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Pokemon Go Fest 2020 Review July 31, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Reviews.
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One year after the game Pokémon Go was released to tremendous success, its developer made the head scratching decision to host an exclusive event for a worldwide phenomenon at a small park in Chicago, IL. Cramming so many players into a small physical area to play the most popular game in the world (at the time) might’ve not been the best idea. The event was a catastrophic failure with poor network connectivity, long lines, and poor staff communication. After the event concluded (and Niantic issued refunds) I posted a plea on this website for Niantic to consider holding their worldwide game as a a worldwide event, and not force players to have to pay travel and hotel expenses to play a game they could just as easily connect to from their own home towns. From what I was told, the following Pokémon Go Fest events were held successfully, but for some reason that eludes my logic they still required players to travel.

Due to the current worldwide pandemic, travel is no longer an option. This past weekend, Niantic actually took my advice and held this year’s Pokémon Go Fest as a worldwide event. Anyone with access to the game and a supported device would be able to participate in the event without having to travel or interact with others. This was the best possible idea I could’ve ever hoped for to hold the event. The price was $14.99 US to participate in the research event, but people who didn’t pay would still able to capture event Pokémon, participate in Raids, and battle Team Go Rocket during the two-day event. The ticket price might seem a little steep to participate in a digital event, but in comparison to not having to pay for a physical event ticket, airfare and hotel fees, it came off as a good value to me.

To get everyone excited for Go Fest 2020, Niantic held several weekly challenges and encouraged everyone to participate by making their own decorations and activity sheets. Here’s a look at some of decorations I was able to make.

Decorations

The event was held over two days with introduction videos beginning on the evening of the day before the event’s start. Here’s the official kickoff video.

Go Fest 2020 Day 1 started at 10am local time and immediately began spawning a diverse biome of recognizable Pokémon that changed on the hour every hour. Players who purchased an event ticket were given a series of exclusive challenges (and some in-game items) to unlock the event goals. A new challenge was awarded every hour, and players (including those who hadn’t paid for a ticket) could still participate. With five biomes of nearly a dozen Pokémon to represent each type, there were plenty of Pokémon to catch and evolve over the course of the day. There were only five biomes and they looped, so players who missed a biome or couldn’t catch enough Pokémon to unlock a later evolution would have multiple chances to catch up throughout the day. Raids also increased in frequency during the event, and thankfully many of the raids could be completed with just one player. The first (and only) premium challenge of Day 1 revolved around catching twenty Pokémon from each biome and participate in two raids. They also were expected to send in-game gifts and make new friends. Players were awarded PokéBalls and raid passes to help them complete the challenge.

At the same time, Niantic partnered with Pokémon Go streamers from across the web to produce some unique Pokémon Go videos players could watch during the first day’s events. They would release those videos over the course of the first day. Here’s my favorite video:

It would be time consuming but not overly difficult to complete the first day’s events. I cannot speak of any login or gameplay issues during Day 1 (short of an occasional network hiccup), and my issues probably had more to do with the fact that in my area’s cellular network I am lucky to get a single bar of reception. I can’t imagine that would’ve been the case if I was playing alongside thousands of other players in close proximity. However, Niantic’s friends list feature was having hiccups throughout Day 1. It was difficult for me at certain times of the day to send gifts to friends, or for them to send me gifts. I know that by mid-day of Day 1, many players were demanding refunds, I was not among them.

There was a mid-day quiz show that was fun to participate in. Users who participated in the stream (or merely watched it) were given a code for some extra in-game items. The quiz show made for a nice break from all the catching and battling, at least for the half hour it lasted, but it wasn’t repeated for the second day. In fact, all of the event’s official video updates were posted before Day 1 concluded, and no new video updates were posted on Day 2.

On Day 2 at 10am local time the final challenges were presented. Unlike the first day, which only had a single challenge, Day 2 posted several challenges that had to be completed in order to unlock the next one. The biomes had returned, giving players a higher chance of catching any Pokémon they missed on the first day. At the same time, Team Go Rocket was flying hot air balloons all over the world, challenging trainers to battle. The day’s premium challenges revolved around defeating Team Go Rocket, and the fact they were attacking from hot air balloons (opposed to PokéStops) made the challenge a lot fairer. Defeating the leaders gave trainers a chance to catch shadow versions of the legendary birds. Defeating Giovanni offered the opportunity to capture a Shadow Mewtwo. By the end of Day 2, if a player had successfully completed all the event challenges, trainers had the opportunity to catch the mythical Pokémon Victini.

I had a ton of fun participating in the two-day event but the event did have issues. While I can’t vouch for any connectivity problems (other than some occasional issues with the friend’s list) other people did complain of those issues. My issues had to do with the fact the event’s challenges required a player to not only have friends, but to make new ones. This was an AWFUL idea, and whoever within Niantic keeps pushing for friend making challenges should be fired. We are currently in the worst pandemic the world has seen in a hundred years, the theme of this year’s Go Fest was we finally the opportunity to play the game by ourselves within our own safe area. Every human being I know has already made their mind up whether or not they want to play the game, I cannot tell you how difficult (not to say embarrassing it was) to cycle through my phone contacts to talk to people who hadn’t checked their gift boxes in months and plead with them to clear out their gifts so I could send them more. Many of those people had quit playing Pokémon Go altogether and were not amused by my pleas. I actually had to convince my own father to start playing the game just to start the challenges on Day 2.

ED NOTE – Forcing players to make new friends and send them gifts could have been the cause of the friend’s list issues throughout the first day. It also had the side effect of swamping the game’s most well-known players with countless friend requests from unknown people. Poké Tips actually had to put a disclaimer towards the end of his recent video pleading for people not to send him friend requests. There was no need for any of it, stop forcing us to make friends Niantic.

Then there was the other issue with Go Fest Day 2. The day’s challenges (once you got past getting people to friend you) revolves around defeating Team Go Rocket. I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention Team Go Rocket already had an identical challenge event leading up to the defeat of Giovanni, and while the rewards to defeating that challenge was different, it would have been nice to see new and different challenges (or a unique storyline) specifically made for the event. That having been said, the event’s story was successful and the hovering hot air balloons made it fair and fun to complete, regardless of the fact the content wasn’t entirely unique.

The event ended with this final cinematic battle between Team Go Rocket and the leaders of Team Mystic, Team Instinct and Team Valor.

So that’s my summary of the event itself and my thoughts on the event. First off, I want to commend Niantic for hosting the event in the way they did. I never would’ve been able to participate in the event at all if they had chosen to hold it at a physical location and I hope this becomes the model for Go Fests moving forward. Now you’re probably wondering if I felt the event was worth the ticket price? I believe it was. I had a blast over the two day event, accomplishing all the tasks as quickly as I was able to. I cannot tell you how shocked I was to receive the chance to catch Shadow Mewtwo after my defeat of Giovanni, and I was very pleased to capture the legendary. The fact I have no friends willing to play the game with me, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty minor. I hope Niantic does this again for next year, if they do I’ll be certain to buy a ticket. Just don’t force me to make any friends!

Pokémon Go is out now for Android and iOS smart devices.

Maniac’s Kitchen – Deep River Ninja Ginger Potato Chips Review July 30, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Maniac’s Kitchen, Reviews, Site Videos.
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Welcome back to Maniac’s Kitchen, where we review gaming foods and share recipes for gamers. Today, we’re going to highlight Deep River Snacks, which sells high quality potato chips in our region. We’ve wanted to highlight them for a while and this new Ninja Ginger flavor chip is the perfect chip to start with.

Ginger is an old-school gamer’s solution for motion sickness. With the increased use for Virtual Reality, ginger-flavored goodies are popping up everywhere. I like ginger, typically with sushi, so I figured these chips should taste great to me. Let’s try these chips out and see how they taste.

Avengers: War Table 2 About to Begin July 29, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics are prepared for host their next preview of Marvel’s Avengers in just mere minutes. Today’s focus is on the details of the game’s highly anticipated BETA! Take a look!

Marvel’s Avengers is coming September 2020 to the PC, PS4, Xbox One and Stadia. It is also coming to the Xbox Series X and PS5.

Atlus Should Make Catherine Games for Smartphones and Tablets July 27, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Catherine remains one of my favorite games of all time due to its unique art style and mature story while its base gameplay has been keeping me on edge every single night since Catherine: Full Body was released on Nintendo Switch. I loved playing the game on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 back when it launched in 2011, but I have to admit I may be enjoying it even more on the Nintendo Switch due to the portable/television nature of the platform. With the extreme popularity of modern mobile devices (including Android/iOS smartphones and tablets) and the record-breaking profits modern mobile games making due to that install base, why doesn’t Atlus release a Catherine game on mobiles?

I know that title is a huge proclamation but you gotta hear me out. I’m not saying Atlus should make a Catherine sequel for mobile devices. A full sequel would be better served on something like the PS5, Nintendo Switch or Xbox Series X. What I am saying is that Catherine’s addictive block climbing gameplay and even its story beats, if properly adjusted, could work really well on a mobile device like the iPhone. There’s more than enough processing power in a modern smartphone or tablet to replicate Catherine’s graphics and art style, and modern touch screens offer infinite possibilities for control. As for the game’s story (if they wanted to include one), there are tons of possible ways to present it. I want to break down my ideas for a portable Catherine game, and I hope that if I can paint a picture as to how it could work, would make you ask to play it yourself.

Before we get started, I would like to make my opinions on something quite clear. It would be critically pointless for me to write an article about a game made specifically for smart devices in today’s day and age unless I addressed the elephant in the room, microtransactions. Microtransactions have been implemented in smart device games for over a decade, and are considered today’s main source of income for mobile game developers. Old-school gamers like me would call them a plague. If Atlus was to release a game for the mobile market, especially something that features Catherine’s puzzle-based gameplay, in theory nothing would stop them making it a microtransaction-filled game that would probably lock content behind arbitrary timers. If that happens, honestly, I wouldn’t want to play it and even if I did, I wouldn’t spend a single dime on any in-app purchases. That’s because I’m against the use of microtransactions due to the fact that by definition, a game that revolved around it would be entirely dependent on Atlus’s continuous financial support. The second Atlus chose to end their support for the game, the game would cease working and all the money a user spent in it might as well have been set on fire. Granted, that’s true of all games that feature microtransactions.

If Atlus is going to release a Catherine smartphone game, there are superior methods to sell the game on digital marketplace that will not provoke anger from the gaming public. If they wanted, they could charge up front to buy the game in full, but I believe the better idea would be for them to go the Super Mario Run route and offer the first few levels of the game as a free demo on the marketplace, and provide the ability to unlock the rest of the game as an in-app purchase. Or, if Atlus planned to do an episodic release and add more levels later on, they might be able to get away with charging for individual chunks of levels, with a sale price for a full content unlock. If you remember I was a person who pleaded with Atlus back when Catherine was first released to release new puzzles as DLC back in the day and I think that would be the fairest pay structure gamers would be willing to agree to.

With all that out of the way, let’s talk about gameplay and controls. Catherine’s tight controls are legendary, and if you ask me they were improved a lot in Full Body. So how would gameplay work if adjusted for a smart device? You could use the device’s gyroscopes to adjust your view of the playfield (tilt up to move the camera to look up, tilt right to look right, etc) and swipe to move in several directions. Moving blocks could require pushing and holding your finger on the screen as the block is moved. I’m sure drop timers for the blocks could be extended beyond what they are in the original game to compensate for any potential misswipes, or if they choose to make a Rapunzel-type game, the power levels for maximum moves could be increased. That, is essentially how you could get a Catherine game on a modern mobile device. I designed that control layout over the course of mere minutes, just imagine how much they could be refined if I had given myself more planning time or had actual game development experience.

Now let’s talk about how we could present the game’s story. First off, there’s no requirement that we really have to have one. In fact, if Atlus just wanted to port something in the style of Catherine’s arcade game Super Rapunzel to portable devices they would save having to include a story entirely. However, if Atlus wanted to make a story-driven portable Catherine game, there would be plenty of options for them to present the story to the player.

One would be to offer still images with simple scroll text boxes after the end of every series of puzzles. This would be the simplest option by far. The developers would merely need to create an original high-resolution piece of art for each story beat, and the player could tap through a series of scrolling text boxes. You could have a voice-over for these sections, but I don’t recommend it as most users will click past to skip the sound clip as soon as they finish reading the text. This is not the most elegant way to present a solution, but it would help lower the app’s download size (which would make installing and updating it much quicker).

Another option for story presentation would be to include prerendered in-game cinematics. This would basically mean you would watch preproduced/compressed video files that were rendered on the developer’s computers. This would be a better option than still images. Part of Catherine’s charm was its great cinematics and we know Atlus still has access to the game’s assets. Including full motion video would allow for improved story presentation and could even include character voiceover and subtitles. The downside would be these cinematics would greatly increase download times (although streaming them could be an option it’s not a great one) and video compression would mean image quality won’t hold up well on higher resolution devices.

In my opinion, the best option would be to produce in-game cutscenes. Portable devices have more than enough raw power to replicate Catherine’s signature art style, and it might be more resource efficient to produce in-game assets, environments and textures and have the smart device render them. This could be a better option if the developers wanted to include an in-game voiceover, but text bubbles would be sufficient. This kind of option would not only cut down on file size, it would allow newer devices to scale resolution.

If you’ve read this far I know what you’re asking, how mature a story could we get away with in this day and age? I think the line the game’s developers have already set should work just fine. What would the story be? I would be fine with anything, as long as it followed the same logic as the original games and gave some nods to the original game’s characters. I really have a soft spot for this franchise, and I think it has the potential to be brought to even bigger heights.

Catherine: Full Body is out now for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Catherine (Classic) is out for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Pokémon Go Fest 2020 Launches in the Americas July 25, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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The Americas have finally caught up to the rest of the world and as of 10am local time, Pokémon Go Fest 2020 Day 1 has begun! Here are all the details!

If you’ve purchased a ticket, log in as soon as your clock turns 10am to start playing! There are going to be unique challenges, research opportunities and a lot more.

Pokémon Go is out now for Android and iOS Smart devices.

Making of Pokémon Go Fest 2020 Commercial July 24, 2020

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A few days ago, Niantic released a new television commercial for Pokémon Go to promote the start of tomorrow’s Pokémon Go Fest 2020. Take a look behind the scenes and see what went into making that epic commercial.

Pokémon Go is out now for Android and iOS Smart Devices.

Pokémon Go Fest 2020 About to Kick Off July 24, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Pokémon Go Fest 2020 is live! Here’s the kickoff video!

What goes into making this year’s Pokémon Go Fest? This video gives a little look at what challenges Niantic faces making such a big event.

And finally, I’m sure plenty of you have started printing the free papercraft items that have been released for the event. Here’s a handy how-to guide for assembling the Pokémon Go Gift.

If you want to try it for yourself go here. The craft is compatible with A4 or 8.5×11” paper, just make sure to download the correct PDF for your home printer.

You can join Go Fest 2020 by purchasing a ticket in the Pokémon Go app. Cost is $14.99 US and can be paid by either credit card or a gift card for your device’s digital store. The event begins 10am local time tomorrow!

Pokémon Go is out now for Android and iOS smart devices.

Psychonauts 2 Music Trailer July 23, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Prepare your ears for the smooth tones of Jack Black. This trailer, shown at the Microsoft Games Event, is only the latest preview of Psychonauts 2, a game being developed by Double Fine.

I think the biggest news reveal I can make about this game is it will be available to people using Xbox Games Pass. We’ve been waiting a long time for Psychonauts 2, and it looks like we won’t be waiting for much longer.

First Halo Infinite Gameplay Revealed July 23, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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There are no words. This is what Halo was like in the beginning and now it looks like this is what Halo will be again. Take a look at the very first gameplay footage of Halo: Infinite.

Halo: Infinite is coming Holiday 2020 to Xbox One, PC and Xbox Series X.

Balan Wonderworld Announced July 23, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Ladies and Gentelmen, Yuji Naka has teamed up with Square Enix to produce a new game with a heavy inspiration of…musical theater. Take a look!

Balan Wonderworld is coming to Xbox One and Xbox Series X. It will support Smart Delivery.