Friday Update and Housekeeping

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a good Friday and are excited for the weekend to begin! I know not everyones week works the same and if you aren’t starting yours right now rest assured this message is meant for you as well, I hope your weekend arrives quickly and lasts for what feels like a lifetime.

So what is going on this week? Not a whole lot, I’ve been on vacation in Florida which means a lot of sun, socializing and eating out. I didn’t set aside quite as much time to write as I would have liked but I think I did okay with a couple of posts, I don’t think I’m really counting this housekeeping posts though as this is mostly going to be akin to my visit to a non-denominational confessional. A personal way to be accountable for the things I’ve said I would do and  for whatever reason have yet to get to, I was always taught the value of redundancy so theres no reason to quit now.

First thing thats up is the podcast which was supposed to go up yesterday, unfortunately where I am staying has surprisingly awful internet that seems to seize up midway through trying to upload almost anything. Even something as simple as getting pictures off my phone and onto my Google drive has me staring at progress bars with a level of skepticism I haven’t felt since the early 90s. So I’ve resolved to just stop fighting it and I’ll upload episode four when I’m safe back at home on Saturday evening, apologies for that but I swear to god it’ll be up on time next Thursday come hell or Floridian internet.

I am excited to sit down and watch my first video game movie to start off my retrospective on the industries history with the silver screen which requires me to choose what I’m watching first. Fortunately as always the Hollywood rumor mill is there for me and after reading this I’d say the decision has been made so I’ll be starting with Dwayne Johnson’s 2005 masterpiece, DOOM. It sort of makes sense since I was a huge fan of the most recent entry in the DOOM series from 2016 and am anxious to hear about the inevitable sequel which will hopefully be announced in some fashion at E3 this year.

Naturally being out of state meant that I wasn’t able to do even a little bit of painting this week so I’m also really antsy to get back to that, I should have an update or two to post by Tuesday or Wednesday after I get back. On the subject of minis and painting I also came across something called Fallout: Wasteland Warfare which I think is based on a mildly popular video game IP. I’m not sure I could have envisioned of a worse thing that could have released so close to Star Wars: Legion if I had tried. I have no clue about the system the game operates on or anything beyond the fact that the minis themselves look fucking awesome. I’m doing my best but I’d be lying if I didn’t say you could probably be fairly sure those will show up mixed in with my Star Wars minis at some point in the future.

Moving on!

You know whats better than one of my favorite genres and getting stuff for free? When you can get something in the Cyberpunk vein for absolutely free via the fantastic folks over at Humble Bundle. I haven’t played it yet so I can’t give it any level of a recommendation beyond the most important: FREE. Satellite Reign is a Cyberpunk themed RTS that if for nothing else has at least piqued my interest, if it does the same for you then go grab it and while you’re there maybe look around and spend a few bucks… for charity. If you’re human and despise cancer, especially the kind children have, you may also want to check out a game called I, Hope the proceeds from which Kenny Roy the developer is donating to Game Changer Charity. Something I think we can all agree is a worthy cause especially when we also get a fun little game out of it for our ever expanding backlog. Lastly if managing a cemetery or at least the very least simulating that experience has ever been on your list of life goals have I got just the thing for you, Graveyard Keeper. Lazy Bear Games has seen fit to devote their time to filling this until now under-served demographic of gamers and while it isn’t out yet I think it’s definitely something to keep an eye on, it’s due out sometime in 2018.

I also ran across a story about an Ohio College who is offering an e-sports scholarship for Fortnite players. Weird as it seems I think that is kind of cool and assuming it doesn’t tumble into the same shady exploitation schemes of other collegiate leagues, which I’m sure it will, I can see this being yet another avenue for more kids to get into college to make sure that they have a background they can draw on after their time in e-sports. Either way it goes one of the most interesting things in gaming for the last decade or more has been the evolution and general acceptance of e-sports. Seeing ESPN report on it and this most recent partnership between Kotaku and Deadspin to report on the various e-sport leagues still blows my mind.

I think thats all I’ve really got for this Friday wrap up and I can see the general format of these posts changing a bit from week to week as I sort of figure out how exactly I want them to be. I hadn’t intended to do anything like this at the beginning but I’m starting to think it would be helpful as a way to clear out stories and tidbits that don’t really require their own posts but that I still have sitting in my bookmarks.

What say you? Yay or Nay to this being a regular thing?

Till next time, happy gaming!

  • Non-Washable

To Iterate, Or Not To Iterate

I was reading this blurb over on N4G and while it adds up to little more than speculation by a developer I had an instant revulsion to even the suggestion that Sony or Microsoft would entertain this idea. Naturally that revulsion eventually coalesced into an opinion that I thought belonged here.

“With Sony and Microsoft expanding the line with PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, we might just see continual evolution in the line rather than completely new boxes and architecture. We can see both follow a similar formula that Apple has with cell phones.” – Colin Moore, Holospark

It’s not that the thought hadn’t crossed my mind since Sony announced it was dipping its toe in with the PS4 Pro to see how console owners might react to a mid-generation upgrade. By all current metrics the experiment certainly hasn’t been a flop and may even end up being an overall success but I don’t think we can really know that for sure quite yet. Their competition over at Xbox certainly haven’t been idle, putting in the work to upgrade already released games to make them worth revisiting on the One X. I’ll be very interested to see how the cost of that extra work tallies up against the sales numbers for the system which thus far has beaten out the Pro in units shifted. The biggest knock against Xbox right now is a lack of platform exclusives to stack up against the rather impressive stable Sony has built up but ultimately if you’re asking people to spend another $400-500 mid-generation they’re going to go where the value is and eventually developers will follow. All that can come in a later post-mortem once we get a little closer to the next generational step, for right now we have other things to talk about.

What is it about the concept of iterative consoles that repulses me and in my opinion should do the same for you?

For starters let me go back to the argument that console fans generally make against their bigger siblings, the PC. Cost. One of the things that is generally laid at the feet of PC enthusiasts is that while they may be better they also pay an exorbitant premium for that status. Unfortunately for people who use that argument its easily disproven and I don’t say that to be flippant, it’s just the simple truth. Consoles these days are using the same hardware that we use in PCs only theirs are a handful of generations behind almost immediately after their release. We can build budget PCs that cost less than consoles and perform better on modern games, this comes with the caveat that we have to build our rigs instead of pulling them out of the box ready to use but thats a pretty small speedbump even for the most tech-illiterate. The added problem with this argument is that we can easily upgrade individual components instead of having to build or purchase entirely new systems when we want to see a boost in performance. Smart PC builders can to an extent “future proof” their builds by leaving themselves room to upgrade without having to replace other core components due to compatibility problems.

What this boils down to is that the all-or-nothing limitation of home consoles necessitates a wholesale replacement of your system with an iterative release schedule if you want to stay up to date. A modular approach to home consoles where you could purchase specific upgrades for your system is most likely a pipe dream as I can’t see how they could possibly make that fiscally profitable or easy for consumers. The most common counterpoint to this that I can see is the mitigating affect of trade-in programs like those available at Gamestop which is a good point. Trading in your Xbox One or PS4 will net you $140 or $170 respectively which isn’t bad when weighed against the cost of an upgrade, sort of.

Those values leave you with eating $229 for a PS4 Pro and a real gut punch of $359 for the Xbox One X which leaves it only $40 shy of the non-Kinect release version you just traded in. Both of these systems are a definite improvement in performance so I won’t call them a ripoff or even a poor value but for your average console consumer that is a nearly impossible reality to swallow. This reality gets even worse when you realize that the Pro released just three years after the standard console for a combined $628 in just that time if you want to upgrade. I remember people theorizing about a 6-10 year lifespan for these new systems and while an iterative timeline doesn’t mean they are dead it does leave you feeling like you’re not getting the best the platform has to offer which leads to people feeling like they misspent their money.

This also leads me back to the quote earlier from Colin Moore and in particular this portion, “We can see both follow a similar formula that Apple has with cell phones.” which is a sentiment that I think should have people who game on consoles screaming bloody murder. I wont get into a long discussion on the price of cellphones but anyone who looks at an iPhone X with its accompanying price tag and thinks, “Makes sense.” needs their head examined. Just some quick context for those who may have forgotten, the original iPhone retailed for $499-599 however within three months that price was dropped to $399. The 3G retailed for $199-299. Fast forward a mere eleven years and your new iPhone X will run you a staggering $1,149USD or otherwise known as a low-ish end mortgage payment. But no need to worry, a couple of months prior to that release the affordable iPhone 8 series released covering the $700-900 range if you don’t want their flagship product.

If you think that iterative console releases wont end up skyrocketing the cost of your “cutting edge systems” I’ve got some bad news for you. I make no bones about the fact that cutting edge or even high end PC gaming is not every-day-affordable and I really don’t want to see the same thing happen to consoles for the sake of being able to play the newest Call of Duty in 4k. Focus on hitting a steady 60fps at regular HD, it’s cheaper and you’ll be happier, trust me. Consoles will never be out in front of PC tech nor should they be as that isn’t their purpose, the extra cost burden of an iterative release schedule will do nothing to really improve the experience in a meaningful way. Whats more I don’t think that the majority of their consumer base will engage with that schedule outside of a handful of early adopters with enough money to make the expense negligible.

Suffice it to say the cost to everyone involved, including Sony and Microsoft, just isn’t worth whatever if any potential upside that they see from mid-generation upgrades or the simple abolition of the entire current release structure. Let the PC market bear that burden as we have from the beginning, don’t poison the console market by needlessly dragging them into that mess. If you really feel like you need to close the gap then look at a shorter life cycle for consoles, I always thought that ten years was too long when compared to the speed of technology. I think you could make a reasonable argument that end-of-life for a console could start at year five and be phased out completely by year eight without burning out your consumer base on “constant upgrades”. If we look at the PS4 and Xbox One right now around four years from their release date I think we’re just about seeing their peak performance with releases like Assassins Creed: Origins, Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War 4. I’m sure we’ll see some clever developers squeeze a little more out of them over the next year or two but I doubt much beyond that. That puts us at a couple years to enjoy the plateau or marginal improvements before we start looking towards the next major generation. That period will be the real test for the Pro and One X, will Sony and Microsoft position them to be the exclusive console versions to bridge this generation and the next while ending support for the base models? If they don’t will we ever see games that really push the Pro or One X to their limit as it becomes harder to keep parity between them and their predecessors? Questions I am eager to see answered as it will give us hints to their plans going forward, for now its hard to say. Sony is riding high on being the current undisputed king of this console cycle and Microsoft is still doing its utmost to win back their customers in any way they can after stumbling hard at the outset.

You’ll notice I have yet to mention Nintendo in all of this and if you’re curious why I’d invite you to read my write-up about the Switch. They have smartly avoided this path with their main home consoles and I think they’ll continue to do that for the forseeable future.

I’ll work on cutting myself off here as I don’t want this to be overly long winded and save my further comments for later because I’m sure this will come up again before long. What my argument comes down to is that I don’t think the value proposition for an iterative release schedule benefits the consumer in any way shape or form and realistically only serves to enrich console makers. I don’t begrudge them for seeking out new profit avenues as I’m sure I pointed out in my lootbox post  but I have an issue when there is little to no value for the people who are shelling out the dough. When it comes to technology we’ve become a little upgrade crazy and overall we’ve become comfortable enough that companies like Apple will nudge us towards upgrading with some pretty underhanded tactics. Aging technology is not useless technology and allowing consoles to spiral into the money vortex of constant upgrades, trade-ins and iteration hell I think is something that is best avoided at all costs for businesses and consumers alike. And this is coming from a card carrying member of the PC Elitists you all love so much.

Till next time, happy gaming!

  • Non-Washable



Games on the Silver Screen

The other day I was scrolling through my RSS feed trying to keep up with the non-stop torrent of news and came upon an article over at Polygon touting an interesting statistic which I had to be honest came as a bit of a surprise. This was mostly due to the fact that a couple of weeks ago I went and saw the new Tomb Raider which while not perfect I thought was an overall solid movie. This opinion comes with the rather important caveat that I have not seen Rampage yet but my own love for the old school game is enough to make me want to go. The movie also isn’t hurt in any way by having Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as its lead, say what you will about his other career the man has impeccable comedic timing and oozes charm like most of us sweat.

On an unrelated note it’s fucking hot in Florida.

I don’t think anyone can, with a straight face, say that they saw the Rampage trailer and thought that anything good would come of it. It’s fine, I didn’t and if I’m honest I still don’t but I will go see it because it looks like a big, dumb summer blockbuster that should just be a fun time. I’m entirely okay with that being the case, people may denigrate these movies as nothing but a waste of the memory they’re filmed on but not everything society produces needs to be high art or commentary. Sometimes a giant ape knocking over buildings and fighting humongous crocodiles as a backdrop to Dwayne Johnson’s biceps is all we need. After reading the Polygon article I immediately hopped on Rotten Tomatoes to have a look at Tomb Raider 2018 and needless to say I was a bit aghast at what I found, 49%?! I will say that at the time of this writing Rampage has officially fallen to the 50% mark which means according to RT it gets a… splat? A rotten tomato, I guess. At the very least it looks like it will in fact not be the first video game movie to break the curse and become critically acclaimed which overall I think is a good thing lest the studios learn the wrong lesson. Video games have much, much more to offer movie going audiences than fleshy alternatives to whatever Transformers disaster is set to explode onto screens this year. As you’ve probably gleaned from what I’ve written so far I actually did like Tomb Raider and feel it certainly warrants better than a 49% but I’ll expand on that later as well as my feelings on Rampage when I get in to see it.

In the interim while we do wait for the one chosen adaptation which will break the critic ceiling I thought it might be interesting to set forth a little series project for myself and go back to do a retrospective on what video game movies we have gotten so far. Obviously I won’t be going over them all in this post but I thought I’d at least put this out there as an official starting point and an outline for how I’m going to go about it. If you have suggestions for ones you’d particularly like to see talked about, let me know!

So whats first? Criteria, what makes it a ‘Video Game Movie’? I mentioned Transformers above and while there have been games using that IP none of the movies are actually based on those games so those are out. Movie Tie-In Games while an interesting subject in their own right, namely because some of the great games over the years have been as a result of this, don’t count for this particular subject. Perhaps something I can cover down the road. Comic book games/movies also not going to be included in this. I will strictly be sticking to movies that were created as a direct result of or to tie into a video game franchise.

Here is the list so far off the top of my head as I write this, the one at the top should be clear that this list is in no particular order –

  • House of the Dead
  • DOOM (Y Dwayne?)
  • Resident Evil Series (I will actually watch all of these, god help me.)
  • Assassins Creed
  • Prince of Persia
  • Ratchet and Clank
  • Warcraft
  • Mortal Kombat Series
  • Street Fighter
  • Far Cry
  • Super Mario Bros (I can’t promise I wont be drunk for this one.)
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
  • In the Name of the King Series
  • Double Dragon
  • BloodRayne
  • Max Payne
  • Dead or Alive
  • Silent Hill
  • Hitman
  • Wing Commander
  • Need for Speed
  • Postal

I’m sure there are probably a couple I’m forgetting but thats quite enough to get me started.

The conundrum of video games being apparently so difficult to adapt to the silver screen is very intriguing to me because from my point of view you couldn’t really be given more of a gimme. One of the core problems I think that directors and screenwriters face is the incorrect assumption that they have to change the story in order to make it distinct from the game and therefore interesting to movie audiences. As anyone who has read any amount of fanfiction can tell you the vast, vast majority of people don’t actually know better than the original creators. The real challenge they should be focusing on is how to condense the story into a much more limited time frame, the same challenge that faces book adaptations. I don’t know of any gamers who go see these movies who really hope for a totally different story than the games they’re supposedly inspired by. We go for the novelty of seeing a live, big-screen adaptation of a story we already love, to see those pivotal scenes envisioned in a different format with actors who can really pull it off.

My constant question has been: Who are these changes for? Why make them? The only answer I’ve ever been able to come up with that makes sense is the changes are purely ego or business driven. The directors and screenwriters feel like if they don’t put their own stamp on the movie then it wont be worth their time. They know full well that no one really appreciates the person who can faithfully replicate a Mona Lisa but the artist who does the cubist version might turn some heads. The problem with this line of thinking is that adapting a book or video game isn’t a 1:1 transfer, it isn’t an exact copy and requires a talent all its own to maintain the integrity of the original product. Peter Jackson has not earned the acclaim he has for The Lord of the Rings because its his original story, it isn’t but he has earned it because of the monumental task that it took to faithfully translate it to the big screen. Not everyone is suited to do adaptations and its up to them to know their place when taking on a project like this. When altering an already completed piece of media for a different format all of the heavy lifting has been done when it comes to the story, characters and, setting. It’s one of the reasons that Jackson’s addition of Tauriel to the Hobbit movies was so heavily criticized, it was a change that wasn’t needed or wanted. It served a trope of modern movies that didn’t belong in the story being told and wasn’t needed to improve it. In my view Jackson fell victim to his own ego there and couldn’t help himself from adding his input when it was unnecessary. To be perfectly honest here when I first saw the movies I didn’t even remember she wasn’t an original character chalking it up to the fact that I haven’t read The Hobbit since I was a teenager. After I went home and did some research to clear up my confusion at some of the scenes I realized she was a wholly original addition to the story. What that tells me in hindsight is that while not every addition will necessarily turn out badly its a pointless risk, you are presenting an unknown element into something that was already successful. Why? At best it might serve as an intriguing bit of seasoning to the story but it most likely is destined to throw off what was already a finely tuned and crafted work.

Anyways! So as not to ramble at you for much longer I’ll cut myself off here and say that I’ll be continuing these thoughts once I set up a schedule to start watching the movies I listed above so I can talk about them and where they went wrong and how they might have avoided it. I’ve been pretty painting, video game and podcast focused in the past couple months so this will give me another reason to branch back out to movies, albeit old ones. My current movie viewing project given to me by my co-host on The Ourcast is Man From U.N.C.L.E. which we’ll discuss on an upcoming episode once we’re both back from our vacations.

Thanks for stopping by, have a great rest of your weekend!

  • Non-Washable