Tag Archives: video games

Nicalis: Switch development is ‘light years ahead of what we were doing with Wii U’

Tyrone Rodriguez, the president of Nicalis, speaking to Polygon about developing for Nintendo platforms:

“The Switch is, by far the easiest and most programmer friendly so far,” he said. “I know this sounds like lip service to Nintendo, but it’s actually not. If this wasn’t true, we wouldn’t be able to get these games up and running as quickly as we have, and we wouldn’t be able to have a launch title. It’s light years ahead of what we were doing with Wii U.”

Nicalis has developed 18 games, eight of which shipped to Nintendo platforms—all eight to 3DS, two of which hit Wii U.

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The Besties Are Back

Polygon:

Though we still don’t have a great explanation as to why, the first ever Polygon podcast has returned on a monthly basis. Join The Besties (Russ Frushtick, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy and Chris Plante) as they nonsensically attempt to pick the “best” game released in January 2017.

I was introduced to The Besties when I moved to San Francisco in 2013. Any time I was walking the city, out on a jog, or commuting to work, there was a fair chance I was listening to The Besties. Their comradely and banter provided me company during those moments when my wife was away. (Such is the power of podcasts!)

Over the past two years, what was a monthly show turned annual. This surprise relaunch of the monthly cadence is just what I, nay the world needs right now.

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Nintendo 3DS and NES Classic Still Out of Stock

Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge:

To put it plainly, with the Nintendo Switch launch right around the corner, the current inability to purchase the 3DS should seriously worry anyone without a preorder in place. Because if the Switch turns out to be as successful as the NES Classic or 3DS have been, fans could be facing yet another tough choice between a long wait or a grey market gouging for a Nintendo console.

Looking on Target.com, there’s not a single 3DS within 100 miles of Palo Alto. 250 miles on BesyBuy.com. Prime availability through Amazon is limited to Pikachu Yellow and Pokémon 20th Anniversary XL editions for $300+ through forth-parties. A new 3DS XL retails for $199. The Switch retails for $299.

I’ve shared Gartenberg’s concern since missing the Switch’s pre-order allotment. Not to mention the continued unavailability of the NES Classic. And being the dummy I am, I already traded my Wii U in at GameStop in anticipation of the Switch’s March 3 release date—$200 burning a hole in my pocket. This is crazy. At the very least, take my order and send when ready.

I’ve got a feeling I’ll be staring at my copy of Breath of the Wild longingly for a while.

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Nintendo’s ‘Conductor’

Matt Peckham, writing for TIME, with a great profile of Nintendo’s Shinya Takahashi:

“If all of Nintendo’s content creators were to be seen as a symphony, then Mr. Takahashi is our conductor,” says Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aimé, when asked to contrast Takahashi’s role with Iwata’s. “What I mean by that is, it’s his decision to bring the different players in our orchestra onto a particular game or a particular initiative. He’s the ultimate decision maker in what gets played by the symphony or what gets created by Nintendo as a company.”

And to follow the metaphor through, audiences rarely get to see the conductor’s face. “He’s been creating this big show, but because you only see his back, you really don’t know him all that well,” adds Fils-Aimé. “But he drives the orchestra and he sets the pace and the bar for the performance.”

Fils-Aimé pushes back on positional comparisons between the preeminent role Takahashi now plays with the myriad ones performed by Iwata, Nintendo’s former “ultimate decision maker,” calling them “different roles, different times, different needs of the organization.” What’s changed, he says, is that after Iwata’s passing, the company decided it was time to ask its less visible luminaries to step up. It’s a a philosophy others in the company, like Miyamoto, have espoused in passing for years.

“The people that came out in the presentation, when you look at it from the perspective of Nintendo, they’re actually not new at all,” says Miyamoto of the varied group chosen to rep Nintendo’s Switch during the system’s January feting. Miyamoto, whose hands have touched virtually all of Nintendo’s storied IP, will be 65 this year, while the company’s new president, Tatsumi Kimishima, turns 67 in April.

Takahashi has a storied career with the company. I especially love his history with Wave Race 64 and 1080° Snowboarding, two of my favorite Nintendo 64 titles. His views on management are similarly inspiring.

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The Verge: ‘How the Xbox One and PS4 are helping bring Chinese indie games to the West’

Andrew Webster, The Verge:

For 14 years — starting in 2000 — the Chinese government enforced a ban on video game consoles. Between 2014 and 2015, both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 made their long-awaited and overdue debut. Microsoft described its release as a “monumental day” and celebrated by lighting up the Shanghai skyline in bright Xbox green. Sony’s chief executive Kaz Hirai told The Telegraph that “I think that we will be able to replicate the kind of success we have had with PS4 in other parts of the world in [China].”

The lifting of the Chinese console ban is not news, but the fact it was a thing still blows my mind. Where were you in 2000? Can you imagine your life without console games from then til now? It may sound like a silly question, but video games are a massive part of 21st century culture. Wild.

Regardless, a very cool and interesting story.

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Just (Quietly) Dance

Xavier Poix, Managing Director of Ubisoft’s French studios, in a corporate update interview on UbiBlog:

Is the Switch going to revolutionise the market like the Wii did?

XP: The Wii attracted a very large audience – including kids and families – because it offered, on one hand, the motion controls, allowing for intuitive interactions with the console and on the other hand games with a strong social component. These aspects gave us the opportunity to develop Rabbids and Just Dance, for example. The Switch will probably have a similar impact, thanks to the mobility offered by the console. You don’t have to have a home console and a mobile console anymore; there’s one console, which is mobile, that you can bring anywhere.

Nice to see these comments, but that line-up doesn’t strike me as all to weighty. I see the value in the audience Ubisoft is targeting, especially after their experiences on the Wii and Wii U, but what of Ubisoft’s AAA games like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs? How will those hold up on the Switch?

And has anyone reported on the Switch’s speakers? I can’t imagine Just Dance being a thrill in handheld mode.

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FBI releases Gamergate investigation records

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

The FBI appears to have made a serious investigation of some threats, but at least one email thread suggests there were breakdowns in communication with the subjects of them. “We feel like we are sending endless emails into the void with you,” complained one sender. Based on the timing and location details, this was Wu, who published her own account of the experience on the same day. Overall, at least one report indicates that centralizing the investigation in San Francisco limited its jurisdiction. It’s also not clear how familiar some of the FBI agents involved were with common internet services. Twitter is sometimes referred to as “Tweeter,” and one email mentions suspects using “Thor” (probably Tor) for security.

Via Twitter, Wu said that the threats the FBI discussed were only a fraction of the ones she sent them, and that the agency was largely unresponsive to her attempts to provide evidence. “All this report does for me is show how little the FBI cared about the investigation,” she told The Verge. “As I remember, we had three meetings with the FBI, we had two meetings with Homeland Security, we had three meetings with federal prosecutors in Boston. Almost nothing we told them is in this report.” She confirmed that the juvenile mentioned above had been making death threats using his father’s phone; he was apparently grounded as punishment.

This report was actually released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request last year, although at that point, it was difficult to verify whether the recipients had modified its contents. Since “Gamergate” was never really an organized movement, none of the people mentioned in the report are “members” of it, and some incidents predate the controversy, like a bomb threat against Anita Sarkeesian at the 2014 Game Developers Conference. But if anything, this emphasizes that Gamergate per se was one facet of a larger culture war — which it’s now been almost completely absorbed into.

I often wonder why it is I’m so fixated on video games and their culture. I initially started writing on the topic to help bridge what I felt was a chasm between “average joes” and “nerds”. These were worlds I strattled growing up, often hiding my adoration for video games because I was afraid to be uncool.

Later, after seeing my little brother and cousins take to the medium, I sought to bridge a chasm between parents and video games. I focused my writing on the health and education impacts of video games.

Today, in the midst of American uncertainty and woe, I wonder if thinking about video games anymore than escapism is worthwhile. Certainly, there are bigger things. But then I recall Gamergate; what I see as the first emergence of the “alt-right”. As Ezra Klein refered to it on his podcast episode with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, it was another moment of the merging of partisan and ideological identities:

Ezra Klein: I thought Gamergate was one of the most interesting things to happen in the last couple of years.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Because that had to do with politics, right? Like, why is this happening?

EK: Why did American political sites, Breitbart and Salon, develop an interest in an argument about whether video game sites were unduly influenced by some kind of personal relationship? When you say what happened out loud it sounds ridiculous.

TC: It’s hard to make it make sense.

EK: My big Rosetta Stone in American politics  for the last 20 or 30 years is partisan and ideological identities merged: if you’re a Democrat, you’re a liberal; if you’re a Republican, you’re a conservative. That didn’t used to be true. Once that happened, it set the stage for all of these other identities to align: where you live, who you marry, what you think about 12 Years a Slave, what you think about video game fights on the internet. The stronger this sorting mechanism becomes, the more lethal the collisions between it become.

Video games span a hearty set of demographics. It’s a medium that has taken the entertainment industry by storm. And it’s a medium that enjoys a massive online community, many players of which partake in anonymity. As ideologies and interests merge, it is important foster an inclusive and understood community, especially a community that encompasses the majority of American households.

It is important to write and talk about video games—even in anonymity (looking at me)—possibly now more than ever. And it goes without saying that a large swath of current day writers, artists, and activists were raised on and are familiar with the medium and likely its communities, let alone Tweeter and Thor. 

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How the inventor of Mario designs a game

The explainer people at Vox put together a nice distillation of Shigeru Miyamoto’s design philosophy:

I imagine this interview was filmed during Miyamoto’s monstrous press tour for Super Mario Run. Love the inclusion of beautiful animations and archival footage by Vox’s team.

For more on the design of World 1-1, watch Dan Emmons’ breakdown ‘Level 1-1 – How Super Mario Mastered Level Design‘.

For more about the business side of Nintendo, read ‘Console Wars‘ by Blake J. Harris.

For more about his characters and Super Mario Run, watch/listen to Miyamoto’s interview with Katie Linendoll at Apple SoHo.

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Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year

I’m proud to say that I played three of the 10 games chosen as Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year, my reviews of which you can find below:

I also played Uncharted 4, which I thought to have a profoundly moving story and absolutely stunning visuals. My review, which somehow finds room to discuss Mega Man 7 and 2016’s atrocious Warcraft film, can be found here.

Also of note, Pokemon Go took the world by storm, something unprecedented in video games since the Wii. It may have seemed ambitious to deem it Game of the Year in July, but I’ll argue that due to its cultural impact, I wasn’t wrong.

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Inside: A Review via ‘Death by Video Game’

Simon Parkin, Death by Video Game:

Games achieve chronoslip because they replace the real world with a new one that moves to its own laws of physics and time. This reality engages us totally, and we synchronise with its tempo.

Video games, from the simplest card game to the most vividly rendered fantasy world, consume our attention. When we become lost in a book, we enter a state where the fabricated world and its characters seem to real and pressing that we lose all sense of time. Small wonder it’s so easy to lose oneself in a good game, where one becomes not only an eavesdropper or onlooker on a world, but also an active participant in its action and drama. Video games go further than other fiction: they revolve around us and react to our every choice and input. Just as a piano needs a pianist or a violin needs a violinist, video games are lifeless without us. They need a player in a way that a film does not need a view to function.

IMG_0657Simon Parkin’s book, Death by Video Game, categorizes 12 different facets of video games that, for better or worse, make the medium addicting. Reading it, I felt vindicated. I wasn’t alone in my reasons for play, and was enlightened about the reasons others gravitate toward the activity.

As an entertainment medium, video games offer escape, control, and story. As a technology, they push the bounds of simulated physics, animation, textures, and lighting. As a social platform, they foster community via global communication and participation — each of these facets evolving rapidly year over year. In my lifetime, I’ve gone from playing limited, albeit revolutionary, 8-bit single-player side-scrolling jaunts to open world massively multiplayer online role-playing games to photorealistic action-adventure juggernauts.

After finishing the read — a difficult one to put down, mind you — came a steadfast itch to pick up a controller. No Man’s Sky, an exploration game with over 18 quintillion procedurally-generated explorable planets, which is briefly touched on in the book, had just been released. And Inside, Playdead‘s successor to their melancholy indie hit Limbo, was gathering incredibly high marks.

In the debate of open-ended vs short story, I will always choose short story. Therefore, Inside.

inside

Players are thrust into a dark and wooded area as a boy being hunted by mysterious men in trucks; dogs seek you as their prey. Peak X-Files. Once you have escaped the wood, you happen upon a farm and cornfield. Deceased wildlife pepper the dreary, fog-laden landscape. And what’s that worm-like thing sticking out of that pig?

You are eventually lead into the factory cum rabbit hole. The dark and cryptic mysteries you’ve experienced within the 10 minute introduction pale in comparison to what is “inside.”

More than their incredible art style, subtle and gradual storytelling with layers of mysteries, answers, and more questions, and impeccable taste for atmosphere, developer Play Dead’s fantastic switch-a-roo two-thirds into the game sticks with the player. A shock and horror convention is elegantly flipped on it’s head leaving you, the player, scrambling to rework your preconceived notions about the story and characters. It’s challenging, and in hindsight, speaks to the reaction and thought process of being wrong that so many feel today. Can we really be so sure about our truths? Are our beliefs simply sold to us by a manufactured narrative that elicits good as evil, god as grim, heaven as hell? How perceptive can we truly be? Is our mind a slave to the brain? Are we really in control?

It’s difficult to discuss Inside without giving too much away; therefore, I will leave you with an appropriate quote from what turned out to be an appropriately timed and, ultimately, serendipitous read, the aforementioned Death by Video Game:

Moreover, video games flatter us: their worlds exist for our benefits, and usually, revolve around us. A video game requires a player: without input, it is inert. Our world, by contrast, seems indifferent to us. The cogs around us, both natural and human-made, turn regardless of our interest or input. It is sometimes difficult to know whether we matter, whether anyone cares. When a company loses our details or forgets about us for some reason, we talk of being ‘lost in the system.’ This is how loneliness is seeded in the human heart: a sense that the world and all of its people are indifferent, oblivious.

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