Jun 062014
 

Youtube-twitch

Has YouTube (and by extension, Google) done what so many rumors flying around the internet are reporting? Are they, as we speak, hashing out the details to a hefty $1 billion deal to purchase Twitch? At this point, all signs seem to point to yes, with the delay likely due to ongoing negotiations over just how independent Twitch will remain. What does this mean for the suddenly booming business of online game streaming?

Honestly, there is a large potential upside to this deal. Most seem to feel that Twitch was growing so fast that a sale was inevitable, as Twitch’s user base now numbers in the millions, across PC and next-gen consoles, as current hardware and internet speeds have made it easier than ever to stream content. YouTube has long been the behemoth of user-generated content, and with Google’s massive wallet backing them, it could open the door to streaming becoming a truly mainstream hobby.

Furthermore, rumors have also stated that there were several other interested parties, including Microsoft, before the supposed victor emerged. Google is far and away a better option, if a deal had to be made, to ensure impartiality among systems. Had Microsoft bought Twitch, Sony would have likely dropped Twitch to form their own service, splintering the community. Microsoft may have also attempted to drive use more towards the Xbox and away from the PC, as their general strategy has been to move away from gaming in the PC marketplace. So if a deal was truly inevitable, why not Google?

However, there are a lot of potential problems on the horizon, should Google/YouTube complete this purchase. First of all is the highly unpopular requirement of Google Plus forced upon YouTube users, and Twitch could very easily follow suit. Social media is, at the very best, a polarizing topic with many, especially amongst Twitch’s main users, and could cause some to drift away, frustrated by such requirements. Forcing additional services such as Google Plus in order to participate in Twitch is a huge pitfall to be avoided, and it is to be hoped Twitch is negotiating away from such a requirement.

Finally, what could be the biggest problem facing Twitch in the event of a Google purchase is YouTube and Google’s strict enforcement of copyright infringement. Video game streaming walks a fine line with videos that heavily feature in-game footage and often music. This sort of content has, rather famously, been relentlessly shut down at every angle on YouTube. Now, many video game companies will happily allow streaming in order to increase visibility and interest (League of Legends most famously), but it could become an extremely difficult area to navigate, depending on developer and publisher action. This is a very difficult problem, with no clear answer, and it is central to Twitch’s business model. How will YouTube and Google choose to navigate it? And could it bring about a drastic drop in interest, right as video game streaming seems to be taking off?

Many in the video game community, especially those whose livelihoods now depend on services like Twitch, await further news of a deal with bated breath. There are many areas which could cause a stumble and a setback, but there is also potential for improvement. It will all come down to how Twitch negotiates this potential deal, and how much Google and YouTube plan to interfere with an already successful model. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, head over to twitch.tv and find out exactly what video game streaming is all about, and just how easy it is to get involved.  

 

 Posted by at 9:27 am
May 142014
 

3dsxleu sony-playstation-vita-handheld-game-console-black

 

 

 

 

In what quickly became a heated debate here at The League of 42 Offices*, we discussed the merits of arguably the two best contenders in the handheld gaming market. Below you will find our thoughts: Ben and Mystie as 3DS owners and Cassi as the Vita owner.

Game Catalog

This is ultimately where I feel the 3DS is going to win out. Both the 3DS and Vita have a relatively close number of total games released for the system, with the Vita actually having a slight edge. However, the 3DS can take advantage of almost the entire original DS’s extensive library, while the Vita requires that last gen games be available digitally, which not all are. But even more important are the number of “Must-Have” titles on the 3DS. You’ve got Mario 3D Land, Ocarina of Time, Link Between Worlds, Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, Pokemon X/Y… and honestly that list goes on with quite a few other big hits. And some of these are not small games either, several could quite easily last you hundreds of hours if you so chose. And they have tons more on the horizon, with sure-blockbuster titles such as Smash Bros and new Pokemon remakes on the way.

The other thing is there is absolutely one thing that Nintendo has been king of for years, and that is portable gaming. Sure, this generation they are facing pressure, and they are no longer undisputed champion. But that experience has given them the ability to craft games that are perfect for on the go play. Almost all of their big hits are easy to pick up, play a level or an area, and quit (or continue for extended play). Almost every one of their top hits has a perfect balance allowing either extended play or quick bursts if you have limited time. Nintendo knows how to craft a game for portable play, and it really shows here.

–Ben

The Vita’s game catalog is far superior to the DS’s catalog. Sure it doesn’t have Zelda, but once you’re done with Zelda what do you have? Pokemon? Animal Crossing? While I don’t deny that Zelda and these other games are great titles – once I’m done with these games the DS doesn’t have that much else going for me.

Now the Vita, it may not have Zelda but it has a few other big names under it’s belt – Little Big Planet, Uncharted, Guacamelle, Sound Shapes, Gravity Rush, Hotline Miami, and more.In addition to that the Vita is set up to allow for indie developers to create great games for it. With Nintendo putting all its focus into the Wii U the 3Ds has nothing more to offer us than first-party games.

–Cass

The reason to have a 3DS is for the Nintendo DS-exclusive games. I’ll gloss over the ones that Ben has already mentioned (but seriously MARIO and LINK/ZELDA) and bring up one of my favorite series: Professor Layton! These delightful puzzle games are part of what pushed me over the edge to purchase the new 3DS. I thoroughly enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the game and the difficult to solve but fascinating puzzles. As far as I can find, there is not a comparable game for the PS Vita.

–Mystie

Online Features

The 3DS definitely does not have a strong showing in the Online Features department, but I did not expect it to. The first several generations of the DS did not even have an online component and, though it has gotten much better, it is still not a huge selling point for the game system.

You can still play with friends fairly easily, both nearby if not on Wi-Fi, and distantly if you are both connected to the internet. The 3DS has a “Street Pass” feature that allows you to receive gifts from other 3DS owners when you pass within a specified range of each other. However, this is not a feature I have used at all since owning the 3DS.

I’d have to give this category to the Vita, but it is not a star in this either.

–Mystie

While one might argue that online features in both these systems are lacking – the Vita’s still offers a greater offering in this. Although I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer – the Vita does provide online competitive play that you can hook into.

The Vita does only connect to WiFi – but when you have that it offers a lot. You can access the online Playstation Store making buying and getting downloadable games a breeze, you can access the internet and youtube if you need to pop over and look up a game tutorial or take a break from playing to watch a cat video.

Seriously. Ability to watch cat videos on your portable device should be it’s own category.

–Cass

This one is a bit tougher. Nintendo has never really had a solid track record for online play, but they don’t really want to either, and it has never been one of their stated goals, as they put focus on single-player and local multiplayer. As such, their purely multiplayer options (especially competitive) are very lacking. Compared with most other systems matchmaking/online capabilities, the 3DS absolutely falls a bit flat, and if what you are looking for is online competitive play, Vita will probably be a better answer.

That being said, 3DS has some very cool features that are more designed to compliment solo playthroughs. It’s fairly easy to be online and maybe get a helping item or small boost from other players, or to get little bonuses from passing people on the street who are also carrying their 3DS. It’s much more subtle, but a fun way to interact with others, especially those who are nearby. The online store could also use a bit of work, as Nintendo rarely/never offers any sales on their items, and many of their old classics are a bit overpriced without them… But purchasing/downloading a new game is a relatively straight-forward process, and definitely isn’t a burden to go digital.

–Ben

Hardware

Again another spot that I have no problem admitting the Vita, on paper, certainly has advantage here. But again, it has never been Nintendo’s goal to be the most powerful system, but to instead fit the game to the hardware, which is why so many of their games are designed in house. So it tends to be when you get a hit (see above), it is designed perfectly to take advantage of what the system offers. So it’s hard for me to completely fault Nintendo here, because it simply isn’t their goal at all, they are focused on games only, and a platform that can play them, but do little else. So yea, Vita wins this one, but like the online features it just depends on the importance of that to you personally, because it isn’t Nintendo’s goal.

–Ben

The Vita has better hardware and, therefore, better graphics. It also can come with 3G, bluetooth and Wi-Fi to the 3DS’s Wi-Fi. This is definitely not to say that the 3DS is a bad-looking device, it just simply does not have the horsepower of the Vita.

–Mystie

The Vita hardware gives you all the enjoyment of playing on a console with the convenience of a hand-held. With two joysticks and a d-pad there is wide range of game play styles to choose from. It also offers a front and back touch screen which is capacitive vs. resistive so you don’t need to go looking for your stylus to play.

–Cass

Portability & Durability

Although you could make the argument that the DS technically is lighter coming in at 8 oz vs the vita’s 9 oz. However, with the announcement of the PS Vita Slim – coming in at 7.7 ounces, they’ve now got the DS beat. The Vita is also the ultimate in portable – you don’t have to open and close the screen whenever you need it – just throw it in your bag and go, grab it, turn it on and start playing.

–Cass

One strong bonus to the way that the DS is configured is that the screens are protected when the DS is closed and can be thrown into a bag or a very large pocket without worrying about your keys scratching the glass.

The weights are so close (8.3 oz for the 3DS XL and 9 oz for the Vita) that you’d be hard-pressed to tell a difference. Both systems are easily carried and great to travel with. Just don’t throw your keys in the same bag as your Vita.

–Mystie

First off, battery life. Playing 3DS games will last approximately 4-6 hours while DS games will last 6-8 hours. If you go with the 3DS XL (highly recommended), it will net you an hour to an hour and a half extra. The Vita is rated fairly similarly, but is a touch below. They are close enough though that I will call this a tie.

The 3DS (the larger XL version) is lighter than the Vita, by about an ounce. Not much, but it’s enough that any extended play should be noticeable in ease of use. Definitely an important bonus for a portable system.

The 3DS’s clamshell design also is fantastic for on the go gaming. There is very little worry about closing the lid, tossing the system in a pocket or bag, and continuing on your way. I don’t care what the screen is made of, I doubt this is something that Vita owners are as comfortable doing. Again, it may seem small, but for a portable system, this small feature can become a much bigger deal.

–Ben

Battery Life

The Vita can run for over 5 hours on a good charge and doesn’t take too much time to charge. The DS probably does have an advantage in this that if you let the Vita die you can’t start playing it once you plug it in. But honestly it takes so little time for the Vita to wake up once it starts charging I don’t find it that big of a deal.

–Cass

Kinda addressed this, but the measures I have seen puts the 3DS slightly ahead of the Vita (especially the 3ds XL), however they are so close that honestly it will come down to what settings you have on. The Vita does have a quicker listed charge time, to me this isn’t really that big of a deal.

–Ben

As both Cassi and Ben mentioned, the Vita and 3DS have similar battery lives (~5 hours) and charging times. There is no strong edge given to either competitor in this category.

–Mystie

DOES IT PLAY LEGEND OF ZELDA?

If you are a fan of the Zelda games and want to play the DS-exclusive games, I am not sure why you are still reading this article and not out purchasing your very own 3DS.

–Mystie

While it’s true, one big downfall of the Vita is that you’re not going to be able to play Zelda any time soon. However, my point above still stands – once you’ve finished that, what’s left? I see your Zelda and raise you both Little Big Planet and Uncharted.

–Cass

Ah yes. We have come to the most important section for our competition. 3DS has it, but you will notice a very conspicuous absence of Zelda games on the Vita. That’s a dealbreaker.

–Ben

Connectivity to PS4/Wii U

Umm… Mii’s? Smash bros brawl will probably take greater advantage of this connection, and maybe future games… but seriously I don’t give a shit about some gimmicky connection between the Vita and PS4. Yea I said it Cassi. Boatload of Meh. But Vita definitely wins here…

—Ben

The connectivity to the Vita to the PS3 and PS4 is great. Many games, such as Guacamelle, offer crossover play in which you can start a game on your Vita and switch over to the console and pick up where you left off.

In addition to that it the PS4 offers remote play – you can connect your PS4 to your Vita and play your PS4 games on it. Which means you can play next gen games. Which means you can also use your Vita as an entertainment device – watching Netflix or Youtube. This really offers a whole package deal

Because let’s be honest. At the end of the day…if we’re going to talk about boatloads of meh – seriously I don’t give a shit about some gimmicky Mii character that I can customize and make friends with some other character someone has spent way too much time customizing and getting weird hats for. Yea I said it Ben.

–Cass

If you have a PS4, the Vita is definitely going to get your vote in this category. As Cassi mentioned, the stop-and-go play from one console to the other is a incredibly cool feature and remote play is fantastic (even if it does seem that your vita is just a fancy Wii U controller) and the 3DS has nothing that really compares in this category.

–Mystie

Fitness Potential

Umm… I’m a gamer? In all seriousness, 3DS does encourage you quite a bit to get out and move around, since you can both interact with other 3DS game owners for special rewards, as well as use the built-in pedometer which will give you special coins you can use in most games to purchase extras. So yea, walk for dat lootz!

–Ben

Nintendo had some pretty great success with the fitness aspects for the Wii and they strove to add something to their handheld unit. The 3DS has a built in pedometer and you can score bonuses and “game coins” for walking with your 3DS. These game coins can be used in the built-in “Find Mii” game where you must battle demons and ghosts in order to escape. This also uses the StreetPass feature mentioned earlier.

–Mystie

The Vita knows you. You’re a gamer and you don’t give a shit.
While the Vita doesn’t have a pedometer in it- however it has the option to download and store apps, giving you the option to get fitness games and apps on it.

–Cass

Tactile/Clever Features

The main tactile feature the Vita offers is the touchscreen and I’d say many of the games I’ve played have utilized it in an interesting way. Games like Little Big Planet and Tearaway work it into the gameplay seamlessly (in Tearaway you can use the touchscreen to customize your character). And it’s far less awkward than blowing on your device.

I will say in terms of extra stuff the DS probably has a bit more going for it (the 3D features, the dual screens). However, in the end I don’t feel like they utilize those enough or in a way that’s useful (apart from maybe the dual screens and maps) that I despite having more features – the DS and the Vita are still pretty evenly matched in this regard.

–Cass

Again not something I’m really all that concerned with, but I don’t see how you can deny that Nintendo is the king of weird ass tactile features. You’ve got the microphone to talk to your digital shit, or even to blow your digital shit. Touch-screen capabilities that are actually fairly helpful for a lot of games, and pretty well designed. 3D. 3D camera. Dual-Screens. 3D is a bit of a gimmick yea, but some of the big name games actually make good use of this, and absolutely improve gameplay (Mario 3D land is a biggie here). Dual-screens are kinda awesome too, as you can now manage inventory, maps, all sorts of shit on that bottom screen, and it’s fantastic.

–Ben

I have to admit, blowing or talking into my DS was a great novelty the first time that I did it, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to do with every game and I think Nintendo figured that out. The latest Zelda game did not have you blow into the microphone or yell at the screen.

However, one of the times I was most blown away by my DS was during a Professor Layton game I had to close my DS in order for something on the top screen to match with something on the bottom screen- I thought this was incredibly clever. Nintendo has been very creative with the interactive features on the 3DS and I have been duly impressed.

–Mystie

FINAL VERDICT

This is really going to come down to the games that you want to play. If you are constantly on your PS4 and want to expand that universe, you are gonna go with Vita. If you want those Nintendo-exclusives, you have to go with the 3DS.

–Mystie

At the end of the day, I am going to fall in line with Nintendo’s philosophy: It’s all about the games. I don’t give two shits about all those extra “features” that may exist on the Vita, all that matters to me is the games that you are putting out, and how many are a quality, must-play experience, and are easy to play on the go or for an extended period. Nintendo has been doing this for a long, long time. They know portable gaming, and they know how to design games to take advantage of their hardware and create a one-of-a-kind experience you truly cannot get on any other system. The vita may have it’s bonuses, but ultimately, I can get what it offers on other systems. If you want the 3DS experience, you have to have a 3DS, that’s all there is to it.

–Ben

After all this, the Vita offers a great gaming experience. I have a Wii and a Super Nintendo so if I need to get my Mario and Zelda fix I’m not too far off.

Don’t listen to those lies about not having a great library, because it’s certainly there with the potential to only get better. And being your Indie Corner gamer being able to see a device that will offer a great gaming experience that I can cross-play, get great games from indie developers and enjoy a cat video or two in between gaming, this system really does have it all.

–Cass

*Our “offices” are our computers. Those were some intense emails.

May 082014
 

pokemon-omega-ruby-alpha-sapphire-main-169-us

Nintendo made an exciting new announcement yesterday that they will be remaking Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the Nintendo 3DS/2DS. These were the third generation of Pokemon games, originally the first of the series released for the Game Boy Advance system in 2003. This is a somewhat expected announcement, as they have remade the prior generations already, and following their rather poor showing for the last quarter, Nintendo was expected to make some sort of move on one of their blockbuster titles, and Pokemon certainly qualifies.

So this means that they will be updated up to approximately Pokemon X/Y graphics, as well as probably add some of the gameplay mechanics that X and Y pulled off so well, such as the online components and accessories like the skates to speed up getting around the world(please). Hopefully they will tweak the online trades, because the wonder trade feature was a bit… broken. But even without fixing those, just having them in place with one of the older games would be an awesome update.

Ruby and Sapphire are very well reviewed games, and probably two of the more popular entries in the series, with the major caveat being that they were very similar to the past two generations. So all Nintendo has to do to address those shortcomings is bring in some of the big changes they made for X/Y, update the graphics, and they should have a big-time seller, one that I am quite excited to try since I have not actually played the originals. It’s an easy formula, but only time will tell if it translates into a success for Nintendo when they so desperately need it. Pokemon is more than capable of generating the hype, all Nintendo needs to do is deliver the goods.

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire will be released November of this year, final date to be determined.

 

 

 Posted by at 9:16 pm
Apr 272014
 

HalbertAndTempleKnight

With the recent PC release of Dark Souls II, I thought I would take some time to talk about the series, why I think it’s so damn good, and why you should be giving it a try (or maybe a second try… or third). Once you get past your initial learning stages, and accept the fact that you are absolutely going to die, and die often, you can start to appreciate just what an impressive achievement they are.

Dark Souls, like Demon Souls was before it, is an unbelievable experience. Every bit as difficult as you may have heard, it brings the difficulty level back to the levels seen in early generations of video games (before accessibility became all-important). While those games often could be unfair in their difficulty, Dark Souls rarely is (unfair). Controls are precise, and most enemies are quite fair, if absolutely brutal. Death is a learning experience, one you will go through quite often, as every mistake can cost you your life. But for those who persevere and accept this for what it is, an absolutely beautiful game series awaits.

Wyvern

I’ll be honest, it took me several tries to really get into these games. I have had Demon Souls forever, and bought Dark Souls during some random Steam sale (of course). I had a hard time even getting through the first areas, and finally decided that I did not have the time to get good enough to really enjoy and appreciate what the game offered.

Once Dark Souls II was announced, I figured the time had come to give it another shot. I decided this time to spend a bit of time with a beginners guide, picking up some tactics and tips to ease up a bit on the initial learning curve. And honestly, if you have any issues getting into the game, I absolutely recommend doing this. The secret really lies in taking things slow, being deliberate with your attack timings, and above all… KEEP THAT SHIELD UP! Once I had started to get a taste of the world, and defeated a couple bosses, I was sold. I still died a whole ton, but I knew why I had died, and I was determined to fix that weakness. Which probably just revealed a second weakness… but after a few tries I would inevitably get the hang of things. Once you finally beat that boss, I don’t think there is a game out there that can match the feeling of total accomplishment.

main

Beyond that feeling of accomplishment, these games are beautifully designed. Often this means the settings themselves, with each often having several jaw-dropping moments as you move to a new area (Anor Londo, I’m looking at you). But even more often, especially in Dark Souls, it’s how the world itself is designed. The layouts are amazing, and each area has tons of hidden items and locations that all seem perfectly natural. It’s fantastic just exploring (until you run into a new baddie).

Are they difficult games? Absolutely. If you do not think you have the time to really learn the system and how to play, then that very well may be true and they won’t be the game for you. But don’t let that stop you from at least giving it a try. Combat is fantastic, each weapon is well balanced and feels real, and every death can be explained by a lack of skill. This of course means that your skill will constantly grow as you play, which is a pretty rare occurrence anymore. If you are looking for an immersive and challenging action-rpg, I absolutely recommend picking one of these up and giving it a try.

 

 

Apr 242014
 

Every now and again, you come across a game so pretty you forget you’re playing it for a moment. Thankfully Ustwo, the company and maker of Monument Valley – a mobile iOS game/ M.C. Escher painting in the form of a game, thought of that in advance by creating a game with an option to take screenshots.

MV5

Like a cross between Fez and Journey, Monument Valley is the simple tale of a girl in white on a quest. For what and why is relatively unimportant as you click through the puzzle levels. In this game you twist and turn platforms using the Escher-esk optical illusions to find unexpected bridges and pathways to reach your destination. The only real obstacle you face are the “Crows” (sorry, not a Game of Thrones reference) who insist on standing in your way and sometimes cawing at you.

MV6

Monument Valley is designed to be virtually stress-free. As you play, a soothing soundtrack and playful audio created by Stafford Bawler floats through the gameplay. It’s a perfect game to pick up and put down again as needed – though be warned. It’s a rather short game so you may find yourself at the end wishing for more.

MV1

Having such a beautifully designed and simple game makes sense however, for a company that is actually a graphic design and digital product studio, focusing on non-game mobile apps. According to an article by Buzzfeed:

Ustwogames started in 2011 as team without much direct experience in the gaming world — the staffers were app developers and graphic designers — and its first game, Whale Trail, was a minor success. Buoyed, Matt Miller, one of Ustwo’s founders, decided to hire directly from the gaming industry to add to the Whale Trail team.

MV2

Although games were not its primary focus starting out, Ustwo has built a gaming team which has created an amazing visual experience with interesting puzzles with great visuals and audio. Although only available through iOS at the moment, there are talks of additional levels – as well as the possibility of other platforms, including Android and PS Vita, according to an article on game review site Polygon.

If you have an iOS device I definitely suggest picking this one up. It is a little on the pricier side for an app ($3.99) – but there are no in game purchases, and although I don’t normally feel this way about puzzle games, there is a replayability in its zen-ness. Pick it up here and check the website out here.

MV3

Mar 292014
 

Screenshot_20140316_155738

I have played the Elder Scrolls Online beta for a while now during a couple of their weekend beta events leading up to the April 4th release (Or sometime in June for you poor plebs). Overall, I think the game holds a lot of promise, but whether it can deliver on that will very much depend on whether you are looking for an MMO-first approach set in the same universe as the other Elder Scrolls games, or if you are looking for an Elder Scrolls game that you can play with your friends.

If you are willing to buy into the MMO experience, this game should absolutely be on your radar. While the graphics aren’t anything amazing (most MMO’s are not), this game manages to look pretty gorgeous in parts, certainly one of the best looking MMO’s I have played. As a player, you are given much greater freedom to just explore the world, which is something they absolutely needed to nail as exploration is a signature of all Elder Scrolls games. They don’t really do much to revolutionize the genre, but I think they have done enough to refine it and create a game that could gain a pretty massive following.

Screenshot_20140316_180049

However, if you are like me, and are not really a fan of MMO’s and what they offer, this is going to be a much harder sell (Kind-of obvious I know but…). Many people, myself included, still want a core single-player game, that adds a cooperative option, maybe along the lines of what you can do in Borderlands or Torchlight. If that is what you are looking for, this will probably not satisfy that desire. So many other people running around, chatting, doing the same quests I was on, all too often killed the immersion for me. Quests are pretty varied, but still have difficulty getting out of some of the tropes established by the genre, and again are so plentiful that you can go almost nowhere without finding some sort of “kill this many things” quest.

This also led to me very rarely feeling the same sense of accomplishment or discovery that I often would with the single-player games. I didn’t really get invested in many of the quests to allow for that feeling, and it seemed so much harder to just wander off and find some deserted cave or crumbling structure hiding some unknown monster or loot. I’m sure these things exist in the game, but again with all the other players running around, they are much harder to find, and a lot of that thrill is diminished.

Screenshot_20140316_181425

So for MMO fans, this game is definitely something that is shaping up to be something special. For many others though, we are just going to have to wait for the next game in the series to be released, which maybe, if we are lucky, will include some-sort of cooperative option with a few friends. Hint hint Bethesda.

 Posted by at 2:11 pm
Mar 172014
 

When you’re an adult and a nerd, sometimes you find your nerdiness leaking out into things adults care about – like house design. So if you have a house, and in some cases maybe an incredible amount of wealth lying around, consider these epic home upgrades:

1. A Lego Basement and Bar. When you need to enjoy a good beer and build some shit!

 

2. An Arcade Basement. Because, obviously.

 

3. A Star Wars Themed theatre, when you’re feeling like chilling with Boba Fett and C-3PO

Modern Media Room by Beverly Hills

Home Media Design & InstallationModern Home Theatre

 

4. Or if the Final Frontier is more your style, try this on for size.

 

5. If you happen to have a cave that came with your home (it really helps regulate the electricity
bill) consider a bat cave.

 

6. If epic lighting is more your style, try this on for size

 

7. If you are super-adult and enjoy wine, but want to keep your nerd cred – try making it Indiana
Jones themed. It’s better than Disneyland.

 

8. If you’re concerned that there are no options about where to sleep yet, maybe a Jedi Starfighter
is your style.

 

9. And if a big problem when gaming is that there isn’t enough TV space, well…

Industrial Media Room by Calgary Home Media Design &

InstallationK&W Audio

 

10. Bonus: If you’re not an eccentric millionaire and these options seem a little out of your price range, just try a circuit board table.

circuittable-sg

 Posted by at 8:56 pm
Mar 162014
 
poster_01

It’s an exciting story that you follow along with bated breath – a 60s’ mystery-spy-thriller-fiction novel with hints of mind control and someone following you. Oh, and very stylish design.

Throw in some puzzles and you’ve got yourself a game. And that’s just what the 2-man game developer Simogo made (four, in this case as they paired with Daniel Olsén & Jonathan Eng to make a soundtrack for the game)

“A surreal thriller in which the written word is your map

DEVICE 6 plays with the conventions of games and literature, entwines story with geography and blends puzzle and novella, to draw players into an intriguing mystery of technology and neuroscience.”

And surreal it is. The gameplay is very basic. Stripped down to what could best be described as an interactive novel. As you read, you learn that the protagonist – Anna – has been dropped onto a mysterious island with no recollection of how she got there. As the story unfolds she has to wade through a series of clues to discover what forces are at play here, keeping her there.
The game plays in 6 “chapters.” And although written like a short story or novel – Simogo hasn’t taken the design aspect out of play. In line with the 60s’ world and mystery that’s unfolding before Anna, the story moves with the player. You follow lines of text like they’re a road or a bridge to 60’s inspired color blocks containing black and white pictures. The pictures aren’t extensive but they do exist to set the mood and provide the player with added clues.

As you play a chapter, you follow the text, turning your iPad or iPhone along with the story, discovering hidden twists and turns. The game allows you to go back and forth – gathering clues to be able to crack the final puzzle that awaits you at the end of each chapter.

This game definitely drew me in. I’m a big fan of mystery novellas myself and this one had enough intrigue to keep me going. The puzzles were challenging. There wasn’t too much hand-holding as far as how to achieve the answers.

There are a few interactive elements in each chapter (buttons to push, pictures to slide) so you really had to scrutinize each picture, push each button, go back and forth across the text to really dig down and find the answer.

In addition to all this Simogo did a nice job of adding in pictures and text just to add to the story that has nothing to do with the puzzle. I spent a fair amount of time going over these pictures trying to extract clues out of them until I realized I might have been overthinking it.

As far as replayablity goes this game has two things going against it. It’s a puzzle game so once you play through you pretty much know what to do every time after that. And it’s a mystery novella with a big reveal at the end. So this one for most would be a play once and move on. However the storyline is interesting enough I say it’s well worth even just one play through of it. Also It’s storyline does also work in its advantage as I would want to play it again if only to “re-read” the story.

Now if this all this game had – a mystery novella, fun puzzles, a great design – it would be a pretty stellar game on its own. However, Simogo took it even a step further and…don’t worry, no spoilers…I will say the game takes things a wonderful step further with a very playful and interesting way of breaking the 4th wall during the gameplay.

This game is only available via iOS right now, so if you have one of those devices make sure to pick this one up. If you don’t have one of those devices, just tell your friend you need to borrow their iPhone for a couple of hours. IT’S IMPORTANT DUDE.

Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdnjXQL6Muk

Mar 042014
 

After playing through a fair bit of the Thief Reboot, I find myself with rather mixed-feelings. Is it as good as the first three games? Certainly not. However, I am finding that I definitely enjoying the game itself, mostly when I ignore the name on the cover. As a sequel/reboot to admittedly one of my favorite game series of all time, there are just too many places where it falls flat. As a stand-alone stealth game though, I absolutely do not regret my purchase and would even go so far as to say I’m enjoying myself quite a bit.

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 First of all, one of the things that I mentioned as a worry for me going into this game was the difficulty setting. I love the fact that they give you a ton of options to tweak the difficulty around to suit your play- style, and I think it works pretty well for the most part. The guards are… not brilliant by any measure, and often will pass just in front of you, as long as you are in shadow. I expect some of this since they need to keep it interesting and exciting, but still a bit underwhelming.

The nice thing is this also allows for some of the more enjoyable moments that I have experienced, such as sneaking right up behind a guard and pickpocketing his coin purse before dashing back into the dark alley behind me. Or just managing to pick that lock in the nick of time before the guard swings around and spots me. Thief is full of moments such as this, and there is no shortage of things to snatch.

What I am finding I miss the most though is the freedom to tackle levels in different ways. The context-only actions such as jumping and rope-arrows or opening windows is pretty poor. I found myself getting frustrated several times at this system, especially when it looked like I should be able to make the jump, or I should be able to use a rope arrow to get up to that high-ledge. When it comes down to it, most of the missions are quite limited. Some will have a couple options for how to approach objectives, but most will be pretty straightforward on how to proceed and allow one path. This is really too bad, and I wish they could have kept it a bit more open-ended.

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The story itself is pretty awful as well. I wouldn’t say that the first games had fantastic stories, but they were definitely above-average, especially for the time, and again this game falls flat in comparison. At this point, I find myself more or less ignoring cut-scenes and hurrying forward to just get to the next area to steal more things.

So yes, the game definitely does have faults, and I think a majority of them stem from the failure to live up to some of the creativity allowed in the original games (mostly the first and second). As a stealth game though, I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. Maybe not quite up to the level as dishonored, but I think it’s close enough that if you are looking for a stealth fix, Thief might be just what you are looking for.

 Posted by at 11:36 am
Feb 212014
 

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The new Thief game will be out next week (2/25). How do I feel about that? I’m still not completely sure, but I will admit that against all better judgement I have started to feel hope. Hope that they have not simply made an actionized, pumped-up version of the Thief games, perhaps overly drawing on some of Dishonered’s gameplay. While that worked fantastically for Dishonored, a game I will readily admit to loving, it isn’t exactly what I want for Thief.

Let me explain some of my feelings here. Thief was one of my very first PC games. It was one of the first games that really showed me what a computer could be capable of, compared with what consoles of the time were putting out. It gave me an open-ended world, full of possibilities, with fantastic AI and a dark, brooding atmosphere. And it started what would become a lifelong love of stealth games in general.

So yes, when this was first announced, I was nervous. As time went on and more was released about the game, that feeling only grew. They were replacing the voice actor who played Garrett (arguably one of the finest performances I’ve heard in any game). They inserted a new focus mode, which highlights items in environment (something I will always maintain removes the player from the narrative and reminds me I’m playing a game). Everything I saw and heard made it sound like the gameplay and difficulty was going to be simplified and made into more of a stealth-action type, again almost like what Dishonored was going for. And not a “Taffer” could be heard in any of the trailers.

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But then came news that there would be numerous options to ramp up the difficulty. This honestly was what I was waiting for. I don’t mind if there is a bit more of an action element possible, as long as there is the ability to ramp up that difficulty and more or less force a stealth approach to each situation. Garrett has always been little more than minimally competent at combat, stealth was the game and it punished you accordingly for breaking that concept, and there should be the option to play the game as such. With the last few trailers on top of the difficulty options, I can happily say I am cautiously optimistic, even excited, to give this new Thief a go. I’m not sure I will ever be able to accept the new voice actor, but if that is the greatest flaw present I will consider it a resounding success.

Check out the launch trailer for Thief here!

 Posted by at 12:15 pm