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Our Favorite Funny Dungeons and Dragons Videos May 7, 2017

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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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.

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My History With Star Wars Games May 5, 2017

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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!

My Early History With Star Wars May 4, 2017

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May the Fourth be with you all!  As you may know, today is traditionally known as Star Wars Day!  To celebrate today, we prepared a whole bunch of original articles which we will be publishing over the course of the day. To kick things off, I thought it was time to talk about my first experience with Star Wars and the start of my love of this incredible franchise.

The year was 1994 and I was an honor student at my local elementary school.  I grew up with an interest in science and was always a fan of science-fiction movies like Jurassic Park and Back to the Future.  I was familiar with the original Star Wars Trilogy due to its incredible impact in popular culture but I wasn’t entirely familiar with all of its details.  You have to understand that this was early 1994, the last Star Wars film was released over a decade earlier and while it was groundbreaking for its time, Star Wars had faded a bit from the mainstream. Heck, we didn’t even have decent quality VHS releases of the original trilogy yet.  In short, I knew Star Wars was a thing, but until 1994, I knew nothing about it.

In Spring 1994, my family took me on the first trip to Walt Disney World that I could remember.  One of the parks we visited during that trip was the brand-new Disney/MGM Studios (now called the Disney Hollywood Studios).  At the time, it was my favorite of the Disney parks.  I loved movies and while the Tower of Terror was still a year away from completion, there were plenty of cutting-edge rides and attractions at the park that I absolutely loved.

In fact, one of my favorite rides at the park was the original version of Star Tours.  The ride was great, and the effects held up beautifully even to this day.  If you weren’t able to check it out before it was upgraded in the late 2000s, I recommend checking out Tony Goldmark’s review of the original ride.  He did a great job with his hilarious video review and it really brought me back to help me remember how I felt about it the first time I rode it.

However, while the ride was great, at the time I understood Star Tours as an exciting thrill ride, but I didn’t have a deep connection with it.  I had never seen any of the Star Wars films that the ride was based on and so a lot of concepts the ride featured went right over my head. That would all change later on that year.

Sometime in late 1994, the USA Network decided to host a special three-night event. Over the course of three nights, USA aired all three films in the original, uncut Star Wars trilogy. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow my remote found the channel just as the original Star Wars began its broadcast.  Something about the movie just called out to me to watch it, and watch it I did.  For the next two hours I remained glued to my seat as I was introduced to Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2.

After watching Star Wars for the first time I thought the film was a masterpiece well worthy of its impact on popular culture.  I loved the characters, the world they lived in, the effects, but most of all I loved the film’s story.  After getting my first taste of Star Wars I knew I wanted to see more and luckily I wouldn’t have to wait long.

The next night, I made sure to tune in early to catch the broadcast of The Empire Strikes Back.  How much did this movie have an impact on me?  I think I was one of the last people on the planet to be surprised at the big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker (*spoilers*) he was in fact Luke’s father.

I remember agonizing over Episode V‘s cliffhanger, and after watching the end of Empire, who could blame me?  Han Solo was in danger, Luke was still recovering from his first battle with Darth Vader, and I had no idea if there was any truth to what Vader told Luke.  How the heck could people stand waiting three years for Episode VI back in the day?  I couldn’t stand waiting 24 hours!

Nothing was going to stop me from watching Return of the Jedi on the third night. I don’t want to repeat the plot point for point but needless to say I loved the movie with all my heart and at the time I never could have imagined a more fulfilling ending to the Star Wars saga.

Conveniently, 20th Century Fox re-released the original unedited Star Wars Trilogy on VHS with THX remaster just before Christmas 1994.  I got my first look at the THX remaster of the film while my dad was buying a new TV for his bedroom that year. I saw the store had set up a computer display to play the original Star Wars, and I think I ended up watching nearly the entire film on one of the monitors as he went shopping.  I thought the THX remaster of the film looked great and I wished I had my own copy.

My parents got me the Star Wars VHS boxed set for Christmas and I can remember it was one of the best Christmases of my life.  I must have rewatched those movies hundreds of times, either alone or with my friends.  I would even watch the ten-minute interview included at the beginning of each tape where Leonard Maltin would interview George Lucas about each of the films. In the years before DVD would offer countless special features, I considered the inclusion of this interview a prototype for that.  I also paid extra special attention to an off the cuff comment Lucas made to Maltin about new movies he was working on.

The next year I went back to Disney World and rode Star Tours again, only this time it would be as a fan.  Re-riding it as a fan was like a whole-new experience.  A year later I rode it again at Disneyland because I was not going to pass up the chance to ride Star Tours and it didn’t matter which coast it was going to be on!  I was happy to find the ride experiences were pretty much identical.

In 1997 I got my first computer and with it, I finally had access to play a cavalcade of incredible Star Wars video games. By this point, Star Wars was back in a big way. The Star Wars Special Editions were getting released in theaters that year and George Lucas had announced there were going to be all-new prequel films starting in 1999…but that’s a story for another time!

Thanks for reading, everyone!  We’ve got more original content on the way to celebrate May 4th, so stay tuned!  Special thanks to Tony Goldmark, who the internet knows better as Some Jerk With a Camera for being nice enough to let me feature his review of Star Tours on this article. If you haven’t seen his work, you should check it out on YouTube.

Thank You for Taking Over Pokemon: The Animated Series, Disney XD December 7, 2016

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The views expressed in the following editorial is protected under the First Amendment.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the US rights to broadcast Pokémon: The Animated Series have shifted from the basic cable channel Cartoon Network to the digital cable channel Disney X D as of Monday.  This is hardly an unprecidented move, as Cartoon Network wasn’t even the first channel to have the US rights to animated Pokémon either, that honor goes to the now-defunct WB Network and their KidsWB programming block.  Since Disney X D started broadcasting the newest animated Pokémon content, they have already proven themselves to be better stewards of Pokémon animated content than Cartoon Network has been in the last three years.  I know what you’re thinking, “How can I comfortably say that after just a few days?”  Well I do have some very good reasons why I can say that, so keep reading to find out what they are.

I have to admit I really like the Disney X D Network. I am a fan of a few of their original shows, and I greatly enjoyed their coverage of the 2015 Nintendo World Championships last year. To me, Pokémon seems like a perfect fit for the Disney X D network, and because of that I had a lot of optimism going into the transition. However, the reason I believe Disney X D is a better home for Pokémon is simply this, Disney X D knows how to organize their programming schedule better than Cartoon Network ever did!

I know that harsh statement is going to require specifics before some people will accept it so I’ll produce my evidence right here. First, take a look at Cartoon Network’s current programming schedule. It doesn’t matter what day you look at, but let’s not count anything between 10PM-6AM because that’s considered Adult Swim’s time. The odds are you’ll be finding regular marathons for the show Teen Titans GO, and not much else. I actually liked Teen Titans GO when it first started to air, but even I have to admit that the show has just gotten stale, and the fact that it’s almost always on doesn’t help.  Heck, most fans of the original Teen Titans show don’t even like GO.  With that show dominating their entire schedule, and the entire nighttime broadcast hours dedicated to Adult Swim content, there isn’t much room on the schedule for Pokémon. In fact, Cartoon Network’s dedicated programming slot for Pokémon had been relegated to 7AM, a time that was far too early for younger fans to be able to watch, and far too late for their older fans to enjoy before they’ll have to go to school or work.

So that’s how they would schedule the TV show, but what about brand-new animated Pokémon feature films?  Cartoon Network would usually broadcast new Pokémon movies mid-day on a Saturday.  The film would be broadcast exactly once and never be reaired until around a year later when it would get scheduled in the time slot just before the next new film premiered.

So how did Disney X D schedule their first Pokémon programming?  They started strong by broadcasting an all-new feature film, Volcanion and the Mythical Marvel and following it up with two all-new episodes of the new series, Pokémon Sun and Moon.  The movie and the new series were broadcast starting at around 5PM on Monday, a perfect time. Younger fans would be home from school, and adults would just be getting home from work by that time.  Back in the day, KidsWB saw fit to broadcast new Pokémon episodes in their after-school programming block, and if they hadn’t picked that timeslot I may never have grown up to become a Pokémon Trainer.

However, picking a great time slot for a major broadcast isn’t the only great thing Disney X D did,  they also added the film to their Video On-Demand (VOD) service and rebroadcasted the event a day after it premiered!  Cartoon Network never replayed a new Pokémon film so recently after it first premiered, nor did they ever add them to their VOD service. If you didn’t have a DVR, and you couldn’t watch the film during its initial broadcast, you would not have a guaranteed chance of seeing it again on the Cartoon Network channel.  What a shame.

So I hope I made it clear to whoever is reading this that while Cartoon Network had the rights to Pokémon, despite the property’s recent resurgence of popularity they barely did anything with it.  Disney X D meanwhile has already proven themselves willing to throw their weight behind this beloved property.  Farewell Cartoon Network, Pokémon will be happier elsewhere.

Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive Part 3 – After The Release October 24, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive.
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The following is the third of a three-part series detailing the announcement, marketing and release of the Xbox One game Sunset Overdrive.  You can read part one here and you can read part two here.

Sunset Overdrive was one of the biggest exclusive titles released on the Xbox One in October 2014. Microsoft had sunk millions of dollars into marketing the new property, but after it launched it unfortunately just wasn’t selling.  As I said in the previous part, slightly over one hundred thousand copies of the game sold at retail in its first week, and the few stores who chose to host midnight releases for the game found their events overwhelmingly underattended.

Press for the game during its development was quite positive, early reviews were mostly positive and Insomniac Games has a decent following of loyal supporters, so why wasn’t the game selling better?  Was the game’s premise just that unappealing to the majority of the gaming public or was something else going on?

I mentioned earlier in this series that the install base of the Xbox One platform was in second place behind the PS4 at this time, but that’s not enough information to paint a full picture about the state of gaming in 2014. The truth is, the Xbox One was in second place because gamers were very angry at Microsoft.  They still resented the Kinect as an expensive gimmick, despite the fact it was no longer being bundled with every new console.  They were also resentful Microsoft was buying so many third-party exclusive games that they preferred would get released on the PS4.  In short, Sunset Overdrive was released on the Xbox One at the worst possible time.

With so much negativity still directed towards the Xbox One platform, if Sunset Overdrive was going to sell, they needed to make it appeal to current Xbox One owners. So what could Microsoft do to convince Xbox gamers to buy Sunset Overdrive?  If the game was getting good reviews, could giving players the chance to play the game for themselves bring up sales?  Unfortunately that was a bit of an issue since Sunset Overdrive had no demo and without a demo, there wasn’t an easy way to get a small piece of the game into gamers’ hands.

Microsoft would need to come up with a new idea to get gamers to try the game and they did.  One month after it was released, Microsoft made the decision to offer Sunset Overdrive as part of an Xbox One Free Weekend.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with an Xbox One Free Weekend, it basically works like a free rental.  During an Xbox One Free Weekend, Microsoft allows anyone with an Xbox One and an internet connection the chance to play a promoted game for a limited time. While this time limit may sound restrictive, there are no restrictions on gameplay and as long as the game was played during the free promotion period you could earn achievements in it.  Heck, once the Free Weekend ends, your savegame could be brought into the full game if you decided to buy it.

The Free Weekend was a moderate success, not only for Sunset Overdrive, but for the Xbox One’s image.  In fact I remember buying the full retail version of the game shortly after the Free Weekend promotion wrapped up.

Insomniac Games continued support for the game throughout the first half of 2015.  These free updates included not only bug fixes and optimizations, they also added entirely new achievements players could unlock without paying for any new content.  On the paid side, they were working on two new DLC expansion packs which would be offered to anyone who bought the game’s Season Pass.  One of the first pieces of content offered with the game’s Season Pass was an exclusive set of four weapons.

The weapons were a lot of fun to mess around with, but they didn’t add that much to the game’s universe. Players hoping to see new single-player game content wouldn’t have to wait much longer. The first DLC expansion was released just in time for Christmas called The Mystery of the Mooil Rig.

The Mystery of the Mooil Rig was a great expansion I recommend playing immediately after completing the game’s main story, although it could be played at any point once it is installed.  It included a huge expansion to the game’s open world environment, all new side missions, and a hilarious story.

The second Sunset Overdrive DLC mission was titled Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines and it added an all-new environment that was teased throughout the main game, the Fizzco Robot Factory.

Shortly after the release of the second DLC expansion pack, Sunset TV wrapped up its production.

The final two-part episode was pretty funny, although if you ask me the series got the best possible sendoff in Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines‘s finale.

A month or two after the release of Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines, Microsoft did something really nice for the game’s players, they gave away download codes for the game’s Loyalty Pack to anyone who had played the game before that time.  The Loyalty Pack included costume pieces that were previously only available through retail and digital preorders.  It was a really nice gesture for players, and it convinced me to pick up the game’s Season Pass.

As someone who has played through the game, I thought it was great and I’m shocked Sunset Overdrive isn’t better remembered over a year since it was released. It was addictive as hell to explore the game’s environment searching for collectibles and completing missions. It had a hilarious sense of humor and an art style that set itself apart from every other game on the market.  In short, it is totally worth picking up.

Sunset Overdrive is out now exclusively on the Xbox One.

Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive Part 2 – The Road to Release October 14, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive.
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This is the second of a three-part article discussing the marketing and release of the game Sunset Overdrive. If you missed part one, you can read it here.

It was early 2014 and it was clear to gamers and publishers that the Xbox One was not selling anywhere near the numbers it should have been. Even with solid hardware and tons of great exclusive launch games, the PS4 was outselling the Xbox One by huge numbers.  However, Microsoft was in for the long game and they still had some new cards to play. About a month before E3 2014, they released this preview for Sunset Overdrive.

If any Xbox One exclusive games had a chance to sell, Microsoft needed to rethink their strategy to increase their console sales. Two things were clear to anyone with a passing familiarity with the new console war, the Xbox One was $100 more expensive than the better selling PS4, and it came with a peripheral that a majority of consumers just didn’t want.  At E3 2014, without notifying their Xbox One developers in advance, Microsoft announced they were no longer bundling the Kinect sensor with all Xbox One consoles. That meant that new Xbox One consoles unbundled with Kinect sensors would sell at the same price as the PlayStation 4, and while gamers would still be able to buy the Kinect separately, many gamers just didn’t want to due to privacy concerns.

But just hardware and price changes aren’t enough to sell a console, you need to show great games and Microsoft was ready to do that.  Ted Price’s Sunset Overdrive gameplay demo would later be reported as one of the highlights of E3 2014.

Microsoft rarely throws advertisement money behind a new intellectual property if they don’t own it, but Sunset Overdrive was going to get their full support. I mean, just look at what Microsoft did to promote the game at E3.

After E3 concluded, the hype train for Sunset Overdrive officially kicked off.  Things were looking better for Microsoft. They re-priced their hardware to better compete in the console war and they had a unique exclusive game that was getting ready for release the holiday season.  Tons of plans were being discussed on how to promote the new IP.  Everything from T-Shirts, a viral marketing campaign, branded energy drinks, to a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were being discussed.

Meanwhile, Insomniac started their weekly Sunset TV webseries.  Like their Full Moon Show Podcast, Sunset TV would keep players up to date with the latest Sunset Overdrive news and updates. In fact, new episodes of Sunset TV could be broadcast in-game.

As the months passed, Sunset Overdrive was gearing up for release and Microsoft was putting a lot of money into promotion for this game.  Just take a look at this live-action commercial.  You can see the high production values on it from a mile away.

That’s not even my favorite trailer for the game. After discovering they couldn’t get a balloon in the Thanksgiving Parade, they invited gamers to pretend it was.

This kind of interactive marketing really works for me, and Sunset Overdrive was certainly on my radar as the game lead up to launch.

By October 2014 the game was ramping up for launch.  There was even going to be a coveted Day One edition of the game, offering exclusive DLC to anyone who got one of the first copies.  Here’s the game’s official launch trailer:

Sunset Overdrive launched at midnight on October 28th, 2014 and things were not looking well at first. Only five Microsoft stores across the US participated in the Sunset Overdrive midnight release and based on the reports I’ve heard, the ones who had were mostly empty.  Initial retail sales estimates for the game’s first week range at about 138K in the US.

Was Sunset Overdrive destined to fall into obscurity after being such a promising new title?  Was the Xbox One’s low sales to blame?  Could Sunset Overdrive come back?  This story isn’t over, so stay tuned for Part 3 where we will discuss the game’s postlaunch promotions, its DLC expansions, and the unique content it inspired.

Sunset Overdrive is out now exclusively on Xbox One.

Most Requested Origin On The House Games October 10, 2016

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For quite a while now, EA has offered a PC game from their enormous back catalog for free to drum up support for their Origin online game distribution service. The specific game offered for free will change but anyone who purchases the game while it is offered for free can keep it for as long as they continue to use their Origin account.  This promotion is called Origin On The House and it is something I regularly look forward to.

Right now, EA is offering the original Dungeon Keeper for free through this promotion (Editor’s Note: So if you want it, sign into the Origin client and get it now) but what will they offer next time?  The online community seems to overwhelmingly want Dungeon Keeper II but perhaps it is a bit too early to ask for that since they just offered the original Dungeon Keeper for free.  So I thought I would help EA out and offer them a list of some of the games I think they should offer through On The House if the promotion continues.

Here are the rules for this list. Out of respect to sales numbers for more recent titles, I’m going to limit this list to older games from EA’s back catalog with a heavy focus on titles that are now out of print. I’m not going to include any games that have already been offered, but sequels and prequels to games that have already been offered on the house are okay and could make the list.

Before we get started I would like to give an honorable mention to Hellgate London, but I don’t think I can include that on this list since I don’t think EA has the rights to publish it anymore.  With that out of the way, let’s start the list.

Mirror’s Edge (2008) – The original Mirror’s Edge game was overlooked when it first launched but was soon considered a cult classic. Since then, the game has already been offered for free on PSN and Xbox Live, why not on PC?  It could give the franchise a boost by offering the PC version (with its superior PhysX engine) on the house, and might get people interested in picking up the new game on their platform of choice.

Ultima 9 – A few years ago EA released Ultima 8, a rushed, buggy, PC RPG with broken gameplay and poor platforming. Then they released Ultima 9, a game that was really bad.  In fact, it was so bad this was the game that many gamers have credited for killing the Ultima franchise, but after seeing Spoony’s review of the game I really just want the chance to play it for myself.

Dead Space 2 – The first Dead Space game was the very first game EA offered on Origin through their On The House promotion so I felt it was important that it’s sequel be included on this list. This game is my favorite of the Dead Space franchise as I feel it strikes the perfect blend between action and horror. Plus, EA offered a lot of paid DLC for this game including a full single-player expansion, so there is a slightly better chance for them to release it if it gives them the opportunity to make more money from DLC.

Wing Commander 4 – I remember first seeing an incredible trailer for this game after receiving the DOS version of Privateer 2: The Darkening as a gift. I thought the game had production values on par with Hollywood blockbusters. Many consider this the best game of the entire franchise, and for a very good reason, it had solid gameplay, fantastic graphics, and an engaging story. Wing Commander 3 has already been offered so why not offer its sequel?

The Sims 3 – My friends would never forgive me if I didn’t include this game on the list.  That’s really all I have to say about that, the game really speaks for itself.  Plus, EA could make a fortune in selling the game’s expansions to a whole new group of consumers.

Dungeon Keeper II – Currently this is the most requested game I’ve seen the online community ask EA for so I felt it was important to include it here.  So yeah, ditto.

Mass Effect – One of the best games released for the Xbox 360 became one of the most unplayable games when it was first released on the PC…all because of DRM.  Now, EA is working on an all new title poised to revolutionize the whole franchise, so what better time to offer the original game on PC with a DRM system that actually works?  I mean, EA did briefly offer Dragon Age: Origins on the house for a brief time in anticipation for a new Dragon Age game, why not offer Mass Effect‘s original game?

Command & Conquer 3 – This was the game that got me back into PC RTS games for a brief time.  I freaking love this game.  It has a great storyline performed by incredible actors and competitive multiplayer.  If you aren’t currently a fan of Real-Time Strategy games, C&C 3 is the perfect way to get you interested in them.

So what do you think?  Are there any games I forgot about?  Post a comment below and give me your thoughts about what games you want to see EA offer through On The House.

Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive Part 1 – History and Announcement October 7, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Sunset Overdrive: The Overlooked Exclusive.
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If you’re a long-time PlayStation fan you’ve probably heard of the name Insominac Games.  Over the past twenty years they’ve developed some of the finest games avalible for Sony’s game consoles including Spyro The Dragon and Ratchet and Clank.  With each game, Insomniac has always been able to deliver solid gameplay sprinkled with a quirky sense of humor.

I first became aware of Insominac Games right around the time of the PlayStation 3’s release. A cover feature in Game Developer Magazine which has sadly not been re-published online as of the time of this article talked about the development of a PS3 launch game called Resistance: Fall of Man. After reading the postmortem, I did some of my own research on the game and by the time I eventually bought a PS3 in summer 2007 I made sure to pick up a copy of Resistance: Fall of Man with it. I wasn’t disappointed because it was without a doubt the best launch game for the fledgling PlayStation 3. In fact, I stand by the statement that until Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was released, Resistance: Fall of Man was the best game on the PS3, and it would remain the best PS3 multiplayer game for quite some time after that.

Since playing Resistance: Fall of Man, I became a die-hard Insomniac fan and began to pay close attention to their work. I would even regularly listen to the official Insomniac podcast, The Full Moon Show, for news about their upcoming games.  Years passed and Insomniac released two more Resistance games which I greatly enjoyed.

In early 2013 Sony announced their next console would be the PlayStation 4, and Microsoft announced their next console would be the Xbox One.  Months later, at E3 2013 Microsoft made it clear to consumers they were going to release as many exclusive new games on the Xbox One as they could.  Third party publishers and independent developers were lining up to produce exclusive games for Microsoft including Dead Rising 3, Titanfall, Quantum Break, and D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die.  However, I think everyone was most surprised when Microsoft revealed this trailer brandishing the Insomniac Games logo.

That’s right, you’re seeing the teaser video for a colorful open-world action game with a sick sense of humor, and it was only coming to the Xbox One.  Turns out that was a big problem.  When it was first announced, the Xbox One held a $100 price premium over the Sony PS4.  Microsoft planned to force anti-consumer policies in the Xbox One’s operating system, although they were keeping hush about the details unless the gaming media directly questioned them about it.  Then there was the fact that a new Kinect was going to be included with each Xbox One, fueling every wild conspiracy theory you could imagine, and probably some you couldn’t.

Microsoft would go on to reverse the anti-consumer policies they had planned before the Xbox One launched, enabling players to trade and resell their Xbox One game discs, but consumers didn’t trust Microsoft would not reinstate their policies later on.  The Xbox One launched in late 2013 and languished on shelves.  Even with all the great exclusives, gamers were overwhelmingly choosing the PS4 for its lower price and improved performance for multiplatform games.

Months passed and the third party publishers who developed Xbox One exclusive games were not happy. The console was not selling as well as the PS4 and gamers were not buying the Xbox One’s exclusive games regardless of their quality. To make up for lost sales, some publishers ported their Xbox One exclusive games to the PC, but they could not bring their games to the PS4, which had a commanding market share. Things were not looking good, Sunset Overdrive was still a year away from release and there was no way to tell if it could compete as an Xbox One exclusive.

Stay tuned for next time as we continue talking about this overlooked gem!  Sunset Overdrive is out now exclusively on the Xbox One.

Why Do Online Only Games Have Such Rocky Starts? September 12, 2016

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Anyone who downloaded Pokémon Go when it first launched probably found themselves unable play it most of the time. The application was fundamentally tied into its online component, which was bogged down for weeks by the sheer number of simultaneous user requests. It would take a while for Niantic to iron out all the issues with the game on both the client and server end, but they made the adjustments needed and now the game is (barring the occasional odd crash) pretty playable.

So why did the game have such a bad launch period?  Well, Pokémon Go is hardly alone when it comes to issues with games requiring online services during their launch.  Heck they’re hardly tied to the smartphone platform, because triple-A PC titles like Sim City and Diablo III were downright unplayable at launch, rightfully angering fans who bought them at release.

So why is this happening?  It can’t be for lack of dependable testers, I know for a fact that millions of people all over the world were willing to test Pokémon Go before it launched, and those players could have been used to test the game before it was released. While I’m not totally certain of the exact number of testers the game had during development I can certainly confirm they didn’t accept everyone who applied because I applied and I know for sure I wasn’t picked!

After all these bad game launches, a lot of frustrated players have asked why weren’t these games properly tested before they launched? The truth is they had been tested, but after their poor launches it’s clear they weren’t tested adequately.  How could this be?

I spoke to a friend of mine who had a passing understanding of Google’s online testing methods who shared his thoughts with me. He doesn’t work for Google or Niantic, but he does work in the tech industry and he is familiar with a lot of their testing methods.  While I can’t confirm Niantic (or any other online game developer) uses this method to test their games, his information did make these day one problems gain some sense.

Games are tested in controlled environments before they’re released to the public. We call that QA Testing for Quality Assurance.  You don’t have to read further than The Trenches webcomic to see just how bad QA Testing can get, but what about games that require an online component to function?  Those are tested in what are called “proportional” circumstances. Just like the Mythbusters will test theories in smaller scale conditions before replicating a myth in full size, online game developers traditionally test their games in limited environments with fewer devices. The idea behind it is that if a server with limited bandwidth can remain stable under a proportionally limited test case of players, their servers can handle the expected amount of end users at full bandwidth when the game is finally released.  It’s believed that testing online games proportionally during development is the best possible testing method.

After he finished giving me this information I told him, “Wow after Pokémon Go‘s launch was such a disaster, they must be really rethinking that flawed test method, aren’t they?”

You would have thought I insulted the man’s mother if you could have seen the face he gave me after I made that statement.  After telling me in no short order that there was nothing wrong with that testing method (ignoring the fact it failed miserably when the final games were brought online in many different cases), he told me that I had no idea what I was talking about and I just looked at him like he was completely out of touch with reality.  If proportional testing was the indeed the method Niantic used to test Pokémon Go or EA used to test Sim City, and that testing method had worked, Pokémon Go would not have had the plague of crashes, login failures and random quits for three weeks after it launched, and Sim City would have been playable.

When I grew up testing games on the PC, developers would traditionally hold a “stress test” period where they would get as many simultaneous users as they could to see if their game would break or buckle under the strain of the number of users testing it. Sometimes they would start with fewer testers and add more as time went on, but by the end of the testing period they would usually offer everyone they could the game’s online beta test client as a free download. This testing method is still being used for games like Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2, and Halo Wars 2, whose developers have all offered open online stress testing this year.  From a practical standpoint, this seems like a far more fruitful method of testing a game toward the end of its development cycle.  By offering your game’s test client for free to everyone with even a passing interest in the game, developers can better predict player numbers as high as or higher than a game could expect to get at launch.  It can also help investors shape sales expectations and ensure a smoother launch period.

I sought advice from other peers of mine familiar with the tech industry as I was writing this article and they had plenty they felt needed to be added to this discussion. They argued that hosting an open beta test for a game like Pokémon Go would have been a bad idea, since the normal spectrum of bugs and glitches that players could experience during testing might have had the side effect of giving testers a poor initial impression of the game, and make them lose interest in playing it when the full version was released. While I understand some players could accept this arguement, I do not.  It is reasonably accepted amongst gamers that test clients could have their fair share of bugs and glitches. In fact, every EULA I’ve ever read for a beta game references this, so players are prepared for it. However, nothing turns potential players off a game more than a glitchy launch, and I would argue that it would make more sense to have bugs show up during the game’s test phase then to hold back testing and discover your game has problems only when the game is in the hands of paying customers.

I have not talked to anyone from Niantic and I’m no more familiar with insider information about recent Pokémon Go developments than anyone with access to the company’s Twitter feed. Pokémon Go earned millions of dollars of income in the first few weeks since it was released. There’s no telling how much more money Niantic could have made if they provided a stable platform on day one.  Perhaps if they had done a stress test they would have been better prepared for what they were in for but I guess we’ll never know for sure.