How Evolve is changing (without the obvious Evolve pun)

It’s been nearly a month since Evolve was released for Xbox One, PS4, and PC. I honestly haven’t touched it much. I think it’s a game that is much better when you have your full team together and you’re playing with your friends. We haven’t been able to get everyone together at one time to play a few games. We’re hard-working adults! Evolve is a lot of fun to play, but I think there’s a bit of a learning curve. There’s a long list of do’s and don’t’s for playing as the monster as well as the hunters that I won’t get into. The game itself seems to favor the hunters if you have a competent team, especially if you have the Trapper with the “dog” named Daisy that can sniff out the monster for you early on.

Here are the details for the upcoming patch. There’s no ETA on when it will go live. One problem we had when the game first came out was that we had six players. Well, you can only play with five players. So one of us sat out and waited a couple games for the next guy to call it quits for the night. Soon you’ll be able to spectate with Observer Mode while you wait without having to listen to party chat to try to piece together what is happening. Evolve encourages you to stream the game in Observer Mode and commentate on the game like a sport. Here’s some Observer Mode gameplay:

It seems like Evolve wants to get in on the e-sports action. Can 2K Games get Mike Tirico to call some games in Observer Mode? I’d watch the hell out of that. What I like the most about Observer Mode is the Survival Odds display. It’s interesting to see in this particular match the odds swing from the hunters’ favor to the monster in one encounter. After the game, there’s a new post-game stats screen. You can follow the discussion on that here.

Observer Mode post-game stats

Observer Mode post-game stats

Earlier I talked about how you can buy skins on skins on skins as DLC for Evolve. This weekend you can get some golden skins for free as long as you play between now and 9:00 PM PT on Sunday. Look at that, good guy game developer giving players a chance to earn some free content, plus a heartfelt message. Hopefully we see more content given away to players who are rewarded for getting online. It looks a lot better than nickel-and-diming them for skins.

What about remakes that are really good?

Apparently, something really good happened. A game was released that didn’t have a whole lot of hype leading up to the release. But then people got a hold of this game and thought, “Wow this is actually pretty special.” Isn’t that a great feeling?

Pew pew pew

Pew pew pew

Homeworld 1 and 2 were released in 1999 and 2003 respectively for the PC. Homeworld 1 received a 9.5 out of 10 from IGN.com back in 1999. Like, what? How have I never heard of this game? I love space battles! I love real-time strategy games! Homeworld 2 got a 9/10 in 2003. And they just decided to stop making these games? Why? There is a group on Facebook called “We want Homeworld 3.” Looking at this gameplay, I’d say that would go over well.

So here we are 12 years later and you can get both games as Homeworld Remastered Collection, released on February 25. People love this remake. I would be really weary of remakes especially after Halo: Master Chief Collection and Age of Mythology Extended Edition. But it’s so refreshing to see something done right. For $35 on Steam, you get the remastered versions of Homeworld 1, Homeworld 2, access to the classic versions of both games, and the multiplayer beta.

It concerns me that the multiplayer is still in beta, but I think it’s probably a good thing. They’re saying, “This isn’t done yet! Don’t freak out if it doesn’t work right now!” That’s fair. I never knew about Homeworld, but the fanbase for the series is very fervent about these games being the best real-time strategy games ever made. Just check out posts on Reddit like this one and read gamers drool over these games.

I’ve been looking for a new solid RTS to play. It makes me sick that I could have been playing this stuff for about 16 years, a huge chunk of my life.

GTA V on PC is delayed again, and that’s okay.

Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games

This week, developer Rockstar Games announced that Grand Theft Auto V for PC would be delayed for a third time. It was originally set to release in Fall 2014 but we’re now looking at April 14th of this year.

If this were a game that were unavailable entirely, I think gamers should be a little more upset. But chances are, you’ve already played GTA V on a different platform already. But if you’re still hellbent on waiting for the PC version (which I understand, PC is the prettiest) then it’ll probably be a well-made version of the game with very few bugs because they took their time. These delays don’t have to be a negative thing.

Online heists are going to be released on March 10, which is right around the corner! See? Things ain’t so bad. I believe the heist portion of the game is the most fun feature in the game. Well, except for the Top Fun series of the online missions, let’s be real.

Two players are in fighter jets, while the other two are on motorcycles or biplanes. They have to make it to a certain point before being shot down. It’s just the best.

With this long of a delay for a game, I really, really do hope that it is perfect. Rockstar said they want the game to be “as amazing and polished as possible.” And if you’ve preordered the game, you’ll be getting $1.5 million in spending money right from the start for GTA Online. If it’s not a great version of the game, well then I guess I will have something write about coming up in April.

Amiibos.

Last year, Nintendo turned down an offer from Activision’s Skylanders to have them exclusively for the Wii. Skylanders are little figurines that interact with a video game to let you play as that particular character in the game. They are incredibly popular, bringing in $1.5 billion in revenue since 2011. Did Nintendo mess up? Maybe. But then they thought, “we’ll just make our own.” And that’s why we have Amiibos.

goldmario

Amiibos work a little differently than Skylanders. Depending on the character, you can use them differently for different games. One way to use Mario here, is to link him up on Super Smash Bros. Wii U and train him to be stronger than your average fighter. You can buy these things for about $13 if you can find them. Or if you can’t, you can buy them on eBay for over $100. Some characters are easy to find, some are extremely rare. This is just one of the Nintendo products with artificial scarcity.

/r/amiibo is a great place to watch the insanity. It’s also a really great place to find what you’re looking for. People will post sitings at sorts and links to order or preorder certain figures. They’ll also vent their frustrations about how they can’t find what they want. What sense does this make? Why doesn’t Nintendo just make a ton of them and sell them all? /u/Majordomo_ makes a good point:

“Here’s the thing; by limiting production they actually are pulling in a larger demographic of consumers. In the short-term they are sacrificing sales to increase the long-term demand through engaging a pool of people that would have otherwise not cared about Amiibo.

Also, with limited shelf space at retailers (The profit margin is slim on a 13$ Toy) it is in the manufacturers best interest to have stock come in waves and be turned immediately. Which is exactly what is happening. Perceived demand when seeing empty shelves vs stocked shelves greatly effects consumer behavior.”

Nintendo knows exactly how this works. They have created the illusion of value. They make people do stupid things. I have a friend with every single one of the Amiibos sitting on his living room floor all still in the boxes. He has preordered all of them and stood in line to receive them. I guess that’s what happiness looks like: 30 or so Amiibos on your floor in boxes.

Nintendo on pace to have more Virtual Console games on Wii U than the Wii

One of the coolest features Nintendo has come out with in the past ten years is the Virtual Console. All the classics you love from the NES, SNES or Nintendo 64 have been available for download on the Wii, 3DS or Wii U. Some gamers are traditionalists and only want to play the classic games on the original console with the original cartridge. I get that. Some music lovers have an appreciation for the sound of a vinyl record. It’s a very similar concept with classic video games. Dusting off the cartridge, switching the console on, holding the original controller, and viewing it on an old CTR television are all part of the experience.

But for all of you that really don’t care about the nostalgic stuff, the Virtual Console puts all of your old favorites on one machine. The problem is that if you’ve purchased one of the 427 titles in the Wii Virtual Console, they don’t automatically transfer to the Wii U VC. Nintendo still cuts you a break, however. If a title is available for the Wii U VC, but you’ve already purchased it for the Wii, it’ll only cost you an extra $1.50 to add the extra Wii U features like GamePad-only play and Restore Points.

But what if the game I want to play is available on the Wii but not the Wii U? You can still play that game on the Wii U by going to the original Wii menu. All your stuff from your former console is still there if you transferred everything over. Those games just won’t have the same functionality. So far, there are a lot fewer games on the Wii U VC, which makes sense. Nintendo brought in 426 titles for the Wii from 2006 to 2013. The Wii U began adding games in 2013. To date, the Wii U VC has 143 games.

You can also choose from a separate list of 171 games on the 3DS virtual console, including some “3D Classics” like Excitebike that have 3D capabilities. As of now, you can “cross buy” titles you’ve bought on the 3DS and get them for free on the Wii U. You cannot get them for free on the 3DS if you bought them on the Wii U quite yet, however.

Has Nintendo been as busy cranking out VC games for the Wii U as they did with the Wii? From November 2006 to June 2013, they came out with an average of 5.325 games per month. From June 2011 to present, Nintendo has put out an average of 4 games per month for the 3DS VC. The average for Wii U VC games is 5.46 games per month since Balloon Fight hit the VC on January 23, 2013.

At first I was upset that there were a lack of games on the Wii U VC, especially because games I owned like Super Mario: RPG for the Wii VC wasn’t available for the upgrade. Considering games are being ported to both the 3DS and the Wii U at the same time, the data shows Nintendo is busier than ever getting your favorite classics to the new consoles.

How is World of Warcraft bouncing back? The secret has been out for almost a year.

In high school, I was mostly a console gamer. My parents weren’t going to buy a new PC with a nice graphics card and high-quality processing speed. PCs are very expensive to build. Plus, don’t you have enough video games on the Nintendo, son? Essentially all my friends in high school started playing World of Warcraft. I desperately wanted to play with them, but I couldn’t afford a decent computer or the monthly subscription fee. And that’s how they all socialized. You want to hang out? I’ll see you in the raid tonight at 9:00! But obviously I couldn’t join in.

In 2010, I finally got enough money together to build a PC that could run the games I wanted. And I played World of Warcraft with my friends (a little too much, honestly). That was when the game saw its peak in subscribers at about 12 million.

Statistic: Number of World of Warcraft subscribers from 1st quarter 2005 to 3rd quarter 2014 (in millions) | Statista

Since then, WoW subscribers have dwindled significantly. Like many of my friends and myself, gamers have unsubscribed their accounts and their characters are dormant. In the chart above, there are a couple of positive spikes in subscribers, particularly near the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. But that other spike in 2014 before Warlords of Draenor was released…what happened there?

hearthstone1

It makes perfect sense! Blizzard combined all of their games (Diablo III, World of Warcraft, Starcraft II) into one launcher with a new free-to-play online card game called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. If you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering, it’s a much simpler version and insanely fun. You could spend hours and hours building decks, battling your friends and strangers alike. But the worst part is…the game makes you thirst for World of Warcraft. I am firmly under the belief that the only reason Hearthstone was created was to get suckers like me to re-subscribe their WoW accounts. And that’s exactly what I did, but only for a couple months.

In a press release from developer Blizzard back in November of last year, they say the game is up to ten million subscribers. That is pretty substantial growth since the game was at about 7.5 million subscribers earlier in 2014. Over three million copies of the expansion were sold upon release, which adds up to about 10 million subscribers overall. But don’t you essentially have to sell 10 million copies of the expansion to hold 10 million subscribers? Hearthstone.

What is most mind-blowing about any of this is how World of Warcraft has performed compared to other MMORPG games. I wanted to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, but after playing a little while, I realized I’d rather just be playing WoW instead. There are many other MMO games that have tried the subscription model that have failed and gone free-to-play because of a lack of subscribers. Games like Star Trek Online and Elder Scrolls Online have gone free-to-play, which when that happens, the developers are basically saying, “we give up.”

WoW is now a 10 year old game. It is The Simpsons of the gaming world. Blizzard has found the formula to game addiction and infused it into an entirely different game that you can play for free. That way, you can get a little taste of what you’ve “kicked” before and decide that you want back on the real stuff. It’s genius, really. I can’t help but admire it. Stay in school, kids.

In a zombie apocalypse, we’re all damsels in distress

Imagine you are in a zombie apocalypse (It’s a very popular theme for a video game these days). Regardless of your gender, as a survivor, I can imagine your life would be in peril pretty often. In fact, I would say that given the circumstances, you might even be in distress.

Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency in her tweet referred to one of Dying Light’s characters, Jade, who (SPOILERS), rescues the main character James Amir in the first five minutes of the game. Do I not understand the point? Is it because I’m a white male? Maybe I am forever imprisoned to my feeble white male mind to never understand the enlightening wisdom of feminists like Sarkeesian. My point is that I don’t get where she is getting this perception. Chris Bechtloff at Reaxxion.com got pretty riled up over this and called upon Dying Light’s developer, Techland, to respond to Sarkeesian:

“…stop letting this sort of slander go unanswered. Something as simple as a tweet saying “What do you care? You don’t even like video games.” would have been all the burn needed. Is that too much to ask to defend this game you’ve poured yourself into, as well as your customers?”

Let’s say that Jade is dumb and frequently unaware of the dangers she faces. She’s constantly in need of rescue from James. Her survival is hopeless without the help of a man. He protects her, feeds her, and shelters her. She also throws a wink James’ way every now and then, commenting on how strong he is and how she could never survive this long without him. One redditor even offered to make a mod that would change the Dying Light storyline to make it more acceptable to feminists (complete satire, of course). That’s not what her character is at all, but bare with me.

She’s still a character despite her flaws. Even if Jade was what Sarkeesian makes her out to be, that would still be okay. It’s her flaws that make her a character. But we could never have that because it would offend someone. We have to be politically correct in our games. We can’t have black people subjected to racism, we can’t have anyone criticized for their religion, and we certainly can’t have any women in danger. Actually, that sounds a lot like Bioshock: Infinite.

8870_screenshots_2013-03-27_00029

Is that racist? Oh, you bet your hardback of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn it is! Would the people of Columbia (the city Bioshock: Infinite is set) persecute your religion? I believe they would. You even have Elizabeth who is the biggest “damsel in distress” of them all. She’s locked up high in a tower by a bad guy and guarded by a giant mechanical bird. She is constantly in need of rescue by your character, Booker (a man).

BioShock-Infinite-Elizabeth-610x332

How is this acceptable? This game should have been banned from any existence, much less be allowed to be played on any popular gaming console! But that’s not right. Bioshock is a game, a great game. Elizabeth has flaws. The people of Columbia have flaws. Jade has flaws. James Avir has flaws. Zombies have flaws. That’s what makes these games great. There is struggle and distress. I hope that developers ignore this garbage and continue to make great games based on the vision they have for their loyal audience. You do you, Techland. It’s 2015.

The myth of online multiplayer gameplay

1393629375-age-of-mythology-extended-edition

Last spring, I preordered Age of Mythology: Extended Edition on Steam for PC. It’s an updated version of the 2002 release of the real-time strategy game from Ensemble Studios, which has since been disbanded (Rest). Ensemble was known for creating the best real-time strategy games. Age of Empires II was a fantastic medieval strategy game and Age of Empires III took us forward in time to the colonial era. But there was something special about Age of Mythology. When the remastered Age of Empires II: HD was released (which is a great pick-up), the only thing on my mind and many of the minds that loved Ensemble was when are they going to make an updated Age of Mythology?

When AoM: EX was announced, my friends and I were extremely excited. There was a fairly large online community and I expected this updated version combined with the online presence of Steam to revitalize the competitiveness of the game. Daniel Starkey at Eurogamer.net wrote in his review of the game:

“For most, the most important addition in Age of Mythology: Extended Edition will be the beefed-up support for online multiplayer. This remake is running on Steam servers now, and while it’s possible that the service will go belly-up some time in the next decade, so far it has proven to be a decent safeguard against obsolescence.”

When we finally got the game and tried to play a 2v2 match, things were a little less optimistic. The multiplayer version of the game was unplayable. There was so much lag and dropped frames that you couldn’t tell what your clicks were doing. You really couldn’t tell what was happening, ever. Do I have a bad internet connection? Did install the game incorrectly? Does the game host have a network issue? No, this was a widespread problem that affected even LAN games which involves computers linking together directly instead of using an internet connection.

When you pay $30 for a game that is over ten years old, you expect to get everything the original game had and more. We definitely got a lot less. There has been an outcry for the game to be “fixed,” but I am unsure if anything has been resolved. Here and there you can find players poking around, asking if things have been worked out yet. It seems that the community has given up on the game, despite its mostly positive reviews on Steam. One of the reviews reads:

“-If you intend to play the campaign and singleplayer ai skirmishes only, go ahead and enjoy. HOWEVER,
-If you want to buy this for the MULTIPLAYER, – DON’T BUY THIS! (unless you can put up with massive lag)”

And that’s exactly correct. But what is concerning is that most of the reviews from the big names upon release don’t mention the massive lag. And since this is a known issue, and we’ll soon be approaching the one-year mark with this game, it’s doubtful that this issue will be fixed. The online community that wishes to continue to play this game competitively has found a home on Voobly, where you can play the classic version of the game online for free. Now that’s not a bad deal. It’s definitely worth a try because if you don’t like it, hey, you didn’t spend a dime.

My encounter with Nintendo’s scarcity

Best_Buy_Waiting_Line_3

Earlier, I talked about special edition Nintendo products and how they are only benefitting scalpers. I was one of those gamers that refused to pay more than retail price for a product, even if it was something I really wanted. I wasn’t planning on getting the Majora’s Mask special edition 3DS because it was sold out just about everywhere just as it was able to be purchased. But my friend told me if I wanted one, I should try to get to Target as they open.

I figured, what the hell. The last time I got up early to wait in line for something was back when the original Nintendo Wii was released. I got up around 6:00 a.m. to make sure I got to Target in enough time to get my Wii. I was the first person in line. It was extremely cold that morning, but I came prepared and got my console.

The Target in Morgantown opens at 8:00 a.m. and I arrived just a little after 7:00. There was no one there for the first 15 minutes. The manager saw me standing outside at the door and poked his head out the side door, “We don’t open for another 45 minutes.”

“Oh, I know,” I told him. I guess this new 3DS isn’t that big of a deal. But then more people came. There were five us total. One of guys gave up because he did not come prepared for the cold. Another gentleman was one of the poor souls that had his preorder cancelled by Best Buy. I really hope that we all got our systems. We were all willing to wait in line in the cold before the store opened. We deserved to be rewarded.

When the store finally opened, we all walked back to the electronics section cordially. I feared that someone might make a run for it, but it was agreed upon that we were in the order we arrived. One of the Target employees said, “So you guys here for the Majora’s Mask game?” Uh, not exactly, friend. “What about the system?” a woman asked. Two of the employees looked at each other and paused. It was like they were trying to hide something from us. Like they didn’t want us to have them.

“We have one,” one of them told us. I was honestly shocked. At released, this store got one system. I felt so bad for these other people that didn’t get one, but obviously not bad enough to give mine up. I was probably the only person in the whole city to get one that day. There’s no reason for Nintendo to release that few of a product. There should have been four, one of each of us there. Kotaku posted updates throughout the day of release and the amount of grief people went through to get one was disheartening.

The product itself really is gorgeous. I suggest to anyone that didn’t like the 3DS because of the unstable 3D mode to grab the new version of the hardware. I never turn the 3D off anymore. Games like Pokemon: Omega Ruby still don’t look great because of the drop in frames with the 3D on. I don’t think that game was ever designed to be played in 3D. But Majora’s Mask looks fantastic. You don’t need the special edition 3DS to enjoy it, but you definitely look way cooler playing it.

Insecure about your game’s length? Don’t be!

playstation.com

playstation.com

A YouTuber under the account “PlayMeThrough” posted a play-through video of the newly released PS4 game, The Order: 1886. The game is a single-player action-adventure game that takes you through an alternate reality London where an ancient order battles half-human, half-beast monsters. Sounds like fun to me! It took PlayMeThrough about five hours to complete the game. He also noted that about half the game was made up of cutscenes and half of it was gameplay.

“Not much replayability. You can’t level up any skills or anything and there is no New Game+. And you cannot skip cutscenes either, so it would be the exact same experience I’m afraid. Pretty much the only side thing you can do is looking for collectibles, but that’s it. No challenges or whatever.” – PlayMeThrough

The game costs $60 and I would suspect a video game consumer would be pretty upset they could get through a game of that caliber in that amount of time, especially when a large part of it is just watching cutscenes. At this point, I would love to show you the video of the play-through…but this gent’s YouTube account has been deleted. That might have to do with him releasing over five hours of game footage before the game is even released on February 20.

But hang on! Forbes’ Erik Kain writes that The Order: 1886 will take you much longer than five hours to complete, especially if PlayMeThrough was just gunning through it. Kain mentions that people were playing through Dark Souls in a half hour while he has over 100 hours logged on the game. The point is that the content is there. You won’t run out of things to do after five hours.

“Other gamers who have played the game are reporting anywhere from eight to fifteen hours. This sounds much closer to my own experience.” – Erik Kain, Forbes

The point is, a game’s length doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with your time in the game that makes it valuable and worth playing. Sure, you could blast through Skyrim and stay on the main quest the whole time, skip the civil war quest line and be “done” with the game much, much sooner than most players. But who does that? I want to explore the world from corner to corner until there’s nothing left to find!

Ru Weerasuriya, CEO of the game developer Ready at Dawn, talks about why game length doesn’t matter:

“I hope people who do like these kind of games, do play them. But I also want to be in an industry where me as a gamer, I’m given the choice to do that. I’ve played games that lasted two hours that were better than games that I played for 16 hours. That’s the reality of it.”

See? A game that lasts a shorter amount of time can be just as pleasing. No one needs to feel insecure about how long their game lasts. Everyone’s games will get played. You just have to find the right gamer and fill their needs…with gameplay. It’s really crazy how the community is blowing up about game length and if it matters.