YouTube and The Witcher

It has been three months now of playing video games and posting my game play footage to YouTube. I have definitely had my ups and downs whilst doing it, but overall have enjoyed the experience. I am surprised in a lot of ways that I am still persistent in recording and editing and doing all the things that go into video creation, and in fact in many ways am more into it now than I was three months ago.

This past Monday, I went to my computer after work with the intention of recording the latest few episodes of my The Witcher playthrough. I tend to bulk record a few episodes at a time for my non-Minecraft games and Witcher was next up. But I didn’t, instead I went and did some recording for Craft the World instead. I didn’t because, well, I  don’t like the game that much, I don’t enjoy playing it almost at all. Sure, the series has traditionally done the worst of my 4 videos, even worse than the 15 year old Zeus game, but that doesn’t actually bother me that much. I knew it wasn’t going to be that much of a draw going into it.

Going into the game. I did want to play off the release of Witcher 3 by playing through Witcher 1 and Witcher 2 and then going directly into Witcher 3. But honestly, I don’t like the first one so much that I do kind of wonder how 2 even got made.

There’s a lot bad about the game like the  re-use of models so much that they don’t even bother changing the clothes of characters when they change the names. I can excuse this even though the game isn’t old enough for that to really be an excuse, but it was the first game from Projekt CD Red. But the things that actually bother me is stuff like the fact that it literally feels like every female in the game’s main purpose is to have sex with the main character, many times I accidentally stumble into yet another sex scene without even realizing that is where the conversation is going. Maybe it is a translation thing but I feel like I should know where it is headed if that is the result. There is a quest board… which I don’t even care for in MMOs. And many of the quests revolve around kill quests (blech) and various weird mini-games. I only ever have played the mini-games when I am forced into them by the story. There are three main offenders… The Poker Dice (read Yahtzee), fist fighting (which seems to be in every single inn), and the let’s get drunk. I actually feel the time where I had to get drunk and go off and fight was somewhat interesting, but only good once and every time they force you to drink, it feels somehow forced. “I will only tell you the info if you drink with me!!!” Really? How bout I just give you alcohol and you tell me what I wanna know. Wait, why isn’t that an option? You see that theme in all the mini-games too… “I will only tell you the info if you play poker dice with me!!!” Uhh, how bout we pretend I just lost, I pay you some money and you spill the info?

To be fair, there are some cool things about the game too. I like the discovery involved in the alchemy tho I still don’t entirely understand how it works, it’s kind of cool, and it’s kind of cool that you need to learn skills to advance that (even if it isn’t clear). There is also some interesting story going on. But overall, I just haven’t liked it. I think there has been more than one occasion where I have said that I have no idea what I’m doing has anything to do with the ultimate storyline and sometimes I don’t even know why I’m doing what I’m doing other than… quest.

And so I  have just today made the decision to make today’s episode of The Witcher the last episode, at least for awhile. I may  come back to it later. I do kind of want to go through the game as a whole at some point, but right now I feel the need for a break with it. After all, maybe the entire storyline is really good and will make the rest of the game’s issues feel silly. But for now, I’m not having fun, so it is out.

I will say that the decision to discontinue the season had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that today’s episode is the 25th episode of the series. When I was recording it, I didn’t even realize it was going to be the 25th episode as I made no mention of it at all. It’s just kind of that time in my recording. Tomorrow will bring the 25th episode of Minecraft (a fact I knew full well going into it). And I think Zeus is going to be hitting 25 in two episodes. I do feel like 25 episodes might become a standard minimum for me though. I like the number, it basically is equivalent to one season of TV programming (which usally has between 18 and 22 episodes these days). And I like the idea of giving a game a full on shot before I give up on it. 24 episodes at 20 minutes a piece is about 8 hours of gameplay and I think that is a good amount of time to give a game before I decide that I don’t like it.

So what will happen for Witcher’s normal Thursday/Sunday time slots? In short, I don’t know. I am pretty sure at the very least, I will move Craft the World from Wednesday to Thursday. And there is a good chance I move Minecraft into either the Wednesday or Sunday spot. I may actually do a near complete re-work of the schedule to be honest. I am hesitant of penning in Minecraft more than 2 times a week for sure, I have liked the flexibility putting up “bonus” episodes has given me. Which would leave me with a hole in the lineup. I might fill that hole by extending Craft the World to three times a week… Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday.  If I did that it would probably be Minecraft on Monday & Friday and Zeus on Wednesday & Saturday. This would be a pretty big shift for me. So I have some decisions to make over the next couple of days.

Looking forward. I do expect that either Zeus or Craft the World will finish up their first seasons in the next couple of weeks. I do have some ideas for what to replace them with though I am open to suggestions. I do feel the need to take a break before I continue on with both of those games, though I love both of them and definitely will be continuing them both in the future. I just feel I need to keep it fresh to keep it interesting for me.

iZombie Review

I haven’t actually done a review or early thoughts of pretty much anything recently. Very strange for me. Not sure why that is, but I felt compelled to do something for iZombie. Why? Because when I first heard of the show I thought… well that sounds stupid! And well conceptually the idea of a Zombie living amongst us living folks is very stupid and I’m not a huge fan of Zombies anyway, but as it turns out, this particular show is really really good.

To give a basic breakdown of what the show is about… iZombie is about a girl who becomes a Zombie in a world where a Zombiepocalypse is NOT occurring, yet at least. Big surprise. And where Zombies aren’t generally just mindless drones wandering around eating brains. I mean she does eat brains, and seems to be able to zerk out, thus becoming a mindless drone, but it is temporary. Zombies also seem to have the ability to see moments of their victims lives, which leads into the fact that she helps solve crime pretty well.

So this isn’t your normal zombie TV show. If you were looking for gore and violence with brainless killing, you are looking in the wrong place. This show is actually about someone coping with changing into something new, coping with the struggles of this change, and keeping the secret from those she loves. In essence, this show has more to do with a super hero ™ show than a zombie show, just using zombiism as the super power.

The show also doesn’t take itself overly seriously. It is more than anything a comedic crime fighting show. I couldn’t help but think of Psych while watching it when she plays off her zombie visions as a Psychic vision.  It’s style really plays into Psych a lot as well with its comedic crime fighting.

iZombie is a show very solidly aiming at an interesting mix of demographics. You can tell that the general every day life of the lead character is meant to appeal towards teenage girls, the zombie aspect and humor is geared towards everyone else. The creator of the show has also created Veronica Mars and the new 90210, and these roots definitely show. But this doesn’t entirely detract from how entertaining the show is. You as the viewer just need to let it entertain you.  If they can keep it up, you won’t be sorry.

And really I don’t think enough can be said that even though iZombie’s title makes you think it is a show about Zombies, it really is anything but, and to me that is what makes it special. I suggested it to my daughter who likes Zombies and she wouldn’t even let me finish telling her what it was about because a Zombie show shouldn’t be from the point of view of the Zombie. “Zombies are undead and are supposed to decay” she said. Well maybe, Vampires never did decay so I am not tied to that philosophy quite as much. Zombies were always boring previously. I applaud that someone decided to sit down and think about Zombies and try to make them more interesting and dynamic rather than just brainlessly create another show that was the same as all of the others, like the creatures that they are portraying. The original point of the zombie was that we shouldn’t all be part of a brainless horde, and each zombie creation that gets made just emphasizes how much of a zombie the creators actually are. The fact that this show is stepping away from the same old formula is in and of itself a commentary on the genre. Good for them.

Why Madden Doesn’t Sell on Nintendo

Today is the biggest football day of the year. I choose not to care. But I did decide to post some thoughts on why,  I think, that Madden NFL does not sell as well on Nintendo consoles as it does on other consoles. For that matter, this applies to sports titles, Call of Duty, and other franchises that send out a new title on a yearly basis.

And right there, I kind of hit the nail on the head. See, the average user of a Nintendo console has been conditioned by Nintendo themselves to not like this type of release schedule. Nintendo generally doesn’t believe in putting out more than one of their main franchises per console release. Let alone put a new version of such titles on a yearly basis. Super Smash Brothers is a great example. We just saw one come out on the Wii U and 3DS. Don’t expect another until next gen. Smash Bros. has only previously had a single entry on every other console.

It hasn’t been this way for every series however. I’m pointing my finger at you Mario Party. Unlike a lot of Nlntendo titles… Mario Party was an especially easy and cheap game to put out new versions of. In addition, they  tended to sell really well without major new additions. There was 3 Mario parties on the N64 and 4 on the Gamecube.

But then I think something happened. First, sales started to dwindle with each iteration. But I think during the Gamecube days, Nintendo made a very large mistake. They started putting out too many generic Mario titles. In addition to Mario Party and Smash Bros., we also had Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Super Mario Strikers (Soccer), and Mario Baseball (sure I am missing a few). I think at this point, Nintendo began to notice that all of these titles, many of which started up on the N64, started to decrease in sales. Even though they were fun to play, it became too much. It was around this time during the early years of the Wii that they stopped pushing yearly Mario Party and many of the sports titles ceased getting updates at all. My belief is that Nintendo took a step back and realized that over saturating the market with these types of titles was actually damaging their brand. And so they began the philosophy of only one per console.

Now, in general, we will only see one Primary Mario Platformer, One “New” Mario Platformer, perhaps a “3D” Mario game, a Mario Kart, a Smash Brothers, a Donkey Kong Returns, a Zelda, etc. But likely no more than one. This isn’t always going to be true, I think. We did get treated with a second Primary Mario Platformer on the Wii, but I think this will be more the exception than the rule.

And this turns to other companies who do over-saturate the market and ruin their brand. By and large, I do think that the market on Nintendo platforms will allow for multiple releases of a single title on a single platform, but known yearly commodities Nintendo consumers are more hesitant about. Madden for example… I for one enjoy having a Madden game. I bought one of the Maddens on the Gamecube and played it  for hours on end. I wanted to get a Madden on the Wii, thinking that the platform was perfect for sports games but early reports were that the game was not very good and so I waited for a later release. Later in the Wii lifecycle, EA decided to changeup Madden on the Wii, likely because sales were soft because other consumers like myself wanted to wait for a good Madden rather than just blindly buy crappy ones, so they made a “kiddy” Madden. This had almost no interest for me so I didn’t buy any Madden at all for the Wii, I imagine others had the same issues. Finally  for the Wii U, EA decided to make a straight port, not the kiddy version of Madden, but like early Wii games, reports were that it was a pretty bad port. So again, I was choosing to wait a generation or two until they could figure it out. But by then EA had squandered 7 years of crappy  Madden ports that weren’t selling and decided to stop making Madden entirely. Personally, I’d rather have no port than what they were giving us, but it is sad that they  aren’t even trying anymore.

Still, you see what was happening? I was holding out for a playable copy of the game because I didn’t want to get a second version of Madden. Contrast this to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owners who seem to blindly buy every single edition of Madden, FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and so forth, just based on name brand alone despite offering nothing new to the series and it is a wonder that they don’t seem to sell when in addition to offering nothing new, they also do bad ports.

When did this idea of reselling the same game on a yearly basis really take hold anyway? I remember in the NES and SNES days, you did get sports games more frequently, but I don’t remember them being yearly. I think on the NES RBI Baseball was the most frequent series at 3 editions, and the NES was out for what 8 or 9 years? I feel like it wasn’t until 3D became a thing that we started seeing yearly updates. The big thing people seem to enjoy is having stats and players updated, but why is this a thing? Does it really enhance the game to have Johnny Manzel in the series? If the game is good, it shouldn’t matter that rosters are a little out of date. And really rosters don’t really change that drastically year in and year out anyway. I know EA has mentioned in the past that they were working on adding downloadable roster updates in the future, but if they do that they risk losing their cash cow. Even if they charge $10 per year of roster updates, that still is going to pale in comparison to the yearly $60 they get now. The yearly update also protects them from shoddy work. They don’t have to care as much each year if one game is bad, there’s always next year right?

We as consumers really need to stop allowing this to happen. Having a new Madden, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or Mario Party is not good for the games industry. Quite the contrary, this type of marketing has the potential to crash the industry again. Over-saturation of a product is not good. Just ask Harmonix and Activision how that worked out with Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

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.