Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 21, 2015

The future hardcore gamers…

…and Microsoft owns them all.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 20, 2015

Gaming nerds are actually loved

I was leveling Falstad in Heroes to level 5 (he is free this week) when I realized that he is the same character presumed dead but brought back into the game thanks to Red Shirt Guy. Take a look.

This is classic. I don’t play WoW or haven’t in nearly a decade so I forgot that Falstad isn’t an obscure NPC. Hell, he is one of the first heroes in Heroes of the Storm. He was quite visible early on in Vanilla WoW. It is such an oversight for Blizzard to mistake he was dead. You can tell at the end of the video that both their faces getting red because they know they got owned.

In the next Blizzcon, Red Shirt Guy reappears (blizzard probably sent him back) so Chris could give him a hug. WTF? I guess he didn’t want to think there was any hostility in getting pwned by a red shirt guy.

Check out Red Shirt guy in 2013:

This is hilarious. Red Shirt Guy pwned the Blizzard developers more so than ever before. They kept throwing in excuses ‘uh trade winds!’ and then brought up Ulduar’s globes (Ulduar is a raid from Wrath of the Lich King). “No, the globe isn’t accurate either…” Red Shirt Guy adds in at the end. Damn. What he says makes a ton of sense. Why is the weather at the ‘south’ of that world so warm and hot? It doesn’t make sense unless that is the equator.

In 2014, Blizz dev goes: “Oh shit” when Red Shirt Guy appears. hahahahahahhaha

Now reader, you may ask, “Why is Red Shirt Guy loved while gaming nerds are constantly hated?” Red Shirt Guy is not being absurd. Asking detailed questions about WoW lore is perfectly acceptable and appropriate at Blizzcon’s WoW Lore Panel. Where else is he going to ask those questions? If he asked them in school, he might get beat up. But he is perfectly appropriate for his environment.

There is also something to be said for some innocent kid, using the product as intended, asking an innocent question and seeing, on Live TV, Blizzard devs failing. It is just hilarious.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 20, 2015

My horse is as fast as Tassadar’s Jet Mode

Ladies and gentlemen, let us have an example of marketing…

Ahh, new skins for Heroes which is still in Beta. There are 9 million Heroes players including those who had signed up for the beta. All are the potential customers.

The Sylvanas skins are showed off right before the character is released. This is hoping for people’s excitement for Sylvanas to be so overwhelming that they go and buy all the skins (or a presumed bundle). Sylvanas, herself, will cost $15 or about 15,000 gold. The skins will probably be $9.99 each aside from the Master Skin which will be 10,000 gold. Just from Sylvanas alone, Blizzard is going to get people to pay $40 or so.

The Murky bunny skin is obviously Easter timed.

The spider and wolf mounts are demonstrated in an interesting way. By placing Lili, the most innocent of Heroes, onto the spider, it makes the spider mount look that much ferocious due to the contrast between Lili and the spider. Nova, also a cutie, is placed on a wolf. The contrast between Nova and the wolf highlights the wolf and makes it look better than it actually is. If Diablo or Nazeebo were on these mounts, the mounts would not look as interesting.

The Tassadar mecha skin has already been available, and I’ve been curious why it was the only mount for $15. Apparently, it was put ahead of time and now all the other factors of the skin are put in. The Archon mode is placed in. Oh, and Tassadar can transform into a jet and FLIES AWAY FROM THE SCREEN. “OMG!” cries the reader and throws money at the screen.

Why didn’t Blizzard show the Jet in-game? It is because it looks ridiculous. My horse will go as fast as that jet. The jet will not be flying around like it was shown. The jet will just go from point a to point b like a horse mount.

There is much discussion on what is worth spending money on in Heroes and what is worth buying with gold. Many people get into debates. Some people think they are clever and go, “Spend money on the heroes but spend gold on Master Skins.” Too bad the Master Skins look like crap compared to skins you can buy.

After much deliberation on my part, I think the best way to go is to spend gold on heroes and spend money on skins. Newer skins will keep coming out and make your hero master skin look like crap. If you play a hero all the time, you may want a special skin. This also DELAYS real money spending until you are really into the game, such as when you have reached level 30 and are playing Hero League.

BTW, I met a hardcore Heroes of the Storm player on the street one day. Oh yes. He apparently owned his own business which consisted of hardcore gaming PCs inside a room where people could ‘rent’ like a cafe. All he did in his life was dedicated to gaming. “I have seven heroes to level 10,” he said with a sneer. Unfortunately for him, EXPERIENCE DOESN’T MATTER WORTH SHIT IN HEROES OF THE STORM. It only matters to unlock your talents and to unlock Hero and Team league. Experience has NO value.

Do you know why?

It is because you can BUY experience. Oh yes. You can buy ‘stim packs’ which increase your rate of experience. Why would anyone do this? It is because of psychological programming that makes them feel achievement when they fill up experience bars. “I fill up experience bars faster than you, I am more awesome.” No. You are simply a fool.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 20, 2015

Email: The Single Player Experience

I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim recently because it is wonderful to have this grand, open world RPG experience. Both my husband and I play it because even though we’re playing the same game, our experiences are different. He’s playing as a Nord joining the rebellion focusing his attacks on melee combat while I’m playing as a Kajiit fighting for the Imperials specializing in archery and magic and we swap hints and experiences and of course, weird glitches Skyrim is known for. (though many will tell you the glitches rarely hamper anyone’s enjoyment and if anything they’re funny as hell.

Yet after the success of Skyrim, the industry responded by making the sixth Elder Scrolls game an MMO. Why? Because for a while there, it seemed like everything was turning into an MMO because every company was hoping to make the next WoW and make tons of money off subscriptions. Nobody wanted the Elder Scrolls online. Anyone who wanted a fantasy online RPG would just go back to WoW because that’s where all one’s friends are. Dragon Quest did the same thing with #10 which was going to be on the Wii and WiiU but never came stateside.

But I am tired of the industry trying to shove multiplayer into games that have no business having it. One of the best examples was Bioshock. It sold fairly well and for many it was nice to have a good long single player FPS. It had great atmosphere and the story was integrated into the game instead of a bunch of CG cutscenes, but there was this small annoying vocal minority saying how the game’s lack of multiplayer meant it wasn’t worth of the accolades it got (eye roll) so what happened? We got a quickie cash grab sequel that just retreaded the first game in Bioshock 2. Sure it was half assed and lacking a lot of the charm of the first, but it got the multiplayer. Of course the game didn’t sell as well as the first but thankfully Bioshock Infinite came out and felt like a proper sequel once again focusing on a good single player experience, going to a new world with new gameplay mechanics and didn’t feel the need to shove multiplayer in everyone’s face.

With the popularity of CoD, the industry seems to think that it’s all about the multiplayer namely because they hope that multiplayer and DLC will keep games from ending up in the used bin at Gamestop. I remember when the first Halo came out. Sure it was fun multiplayer. I recall people having Lan parties with their Xboxes but many will tell you how much they liked the long single player campaign and many like my husband were annoyed that the sequels trimmed down the story mode in favor of more multiplayer stuff.

But what annoys me more about the Playstation and Xbox games is the lack of local multiplayer. My husband and I want to play games together on the couch and all too often we find that there’s no split screen. Hey Game Industry, not all of us are friendless losers who live in our parents’ basement and whose only friends are the people online. Though one friend made the point that it’s possible the reason local multiplayer is cut out is so that more people will buy their own copy, console and online subscription thus they make more money.

Though now we’re seeing that the online multiplayer only thing doesn’t work. Remember Titanfall? The big must have Xbox One exclusive? Sure like a lot of industry games it sold well the first couple weeks but now, no one’s playing it. I mean it’s online is barren to where the developers had to bring in bots for the handful who were playing. I have a feeling the same thing will happen with Evolve where people will get tired and move on and the servers will be barren.

But at the same time you got Nintendo who is all about local multiplayer but still won’t actively put online multiplayer in games other than Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. I mean there’s no excuse for Mario Party 10 to not be online at this point. I moved and most of my friends who’d play this locally with me don’t live nearby. The same goes for the recent Marios. If Miyamoto is all about putting multiplayer in all these new Marios, it’s high time he let us play online. I’d love to play New Super Mario Bros. and even 3D World with a group of friends online. If they’re worried about trolls or people being obscene, then limit it to people on the friend’s list.

So what it comes down to is that single player should not be sacrificed just to shoehorn multilayer in. Local multiplayer should never be cut out of a console release and if you’re going to make an online only multiplayer game, it better be something really amazing.

They don’t want to do local multiplayer on PS4 or XB1 because they would have to scale down the graphics. Game consoles are about local multiplayer. PlayStation and Xbox consoles seem more like dumbed down PCs because of that. I can understand no having local multiplayer with PCs because who wants to gather around a desk? (There are some great local multiplayer PC games BTW, but you have to go far back in time. M.U.L.E., Archon, and Star Control 1 and 2 to name a few.)

I think you nailed it at the beginning. You said that even though both you and your husband are playing the same game, you are having different experiences. This is exactly how Minecraft started becoming popular. During Alpha Minecraft, before multiplayer, we would play the game and then talk about our different experiences. Everyone had a different story to tell! A sign of a good single player game is when two different people can have different experiences.

Some examples of single player games in the past that had very different experiences depending on who played them:

Wing Commander 1

Ultima 7 (and earlier Ultimas)

Star Control 2

Damn, I’m having a mind block. All your usual suspects.

Civilization! Oh, that is a big one.

Any turn based game.

RTS single player also had different experiences. Remember, you had choices of what units to build. People did different things.

Paradroid is a big one for the Commodore 64.

Minecraft really is the pinnacle example of this though. I can watch someone play Minecraft and see their personality. Youtube helped make Minecraft popular.

Most single player Industry games are ‘scripted experiences’ which are not fun to talk about. “Hey Billy Bob, did you see that cutscene? OMG.”

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 20, 2015

Email: Valve Corporation really deserves that F

At first I didn’t mind that in order to play certain games you needed to have the Steam client installed. I got used to it when I got into World of Warcraft. I even forked over twenty dollars when Portal was first released on the platform just so I can play the game, which I enjoyed.

So I bought a few more games that required steam and never thought about getting anything else for it. Then I stopped playing those games that required steam for about a year, only to realize that my account was hacked during my hiatus when I wanted to get another game that required me to use the platform. After a few attempts to get my account recovered through email didn’t work because I realized that the first thing the attacker would’ve done after they compromised my account was to switch the email the account was tied to to prevent me from regaining control, I checked Valve Corporation’s account support page for any other options I could use to get it back, but all their support page boiled down to was, “if you lost control of your account, you’re screwed. Try using a stronger password next time.”

What also baffled me was the fact that even the forums had several users berating those in a similar predicament as mine for not using a more secure password, because we all know that a really strong password is all you need to prevent would-be attackers from hijacking your account. I’m assuming that Valve Corporation had several lawsuits filed against them for this level of customer support and resolved them behind closed doors because they have a SLIGHTLY better customer support page for issues like these, but they’ve lost my trust with them the moment I knew I was unable to get my account back and would have to rebuy the games I’ve lost on it.

Just for kicks, I decided to check out what the better business bureau thought of Blizzard Entertainment. Obviously it was an A+. And that’s not just because Blizzard’s paying them to get a higher rating; their customer support is leagues better than Valve Corporation’s, which is why I still play Blizzard games even though they too use a steam-esque platform for all of their current titles. When my WoW account got hacked, I received an email saying that my it was going to be banned in a few days because they noticed that I was doing some illegal activity despite me not having an active subscription for well over a year. So I gave them a quick phone call, told them my situation, and they said they’ll look into it on their end, which was resolved in two days. They also told me that they couldn’t reset any of the experience and items gained from on any of the characters that the attacker used on my account, but they gave me two free weeks of playtime to straighten things out if I wanted to. Apparently the attacker loaded my highest level character with stuff that I had no idea what they were, so I gave them to my friend who was still active in the game who said to me they were top-tier crafting materials.

It kind of sucks that I can’t play any of the big budget games on my PC anymore because I refuse to use steam, but eventually they’ll trickle down to DRM-free stores like gog.com in due time. For awhile I didn’t think that the Ys games were going to be there, but they were just put up on that site not too long ago. It looks like I’m not missing much anyway.

I’ve had a WoW account hacked into as well. Customer support got it straightened out.

The Valve Corporation isn’t interesting to me. Gabe, an ex-Microsoft employee, made a company called Valve Corporation that made some games like Half-Life. Then he made an online game store. Everything about the Valve Corporation stinks of ‘money sucking’ in the Microsoft way. The Steam client isn’t anything spectacular. Valve Corporation doesn’t really participate in making interesting games anymore (if they ever did). What bothers me so much about Valve Corporation is how they market themselves similar to Ballmer Era Microsoft. Microsoft would keep showing how they are a ‘high technology company’ and make demos of products they had no intentions of releasing and talk about ‘re-writing the book’ on something. Valve Corporation does the same. They are always making a new ‘console’ or ‘OS’ or ‘more hats’. Oh, and their desks HAVE WHEELS. I kept reading puff stories on Valve Corporation from sympathetic journalists, and they kept mentioning how the desks have WHEELS on them as if this was some revolutionary thing.

Blizzard is a much more interesting company to me. They have roots to the Golden Age of Console gaming of the 16-bit generation where their first games competed against Sonic and Mario. Those lessons they learned then have guided them since. “You don’t worry about what other games are doing. If your game is good, fun to play, well polished, it will do fine despite Sonic or Mario.” They’re right. I remember having a ton of fun with Rock and Roll Racing. Their golden goose of World of Warcraft is itself worthy of books of business analysis. Not too many companies can make a game like that and keep it running for so long. Talk about shelf life, I used to think Civilization was king in that. Civilization would always be relevant and be on the game shelves. But Blizzard games just stay there and stay up in price.

I know during the creation of Warcraft 2, the artist’s room was turned up very bright so they had to make all the art very colorful and bright in order to appear. Some of this was due to the experience of game consoles since the art had to be very bright in order to appear on TVs. I remember Warcraft 2 being such a bright, cheerful game.

What I find curious is that Blizzard seems to have picked up that entertainers need to have a relationship with the audience (or as they say now the ‘community’). Other game companies would not put out map makers. Blizzard does so since it increases the longevity of their game and creates new talent for them to hire (one third of the Starcraft 2 developers were mod makers).

It is not that Blizzard is smarter or wiser than other companies. They make all the same mistakes. However, there is some sort of operation inside that does a ‘reality check’ with the community response. The community keeps yanking Blizzard back from going off the rails. Sometimes it is a painful yank. With Diablo 3, boy, Blizzard did not want to shut down the real-money auction house. Blizzard did not want to demote ‘fuck that loser’ Jay Wilson. But they did. Lately, it appears another yank was done. People on the Heroes forums kept complaining about why are they not telling us the date for the patch release (they did show it at Pax East). What is going on with the matchmaking? Why aren’t heroes being made faster? *YANK* Blizzard then starts giving announcements for the patch release, talks about matchmaking, and agrees it needs to put out heroes faster.

I have never seen Blizzard stampede over the consumers’ wills. It’s not like they haven’t tried. Remember the ‘real name’ system for their accounts? Boy, did people howl. For Heroes, they were going to do artifacts (or whatever). People howled again. It’s incredible to me. Blizzard does the same exact mistakes other companies make, however, there is something inside the company that is like a guardrail that bounces Blizzard from falling off a cliff.

I do know that the Community Managers have to send in reports about what the community is saying. I think this job might even extend beyond the CMs. These reports of what the audience is saying or thinking goes straight to the top. Someone up at top, I don’t know who, then cracks heads down below. Maybe it is Morhaime.

It is also difficult to gather information from the noise. I’m not sure how Blizzard goes about it. Server statistics only show them so much. It doesn’t explain ‘why’ something is going on. It doesn’t explain why something isn’t fun.

After Warcraft 2 in 1995, I kept saying to myself, “And that is it for Blizzard. They had a nice ride.” After all, their neighbor companies such as Westwood and others bit the dust. Yet, twenty years later, Blizzard is still there and still making big games. It isn’t because of ‘WoW’. All their games have been successful including Diablo 3 (initial sales). It’s an amazing track record. I want to know how they do it.

Valve Corporation? They are the Wal-Mart of the gaming world. Lame. Boring. All Gabe does is play make-believe that he is a digital tour-de-force like Google or Apple. He’s not by a long-shot.

Why is it so bad if Microsoft’s store replaces Steam? From the Better Business Bureau, we’d at least probably get better customer service. Also, Microsoft makes good controllers. Valve Corporation still hasn’t figured out how to make a decent controller.

Hello there,

In my point of view NX will be the Nintendo output for their AAA games, and those AAA games will only be ran by NX. Iwata hints this when he says “we have come to hold an even stronger passion and vision for the dedicated video game system business than ever before”.

So, let’s suppose you log into this Nintendo/DeMA account system and buy a “simple” game. For example, “Rythm Heaven Mobile” (which I would buy today!). This game would be possible to be played on every hardware supported by this Nintendo/DeMA platform.

But, let´s suppose Nintendo releases Super Mario Galaxy 3. I’m sure the company will make it only possible to be played on the NX. You log into your account, buy it, download it into your NX, then play it on the NX or stream the image to the TV. Super Mario Galaxy 3 would be developed by Miyamoto with NX in mind.

In a nutshell, the Nintendo/DeMA is the new Nintendo Gaming Platform to run simple future games and historical backlog while the NX is Nintendo’s new “controller” to run its future AAA games either on TV or on itself (being portable).

We can file this under ‘speculation under what I’d like’.

Nintendo isn’t going to let games be played on very different hardware than what they were created for. Also, sales show that ported games do not sell as well.

If the account system encompasses all these systems, it is possible that you buy a piece of software that it is usable on all. I don’t think this will apply to original software. It may apply to VC games. Maybe.

But seeing how Nintendo puts no effort into VC, I doubt it.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 19, 2015

The Dig now available at GOG with other LucasArts games

Oh, that music! Atmosphere that is better than Super Metroid. There, I said it.

Thanks be to GoG for keeping great games accessible.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 19, 2015

Email: Writing Styles

Greetings, Legendary Malstrom
At some point I recommend that you make an article just on the subject of writing itself, looking at todays journalism theres a whole ton of cheap click bait, lazy “Top 6 reasons why” type articles, and naturally articles that are minimum more than a video ink.

We need more writers like you, writers that can bring up interesting subjects and write in a fairly straightforward style, I can’t tell you how many writing attempts I gloss over due to how “artsy” they attempt to describe things.

I don’t always agree with you, but you at least spare me time by keeping your articles fairly simple, you don’t have a word count to to match.

Its a bit needless to mention the dreadful writing that plagues todays media, lots of formulas, lots of drama, lots of dead parents, lots of in-depth back-stories, not enough actual “action”, and certainly not enough decent humor.

As newspapers go away, journalism standards also are going away. There is definitely a connection.

I was watching the latest Camille Paglia interview, and she described the decline of Salon. She said how in America, due to their being a two party system, you are either X or Y. The discussion is lost. The ideas are lost. If you are X, then Y is the evil and vice versa. She said how Salon’s founder used to believe in a mantra of ‘be interesting’ and what is interesting does not necessarily fit the confines of ‘X’ or ‘Y’.

There must be the structure to the mind but people keep trying to do this to gaming. Nothing I could write here could stop the avalanche of bad thought during the Seventh Generation when everyone wanted to go X and Y with CASUAL or HARDCORE. Yes, there are people who actually believed Iwata, president of a billion dollar company, issued a company of plan of ‘let’s go casual derp derp derp’ and that is how the Wii, DS, and all became born. There can be no dialogue because such people are prone to live in X vs. Y.

Before the Seventh Generation, we had Console Wars!!!. During Console Wars!!!, it was Sega Vs. Genesis, or Sony Vs. Nintendo or Microsoft vs. Sony or whatever. Gaming was getting lost in this vomit of thought.

Before the Fourth Generation, it was Video Games Vs. Everything. This one made the most sense since growing the market meant competing against everything else. Video games had to establish themselves.

I would accept casual vs. hardcore back in a heartbeat compared to what the X vs Y seems to be enveloping Generation 8 will be. It is the Social Justice vs. Gamergate type ‘war’ going on. I don’t think any gamer wants gaming to be material used for political propaganda of any kind. But is the solution to politicization to fight back in an opposite politicization? If you notice in America how every interest group has an equal and opposite interest group mirroring it. Either way, what becomes interesting becomes lost.

Video games are the intersection between technology and art where the person is a participant. It has an interesting history, interesting business ebb and flow, and the customers and developers are interesting. The mission of video games is to push back on the frontiers of boredom and tediousness on every front.

To answer your question, I think it is because people’s minds are structured in a X vs. Y ‘war’ of some kind. I know when I came on the scene, people thought I was a Nintendo fanboy. I am certainly a fan, but I know that is not what they meant. I’ve been here through the good Nintendo times (Generation 7) and bad Nintendo times (Generation 8). Interesting things can be found throughout.

Aside from barely updating this site, I do need to stop and spend whatever time here doing something else. I think I’ve been here so long simply because gaming is an escape. I do not watch sports so I do not have that traditional release valve. I still play games of some sort. Maybe I should go on vacation for a few years.

 

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 19, 2015

Nintendo is going to where the kids are

What may have been forgotten in the 2005 Nintendo business strategy announcements is that Nintendo does keep a sharp eye on teenagers and the younger generations. Nintendo calls this the ‘pipeline’. Obviously, Nintendo wants the young person pipeline to be run through the gameboys, DSes, and various home consoles. It is also how Nintendo makes money off of nostalgia.

But children are increasingly on smartphones and tablets. They are growing up without Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom. They are not experiencing the Nintendo IPS.

When Nintendo says they expect the mobile games to help their dedicated game console sales, what they are doing is IP Awareness. While the mobile games are supposed to make money, their biggest job is to bring forth IP Awareness so they will buy a console (box) just to get to Mario.

In generations past, children were always in front of a TV. Put a game console there and BAM. They get into Mario. But now the TV is no longer there. Children are in front of smartphones and tablets now. Hence, the need for Nintendo to put their IP in front of them.

The big shift of Nintendo is a reaction to a shift in how we no longer use the TV as we once did.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 19, 2015

NX may be controller neutral

This image is useful in depicting exactly ‘what’ role NX is going to be. It is clearly to be a dedicated game system. Is it a handheld or home console? All we know is that it is ‘dedicated’.

What intrigues me is the larger circle. I think it is obvious that tablets, smartphones, and PCs may be used as ‘controllers’ for the NX. I’d much rather use a tablet I have to manipulate Mario’s blocks than the terrible touch screen in the Gamepad.

If Nintendo is making games and encircling a membership service to mobile and home PCs as well as 3DS and Wii U, why have the NX? We can easily rule out that the NX is…

…not a tablet.

…not a smartphone.

…not a PC.

…not an upgrade to 3DS.

…not an upgrade to Wii U.

NX may be a ‘successor’ to 3DS and Wii U as the Generation 9 console. Whatever NX is, it is clearly different enough from the 3DS and Wii U. We know the difference will be more than faster processor speeds and a better GPU.

There is some sort of ‘high concept’ that is defining the NX. High concept could mean anything. For the last couple of generations, the concept was the input. Is that what is going on here? I don’t think so. Why include PC on this list? No one uses PCs except older gamers like myself. Software on these other devices means that NX can use these other devices as controllers.

I’m guessing the high concept is related more to the output or as a nexus for all sorts of various platforms, inputs, and devices.

There will be much interest in Nintendo patents for the next few years.

The editing and music choice for this is still amazing. One big red flag that NX could be VR or something crazy is because Nintendo is not talking about it being ‘next generation’ or a 3DS or Wii U successor. Miyamoto and the rest are old. They want to do this.  Sony, Microsoft, and everyone else is doing VR. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo did as well and have the mobile games pay for this little excursion.

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