Introducing ‘Keen Plays’

I mentioned a while back that I would start to introduce more video content here on the blog to enhance, augment, or extend our gaming coverage. I’m pleased to say that I finally have things ironed out enough that I can start making these videos somewhat regularly. My first foray into video coverage will be in the form of “Keen Plays.”

As you might have guessed, these are my own personal take on the “Let’s Play” video style. Keen Plays will essentially be video coverage of me playing the games. I might use them to introduce or do an overview of a game to go along with one of my reviews, or simply record what I’m playing that day with a microphone going in the background. I want these to be less ‘produced’ and more ‘Hey guys, I’m playing a game so come watch.”

Video production is still very new to me. I have some tools like Sony Vegas HD and Adobe Premiere Pro. I have a Live Gamer HD Portable that I use to record consoles, and I’m using OBS Broadcaster or simply Windows 10’s new Game DVR to record PC stuff. So far recording is really easy, and I can do it all in 1080p 60FPS. Where I struggle is post production, but I’ll get there eventually. Since I’m not doing this to garner 100,000’s of views and make a living, I feel like as long as my videos enhance the blog coverage then I have met my goal.

The two Keen Plays series up so far are Disney Infinity 3.0 and Super Mario Maker. I’ll go ahead and link the playlists below.

Super Mario Maker

Disney Infinity 3.0

If you looking to stay current on all of my Keen Plays videos you can visit the Keen Plays page, or visit the Keen and Graev Youtube Page where you’ll find all of our videos. Oh, and let me clarify that Keen Plays are just one of several types of videos we’ll be doing. I’m going to try my hand at formal video reviews for games (to go along with my written reviews and essentially be the same content but with video), as well as other video coverage. We’ll see how it goes, but for now Keen Plays are the for sure thing.

I hope you enjoy!

Super Mario Maker Review

Super Mario Maker Building Tools

Spoilers: Super Mario Maker is so much fun! Super Mario Maker takes all of the things (well, almost all) we know and love from Mario over the last 30 years and packages it all up into what is by far the biggest and potentially never-ending Mario game ever made.

Super Mario Maker allows players to create their very own Mario levels using graphic styles, doodads, enemies, bosses, and gameplay mechanics from all of the 2D side-scrolling Mario games. In addition to making and playing your own levels, players can go to the Course World and download levels made by other players all over the world.

Course Maker Mode

The creation tools are phenomenal. I can’t imagine them working much better than this in terms of functionality. The experience is so seamless and smooth that you can literally place something, click play, and test it out on the spot. There aren’t load times or transitions — it’s instantaneous. The developers wanted this experience to be smooth, and they nailed it.

Here’s where the gamepad shines and no other consoles can compete. Being able to use the stylus to drag/drop and manipulate two screens is a must.

My biggest criticism of the make mode has nothing to do with what’s in the game. Everything in the game is fantastic. I’m more bummed about what wasn’t included, and hope that we’ll see it patched in soon. Here are a few things I’ve noticed that are missing:

  • Scenery: Desert, Beach, Forest, Snow
  • Tanooki Suit Mario
  • Ice Flower
  • Colored Yoshi
  • Wind

The list is actually extensive and growing, which leads me to believe we’re either going to see DLC, or if Nintendo treats this like they did Splatoon we may see this added for free. Fingers crossed. [Read more…]

Nintendo’s New President Brings Big Change to the Company

New Nintendo President

Tatsumi Kimishima

Tatsumi Kimishima is the new President of Nintendo, and with his new position comes a great deal of change and restructuring. Although Kimishima says to Nikkei (Japanese publication) that Nintendo will be staying the course laid out for the company by the late Mr. Iwata, it’s hard not to see the massive impact this restructuring will have on the company and the products.

Kimishima has organized the company into three main divisions:

Platform Technology Development Division – Harware, Operating Systems, techy stuff.

Entertainment Planning and Development Division – Combines two previous game development divisions into one to focus on making games.

Business Development Division – Oversees the management of gaming systems, smartphones, and IP licensing.

You may be wondering what is happening to Miyamoto and Takaeda. Miyamoto will be a “Creative Fellow” and Takaeda a “Technology Fellow.” Nintendo classifies a Fellow as, “An individual selected from among the Representative Directors who has advanced knowledge and extensive experience, and holds the role of providing advice and guidance regarding organizational operations in a specialized area.” 

While it’s a little uncomfortable to see Miyamoto stepping into more of a consulting role, it’s probably best for the company as a whole to see this shakeup. Miyamoto really shouldn’t have been in charge of the systems. He needs to focus on bringing us the games we didn’t know we wanted.

Looking at Kimishima it’s hard not to think he looks a little grumpy compared to Iwata. I’m pretty sure we won’t see Kimishima stepping out on the stage (or I guess the Nintendo Directs these days) with a big smile on his face. He looks like he’s all business. As much as I want to think of the core team at Nintendo as being all fuzzy and huggable and fun, they do need a healthy dose of change and to get back on track with making the company more, as Kimishima says, Nintendo-like again.

I hope this means we see less gimmicky weirdness from Nintendo and a return to serious core IPs that this company was founded upon. I want to see a major emphasis on system development that doesn’t lag behind the competition. I’d love to see their online play move beyond the 90’s lobby system. I want the see Mario, Zelda, and the other big franchises take major steps forward rather than fun and innovative changes to the already established norms. I think it’s possible that Kimishima could be the best thing to happen to Nintendo. Here’s hoping. Good luck, Mr. Kimishima!

Kickstarter Lawsuits

A couple of you have asked for my opinion on the recent successful lawsuit against a Kickstarter campaign. I think we’re finally seeing what should have already been a well-established precedent for crowdfunding. Kickstarter campaign organizers should be accountable for their actions, and when those actions lead to fraudulent activity they need to be held responsible.

We see a lot of Kickstarters in the gaming industry fail to produce anything even after being successfully funded. This alone is not grounds for litigation, but rather why or how they failed. Did they fail because the guy behind the Kickstarter made horrible business decisions? Was the entire campaign a front for funding something else, or preparing to be acquired and work on another projects? Was the money used in ways other than specified? There are many reasons why I believe Kickstarter campaign organizers should be made to pay. Simply failing, however, is not one of them.

I’m glad to see that the consumer is being protected.

Are Kickstarter Backers Investors or Consumers?

Yes. In some ways they are both.  Personally, I lean on the side of Kickstarters being more consumer-based spending rather than investing. Depending on the Kickstarter, I think there’s an argument to be made for not only consumer spending, but investing or even donating to support a cause. Going back to games, in most cases you are paying a tier where you are buying a copy of the game. You’re paying now, rather than later, to obtain that copy of the game in the future and support the game’s development.

Kickstarter campaigns walk a fine line. Yes, people backing a Kickstarter campaign need to realize they are not guaranteed something. But campaign organizers need to realize that their tiers and their campaigns are often presented in such a way that the backers are customers creating direct business transactions.

Fear of Failure

Will this precedent lead to fear of failure? Yes. Should it? No, unless you are planning something shady. If a campaign is successfully funded, and you go about everything above board and deliver what was promised then you’re fine. If you promised more than you can deliver, or falsified information in the Kickstarters, or (again) were fraudulent in any way then you should be afraid and you should be financially responsible.

Whether or not this leads to a bunch of litigious nonsense isn’t for any of us to really care about. Let’s leave that up to the courts.

Do Games Belong on Kickstarter?

I go back and forth on this. We can look to the successes and say that if not for those campaigns we would never have great games like Divinity Original Sin. We can look at the atrocious failures and say that developing games is simply too risky a business to take people’s money, or for people to be willing to put their money at risk. What we honestly need is a little more responsibility from both parties. Should you give your money to some random guy in a basement promising to make you a AAA MMO? No. Should “developers” be making grand promises without proof of their ability to perform or follow through on those claims? No.

Most games do not belong on Kickstarter. Generally speaking, MMOs do not belong there. I say that having backed Camelot Unchained, but looking at the financial facts alone we know that CU would not have been successful or anywhere near the game it’s going to be now without other sources of funding and Mark Jacobs himself being a good leader. In many cases, neither the additional funding nor the experience are present. On Kickstarter alone that would have been a million dollars of people’s money gone.

Call me old school, but there’s something to be said for games being made the old fashion way where you start a real company, hire real employees, obtain funding without asking for it all up front from the consumer, market your product, and deliver something. At that point, the market judges your efforts and you are rewarded with sales or not. It’s simple, but it has worked for a really long time without us having to worry about whether or not that game we backed is actually going to release.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Overview and Review

Disney Infinity 3.0

I almost don’t even know where to begin with my coverage of Disney Infinity 3.0 because the game itself is so massive in scope that tackling the entire thing at once feels way too daunting for both me to type up and for you to even want to read in one sitting. I decided the best thing to do would be to cover various aspects of the game in different entries, document some of what I write about in casual Let’s Play videos, and go from there.

Today’s post is going to be a little bit of a broad overview. I’m going to attach Episode 1 of my Let’s Play series for you to see some of these things I’m talking about. This will act as my review for the game itself overall. I will review each of the items sold separately for you to be able to make an educated decision on whether or not they are worth the purchase.

What is Disney Infinity 3.0?

Disney Infinity 3.0 is the third game in what what has grown from a simple Skylanders rip off into a juggernaut of a game. As I mentioned before, the scope of DI is huge. There’s a toy box where you can build everything from Disney to Star Wars to Marvel themed worlds, create your own games and script them with in-game tools — yes, you can even make isometric MOBAs in this thing — and decorate a house. There’s even the ability to download other players’ toy boxes.

You can also play through story-driven Play Sets which act as action/adventure games. So far there are three Play Sets released — two for Star Wars and one for Inside Out — which I will review independently. There’s Twilight of the Republic ($34.99) which takes place in the clone wars era, and Rise Against the Empire ($34.99) which spans New Hope through RotJ. I haven’t picked up Inside Out yet, but I’ll probably grab it soon. Oh, if you buy it be sure to get it in the Inside Out Bundle exclusive to Amazon for $65.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Play Sets

Looking for something a little more like Diablo? A dungeon crawler of sorts? Yep, there’s a game for that called Toy Box Takeover ($20). There’s even upcoming Toy Box expansion called Toy Box Speedway which is a Mario Kart-esque racer. I have no idea when that comes out. I will also review these independently since they are each sold separately. [Read more…]