Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- Announced

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- Announcement Trailer

Arc System Works (Aksys) is in the business of making anime-style fighting games that favor high-speed, beautifully drawn sprites duking it out in a variety of crazy environments. Though known most recently for its BlazBlue series and Persona 4 Arena, Aksys’ first fighting game franchise was Guilty Gear, a similarly batshit insane fighter that favored both style and substance and pioneered many mechanics that are commonplace in today’s more complicated fighting games.

That’s why the announcement of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is so exciting. One look at the launch trailer reveals two things: first, that this is a “sprite based” (scare quotes intentional) fighting game that also uses the Unreal Engine, most notable for its ability to generate 3D visuals. Second, that the game has full rotation camera capabilities during key moments in a fight, as well as cinematic switches to aerial combat that have never been seen in a fighting game before.

What does this all mean? It points to Xrd being a 2D fighter, utilizing 3D graphics that mimic (or are textured with) sprite-based visuals to combine two different styles of animation and design into one unique aesthetic. That in itself is exciting because of what it means for fighting games as a whole. In this marketplace, even if your fighter has solid mechanics and an engrossing, well-executed combat system, it’s the flashy visuals and tricks that get new players interested in your game. You still need the former in the long run, but to make those hard impulse sales, you need the latter. Xrd seems poised to deliver on this sentiment in a unique way.

Oh, and the title? Not so weird, when you consider that the series contains a game called Guilty Gear X2 #Reloaded: The Midnight Carnival. Compared to that, Xrd -SIGN- is downright sensible.

 

RoboCop Statue Nears Completion

RoboCop

Remember that 10-foot tall statue of RoboCop that was supposed to be installed in Detroit? Well, it’s nearing completion, having just been cast in foam, and is ready for bronzing in the near future.

The Onion’s A.V. Club reports that the statue should be completed and ready to be placed sometime next summer. This is great news, not just for fans of RoboCop, but for all pop-culture aficionados seeking to prove just how deeply media can influence our daily lives. Now, we’ll have proof, in the form of a 10-foot shining bastion of justice and mechanized violence.

Coincidentally, the joke proposal to erect a 10-foot tall Wolverine statue in Edmonton, Alberta may happen as well. Welcome to the new Bronze Age. I hope every city gets its own metallic protector in due time. So long as Vancouver gets Batman, of course.

Nintendo Seizing Ad Revenue from YouTube Let’s Play Videos

Even in the year 2013, I’m still baffled by how content creators can make a living off of producing YouTube videos. And yet, several high-profile YouTubers are able to do just that by generating ad revenue of of their videos, even when those videos sometimes amount to simply playing someone else’s game and talking over it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as art based on art is still art. However, Nintendo has decided to reap the fruits of its labors by collecting ad revenue off of Let’s Play videos that feature Nintendo content.

Via Destructoid:

Over on GameFront, a Nintendo rep explains that as part of its push into social media, the company registered copyrighted content in the YouTube database. “For most fan videos this will not result in any changes,” the rep explains, “however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips.

“We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property.” See? You can still produce anything you like! Nintendo will just keep the money you ought to be earning for itself. That is unbelievably ballsy.

As the Destructoid piece points out, often, the real draw of these Let’s Play videos is the personality of the content creator, not necessarily the source content. This is especially true of channels like Game Grumps, who attract a large following due to their ability to consistently be hilarious and provide insight into the games they play.

For Nintendo to piggyback onto these personalities to earn revenue is a difficult situation to judge. Should people be able to earn money off of Nintendo products without cutting them in? Are Let’s Play videos so far removed from the original works that they shouldn’t be considered related at all? Is Nintendo really being benevolent by not simply blocking the content, and instead leaving it up to generate ad revenue?

It’s hard to say for sure, but at least we’ve entered an era where online videos are serious business, so much so that the money earned off of them is worth fighting for. This is a day I never thought would ever come.

Controversial EA Online Pass Program to be Phased Out

In an effort to discourage used game sales, publishers like Activision and EA have implemented an online pass system for their most popular titles in recent years. The plan was to make $10-15 off of pre-owned customers by charging them for online game access after the one-use code included with new copies of the game had been redeemed. Obviously, fans were understandably upset about this “used game tax”. Today, EA surprised us all by announcing an end to online passes for all EA-published games.

From GamesBeat:

“Yes, we’re discontinuing Online Pass,” EA senior director of corporate communications John Reseburg confirmed to GamesBeat in an e-mail. “None of our new EA titles will include that feature.”

 

“Initially launched as an effort to package a full menu of online content and services, many players didn’t respond to the format,” Reseburg said. “We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.”

Additionally, EA plans to focus more on post-release content, which should have been their goal all around. When trying to sell to a customer, your product should be all about “yes, and” and not “no, but.” Gating content, or offering more? What’s more of a motivator for purchases? Clearly, the fans have spoken. Hopefully Activision will follow suit soon and help bring back the age of the game as a product, not as a service.

Google Play Game Services to Add Google Plus Integration

Google announced today that they’re bringing a new suite of services to Google Play that will allow Google+ integration for mobile games, including leaderboards, achievements, cloud-saving, and matchmaking. The free SDK will allow developers to add these services to games released on Android, iOS, and web platforms, save the matchmaking system, which is Android-only for the time being.

Via Polygon:

Greg Hartrell, lead product manager for the Google Play game services, told us that the strategy was both user and developer focused. “It’s user focused in the sense that we’re trying to reach out to the largest number of users,” Hartrell said. “And for developers, they want to maximize the size of the audience and the quality of the audience. Both of those things drove that decision.” They also drove the decision to offer the services outside of the company’s Android ecosystem.

If you read any of my posts, you know that I’m a big fan of making good things widely available. Nobody I know uses Google+, but the fact that these services will be available on Apple devices through downloaded apps is intriguing. It’s the equivalent of Sony finding a way for the next Xbox to somehow include Blu-Ray support without Microsoft okay’ing it. Apple doesn’t have a stake in Facebook, sure, but having your mobile competitor’s social network potentially be featured in your proprietary game offerings is amusing, at least.

MinoMonsters Seeking Expansion to Multiple Platforms

MinoMonsters

Ever hear about MinoMonsters? It’s one of the top 50 grossing apps available for iOS, but its Pokemon-style antics haven’t quite reached its full potential audience due to only being available on Apple devices.

That could all change, as GamesBeat reports that MinoMonsters (the company that named itself after its flagship game) has acquired Playcraft Labs in an effort to bring MinoMonsters to multiple platforms.

This means that we could very well see Minomonsters on Android in the near future. While it’s odd to think of the mobile platform as mobile platforms, it’s now the reality of the marketplace, and releasing games on Android as well as iOS is all but necessary to see full market penetration. I say this as someone who recently picked up and spent money purchasing items for Punch Quest after its Android release last week. Had it stayed solely on Apple devices, I never would have bought into it, and wouldn’t be enjoying myself so much.

Making your game available to more people is just good business, and with Playcraft’s help, more people might know what a MinoMonster is before the year is out.

Obscure Games on Tumblr

rockn

While there’s nothing wrong with mainstream hits, I always find that you can learn the most about a medium by delving into its untapped annals. This is especially true with video games, and why I enjoy the Obscure Video Games tumblr so much.

Half the fun is seeing how many games you recognize or have played in the past. The rest is learning just how many titles have passed most of us by. No matter how deep you think you are into games, there’s something out there that you haven’t played, guaranteed, and this tumblr is a great collection of “lost” game experiences.

I recently went on a trip to find archived copies of games available through an old cable download service. Only one of them was remade for DOS; the rest are lost forever, as the service is long gone. It makes you wonder: How many games do we lose? How many experiences will we never get to share? It’s a little evangelistic, but I think celebrating the obscure in games is less hipster and more curatorial. That’s why I’m glad that a tumblr like this exists. Propagation of knowledge is how it survives, and while video games are a relatively unimportant part of the big picture, they’ve helped shape our popular culture, and are therefore worthy of protection and preservation.

Bioshock Infinite’s First DLC May Lack Elizabeth

During their two-part interview interview with Courtnee Draper, the voice of Bioshock Infinite‘s Elizabeth, Gameranx asked the actor about any upcoming DLC, as nothing has been announced yet in terms of what the Season Pass will contain.

Her reply:

Honestly, I know as much as you do. I know that there is going to be some DLCs that come out, but I honestly don’t know whem [sic] we’re going to record it, let alone the actual content! I’m sure they are starting to get back into it now but I haven’t heard anything yet. So, your guess is as good as mine!

This points to the possibility of Elizabeth being largely absent from the first DLC, and is supported by a 2k artist’s CV that hinted at the employee working on animation and R&D for a different AI companion. Not contacting her about voice sessions at a time when this DLC is most assuredly in development could mean we’ll be seeing another companion help Booker through his trials.

Like Doctor Who, but with more shooting.

What’s good about this bit of info is that it largely points to the Bioshock team holding off on producing the DLC until post-release. While DLC created during the end of a dev cycle isn’t inherently evil, and stands as a good way to use dev dollars and time to squeeze the most out of a project, DLC formed during this time tends to feel very much like the core game. More of the same, with little in the way of creative license. Look at the DLC for Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3 for a good taste of how little you can change and still charge for it.

By waiting, as the case seems to be, Irrational Games has a chance to address player concerns and provide something totally new to flesh out the Infinite universe. Given how Infinite ends (no spoilers!) they could really go any number of ways, as the title suggests, and not including Elizabeth in the first — or all — of the DLC episodes may be the shot in the arm needed to bring players who have shelved Booker’s adventure back into the fold.

 

Capcom to Beef Up Online, DLC Development

Capcom’s recently released Overview of Strategies and Plans for the 2014 fiscal year reveals that the company is keen on making more revenue off of online games and downloadable content. Key points include a desire to “sell social games for many types of platforms” and “add more titles that are sold exclusively as downloads like ‘Dungeons and Dragons‘” (which I am personally very excited for).

To this end, Capcom will be releasing titles such as Monster Hunter Online in China, as well as browser games like Onimusha Soul in Taiwan to better reach the global market. There are also plans in place to promote their Beeline mobile brand more heavily by opening a fourth studio in Thailand.

Amongst all of Capcom’s plans and projections for the fiscal year, this makes the most sense. I’ve been playing mobile and online games almost exclusively these past few weeks, due solely to how quick, simple, and cheap they are. I also download way too many games off of the Xbox Live Arcade due to how cheap they seem compared to full retail games, and I love DLC extensions to my favorite titles. I know I’m not unique in either of these respects, either. So long as Capcom can focus on producing quality mobile, online,  and downloadable content, they might be able to keep a toehold in the market when everything shifts with the new console launches this Fall.

Of course, Capcom still has Monster Hunter 4 up its sleeve for the Japanese market, with expected total sales of 2.8 million units from its Fall/Winter release up to the end of the fiscal year.

Sony Removes Mobile Development Fee for Indies

While Nintendo is actively giving developers conversion kits to coax them into bringing their mobile titles to the WiiU, Sony is taking a very different approach by removing the $99 publisher licensing fee necessary to create games for the PS Vita. Word comes from Ars Technica that anyone can now download the SDK and produce games for the Vita, provided their efforts don’t contain any objectionable content.

Some Ars Technica insight:

It’s no surprise that Sony is doing everything it can to attract more developers to its portable. Sony has sold about five million Vita units worldwide, according to analyst estimates, a sales stall that has fallen well below Sony’s expectations. (Not to mention, there are roughly 30 million 3DS units out there.) Opening the system up even further to independent developers could help expand a mobile-phone style long tail market for Vita games while improving the system’s reputation for software selection.

This paragraph perfectly sums up why this is a great move. Do I want to convert my already-existing mobile game to the WiiU, or do I want the ability to craft a totally new exclusive experience and sell it to Sony and make some money right away? This is an excellent chance for small developers to get their games out there, and makes the whole market a lot more accessible. It doesn’t personally convince me to go get a Vita, due to a lack of games, but this is a step in the right direction.