Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 17, 2014

Christenson: “Half of all colleges will fail in 15 years…”

The MAN is saying it.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said.

Read more here.


Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 17, 2014

Email: Alcohol for Men

Greetings, Master Malstrom

Some time ago in your Old Man Advice, you wrote that “Alcohol is a poison to your body”. This has kept me thinking, and I’m wondering if you can elaborate on this point. In media, the cool men like Hank Moody of “Californication” and the “Most Interesting Man in the World” drink alcohol. Of course, the alcohol industry wants to sell their products, but there seems to a very strong image in the public consciousness that manly men drink alcohol. Not the sugary fizzy stuff marketed to women, but beer and especially hard liquor like whiskeys and vodkas. Real-life people like Ernest Hemingway have perpetuated this image.

I’m not asking because of the “image”, I’m wondering what’s the truth behind it. Alcohol is physiologically literally a poison that our livers have to break down before a toxic amount is accumulated in the body, but is some poison that we can handle better than a life without the harms as well as the benefits? Or going even further, might a controlled amount of alcohol in moderation be more beneficial for men’s quality of life than full sobriety?


Moderate drinker (for now)


Alcohol will help make you fat. There is no nutritional value from alcohol.

I occasionally drink whiskey. There is social value in it.

Did you know that there is a drug that all Americans are addicted to? It is in our foods, our drinks, it is everywhere. It is in our LOW FAT alternative ‘health food’. It is the number one contributor to obesity and poor health.

“Oh, Malstrom, tell us what it is! Do so now or else we die!”

Very well, reader. You have persuaded me! The drug is sugar. Try taking as much of it out of your diet as you can. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 17, 2014

Email: Sakamoto doesn’t want to return to traditional games

What I hope this means is that he’s been taken off the Metroid franchise, and will no longer be working on it.

What it likely actually means is that he’ll get even more “CREATIVE”, but instead of putting it into a new franchise, he’ll use Metroid for his “creativity”.

(FYI, I’m off the opinion that Metroid is still alive, but that one more bad game will kill it for good).


In other words, Sakamoto doesn’t want to be measured against any standard. He’s not capable of making an excellent game so has to do ‘untraditional game’. This is like asking a student to do a math problem and the student responds with doing ‘New Math’.

I can’t shake the feeling that the software directors at Nintendo literally do believe they are CREATIVE GODS. Take Miyamoto’s response to the Wii U problems. He wants to make a game that utilizes the gamepad and THAT will show the world how it is done. (Why wasn’t such a game made before the console launched?)

The problem with embracing CREATIVITY is that they take the market reactions to their products so personally. When the game succeeds, it is because they are a GAME GOD who is overflowing with CREATIVITY. But when the game fails, it is because of THOSE TRIPLE DAMNED MARKETERS or because gamers just can’t comprehend the genius (Miyamoto’s rationale for all the 3d Marios never catching fire). Nintendo has never declared a game failed because of their creativity. No. It is something else. It always is.

While Metroid Other M is a victim of Sakamoto’s ‘creativity’, I strongly suspect that the job of Other M was to create a Metroid for female consumption. Women don’t play Metroid. This is why you had Reggie Fils-Aime and others confident how well Other M would sell. If prior Metroids only sold to males, then surely a Metroid designed to be inclusive to women would sell TWICE as much especially on Nintendo’s most popular home console: the Wii. But yet, it didn’t happen.

Nintendo is cancelling every franchise that sells to men. Metroid, Starfox, F-Zero… The ones Nintendo wishes to continue are ones that sell to women. Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda, Pikmin (girls like Pikmin), Animal Crossing, Mario Kart. It is the  reason why we will never get a badass Zelda game like we used to. If Nintendo is being so inclusive, why are its consoles repelling so many people?

I remember in the 80s that people had no idea Super Mario Brothers and Zelda were not made in the United States until someone told them. Today, Nintendo’s games feel so alien as if they came from another planet. No one would believe the Nintendo software and hardware was made in America. They’re just so strange.

In the past, Nintendo knew to ‘internationalize’ their games in order to sell them around the world. However, ever since Nintendo began drinking the ‘creativity’ kool-aid, their games no longer feel international. They feel Japanese. And, yes, that is bad. No one in America watches to Japanese television, listens to Japanese music, or uses Japanese electronics (except for you anime fans). Then why on earth would anyone in America want to play Japanese games? South Korea is kicking Japan’s butt in being international. South Korea didn’t succeed by ‘embracing their creativity’.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 13, 2014

Big Bang Theory destroys the Hardcore Gamer

It’s like they copy and pasted Sheldon’s dialogue right off the gaming message forums!

Did you know that the Big Bang Theory has gotten renewed for several more seasons? The masses (i.e. normal people) despise the hardcore. I know families who gather to watch Big Bang Theory together where they all laugh, in unison, at the hardcore gamer.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 13, 2014

Heroes of the Storm Update

Keep in mind the game is still in alpha.  Blizzard games in alpha is when the developers throw in ‘crazy things’ and ‘overpower everything’. When the game moves to closed Beta, the ‘overpower everything’ will be toned down and the ‘crazy things’ will be smoothed out. Blizzard likes going really wild with their alphas with the focus on making everything FEEL overpowered.

When you think about the evolution of games over the decades, it is true that games have gotten easier… in various ways. However, the most noticeable way is by removing mechanical gameplay. The biggest ways how game age is through their mechanical gameplay. Think of shmups in how some of them used to require you to push the button for each shot instead of holding it down. Think of Metroid where you had to shoot countless ‘bugs from pipes’ to fill up your health instead of the Super Metroid way of hopping Samus into a life booth and fill up on health.

When you look at the MOBA, you really have to look at Warcraft 3. Warcraft 3 is a very complex game and too complex for its own good. You had units that had passive skills that buffed other units, units that were siege, flying, etc, with all sorts of upgrades for each unit type, and so on and so forth. Warcraft 3 is so much more complicated than Warcraft 2 it isn’t even funny. Warcraft 3 is also much more complicated than Starcraft. Warcraft 3 has more races (four instead of three), and you had to deal with things like creeps on the map.

As awesome as Warcraft 3 is, it overshot the market. Most people cannot consume such complexity. When a Warcraft 3 game began, most of the fun revolved around the initial heroes exploring and combating each other before other units had been built. You don’t have many units to deal with at the time. It’s no surprise that this Warcraft 3 Early Game was frozen into DOTA (Aeon of Strife did something similar but used Starcraft heroes. Aeon of Strife was even named after the Blizzard lore of the Protoss Civil War).

There is nothing more laughable than ‘hardcore’ MOBA gamers  (LOL DOTA 2) as the MOBA, itself, was due to the overshooting complexity that RTS games were becoming. DOTA was the casual way to play Warcraft 3. By knocking off the RTS parts, much of the gameplay void was filled in with mechanical gameplay (last hitting, etc.). Mechanical gameplay never ages well, and gamers tired of it.

Heroes of the Storm can remove all the mechanical gameplay crap because it is restoring the RTS elements. Think of things like ‘MAP AWARENESS’, RTS gamers have to play on different maps (something DOTA players apparently can’t handle). The battlegrounds, with their unique objectives, offers various strategies that differ from battleground to battleground. Their crazy heroes, like Abathur, require a RTS mind. Instead of a normal RTS where you control many units doing different things at the same time all over the map, Heroes will have you still control just one unit. I’m hoping Heroes can bring RTS back to its ‘sweet spot’ of around Warcraft 2 fun before creeping complexity ruined the RTS.

Even once Heroes goes live, it’ll keep being updated with, perhaps, major additions. The company behind WoW knows how to keep updating and maintaining an online game. Can other MOBAs keep up with that level of updates? I was looking at the DOTA 2 updates, and what is there to expect except releases of more heroes that were in the original DOTA?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I very much dislike MOBAs especially the poisonous MOBA players who fit every hardcore stereotype. I love how they keep posting how many ‘hours’ they have played DOTA 2 without realizing they are like the WOW player posting how many ‘hours’ they have spent in Azeroth as DOTA 2 game time has the 50 minutes revolve much around the boring crap. I love how they keep complaining that Heroes is ‘stealing’ DOTA heroes when it was DOTA that literally copy and pasted most of the heroes and units from Warcraft 3. Much of the ‘abilities’ in DOTA were just JASS tweaks to existing Warcraft 3 spells. I’m hoping Heroes flattens the other MOBA games. I don’t think this will happen immediately, but history shows that when Blizzard enters a genre, it tends to eventually dominate it.


Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 13, 2014

Civilization 6

Looks interesting.

The brand is dumb. ‘Beyond Civilization’ with the initials B.C.? Meh.

Been busy in real life, regular updates should be continued sometime soon.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 7, 2014

Nintendo hardware offers poor consumer experience

This has nothing to do with specs.

What makes Nintendo different from Microsoft and Sony is that Nintendo is a gaming company. Nintendo designs everything for gaming. It is no surprise that the Xbox and Xbox 360 had so many hardware problems because Microsoft has little experience in hardware and consumer electronics. Sony designs their console hardware like retarded PCs because Sony makes PCs.

Historically, consoles were about bringing the arcade experience home. While it is impossible to get arcade quality hardware at a cheap price (Neo Geo was the best attempt at this which is why the hardware costed a fortune. Neo Geo was never intended to be a mass market console), it is possible to get ‘good enough’. The dedicated player could purchase an arcade quality controller and plug it in if they truly wanted the entire experience.

The hit software on consoles was quality ports of hit arcade games. Atari 2600 owes its life to the home port of Space Invaders and its death to the extremely poor port of Pac-Man. Street Fighter 2 helped the SNES but the better Mortal Kombat port (it had blood) helped the Genesis.

If the home consoles were ‘good enough’ for arcade quality, all was good.

The reason why classic consoles survive so well is because they were designed to be arcade-like. I still play high action games with my 15+ year old SNES controllers today. They still work!

Gamers who are used to the arcade tradition of consoles end up with a shock and disappointment when it comes to Microsoft and Sony hardware. The hardware is more like a PC and very generic. They don’t seem like real consoles.

One of the expectations of the Nintendo customer is that they expect Nintendo to deliver excellent hardware. By excellent, I don’t mean ‘better specs’ than the competition. They expect the controllers to feel right, to be comfortable, for the hardware not to catch fire or blow up, for the games to load fast, and to be a complete bullshit free experience. When I think of Nintendo, I associate Nintendo with classic console hardware. I expect Nintendo hardware to last the test of time.

Nintendo hardware has lately taken a drastic turn for the worse and is a chief element in driving away consumer interest into Nintendo platforms. The 3DS is very uncomfortable, the D-pad was moved (why? Probably because Miyamoto declared ‘now is the time for 3d!’), and it is easy for the hinges to break. The 3DS doesn’t even close right and the smaller bottom screen can leave markings on the larger top screen. The 3DS sleep mode is terrible compared to the DS or even the Vita. With the Wii U, there are so many problems with the Gamepad. Namely, the battery is poor on the Gamepad. The screen on the Gamepad looks like trash compared to the modern smartphone or tablet. The Gamepad, itself, is a giant ass controller which is scaring people away left and right. Nintendo made the Wii-mote because they found the Gamecube controller was scaring people away. So why make a controller that is scarier than the Gamecube controller?

Even the hardcore are noticing the shitty experience Nintendo hardware is bringing.

The hardware experience extends to the account system (Nintendo has none which makes for a shitty experience) and packaging of games. Iwata changed the packaging of handheld games from the cardboard box of the GBA to a more of a small DVD case with the DS because older people aren’t going to buy cardboard boxes. Is game packaging getting better or getting worse? It keeps getting worse.

While I disliked the packaging for Wii games, I loved the Wii hardware and controllers. I loved the DS (original DS was like a tank, DS Lite was more flimsy but had nicer screen, never bothered with the DSi) but especially loved the DS game packaging. I loved the original Gameboy, and its game packaging (they were cartridges that came in plastic cases!).

While the NES games came in cardboard boxes, the cartridges were cool. (Zelda games came in solid gold!) I love the controllers and how rock solid they were (anyone who owned a NES will attest to throwing their controller against the wall multiple times due to the sheer difficulty of some of the NES games). The NES style is still awesome.

Nintendo Entertainment System with controllerNES-Max-Controller.jpgNES-advantage.jpg

While the SNES style sucked, the game cartridges were still cool. The SNES controller was extremely well done.

The Wii style was VERY well done.

Wii with Wii Remote

Above: So good!

Prior to the Wii’s release, Nintendo used to talk much about the consumer experience. Nintendo doesn’t do that anymore.

The reason why the hardware experience matters is that there has never been a killer app that can sell bad consumer-experience hardware. There ARE no examples of this occurring. Space Invaders sold Atari 2600s because the Atari 2600 wasn’t offensive. Pokemon sold Gameboys because the Gameboy hardware was not offensive. DS hardware was not offensive to old people buying Brain Age or girls buying Nintendogs. Wii hardware was not offensive to anyone.

The 3DS and Wii U hardware are very offensive. The 3DS isn’t comfortable to hold, has ‘omg 3d’ (which very few people want), and the battery isn’t that great. Everything about the Wii U design screams ‘we rejected this to make the Wii’. The Wii U console looks so completely uninteresting that it is easy to miss its presence entirely. The Gamepad is scary looking and looks like a controller for retarded people. The battery and screen on the Gamepad are terrible compared to… everything. Even when compared to itself for the job of gaming it is not good.

I would prefer the next iteration of Nintendo hardware to focus on delivering a good consumer experience and stop doing tricks the consumer doesn’t want it to do. I want good battery, good screens, and good controls. I want the hardware to actually fit my hand. I can’t change my hand, Nintendo! I cannot make my American hand into a Japanese hand! Why are the buttons designed to be so tiny? Compare your NES or SNES or Gameboy buttons to the buttons on today’s Nintendo hardware. What the hell? They are so tiny! If Nintendo wants to have region locking, they should then not require me to buy game hardware designed for the Japanese. The games don’t come in Japanese language, so why does the hardware come in Japanese design? Nintendo should consider a Western design for the hardware then they can go fruity for the Japanese design. This worked well with the NES.

One group of people you don’t hear much from are collectors. Even they don’t care about the 8th Gen hardware. The reason why, I suspect, is because Nintendo’s 8th Gen hardware is so shitty that they aren’t too excited about collecting it. They are collecting it only out of a sense of duty to game collecting.

3DS was released in 2010 so that means the successor should launch around 2016. A prototype should be done and might be showed off by 2015. Now is the time when Nintendo is really designing their handheld. I want it to be comfortable to hold and to stop sucking. Less bullshit on it. Get rid of the 3d wacko-ness. I think it is time to get rid of the dual screens especially with how dated it looks with smartphones and tablets with their large (and each year growing larger) screens.

I also think it is time to retire the DS and Wii brands. In many industries, a well known brand is an asset. In game consoles, a well known brand is a liability. How is Microsoft’s ‘xbox’ brand helping the console? It isn’t helping it. Did the PlayStation brand help the PS3 and PSP? Nope. Did the ‘Nintendo’ brand help the SNES? No. If you look at the big hits with the consoles, they have all come from new brands. Atari 2600 performed well even though Atari wasn’t that big of a brand yet. NES sold very well despite the brand Nintendo being completely unknown. Genesis performed well despite the unfamiliarity of the Sega brand. PlayStation 1 performed well without brand recognition. Gameboy performed well. The DS and Wii both performed extremely well despite the DS dumping the Gameboy branding.

New brand for the console please. I think gamers like a new brand because it gives the perception that the console will go somewhere we haven’t seen before.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 4, 2014

Oculus Rift, Kindle Fire TV, and Mario Kart 8

Oculus Rift

Ed Fries speaks common sense and the hardcore go bonkers over him. The hardcore were already in utter shock when Facebook bought Oculus Rift (likely due to Zuckerberg listening to John Carmack [and what consumer success has Carmack had since Quake 3 which is 15 years ago? Carmack left i.d. to work fully for Oculus Rift].

The big bust of 3d is apt comparison to Virtual Reality. The Video Game market is extremely periodic, things keep happening again and again,  as V.R. is nothing new. “You must see it to believe it!” “It will spark the change in everything! So much potential!”

V.R. is extremely limited to a niche because it is based entirely on escapism. V.R. is a tool for escapism and a much better tool than, say, just a TV. V.R. not only has to compete against ‘good enough’ tools of escapism, V.R. doesn’t have any other uses entertainment wise.

One of the big reasons for Wii’s growth market was that the new market games were not escapist. The stigma of video games centers around players who ‘check out of the world’ and escape in some fantasy. Many, many people do not want escapist solutions. The future of video games is not ‘more escapism’ especially at the exclusion of everything else.

V.R. certainly wouldn’t be fun to play local multiplayer with either.

Knowing Miyamoto, I am sure he has designed the 9th Generation of Nintendo handhelds and home consoles to all be V.R. with goggles. “But Malstrom,” you say. “What about the Virtual Boy disaster. Nintendo wouldn’t do that again.” We didn’t think Nintendo would do the N64 disaster again but they made the 3DS because ‘now is the time for 3d’. We didn’t think Nintendo would do the Gamecube disaster again but they made the Wii U in order to popularize Gamecube-esque games. Why wouldn’t they make V.R. at this point? Nintendo is so stubborn that they would probably make their medical devices handle profit while they can unprofitably forever make V.R. and 3d game consoles. Hell is Aonuma Zelda and 3d Mario stomping on your face forever.


Kindle Fire TV

Amazon has released the Kindle Fire TV. It has a harddrive and a controller can be purchased to play Android games on it. Is Kindle Fire TV going to disrupt everything in console gaming?

The answer is no. Kindle Fire TV will cannibalize Ouya’s market (whatever market there is) on the gaming side and cannibalize Roku’s market on the TV entertainment side. While the market may grow, such products historically don’t bring down the Apple product. Apple TV won’t be affected by  this (unless Apple never refreshes it).


Mario Kart 8

Here is the trailer:

Looks terrible. I’ll be skipping.

Nintendo doesn’t seem to know what to do with Mario Kart. All they are doing is cramming in new characters, new items, and weird crap like hang-gliders and hover-modes. The charm of Mario Kart was go-karts-in-Wonderland which each new Mario Kart keeps getting further and further away from.

The ode to Mario Kart N64 is especially worrisome. Mario Kart 64 was terrible. The battle mode was good, but the track design and racing were godawful. It was made in an era of ‘omg, I can’t believe it is 3d’ with the tracks being too damn long and boring.

I looked for information about battle mode. I was not happy with what battle mode became in Mario Kart Wii. There still seems to be no information on it.

Video games are tools. Nintendo needs to provide a reason why this tool is needed. Can’t I just replay an older Mario Kart and get my fix that way? Why on earth would I want to pay money for MORE Mario Kart? Nintendo doesn’t provide this reason. They just throw more characters and items and shit at you.

I’d like a more down-to-earth Mario Kart, with less characters and ‘stuff’, that revolves more around the magic of go-karts. Bring back the feather. Bring back the focus on racing (just as Mario Kart is absorbing F-Zero in this game, I worry that Racing Mode is going to absorb Battle Mode. Why have Battle Mode at all when the races are littered with endless weapons?). Bring back one item box per lap so you have to use it strategically.

Mario Kart 8 will sell Wii Us, but not to the extent that Mario Kart Wii sold Wiis. Mario Kart 8 is the biggest Wii U game since NSMB U in terms of hardware selling power. Nintendo knows this and is doing their best to maximize it.

One of the Wii U’s problems is that it doesn’t even seem like a multiplayer console… not with that single giant ass Gamepad. Why on earth would I buy a Wii U for Mario Kart 8 when the system isn’t really about multiplayer anyway? Aside from Nintendo Land and Mario platformers, what type of multiplayer games are there on the Wii U? No, that mode in Pikmin 3 doesn’t count. The identity of Wii U doesn’t mesh well with party multiplayer of Mario Kart. Note that the Wii meshed extremely well with party multiplayer of Mario Kart as did the DS.

Mario Kart doesn’t seem special as there is so much bullshit in the game. Instead of adding so much crap, why not just add more courses? Or add something else? I was more than happy with 8-10? characters from Super Mario Kart. I don’t need 100 characters. I don’t need 100 different karts. I don’t need hang gliding, submarines, and hover-flying in a go-kart game.

Mario Kart is about everything but go-kart racing. This pushes me away.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 29, 2014

Focus on the ‘Core’ and not the ‘Rules’

There is a saying I like when it comes to game design: focus on the ‘core’ and not the ‘rules’. An example would be Heroes of the Storm in that Blizzard focusing on the ‘core’ which would be teamwork (MOBAs are team based games) and not ‘rules’ which would be ‘last hitting’, ‘items’, etc.

The most common reason for franchise fatigue, as opposed to outright franchise destruction (say Bomberman for the Xbox 360 or Metroid: Other M), is the focus on rules than the core. This is why NSMB is so heavily fatigued because Nintendo focused on ‘rules’ and not on the ‘core’.

What are the ‘rules’ Nintendo has adopted for NSMB games? It is that one must travel right to get the flagpole. But in Super Mario Brothers 3, there were many times I never traveled ‘right’ to get to the flag. In Super Mario Brothers 3, each place was like a part of the map. To get up to the clouds in World 5, you traveled up the tower. There was no flag at the tower. You climbed to the top and that was it. In the fortresses, you killed the mini-boss and that was it. The same occurred in Super Mario World with killing the Reznors. Also, it was never as simple as traveling to the right to get to the end of the stages. Many of the stages were mazes. Some required flying. Even in Super Mario Brothers 1, there were stages that looped over and over again depending on which pipe you went down or platform you hopped on. Doki Doki Panic also never had the ‘move left’ to get to ‘flagpole’. You moved in all sorts of directions in Doki Doki Panic.

Another rule is that this is an action game and everything must revolve around that. The music in NSMB is so terrible because it is designed toward the ‘rule’ and not the core. That damned athletic theme is not the pinnacle of Mario music. Hardly.

The above is the airship theme. It fits perfectly in the game because you are on an Airship, and it is big and nasty.

This is World 7 music. “It doesn’t match the rules of Mario. It is reggae themed. It needs more bip bop.” No. It is perfect. The music is catchy and makes you want to snap your fingers.

The most common rule Nintendo seems to be adopting is the rule that the game is 2d, therefore graphics and environments do not matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. The CORE of Super Mario Brothers is cutting edge graphics. Every Mario game introduced had cutting edge graphics. Super Mario Brothers, Doki Doki Panic, Super Mario Brothers 3, and Super Mario World made everyone say ‘Wow!” “We must go 3d in order to deliver good graphics.” No, you don’t. Nintendo is just lazy. Level design is important, but content design is just as important.

One reason why a new Mario game was so exciting was the new introductions to Mushroom Kingdom. Super Mario Brothers introduced us to Mushroom Kingdom. Doki Doki Panic introduced us to Subcon. Super Mario Brothers 3 fleshed out Mushroom Kingdom some more, showed us airships and mushroom houses. Super Mario World gave us Dinosaur Land and Yoshi. What has any of the NSMB games introduced us to?


Why the hell would anyone want to pay money for an escapist game that doesn’t add anything new? Nintendo doesn’t operate on the core of what Super Mario Brothers is, they just operate on some ‘rules’ that Miyamoto and others ‘believe’ is what people expect.

Nintendo games feel so lame because they seem designed around ‘rules’ instead of what the core of the game is. Let’s take Zelda for example. Zelda has its standard formula, but the formula is not Zelda. There was no ‘formula’ back in the day. Zelda 2 delivered on the core Zelda experience, it just didn’t follow the imagined ‘rules’. Link to the Past also didn’t follow the ‘rules’. Neither did Ocarina of Time. Since then, Nintendo keeps making Zelda according to ‘rules’ of some kind while missing the core completely.

One of the core elements of Zelda is that Link is a swordsman. You can’t remove his sword anymore than you can remove Mario’s hop.

Another core element of Zelda is ‘growing stronger’. This has been reinterpreted as a ‘rule for puzzles’. Since there were some brain teasers in the early Zelda games, Miyamoto or someone declared that ‘the rule of Zelda is puzzles’.  However, puzzles are not the core element of Zelda. Thoughtfulness, sure. But puzzles? Where in the world does Nintendo get this from?

Spirit Tracks could only occur by following ‘rules’ and omitting the ‘core’. Zelda is not about trains. Everyone knows this except Aonuma. Instead, Aonuma and Nintendo follow a ‘set of rules’ and made sure Spirit Tracks followed those rules.

I think the Wii U experience that Nintendo put together is another example of following the ‘rules’ of Iwata/Miyamoto’s corporate imagining and not delivering the core of what people want in a game console. If you look at the Wii U, it makes total sense from looking at Nintendo’s bizarre perspective of ‘rules for consoles’. Yet, it is totally not what people want. The core of a game console is that it is a box you buy to get to Mario (or another cool game).

The core of the game console is Lack of Bullshit. That is why we buy game consoles to connect to TVs and not computers. The people who buy game consoles do not want the bullshit. (I’m a PC gamer so I can handle the bullshit.)

Other Wii U ‘rules’ were ones like ‘releasing a year early means you get all the third party developers’ (Iwata is a huge believer in this. This is why Iwata thinks the N64 and Gamecube had low third party support. Since the Xbox 360 came out a year before Wii, he probably blames that too on why Wii had less game industry support).

I think all of Nintendo’s current woes are due to lack of critical thinking in the Board. They are following self-made ‘rules’ and neglecting the core.

PS- I’m reading your emails. I’ve been very busy, and will remain busy for the next few days.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 23, 2014

Blizzard will go outright war into the MOBA scene

Blizzard is such a clever company. It’s rare to see a game company perform so well, so consistently, for so long. The reason due to this has to be the business guys at the top. They not only tend to be on top of technology and consumer trends, they know how to correct problems. Whatever legitimate or message forum nonsense blame Jay Wilson had with Diablo 3, the reason why he was gone is that his presence was hurting the brand. There are other decisions the company’s business side has made that have impressed me over the years, no need to go into specifics.

One thing that is clear to me is that Blizzard is set to go into outright war into the MOBA scene. Blizzard has had more to do with the creation of the fundamental gameplay of the MOBA than anyone else. It was Blizzard’s game mechanics and art that is the basis of DOTA and Aeon of Strife. They were made with Blizzard’s editors. I’ve been through the JASS code of DOTA and there really isn’t anything that is unique to DOTA. Most of the JASS is just tricking an already existing spell (which Blizzard made). All the heroes of DOTA were Blizzard heroes and characters. This isn’t like Tower Defense which adopted a very different mechanic than was in the base game. DOTA was like the first five minutes of a Warcraft 3 game surpassing an hour.

What no one is pointing out is how pissed off Blizzard is with the current MOBA scene. You know how game companies go batshit crazy over used game sales thinking all that money should go to them? Consider Blizzard’s current relation to the MOBA scene. The MOBA was made on THEIR games, using THEIR art, THEIR game mechanics, and through THEIR editors. We saw Blizzard sue the Valve Corporation over DOTA. You don’t think the business guys at the top in Blizzard aren’t pissed? You really think Heroes of the Storm is just a ‘hobby’ where Blizzard is trying to go ‘Blue Ocean’ and make ‘casual’ and ‘different’ game? Oh, ho ho ho, my friend. I see an enraged Blizzard set to intentionally create an earthquake in the MOBA area.

First off, Heroes of the Storm isn’t a ‘hobby’. It has the full RTS team on it. They aren’t making Warcraft 4. They are making Heroes. Heroes of the Storm has more priority over Warcraft 4 within Blizzard. The ‘hobby’ was Hearthstone. As I understand it, Hearthstone was Blizzard’s experiment of making a game with only a few people like back in the old days. I also hear that Hearthstone had many, many problems during its development cycle. The point is that if Heroes of the Storm was seen by Blizzard as a ‘hobby’, it would still be a map in the Starcraft 2 game instead of being given its own franchise. It is now Blizzard Franchise # 5 after Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, and Hearthstone.

I also think too much is being made of Heroes being ‘da casual’ in order to create growth. If you’ve played RTS games as long as I have, you would know that team gameplay is a very big reason why people play RTS games. I had to reprogram Command and Conquer to play team multiplayer games over the Internet which made me get a letter from an unhappy Westwood Studios. (Note that in the sequels and services offered afterward began to focus on team multiplayer.) Remember that Red Alert came with TWO discs which allowed two different computers to play multiplayer against each other. Also remember that Warcraft 2 and Starcraft allowed ‘spawning’ which fed right into team based multiplayer. With Warcraft 2, we had to go to Kali in order to play Internet multiplayer. Instead of writing angry letters at us, Blizzard followed the players’ lead asking us to patch 1.2 of Warcraft 2 with them and placing Kali on the Warcraft 2 disc. The MOBA growth is largely coming from the team based gameplay that fueled the RTS and MMORPG genre for so long. From Blizzard’s perspective, the current MOBA scene is a threat not only to Blizzard’s RTS games but to World of Warcraft as well. These online team multiplayer games are going against each other. Instead of seeing MOBA as a genre or MMORPG as a genre or RTS as a genre, focus on the job those genres do. One of the most important jobs they do is team multiplayer.

And team multiplayer is really where Starcraft 2 was crap. I have always played RTS games as team multiplayer. Sure, I can play 1 vs 1. But you know what? I get bored. Games end up with me just doing something a little faster or doing a better strategy than my opponent. There is no personality. With team based multiplayer, I deal with personalities instead of just strategies and mechanics. I had stopped playing Starcraft 1 a long while back, but apparently it evolved where 1 vs 1 was ‘the thing’ in Starcraft. Therefore, Starcraft 2 was designed entirely around 1 vs 1. The 3v3 or 4v4 are seen as a joke mode in Starcraft 2, and Blizzard doesn’t take balancing team multiplayer seriously.

This is also why the ‘E-Sport’ Starcraft 2 players look so confused and bored with Heroes. They have no ‘mechanics’ to master. There is no way for them to be ‘the star’ of the game. While current MOBAs have more in common with RTS in that there are four or five heroes playing as separate entities though allied as a team, Heroes seems more like World of Warcraft in that people are not separate entities but provide roles that is unified entirely as a team. If you’ve ever been a Raid Leader in WoW, you know that it is more about dealing with people’s personalities and getting people to ‘not stand in fire’ and do what they are supposed to do than mechanics and personal strategy. You don’t really see E-Sport people play MMORPGs outside of the ‘level as fast as possible’ type mode. What I’m trying to point out is that there are many RTS players who are bored and confused with Starcraft 2′s focus on 1v1 multiplayer because they prefer to play team based multiplayer. “That is the casual way to play RTS. The only real way to play is 1v1.” That is crap. And the growth of the MOBA scene shows us why it is crap. If 1v1 is so awesome to play, then why are team based multiplayer so popular including having people watch via Twitch or E-Sports?

While Heroes will attract people who aren’t interested in the current MOBAs, we have forgotten that large pool of RTS team multiplayer fans that were ignored with Starcraft 2.

While making a game more accessible grows the market of the game, it also cuts the knees from its competitors. No one imagined World of Warcraft being as popular as it became. Everquest dominated the scene. For a while, World of Warcraft and Everquest were rivals. I remember Everquest even putting in a pizza delivery into the game where you could order pizza from the game. World of Warcraft pulled ahead because new players preferred the less bullshit that WoW cleared away. WoW simply was more accessible. When we look at the MOBA scene, it isn’t so much as Heroes pulling away DOTA or LoL players as it is gobbling up all future growth.

If I was the Valve Corporation or Riot, I’d be shitting in my pants at the moment. Blizzard’s track record speaks for itself. Blizzard doesn’t make many games, but the games it does make ends up dominating the genre it is in. The only exception I can think of was during the earlier RTS days where Blizzard had to share with Westwood Studios and Ensemble. But both Westwood and Ensemble are dead. The vast graveyard of MMORPG competitors to WoW or RTS competitors to Warcraft and Starcraft show just how strong Blizzard’s sticky power is. Starcraft 2 is the current top RTS game. World of Warcraft dominates the MMORPG scene. Diablo 3, which has sold around 15 million copies, dominates the Action RPG genre despite Torchlight 2, despite Path of Exile, and despite Diablo 3′s problems. Hearthstone dominates the video game trading card scene. The idea that Heroes of the Storm is only intended to be a ‘hobby’ or ‘cute casual game like Farmville for MOBAs’ is someone who isn’t paying attention to Blizzard’s history.

I assure you that the Valve Corporation and Riot games are very, very worried. The more you think about, it’s pretty easy to see how difficult it will be for them to compete.

DOTA 2 players tend to like ‘non-change’. Most DOTA 2 players started playing DOTA with Warcraft 3 when they were young and just think that is the ‘normal’. Anything different would be ‘abnormal’. How exactly can DOTA 2 change? It can’t really change the map or anything without their fanbase going rabid. DOTA 2 can’t change the ‘last hitting’ or ten minutes of lane farming without the DOTA fanbase going apeshit. Worse, the DOTA 2 heroes are nothing more than renamed and reskinned Warcraft 3 heroes. Would you rather have a ‘wisp’ or an ‘io’?

LoL has more room to adapt. But the big thing that hurts LoL, in my opinion, is just how graphically dated LoL looks. In addition, LoL already has its system and people invested in certain game mechanics. LoL can’t do widespread changes, thought it can add more.

Every MOBA player is aware of Blizzard and the Blizzard universes. After all, many MOBA players were Warcraft 3 owners. Those that go back to Aeon of Strife were Starcraft owners. Blizzard using their franchise’s heroes is something the other MOBAs can’t really compete. You can tell Blizzard isn’t interested in using Heroes to promote their other franchises. If that were the case, Tyrael would look like the shitty version he is in Diablo 3. Instead, Tyrael looks like the awesome version he was in Diablo 2. We don’t see cleansed Kerrigan or feral Zerg Kerrigan, we see the Kerrigan of Brood War.

What is most interesting about Heroes is that we can see it being a springboard for Blizzard to introduce New Stuff. MOBA scene feels very stale.

Since the MOBA scene is very large, expect to hear much viral marketing. It’s clear the Valve Corporation does engage in a ton of viral marketing. I highly doubt the shrines and prayers to ‘Gabe’ came by the players themselves (‘Gabe’ doesn’t even make games, he is literally the personification of the ‘fat cat businessman’). I’m not sure about Riot. And Blizzard, themselves, plays in this little game as well. When I see a Twitch stream of Heroes, I ask myself, “Are the streamers playing it because it is fun or because Blizzard asked them to play?” These things go through my head (I’m very cynical).

When I see someone saying so much against the Heroes alpha, I ask myself, “Why is he protesting so much?” It is just an alpha, after all. Where was this guy back when it was called Blizzard DOTA? Blizzard DOTA wasn’t a threat then. It was using the same exact paradigm that MOBAs had used, and it wouldn’t compete for the same reason why new MOBAs can’t compete due to the years of existing content in LoL and DOTA 2. It is like a new MMORPG competing against World of Warcraft. It isn’t going to happen. But by using a different paradigm, all that massive content no longer matters because it is content of an old paradigm. Who cares how many items the MOBA has if there is a MOBA that doesn’t use items at all.

I did fall for the belief that Blizzard was doing a ‘Blue Ocean’ approach with Heroes. I think Blizzard is going full out war here. I also think people believe Blizzard is ‘transparent’ in that they know all about Heroes because of the alpha are being fools. The alpha is only what Blizzard wants tested at the moment. My gut feeling is that there are tons of components to this game being made done. I am expecting Blizzard to do some E-Sport viewing thing with it, for example. There are tons more heroes out there probably already done. But they aren’t going to flood the alpha with all those heroes. They might also be hiding heroes they suspect could be stolen by competitors. No one is going to take the iconic Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo characters because they can’t. No one is going to take the siege tank hero because that is unique only to Starcraft. They probably also have many more maps done but aren’t ready for public testing. The alpha shouldn’t be seen as measurement of Blizzard’s ambition with this title. I think the alpha’s purpose was to test out more general concepts such as the leveling up mode and buying things from the store.

As I understand how Blizzard works, alphas test general concepts. Alphas also overpower everything to absurdity. The Blizzard model is to overpower things to make everything feel VERY POWERFUL and then tweak it down. The game is broken on purpose in alphas. The general concept is that Blizzard seems interested in getting what the general feel for the game is, how it all comes to together. The reason why they want to nail this is that this must be done before the content is added. Blizzard tends to save the content for the last.

The alpha of Warcraft 3 just had your meat and potatoes units of Humans and Orcs going against each other. Alpha of Diablo 3 had the Skeleton King I believe. As much as they are missing content, I think Heroes is in that same relationship. Heroes alpha is missing all the content. Aside from a gazillion more heroes that are missing, we’re missing all the maps. They’re going to do a talent overhaul so the talents we see aren’t the full content.

Keep in mind that the people in the top positions of Blizzard today were the same ones who were competing against Sega and Nintendo during the 16-bit generation. From a competitive standpoint, DOTA 2 and LoL are nothing compared to Mario and Sonic in the 16-bit generation.

Blizzard Alphas in the Past

People kept saying that Heroes alpha looked too polished to be an alpha. I think that is because Blizzard’s art and sound studios are on steroids compared to other companies. When they do art or sound with their little finger, it is the equivalent of a released game for other game companies.

But what we can see is that Blizzard alphas in the past showcase and test general concepts. There is much change to the final product.

The above is the ALPHA for Warcraft 3. Just look at it! I think the video is from 1999.

The above is the BETA for Warcraft 3. Undead and Night Elf still aren’t working yet. While the game may ‘seem’ polished, it is still nowhere near the final product of what Warcraft 3 was when it launched.

Look at the Starcraft 2 alpha! Terrible! Very interesting to watch though.

Based on this, we have to ask ourselves what is the alpha for Heroes of the Storm? We know talents are getting revamped. We know there will be many, many more heroes and maps added. I think it may be too early to say much about Heroes at this point, both FOR or AGAINST. All we know is that Blizzard wants to evolve Heroes in a different direction than where DOTA 2 and LoL went. This is going to be a very interesting game to watch develop if the previous alphas of Blizzard are any indicator.

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