Friday, November 30, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's time for another Weekly Link Round Up! Which means I dig through the internet to find some of the best, and weirdest gaming articles on the internet. It takes me to places I never knew, nor ever wanted to know existed, so you don't have to. You're welcome.

- The PlayStation Classic will be out soon, and reviewers already have their hands on it. Business Insider's take on the unit is pretty much what I expected from the system. A faithful reproduction of the original system, but a questionable game line up for NA/EU audiences that don't hold up to the test of time. I understand why the system is missing Crash Bandicoot, given the reboot was recently released. But no Gran Turismo? Missed opportunity!

Also the AV Club would like to remind you to mind your wallet with the flashy ads on this one.

- Cryptocurrency is steadily declining, but it's not stopping some loyal to the cause from sinking more money in it. Justin Sun, the founder of Tron (not that one), whom bought Bit Torrent earlier this year, will be spending another $100 million to build video games on a blockchain. These type of games are in their infancy. Honestly the system for Tron's blockchain is a bit confusing, and requires people to be heavily invested in it to work. Gizmodo does a decent job of attempting to spell it out. While companies continue to play with blockchain for future games, this quick cash infusion is not likely to produce immediate results.

- Best of 2018 video game lists are already flooding the internet. I don't want to rehash a number of them because you're going to get a lot of copy, paste, repeat. But, I do want to show off the ones that catch my attention. Such as The New Yorker. They not only included games released at the beginning of the year (for some reason most of these lists enjoy excluding content that came out January - June/July), but mobile and indie games. Shocking! While I can't comment on a number of titles, the fact that the games are quite diverse, and most of the content easily accessible for consumers to try, this is a balanced list that's worth reading!

- A limited TV series on the great console debate between Nintendo and Sega has been announced. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts ('Kong: Skull Island'), the series will be based on the Blake J. Harris non-fiction novel 'Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle that Defined a Generation.' The book centers around Tom Kalinske, who was the CEO for SEGA's American division in the 1990's. He's lauded as the man who saved SEGA with the Genesis. This is one of the few non-fiction books about video games I can recommend. It is weird to call a business story "action packed" but that's exactly what this is! It'll be interesting to see how Hollywood spins the tale.

- The Round Up is not complete without a WhatCulture list. This time focusing on the 10 most overrated games of the past decade. On the plus, they did include Halo 5 and for that I am grateful (as a former fan of Halo, they really should have stopped at 3). However, fan favorites like Skyrim, Mass Effect 2, and Assassin's Creed Black Flag (one of the few AssCreed titles that is widely lauded by gamers) are on here too. For reasons that are mostly superficial (oh no, an action game where you have to have action?). A number of people still boot up their EA Origin accounts for Mass Effect. Or still run around in Skyrim with a few mods. News flash to writers: today's technology doesn't mean games from yesterday are "overrated." You might want to refresh

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Nintendo Ending Creators Program with Much Fanfare!

Nintendo's much controversial, and outdated, Creators Program will be shutting down at the end of December! Announced late yesterday and updated on their website this morning, Nintendo is putting out new guidelines for streamers and content creators that monetize videos utilizing Nintendo products.

The Nintendo Creators Program has been a questionable mess since it's inception. People who wanted to share "Let's Play" or quirky review videos had to register with Nintendo and be accepted into the program to have it monetized. Nintendo would take a portion of the ad revenue. In 2017, Nintendo clarified that the program did not include streamed games. Anyone streaming live off of YouTube, Twitch, or Mixer couldn't make any ad revenue from the event. It was a silly notion that many content creator's didn't agree with. But some signed up in order to maintain their audience and channel.

The new rules are more in line with Microsoft and Sony's policies. People are able to more freely share their videos of Nintendo games to be monetized. Unreleased products, videos that contain images of Nintendo items without commentary, or if the video does not meet Nintendo's "standards" are still subject to take down notices. Since we know Nintendo tends to be copyright happy and will throw down strikes at a moment's notice, how they will react to the updated guidelines will be the true test.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Loot Boxes Under Review by FTC

The big story on the U.S. gaming interwebs is the announcement from the FTC Chairman that they will begin to investigate loot boxes in video games.

The implications behind this are far-reaching. It could be as benign as a report and nothing comes from it, or sweeping regulations to the sale of video games.

The original issue was brought up by Senator Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire) earlier this year. Chairman Joseph Simons requested that the issue be investigated during a Congressional oversight committee on consumer protection and product safety. After Hassan addressed the concern, she reached out to the ESRB asking for their assistance/stance on the matter. As a result, the ESRB added an in-game purchase label to their system.

Suffice to say, as gamers, we know it's not enough. Many of us might agree that this issue is more than "looking out for the children." Loot boxes are a concern affecting all gamers. The questionable practices from Star Wars: Battlefront II (before they opted to drop a number of the microtransaction concerns this year), Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (they too eventually phased out some microtranscations after years of complaints), and whatever Assassin's Creed: Unity was trying to accomplish, gamers are being taken advantage of. We're buying unfinished products with the promise for additional items, level gains, and "perks" if we're willing to pay for microtransactions. Loot boxes help us advance further in a game or receive shiny coats of paint for our avatar. They can alter how we play a game, and make it easier for some to win without really using the product. Having that type of power by spending money can be addicting. Why bother with spending 40 hours to level up, when I can spend $20 to do it right now? Not to mention, the animations, sounds, colors, and effects behind loot boxes can be nice to watch. Have you seen how much fun it is to open card packs in Hearthstone? The increasing pressure from multiple government bodies globally is putting loot boxes at the forefront of every gamers mind.

The ESA is continuing to stand behind it's position that loot boxes are not gambling. Responding to a request from Polygon, they state that "Loot boxes are one way that players can enhance the experience that video games offer. Contrary to assertions, loot boxes are not gambling. They have no real-world value, players always receive something that enhances their experience, and they are entirely optional to purchase. They can enhance the experience for those who choose to use them, but have no impact on those who do not."

Variety reached out to Senator Hassan for her response to the news: "While I have appreciated working with the ESRB on this issue, I have also said that the Federal Trade Commission has a responsibility to look at this issue," she said. "The need for FTC action becomes more apparent given the recent report from the Gambling Commission of Great Britain and the steps other countries have taken to regulate loot boxes. I hope the FTC will move quickly to begin their investigation and look forward to working with all parties on this issue."

This won't result in an overnight change to video games. It'll take months to investigate and years before any action is implemented. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, it's likely that nothing will come from it. The ESRB and ESA have done what they can to keep the government away from having full control of video games; less we experience a repeat of the 1920's Hays Code. But the rise of loot boxes, their addictive nature, and games forcing the content onto consumers is an issue that needs to be addressed. The ESA is not likely to come out as the winner in this match.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

GameStop Finally Selling Questionable Mobile Business

GameStop has decided to sell it's mobile business venture to Prime Communications, L.P., according to a press release. Prime will be inheriting Spring Mobile, which operates over 1,200 AT&T wireless stores. The deal will net GameStop $700 million, and it's expected to close by early next year. The hope is that the offer will infuse cash back into GameStop's expanding debt, and possibly re-invest into video game and collectable sales.

I remember when the company first announced that they would start accepting cell phones and Zune's as trade in items for cash towards games. I thought it was a horrible concept (and it quickly fell apart with the Zune). Only for the business to decide to invest in mobile retailers.

The one thing GameStop has always been good at is trying to bring new content into the stores that had little, or no, affiliation with games. "Hey, this is cool so let's do this." In doing so, it soured the brand name. No longer was it GameStop, but "here are a bunch of random things squished together that we think are neat" store. The company lost it's way a while ago. With the constant changes of the board of directors and management, investors have been pushing the company to offload secondary businesses, like Spring Mobile, to get the company back on track. And this latest sale helped their stocks grow. Maybe this is a sign to the powers that be at GameStop that they need to stop trying to be "everything nerdy" and go back to the basics: be good at selling video games. With no update on their potential sale, GameStop is on it's own to dig itself out.

Does this mean that they will drop ThinkGeek and I can finally shop for their nerdy wares again? Not likely. GameStop has received a decent chunk of their earnings from ThinkGeek. But one can hope.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Fallout:76 Has Potential

Well after the release of the game, and having it sit in it's package until I was available for a few hours, I was finally able to open up the box and pop in Fallout: 76 for the first time and see what it was about. The reaction from game critics and gamers has been mixed. This is the first Fallout game to go online and prompt you to play with friends or make new ones - create a team and set out on an adventure across the wilderness of West Virginia, after nuclear bombs have laid waste to the world.

Like any Bethesda game, it comes with it's own quirks and bugs. Bethesda has always been at the fore-front of selling us buggy games at full price, that we are willing to pay for. Because, content? I never understood this phenomenon. Yet it seems to work for the developer.

The biggest quirk, aka headache, is the install for the game. I opted for the PS4 version as I knew it was going to take up a lot of space and my PC, even with 3 hard drives and 2 externals, was lacking. I co-host and manage a podcast with a large video archive. I can't delete those files. But I have nearly half of my PS4 empty, and I enjoy Fallout more with a controller so, why not?

With over 200 gigabytes free, it was still not enough for Fallout: 76. I needed to dump more games and media to make more space magically appear before it would install. 250 gigs, and 7 hours of installing and patching later, plus a night of sleep since it took so long, I was finally able to go into the wasteland. This barrier to reach game play was insane. A standard MMO does not take this long for a person to start up. World of Warcraft allows you to play while it installs updates - areas that are being upgraded or altered quests are inaccessible until patching is complete. 76 could easily integrate a similar patching system.

Once I got into the game, 76 filled all of the Fallout requirements one needed. You wake up after your vault had a killer party the night before, as you are booted out of your safety net to start a new life after the apocalypse. The character creator is quite robust for an online game. There are pre-set character designs, but you have a lot of freedom with adjusting your toons' facial features. I was happy to see that Bethesda put thought into this feature without it feeling gimmicky. You could alter a character's upper and lower eye lid, the multiple layers of the jaw bone, 3 sections of your forehead, the works. While the hair styles and ability to manipulate scar locations was lacking, the bulk of the tool was refreshing to play with. I unintentionally made my character look like Cassandra from the Dragon Age series. Honestly I wouldn't want anyone else to roam with me in the wasteland, kicking ass and taking names.

There is a main story for the player to partake in, starting with the real plans that the Overseer of Vault 76 was expected to carry out. Truthfully I've spent little time with the main story, so I can't speak much to the narrative of the game. But the little bit I have seen has been interesting. It requires you to explore a large portion of the map within the early levels, and read computers for loads of flavor text. It's probably best to take a screenshot of the text and read it at a later time when you're in a safe spot.

To help with the XP grind, instances called Events will take place at various locations on the map. Tasks will vary from the obvious (survive all waves of enemies) to the absurd (set up a table for robot butlers). All provide you with rewards for your services. These can be done alone or with a group (team in Fallout terms). Teams tend to garner you more xp and ability perks that can be shared.

Much of the charm of 76 will come from the landscape and playing with others. There is an innate beauty with West Virginia that the developers tried to capture. The vibrant colors of the fall leaves. The rickety texture of hilltops and mines. I made my C.A.M.P. in a remote spot, but I chose a rocky cliff that overlooked much of the scenery. Even with the various green clouds of post-nuke waste, it's a lovely area to take photos. The landscape was designed to be inviting, and it is difficult to resist the urge to roam around. (By the way, if you're worried about someone messing up your home, don't worry! When you log out, your home goes with you.) Exploring is a big part of what makes Fallout interesting. With content being instanced, you have the ability to pick up everything without worry that someone else is going to take the item before you reach it. In a team, everyone gets loot from a box/chest/corpse. As long as you do some damage on an enemy, you can earn XP and loot from it.

When 76 was first announced, the online element became the most appealing feature to me. I was curious to see how Bethesda would handle it, and ready to play with friends. I've enjoyed the concept of Fallout. But have had a difficult time making it through to the end of the game because of the solo, grindy experience.

Friends have made 76 enjoyable.

We joke around. We hunt through abandoned towns for crafting materials. We take dumb photos. We play in a band. We go on suicidal workshop reclamation hunts and try our best to not freak out. I feel more engaged and invested in this game thanks to my online gaming family. I want to go home after work today and play more so I can play with them in an experience that only Fallout can provide.

By no means is 76 a great game. There are bugs and features that are in need of a major improvement.

Server stability is questionable. I've "blue screened" once, but some of my friends have had it happen multiple times. I've hit multiple lag spikes that have resulted in me timing out, my character loading with only a floating head, or my friends appearing on the screen as the default male avatar.

Item storage is short and weight limits are high. In a game that wants you to explore and gather items, as you have to factor eating and drinking into your game play, being able to carry your basic necessities without it killing your inventory space is a huge problem. And like other Fallout games, the weight of what you carry matters. 10 packs of iron can encumber your character more than 50 bottles of Nuka Cola. The 400 personal locker storage is also not enough. A quick fix for Bethesda is for craft materials to not count as personal storage, or hold no weight.

Schematics for weapons and armor are incredibly rare. A better drop rate for low level content would help improve the viability of surviving in the wasteland.

To fast travel you need to use caps, the game's currency. Which isn't too bad. The most I've spent so far is 22 for quite a distance. But if you travel a lot, it eats up your money quickly. Either the cap rate needs to be reduced, or cap drops increased to balance it out.

VATS are worthless in 76. The targeting system that made Fallout a standout for first person shooters, is now a pile of garbage. Targeting in general is difficult in 76, and it's near impossible to utilize VATS in online mode. Enemies do not slow down when you try to target their weak points for bonus damage. Everything still runs at full speed. There's no benefit in putting your skill points into VATS. Better to run and gun, and hope you hit the right spot.

There are almost no NPC's in the game, with the exception of a couple of rare robot vendors. If there is a human-like NPC, I have yet to run into one. It makes the world feel empty. I understand that this is the first vault to open right a nuke went off, but there's got to be other 76 settlers out there we can communicate with. Aside from enemies wanting to kill and/or eat you, the world feels lifeless. You can have all the buildings and Events in the world. But we need other NPC's to interact with. The charm of the characters enticed us to keep playing Fallout.

There are additional small grievances with the game, like your character's food and water bars depleting while you idle (that's silly). Or that PvP requires both parties to attack each other to accept combat (personally I love this system, but some people want "true" PvP). Or that C.A.M.P. building sets are limited in scale and item availability. But these can be adjusted over time as Bethesda reviews how people are responding to the game. This is not No Man's Sky bad. 76 has a stable base with potential to grow.

Is it as good as New Vegas? No. It'll be difficult to have another Fallout title beat the quality of Vegas. But 76 has potential, with viable fixes that can improve the quality of the game. Having 3-5 people you can play with to do dumb things in the wasteland helps the experience.

Friday, November 23, 2018

SquareEnix to Pull Several Mobile Games in Belgium

The government crackdown on loot boxes has begun.

Belgium has passed a new law that could fine a person or business up to €800,000 ($910,000 USD) and 5 years of prison time for selling a product that includes a "game of chance." SquareEnix has decided to pull 3 of it's games to help curb the pressure of fines and future litigation. Mobius Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts Union X and Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia will be removed starting November 30th.

Earlier this year Belgium conducted a study to look further into the concern with loot boxes, and singled out several titles that fell into their "game of chance" rules. Since the ruling, several developers have already removed monetary items or store purchases from games released in Belgium, such as Guild Wars 2. This allows the game to still be bought and played, but no after-market additional costs.

In the case of SquareEnix, the three mobile games are not worth the time investment to alter them to fit with Belgium's law. It's better to cut their losses and focus on promoting the titles in other markets.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

FF14 Fan Fest Las Vegas Wrap-Up

Good day, fellow readers. Back from Las Vegas. Exhausted. Ready to take a break for another week, but somehow I'm still whole. And that is a miracle unto itself.

Final Fantasy XIV developer SquareEnix hosted their third Fan Festival in the U.S. last weekend, where a bevy of new announcements were made for the future of the game. The Fan Festival is a gathering of, um, fans of the game. This year SE decided to live stream most of the events for free, with the exception of the concerts. Those in attendance had a chance to play some of the upcoming new content, random in-game trials, and win some fun loot.

Even though my body was trying desperately to murder me (seriously, I was sick all weekend - and no it wasn't something contagious), I did find a way to enjoy myself.

Unlike BlizzCon, FanFest is specifically focused on Final Fantasy XIV. That's it. No other properties. If you were expecting a general Final Fantasy festival, this was not the place to be. But! For an event that's all about FF14, it was pretty good. This felt relaxed and fun while still being engaging to the attendees. It's much better than QuakeCon, by leaps and bounds. I'm not sure if it's worth a $149.99 ticket price...maybe $100. Maybe. If you are a fan of the game and you have FC friends that want to go, it's the perfect place to be to meet up in person, hang out, and compete in some fun challenges.

The event took place in a hotel convention center across several ballrooms. The main room housed all of the panels, as well as a small Gold Saucer, photo booth, Kugane sitting area, the signature wall, art station, and an Aetheryte (the teleport crystal in towns/cities). One room was designated for all game challenges and a third for merchandise. Thankfully SE had enough foresight to put up projection screens in every area and throughout the major ballroom so you didn't have to miss any of the panels while you were standing in line.

The Gold Saucer games were cute, particularly the chocobo racing which required ski-ball skills. The in-game challenges were rough. Particularly the Eureka Pagos run where you were expected to make it to one of the teleport crystals in 10 minutes or less, at the lowest level, with no gear without being caught by enemies. I despise Pagos with a passion. There was also the Primal Roulette where you were given a specific handicap depending on which battle you landed on. My group was thrown into Tsukuyomi, with half our screen covered. Those who were stuck in Suzaku had to do a real-world DDR dance while they played. For each challenge you successfully completed, you could earn some fun loot. This is the one part of the game that I wasn't really thrilled with because some of the challenges are near impossible. Such as the Kugane Tower Climb. That is easily one of the worst jumping games in FF14, in a game where the jumping mechanics are worse than Mario. Tackling the challenge did not net you a reward - you had to win. So it was very discouraging after a few rounds of events that our stamp card remained empty. We could have received a pity prize for trying. Particularly after waiting 1-2 hours to play. With the convention only being available for 9 hours a day, you had to win on your first attempt or not get the stamp.

As a whole, it was a fun experience. I would like to return, but with my FC. I think it would have been better to have had members of my crew with me to really enjoy the moment. This felt like the ideal place for meet-ups and hanging out. Going solo, I could see where some would get bored by not having their companions abound.

Enough with the event. Let's talk about the announcements!

The keynote hit the expectations of fans and previous FF14 US Fan Fest. Typically a new expansion is announced in the US with some technical details. At the Europe and Japanese Fan Fest, we learn more about jobs, see in-game cut scenes, and new races. But this year we were treated to something new. The announcement of the Shadowbringers expansion came with a very different type of trailer. They style was much gritter, more questions than answers, and devious. Even the title logo has the Warrior of Light alone. His team from the past 3 expansions (2.0, Heavensward, Stormblood) are gone. Very peculiar.

Hints as to one of the new jobs are in the teaser, and it's assumed to be some type of gunsword class, whatever that may be. Producer Naoki Yoshida showed off a Bugs Bunny shit to indicate what the new race may potentially be, with our first look coming out in patch 4.5 in spring 2019. In a surprising twist, we did get a job reveal: Blue Mage. Something that a lot of fans have been begging for since the rebirth of FF14. Unlike the other jobs in the game, Blue Mage will be a Limited Job. It is meant for solo content, will have it's own unique Duty, and can't be played in most events and dungeons. Because Blue Mage will break the game. Literally. It has the ability to cast spells that will break the game for certain areas and would not be fair to those who dutifully completed the game in it's original manner. Casting Death 5 on Omega might be amazing, but Blue Mage is hacks and we all know it. Introducing this job as a Limited is a neat idea and opens up the possibilities to more jobs working in this manner (hint hint, Puppetmaster please).

More details on the upcoming Patch 4.5 were announced the following day with the patch being split into 2 uploads. It's a lot of story content to go through before the expansion and they didn't want to overwhelm the users. I personally have liked how SE has been releasing patches lately, so they can keep the practice. For certain we know we are getting more Hildebrand quests (including a special battle with Yojimbo, which was playable at Fan Fest), the final chapter of the Return to Ivalice Campaign with a raid at the legendary Orbonne Monaster, Blue Mage (yep! we're getting it early!), and new data centers plus server shuffles to make way for the expansion.

The Q&A session left much to be desired. It needed to be longer as Yoshida and Soken tend to give well-thought out, rounded answers. And some attendees didn't know how to ask a question, instead giving life stories and eating up time for others. I was #10 in line and made it to the microphone after an hour and 5 minutes, unable to ask my question.

Rule #1 for all Q&A sessions: Ask your question. Panelists don't care about your life story. They don't care about your fan theories. They don't care what you had for breakfast. They want to answer you question and move on to the next person. Please don't waste their time or the time of the other attendees who paid to be there. If you can't ask your question in under 10 seconds, it's not worth asking in this situation.

Though I will give props to the gentleman in front of me who asked about additional game settings for the visually impaired. I appreciate the effort the developers have put into making this game playable for as many people as possible, and that recently included some new tools to tweak settings for those who are color blind. I hope they continue to improve on these settings.

I'm curious about what Shadowbringers will provide to the future of FF14. It's going to be an interesting transition from 4.5.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Epic Games May Be Sued for a Fortnite Dance Emote

Fortnite developers Epic Games may be sued for one of their dance emotes. Rapper 2 Milly claims that the emote "Swipe It" is the same as his signature move the "Milly Rock." 2 Milly spoke with CBS News that he created the dance in 2014. He states that he should be credited with the move and receive some form of compensation for the sale of the dance.

"Swipe It" was available for purchase in Fortnite for roughly $5 USD, but was recently removed from the in-game store. Emotes are one of the ways Epic Games has been able to continually profit from the product. While the article does not state what 2 Milly ultimate goal is (complete dance removal from the game, all proceeds from emote sales, etc.), this could set a precedence for future actions and legal cases.

If 2 Milly wins this lawsuit and someone dances the "Milly Rock," could they be sued (for example)? What if the person was doing it for fun and no profit was involved? What if it was to help raise money for a charity?

This becomes a very dangerous set-up on how we approach creative properties like dance moves, which can't be trademarked or copyrighted. The creator doesn't have legal standing unless they trademark an entire type of dance that consists of multiple moves. Or the name of the dance move can be trademarked but not the dance that's affiliated with it.

From a legal standing Epic Games has the upper hand. Because there is no way for the dance move to be copyrighted/trademarked, Epic Games doesn't need to gain permission to use it. It's kind of crappy that they didn't ask first. But they didn't have to.

This isn't the first time that Epic Games has been criticized with using dance moves as emotes from musicians. Chance the Rapper has spoken out against the practice. The game contains dance emotes that look similar to Snoop Dogg's dance from the video 'Drop It Like It's Hot' and a move by Donald Faison in the TV show 'Scrubs.' Epic Games has not responded to requests for comments, and most likely won't if the lawsuit moves forward.

While they are likely to win said case, in the future it wouldn't hurt for them to try and reach out to the content creators for permission first.

Monday, November 19, 2018

What Does the Dragon Say? We Don't Know

Spyro Reignited Trilogy is out and the polished design is almost too good to be true for PlayStation 1 gamers. The look and feel of the game is everything Spyro with the elevated styling of a PS3 game (at the tail-end of it's life cycle). But there is something gravely missing from the game that is causing a disturbance among gamers: Spyro has no subtitles.

Yep. Not a single one in cut scenes. I first saw this in a Kotaku live play through on Facebook and it was jarring. Remarking after the initial sequence that the players would go into the menu and turn on subtitles, they were shocked to find that no option was available. All cut scenes are voices only with no written dialogue to accompany them. If you're in the over-world there is on screen text when interacting with characters for Spyro 2 and Spyro 3, but that's the extent of the content. Main story sequences are not subtitled. If you're a deaf gamer or have hearing problems, this is an issue. The game is blocking you from enjoying it due to your medical condition. Yes, you can still fly around and breathe fire, but without context of the story, is it as enjoyable?

The initial response from Activision is best characterized as dismissive. There is "no industry standard for subtitles." Followed by a note that they wanted to keep the game as close to the core product as possible. There were no subtitles in the first game, therefore there are no subtitles in this version.

But it's 2018. Gamers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. What was acceptable in the 90's for functionality and accessibility does not work today. We expect all games, even remakes, to have subtitles.

Activision has revised their response and will look into possibly patching in subtitles. As of now there is no guarantee that they will do it, or an estimated time frame on when this will happen. But it's important for all developers to remember that accessibility matters. Dropping subtitles is a quick way to earn our ire.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

FFXIV Fan Fest Ahoy!

The blog will be a little light-handed over the new few days. I'll be heading out to the FFXIV Fan Festival to experience old and new things once more.

I "hope" to live blog during the big, opening panel in Friday. Otherwise, stay tuned for next week for the full event recap.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Game Awards Nominees Are Predictable and Questionable

The Game Awards has announced their 2018 nominations. The award show is trying really hard to not be like Spike TV's version, and sometimes failing, by providing categories for indie studios, games for impact, and best game from a student developer.

This year will see an expansion on the eSports category with Best Coach, Best Event, and Best Host. But we also know that some of the biggest games of the year are going to be listed - God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 (further solidifying the notion that crunch time = profit; so why stop harming people when the bottom line is all that matters!). However, there are a few categories that should be addressed.

Most of the games nominated were released from Dec 2017 - November 16, 2018 in the U.S., per the award show's rules. However the mobile category is a concern. Nominees include Fortnite (July, 2017) and PUBG (March, 2017). Games that were released on mobile prior to December 2017 and, as such, should not be included. There are thousands of wonderful mobile titles that the jury could have selected that would have qualified. Instead, we have more Fortnite. I'm not going to denounce the impact the game has had on mobile titles over the past year, but it should not be eligible based on the event's rules.

Second issue is the Best Ongoing Game category. Why? Because there are no MMO's listed. Which is really, really strange. Well, there's Destiny 2, but I don't think the developers know what kind of game that is. World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV have had landmark years with rising subscription rates and providing new, engaging content to users. It feels off that WoW isn't on that list. Instead the content is littered with multiplayer first-person shooters. A lot of people play more than FPS games.

Looking over the nominees, the list is very ho-hum. It's all very expected and bland. We know the winners before we look at the list. I wish the jury put more thought behind their selections and stretched the limits of game community. There are so many casual and non-FPS players who's interest doesn't revolve around PUBG.

While I've made it a yearly tradition to watch the show and play the infamous "World Premier" non-drinking, drinking game, I may skip out this time. RDR2, God of War, and Fortnite are going to sweep. Ninja will probably get best streamer (oh sorry, "content creator of the year" though he shuns women). This is a very predictable award show year. Unless they get a good musical act to play - I'll at least watch that. The year of Imagine Dragons was easily the best set to date.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Another Game Staple Closing Their Doors

This isn't current news, but it's worth mentioning on the blog. Video game strategy guide maker Prima Games is officially shutting down in 2019.

While strategy guides might seem like gaming of yester-year before the internet became a household necessity, Prima Games was always a cut above the others. It provided quality strategy guides, dynamic and in-depth game photos, and detailed descriptions that you wouldn't find with other, run-of-the-mill guides. Most GameFAQ guides wish they could be like Prima Games. And for a number of gamers, we still collect those guides because they are fantastic. I know a few people who personally use them as coffee table books. Over time Prima has adapted to the digital age with online guides and interactive game maps.

Prima Games will honor prints for upcoming games in 2019, such as the latest Smash Bros. and Anthem. Two of the offices will close soon, with the Indianapolis location remaining open for publishing until March of 2019.

It's another unfortunate change in the gaming industry as it continues to move more digital.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Big Geek Stories of the Day

This has been a really weird day. Even more than usual, for a Monday.

The first bit of news is that the trailer for Detective Pikachu dropped. The live-action movie stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu and, I honestly don't know what to make of it.

I am disturbed and intrigued. Since the campaign to cast Danny DeVito in the role failed, details about the movie have been fairly quiet. We knew it was happening and that it would be a live-action affair, but nothing more. Now that we have the first trailer, there are so many questions. Why does Pikachu sound normal to everyone else, but sound like Ryan Reynolds to Justice Smith? Why wasn't his voice modulated to be more like Pikachu's natural voice? Why is Pikachu fuzzy? Why do some Pokémon have silky smooth skin and others do not? Why is Mister Mime a key figure in the trailer? What crazy world is this taking place in where it feels more like Earth but in Pokémon's realm instead of being more like the game/anime?

And again, why does Pikachu sound like Ryan Reynolds? I can't get over this.

Well, the movie is out May 10, 2019. It's a thing and it's happening. Conclusions to be drawn at a later date.

The second big news is the day is the unfortunate passing of Stan Lee. While this blog is more video game-centric, Stan Lee is a legend in the geek-world. His vision and creativity helped spark a new landscape for comic books that has since transcended into film, and become a world-wide phenomenon. If you had asked me as a teenager in the late-90's if I ever expected to see 'The Avengers' on a movie screen with the biggest box office year after year, I would have laughed. But the characters and stories that Stan Lee developed made it happen. May he rest in piece. Excelsior!

Friday, November 09, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's that time again! Where we peruse the internet to find the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news of the week. It's the Weekly Link Round Up! What's up on the web of tubes this week?

- An "amusement tax" in Chicago is about to be applied to the Sony PlayStation Network for residents of the city. The tax was applied to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu in 2015. The tax law is pretty ridiculous. Essentially it taxes residents for having fun, and can be applied to sporting events, movies, concerts, and theater. In 2015 the city was sued for tacking on streaming services, but it hasn't stopped the city from continuing it's weird rule. The 9% tax will hit gamers on November 14. Sorry Chicagoians.

- If you need your daily reminder that video games are still the most popular form of entertainment today, beating out blockbuster movies, Entrepreneur has you covered. It even spells it out in the title! How convenient. There's even a quaint chart comparing the first 3 days of release for the top selling games of 2018 (yes it includes GTA5) and the first week of recent, top grossing films. So, rub that into the faces of the naysayers that suggest gaming is a fad.

- The Wall Street Journal tackles the task of trying to wade through the sludge of video game streaming on demand. This is going to be the next big thing, and no one company has found the winning formula yet. But when they do, it's going to change gaming. Particularly as the market becomes more mobile and wants a near-instant connection to their platform of choice. This is a long read, but well worth the time. TWSJ manages to break down some of the complicated aspects into a digestible format.

JPMorgan is luring away top talent from gaming studios to add programmers to their team to continue building out their services. Not to make video games, but to improve their infrastructure. And as they remarked at a financial conference co-president and consumer banking chief at JPMorgan Gordon Smith, said they have "had no problems attracting that talent at all. It's actually been very exciting."It probably has to do with the job security, better salary, better benefits, and more reasonable work hours. Crazy, right? (/sarcasm)

- Gameranx has a list of 10 video games you will no longer find online to be able to play, for one reason or another. Some of these games are MMO's that have been killed by their developers. Others are demos of games that will never see the light of day (PT, we're looking at you). And the rest are silly. But it's a list. Lists can be fun, and at least this one had some thought put into it.

- How do you play long video games when you don't have the time? This is a struggle that every gamer must handle, particularly as we get older and have to do more adult things, like hold down a job, manage bills, do household chores, etc. A 50 hour game is a lot to handle and for some of us, not feasible to finish in a few weeks. A few months, maybe. This article by Keza MacDonald via Kotaku provides some thoughtful consideration on how to manage longer games when time isn't on your side. 

- Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar have been increasing their response and legal rights to combat video game exploits in their games; Grand Theft Auto V specifically. Within the past few months at least 5 lawsuits in the US, Europe, and Australia have taken place to stop cheaters. One Australian man has had all of his assets frozen and his residence searched. There is a lot on the line for these cheaters, with the potential to make money from selling their exploit. And for Rockstar as well, as they could get a piece of those earnings, and maintain their current user base. Read the full story at The New York Times website.

- We can't end a Round Up without a WhatCulture list. This time it's 10 games that prove that 2010 was the best year in gaming. Unfortunately, not many good games are listed. Halo: Reach and Pokémon HeartGold /SoulSilver are on this disaster-piece, arguably two of the worst games for their franchises. And then there's God of War III, one of the most overrated games of the PS3 era that lacked the strength the past two games presented. They also had the gall to list Super Mario Galaxy 2, which pales in comparison to it's predecessor. This list sucks and should not have been made. WhatCulture, go home. You're drunk again.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Final Fantasy 15 Director Departure Kills DLC

In a special live stream yesterday, Square Enix planned to announce "exciting" news for Final Fantasy XV. The game seemingly planned to have an eternal lifespan with a bevy of DLC to last throughout 2019.

But that's not what happened.

Instead, the stream turned into a farewell to director Hajime Tabata, whom has lead the project since 2013/2014.

In addition to his departure, 3 of the 4 DLC packs have been cancelled.

What a twist!

The DLC focusing on the character Ardyn will be released in March of 2019, along with an anime short. FF15 will still live on with a standalone version of the game's 'Comrades' mode releasing in December. There will also be an FF14 collaboration (ew) starting December 12. Which means it'll have a minion or a mount and I'll need to get it so I can feel like I've completed my collection, but I'm not looking forward to this.

The cancellation of the DLC in such a fashion is surprising, particularly given the unexplained popularity of the game. (Not sorry for this opinion. I can't complete the game. I have never been so bored with a title before, and it's Final Fantasy!) The DLC content appeared to be selling well and the PC version has opened new, crazy realms of modding (though PC support is being scaled back, based on the stream announcements). It would make sense for SE to pass the project on to another director and keep development of the DLC going. To end them all because one man is leaving is odd.

Tabata has a new project in the works; one that requires him to leave SE and start his own company.

Best of luck to him, and maybe SE can focus on making a good Final Fantasy game. Again, not sorry.

Update 11/8/18, 12:39PM CST: And then they had to go and say "we want to produce more DLC and have subscription models for core games." Dude, what?

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Leave Red Dead Redemption 2 NPC's Alone

I just...


Can we not be a sh*tty species?

Can we TRY to work together and not immediately condemn those of a different gender, race, religion simply for being different?

This article from the Guardian is surprising and yet not unexpected.

Red Dead Redemption 2 has a lot of NPC's that the player can interact with. You can talk to them, press them for information if you're on a quest, rob them, or straight up murder them. And based on the few playthroughs I have seen, it appears that this is a blanket set of actions to all NPC's. Which is why the deer in the game being overly aggressive are a big deal when they can potentially kill your quest holders.

It also means that NPC's that seemingly seem innocent or shouldn't be bothered can become a target to the player. Like the woman's suffrage NPC. RDR2 takes place in 1899, 20 years before women could vote in the U.S. In one town, you'll find an elderly woman clad in black and white with a bright red and white sash, chanting phrases such as "Let me vote." This would have been a site one was likely to see during the time period. Rockstar was going for realism. It makes sense to add this NPC.

Unfortunately, this NPC also falls under the umbrella of mechanics as the others - you can talk to her, press her, rob her, or murder her. Which has lead to YouTube videos such as 'Red Dead Redemption 2 – Beating up annoying feminist' by Shirrako. He posted several follow-up videos including 'Dropping feminist to hell and killing the devil' where he "hogties" the NPC and drags her to mine shafts and gator pits to die.

I'm not going to link the videos because they are disgusting and promote abhorrent behavior. They've also been viewed more than a million times and we do not need to give this person more ad revenue.

These videos speak to a larger problem in the gaming sphere that these actions were allowed at all. It's one thing to go for "realism." It's another to have misogynists live out power fantasies by killing women in video games - particularly one that is fighting for the right to vote. It is also very concerning that some of the comments are in support of this behavior. "Why can't we do this in real life?" one person remarked. While we know the majority of people don't think this, the videos are still pulling in views. There are many who are not commenting that do find this funny. There are many who don't.

Honestly, Rockstar need to find their footing in determining what is or isn't acceptable in their games. Their behavior of "anything goes" needs to be re-evaluated. They know their open world games are going to be tampered with. People are going to use the game's mechanics to do things they probably shouldn't do - but it's within the game's frame that they can do it. The easiest fix is to take some of the NPC's out of the umbrella/blanket rule so they can not be interactive. You'd still get the realism that Rockstar wanted by having the NPC's present, without the consequences of sexist, racist people using the game as a means of fulfilling their crude wishes. A number of RPG's and open world games are littered with non-interactive NPC's and the games are still enjoyable! It's not a strange concept. Most people playing RDR2 may not have noticed that you could interact with the suffrage NPC until these YouTube videos were released.

It's okay to make some characters not interactive in order to maintain decorum in the gaming sphere. It's not going to destroy immersion and certainly won't affect the story.

The Guardian has reached out to Rockstar for comment, and I will update this blog if they respond.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Unnecessary Backlash Against Diablo Immortal

Fudge it.

I'm so annoyed at the fallout of Diablo Immortal that I want to talk about it. And dudebros are not going to stop me. (I have comment moderation on, bwahaha!)

Since Blizzard's announcement of the mobile title at BlizzCon, the reaction has been mostly negative. Within the first day of the game trailer going live, the thumbs down reactions totaled the hundreds of thousands. The cinematic is currently sitting at 449k thumbs down to the 17k thumbs up. Some are even stating that the recent slide in Activision/Blizzard stock value has to do with the fallout from BlizzCon (the stocks have been on a slow decline since early October after Black Ops 4 was released to lower than expected sales). Developers were booed at BlizzCon Q&A when the discussion focused on the mobile title.

It's not the reaction that Blizzard developers wanted. Sure there would be a few people unhappy, because it's impossible to make everyone happy. But the level of vitriol and harassment coming from this is disgusting. It should never be tolerated.

People lashing out against Blizzard on this game seem to focus on a few reasons: It's not Diablo 4 (which was rumored to have been pulled from the BlizzCon lineup, but Blizzard has denied it). It's not on PC and will not be on PC. The game is being developed with NetEas, so it's not a sole Blizzard project. It's a mobile game announced at a PC-heavy event (let's remember that you can play Hearthstone on mobile, and many do).

Those are the core arguments. Some of the others, such as "reskins of free-to-play" and "poor game design" are not worth diving into as the commentators have not played the game. It's difficult to make an assessment on a product without trying it. In order to be an informed consumer, one should try something before making an opinion (this was my original tweet before it was deleted when I started to be harassed in private message). That doesn't seem like nonsense in the grand scheme of things. If your friend says "chocolate ice cream is the worse flavor" without having tried it, you're not likely to take their opinion when choosing your ice cream. How does this person know that chocolate is the worse if they have never tasted it? Somehow with video games it's the opposite. 1 trailer and people know whether or not the game is good before trying it? To me, that seems silly. There's nothing wrong with trying something first and determining if you like it or not. It's part of being a human - experiencing new things and coming to conclusions about your personal tastes.

I knew there would be some negative reactions to Diablo Immortal, but not at this level. Yes, BlizzCon tends to be more of the PC crowd. But let's not forget that PC is not king of the mountain.

Mobile games are still the most active market for gamers. The latest stats from Statista showcase that 76% of people prefer mobile as their platform of choice. PC/MAC is second at 62%, but we can't deny the numbers. Fortnite is wildly popular on PC, console, and mobile, which nets the company $1 million in sales a day. In my personal life, I've seen more people play Fortnite on their phones and tablets than I have on PC.

Mobile is a strong market that is not going away any time soon. Blizzard is making a smart move by taking one of their popular PC titles and creating a mobile version that can be consumed by the masses. The market for Blizzard isn't only the US. It's Europe and Asia as well; huge with mobile gaming. It's been 2 years since I downloaded Fallout: Shelter and I still play it. So are millions of others. Mobile is staying.

At the end of the day, Blizzard is going to do what they want to do. Did they not read the room at BlizzCon? Probably. If the announcement were made at GamesCon or PAX, there would have been less backlash. It'd still be there, but not as heavy.

Though without people having tried the game it's difficult to provide an opinion on the game itself, or to take those opinions seriously. There's no way to know about the quality of the game until you play it. Yet many are determined to have Diablo Immortal fail before it's had a chance to launch.

On that note, I'd like to make a suggestion to everyone.

All gamers of all platforms.

Think of a game that you deem to be the worst thing ever made. A game that you think is so bad that you never tried it. It's not bad because others told you it was bad. You and you alone determined it was not a good game after watching a trailer, or seeing the developer announce it.

Got that game in mind?


Now go and play it.

Don't immediately go in with prejudices. Just try the game. See what it's about. Let yourself become immersed in the experience. And from there discern your opinion.

Something amazing happens when you give a video game a shot. Maybe you'll find something new to like. Or maybe the game reinforces your negative opinion. That's okay. But people are more likely to take your opinions under consideration if you PLAY the game, instead of spouting hate.

For the longest time I wouldn't play the Imagine series of DS games by Ubisoft because I felt they were beneath me. But they had a market, they sold well, and continued to be produced. While I didn't outright call them out as "bad games" nor used them in discussion (why talk about a game that I haven't played?) I never gave them a fair chance. So I played Imagine: Fashion and Babyz. I don't like them. They're not my type of games. They are too simple in formula and too condescending for girls by reinforcing gender stereotypes. But, their game play and concepts are okay. Fashion at least provides a creative outlet and allows for a nearly unlimited amount of mixing and matching when designing clothes. I may not like the games as a whole, I understand their purpose and the kind of entertainment they provide their audience. Having played the games, I can now talk confidently about them. I can express my opinion and back it up with the content I experienced.

With Diablo Immortal, don't make assumptions. Try it first before you provide an opinion.

My two cents.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Ralph 2 Leaked Video Game Cameos

As much as I would love to talk about the Diablo mobile game that's coming out soon, I am already tired of dealing with dude-bros who think they understand video games more than I do because of  gender. So today's post is going to be very low-key, and very simple.

Stitch Kingdom, who is basically the insider of all Disney news, posted a screen grab of all of the video game cameos and nods that we'll see in 'Wreck it Ralph 2' aka 'Ralph Breaks the Internet.' It's a good mix of arcade, early console, and new-commers to the scene that will make nay video game fan smile.

The list includes standards from the last movie, such as Q*bert, some of the Street Fighter cast (we all remember Ralph going to bad guy counseling), and PAC-MAN. But there is also a listing for Fortnite and Peter Pepper™ from BurgerTime. Interesting and unusual. While Pepper is a character that some may recognize from mobile games, how will Fortnite work itself in? The game isn't known so much for the characters, but it's visual style and crazy, meme-worthy dances. So it's possible that the protagonists will replicate some of the moves in a call out to the game. Sonic is also listed, along with the Eggman and The House of the Dead.

'Wreck it Ralph' did a great job of combining a unique story with some of the nostalgia of video games without it feeling like they were hitting viewers in the face with references. Hopefully they continue to maintain that balance with the sequel.