendly jab at WalMart Canada for accidentally listing the product early. And look! Andrew W. K. is up to give us a musical interlude. This is already funny and way more entertaining then the last 2 presentations. Hope the audience enjoys Bethesda's randomness.

Awkwardness ensues after the song. Rage 2 was produced by Avalanche Studios with Bethesda helping back it. The second game takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, of course. Mutants have taken over and it's your job as Walker, the last Ranger, to fight back. Missions litter the open landscape with various enemies. Loads of weapons and vehicles will aid your quest.The game is boasting a seamless open world and semi-destructible environments. Think 'Mad Max' with the environment and Mercenaries 2 game play.

- The Elder Scrolls: Legends - the Bethesda card game. I tried this out at PAX and it was okay. The game is expanding beyond PC to be on all major consoles. And the promo is focusing on how addictive the game is. Interesting choice...

- The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset. This latest chapter was released last week, so if you're already playing the game you know what's going on. The MMO is surprisingly doing well with 11 million registered users, with a 1 million growth from the past year (note: it's registered, not active users). Some of the other games are peeking in here and there to add more depth to the world. It's a trailer for Summerset if you're not in the game now, well, there you go.

- Doom Eternal. I think this is the sequel to the new Doom. The game will be demoed at Quakecon. That's it! Details, done! Next!

- Quake Champions. The latest in the franchise has had a shaky start. People can trial it for the free-to-play version today. Some new characters and weapons have been added with an update to maps. Having seen this demoed at Quakecon last year I'm a bit skeptical on where this will go. But hoping for the best. Quake was one of my earliest arena games.

- Prey fans, you are getting a free update tonight. It includes story mode and survival mode. There will also be DLC in the future. Also, best use of 80's music ever for a trailer. Later this summer another mode will be introduced as a 5v5 Prop Hunt.

- Wolfeinstein Youngblood will push the story forward, telling the tale of BJ's twin daughters in  1980's France. A co-op game! Coming in 2019. That's all for now. Interested to see where this goes. Wolfeinstein Cyberpilot also announced as a new VR game where you can take over a Nazi cybersuit to, and I'm quoting  Pete Hines here, "f over Nazi's on every platform possible."

- Right now we're being trolled about Skyrim/Elder Scrolls by using an Alexa Amazon assistant.

- Okay. NOW it's Fallout: 76. Reiterating the content from XBox presentation's earlier today - this is a prequel to all previous Fallout games set in West Virginia. You're the first set of survivors that come out of the vault directly after the nuclear fallout. So far it's the same trailer shown.

Alright! We've got some starting game footage. It's reclamation day. You and the team have been underground for 25 years waiting for this day. The footage right now is showing you walking through to the opening of the vault and the open landscape. This leads to an open mountain landscape that doesn't look too bad from the first. You'll be sent to 6 areas to handle quests the Overseer provides you and the others. There are some new creatures and baddies to face.

Fallout: 76 is entirely online. Obviously there are loads of questions about this.

Your progression goes with you. The open world is meant to be inhabited by the players. We'll be able to shape the world how we want. Some of your fellow Survivors will be helpful and friendly. some will not. All while dodging the mutants of the wasteland! You can still play solo or play with a team. Standard content from past games are there such as crafting, building your own homestead/shelter with friends. Oh, and there are nuke sites on the map that you can interact with...yeah. Yeah. There will be so much chaos.

There will be a beta, but more importantly a collector's edition? Somehow that's more important. Anyway, you get a glow in the dark map of the new region. Some figurines to place on said map. And a helmet! No details on the beta, but it's best to look to the Fallout site to sign up.

Fallout:76 for a November 14th release. This. Year.

- Other Fallout news. Shelter will be available on PS4 and Switch - still free! Shelter is a fun game so I'd recommend downloading it. They are coming out tonight.

- Another new mobile game - The Elder Scrolls Blades. A first person RPG. It looks surprisingly well for a mobile game. Tap and swipe to move and attack. You can use abilities and spells while you dungeon crawl. There is also arena mode, where you can battle with other players. The primary mode is "town" where you can run through a story and upgrade the city. You can even visit your friend's towns. Their dream is to allow for the game to be played on multiple devices and allow all users to interact with each other. It will be free and you can register tonight for pre-order.

- Bethesda is wrapping up their panel with the "future" with a new IP. Starfield. Something space related. We got a space station opening up as the sun sets behind a planet...and black out!

- But oh wait. There's more! Here comes another The Elder Scrolls. Not Skyrim #5928. Number 6. Teaser trailer and a standing ovation by the crowd.

And with that, we are done! While it was a lot more talking than the other presentations, there was content that helped flesh out the game details. Which was very much appreciated. So far Bethesda is winning on the presentations, even with the awkward presenters.

XBox/Microsoft E3 2018 Presentation

Day -2, but really we need to stop counting because E3 no longer has a start date. So today's it's XBox/Microsoft and Bethesda. Here we go!

- Halo Infinite. Hey look. Another Halo game. And more of I don't care I gave up after game 3 because the series is done as far as I'm concerned. Moving on!

- Phil Spencer talks about what the presentation is going to be like, and it'll be a mix of new stuff and some notable companies. So far we've seen a trailer for Ori, a lovely visual cacophony, and now zombie samurai Sekiro, that looks vaguely like Onimusha.

- Bethesda is already on the stage with Todd Howard the game director. And a screen of Fallout logos in the background. Fallout 4 will be on XBox Game Pass starting today. Fallout 76 more content dropped - this is a prequel to all of the other games. You're the first to emerge from the shelters after the bombings. Taking place in West Virginia. Bethesda promises the game will be 4 times larger than 4 (heh).

- Aside, the "Pre-Order Now!" ads at the bottom of the screen are very distracting. Thanks XBox.

- Moving on to a game set in the Life is Strange universe about a young boy and his ability to tell crazy stories. Captain Spirit. A free download on June 26. Um...okay. This doesn't seem like a game but more of a visual novel. But sure. Okay. Let's roll with it.

-What even is this presentation anymore? I'm so confused on the randomness of the games, the content being shown...what?

- Okay. Trying to get my head back on to focus. Looks like a Terry Crews got his game in Crackdown 3. I don't know if it's actually him, but it sure looks like him as the main character!

- Nier: Automata is getting a full release on XBox. The crowd hasn't really clapped in the last 3 trailers.

- Current trailer has a very weird knocking noise in the background that doesn't sound intentional so it's becoming distracting. Again, still trying to focus! Metrro: Exodus: Okay. horror survival game that has a very "end of the world" feel to it with strange monsters. Detailed environments.

- Phil Spencer is in the audience. Oh no. Phil don't. Please don't. We all know this is a bad idea.

- Kingdom Hearts on XBox. Some actual gameplay footage with the 'Frozen' universe. Yep. Frozen. Because gamers. Love. Frozen. But it's not all bad! They did show some of Wreck It Ralph's universe, Tangled, and the Gummi ships are back! However, there is definitely something wrong with the trailer. There are no sound effects. Only dialogue. You can't hear any of the battle sounds. No key chain clinks. No movement or fabric rustles. XBox why? Fix this. :(

- Two updates are on the way for Sea of Thieves. New stories and expansions.

- At least XBox is throwing one trailer after another with very few interruptions in between. Up next is another look at Battlefield V and the story of the female character you can play in the game. Very brief. Maybe 5-8 seconds longer than the content we saw yesterday for her story.

- First trailer for the newest Forza Horizon 4. Taking place in Brittan with dynamic seasons (they dropped leaves into the audience to showcase autumn) in a shared open world. A live demo is taking place. A 60 fps mode will be available. Quick chat features allow you to group up with people you meet in the game. Pushing that game pass hard, Forza will be available on October 10 for PC, XBox One, and Game Pass.

- Microsoft has a new studio 'The Initiative' and the company has purchased 'Undead Labs' as well as 'Playground Games.' 'Ninja Theory' has been bought out. Lastly 'Compulsion Games' is part of the Microsoft family. Aka, Microsoft is boasting their assets and trying to expand their reach on game development.

- A few more repeats: We Happy Few, Tales of Vesperia Complete Edition, The Division 2: games we knew were coming out later this year or have been previously announced. The Division 2 takes place in DC after a virus outbreak that takes out most of the city. Appears to be more of a team-based online game versus solo content. The interface seems light for what the game is showing - the current demo is running off the game engine. The squad is picking up items, searching the area, fighting other human enemies with people chatting as if they were actually playing (but they're not, this is pre-recorded).

- Another push on XBox Game Pass. Awkward presenter aside, FastStart, a type of AI, will launch with some games to help learn how people play in order to help push games to consoles faster. Halo: Combat Evolved will be on the list later this year. Starting today The Division, Fallout 4, Elder Scrolls Online can be played on Game Pass. The audience is not impressed.

-Tomb Raider impracticality is back again with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It looks like it's much more crazy raiding antics, which is nice to see Lara getting back to her roots. More action more platforming.

- Something called Ession Might be Session. The first icon looks strange. Throwback to Tony Hawk?

- Okay. There are a lot of games XBox is throwing at us. It's nice. However, because it's so much there are some issues: 1 - it's difficult to keep up with all the content so you can't absorb what's going on. 2: in the rush to put so much out on the stage, we're not getting enough of a taste of each game to allow us to be invested. We need a breather.

- Black Dessert, an MMO of...something. Yep. There's too much now. My brain is not able to keep up.

- Capcom throwing down a very different looking Devil May Cry. 80's action movie throwback based on the design, one liners, and over the top cinematics. #5 has a different hero with a cameo from Dante. This looks like silly fun, and sometimes that's all a game needs to be. Even if you're not into DMC, be grateful for the break in the presentation!

- Cuphead DLC with a new playable character, more bosses, new levels coming in 2019.

- Tunic. Fox Link. That's all I see. Fox Link. Link, but a Fox. With a green tabbard, sword, shield, and breaking pots for rubies. Lovely design as a call out to the early RPG's top-down interface.

-Bandai Namco has a new production on the way mashing up some of the anime most of us Westerners grew up on: Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto. Into a fighting game. Because of course it'd be a fighting game. When you get down to it, Bandai produces a lot of fighting anime. Jump Force, set for a 2019 release.

- Another post-apocalyptic game. Dying Light 2. It looks like how you play the game and the choices you make - do you steal or do you help - will shape the "world" of the game. From the developer: a realistic parkour system, fluid controls/actions, and genuine consequences of your actions. Mirror's Edge with BioWare. Got it.

- Oh gawd. Battletoads confirmed. I might have to call it quits. Battletoads has destroyed my sanity thanks to GameStop.

- Just Cause 4 which looks suspiciously similar to the last game. So expect the same insanity, world-busting moves.

- Gears Pop. Yeah...Gears of POP form...Hey! Here's a great idea! Let's take a Mature game that's super gory and not safe for kids, and make it kid friendly. This studio has gone tone deaf. Oh, and Gears Tactics, a PC version of Gears but like Halo's tactic game. And Gears 5, because everything must have 5 games! If you're a fan of the series you're already sold. Enjoy!

- Phil briefly mentions Microsoft AI, cloud streaming, and that the team is working on the next console cycle before everything is interrupted by Projekt Red. Your friendly Witcher developer is giving us a look at Cyberpunk 2077. This game looks crazy amazing and I have no idea what it's about, but I want it.

Thankfully, THAT IS IT! That was an hour and 45 minutes and I'm exhausted. While seeing all the content is nice, the lack of breaks and being able to digest it all has made it difficult to enjoy the presentation. At least it was better than EA. Soon we'll have Bethesda on the stage and maybe we'll see some more of Fallout 76.