What it Takes to be an RPG

Over the last several years I have put a lot of thought into what exactly makes an RPG an RPG. A big reason this has been happening is the inclusion of games that are clearly NOT RPGs into the genre due to the inclusion of Levels and Items in that particular game. Borderlands is probably the biggest example, but I have seen Bioshock Infinite mentioned as an RPG as well, and heck if that is what it takes… SSX is probably an RPG in many people’s eyes as well. So with that, I have talked about what it takes to be an RPG with many friends in Real Life and we have kind of come up with this list of qualifications:

1) Story – An RPG must have a story. There is a caveat here in that early RPG stories are excusable to be near non-existent. Though, early RPGs are almost a proof rather than a counter to this point. Akalabeth for instance has nearly no story, but there is in fact a story. Just having a story in 1979 or 1980 is not a small thing so we do count it every bit as much as modern games even though it wasn’t any better than the story of Super Mario Bros. Presence of a meaningful story (to the times) is a must though, I am hard pressed to think of any RPG without a meaningful story outside of early games in the genre.

2) Non-Questing Items – This implies items whose sole purpose is made for a quest or solving a puzzle, such as a key. In addition to just having items, there should be a choice in the usage of these items. For instance, there not only is a sword, but maybe different types of sword and it is player choice as to which sword to use (even if there is a clear “best” sword to use).

3) Stats – Whether directly viewable by the player or not, there should be stats for the character as well as items, and generally there is a way to manipulate these stats. (Equipping an item to raise your strength for instance.)  In fact, i generally consider the manipulation of stats to be one of the ultimate objectives  of an RPG besides the story. An easy example is that you can play Pokemon, but there is a second level to the game where you are trying to breed and train pokemon to have the best stats possible. This is the manipulation that RPG fans enjoy that a non-RPG with stats often lacks.

4) Indirect Combat – Combat in an RPG has with it the player directing combat rather than the player with direct control of a character within combat. What I mean by this is, with Combat in an RPG, you tell a character to fight a monster with a sword and that character fights said monster using the character’s stats and random chance to win or lose. In combat that has direct control, you as the player directly aim a weapon and click a button where every button click is a usage of the weapon or spell. It is for this reason primarily that games like Zelda, Borderlands, and Gauntlet are not RPGs, but are a different beast. There is a similarity to God-Games here… you are a God influencing your character very strongly, but you are not the character himself.

5) Distinct Protagonists – This is seems like kind of a no duh type of requirement, but there are games out there lacking a distinct protagonist. For instance, Black & White contains no protagonist at all. Protagonists can come in the form of a solo adventurer but in an RPG you rarely will have more than say 6. Usually it is 1 to 4 protagonists.

That is in essence an RPG as I see it. I will note, though I am sure there is room for breaking these rules, I cannot think of a game that breaks any of them outside of the caveat for story. Really, it comes down to feel. Most RPG fans can sit down and play a game and tell if it is an RPG. This is my best attempt at explaining why it is that I can sit down and play Dark Souls and recognize it to not be an RPG even though on the surface it can seem like it. Other games can have aspects of an RPG, and in fact I would say level and items in this day and age should be in pretty much every game. Heck, you can consider Super Mario Bros, to have a second level if you consider being big the second level.

I also feel the need to note that not classifying a game as an RPG is by no means a slam on the game. I talk about certain games not being RPGs with people and for some reason they get very angry about the idea that the game they enjoy is not an RPG. As if their game is somehow worse because of it. Neither of these is true. Borderlands, for instance, is not an RPG, I enjoy playing it from time to time. Zelda is not, and I love that game. Dark Souls is not, and is a great game. Games can be good without being an RPG.  And RPGs can be bad games despite being an RPG. There are a lot of genres out there and all of them have really great games that are totally worth playing. The entire logic behind why we categorize into genres is because people have preferences in games. I for instance have a general dislike for sports games, FPS games, and RTS games. And so when someone classifies an FPS as an RPG, I may be more inclined to get into a game than if it were just a great FPS game. I might try to put up with some of the negatives about the genre just to get the experience.  Hell I always have thought there is no way you could have a game that is an FPS and an RPG so the idea kind of intrigues me. When a game fails to live up to the RPG side of things I am let down. I would rather a game be a great FPS than a crappy RPG and I’m not sure why others would rather it be a crappy RPG just because it is a great FPS.

Dez Bryant’s Catch

To Dez Bryant, Cowboys Fans, and any others who don’t understand why it wasn’t a catch yesterday, the above photograph explains why he didn’t have control. Put another way, don’t let it be a question, it won’t be.

Even before the review, I didn’t think he had the ball where he had it. I thought he didn’t actually get control of it until he rolled into the end zone but had no way of knowing whether the ball touched the ground in the meantime, which the refs must have decided it did. It was a risky flag to throw on McCarthy’s side because it very well could have turned into a Touch Down. Then again, that would have saved Green Bay some time as they would have needed to score a TD to win.

X-Box 360 Review

X-Box One has been out for a year, therefor it is the perfect time for an X-Box 360 Review! Actually, I had never bought one before. I firmly believe that if I want a console, I would like to play games that aren’t better on the PC, and really the 360 has very few games that aren’t available on PC so I never really cared. I have more want for the PS3 and honestly was close to getting one but the price dropped low enough on the 360 that I finally caved and got it.

With that I wanted to share my thoughts on the console…

First, the Operating System. Windows 8 works extremely well on the TV. I have always felt that the OS was best suited for Media Centers and Tablets and seeing it in action on the 360 just furthers that belief. The problem is that it is an extremely limited version of the operating system, and not unexpectedly so. You can’t move things around, when you pin an item, it doesn’t go on your homescreen, instead it goes into a pin section which might as well be renamed favorites. I have also found it is very cumbersome to pin something as well. For instance, I go to videos and to the Twitch icon, and there is no place to pin it from there. Instead, I have to go to recently viewed and then pin it there.  How backwards is that? The real problem though is the rampant advertising. Every screen  has crap  tons of advertising. I would say 80% of the screen at any given time is an ad. there are about 6 screens  with between two and three actual apps and 6-8 advertisements on each screen. Realistically, you probably only needed two screens… Apps and Settings. And then gotten rid of the rest. This made me curious, am I spoiled coming from Nintendo which had a fairly customizable and ad-free operating system? So I checked out screens of the PS3’s menus… and they were ad-free too. Must be an American thing that says the product you own must be filled with ads… the gall that Microsoft also charges for their online service with all these ads is amazing.

I will say that the Xbox 360 has a good variety of apps available. Way more than Nintendo has on their system. The best example I have is Twitch, which isn’t on Nintendo platforms, but they also have apps for SyFy Network, CW, ESPN, and a bunch of other channels I have no interest in.

As a side note, I thought I’d talk about Microsoft’s Avatars… clearly a rip off of Nintendo’s Miis. They are somewhat cute though not nearly as iconic as what Nintendo did. I do like that you can change your clothes and pay for new outfits. As money grubbing as it is,  it is a feature I actually wish Nintendo had instituted with the Wii U. Even something like allowing Mii outfit changes thanks to amiibos would be appreicated but I don’t think will happen. Microsoft’s Avatars aren’t very widely used and are far more gimmick than it was on Nintendo’s platform though. Even though they offer more options, I’m far less likely to PAY for said options due to the lack of use. Ironically, I always felt Nintendo’s Miis were underused, but they are still actually used unlike Microsoft’s.

Anyway who cares about that? I got the newer X-Box One themed version of the system and I do really like  the new design. I think it is a much more sleek design than the older 360s. I think Microsoft did well on this design both for the 360 as well as the Xboned. I was hoping that the system was quieter than earlier versions, and the sad thing is that I think it is. But it is still a much noisier system than the Wii, the Wii U, or my PC. Microsoft has seemingly no understanding that this thing is in the living room. I did get the 4GB version of the system and bought a 500GB HD on the side. I do think the mechanism of installing the HD was super easy and pretty nice but the $40 I paid for it seemed a tad overpriced, usually  they run for $100… considering you can generally  get 2TB at $100 now adays… completely outrageous prices. If you are in the market for an HD, make sure to shop around!

I bought 7 games with the system and had 1 other game previously. The games I bought were SSX, Kameo, Diablo 3  Ultimate Evil Edition, Dark Souls, Enslaved, and Blue Dragon. The game I already owned was Lost Odyssey. I’ve played at least a little of most of them and the graphics are fine. Overall a bit worse than the Wii U generally can pull even in its first year titles and a bit better than the Wii could pull even in its end times. While loading the game initially is loud, the system does quiet down while playing. I heard a lot of Microsoft’s achievement system, and I do like the basis of it. But I kept getting achievements and I had no idea why… unlock a character in SSX that is rather cheap? Achievement! Ok that’s silly. I still like it as a concept though and I had heard that the system became abused by developers which seems to be true.

I will admit that one problem that i had getting into the X-Box 360 and why I was leaning towards PS3 was the severe lack of exclusive titles. I’ve been setting my sights on mostly the exclusives and already feel like I have many of them with games like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and Kameo. Gears of War series, Fable series, Viva Pinata, and Banjo Kazooie are on my radar as well. But outside of that I really don’t know where to go for exclusives, most everything seems to be elsewhere. The next thing I’ve been looking at is what games are better on the 360 and the PS3? This is a good question. I feel like it is a difficult one to get good answers on because opinion is fairly subjective. I have been using Eurogamer as my source of comparisons and that put SSX and Dragon’s Dogma and a couple other games on my radar.

The X-box controller is essentially an evolution of the Gamecube controller. It has an offset right stick with buttons taking prime real estate instead. The buttons are backwards (XYAB instead of YXBA) and this is offputting for someone who is a long time Nintendo player and got used to the standard that was set decades ago. I also dislike the little dots they put on the stick pads. After a good half hour of play my thumbs begin to hurt just because they are rubbing up against those. I’ve never been a fan of the  external batteries, I know Microsoft initially used it as a good thing, but I think it makes the controller wonky. I like the feel of the lower two triggers, though I still miss the click of the gamecube at the end of the trigger pull.  I like the layout overall, but honestly neither layout really bothers me (the other being the classic PS layout of sticks taking the same position on both sides that Nintendo has now followed suit with).

I haven’t gotten the Kinect yet and still debating whether I will. I probably will just for collector’s aspect. But realistically, the best thing Microsoft put out for it in its 3 or 4 years of existence was a dancing mini-game that was part of a star wars game. Microsoft never knew what to do with the thing and then they wondered why no one wanted it on the xboned. Well to my knowledge they still haven’t found a use for it on the xboned,  in fact not even sure if there is a game out there that actually utilizes it outside of standard voice commands. As much grief as people give Nintendo for the Wii Remote and the Gamepad being gimmicks (and the gamepad so far I can’t disagree with), the Kinect is the definition of a gimmick.

Overall, for what I paid it wasn’t a terrible buy. Out of the 3 Microsoft consoles to date, the 360 is the only one I have any interest in as a collector. I am glad I got it for that purpose.

Goals of 2014-2015

Tis that time of year again where I review what happened to me in the previous year and think about what needs to occur in the coming  year. It was an off year for me and many of my goals from last year fell by the wayside unfortunately. This happened I think largely due to a depression that leaked into my  life an ultimately one of the larger goals I have going forward is getting out.

Online Life

I feel like my blog has been pretty regular over the past year. It has had ups and downs but overall I think I have been averaging 3-4 articles a month which is about where I want to be. I definitely want to get the number more regular for 2015 and closer to 4-6 a month. It’s funny looking back at previous years and seeing that I had updated around 12-15 a month at one time, but a lot of that was due to having extra time from being in school. Still, there are definitely moments in work that are dead that I could use the time to write blogs and I should use it as such more often.

I picked up playing Ingress this year which I consider to be an online game. It is both online and offline, a weird hybrid. This has gotten me involved in several real life get togethers and it has been a lot fun meeting new people in the area and region. I have been waning on my interest of the game of late but am sure I will continue to have small spurts of play.

BucketGeek had a small surge in postings. However, the postings have largely died. If anyone actually  followed the blog, I still do the bucket list items but overall I think I set myself up for failure on the blog. It takes almost as much time to blog about the items as it is to just check the items off my list. That puts it into a problem spot. Be that as it may, I do want to get that site back up with regular updates.

I am happy to say that I did in fact start putting out Let’s Play videos on Christmas Day this  year and so far have kept it up for the last week. This project I admit is bound to fail from time to time as it is an incredible amount of work getting the videos together and uploaded.  Still, I have been enjoying it so far and hope that the game aspect of it keeps me involved. I foresee the biggest problem with keeping up with Minecraft, and already have lowered production of my series to be from Monday, Wednesday  and Friday to just Monday and Friday. The problem is it really does take way more time to produce than other videos. I also do The Witcher and Zeus+Poseidon and for both those games I can sit down and record and in an hour I will have two episodes, then another hour and both of those episodes are fully edited. For Minecraft, if I put in an hour I am lucky to have a single episode and it’d likely take an hour to edit that episode. I wager that it actually is 3 to 4 times the effort to do Minecraft than it is to do the other series. But I kind of see Minecraft as the longterm glue for the channel… the thing that will always be there as other games come and go.

Gaming Life

I feel my gaming life has picked up largely due to the let’s plays. I currently have 4 current games that I am playing for recording and have a couple other games I put a few moments to here and there that I don’t record. I definitely feel like the number of games I play has risen which is nice and bad all at once.

My game collection is also coming along. In 2014, I got a Dreamcast, a Genesis, and an X-Box 360, as well as several games for each. I also purchased a RetroN 5 and have purchased a couple dozen Super Famicom games imported from Japan. Most of the games that I have been collecting thus far have been centered around the RPGs and older games that I always wanted to own but couldn’t. In 2015, I’d like to expand my games even more and get a PS3 and Maybe a Sega Saturn.

My update of my computer did get completed last year. I even got a new keyboard and mouse which weren’t planned, but nice additions. I even got a second monitor, though it was gifted from my company and so isn’t particularly great. Thinking ahead to 2015… my computer related goals includes getting at least 2TB of HD space on my computer added in. I already have 7TB but almost my entire movie collection was digitized so I need more.

Work Life

I don’t have a ton to say. Work is good. I got a raise at the end of the year. I got moved to a project I love and have hopes of going to another project in 2015 that is related to my current one that I think I will enjoy. My only real complaint with my current job is that towards the second half of the year, a lot of the people I conversed with on a regular basis became part of a project in which I never see them so work life has gotten a lot more stale. Not much I can do about that. Can’t have everything, at least I enjoy the job.

Personal Life

Well drama occurred with the former work group that I was trying to get together on a regular basis for movie night and so that idea died early unfortunately. I may give it another go but I don’t have hopes at this point. That group is pretty well fractured at this point.

The RPG podcast and the game night have also not happened, I think to a lesser degree because of the above drama. I kind of have hopes of putting together a game day with another friend, we’ve had 2 thus far but it has been infrequent so far.

Unfortunately, at the end of 2014 my long standing Pen & Paper RPG group broke up. Not entirely sure what happened, we ended a Pathfinder campaign and when prompted to do something past that, one guy said he was out and others showed no interest at all. Towards the end of the campaign I had started having some issues with one of the guys and I wonder if that in combination with my general lack of roleplaying (it was a roleplay heavy group) led them to just kind of drop me off at this point. Or if people’s schedules just became too much to have the game as well. Not sure, there were a couple of people who were consistently showing up later and later, or not able to show up at all which was causing problems. So it might have just been a natural end to the group. Is too bad, but I needed a break from it anyway so I think it is good. Timing wise it gives me an extra night to get stuff done and I wasn’t a huge fan of Thursday nights as it made preparing for weekends with my daughter more difficult.

I did go through a few spurts of learning Japanese and found a new way to learn it which I think was working quite well. Unfortunately that dropped off a bit and I need to get back into doing that.

A Long Journey Begins… Hopefully

It happened on Christmas Day. My first Let’s Play video was uploaded to Youtube. The video is a simple let’s play of Minecraft where I head out from spawn and make a fancy mine entrance. Nothing overly special, but it was my first.  You can view the video here, or here:

I have since uploaded a couple more Minecraft episodes and also uploaded a Let’s Play for The Witcher: Enhanced Edition. Over the next couple of days, I will also be adding first episodes of the old school God Simulation Game, Zeus, and a new indie game that is similar to Terraria crossed with Lemmings called “Craft the World.”

I feel in some ways that a new journey is beginning. My goal is to upload new content daily, and i have a plan in place to make it happen. I have no doubt that ultimately I will miss it from time to time. Life seems to affect my plans in ways I don’t like and have a hard time getting around sometimes. But my plan will hopefully alleviate that and give it some space.

I talked a little bit in my first video as to why I decided to start doing Let’s Play videos, but thought it was worth talking about more here. The honest truth is, that I see it as an extension as to the original purpose of my blogging, which isn’t really this site at all. It goes back to my original site… The Life and Times of Kazar. That blog, was created for the purpose of writing a weekly summary of the things that I was doing in Asheron’s Call 1. At the time, I feel the site had a decent following. It wasn’t huge considering the niche it was, but I felt it did OK.

When I stopped playing AC1, I closed that site and moved onto this one. I don’t think my intent was ever the same. There was definitely a break between the two sites and by the time this one came around, I had either stopped playing MMORPGs, or come to the realization that the genre had changed. You see, for AC1 and UO, these games weren’t on rails quite as much as modern MMOs are. Sure the MMO genre still feels fairly wide open, it isn’t exactly a rails game. But when you start a quest, everyone follows the same path. There really isn’t a lot of derivation in the game, the change comes in what class or race you play and nothing more. If you play a Dwarf Paladin in WoW, you get pretty much the same leveling experience as everyone else. There does come some daily changes once you max out, which doesn’t take long, but it is a lot more repetitive. AC1 was so wide open, that literally no two people’s path was the same, and even when you were doing a specific quest, two people could go about it a different way depending on the quest. The point is, I felt there was something to write about back then, and when I started the new blog I didn’t feel that as much. So instead, I started writing about what was happening in my life, my thoughts on the game industry, game reviews, politics and other random crap. Anyone who has followed this blog at all has some understanding of how random it can be, and to some degree I enjoy that.

But with YouTube, I see a path back to what I was doing with Life & Times of Kazar. The Witcher is a great example. Sure, the first game in particular seems to be very much on rails. There are some parts where you can deviate and take a different path, but the result often is the same. I hope that others have enjoyment in watching me take the path though and because it is a more direct viewing, I feel like there is something more to watch than if I were to write about it later. There is also something more fun in watching something as it is happening, I feel. Let’s Play videos take a bit of slack out there, and I admit, it’s a little weird watching others play video games, but there’s also something interesting about it as well that I can’t put my finger on. It is entertainment. So I hope others watch it and enjoy it, but like with Life & Times of Kazar before this, I am really doing it as a way to just catalog what I’m doing in the world. I have gone back and read those blogs in the last couple of years and smiled at the times I had back then. Now would I enjoy it if my videos became super popular and I could quit my day job and do nothing but that? Hells yeah. Do I think that I will be able to? Hell no.

I will say so far the process has been weird. I feel that even though something new is just beginning… really this is the end of a lot of work. I’ve actually been working on creating these videos for 3 months now. I haven’t been recording until the last couple of weeks, but there was a lot of effort that went into finding the right programs to record and then edit, doing various test runs to ensure everything was working correctly, doing research on a good way to do descriptions, titles and tags, figuring out  what games I want to play and then going out and getting permission to play those games. And let me say that it is kind of annoying that I am required to get permission to play someone else’s games… just stupid. I very much hate how copyright law is working right now. And so with me finally publishing my first videos… I feel like a lot of difficult and annoying work is over. And there is definitely a sigh of relief on  my side.

If anyone is interested, my youtube channel is https://www.youtube.com/user/Razakius/. I will not be posting here when I update there. For that, you will need to either subscribe to my video, or follow me on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter (Links should be on the right hand side). I may do an update here from time to time, but I really don’t want to bog down this blog with video posts.

Year One of This Generation’s Consoles.

Today, December 19th, 2014. The Xbox One, from here on out to be referred to as the Xboned, has a sale price at target for $350. You get the xboned, Assassin’s Creed 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and a $70 gift card. Which puts the system plus two games at the astounding price of $280. Really good price for a system that has only been out for a year. Now I have been considering shelling out the $$ for a previous gen system now that prices have died somewhat. 360 is currently sitting at $200 and the PS3 is sitting at $250. Both come with games, generally I’ve only wanted the games that come with the PS3. In retrospect I think the PS3 ended with the best games of the system but that is a conversation for another post. But this did get me thinking of whether it is worth the price… even at $280 to buy an Xboned, and this relates to the issues that Wii U had after its first year of selling systems. Certainly the xboned has sold more systems in its first year than the Wii U did, though the Wii U sold more in the first couple of months. After one year, the xboned has sold 9.4 Million units globally while the Wii U has sold just 8 Million Units after two years. That’s bad for the Wii U. PS4 is sitting at 16.6 Million Units after one year. That’s bad for the Xboned.

The biggest complaint about the Wii U after a year was that it had no games. This was undoubtably true, but after a year, the xboned seems to suffer from the same fate. So I kind of wanted to compare the two. I will probably leave PS4 out of this discussion. As a Nintendo fan already I can say that PS4 has more games out now than the Xboned does, and has a very strong lineup coming. I think the PS4 will likely be the console to beat throughout this generation and the numbers are hard to argue. For this comparison. I am going to completely ignore anything that is not exclusive. Why? Because cross-platform games are completely irrelevant when it comes to comparing consoles. I don’t care that Xboned has Assassin’s Creed 4, so does the Wii U. Sure the latest version of Madden is not on the Wii U, but I don’t care about games which require yearly updates with little changes in them  in order to maintain some sort of relevance in the game space. I may count a game which is limited time exclusive but it’ll lose points for eventually losing said exclusivity.

Looking at the best games of the Wii U through their first year…

  • Nintendoland was the launch title they went with that would hopefully sell the system like Wii Sports did, it didn’t. Nintendoland is OK, but not great and I probably wouldn’t have bought if it wasn’t included even at $20 it would have been a questionable purchase.
  • Little Inferno has largely been hailed as a great game and though it has since been released on other platforms, I have heard tales that it isn’t nearly as good without the gamepad functionality.
  • New Super Mario U… It is hard to argue that the game is super fun. it is one of the best of the retro Mario games with really good design. It’s expansion-esque Super Luigi U, which I will not count as a separate game, was a nice though expensive addition to elongate the life of the game.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited – A cute addition to the series. I like it better than the Unmasked game, but not as well as previous incarnations of the series. I wonder if this series has gone the course, but it still was a pretty good game.
  • Tank! Tank! Tank! – I hear this is a super fun game if you like multiplayer. I haven’t the crowd to play with so I never bothered to pick up the game.
  • ZombiU – I loved the dynamic of starting a new character everytime you die. Very roguelike and cool for a zombie survival game. This game puts survival back in the genre and is overall really good for a launch title. It doesn’t get as much kudos as it should.
  • Pikmin 3 – Amazing addition to the series. I fear the series continues to not sell well and I’m not entirely sure why. I kind of like 2 a little better but this game ranks a close second. Definitely worth a buy.
  • Wonderful 101 – A great idea, unfortunately that has largely been reviewed as a meh game. I have yet to have enough time to really play it.

I did decide not include remakes on this list like Zelda: Wind Waker. And I also tried to stay clear of indie titles because there are a lot and I haven’t played a lot of them. So yeah, overall not great library, especially if  you consider not many people have even heard of Little inferno and tank tank tank.  There were also a few more but not really even to the meh level that wonderful 101 and Nintendoland get.

On to the Xboned.

  • Crimson Dragon – I admit. I was kind of excited by the game. Panzer Dragoon is a very highly regarded game, though really the RPG is what gets the regard, not the rail shooter. It got pretty bad ratings, generally sitting at 50%, but still kind of want to play it anyway.
  • Dead Rising 3 – A good solid game… Good Exclusive. I probably wouldn’t buy it personally but that’s me, to be honest i wouldn’t likely buy ZombiU if it hadn’t come with my system, I’m not a scary game guy.
  • Forza Horizon 2 – Honestly out of all the games before Sunset Overdrive, this is the only one I had heard about that I really wanted to play. Not sure why, I haven’t really been interested in racing games for years.
  • Ryse – This was supposed to be one of the biggest games going into the launch but never really panned out. I would put it in the Nintendoland column.
  • Titanfall – A good solid game, though the amount of hype before versus the amount of talk after is a little disturbing. Probably their biggest game during their launch period.
  • Project Spark – Wonder how much the failure of this game led to the purchase of Minecraft?
  • Sunset Overdrive – To date, the biggest game that gives you a reason to buy an X-Box One, and really the only reason I would seriously consider buying one. The game looks fantastic. Mad props to Insomniac Games.

And that is pretty much their lineup. I guess I could probably include Killer Instinct in the meh column as well, but their free to play method annoyed the crap out of me more than anything. I don’t care if the game is decent, that was bullshit.

Overall, personally I liked the games more on the Nintendo side, Xboned had a few good ones worth going after but just to me not as many. I realize this opinion will be different for those who disregard any game that doesn’t have mass murder as not a “real game,” but I just have a hard time caring about said people. I very much enjoy violent games, why can’t those people enjoy fun games that aren’t violent? It doesn’t make sense to me.

To me the more concerning part is the next year of the xboned. With the end of the first year, you were starting to see production of games ramping up for the Wii U with Bayonetta 2, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart, Smash Brothers, and more on the next year. And we were already hearing rumors of Xenoblade X and the next Zelda. With Xbox One… the only thing in the future I have heard about is the next Halo, and I just don’t care.

People, I feel, overrate the games of the first year. In modern consoles, the first year is almost uniformally crappy, even with the PS4. I can excuse that. It’s what that follows that REALLY matters. And both the Wii U and the PS4 have solid lineups planned for next year.  And Nintendo had a good lineup this last year and it was announced at this point last eyar too. That Microsoft has nothing planned but Halo 5 is extremely disturbing and I think even at an amazing price of $280 for the Xbox One. I’m sorry Microsoft… I will pass. I’d rather pay $250 for a PS3 with The Last of Us…

My Consternation With Amiibo

It all starts with the e-Reader. I bought the e-Reader because honestly I thought it was a great idea. At the time collectible cards was still near its height and here’s a way to add stuff to games easily. In particular,  it seemed built for games like Pokemon and Animal Crossing which had lots that they could add to with custom pokemon or clothing that you might be able to download given the right card. It failed miserably. I got a few packs, but overall it seemed fairly difficult to buy any of the packs of e-reader cards, and I had no interest in the Pokemon TCG so I never really bothered with that set.

Then there is the Mii. I love Miis, they are extremely popular to this day. However, they also never were used quite as much as they were promised initially. Their limitations being used in Nintendo’s casual games like Sports, Wii Fit, or Nintendoland. When Nintendo put them in Mario Kart 8, I thought it was both surprising and strange considering it is way more fun to play a classic mario character than your mii anyway, but it is still a nice touch. Nintendo rarely opened up the Miis for use with third-parties which is really a shame because I remember reading articles with various third-parties expressing interest. Honestly, I feel that they should have opened up the API to allow anyone to play with them but Nintendo considers Mii an IP and as such they want to protect it, but in so doing they are limiting the promise of what Miis could have been. On top of that, with a new console they totally could have added in new outfits and features for the Mii to advance them even more, maybe even a slight update on graphics… but no. Miis got ignored, even gimped considering there isn’t an online stage that you can go and view and download other people’s creations anymore.

And this is my concern with Amiibo. In theory, I like it way better than I like Skylanders and Disney Infinity that came before. I mean here, instead of being stuck into a weird game, they almost act as universal DLC unlockers. Meaning, you unlock DLC in multiple games just for owning a cute little statue. When I think that I could unlock a character in Smash Bros that learns to play based on how you play with it, or a new suit in Mario Kart, or an item in Hyrule Warriors… I think this is a great concept.

I think about how these could be used in the future. I mean, like the e-reader before it, Amiibo seems to be tailor made for Animal Crossing which I have no doubt will launch on the Wii U in a couple of years. I also feel like it would work well with Mario Party which is out next year I believe… Maybe add new characters in the game that normally aren’t there? Maybe a helping system. Maybe a learning playstyle similar to Smash Bros. And what if Nintendo eventually put out a central Amiibo game. Maybe Amiibo World or something, similar to Skylanders and Infinity where owning the figures makes a difference on the characters. Coupled with the upcoming New 3DS that has support for Amiibo scanning, and we could also see support for games on that system so that opens it up even more. Nice touch Nintendo.

But then I think of, compatability with games. This concept works way better the more games that the Amiibos work for, and considering we are already at nearly 50 announced figures in the next 6 months, you can’t expect every Amiibo to have something in every game. But this lends to the problem of how many games can you expect each amiibo to have features for? Already there have been many reports that Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer are discontinued. And because of that, the value of those Amiibo has sky-rocketed. What then, presents Nintendo with the responsibility in the future to have a game that gives owners of Marth a little love? Will Marth only have compatibility for Super Smash Bros. and that is the whole reason why they discontinued it? Villager was a strange one to me to discontinue just because of how perfect Animal Crossing is for this… why didn’t they keep him out until that game came out? Will Village have support in Animal Crossing? It would make sense. Will we only see support in games where the characters are actually present like we see in Smash Brothers and Hyrule Warriors? Or will we see more little trinkets like Mario Kart 8? Wasn’t it a bit of a waste that they decided that all those fun outfits in Bayonetta of Nintendo IPs were included with the game for free instead of as Amiibo add-ons? I mean I’m not complaining but would have been some nice support there.

Then there is third-party support. Nintendo themselves has mentioned that they have already been talks with some third-parties and I have seen reports elsewhere (not sure where) from the third-parties that they are interested. But then, this is the same sort of talk we heard with Miis and we all see where that led us. And if, eventually, third-party games did support Amiibos, how would compensation work? I would guess Nintendo makes about $5 per figure from sales.1 How much would Nintendo give to Sega for including support for Mario Amiibo? $.50 per figure sold? $1.00? Or would they base it on usage of the Amiibo within the game similar to how Spotify pays musicians? For instance, that $5 per figure is put into a giant pot and if players use the amiibo in your game 20% of the time and other games 80% of the time, you get the $1 per figure. And will Nintendo be willing to pay others for using Nintendo’s IP? The fact that we will be seeing Mega Man and Sonic amiibos in February alone I find astonishing and I look forward to seeing that. I wonder how much of a share Sega & Capcom get for those. And I wonder how many more third-party amiibos we might see in the future?

There are a ton of questions right now with Amiibo even close to a month after their release and still not much solid. I like them, but I worry about them. I don’t know if they will get the support we all kind of hope for or if after this initial push it just kind of dwindles away. I don’t know if the current level of support will be the final level support that we can expect going forward. (Each Amiibo may have support for two or three games and that is it.) Right now Nintendo is really selling a hope and a dream. And unfortunately they have not had a great track record with this type of experiment. This one seems to have the most promise. It gives you something far more concrete in the terms of ideas than the e-Reader, and also provides an income the way that the Miis could not. But will the sometimes fickle Nintendo follow through? That remains to be seen. At the very least we will have some cute little figurines to enjoy even if the games don’t really turn out.

  1. Do the math… $14 per sale… retailer will take $7. Let’s assume $2 per figure for advertising and production. $5 seems about right.

Why Nintendo Should Leave Optical Media Behind

I recently was watching a Youtube video of people playing Little Big Planet 3 on the PS4. First of all the game, looks awesome and is one of the bigger reasons to get a PS4 in my eyes.1 But the thing that astonished me most was the loading screens of the game… it would take a good minute or two to load the game up, reminding me of PSX load times that always made me glad that I had an N64 instead of a Playstation. Load times, unfortunately, are the negative that come with optical media, however in recent times that has been negated a bit by having faster optical drives in the system.2

Enter the new competitor which Nintendo has embraced on its portable systems for years now… the SD card. SD cards do not suffer from the speed problems of optical media, they also are a more durable media format, and can write onto the disk. In fact, SD cards very much remind me of the old media that Nintendo prized for so long… the cartridge.

The main problems from the cartridge was the size constraint vs. cost. But let’s look at the size first of all… PS4’s Blu-ray drive can hold 50GB of space. Honestly, compared to the jump in size that the CD gave, this isn’t a whole lot of space anymore. A quick look at amazon.com and I can find 64GB SD card today for about $30. Which isn’t a bad price for retail, though yes is a lot more expensive than what you can get for Blu-ray which runs about $25 for 10 50GB discs. That is .05 per GB of Blu-Ray to .45 per GB of SD. Of course, the hidden truth about these sizes is that games today are rarely over 25GB. For 25GB discs, the price increases to about .06 per GB and for 32GB SD cards, the price decreases to about .12 per GB.

This brings me to scaling. There are essentially two options with Blu-Ray… there is 25 and 50 GB. With SD, there is a lot bigger of a range. Are you making a smaller game? Use a 4GB card, making a bigger game? Use a 64GB card. Not only that, prices change as times progress. 64GB is kind of pricey today, but a year from now they may be fairly affordable. Price of a Blu-Ray disc aren’t likely to deviate much, yeah even at the cheap range, the Blu-ray may still hold an advantage in per GB price, but you are also paying for GB you don’t need and thus you might actually be able to pay less for a 4GB SD card than a 25GB disc even if you are paying more per GB what does it matter if you are only using 2? SD also scales better towards the future in size. PS4 will always only handle 50GB, but the 3DS for example is capable of holding a 128GB SD card and that system is 3 years old. No game requires that amount of space yet, but the ability is there if needed down the line. With Nintendo next console… I would not be surprised if 256 or 512GB might be easily tops.

The rumor for Nintendo’s next console is that they will be merging their portable system with their handheld system. Largely this is the rumor due to the working name of Fusion. The assumption I guess would be a system that might be similar to what we have with the Wii U, except the tablet has processing power similar to an advanced version of the 3DS within its shell that would allow you to take the system with you and play on the go. I think this would be a welcome addition and also feel like a natural evolution. I, along with many others I’m sure, would love to be able to just walk away from my TV and bring my gamepad to work or on vacation, even if the graphics aren’t quite as good as if they were on the TV and even if the games that supported such functionality were somewhat limited. After all, maybe Wii Sports just wouldn’t make sense without the Wii Remotes. The intriguing part of this to me is how to deal with the game media. And this is where SD card could become the next form factor for Nintendo.

Nintendo already has many  years of experience with working with the SD form factor.  SD holds with it many advantages that were lost with the optical media that I am sure Nintendo has long missed (Writability, expanadibility, speed, durability). And perhaps in 3 or 4 years, the size vs. cost has finally advanced to the stage that optical’s only real advantage is no where nearly as large. After all, say what you will about the cheapness of optical media… an expensive game on the 3DS is $40 where a normal priced game on the PS4 and the Xboned is $60. Surely, the price differential isn’t as big as people might assume.3

The reality is that despite the fact that Microsoft got slaughtered for trying to go with no media with the Xboned, with Valve possibly officially launching Steam machines in the next couple of years, I feel like the next gen of consoles won’t have media anyway. I mean think about it… 1TB hard drives are fairly cheap, media is expensive, most countries have good internet even if ours doesn’t, and you generally can redownload games as much as possible. One of the largest complaints I’ve heard of going no media is that not everyone has an internet connection… that argument doesn’t make sense to me after living through the Gamecube era where Nintendo got killed for not having internet support and that was 14 years ago. I agree with the sentiment, but feel that it is really an argument being used by people who don’t have the problem and I would rather them put out real arguments. Personally I like physical media cause I can resell it (valid, though game makers don’t want you to) and I am a collector and don’t like the idea that 10 years from now my game won’t be usable and honestly digital doesn’t really make for good collecting anyway. Really game makers don’t think either argument is valid outside of the fact that they are valid feelings we the consumer has. The other argument that people latch onto even though it doesn’t affect them, that not everyone has internet… it’s only valid to a certain point. In Japan and Korea, it is not. Do remember that Sony & Nintendo care about Japan first.  And while Americans like to think we are more important than everyone else, we are not. We certainly matter in the video game market, but we aren’t the majority. What’s more those without internet are not the majority of the video game market. Actually far from. The number of people who can afford a $600 (Console + 1 or 2 games + a controller) investment and DO NOT HAVE INTERNET is a VERY small percentage. Those people who don’t have internet are often the ones who this year decided to buy an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 for Christmas… a full year after the next gen has been out just to save money, so you are literally talking about people who are a full generation behind which means these people won’t be affected by a no media decision until 2022 at the earliest (Assuming Nintendo launches their next console in 2017 on a 5 year cycle which is the absolute earliest that they will, and then another 5 years until the next gen after that launches.) By that point, if people are really without internet… it isn’t Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft you should be angry at… it is the United States Government because that would be ridiculous…

  1. Still not worth $400.
  2. I believe the PSX had a 1x or a 2x CD-ROM drive which even at the time was ridiculously slow.
  3. I fully grant that 3DS games are cheaper to develop and that is part of the price difference as well.

Modding Minecraft

I have been spending a lot of time of late thinking about what mods to incorporate into my next minecraft world and it is interesting thinking about it as it is a very interesting balance that must be sought.  I wrote an article a little more than a year ago talking about some of my favorite mods, and I don’t entirely want to turn this into that. For one, that article was full of a bunch of “no duh” type mods which really tend to find their place in most modpacks. But really I want to talk more about what I really want out of a modpack in theory and where other mod packs have strayed wrong.

I first fell in love with mods the same way a lot of people did, with Feed the Beast. A widely popular modpack back in the day which was loaded with tons of mods. FTB through the years has lost a lot of favor with a lot of popular minecrafters through the years for a number of different reasons. It was hard to get your own modpack created and then updated, FTB was slow to update to the latest version of modded minecraft1, and their attempts to turn a profit.2

My personal issue with FTB and the many modpacks that others start is that I feel like they just try to add everything under the sun and kind of forget what Minecraft is all about. I know the Mindcrack crew try to keep theirs somewhat balanced, and am sure Direwolf tries to as well. Although Yogscast and Attack of the B-Team I think purposely try to break balance, instead hoping that everyone can get everything they could possibly need and automated rather quickly so that building can occur. 3

The problem with the concept of bypassing and automating the resource gathering is that is the game. Honestly people can and have made very wondrous things in creative, but I find it less impressive than people who build such wondrous things in survival. When you automate everything in order to bypass it and just do the building, I’m not entirely sure why you are even bothering to go into survival… why not just play creative where everything is unlimited and no work is required?

Automation isn’t in itself the evil, you can automate in vanilla and a lot of the cool stuff I see people doing in survival is this sort of automation. The automation in mods is supposed to help make automation slightly less annoying but it shouldn’t give you everything. An example is Thermal Expansion which gives you the ability to automate item transportation, stone/obsidian creation, water creation and a few other things. To me, the main thing that it gets you is the item transportation which you can do in vanilla but not well and it is extremely annoying. TE follows the path Buildcraft started and BC did it right. Essentially giving you tubes and a few machines that you have to power in order to use. Adding in the power aspect actually adds to the game because, yeah it actually gives you the ability to do something easier and more efficiently but it also creates a need to do something else for that ease so it is a fair trade off.

When it goes to far, i think of Applied Energistics which a lot of players love, and I totally understand why… I hate it though. When I first saw it I loved it. I mean it gives you insane amounts of storage that is instantly sorted and searchable for almost no effort. What isn’t to love? Well the almost no effort is the part that breaks it in my mind. I mean yeah you have to power it just like other machines, but what you get out of it (searching and storage, not to mention transportation) is actually worth MORE that just power. There needs to be something else to make it difficult because getting an automatic sorting and storage system (and automatic crafting system for that matter which AE does too easily) needs to require some effort. This is elder game type stuff in my mind. You can do these things using Thermal Expansion already and it does require a little more effort to do, and in fact I think the correct amount. It isn’t easy, and it takes space but it can be done and considering what you get it is totally worth it. So in my modpack… AE is out TE is in.

Tinker’s Construct is a weird one. I actually think this particular mod is extremely well balanced. Nothing comes easy in it, it’s a mod that makes sense and actually makes for a slightly more realistic game. However, I sat and thought of this mod and asked myself… what does it give me? The answer is 1) Double Ore Production 2) Some advanced tools 2b) a few new ores which lend to 2 and 3) Some new types of enchantments. For the first, that is already being done in just about every other major mod out there, I actually like Tinker’s Construct Ore Doubling the best, but it is also redundant thanks to others, so while I could use it, it isn’t worth having the mod for. The second, I do enjoy the faster tools at the top tier and the tools that let  you ore more than one block at a time, but they are minor and also can be gotten elsewhere. And for the third, well yeah it has a few new enchantments, some of which are quite good. But the trade-off is that it takes out the vanilla enchanting process altogether. It kind of makes levels pointless. And to be honest, I kind of like the vanilla enchanting process and the randomness it provides. This mod strips any randomness of loot completely away and while I think it does so in a fairly balanced way, I can’t help but feel the game loses something without getting that uber pick with Fortune IV naturally by luck… So though I kinda like the mod, I’m going without it. I might have given it more consideration if the mod dev ever gives it the armor that he has been working on for what seems like ever.

Outside of Automation, the next thing that I look at with mods is variety. This kind of goes back to the question I asked of Tinker’s Construct… What does it add? Really I want mods to give me more in minecraft. More to explore, more to do, without breaking the game. Ironically stuff like Forestry and Natura I add into the game because they add variety to trees and biomes even though the companion mods that they were created for (Buildcraft and Tinker’s Construct) I have done without. I actually didn’t particularly want the bees from Forestry in it and was initially thinking of ditching Forestry altogether because of them. But they aren’t overly bad. I just felt they were overdone and can get kind of annoying, but they aren’t OP. These are the types of things I want though, give me variety! I considered at least one of the huge monster mods, but they either have a lot of really strange looking creatures or tend to give me server some issues. But there were other similar mods that added some variety into the game like Forestry & Natura.

Then there are convenience mods. I won’t say much about them because there isn’t much to say. There are a lot of mods out there that do little things to make life easy. For instance, there is a mod that helps sort things in your inventory and chests automatically. These are good to add into a pack and don’t break the game. They really are stuff that Microsoft should be adding in by themselves.

Lastly is what I consider the trade off mods. I feel like something needs to be added in exchange for the ease that is being added by the little bit of automation and ease of use the other mods are adding. The reason for this is watching some of the streams and videos out there of people who play modded a lot. Let’s face it, Minecraft in and of itself isn’t so hard anymore. A big reason that a lot of people get into mods is to extend the play experience. But the experience  they are extending is how to automate more and do things easier. That is backwards, they should be extending the play of the difficulty. So I am adding mobs like “You Will Die,” Deadly Worlds, and Infernal Mobs just to name a few.

Overall, i really like the strategy I am going with. I think it does a good job of keeping the essence of Minecraft while adding more difficulty and variety while also adding a touch of automation and ease of use. I have pretty high hopes for it and my enjoyment of it.

  1. FTB as of this writing just began launching modpacks for 1.7.10 even though most of the modders out there had stable versions out there and other modpack software had been doing it for awhile. This is a constant problem with FTB as they work towards making sure all mods work well together in a stable way. A good method, but it still is annoying for us antsy people out there=P
  2. I don’t blame em but I do get annoyed when I go to their what’s new page hoping for news on the latest release of the game only to see advertisements for a new shirt they have. I feel they give updates of their store 90% of the time and updates for the game 10% of the time.
  3. Or in yogscast’s case, more likely just random crap can occur and they don’t have to worry about the building aspect.

Comic Book Movies I’d Like to See

Now that Marvel is going into the realm of “we can do anything bitches” with Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Doctor Strange. And likewise we are seeing DC going all in with movies like Suicide Squad and Aquaman (really?), and Sony even making a movie based on the Sinister Six.1 Well why not start talking about what movies we would all like to see get made? So I present you my list.

1. Bishop - We had a glimpse of Bishop in Days of Future Past, and we might see him again in Age of Apocalypse considering he did play a part in that storyline. Bishop was one of the more popular additions to the X-Men squad in the 90s Bishop has the ability to absorb energy and then redirect it back wherever he wants it. It’s an interesting dynamic and he tends to be more powerful than Gambit who can just kind of create it out of nothing. The absorbed energy also seems to amplify his strength, he has a robotic arm, and he time travels. What isn’t to like?

2. Cable – Another X-Man who became really popular in the 90s spawning his own comic series, and another time traveler that had a hand with Apocalypse a few times. Cable would be an interesting choice in the movies because he is the son of Scott Summers and a clone of Jean Grey. The likelihood of the original actors returning in those roles to any extent is slim to none, but Cable was always kind of shrouded with mystery and could make an entrance into the X-Men series pretty easily without the parents. Like Bishop, Cable has  a cybernetic arm, but Cable is essentially a muscular Jean Gray with guns. I honestly don’t foresee both Bishop AND Cable, and given that we have already seen Bishop, we’ll have to rest our hopes on Bishop spinning off.

3. Alpha Flight – Wikipedia describes Alpha Flight as “Canada’s answer to the Avengers” but it could easily be replaced with the X-Men. The group is all Canadian and was a major part of Wolverine’s back story. They are kind of off the beaten path but I always took a fancy to the group. I find this group would be extremely unlikely to get their own movies, but we might have a better shot at seeing in a Wolverine movie at some point now that the Wolverine movies with Hugh Jackman seem to be making a return.

4. Moon Knight – Moon Knight has never been an overly popular Marvel franchise but definitely has a cult following. I will be honest I don’t know a lot about him, but I appreciate the Egyptian motifs that he has and the Batman-like feel. He does have powers of strength and reflexes that wane with the cycle of the moon, but they seem to play a minor role. He also has multiple-personalities which might make for a very interesting movie. He also has been on and off on the Avengers and has movie rights actually owned by Marvel so there is a decent chance we eventually see a Moon Knight movie.

5. Jonah Hex – I mean a real one, not that crappy one that was made a few years ago that was so bad no one even knew it was there. I am reminded of him constantly with the Gotham TV show because in a lot of ways, Jonah Hex actually is the pre-quel to Batman. He is a character from the old west days of Gotham, that is a lot like Batman mixed with Two-Face. He’s got a distorted face and is very rough around the edges but is generally out looking to do the best by what is out there. Like batman, he sometimes travels that fine line between good and bad, though he seems to fall to bad a little more often.

6. Silver Surfer – He kind of had a movie, but it was a small part in a bad Fantastic Four movie. They are rebooting Fantastic Four, and I am kind of hoping that Silver Surfer gets a second chance because of it. Now that Guardians of the Galaxy did so well with being a space-set super hero, I think it is totally in the realm of possibility. He did have some time on the ground, but a full on Space movie would be a pretty cool route to go with him.

  1. I guess when you all you have is Spider-Man you gotta find spin-off movies somewhere.