‘The schoolyard is the entirety of the internet’

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

Breath of the Wild feels like a return of the schoolyard culture, where friends meet to discuss the latest things they’ve found in a Nintendo game and share rumors of even bigger possible secrets, except now the schoolyard is the entirety of the internet. It’s comfortable with assuming that you’re smart enough to figure things out, and it knows that it’s not going to be ultimately responsible for everything you miss or even built-in frustration. The answer to every puzzle is a quick Google away, and the game’s design seems comfortable with that option being a viable path to moving forward.

I completely agree.

Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Breath of the Wild Game Director, on designing Breath of the Wild’s open gameplay at GDC:

Let’s not forget the fact that all the solutions to all the puzzles that we’ve painstakingly prepared for a dungeon are made available on the internet.

Great design decision by Fujibayasha and team. Breath of the Wild is clearly not their first rodeo, but this strikes me as forward thinking for Nintendo.

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Switch On, Switched Off

I have felt an incredible sense of satisfaction in owning a Nintendo Switch. It sounds absolutely insane and gross, but owning the Switch has made me feel better. I feel less stressed and more focused at work. I feel less anxious as a whole. My mood has lightened. My spirits have been lifted. And unlike Gollum’s incessant need to touch and obsess over the Ring of Power, my joy and calm come purely from ownership. In the twisted space of consumerism, something strange is at play.

Federico Viticci, Remaster podcast:

This is the console that I’ve been waiting my entire life for. That’s based on the idea—and really the dream that I’ve been having since I was a kid and I got my first Super Nintendo—that I want to have the same games everywhere on one console that I take with me all the time, and that I can choose whether I want to play as a portable console or on the TV.

It’s been over 25 years since I’ve been playing Nintendo games and we’ve been through a lot of changes in the video game industry. Other companies have tried to do this sort of dual-screen, single console before. When you think about the PS Vita, when you think about the Wii U or the Nintendo DS, a lot of the ideas have been fragmented over the years in the industry. The Switch feels like the unification of 30 years of work from Nintendo. It’s the distillation of decades of work in portable consoles, in home consoles, and now in just one console.

I think the strangeness I’m sensing has a lot to do with what Federico outlines. The Switch is the amalgamation of decades of hardware design, innovation, and childhood fantasies.

Born in 1985, my first memory is of Mega Man 2 on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. My babysitter owned one. How I yearned for that console. Christmas of 1989, I opened a Nintendo Game Boy. Not quite an NES, with it’s 2-bit color palette on green green display, but boy did my imagination soar. Surely, the tech would evolve and those 8-bit color experiences could live in my hands. The dream of taking the vast digital worlds I played on a TV with me on the go was sparked.

In 1995—the year the original 32-bit Sony PlayStation was released in North America—I was gifted a Sega Genesis Nomad. The handheld Nomad accepted standard Sega Genesis cartridges, enabling full 16-bit gaming on the go, albeit with a massive 6 AA battery pack that lasted 2-3 hours. While it was a console generation cycle off, we were getting closer.

In 2005, the PlayStation Portable’s (PSP) display and graphic capabilities re-inspired the dream. On it’s heels in 2006 was the promise of remote play from PS3 to PSP, later mandatory of PS4 games to the PlayStation Vita. In 2012, remote play was a core gimmick of the now infamous Wii U. Also in 2012 came Sony’s cross-buy service launched, allowing for a single purchase (of compatible games) to work on Vita and PS3/PS4. In 2015, the PlayStation Now’s cloud-based service would seemingly allow Sony devices, Vita and PS4 included, to access a library of online games from PlayStations 1 through 4. PlayStation Now has discontinued support for all devices save PS4 and Windows PC, including the Vita.

Now, the dual set-top/handheld console is a dream realized with the Nintendo Switch. And the versatility of it’s Joy-Con controllers takes it one step further, opening the console to instant local multiplayer. The Switch is a simple and obvious design that delivers and, for some sick reason, fills a hole in my life I never thought existed.

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Phil Collins: Crash Bandicoot man

A fun tidbit from Phil Collins’ memoir “Not Dead Yet”:

Somewhat dazed, I go back to the hotel, the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Lily, now aged nine, is waiting for me, which brightens things up no end. She and I start playing Spyro the Dragon—computer games are one of our new shared passions. I love them, and I love Spyro, although if push comes to shove, I’ll declare myself a Crash Bandicoot man. As if by magic, the hearing in my left ear roars back. It’s like I’ve been underwater, but the blockage is suddenly gone. Thank God for that.

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Eurogamer: ‘Docked Zelda Stutters in Places Where the Mobile Experience Does Not’

Richard Leadbetter, Eurogamer:

In terms of performance, it’s immediately clear to the naked eye that the docked Zelda stutters in places where the mobile experience does not – and to confirm this, we manually counted frames by eye based on our camera shots to ensure accuracy in producing the performance test below. It’s really easy to isolate this issue as it occurs frequently in the open world, right from the beginning of the game. In some places, we see the smooth 30fps update while docked drop down to a momentary 20fps – confirming a basic double-buffer v-sync implementation.

Home console?

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GameStop Announces Midnight Switch Launch

GameStop press release:

This just in: GameStop, a family of specialty retail brands that makes the most popular technologies affordable and simple, announced stores will have a limited supply of Nintendo Switch systems available for walk-in customers on the March 3 launch day. Customers who were not able to pre-order the system are encouraged to attend GameStop’s midnight launch events held at stores across the nation for an opportunity to purchase Nintendo’s revolutionary new home gaming system.

A few thoughts:

  1. I’m screwed. Fat chance I’ll make a midnight launch. Fatter chance there’ll be any Switch(es) left around noon in Tahoe. Fattest chance there’ll be Switch(es) days/weeks later.
  2. Five out of the six sites I found reporting this news did not source GameStop’s press release. Not Polygon. Not GameStop. Not USA TODAY. Not BGR. Not SlashGear. However, Tom’s Hardware did. Pitiful.
  3. “Simple” is the last word I would use to describe GameStop.
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Humble Freedom Bundle

Humble Bundle:

Take a stand for freedom. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door. – “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, from an engraving on the Statue of Liberty.

We humbly remember that the United States is a nation of immigrants, and we proudly stand with developers, authors, and charities that champion liberty and justice for all.

This special one-week bundle features over $600 in incredible games and books for just $30. 100% of your payments will go to the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Rescue Committee, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Humble Bundle will proudly match your contributions up to $300,000.

We chose these three organizations because of the inspiring work they do in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced people as well as in defense of justice, human rights, and civil rights:

Humble Bundles are a fantastic way to spend your hard earned cash. Here’s the deal: you give your money to Humble Bundle and they give you great games, donate your money to amazing charities, and match your donation up to a particular amount. Win, win, win.

I’ve contributed to a handful of Humble Bundles and I can say the Humble Freedom Bundle is the greatest yet. It includes some of the best games released over the past 10 years for $30 and matches donations to three phenomenal charities. If you need more convincing, here’s my review of The Witness. Also, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is incredible (and has one of the greatest soundtracks ever!), and boy oh boy I can’t wait to play Stardew Valley, Polygon’s #8 Game of the Year 2016.

Do this. Do this now. Do this for many reasons. But do this now.

(The irony of a charitable organization contributing to your pile of shame!)

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‘Metacritic’ Still Matters, But For How Long?

Chris Baker, Glixel:

The hue and cry around that score is the best evidence that Metacritic deeply matters to many people. And not just fans – the bonus payments that game makers receive from their publishing companies is often tied to the Metascore and those same publishers spend a great deal of time and effort trying to predict the number as it could affect everything from retail orders to returns.

But the games business, and games themselves, are changing. In many ways, a snapshot of what the critical consensus is at the time of launch does not reflect the ultimate nature of a game. Is Metacritic still relevant in this new climate?

A great insight to the inner workings of Metacritic. Must read.

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Takahashi: ‘reach that broader smart device audience and entice them to move towards Nintendo Switch’

Nintendo’s Yoshiaki Koizumi and Shinya Takahashi were interviewed by The Telegraph. There’s not much new in here, other than confirmation of developing for 3DS through 2018, which also plays into a now confirmed mobile strategy:

Is it more to drive that smartphone audience into buying a Switch? 

Takahashi: Certainly one of our goals in releasing software for smart devices that features Nintendo IP is to reach that broader smart device audience and entice them to move towards Nintendo Switch.

By 2018, assuming the Switch can hold its own, I believe price drops will squeeze out a new Nintendo handheld console. (Maybe a mini-Switch is a possibility?)

On possible supply constraints:

Finally as we head toward launch there has been some reports of stock shortages. Are you confident that anyone that wants a Switch will be able to buy one?

Takahashi: Maybe within the first few days! It does sound like there might be a few shortages here and there, but once you get past that I think we’ll have a very steady flow. Some of our employees are worried about getting one… but we are making a lot!

I’m really hoping this is true.

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‘On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog’

John Markoff,  former technology reporter for the New York Times, in an interview on Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast:

On the internet, no one still knows you’re a dog. I think identity and the fact that you disconnect [real] identity from your internet identity has proved incredibly vexing for society. It played out in this election. It played out in Brexit. (It was a factor in both—I don’t know if it was a deciding factor—but I actually do blame the internet.)

I grew up with John Perry Barlow and his manifesto in WIRED in which he argued that cyberspace would be this “Socratian” abode above the grimy politics of the world. Then I realized I was wrong.

The internet is simply a reflection of all the good and the evil in the world.

[…]

What’s striking to me is that what the science-fiction world saw in the ’80s and ’90s has actually come to pass; the cyberpunk sensibility. There was a book written by Vernor Vinge in the early 1980s called True Names. The basic premise of that was you had to basically hide your true name at all costs. It was an insight into the world we’re living in today.

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The Second Console

Polygon’s newly relaunched Besties podcast, January 2017 episode:

Chris Plante: If indie game developers care and the make “the switch” from Vita to this hardware, I’ll care. Obviously, that wasn’t enough to save the Vita, so I don’t see that as a big thing for other people.

Griffin McElroy: I think that’s a wack comparison.

CP: The Wii U had some of the best Nintendo games and that wasn’t even close to enough to get people interested.

Russ Frushtick: Consider that the Vita died primarily because Sony was dividing their time and energy between the PS4 and the Vita and they eventually gave up. Indies filled in a lot of the blanks, but the most part they just gave up and third-parties gave up, etc. Here Nintendo’s obviously not going to give up because it’s their primary console now.

CP: They won’t give up unless nobody buys it, which is a very real possibility if there are no games from Nintendo or third-party studios.

RF: There are certainly two to three years of Nintendo games pretty much guaranteed.

CP: But like I said, that’s not enough. That just doesn’t work at all for Nintendo. When it doesn’t have third-party developers and it doesn’t have a mainstream gimmick—something that’s going to make people who watch the TODAY Show be like, “Well, I’ve never bought a video game console, but I’ll try this,” then it doesn’t have it.

GM: It’s not going to be the Wii. It’ll never be the Wii. They’ll never do the Wii ever again.

RF: The Wii was an aberration.

CP: That’s a for real problem for them. The thing that they have to [face] right now is, “We are the second console.” If they truly don’t get third-party support and they only have a new game every five or six months—let’s be super generous and say three—then that is a second console for people, which is big money. And unlike the Wii U, which only had to be competing as a second console against people who maybe already owned an Xbox and instead of a PS4 they might buy a Wii U. Now they have to compete with the fact that Microsoft and Sony are going to be releasing new hardware, what, every year? Every other year?

Leave it to Chris Plante to shake me from my Switch hype hypnosis. And I’m glad he did.

I am very much looking forward to the Switch, but Nintendo certainly does not have an easy road ahead of them.

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