Category Archives: Columns

Why Gaming Events Need To Move Beyond The Major Cities

Why Gaming Events Need To Move Beyond The Major Cities

Ever wish you could go to E3, PAX, GamesCom, and other gaming shows? So have I, but you know, air travel can be pretty expensive sometimes. So this week we’re going to look at why gaming events need to move beyond the major cities. As you might know, most gaming events are held in major cities.

This makes some degree of sense as major cities tend to have more people in them by definition. But in reality, there are more people in all of the non-major cities combined than there are in all of the major cities combined. According to an article on City Mayors, as of 2012, the top 100 cities in the U.S. combined to a total of 61,325,698 people. Wikipedia’s USA article has a 2016 estimated total population of the country at 323,127,513 people. That means that there are 261,801,815 more people outside of the top 100 U.S. cities than in them. To put that in perspective consider this pie chart.

As you can see, non-major cities represent a much higher portion of the country’s population. Therefore, publishers, developers, retailers, etc. can reach a much larger base of gamers by occasionally adventuring outside of the major cities for gaming shows. Take for example the area I live in. While Hampton Roads isn’t technically one city, in terms of metro size it can be theoretically considered one. The population according to Wikipedia for the metro area is 1,724,876. That’s 37th in metro area rankings, but if HR was all one city, it’d be high enough to rank #5 on City Mayors list of top 100 cities, beating out cities like Philadelphia, San Antonio, Boston, Seattle, and more (all of which have a gaming show or shows) in their area.

And this is just one area of the country. What about the Midwest (outside of Texas) or the South (again outside of Texas)? There are little to no major gaming shows in either of these areas that I’m aware of. Perhaps a smaller comic/anime/etc convention, but nothing major. So while I don’t think all major shows should permanently abandon the big cities because that wouldn’t be wise, I think it wouldn’t hurt to alternate from year-to-year. So for example, E3 could be in LA this year and maybe I don’t know Knoxville, TN the next. It’s close enough to major cities like Memphis & Nashville, but also relatively close to non-major cities/towns like Boone, NC, Norton, VA, Williamsburg, KY, etc.

Will this happen? I doubt it, but it’s nice to think about and I hope that someday it might. I also wouldn’t be opposed to the Entertainment Software Association and the like holding smaller shows throughout the rest of the year in other parts of the country other than major cities. Penny Arcade & Reed Exhibitions have a decent idea kind of along these lines, though their shows (PAX) are still only in major cities as far as I know. It’d be nice to see some non-major cities see some gaming shows one of these days.

What do you think? Do you think gaming shows should stick to the major cities? Should they come to smaller cities/towns? Would it be better or worse to have smaller shows for non-major cities? Let us know in the comments below.

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Image: Wikipedia

Why There Needs To Be More Innovation In Gaming Controllers

Innovation In Gaming Controllers

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The Power Glove

The Power Glove

Welcome to another edition of Retro Rewind. This week we’re talking about the Power Glove. The NES accessory is arguably more infamous than famous given its reputation for  lackluster play control. But at the same time it was easily featured quite prominently in the 1989 cult-classic The Wizard. So what’s the real story? Was it really that bad? Or was it actually a good product? Well like most things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

If you’ve never used the Power Glove (it was officially licensed, but Nintendo didn’t make it. It was made by Abrams/Gentile Entertainment (AGE) & Mattel), basically the concept was to utilize a somewhat more primitive form of motion controls to play your NES games. Unfortunately it generally was viewed as more of a cool gadget than a functional controller. Only two games were ever released that had special Power Glove only features, Super Glove Ball & Bad Street Brawler. Though you could use the device with other games through its built-in keypad. The codes you entered basically remapped the existing controls for a game to functions of the Power Glove. It also featured a full NES controller in addition to the keypad.

The Power Glove was a good idea, just executed poorly. According to the Wikipedia page, it was “based on the patented technology of the VPL Dataglove…The Dataglove can detect yaw, pitch and roll, uses fiberoptic sensors to detect finger flexure, and has a resolution of 256 positions (8 bits) per finger for four fingers, the Power Glove can only detect roll, and uses sensors coated with conductive ink yielding a resolution of four positions (2 bits) per finger for four fingers.”

Basically this meant that the Power Glove had far less functionality than the technology was capable of. This was likely done as a cost-saving measure. The Power Glove originally retailed for $75 which would be nearly $150 in today’s money. Had they used the full features of the Dataglove, the price may have been double what it was, or perhaps even more. This obviously would’ve put it out of reach for most families.

As for actual gameplay, you were far more likely to crash your car or fall into a pit than have any success at playing games with the Power Glove. This is far different from what is seen in The Wizard for eample, where Lucas is able to easily win a race in Rad Racer without crashing once.

It’s kind of sad to look back on and think about what could’ve been. In retrospect the Power Glove was ahead of its time in a lot of ways. The Wii Remote itself wasn’t even true one-to-one motion when first released, and that was over 20 years later. But hey at least we have videos like the ones below to enjoy for all of their cheesiness and so bad it’s good quality.

If for some reason you’d like to purchase the Power Glove for yourself, you can find them on Amazon or eBay at these links.

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Source: Wikipediamacjoshy, ingpanda101

Image: Player Attack

The Game Boy Worm Light

Do you remember the Game Boy Worm Light? Chances are if you were playing video games in the early 1990’s, you probably do. You may have even owned one at one point in time. But why? What was this accessory’s purpose? Are they even worthwhile these days? Find out in this edition of Accessory Focus.

So for those of you who might not know, before the Game Boy Advance SP (technically the Game Boy Light was the first backlit Nintendo handheld, but it was never released outside of Japan), Nintendo handhelds were not lighted. That means if you wanted to see the screen, you had to have an external light source of some kind. A lamp, street light (when traveling at night in a car), overhead light, the sun, moon, etc. This limitation of the hardware could make playing games difficult at times. If you were someone who liked to take your Game Boy outside to play, really sunny days meant you had to deal with constant glare on the screen which as anyone who’s used a cell phone outdoors on a sunny day knows, it’s very challenging to see the screen much at all.

That is where accessories like the Game Boy Worm Light come into play. Several manufacturers had their own take on a Game Boy light source product. Nyko had the Worm Light which we’ve been talking about in this article. Vic Tokai had a product called Light Boy which you can see below. This particular accessory not only provided light but also magnified the screen. I think there were other manufacturers who had magnification accessories too and perhaps other lights.

As you can see, giving players a way to view their games in low light/no light conditions was a pretty good way to make some money in the Game Boy days. It was a clear need that Nintendo didn’t account for in the design of the hardware (likely as a cost-saving measure) and thus third parties came up with solutions to the problem. These accessories can still be viable today. The Worm Light can be purchased from eBay or the like for $4-10 each. The Light Boy meanwhile, is quite a bit more at ~$45+.  Conversely if you prefer an all-in-one solution, you can find Game Boy systems that have been modded with backlights for around $125-150 on eBay. Clearly the Worm Light is the cheapest option. You could also use a DIY approach, repurposing book lights and similar items for the same function on a Game Boy. Though depending on the kind you were to use, these might require some method of adhering the light to the system.

Of course you could always just play your original Game Boy games on the Super Game Boy accessory for the SNES or on a Game Boy Advance SP. The former would be on a TV while the latter is the first system that is Game Boy compatible to feature a built-in backlight.

Here’s some links to lights and pre-modded systems on Amazon & eBay.

Worm Light – Amazon | eBay

Light Boy – Amazon | eBay

Pre-Modded Backlit Original Game Boy – Amazon | eBay (Note: Amazon link is for a backlight kit, I was unable to find a pre-modded system on Amazon.)

Game Boy Light (NTSC-J/Japan Only) – Amazon | eBay

Images: Amazon (1 & 2), DDRGame, & Wikipedia

Why Movie Based Games Are Usually Bad And How To Fix Them

Movie Based Games

Ever wonder why movie based games are usually bad? How do you fix them? Well as someone who has played a fair amount of movie games, I have some possible solutions to this problem. First off we have to look at what makes a lot of movie games not worth buying/playing. One of the mains reasons for this is because the games deviate too much from the source material. A good example of this concept is the Back to the Future (BTTF) games on the NES.

Now anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of the Back to the Future movies, but the NES games? They were mediocre at best and that’s being generous. The first one was so bad even Bob Gale (Producer & Writer for the BTTF films) hated it. According to the game’s Wikipedia article, Mr. Gale said it was “one of the worst games ever.” He also instructed fans of the films to not buy the game and that LJN (the game’s publisher) refused to let him help with the game and give input. The game sees you have to collect clocks, partake in some mini-games, or get the DeLorean up to 88 MPH in the final stage. All of this would be okay in theory, but it’s not just very fun. The other NES BTTF game has similar problems, despite combining Parts 2 and 3 into one game.

Conversely we have Telltale’s Back to the Future: The Game, a point-and-click adventure (on PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Wii, Xbox 360, Xbox One, & iOS). It is a much, much, much, much better game overall. They even got a lot of the original cast to do voices in the game. Obviously this wouldn’t have been possible in the NES days, but even if they didn’t have voices, they at least could’ve done 8-bit likenesses and made the games more fun. BTTFTG is definitely fun in my opinion and in some ways can serve as a Part 4 of the film franchise. The game’s story even picks up where Part 3 leaves off (with Doc & Clara traveling to an unknown time period). Unlike with LJN, Bob Gale was involved with Telltale’s game helping to write the story, a very important distinction. These things are what makes Telltale’s game a success where LJN’s were not. If you haven’t played it and like Back to the Future, I highly recommend you check out Telltale’s Back to the Future: The Game. It shows what can be done when a movie is treated with respect and when a movie game is created the right way.

So it’s really not that difficult to make a good movie based game, it’s just that a lot of the time either someone in the process gets lazy or just doesn’t care. Bob Gale wanted to help with the NES games, but LJN wouldn’t let him. Had he been involved from the beginning, I think those games would’ve turned out much better as Mr. Gale comes across as someone who doesn’t want to tarnish the BTTF legacy or his name.

One of the most important aspects of any game is that it’s fun to play. After all, that’s why most of us play games right? To have fun! So that’s how developers and publishers can fix their movie based games. Focus on making a fun game and make sure the people involved with the movie(s) are involved with the game. It’s really not that complicated. Sure this might be more expensive, but you’ll be more likely to recoup that investment in sales because fans of the movie(s) are far more likely to buy a game that is fun and has actual actors/characters/producers/writers/etc. from the movie(s) involved.

Here’s hoping one day we no longer have to worry about whether or not a movie based game will be worth playing or buying and can just worry about whether it’s fun or not.

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Remakes And Remasters, Are They Good Or Bad?

Remakes And Remasters, Are They Good Or Bad?

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Is 4K Really That Big Of A Deal?

Is 4K Really That Big Of A Deal

Is 4K really that big of a deal? If you’re like me, you might’ve asked yourself that question the past few months given that it seems to be one of the bigger focuses in the gaming industry or at least for the PS4 and Xbox One. But does 4K really matter or mean much in the grand scheme of things? In my opinion, not really. Sure it sounds good in sound bites or press releases, but to the average person or even average gamer, it doesn’t seem that important.

Admittedly I am not an expert on graphical fidelity or anything, but if you were to show me a new game at 1080p HD and the same game at 4K, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which is which. The same thing is true for newer games which receive HD remasters. Unless it’s glaringly obvious like taking a 2D pixel game and making it 3D and HD, then it’s pretty hard for me to distinguish between them. I think this is true for most people as well.

So then why is the industry pushing 4K so heavily then? That’s a good question. But I guess it’s because it sounds good in interviews and PR. It’s a nice talking point. It sounds impressive. It’s kind of like Sega touting blast processing back in the day which by their own admission, didn’t really mean much. The games might look slightly better, and that’s great and all, but how does 4K improve the gameplay, you know, the reason for playing games in the first place? If you just wanted to look at something that looks nice, you could watch a movie or visit an art museum.  Games are interactive media and as such there needs to be more than just a “shiny coat of paint.”

One thing that has been cited about 4K in console gaming is that it kind of bridges the gap with PC gaming. Jesse Rapczak from Studio Wildcard (Ark: Survival Evolved) commented on this and said, “It’s amazing. It’s basically like Epic settings on PC.” So while this cool and all because it means you don’t necessarily have to spend $1,000+ on a gaming PC for the same kind of experience, what if you already have a gaming PC? Then there’s little reason for you to spend $400-500 on a console that wants to try to imitate a PC. So I guess these systems are aimed at the audience that eschews PC gaming and prefers console gaming, but wants to have the same kind of graphics that PC games are capable of.

Mike Ybarra, Xbox director of program management had this to say regarding 4K:

“I always say to my game teams, ‘Look, if you provide Dolby Atmos spatial audio, high-dynamic range, 8-million pixels on the screen, people will lose track of time because they’ll be having so much fun.’ That immersion is really what we’re after. When we created this box it was really about immersion more than anything else we wanted to do. I mean, you played Forza Horizon 3 on Windows at 4K, and we saw those images, and those things are breathtaking. When we set out, we started talking about these effects and how they impacted us. That’s immersion; it is part of the magic of the entertainment industry that we’re in.”

So it seems like those in the industry consider 4K to be more immersive, but I tend to disagree with this line of thought. While I haven’t played anything at 4K yet, I seem to recall the same things being claimed about 1080p HD years ago too. I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but for me, immersion in games isn’t based on their graphics, but rather their gameplay and story. One of the most immersive experiences in gaming I ever had was playing Final Fantasy IV on the SNES back in the day. That is not a 4K game, it’s not even a 720p HD game, let alone 1080p. But that didn’t matter. Why? Because graphics are not what makes something immersive or not immersive, in my opinion.

Thus, in my opinion 4K is a marketing buzzword and will help Sony and Microsoft squeeze another year or two out of their systems before they will eventually replace them with newer ones with whatever buzzword or marketing phrase comes after 4K. I have no problems with Sony or Microsoft doing so, in fact, more power to them. I’ve played games on their systems numerous times and have owned various systems from them, so I’m not trying to take shots at them. I just don’t think 4K is that big of a deal, but what do you think? Is 4K really that big of a deal?

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Images: PlayStation & Business Insider

Retro Games You Need To Play

Retro Games You Need To Play

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5 Things We Want To See In Zelda Mobile

5 Things We Want To See In Zelda Mobile

Nintendo has announced that they will be bringing a Legend of Zelda game to mobile devices. But what will such a game be? A traditional 2D adventure like the retro NES games or perhaps a 3D adventure like the recent smash hit Breath of the Wild (which is available on both Wii U & Switch)? Well, here are 5 things we want to see in Zelda Mobile.

Let’s face it, traditional micro-transactions only benefit one person/company, the developers/publishers. The players don’t benefit hardly at all. I think Nintendo has sadly realized that micro-transactions are a better money maker on mobile than traditional pay once methods. This bothers me as I don’t particularly care for micro-transactions. I don’t like the idea of pay $0.99 100 times for various items/skills/etc. I’d rather pay $1-20 once and be done with it. Or even better, maybe do something like my next idea, tiered payments. Along the same lines, I don’t want to see charge/rest gameplay mechanics like a lot of free-to-play titles have. If I want to play the game, I want to play the game, not sit around and wait 5+ hours for some random thing to reset.

As I mentioned, I think tiered payments could be a useful concept for Zelda Mobile. Nintendo tried pay once with Super Mario Run and by their own admission had less than desirable results. They also tried micro-transactions with Fire Emblem Heroes. I’d like to see them offer a variety of payment tiers on Zelda Mobile. For example, they could offer a free demo of sorts of the game where you get up to the first dungeon for free. Then if you pay say $5 you get the first half of the game. Then if you want to unlock the full game, you have to pay $10. It could be broken up further into a set price per dungeon, maybe $1-2 per dungeon, $5 for half, or $10 for everything. This would allow Nintendo to offer a compromise between micro-transactions and pay once. This would also allow them to offer paid DLC (in theory) in the form of new dungeons for $1-2 each.

But what about the gameplay? After all, that is one of the most important aspects of a game in my opinion. Well, I think the best fit for a mobile Zelda game is to use 2.5D gameplay/graphics. In other words, you’d have features of both the 2D games and the 3D games. So for example, the main gameplay could be 2D, perhaps top-down like the original NES game (but with more modern graphics obviously) and then the cinematics/cutscenes could be in 3D like newer entries in the series (maybe even voiced like BOTW). I’d like to see them not offer the traditional types of dungeons too. We don’t need Forest/Fire/Water/Shadow/Spirit Temples like in OoT for example. What about a dungeon that is a steel or iron weapons factory or something like that? That’d be a bit different for Zelda. They don’t have to be making guns or anything like that, but swords, cannons, etc. would be fine.

So you know how Super Mario Run is basically just an Endless Runner set in the Mario universe? Yeah…I don’t want that for Zelda Mobile. Please don’t use any existing stereotypical mobile genres Nintendo. We don’t need a Zelda version of Doodle Jump, Fruit Ninja, or anything like that. There’s no reason why there can’t be a traditional style Zelda game on mobile devices. I don’t expect Nintendo to put forth one with the polish of a console based game, but a mobile entry can offer a somewhat similar experience. Think if they made something like a 2.5D BOTW but offered a multiplayer mode where you could co-op quest with friends. That’d be cool in my opinion.

Breath of the Wild flipped the Zelda series on its head and I’d like Nintendo to continue to do so with Zelda Mobile. Let’s really mix things up. The only elements of the series I would keep intact would be Link, Zelda, & maybe the Triforce. Everything else could be fresh & new. A whole new story would be awesome. We don’t need to defeat Ganon for the millionth time or save Hyrule yet again. As much as Hyrule gets overrun by evil, you’d think they’d have a better way of handling that/preventing it by now. The Knights of Hyrule aren’t that useful if Ganon keeps invading, right? I don’t know what the story could be, but I have faith that Nintendo can come up with something truly special. Maybe they could even make the mobile game interact with BOTW in some way? This would give players of both the mobile game and of BOTW a reason to check out the other game.

When Nintendo puts their effort into a project, it’s almost always amazing, and Zelda Mobile has the potential to be just that and to be Nintendo’s key mobile app/game that will entice new fans to games & characters Nintendo fans like you and me have known for decades.

What do you want to see in Zelda Mobile?

Image: Wikipedia

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