Microsoft and developer Team Dakota are effectively shutting down Project Spark as it will no longer be available for download via the Xbox Store or its Windows counterpart today, May 13th.
Online services will still be supported until August 12th. This means players will still be able to download and upload user-generated content.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for our team that we do not take lightly,” Team Dakota community manager Thomas Gratz said in a statement. “When Project Spark transitioned away from active development last fall, many of our team members moved to other projects within Microsoft Studios. While this means there have been no layoffs at Microsoft, it also means it’s simply no longer feasible to continue the behind-the-scenes work involved with keeping Project Spark up and running with meaningful updates and bug fixes, so we have come to this hard decision.”
Microsoft will offer Xbox or Windows Store credits to players who purchased a retail copy of the game. Nothing has been said about the downloaded copies.
Announced back in 2013, Project Spark was Microsoft’s answer to the Play Create Share games trend start by PlayStation’s LittleBigPlan. Project Spark was a more robust, ambitious take on the create/share aspect of it.
The highly anticipated console for Nintendo entitled Nintendo NX will be officially released sometime in March 2017. Little information is known about Nintendo NX despite the fact that we have only a year left before it is released. Nintendo has even decided not to reveal any information regarding the Nintendo NX for this upcoming E3. There have been numerous speculations as to the direction Nintendo NX will take from cloud-based gaming to a hybrid home/handheld console. One thing for sure is that Nintendo will once again introduce a brand new concept for gaming which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Nintendo Wii decided to integrate motion sensors with the Wii remote and nunchuk back in 2006 while the Nintendo WiiU decided to tackle the tablet scene with its tablet-inspired controller in 2012. For better or for worse, Nintendo is definitely not a stranger when it comes to going against the norm.
However, the overall success of Nintendo has declined over the years, more specifically with the last couple of years with the Nintendo WiiU. Despite the enormous success with the Wii, the WiiU is considered a disappointment in sales by comparison. One of the major reasons for this was due to consumer confusion caused by the marketing of the WiiU prior to its release. Many thought that the WiiU was simply a new controller that somehow connected with the existing Wii console as opposed to a new home console. Hopefully Nintendo learns from this and markets the Nintendo NX appropriately, the last thing Nintendo needs is more marketing mishaps.
In all honestly, I don’t really have an opinion on this matter simply due to lack of information. Like I previously stated, we have a year left until the release of the Nintendo NX and we still have little to no information. However, Nintendo did state that they will reveal more information later on this year but no specific date has been announced. This does fuel concern and uncertainty since this may be pushing too close to the deadline. The consumers will need some time to process everything. The combination of well-informed consumers and appropriate marketing will definitely be a key factor to the success of the Nintendo NX which is why I briefly mentioned the marketing mishap of the Nintendo WiiU. All that’s left is to look forward towards the second half of this year for further information.
The bracket stage is upon us now as 4 teams vie for title of 2016 MSI Champions. There were many surprises during group stage with CLG over performing to a 2nd seed standing. It was predicted for CLG to be the number 5 seed with FW as a number 3. There were almost no expectations for NA’s storied franchise to win any games except for those with Turkey.
Gut Prediction: CLG wins 3 games to 1
Why? CLG has swept FW on both games against each other. It is clear FW doesn’t respect CLG even after being routed 0-2 so far and that can only spell disaster to a team like CLG that never says never. CLG is very hot right now too. Coming off a high as the only team to defeat RNG during group stages is nothing to scoff at even for a Bo1.
Why people may disagree: Mandatory “It was Bo1 not a Bo5”. The games were close. RNG’s game was a fluke. They lost to Turkey.CLG chokes at big events.
Blueprints for success: FW
Caitlyn ban is not worth it. Picking could be worth it. Ban Kalista
Both Huhi and Darshan try very hard to make plays and sometimes get caught out stupidly because of this. Try to get Huhi and Darshan on low impact champions.
Darshan has been stellar on poppy. Let him use maokai if you value ekko and try to win sub30.
Standard lanes. CLG has been one of the best in lane swap scenarios.
Pick up alistar if they do not ban it.
The best player to try to exploit is Huhi. He has a lot more mental and mechanical miscues. Teams have tried to pick on botlane and toplane with no success.
The numbers are out and we have a winner! According to the NPD Group, the PlayStation 4 was the top-selling console in the United States last month.
The PlayStation 4 beat out both Xbox One and Wii U in sales for not only the month of April but also the for March and February.
NPD Group’s Liam Callahan reported that hardware sales have dropped when compared to April of last year. This was primarily caused by a 19 percentage decline of $30.4 million in console sales. Current generation console spending also dropped by 15 percent and last-gen hardware has declined over 70 percent.
With the talks of Sony releasing an upgraded PlayStation, Microsoft prototyping new ideas for the their console and NX said to launch in 2017, NPD console sale numbers may spike up again if new upgraded hardware is introduced later this year.
The bracket stage is upon us now as 4 teams vie for title of 2016 MSI Champions. There were many surprises during group stage casting doubt upon SKT as the now number 4 seed going against RNG the number 1 seed in the tournament. It was predicted for SKT to be the number 1 seed with RNG as a close number 2 and for these two juggernauts to battle it out in the finals. These two teams have split their games one apiece with each other during the group stage, but, as many people point out, Best of 1’s are vastly different from Best of 5.
Gut Prediction: RNG wins 3 games to 2
Why? RNG has been playing their games in dominating fashion. Mata, RNG’s superstar support, has been on fire lately. The second game is the only reason to give me pause and say that SKT can take 2 games instead of just 1. SKT may have a better overall history, but Mata and Looper are also proven championship winners. Expect to see SKT target ban Mata and leave more power picks open for RNG.
Why people may disagree: SKT is the most winningest organization. History has shown they have flourished under pressure and best of 5’s. Best of 1’s are no indicator of skill.
Blueprints for success: SKT
SKT should try to target ban Mata’s pool ( Alistar and/or Bard) and MLXG’s nidalee. These are first two pick emphasis for RNG. LB is also something to worry about.
Do not ban twitch and save it to bait RNG into picking it if they lose 1-2 games to you. Prepare for a twitch pick/comp if you are up 1-2 games.
RNG will most likely target Kindred, Trundle and Ryze. Try to pick up Graves if Nidalee and Kindred are gone. This will make MLXG pick Lee Sin.
Use Zilean for Game 1. This will create the series tempo and uncertainty. It will most likely draw bans or influence the rest series’ pick/ban.
If Trundle is free, let Alistar slide in and ban bard last.
Day 1 of the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational in Shanghai is now in the books and we are only 3 hours away from the next round of Day 2. The matches lived up to our high expectations for an action packed day at Shanghai.
For those not familiar or new with the scene, MSI is a League of Legends tournament hosted by Riot Games. The teams that qualify are number one in their respective League, or region, by the end of the first half of the season. In general, each region’s League season has two sections which referred to as “Splits”. The first split, “Spring Split”, and the second split, “Summer Split”, are both counted almost as their own season with their own playoff within their respective region. MSI takes the winner of the Spring Split playoffs of every region and puts them in a round robin group stage where the top 4 teams (by record) get put into a best of five single elimination bracket stage.
The regions participating are the North American League “NA” (NA LCS), European League “EU” (EU LCS), Korean League “KR” (LCK), China League “CN” (LPL), South-East Asia League “TW/HK/MO” (LMS), and Wildcard Region which is a culmination of smaller regions that compete in a WildCard Invitational tournament. Every organization will represent their region since the MSI tournament will determine which regions will earn top four seeds in the 2016 World Championship.
Represented by CLG (Counter Logic Gaming), bolsters a squad with a chip on their shoulder. CLG is an organization that has been there since the beginning and is considered one of the forefathers of League organizations. Even though they are a storied franchise, they have struggled since the heyday of their original roster. Many people write them off and write off NA as a whole when it comes to the big 5 regions as they are known to choke at the international stage. There is intense rivalry and bragging rights when it comes to NA and EU.
Represented by G2, which is a brand new team of decent mechanical players. They have exceeded expectations within their season and have played with convincing dominance. Many people have attributed them as inconsistent at times, much like how the LPL is seen as. When they are on point, they look absolutely brilliant — but when they do tend to make the occasional odd decisions. They are considered the ‘Wild Card’ team of the tournament in the fact that it would not be surprising if they grabbed top 3.
Represented by SKT1, this region and organization is considered the overlords. They always show a dominant showing and the region as a whole is always expected to take number 1. SKT1 is the only organization to be a two-time World Champion, among other accolades. Everyone on the organization is a new face except their star midlaner Faker. Who many have called the Michael Jordan of League.
Represented by RNG (Royal Never Give Up), is the one organization that could give SKT1 a run for their money. RNG has always shown great performances at the international stage. LPL known for their over-aggression fields Korean imports and former World Champions Mata (Support) and Looper (Toplane) to help make their aggression more calculated.
Represented by FW (Yoe Flash Wolves), is emerging as a respectable region overtaking NA and quite possibly EU in international ranking. Much like LPL, the LMS region is known for looking for fights with aggression. They are considered to be top 4 on the international stage with LMS and EU being interchangeable at the 3 and 4 rank.
Represented by SUP (SuperMassive), is an organization from Turkey that really has no expectations to do anything but gain international experience. It is common for Wildcards to be just fodder at these tournaments due to their smaller region/infrastructure and limited exposure to the international stage. No one expects them to do better than 6th place.
What to Watch Out For
Everyone has the usual power rankings of (1)SKT1, (2)RNG, (3)FW, (4)G2, (5)CLG, (6) SUP with #3 and #4 being interchangeable. After Day 1, however, it looks like CLG (1-1) is on the uptrend as they had strong showings against RNG and FW. Their loss to RNG was a very close loss and CLG looked very strong considering them throwing out an unexpected and untested pick. G2 (0-2) seems to be struggling and have been joked about being the true “Wildcards” since SUP (0-2) despite being the same record showed better efforts in their loss. Besides that, SKT1 and RNG are to be expected at a dominant 2-0 record. They are poised to play each other in a few hours which will, as some people will expect to be a preview of the MSI Finals.
CLG will make top 4 instead of G2. It will not be surprising to see CLG make it to 2nd or 3rd.
The new highly anticipated DLC for Don’t Starve entitled Shipwrecked was released for beta on December 1st and officially released on March 31st. The new expansion pack strays away from it’s predecessors where we are presented with a tropical setting. This will be a relatively short review as well and I shall point out the major aspects of the DLC.
One of the major aspects of the DLC is water. Don’t Starve Shipwrecked heavily emphasizes water-based game mechanics that affects and is affected by the weather, biomes, creatures, and so forth. From existing games mechanics such as rainfall and wetness meter to new games mechanics such as waves and flooding, there are more status and environmental effects that provides a new gameplay experience.
Waves are a new game mechanic that functions as obstacles if the player is hit with them or functions as a speed boost by traveling in the same direction. Waves also come in two tiers: small and large. Flooding is another new game mechanic where the ground will eventually become flooded with water with continuous rainfall. If left unattended, non-elevated structures may be unable to function such as research stations. It is recommended that players take extra precautionary steps to prepare for flooding so that non-elevated structures remain intact for use.
Since Don’t Starve Shipwrecked is an expansion pack for a continuous game, there are still aspects of the game I have yet to encounter due to the scale of the game. The time elapsed in-game can range from a few days to hundreds. Despite that, Don’t Starve Shipwrecked is an overall great expansion pack that provide hours of gameplay with new content. Those who enjoyed Don’t Starve Reign of Giants will enjoy Don’t Starve Shipwrecked as well, especially those who love tropical settings. All that’s left is to look forward to the new expansion pack Klei Entertainment comes out with.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft never stood a chance. Or so I though because my natural instinct was to side with the one trading card game (TCG) I’ve known for years. But the more I heard of this game, the more I wanted to play. Days later, I downloaded my free copy. I quickly learned that Hearthstone is the most natural free-to-play games out there, and not to spoil the end of this review, but I love it.
It is just absurd how fun this game is. Hearthstone’s presentation is very colorful, it gives the game that World of Warcraft look that some players can relate to, but it isn’t for everyone. The cute houses and the pretty waterfalls that decorate the perimeter of the battlefield (or board) can make Hearthstone look like a child’s book. Granted, this is done to achieve that WoW look and feel, but some gamers may avoid it like a plague.
If you look pass Hearthstone’s style, you begin to understand why the developers chose it instead Blizzard’s other games like StarCraft or Diablo. This is a friendly, approachable game that everyone can come into and have fun. The game doesn’t even take itself seriously. At one point, it will be making fun of its own shenanigans. It’s quite funny, actually.
When you first start the game, you’re dropped into a rather lengthy tutorial, but it feels nothing like one. The guys at Blizzard have done an amazing job at teaching you the rules of the game without holding your hand every step of the way.
By playing the tutorial you’ll begin to appreciate the simplicity of Hearthstone’s gameplay. The fast-paced commotion going on all over you as cards take effect gives you a thrilling, twitchy feeling that can’t be matched by other TCG video games. This game is fast, simple, but strategy is at its core, and you can certainly make a comeback with a few well-placed strategic moves.
Don’t judge the game based on the first few stages of the tutorial because after it, the playground is opened wide and the level of strategic planning can get quite deep. Once in a while, though, it will come down to the luck of the draw. Drawing that one card you needed to turn the table at the very last second can completely change the match.
Once the tutorial ends, Hearthstone’s game modes open up. They are shallow, but since it’s a trading card game, I won’t hold it against it. Play mode has you duel with another person online on either ranked or unranked matches that earn you levels, in-game currency and sometimes you also get new card packs. Practice mode is basically your single player experience where you can hone your skills, earn a few levels and new cards along the way. Duel mode is the mode where you can challenge your friends within BattleNet.
Then there is Arena, Arena is Hearthstone’s very unique risk/reward mode where you have to pay with in-game money or real money in order to participate. The mode has you construct a deck from a random pile of cards and play with that deck for a series of duels. If you successfully accomplish this feat, you’ll earn gold, Arcane Dust, special cards, and golden heroes.
Arena showcases one of Hearthstone’s great uses of the free-to-play model. You can play Practice mode and Play mode for free as many times as you want, but you can buy new card packs and other items with in-game currency or real-world money. This is a smart and natural way to tackle the Free-to-Play model because in the real world, you would also buy extra card packs, decks, and so on. The only concern is that they keep things balanced between the new cards and your standard starting deck.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a solid TCG that triumphs over the competition by offering a fun, fast, simple, and progressively intricate experience. While there is not much to buy on the game’s store at this moment, Blizzard will most certainly support the game for years to come, giving us a vast variety of goodies. At the end of the day, Hearthstone will give you an endless fix to your TCG cravings.
The highly anticipated DLC for The Binding of Isaac Rebirth was released on October 30th which is appropriate since Halloween follows the next day. The overall expansion adds even more items, room layouts, bosses, and modes. This will be a relatively short review and I shall point out the major aspects of the DLC.
One of the major additions provided with the DLC are the items. Whether passive or active, the items add even more combinations and synergies that give a multitude of results. Some may benefit you while others may be your downfall, this definitely provokes more thought before picking up that new item. In regards to the items individually, there are a few that I can honestly do without. However, this all comes down to preference as each person will differ based on their gameplay style.
Another major addition provided with the DLC is Greed Mode. Prior to the DLC, we were only provided two modes which are Normal and Hard Mode. The player must clear 10 floors in order to reach mega greed which is a new boss introduced with Afterbirth. The player is presented with a normal room, treasure room, shop room, curse room, and a devil room (if you complete the entire floor) with each level until they reach the boss. After clearing one round, the player can immediately go to the next level if he or she chooses too. However, It is heavily encouraged to clear the floor entirely before moving onto the next floor to gain more powers and items. The level design of Greed Mode definitely strays away from Normal and Hard Mode. The player has more control in regards to the items they can gain and the number of monsters he or she takes on. Overall, the addition of Greed Mode provides new gameplay and an over experience in the event players get bored with Normal and Hard Mode.
The last major addition provided with the DLC is Lilith. Lilith is a new character where her power lies in her familiar. Since Lilith is blind, she relies on her familiar to attach in her place. Lilith also comes with her default item entitled “Box of Friends” which allows her to double the amount of familiars she currently has in her party so the more familiars she gains, the more powerful she becomes. Overall, the addition of Lilith provides more value to those who love to use familiars for their gameplay.
The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth is an overall great expansion pack that provide hours of gameplay with new content. Those who enjoyed The Binding of Isaac Rebirth will enjoy The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth by default. All that’s left is to look forward to the new expansion pack.
A new version of The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth will for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will be released on May 10th.
One month ago I did a retrospective on Final Fantasy X, one of my favorite games of all time. I felt that with the re-release of such an iconic game that it deserved attention and I, like many other fans of the game, could not wait to get my hands on this version and revisit the world of Spira that had taken so much of time over 10 years ago. Since then I have played the game a lot and shunned many other responsibilities and duties (have you noticed I haven’t been writing anything since then?). As of this moment I am at the 70+ hour mark in the game and am in the process of going through the checklist of completing every single side quest in the game, something that I accomplished on the PS2 version previously. Now that I have spent so much time with the game in its remastered HD form I feel that it is a good time to check back in, especially for those who have played FFX in the past are have decided that it would be silly to purchase a game that they have already played, mastered, and completed.
First, the obvious parts. Every reviewer of this game has talked up the same enhancements that Square Enix promoted: updated graphics, sound, and for those in North America, a different international version versus what we received. There then came the brief descriptions of what these improvements mean along with some nostalgic comment about Final Fantasy and why can’t the new games be as good as this. Okay, enough of that, now what is the game like after a significant time investment?
The music is amazing. Now I know, it’s the same music as the previous, so what is the difference. Well first the music has been rearranged and remastered and the difference is significant. One of the first things I noticed was how sharp the violin sections were, as if the producers really wanted to point out that aspect of the theme and have it stand out over the rest of the melody. Though many may think this is just a small detail, it truly builds on the presentation of the game and its settings. Having the right audio track with visual mediums adds to the overall experience, making it more memorable and assists in creating the tone that the director is attempting to create with each scene. I give high marks to musical arrangement of the game and put it right up there with any current game release.
Unfortunately, one issue I have found with the music is that the mixing between the audio dialogue and background music is now not balanced well. There have been numerous instances in the game where I was straining to hear what the character was saying, often at important plot points in the story. For a game whose story is the most important part of the experience, the mixing has done it a disservice. Yes the music is good, but I shouldn’t have to try and block it out mentally in an attempt to listen to what the characters are saying.
When Square first decided to remake their games for next generation consoles their first attempt was a release called Final Fantasy Anthology here in North America way back in 1999. It was a port of FFV and FFVI with additional cut scenes for the PS1 and it was plagued by an issue that made the game unplayable for me, disc loading times. For me to truly convey to you how frustrating the game was, FFVI is probably my all time favorite Final Fantasy title (#retrogaming), and the disc loading times caused me to never make it past the one hour point in gameplay. I just could not do it.
FFX suffers from some noticeable loading times but luckily nowhere near the afore mentioned Anthology title. There are times though where there can be a wait upwards of ten seconds for something to load, an issue that game developers have learned to disguise with transition scenes or other tactics to take your mind off the loading time, unfortunately this game does not have it. Does it ruin the experience, no. But for those who played the original you will notice it and wonder what is taking so long.
Now the gameplay. Here is where I have begun to really notice the difference between my original experience and I’m wondering if it has to do with the updated international version or am I just not as a good of a gamer as I once was.
This game is harder, and I don’t know why. I never remember having my party wiped out as often as I do in this game. I have found myself needing to grind for experience points or getting specific armor and weapons for areas that I remember being able to just power through with sheer force. I think part of this comes from the difference in the sphere grids. I am using the expert grid as opposed to the original sphere grid setup that was the only option we had in North America and it has changed my character development immensely. This is all a good thing, I often felt that FFX was a little on the easy side and didn’t give you any real challenge, but that has changed.
Developing your characters on the expert sphere grid is now an involved process where the sphere grid presents you with several options of where you can take their development. If you had not played the original, you wouldn’t know that Auron’s standard skills are the “break” attacks because there is an option almost immediately in the sphere grid to move onto the grids of Tidus or Wakka. This ability to customize your character and easily move between the standard grids of characters really presents something new to the game and I enjoy it. For those who do not have the knowledge of the abilities though it can be perilous, some of the abilities are vital in progressing through the game and a wrong move down the grid can set you up at a great disadvantage against normal enemy encounters, but again I like the challenge.
There are two other points of the game that I wish to address and this is specifically for those who have already played the game before and are working on the final side quests, so….
*semi-not plot related-spoiler alert*
The Dark Aeons are new to us in North America and I remember reading about them 10+ years ago and wishing that we got them on our version. Now that I have run into a few of them I am glad that I wasn’t put through the initial frustration. My first experience with one was in Besaid, I was going to get the Jecht sphere there by the temple and ran into Dark Valefor at the entrance to the town. I thought to myself, cool, I haven’t fought one of these before so let’s see how I do. I never hit him. He hit my party 3 times, each for 99,999hp. Thank god I had saved at the save sphere up the road.
I don’t really know at this point how I’m going to go about dealing with the Dark Aeons other than super grind to get to the level I’ll need to be at. I knew they were supposed to be strong but doing the max hp damage possible on a single hit is a little ridiculous. I’ve run into Dark Ixion, Dark Bahamut, and the Dark Magus Sisters as well and have either been able to run away or suffered a tremendous beating. I’m going to beat them someday, but it is not anytime soon.
The other thing I’ve experienced that is new is the sheer difficulty of attaining the Celestial Weapons of Tidus and Lulu. On the PS2 version I got every weapon. On this version I don’t think it will be happening. Beating the chocobo race to get the sigil for Tidus has always been a combination of luck and skill, more so luck in my opinion and I’m close but I just don’t have as much free time as I did when I was a college student who never did homework. As for dodging lightning for Lulu, I can’t do it. I don’t recollect it being too difficult on the PS2 version. Yes it took me a while and I’m sure I would get up to like 180 dodges and then mess up, but this new version is impossible for me. I can’t get back a streak of 2. I don’t even know if 2 in a row is considered a streak but regardless of that I can’t do it. I don’t know what is different but something is. Maybe it’s my controller, maybe it’s my reaction time diminishing, maybe I am just too old to be mashing an X button, whatever it is I can’t do it. I would love to hear experiences from others regarding the lightning dodging.
Anyways, I’m 70 hours into the game and it has been fun. An enjoyable time spent playing a game that truly evolved what we think of as a modern RPG. Yes there are a few little issues with the game but there always will be. I still stick with my original statement that those who have played FFX in the past should pick this up, and for those new to Final Fantasy, this deserves to be on your shelf. For those wondering about FFX-2, sorry but I just don’t really care for that game and I have decided that I will be putting my time elsewhere. I haven’t even finished Lightning Returns yet and that holds a much higher priority than seeing Yuna be a pop star. This is my story.