Friday, April 20, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

It's F, to the R, to the I, to the DAY! Friday! Yeah!

Who's ready for the weekend? I know I am. It's been a long week, which will mean a super short weekend. But hey! It's still a weekend. Let's get into the Weekly Link Round Up. A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week. Here's what we've got:

- What are some of the flaws with today's modern video games? This question was tackled on Quora by

Thursday, April 19, 2018

NBA eSports League Starting May 1st on Twitch

It's no surprise that with the success of the Overwatch League, other games are jumping on board. The NBA has created their own eSports league and has signed a multi-year broadcast with Twitch and Amazon directly to exclusive streaming rights. The venture is tied in with NBA 2K, a longstanding staple in gaming tournaments. The league will be launching May 1st and access to viewing the content is 100% free (with ads of course unless you're a Twitch Prime member).

The NBA is the first sports coalition that has developed an eSports league that will be housed under their umbrella. Which also means that any gaming pros have to follow the NBA's rules of conduct. Blizzard, you might want to take note of this. The NBA 2K League will mimic the standard NBA game schedule including draft seasons - roughly 199 games in a year. Individual franchises (such as the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors) will host teams of 6 gamers. They will be paid at least $32k for the year as the base salary, along with any prize winnings, plus insurance, retirement plans, and housing will be covered.

Best of luck to the league and the gamers!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How Low Can the Metacritic Score Go?

I'm not interested in talking about Dungeons & Dragons' co-creator's having their works published into video games. There are already a load of online articles covering that story.

Let's talk about games that suck. They are the worst of the worst, according to critics. Business Insider compiled the data from Metacritic, with over 15,000 games in the library, to list the 50 worst video games based on their aggregate data. While Metacritic did most of the work, Business Insider helped remove duplicates. If a game appears on multiple systems, it will show up on the overall stats more than once. The only thing I wish the story did was post reviews from the critics themselves, instead of game overviews. No one cares what the game is about. We want to know why it's so bad!

And before you ask, no. Superman 64 is not on the list, because it's not on the Metatacritic site! I know. I was shocked to find that out too. That easily would have taken the top spot. Instead it's a family game titled Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade for the WiiU. This review from Eurogamer Sweden is my favorite: "I'm really upset that it isn't illegal to sell garbage like this to innocent children, at a very steep price at that. Any kid who gets this as a Christmas present will have his or her holidays ruined, and anyone who bought it should get their money back with personal apologies from the game's developer." The game ranks an 11/100 on the critic score and 1.1/10 for users. Harsh.

I'm also loving that other games like Yaris and Alone in the Dark: Illumination are here. I knew they were bad games, but not Metacritic low score bad. Take a spin at the list today and see if you can spot some well known games. Are some of your least favorites listed?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Why Bullying Back Doesn't Work

You may have seen a few postings about a new network of people calling themselves Bully Hunters. They claimed to be representing those who have been harassed in games, and fight against the bullies by diving into the content, and digitally bullying back. Last week they announced their presences in CS:Go as an elite team of pro female gamers. The idea is to beat back the bullies by winning the games - defeating the opponents. It had the support of a few streamers and the National Organization for Women (note: these people did not provide monetary support to the project). Which is weird that people are okay with combating bullying with more bullying. The thin line that Bully Hunters had to not cross was making sure they didn't harass back. The point of the team is to go in covertly and beat the bullies at the game they are playing. Not to harass or throw down shade.

As of yesterday, the project has ended. A lot of concern has been brought up by the gaming community (and rightly so) coupled with a disastrous first stream spelled an early death for Bully Hunters. Once Bully Hunters went public, people were quick to research the history of the streamers affiliated with them - finding some had a past of using racial and homophobic slurs during live events. Even the way that the stream was to be held was raising red flags. Companies that originally supported the group are now distancing themselves.

Bullying and harassment in the gaming world needs to be addressed and stopped. But it goes beyond fixing what's happening in games. It's also a social issue that affects us in our daily lives: work, home, school, church, etc. If there is anything that I've learned in my years of being bullied, it's that fighting back like a bully only makes things worse. You're more likely to be targeted, picked on, and harassed. There is a literal and figurative moral high ground you need to take. Talk to your parents and teachers or get the police involved if it's serious enough. Don't give any attention to your bullies (seriously, this is one of the biggest reasons why people bully - for the attention). Don't give them the time of day. Keep living your life. Ignore them. And eventually they will get the idea and leave you be. Pro Tip: You should still report them so they don't harass someone else.

If you think this is where the Bully Hunters saga ends, you'd be wrong. Because of course the founder is receiving a wall of hate, violence, and death threats on her social media. It's a woman trying to combat bullying in video games. That's already put a target on her. And it's unfortunate that people are doing this. It's further exemplifying the need to address and stop harassment. The people commenting can hide behind the cloud of "Bully Hunters is wrong" while they issue their threats, but that doesn't remove them from their actions. You can criticize something (as I did in the previous paragraph) without turning it into hate. But if Bully Hunters wanted to show how big the problem was, they certainly did!

Gamers, we have a long way to go. But it's a bigger problem than bullying in games. It's bullying and harassment in society that needs to be addressed for there to be a resolution.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Thank goodness it's Friday! It's been a rough week; mostly due to me having to battle post-convention sickness. But in general, the news week for games has been slow. You'll see why in the Weekly Link Round Up. A gathering of the best (which is questionable this week), worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet.

- JSTOR Daily, a scholastic news site that utilizes academic journals, has an article titled 'Why Are Video Games So Great?' I warned you all this was not going to be a good Round Up. Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, discusses the impact of World of Warcraft on gamers and guilds. Not from the game's supposed "realism," but what the player can extract from the game to apply to their own lives. The article is pretty lame, but the paper is worth a read if you sign up with JSTOR for free.

- The BAFTA winners have been announced, with Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice taking home 5 awards, and What Remains of Edith Finch winning the game of the year, beating out Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I think we're all equally surprised by that.

- I don't know how real this article is, but I can't find any sources to disprove it. According to the AFP News Agency, there is possibly a growing backlash against South Korean female developers who are pushing for changes in the industry. While women are 42% of the gaming force in the country, they make up less than 25% of the development community. #MeToo has spread across the globe and South Korea is experiencing their own movement with it. Starting with politics, it's spreading to other industries. It should be no surprise that gaming is one of them, and that those in power are pushing back against changes for equality. Women are afraid to speak up for fear of repercussions. Some are being investigated for simply following feminist-like Twitter accounts. We'll keep this story updated as it unfolds.

- The FTC has recently sent letters to several companies, including gaming hardware makers, about the language with their warranties. Specifically, that a warranty should not be voided if the end users has to open the product to fix it - unless the company provides free parts and services. The companies involved have been asked to resolve their policies within 30 days before legal action is taken. We don't know which companies were called out, since letters were sent to cell phone and car makers. But if it's one of the big console makers like Sony or Nintendo, this could have long-term ramifications that will be a win for consumers!

- Modding is not new to the gaming scene. Modding of GameBoy's is the newest trend, and there are some hella-cool systems out there. I still have a number of these, and while I'm not likely to mod mine, I can see the appeal. Better graphics, different skins and buttons, brighter interfaces. Check out the Kotaku article for the inside look of GameBoy Modding.

- Finally, an article from the Wall Street Journal on why parents are on board with Fortnite. I don't know what makes this game so much more special than Minecraft or any MMO, but there you go.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The King of Kong has Been Dethroned Again!

The King of Kong has been knocked off his perch. Billy Mitchell, the uncontested champion of multiple arcade games for decades, has had his scores removed from the Twin Galaxies library after a dispute arose from one of the members, Jeremey Young (@xelnia). You can read the full statement from the site here.

Twin Galaxies was one of the first authorities on recording game scores in the arcade era - spanning decades of rosters and stats. They are pretty much the go-to for all things "records" when it comes to games. Mitchell has been a mainstay for Twin Galaxies, even acting as a psuedo-celebrity for their events. Young provided evidence that the original Donkey Kong game board could not possibly replicate Mitchell's score without modifications being made. He compared Michell's infamous "King of Kong" video tape (one that Mitchell sent in to throw Steve Wiebe off the podium) to the game's technical specs. Twin Galaxies did their own testing and recruited 2, third party sources, to verify Young's claims.

Twin Galaxies score records require gamers to use the original hardware only. No modifications. No alterations.

With their findings, the group has removed all of Mitchell's records. He is also no longer the first to reach 1 million points in Donkey Kong. That honor will go to Steve Wiebe - who did this in person at a Twin Galaxies event with an official machine.

What's next? Mitchell can attempt to dispute the findings, but it may be difficult to overturn this decision given how thorough Twin Galaxies was with their investigation.

If that musical is still being planned, this is another plot twist to the saga!

Update 1:23pm: I beat Kotaku to a story. Huzzah!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Steam's New Privacy Settings Upset Outside Sites

Steam recently released an update that changed some of the privacy settings for users. Specifically, hiding users game libraries by default. It also removed coding that allowed third party websites to track gaming trends on the service. If you want to know about how well a game is doing, you have to bury yourself into Steam's website and hope you find what you need. Steam Spy, one of the largest aggregators of Steam data, has been dead in the water since this update.

Now to be fair, in the wake of the Facebook privacy issues, Steam updating their policies and adding more options is a good thing. I personally am very protective of my data, even on a gaming site like Steam. I probably would hide my gaming library if given the option. The problem is that Steam did this as a default and didn't notify anyone. Ironic given that Valve praised sites like Steam Spy at GDC for providing in-depth analysis that people could rely on before making a purchase.

Users can also hide their total game play time. They are looking into adding an "invisible" mode in a future update. Again, the problem is not the settings. Rather, Valve did it and didn't tell anyone that they hid their games as the "default" option. Usually the public setting is the standard with the option for you to hide it. Valve has not commented on the matter. Needless to say, a number of Steam-based sites are out of commission until people start un-hiding their library.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

PUBG Developer Suing Copy-Cat Games

With the popularity of PlayUnknown's Battlegrounds, it' should be no surprise that copy-cat games have been released en-mass to capitalize on the craze. PUBG Corp. has filed a suit against NetEase for 2 games that they claim are clones of their product.

The games Rules of Survival and Knives Out, they claim mimic the PUBG look and sounds, including catchphrases. The lawsuit also claims that the games used false advertising by promoting content only available in PUBG, and not in the NetEase products. You can see game play comparisons throughout YouTube that, if given different shading and colors, the products are pretty similar.

Originally PUBG Corp. sent a notice to Apple to have the apps removed from the iPhone store, but NetEase refuted the claim - this sparked the lawsuit. PUBG is asking for damages from the potential loss in sales, and for the games to no longer be available. No court date has been set yet, but there's a good chance NetEase will fight against the lawsuit.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Weekly Link Round Up

Good morning gamers. It's not Friday, but that doesn't stop us from rolling out the welcome rug for the Weekly Link Round Up! A collection of the best, worst, and weirdest gaming news on the internet this week. Here's what we've got in store:

- If you live in the UK and want to work for a developer, you should probably avoid Rockstar North and King. After a law passed in 2016/2017, companies with 250 or more employees were required to report on salaries to compare the figures between men and women. This was meant to help combat the issue of the gender pay gap. Seeing the numbers for Rockstar are sobering, and utterly depressing. Game crunched the numbers and determined that women at Rockstar are paid 64% less than their male counterparts per an hourly rate. 69% of developers have a larger gender wage gap than most businesses in the UK. This must change if we expect growth in video games.

- Have you all heard of the epic tale of Moirai? A game that found viral fame when it was meant as a pet project that shouldn't see the light of day. The developers other game, Expand, was suppose to help propel the company to make more games. Moirai wasn't meant to work, and it was hacked. This is a bizarre story that could only happen in today's digital age. Check out the CNet article for more details.

- If you "play" the stock markets, you might be wondering if Fortnite is impacting shares with other businesses. In short: maybe. The free to play game is boosting Epic's value to the gaming community, but may be pulling away gamers from pay to play properties. As such, some stocks for EA and Activision have been doing a dance. While they are still ahead in gains, there is the concern that free to play games, as they continue to improve in quality, will start causing a financial mess for other developers. Personally, I think people are worrying too much about the stocks and not on the quality of the games - that's the bottom line in what will sell.

- Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku lists out the 16 types of video games, and it's not by genre. There are "types" based on one's life and how those games work into it. The time wasters, the exploring, the gathering, the "I bought this on sale and will never have time to play it" game. This article was eerily relate-able. I have a catalogue of games that would qualify as 'guilty pleasure' or 'maybe-someday.'

- This is a little too late for anyone to really care, but the Middle-Earth: Shadow of War developers have recently realized that their loot box system is screwed up. In a blog post this week, Monolith has announced that they will be removing gold boxes and the market from the game with a July 17th update that is free to all users. The ability to purchase gold will end on May 8. At this point, people have either played the game or have opted to not touch it given how restrictive the content is without buying loot boxes. But the announcement is better than nothing? It took a while, but the developers finally listened and are making changes to improve the player experience.

- We love WhatCulture lists on this round up. Here is their ranking of 8 video games that were sold on 'stupid' gimmicks. This time it's a video! A nice 7 minutes to kill during your break today. And if your first thought was "That SEGA Seaman game better be on there," well good news. It is. That was one of the best gimmicky games ever released.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Romance Ain't Easy in Games

Romance in video games is difficult.

From determining the hows and whys of romance, to dialogue options, animations, and awkward smexing, bringing a romantic relationship to digital life can be incredibly challenging. While developers like BioWare make it look easy, the complexity behind the scenes helps the romance feel seamless. Yet the process is never quite right.

I enjoy romance in games as much as the next gamer. But in the vast majority of games, whether it's an RPG or a dating simulator, many of the actions the gamer must perform are the same: flirt with the partner of your choice, agree with their dialogue options that reflect their personality, buy them gifts, commit to the relationship. It's sardonically straight forward what you need to do, though the path you take to reach these milestones can change from game to game. The power is in the player's hands, not the NPC's. Your goal is to figure out what the NPC likes and choose the right conversation options to get them to like you back. In most games, the NPC can't back out of a relationship. They can't say no if you've selected the right dialogue. They can't argue with you if you cheat on them - you may see a conversation occur afterwards but more often than not it'll be a choice wheel where you can select if you want to stay together with the NPC or break it off. Again the decision is left to the player, not the NPC.

While it sounds all doom and gloom, it's not meant to be sinister. Romance is never easy. The reality behind producing romance in games is even more complicated than what we experience on a daily basis. Some of the limitations to options and how NPC's interact with your player character are purely technological. AI's haven't advanced to the point that we can acutely replicate human emotions. NPC's are not autonomous. We'll get there. And it will be one heck of a revolution in gaming.

And games like Dream Daddy and Mass Effect: Andromeda allow the player to have multiple romantic relationships with consequences. You still hold the majority of the power as the player, but the NPC's have a say in what happens next. Start a relationship with Vetra, but if you flirt with other people, she could refuse to speak with you until the situation is addressed.

One could also argue that the structure of these games allows us to fulfill our hero fantasies. The woman/man gets the person they have been lusting after. It's not meant to be a deep philosophical conversation about what romance really is. Those are fine too. It's not reality.

Would it be nice to see more dynamic romantic content in video games? Absolutely. But there's no harm in playing the games like dating sims that allow us to fantasize about digital relationships. We can acknowledge that games are not perfect and the actions repetitive, but it is a faithful step forward in exploring new possibilities.