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Apple Needs to Change Their Code Redemption Policies September 1, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world and in my opinion they make the best smartphones and tablets on the market. They’re also a petty, jealous company with a track record which occasionally could be considered anti-consumer.  It was because of their strict control on software publishing in the 90s that most third-party game publishers and software developers wouldn’t port their games to the Mac, and this lack of software support essentially handed Microsoft the win in the Operaring System Wars of the 90s.  Now that Apple has discontinued offering optical disc drives with new Macs and created their own proprietary digital marketplace to publish Mac software, it doesn’t look like much has changed with Apple philosophically, and now it looks like Apple is willing to push the bounds of that control even further.

All legitimate iPhone and iPad software can only be downloaded through Apple’s digital iTunes and App Store marketplaces. For limited-function personal devices, this has a lot of benefits.  Apple can guarantee the safety of its marketplace and ensure that the vast majority of software it is selling will work on your device and won’t harm it with malicious code.  If software slips through the cracks or breaks compatibility with their devices over time, Apple can also pull that software off the market so new users won’t have to worry about spending money on software that doesn’t work.  The upside of this to Apple is that Apple takes a financial cut of every monetary transaction made through their App Store, and a cut out of every in-app purchase.  This works pretty well in most cases for both the company and the consumer.  On the one hand, Apple makes some money to finance and maintain their marketplace and ensure they keep making new iOS devices, and the consumer can be sure their financial information is being credited properly.  Now let me tell you about a case where it doesn’t work out well for me, and I’ve gotten pretty mad about it.

When the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online app was first released for the third gen iPad, I saw it as a big opportunity. For years now, The Pokémon Company has offered free digital codes that their players can redeem for in-game items, booster packs, and theme decks.  Until recently these codes could be easily redeemed in any version of the Pokémon TCG Online app, but the functionality was removed from the iPad version a year ago.  At the time it was removed, The Pokémon Company announced the decision to do it was not theirs, and was being done because of new rules Apple had made for developers. A year later, the functionality still hasn’t been restored.

Two months ago, I downloaded a new Pokémon Go update and started using it in my local mall.  While playing at the mall while my girlfriend shopped there, I noticed the Sprint store in the mall had become a Pokémon Go Gym. As I investigated the Gym’s sponsored information closer, the Gym badge said if I went into the Sprint store I could be given a free download code for in-game goodies.  Not wanting to pass up a freebie, I went into the store and asked one of the clerks about it.  The nice salesman at the store told me about Sprint’s Pokémon Go website, and it peaked my interest.

Sprint was an official sponsor of Pokémon Go, and they had been giving away Pokémon Go promo codes to people who came to the store. He was willing to give me one, even though I wasn’t even a Sprint customer, but when he saw I was using an iPhone 7 to play the game he embarrassingly told me that the codes would not work with my device.  The reason why, he explained, the codes wouldn’t work was because the Apple version of Pokémon Go doesn’t have a code redemption feature even though the Android version does.  This is true, in fact it is listed on Pokémon Go’s official support site.  The Sprint salesman was really sorry about it but I told him not to worry, it wasn’t his fault.  This sure didn’t sound like something Niantic would do by design, and I’m prettty certain Apple’s App Store policies are the reason.  Knowing Apple’s track record for pulling stuff like this, I was really nice to the Sprint salesman and thanked him for his information before leaving.

Several months later, Niantic hosted their inaugural Pokémon Go Fest, which did offer exclusive in-game content to their attendees.  It looked like Niantic got around Apple’s code redemption restriction by giving attendees QR codes that, while not unique, could only be redeemed at one of the event’s specific PokéStops!  This identifier came in very handy when they had to issue in-game refunds to their attendees.

If I owned an Android phone I probably would have participated in Sprint’s Pokémon Go promotions, but it’s clear Apple wouldn’t allow iPhone owners to earn Sprint rewards.  Quite a shame as I appreciate Sprint offering things like Lucky Eggs and Pokeballs to people who came into the store. Stores like GameStop are able to offer codes for in-game unique Pokémon on the Nintendo handhelds, why can’t Sprint, a store that sells iPhones, be allowed by Apple to offer in-game promotional codes!

There’s no question that Apple has the right to define the terms of service on their digital marketplaces however they want. However I would like to remind them that their direct competitors are, in this case, much more consumer friendly than they have been. These are the same consumers who might consider buying an Android tablet or smartphone instead of an iPad or iPhone when they are selecting their next personal device.  The fact they can’t redeem digital codes in the apps they use regularly on your devices (and only your devices) could be a reason for them to weigh when buying their next smartphone or tablet. The oldest rule in business is as long you take care of your customers and provide a better experience than your competition, you have a better chance of getting their business again. That rule seems to have been forgotten in today’s day and age.

I don’t know why Apple has chosen to leave myself and a large amount of Pokémon Go’s players out in the cold, but I’d like to know Apple’s reasons.  I tried contacting Apple’s App Store via Twitter several weeks ago to confirm this policy and to ask if it would be reversed but I received no reply.  Since Apple would not comment I guess that leaves my next question to the community.  Have you had a similar problem redeeming codes for specific platforms? Comment below with your thoughts.

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How to Improve Pokemon Go Fest August 29, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Earlier this summer, Niantic celebrated the one year anniversary of the release of Pokémon Go. They invited players from all over the world to join them in Chicago, IL for Pokémon Go Fest, a one-day event where trainers could get together in real life to complete exclusive challenges for epic prizes.

It may sound great on paper but by all intents and purposes, the event was a failure.  Players couldn’t reliably connect to cellular or WiFi sources at the event, rendering the game unplayable for most of them.  In the end, refunds were issued to everyone who went, and most players ended up having fun creating social connections outside of the official events.

Why did the event fall apart?  Poor planning.  In the US, its become inevitable that when you host a major convention anywhere, the cell service in that area is going to fail.  One would assume with the massive profits the cell phone companies are making all of them could provide all of their customers a reliable service that works consistently, but they can’t.  Creating a major event that entirely relies on cellular service working is a recipe for disaster.  They also weren’t equipped to handle the massive influx of people who signed up, even though they knew in advance how many people were going.  Players with tickets to the event still waited two to three hours just to get into the park.  This caused headaches for attendees who missed out on early events due to the fact ticket lines were moving so slowly.  It wasn’t a great first impression for paying ticket holders.  Surely, there had to be a better way.

Here’s a better solution for the next time Niantic decides to do a Pokémon Go Fest.  The planet is a big place and seven billion people live on it, why don’t they host multiple events across the world?  That way, players all over the planet could have the opportunity to participate regardless of their location or financial status.  The concept of hosting a major event to celebrate fandom is hardly new, that’s what events like ComicCon and PAX are for, and there’s always room for more events like it.

I know it’s expensive to run designated events all over the planet but there are solutions to that problem. The host could choose to build official facilities with decorations at each location, but there’s no need to if they don’t want to.  Perhaps local businesses in each designated play location could choose to sponsor the event and pay for decorations.  This would boost their profile, and companies like Sprint and Starbucks were already on board to sponsor Pokémon Go.  From what I heard, Sprint ended up getting a lot of positive publicity from sponsoring the Pokémon Go Fest, as they were one of the only cellular providers that actually functioned during the event.

By spreading out the event worldwide, it solves nearly all of the problems Pokémon Go Fest suffered from. With fewer trainers in a single place, the cellular networks would be less likely to buckle under the strain of people trying to use it at the same time.  It would also mean shorter lines and briefer wait times for things like ticket redemption while still allowing local trainers to communicate in real life.  All in all, it’s a win win.

So would this have been a better option than the Pokémon Go Fest we got?  Post a comment below with your thoughts about how you would improve the event for next time!

Pokémon Go is out now for Android and iOS devices.

My Favorite Pokemon Go Memory August 1, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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After the details emerged about what happened at the Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago last month, I thought the time was finally right to talk about my favorite Pokémon Go memory.  Pokémon Go officially released on SmartPhones and Tablets a year ago, and there have been plenty of ups and downs over the course of that year.  As news about its release spread like wildfire, the app saw an unbelievable amount of users in its first week.  Pokémon Go developer Niantic was unprepared for the game’s sheer number of simultaneous players for at least a month after the app was released, and because of that the app was unable to support all the people who just wanted to use it during the day.

I had started playing Pokémon Go the second it was released in my region and because of that I had a tiny leg up over the newer users.  By the end of the app’s first week I had already gotten my starter, visited some PokéStops, and caught a handful of Pokémon in the wild.  Due to the program’s instability during this period, that was about all that early players could hope to accomplish.  However, while the program was completely broken during the daytime, it would actually work at night, precisely when the app tells its users NOT to use it.

Playing Pokémon Go at night wasn’t a big deal to me since I’ve been a night owl for as long as I can remember.  In fact, my late night gaming sessions have lead to some of my favorite gaming memories, and I’m going to tell you one of those stories right now.  One night during the first month of Pokémon Go‘s operation, I was hanging out with my friend who I still need to refer to as the Unknown Cameraperson. I had been running low on in-game supplies and I needed some extra PokéBalls for the game. It was late and we weren’t far from the center of town, so I figured there had to be some PokéStops in the area I could use to fill up on supplies.

We pulled into a public parking space and I turned on the Pokémon Go app.  We were in luck, I discovered there were at least five PokéStops and a Gym in the town green. Then as my friend and I entered the public space I noticed the park was completely full of people playing Pokémon Go.  My town green would normally be empty most days of the year, and here we were.  It was past midnight in the park, and that didn’t seem to matter to all the young people playing Pokémon Go.  My guess is that was probably the first time that park was full since my town was founded!

As I walked through the diverse crowd of people I smiled, my whole life I had to go online to find peers who shared my interests.  Now, as an adult, I discovered people from my town were interested in gaming and the proof was all around me. 

As I looked around at the PokéStops surrounding the park, every one of them had been connected to a lure module, increasing the probability of random Pokémon encounters for anyone near them. In essence, not only were the park’s patrons there to play, they were working together to make the game better for each other!  To me, that gesture speaks volumes about the merits of gaming as a social activity.  At its core, Pokémon games have always been a social experience, and twenty years later that experience still endures.

The Unknown Cameraperson and I completed a lap around the park and visited all the PokéStops within a safe walking distance.  Eventually, Niantic improved the connection issues with the app, and I’ve been able to play the game during the day for quite a while.  However, I’ll never forget the sight of so many people working together on my town green…all for the love of Pokémon.

Pokémon Go is out now for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

You Will Be Missed – Xbox One QR Codes July 30, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, You Will Be Missed.
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Every day I read a tweet lamenting the fact users can’t use a digital camera to scan the lengthy codes they got as a bonus with their game preorder, these players must never have used the Xbox One at launch. By the end of 2013, the Kinect was included with every single Xbox One console.  While a vocal group resented its inclusion with the console, I was in the opposing camp that actually liked the Kinect and preferred using it.  The Kinect actually enhanced a lot of the console’s functions, and I like it so much I still keep it plugged into my Xbox One to this day.

Many Day One and Collector’s Editions of games can come bundled with exclusive DLC. Traditionally, games that offer extra DLC will bundle one-time use codes players can manually input to get their content. If you’ve never done it before, it works similar to using a gift card online, except instead of store credit you get the item you wanted free of charge.

However, this process of code input is quite antiquated in today’s day and age. Xbox codes are twenty-five characters long and can take forever to input on a controller.  If and that was if you input the code correctly. It could take much longer if you made a mistake mistyping a letter, since you would need to go back into what you typed and double check every single letter to the printed code.  Code redemption was actually the reason I purchased an Xbox 360 controller chat pad back in the day, It was supposed to be for sending messages to friends.

When the first wave of Xbox One games were released alongside the console, the leaflets bundled with those games included more than just DLC codes, they were each printed with a unique QR code.  According to the instructions, by simply saying “Xbox, redeem a code” and holding up the QR code, the Kinect could automatically scan and redeem the code without the need for user input.  The first time I saw one, I was very happy.  Using this method, the entire scan and redeem process took mere moments, and it was such a convenience.

Sadly, this exceptionally useful feature seems to have gone away.  The last time I personally saw a QR code included with a retail Xbox One game was in the Day One Edition of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. That was a third-party published game, and I was grateful to use it to unlock the Final Fantasy XV demo.  However, a QR code was not included with the Day One Edition of Final Fantasy XV, giving me the feeling that this feature may be well and truly dead.

So when did this feature die and what killed it?  No QR Code was included with the premium editions of Halo 5: Guardians back in 2015, and given the fact H5 was Microsoft’s highest profile first-party game of that year, this could have been the tipping point to tell gamers Microsoft was done with the feature.  Let’s face it, the Kinect is no longer bundled with new Xbox One consoles.  The Xbox One S and Xbox One X consoles don’t even have a Kinect port, and it is possible Microsoft doesn’t see the point in providing further support for the device that gets a smaller and smaller install base every day.

It looks like Microsoft is now focusing their efforts on improving the Xbox One’s controller interface. They’ve already redesigned the Xbox One OS several times, and while many new features have been added it feels like every new feature makes the Kinect more and more pointless.  Still, I’m sad to see all the useful improvements the little camera brought fall to the waist side.

Farewell, QR Code reader, you will be missed.

What Original Xbox Games Should Come to Xbox One? July 5, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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At E3 2017, Microsoft announced that they would do the unthinkable and offer backwards compatibility with original Xbox games on the Xbox One. While the feature is still in development (and there’s a lot we still don’t know about it), we thought the time was right for us to give our thoughts about which original Xbox games we would like to play on the Xbox One.

Just a note before we get started, we just want to make it clear that we have no insider information about upcoming Xbox plans, and so this list is purely speculation and wishful thinking. Second, you’re free to disagree with this list and if you have a title you think we should have included feel free to post a comment below. Also, Crimson Skies is not included on this list since it has already been confirmed that game will be backwards compatible by Microsoft.

Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 – This one should be no surprise.  These two games put the original Xbox on the map and without them it is highly unlikely that the Xbox platform would have been as successful as it was. I know that both of these games have already been included in the Xbox One compilation game Halo: The Master Chief Collection, but I cannot neglect the fact that many players prefer the original Xbox versions of the game over the Xbox One remaster.  The games just run better on their original platforms, and fans prefer the feel of the game running on its original code over the “enhancements” Microsoft made over the years.  Hopefully if the original games become playable on Xbox One that feel won’t be lost.

Run Like HellRun Like Hell (RLH for short) was a huge predecessor for games like Dead Space.  In it, you play as a space station’s security officer. The writing and voice acting are great with a cast including Kate Mulgrew, Clancy Brown and Lance Henriksen. The space station is also filled with Bawls vending machines, which is something I can totally get behind.  While most people consider this game a flop, I enjoyed it’s story, voice acting, gameplay and art style.  I don’t know why, the game just had a special charm that resonated with me and I would love to play it on the Xbox One.

Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 4Silent Hill 2 is considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time. Silent Hill 4 is not as critically acclaimed as its earlier titles but I feel it has been given a re-evaluation and over the last few years it has gotten a cult following.  If you are curious why these games are so great, I recommend checking out Dena Natali’s reviews of the games on YouTube.  In case you’re wondering why Silent Hill 3 isn’t on this list, as far as I know the original version of Silent Hill 3 was only released on the PC and PS2, and never got ported to the original Xbox. Still, it would be nice to see some of the Silent Hill games on the original Xbox playable on the Xbox One.

Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel – The only Fallout game released exclusively on consoles, most players consider this game to be no longer canon to the Fallout universe. Well, that and the fact most people think it’s terrible, with no links to Fallout’s themes or gameplay style.  Still, I really want the chance to play it. This request may be a bit too wishful on my part as the rights to it and its licensed soundtrack may currently be in dispute.

Unreal Championship 2 – The original Unreal Championship was mostly a port of the second Unreal Tournament PC game, but its sequel was an all new title made specifically for the Xbox.  I just want to say that as a fan of the Unreal Tournament series I freaking loved Unreal Championship 2.  The game fleshed out UT’s regular characters, and provided a decent story using prerendered cutscenes. While I understand that its controls and gameplay wouldn’t translate well to the PC, I wish Epic could have ported it anyway. Until that happens, it would be nice to play it again on the Xbox One.

Max Payne 1 and Max Payne 2 – Undoubtably two of the best titles of that generation and while they were released on multiple platforms (including the PC), the Xbox version is considered to be the superior console experience.  These games changed my life by showing me the best of video games were capable of.  The story was adult, the graphics were the best of its time, and the gameplay was fluid, well polished and exciting with the best use of Bullet-Time (tm) to date.  It would be great to play those games on the Xbox One.

Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit) – This was the only video game directed by David Cage to get released on the Xbox platform and everyone should play it at least once.  To me, this game was the right mix of the real and the supernatural, and the plot kept me guessing what would come next each time.  I first played this game on the PC after checking out its demo, and I have not missed a David Cage directed video game ever since.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords – The original Knights of the Old Republic is considered by many to be not only the best game on the Xbox platform, but also the greatest Star Wars game of all time. While I don’t personally agree with those sentiments I still think it’s an incredible game worthy of that kind of praise.  The sequel is not considered to be as good as the original, (I personally didn’t like it) although it has gotten a re-evaluation in the past few years.  Still, both games are great additions to the Star Wars expanded universe, have solid gameplay and should be ported to the Xbox One.

Jade Empire – Another Bioware game, Jade Empire felt like it laid the groundwork for games like Mass Effect.  I picked up this game solely because I enjoyed Knights of the Old Republic, and found its story to be deeply engrossing. This was a real-time fighting RPG, with solid gameplay accessible to non-RPG players.  While it would later get re-released on the PC (through platforms like Origin), I personally preferred playing it with the Xbox controller and I would love to play it on to Xbox One.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 1-3 – After Halo, the second major game to bring popularity to the Xbox console back in the day was Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.  Seen by many to be some of the best stealth action games of all time, people love this game…at least up to the third one. Personally I felt the franchise kind of jumped the shark after the fourth game, even though many players prefer the Xbox version of the fourth game over the Xbox 360 version. Regardless of which version of the fourth game you prefer, the first three Splinter Cell games still remain some of my favorite Xbox games of all time, and it would be great to play them on the Xbox One.

So those are just a few games for the original Xbox that I think would be great on the Xbox One. By no means is this a complete list and if I get a lot of comments on this article I may write another one. Be sure to stay tuned to this website for the latest Xbox One Backwards Compatibility news.

Xbox One Update Will Add Original Xbox Game Compatibility – What We Know and What We Don’t Know June 16, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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The second major announcement from the Microsoft E3 2017 Press Event was the revelation that the Xbox One will receive a free update to add compatibility for the games made for the original Xbox!

This feature is something Xbox enthusiasts have been requesting after Microsoft added support for Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One, and I am very happy Microsoft followed up on it. Currently there’s a lot we still don’t know about how this feature is going to work but I will try my best to include the information we have while inquiring about the information we don’t have.

First up, only one original Xbox game was specifically confirmed to support the One, and that was the fan-favorite Crimson Skies.  That’s a really good game, and I’m happy it has been added to the list.  I actually have a copy of it and for the life of me I can’t understand why Microsoft hasn’t released a sequel for it yet.  Other popular games like Halo 2 may get supported, but that’s just speculation on my part.

We know that backwards compatibility will work with original Xbox game discs, so if you still have your discs you’ll be able to play your game by inserting it into the Xbox One’s Blu-Ray Drive. It is also possible that original Xbox games will be sold on the Xbox One Marketplace, so you may need to dust off your wallet if you want to buy some online.  Original Xbox games that support System Link (LAN) multiplayer will be able to play against other consoles playing the same game regardless of the console they are being played on.

Those are some pretty clear knowns, so now it’s time for us to talk about the unknowns.  First off, Microsoft discontinued Xbox Live support for all original Xbox games back in 2010, so unless Microsoft turns that service back on or establishes some kind of software workaround, you won’t be able to play these games online. 

Another unknown is the issue of DLC and patches. Crimson Skies had a lot of free DLC back in the day, and with Xbox Live no longer functioning for original Xbox games, downloading essential patches and DLC to make the games compatible for multiplayer is impossible.  My guess is Microsoft could port those DLC patches and updates into Xbox One downloads, but I wasn’t able to confirm if that was possible.

However limited our information about this feature is, I applaud Microsoft for doing it. The original Xbox featured some fantastic games, many of which were sadly overlooked. I can’t wait to try it out!  Who wouldn’t want to play on Blood Gulch against your friends one more time?

Supplies to Buy For New Dungeons and Dragons Players May 31, 2017

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We’ve been talking about the ins and outs of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition on this website for the past few weeks, but up until this point I haven’t specifically offered any advice for regular supplies and materials players can use to get the most out of their experience playing. Today, we will rectify that.

Before we get started I just want to make it clear that this guide focuses on everyday items anyone can get to help them play D&D, it does not include any 5th Edition books, so if you don’t already have them you will be able to find the Player’s Manual, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual at your local bookstore, hobby shop or online. We’re also not going to be talking about D&D specific items and accessories like dice or figurines, which can be found at your local gaming store or online.

So what basic supplies do you need to help you make the most out of your Dungeons & Dragons game, and where can you find them?   Writing aside, I was never much of an artist growing up so I had little need for things like crayons, markers, posterboard or colored pencils and I always resented getting assigned school projects that required them. I realize the irony that since learning how to play D&D I’ve made more trips to my local office supply store than I did during all the years I spent in college and now you can reap the benefits!

You’ll be able to find a lot of these supplies at any office supply store, but I’ll make a special note of any harder to find supplies when applicable.

  • Plain Printer Paper – Most material available on official D&D websites can also be printed, including Modules, Handbook Eratta, or Character Sheets. Its always handy to keep that material with you when you play, so you may want a lot of paper to have a physical copy of anything you need. If you want to be more eco-friendly, I recommend printing your documents in double-sided mode or stay tuned for a later tip.
  • Graph Paper – Dungeon Masters and Players alike may prefer to have a supply of graph paper to help them map out dungeons, caverns or whatever other locations they can imagine.  The grid pattern on the sheets make marking rooms much easier.
  • 3-Hole Puncher – You may find some of the modules or manuals you print out are too big to staple, but if you three-hole punch them, you can bind them together much easier.  The margins on most 5th Ed printed manuals allow space for 3-hole punches, but not the eratta.  If your office doesnt have a 3-hole punch already, you can buy a new one for like $20-30 US.
  • 3-Ring Binders – Perfect for storing and protecting any large stacks of material you’ve printed and 3-hole punched.  Some binders can also include side pockets perfect for keeping character sheets or errata safe.  Cost can vary on the price of 3-ring binders depending on size and quality.  Unless you’re bringing these binders to school every day you’re not going to need to buy expensive heavy-duty ones, and in some cases it can be more cost efficient to buy several smaller binders than one large one. Buy a few, they can range in price from $1-$5 US.
  • 20-Gague Vinyl – Special thanks to Nate from WASD20 for this tip. This material, when you put it over something, instantly turns any grid or graph paper into a reusable surface. You’ll only need enough to cover a table surface.  This material may be harder to find in a common office supply store or hobby store, but I have seen it for sale at fabric stores, where it can be easily cut to your length needs.  Thinner vinyl will cost less but you could probably find 20-gauge at a price of about $10 a yard.
  • Wet-Erase Markers – If you’re planning to use a reusable gaming surface, you’ll need Wet-Erase markers.  Permanent felt-tip markers may write fine on vinyl or graph paper, but true to their name…they can’t be erased.  For some reason, I had trouble finding these markers at my local office supply store, but you could probably find a pack of five at your local Walmart for about $8 US.
  • Pencils with Erasers – You can never have too many of these.  You’ll be adding and subtracting a lot of information to your character sheets as you play, so make sure to use pencils that can be easily erased!

These tips assume you already have access to a printer, since material can be printed or copied.  If you don’t have a printer, I recommend checking out your local print shop, since not only will you be able to print any material you need from there, you will probably find a lot of the items on this list there as well.

I know what you’re saying, this is the year 2017, can’t any of this stuff be modernized?  The answer is yes if you have the money for it.  If you prefer more of a digital edge on your pen-and-paper reference material, your tablet computer is a great tool for storing manuals, no paper or three-hole punch needed.  Websites like DND Beyond offer reference material you can access from your tablet.  I’ve also heard of cases where more high-tech Dungeon Masters prefer to project their dungeon maps on either an interactive surface or screen, but that can also be very expensive, as it would require a computer and either a projector or a rather large HDTV screen to replicate the gaming surface.

However you choose to play, I hope these tips are useful to you!  If you feel like I’ve missed anything, feel free to post a comment below!

Our Favorite Funny Dungeons and Dragons Videos May 7, 2017

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We’re not going to have a Gaming History You Should Know article today because we wanted to follow up on something we talked about in a previous article. When learning the rules of Dungeons & Dragons, Maniac discovered there was an abundance of hilarious D&D inspired videos online.  We’ve already talked about the history of Eric and the Dread Gazebo but that was just the tip of the humor iceberg.  Here are some of my other favorite Dungeons & Dragons inspired videos.

First up, I have to highlight this 8-Bit animation of a Dead Alewives sketch.  Let’s take a look at what happens when the characters from Final Fantasy play their weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. Where’s the Mountain Dew?

If you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, you’re probably wondering what is an average game of D&D like. The guys at ReloadLastSave did this silly little sketch to highlight what an average game of D&D looks like…with a silly twist.

Next I want to highlight some of the great work done by Rolling High.  I became familiar with their work after their channel was highlighted in Dragon+ Magazine.  They created a six-part online series following the story of several office workers playing a game of D&D that got a little too true to life. Here’s a look at the first episode.

If you liked the first episode of Rolling High you can check out the rest of the episodes of that season for free on their YouTube Channel.

Moving on, If you want to talk about Dungeons & Dragons humor you can’t forget the work of Saving Throw.  Here’s a look at some of the people you’ll meet at a Dungeons & Dragons game.

And here’s a look at what would happen if RPG characters were honest.  I like this one because it works as a way to poke fun at video game and pen-and-paper RPG cliches.

Now it’s time to highlight College Humor, a website with a wealth of nerdy comedy sketches. Today, we’re going to find out what happens when a search for a new Dungeon Master gets gets misinterpreted.

I think I know someone who would want to turn this into a full-time business.

That wraps up our list for today. I’m sure there were some videos I missed and I want to hear some of your thoughts. Post a comment below with some of your favorite D&D videos and we might feature them in a future article.

My History With Star Wars Games May 5, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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May the Fourth be with you all. This year, to celebrate Star Wars Day, I’ve been sharing some very personal stories about the beginning of my love for this iconic franchise.  I’ve already told you about my first exposure to the franchise in the form of the Star Tours ride and the first time I watched the films, so let’s talk about the first time I played the video games.

I got my first real computer as an early Christmas present in 1996 and I was able to get the most out of it almost immediately.  My friends recommended I check out games like Quake, 3D action titles that really took advantage of a computer’s hardware.  A year later, my dad was in the process of doing some Christmas shopping and new PC games were at the top of my wish list. While shopping he happened to come across a boxed set of Star Wars PC games called the Lucasarts Archives Volume 4.  He knew I was into Star Wars and thought I would like the gift.  He was not wrong.

Christmas morning, I opened my presents to find a boxed set of some of the finest games Lucasarts ever produced. The bundle included games like Dark Forces, X-Wing, Tie-Fighter, Yoda Stories, and a whole lot more.  I installed all of the games to my Windows 95 PC and played them as much as I could.

I completed every single permutation of Yoda Stories the game could generate for me, and I enjoyed it so much I wish Lucasarts would have released a patch for it so it could have been played on Windows XP and later machines.  As for the flight sims, I could never beat the first mission in X-Wing, but I was able to make it through most of Tie-Fighter.  Dark Forces had great graphics that reminded me of DOOM, but navigating the levels without a walkthrough or map was nearly impossible past the game’s second level.

The archive also included some detailed demos for the most recent Star Wars games at the time. My father mistakenly believed they were not demos when he bought them, but given the low price he paid for the archive I couldn’t blame him for being mistaken.  The archive included a demo for the multiplayer game X-Wing Vs Tie-Fighter, a limited look at the Star Wars Behind the Magic interactive reference, and 2 CD-ROMs including the first three levels of Jedi Knight and its expansion pack Mysteries of the Sith.

If you asked me, nothing could compare to Jedi Knight.  While the special demo only included the first three levels of the game, it included everything from those three levels including the first three FMV sequences.  I can still remember the night I played the hell out of that demo, waiting by the edge of my seat to see what happened to Kyle as he followed in his father’s footsteps to find an ancient Jedi burial ground. When I completed level three, I felt like I only had seen the first part of an epic story, and I had to know how it ended.  I ended up ordering a bundled version of the game with its expansion pack for my birthday the next year.  While the first three levels of Jedi Knight gave players no access to Force powers, the full version of the game gave the player access to The Force gradually, which actually made the game feel more realistic. I know a lot of fans watched Star Wars and wished to become a Jedi, Jedi Knight felt like the first game that actually granted that wish.  To this day it remains one of my favorite games of all time.

Great things don’t last forever and I’m sad to say that the Episode I titles were some of the last games Lucasarts produced directly for the PC.  As the early 2000s ticked away, most of Lucasarts’s game development shifted to games for the home consoles including PS2, GameCube and Xbox.  Sometimes Lucasarts would be forward thinking enough to offer some of their more popular titles on PC, but there was no guarantee of that happening.  Obi-Wan would be released exclusively on the Xbox, even thought it was initially announced as a PC title.  Games like Jedi Starfighter would also never get a release on the PC, despite the popularity of the original Starfighter.

At E3, Lucasarts announced Raven Software, developers of the incredible Star Trek: Elite Force, would be taking one of the best graphic engines available, the Quake III Arena Engine, and making a sequel to my favorite Star Wars game, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast.  When it finally released, Jedi Outcast became my favorite Star Wars game of all time. The graphics were beautiful, the gameplay was solid and fluid, and the story continued the incredible tale that began with Jedi Knight. It had a satisfying conclusion that didn’t need a sequel but could merit one if possible.  It’s sequel, Jedi Academy, was a decent game with fun new mechanics like the double-bladed and dual-wielding lightsaber. However, the fact you can’t play as Kyle Katarn made it feel like more of an expansion pack than a true sequel. Sadly we would never have any more adventures with Kyle, but I’m grateful for all the time we did get to spend with him.

The last great Star Wars game I enjoyed on the PC would have to be Knights of the Old Republic by Bioware.  I know a lot of people consider KOTOR to be the greatest Star Wars game…ever, but I still feel stronger about Jedi Outcast.  I enjoyed KOTOR a lot on the Xbox and on the PC, but its sequel was a massive disappointment.  I remember spending seven hours a day over the course of four consecutive days with the hope the game would tell me anything about what happened to the characters from the last game.  Sadly, KOTOR II‘s abrupt ending would not fulfill that wish.

After the release of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, The Force Unleashed became the last major Star Wars game I considered a disappointment. The game was planned to be a major expansion of the Star Wars expanded universe just like Shadows of the Empire was in the mid-90s, and while it had a fantastic story, its gameplay was buggy and frustrating.  The Force Unleashed II felt like the exact opposite.  It had very polished gameplay, but its incomplete story and abrupt ending upset me, and sadly that short-sighted decision to release the game without a complete story brought a premature end to the once promising franchise expansion.

With the purchase of Lucasfilm came the end of Lucasarts, and with it the cancellation of some extremely anticipated games like Star Wars 1313.  I felt it was the end of an era, because in its heyday, Lucasarts was one of the best PC game publishers in the world. It was truly sad to see it gone.

Hope you all had a wonderful May the Fourth, and we will have all new content for you soon!

Ten Ways to Celebrate Star Wars Day on May The Fourth May 4, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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May the Fourth be with you all!  In honor of Star Wars Day, we will be offering some great tips on how to best celebrate your fandom!

  1. Watch all of the Star Wars movies in any order you like. I’m sure everyone below will comment on what they feel will be the best way to do it, but I prefer to watch them in the order they were released in theaters.
  2. If you can’t get through all the episodes, try watching the movies with a Rifftrax audio commentary track!
  3. Play your favorite Star Wars video game. I could devote an entire article to my history with the Star Wars games…in fact I think I just might do that…
  4. Rewatch this awesome interview with George Lucas and the cast of Star Wars at Celebration 2017 in Orlando.
  5. Create your own fanfilm with friends. I have no idea if Disney is going to continue allowing them now that they have the rights to Star Wars but the old rules were you could only make a serious film with original characters, but parody/comedy films could use familiar characters.
  6. If you can’t make a fanfilm, you could always watch some!  Here’s a link to some of our favorites!
  7. Watch Tony Goldmark’s Some Jerk with a Camera reviews!  He’s reviewed several different versions of Star Tours as well as other classic theme park rides, and everyone should give them a watch!
  8. Watch the GameTrailers Retrospective on the history of Star Wars video games.
  9. Read my early history of Star Wars article!
  10. Share the film with a friend who never saw it before!