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Can Anyone Identify this R-Rated 90s HBO VR Flick? February 12, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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We’re doing this again and I apologize. Years back, I asked you guys if you would help me identify an early 90s made for TV movie that aired on the Disney Channel at least once. Sadly, it didn’t work and to this day I STILL don’t have a name for it. However, in the spirit of the season, I humbly ask for you to help me with a different film from a later part of the decade that aired on a different premium cable channel.

When I was a teen I had access to the HBO network and would frequently watch mid-90s action flicks like Demolition Man, Mission: Impossible and Independence Day on it. It was how I first saw classics like Real Genius and Wargames. It also broadcasted tons of different B-movies I never remembered being shown in theaters. Today, I’m going to ask you guys to give me its name, if it is in fact real.

I just want to give a warning here before I talk about the film’s synopsis. This film, if it wasn’t some dream of mine, was a hard-R rated movie. Because of that it is full of sex and violence (and all the visuals that go along with that). The subject matter I’m about to talk about may make some people uncomfortable and if that is the case I recommend skipping the rest of this article.

The film centers around a detective, an ex-soldier from a future war that had long ended, tasked with protecting an infamous celebrity actress from harm. The actress hadn’t done much work of note at the time the film starts, but had recently seen a resurgence in popularity due to the fact a scene from one of her first movies had been modified into a popular interactive sex game without her knowledge or consent. Following this new notoriety, a police task force had been assigned to protect her after she received several very believable threats. The ex-soldier assigned to the task of protecting her is also recovering from the death of his partner (who ironically before he died was one of the actress’s fans). Along the way the main character and the actress he is protecting fall in love. Essentially, the film is a futuristic version of The Bodyguard.

Unfortunately I can’t remember names, actors or actresses in the film. As far as I know, no actor I recognized at the time was in the film. The only identifying evidence I could remember about the film was that the protagonist was previously addicted to a fictional narcotic the film called “Hellraiser”. No, I’m not kidding that’s what it was called, although it might have been spelled “Hellraizer” or “Hell Raiser”. The narcotic was said to make killing enjoyable to its user. As such it was issued in mass quantities to the soldiers fighting, and after the war ended these soldiers had to deal with the consequences of their addiction. Users would even have a distinctive tattoo on their forearms showing they had used the drug at some point in their lives, looking like a biological hazard symbol. I don’t remember if the film ever mentioned if these tattoos were received as part of the Army unit they were in, if it was the soldier’s choice to get them, or the tattoos were some futuristic side effect of the drug.

At the film’s climax, the main character is forced to play a Virtual Reality game to help him find the person responsible for threatening the actress. I’m assuming that there was no budget for 3D CG gameplay because the VR game is depicted to the audience as live action real footage. However it did have a gameplay announcer that could be heard over a loud speaker (insert your Unreal Tournament narration jokes here) The VR system the protagonist uses was created by an old combat buddy of his who also had to deal with the consequences of addiction. He is even able to find the drug he was addicted to as an in-game power up, and is forced to take it to give himself a badly needed advantage. I believe it is implied in the film any drugs taken in the VR game will actually be administered to the user.

At the end of the film, the actress is safe but the man who protected her tells her he can’t be in a relationship with her anymore as he has become re-addicted (due to the events in the VR game) and must leave her to get clean again.

An IMDB search failed to come up with any leads for this particular film although it succeeded in helping me find some other great B-movie gems I saw on the station at around the same time. It is not the film Cyber Tracker starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson, even though the plot had some similarities and aired on the station around the same time, moments in that film don’t match up to my memory.

That all having been said I wanted to applaud the film, if it turns out it actually existed it dealt with some intense subject matters that are only now being talked about openly. How does an artist that is still alive deal with the consequences of what happens if their work is perverted without their consent? How do former soldiers deal after returning to their lives in peacetime? What is the possible future of VR? This is all addressed in a (presumably) low-budget film full of sex and violence.

Does anyone know it’s name? I can imagine a lot of online reviewers would love to take a look at it.

UPDATE: I have been given a tip it might be the 1996 film Terminal Justice starring Lorenzo Lamas and Peter Coyote.

I won’t know for sure until I can find that film to watch myself as it doesn’t seem to be on any digital or cable streaming service in existence right now. A million thanks to Lammakian for finding this title! Now if only I can find a retailer who will rent or sell me a copy of the film to verify it myself.

Sequel Speculation – What Villains Exist in the Spider-Man PS4 Universe? January 25, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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We’ve made it to 2020 and all eyes are on Sony and Microsoft as they plan to release new gaming consoles this holiday season. With the extreme success of Spider-Man on the PS4, it’s all but certain Insomniac will be making a sequel. In fact, most critics who follow the gaming industry are currently putting even odds on the chance Spider-Man 2 would get announced at the same time as the PS5. With that announcement looming, I thought it would be fun to post an article here detailing all the possibilities a sequel to this game would mean.

The Spider-Man franchise is rich with great characters, both heroes and villains, and many (but not all) of those characters were name dropped in the PS4 games. What do you say we take a closer look at all of the villains that we know to exist in the Spider-Man GamerVerse, and speculate on what we might see in a potential sequel. Just be aware, this article will be filled to the brim with SPOILERS. Read no further if you haven’t completed the game and all of its DLC.

Villains We Fought in the Game

With this list I want to clear up everyone we interacted with for certain in the previous game.

  • Kingpin – Wilson Fisk is seen in the book and the game. The Kingpin of crime kept an empire by running New York through fear and intimidation. In essence, when he is taken down the power vacuum created in his absence made the events of the game fall as it did. We did not see anyone break him out of his maximum security prison, despite several planned attempts my his men. He also did not appear to have broken out during the Sinister Six escape so it is theoretical he could still be in prison at the start of the next game.
  • Mr Negative – Martin Li was the first officially revealed villain of the game when it was shown at E3 2017. He is obsessed with bringing down Norman Osbourne after an experimental treatment meant to help Harry Osbourne transformed him into Mr Negative. He is currently being held in The Raft.
  • Rhino – The Rhino is a man trapped in an enormous indestructible suit he cannot remove, making him a perfect candidate for joining the Sinister Six. After the six’s successful break out he was defeated by Spider-Man and is currently held in the raft.
  • Electro – The PS4’s version of Max Dillon is not a being of pure energy but according to Otto Octavius he has the desire to become one, leading to the design of his new suit. We know he went through at least one costume change before the events of the game because several of the university students dressed in his classic comic book appearance. We don’t know for sure how he got the scar on his face, but my theory is he got it after The Raft used him as an electric generator to offset their electricity costs.
  • Scorpion – Mac is a part of the Sinister Six and his tail’s toxin made for one very trippy boss fight. We know his origin in this game is probably close to what happened in the comics. J. Jonah talks about it during one of his podcasts as Jameson bankrolled the creation of the Scorpion as a way to fight Spider-Man. Jameson takes no responsibility for the Scorpion’s actions as he felt it was unfair Mac didn’t tell him in advance he was nuts. He’s currently being held in The Raft.
  • Doc Ock – Otto Octavius is possibly one of the most tragic figures in the history of video games. On the one hand he was the original designer of Spider-Man’s iconic Advanced Suit, on the other he is responsible for genocide. In this game, Doc Ock is suffering from a degenerative neurological disease similar to Parkinson’s or ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease). His condition is not genetic, he believed it was environmental. It’s not fatal, but it eventually causes total paralysis. That’s why he made his mechanical arms in this game, to serve as a way to cope with that disease. However, his obsession with destroying Norman Osbourne compelled him to use his arms for evil. For his crimes, he is currently serving time in The Raft.
  • Shocker – He shocks people, to quote Michael Keaton. He also made for one of the best chase sequences in video game history. While Doc Ock was able to provide him an improved suit and Martin Li was able to get him out of jail early in the game, he was not asked to be part of the Sinister Six when it formed during the Raft breakout and we never saw him in the game’s final act. It is likely he is still imprisoned.
  • Hammerhead – A mafia boss with a steel plate in his head. In the three-part DLC story “The City That Never Sleeps” he becomes obsessed with bringing back Marvel’s version of the Mafia through making himself immortal. He is seemingly defeated by Spider-Man with the help of Silver Sable during the conclusion of the DLC.
  • Black Cat: Don’t know if I can call her a villain but she deserves a mention in this list. In this game, she has a past with Peter Parker that is only hinted upon. It would have been great to learn more about their past relationship. Her performance was a highlight for many players, and I would love to see her come back for a sequel!
  • Tombstone – After coming into contact with a rare chemical as a child this guy is huge and nearly unbreakable. His side mission arc in the main game could have been chopped off and sold as DLC if Insomniac was particularly evil. Thankfully they aren’t and the Tombstone side missions were a fun diversion during the game’s main story. He is seemingly defeated and rendered powerless (possibly temporarily) at the end of his story arc.
  • Screwball – The newest Spidey villain made several side mission appearances in the main game and it’s DLC. The fan reaction has been…mixed. On the one hand, her missions made for some fun challenges. On the other hand…make sure to like and subscribe!
  • Taskmaster – He creates…tasks…for Spider-Man to master…during the events of the main game. After completing this tasks a fight breaks out between the two and Taskmaster is seemingly apprehended. We see a version of the Taskmaster exists in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game by Crystal Dynamics but it is currently debatable if this game takes place in the same universe as that one. I hope it does.

Villains Referenced in the Game But Didn’t Appear

We never saw these characters in person but we were made aware of their existence through various nods.

  • The Lizard – Dr Curt Connors experimented with lizard DNA in an attempt to regrow his own arm. It went badly and transformed him into the Lizard. We see someone dressed as him at the Halloween party so we know he exists but the actual villain’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
  • Mysterio – The ultimate showman able to fool heroes with little more than smoke and special effects. Mysterio was famously killed in a Daredevil story written by Kevin Smith. We know he exists in the PS4 GamerVerse because someone was dressed as him at the party and someone using his alter ego’s name makes a cameo appearance in Spider-Man: Velocity.
  • Sandman – We saw a vial with his sand in it as a collectible. Spidey mentions he won’t open it as he worried it would release the Sandman. If the Sandman does appear in a sequel, it is possible the Sandman is not in that container, or something could happen to the container outside of Spidey’s control.

Villains We Met in the Game’s Extended Universe

These characters are canon to the PS4 Spider-Man universe dispute the fact we never saw them referenced in the game.

  • Echo – Maya Lopez was originally a Daredevil villain created by David Mack. While she is deaf she is able to perfectly imitate what she sees. She appears in the novel as an aide for the Kingpin. Originally I thought the woman running the Kingpin’s Art Museum Exhibit was Maya but it wasn’t her.
  • Swarm – Bees. My god. Made his first in-universe appearance in the original comic story Spider-Man: Velocity, which takes place between the events of the main game and the first DLC.
  • Blood Spider – This psycho Spider-Man cosplayer who despite having no spider powers has a unique ability to copy the fighting moves of others appears in the novel as a hit man for hire. You could make an argument he is actually the main villain of the prequel book.
  • Arachnid – He first appears in all his glory early in Spider-Geddon #0. I haven’t read that book yet so I can’t comment on what happened to him. I admit I love his GamerVerse design.

Villains We Have Met But Don’t Exist Yet

  • Green Goblin – Does not appear in the game but Norman and Harry Osbourne do. While it is unclear who might take up the Goblin in a potential sequel, Norman is a logical choice. He is an obsessed egomaniac willing to risk everything to fund the generic treatments he hopes will save his son. We also see a prototype Goblin mask and the goblin’s signature pumpkin bombs in Norman’s suite.
  • Venom – GR-35 seems to be its official title, as it was written on the tank we find Harry in during the game’s post credits sequence. People are worried Harry Osbourne will be the Venom host instead of his traditional villian character, but as far as we can tell the two have not bonded. Eddie Brock, Venom’s traditional host in the comics, does not appear in the game but we do know that he exists and at one time worked for the Daily Bugle. Eddie’s signature was clearly written on Peter’s goodbye card.
  • Wraith – Yuri’s faith in The Law took what must have been a complete dive following the events of the second DLC. While we don’t see her again after she is arrested for attempting to kill several mafia members, she leaves a trail of Sopranos-esque recordings for Spidey to follow in the third DLC. Highly likely we will see her back in some form.

So that’s a list of names and the current whereabouts of most of Spider-Man’s rivals in the PS4 game. It is highly likely some of these might appear in a potential sequel. Who would you like to see in Spider-Man 2? Post a comment below with your ideas.

Games I Would Like to See Come to Stadia December 22, 2019

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Google sent us a brand-new Stadia Founders Edition last week and we have been enjoying our time with it so far. However, as of the time this article is being written our ability to play games on it is limited due to its current limited selection of games. Let’s be honest, Stadia needs a big catalog of games if it wants to gain more subscribers. That said, the infrastructure is already in place to make that happen, and Google has promised more games are coming to Stadia in the next few weeks. Having our own experience with Stadia, we thought it would be a good idea to give Google some recommendations on current games that might work well on the platform.

So what games do we think would work well on the Google Stadia platform, a game streaming service which does not require downloads or patching? We have plenty of ideas and here’s some we would like to share with Google! Please note games that are already out or have been promised for the Stadia (such as Marvel’s Avengers or Doom: Eternal) will not be included on this list. We’re also not going to include first or second-party Nintendo titles, as Nintendo has made it clear they do not port their platform-exclusives under any circumstances and we don’t see the point of including those on this list. (Ed. Note– That said I would make a vote for Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield). We are also going to keep this list to games released this year.

  • Control – This summer’s hottest game can really swallow a lot of your free time with its Metroid-esque environment and continuous ability unlocks. I would love to see how this game runs on the Stadia. Also, Remedy would be able to regularly drop new patches and game content seamlessly without having to download or update anything on the players end! Who knows, Google’s servers might even be able to support the ray tracing mode meant for PCs That combined with the higher resolution assets that must exist (because Remedy confirmed there will be a next-generation rerelease of the game) could make a Stadia version of Control the best looking game on the platform.
  • Detroit: Become Human – This is actually not a platform exclusive for the PS4 as people are now able to get it on PC. As an adventure style game with an incredible high resolution art style, the game is practically perfect for the Stadia. Button presses for conversations and QTE segments are common player prompts in the game, and the Stadia’s network should have no problem working within a framework like that. If there was one game I would feel could truly thrive in Stadia it would be a David Cage game.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – This game is like GTA Jedi, an open-world environment where players can explore many worlds in the Star Wars universe and be the star of their own new cinematic adventure. The problem is the game currently suffers from very long load times and occasional in-game performance issues during cutscenes due to the cinematics hiding loading screens. Stadia’s servers could provide the processing power this game needs to run at its best and cut the load times.
  • The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan – I have not played the first game of this anthology yet but if Supermassive’s previous title, Until Dawn, is any indication, this game could be just as perfect for Stadia as Detroit: Become Human would be.
  • Death Stranding – Thankfully, this is not a PS4 exclusive, as a PC version is currently in development. That PC version could be reworked for Stadia. This is an enormous game with incredible ultra high-resolution graphical assets. Its multiplayer component allows players to exchange messages and notes, helping each other along the way. This is practically perfect for Stadia, a platform players can drop in an out of anywhere they’d like!

So those are just a few games I could think of that I felt would be a great fit for Stadia. Post a comment below with your thoughts but be aware we intentionally listed games from this year to give Stadia the best chance at showing off the best possible looking games.

How Politicians Could Attract The Nerd Vote November 22, 2019

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Before we start this article I cannot and will not stress enough in this opening paragraph that this is NOT meant to be a political article. While it does talk about politics, it is ONLY to address an unfulfilled need in the political process. We will not address ANY current political events or reference individual politicians, voters or voting groups. This is just meant to be a fun article by a gamer that also happens to be a voter. If you feel there’s something I’m missing from this list post a comment below but be aware we will not accept any political endorsements in this article and comments of political endorsements will be deleted.

A Presidential Election season is upon us and voters in the US will be going to the polls next year to elect their next President. Among those voters will be gamers of every type imaginable. While nearly every other interest group gets courted by political candidates, to the best of my knowledge people who play games have never been directly courted by a major candidate despite the fact nearly everyone under the age of thirty-five plays video games and that truth has been grossly ignored by those seeking votes for over the last twenty years. If you ask me, gamers are one of the last great untapped majorities out there. Why is that?

I believe most politicians have ignored us because they either lack personal experience with games or they believe the disinformation the mainstream media has been slandering us over for the past thirty years. How can the world’s perspective politicians engage this untapped group? Let’s be honest, plenty of nerds vote and we should have our views taken seriously on the world stage. The US Army actively attempts to recruit us into the military by buying advertising space on video game websites and setting up recruiting posts at gaming conventions. Why don’t politicians try to seek our votes?

I have a great solution on how to get gamers involved in the political process and put politicians interested in courting our votes in a situation they can be comfortable. Why don’t we turn this upside down and have some fun with it? We could create a political convention in the same way we host Comic or Gamer Conventions. (Ed. Note – I know there are already political conventions but they’re meant for political party functions and they’re officially boring.). At those conventions, we could have round table discussions with each attending candidate similar to how we’d host a Q&A for a celebrity. The moderator is welcome to ask questions about the candidates’ life experiences, ask them if they had ever played video games, read comic books or watched super hero movies and get them to mention any specific favorites they had.

The most important part of any political Q&A panel should be a round table debate. Political debates have proven themselves to be useful to the voting process in the past and we could have a little fun with it. At its best, a debate provides potential voters exposure to the candidates views. Many of the perspective candidates who attend may not have earned a elected position yet so we would have to ask them hypothetical questions. This is where we could have a lot of fun. Rather than ask candidates vague questions about things like the how they felt about the hot button topic of the day (that they would probably not be able to impact in any way even if they do get elected) we should be able to ask their opinions about laws that already exist…in fiction.

I’m not kidding, fictional universes like you’d find in Film, Television, Comic Books and Video Games exist in their own split reality with their own rules and laws. Even science-fiction and fantasy universes, no matter what kind of far out magic or technology their fictional society develops, frequently have sets of unique laws their characters must obey

Here’s an example of some fake propositions or laws that have shown up in fiction over the last few years. I know most of these haven’t actually been created in video games but many of these stories are so iconic their plots have been adapted to video games (such as Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 or Watchmen: The End is Neigh). If the candidate asks us to define the law or cite its source we will provide it but at a penalty. Perhaps they could be deducted a point. Oh yes, we’re gamers, what’s wrong with keeping a score?

  • Prop 10 – (South Park) – Ban all commercial franchises (Starbucks, McDonalds, etc) from operating in a city limits. Essentially, all businesses must be mom-n-pop.
  • Prop 24 – (The Simpsons)Cease all immigration and deport all persons not currently with a valid citizenship.
  • Prop Infinity – (Futurama)Allow Human-Robot Marriage.
  • 28th Amendment AKA Murphy’s Law(The Tick) – To protect themselves from personal reprisal for their actions, vigilantes who invoke this amendment may testify in open court or provide factual witness testimony without having to provide identifying information about themselves.
  • 61st Amendment – (Demolition Man) – Remove the requirement for presidential candidates to have been born in the US.
  • 67th Amendment – (Futurama) Refusal to testify on the grounds your organs will be pummeled.
  • Treaty of Algeron – (Star Trek: The Next Generation) – Established the Federation/Romulan Neutral Zone and stipulated the Federation cannot research or investigate cloaking technology.
  • Superhero Registration Act(Marvel’s Civil War) – All super-powered individuals must reveal their secret identity to the government and receive government training for their powers. Failure to do so will officially brand them a terrorist.
  • Sakovia Accords (Captain America: Civil War) – Film version of the Superhero Registration Act. The Avengers can only operate after being given the explicit permission of a multinational United Nations review panel. They are also responsible for any damage or casualties they cause when saving the earth. Failure to comply with these accords is punishable by imprisonment at a maximum security facility.
  • The Masquerade – (World of Darkness) – Under no circumstances must humans learn of the existence of vampires. Intent to reveal their existence is punishable by death. Turning a human into a vampire without permission by the region’s prince is also punishable by death.
  • Keene Act(Watchmen) – All vigilantism is outlawed unless the vigilante has previously received special exception from the government.

One could make a case that Star Trek‘s Prime Directive should be included on this list. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Starfleet General Order One (AKA the Prime Directive) states no Federation Officer can interfere in the natural process of a pre-warp civilization. They also can not interfere in any culture’s internal matters (like if there’s a Civil War) even if they have a future stake in the outcome of those matters. That is more of a military/naval rule (not a law) and Federation citizens are not legally bound by it so I’m hesitant to include that on this list.

I can’t stress this enough it should not matter how the candidate addresses their views on each of these fictional laws. What matters is if you, the individual voter, agree or disagree with how they choose to answer them. Place your votes accordingly.

Do you think we came up with a good set of fake laws? Do you know some fake laws you think we missed that should have been included? Post a comment below with them!

Don’t Buy 4TB Internal Hard Drives for PS4 Yet October 16, 2019

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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I currently use a 2TB PS4 Pro and the internal drive has very nearly finished filling up with my games and DLC. For those of you who know me, you know what that means. Yes, I wanted to crack my PS4 open and upgrade it once again. The PS4 uses a pretty standard internal hard drive specification (2.5″ internal SATA) that can be upgraded with current off the shelf hard drives made for laptops. However, when I started looking at the technical specifications of current 4TB drives I assumed would fit the PS4’s form factor I received nothing but warnings not to use those 4TB drives inside a PS4.

The important thing to know as to why you shouldn’t currently buy a 4TB drive for a PS4 when it should work in theory. It has to do with the physical size of the drive. While 4TB drives exist they currently achieve this by being at a thickness of 15mm. The Hard Drive compartment of a PS4 or PS4 Pro currently maxes out at 9.5mm. In short, the 4TB drives physically can’t fit, they’re too thick!

So until Seagate or Western Digital finally manufactures a 4TB 2.5″ SATA drive that is 9.5mm thick, I’m going to leave this warning up here for anyone looking for this information to find.

I guess we’ll either have to delete my content or use an external drive for the time being.

Five Ways to Improve Pokemon Go July 5, 2019

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We’re coming into the third year of service for the tremendously successful game Pokémon Go. With people around the world still playing it, it is truly a wonder that takes full advantage of all the capabilities of today’s smartphones and tablets. GPS and step counters for in-game movement, Augmented Reality (AR) for capture, Bluetooth for transfer, trades and battles, and processing power to run the graphical interface.

The game had a rough start in its first several months, with constant crashes and login failures, but over the past two years it has seen incredible stability with just the odd bug every once in a while. That said, with the exception of the addition of Raids and Research Tasks the core game still functions almost exactly as it always has, for better or worse. This article is going to discuss new features we believe Niantic can bring to the game we believe will tremendously improve it. Most of these features would be very simple to implement, and require at most minor adjustments to how the game currently functions.

Due to the fact the game has been consistently stable, we will not be including any requests for stability or bug fixes in this list. These are just going to be a bunch of new feature requests or gameplay tweaks we believe, as long-time players, will improve the game and increase player safety. This list is in no particular order.

  • Niantic should have random Pokémon spawn EVERYWHERE, and not just at sparse locations miles away from each other. For a lengthy period of time, every tweet Niantic made would be followed by tons of responses by twitter users claiming Niantic hated rural players because they had no PokéStops and Pokémon wouldn’t spawn in their towns. While I don’t live in a rural area I can attest nothing spawns where I live unless I crack open some incense. This needs to change, if new players can’t find Pokémon, even low level ones, there’s no incentive for them to play the game.
  • Add more PokéStops and Gyms. This one’s a no-brainer. It is already a feature in most regions to submit requests for PokéStops, but as far as I can tell I haven’t seen a single new stop added since that feature came online. Most churches are already PokéStops but all Public Schools at a minimum should be made into PokéStops, otherwise what’s the point for childless adults to pay education Taxes to schools they’re never going to use?
  • While we are still talking about Gyms and PokéStops, why doesn’t Niantic provide a handy map on the Official Pokémon Go website that can take a person’s zip code and give the names and/or addresses of all the Gyms and PokéStops in their area? Niantic already knows the location of EVERY PokéStop and Gym in the world, why don’t they share that information with people who aren’t just 300 feet away from them? This would tremendously cut down on people wandering or driving aimlessly around trying to find them! If there are huge gaps on our maps without any stops, players will see them and it would give Niantic a greater incentive to create more stops in otherwise ignored regions.
  • Have Dedicated Raid and EX Raid sites. Why shut down Gyms for an hour at random intervals when there’s plenty of space in the world to have dedicated Raid locations? This would keep the action going at heavily contested Gyms and give players a better idea as to where and when Raids will take place.
  • Have a schedule on the official website for upcoming Raid times so people can schedule around them. The success of the past month’s Wednesday evening raids proves this feature is badly needed. Raids take place at random locations at random times. The only way a player can learn a raid is going to happen (unless it is a rare special event) is if they happen to be in the physical proximity of a Pokémon Gym an hour before the raid takes place. This is too limited and too short a notice, especially when high-level Pokémon Raids can require at least ten decently leveled players to win. By providing a day’s notice for raid times, it will help people gather their friends to take on large challenges. Worried that you’ll have too many people attend? That won’t happen, Raids support twenty simultaneous players in an instance, and simultaneous instances are supported.

The game will not break if you simply empower us on how to play it. These features will go a long way to improve Pokémon Go and bring players back that may have been dissatisfied with its limitations. What do you think? Did we miss anything? Post your ideas in the comments below!

Pokémon Go is out now for iOS and Android Smartphones and Tablets.

A Look Back at Halo 3’s BELIEVE Ad Campign April 14, 2019

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Its Sunday and I know we typically have a Gaming History You Should Know featured article for Sundays but given the recent Halo news and the impending start of Halo: Outpost Discovery, I felt it was time for me to write my own look at a piece of gaming history, Halo 3‘s BELIEVE campaign.

In the lead up to the release of Halo 3 on the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s considerable marketing division created a series of television advertisements and trailers for the game as part of the BELIEVE ad campaign. In 2007, Microsoft purchased several commercials taking place in the Museum of Humanity, a fictional set-piece filled with artifacts from the game and the greater Halo universe. The commercials appeared to be canon to Halo, taking place many years after the end of the Covenant War. A large diorama was also constructed depicting the Master Chief frozen in the middle of a Covenant battle.

While these videos were offered for download on the Xbox 360 Marketplace, some people have been nice enough to repost them on YouTube. Take a look below to watch.

This many years later I still get chills from watching these videos. I admit regret we neglected to mention any commercial from this campaign for our Top-Ten Video Game Commercials video, but at the time we felt Halo 3‘s “Starry Night” commercial was more groundbreaking due to the fact it kicked off the important Halo 3 Closed Beta signup period. In hindsight, these commercials may have endured the test of time better than “Starry Night” did. I have absolutely no idea if they casted real war veterans but the actors’ performances made it sure feel like they had. Their sincere performance made these brief commercials feel like part of the Halo universe, and watching them again this many years after first playing Halo 3 gives me intense flashbacks to that game. The production quality on these commercials are also incredible with on screen-props worthy of Hollywood’s films. While I can’t confirm it, I believe it is highly likely BELIEVE’s props were constructed by WETA Studios for the Neil Blomkamp Halo film. After that project was cancelled, the team behind it made the Halo 3: Landfall short film instead and the props from that short could have also been used in the BELIEVE commercials. WETA makes hands down the best props for Hollywood films, and you’ve seen their work in films like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

What is the enduring legacy of the BELIEVE campaign? Well, we are still talking about it over ten years after it originally aired so I would say it was very successful from an advertising perspective. Halo 3 also sold exceptionally well despite the fact it was an Xbox 360 exclusive game with people still playing it online to this day. Also, the upcoming Halo: Outpost Discovery event promises to feature its own real-life Museum of Humanity they’re calling the Hall of History, and while the event hasn’t started yet (so we can’t comment on what it will look like) its concept art looks heavily inspired by the BELIEVE campaign! That alone got us extremely excited to attend the Outpost Discovery event!

Halo 3 is (of course) out now for the Xbox 360. It is part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which is out now for the Xbox One and coming soon to PC, so there are currently many ways to play the game and many more ways that will be coming including Steam and Windows Store.

The last thing I would like to bring up for this article is my curiosity about what happened to the BELIEVE diorama. We know it was constructed as part of the ad campaign and existed as a real prop. I’ve heard the diorama did a tour of the US during Halo 3‘s release period and a website was set up so people could check it out in person. It is unknown what happened to the diorama after that tour. If it appears at the Halo: Outpost Discovery, you can be sure we will tell you about it because we plan to be in attendance!

Things to Watch This Pokemon Day 2019 February 23, 2019

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Today marks the start of Pokémon Day 2019 and if you’re like me, you’re biding your time until the respective Pokémon Play and Trade and Pokémon Go Events begin in your region. So what better way to celebrate the birthday of Pokémon than to watch some of the wealth of media content available?

First off, if you have a compatible smart device, you should be able to download the free Pokémon TV app. This app currently includes episodes from the very first and the most recent Pokémon animated show. It is also having a very special limited promotion where for a brief time you’ll be able to watch the animated feature film Pokémon: The Power of Us completely free of charge. If you have the app already, make sure to upgrade it to the most recent version. If you don’t have it, it can be downloaded from your device’s respective App Store.

If you’re a Netflix user and you would rather use Netflix, Netflix has most of the first season, XY, and Sun and Moon episodes available for their subscribers and several movies including Pokémon: I Choose You.

If you’re an Amazon Prime Subscriber and you’d like to watch episodes of Pokémon from later seasons, Prime users can watch episodes of later seasons from Pokémon Gold and Silver or Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire at no extra cost. Sadly, I didn’t see any Pokémon movies currently available to watch on Prime.

Next up we are going to take a look at the Food Network. There’s a fantastic competition show called Cake Wars, where the best bakers across the country compete to make the best themed cake. This past season, several returning bakers competed to make the best Pokémon themed cake. Sadly, Food Network has not made the episode available through Cable On Demand, but you if you’re in the US and you have a participating cable provider, you can watch it on the Food Network app.

Just a quick reminder: Pokémon’s Play and Trade Events will be hosted at GameStop and Best Buy today. Check with your local retailer to find out what time they will be happening. Pokémon Go’s exclusive Clamperl research event will start in North America at 2PM EST. Make sure to spin for research at your local Pokestops to participate!

Pokémon Go and Pokémon TV are out now for Android and iOS Smart Devices.

What Does it Take to Make a Pokemon LARP? February 1, 2019

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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I’ve been a fan of RPGs for nearly a decade and I’ve been fascinated by the rich history of the genre. Before video games even existed, RPGs could be played by having players sit around a physical table, making decisions, determining the outcome of those decisions with dice rolls and recording the outcome with a pen and paper. When video games became complex enough, they were able to adapt those rules and the genre’s popularity exploded. While many of the most popular RPGs had a medieval fantasy setting inspired by writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, the rules can be used in any game setting, including the futuristic Cyberpunk and the fantastical grounded world of Pokémon.

LARP is short for Live-Action Role Playing. It is an all-encompassing term used to describe a rules based RPG being played in real time in real environments by real people playing as characters. The most famous examples of commonly used LARP games include those based on Vampire: The Masquerade, Dungeons & Dragons, and Cyberpunk. In a LARP, players dress up in the costume of the character that they’re playing (regardless of how practical or impractical it may be in the real world), and live out the role of their character as if they are that person for the duration of the game. That includes everything from traveling the game space to seek out information, earning and spending in-game currency by completing jobs or accomplishing tasks, and wielding weapons to attack or defend themselves from enemies…other players.

If you’d like to see what it’s like to be a part of a fantasy inspired LARP for yourselves I recommend the film Monster Camp. Here’s the trailer:

The essential component of any game is that it needs rules and when you have a concept as complex as Live Action Role Playing, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on rules to ensure the game is fair and the players have fun. Even if you have an RPG sourcebook (like Dungeons & Dragons or Vampire: The Masquerade) to frame your game, it can take a lot of trial and error to determine how you adapt those rules to real play. The fantastical creatures you find in those games don’t exist in real life, some venues prohibit the use of weapons (even prop ones) and it can be difficult to walk a fine line to keep a game fun while ensuring player safety.

What about Pokémon? Pokémon’s turn based gameplay, filled with attacks, status effects, buffs and debuffs is one of the most polished RPG systems I’ve ever seen in my life. There are no weapons used in the game and so no need for prop weapons! The game is also grounded in a world that looks pretty close to our own, with the only difference being Pokémon‘s world has magical creatures living in it. It is a perfect environment for a LARP! The mechanics of exploring, fighting, and trading can easily be ported into a paper rulebook and played almost anywhere on the planet. Heck, the Pokémon Go app practically turns the real world into a Pokémon LARP, but I don’t think it goes quite far enough. Where do you draw the line on what should be physically done by the players and what shall take place on paper?

Entire sourcebooks have been written by LARP fans detailing rules of player contact, what kinds of prop weapons are allowed, and how much damage is done on successful contact with body parts. The problem is even though there are unified rules for Pen-and-Paper RPGs like D&D, there are no unified LARP rules. Every LARPing organization has their own code of conduct players are expected to memorize before participating. This can suck for new players who might prefer testing the waters before going all-in on joining a LARP with people they have not interacted with before.

I’ve seen videos online of a few attempts at Pokémon LARPs. They can involve two-person teams with one person being the Pokémon Trainer and the other being the trainer’s Pokémon in cosplay directly fighting another two-person team. The trainer shouts commands to their partner, who follows it by “attacking” the other Pokémon. The battle is won when one team is able to do enough “damage” to the opposing team’s Pokémon that it “faints”. Sound easy? Not really.

To me there are a few problems with having this as the setup for a LARP. Shouting commands to a second person who will then perform that command works better in a turn based system opposed to a real-time one. The problem is a turn based battle system would require an in-person judge on the side of every single battle. They would need to look at each team’s character sheets and determine who got to strike first, if the attack was successful, and how much damage each attack makes. That judge would essentially need to choreograph the entire battle on their own! I could see this system working as real-time if the LARP was strictly Pokémon vs Pokémon wild battles (like in the games Pokkén Tournament or Super Smash Bros) as it is very similar to how many other LARPs are organized. However, I don’t like this system either. To me, this setup would cut out several components of what makes Pokémon such a great game. Adventuring, collecting and trading could not be done in this environment. LARP is role playing, and that is not restricted to just battles. The biggest draw of players to LARP is the opportunity of living in a fantasy world and playing as a character that exists in that world for a brief time. While having a human player as the Pokémon can be one potential way of having a Pokémon LARP, I could see it getting pretty confusing to new players and require lots of judges who would pretty much choreograph each match themselves.

A Pokémon LARP has been done in what I think is the best way possible. The Penn State University Pokemon Club hosts a special LARP event they call the Penn State Pokemon Challenge every semester. Trainers are given a map and eight hours to travel across the campus. The objective is to locate and challenge each of the event’s Gym leaders to a local battle. All battles are done in person locally on Nintendo’s hardware, with each player required to bring their own Nintendo handheld loaded with a copy of the recent Pokémon game. While Penn State has specific house rules for what they allow during Pokémon battles (for example players can’t use Mythicals, Legendaries or the move Earthquake) the video game takes care of all the arithmetic a judge would need to make to determine which trainer wins each battle. Trainers who defeat Gym Leaders earn badges and the right to challenge the Elite 4 on the following day. The fact the main games have been released exclusively on portable platforms (Game Boy, DS, 3DS and Switch) gives players the opportunity to play their game anywhere in the real world against anyone else they choose and the Penn State Pokémon Challenge takes full advantage of this fact. There may be humans dressed as Pokémon wondering around the game environment, but those are only around to be “wild” Pokémon trainers could “catch” by throwing foam Pokéballs at them.

If you’re interested in seeing this event for yourselves, I’m happy to say a fantastic documentary, Pokémon Blue and White, detailed what’s involved with this event. It was directed by Ariel Siegelman and follows the story of a new student as he attempts the challenge with the support of his cosplayer girlfriend. It is not easy, and only one trainer can defeat the Elite 4. Whether you’re a casual Pokémon fan or a long-time Pokémon Master give this a watch.

If you’d like to know more about the Penn State Pokémon Challenge, you can check out the event’s official website. If you’re a student at Penn State who wants to participate, the next Penn State Pokemon Challenge will be happening on March 30th, 2019. As a college graduate who spent their freshman year at a University (which will not be named) which only offered religious or fraternal based social clubs, I weep for my lost opportunity to go to a school like Penn State where I could have actually enjoyed participating in its officially sanctioned social activities.

If you’re not a student at Penn State University, you might be able to find a Pokémon LARP at a fan convention. For example, the organizers of the Pokémon LARPs there have brought their style of LARP to various fan conventions. DerpyCon 2019 in New Jersey has announced they will be hosting a Real World Pokémon Challenge. It looks like they ported the rules from the Penn State Pokémon Challenge because the rules are almost identical to the Penn State rules. You can read the details and the full rules of the DerpyCon 2019 Real World Pokémon Challenge right here.

So what kind of resources are out there for people interested in becoming a part of a Pokémon LARP or starting their own? A crash course in the World of Pokémon can always help. A few years ago, we wrote a major essay titled “Do We All Live in a Pokémon World?” which talks about the history of the game, the game’s world and how it parallels our own. It’s perfect reading for anyone interested in learning about the Pokémon franchise for the first time.

Now that you know how the Pokémon world works, you’re going to need to create a character for your LARP. There are already lengthy records of various classes of NPC trainers that appear in the games, each with their own distinct look, attitude and Pokémon affinity. If you’d like an extremely detailed video about the various Pokémon trainers that appear in the games for inspiration on the character you’d like to play at a Pokémon LARP I have to recommend the great work of YouTuber TamashiiHiroka and her three part series, What Kind of Pokemon Trainer Are You? Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here. She shines a spotlight on nearly every kind of trainer you’ll find in the Pokémon world, and compares them with the kind of personality real people may have. If you see a trainer in the video that speaks to you personally, it might be a great starting point for creating your own LARP trainer.

So now that you know everything you need to know about RPGs, LARPing, and Pokémon it’s time to play! With the popularity of Pokémon in a resurgence, and the heavy sales of the Nintendo Switch, Pokémon LARPing, if presented with proper rules, has the chance to take over fan conventions all across the world. Some day I would like the chance to take the challenge and try to be the very best like no one ever was. To whoever decides to run this type of game, make sure to count me in!

Making a Pokemon at Build-A-Bear Review January 5, 2019

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Reviews.
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A friend of mine and I decided to do some post-Christmas shopping last week to seek out any Boxing Day deals we could find. The mall we visited happened to be equipped with a Build-A-Bear Workshop, not something we would usually see in the malls we visited more often. If you’re not familiar with the store, this is a place where kids and families can go to make high-quality custom teddy bears. They’ll stuff them for you on site and you can dress them with all kinds of different clothes. At some point I vaguely remembered reading that Build-A-Bear was branching out into licensed toys, and they were now offering tons of exclusive custom stuffed animals you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. This included things from Nintendo (like Yoshi and Bowser), Star Wars, and even Pokémon. As a newfound Pokémon collector, I just had to see if this was still the case. I ventured into the store and was happy to see several different stuffed Pokémon on the shelves, ready to be given new homes. This specific store was having a buy one add a second for only $10 US sale, so I decided the time was right to go in and buy two. Hopefully, I thought, my girlfriend would like at least one of them.

The first question is always going to be which Pokémon do you pick? The store was stocked with plenty of plush Pikachu and Eevee, probably due to the recent release of the Pokémon Let’s Go games on the Nintendo Switch, but they also had Meowth, Charmander and Piplup in stock. Their official website also lists they sold other Pokémon including Squirtle and Jigglypuff, but I didn’t see any in the store at the time. One of the staff members told me they used to stock Bulbasaur, but those flew off the shelves so fast they couldn’t believe it and now fetch very high prices on the resale market.

I opted for an Eevee since I thought it had a lot of good accessory options and a Charmander since it was a central Pokémon in one of my favorite episodes of the original animated series.

After selecting the plush you wanted, you had the option to add a smell and/or a voice box to your stuffed animal. The smell options didn’t appeal to me personally so I didn’t go with it, but the option for a voice box certainly did. Unfortunately, my options for voices were limited. A lot of the custom sound options were sold out at the store we visited, and I didn’t see any Pokémon-specific sound options for sale. They had other options, like real animal sounds but I was hoping for a voice box that could produce a “Pika Pika!” or “Char!”. Heck I would have even taken a match to the 8-Bit Pokémon cry. There was a custom sound box option that allowed people to record any sound they wanted, and I’m sure I could have made a custom Pokémon sound with it, had I wanted to. However, I would have preferred to have an authentic sound taken either from the video game or animated series so I didn’t add a sound to my creation.

Once you have picked out your Pokémon and filled it with everything you wanted inside of it, the store managers will stuff it on site for you. Kids love this part, because it can be turned into a special experience where they jump around and make wishes before the toy is finished.

Part of the experience of creating any plush toy over at Build-A-Bear is to dress your toy up in different clothes. They had several Pokémon themed clothing options available including Poké Ball shirts, Pajamas with Pokémon logos, and since it was just after Christmas, a few limited edition holiday-themed capes and hoods. Everything offered was designed to fit the specific plush toys perfectly, with holes for arms, legs and even ears. I grabbed Pokémon pajamas for my Eevee that fit it like a glove and a green Christmas cape for my Charmander that also fit perfectly. They cost a little extra but the clothes are exclusive to Build-A-Bear, and totally worth getting.

I was a little disappointed by the full selection of Pokémon clothing at the particular Build-A-Bear I visited. There were a few clothing options I saw on their website that my store did not have on sale. This might have been due to the fact it was just after Christmas and most of the stock had already sold out (believe me I nearly got one of the last Christmas capes in the store) but if I had chosen a Meowth I would have loved to buy a Team Rocket outfit for it. The store didn’t have anything like that on the shelves. That said, since clothing was almost completely cross compatible, there was nothing stopping me from buying clothing for my Pokémon meant for different brands like Spider-Man or Star Wars.

Once the Pokémon were stuffed and dressed, it was time to ring them up. The clerk surprised me by telling me I would get an exclusive Pokémon TCG promo card for the specific Pokémon I purchased. The cards were wrapped in plastic and had a Build-A-Bear watermark on them (just like Toys R Us would watermark promo cards they gave out) that I’m sure added to their value in some way. The promo cards were game legal and totally free of charge, making the purchases that much sweeter.

The experience of building these Pokémon aside, the question you should be asking is how good a quality are the Pokémon you can create at Build-A-Bear? Having had the chance to sample Pokémon plush from many different manufacturers including Tomy and even the Pokémon Center, you may have to sit down before you read the next sentence. The Pokémon I made at Build-A-Bear are without a doubt the highest quality plush Pokémon I’ve ever owned. I know that’s a big statement but I’m prepared to back it up with a few ideas why I feel that way.

Perhaps it is because I could control how fluffy I wanted the plush to be, or that I could fully accessorize it’s insides (at an extra price) but I would put Build-a-Bear’s Charmander up against anything I could get at Nintendo NYC. I would offer a comparison to Pokémon plushies I could get at Pokémon Center stores…but I can’t due to the fact there aren’t any Pokémon Center stores in the United States.

The plushes also passed the girlfriend test. My girlfriend loved the Eevee I made for her and she says she would visit Build-A-Bear with me again in the future. Next time we could make something new together!

Hope you enjoyed this unusual kind of review. Have you all enjoyed your Holiday season? We’ve been preparing to come back with all-new content so stay tuned!