Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

Light post today because it's Halloween! Which means tricks, treats, costumes, and all that business. It's a fun day and my favorite holiday. Even with adulting and life getting in the way, I'm doing what I can to enjoy it.

The Guardian has a fun list of the 13 scariest video game moments that I am sharing today. Mostly because they listed the dogs in Resident Evil. No matter how many times I played that game, I still flinch when a dog busts through a window. It's a very simple scare tactic, but it works because it prays on your nerves. Sometimes all you need is simple to pull a scary trick.

And I'd argue with the Guardian that anything and everything in PT is scary. Not just the talking fetus. If only we had more then a demo.../sigh.

And if you're looking for some fun, scary games to play today, check out my Scare-tober series! Happy Haunting!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The $59.99 Pricing Game

What is in a price?

Er...Badly worded question. Shakespeare does not work in this situation.

$59.99 USD is the industry standard for new video games. That's the box, the disc, and sometimes the manual. The basic version.

Special editions usually go up to $69.99 - $79.99 with collector's versions at $89.00 - $119.99 with a various assortment of "extra" goodies. But most people will get the basic game. That price has not gone up in decades. Even Nintendo has followed through with the trend and raised their prices from $39.99-$49.99 to the $59.99 model.

When games are becoming much more time-consuming to develop, and questionable labor practices are brought to the table, would raising the price help offset some of these issues? Why are we stuck at this $59.99 price tag? Note, these are not prices made by the retailer, but the publisher. They end up controlling the final numbers.

The pricing of a video game is largely based off of market research and consumer perception on the value of the product. What are people willing to pay for, before they decide to buy?

Nintendo games were always considered a better value because they were under that $59.99 price tag. However they were also considered "family friendly" and meant for consumers with smaller budgets. These were games that looked lower quality due to visuals and processing power (that isn't to say that they are bad games - this is about consumers perceptions). Where as products like Assassin's Creed: Unity looked like $60 games. People will only pay what they think a product is worth. With the Nintendo Switch, people are finally feeling that Nintendo's games are worthy of that "new" price tag. How one looks at a game will determine it's value. Publishers and developers know that they can't exceed that limit if they expect the game to sell.

$60 is also still quite a lot of money. That can easily cover a week's worth of groceries for a family of 2-3 (4 if you're crafty with your cooking and coupons), pay a monthly gas, water bill, or cell phone bill. That's not money you can easily spend. Unfortunately the pay scale in some countries (hint, hint, USA) has not kept up with today's market. Prices are going up; pay is not. Spending $59.99 on a video game is still considered a lot of money to the majority of consumers. I have a good job and make a decent amount, and I still find $59.99 a high amount to pay for 1 item. Even knowing full well that the game makers are putting much more into the end product. But if people are not willing to pay more than $59.99, they are not going to no matter how much they want the product. There is a cap on what consumers will pay. And it's still $59.99.

Which leads into the value of the product. Gamers as a whole have a general consensus that the value of today's games does not exceed the $59.99 price. Why? Unfinished games are released at launch. Loot boxes. Season passes. DLC. Digital distribution. The majority of gamers understand that we're eventually going to spend more for the final product, upwards of $80. One way or another, developers and publishers are making their money. We're only willing to spend $59.99 and not a penny more - not until game makers give us finished products at launch.

$59.99 is here to stay. Only when economic and business practices change will we see the shift to higher pricing.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

What a long week this has been. Exhausting too. I may never understand what it's like to be a game developer, but the past two weeks it sure has felt like I've been worked to the bone like one. Guess that means it's time for the weekly link round up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week. I'll do my best to not include Rockstar...but no promises.

- The Library of Congress has created a number of exemptions to help with video game preservation! In an 85 page ruling, which included a number of software pieces ranging from different industries, gives a work-around for Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allowing games to be archived in the name of history. Particularly with single player games and MMO's. If a person legally possess the game's server code and local code, they can use that information to preserve the content. There is a lot to unpack with this update, but it's a big win for archivists!

- Christopher B. Quinn, a state representative for Pennsylvania, is proposing legislation to add a 10% tax to video games that have violent content. Instead of focusing on health care for the state's citizens, or better educational services for children, this is what he is concerned about. Wow. Quinn believes that the recent rise of school shootings in the U.S. tie in with the increased sales of violent games. He cites a study from the National Center for Health Research to corroborate his story. Though it should be pointed out that the study did also state that other factors need to be taken into account to determine why violence occurs (lifestyle, environment, access to weapons, etc). The legislation would target M and AO rated games, but could potentially extend to E (Mario stomping on turtles could be considered violent). The tax would go into a new "Digital Protection for School Safety Account" where the money would be used to improve school safety - whatever that may be. The Media Coalition is currently fighting this, citing supreme court cases and the 1st Amendment as reasons why the law can't pass.

- Keith Burgun, lead game designer at Dinofarm Games asks, how does anyone find time to play games? I ask this myself every week. 12 hour work days will do that to a person. But if you're struggling to figure out where your place is in the gaming world, as a fan or a developer, you're not alone. Give the op-ed a read!

- Need something to play this Halloween instead of answering your door for trick-or-treaters? Here's a list of 4 games to keep you busy. Swap out Until Dawn with Stasis instead. That one is much scarier.

-At least The Nerdist did something different: 13 Spooky Video Game Songs Perfect for Halloween! Not at all what I was expecting, and some of these will be added to my playlist for the holiday.

- Now This News has another one of those click-baity videos on how you can make loads of money by playing video games! Yes, it's cringy. Yes, it provides no helpful advice. Yes, it makes it seem like everyone should be able to easily get on an Overwatch League team without any issue! But! One thing this video does okay-ish-ly is lay out how Twitch and YouTube act differently in revenues. As well as highlight what Twitch affiliates can receive with streaming versus average donations. It's a very cursory glance and provides no details, but at least it did something different from other click-bait videos. At the very least, watch it for a good laugh. 

- Finally, for another Halloween tale, Game Revolution has a list of the most "disturbing" video game urban legends. Some of them involve arcade games from the 1980's. Others are about main characters from big franchises. All of them weird and not true, but it doesn't make them any less interesting to read!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rockstar Crunch Time Continued

By now you may have read over Jason Schreier's huge article covering Rockstar "crunch time" practices. If you haven't, spend your lunch break giving it a go. It's worth your time.

After the reaction to the New York Magazine interview with Dan Houser, Rockstar made an unexpected move. The company relaxed their social media policies to allow employees to talk about life at Rockstar and the making of Red Dead Redemption 2. This was a big deal. Rockstar tends to stay secretive about everything and anything. Their non-disclosure agreements are iron-clad. To have any information come out of the developer that isn't through official channels is unheard of.

The lift on social media allowed current team members to talk about their time at Rockstar and what the "crunch" environment is "really" like. The company even allowed Schreier a chance to visit the New York office and interview employees at several of the Rockstar branches in what he says is "one of the strangest interview experiences I’ve ever had." This was unmitigated access that we haven't seen from Rockstar before. But even with their "tell it like it is" policy, you can be certain that a number of employees are going to remain quiet or only speak on the condition of anonymity. Which is exactly what happened. Schreier accepted any and all e-mails from current and former employees talking about the work conditions in the company. And many requested to remain anonymous. The fear of being fired was too great.

Reading through the article, it's a mix bag. You'll find some employees who are trying to support Rockstar. They understood being part of the team meant sometimes working 50-60 hours a week. Others love what they do, but do not see the crunch model being sustainable when people are putting in 80 hours. But as Schreier mentioned, the common theme among all of the employees is that there is a perception in the company that you needed to be visible in the office at all times. Even if you're doing nothing. Even if your work is done for the day. Even if you have already put in 70 hours for the week. If you are not present for the Houser's to see you, you may as well not be counted on the payroll. Which means long evenings and weekends to have face-time with the bosses.

This type of behavior can affect your status in a company; your pay, your compensation, and your bonus (which we found out is provided to all current staff members based on a game's sales). The perception at Rockstar seems to be 'if you are not seen by the CEO and the higher-ups on evenings and weekends, you're not invested enough in the game to be there.'

While the company stance may be that none of the overtime is mandatory, a person is going to be scared into it if this is the working environment.

Reading through the article, I couldn't help but cringe. There were a number of employees who seemed okay with the practice because "it's Rockstar and that's what they do." And for some departments, that crunch mode may not be expected. While others know it's not healthy and will destroy the employees, but they still enjoy working for Rockstar. Why? Because it's Rockstar. It's a company that still values creativity in a market over saturated by copy-paste product. You're not punished for thinking outside of the box...but you might be if you don't put in 60 hours on evenings and weekends. Some people are willing to accept the destructive behavior knowing they are working for one of the best developers. They want to make something great, even if it kills them. Their art is more important than their sanity.


The crux of the problem is that art is not valued as a job.

Society sees art as a "fun thing to do" or a hobby. Slap paint on a canvas. Type up a few paragraphs for a book. Photoshop a photograph. It's all for fun, and if you're doing it for fun then it's not work, right?

Art is challenging. It is physically and mentally exhausting. Whether you paint, draw, write scripts, develop games, sew, it doesn't matter. You're still doing a job and taxing your body. Try sitting behind a sewing machine for 100 hours a week mending hems and attaching buttons, tell me how fun it is.

Working beyond one's limits will damage their mind and body. There is no reason for Rockstar, EA, Telltale Games, to enforce crunch or aggressively nudge people to work so much. As impatient as gamers are, we will wait it if that meant employees don't have to work 80 hours a week. Studies have shown again and again that even your most dedicated workers will produce low quality content if they are doing more than 40 hours a week. We get sloppy. Plain and simple.

I've been in my own "crunch" mode since early July, putting in 60-70 hours a week. And I. Am. Exhausted! I hit burnout a month ago and it's not letting up. I don't want to put in this extra time, but I don't have a choice. The work has to be done or I risk being fired. I know I'm getting messy in my work that the quality has dropped (which makes me unhappy, but that's another issue). Do I still like what I do? Absolutely. I enjoy my job. I like where I work. This period of time will end eventually. But this type of behavior shouldn't happen ever.

Management, not only in the gaming industry, needs to change or recognize and act on how crunch is perceived to ensure people don't work themselves to death. There is no benefit to working more than your allotted hours. There is no reward. There is no pat on the back. You gave more of your life away to a business instead of being out there and...well, enjoying life!

People can love what they do at 40 hours a week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Trion Worlds Sold and Employees Laid Off en Masse

Another game developer has laid off the majority of it's workforce, but unfortunately the news cycle has already pushed it aside and that's unfortunate.

Trion Worlds, the company behind Rift, Defiance (now Defiance 2050), and Trove has been reportedly sold to Gamigo, a German company focused on free to play MMO's in Europe and North America. It's been reported that only 25 of the 200 plus employees were offered positions to stay. The reasoning for the sale and the money involved is unknown. While it's possible that the company was faltering and needed a cash infusion to continue, more than likely, the CEO Scott Hartsman found this to be the next step for the company. Unfortunately, it also means that a lot of people were laid off, with severance (according to Gamasutra). Instead of absorbing the company, it looks like Gamigo is planning to take the assets and shut down shop.

Formed in 2006, Trion has always been an odd-ball in the gaming market. They were just large enough to put out content with consistent quality, and were best known for their MMO's. But small enough to not be on the radar for big companies to gobble up - even though their offices were across the way from EA in Redwood City, California. With two offices in California and Austin, TX, Trion has had a steady customer-base. Annual revenue is believed to be over $50 million, which is still good for a company of that size.

The announcement of the sale started with a Discord post by Trion's Director of Community Relations Linda "Brasse" Carlson. The company posted an official response soon after regarding the sale, but no other details have emerged. It appears that games which are active will still receive support and updates. For how long, it's unknown.

But the days of Trion Worlds is no more. Another small developer will move out of our consciousness and be replaced by the same content once more. While we hope that the severance provided by Trion/Gamigo will help the employees, without knowing the details we can only speculate the circumstances. Best of luck to the team in their future careers, wherever they may go.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2 Skipping Over Indie Game Stores

Rockstar needs to get ready to respond to this:

In a report posted by Kotaku yesterday, several small/independent game stores will not be receiving Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) until November 7th; a week after the game's release. While a week of waiting may not seem like a big deal, this is a game with years of hype and people pre-ordering it the moment it was officially announced October of 2016. Game stores like the large retailers such as Best Buy and GameStop down to the family-owned, one-shop stores were ready for customers.

Until this week, when a number of small businesses were informed by their distributors that RDR2 will be absent from their shipment until November. No explanation has been provided, and neither Rockstar nor its parent company Take-Two Interactive have responded to Kotaku's request for comment.

Zach Gieg, owner of a small chain of game stores in Pennsylvania, spent thousands on decorating his businesses to market the game. With this delay, customers are going to cancel and buy at the bigger retailers or download online. Gamers are rarely willing to wait when it's a big title. Gieg believes his stores have over 1,000 pre-orders, which is roughly $60 grand in sales. But if those games are not on the shelves October 26th, his customers will go somewhere else.

This isn't limited to one small shop. Independent retailers in Colorado, New York, services ilke GameFly, even the stores in my city are repeating the same mantra: we're not getting RDR2 until November. Which means lost sales, lost revenue, and hurting local businesses.

Daniel Mastin, owner of Video Games New York, commented to Kotaku that he believes it's a concern over small stores breaking street date - selling the game before it's official date. Derek Holland, who manages a game store in Colorado, says it might be the IGN rumor that the physical game is on 2 discs, and there may have been a delay in printing. As such, the small sellers got cut first. Another rumor is that Rockstar is trying to control the flow of distribution, and possibly push people to buy digital versions so they receive a bigger cut of sales.

Without a direct response from Rockstar or Take-Two, this is all speculation. We don't know why a number of small game stores were excluded from the RDR2 release date. If it's a street-date issue, then deliver the games to the stores on October 26th. If it's a manufacturing issue, delay the game until it's 100% ready. You're Rockstar. Your fans will understand.

At the end of the day, this will hurt independent game stores. Gamers are not going to wait a week to play RDR2.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

New Loot Crate Program to Feature Indie Games

Loot Crate, the mystery bundle of all things geek, has launched a new service to help provide indie games another platform to be noticed. For $10 a month, Loot Play provides users with 5 downloadable games from independent studios.

Currently Loot Play is only available in the US and does require the customer to have a Steam account for PC play. Codes are sent on the 17th and 18th of each month. It's likely that each month will have a theme, like the current Loot Crate system. Customers will be treated to a preview of one of the games through the company's Twitch and Mixer streams. Loot Crate is partnering with Chrono.gg, a key reseller, to provide this new service.

The first game that will be part of the bundle is Crossing Souls, developed by Fourattic and published by Devolver Digital. If you're a fan of independent work, this sounds like a great way to get your hands on games for a good price!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Epic Games Sues Popular YouTuber

Time Magazine is reporting that Epic Games is suing a popular YouTuber for selling "cheat versions" of their game Fortnite. And you know it's a story when Time writes a story on it!

Sarcasm aside...Brandon ‘Golden Modz’ Lucas is the primary defendant in the civil complaint. The lawsuit was filed in North Carolina's Federal Court and alleges that Lucas, along with Colton 'Excentric' Conter, has violated copyright on the game, breach of contract, and tortious interference (when one person intentionally damages someone's contractual agreement with a third party for monetary gains). You can read the full legal write-up here.

A spokesperson with Epic Games released a quick statement: “When cheaters use aimbots or other cheat technologies to gain an unfair advantage, they ruin games for people who are playing fairly. We take cheating seriously, and we’ll pursue all available options to make sure our games are fun, fair, and competitive for players.”

Lucas is claiming he is being falsely targeted, in a video he posted 3 weeks ago. His response has been "other YouTubers and content creators do it too." Arguably, not the best defense and does not scream 'innocence.' YouTube has requested Lucas pull the videos in question that do not meet Epic Games' guidelines. Epic's attorneys want to receive revenue from the cheats Lucas sold, as well as paying damages and court costs.

The outcome, regardless of which side wins, is to scare people from cheating. The case is likely to favor Epic Games. It might be in Lucas best interest to settle out of court so he doesn't lose his bank account.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Crunch Time, Rockstar, and The Response

The internet is bustling with comments from Rockstar Games after an interview (originally published by New York Magazine, and re-posted on Vulture) with some of the figure-heads of the studio about their latest title, Red Dead Redemption 2.

“We were working 100-hour weeks” commented Dan Houser, one of the co-founders of Rockstar.

The reporter did not press Houser on the working conditions, and the rest of the article reads as though Rockstar is gloating about the work-intensive culture. 'Only those who are dedicated enough are willing to put in the time to improve the game. Those who do 40-60 hours do not care about their job.'

Given the high-scrutiny of the gaming industry with the voice actors strike, the working conditions of developers, and Telltale Games firing most of their staff, 100-hour work weeks is not the topic one should boast about.

Since then, Houser has issued a statement to multiple media outlets that this only applied to a handful of people. You can read the full response here. The summary is that Houser and some of senior management put in the time, but they don't expect everyone at Rockstar to do the same. Though the addition of this sentence "Across the whole company, we have some senior people who work very hard purely because they’re passionate about a project, or their particular work, and we believe that passion shows in the games we release" does not temper the situation. It's still insinuating that if you don't put in the crunch hours, you're not "passionate" about the job. Which leads into the slippery slope of crunch time.

Response on social media was swift after the initial interview released. Some former employees called out Rockstar that the crunch mode was a scare tactic used to keep you employed. Others pointed out that the company should hire more people to reduce the need for crunch - given Rockstar's massive success over the years and continued sales of GTAV, this seems incredibly reasonable! Some are keeping the #BoycottRockstar hashtag trending to prevent additional sales of Red Dead Redemption 2. Which others in the industry, such as the talented David Gaider, have pointed out could harm employees in the long run.

So what is the fix to all of this? Is there a fix?

For starters, the gaming industry needs to catch up to 21st century labor practices. While business may think they can skirt the law, they can't. This mindset of "do the work because you love video games" needs to stop. This is what will destroy the industry.

Artists need to be paid. All of them.

Overtime needs to be compensated and regulated.

Free pizza does not negate 14 hour work days for 7 days a week.

Studies have shown that output and quality suffer in multiple areas after 50 hours of work. Even if you "love" what you do, everyone needs to take a break. Recharge. Relax. Start back refreshed. Working continually will only produce a lower-end product.

The best way to stop how companies handle crunch time and provide appropriate labor rules is for game developers to unionize. It's one of the few industries without a union. Yes, it's a scary prospect. Developers would be risking their jobs and livelihoods. But they are already doing that now by continually working 60, 80, 100-hour weeks. At least having a union would save one's mental state.

Unfortunately some of the burden does fall on to the employees to speak out when they see crunch time abuse. This is the tough part, because it's not easy to stand up against your boss/manager/supervisor. You could be written up, lose your job, lose your pension, and potentially not be able to work in the industry ever again (see Konami blacklisting former employees). It's a scary proposition, and disgusting behavior by the industry, that you could be pushed out for doing the right thing. Or have your future prospects cut short and not be allowed to advance in the company. But it'll take a few brave people to start the process. Once it begins, change can happen.

What we as consumers and journalists can do is call out these companies on their bad behavior. Demand for more transparency. Stop chastising the development team for doing their job, and start holding management, CEO's, and VP's accountable. Boycott early, not when the game is about to release. Keep the conversation going and ask for better working practices for everyone.

While this moment will likely not result in any loss for Rockstar, it is a topic that we need to continue to push until change happens.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

What's this? It's Monday! There isn't a round up on a Monday! Blasphemy I say!

Well the internet has graced us with a number of articles over the past few days that it would be a crime to not share them. So enjoy this early Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet.

- Video game preservation has always been a challenge, and no one group has been able to be the end-all, be-all of resources. Instead, many of the projects are collaborations of dedicated fans who want to see the legacy of gaming live on. Check out this IGN article about two such groups that are keeping KOTR2 and The Sims Online active.

- GamesRadar asks if video game streaming will ever be successful? Since 2010, companies have been attempting to become the Netflix of video games - offering a wide library of content for a monthly fee for gamers to play through an internet connection. No downloads. No data offloads. Just gaming. With Microsoft announcing xCloud, can there be a future in streaming for sales?

- ScreenRant created a list of 12 overpowered weapons that hurt their games, and 13 weapons that saved others. And yes, this is like all ScreenRant lists - bad, sad, and not well thought out. I mean, the energy sword in Halo is amazing! It is the perfect close-combat weapon and in no way overpowered. Just enough to take down an enemy's shield and knock them out. It's also a very iconic design that you'll find merchandise and replicas of it with ease. And according to the list, the speed shoes ability in Sonic hurt the game. Ugh. This writer needs to play games again and realize how wrong they are.

- As regulators in China continue to hold off on approving new video game licenses, the freeze is now expected to last until next year. Tencent Holdings is in a precarious position and could lose a lot. The Chinese company is the largest business in the world, and practically the sole purveyor of video games in China. A number of the largest developers having working relationships with Tencent to edit and distribute their titles into the country. It's estimated that the company has lost almost 200 billion in market capital due to the stagnating sales in China. What does this mean for Tencent? Mostly likely a lot of layoffs to help keep the company from bleeding too much money.

- 'The Billion Dollar Game' is a new documentary that is in production, which will focus on everything Grand Theft Auto V. The game that continues to sell with no end in sight. UK director Rob Ryan and produced by Salon Pictures will helm the project. Little details are known about the filming, but hopefully it's better than the BBC made-for-tv film 'The Gamechangers.'

Friday, October 12, 2018

Extra Life Pimp Out

I am interrupting the Weekly Link Round Up to talk about Extra Life. While I won't have a donation page this year, my brother and some of our friends will be participating. I want to help out as best as I can.

So! For Saturday and Sunday, any bits and new subs that I receive on Twitch will be going directly to Extra Life. Any money that I would have received from Amazon/Twitch will instead go directly to Extra Life. Hopefully it's a big contribution, but even if it's not, even penny helps.

Join me tomorrow and Sunday for live streaming of games and cosplay!

Tier 1 Subscribers get access to the PimpHat emote and a darn cute icon to let people know that yes - you are extra amazing because you donated.

Or if you want to donate directly to Extra Life, consider sending your money here or here.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Video Game Gambling Coming to a Casino Near You

While we continue to debate if loot boxes are a form of gambling, casinos are continuing to grow and change out machines to reach the 18-35 crowd. At the recent Global Gaming Expo the highlights were "video game" machines. Games like Soulcalibur II and a Steve Aoki-branded DJ machine caught attention. These gambling units are designed with a younger customer in mind: one that wants to reap rewards fast and doesn't want to waste time waiting. Which means more money spent in a shorter time frame, resulting in higher profit for the casinos.

"Young gamblers today don’t have the patience to put hours into a table until they hit a big win," says Dan Stromer of Aces Up Gaming. And he's not wrong. Watch any Twitch stream and check the viewer count. You'll quickly see people leave if there is a lull in content, or if they're not receiving any emotional/physical rewards for their time. There are hundreds of thousands of other streamers they can watch instead.

So you'll find that many of these video game machines will have higher payouts and more bets per sessions, some as high as 2 per minute and 88-97% of wagered money paid back to players. That's a good deal when you compare it to the 5 cent slots or spending hours on poker. Even if you walk away from a video game unit breaking even, you still feel more accomplished in 10 minutes than if you had spent 4 hours in front of a roulette wheel.

Many of these games are straight forward - fight against opponents, touch the screen to grab fish for a 'Shark Week' themed machine, strum to the beat and dodge the wrong notes while you DJ - the interactive elements make the games feel more engaging than Black Jack. And that's how the casinos keep your bum in the seats.

This is the future of gambling. As the population ages and the 1980's-2000's babies grow further into adulthood, casinos need new ways to keep their profits up. Tapping the video game market is the way to go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sony E3 Animations Explained!

Remember all those months ago at E3 during the Sony Showcase, when we were confused by the mini-animations that acted as transitions between game play footage? Those pieces were created by Media Molecule (Little Big Planet) and we have answers as to what the heck those things were! James Batchelor of Games Industry.biz spoke with studio director Siobhan Reddy about their new game Dreams.

The game is similar to Little Big Planet in that it's a tool to create your own content. You design the characters, the lights, the sets, the music - everything with the flick of your wrist using the motion controllers of the PS4. The idea seems to be that creating video games shouldn't put up a barrier between money, coding, and artistic expression. Media Molecule wanted to make the process as easy as picking up a guitar and plucking a few strings; even if you don't know how to play an instrument you can still strum a cord.

Interestingly, Dreams has been on the developer circuit for at least 2 years but wasn't properly shown to the public until E3. Albeit in an odd way, it was something to let people know that the developer was still in business.

Will this "game" have a "game-mode" similar to Little Big Planet? It's difficult to ascertain right now. The game will have tutorials to give users an idea of how to use the controls, but it seems like everything is dependent upon the player as to how to use it. Media Molecule has added weekly challenges and assignments to make the game more welcoming to new players who are unsure of what to create.

Give the article a full read-through to see what MM has been up to. Dreams currently has no release date, though the trailer states 2018.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Let's Bring Back Nintendogs!

In the age of remakes and reboots, there is one franchise that I hold dear to my little-gamer heart. So much so that it's one of the few games that I wish would be reinvented for the Nintendo Switch: Nintendogs.

Yep. The pet simulator that allowed kids and teens in 2005 to adopt and care for their own digital dog. It included all the necessary pet actions: Feeding. Taking it out on walks. Collect fun Nintendo hats. Buy dog toys. Train your dog. Enter dog shows. The works.

It was as close to owning a real dog as one could get. You could even use the Nintendo DS built in microphone to call your dog's name and it would rush to you, paws tapping and clawing at the screen while it softly coos for your attention.

This game was amazing and it still is. All versions of Nintendogs (each game allowed you to adopt different breeds) sold over 23.9 million copies on the DS, making it second to New Super Mario Bros. The last version released was in 2011 for the 3DS, Nintendogs + Cats. It didn't score as well as the original with critics, and lacked the styling and finesse of a finished product, but it did well enough to keep the brand in Nintendo's lineup. The cute dogs can be seen in toys and Smash Bros. as an item to distract other fighters.

I miss Nintendogs. While I could download a similar game for my cell phone or the original on the 3DS, the look and feel would not be the same. Nintendogs had an ease and care to the product that you won't find with other simulators. Your digital pet being able to recognize their name when you called to them was astounding. Ace Attorney rarely accepted my shouts of "Objection!" But I could call for 'Sir Barksalot' and he would come dashing to the screen without hesitation. The details on the fur, paws, and ears helped marked distinguishing characteristics with each dog. I also appreciated that you could see the differences with each breed and it wasn't a mesh-mesh of dog parts.

Teaching your dog tricks was a challenge, because it is difficult in real life. Some dogs will take to training much faster than others. It depends on their personality and disposition. Keeping your dog fed and clean required your devotion. This wasn't a game that you could pick up and throw away after a few days. You had to give the attention your digital pet deserved. And it was fun! It made one feel accomplished to see their pet grow. Your heart leaps every time they succeed at a new trick. Your face lights up as your dog learns to go outside to use the bathroom, instead of messing up the house. Each new task they learned was a reward for your dedication.

Nintendogs would be the perfect game to bring back into our lives for a Switch revival. We all could use a little love from a digital pet, and take it with us where we go. Hook up another Switch and you can play with your friend's dog. Have a pet party! Or if you're out walking with your Switch in your bag, your digital dog is doing their daily walk too. Download your pet and take it with you on the road to Nintendogs pet shows and compete with other digital dog owners for prizes. The possibilities are endless for this game with the Switch. Everyone could use the love of a dog. It may not be a real animal, but the benefits of having a pet are worth it - even in digital form!

If there is any game that needs a reboot, Nintendogs is it. And I'll be the first in line to buy it.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Walking Dead Games May Survive the Fallout

As the Telltale Games saga continues, another developer is planning to pick up the mantle for The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Announced yesterday, Skybound Games has reached a deal with Telltale to produce the remaining episodes of the series. This was further confirmed during a panel at New York Comic Con this weekend by Skybound founder Robert Kirkman.


According to Variety, Skybound plans to work with members of the original Telltale team to complete the story. Speculation and rumors aside, it would be appropriate to have the writers and content creators back on board. Assuming they would allow it - the way they were fired from Telltale would leave a sour taste. "For the love of the game" will not be enough for them to return.

Few other details have been provided. A post on Skybound has a general overview of the announcement and the team wanting to "do right by you" the gamers.

Skybound is an interesting team, in that they have never used in-house developers to create their games. Everything they have produced has been outsourced. But it's clear to the crew and to fans that the story of Clementine needs to have an ending, even if it's going to be a bumpy ride to the end.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Friday is here, which means another Weekly Link Round Up to stimulate your brain cells. Maybe this round up will blow your mind. Probably not, but it's something we can hope for! Here is a collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week:

- Paste Magazine asks are video games too long? With the recent release of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, people are easily going to pour 40-50 hours into the game. But said game's "story" may only take 8-15 hours. The rest of the content is filler to keep you engaged. Ultimately a game is what you make of it, and if paying $60 for 40 hours of fun is "too long" then I wonder what the writer deems as "too short." Because I think I'm getting more than my money's worth when a game is over 40 hours.

- Mashable ranks the top 10 best video game villains. Well, it's not really the "best" villains but more of 'who is the best at being the worst.' This is a really dumb list. I can let Trevor from GTA5 slide as  villain, but the list makes no sense. Mario is at number 2. Mario! And Nathan Drake. And Lara Croft. Based on Mashable's definition of villain "[t]he more evil and detestable, the better." What the hell evil deeds has Wander from Shadow of the Colossus ever done? Taking down monsters is a good thing! Ugh. We need more people to report these crummy lists so they stop appearing.

- GamesRader looks into the realm of professional photography in video games, or VRP (virtual reality photography). Speaking with IRL pro photographer Leo Sang, the article covers the growing art behind in-game photos and how developers are adding more tools to allow the user to have full control of the world for that perfect shot. It's quite an inspiring read!

- Leaked footage from a possible Harry Potter game has hit the internet with some intriguing questions. The content comes from a Reddit user who claims he was in a focus group when the video was captured. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has not commented on the leak and it's possible that this game may never see store shelves. But the possibilities behind a big-budget Harry Potter game where people can create their own character, choose their house, and live in the realm is an exciting prospect.

- Mayim Bialik, neuroscientist, author, and actress who you current TV fans may know from The Big Bang Theory, recently posted a video about her "manfriend's" obsession with video games. And initially it annoyed her that he was spending more time on his cell phone with a game than with her. Makes sense. Until she tried out a game for a promotional campaign she was involved with, and began to understand the appeal. It helped reduced some of her stress and allowed her to see that they can be fun. The video is short and cute, and hopefully helps put a different spin on how gaming can help a relationship, even if you try it once and decide you don't like them.

- Friendly reminder that director and horror-legend John Carpenter likes video games. He tweets about his latest playthroughs quite often.

- The Week asks if the video game industry is going to be the next to collapse in the economy? Short answer: nope. It's still incredibly popular, and even studios that do not make much money are still producing enough profit to keep the machine going. The Week cites Telltale Games as their example of the industry failing, but we know there were a number of shady things going on behind the scenes with upper management that cause the business to close. It's not a sign that the industry is going to die. If anything, it's a signal that unions for developers are needed.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

The Last Jedi and Russian Bots. Welcome to 2018!

I wasn't going to talk about this, but now I have to after I was pulled down into the most ridiculous rabbit hole ever. I blame an acquaintance for bringing this into my field of vision, but it is so stupidly fascinating that I couldn't stop and look away. And now I might be developing a migraine from this insanity.

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.'

According to a select few, the reason that the movie received negative attention is due to Russian bots.

I'm going to let that sink in. Because my goodness. What. A. Bold. Claim.

News stories published this week from outlets such as The Verge, Market Watch, and even The Hollywood Reporter have put their proverbial marbles out there to solidify the rumor that Russian bots harassed Rian Johnson (the director) by posting negative tweets about the movie; thus causing social dissent among 'Star Wars' fans to hate the film. How do these news outlets know it's Russian bots? It came to light this week via a study from Morten Bay, a recent doctoral graduate who studied the thousands of tweets made about the film during it's initial release. He wanted to see why the movie was getting high critical marks but very low user reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. By making a statement that Russian bots were involved, the internet had a field day.

If this isn't the dumbest rumor you have read all year, I would like to know what tops it. Please comment with a link to the rumor. I would love to see it.


While The Washington Post tried to make sense of the craziness, this has easily become the most head-desk, cringy moment of the year.

I'm going to keep it real for everyone: the overwhelming majority of people who did not like 'The Last Jedi' are not Russian bots. The fact that this needed to be typed out is asinine.

The bots that Bay refers to are small in number. Of the 967 bot accounts he counted, less than 2% were politically motivated. Normal, everyday citizens use bots to post opposing views all the time in order to avoid consequences or backlash on their personal accounts. To assume otherwise is silly. Bots are very easy to set up. And to assume that all negative content on social media is from Russian bots is equally as silly. Bay's intend with the study was to inform people that political life is now bleeding into movie reviews and our consumption of casual social media. As such, he suggests a need for greater transparency by social platforms. While audiences/readers need to be aware to not take comments at face value. However, the title of the paper and the summary are overzealous - thus some are jumping onto the crazy train.

People are allowed to like or dislike a movie. You can be a 'Star Wars' fan and not enjoy The Last Jedi. Example: Me. People choosing to dislike a film doesn't have to be politically motivated or because of a "socialist agenda." I didn't like the movie because it was a bad movie. Bad plots. Bad writing. Bad character development. It was bad! And for the vast majority of people who did not enjoy the movie, we say we didn't like it and move on. It's a very, very, very, VERY small minority of people who take that dislike to the next level and spew hate. 'Star Wars' is a popular franchise with global appeal. You're going to have a larger, more visible number of "haters" compared to other fandoms. But these people do not make up the majority. What they are doing to entice hate due to gender and race, while spewing nonsensical madness is horrible; absolutely. They are not the end-all, be-all on 'Star Wars' fandom.

The bottom line is no. Russian bots did not swing the public at large to hate 'The Last Jedi.'

We need to get our senses back and start scrutinizing every story, every comment, every word like we did in the pre-internet era. Posting something first is not a badge of honor when it's rifled with inaccurate information.

This was the weirdest rabbit hole I have experienced. The madness of it all.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

That Monster Hunter Movie Plot...Ugh

That Monster Hunter movie is still a thing and yes, it is moving forward in production. Actor Diego Boneta, who has been tapped to be in an upcoming Terminator movie, was announced yesterday as the leading male actor for the potential MH franchise. Let's be honest - if MH makes a profit it's going to be a franchise series. Everything is a franchise these days. With the likes of the 'Resident Evil team' of Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich helming the project, I think we all know where this will be going.

The Hollywood Reporter also gave readers a glimpse into the current plot line. "The movie’s plot centers on the leader of a UN military team named Artemis, played by Jovovich, who is transported to another realm populated by monsters. There she meets the Hunter (Jaa), with the two teaming up to close a portal to prevent monsters from attacking Earth."
 
That's right! With the exception of a few names, little to nothing about the movie is likely be tied to the Monster Hunter games. Alright! That's exactly what video game fans want to see!

In fairness, the 'Resident Evil' films have done well despite their lack of connection to the original source material. Though Anderson will profess otherwise as a "fan" of the games. People went to see these movies because they were action flicks that filled a void. 'Monster Hunter' will likely be no different.

So for those MH game fans that want to see hours of tracking and capturing of monsters, gathering materials for crafting, setting up campfires and eating ridiculously over-sized food, and the team only having a "3 death max" before being forced to return to base and starting over - these aspects of the game are most likely not going to happen. This isn't a MH movie for game fans. This will be a MH movie for the masses, which will mean watered down content that appeals to the greatest number of people. All in the name of saving Earth, because that's what every fantasy movie should focus on. Earth! Right?

I still attest that the 'Ace Attorney' movie is the best video game adaptation to date, and I would love to see more films take this route. Embrace the over-the-top mantra of Monster Hunter and go all out! It may not be a guarantee hit at the box office, but it's better to take chances and try to be a faithful adaptation than another boring action film.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Steam Removes Over 170 Games from Store that Violate TOS

Steam seems to be sticking to their new rules of not removing games from the store without extreme probable cause or straight up trolling. Though they have seemingly gone through and done another quick purge of content. In the past 2 weeks, PC Gamer has counted over 170 games that have been pulled from Steam for that exact reason.

Before you get concerned, these are "games" that do violate Steam's new terms of service. Some of the products are re-skins of existing games; disrupting a bevy of copyright issues. Others are products clearly meant to troll gamers and cause trouble like MILF and Make Border Great Again!. And then there are the hentai games that completely ignore Steam's 0 nudity clause for minors (seriously, stop that. Kids are not a fetish). There are also games developed to unlock a multitude of Steam achievements without you, the gamer, putting forth any effort. These also violate Steam's rules and a number of them have been removed. Any games that are schemes meant to circumvent Steam's policies are going to be long gone.

As always with Steam, if you purchased the game you can still play and download it. However the storefront for the product is no more. But really, how many people are going to be sad that a MILF game is gone?