Friday, May 18, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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

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

Ready?

Shenmue 3 has been delayed.

Gasp!

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sports Gambling Law Unconstitutional - How This Affects eSports

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Yep. That Monster Hunter Movie is Still a Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Another Retro Console is Coming Back in Mini Form

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

EA CEO Supports Current Loot Box System with Company

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Battletoads Rumor Doesn't Mean You Should Prank Call Retailers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 07, 2018

Atlus Still Blocks Streaming of Persona 5

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

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

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

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

Why is Atlus still doing this?

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

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

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

Friday, May 04, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

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

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

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

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

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

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