Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch from a Gameboy aficionado

As an insomniac, I take my gaming seriously. When I get to a point in a cycle of sleeplessness where I’m too tired to work or keep track of where I am in the book I’m reading, I turn to video games to keep me from delving too deeply into the dark thoughts that creep into my skull in the middle of the night.

After waiting for over a year to see if it would prove popular enough with developers and players to make it worth picking up, I finally broke down and bought a Nintendo Switch – that I have an upcoming assignment that involves testing Switch accessories made it easy to pull the trigger, despite its steep price tag here in Canada. The last Nintendo console that I bought was the Gameboy Advance Micro. I still own it, 13 years later, and play it on a regular basis. After tinkering with the Switch for just over a month, I’ve got some thoughts on the major differences between it and my much-loved GBA Micro that I thought might be fun to share.

Cost of Ownership

The GBA Micro wasn’t cheap, back in the day. I remember paying around $200 for it in Vancouver, BC. But aside from the games I’d buy for it, that was it. There was no need to purchase anything else. The Switch? Not so much. After paying $300 for it or, in my case, $400 Canadian, there's still a ton of cash that needs to change hands to ensure a solid experience with the console. Read the rest

Bethesda reveals latest Fallout game

Bethesda released a teaser trailer for their next game in the Fallout series, Fallout 76, and man, I am so ready for it.

Having been around to play Fallout Fallout 2 and Fallout Tactics in the late 1990s all I wanted was more Fallout. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas definitely scratched that itch (New Vegas is one of the best RPGs of all time, and yes, I will fight you over it.) Fallout 4, I loved. It was a departure from the feel of the games that came before it, but it wasn't long until I got into the rhythm of the game. It's hands-down one of my favorite games of all time. Despite my love affair with the series, there's a VERY good chance that Fallout 76 will be an entirely different animal than anything that's come before in the franchise. A big clue to this is smack dab in the middle of the game's title: Vault 76. In Fallout 3, Vault 76 was listed in a Citadel computer terminal as being a "control" vault. It makes sense: with every other vault encountered in the Fallout Universe has been screwed with by Vault-Tec scientists, subjecting the vault's occupants to a wide array of social experiments. Vault-Tec would need a control vault to illustrate what sane, well adjusted vault dwellers who were left alone with everything they'd need to survive a nuclear disaster would look like. There's a good chance that anyone coming out of this vault would be healthy, mentally stable and well supplied. Read the rest

Sony is killing production of physical PS Vita games in 2019

Pour another one out for Sony's PlayStation Vita. Despite being a powerful, capable handheld that's great for a bit of fun on the go or as a companion to your PlayStation 3 or 4 when you're at home, Sony's all but ignored the diminutive gaming console over the past couple of years. In 2015, Sony told gamers that they didn't think it was worth making a successor to the Vita.

Fair enough: mobile gaming is Nintendo's jelly. It still hurt to hear, though: I've always had a soft spot for Sony's portable systems (I may well be one of the few people that actually liked the PSP Go). But the death of the Vita didn't feel real to me until today. According to Kotaku, the production of PlayStation Vita game cards will soon be upon us.

From Kotaku:

Sony’s American and European branches “plan to end all Vita GameCard production by close of fiscal year 2018,” the company told developers today in a message obtained by Kotaku. The message asks that all Vita product code requests be submitted by June 28, 2018, and that final purchase orders be entered by February 15, 2019. Sony’s 2018 fiscal year will end on March 31, 2019.

As sigh inducing as this news is, it isn't the end of the world. Vita owners will still be able to download games from the online store baked into the PS Vita's OS. If Sony's support for the Vita is anything like it has been for the original PlayStation Portable, the digital titles that gamers bought should be available to download for years to come. Read the rest

How a 14-year-old Fortnite cheater may rewrite EULA law

A teenager livestreaming a demo of a Fortnite cheat he found online got sued by Epic Games, but the case raises questions about who, if anyone, is legally obligated after he clicked the user agreement required to play the game. Read the rest

Red Dead Redemption II's latest trailer reminds me which gaming console I'm supposed to buy

I've been a PlayStation guy for a long time now. Read the rest

Programmer demonstrates his "perfect" Minesweeper AI

Code Bullet claims in this demo video, "I was able to create what I believe to be a perfect minesweeper player." Read the rest

Play free emulators of all those handheld video games of yesteryear

The Internet Archive has an incredible free collection of 1980s handheld game console emulators. In 1978, my brother and I played the hell out of Coleco Electronic Quarterback. It's amazing how compelling and addictive a flashing array of LED dashes was back then, and still is. From the Internet Archive:

This collection of emulated handheld games, tabletop machines, and even board games stretch from the 1970s well into the 1990s. They are attempts to make portable, digital versions of the LCD, VFD and LED-based machines that sold, often cheaply, at toy stores and booths over the decades.

We have done our best to add instructions and in some cases link to scanned versions of the original manuals for these games. They range from notably simplistic efforts to truly complicated, many-buttoned affairs that are truly difficult to learn, much less master.

They are, of course, entertaining in themselves – these are attempts to put together inexpensive versions of video games of the time, or bringing new properties wholecloth into existence. Often sold cheaply enough that they were sealed in plastic and sold in the same stores as a screwdriver set or flashlight, these little systems tried to pack the most amount of “game” into a small, custom plastic case, running on batteries.

They also represent the difficulty ahead for many aspects of digital entertainment, and as such are worth experiencing and understanding for that reason alone.

(via Waxy)

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How a shipping warehouse employee became the face of Nintendo

In 1981 Howard Phillips got a job at a Nintendo arcade game shipping warehouse in Seattle. One the the perks of the job was being able to play the games without spending quarters. As a result, Phillips became an expert at the games, and Nintendo management soon realized the enthusiast warehouse worker could become its gateway into the zeitgeist of US market. They hired him as a "gamemaster" and solicited his advice on which games to introduce into the US. He was presented to the media as Mr. Nintendo and became a famous face to gamers all over the country. Here's a six-minute profile of Phillips, in which he reflects on his period of fame. Read the rest

The Pocket Sprite's a game console that's small enough to fit on your keychain

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Pocket Sprite – a $55 piece of game emulation hardware that fits in the palm of your hand. Measuring just an inch wide and two inches tall, the Pocket Sprite looks like the smallest Game Boy you've ever seen. It plays like it too, with A, B, start and selection buttons and a wee display with dimension sized to make playing games from the 1980s and 1990s in their original format feel "right."

Out of the box, the Pocket Sprite can play homebrew games designed to work with Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Sega console emulators. Before you ask, yes, this also means that any Game Boy or Sega ROMs you happen to find online will work with the hardware.

Before laying hands on it, I was apprehensive about how playable the Pocket Sprite might be. I still carry around a Game Boy Micro console with me, everywhere I go. I find that it's juuuuust small enough to pocket and still large enough that playing Super Mario World for 30 minutes can actually be enjoyable. The Pocket Sprite's way smaller than my GB Micro is. I was surprised by how easy its chunky controls were to use. But I was disappointed by how hard it was to keep track of a game's action on its display. For my eyes, it's just too small. But maybe your experience will be different.

Whether or not the Game Sprite is worth $55 really depends on why you're buying it. Read the rest

Video tour of VR World NYC

This video report looks at the current state of consumer arcade VR with VR World’s Head of Content Tommy Goodkin. Read the rest

'Sneakers' was an extremely popular Apple ][ game

I remember Sneakers as being far, far more exciting than it apparently was.

So much for memory. Read the rest

Humanity - a game in progress where mobs of people fall and are crushed

This is like the game Lemmings, only with people. They get crushed by huge blocks, fall into holes, get chopped up by propellers, and killed by other people with guns. The game is being developed by Tokyo-based Tha, Ltd.

[via Clive Thomspo] Read the rest

Wolfenstein: 30+ years of killing Nazis

I killed them on the Apple ][. I stopped them in 3D. Now we have Nazis in America, both in real life and the latest installment of Wolfenstein. BJ Blazkowicz makes it clear, Nazis gonna die. Read the rest

The Comic Book Story of Video Games goes deep

The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution, by Jonathan Hennessey (author), and Jack McGowan (illustrator) is an entertaining full-color book about the roots of video games. It starts with the discovery of electricity and the birth of electronic digital computers in in World War II and ends with augmented reality games like Pokemon Go. In between we learn about the origins of Pong, Doom, Nintendo, Sega, and more. I feel like I learned as much as I ever want to know about video game history in one pleasant afternoon. This would make an excellent gift for kids who want to learn about the pioneers of video games.

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Destiny 2 "Beta" begins on PS4 and Xbox One

As of today both Xbox One and PS4 players can preview Bungie's sequel to Destiny, the MMOFPS successor to Halo.

Wonderful weapons, colorful armor, and well-balanced skills make Destiny PvP the best since the early Halo games. The PvE raids, puzzles and bosses are similarly challenging and fun to play with friends. The story? Bungie's miserable story telling coasts along behind remarkable controls, level design, and gameplay. Unlike Halo, Destiny's story is a confused and boring wonder.

Destiny 2 looks like a new engine, levels, and a lot of new weapons and skills. Evolutionary not revolutionary, I'm sure it'll remain a battle ground for wizened old Atari 2600 owners vs high-pitched pre-teens with excellent reflexes.

I bet the Gjallarhorn will be back. I miss the days of Thorn's supremacy.

You can pre-order through your platform to get into the Beta. It'll also open up next week to the general public. Read the rest

The story behind the sounds of Pong, Pac-Man, and Doom

Four video game audio designers explore the psychoacoustics of vintage video games, from the accelerating heartbeat of Space Invaders to the dramatic woosh of Myst's linking books. From Wired:

With only a few channels of audio to play with, early videogame designers had to get very creative if they wanted their sounds to stand out. Pong, created in 1972, took a single tone and made it iconic, while Donkey Kong utilized the limited sounds of a Game Boy to trigger a range of cues and emotions.

As the games got more complex, so did the audio, and the theories behind it. A loop, or short, repeated section of audio, acts as a recurring cue. Dissonant sounds communicate failure, while consonant ones—think of the sympathetic vibrations of Super Mario Bros.—encourage players to continue. The tones can even mimic human sounds—a modulating synthesizer approximates laughter, like the “wawawawawa” in Duck Hunt.

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Listen to some amazing high school kids perform excerpts from the Guild Wars 2 soundtrack

It's no secret for anyone who knows me that I happen to be a long-time MMORPG player, but no game has grabbed my attention as completely as Guild Wars 2 has, due in no small part to the beautiful visuals and the incredible soundtrack. I'm a huge fan of video game music, having been to my share of Zelda and Final Fantasy concerts when they've been in the area.

Today, the ArenaNet folks have shared this amazing performance of excerpts from their Heart of Thorns expansion, performed by the Evergreen Philharmonic, in Issaquah, WA.

What makes this performance extra special is the composition of the orchestra itself: It's composed primarily of high-school students from the Issaquah area.

The Evergreen Philharmonic has been active since 1988 and has been an audition-only orchestra since 1991. Evergreen Philharmonic functions as an honors youth orchestra within the Issaquah School District, and has students from all three Issaquah High Schools.

Evergreen has performed in a variety of venues, such as the Washington State Ferries, the University of Washington, the University of British Columbia, Disneyland, and the University of Southern California. The orchestra has also travelled to perform in Paris, London, Quebec and Boston. In May of 2011 Evergreen Philharmonic played at Carnegie Hall, New York.

Read more about the Orchestra, this performance, or Heart of Thorns. Long live high school music programs!

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