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.

Diversity in Games

Diversity has been something of a hot topic in the media lately. It's been brewing pretty heavily over the past few years in the gaming world too. And there are basically two sides of the coin here. The first is that people from minority groups (or basically, not caucasian males) rarely get to play a game, read a book, or see a movie where the hero is the same as them. How many action movies star a female lead? Or a hispanic lead? Or even a homosexual love interest? The other side of the coin is that the hero should be whatever it needs to be to best tell the story being told. 

Both of these are important things to consider. But it's becoming more and more evident that there are better stories to be told if you stray away from the classic tropes. We saw some big stink in the media back before Star Wars: The Force Awakens released because of Finn being a black stormtrooper (and got an amazing response from one Patton Oswalt). Not to mention the outcry from the complete and utter lack of Rey toys for young girls following the movie's release. We also saw Ubisoft break from this mold when they released Watchdogs 2 - straying from the Tom Cruise-look-alike to an African American lead in Marcus Holloway. (People also bitched about Marcus because apparently it was "unbelievable" to them that an African American male could be an uber hacker.)

But for a long time, a champion of diversity in the gaming community has been Bioware. First with Mass Effect, and then following it up with Dragon Age. Not only can you play male or female characters of a number of different ethnic and racial backgrounds in most of their games, but they also feature an incredibly diverse selection of love interests. And importantly, those love interests were there for BOTH heterosexual and homosexual players.

Recently though, Bioware made a diversity inclusion in Mass Effect: Andromeda that completely fell flat with players, and more important, the segment of society the character was intended to appeal to and represent. With their character Hainly Abrams, Bioware has what is quite possibly the first main stream representation of a transgendered character in a Triple A video game. Needless to say, for some players, this is a BIG deal. It may only be an NPC, but it's still a huge step forward for the representation of the transgender population in a mass market game.

Unfortunately, Hainly Abrams fell completely flat: it came across as incredibly stereotypical, out-of-touch, and borderline insulting to transgendered players. To the point that Bioware has apologized for the way the character is currently written and presented, and has promised to do better.

It feels like this is yet another symptom the game carries from being rushed to launch instead of being held for testing and polishing. Something that could have been easily fixed if you'd just brought in a half dozen or so transgendered gamers and asked their opinion on the character and the dialog. This is a much different fix than weird animation issues. 

Kuddos to Bioware for owning the problem and working to fix it. We will see how the game progresses from here.

So what do you think about the importance of diversity in games? Should every game use furry mascots to avoid the problem altogether? Are there any big game protagonists that you feel represent you? Is there a demographic you'd love to see a game focus on that's something other than your own? Let us know in the comments below.

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

This week is super easy for me. It's the Spring Playoffs for LCS. There are two great matchups coming our way this weekend.

Saturday April 8th @3pm EST - Phoenix1 vs Team Dignitas - This should be a super close game. Phoenix1 finished the split in 3rd, but Dignitas finished the split on the biggest streak and look really strong. Phoenix1 got hammered by both Cloud9 and Team SoloMid the last week of the season, but they still look like a really strong team.

Sunday April 9th @3pm EST - Counter Logic Gaming vs FlyQuest - This series is really up in the air. Both teams have been really inconsistent for the second half of the split (FlyQuest has been on a straight nose-dive since mid-split). CLG has a tendency to flip a switch when it comes to playoffs. On the other side of the stage: Hai, Balls, and Lemonnation are infamous for having ridiculous strong playoff games. Will the trick champions come out, or will we see a more traditional slugfest? We'll have to wait until Sunday to find out.

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

 

No Honor?

So first off, I want to apologize for the lack of blog last week. I was writing the post while waiting for my car to finish up at the dealership using a blogging app designed by our hosting company. And when I went to look up the LCS schedule at the end to make my game recommendations, poof. My blog post disappeared from the face of the planet. Oh well. Enough crying about it, let's get down to business.

Ubisoft has a little problem on their hands.

If you remember back to E3 last year, one of the many games Ubisoft announced was a competitive PVP game called For Honor. It was a neat concept in that it had 3 different potential factions: Knights vs Samurai vs Vikings. It's a weird mashup of Team Deathmatch and something like Dynasty Warriors... human players run around and cut down a shit ton of weaker computer controlled enemies... and occasionally run into stronger player-controlled heroes. It's an interesting idea, and the trailers looked really promising.

The game released back on Valentine's Day and had a really great following. A bunch of people started streaming it and doing reviews. The press was really positive. Mechanics were solid. Champions were different and well balanced. And most importantly, the game seemed to be fun. If you're curious, here's a "First Impressions video" from a YouTuber who does a lot of great MMO-style game videos.

But by the beginning of March, the game had lost over 50% of its player base (according to the number of concurrent players on Steam). So what the fuck happened? Well, some of it was the normal things that can plague games. Connection issues. Cheaters abusing all kinds of bugs. And an oddly large number of people AFK farming in matches. But a much larger monster was lurking below the surface, and it has reared its very ugly head.

Microtransactions.

That word alone can be enough to make a lot of gamers cringe. Depending on how they're handled by a developer/publisher can totally ruin a game experience if mishandled. After all, the abuse of microtransactions are pretty much single handedly what puts off a lot of gamers from checking out and trying Free-2-Play games. For every game like League of Legends that does microtransactions well, there are dozens and dozens of "Pay-2-Win" games that erode gamer trust in the platform.

So what did For Honor do? 

First of all, I need to begin with the fact that For Honor is a $60 retail game. No Free-2-Play here. You buy in for a full retail experience. It also has a $30 season pass available. And for their approach to Microtransactions, For Honor opts for the "Team Fortress 2" approach: Cosmetic stuff. Costume upgrades, skins, character taunts/emotes, etc. But it also includes gear. And in 2 of the 3 game modes released so far for the game, this gear is purely cosmetic. But in the "Dominion" game type, the one shown off in all the trailers with the big impressive looking invading armies trying to take over castles, the gear will actually impact how your character performs. Which sounds a lot like Pay-2-Win...

So let's take a step back and look at how they work, because this is where the problems really begin. Everything in For Honor's in-game store can be purchased with a currency called Steel. You earn Steel by playing matches. So you can grind up all the stuff for the characters you want to play. Which sounds pretty awesome. So where do the microtransactions come in? Well, the thing is, in addition to being able to earn Steel, you can just outright buy it.

The problems began when players sat down and started doing the math. Not accounting for any DLC, it costs around 91,000 Steel to "unlock each character and all of their customizations in the base game." Right now there are 12 champions, so it would cost more than a MILLION steel to unlock everything in the game. That's cool enough, it gives players something to work toward, right? This is where things start getting ugly. 

The average player, spending 1-2 hours a day, 5-7 days a week, can dependably make around 1000-1200 Steel a day. So to unlock everything currently available in the game for all champions, it would take a casual player more than 900 days of playing to unlock everything. Or a whopping 2.5 years. Ouch.

Ooooooooooooor... you could buy eight of the $100 Steel packs (you need 7.3 of these packs to be able to afford everything currently in the game)... So that means, for the game you paid $60 for (and potentially another $30 for the Season Pass), you would have to pay more than $700 to unlock all of the "cosmetic" items in the game.

A couple days after the community outrage began, Ubisoft responded in a method that just ended up pouring gas on the fire.  Here's the quote from the game's director Damien Kieken:

“We never had an intention for you to unlock everything in the game,” Kieken said, before comparing the store items to what you would have in an RPG.

“In World of Warcraft, you would never try to unlock everything for all the characters of the whole game. Same for any MOBA, you’re not trying to unlock all the content for all the characters in the game.”

Kieken went on to say that before launch, the developer expected most players to only play one to three characters. This also proved to be the case in the real world. “The design is based around that. The cosmetic items are really for us the end-game content: the things we want you to unlock after playing for several weeks,” added Kieken.

Now, there are a few things I want to say here. There are absolutely a huge number of people who try to collect everything in games like World of Warcraft, and even moreso in MOBAs like DOTA2 and League of Legends. I have tons of friends who spend all of their free time in WoW when not raiding hunting down rare mounts and pets. Achievement Hunting in WoW is an incredibly popular thing too, which also requires visit every little nook and cranny of the game. 

But I think one of the big take-aways here is that last comment. If this is what players can expect in the way of end-game content in For Honor, this game is in trouble already. And it sounds like the troubles are just beginning. The playerbase is practically in revolt. The game's reddit is full of people angry at Ubisoft for ruining the game.

On April 3rd, there is a planned boycott on the game, as players plan to not play the game for 24 hours to protest the way Ubisoft has been handling the game's microtransactions. They're looking to get more direct communications from Ubisoft about the problems and the future development of the game. There's actually a full list of demands from the playerbase. And this has already had an effect.

Ubisoft has already begun to respond, including making a patch that specific adjust some of the Steel rewards in the games, generally improving the rate at which the currency is earned in game. Ubisoft has scheduled a community live stream in order to address player concerns. They've also promised a weekly blog to keep players informed via "updates from our development team, go more in depth about our designs, address some of your concerns and explain what the team is working on at the moment."

It's a huge step in the right direction for Ubisoft to salvage some of the damage to their reputation. Some bridges have been burned, but players are giving Ubisoft a chance to respond. So what happens from here all depends on what Ubisoft says in their live stream. Players are on standby to go through with their April 3rd boycott. But say they might change their mind depending on how things look after they hear from Ubisoft.

This whole thing is an interesting look at how big companies handle PR and Community management. And is a good example of how players are getting fed up with the microtransaction shenanigans as developers and publishers try to explore ways to generate more income from games in an industry where prices haven't increased since the early 90's with the Super NES (while the cost of making games has skyrocketed).

So how do you feel about microtransactions? Free-2-Play games? How do you think Ubisoft is handling things? Are players over-reacting? Let us know in the comments below. (BTW, we plan to talk about DLC and Microtransactions on a show next month!)

** Chop's esports corner **

LCS is off this week as teams get ready for the playoffs. Missed some crazy games this past weekend. Like a surprisingly epic battle between First Place Team SoloMid and Last Place Team Liquid.

But I still want to encourage you to check out some esports. So here's the closest thing I can find to a big list of events potentially going on this weekend to check out. Looks like you have a lot of options. Heroes of the Storm. Overwatch. CS:GO. DOTA2. Hearthstone. 

The end of an Era?

There's a weird transition period at the end of every console cycle where there are technically two different platforms being supported at the same time. And a lot of people see the term "supported" as something in air quotes. The writing is one the wall. Your current favorite platform is on the path to becoming a retro console. It's only a matter of time. 

Heimdal has officially sounded the Gjallarhorn for Sony's Playstation 3. Sony is going to be ceasing production of the PS3 in Japan in the near future. It will still be in production in other parts of the world, but in the home of Sony, it is about to become extinct.

It had a ten year run. That's pretty damn good. Way better than the three year run of the Dreamcast. Over 86 million units. Tons of games came out for it. A lot of iconic stuff. Thankfully the legacy lives on. 

One of the most interesting ways it lives on is via a service from Sony called "PlayStation Now." It's a subscription service offered by Sony that lets you stream a selection of more than 450 PS3 games on your PlayStation 4 or (very importantly) your PC. Yeah, all you need is a PS4 controller and a subscription to get access to some of the best games the PS3 has to offer on your PC. It's pretty nuts. I know I'm super tempted to check it out.

How about you? What are your best memories of the PS3? Would you consider picking up PlayStation Now? 

** Chop's LCS Games of the Week **

We have 2 weeks left in this split, and the playoff picture is absolutely crazy.

Each team has 4 matchups left. Only 2-3 teams have a playoff spot on lockdown. But everything starting around 4th place is WIDE OPEN. The bottom playoff spot is currently sitting at a tie at 6-8. The last place team is currently sitting at 3-11. It would take a LOT of crazy stuff happening for that last place team to catch up and make it. But it's possible. 

To make it even more crazy. HALF OF THE TEAMS IN THE LEAGUE sit between 6-8 and 3-11. Fourth place right now has two teams tied at 7-7. So things are going crazy. So again I'm going to pick a couple games this weekend that are BIG matchups for that last playoff spot as things sort themselves out.

Friday, March 17th @ 6pm EST - Team Dignitas vs Team Liquid - We talked last week about the drastic steps Liquid is trying to take to try and keep themselves from being relegated. They sit 2 matches out of the last playoff spot. Currently leading the way for that last playoff spot is Team Dignitas. Dignitas has something to prove and has to win every game they have left to stay in the picture. Liquid is desperate though, so there should be plenty of fireworks.

Friday, March 17th @ 9pm EST - Echo Fox vs Counter Logic Gaming - What? Two games on the same day? Yeah. Right now CLG sits tied for 4th at 7-7. Echo Fox sits just outside of the playoffs in the dreaded 8th place. Facing relegation, can Echo Fox pick up a win against a potential playoff team and climb their way up the ladder? CLG desperately needs to hold on to that tie for 4th place. With both Team Dignitas and Immortals right on their heels at 6-8, they can't afford to lose a single matchup. Should lead to some great games.

Sunday, March 19th @ 6pm EST - Counter Logic Gaming vs FlyQuest - Speaking of that tie for 4th place, the two teams tied for 4th going into the weekend go head to head Sunday night. FlyQuest has been on a terrible losing streak, and need to snap out of it if they want to stay in playoff contention. Paired with the earlier game, CLG has the chance to put a stamp on 4th place and distance themselves from the pack... or if everything goes horribly wrong, they could drop out of the playoffs altogether. The drama is real!

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

The Winds of Change

Sorry this is so late today. I've had a pretty crazy week. But I saw something today that made me think about how the world we interact with is constantly shifting in weird ways that we sometimes take for granted.

For the first time in history, there are more people who subscribe to Netflix than there are people who own a DVR. This is a big deal. As the infrastructure around the internet improves, people are using it for more and more things in their lives.

When I was a kid, it was a big deal to have Cable. As I grew up, you were kind of expected to have it. The people I knew, almost everyone had it in some capacity. But in college things started shifting. People started watching stuff online. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube; there are probably hundreds of streaming services these days.

But this isn't anything new. The internet has been incredibly disruptive to a number of major entertainment and media industries over the past 20 years. 

The first and probably the most famous was the music industry. Beginning with Napster and Limewire and other services of the sort, people started sharing music with each other digitally where they used to just trade mixed-tapes and CDs. Then stuff like MP3.com and iTunes came onto the scene and the sale of digital music took off. Recently, we've entered the age of streaming music. YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music; there are tons of options out there. Why buy music, when you can pay $10/month to listen to all the music you could ever want without a single commercial?

Then it was the publishing industry. When the Kindle came on the scene, it was seen as something of a joke from the major publishing houses... and then Amazon kicked them all in the nuts. Now ebooks consume more than 30% of sales from the 5 major publishers. (Note: The ebook sales from the major publishers have been hurting lately, and it mostly seems to be due to their high prices an inability to adapt to the culture of digital publishing.) And the major publishers are hurting for new talent as authors are getting smarter and realizing they can make more money doing it all themselves and selling through stores like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes than they ever would signing with a publisher.

The two big industries dealing with these pains right now are Hollywood and Television. People would rather stream a movie in the comfort of their own home than pay $15+ per person to see it in a theater (not counting snacks). And people are getting sick of paying $50 for 200 channels they don't watch for the 3 channels they do want to watch. 

So far every industry who has had to go through this process has failed to learn from any of the ones who have gone through it before them. In a perfect world, all of these changes would lead to a better world for consumers. In reality, the growing pains generally lead to the people in charge of these try to cling even tighter to the old ways.

So who is next? Streaming Games? Steam has a pretty huge strangle-hold on the Digital games world (which is crushing companies like Gamestop). But even they have begun to try and tackle streaming games. PlayStation is getting in on the action too. PlayStation Now lets you play PlayStation 4 games on your PC without owning a PS4. Which is kind of awesome. No downloading, just fully streamed games.

I can't wait to see what the future holds. How about you? What are your thoughts on the future of Streaming? What are your favorite streaming services?

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

I'm going to go with something a little different this week. With only 3 weeks left in the split, people are fighting for playoff spots, and struggling to avoid relegation. So we're going to avoid the top of the totem pole and start looking at the middle and bottom of the packs.

Saturday March 11 @ 6pm - Phoenix1 vs Echo Fox - Going into the weekend, Phoenix1 is sitting in 4th place, Echo Fox is in a tie for 6th. Meaning if the split ended right now, Echo Fox and Immortals would be playing to see who gets the last playoff spot. Phoenix1 needs the win to try and fight for one of the two top seeds (currently being held pretty strongly by Team SoloMid and Cloud9). Echo Fox need to win this one to try and claw their way into the last playoff spot and stay as far away from relegation as they can.

Sunday March 12 @ 6pm - Team Liquid vs Team Envy - This is a game of desperation. Going into this weekend, these two teams are tied for last place. No one wants to be relegated. Liquid has gone full-on panic mode over the last two weeks. Last weekend, World Champion AD Carry Piglet swapped roles and is now their Midlaner. Goldenglue has been benched. This week, they pay what is probably a ridiculous amount of money to Team SoloMid for their semi-retired AD Carry DoubleLift. Liquid's quest to avoid relegation is an insane one from here. Cloud9, Envy, Dignitas, Phoenix1, Team SoloMid, and FlyQuest. They have to go through the top 4 teams to try and catch up with the 7th place team. It's not a huge gap for either of these teams. They're sitting at 3-9. The tie up in 6th place for that last playoff spot is at 5-7. There are 6 matchups left for each team, so anything can happen.

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

Amazon Shows Their Big Plans for Twitch

Back in 2014 Amazon spent almost $1 billion to swoop in out of nowhere and buy Twitch (at a time when everyone thought Google/YouTube was about to close the deal). We knew this could lead to some really good things, it just depended on what Amazon decided to do to make the platform better.

They've been slowing building up something called Twitch Prime. It is part of Amazon Prime and gives some interesting perks. Special free in-game items for featured games every month. Some free games. Commercial-Free viewing on Twitch. The ability to subscribe to one channel a month on Twitch to help support your favorite streamers. But Amazon and Twitch just made a big announcement that just might impact the way a lot of people buy games.

Coming later this year, you are going to be able to buy the game you are watching directly from Twitch (which will be handled by Amazon's distribution chain). This may not seem like a bit deal at first glance, but the goal of any business is to eliminate as much friction as possible between the consumer and the purchase. Right now, if you're watching Twitch and decide you like a game and want to buy the game to play it for yourself, you have a number of steps ahead of you:

  1. Leave Twitch (something Twitch doesn't want you to do)
  2. Open up/log in to your game sale platform of choice (Steam, GoG, Humble, XBox Marketplace, PSN, etc)
  3. Search for the game you were watching.
  4. Complete multi-step purchase process. (Which sometimes involves signing into yet ANOTHER service like Paypal.)

So what if you could just click a button in Twitch, type in a password to confirm, and boom you own the game? That could definitely impact how some people buy games. 

But what if Twitch sweetens the pot a little too? If the person you're watching is a Partner with Twitch, they will get 5% of the purchase price. It may not seem like a lot ($3 for a $60 game / $1 for a $20 game), but it will definitely add up. People have proven that they love being able to help support their favorite streamers, so they might jump on this opportunity to support them through purchasing games as well. Though it does make me wonder if that will impact how some streamers approach their channels. Will they only play full-price games to maximize their income from sales?

They also announced a perk program called Twitch Crates. If you buy a game that's more than $4.99, you will receive a Twitch Crate with the purchase. So what the hell is a Twitch Crate? According to Twitch, "a digital loot box with a special reward like a game-specific emote, a chat badge, or some Bits. The contents of each Crate are randomly generated so you never know what surprise will be inside." So it sounds like Twitch-specific rewards that may or may not be related to the game you purchase.

Games will be downloadable and playable through a "Twitch Launcher" which doesn't seem to have been released yet... but it will be interesting to see what it has to offer. Amazon is in the process of branding all of their gaming stuff with the Twitch name, so if it's anything close to the Amazon Cloud Player for their music purchases it should be a great piece of software. I guess we will have to wait and see.

The only gripe I have with this thusfar is this statement:

Q. If I’m a non partnered streamer, can viewers buy games from my channel page?

A. An offer to buy a game or in game content will appear on all streamer channel pages when a game is being played that is offered for sale by Twitch. Only partnered streamers will be eligible to earn revenue through this program.

Twitch is going to put the sale buttons on every page on their server (which makes sense), but the streamer only gets a cut if they're a partner. And the only way to become a partner is to have hundreds of people watching you concurrently multiple times a week. So if you're a small channel with an audience of 20-30 people every stream, you will not see a penny if one of your fans buys a game through Twitch. Which screws people with smaller audiences, who would probably benefit the most from the income.

What do you think? Would you be inclined to purchase a game through Twitch if it's easier? Or are you too locked in Steam or another digital distribution company?

**Chop's LCS Games of the Week**

After a break for IEM Katowice, the LCS comes roaring back this weekend with two HUGE rivalry games:

Saturday March 4th, 2017 @ 6pm - Team SoloMid vs Counter Logic Gaming - El Classico! Still the biggest rivalry in eSports. TSM sits on the top of the mountain going into the weekend. CLG is clawing their way back to the top after a rocky start. Expect fireworks.

Sunday March 5th, 2017 @ 6pm - Cloud9 vs FlyQuest - El Noobico! If the last time these two teams met is any indication, this should be an incredibly close series and sport some really, really good games. I'm super looking forward to this one too. More fireworks.

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

Take Care of Yourself

We're going to take a step back this week and talk about something a little more somber than I normally would. Some of you may know that a rather popular Twitch streamer passed away on the 19th of February during a 24-hour charity marathon stream. He was raising money for the Make-A-Wish foundation by streaming multiple-20-hour days streaming his game of choice (World of Tanks). 22 hours into his 24 hour marathon, he stepped out to go smoke a cigarette and never came back to the stream.

Here's the thing. He was 35. And in seemingly good health (aside from the smoking). Which is tragic. It's also not the first time we've heard of people passing away from giant gaming marathons:

So I just want to ask you guys to take care of yourselves. I know there a members of our audience that also do charity streams and marathons.

So go for a walk every now and then. Make sure you stand up from time to time during long game sessions (blood clots are a seriously huge deal). Try to pick some healthier stuff to snack on. Little things add up. We want you guys to be around with us for a long time to come. And I'm sure your friends and family do too. 

Here's the thing, I know I could do a much better job at this stuff too. You've heard the jokes on the podcast about me eating gummy bears and stuff. So yeah, I'm guilty too. Let's all try to do a little better.

Sorry for being such a downer this week. But I think it's good from time to time to stop and take a look at things and see where you can improve things. Our health is key in all of this. So take care, and we will talk to you guys soon.

PS) If you want to donate to the three children of the streamer who passed away, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched

PPS) LCS has an off-week this week due to IEM Katowice. A big international tournament. It features League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and StarCraft 2 tournaments. If you're interested in any of those games, go check it out over here.

 

Why the Death of Steam Greenlight is a Step in the Right Direction

So something big happened in the world of video games (especially PC games) this week. Steam has announced that it will be ending the Steam Greenlight program and be replacing it with a flat fee that a developer can pay to submit their game to Steam. 

So why is this a big deal?

The current process of getting your game(s) onto Steam is... terrible. It requires a studio to game the system. They literally get people to like and comment on their submission page on Steam in an attempt to generate enough traffic and momentum on Steam that the game will be selected into the Greenlight program. So you see lots of harmful stuff that studios have to do in order to get over those hurdles. For example, it became a fairly common practice for developers to give away copies of their games in exchange for people voting for their Greenlight projects. Which is a practice Valve has been fighting for at least a two years according to this 2015 Kotaku Article.

So what is this community/vote based system being replaced with? A new method called Steam Direct, which was announced by Valve on the official Steam blog on the 10th of February. Under the new system, studios would be able to submit their games directly to Valve to be placed on Steam. So how do they intend for this process to work?

First a studio would create an account with Steam and verify their identity. Valve says it would be "similar to the process of applying for a bank account." So a studio would:

  • "Complete a set of digital paperwork"
  • submit "personal or company verification"
  • submit "tax documents"

Once this process has been completed and their identity has been established by Valve, the company can pay a recoupable fee* for each new title they want to place on Steam. (* - Recoupable is important language here. It means that whatever the fee ends up being, you will earn that money back via sales. Since these contracts don't exist yet, we don't know the nature of this repayment. It could mean that you get a higher cut of profits from the game, and Valve takes a lower cut (or even no cut) until that fee is paid back to you.)

But what about that fee? This is the thing that is going to make or break Steam Direct. So far there's been no announcement of what the fee will actually be. Valve has stated that they talked to a number of studios about what they felt would be an appropriate fee for the service. Those responses ranged from as low as $100 a game to as high as $5,000 a game. Valve says, "there are pros and cons at either end of the spectrum," and as a result, they are going to gather more information before making a decision about the amount of the fee.

So what are those pros and cons? $100 is barely a hurdle. Especially if you will earn it back fairly quickly through recoupment. It would do little to deter the "flood of crap games" you sometimes see people complain about on Steam. Really the only studios this would hurt are the people who make little games in RPG Maker who likely wouldn't be willing to pay any fees to list their games on Steam.

At the high end, $5,000 a game would likely be prohibitively exclusive. Most Indie studios wouldn't be able to afford the fee. Not without running some sort of crowdfunding campaign to pay the fee. And that would seem to defeat the purpose of eliminating the whole system-gaming Greenlight system, wouldn't it? Plus $5,000 is larger than the budgets a lot of Indie games have to work with, and it would keep these gems from coming to play in the biggest pond around for computer/video games. Which would also be a shame.

I personally think the fee would likely settle between $500-1,000. It's a large enough sum of money that it will make people think twice about pulling the trigger. They will want to have the best possible game they can before launching it. At the same time, it's not so large that people flat won't be able to afford it. It's a fee that can be easily budgeted for that won't come at the expense to the rest of the game's development.

We will definitely keep an eye on Steam Direct and let you know when there's more news to talk about. What do you think about the changes? Do you think they're a step in the right direction? Or completely ignoring a larger problem?

PS) After writing this, I found a new announcement from the crowdfunding site Fig about establishing a fund to help developers pay for fees to get their games to market. Check it out here.

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

So this week marks the halfway point of the split and we start seeing some mid-season rematches between top tier teams. So instead of 1 match-up, I have 2 to recommend as the top 3 teams battle it out this weekend, some for the first time, some in rematches.

Saturday February 18th @ 6pm EST - Cloud9 vs Team SoloMid - The week 1 rematch between the #1 and #2 teams in the LCS. Cloud9 is sitting on the top of the mountain undefeated right now. Can they survive their rematch with the always dominant TSM?

Sunday February 19th @ 3pm EST - FlyQuest vs Team SoloMid - The battle for #2. These teams are tied for second coming into the weekend. They both look dominant and along with Cloud9 look like top contenders in the playoffs for the first half of the season. There are big questions still in a lot of people's minds of whether FlyQuest will be able to keep up with TSM, and we will have answers to those questions at the end of the weekend.

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

Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) 2017

So some buzz has been going around the past few days about this year's E3. For the first time ever, E3 is going to be selling a select number of tickets to the general public. This is great for fans who will have a chance for the first time to attend all the big announcements and press conferences. They will also have access to workshops and other talks, which is pretty awesome. That's one of the biggest things that goes on at E3. They will also be able to walk the floor and play all the demos and other fun things to be had at E3. There will be 15,000 public tickets offered. The first 1,000 tickets will go for $149/each, after that people are going to have to fork out $249 for a ticket. 

For fans this is awesome. But is this a sign of the health of the E3 and a last ditch effort to try and save the convention? 

Attendance has always been an issue for E3. Somewhat fittingly, there have been 3 different versions of the Electronics Entertainment Expo. The original 1995 event was huge and 50,000 industry and media people walk through the doors. It eventually hit a ceiling of around 70,000 attendees (in both 1998 and 2005). Then for some reason they decided to streamline and refocus the Expo. 

The rebranded "E3 Media and Business Summit" launched with a maxed out (based on the new format) 10,000 attendees. Exhibitors wanted a smaller crowd and a more focused Expo. It switched to an "Invitation Only" format, in a theoretical attempt to curtail people who weren't involved in the industry from attending. The next year saw attendance drop to 5,000 people. This lead the Expo to return to its original format again.

The re-launched E3 had 41,000 people attend, and number grew steadily year to year until it finally broke 50,000 attendees in 2015 for the first time in nearly a decade.

So let's look at the last 3 years and see how this injection of the public might help/effect numbers?

  • 2014 - 48,900 Attendees
  • 2015 - 52,200 Attendees 
  • 2016 - 50,300 Attendees

So *IF* the same number of business and media personnel attend E3 in 2017, and we get an influx of "civilians" attendance numbers could hit as high as 65,000 or more. A level that hasn't been seen at E3 since 2005.

But is this a good thing? Are there signs other than attendance numbers we should be looking at to see how things are really going at E3?

Last year, Electronic Arts made waves by saying they weren't going to be at E3. Instead they were literally going to set up shop across the street and open it up to the public for FREE to come check out their stuff.

A couple months later, Activision announced they also wouldn't be having a booth on the E3 floor, opting instead to show off Call of Duty at the event via their friends at the Sony Playstation booth.

Then Disney and Wargamming (the people who make World of Tanks) both pulled out of having a booth on the E3 Floor.

As this editorial from Wired points out: "One can be dismissed as a fluke, and two as a coincidence, but three is a trend and four is a hemorrhage."

Time will tell how this will all effect this year's E3. It will be interesting to see if/how fast the public tickets sell. It will be interesting to see how the industry and business attendees react to the public inclusion. It will be interesting to see if the major players in the industry continue to forego the event. After all, EA Play has already been scheduled again for 2017, so don't expect to see them on the floor of E3 again this year...

It's a long time until June, so there's still plenty of time for things to take shape. 

If you're interested in going, you can sign up to get more information about ticket sales over here at the E3 Website.

What do you think about the future of E3? Would you like to go one day?

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

This week I'm going to recommend a weird matchup. Sunday two teams are going to come head to head that have a weird history. Last year, a number of the founding players from Cloud9 stepped down from the main roster to build a Challenger (minor league) team. That team won Challenger, beat an LCS team in the Promotion Tournament and won a spot on the LCS stage. Thing is, Riot Games has a rule where you can't own more than one LCS team, so Cloud9 was forced to sell their challenger team. 

Enter one of the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. Looking to get into the eSports business, he purchased "Cloud9 Challenger" for a whopping $2 million. Included in that price was the contracts of all the major players from the team. And just like that, one of the fan favorites Hai Lam was no longer a member of Cloud9 (this is a big deal because basically without Hai, Cloud9 has always struggled on the big stage). With him went An "Balls" Lee, and Daerek "Lemonnation" Hart, two other founding members of Cloud9. And eventually their team would settle on the name "FlyQuest."

So going into this week, Cloud9 sits alone on top of the standing in first place with a perfect record of 6-0. FlyQuest (mostly thanks to Hai's strategic shot calling) is sitting tied in second place with Team SoloMid at 5-1. This is the first time Hai, Balls, and Lemonnation have played against their former team, and it's a battle for the top spot in the league. So it should be pretty exciting! Seriously, watch this teaser trailer from Riot Games.

They play on Sunday evening around 6pm Eastern. And you can tune in on Twitch (It will probably be on NALCS1, but it might be on NALCS2) or Riot's eSports YouTube Channel.