Over the holidays, my wife, daughter, in-laws, and I took a vacation to Disney World to help get our minds off a very long and trying year. Iím being completely transparent when I say that I wasnít necessarily thrilled to be away during the holidays, but when youíre married, you learn to compromise and make sacrifices, or some shit like that.
Not to sound like a spoiled brat, but one of the things that I look forward to most during the holidays, is getting some much needed time off from work, spending time with my family, and getting to play some shiny new games. Going to the Magic Kingdom was going to take some much deserved videogame time away from me, or so I thought.
Letís get something out of the way, Iím not complaining, but the only thing ďmagicĒ about the Magic Kingdom, is the ability to make my money magically disappear. Also, when did the rules for getting a motorized scooter become so lax? Last time I was in Disney, seeing a Rascal scooter was a rarity, reserved for the incredibly old, infirm, or someone sans appendage. Now, apparently, you just need to be lazy, and fat. Very, very, fat. Do you know that you can pay $10 up front when you arrive at Disney to get a massive plastic cup of soda with unlimited refills? No one needs to drink that much soda. NO ONE! However, every motorized blob had their 30-ounce jug of Mr. Pibb. Apparently, running over my toes and terrifying small children really makes you thirsty. Next year, Iím returning to Disney with my own Rascal, equipped with scythes, then weíll see whoís the boss you lazy motherfucker.
A dream is a wish your heart makes.
Boy, that was a digression. †Anyhow, one evening, after dinner, we decided to buy some cigars, find a smoking section outside, get some beers and relax. Actually, I got a beer, my father-in-law got a glass of Johnny Walker Blue on the rocks. FANCY! All he needed was a top hat and monocle and he could have shooed the street urchins away while menacingly shaking his walking stick.
File photo of my father-in-law giving street urchins the business.
Also sitting with us was my father-in-lawís stepson. Heís an okay kid, even though after all these years, I would say that I know very little about him. Heís much younger than me, a senior in high school, light yearís apart in terms of being able to relate. Heís into videogames, of course, but his tastes were very much different than mine.
As the conversation meandered, we got on the topic of videogames. Thatís when I realized that this kid had grown up quite a bit. We actually had much more in common now. Not just about games, but sports, cars, movies, and most importantly, dealing with my father-in-law / his step dad. His strategy is to ignore him. Mine is booze.
Beer. Helping you to tolerate the in-laws since 4300 BC
Then he said something that brought a massive shit-eating grin to my face. He told me that he brought down his Xbox One and a few games from home, an early Christmas gift from his folks, and his plan was to set it up when we got back to the house in south Florida for our second leg of the trip.
The next night, we got to the house in Boca Raton late, after a tiring drive down the Florida Turnpike. After the bags were brought in and the kids, wives and parents were off to bed, we hooked up the Xbox One and fired up Dead Rising 3, a game that I was still on the fence about picking up for myself.
Since it was his system and game I let my father-in-lawís stepson take the honors. He started from scratch so that I can follow the story from the beginning and learn the setup. It was then that I got to experience something that I have done in a long time.
With the difficulty level cranked up, we began to trudge our way through the game. When my partner died in an area, he passed the controller to me and I took a stab at it. We did this for hours. Trying different strategies and weapon combinations, calling out enemies and giving feedback and guidance during the boss sequences. We played into the early morning hours, before I realized how late it was. I simply lost track of the time as I was having so much fun.
The next morning, exhausted from such a late night of old timey co-op, I realized that I have not played a game in this way for a long time. Yes, Iíve gotten older as have my friends. Some have stopped gaming altogether, the others that still do; we play online, never together in person sitting on the same couch. That late gaming session brought me back to my childhood, playing a tough as nails side-scroller on our NES, SNES or Genesis, passing the controller around, hooting and hollering and giving each other grief.
Not to sound like an old fart, but does anyone play games like that anymore? Gaming used to be such a social pastime. With the advent of technology, they have become even more social, in a way, but lost that personal aspect. Now, instead of playing a game in person, with a few close friends by your side, weíre playing online, with hundreds of strangers. In a way, I miss the old way. Iím not going to say that the old way was better; it was just a different kind of fun.
So for a short time, while away on vacation, I got to have a bit of fun, got to know someone better, and remember how it was to play a game when I was a kid, passing the sticks back and forth, in a way, true old school co-op gaming. When I got home, I picked up my own copy of Dead Rising 3, and play online co-op, with strangers. Itís wickedly fun, but not the same with someone in the room with you, passing the sticks and calling each other names.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Anyone have any good co-op and or in-person gaming moments, past or present that you would like to share? Lets hear them.
With the news coming out of Japan of Nintendo missing itís marks fiscally for 2013 by some sizable margins, and their stock taking a hard hit, many people have come out with their ďThe end is nearĒ sandwich board signs. Nintendo fans have continued to keep a stiff upper lip and are keeping calm and carrying on. Meanwhile, the haters are salivating. So what is the fate of Nintendo? There are a lot of opinions out there, but what thing is clear, no one has a clue.
Whatís most disturbing is that it seems that Nintendo itself has no idea what to do. When Nintendo President Satoru Iwata freely admits that they are out of touch with foreign markets, that should be warning bells that this organization is rudderless and out of touch.
Mr. Iwata noted that ďNintendoís sales in Japan were better than they were in the U.S. and Europe, and said the company needed a better way of keeping in touch with trends abroadÖ In Japan, I can be my own antenna, but abroad, that doesnít work.Ē That is quite the admission. †Iím surprised he didnít festoon himself with ďRibbons of Shame.Ē
So what are Nintendoís next steps? The Internet has been awash with armchair analysts providing their two cents. Many have said that it is time for Nintendo to give up making hardware and go the same route that Sega did. I feel that it may be to early to go in this direction. Sega was coming off years of failure from bad decisions. Nintendo is still awash from cash and can continue for some time before theyíve depleted their war chests.
Others have said that Nintendo should move quickly on releasing new, more powerful hardware, moving on from the failed Wii U. Iím not sure how feasible this would be. Even if they did decide to cut their losses and move on, a new console would have to be at least a couple of years off. They need to do something to keep cash coming during this time or those cash stores will be quickly depleted.
Of course thereís been plenty of chatter of Nintendo releasing some of their classics on mobile devices on iOS and Android. I personally find this to be a perfectly reasonable strategy, but Nintendo has taken an strong stance and doing so for years. However, given the current situation, maybe Nintendo will begin to reconsider.
One opinion, which I recently read, which is pretty original came from Wedbush & Morgan analyst Michael Pachter. I personally have disagreed with Pachter more often than agreeing with him in previous instances, but his recommendation is that Nintendo should release some of their titles as a third party to Microsoft and Sony in the short term, while still supporting their own hardware. You can read more on it here.†
Like many of Pachterís previous analyses and predictions, I totally discounted this idea at first. Why should Nintendo ever go this route? I didnít believe that there is any precedent for such a maneuver.
As I let this idea percolate in my head over a couple of days, I realized that there is indeed a precedent for fierce competitors to hop in bed together for the sake of an industry and quite frankly, a way for them to earn some mutually beneficial quick cash.
Back in 1997, Apple was in some pretty bad shape and on the verge of collapsing. In a move that surprised many folks, Steve Jobs managed to negotiate a $150 million loan from Microsoft as well as getting a version of Office for the Mac OS. This single move, shocking for its time, kept Apple in business and in my humble opinion, was the starting point in a complete turn around for the company. You can read more about it here.
BFFs 4 Evs!
No doubt that this was a tough decision for Apple to hop in bed with their most hated rival, but it was necessary for their survival. Today, they are now the most valuable company in the world. You can say they took their medicine and are better for it.
I see some parallels between Nintendo position today compared to Appleís back in the 1990ís. †Both are strong brands that have lost their direction. They have the know how and the capability to recover, but they require some help. Sometimes help comes from unexpected places.
If Nintendo were to release some of their titles in the short term to Sony and Microsoft, it could allow them to gain some much needed revenue while they revamp their strategy and perhaps prepare for launching new hardware that is more competitive with the current generation. Will it be a bitter pill to swallow? Absolutely, as Nintendo is an incredibly proud company, but the cash they would get from such a deal would act a teaspoon of sugar to help the medicine go down.
This is all pie in the sky really. What are the chances for Nintendo going this route? Probably zero, but I have seen stranger things happen. Perhaps Nintendo has an ace up their sleeves that weíre not aware of yet. Whatever it is, I hope its something good, because they are struggling right now and need to do something quick. People love to tout Nintendo's sizable cash stores, but a couple of more failures and those piles of cash can quickly dwindle to nothing.
I donít do game reviews, so Iíve decided to outsource that to some of the worldís most iconic celebrities, both living and dead. Today, Iím happy to announce that the late great Liberace will give his take on one of the most well received music games of the last generation.
Boy oh boy, I wasnít expecting this. When Mr. Spieler Dad channeled me in heaven, I didnít know what to think. Never played a videogame in my life, but Iíll tell you, he sure was persistent. I finally agreed to write this piece when he said that it would be read by one of the most beautiful and fabulous online communities around, and I think thatís wonderful!
Would you believe that there is a movie about me? It is shown all the time on HBO. Michael Douglas plays me. I think he does a great job! Matt Damon was cast as my good friend Scott. What a fantastic job he did in the movie. He also looks great in a chauffeur outfit. I give the casting director an A+. Simply put, I think the film is wonderful!†
You know, up here in heaven, videogames are quite popular. I never was one to play them when I was alive. One day, my assistant, Mr. Scott Thorson, brought home an Atari 2600. I wasnít at all taken by it. The wood paneling on it clashed with my furniture, so we had to get rid of it. Sitting there, on the sofa playing on a videogame seemed like such a waste. I would rather take a few laps in my piano shaped swimming pool.
Iím digressing so Iíll get back to what videogames are like in heaven. We have the same games up here that you have down there actually. †We also have a fabulous recreation room up here with every machine and game you can imagine. You know what they say, too much of a good thing is wonderful!
You know who are big time gamers up here? Jesus and Buddha. They go at it for hours in some silly war game. You should hear some of things that they say to each other when playing. Itís enough to make me blush. Everything they taught goes out the window when those two pick up the game remotes.
I only got my chance to actually play a game called Rockband when Jesus and Buddha took an extended break to perform miracles and to meditate. Let me tell you, I was sure impressed by how advanced these games look compared to the Atari. All I needed to do was get a band together to test this game out.
On keyboards, yours truly will be tickling the ivories. On drums, thereís no one better up here than Keith Moon. On guitar, I was able to get Jimmy Hendrix. On bass, I wanted to get Paul McCartney, but heís still alive, can you believe it!?! So I asked my pal John Entwistle, aka Thunderfingers, which is a double entendre ☺!
Finding someone to do vocals was going to be tricky. There are a lot of great singers up here. The better ones are in hell, but you play with the cards youíre dealt. I was thinking Frank Sinatra, but Old Blue Eyes was too busy chasing around Marilyn Monroe and feuding with JFK. Some things never change. I ended up asking my pal Janis Joplin, who was quite honored. So there you have it, thatís the band. We even gave ourselves a name, the Gilded Candelabras! I adore candelabras you know. †Theyíre sort of my thing. I think theyíre wonderful!
Okay, onto the game! The game is a pleasure to look at. I love the art style. If there is one thing I would change, it would be more ways to customize the way your character looks. Iíve been told that I had my own signature style. I have an outfit for every occasion. You know that I had a custom fur coat made specifically for me when I gave a command performance for the Queen of England? Itís true! The coat was made of virgin white fox. Over a hundred of the little guys gave their lives for it. It took forever to get the pelts! Think about it. Virgin white fox are rare little critters. It takes one to know one! The coat cost me over $300,000, but it was worth every penny. What I wouldnít give for a way to get that coat into the game.
The instruments used for the game was not what I would call classy. I found them cheap and unappealing. I used to collect pianos you know. I had over 300 of them. I had one in every room, sometimes more. All of them were personalized with gold and semi-precious stones from Austria. Yours truly was practically keeping the rhinestone business in business.
Moon and Entwistle didnít mind the chintzyness of the instruments so much, since they smashed them up after each song. What a mess. Moon kicked his drum set so hard one time, it flew across the room and hit Janis Joplin right in the head. Knocked her out cold. Hendrix gave her mouth-to-mouth. GET A ROOM YOU TWO! ☺
The song selection left something to be desired. The rest of the band didnít mind so much, with all the rock and roll and whatnot, but I would have loved to see more classical and big band numbers. Not one number from Bach or Lizst. Lets just say my talents as a pianist were under utilized in this game.
All in all, I give this game 4 out 5 candelabras. Itís fun to play with friends when theyíre not destroying the instruments. Professional musicians like myself will find it a bit rudimentary. I do find that it is a great way for people to get involved in music, and I think thatís WONDERFUL!
I hope you enjoyed this piece. Mr. Spieler Dad has a few them lined up from what I understand. Say stay tuned for some more reviews from famous people from the great beyond.
Sonyís marketing plan seemed pretty simple with the launch of PS4. Announce powerful new hardware. Keep mouth shut. Let competition stick foot in mouth. Contradict competition. Win the next-gen before it even starts.
Pretty slick plan as far as Iím concerned. As someone who gets to watch marketers ruin iconic brands everyday, Sony did something very smart. They muzzled their marketers before they said or did something dumb. Sony didnít have to do much to garner favor with gamers, Microsoft and Nintendo served it up to them on a silver platter.
You're welcome. †
Even then, I was curious if Sony had anything up their sleeves, a dagger, if you will, to give the final deathblow. I really couldnít blame them if they decided to rest on their laurels at this point. So I was pleasantly surprised when they announced Playstation Now at CES.
It was inevitable that Sony was going to announce at some point what the fruits of †labor were from the acquisition of Gakai. I, and Iím assuming many others did not realize how impressive those fruits would be.
Simply put, Sony will be providing their back catalog of PS3 and eventually PS2 and possibly PS1 titles on a myriad of Sony connected devices. The heavy computational lifting will be done remotely on servers and streamed to the PS4, PS Vita, as well as smart TVs. Reaction coming out of CES from folks who had the opportunity to try out the service was well received. It looks like Sony may have a hit on their hands, but I do have my concerns.
People who tried out the service at CES said that the graphics were very impressive, if not a little ďwashed outĒ. Perfectly understandable given the nature of the service, but as someone who has been programmed as a gamer for the past 30 plus years, graphical fidelity is important to me.† If I had to choose between a disc or downloaded based God of War and a streamed version of it, with slightly degraded graphics, I would lean towards the disc/download version. Now, heavily discount it, or give it to me for free where I pay a subscription fee, and I may reconsider.
Another point of concern is lag. Those at CES said that they could not see any perceptible lag, but they werenít playing anything that I would call fast twitch. Itís my understanding that they were testing out The Last of Us and God of War. Itís also safe to say that Sony had a nice high bandwidth fat pipe (teehee) connection going over to their booth, ensuring optimal conditions.
A few milliseconds of lag may not be a big deal for many games, but what about multiplayer and shooters where a few milliseconds could mean a missed hit. Now thatís a big deal as far as Iím concerned.
Mouth breathing nerd ragers, ASSEMBLE! †
My last concern, and this may be a complete non-issue given the circumstances, is Sonyís track record with their online services. The PS3 is a great console, but PSN was pretty abysmal. I cringed when I would get a message telling me there was a software update, which occurred all the time. Not only were there constant updates, but they also took a long time to download and a long time to install. I also had multiple instances where updates bricked my machine. It got to the point where I stopped updating unless is was absolutely necessary.†
Suffice it to say, this was never an issue with my Xbox 306 and Xbox Live. There is a difference however in this case. Gakai is doing the heavy lifting on this, and Sony is just footing the bill. Not a bad setup if you can get it.
All in all, Iím excited about Playstation Now. I truly believe that this may be a small step towards how the future of gaming may look.† I look forward to the possibility of not having to buy expensive hardware, and having the games out in the ďcloudĒ where they can be streamed into my living room. Who knows, perhaps this will be the last generation of consoles as we know it. If not, the click is now ticking.
Metal Gear Solid 5 is still 3 months away, but the ESRB has recently released some details of the content in the upcoming game. Nothing out of the ordinary regarding ESRB releasing details early, as this happens all the time. Itís not until you delve a bit deeper and see the rare "Sexual Violence" descriptor for a video game. This has caused me to get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, and it's not the espresso and bran muffin that's causing it.
Metal Gear†has never been a series that resonated with me. I enjoyed the games for the most part, but never found them truly ground breaking, with the exception of Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 and even then, looking back, the years have not been kind to that title.
Quite frankly, the Metal Gear series is convoluted, outlandish and preachy. A soap box, if you will, for Director/Producer Hideo Kojima to stand upon and rant. In between cut scenes, you had a pretty decent game, and just when you felt like you were getting somewhere, you had a new cut scene about the military industrial complex or some other horseshit. These titles however, are Kojimaís platform to express himself, and even if I donít align with his views or styles, heís free to speak them in any way he pleases.†
I was looking forward to Metal Gear Solid 5, curious as to how Kojimaís style would translate to the next-gen. There was already a bit of controversy with the game with the inclusion of the beautiful and scantily clad deaf sniper Quiet. Kojima caused a minor stir when he said that he would like to see how girls cosplay the character, but whatever controversy that came from that has died down.
Whoís ready for some desert warfare?
In my own personal opinion however, the latest news regarding the game containing sexual violence is a bit hard for me to swallow. According the ESRB, "The game includes an audio file in which a female character is sexually assaulted by male characters; while there is no visual depiction, sounds of ripped clothing and struggle can be heard."
This makes me a bit uncomfortable. Itís not that I disagree that sexual violence has a place in games. If itís part of the story or drama, then who am I to say that it doesnít belong in there? Sexual violence is seen in Hollywood movies and TV all the time, sometimes it has no merit and exploitive, but other times it is an essential part of the story arc. Sexual violence has had a place in drama since antiquity. My issue is that I donít trust Kojima to approach this theme delicately, given his track record of absurdity.
HAIRLESS MONKEY NIGHTMARE FUEL!
Time will tell if this becomes an issue or not. †As a father of a beautiful little girl, this is a touchy subject for me and I may just be overly sensitive, but I donít trust Hideo Kojima to treat this subject matter delicately. We shall see when the game comes out in March if my concerns are valid or not.
Who doesn't love a train wreck? 2013 had a fair amount of them. For every triumph there was a cock-up of epic proportions. Sure, there were plenty of great games, exciting announcements and a new console generation was born, but there were also plenty of shit shows and FUBARs. †Let's reminiscence shall we? So in no particular order, I'm awarding a Sicilian Donkey Cart to the most enjoyable foul ups of the year.
Coming soon to MTV: Pimp my Sicilian Donkey Cart
This was a given, no surprises here. EA and Maxis take a beloved series and shows it off to the public with much fanfare. Previews were looking great. Then they release said game, which can only be played online, even in single player. The servers, which were apparently being powered by small woodland creatures running on a wheel could not handle the surge in demand and congratulations, the $60 game you purchased is useless.
Xbox One Announcement
How do you destroy years of goodwill, piss away a devoted fan base and relegate yourself to runner up in the next generation before you even ship a single console? Just take a look at how Microsoft launched the Xbox One and you'll have your answer. The marketing was so bad, that Don Mattrick jumped ship to Zynga (HAHAHAHAHA!), presumably before Steve Balmer could take him out back and beat him with a rubber hose.
The Wii U
The Wii U has also had a pretty rough year and most in part to poor marketing. While Sony and Microsoft were touting their new consoles as the catís pajamas, Nintendoís was relegated to reminding people that they too had a new console and that it was different from the previous Wii and is totally cool too so please buy it. That by itself shows how poor their initial marketing strategy was as they believe that many of their consumers canít differentiate between the new Wii U and the original Wii. Just check out the video below. You can actually play a drinking game while watching this. All you need to do is drink every time the disembodied voice says ďnewĒ or ďuniqueĒ. Just be careful not to die of alcohol poisoning.
ďJust look for the ďUĒ on the box, because we think youíre stupidĒ
Oh wow, EA getís awarded a second Sicilian Donkey Cart. They should feel honored. EA apparently forgot why people play Battlefield 4. Itís not for the laughably short and stupid single player, but rather the multiplayer. Ensuring that multiplayer was running perfectly should have been PRIORITY #1, but not for EA. Instead, players found intermittent server issues and a lot of glitches. You would have thought that EA learned their lesson from Sim City. Instead they shit the bed twice in one year. Thatís an amazing feat.
Spike VGX 2013
This show, and all previous Spike Videogame awards shows are an embarrassment to the industry and to gamers everywhere. Joel McHale (WHO?) was not funny, obnoxious, and insulting to industry guests being interviewed and to video game fans in general. It was reminiscent of Jamie Kennedy ruining the Activision E3 presser in 2007. I would prefer that Spike just cancel the whole thing and never have one again.
Geoff Keighley moments before brutally attacking Joel McHale
Ashes Cricket 2013
Perhaps the worst news of the year was the cancellation of Ashes Cricket 2013. I was so devastated by this news that I was inconsolable for weeks. I locked myself into a darkened room, refused to bath and wore tissue boxes for shoes. Personally speaking, and Iím sure you all will agree with me on this, is that I donít want to live in a world without a Cricket video game.
To make matters worse, developer 505 Games actually released the title on Steam before canceling. This was an unprecedented move and a horrible tease. I ran the gamut of emotions, from extreme elation upon launch to the darkest depths of despair when it was cancelled and pulled. For this, 505 Games wins the highest honor, the Golden Sicilian Donkey Cart.
All in all, I believe that 2013 was a pretty smooth year, with the exception of Ashes Cricket 2013, which could have tanked the entire industry, but thankfully we persevered.
Please let me know what else you feel should have been awarded a Sicilian Donkey Cart in the comments below. †Would love to hear your candidates for the worst of 2013.