Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Video Game Collecting : Part One - Why I Collect Physical Games

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich Resident)

In Second Life, everything is digital and on Linden Lab’s servers. If Linden Lab’s shut down Second Life tomorrow, everything that you have in your inventory and everything that you’ve built up in the virtual world would be gone. Is this likely any time soon? No, but this scenario isn’t unheard of in today’s age. All that needs to be done is for a company to pull the plug and everything that you’ve worked towards in a social space or game is wasted time and this is why I like to collect physical media. If everything else shuts down, I can still plug in my Nintendo 64 and play some Cruis’n USA. Or I can plug in my Wii and play a complete $3 copy of Ghost Squad with the Wii Zapper and relive my time in the arcade playing lightgun games like Time Crisis. Or I can start up my original PlayStation and steam roll through Metal Gear. You get the idea.

I don’t have a huge collection at the moment. There was a long period of time where I swore off playing video games in favor of doing things that I felt were more productive with my spare time, such as helping out communities in Second Life and elsewhere. It felt more fulfilling than beating a game for seemingly no reason. However, that started to change as I fell out with the groups that I was part of and I found myself needing a hobby. So I fell back into video games. I found myself regretting getting rid of all the great games and systems that I had as a kid, especially since a handful of those are rare now.

Some might think “why not just get a raspberry pi and emulate all your favorite retro games. Well, for one. I’m a huge fan of original physical hardware. I’m a hardware geek. I love how owning a physical system and cartridge is kind of like owning a mini arcade board. I love to mod my Gameboy Advance and open up and fix old games that aren’t working. It’s just another aspect of the hobby that’s right up my alley. If I wanted to emulate games, I would just do so on my PC. You don’t need another physical box to do it. I’ve also not had the best experiences with emulation. Sure, emulated versions of older systems like the Playstation and Nintendo 64 look tons better thanks to modern technological advances and modding, but they’re also prone to game crashing bugs and glitches that haven’t been ironed out in the emulators. I was playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time via emulation, and the game suddenly crashed and I found myself realizing that I hadn’t saved in a while and I lost hours of my time in the game. I turned around and bought the port of the game for 3DS and that issue was eliminated. I just prefer the reliability of the actual legit hardware and software.

Now, I’m not rich. In fact, I’m the opposite, so I can’t just go out and buy all the old video games I want. However, I could have gone out and found a big lot of really cheap games and I could have had hundreds of games by now. However, I just don’t see a point in that. I want games that I actually want to play, that holds nostalgic value to me, or that I just think looks cool. At the moment, I only own 79 physical games since I started collecting again. Surely, getting 79 good games in nine months would be expensive right? Not really. In part two I will be covering how I’ve built up my collection so far and different ways that you can do it.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

News and Commentary: Blizzard's Removing Hong Kong Gamer From Tournament Sparks Calls for Boycott, Debate on Free Speech

By Bixyl Shuftan

I had hoped to make my next article related to Blizzard about it's upcoming version of World of Warcraft in which the heroes go up against a horrific enemy of the likes one sees in a Lovecraft novel, and there are a couple new player races to choose from, the half-machine Mechagnomes for the Alliance and the foxlike Vulpera for the Horde. With the latter, some Second Life friends were looking forward to going about as fluffy-tailed folks and wisecracking jokes like, "What’s a Vulpera’s favorite dance? The fox trot." Some of us whom had gotten out of the game due to both lighter interest and it's subscription fee got back in. This included yours truly, whom last week returned and signed up for a few months as some good gaming friends would be spending time there, so I thought.

But there's been some news in the world of gaming that has given some of us second thoughts about adventuring in Azeroth, and it isn't about the content of the game, but the actions of the company that owns it, Blizzard, concerning another of it's games, Hearhstone.

Last weekend, there was an Asia-Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament. Among those taking part was Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung of Hong Kong. He won, and when interviewed afterwards, he declared his support for the protests going on in the city, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time," wearing a mask and goggles much like what some of the protesters have been wearing. For those who haven't been paying attention much to news from Asia, over time the government of China has made a number of demands on the autonomous city of Hong Kong which many of it's inhabitants feel break the promise it made of letting them govern themselves when Britain ceded control of the city over twenty years ago. This includes that anyone running for office there has to be approved by China's government. Months ago, Hong Kong's council was set to vote on a bill that would mean anyone in the city charged with a crime by the Communist government would be subject to arrest by local police and deportation. Since then, many of the people of the city of 7.5 million have been protesting in the streets. Over 2300 have been arrested so far and over 2000 injured. There is no end in sight to the protests.

Blizzard responded by taking down the video of the interview (though copies of it can be seen elsewhere), and on Tuesday October 8, the company stripped Ng of his prize, and banning him from Hearthstone tournaments for a year. They stated that he had violated one of the rules of the game, "Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD ..." Blizzard also fired the two commentators whom did the interview, Mr. Yee and Virtual (real name unknown). Virtual would later explain neither he or Mr Yee were told why they were dismissed, and about half of his income comes from broadcasting the tournaments, "If Blizzard bans me from casting any Hearthstone tournament, it will really hurt." Neither worked directly for Blizzard, but were independent contractors.

The result was a backlash from a number of gamers, whom began cancelling accounts to Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, and other games owned by Blizzard. Some expressed their comments on a "Boycott Blizzard" Twitter feed. One posted his response to when Blizzard asked his reasons for canceling his subscription, "I have been a loyal WoW player since 2007, spending literal years of my life on Azeroth. However, I can no longer support a company whose corporate policy considers speaking outu against human rights violations constitutes a "breach of contract." I'm still rooting for all the talented developers, artists, and writers working at Blizard but I will no longer support the company until these oppressive practices change." A thread on the topic in the Blizzard forums would get over 7300 responses as of the writing of this article.

Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with the company's reaction to the incident. A small number of employees did a walkout at the main office, gathering at it's Orc statue. Some had umbrellas, a symbol of the protests in Hong Kong. One employee would comment online, "The action Blizzard took against the player was pretty appalling but not surprising. Blizzard makes a lot of money in China, but now the company is in this awkward position where we can’t abide by our values."

This incident comes at about the time of two other high-profile ones involving business, free speech, and China. Last Friday, Daryl Morey, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets made and later deleted a Twitter post in support of the Hong Kong protesters. Despite the team owner speaking out against the comment, and that the tweet couldn't be see in China as it is banned there, the Chinese Basketball Association suspended all cooperation with the team, and events by the team would no longer be broadcasted by China's top station. At first, the NBA, which after investing years and millions in China gets about ten percent of it's revenue from the country, distanced itself from the comment. But when a number of Americans complained, including several politicians of both political parties, on Tuesday October 8 NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated they would not censor players or team owners over remarks about China.

The other incident was the 300th episode of the "South Park" animated comedy show, "Band in China." The show poked fun at Chinese censorship and American companies bowing down to pressure from the Chinese government in order to do business there. The result was the show practically vanishing from the Internet within China. The response from the show's two creators was a mock apology, "Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. ... Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?"

These three incidents combined have reignited debate nationwide about how much should American companies compromise their principles in order to do business with a dictatorship that controls over a billion people. But Blizzard's move also presented an ethical dilemma to some of my gaming friends in Second Life. For Nydia Tungsten, the head of the Furry Gamers group, as much as she relished the idea of going about Azeroth as a bushy-tailed vixen, Blizzard's move led her to cancel her account. She would post the following.

My friends and I were all looking forward to this, but due to Blizzards actions we as well as the gaming groups we belong to have canceled our subscriptions, the only way to get a companies attention is to hit them where they will notice it, their wallets. They MAY have appeased China, but can they be supported by China alone? I don't think so, spread the word and take your money from their wallets.

"I am not leaving the game forever," Nydia would also state, "but I DO want Blizzard to feel the backlash of their actions." Not everyone in the Furry Gamers went along however, notably some longtime players of World of Warcraft, "I am refusing to get drawn into a political flame war. I'm going to keep playing because I've spent far too many years in this damn game to stop doing it over politics."

For yours truly, the timing of Blizzard's move happened just after I'd gotten back in World of Warcraft. Since a number of my friends were either ramping up their time in Warcraft or getting back in, and Ark and Rust were getting laggier and crashy, I went ahead and bought the latest version of the game *and* subscribed for the next few months. I intend to go ahead and get what I paid for. But unless Blizzard makes some kind of amends, I might as well cancel my subscription as well. So where will I and the white vixen be gaming next? We'll find a place.

Sources: Kotaku, Blizzard forums, Ars Technica, PC Gamer, CNN, Vulture,

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 7, 2019

Game Review: GreedFall

By Nydia Tungsten

The game is set in 17th century-styled fantasy setting, and was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox GreedFall is an action role-playing game developed by Spiders and published by Focus Home Interax One on September 10, 2019. Wikipedia”

That is how Wikipedia is describing it, and on their own website they say :

The Old World is dying. The continent is polluted, overpopulated, and plagued by a deadly, incurable disease. Its weary population grows desperate.

But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon – an Island, remote and hidden, has been discovered. Teer Fradee... a land spared by the Malichor plague, a haven of life, wild and untampered by mankind. It is the promise of riches, but also represents the best hope for mankind to find a cure to the Malichor. On the hunt for the cure, explore a fresh new world as, alongside settlers, mercenaries and treasure hunters, you set foot on this remote island seeping with magic.

In GreedFall, situations are not always resolved by spilling blood. The wits of you and your companions are just as important as your prowess with a blade, and wise diplomacy, stealth, science or a well-used skill may negate the need for combat.

The world of GreedFall is home to numerous factions, each with their own beliefs, territories, goals, allies and enemies. You will forge and break alliances, weaving your way through an intricate reputation system. Every decision you make has the potential to please or anger these factions and their leading figures, as well your companions. Your ability to handle diplomatic encounters, the two party members you choose to bring to encounters, and who you will decide to help or fight, will ultimately impact the geopolitical landscape of the island.

That is all from their site. Now let me tell you “my” experience.

 I am not a hard core gamer by any means,  but I think that most of us aren’t. So with that in mind, let me tell this from a point of view most of you can relate to.

The voice acting is done really well as is the story, very easy to follow along and be taken into it.
There are six different factions - The Bridge Alliance, The Coin Guard, The Congregation of Merchants, Theleme, Nauts, and Yecht Fradi. Each one of them has its own views.

And you will find they are easy enough to follow who they are and what their goals are and be taken in to the point that you really want to help, or you would really love to see them wiped on the earth and not just the island.

So just for the joy, and anger, the story brings I will give it high marks and love it……. If only everything was so grand….

I am maybe half way through it, and have found a lot wrong with it, the aesthetics leave a lot to be desired. Some of the speaking animations  kind of remind me of someone trying to talk with a leaf blower blowing into their mouth.

The citizen NPCs AI’s are bad… not just bad but God awful, they will either stand still in the street, or walk back and forth in a 10 foot radius, or 20 foot if you are lucky. And in the buildings in is not unusual to see on go stand in a corner  after you speak to them.

 And sometimes when you speak to some of the main arc characters in a convo they glow, not sure how or why but they do, and it tends to draw your attention to it.

Also, the clipping, you will see a lot of the outfits that are worn, and not just the NPC’s but sometimes you as well, you will notice bodies clipping through the clothing. And it takes a lot out of the immersion from the story.

Something else I have found just distracting as hell is when you are given something, there is no animation for it, none. The screen goes black then comes back up and you have whatever it is in your inventory.

Something else I have noticed, there are only maybe a dozen faces being used in the entire game so far, you can get an NPC with the exact same face as one of your followers.

 And if you get into a fight in town, 99 times out of 100 none of the citizens will react, they just walk on by and sometimes through it.

They have lock picking as a skill, and I wonder why? I think it was just to add something to the skills tree, of which there are 3.  You point a point into it and you can pick anything up to the next level of lockpicking. And if you are in a NPC’s home, you can lock pick their chest right next to them and they don’t even care.

As for the skill trees themselves I find them very confusing on when you get points into what. You gain a level, but only gain one point in one skill, and they don’t even alternate. So you never know what skill point you will get when.

The UI isn’t very clear either. It took me a while to find out how to switch from using spells to using a sword, and I still haven’t a clue on how to draw my gun. I go into options or settings and it tells me nothing, so if you know how, please let me know.

 The Graphics are great in some areas and severely lacking in most of the others

See the hairy starfish, that's supposed grass. I have not seen something  like that since the first “Everquest” game

As you can see in this next picture, that is what grass  should look like. By the way that shot is from Skyrim, the first one, which is over ten years old, and they got the grass right.

If you hate invisible walls as much as I do, I am sorry to say you will become as frustrated as I have. You will be exploring, looking for resources then BAM were it looks clear you just can't go any farther for whatever reason. I hate that part of it.

This is an example of them just standing in a corner or against the wall

Now while it does have a great story, the feeling I get from playing it is that is is still in alpha, unfinished and sorely lacking in many areas and I certainly hope the devs will fix this “Rush job” of a game with updates ASAP. because right now, if I am being totally honest, Skyrim is better.

Would I recommend this game? Hmm… I would have to say yes, because of the storyline, but only when it is on sale for at least %50 off.

 I hope I was able to help you with your choices and as always


Nydia Tungsten