Okcate’s Out and About: Keep in Mind

imageHi there folks! This is my neighborhood; I get to see sunsets, large trees, and open sky, though I’m just a few minutes from the buzz of Downtown and right next to TU. A lucky city dweller am I.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the growth Tulsa’s got going on, and while I’ll be one of the first to admit I’m psyched about much of it, some current development and future proposals have got me worried.

I began to write a blog about this issue many times, but I kept hitting a wall. So here’s a slightly different approach:

Keep in Mind:

Whoa there
Slow down there
Take a look around here

At the sky, the rivers, the ground
Listen close to the sounds

The buzz of the bees, the chirps of the birds, the pulse of the Earth

Whoa there
Slow down there
Take a good look around here

Open yourself, let them in
The sacred sites of the city
The ones that hold mystery
Hold soul, hold heart, teach history

Glass and steel make a sparkling skyline
But there’s life in a tree line
That man just can’t fake
Love in old neighborhoods
A faux-finish can’t replicate

Let’s make our changes
Our rearranges
Our mark

But keep in mind

The sun will warm you, and the moon will guide you
There is no late-night street light
That can love you like that

Glass and steel make a sparkling skyline
But there’s life in a tree line
That man just can’t fake
Love in old neighborhoods
A faux-finish can’t replicate

Let’s make our changes
Our rearranges
Our mark

But keep in mind

The leaves will grant you breath
The blue of the sky, the green of the grass
Is truer than any buck you pass

Whoa there
Slow down there
Take a look around here

And keep this in mind

In the name of progression
In the search for perfection
Profit margins, and the bottom line

The balance is fine

Fashionably Late: E3 2015

E3-2015-logo

Hey, true-believers, long time no see! Prepping the print run of The Astonishing Bobcat: Hero Worship has been eating up much my time lately, but I’m still alive and kicking! I decided to publish this E3 writeup under the Fashionably Late header, since it’s now more than a week behind.

In my continuing efforts to keep these writeups to a sightly less Melvillian length, I’m going to try a new format this year; instead of recapping all the major conferences, I’m going to talk about my top ten and bottom ten news items from this year’s E3. Most of these items will be games, but some of them will just be events that happened around the conference. So without further ado, let’s dive in. In the interest of positivity, I’m going to lead with the best of the show:

Top 10

10. Nindies@Home: Nintendo’s decision to experiment with their E3 presentations has led to a lot of cool stuff in recent years, like the Best Buy E3 demos and the return of the Nintendo World Championships, but none of what they’ve done has surprised me as much as this move here. During the week of E3, Nintendo released the floor demos for several indie games on the eShop, with the promise of a 15% discount on those games once they’ve released for everyone who downloaded the demos and tried them out. This is a great move to raise hype for games that might otherwise go unnoticed; I know that of the 9 games demoed, I plan to buy at least half of them, possibly more if the developers work out some of the kinks before they’re released. It was a really neat surprise, and I’d love to see Nintendo do more promotions like this going forward.

9. Dishonored 2: This one would have ranked higher, but Bethesda only showed a CGI teaser for the game, so I can’t in good conscience let myself get too hyped about this reveal. Still, the mere fact that they’ve announced a sequel to one of my favorite games of the last hardware generation was enough to put a grin on my face…and admittedly, the trailer did look pretty badass. The few details Bethesda has revealed, like the fact that they’re moving away from the Unreal Engine for development and the ability to play as either returning protagonist Corvo or the newly-playable Emily Caldwin, have me excited to learn more. And speaking of Emily…

8. More Female Protagonists: Remember last year’s E3, when one of the big stories on gaming sites was that Assassin’s Creed: Unity wouldn’t have playable female characters because they were “too hard to animate?” Well, it seems that the developers and publishers in attendance were listening to the backlash that hit Ubisoft, because a whole slew of games were shown featuring protagonists of the be-ovaried variety, including two new exclusive IPs from Sony and Microsoft (Horizon: Zero Dawn and ReCore, respectively), new installments in series with female protagonists (Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge), several games with fully customizable protagonists and even the first FIFA game to include female teams. Not a bad turn-around, all things considered.

7. DOOM: Regular readers will know that this year I played through Doom for the first time. This playthrough left me really excited to try Doom 3…an excitement that was rather short-lived. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself since I have actually started a writeup for Doom 3 and plan to post it once I’ve finished the game (…eventually…) but suffice to say that their attempt to turn Doom 3 into a horror-focused title over an action-focused one left me cold after the high-octane thrill ride of the original Doom. Well, from the looks of what we were shown at this year’s E3, id Software has learned their lesson, because Doom 4 (confusingly re-titled DOOM) looks like fast-paced, gory, crazy demon-fighting action. When I get my gaming PC, I’ll be making sure it’s built to run this game, and I’m not sure there’s higher praise I could give to this reveal. As for Doom 3, I’m going to finish it and its expansions out before posting my review. I’m told that the game starts to get good not long after the point I’m currently at (…please get better…). On the subject of demons, though…

6. Genei Ibun Roku #FE: Formerly (tentatively) titled Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, this game is the announced collaboration between Atlus and Intelligent Systems. E3 2015 is not the first time this game has been shown, but the previous trailers were…confusingly saccharine, to be blunt, and didn’t really feel like either SMT or Fire Emblem, something that was very off-putting to me as a recent convert to both series. However, after watching the Nintendo Treehouse footage of the actual gameplay, I feel like I finally get where the designers are coming from on this one…and I like it. GIR#FE (or whatever they ultimately call it for the American release) went from being one of my least anticipated titles of the show to one of my most anticipated, and I can’t wait to play it on my Wii U.

5. Persona 5: Speaking of Atlus, while Persona 5 technically didn’t make an appearance at this year’s E3, a new trailer for the game did leak shortly after the conference, and it looks pretty damn awesome. I haven’t really gotten into the Persona sub-series of SMT yet, but Persona 5 looks like it might be the jumping-on point I’ve been waiting for. My only real gripe (if you can call it that) is that, from what was shown, the game doesn’t look like anything that the PS3 couldn’t handle…which just makes me wonder what the big deal with the PS4 version of the game is supposed to be?

4. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water: This is another long-running series that I’ve never really gotten into, but ever since MoBW was confirmed for a North American release a few months ago, I’ve been curious about this one, and the trailer that was shown at E3 cemented my excitement. The game looks suitably creepy and off-beat, and the use of the Gamepad as the ghost-fighting Camera Obscura is exactly the sort of inspired Gamepad implementation we haven’t been seeing for the past three years of the Wii U’s life. As such, I’m definitely buying this one…even if I ultimately prove to be too much of a chicken to finish it (Rikes, Raggy!).

3. Super Mario Maker: This is another title, much like GIR#FE, where my hype for this game was pretty low going in, but the footage shown by Nintendo really grabbed my interest. While I found the concept of a Mario level editor interesting in the abstract, seeing the possibilities for level creation, hearing about the online sharing and Amiibo options and seeing Miyamoto and Tezuka talk about level design and their vision for the came (screw the haters, it was charming) really got me pumped for this one. I think SMM just became a day-one purchase for me, and it’s one Wii U title I can see myself playing for a loooong time.

2. Star Fox Zero: This was easily one of my most anticipated titles of the show going in, and what was shown did nothing but increase my excitement. The announcement of the collaboration with Platinum Games, the smoother-than-12-year-Scotch gameplay footage, the neat vehicles and transformation modes, and that wonderfully cheesy vibe all have me excited to play my first Star Fox title since Star Fox 64. This is going to be another day-one purchase for me, and I can’t wait.

1. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, alongside Dishonored, was one of the best titles I’ve played in the last few years, so when I heard a sequel was coming down the pipe, I was pretty excited. The gameplay trailer that Square-Enix showed at this year’s E3 took me from “excited” to “grinning like an overly sugared 10-year-old.” This game looks even more amazing than its predecessor, which is quite an accomplishment. My only regret is that it won’t be on the Wii U, because I loved the Gamepad implementation in the Wii U version of DE:HR so much. This is definitely another “make sure my PC can handle this game” title, and is my personal pick for best game of the show.

Well, that’s enough gushing and positivity. We’ve sampled the cream; let’s shovel the crap:

Bottom 10

10. “Fem Freak”: Gamergate is like the herpes simplex of gaming fandom; just when you start to forget it exists, another outbreak of ugliness erupts. This time it came in the form of some obnoxiously stupid posters plastered around the perimeter of the E3 convention hall, bashing popular Gamergate punching-bag Anita Sarkeesian. Between the ugly hatefulness and the awful “All your Base” reference, this one would rank higher on my list, but thankfully it was kept out of the convention itself, and like most Gamergate activities, it did more to hurt their cause than help it. Still, it was a canker sore on an otherwise pretty decent conference.

9. Sony’s Backwards Compatibility Response: One of the high points of Microsoft’s conference was the announcement that they would be finally be implementing backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles on the Xbox One. Sure, it’s a piecemeal software emulation solution and it’ll never capture every game that was released on the 360, but the fact that Microsoft’s even trying this gives them a leg-up on their nearest competition. Sony’s response? “Eh, people don’t really want BC anyway.” Sure, Sony. Whatever you say. Just don’t count on getting a PS4 sale from me until I’ve finished my non-compatible PS3 titles then. So, I’ll see you about…never, then?

8. Vita?: On the subject of arrogant missteps by Sony, what the hell happened with the Vita? Sony basically sent the damn thing out to die from its first year onward, and aside from cross-play titles, they’re not even making a token effort to continue to feed games to their poor beleaguered handheld, and this year’s E3 was no exception.

7. NX Tease: While I like my Wii U, one of the reasons that many people criticized this year’s Nintendo conference is that they seem to be treading water with the platform, biding their time until their next system comes out…and that’s something I have a hard time disagreeing with. This was especially driven home by Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime’s announcement that Nintendo would…make an announcement about the next Nintendo system, code-named the NX, at next year’s E3. While there are still several games coming down the pipe for the Wii U that I’m looking forward to, the way Nintendo is already trying to drum up hype for their next system only half-way through the Wii U’s life-cycle doesn’t make me overly confident that we can expect an abundance of new content in the Wii U’s final days.

6. VR Hype-splosion: Listening to this year’s E3 coverage made me feel like I’d stepped into a time machine that couldn’t decide whether it was traveling back to 1995 or 2010. Every company seemed to be plugging some form of VR tech, whether it was Oculus Rift, Morpheus or Hololens, and it all reminded me both of that mid-90’s optimism that VR was the next big thing in gaming, and of that all-encompassing overconfidence that 3D TV would soon dominate the entertainment world. Call me a cynic, but I can’t see a gaming public that rejected both 3D TV and motion-control gaming embracing a technology that encompasses the worst aspects of both.

5. Remasters upon remasters…: This isn’t exactly a problem that’s only come up this E3, but it’s worth bringing up. A not-insignificant portion of both the Xbox One’s and PS4’s line-ups already consist of up-ports of games that are less than 5 years old, and it looks like we’re going to be getting even more of them, with remasters of the first three Uncharted games, God of War III and Devil May Cry 4. None of these are announcements that make me want to run out and spend $400 on a console so I can re-play games I played during Obama’s first term. Sony, Microsoft, it’s time to put up or shut up; for the love of Nolan Bushnell, make some new games, please. And on the subject of remakes, it’s time to talk about…

4. Final Fantasy VII Remake: I was amazed at the reaction to this announcement, I really was. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many people get excited over two minutes of CGI footage of vague narration and the main characters’ backs. I’ve said before that Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite video games ever. I’ve also said that the modern incarnation of Square-Enix wouldn’t know a good Final Fantasy game if it dropped from a skylight and rammed a Masamune through their collective chest. Combining these two facts ain’t exactly mixing peanut butter and chocolate. I have zero confidence in SE’s ability to not retroactively ruin the crown jewel of their premier franchise; after all, what do you think they’ve been trying to do for the last 10 years with the glorified fan-fiction known as the Compilation? With director Tetsuya Nomura already talking about making changes from the original story, I’m fully expecting a train wreck of epic proportions. I’m staying far, far away from this remake, and if you’re smart, you will too.

3. RIP Konami: Earlier this year, following rumors that their lead talent and auteur Hideo Kojima was leaving over creative differences, Konami announced that they would be shifting their focus to mobile game development and canning many of their ongoing projects, including a new Silent Hill game that looked pretty damn scary. Sure enough, Konami showed off Metal Gear Solid 5 at E3…and that was about it. Anybody hoping for a surprise announcement indicating a change of course was sorely disappointed, and I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that yet another amazing developer from my childhood is going the way of the dodo. Man, I’m feeling old. And I need a drink. What do old dudes drink, Highballs? Yeah bring me one of those. And get off my lawn when you’re done.

2. Petition to cancel Metroid Prime: Federation Force: Change.org is a great website that’s been used to organize petitions to affect social change on important issues such as discrimination, animal abuse, pollution and video games you don’t like…what’s that? You say that last item isn’t important? You say that using Change.org to request that a developer cancel a video game you decided you didn’t like from a two-minute trailer is infantile and a waste of important time and resources? Congratulations, you’re a functional human being! This is easily the worst, most embarrassing example of gamer entitlement I’ve ever seen, and frankly I’m more than a little ashamed to be linked to this fanbase, even by association. You hear that, Metroid fans? You are now the worst fanbase out there. Worse than the Sonic fans. Sonic fans. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

1. Sony Shenmue 3 Kickstarter: Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not upset that Shenmue 3 is finally getting made. What I’m upset about is Sony using Kickstarter as a testing ground to justify funding Shenmue 3. The entire idea of Kickstarter was that independent artists and creators of all stripes could crowd-fund work that otherwise would never see the light of day. Sony using it as a means of testing the waters for a game they’re thinking of funding is a perversion of that original mission, and it sets a dangerous precedent. If this works, and Shenmue 3 is a success, who’s to say that other game publishers won’t try the same thing? What about record companies or book publishers? Sony is mucking about in territory where they don’t belong here, and they are doing it with very unclear outcomes as to how much they’re going to do to actually back the project to fruition. This could be to crowdfunding what SuperPACS are to politics, and if you care one bit about independent art, that should terrify you.

Well, that wraps up my take on E3 2015. Keep an eye on the site; we’ve got more Astonishing Bobcat news coming your way soon, along with new blog posts from Okcate, reviews for Donkey Kong Country, SMT: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers and Doom 3. Till next time!