Monday, October 16, 2017

Post-Game/Extra Help Writer - Sonic: Shattered Realities


Current Status: Basically a "Maybe"

On October 16, the 25th Anniversary of Miles "Tails" Prower debuting in the Sonic franchise, I am happy to announce that I am being heavily considered as a Post-Game and Extra Help Writer for the upcoming Sonic fan game project called Sonic: Shattered Realities! This is an RPG that extends across multiple versions of Sonic's world, bringing in different versions of Sonic and many heroic characters that come from different parts of the Sonic Universe. 

It's an honor to be handling some writing duties for a project like this, even if it's in a minimal capacity. This is something that I will be committed to and something to take great care of. When it comes to this franchise, I know my Sonic history. I research Sonic canon and non-canon all the time, so it comes easy for me to dig up material for Sonic stories. 

The one who runs this Shattered Realities project is Trevor Bennett, a guy who loves the Sonic franchise and came up with this ambitious idea for a game. Trevor is the main designer and director of Shattered Realities, and through the course of this past year he's been recruiting very talented people, Sonic fans who either specialize in voice acting, coding and programming, concept art, or even writing. 

After everything is settled with the main script I will take care of what goes on Post-Game. I have no idea how the story for Shattered Realities will go, and you will have to play the game to find out, but I will say this. The vibes I get from this game are not only very good, but I think it will be a positive step forward for Sonic fan game content. Like I said, I'm starting to get into the mode of  doing creative things with game development, and this would be one of them! Stay tuned!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Steven Vitte: Endorsements from Game Devs



Steven,

Thank you for sharing your writing work. We have all read through these as a team and really enjoyed your work. Thank you for sharing everything with us. I wanted to send you back your material so you can keep it for yourself.

Sanzaru Games has also enclosed a couple surprise items for you and I hope you enjoy.

Thank you very much.

Mat Kraemer
Sanzaru Games
Early 2016



Hey Steven, just checked out the game on my computer. Pretty good start, I like that you're mashing two genres of play into one game, and from the looks of it, you're planning to do an android focused game correct? Anyway I say just keep going at it. I recommend looking up any local game dev meet up groups, spend time at conventions meeting other game developers, try to finish small projects that don't require too much artwork.

You have a lot of great basic Unity functionalities down and you can totally make a solid game with the skillset you currently have. Try to release a game out there into the world, it'll be a great learning experience to help you move forward.

Zhenghua Yang
Serenity Forge
October 2, 2017 via Facebook chat

Steven Vitte: In case you were wondering if I have ever received any kind of endorsement, or confirmation of support, for my cause as a narrative script writer (as well as other roles), then I can present 2 examples right here. Above are the words of Mat Kraemer of Sanzaru Games and Zhenghua Yang of Serenity Forge, both of which I interviewed on this very blog in the past.

The first example comes from me sending a passion project of sorts to Mat and his dev team. It was a sample script of a situation based in the world of Sly Cooper. It made me feel very good to know that not only did Sanzaru Games take the time out to read what I sent them, but to know that they actually liked what I wrote. I never requested to receive any gifts back in return, so I was very surprised when I got the items. I happily display these items on a personal shelf of mine.

The second example is Z's reaction to what I had recently sent him. It was an attachment to my unfinished mobile game project featuring a boxing kangaroo who splits his time going through a platforming stage, and then fights a boss like it's Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! The title of the mobile game project is Punchy Business. I was relieved to read what Z had thought of what I had put into this project as a writer, UX handyman and QA tester, and when you read his thoughts, it's clear that he supports the basic visions I have in a game.

I am about to venture into more exciting stuff as 2017 comes to a close. I feel motivated enough to not only advance my career as a writer, but to also expand my horizons and become more flexible in the roles of a game dev team. I have recently downloaded Unity 3D and I am seriously considering downloading Blender as well to start making models of objects and characters. I have finally hit some sort of upswing where I feel like I can do some basic things in this territory of game development, and you guys may just see what I have planned!

Stay tuned!

Infinite = Game Gear Tails (Sonic Forces Theory)

Warning: If you don't want to go through a whole bunch of theory-building stuff, I suggest you turn away NOW. Only diehard Sonic the Hedgehog fans would be able to understand the points that are being made here. Plus, this is only a theory.





Still here? Okay, let's go on then...



 
November 7 is the release date of the newest 3D Modern Sonic game called Sonic Forces, a game that has received mixed reviews so far based on the demo that was available not too long ago. One character in particular, named Infinite, seems to be one who will carry the bulk of the story in Forces as the oppressive villain on Dr. Eggman's side of this war.  But who is this mysterious character? Who is Infinite? An interview has just been released courtesy of Playstation Lifestyle.

I've been very critical of Takashi Iizuka and Sonic Team's handling of Modern Sonic in recent years, and I know they put their passion into their projects. However, I just wish they better applied their resources, such as characters, level environments and gameplay mechanics. There's a big miscommunication between Sonic Team and Sonic fans right now. Anyway, the interview link is below.

 http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2017/10/05/sonic-forces-wispon-storyline-music-detailed-famitsu-interview/

Famitsu: What kind of existence does Infinite, the boss that is strong to an extent, have?
Iizuka: Although he wasn't always evil, he is not created from an abrupt incident like Chaos, but he is instead an animal character just like Sonic & the others. If you play the free DLC of Shadow’s story, you’ll get to understand why he obtains a powerful strength and becomes evil.


(2:22 - Sonic looks up in the sky)

(1:14 - Sonic looks up in the sky) Coincidence?

What I'm going to tell you readers is something that is very, very, very hard for me to wrap my brain around, and yes, people will say that this is one farfetched and ridiculous theory. I understand completely why you feel that way. However, from what I have gathered in evidence and what I have done in connecting the dots, it has become clear to me that not only that something doesn't feel right about this Infinite character (and not just in the video game sense...), but I think some of us theorists may have solved the mystery of "Who is Infinite?" I believe that...

Infinite is Game Gear Tails from Sonic 2's Bad Ending.
  
https://samearl13.wordpress.com/2017...te-tails-more/

Also when Sonic Forces main theme with lyrics (posted above) was released aka Fist Bump sung by Douglas Robb from Hoobastank people wondered what it meant when it mentioned “One Last Fistbump” and seemed to think that a character was going to die which while possible with the game trying to be noticeably darker I believe it to be much simpler. The game is said to be the last game chronically (or maybe forever) for modern sonic so it might just be Modern Sonic in a way saying goodbye to Classic Sonic.

"One Last Fistbump" can be noted as a reference to the friendship of Sonic and Tails since they are often known to do the "Bro Fist". You don't equate this to 2 random Original Characters (Custom Avatars) doing a Bro Fist.

After that the song mentions “After all this time you’re back for more” which definitely suggests that Sonic knows him, the next line “I won’t stop until they know my name” also does although the fact that in his reveal video he sarcastically calls Sonic a “Little Blue Saviour” (notice the ‘little’) its unknown whether it was aimed at Modern Sonic who he was talking to or Classic Sonic (the latter would make more sense in the theory).

Possibly meaning that Game Gear Tails (not talking about Modern Tails here) will hint at Sonic managing to save the world in Game Gear Sonic 2, but not him (Bad Ending).

Without writing a bunch the rest it suggests that Sonic is living a lie in some way and also repeats “Its only me and you, who is going to save you now?” which seems a rather odd choice of lyrics suggesting that Infinite wants revenge with someone in particular (most likely Sonic).

 Could be a way to call Sonic out on his personality and his moral code as a hero.

https://www.reddit.com/r/FanTheories...ers_for_sonic/

 -One tail and one (damaged?) eye, perhaps a lot happened to him.

Explaining what happened to Game Gear Tails after the Bad Ending...

-If one looks closely at Infinite's design, they would notice that he has the same ear shape as Tails.

The ear shape is probably covered by a Darth Vader/Red Hood style mask. If we go by the Batman/Robin analogy in this situation, then consider this.

Sonic = Batman
Dr. Eggman = The Joker
Game Gear Tails (Infinite) = Jason Todd a.k.a. Red Hood
Classic Tails = Dick Grayson
Modern Tails = Tim Drake

-Supposedly faster then Sonic, thus making his name have more sense to it. It's Infinite Miles Prower, as in "Infinite miles per hour".

Fun fact; Sonic Team was originally gonna call Infinite "Zero". So, "Zero to Infinity".

German Autobahn: No Speed Limit Sign
Infinite Miles Per Hour...
Infinite Miles Prower
Infinite = Game Gear Tails


If Game Gear Sonic 2 isn't canon, then why was Silver Sonic a thing? .....

Think about it. If Sonic Mania is a direct tie-in game to Forces, then how do we explain Silver Sonic, a boss who appeared in Game Gear Sonic 2, appear in the boss fight of Stardust Speedway Act 2 in Mania? Do you really think Game Gear Sonic 2 won't be mentioned again in Forces given this?

-Notably, it's said that Sonic Forces has Classic Sonic come from another dimension, NOT the past. This could be the explanation for why Infinite is so mysterious to everyone, he's from another dimension then everyone else.

The Game Gear Sonic games make up a dimension that's separate from the Classic and Modern dimensions.

-It's already been said that Tails will die in this game, but we already know they wouldn't kill a mainstay.

Correction; Recent leaks have stated that "Tails will not die in Forces, but something else will happen to him". My gut feeling? That "something" has already happened to Tails, Game Gear Tails, that is.

-Infinite's song's lyrics say how he's been tortured and how everyone must know his name, hinting at his true nature.

Again, explaining what happened to Game Gear Tails after the Bad Ending...

October 16, 1992 - October 16, 2017: 25 Years since Miles "Tails" Prower made his debut in the Sonic franchise, in Game Gear/Master System Sonic 2.




 "Game Gear Sonic 2 Isn't Canon!"
(Oh really?)

Originally Posted by Captain Linebeck and Rapido Azule
Imagine actually thinking Sonic Team remembers or cares about a bad ending in a Game Gear game they made decades ago.
Not even them, some company called Aspect.
My response: If Sega really wanted to they could ignore Game Gear Sonic 2 altogether (October 16, 1992) and recognize Genesis Sonic 2 (November 21, 1992) as Tails' official debut time in the Sonic franchise. The fact that this official debut time hasn't changed should say something.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOnz_gjMV18
(A long black bushy tail...)

"Oh, but Tails has 2 tails and Infinite only has 1 tail! Explain that!"

At first glance, what would you guess Infinite's tail to mostly look like? It's obviously not a hedgehog tail, nor an echidna tail, cat tail, etc. Also, Aaron Webber himself (an authority on Sonic content) confirmed that it wasn't a wolf tail, so if you thought Infinite had a connection to the red wolf "Buddy" character (Custom Avatar), then you'd be wrong. So what could it be? A fox tail.


RoseOfTheNight4444: (trying to debunk this theory)
If you look at other screenshots there is an obvious difference. Tails’ tails have three tufts of fur that are kind of sideways, Infinite has six facing vertically, kind of like a Mohawk for the tail (or like a bladesaw shape). Completely different design. What purpose does it serve to have one of his tails damaged or removed, anyway? Wouldn't the rest of his body suffer the same trauma? Sure this would give him a reason to hide behind a mask but his tail is the only part of him that remains unprotected.

Why don't Tails and Infinite share the same voice? It would be pointless to give him a masculine voice when he's carried a feminine one since SA1, even if he had hit puberty and willingly changed his inflection, speech pattern, and verbiage, what purpose does changing all of that serve? It seems silly to me that something like the Ruby changing his voice like some voice-masker when it's only changed their appearance (and their behavior, I suppose).

I guess the Ruby changing Tails' desires, making him evil, would account for why he'd attack his best friend and hero, but not for the continuity of where Tails is at any given time. I might have missed something but Sonic 2 or a bad ending wouldn't apply to Forces because the only game Forces has connection with is Mania, thereby making Tails not missing for that long. 

My response: The Phantom Ruby alters the appearance of Game Gear Tails. The two tails merge to become one, and the one eye is an unfortunate side effect of the altering. The Ruby would alter everything about a character, including the tone of voice, the tail and tuft formation, the height and physical appearance... Everything.

Modern Tails = 2 tails, 3 tufts each horizontally
Infinite = 1 tail, 6 tufts vertically
3 + 3 = 6 ...

Plus, just as I stated with Silver Sonic, if Mania ties in with Forces, and Silver Sonic from Game Gear Sonic 2 was in Mania, then connect the dots. Game Gear Sonic 2 IS canon!


The Sonic CD Aspect



^ Well, it is odd that "CD" isn't listed on the elevator levels at the very beginning...

https://www.reddit.com/r/SonicTheHedgehog/comments/73j6qx/sonic_mania_forces_everything_planned_since_1993/

^ As if my head needed to still be spinning about this Infinite = Game Gear Tails theory...

RigidplayHd:
Sonic Mania is basically a game where it throws the player all the way back to Sonic 1 but with the classic 2D pixelated style, it throws you into Sonic 1, 2, 3, Knuckles, “CD” and it’s own original zones, now hear me out, you probably already know of the Sonic Mania animated trailer and demo, now remember when they were at the elevator, and the elevator was rising? A lot of people pointed out the absence of CD in there, at first I thought it was just a dumb little error, but months later I realized, how can there be no CD button yet, there’s Stardust Speedway and Metallic Madness? The answer is simple. In the Mania timeline, CD didn’t happen, but, if you read the manual for Mania, it says the Phantom Ruby appeared due to a “dimensional breach”, I don’t know what you guys thought but, for me, it seems like it was transported from another dimension, where CD happened.

Mania can confirm too where Sonic CD sits in the timeline, just look at the zones, excluding the Mania ones:

-Green Hill Zone: Sonic 1
-Chemical Plant Zone: Sonic 2
-Flying Battery Zone: Sonic 3&K
-Stardust Speedway: Sonic CD
-Hydrocity Zone: Sonic 3&K
-Oil Ocean: Sonic 2
-Lava Reef: Sonic 3&K
-Metallic Madness: CD

At first I thought it was the order of appearance, but then I noticed, Sonic 1 appears 1 time, Sonic 2 appears 2 times, Sonic 3&K appears 3 times, Sonic CD appears 2 times, so, Sonic 1 1st, Sonic 2 3rd, Sonic 3&K 4th, Sonic CD 2nd, because Sonic 3&K is confirmed to be a sequel to Sonic 2 in terms of the timeline, so that’s why Sonic CD doesn’t sit in front of Sonic 2.

(Mania: 1, 2, 3&K, M; Forces: 1, CD, 2, 3&K)

Granted, this guy completely leaves out the aspect of the Game Gear games being a separate dimension, but he goes into the Sonic CD and Little Planet dynamic and where that fits. He's completely wrong about Amy. (Infinite's not a female, for crying out loud...) You can take small bits and pieces from this but don't go too deep into this text block stuff.

Let's Review the Forces Leaks


-Tails does not die in Forces, something else happens to him. Another character will die, however.
-You've seen Infinite before now, but it is not what you are expecting.
-There will be a MAJOR plot twist involving Infinite.
-Tails, Knuckles, Amy and Avatar all have character development with Sonic.

Let's stop here. You've seen Infinite before now, but it is not what you are expecting. If we've seen Infinite before, then how can he be just another Original Character? Listen to the lyrics of Infinite's theme song and "One Last Fistbump". Does this sound like an Original Character, or a previously forgotten version of a character who's out for revenge? Original Characters (Custom Avatars) have never existed in previous Main Sonic games.

What is this MAJOR plot twist involving Infinite? See where this theory's going?





^ If Game Gear Sonic 2 is indeed in play in the Forces storyline:
-The Phantom Ruby is present in the Game Gear dimension.
-Game Gear Sonic 2 plays out just as it did with the Good and Bad Endings.
-Either Tails is saved (Good Ending) and everything goes merrily on (going into the Classic dimension and Sonic Mania)
-OR Sonic doesn't save Tails (Bad Ending) and Tails remains captured by Dr. Eggman. Using the Ruby as an experiment, Eggman creates his vision of an unstoppable Force, Infinite, using the tortured and broken down body of Game Gear Tails. Something Eggman "creates" but isn't an Original Character.



 ^ It could better explain these scenes in Sonic Colours and Sonic Lost World where Tails gets "mind-controlled" and why Sonic Team wanted to show these. Beta testing on Modern Tails for these games, and then turn around (use the alternate dimension travel plot) and do this for another version of Tails. Wild, crazy, whatever you want to call it...

No matter what happens after Forces I will still support the character of Miles "Tails" Prower. I'm still a Tails fan. However, it's just sad that Sonic Team may have had this planned for some time, and to think that all they had to do was make Tails playable again in a Main Sonic game. I have very uneasy feelings about Sonic Forces and what's gonna go down in this game, but we'll find out soon enough, won't we? 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The First Tree - Breakout PC Game!


David Wehle is an indie game developer who is about to release his first completed game project on Steam. While it only takes 30 minutes to learn and play, The First Tree was a project that took Wehle 2 years to complete, with each step of the way having its own bumps and bruises in game development.

The link above highlights Wehle's adventures through creating and programming the game, what exactly went into this game's development and how he had to go through a bunch of trial and error episodes to get to where he wanted to go. The First Tree is a Third Person exploration game where the player takes on the role of a mother fox looking for her family. However, intersecting with this is a young couple dealing with a pressing tragedy.

The environment of this game looks amazing as the visuals will immediately grab your attention. I wouldn't say that these visuals are cel-shaded, but the colors and animations would remind you of a beautiful "semi-anime" kind of feeling. The First Tree from an appearance standpoint will remind you of games like Journey, Gone Home and Firewatch.

Wehle at one point lost his motivation for making a game, but then he kept working on the menu screen for The First Tree, and the funniest thing happened to him. His joy for making the game returned to him and he was having fun working on his project. It goes to show you how amazing a turnaround can be in the world of game development.

The First Tree is set to be released tomorrow, September 14, 2017, so if you're interested in playing this game you might want to jump in and find out what makes this game so interesting!

Monday, September 4, 2017

GDEX 2017: Not Going

Me at OGDE 2015
I will make this brief in explanation, but I want to announce that I will not be attending GDEX 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. The reasons are few and simple as to why I'm not going to Ohio's own gaming convention this year. First off my economic resources are lacking, which is an obvious reason. Secondly my schedule for the month of September, which includes issues my family has to address and can't put them off, isn't going to jive with GDEX this year.

Last but probably most importantly I don't feel like I have earned the opportunity of going out to Downtown Columbus to check out new game projects and meet up with game devs. The fact of the matter is I'm well behind in learning enough things about current game development technology (example: Unity), and I feel like whatever values I have to give to a game dev team aren't going to be enough at this point.

I am a freelance writer, and I do this job very well. However, in terms of game development I can feel that game devs look down on me. Being just a writer is difficult enough to get noticed in the Video Game Industry, and having to navigate through the game development process as just a writer is a challenge. Sometimes I get the feeling through conversations with game devs that I'm seen as an "idea guy" and nothing more, which I don't believe is true about me, but that's the perception.

Tipsy Raccoons at GDEX 2016
I'm spending the rest of my time in 2017 studying more about game development and actually diving into stuff. Unity is something that I have explored playing around with, and honestly when it comes to making graphics, designing and programming I have had a pretty bad past history with it. I have often felt confused about what object goes where, what command to use, which button to click, etc. I'm thankful that there are at least some tutorial videos on the internet I can watch.

I'm currently at the age of 28, and to this day I still haven't gotten a real break in the world of game development. I have been pushing for an opportunity in this field for about a decade. Yes, at least 10 years. I have submitted remote job applications to game companies in vain, and never to hear back from them. I have reached out to some indie companies, and these avenues are still up in the air.

Something has to change with my approach because whatever I have been doing just isn't working. If that means I develop a better understanding of software like Unity, as much as I cringe about code language, then so be it. I never expect to become an expert in graphic design or programming, because that has never been my strength anyway, but if it means I crack that door a little more open to a position on a game dev team, then I'm going to at least try.

So yeah, it would have been fun to experience GDEX 2017, but it's just not meant to be.

Monday, August 28, 2017

OtherCharacters.com - Sonic Friends Petition


"Other Characters" - A movement in the making

In light of the recent developments that have been occurring in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise in recent years, I would like to bring up this topic of interest once again. Earlier this year I went on a rant about the importance of Sonic's friends in the franchise and why they should start mattering again today. As it turned out, recently a friend of mine was kind enough to make a website dedicated to the cause that I started. This website is called OtherCharacters.com, which you can view after clicking on the link at the very top.

It's very preliminary in look and feel, but it's a start. You have to start somewhere with something. If you continue browsing through this site you will notice a tab called "Blog". This is where I will be posting some content on topics like Sonic characters, this petition movement and how game development teams like Sonic Team function. I go under the username FoxCordova17 here.

If you're curious to know where I am at with this Other Characters petition, a call to bring back Sonic's friends as playable characters in the Main Modern 3D Series of games, then here are the current numbers as they stand.

Ink Pen Signatures: 94
Online Signatures: 73 (combining my old and new petitions)

However, I have recently found this petition which seems to have taken on a similar tone to the ones I've made. This petition managed to get 49 signatures. I wasn't aware of this petition until I found it.

So in theory if you combine all of these signatures together, you would get a total of 216 signatures. That's not so bad considering all the effort put into these things. Is it anywhere near my desired goal, though? No, not even close. I feel that if more people got involved in promoting this petition, whether through online avenues or word of mouth in-person, we could reach the desired goal of 10,000 signatures. Yes, that sounds like a lot of signatures, but I believe the process would go that much more smoother if more people were actively involved in getting signatures for this petition. 

Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces appear to be the two Sonic games that will really start opening the flood gates when it comes to discussion about whether or not the Sonic franchise should move forward with just Sonic as the only playable character (Classic Sonic and the Created Character not withstanding) or if Sonic's friends should finally be brought back in Modern 3D as playable after an 11-year hiatus.

If you'd like to join this movement and help promote this petition in any way you can, then feel free to join any of these groups dedicated to "Other Characters"! We're open to schedule discussions about what to do with the petition, the movement and what people can do to promote talk about this.

Discord Channel: #sonicothercharacters

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

GJG Game Review: Sonic Mania


Happy 28th Birthday to me for pre-ordering Sonic Mania!

For starters I have been pretty hard on Sega and Sonic Team for the whole year of 2017 so far. Some of the criticisms that I myself have presented to the Sonic franchise have been at least somewhat valid (I hope) and I feel that it's been time for gamers to start being more honest with Sega and Sonic Team about how they feel about the Sonic franchise as a whole, both 2D and 3D. 

With that said, I have been keeping a close eye on Sonic Mania for many months in 2017, and the news I have been getting has come across as nothing but positive. Everything that led up to Mania's release has been a refreshing, reassuring spin on the Sonic content we've been getting in recent years. The marketing campaign that went in to Mania has been very impressive, and the closer we got to the release date of August 15th the more convinced I became that I ABSOLUTELY needed to pre-order this game. August 15th, the day before my 28th Birthday, August 16th. What are the odds?

Controls - 20 out of 20 points

Pretty much flawless, by all accounts. If you're familiar with the original Sonic Genesis games of yesteryear, you should have no problem at all getting used to the controls of Mania. This game is built off the platform of Sonic 1 through Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Mania instantly reminds you of how cool it was to just plug in and play the Genesis games. You could go through an entire sitting of a couple hours and play a Sonic Genesis game with joy. You can Spin Dash, and now you can Drop Dash, which is the only mini-bummer of this game. The times of when you need to use the new Drop Dash ability as Sonic are a mystery, though the ability itself is really cool.

You can play as Sonic, Tails or Knuckles right off the bat and they play just as you remembered them playing in the Genesis games. This sense of familiarity is such a strong plus. 

Graphics - 20 out of 20 points

Wow. Beautiful. Wonderful. Amazing. Without going too much into this, if you have already played Sonic Mania, then you should already know how stylistic and breath-taking the graphics of  Sonic Mania are. It's a hybrid of the Genesis style of graphics and a 32-bit look, somewhat reminding gamers of the Sega 32X days. I'm sure you remember Knuckles Chaotix, right? The art that went into this game deserves some sort of end of year award. Seriously.

Music - 20 out of 20 points

You will immediately feel right at home as a Sonic fan when playing through Mania because the music soundtracks immediately get you to realize just how creative and catchy Sonic soundtracks usually are. These soundtracks are fitting for the environments they attach themselves to, and for the old reliable zones that we all know and loves, the soundtracks for these zones are remixed in such a way that could possibly blow your mind. Give credit to the music producer of the Mania team for this because he knocked this category out of the park!

Replayability Factor - 20 out of 20 points

There is no doubt about what I'm going to say here. This game is absolutely, positively worth replaying again and again. Here's one good reason why Mania gets an A+ in Replayability Value; the order of the mini-bosses and bosses you fight in Mania is NOT always the same. This means that you could be facing different foes such as the various Hard Boiled Heavies, or Dr. Eggman himself in drastically different orders depending on who you play as, and possibly depending on how fast (or slow) you complete a stage.  

What also helps the Replayability in Mania are the Bonus and Special Stages that are scattered throughout the game. You quickly familiarize yourself with the challenge of having to collect many Blue Spheres in a maze, but then you will also have to retrain yourself to complete a daring mission of catching a fleeing aircraft in a race track. This latter stage should remind gamers of Special Stages that we've seen in games like Sonic CD and Sonic Heroes. This Special Stage concept is excellent, the execution of it is great, and most importantly, these additions keep you motivated to play.

11 Bonus Points for Creativity

As an aspiring game dev myself, I definitely appreciate it when I see creative freedom being put on display in a game. I advocate for creativity, I encourage it and I humbly challenge other aspiring game devs to put their creativity out there in game projects. What Christian "Taxman" Whitehead, Headcannon and PagodaWest Games did for Sonic Mania is a textbook example of being able to use enough creativity in a video game and showcasing what they know about the Sonic Universe.

Seriously, I could also say that the levels of creativity used in this game are "off the charts", "blasted past the outfield fence for a home run", and "top of the mountain quality". Sonic Mania is THAT good, whether you play this game as a Sonic fan or not. 

Overall Score: 91 out of 100 points (11 Bonus Points)

I have never felt more happy about playing a new Sonic game that I have for Sonic Mania, and late last week on the 11th I made the decision (at the last minute, really) to pre-order this game. It turns out that Sonic Mania was by far one of the best gaming purchase decisions I have ever made. Sonic Mania blew me the crap away, to put it somewhat bluntly. Sure, it's just a 2D side-scrolling platforming game at the end of the day, but it's not just that. It's a call to remember what Sonic used to be, and that he used to be one of the best video game characters in history. Sonic and his friends can reach that status again if Sega allows Sonic Mania to be used as a building block for future 2D Sonic installments. 

While the jury is still out on the future of Modern 3D Sonic games, which is another story altogether, Classic 2D Sonic is officially back like a boss. Sonic Mania is already going to be one of the best video games in history when this is said and done. A fitting Happy Birthday gift to myself!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Comprehensive Game Design Analysis Part 1


I avidly study game development when I have the time to do so. I often search through YouTube and various other places on the internet (Shout out to Gamasutra!) to find other opinions on game design, what gamers like and what they don't like about certain games. As you can tell from the embedded video above, I'm going to be commenting again on a game that I own for the PS4, and it's obviously nowhere near my favorite video game to play. I already made a review on Mighty No. 9 a couple months back and gave it a mediocre overall score, and that was mainly because I have never been a huge Mega Man fan and I never backed the Kickstarter campaign for this game.

What this video goes into is how ridiculous the game design was for Mighty No. 9, and for the most part I definitely agree with the author of this video. I find it inexcusable as to how certain parts of game design were implemented in Mighty No. 9, and after watching this video you'll come to realize just how much better this game should have been, but Comcept basically refused to make it better.

Enemy Placement
The placement of enemies in Mighty No. 9 was jarring in many areas. You didn't feel like you were necessarily rewarded after you reached a seemingly special part of a level where you could collect extra health items and power-ups. If anything, you felt somewhat punished for doing so. What made this case was how "in your face" the placed enemies were. The moment you felt you had some room to work with, that space would be taken away by an ill-placed enemy, making your gaming experience unnecessarily more difficult.

Color Discernment
If you hate having to discern the difference between an object that's in the background of a level and an object you actually have to take down in the foreground, then you might want to stay away from Mighty No. 9. Especially during boss fights do you have to deal with colors that blend in with each other, which means that you sometimes will be guessing which object to attack, and which object to ignore. Pick the wrong object and you will pay for it. Not good.

No Set Pattern of Level Choices
I find this to be an interesting argument, and one I agree with. For those of you who play Mega Man games you would know that there's a pattern in choosing levels, preferably from the easiest to the hardest. If you guess the pattern of level choices right then the gaming experience overall will feel more rewarding. If you tackle the harder levels first and then go to the easier levels, then it may not feel as rewarding. Mighty No. 9 suffers from not giving you any initial hints as to what set pattern to rely on. Should you take on Mighty No. 2 first? Or should it be Mighty No. 5? You don't know, and that's the problem. You won't get any help in improving the quality of a level until after you beat a boss and pick the level that matches that defeated boss's help sequence.

Learning Moves
Another frustrating part of Mighty No. 9 is the learning curve, especially considering the types of moves that Beck can perform. In the options menu of the game you can try to learn how to perform certain moves that you feel will help Beck progress through a level. However, many of these moves seem to be counterproductive in how they are executed and how they complement a level. There's this one move called the "Drop Shot" where you jump backwards and shoot down at a 45 degree angle. On many occasions this move is simply worthless and doesn't help you.

Mighty No. 9 simply suffered from this feeling that two game dev teams worked on the game instead of just one. There was no cohesive vision as to what Mighty No. 9 wanted to be as a game, and when conflicting features of the game tried to merge with each other, it became a mess. Having said this I still have no problem owning this game because I don't have a big emotional attachment to Mega Man style games, but I feel that this information is worth sharing with my blog readers.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Time to Reconsider DLC?


Just like their competitors Microsoft and Sony, it has become apparent that Nintendo is following in their footsteps by presenting DLC packages and deals to gamers. It's no secret that nowadays in order to truly get the full experience of a game you will need to buy some sort of DLC exclusive. Sometimes it's absolutely needed to buy a DLC deal in order to 100% complete a game. Nintendo in recent years has picked up on this financial strategy and have put their own spin on it by way of using their Amiibo collectible toys.

The linked video above will tell more of the story, but the gist of it is basically Nintendo has been catching on to what Microsoft and Sony have been doing for many years, since at least the start of the 2010's. Make no mistake that this strategy of implementing DLC attached to main games has been working like Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket, but this leads me to ask the following questions.

Is it time to reconsider DLC? Is it time to start re-evaluating the worth of Downloadable Content? What have we learned from this business model of throwing DLC into a game package? It's 2017 and we're getting closer to the end of the 2010's, so I would think that normally the Video Game Industry would step back and start thinking over what they have introduced in the past decade.

What has DLC ultimately replaced in this past decade? Cheat codes. Think about it. Very rarely do we ever hear about new games having any sort of cheat code system. You see, cheat codes were once a unique part of a gameplay experience back in the day. In the 1990's when computer technology wasn't as advanced as it is today, gamers had to rely on trial and error in order to obtain secret cheat codes in their favorite games, and once these codes were submitted in the cheat section of an option menu, the gamer would get a brand new experience because he or she would get to play the game in a different way. Plus, the kicker here is that the gamer was rewarded with a FREE new feature!

Not to say that every single DLC offer costs you an arm and a leg, because that's not entirely true, but the fact that every DLC offer is bound to cost you, the gamer, something out of your wallet means that you have to try harder to save money in order to get the thing about your favorite game that you really want. Doesn't it sometimes rub you the wrong way how you buy a game first and you assume that you have everything in that game, but then realize the game dev company is going to release DLC packages to make that game "more complete"?

Cue the picture of a rabbit chasing a carrot dangling on a stick.


Okay, that's close enough.

The Video Game Industry is a business, and sometimes gamers lose sight of that. It's a fun business to be a part of, but it's still a business nonetheless. These game dev companies are looking to expand their business, and if they think that DLC is the way to go for them, then guess what? They're gonna offer DLC deals.

I guess where I'm going with this is my concern over how much is too much when offering DLC. Costing an arm and a leg to buy DLC simply isn't ideal for many gamers. They just bought the original game for an already steep enough price, especially if they bought that game just a day or two after official release. To ask gamers to spend more money on DLC just so they can have a "more complete experience" with the original game sounds crazy and foreign to me. That's just how I feel as I've grown up as a gamer in the late 1990's and early 2000's.

Ultimately my stance on DLC is this. DLC probably has a place in today's Video Game Industry, but it should never be abused by game dev companies just for the sake of economic convenience. There's a fine line to draw here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Mario Gets Too Much of a Pass


I'd like to pull this above video out and have you guys listen to it. This video discusses why there seems to be an obvious bias in the way that some gaming media companies review certain games. When you go over the reviews of some games, don't you sometimes get the feeling that the reviews and the scores given to games are intentionally biased?

The prime example of there possibly being a game review bias: compare any platforming game against a Mario game. Many companies seem to be guilty of doing this. many companies appear so ready, willing and able to just automatically give Mario games high review scores right after they're released out to market, and when another platforming game comes out, whether it's Crash Bandicoot, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ratchet & Clank or whatever, these same companies will view these games through a completely different lense.

Consider the remake of Crash Bandicoot that was released not too long ago. Check out the review scores of this trilogy collection from some of the big name gaming media companies. Check out IGN, GameInformer, GameSpot and others. Compare their reviews of Crash's original trilogy remake to that of recent Mario games. Does it feel like night and day to you at first glance?

I think it's important to note how game critics review games because we should pick up on the tendencies of these critics. We need to know whether or not a critic is being consistent with what he or she is saying about particular game genres, as well as the games themselves. If a critic isn't being consistent, then you know something is up. If a game critic is praising a certain game even though it's a hard game to master, but then turns around and bashes another game for being in the same ballpark of hard, then you know a certain agenda is being pushed.

I mean, there are different interpretations of a hard video game, but we shouldn't make the gap of these interpretations so gaping that it becomes difficult for readers to understand which kind of hard is acceptable and which kind of hard is unacceptable. That's why game reviewers need to describe what it is about a game that makes it so hard, and not just say "Oh, it's too hard for me to play!" Reviewers need to avoid being so vague as they write down their game reviews.

Back in the day only Nintendo Power (when it was still active) had the excuse of hyping up Mario games in their reviews because they exclusively promoted Nintendo products, so in their case it made sense. Nonetheless, if a game isn't up to par to the standards that its series intended it to be, you call the game out on it. You review that game accordingly, whether it's a Mario game or not.

I'm a firm believer in honest journalism. That's one reason why the Gaming Journalist Gazette blog exists. I'm here to give my readers honest journalism. I have to be honest about the games I play and the game news that gets announced. I have to present my honest opinions on gaming topics. I can't present something that I don't believe in. My honest opinions on games may not always be received well by people like game critics, but I write what I write, and that's that.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mobile Game Project: Postponed Indefinitely



Remember when I told you that there were good things being developed on my end? Remember that mobile game project that I promised would get finished this year? That cartoony platformer/fighting hybrid of a game where a boxing kangaroo goes around punching down enemies and fights a boss in the style of a boxing match?

I am sad to report that this project has pretty much been postponed indefinitely.

It shouldn't come across as all that shocking to my blog readers. Many times this has happened to projects that were initially ambitious and filled with optimism. I'm sure you can name at least a dozen game projects that you were excited to see get completed... only to see those projects get shelved, left to gather dust for who knows how long.

The sad thing about this is that I was ready to go ahead and help put the finishing touches on this project. I was ready to get back to work in early 2017 (Spring time and on, at least) and finish what I had set out to do. It seemed like all the puzzle pieces were in place for me and my team to finish this. I generally had a good feeling about where this project was headed. I generally enjoyed working with my two teammates on this project and I felt like we developed the kind of working relationship we needed to get some things done.

What happened? One of my teammates not only bailed on this project, but he left the game dev team altogether. Reportedly he wanted to pursue other interests. This means that this project was left hanging out to dry. This former teammate left the team in early 2017.

How do I feel about this? I'll be honest. I'm not happy. I'm not happy about how all this spiraled down into what it is now. It's an unfinished project that hasn't been worked on since August 2016. Generally speaking I don't like leaving anything unfinished. Whether it's a success or a failure I want to see something through the whole way. There has been talk between myself and my other teammate about putting this mobile game onto a different engine and having an art revamp.

Being in No Man's Land for game development isn't a good feeling, so where do I go from here? Until my other teammate and I can agree on a time when we can restart this project, in the meantime I may have to start all over with a different project and work with other game devs. Unless I receive other forms of help for this project, I don't see what else I can do at this point.

Let this be a lesson for any aspiring game dev out there who wants to get a mobile game project made; expect this to happen often in your game-making career. You may love to make games, but be prepared to get knocked down by unforeseen real life circumstances. Don't let this discourage you, but don't turn a blind eye to this neither.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Takashi Iizuka: Endless Sonic Experiments



http://www.gameinformer.com/games/sonic_forces/b/playstation4/archive/2017/06/13/head-of-sonic-team-talks-bringing-custom-characters.aspx

http://metro.co.uk/2017/07/04/sonic-mania-and-sonic-forces-hands-on-preview-and-interview-the-focus-is-on-old-school-fans-6753357/

For 2 blog posts here I have been discussing the topic of Sonic Forces, the newest Main Sonic Series game that will come out in the fall of this year. I have already put it out there that while I believe this game will sell well because of the feature it offers, the Create-a-Character option, I don't believe that Forces will serve as the long-term solution to what needs to be done for the franchise moving forward. I don't feel like I need to go too much more in depth when it comes to Forces at this point, at least until after Forces comes out.

What I want to discuss here, though, is the head of Sonic Team, Takashi Iizuka. Personally he sounds like a guy who would be okay to chat with at dinner, a guy you can approach and shoot the breeze with. What I'm about to say shouldn't be taken as a personal attack or anything. That's not what I do here on this blog.

I'm saying this; Takashi Iizuka simply isn't as professional as he should be.

Let's consider the 2 links to separate interviews above. Now I caution my blog readers to carefully tread through the 2nd interview because quite frankly the interviewer comes across as an arrogant jerk who shoves his opinion down people's throats. The interviewer is obviously super duper unprofessional and he has no business conducting interviews.

Back to Iizuka, pay close attention to the answers he gives in these interviews, and consider where he's going with these answers. If you ask me, I have no idea at this point what he's trying to say because it seems to me that the meaning behind his answers have multiple meanings... more like 15 or more meanings wrapped inside 1 answer.

Probably the most glaring example of Iizuka's answers having too many meanings behind them would be his comment on how he and Sonic Team thought that Sonic Mania wouldn't be received too well by gaming communities. That alone would have to bother any gamer because an answer like that shows how oblivious Iizuka and the current Sonic Team are to the ever changing climate of the Sonic Fan Base and gamers in general. The trendy thing to do right now is to play games that have a retro-like vibe to them, as in play some games that are wrapped inside 2D technology which are new but give off the feeling of old school games that we enjoyed in years past.

I believe that the more you read into interviews with Iizuka, the more you will realize that he has no clue as to which pressing issues need to be addressed in the Sonic franchise. Consider the games that he and Sonic Team have developed in these last 11 years. Let me run them down for you.

  • Sonic Unleashed
  • Sonic Colors
  • Sonic Generations
  • Sonic Lost World
  • Sonic Boom (supervised Big Red Button to make this)
  • Sonic 4 Episodes I and II
  • Mario & Sonic at the [insert trendy location here] Olympic Games

To get it out of the way, the game Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric was a disaster not only because of how Big Red Button Entertainment developed the game, but really how Sega and Sonic Team monitored their development process. We cannot excuse how lazy BRB were in implementing Boom's gameplay controls for all playable characters, but we also cannot excuse Sega and Sonic Team for how they restricted BRB in certain fundamental aspects, specifically concerning creative freedom.

These games that feature Mario and Sonic going to the Olympics sell well. There's no denying that. The Mario & Sonic Olympic Games even control well for the most part. However, when we get down to the bottom of this, what did these spinoff games really accomplish? Yes, the appeal of Mario and Sonic actually getting together to do something cool in a single game was there, but Sega and Sonic Team misinterpreted that appeal. Are the Olympic Games all we ever want to see from Mario characters and Sonic characters together? Is it really as difficult as they say to make an actual adventure game featuring both Mario's and Sonic's staple gameplay mechanics?

Sonic 4 Episodes I and II were not really Sonic 4. Let's be honest about that. Sega and Sonic Team once again misinterpreted what gamers were wanting when they asked for something that was loyal and true to the original Genesis games that put Sonic on the map. While these games were not terrible and do have a couple redeemable qualities to them, these games simply missed the mark because in no way did they ever feel like true continuations of Sonic 3 & Knuckles. If anything, from what we're seeing now, Sonic Mania will blow Sonic 4 out of the water when it comes to this.

The group of siblings known as Unleashed, Colors, Generations, and Lost World... I might as well bunch these games together as a family because they all equally represent my next point. Inconsistency. That's the first word that comes to my mind when I review these 4 games together.

Unleashed separated gameplay mechanics between night and day. During the day you were simply Sonic the Hedgehog. At night, however, you were this "Werehog". Just cringeworthy. Colors introduced power-ups that I absolutely despise to this day because these things represent part of the main reason why we don't have Sonic's friends back as playable characters. The Wisps... Serving as just a band-aid to a wound that's not getting any better.

Generations was a celebration of Sonic's 20th Anniversary as a game franchise, and yes, this game paid tribute to some of Sonic's most iconic levels. However, it's just too bad that Sega and Sonic Team managed to highlight their main problems with this series in this game as Sonic's friends were treated like helpless cheerleaders and Classic Sonic became the Gimmick of the Year. Lost World introduced Parkour gameplay mechanics which wasn't all that bad, but the level designs were lacking, loading screens were not up to par, and once again, the writing of the game's story was ridiculously bad.

Now Iizuka believes he has something good in Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and the Created Character named "Hero" teaming up to take down Dr. Eggman and company. That's all well and good if you don't mind sitting through a story that will most likely not make any sense. The Create-a-Character feature itself in Sonic Forces isn't a bad idea. In fact, it is clever when it comes to marketing the game; you're attracting new gamers to the product that way. However, (how many howevers is that?) what is Forces going to accomplish at the end of the day?

"Let's throw something at the wall and hope it sticks!"

"Let's keep experimenting with new gameplay mechanics until we find the right one!"

"We can't bring back Sonic's friends as playable characters until we figure out Sonic."

These endless Sonic experiments need to have some sort of climax to them. Ultimately you have to have some sort of idea where you want to take a game franchise. You have to know after so many experiments what works and what isn't working. You have to understand your gaming audience. You have to understand how the "gaming climate" is changing. You have to know just who is antagonizing you (such as this 2nd interviewer linked above), and who is trying to give you sound advice.

My greatest concern is that these Sonic experiments are going to continue for another 10-15 years, and that ultimately Sega and Sonic Team still won't figure anything out, meaning that all of us will have time wasted.

If Iizuka can't get himself and his team to figure out what makes true Sonic gameplay in 3D, then I believe he and most of his teammates at Sonic Team need to step down. They need to go. If this current Sonic Team can't advance us forward in the Sonic series, then we need a new team of game devs to come in with fresh new ideas, and a solid vision for what needs to be done to Sonic in 3D games. That's what needs to happen.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Video Game Inspiration: Alaska


Alaska... A good place for game dev ideas?
Here we are on July 1st, which is Canada Day, and we're just 3 days away from Independence Day in America. However, the topic that's being written today involves a place that is cushioned against both America and Canada, and it's just a hop, skip and a flip away from the eastern tips of Russia.

In the dog days of Summer I'm actually writing about Alaska, and better yet I'm writing about Alaska in the context of video game writing. Slow day at the Gaming Journalist Gazette office? Maybe, but this isn't the most random topic to discuss. I have ventured into more random topics before.

The small community of Barrow, Alaska is a very fascinating study, and not just in the sense of digging up interesting history. Barrow is by far the most northern point of the entire United States, and if you happen to visit this place you will realize how often Barrow receives snowfall throughout the year. How about we try pretty much every day? Yes, this includes the Summer season where a few inches of snowfall touch down on the grounds of Barrow.

The way of life in Barrow is fascinating because it simply doesn't march to the same beat as small communities that you see down here in the mainland of the United States. Alaska in general is like that. Unlike the mainland 48 states and the other distant state Hawaii, Alaska has that sense of mystery surrounding it. The great unknown... you never know what you're gonna get once you venture through the heavy wooded areas or scale up tall hills and mountains in Alaska. Sounds exciting, huh? Tell that to those who actually live in Alaska, and they'll tell you just how tough life is in this state.

A fun fact about Barrow that soon (if it hasn't happened already) it will be renamed back to what it was originally named, which is Utqiagvik. For the sake of this blog post, though, let's just keep calling this place Barrow to avoid confusion.

It's no wonder why an environment like Alaska's is so appealing to game devs, especially if they're trying to make a cool survival style adventure game where the main character has to find a way to outlast the opposition. Barrow in particular would be a great example of inspiration for game devs because they can see from this example of how hard life really is in Alaska. It is the job of the game devs to make an experience that on the surface may look boring and turn that into something exciting enough for players to engage in.

To make a certain game environment work you would have to get a feel for what that environment is like. In this case if you want to make a video game about Alaska, then you have to get an understanding of what Alaska is like. It's not just about Alaska being a cold place. Everyone knows Alaska's a cold place. How do people go fishing in Alaska? How do people hunt for food? How do they track down moose, deer and other large animals when they hunt? How do people stay warm in Alaska? How do people create their own shelters?

See where I'm going with this? You have a basis for making an appealing game already if you utilize Alaska's features and implement them into a game. Can you say RPG? Can you say survival simulator? How about an ambitious platformer? Or even a thrilling Mystery & Suspense Third Person Shooting Game where you're figuring out a bizarre murder mystery?

When you think about it, Alaska really isn't that bad a place for making a video game around. I suggest watching the linked video above, a documentary on Barrow to see what northern Alaska is like. If you're a game dev you might want to take some notes.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Atari Making a New Console

https://www.ataribox.com/

And along came Atari again?
Talk about a shocker.

Remember Atari? That one video game company that used to be so bold as to make their own consoles as late as the 1990's? Remember the Atari Jaguar? Remember the Atari 7800, 5200 and the classic 2600? For those of you who have only experienced the latest generations of gaming, you probably wouldn't know much about the history that is tied in with this company. Atari played much more of a pivotal role in the Gaming Industry than what you think. Before there was Nintendo and Sega battling it out, and long before Sony and Microsoft started flexing their muscles, there was Atari.

Everyone knows exactly how badly things turned out for Atari in the 1980's and will immediately point at E.T., by far one of the worst video games in history. Cartridges of the E.T. game were sent out to a random landfill dump in New Mexico and were dishonorably buried. Of  course, just a few years ago those same cartridges would be dug up again by some random people. Imagine that!

Now let's get to the shocker. Atari is actually making a new video game console in 2017.

Let that sink in. Atari is actually making a new video game console in 2017. Gotta repeat that.
 

The good old days of gaming... Atari's back?
Now what exactly this is turning out to be remains unclear in most aspects, but with this new console called the "Ataribox" (I'm sure Microsoft won't be happy about the play-on words from the Xbox), chances are gamers will be receiving some sort of valuable content in the near future. Is the Ataribox just Atari's own attempt of making something like the NES Classic Edition, which did help Nintendo's bottom line for some time? Or is the Ataribox indeed a legitimate attempt of Atari trying to get back into the "Console Wars" and re-establishing its name in the gaming world? Whatever the case, the initial buzz generated by just a short <30 second video has got people talking.

Some reactions to this short video have been "What in the world is Atari thinking?" and "Are they crazy?" but other reactions have been "Oh wow! This I gotta see!" and "I'm curious to see how this turns out!" 

My thoughts? Color me VERY intrigued because this is exactly one of the things that I have been pointing at when it comes to providing a spark for the Video Game Industry. Let's be honest for a minute. As much as we've enjoyed the Nintendo Vs. Sony. Vs. Microsoft Console Wars for 3 generations now, it has become apparent that this 3-way battle is becoming a bit boring and played out. It seems to me that all 3 companies are starting to rest on their laurels in one sense, and perhaps even going through the motions of "We're the only 3 console-making companies in town and that's how it's gonna be!"

If --and I put emphasis on if-- Atari plays their cards right with the Ataribox, then the Console Wars will be successfully refreshed!


I think that thought alone should make anyone feel optimistic about this idea. The Ataribox came completely out of nowhere. To my knowledge there were really no hints of Atari actually doing something like this. Heck, in the beginning of the 2010's Atari filed for bankruptcy, and now here they are, having enough money to do something like this? How does this happen?

If news like this doesn't excite gamers like you, then I don't know what else to tell you other than to stay tuned for more news on the Ataribox. If I pick up on anything else juicy on the Ataribox you'll be sure to get it here on this blog!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sly Cooper TV Series is in Production

Yes, this is finally happening!
https://evonews.com/entertainment/2017/jun/15/sly-cooper-tv-series-is-in-the-works/
http://www.animationmagazine.net/tv/technicolor-sony-team-on-cg-sly-cooper-series/
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2017-06-14-playstation-and-technicolor-working-on-sly-cooper-tv-series

Being a Sly Cooper fan, I simply had this feeling that something like this was going to happen at some point. It was made official this week that a digitally animated TV series featuring the Master Thief himself Sly Cooper, as well as his friends who make up the Cooper Gang, and other interesting characters such as Inspector Carmelita Fox, is in the works. If you follow the above links after clicking on them, you will realize that there is indeed plenty of corporate support behind this project.

Now for those of you wondering, yes, the Sly Cooper movie has been put on hold, mainly due to the fact that the Ratchet & Clank movie didn't do so well in theaters. I mean, we can't confirm that that was the actual reason why the Sly Cooper movie has been delayed for now, but we can only speculate on that.

This news of Technicolor Animation Productions teaming up with Sony Interactive Entertainment to produce a Sly Cooper TV series can possibly be fantastic news considering that these teams take the series in the right direction. There is a lot of untapped potential in a series like Sly Cooper that goes well beyond just video games. I mentioned the movie that was just put on hold, but there's also plenty of marketable variety that goes with a thieving raccoon who acts as a modern day Robin Hood.

There are many ways to go with this. You can have your breakout animated hit that falls in line with shows of the past like Transformers and Gundam Wing, but then there is always the danger of taking an animated series down a path where fans really didn't want it going through, such as Teen Titans Go! (a pretty much failed attempt of non-stop humor spin-off of Teen Titans).

It amazes me that certain video game franchises like Mario, Sonic and Donkey Kong are pretty much allowed to have their own animated series of adventures right off the bat, but then it takes quite a while for production companies to see the value in franchises like Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper.

By all means the Sly Cooper franchise has been quiet since 2013 when Sly 4: Thieves In Time was released for the PS3, so it was time to finally bring up Sly again in some capacity. From what I hear at E3, Sony's presentations did not hit any sort of home runs with the crowd, which is concerning. Sony pretty much showed the same things that they showed in the 2016 E3 event, and there weren't any real big surprises. Some gamers were hoping for some surprises such as a possible announcement about Sly Cooper. Unfortunately that just didn't happen at the 2017 E3.

I am initially optimistic about where the Sly Cooper series is being taken with this animated TV series. I am hoping for good things to come out of this project, and I sincerely hope that whatever the producers of the show end up doing that they will end up justifying the hype. As long as Sly and others remain themselves and as long as the storylines in the episodes are interesting enough and aren't non-stop cheap humor marathons, then I don't see why this show can't succeed with teenagers and young children, the targeted audience.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Blue Shell... Really?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFfga8-3SZI

This item will make you cry in Mario Kart!
The Blue Shell... The item that crushes the dreams of the player who's in 1st place in Mario Kart. This item is an obvious representation of the "equalizer" item where the player who is in dead last place will be given another chance of catching up with the rest of the pack. This item will make sure that the player in 1st place will not have a lead so huge that no one can cut into. In fact, isn't that really the core purpose of the Blue Shell? To make things that were initially "blah" turn into "Whoa! What the heck just happened?"

When discussing game mechanics, this would always have to be an honorable mention because of how quirky it really is. When you think about typical racing games, i.e. normal racing games where no random items are collected and unleashed, it's highly likely that if you have a big lead you are going to hang onto that lead unless you royally screw up and allow other players to get back in the race. This is rarely ever the case with Mario Kart games because let's face it, these games are flat our weird with how their races play out. Mario Kart is simply NOT a normal racing game by any means. There is always something weird happening in these races, and most of the time the core of this weirdness happens to involve the Blue Shell.

What makes the Blue Shell such an interesting item in Mario Kart? Is it simply because it acts as an equalizer item? I don't think this is the only reason because it also happens to be that kind of item that takes everyone by shock. The Shock Factor that comes with the Blue Shell is nearly unmatched in any racing game because once the Blue Shell is played it almost always changes the outcome of a Mario Kart race. Unless the 1st place player who gets hit by it is experienced enough to get past such adversity and still win, there's a good chance that we'll be seeing someone else win the race.

As the above video describes, however, it is actually possible to avoid getting hit by the Blue Shell while in 1st place. There are only a certain few items that are capable of negating the effects of the Blue Shell, and if you don't have these items then you're pretty much in deep doo-doo. 

I have some history with this item because I have played some Mario Kart games, and let me tell you that I have been at the receiving end of these Blue Shell hits as well as being the guy who dishes out the Blue Shell to the 1st place racer. So how do I feel about the Blue Shell? I'm okay with this item existing. I don't see any general problems with it because it does add to the fun of Mario Kart. It is one of the most creative ways Nintendo has used the element of the "equalizer", and I think it fits right in with the craziness that we have come to know Mario Kart games by.

If you look around you will notice that the Blue Shell has become a meme of sorts on the internet. Whenever someone pulls out in front with a big lead in anything, whether that be racing or any other event, you'll notice someone busting out a Blue Shell meme just for laughs. That's when you know you've made an iconic item. Just ask Stephen and Mal Georg on the StephenPlays YouTube channel about their thoughts on the Blue Shell item!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Edutainment Games: What They Need



https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/educational-video-games-just-never-got-things-right

Educational entertainment? Edutainment? Games that are meant to teach players some valuable lessons?

If you're not used to this side of gaming, then don't worry. Many gamers haven't had good experiences on this side of gaming anyway. You can lump in "Serious Games" as part of this package, but let's try to focus on games that relate to what was written about in the above link. The picture I put up above is a title screen of a Math Blaster game. Have any of my blog readers played a Math Blaster game when they were young? Do you guys remember what that gaming experience was like? Perhaps when you look back on that experience, you probably won't have fond memories of them. Not because the makers of the Math Blaster games didn't try to make the experience fulfilling, but rather the games themselves just came across as looking dull.

That is what the article in the above link is hinting at. The author of the linked article states that educational video games, Math Blaster and other games of its ilk, just never got things right. The author does go on to state that there's a special nickname for games that fit the Math Blaster mold, and that would be "chocolate-covered broccoli". Now I've never had broccoli dipped in chocolate, but I can only imagine that the taste of that wouldn't be so good! Yuck!

The attempts of establishing the medium of Edutainment were all innocent in the late 1980's and 1990's because certain companies wanted to touch base with children who were starting to get used to playing all the hip and cool video games of those times. The NES, SNES and Sega Genesis were video game royalty in this time period, and as children were getting hooked into playing for hours, other companies were trying to get creative in helping these same children succeed in the classroom at school.

Chocolate-covered broccoli was coined by the author of the book Utopian Entrepreneur, Brenda Laurel in the year 2001. She believes that the Edutainment genre poorly tried to make the entertainment part of these gaming experiences mean something to the player. While the educational part had enough bulk to it, the entertainment part was obviously lacking. Therefore there wasn't enough of a balance between the two that could actually keep players (children at school) interested long-term.



By all means, even the big name video game companies themselves are not exempt from this. Remember what Nintendo did around this same time period? Remember Mario's Time Machine? Mario Is Missing? Mario Paint? Only 1 of these 3 games have managed to maintain a respectable reputation, and that would be Mario Paint as you can listen to pretty decent (and even awesome) beats that remind you of pop culture themes on YouTube.

Mario's Time Machine and Mario Is Missing! were both duds, however. I mean they were REAL duds! In one game as Mario you were pitted with the task of basically being Marty McFly, repairing the Space-Time Continuum by retrieving objects (apples) once you traveled to certain time periods, and all the while supposedly learning some stuff about world history. In Mario Is Missing! you played as only Luigi, and with occasional help from Yoshi, Toad and some Koopas, you would try your best to locate just where Mario was as you would be given geography lessons. Both of these games I just described are considered cringe-worthy to this day.

It's funny that I'm posting this at a time when children are out of school and enjoying their Summer vacation, but hey, anything newsworthy for video game content is great!

If you attempt to make a game in the Edutainment genre, then it's wise to make sure that there's a significant balance between the two categories of education and entertainment. If one category suffers, then the other category won't be able to make up for the lost quality. It really is that simple. If I give you the educational lesson but fail to entertain you, the game will be boring. If I entertain you by leaps and bounds but fail to educate you, then you will not want to focus on what the educational points actually were. Balance is the key, blog readers!