The Penguin Booth At BookCon Was A Dumpster Fire, And Even That Is Too Polite.

Let me first say that I’m biased. I’ve been to different conventions over the years, and haven’t always had the best time. I have enjoyed conventions as many times as I’ve hated them. I’ve seen multiple giveaway systems, experienced the nightmare of the Funko booths, lotteries, and lines that only few could even fathom. I should also say that I was at Book Con mainly for my girlfriend, to help her grab freebies and things she wanted.

All that being said, fuck you Penguin Random House Booth at Book Con. Fuck you, and your terrible system.

I’m sorry for the language. I know if this post happens to gain some attention with the Book Con crowd, a lot of people there were a bit on the younger side. However, there really is no other way to express my disappointment and outrage with how poorly ran the penguin booth was.

The system that the Penguin booth decided to employ was a lottery of sorts. The claim is that 30 minutes before a signing starts, a person working the booth will go to a location around the booth and start handing out tickets to people who want to go to certain signings. If you arrive before the designated time, the workers will tell you to keep walking around, tickets aren’t being handed out yet. Simple, and could seemingly work right?

No, that’s a dumb ass plan, and let me tell you why.

For a smaller publisher, or a smaller booth, this plan is feasible maybe even reasonable. However, Penguin should have known this system simply would not work with a following of their size. Penguin is by far THE BIGGEST booth at Book Con. They are the first thing you’ll see from multiple entrances to the show floor, and are at least the size of 3-4 regular booths combined. Given that much real estate it is heavily implied that they are a big deal, and should be prepared for heavy traffic. They weren’t.

If a con goer decides to arrive a little bit early to wait for tickets to be handed out, others will follow, this should be fully expected. Everyone obviously wants the best possible chance to meet their favorite authors. So it is no surprise at all people will begin forming unofficial lines.

Penguin on the other hand, believes that you should randomly walk around in circles and just hope for the best. Even though doing exactly what they told you to do will probably net you absolutely nothing and in all likelihood leave you on the outside looking in. If you listen to the workers of the booth and decide to circle around the booth, there is a good chance that soon after, they’ll start forming the line for the ticket giveaway. You’ll be on the wrong side of the booth, and be incredibly lucky if you happen to get a ticket.

So, maybe you should try and just stand there and have booth security yell at you?

Nope. That’s a terrible plan as well, because then you form a fire hazard, and I promise you 9/10 times the booth will form the ticket line away from you to spite you, because you had the “audacity” to not walk around in circles hoping the ticket giveaway landed on you. The fact that there isn’t an effective strategy could be exactly what Penguin wanted. Which if that’s the case, let me tell you my personal story at the penguin booth yesterday, and why that’s a terrible idea.

The thing my girlfriend wanted the absolute most from Book Con was a copy of Bonfire by Krysten Ritter. She’s a huge Krysten Ritter fan. We probably could have increased our chances had both of us decided to stalk the booth, but I didn’t want that. I told her I think it was more important to experience Krysten Ritter’s panel, because going to a panel of someone you think is really cool is a special experience. So we split, she went to wait for the panel, I headed back to the show floor to attempt to scope the situation out.

Krysten’s signing is at 2:45 PM. This means that her ticket giveaway should begin at 2:15 PM. I’m scoping the Penguin booth out at 1:30 PM. However, this is a terrible time to be around the Penguin booth, because the ticket giveaway for Wonder Woman: Warbringer, which means there is already a sea of humanity crammed like sardines around the Penguin booth. It simply is a safety hazard and a poor idea to add to this cluster of humans, so I decide I’ll come back after they’ve sorted out the Wonder Woman signing.

I go to a different booth to pick up a free book. I was at the front of the line, but decided to leave because the author was late for her signing and I had to get back to the Penguin booth. I arrive back at the booth at around 1:50 PM or so. The sea of humanity for Wonder Woman is now reduced to what seems like a reasonable lake of humanity now. I quickly head toward the table where Krysten Ritter will be. I would say at this point there are about 100 people meandering around in the area. I join the unofficial line hoping that it somehow works out.

At about 2:05 PM security gets involved, and dissolves the unofficial line and it becomes just a huge mass of people. It is at this point an exceptionally loud girl (we’ll call her ELG) starts preaching about how people need to be fair and honest about who was here first. She claims she had been there quite awhile and if she waited she deserves a ticket to the signing. The lead security guy proceeds to tell her the rules, that tickets aren’t given away until 2:15 blah blah blah, and everyone should walk around because it’s a fire hazard. Mind you the line was fairly reasonable, it wasn’t until the line was dissolved and became a large mass of humanity did it start blocking the walking lanes.

A guy comes up next to me in this pile of people and asks what’s going on, I explain people are trying to get tickets to Krysten Ritter’s signing. We’re going to call him glasses guy, because that’s all I really remember about him.

At 2:11 PM someone from the Penguin booth whistles really loudly and starts yelling at people to move because it has become a safety issue. Everyone in the mass of people checks their phones for time and scoffs, because no one is moving 4 minutes before tickets are supposed to be handed out.

It’s 2:15 PM, the crowd is growing restless because no one knows where tickets will be handed out. ELG is talking about how the crowd is behind her and she deserves her ticket, and that anyone who cuts in front is terrible. One minute later, a group of 4-5 people push through to the front and greet ELG AND STAND WITH HER AT THE FRONT OF THE PILE, this is the same girl screaming about how she deserves her ticket the most and people who cut in line should be thrown out. Hypocrisy at it’s finest. At this point, everyone should realize this girl preaching fairness and respecting the time waited is a full blown hypocrite and just incredibly rude.

At 2:18 PM or so, lead security guy explains how things are going to work. He’s going to hand some tickets out to his people, they’ll walk into random pockets of the huge crowd (which at this point might be 500+ people squished together), and hand out tickets to whoever they want. If they saw people pushing they would stop handing out tickets.

I cringe at this because I know this is a bad idea for so many reasons, but also, during the entire time I was at Book Con I was regularly given looks because I clearly stick out. I’m a dude (if I had to guess the attendance was 85% female), and I’m 6’0 tall. I’m just saying I’m more physically imposing than most people there, and if any pushing happened, I knew I would get blamed. I’m not here to cry about discrimination or whatever, I don’t know if it played a factor at all, but I know it certainly didn’t help my cause.

It’s 2:20ish PM and a security woman walks into my area of the crowd with tickets. She stops right in front of me. People are pushing into my back and around me like crazy reaching their arms forward, I’m literally holding people back from mobbing this woman. She begins handing out tickets to people, and she hands them out to everyone in the front of the circle, I thought this would include me as I was right there. Even glasses guy was given a ticket (he had just arrived at 2:10 or whatever). As she begins to turn toward me people start pushing, and she stops handing out tickets.

Ticket lady begins to then notice a girl is having a PANIC ATTACK, I help clear some room because this girl is bawling her eyes out and hyperventilating. People behind me are still pushing and grabbing. Ticket lady calms her down and helps her out, gives her and her friend tickets. At this point Ticket lady says she’s going to start giving out tickets again. I then see that this LITTLE KID is getting squished. He’s getting absolutely destroyed, he was about to be trampled like he was Mufasa. The ticket lady also notices this kid getting squished, I do my best to pull this little kid out of of the pile. She gives him a ticket, and he’s on his way. At this moment the ticket lady announces she HAS ONE TICKET LEFT, and spins around in a circle looking around.

And of course, of fucking course the super hypocrite ELG, screams that she deserves this ticket. Ticket lady turns and gives her the ticket. It’s over. The ticket giveaway is done.

Being quiet, and not actively grabbing at this lady’s tickets worked against me. That’s tough. I really wanted to do this for my girlfriend and I know she absolutely would have loved to have Krysten Ritter’s book and meet her. It’s difficult, doing what you felt was the right thing, and coming up short, and more or less getting punished for trying to be fair.

That’s not really the worst part though. I hear people in the crowd talking about how they’ve been in the unofficial line since 11:30 AM, 12:00 PM and that this was the first place they came when the con opened, and they didn’t get tickets. My girlfriend and I woke up at 2 am, hopped on a bus at 3:30 am to arrive in New York at 7:30 AM, ate breakfast and headed to the Javits Center, mainly because she wanted to meet Krysten Ritter and get an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of Bonfire. I went through all of that, and yet I still somehow felt extra bad for these other young fans that had spend most of their Sunday waiting for just this signing.

My girlfriend went to the Krysten Ritter panel, as it turns out they handed out copies of the book at the panel. Krysten even responded to something my girlfriend yelled out from the crowd. That’s amazing. My girlfriend ended up having a wonderful time altogether at Book Con, even though she didn’t get a signed copy of Bonfire.

But the honest truth is, I can’t help but feel bad because I know plenty of people sacrificed going to the panel so they could have a chance to meet Krysten Ritter and get a signed book. They were completely destroyed, and most likely didn’t even get a copy of the book. That sucks. That just 100% completely sucks.

You’re probably thinking that yes it sucks, but if I can’t come up with a better system, why complain? Glad you bring that up.

My personal belief is that if you’re willing to put in the time, you are the most deserving of the ticket. If it were up to me, Penguin would use the Queue Hall to their advantage and tell people to form lines there and wait as long as they want for the thing they want most. If you’re willing to commit most of your day to see one author you should get to see that one author.

Penguin has to be better at anticipating which of their signings will be larger, and have lines set up for the tickets so people can commit as much time as they want to their signings. Penguin could also have lines at the opening of Book Con and hand tickets out at the start of the day and have people return to the booth when it’s time for the signings. This would alleviate foot traffic around the booth, and would allow people who are willing to commit the most time to see an author get their ticket while still being able to enjoy the con. This means that you likely will not be allowed to see more than one author though. However, it is very unlikely people did that under the current system, and if they did it really speaks more to the unfairness of the random draw.

People at the Penguin booth and Book Con, your job is incredibly difficult, it really is. By no means am I saying that anyone can do your job. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with how Penguin ran their booth, and that they can’t SIGNIFICANTLY improve.  Book Con itself was a fairly well ran event, and an enjoyable experience in my opinion.

Feel free to disagree with me on here or twitter.

twitter: @thetwentytwo

Thoughts About Stuff: Improving Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go took the world by storm, then it shot itself in the foot, then it climbed back up a bit. I, like many others, don’t really know what to make of the game right now. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy playing the game, because I do. I just know that I’m not playing it nearly as much as I did when it first came out. This is fairly normal when you play games that aren’t story driven or you aren’t highly competitive in, but trending downward is always at least a little concerning. However, there are a few things Niantic could do to really improve PoGo, thus improving the overall experience for all players.

Quality Of Life Improvements

Improving Pokémon Go

Tracking – I know that there is a beta version of a new tracking system. I haven’t heard much in terms of reviews about it. Fixing the sightings to delete things not nearby anymore was a great step, but most everyone I’ve spoke to about the game misses the original tracking system.

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Incubators – I’m not going to demand more infinite incubators, I understand the game is a business and needs to make money. However, I would suggest making incubators available in bulk like lures and lucky eggs are. Possibly even selling incubators that have more uses for more coins. For example, you should be able to buy a pack of 3 incubators for 400 coins OR an incubator you that has 12 uses.

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Transferring – The ability to transfer as you catch pokes was a great improvement. Now if we could do something like instead of favorite the Pokémon, you could mark for transferring to mass transfer that’d be great. Oh, and transferring higher evolutions of Pokémon should yield more candy.

Gyms – End sniping by giving a thirty second grace period to players who have recently battled the gym. Being able to set a stable starting lineup for battling would be nice too.

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Balance – Everyone knows that outside of the kings of the game (Snorlax, Dragonite, Lapras) water Pokémon destroy everything, including most electric ‘mon, which should not be the case.

Content Improvements

Right now, PoGo lacks content.  There are essentially three things you can do in PoGo. Complete your Pokédex, claim gyms for your respective team, or grind levels. That’s pretty much it.  For some people that’s probably enough, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being a casual player, but that doesn’t mean Niantic shouldn’t consider adding more for other players. Some people will say that I’m playing too much. As of this moment, I’ve caught 135 of the available 142 in the North America, and I’m level 28. I’d say I probably spend a bit more time than the average player. However, I don’t think I’m in the category of hardcore. I really think that my issue with the game stems from a lack of content and not the amount I play. So I want to discuss some possible ideas that could be implemented.

I agree with many ideas that have come up around places like /r/Pokemongo and /r/thesilphroad. I think there is so much room for improvement and imagination not being taken advantage of. Ideas like 1v1 player battling, trading, and quests are great ideas in the spirit of the original games. However, I don’t think Niantic should be afraid to venture and make their own Pokémon game stand out.

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The CEO of Niantic has referred to the game as an MMO, and I agree. So why not add some MMO type content? An idea that I played around with and developed was the implementation raids for legendaries. Many rumors have stated legendaries will simply be gifts at events where you have to catch the ‘mon. I think this is a missed opportunity if they go that route. I think they could add a completely different dimension to PoGo when implementing legendaries by adding raids/instances.

Raids/instances might sound a little crazy at first, but I don’t think it would be all that hard for players to grasp. Let’s say we implement new items, these new items are feathers corresponding to the legendary birds (Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres). We make these feathers fairly rare drops randomly in the game. The rustling grass that used to be in the game would be perfect places to look for feathers (this would make it more equal for rural and city players as opposed to putting them in stops, I think).

After you gather 25 of Zapdos’ feathers, what do you do now? You go to a gym of your team’s color! Players can then use your feathers, and BATTLE Zapdos for the right to capture him. You can also have members of the same team battle with you to help (we may have to inflate some CPs for the fight or something). This would increase the purpose of teams. It would also add reason to get to know others of your same team. While it’s different from the rest of the game, I think making legendaries a little bit harder to catch and more unique just adds to their prestige and rarity.

All credit to the artist here: http://marcoh88.deviantart.com/art/Zapdos-311044310
All credit to the artist here: http://marcoh88.deviantart.com/art/Zapdos-311044310

On top of this, you can easily make this a scaling system. 25 feathers will get you a level 1-10 Zapdos, 50 feathers will get you a level 11-20, 100 feathers will get you 21-30, etc. It could also be a necessity to make gyms correlate, so your gym would have to be at least level 3 to use 25 feathers, level 5 to use 50 feathers, and level 7 to use 100 feathers. This makes pumping up gyms more worth your time, as well as increases the competition for them.

This appeals to all players. If you’re simply looking to increase your Pokédex count, just go for a low level legendary, because who cares right? If you’re a player who wants the strongest Pokémon, then you grind a bit and save your feathers up to battle a high level legendary.

Final Thoughts

To be super clear about this, I’m not a developer, and I wouldn’t expect these things to happen overnight. I have very little idea about how hard these things would be to implement. These are simply some ideas I had and wanted to talk about it. I do enjoy playing PoGo, I just had some suggestions that I think could make an even better game, because I do think it is wasting some of it’s potential.

Let us know your thoughts, bash/discuss/talk to your heart’s content! Please check out our Amazon Store, full of items that we recommend as Amazon Associates! 

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From Smash to Street Fighter – The Fighting Game Shift Struggle

The release of Street Fighter V was hotly anticipated, as Street Fighter IV’s long road to reviving fighting games on console. Now, the actual release has been harped on, due to the severe lack of content found within the game, from character roster and extensive story modes, to different modes and character specific training. However, the gameplay does pick up a lot of this slack, but this is not a review. As a seasoned Super Smash Bros player, I have largely avoiding taking 2-D console fighters seriously like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and King of Fighters. With this iteration, I have decided to finally tackle this franchise that has defined fighting games since the dawn of video games.

Tech-Skill, where art tho?

Super Smash Bros is a game built upon a legacy of games, namely platformers. So when anytime picks up a control and takes hold of a character, say Mario, you move around like Mario.

Kirby flies like Kirby, Yoshi hovers like Yoshi, and Donkey Kong hits like Donkey Kong. While other characters are adjusted to the fighting formula, the core mechanics lie in controlling a platforming game with the characters you like with the goal of beating the crap out of your opponents. This is part of what makes the game so approachable; it gives an air of familiarity to anyone who has touched the games.

With Street Fighter, you have to learn what makes each character unique. Learning the basic inputs, their special abilities, their weight, movement, and overall flow of the gameplay is just an ounce of understanding the game. It doesn’t mean squat if you can execute a heavy hitting if you can’t find a way to break your opponents defenses.

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It’s Just You and Your Opponent.

Another main factor that separates Super Smash Bros from Street Fighter is stage selection. In Super Smash Bros, some stages are considered neutral, such as Battlefield and Final Destination, which feature mainly flat surfaces, non-moving platforms, and no obstacles.

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In Street Fighter, stage selection is aesthetic, so with that, the major focus is your opponent. Most of the mind games begin on this screen select.

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Managing the tools comes next. With most Smash Bros characters, all of the abilities are accessible right when the match begins. In Street Fighter, as you battle and take and inflict damage, you increase your EX gauge that allows to perform stronger versions of your attacks and hard-hitting special arts. Strategy involves managing this meter, time, and focusing on positioning your fighter to overwhelm your opponent.

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As a Smash player, most of my adjusting to Street Fighter is managing meter and executing. In my experience, Super Smash Bros conditions you to learn character match-ups, utilize the stage, choose effective moves, and understand every habit you have ever had. Street Fighter has many similarities in understanding the player and matchups, but there is a greater importance in carrying over momentum from round to round, as opposed to the stocks and lack of meter that give you a fresh start in each minute of Super Smash Bros. As I struggle in the online realm of Street Fighter V, I remain humble in the continuous learning curve that is brutal as it is rewarding.

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Opinion: My Vendetta against Weekly Comics

Rage. Disappoint. Dumbfoundedness. Let down. These are but a few emotions that seeped from the depths of my soul after reading DC Comic’s big weekly event from 2014-2015, Future’s End. Although a bit behind, I decided to wait for the event to settle and read the event in a full weekend sitting. Here’s my one major question…

WHY DID FUTURE’S END HAVE TO HAPPEN?!?

A few major goals coming out of the event were:

  • Explore the past, the present, and the future’s of the current status quo of comics.
  • Refresh long-standing characters and give them life beyond the weekly series.
  • Introduce fan-favorite Terry McGuinness (Batman Beyond) into the main universe (New52)

As I address these issues, I can’t express the following enough:

SPOILER ALERT FOR FUTURE’S END!
spoiler-alert

As an alternative future for an already blossoming new continuity, Future’s End saw many recognizable heroes in a disastrous future ruled by Brother Eye, an entity bent of regulating and destroying the current world. Darkseid’s army from Apokolips invaded Earth Prime (along with Earth 2) and Earth Prime hosts the refugees from the destroyed Earth 2. This becomes a point of conflict along with the growing conflicts between heroes and vigilantes, government agents versus soldiers of fortune, magic versus science, and lastly, the impact of new heroes versus the legacy of heroes from the past. While some characters attain noteworthy growth throughout the developing narrative, there are plenty of missed opportunities with characters like Mr. Terrific going from calculating to a moron with no control, Grifter constantly questioning his place and essentially being stuck on an island for most of the story, and King Faraday’s role as a secret agent/behind the scenes character leaves him a one-note character. The story’s overall ambition is to be applauded, but the large cast of characters, the multiple, convoluted storylines, and the slew of artists and writers that take over the story, mixing things too abruptly.

Like I said, the event takes liberties with some of the well-established characters and giving them refreshing new overhauls. Alfred becomes a captivating snarky AI that is lodged in Batman Beyond’s ear, Firestorm changes hosts to a new female form that shares experience and passion, and Shazam, the hero who takes over for a long-lost Superman. What makes these developments upsetting is tied to Batman Beyond’s both inclusion and separation from the New52.

What happens to Batman Beyond is that he becomes the main focus of the event, as he and Alfred are the only ones who traveled to the past (from 35 years into the dying future to 5 years from the New52 current day). As he works to stop the era he came from (the future world from the beloved DC Animated Universe), Terry McGuiness ends up losing his life in a last-ditch effort to save the heroes around him. Tim Drake, a hero who gave up crime-fighting after seeing the Teen Titans decimated, sees Terry’s heroics and decides to follow his path and don the cowl to prevent the apocalypse from the future. Unfortunately, Tim ultimately fails, as he only partly destroys Brother Eye, setting up for a new future where the old future is gone, the new future loses all of the characters established over the past year, and we lose the great Terry McGuiness. While Future’s End is aptly named, it fails to make a lasting impact, we lose an important character who never gets his shot in the main continuity, and the rich world developed over the course of a year is all lost.

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What’s worse is that the title has led me down a road to narcissism, as I wonder why weekly titles should exist in the first place. Does the tight schedule give creators more of a challenge? Does the large cast benefit from being together every week? I’ve been interested in other events, but the large weekly comics could not be more unappealing. The possibilities for incredible story-telling are outweighed by the large commitment. Some stories are told in single comics that last 6 issues and have incredible lasting effects for the characters, while some events have no singular point after 12, after 20, after 50+ issues. It’s incredibly disheartening to buy into these stories with great premises when they have a potential to let you down week after week after week.

It may be my huge love for Batman Beyond and how game changing the comic and show have been to me, but when great writers and artist take change to give a hero the spotlight they deserve and the last thing they leave readers with is his death, it makes it hard to believe that the writers really knew what they were doing. For now, I have to tread carefully, as good weeklys are still being made with great fan reception, such as Batman & Robin Eternal. But as for now, I’m not ready for that commitment. Let us know what you think in the comments below or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Opinion: Is Open-World Gaming Too Much?

When Team Nerdswole decided to stream with our good friend Tien Nguyen on Twitch, we got to play some rounds of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and talk about some of the games we’re loving today. On the topic of open-world games, his playthrough of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and my run through Batman: Arkham Knight, we both shared the same joy and frustration with each game.

Both games are the pinnacle of their franchises, with a grand history of universal acclaim, overall fantastic production and follow-through, and a commitment to staying the course through new iterations. Sure, both series have had their hiccups, but they’ve ultimately evolved into the latest generation. My one concern comes simply from excess.

Batman: Arkham Knight is, like its predecessors, one of the most fully fleshed out versions of Batman. You take control of the caped crusader as he battles the Scarecrow, his enlisted assassin (the aptlynamed Arkham Knight), and the rest of the Gotham’s Rogues Gallery. As you play through the extensive main story, crimes pop up all around the city. To take a deviation from your mission, you access the most wanted menu, allowing you to follow each case.
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For fans of Arkham and the Batman lore, this is a fun way to take out new and old villains, along with protecting Gotham, leveling up, and being challenged in new ways. On the other side, you are treated to another menu, called AR Challenges. These allow you to tackle old missions and gain upgrades for doing them under certain conditions. This is what I would call a huge deviation: adding nothing to the game other than retreading your past accomplishments.

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The main point of these missions is not that they exist to simply lengthen gameplay. There are moments in the storyline when you’re given “fresh air,” a moment when you can choose your mission. However, these pop-up all too frequently, as the game pushes you away from accomplishing your main quest while you wait around an arbitrary amount of time or perform a certain number of side missions. When a game is open-world, like many MMO’s that have set the standard for exploration, you shouldn’t be forced to do anything. Free-reign, sandbox, call it what you like, but it means the world is your oyster, not “go after one oyster in the distance, not this large shiny one right in front of you.”

A game like Super Mario World 3D World, albeit a different genre, hid its secret in the main levels, giving you the opportunity to explore but allowing you to decide. Games in the Legend of Zelda franchise never stop reminding you of your main quest, but allow you to explore the world at your own pace. A game like Deadpool kept the action going on a linear scale, allowing the story to play out. This is more important than ever in comic-book inspired games, as their basis and reason for being comes from having great characters and narratives.

It’s a slight criticism but many games on next-gen consoles are targeting and using the open-world, action-adventure, slightly first person hybrid approach in many current and upcoming games. For me, as a Legend of Zelda fan, I’m worried about the future Zelda. Will it retain a focus or will breaking pots and opening chests be what you’re told to do?

Is Alex crazy? Is more not better? Let us know what you think in the comments below or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Opinion: Mobile Gaming Should Supplement, Not Replace, Traditional Gaming

Confession session: I’m a huge console gamer, a huge handheld gamer, and a mobile gaming skeptic. From the dawn of the iPhone and smartphones, Angry Birds was the start of the end for me.

Being the guy who totted around a GameBoy in elementary school to the Nintendo DS through high school and beyond, mobile was an affront to what I want out of today’s gaming and the future. Short, mindless games, ads everywhere, pay to pay, and ripoffs everywhere. Of course, some of these features were rampant in other genres too, but coupled together with devices that were advertised as the all-in-one miracles, and everyone is playing these games. Are there pluses? No doubt, as these mobiles games were sold with free versions, development from independent developers to the big guns was encouraged, and even the resurrection of classic genres helped get everyone in on the fun. Casuals began to forget about the dedicated systems and relied solely on their phones to take care of their gaming needs. To that I say nay, blech, and never. The instability of smart phone controls, dependency on internet and connection to play, and a lack of dedication to these games have upheld their status as “mind-numbing time wasters” in my book. Don’t believe me? Try Flappy Bird on your computer. Had this game been developed for the computer initially, it would not have been as popular as it was for one moment in 2013.

For me, I want my gaming time spent on something worthwhile. I pay for the rich Nintendo 3DS library today because I know there is effort behind these project. Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Fire Emblem, Pokemon, Metal Gear Solid, Kid Icarus, Super Smash Bros. These franchises adapted to the new system and thrived, pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible and taking gamers along for the ride. I’m excited for a new 3DS game because not only are the titles designed for this specific system, but they attempt to innovate as the system does. The mobile phone is not innovating gaming; gaming simply becomes more accessible and less challenging. Everybody appreciates the ease of touch screen use in the games on their phones, but the Nintendo DS had to win over audiences and paved the way for touch screen gaming, which Samuel Tobin argues in his book, Portable Play in Everyday Life.

So that brings you to current-day me, the pessimist with a Nintendo 3DS closer to him than his phone. However, I came across the answer I feel has taken too long to come. As last month’s wave of Star Wars hype got everyone excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was just happy to spend some time with Star Wars: Battlefront on Playstation 4.

As I’ve gotten better at the game, I noticed the advertisement to download the companion, thinking it was a slightly convenient application that would inform me when my friends are playing the game. What I found was that, in the game, there is a mode called Base Command. A small mini-game (not too much unlike the mobile games I’ve despised) that allows you to command your Rebel army to ward off waves of Imperial attackers. Other than some interesting strategy and fun animations, why would I bother playing this? Well, the game is connected to your Battlefront account and rewards are given for doing well. Say you get three stars in a mission, you get credits for your in game account. These credits allow you to purchase important things such as weapon upgrades, new power-ups, and even some aesthetic improvements.

Here’s the thing about all of this. The game is not ground-breaking, but it does accomplish a few things for me. One, there is a point to all of this. The mini-game’s fun tactics reward me for playing by helping my console counterpart gain some serious upgrades. Two, the game does not bother with ads or pushes for money, keeping the flow going in healthy doses. Three, the mini-game is enjoyable and any fan of Star Wars will be happy to see how these military units matchup against each other. I don’t need to play this game and doesn’t change my opinion on the status of mobile games, but if I need a game to kill some time, I’m glad it is a game that will benefit me outside of my phone. This shapes what these games can lead to, which is co-beneficial partners to the consoles.

With so many different major video game companies now into publishing mobile gaming (even Nintendo), I can see how more of these “companion games” would be beneficial. Coupling a small component of the game to help your console is similar to Nintendo having the Gameboy Advance support the Nintendo Gamecube in certain titles (Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, Animal Crossing, Metroid Prime, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, etc). Using a mini-game to unlock extra content, support gameplay, or even provide is the right step. The Wii U has shown off the power of a tablet in single-player and multiplayer situations, so using a mobile device to supplement gameplay can work great (Just Dance is using it already as an alternative controller).

While I don’t know if the game will be supported as the season pass rolls out later this year, I am excited that my phone can be productive to my gaming efforts. What do you think of Alex’s revelation? Are mobile and handheld destined to clash or can a truce be made across the board? Let us know what you think in the comments below or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Thoughts About Stuff: Ryan Coogler Directing Black Panther

One of my previous articles was that I didn’t think being black was a requirement for directing Black Panther. And while I still think that, I think Ryan Coogler is a creative and talented director and couldn’t be happier he will be at the helm of Black Panther.

Ryan Coogler
Ryan Coogler, director of Creed and Fruitvale Station

Despite this being just his third film, I think there is a lot to like about Coogler’s style and body of work. His previous two movies starred Michael B. Jordan, whom I think is a fantastic actor, but Jordan isn’t solely responsible for how powerful and impactful Fruitvale Station was, and he alone didn’t provide all the energy and resilience in Creed. After making those two movies, it was clear Coogler has a style, and makes very loveable characters, despite them also being very clearly flawed people.

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Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz from Fruitvale Station

Which is exactly the type of character you need in superhero movies. As many of them will have stunning action sequences, incredible CGI, and just a lot of popcorn moments. Make no mistake though, the movies that are often more critically acclaimed are the deeper character pieces.

Guardians of the Galaxy was getting to know a bunch of crazy misfits that somehow fit together. Iron Man was a story of redemption after incredible amounts of hubris destroyed Tony Stark’s world. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a Steve Rogers questioning his place in the world after having always believed in structure and order, and having that structure betray him. Ant-Man shows how far a father’s love really goes.

If you’ve seen Creed and Fruitvale Station, those two are plenty of reason enough to be excited about Ryan Coogler. However, consider the fact that the first time this was offered, Coogler turned it down. To me, this signifies that he probably wanted more creative control than Marvel was willing to give, and after having Creed be such a success, maybe Marvel was willing to give him a little more rope. I would hope this means we get to see a product that Coogler himself builds from the ground up and is proud of. So count me in as someone who is excited to see where Coogler goes with T’Challa.

You can check another writer’s thoughts/predictions on Black Panther here.

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Opinion: Game Over is Shaming

Anyone who’s played any video game has certainly seen what happens when you fail at your main objective: Game Over.

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Something so inherent in video games, the game over screen comes when you have exhausted all your chances to complete your mission and requires you to return to a previous checkpoint or completely start over.

Uncharted Territory

I didn’t think about this declaration of failure too much until I recently tackled the Uncharted series. During my time with the franchise, I may have been a bit overconfident, picking an increasingly difficult setting after completing each game, resulting in me dying frequently (read: too many times to count). One thing you do notice is when you are getting hurt, the screen starts to fade, as everything around you goes gray. Uncharted2-ImminentDeath-1

Similarly, when you die, the screen turns brighter, fading everything around you. The screen then blacks out and returns you to the last checkpoint. What’s missing? Those two words that make gamers sick: Game Over. The main part of this omission is to encourage players to progress, continuing the experience, which studio Naughty Dogs labors to make as seamless, fun, and cinematic as possible.

So what’s the deal?

Why do I pinpoint this? In every game, there is a loser and a winner. Player One wins, player two loses. You lose. Game Over. There are so many ways for a video game to clearly define when failure has occurred. Adding insult to injury, sometimes cinematic sequences are created for simply when you fail.

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It’s rough to watch and seeing these depictions of death are motivation enough for some people to keep going further. Playing through plenty of video games in my life, I have come across many a screen and few motivate me to move on. One notable exception was in Earthbound for the Super Nintendo. A game rife with dialogue, your party is treated to a different experience once you’ve been beaten.

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For me, a little reinforcement goes a long way, especially in a role-playing game than can take upwards of 30 to 50 hours to complete. Much like two button controllers, I think game over screens are a thing of the past that should be remedied as time progresses. A game like Xenoblade Chronicles shows off your failure in battle, but then puts you back to before your death. I don’t think anyone is more critical on themselves in the game as the player is, as progress is the intended goal with any game. Can games be hard? No doubt. Is it possible to die plenty of times but still have enough motivation to continue forward? Definitely. There are better ways to transition from failure and in game design, encouraging players to play the game is much more important than putting a giant exclamation point on top of failure. A black screen telling you the obvious is something that should be removed altogether.

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What do you make of this all too familiar screen? Is it a thing of the past or should it be shouted from the mountain tops? Sound off in the comments below or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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Thoughts About Stuff: Things Doomsday Looks Like

I’m sure we’ve all seen the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer by now. Whether or not you like the trailer, you’ll have to have noticed when Doomsday appeared. If you haven’t here it is.

While I’m not worried about Doomsday, as I’m 85% sure that isn’t his final form, I couldn’t help but to think of the funny images he brought up in my head. I of course proceeded to read some YouTube comments, and then thought about it a bit myself, and the comparisons were pretty hilarious. So let’s talk about what Doomsday looks like.

Doomsday looks like a grey version of Michael Bay’s TMNT turtles.

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Yup, if you just grey him up a bit and turn that smile upside down, you pretty much have Doomsday.

Doomsday looks like Abomination from The Incredible Hulk

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I’m thinking this kind of speaks for itself.

Doomsday looks like a hardened Muk from Pokemon

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On the one hand, it might be kind of a stretch, but on the other, can you really unsee it now?

Doomsday looks like Putty from Power Rangers

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Come on man! Looking like some punk ass footsoldiers?

As I’ve mentioned, I’m pretty certain this isn’t the final look of Doomsday, and there isn’t any glaring reason to think that this movie will be bad, but it’s good to have some fun with the first image of Doomsday we’ve seen.

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Thoughts About Stuff: The Avengers Game That Never Was

Normally something like this might fall under a “The Greatest Games Never Made” category, but it turns out this game was in fact being made… It just never finished. Many of us who are fans of superheroes and games have likely played Marvel: Ultimate Alliance which is a pretty fun game, but also pretty simple and a bit repetitive. So imagine a game that had less characters so the situations didn’t have to be as generic as they were in Ultimate Alliance.

In my opinion that was what held Ultimate Alliance back in a lot of ways, it was a game that was made to cater to a lot of characters fitting in the story. Ultimate Alliance did have some depth, gameplay wise (a lot of moves are simply recycled and re-skinned though), but the story could have directly affected your chosen characters more, and had more development that way. This Avengers game that never was apparently did have that. Anyway, let’s check out the Avengers game that was cancelled as told by DidYouKnowGaming.

Are you now just as sad as I am that this game never came to be? It seemed like this game was going to be everything that many considered the drawbacks of Ultimate Alliance. A more focused story centering around main characters. The gameplay also appeared to have a fair amount of depth with an experience system, team actions, and pros/cons of each character (Ultimate Alliance did have this though).

In a lot of ways this appeared it could have been what the Arkham games were for DC Comics and Batman. Anyone who knows the character Batman knows that he comes in many different iterations, the more grounded type you see in the Nolanverse, the intelligent detective of the DCAU, the bitter and unbreakable man in the The Dark Knight Returns books, so on and so forth. And with these different iterations they increase common knowledge and popularity of a character. The popularity of the Arkham games only allowed another avenue for Batman to increase his popularity, and while there isn’t a much hotter property than The Avengers right now, they are lacking a little bit in the game department.

They have super fun lego games, a PC game that has a decent fan base, plenty of mobile games, but this Avengers game that never was could have captured a strong console fan base that prefer their games a little bit more gritty and with a certain amount of finality in their stories. And that could have been this game.

It’s simply unfortunate that Marvel decided not to pay the money to finish this game when THQ flopped, but certainly understandable from a financial standpoint as it’s fairly difficult to bet on a superhero market in games when it has been very poor in the past. I guess we’ll just have to hope that Marvel starts printing enough money to be able to take a chance on a property like this again, or an incredible publisher/developer will take on a similar idea.

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