The Future of VR?

One of the most interesting games developed for VR thus far is a game out of CCP Games as a weird tie-in to their big game EVE Online, EVE Valkyrie. If you're unfamiliar, it's a dogfighting game where you get to fly around a ship from the pilot's cockpit and go pew pew pew. The game is one of the BIG exclusive titles for the Oculus Rift. What I want to talk about today is the recent announcement by CCP that the first big expansion for EVE Valkyrie is coming in September, and with it comes... Non-VR support for the game.

So for the first time, people without VR will be able to pick up and play EVE Valkyrie. Obviously, this is a departure from the original concept of the game. But importantly, it opens the game up to being played by a wider audience. And this is the crux of the whole scene of VR right now. It's difficult to make it as a VR Exclusive title, simply because the majority of gamers do not own a VR setup. 

This seems to be the future, make a good game with VR support, but also provide a way for people to play without it. Is this going to hurt adoption of VR? Would providing a way to play without VR potentially promote people toward picking up a headset and checking it out? I know I personally would love a VR headset, very specifically because of playing Elite: Dangerous.

But what about you? Do you think this compromise is the only way for VR to have a future? Do you think VR needs a huge exclusive title to get people to buy in? Do you want a VR headset? What would make you want to pick one up? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

Playoffs are here! Teams battle for LCS Crown for the Summer Split and the right to represent North America at the World Championships. So far, only 3 teams have ever won the LCS. Team Solomid is in a strong position to win yet again. Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming aren't sitting too far behind. Immortals got a first round bye and might be the strongest team who's never won the LCS, with the best chance to break into the club. So here's the games for the weekend.

Saturday August 19th @ 3pm - Cloud9 vs Team Dignitas - On paper this is the closer matchup of the weekend. Dignitas is on a hot streak. Cloud9 looks to be in their normal playoff form. Can Dig pull off the upset, or will Cloud9 take their first steps in cementing yet another Championship game against Team SoloMid...

Sunday August 20th @ 3pm - Counter Logic Gaming vs Team Envy - Everyone expects CLG to easily win this matchup. They're working with a new jungler after some drama a few weeks ago, and this will be his first real stress-test on the big stage. Will he hold up? Can Envy finally pull out a win against a top 4 team? We will find out on Sunday.

As usual, all coverage options can be found over on the LoLeSports Website.

PS - Merch is coming soon! We hope to have a tshirt available within the next week or two. Stay tuned!

The Abuse of DMCA as a Negotiating Tactic

It's Friday again, so that means it's time for a blog! This week I want to talk to you about something that's been simmering for a few months, but I think is interesting to talk about. But beware, this can be a bit of a rabbit hole. I want to talk to you today about a game composer named Alex Mauer. While you may or may not recognize the name, you may have played some games that Alex has provided music for. Need For Speed: Undercover, Penny Arcade on a Rain Slick Precipice, Starr Mazer, River City Random: Underground, and a few others.

So this story really begins back in 2015, Imagos Softworks successfully funded a Kickstarter to make a retro R-Type style game called Starr Mazer. In the course of making the game, they hired Alex Mauer to provide some Chiptune music for the game. The contract was done as a work for hire and all rights and ownership of the music was retained by Imagos Softworks.

In 2016, Mauer had to take a medical leave of absence from her work with Imagos. Her work on Starr Mazer was left incomplete, and Mauer left her contracted position with Imagos. Imagos Softworks did not pay Mauer for the time missed at work and the unfulfilled portions of the contract. And this is where the weird rift begins.

Later in 2016, Imagos launches Starr Mazer: DSP on Steam, which makes use of Mauer's music since it is a continuation of the Starr Mazer franchise. 

In March of 2017, Mauer issues a DMCA takedown claim for Starr Mazer: DSP to Steam and gets the game pulled for using her music "without permission." (It's important to note, at this point, that Imagos does not require the permission of Mauer to use the music, since it owns the music as a part of the Work for Hire contract.)

Imagos appeals the takedown and provides the necessary documentation to Valve and the game gets reinstated. But in order to try and appease Mauer and her complaints, they remove all of Mauer's music from the game and work to replace it... so Mauer issues a second DMCA takedown for the game on Steam due to the game using her sound effects "without permission." (Also covered under Work for Hire contract.)

Imagos appeals this takedown too and gets the game reinstated. Again, they removed and replaced all of Mauer sound effects, at this point likely just trying to make the problem go away. So, of course, Mauer DMCA's the game again, this time claiming that while the assets weren't used, her sound files were still in the game and being distributed with the game.

Then things start to get weird. While Mauer has been claiming that the only reason she is sending these DMCA notices are that Imagos owes her money for the contracted work, she begins to issue DMCA takedowns for other game trailers that use her music: Potatoman Seeks the Troof, Legend of Dungeon, The Catastrophe at Catalina, A Death Road to Canada, and The Duck Game.

Then Mauer turned toward the Starr Mazer kickstarter page and issued DMCA Takedowns for the game's trailers. But then things get even more strange.

In an attempt to get Imagos to pay her the $10,000 she feels she is owed, despite not fulfilling her contract, Mauer begins to issue DMCA takedowns to YouTube content creators. (It's important to say here that Mauer *WAS* paid for her contracted work. She was simply not paid for the work she did not complete, and is seeking more money outside of the contract from Imagos for the work she had already completed.) So any gamers she could find who had Starr Mazer videos featuring her music were issued DMCA takedown notifications. Some of them multiple takedowns at a time. And if you know anything about the way YouTube works with its copyright strikes, if you get 3 copyright claims against your channel, your channel is done.

The only way to get these strikes removed is to contact the entity who make the claim and have them remove it. Many of these creators contacted Mauer, and were told various things, including something to the tune of, I will remove the strike if you complain to Imagos about this and get them to pay me. Essentially blackmailing YouTubers to try and get a company completely unrelated to them to pay her.

At some point in June, Mauer is banned from Steam Discussion Groups for harassing developers. 

Also in June, Imagos confirmed through their kickstarter that they had lost their publisher for Starr Mazer due to the antics of Mauer.

In July, Mauer attempts to use DMCA Takedowns to remove River City Ransom: Underground from Steam, but Valve rejects the initial claim due to the evidence provided by Mauer. Since this doesn't work, Mauer begins another campaign of DMCA Takedown notices against people playing River City Ransom Underground.

Star Mazer DSP gets its third DMCA claim on Steam overturned and returns to the platform. And Imagos' attorneys get a Temporary Restraining Order issued against Mauer to prevent her from issuing any further DMCA takedown claims against any works featuring Starr Mazer.

Mauer pivots and successfully gets River City Ransom Underground removed from Steam via DMCA. Thankfully, it has also been restored, making the decision to remove all of Mauer's work from the game as well.

So right now here is where things stand. Mauer is currently involved in a court case with Imagos Softworks. Imagos and their Lawyer have a GoFundMe page to help with the legal fees associated with the case. Mauer has fired her attorney. She's currently at a point where she is in the middle of a 30 day deadline to find new legal representation. The restraining order has been continued through the trial. 

All told, Mauer has had more than 100 YouTube videos removed and flagged for DMCA violations.  Which is insane. And it gets a little crazier, if it is proved that the DMCA claims were intentionally done in a fraudulent manner, that's more than 100 cases of perjury. So this could have huge legal ramifications and establish some important precedence for online content creation.

So what do you think here? Is this a blatant abuse of the DMCA system? Is it fair for YouTubers to get caught up in a legal dispute between a contractor and the company they work/worked for? Should there be legal recourse for the Content Creators for the claims made against them? Let us know in the comments below.

And... if you want to jump down the rabbit hole, I'm going to give you a bunch of links. It is a very interesting legal case and there is SO MUCH DRAMA surrounding the whole thing (I didn't even go into the whole thing where Mauer was committed - possibly involuntarily - for psychiatric evaluation):

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

LCS in on a one week break between the regular season and the playoffs for the Summer Split, so you'll get a break from that coverage for me. Which gives me a chance to highlight another esport... in this case, MOAR SMASH BROTHERS! There's a huge tournament this weekend coming out of the DC area called Super Smash Con. A lot of the big names will be there. And coverage will be a little spotty. 

You can find the full schedule over here. And from what I've been able to find you can watch some of the action over on the VG Boot Camp Twitch Channels (Channel 1 and Channel 2) throughout the weekend beginning around noon eastern on Friday. Additional coverage will be provided by MeleeEveryday.

Gaming Companies versus Streamers

Despite the slight delay, I have what I feel is an interesting topic of discussion for today. It oddly comes out of the Bungie camp, who recently announced that there would be some interesting limitations to the PC version of the upcoming MMO Shooter Destiny 2. So not only is the game coming out a month after the console version, which could be cause for red flags from some people that it will be your typical less-than-"ideal" PC port of a console game.

But where this announcement starts getting into interesting discussion territory is the fact that the game will intentionally hamstring streaming via programs like OBS and Xsplit, only allowing them to run under certain specific configurations and circumstances. Namely, "Game Capture" mode won't work at all. Instead, you'll have to do "Screen Capture" or "Window Capture" mode.

At the same time, external capture options (like streaming from a second computer) will work without issue. As will nVidia's Shadowplay, if you have a graphics card that supports it.

Oddly they're also cutting off third party overlays in Destiny 2. So chat programs like Discord and Mumble that occasionally have little popups to let you know who's talking (if you have them turned on), won't do that in Destiny 2. FRAPS and other framerate and statistical overlays are also "not compatible" with Destiny 2. 

The concern here on Bungie's part is that these third party applications "which repeatedly attempt to insert code into the Destiny 2 PC client may potentially impact game performance." But is that truly the case? Or is that just a fancy way of saying they're worried about people cheating?

And then I want to harken back to a slightly older story. Not terribly long ago, Atlas announced that gamers could NOT stream Persona 5 past a certain point in the game, because they didn't "want the experience to be spoiled for people who haven't played the game." They also had a whole bunch of other restrictions like not streaming major story spoilers. Seriously, the guidelines were absolutely insane. And worse, they threatened steamers with content strikes and account/channel suspensions if they did not comply.

After serious outcry from the gaming community, they backed off a little bit. Basically they just moved the date they don't want you streaming past in the game back a few months. They also apologized for coming across as threatening, claiming that they never intended to threaten people with copyright strikes. 

What do you think? Do you think it's fine for companies to hamstring people from streaming the way they want? Are hardcoded limitations fine? Are policies and threats fine? Should gamers and streamers be free to record or broadcast anything they want? Let us know your take in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

It's the last week of the Summer Split in the LCS and it promises to go out with an absolute bang. El Classico. Team SoloMid vs Counter Logic Gaming in a battle for the last playoff bye. Immortals have already punched their ticket into the second round of the playoffs, but this is a battle of the two biggest rivals in the LCS, on the big stage, with some pretty big stakes on the line. Last split CLG got knocked out in their wildcard game, so they want to avoid the wildcard round at all costs. The crowd should be super rowdy. This would be a great set of games to watch.

They play Sunday at 6pm Eastern over at LoLesports.

Microtransations Causing a Stir Again

It seems even the hottest game on the scene can't avoid a good microtransactions controversy. In preparation for their first big eSports event, Bluehole and Playerunknown have announced a special new loot crate into the Early Access game Battlegrounds in order to raise money for the tournament's prize pool. The crates contain purely cosmetic clothing items based on characters from the movie Battle Royale (the inspiration behind the game). 

But some of the game's community is rather unhappy about this turn toward the future. Not just because it's yet another paid game with impending microtransactions. But because one of the big promises from the developers was that there would be no microtransactions while the game was in Early Access. 

PlayerUnknown has been positioning this as a test for the future pay-to-open-crates system. And it's wrapped in the flag of filling the prize pool for their first big eSports tournament. But it definitely breaks the promise they made.

But what do you think? Do you think players are blowing this out of proportion? How should a developer handle a promise they've made to players when they need to break it? Are microtransactions for a game you pay for upfront crossing the line? Or is it okay if they're just cosmetic? Let us know in the comments below?

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

There are three teams slugging it out for the top two spots, and a handful of teams a couple games back that are looking to play the spoiler. There are a couple big matchups this week to be on the lookout for.

Saturday July 29th @ 3pm Eastern - Team Envy vs Counter Logic Gaming - Team Envy is sitting in a giant traffic jam for 4th place.  CLG is tied with Team SoloMid for second. CLG is trying to cement their first round bye in the playoffs. Can Envy play the spoiler this week? They get to play both second place teams this weekend, so it will be a great gauge of how playoff-ready the team truly is.

Saturday July 29th @ 6pm Eastern - Team Dignitas vs Immortals - Team Dignitas is in the dogpile for 4th place. Immortals is sitting in sole possession of first right now. And they need this win to stay there.

Sunday July 30th @ 6pm Eastern - Team SoloMid vs Team Envy - One of the last games of the week, Team SoloMid needs every win they can get to try and lock down their playoff bye. And Team Envy gets a second chance to spoil the party for one of the second place teams. 

You can catch all these games at Riot's LoL eSports website!

Razer going Public?

If things go as planned, peripheral company Razer will be holding an Initial Public Offering (IPO) sometime in October of this year. This is potentially a very interesting thing for a couple reasons, and will most certainly change the future of this company that most gamers are extremely fond of.

Over the years, I have personally owned a number of Razer products. My daily driver gaming mouse is the Razer Naga Right-Handed Limited Green Edition, which is just the right amount of amazingly obnoxious Razer Green. In the past I've used the first gen Naga, a Mamba, multiple Deathadders, and waaaaaaaay back in the day, a Boomslang. I rock a Razer mousepad (Vespula). And will whole-heartedly recommend a razor headset to people (seriously, if you need a decent gaming headset it's difficult to beat the Razer Kraken). I've tried the competitors from time to time, I've used my fair share of Logitech and Steelseries products, but I generally find myself coming back to Razer.

So the good thing for gamers is that if reports are to be correct, this could mean a HUGE influx of money into the company. Some predictions are estimating they will sell between $3 and 5 BILLION during their IPO. This allows them to invest in their Research and Development departments, and build up their manufacturing process to help deliver better products more efficiently and cheaply. But this is extra important for reasons that are a little scary from an outside perspective.

Razer hasn't turned a profit since 2014.

And this is where the concern comes in. The influx of money is good. But when you have to answer to shareholders, how long are you going to be able to operate at a loss before they demand changes? What corners will have to get cut to reduce costs? Will the premium quality gamers want and expect from Razer go away in the name of profits? 

Or will it push them into new markets we may not expect from Razer? They're already talking about making a cellphone... for gamers. Which kind of fits in line with expanding their offering of Laptops and other devices. So we can only wait and see.

What do you think of Razer? Do you own any of their stuff? Do you think this will be a good thing for the company? Or do you think this is the beginning of the death of Razer? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

There are two clashes between top 4 teams this weekend. Both should be really promising. Right now there's a three-way tie for first, but that is definitely going to change this weekend.

Saturday, July 22nd @ 3pm Eastern - Team SoloMid vs Team Dignitas - TSM is on top of the pack tied for first right now. They actually have a better win loss record in individual games than the other two teams tied for the same series record as them. Dig is currently sitting right below the traffic jam on top and is just 2 games out of the top 3 with only 6 games left in the split. Beating TSM would be a huge feather for Dig to put in their hat as playoffs approach. Unfortunately for them, TSM seems to have found another gear coming out of Rift Rivals and won't settle for anything less than first place.

Sunday, July 23rd @ 6pm Eastern - Counter Logic Gaming vs Immortals - One must lose. Provided they both win their first game of the week, as they should, this game should kick one of these two teams out of first place. It should be a pretty great set of games.

When Bootlegging Gets Serious

As discussed a couple weeks ago, the biggest criticism facing Nintendo for the way they handled their NES Classic retro console was the short-sightedness of their production run and allegedly completely underestimating the desire people would have for their mini-emulator. And to make it all worse, when faced with this demand, Nintendo chose to stop making the console instead of ramping up production to meet it. So as consumers, if someone still really wants one, they have to turn to the re-sellers. And the markup is painful. As of the time of this writing, it's available from 3rd party sellers on Amazon for nearly $250. For a $60 console. Ouch.

But have no fear, the Chinese bootleg market is here to save the day! The weird bootleg trade around video games is nothing new. We can actually look back at the original NES to see the impact of bootleg cartridges. Bootleg consoles aren't anything new either. We've all seen the hilarious rip-off bootleg consoles, and heard the horror stories of people's parents or grandparents buying these online for christmas thinking they are "close enough." 

The difference here is that instead of the weird looks and bundling 5000 games on one console, they're actually trying to make something that looks and behaves almost exactly like the NES Classic. To the point where it's actually difficult to tell the difference unless you're looking for one. Externally, slight misalignments to the text on the front are one of the only clues that you might be dealing with a fake. They even go so far as to clone the UI of the thing to the point where only some fonts are slightly off. 

They're starting to make their way to the west, and they're undercutting the massive price hikes of the resellers. This might lead to the prices of the legit ones to go through the roof. Or... it could cut the legs out from under the market and cause all prices to plummet. We won't know until months from now what kind of impact it will have on sales and prices of the NES Classic on Ebay and the like. But it does pose some interesting questions.

If you really wanted an NES Classic, and didn't want to spend $300 on one, would you be willing to spend less to get one of these knockoffs? We know this isn't legal, but do you think Nintendo should make a pathway for another hardware manufacturer to build these consoles? Should Nintendo make a licensing fee for the software for these retro consoles, passing the hardware costs they don't want to incur off onto a 3rd party, but properly compensating the people who made the games? Do you think these issues will come around again once Nintendo potentially stops building and selling the SNES Classic in 2018? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

Before we get into the LCS, I want to let you guys know that one of the biggest fighting game related eSports events takes place this weekend. Street Fighter V, Super Smash Brothers (Melee and Wii U), Tekken 7, Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2, Injustice 2, King of Fighters XIV, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, and BlazBlue will have massive tournaments this weekend in Las Vegas. EVO 2017 is upon us. And you can find a handy schedule of all the crazy action this weekend over here (including all the places to watch it). I plan to watch this randomly throughout the weekend. To make it all even crazier, the finals of the Street Fighter V tournament will be shown on ESPN2. If you find yourself with some free time, check it out. Coverage starts Friday around 1pm Eastern on a number of Twitch Channels.

The LCS returns this weekend coming off of the back of the NA LCS kicking the crap out of the EU LCS at the first ever Rift Rivals event. So this week I want to focus on a basement team. Phoenix1 did an amazing job last year, finishing in the top 3. But so far this split they have not been firing on all cylinders. They were in last place 2 weeks ago... but swept the week before Rift Rivals... and went 4-2 at Rift Rivals, finishing with a better record than *ALL THREE* European teams. Can they ride that momentum coming back into the NA Split? Let's find out.

Saturday, July 15th @ 3pm Eastern - Team SoloMid vs Phoenix1 - They have an uphill battle right off of the bat. TSM won Rift Rivals for NA. They're also tied for second place and biting at the heels of Counter Logic Gaming. This is going to be a difficult series for Phoenix1 to win.

Sunday, July 16th @ 3pm Eastern - Team Dignitas vs Phoenix1 - Dignitas fell pretty hard the last couple weeks of the split. They were sitting in second place going into week 5, only to lose both of their matches in a pretty disappointing fashion. Can they turn it around against Phoenix1? It may not be as easy as might once have seemed.

As usual, information for where you can watch these games can be found over on the LoLeSports website.

A year of Pokemon Go

This weekend marks a pretty weird anniversary in the world of gaming. At this time last year, Niantic was breaking an absolutely ridiculous number of records for game downloads and active players. Millions and millions of gamers picked the game up for a dose of Pokemon nostalgia and the promises made by this absolutely ridiculous trailer.

But a lot of people quickly got bored by what little gameplay there was at the time and many people stopped playing. Moving at a GLACIAL pace, Niantic has slowly been working on building out and improving upon the original design, but is it enough to lure people back? Or has the damage been done? 

I've been playing since launch (today marks exactly 1 year since the game was available in the app store for me and I downloaded it while in the IKEA parking lot in Atlanta and played for the first time inside of IKEA), and I can definitely see more appeal to the game today than there originally was when it launched. For me the game fills a weird role. Part of it is the completionist and collecting aspect of wanting to "Finish the Pokedex." But a lot of it is just it serves as a companion app for the things I like to do around here anyway.

I try to take my daughter out to some of the local parks here and go hiking, to get her out in nature and do a bit of walking. Pop some incubators onto eggs and work on hatching new pokemon. One of the big weaknesses still present in the game is made evident on a lot of these walks, it really is balanced toward players in big cities. Stuff spawns at low rates out in nature (where historical cell phone usage is pretty low, what spawns are based on), so the opportunity to catch some of the harder to find pokemon just never happens for me.

In a year, I have still never seen a Porygon, Snorlax, Gyarados, Dragonite, or Lapras in the wild. In fact, last week was the first time I'd ever seen a Dratini (evolves into Dragonite) in the wild. Which is insane. But thankfully, since they added the Buddy system a few months ago, it made filling out the Pokedex a little easier. If I have a Dratini, I can set it as my buddy and walk with it. Every once in a while (based on distance) you will get another candy for that pokemon. It can take a LONG TIME, but you can grind out the evolutions once you have the base pokemon.

And then there were the gyms. They were incredibly hard to deal with unless you had a group of friends you were playing with *AND* exactly the right pokemon at the right power levels to maximize the reputation grind at the gyms to take out pokemon at the most efficient rates possible. It was tedious and boring. Enough so that it wasn't really worth bothering.

Well, back in June Niantic rolled out a massive rework of the entire gym system. You can get badges in game for the individual gyms. It's easier for gyms to turn over. It's easier to make coin in the game from the new gym system (even if it's capped at 50 gold per day), making it easier to actually play the game for free. They also added a new Raid battling system, that only has a select few pokemon in it, but can definitely help with those people needing Snorlax and Lapras, since you get a chance to catch the raid pokemon after your group beats it. And you will need a group to beat a lot of the raids. It's pretty easy to solo level 1 raids. Level 2 raids are tough, but can be beaten solo if you have the right pokemon. Level 3 and 4 are an entirely different story, and again shows where the game is entirely different for people playing in a big city versus more rural players like myself.

But, let's look at some of the things from that original trailer, and see what the game still lacks. Right off the bat, you might notice all the weird signs saying "wild pokemon X meters" with arrows pointing to where they are. That definitely doesn't exist and likely never will. The game launched with an awesome footsteps system where you could literally stalk down a wild pokemon in the wild... but it caused some massive bugs and broke... and they replaced the system. Now it will show you what Pokestop the pokemon are close to, helping you track them down that way. It would be great if a system like that would come back to the game, but I don't think it's even remotely something they're trying to do any more, simply based on the fact that they never even bothered to try and fix the one that broke in the first place.

Trading. Still no trading in the game. Most people think it's because they're trying to figure out a way to make it safe and prevent people from getting ripped off (there are kids who play the game, after all). There is also a popular opinion that Niantic missed the boat to start dabbling in trading in the game when they introduced evolution items with the Generation 2 pokemon. Start with simple trading of evolution items to iron out the kinks in the trading system before flipping the "trade pokemon" switch.

PVP Battles. Also still don't exist in the game. Gym battles are still the only way to fight someone else's pokemon in the game. Niantic has actually stated that this is something they're working on though, so hopefully it will come sometime in the next year of development. But there is definitely nothing like the crazy battle royale they show in the trailer (might be trying to represent a gym battle), or the 3v3 battle they seem to be showing at one point too.

Raid Battle vs MewTwo. This is the most promising thing here. Like I said earlier, they just put Raid Battles into the game. And there is a level of Raid that hasn't been seen in the game yet (level 5), which many people think is reserved for legendary pokemon like MewTwo. Niantic has also said that "This summer will be Legendary." Hinting that we will see the Level 5 Raids this summer. Many people think the first will be at the big Pokemon Go event Niantic is throwing in Chicago. But the framework is in place, we will have to see when they pull the trigger on this.

So based on the trailer I've seen, I'd give Pokemon Go's first year a solid C+. The game is fun for what it is. They are making improvements to the game, even if they are on a similar scale to tectonic plate movement. The new gym system and raids have been incredibly refreshing to the game, and should remain fun for a while (as long as you can find people for the higher end raids). And with the addition of Generation 2, if you stopped toward the end of last summer, there's a ton more pokemon to catch now. Niantic has promised a "major update" every Quarter to the game, so big things every 3-4 months. Let's see how they live up to that promise.

So I encourage you to check it out again, pick it up and try it for a couple weeks. Get out and walk in the park. Try to play and have fun. It may surprise you how far the game has come in a year. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the game and if you still play, or what it would take for you to consider jumping back in. 

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

This weekend is a cool one for League of Legends. It's the first "Rift Rivals" event. It pits the top 3 teams from the Spring Split from North America and Europe against each other. It started on Wednesday, but there should be some great games today and through the weekend. Seriously, hard to go wrong with any of these games. Right now they're playing all the teams from the other region to see who's the best team this weekend. After today, the NA team with the best record will face off against the EU team with the best record in a best of 5 to see which region is the best right now! 

If you want to catch the end of the group play-ins, they start at 11am eastern Friday and run until probably 5pmish.

But the big series to watch will be tomorrow's finals. Where the best of these 6 teams square off to represent North America vs Europe for all the bragging rights.

It starts at noon eastern on Saturday and will be a pretty intense best of 5. And you can catch it all on the LoLesports website.

Nintendo's Retro Mini Consoles, Round 2

So one of the biggest bits of news to come out over the past week was the announcement from Nintendo that they were going to be releasing the Super Nintendo Classic later this year, just in time for the holiday season. So what do we know so far?

It will be available on September 29, 2017. Preorders have begun in a lot of places around the world. At the time of writing, preorders have NOT begun in the US. But preorders elsewhere in the world have ALREADY sold out.

It will retail for $80. If you can manage to get one at retail, the MSRP will be $80. If the Nintendo Classic edition is any indicator though, once it sells out, you can expect to pay 3-4 times that to people re-selling the console. (At the time of writing, the price of the NES Classic being resold on Amazon is between $200-225 for a $60 console.)

It comes with 2 controllers. This may not seem like a huge deal, and is probably the reason why this one is more expensive than the first Classic reissue. But it means you can play multiplayer right out of the gate without having to make an additional purchase. Nintendo has also said the cables for these controllers will be longer than the ones sold for the NES Classic, one of the biggest criticisms for the first attempt.

It comes with 21 games. It's not the 30 that the NES Classic came with, but arguably these games are higher quality and will provide more playtime than their 8-bit brethren. The biggest selling point for a lot of people is that they are including Starfox 2 with the system. It's a game that was finished back in the day, but never got released because it was finished right at the cusp of the N64 launch and the move away from the SNES and into the world of 3D. Which is a pretty cool idea of something to do. Importantly, I think that there aren't any weak games in this lineup. Everyone you expect to be there are there: Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Samus, Mega Man, the Belmonts, Street Fighter, F-Zero, Final Fantasy 3 (really 6), Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, Earthbound, etc. I look at the list and the only game that I wouldn't be excited to play again is Super Punchout. While there are a bunch of games you can wish had also been included, the lineup they secured is pretty strong.

It will be available until the end of 2017. The biggest gripe most people had with the NES Classic was availability. After selling out almost immediately, they only randomly appeared in stores. And then one day they were just gone. Right off the bat this time, Nintendo has said they only plan to have the console available through the end of the year. So we know what to expect. They also say that basically aren't prepared to comment about any availability after the end of the year, so there's a change they might extend the run, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Speaking of availability, they will be shipping at least twice the number of SNES as they did the NES. We know this because Nintendo is reportedly shipping 160k systems to France for the September 29th launch. By comparison, they only sent 84k of the NES systems to France for the entirety of the throwback console's run. 

So what do you think about the SNES Classic? Do you want one? Would you rather Nintendo get off of their asses and get the Virtual Console out for the Switch? Would you rather see Nintendo do something like the new Sega Forever thing? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

Friday and Saturday are absolutely STACKED with potentially good games. There are 5 teams crammed up into the top 4 places in the standings as we hit the halfway point of the LCS Summer Split. And all 5 of those teams face off in one way or another over the next couple days.

Friday June 30th @ 6pm Eastern - Cloud 9 vs Team SoloMid - Top two from last split. Rematch from the Spring Split Finals. TSM is tied for 2nd and Cloud 9 is only a game back. Seriously two of the best teams in the league with an absolute monster matchup in the midlane between Bjergsen and Jensen.

Saturday July 1st @ 3pm Eastern - Team SoloMid vs Immortals - The top two going into the weekend in a pretty epic clash. Are the Immortals for real, or is it all just hype? This will be a good test for them.

Saturday July 1st @ 3pm Eastern - Counter Logic Gaming vs Cloud 9 - Cloud 9 gets to play both teams tied for 2nd place this weekend. It gives them a great chance to catch up. But if they drop both games, it could be a disaster of a weekend for them. CLG looks to show that they really are all on the same page and ramping up to take North America to Worlds.

As always, you can find coverage of these games on LoL Esports.

Preserving the Legacy of Video Games

Sega has announced something in the wake of E3 that really interests me and I think is a very important step for the future of video games (and preserving the games of the past). Sega has announced something they're calling "Sega Forever" which I think is a step in an amazingly good direction for game and the people who love them.

With Sega Forever, Sega is porting a lot of their OLD games from their catalogs to mobile phones. They say they will have games from all of their systems over time, from the never-released-in-the-west SG-1000 to the ill-fated Dreamcast. They're also making them free for now, and supporting the program through advertising revenue within the app. Reportedly, you'll also be able to pay a one-time fee to turn off the ads (and enable local saves). These games will feature both on-screen controls and controller support for both iOS and Android. 

So the initial offering from Sega is only a handful of games: Altered Beast, Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon, Phantasy Star II, and Sonic the Hedgehog. In addition, Sega has committed to adding a new game to the platform every 2 weeks. Allegedly, they have *THREE YEARS* worth of games approved for the program and in the works. So, if done right, this could be a really great thing. There have been some hints at future titles too: Jet Set Radio, Revenge of Shinobi, and Girl's Gaiden (a SG-1000 game that never made it to the west, which is an awesome sign that we might be getting some games we've never been able to play before). 

So personally, I feel like this can be nothing but a good thing for preserving the history of video games. Anyone to take a look at the world of emulation knows that there is a HUGE desire for people to play older games. Whether it's games they loved as a kid, or trying out games they'd always heard about, but never had a chance to play. But Emulators have always been a massive legal grey area, and actually illegal if you don't own a physical copy of the game you're emulating.

There are companies actively working against the tides of time. Good Old Games is an amazing example of someone working to make older computer games available to play on modern systems. Which I highly encourage you all to go check out and find some of the old games you love and play them again.

But what roles should the developers themselves have in wanting to preserve their own legacies?

I know Paul and I have ragged on Bethesda for releasing 3873615976 versions of Skyrim, but how many fans of Skyrim have ever played any of the other Elder Scrolls games? Oblivion, probably. But that game is now more than 10 years old. It came out for the 360 and PS3, so it is still potentially accessible. But what about Morrowind? That game is 15 years old and was on the original XBox. How many people still have one of those kicking around? Yes, they're available for PC and are on Steam, but for the more casual fans who may be curious about the rest of the series, they may not go that route.

But what about even earlier Elder Scrolls games? Arena? Daggerfall? Redguard? Battlespire?! The later two are available on Good Old Games, but Arena and Daggerfall? They take a little more work to find. They were released for free by Bethesda in celebration for the 10th and 15th anniversaries of the Elder Scrolls series. (If you're interested, you can find Arena right over here, and Daggerfall right over here.)

But what about making them more accessible? We know that nearly 10 years ago, John Carmack got Fallout 3 working on the iPhone. To the point that Bethesda/Zenimax were debating on whether or not to move forward to releasing the game on the platform. This is important to note because Fallout 3 uses the same engine as the 3D Elder Scrolls games, and was released 2 years after Oblivion. Meaning *EVERYTHING* before Skyrim could easily be run by a modern cellphone/tablet. And hell, we know the Switch runs an nVidia Tegra chip (found in many Android tablets), and Skyrim is going to run on that. 

I would love to see the whole Elder Scrolls series available for iOS/Android. Especially with controller support. I would love to play through those games again, not to mention introducing them to a whole new audience of gamers.

How about you? Are there any old games you think might make a good addition to the mobile ecosystem of games? Would you love to see an official Nintendo "Forever" collection for your phone? Let us know in the comments below.

**CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK**

There are three teams tied at the top of the standings right now in the LCS. And they have a couple big clashes this weekend!

Friday June 23rd @ 6pm - Immortals vs Counter Logic Gaming - This match up has been being hyped all week. Look at the hype! This should be a great matchup to open the weekend's game. Only one can stay on top.

Saturday June 24th @ 6pm - Immortals vs Dignitas - Dignitas is the 3rd team tied for first. So we should get a feel for how all three stack up after this weekend.

Team SoloMid is knocking on the door though, and have 2 matches this weekend they should easily walk away with. So we could see even more of a traffic jam at the top by the end of the week.

 

Steam Greenlight is Officially Dead

It quietly happened earlier in the week, but Valve has officially killed off Steam Greenlight. We talked in an earlier post about the "Steam Direct" program that was being drafted to replace it, and the day has finally come that the switch has been flipped.

So some of the details that were up in the air have fully been hammered out. And here's the new and updated list of requirements for a developer to release a game via Steam Direct:

  1. Digital paperwork. We need to know about the person and/or company that we will be doing business with. So the digital paperwork includes all the expected information such as company name, address, and contact information. There is also a brief tax and identity verification process that a developer will need to go through once to get set up.
  2. The app fee. There is now a $100 recoupable app fee for each application to release on Steam. Steamworks developers will pay this fee once as part of the initial paperwork, which will unlock the first appID. Once all the paperwork has been completed, and the developer is set up in Steamworks, additional appIDs may be purchased for $100 each. This fee for each appID is returned in the payment period after that game has at least $1,000 in Steam store or in-app purchases.
  3. Review processes. Building a release pipeline to support thousands of developers and millions of customers is a delicate balance. We specifically don't want an onerous and detailed certification process that makes it difficult for developers to release games, but we also want some level of confidence that games are configured correctly and aren't going to do unexpected things to customers' computers. So we have a couple of brief review periods where our team plays each game to check that it is configured correctly, matches the description provided on the store page, and doesn't contain malicious content. These processes shouldn't take more than a day or two unless we find something configured incorrectly or problematic.

So the big deal is that second bit. They finally settled on the cost of entry into the program. Apparently they were originally considering a $500 fee, but feedback from their developer community pushed that number even lower. So they've settled on $100 to get a game put on Steam.

I think this is a great barrier for entry. It's low enough that an indie studio can easily budget this in. But it is high enough that it will keep someone from just putting any pile of crap on the store. Combined, with the review process highlighted in part 3, this can only be better for the gaming community at large.

Another interesting thing, at the time that they are making this switch, there were 3400 games pending approval in the prior Greenlight program. They've accelerated the acception process where they could, and this final class of Greenlight games have been Greenlit. Anything that failed to meet the minimum criteria (like not having enough voter data), is eligible to submit through the new Steam Direct program.

If you want to learn more about the process, or are interested in getting involved to get a game onto Steam, you can find out more info over here.

So what do you think about all of this? Do you look forward to seeing more indie content on the Steam store? Let us know in the comments below.

**CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK**

Sunday June 18th @ 6pm - FlyQuest vs Cloud9 - It's their first matchup of this split. Both teams are under-performing, but it's still really fun to see Hai and company play against their old team. I can't pick a team to cheer for, but I suspect that Cloud9 is favored to win here. 

As usual, this can be found at Riot's LoLeSports website.

I also want to take a moment to recommend another potential eSport to check out. SSB64 is throwing their big annual tournament this weekend SNOSA 3. If you want some fast paced and crazy Smash Brother's 64 action, this is the place to catch it this weekend. You can find out more information on the tournament itself over here. And I expect coverage to be on the official SSB64 Twitch Channel, which you can find at the link.

E3 2016 - One Year Later

So E3 begins this weekend, kicking off on Saturday at Noon Pacific (3pm Eastern) with the big Press Conference from Electronic Arts. But today I want to take a look back at the things Paul and I were hyped about and excited by from last year's event and see what has come out and what we might hear more about this year.

Mass Effect Andromeda - I almost feel bad talking about this one. It's one of the few that have actually made it to release. But I think we all know about the crazy issues they've had since launch. Which is a shame, because the game looked so promising and good. Hopefully Bioware can recover from this and it doesn't spell the end of the Mass Effect Franchise.

Visceral's Unnamed Star Wars Game - One of the most welcome surprises from last year was a tiny clip of an Unnamed game Visceral is working on for the Star Wars universe. This is something we *REALLY* want to hear and see more about this year. If I'm going to be honest though, I don't expect this game to come out for another 2-3 years.

Prey - Another game that actually has seen the light of day since E3. I don't feel like it's lived up to the hype of its E3 Trailer. Seriously, this thing looked amazing. I'm not sure where things went wrong, it seems like a decent game, just not something that blows your socks off.

Elder Scrolls Legends - Bethesda enter the Collectable Card Game arena. I played in the Beta and the game was decent. A mix of Magic: The Gathering mechanics with some of the simplicity of Hearthstone, all with the flavor of the Elder Scrolls universe. It just launched and went live, and is completely free to play. So go check it out if card games are your thing.

Sea of Thieves Still one of the games I'm most looking forward to. It's currently in a long-running series of "Technical Alpha Testing" as they add more features and polish to the game. I can't wait to see the updates Rare has for us surrounding this game on Sunday's Microsoft press conference.

We Happy Few - This game is currently in Early Access on Steam. It's been there since shortly after last year's E3. I wonder if we will hear and see more of this title? I wouldn't be surprised if we don't, but would definitely like to see more from this incredibly interesting looking game.

State of Decay 2 - Another one that's not out yet. The official website still says it will be released in 2017, so expect an update to this one at E3... unless something has gone horribly wrong.

South Park: The Fractured, But Whole - Speaking of things going horribly wrong. This game had hit so many delays... it's currently slated for an October release, so again I expect to see big coverage on the E3 stage. We will find out on Monday.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands - Another one that hit its mark and got released. Oddly, I've heard almost nothing about the game since it came out. I have no idea if it met the expectations given by the stage gameplay trailer. The only review I've really seen of it is Yahtzee's, so take it with something of a grain of salt.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare - Go figure the Call of Duty game that we found the most interesting ends up being one of the "worst performing" Call of Duty games in history. There've been a couple months where Black Ops 2 outsold Infinite Warfare... which is a shame.

Days Gone - This was one of the highlights of E3 2016, and it's already shaping up to be one of the most looked-forward-to updates this year as well. It's due out by the end of the year, so expect it to get a much bigger focus by Sony. They've already said it's coming, so we look forward to hearing and seeing more Monday Night.

Detroit: Become Human - Another amazing looking surprise from the Sony camp. Still due in 2017, so expect more teasers for this one. It almost won a couple awards at E3 last year (losing out to Horizon: Zero Dawn), so they know they have something going for them here.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Arguably the best game released so far this year. It's also the only game I've ever heard of that has outsold the console it's played on. Seriously, more copies of BotW have been sold for the Switch than there have been Switch sales. It's absolutely insane how much Nintendo hit this one out of the park. It's literally the only thing I personally want to play for the Switch... but it's not big enough for me to want to buy a Switch to play it. (Bring over that Seiken Densetsu anniversary edition, Nintendo!)

So yeah, we've seen a good chunk of things. Of the stuff we were excited by, we're basically right at 50% for seeing them released. Mass Effect, Prey, Elder Scrolls: Legends, Ghost Recon, Call of Duty, and Zelda have been released (6 games). Visceral's Star Wars, Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, South Park, Days Gone, and Detroit have not (6 games). And We Happy Few is in Early Access... the weird limbo in between.

What are you looking forward to seeing at E3? Is there a game you're waiting to hear more about? Do you just want to be surprised by something new? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

As we swing into the second week of the LCS, I've got another two games for you.

Friday June 9th @ 6pm Eastern - Phoenix1 vs Cloud9 - A battle of what were 2 of the top 3 teams from last split. They both should be poised to end up in the top 3 again. Just a matchup of two really good teams.

Sunday June 11th @ 6pm Eastern - Counter Logic Gaming vs Team SoloMid - El Classico. I will never not recommend watching this matchup. I may not be a big fan of either team, but this is a grudge match. The teams hate each other. There generally tend to be crazy bets on the line. The crowds go absolutely nuts for this matchup. It just makes for a great thing to watch.

Hit up the LoL eSports site for the best places to catch these matchups.

A blast to the past

A weird bit of internet and gaming history is in the process of being resurrected. The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment has announced that they are working on an effort to bring the world's first graphical MMO back online. Tonight, June 2nd at 6pm Pacific, the first ports on the alpha server of the old Lucasarts game Habitat will open up. Bringing the game back online for the first time in nearly THIRTY YEARS. 

It has taken 4 years to clean up the game code and port it to Java. And the big event at the MADE Museum in Oakland, CA will celebrate the project officially being open to the public.

What makes Habitat a big deal in the history of gaming? For one it coined the term "avatar" in the context of gaming. It also featured a PVP element where players could kill one another. There was disease in the game. There was player housing (known as Turfs). And an entire set of rules and government was developed by the playerbase while the game was live, to help curtail bad player behavior.

It also broke from the text-based standard used by other online multiplayer games at the time. Providing a 3rd person graphical view of the players in an area.

Currently, the only way to play the game is going to be through a Commodore 64 emulator. Conveniently, they package one in with all the rest of the stuff you need to play. You can find out more info from the project over here on their page.

If you're curious about some of the history of online multiplayer games, a couple more of the super old-school titles are preserved online and open to play. You can find and play the original MUD over here. And its more popular "sequel" MUD2 can be found over here.

MADE is definitely doing some interesting things to help preserve our gaming history. Are you interested in retro games like this one? Would you consider checking it out? What other retro MMO games would you like to see resurrected? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK**

Okay, so I was wrong about the LCS. They only took a week off after MSI. So now we go roaring into the Summer Split and the Road to Worlds.

There are two big games this weekend that should set the tempo for the top of the standings:

Friday June 2nd @ 6pm Eastern - Cloud9 vs CounterLogic Gaming - Last split C9 was solidly in second place, and along with Team SoloMid, were a massive step above all the other teams in the pack at the end of the split. CLG made a big offseason move by trading their Jungler for the controversial Dardoch. Prior to this trade, the CLG roster has been working together the longest of any team in the LCS. They're looking to make a statement early, so this looks to be a very interesting series.

Saturday June 3rd @ 6pm Eastern - Cloud9 vs Team SoloMid - The Rematch. They went to game 5 in the Finals of the Spring Split. Cloud9 wants to prove their loss was a fluke. TSM is coming back from a fairly humiliating showing at MSI and have a lot to prove. Sounds like the perfect formula for fireworks! To top it all off, TSM have made a big move making a deal to send their AD Carry Wildturtle to FlyQuest, leaving the starting role open for DoubleLift to fill. He's historically the best ADC in North America, and last time he was on the team they nearly went undefeated and cruised to worlds. Can they find that magic again? Will it take them time to get on the same page? We'll start to get that answer this weekend.

You can find coverage of all of these games on their various platforms over at LoLesports.com.

The future of PC Gaming?

Here at Loaded Cart Gaming, it's pretty safe to say that the majority of our game playing takes place on computers. And there has been some news lately that's been pretty quiet and under the radar that has the potential to change the future of PC gaming.

And I don't mean that as a hyperbole or just saying it to create a stir. I mean that there has been a major step in the normally boring world of input and output that will potentially have HUGE long-term effects on how computers and laptops are made for the foreseeable future.

Intel has announced that they are going all in on Thunderbolt 3, and will be including it on the processors they make from now on, eliminating the need for 3rd Party Motherboard manufacturers to decide whether or not they want to include this "premium" feature on their products. At the time of writing, it is uncertain which of their processors will get this added feature, but I think it's fairly safe that the Core iSeries of processors (m, i3, i5, i7, etc) will see this feature coming to them in the near future.

This removes almost every hurdle that USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 3 faces to become the new standard for I/O on every computer and laptop going forward. Intel will be able to make the protocol faster and improve power consumption with each revision of the processors. It also saves manufacturers $5-8 in licensing fees that it normally takes to include Thunderbolt 3  to a device. Which can be a surprisingly big reason for someone to not include it. (This is why FireWire never caught on mass-market despite having better performance in many ways than USB.)

But there was an even bigger announcement as a part of all of this, over the next year Intel has plans to offer the "Thunderbolt protocol specification available to the industry under a nonexclusive, royalty-free license." Which will remove probably the last great hurdle for its mass adoption. Right now, the big manufacturers are hesitant to pull the trigger, because they're afraid the Intel (who owns everything when it comes to Thunderbolt 3) will raises all their prices and fees once the protocol becomes the standard. But if it's royalty-free, it means that everything associated with Thunderbolt 3 (cables, adaptors, etc) can be made without crazy expensive licensing costs (ever wonder why iPhone cables are so expensive?). It will also encourage more mobile device manufacturers to include the new USB Type-C standard for their new phones and tablets. 

But what does this mean for gaming? One of the amazing things you can do with this protocol is run an external graphics card with a laptop. There are two devices that embrace this idea already: 

  1. The Razer Blade Stealth & the Razer Core
  2. Dell's Alienware laptops & the Alienware Graphics Amplifier

If you're unfamiliar with how these work, basically it allows someone to build what is basically an ultrabook. A super thin and portable laptop, with a good processor and onboard graphics. Something that gets awesome battery life and is good for everyday work. And then when you get home, you plug in a single USB Type-C plug and it hooks up to a box at your desk which has a desktop class GPU in it to run games.

The best of both worlds in "one device." 

There are some limitations right now, there is a performance hit right now because of the bottleneck of the 40Gbps transfer rate of the protocol (which is split between upstream and down). It's enough to do 4k gaming, but it will be at a slightly lower framerate.

If you want to take a look at what these setups are currently capable of here's a handful of really good videos from a couple of my favorite YouTube tech channels:

So what do you think? Do you think this is the wave of the future? Are you interested in a setup like this? I know I am. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

With the Mid-Season Invitational over, professional League of Legends gets a couple weeks off before the summer half of the season goes into full swing. So I want to let you know about an interesting esports tournament you might want to check out this weekend.

eLeague's Street Fighter V Invitational Tournament goes into playoffs mode today. So starting at 5pm Eastern you'll be able to catch some great Street Fighter action on their YouTube and Twitch channels.

But even more interesting, is that thanks to a partnership with Turner, starting at 10pm tonight, there will be coverage of the event on TBS. Which is pretty awesome. So if you like fighting games, this could be a fun one to watch.

Something Cool Coming to E3

We're only a few weeks away from the hype-filled shenanigans that is the Electronics Entertainment Expo. Lots of the big publishers are doing weird stuff this year, mostly seeming to embrace the fact that the expo is open to the public (if you were one of the lucky 15,000 people to snag a ticket before they sold out). Lots of shenanigans going on "across the street" that are free and open to the public.

But.

I want to talk about something going on *AT* E3. Recently, Devolver Digital announced that they were going to do a big press conference along side the big boys. And let me tell you, I'm looking forward to this one MORE than all the others, probably combined.

We currently plan to cover these press conferences again like we did last year. And I look forward to some of the surprises we have ahead of us. I'm curious what repeat stuff we will get (more Sea of Thieves, please!) But Devolver Digital holding a conference as a publisher is super awesome, because unlike the "big boys," Devolver Digital publishes Indie Games. 

We here at Loaded Cart love us some indie games. And several years ago, E3 made an effort to showcase the best and brightest of the indie world with the Indie MegaBooth. So, of course, this press conference is just an evolution of this. But seeing a bunch of indie games showcased on stage in front of the eyes of the world sounds REALLY amazing. 

I can't wait to see what they bring to the table.

What are you looking forward to most from E3? Is there a particular game you want to see? Are you burned out from E3? Let us know in the comments below.

Don't forget, you can weigh in on what kind of merch we offer for the podcast over here!

** Sales Alert! **

So a couple sale-related things to let you guys know about. Currently, the game Paul picked out for our next "Favorite Games" episode is on sale for $6. Seriously, go pick it up and play along with us for the next episode. It's an amazing deal for Wolfenstein: The New Order, but you have to snap it up by Monday.

Also, coincidently, there is a massive weekend sale on Steam for all the games published by Devolver Digital. So if you want to get a feel for the kinds of games they publish, and maybe even pick one up. Click here to take a look

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAME OF THE WEEK **

Watch SK Telecom Team 1 smash their way to victory at the Mid-Season Invitational. They have the best player in the world Faker at the helm. My favorite top-laner (HUNI! HUNI! HUNI!) has been playing super strong all tournament so far. But the Quarterfinals start today at 2pm eastern, with the clear favorites and top seeded SKT T1 taking on the Flash Wolves... this should actually be a little competitive, since the Flash Wolves basically have a 50% win rate over SKT at tournaments... but they've only ever played each other in group stages, where they play a single game and are done. This is their first Best of 5 meeting, and Best of 5 is where SKT looks the strongest.

Saturday we see Europe's G2 eSports try to avoid heartbreak and failure as they try to conquer Team WE. Tune in at 2pm Eastern to catch that one.

The winners of both games play again on Sunday at 2pm, the losers go home.

You can find all the streaming options for the games over at LoLesports.com.

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Piracy vs PC Mods

In case you haven't heard, there's something interesting going on in the world of game modding right now. And it all stems from a little game called Nier: Automata and a fan-made mod called "Fix Automata Resolution" or FAR (see what he did there?). In a nutshell, what the mod does is fix a bunch of problems and graphical glitches the game had at launch, making it so you can actually play the game on Steam. Basically, the PC audience of the game considers this Mod to be 100% essential and required to even play the game.

At the time of writing, it is my understanding that the mod's creator (Kaldaien) is so far ahead of the actual devs of the game in fixing these bugs, that they almost seem to have stopped trying to fix them because there is already a solution out there.

But where I think there's a conversation to be had, is over something included in the most recent update to the mod. In it, Kaldaien invokes the Steam API validity check, which basically pings the Steam server to see if you legitimately own the game. If it returns yes, everything is hunky dory. If it returns fakes, however, you get a little splash screen saying, "Use of this software is granted on the condition that any products being modified have been licensed to you under the terms and conditions set forth by their respective copyright holders" and it will just hang there and be completely unplayable until you uninstall the mod (making the game completely unplayable since for a lot of people it won't render properly without the mod).

Or as Kaldaien puts it, "Nothing malicious happens if you fail this check, you're just presented with an infinite license screen that you can click Accept on but since you don't respect licenses the license doesn't respect your click."

This has caused a good number of people to be COMPLETELY up in arms against Kaldaien. The flame wars have been so bad on Steam that Kaldaien has been banned from the forum FOR HIS OWN MOD. 

Kaldaien says that he's just trying to protect his own ass as a developer. That if his mod is used to inject code into software illegally, it's not the player that they will go after, it's the guy writing the software that lets them do it in the first place.

Which, I'll admit, is probably not a bad idea on his part.

But what do you think? Should modders care if the person using their mods legally own the game? Are pirates not entitled to modded content since they never paid for the game to begin with? Should someone add copy protection to their mod and have the game turn all the sound files into Macho Man Randy Savage sound bytes if they've pirated the game (regardless of what the mod actually is supposed to do)? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

**CHOP'S eSPORTS GAMES OF THE WEEK**

I got two things for you this week. First, for the LCS, Mid-Season Invitational is in full swing this weekend. Starting each day around 2pm Eastern. Best team from each of the major regions duking it in group play to prove who's the best (SPOILERS: It's SK Telecom Team 1, seriously they're on pace to win the world championships for the third year in a row this year. They are the team to beat. Watch it over on LoLesports.

But wait, there's more!

This weekend is a pretty big Super Smash Brothers tournament called Royal Flush. Coverage is being held on a few channels over on Twitch beginning around 1pm Friday.

  • VGBootcamp: Melee 1v1 - Friday @ 1pm EST, Saturday @ Noon, Sunday @ 11am
  • MeleeEveryday: Melee 2v2 - Friday @ 1pm EST, Melee 1v1 Losers Bracket - Saturday @ Noon
  • SmashStudios: Wii U 2v2 - Friday @ 5pm, Wii U 1v1 - Saturday @ Noon
  • MasterHandGaming: Wii U Exhibition - Friday @ 5pm, Wii U 1v1 - Saturday @ Noon

Where have all the demos gone?

Once upon a time, you used to be able to get your hands on game demos to try a game out (sometimes prior to release) before you decide whether or not to chunk down some money on it. One of my earliest gaming memories of this was a weird service that Sony used to have for the original PlayStation called "PlayStation Underground." It was a weird PlayStation-focused "magazine" that included a cd-rom full of nothing but demos for upcoming/new games.

I vividly remember playing through the Master Onion Rap in Parappa the Rappa hundreds of times on one of those discs. They were amazing for a young gamer.

Back before this, we had the whole shareware craze that cemented iD Software as one of the most important game companies in the world. I don't think I know anyone alive at the time who hadn't downloaded Doom or Doom 2 and played through the game. Most probably never beat it (I know I certainly didn't when I was younger - not until I learned about cheat codes), and even more crazily, most probably never knew that they were playing only a fraction of the game.

The way shareware works, they give you the whole game, but perhaps 2/3 of the game was locked away behind a paywall.

This structure still has some legacy today, because most big developers, when they actually do decide to make a demo for their game, tend to give people the full game, but somehow lock a bunch of it behind a wall. For example, back at E3, when people got to play and try out Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game basically shut off after 15 minutes. 

But the problems for developers come in when they release a "full game" into the wild, is that there are people who will hack the demo and both try to unlock the full game, and if they can't, mine the demo for as much information as possible about the full release. 

Some examples of this are when people Datamined the demo of Pokemon Sun and Moon for the 3DS and leaked information on new pokemon that hadn't been released yet (spoilers). Capcom released a Demo for Resident Evil 7... and poof it gets datamined and all kind of spoilers are found (spoilers). While not a demo, people datamined the full release of No Man's Sky and found out that the Developers faked the E3 demo, and that it wasn't procedurally generated

So it's understandable that some companies are hesitant to release demos. They want to protect their secrets and the hard work they put into the game (in some cases, over multiple years). To have it all ruined by someone outside of the company can be heartbreaking.

It's interesting that it seems to be something that's quasi taking off lately on Consoles. XBox and PS4 seem to be offering more and more demos lately.

What do you think? Do you wish more games offered demos for you to check out before you buy a game? Have Twitch and Youtube basically replaced the need for these with Let's Plays? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S LCS GAME OF THE WEEK! **

Only one to talk about this weekend. On Saturday, the last spot at the Mid-Season Invitational is up for grabs as Vietnam's GIGABYTE Marines take on Turkey's Supermassive eSports. It's a best of 5 for that coveted last spot at MSI. This one should be a huge battle. The Marines pushed North America's Team SoloMid to the brink a few days ago and look really strong going into this matchup. Supermassive has a lot of experience on the world stage. And both teams went 5-1 in group play last weekend. I look forward to this one. And personally, I will be cheering for Supermassive.

It looks like it's going to start at 2pm Eastern on Saturday the 6th. You can find it live on YouTube here, or links to all the coverage will be available on the LoLesports site.

The Problem with LCS Playoffs.

So today I wanted to talk about something that really bothers me (and a lot of other people) about the way that Riot Games handles coverage of its Professional League of Legends eSports organizations.

First things first we should talk about how they are organized. Riot directly oversees the running of two major markets of their eSports juggernaut: North America and Europe. Each League features 10 teams (up from the 8 teams they used to have just a couple years ago), and for a long time, Riot has treated them both relatively the same.

But then last year, something weird happened. They decided to expand from each match consisting of a single game, to each match being a Best of 3 (or in Europe's case initially, Best of 2) contest. The number of games being played each week skyrocketed. This was great for teams, as the lack of games being played live on stage in competition was seen as one of the primary reasons NA and EU teams performed horribly at International Tournaments. Which makes sense, when teams in China and Korea are playing 40+ competitive games in the same span of time your best playoff teams are playing 20, there is going to be a disparity between them.

Along with this shift came an even stronger shift in schedule, with EU being played on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings; and NA playing in Prime Time on Friday, then Saturday and Sunday.

And then there is playoffs.

This is where I think Riot fails.

Back when they were playing Best of 1's and people were sometimes more serious about watching both NA and EU games, it made at least a little sense that fans might want to watch both sets of playoff games. So they had the EU play in the morning, and NA play in the evening. The coverage was even spaced out so as not to overlap, unless a series of games in EU runs long...

But in this day in age, in North America alone, there were 221 games played this split, and coverage of those games are at least 45 minutes each for even the shortest games of the split. Following those games every week is a HUGE commitment of time. Most fans adopt a stance more similar to real sports, where you pick a favorite team or two and watch those games. What fans don't tend to do is watch all 20-30 games a week played in the NA LCS, and then turn around and ALSO watch all 20-30 games a week played in the EU LCS. Again, they might pick a team or two to follow, but generally fans invest in either NA or EU and rarely both.

So the problem comes in with the way Riot schedules their playoff coverage. Instead of staggering the days and having Europe play on say Thursday and Friday, and North America play on Saturday and Sunday, both groups play on the same two days (Saturday and Sunday). Europe plays at 11am Eastern (3pm GMT). North America plays at 3pm Eastern. 

That feels pretty fair, right? They both get to play starting at 3pm in the "standard" time for their respective continents. But where this all goes wrong is when Riot delays the start of the North American games *AND* coverage until the European games conclude. 

4 hours seems pretty safe, right? Well, that's where the problems start. These playoff matchups are Best of 5 series. They get played consecutively with a short break between games (which ends up being about 30 minutes). So we start with maybe 15-20 minutes of pre-game analysis. And then an average game takes 30-35 minutes to play out. Followed by 25-30 of post-game analysis, a quick break, and pre-game analysis for the next game. 

If we're optimistic, Game 1 will end right around noon... Game 2 around 1pm. Game 3 around 2pm, and Game 4 around 3pm... and here we get around to where the problems really start... close series goes to 5 games? Game 5 is going to end around 4pm. And that's if all of the games hover around a 30 minute duration. What happens when both games *AND* series run long?

In this split's Quarterfinals, the Misfits and Splyce played a full five games in a *6 HOUR* series. Seriously. Here's the video. This meant the Team Dignitas vs Phoenix1 coverage didn't even start until *AFTER* 5pm

Imagine if you were a Team Dignitas fan, and were hosting a viewing party with friends? "Hey guys come on over at 3 so we can watch our favorite team in the playoffs!" Only you're stuck twiddling your thumbs until the game comes on. And can you imagine if the DIG/P1 game had gone a full 5 games? 

Yeah, it's nitpicky. But it's also completely disrespectful to your fans. No other sport does this. If you want to be taken seriously as a sport, you shouldn't be doing it either.

I was there at 3pm to watch the North American playoffs. At 5pm, I was off doing something else. I made other plans at that point. And I know I wasn't the only one.

Riot needs to fix this. They handle it so well for the entire regular season, only to completely botch things in the playoffs. 

** CHOP'S eSPORTS GAMES OF THE WEEK **

All that ranting aside, one of the coolest things Riot does for their eSports brand begins this weekend. Over the next week, the play-in Tournament for the Mid-Season Invitational takes place. Starting today, underdog teams from all over the world play for a shot at the big dogs. These teams won their respective leagues in Brazil, Japan, and a handful of other new and growing territories. 

The format is weird. The 8 teams from these emerging regions are split into 2 groups and they play a big double round-robin (play each team twice) in Best-of-1 Matches starting today.

Then next Wednesday, the top team in Group A will face off in a Best of 5 series against North America's Team Solomid. Winner is into the Mid-Season Invitational.

On Thursday, the top team in Group B will face off against the winner of China's Legends Masters Series (LMS) the Flash Wolves. Again, the winner of the Best of 5 is into MSI.

Then on Saturday May 6th, the losers of the above two games play in a Best of 5 series for the last chance to get into the MSI Tournament.

International Tournaments are interesting. In addition to team pride, region pride is on the line. 

But the real questions come in a couple weeks when the Korean superpower teams enter the mix. Can SK Telecom Team1 capture yet another giant Trophy to put on Faker's shelf?

This weekend though, we cheer for the underdogs. Two teams to keep an eye on are Supermassive out of Turkey, and Team Rampage out of Japan. Supermassive had a good showing at World's last year. And Team Rampage has a huge chip on their shoulder to prove that they're just as good as the Chinese and Korean teams. 

To Smurf or not to Smurf, that is a question.

There's a thing in competitive eSports game called smurfing. If you're not familiar with this practice, it's when people who are REALLY good at the game get to the top of the leaderboards, and then turn around and make a new character and play through the ranks again. It really only works in games that have "seasons" of Ranked play. And primarily it is a tool that the best ranked players (who are also generally the professional players of the game) a chance to experiment with different characters and roles in the game in a way that it won't hurt the record/standings of their main account (which they're sometimes required by contract to keep really high on the leaderboards).

But then there's the other side of the coin. Players who hit a ceiling in their attempt to climb up the ranks, and then decide to make a smurf account to troll the lower ranks. They tend to do things like only play a single champion/role and just try to screw with people and generally have a negative impact on the overall play experience for a game. Whether they intend to or not.

Interestingly, in their most recent update for DOTA2, Valve has decided to do something to curb this practice in their MOBA megahit. If you want to play ranked games in DOTA2, you now have to register a unique phone number to your account

So this basically forces a player to only be able to play a single account in ranked (or have multiple phones and phone numbers). I'm working from the assumption here that you'll have to verify the number in some capacity by either receiving a pin number via text or call, or something of that sort. In theory, this likely won't effect professional players all that much. If it really does benefit the pro players to have a smurf account, I'm sure their teams will fork out like $20 to get them a second cellphone that is basically only used for the game.

But why would Valve do this? What benefit do they see to limiting people to a "single" ranked account? According to their announcement: "Players using multiple accounts create a negative matchmaking experience at all skill brackets, so our goal is to add just enough friction to this process that the number of players doing this will be noticeably reduced. Having more players using their primary accounts will have a positive effect on both Ranked and Unranked Matchmaking." 

So they feel like any and all smurfing is hurting the game for other players and making it a terrible experience. They want to remove that toxicity from their ranked experience. It's a pretty noble goal. Will it work? Who knows. Will people still find a way to abuse it? Who knows. Will other developers follow suit? Again, who knows. I'm curious if other people will try to add this to their game and try and disguise it as a "security feature." You know, the old, "Add a phone number to your account to improve security and keep other people from stealing access!" trick.

So what do you think? Do you think it's a good move? Do you think it will work? Is there a better way? Is it even necessary? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S LCS GAME OF THE WEEK **

This one is super easy. It's the North American LCS Finals this Sunday. The two biggest and best teams of the North American Professional scene over the past like 3 years facing off against one another. Winner takes the title for the first half of the competitive year, goes to the Mid-Season Invitational Tournament, and is almost guaranteed to stamp their ticket to the World Championships this fall. There's a lot at stake. Who will take home the trophy in Vancouver?

Tune in at "3pm Eastern"* on Sunday the 23rd to see #2 Cloud9 take on #1 Team Solomid

You can tune in on Twitch (They have 2 channels: NALCS1 & NALCS2) or Riot's eSports YouTube Channel.

* - Next week's blog is going to be about this. Foreshadowing!

** CHOP'S BONUS ESPORTS CORNER! **

Yesterday, Twitch posted a little guide to the eSports being played this weekend live on Twitch. So if you're interested in checking something out, this seems to be a pretty good weekend to do so. 

CS:GO - coverage starts at 12:30pm Eastern Thursday-Sunday, all weekend long!

Smite - coverage starts at 11am Eastern Friday-Sunday, all weekend long!

Heroes of the Storm - coverage starts at Noon Eastern for European Games, and 5pm Eastern for North American Games, Friday-Sunday!

eLeague (they do a variety of games, including Street Fighter V) - coverage starts at 6pm Eastern on Friday.

Rocket League - coverage begins at 3pm on Saturday and Noon Eastern on Sunday.

Check something out, you never know, you might actually enjoy it. Let me know if you do and what you think.

The Changing Face of Television

So there's a weird thing happening in the world of media consumption. Multiple companies have started offering ways for you to Stream television stations *WITHOUT* a Cable TV service. For the longest time now, streaming most stations online has required paying a Cable company for the channel first. No subscription? No watchy.

YouTube recently announced YouTube TV, which will let you pay around $35/month to get access to 40 Television channels. It includes all the major broadcast networks (NBC, ABC, Fox, etc), and a handful of other channels (ESPN, regional sports networks, SciFi, USA, Disney, NatGeo, and YouTube Red). But to make the service more interesting, it offers "Unlimited Cloud DVR" service... so you can record any show on these channels and watch it anywhere, whenever you want.

Not to be outdone, Hulu has also recently announced getting into the game (which shouldn't be surprising, since Hulu is owned by a number of big Cable companies). Though I can't find a lot on the proposed channel lineup.

They're obviously aiming for the cord cutting generations that want nothing to do with overly expensive Cable packages. Trying to get some of that money back.

But something I think is really interesting is how the studios making shows are doing interesting experiments of how to many money outside of deals with networks.

To paraphrase the words of Morpheus, "What if I told you Disney was creating an animated Star Wars series that is going to air exclusively on YouTube?" Now that has my attention. It's going to dig into character backgrounds and tell origin stories. They're going to be short pieces, but it's an interesting experiment.

Hopefully more companies will experiment with this. Imagine if they film a bunch of random extra stuff on set during movies to make little mini-series to get fans super excited for the weeks coming up to release? Or post release? You come home from the movie wanting more... and you go to YouTube and get little teaser stories that happen after the movie's story ends for weeks after the movie is over. You can even plug them in those little post-credits stingers.

There is a lot of opportunity for studios to do interesting things other than just trailers and commercials. What would you love to see them do and try? What's the coolest thing you've seen them do so far? Let us know in the comments below.

** CHOP'S LCS GAMES OF THE WEEK **

This week is easy. Semi-Finals for the Spring Split. 3PM Eastern both Saturday and Sunday. The best 4 teams in North America. Watch it.

Saturday April 15th - Cloud9 vs Phoenix1 - An interesting sub-plot here is that Cloud9 lent their substitute jungler Meteos to Phoenix1, and they've been doing amazingly since he started playing with them. Now best friends face off.

Sunday April 16th - Team SoloMid vs FlyQuest - This matchup *SHOULD* be simple. TSM should stomp FlyQuest on paper. But then there's Hai... if last week has taught us anything it's that Hai still has some kind of crazy magic when it comes to the playoffs. Never rule them out... but seriously, TSM should win, they've been on fire lately. (Here's a video interview with two of the biggest names in this matchup. Hai and Bjergsen.)

You can tune in on Twitch (They have 2 channels: NALCS1 & NALCS2) or Riot's eSports YouTube Channel.