Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Drift Stage: Another SEGA Fan Game!!! My Opinions

There's a new indie game that popped onto the scene last week!  It's got a name and it's called "Drift Stage."  The name is pretty meh to me but check out the gameplay!  This is just a beta stage so never mind the blue/orange abyss.

Unlike The 90's Arcade Racer, which targets Daytona, Scud Race, and Indy 500, this Drift Stage game gives me and OutRun vibe.  The physics don't look that complicated--you can twitch in and out of drifts.  Very snappy, predictable handling which is good since responsive racing games tend to be the most fun of all.  It also reminds me of Ridge Racer (lol) and Screamer (old PC game).

This isn't on any sort of Kickstarter just yet.  It has a Tumblr site ( redirects to it) as well as the aforementioned gameplay clip but not much else.  Oh!  There's also Chase Pettit's Twitter (the game's lone programmer) and judging from this video, you can tell he's pretty diehard about his racing games!!

SPOILER ALERT: The car is a looping image.

ALSO, stumbling through this guy's Twitter, I found another little indie gem.  Thunder Desert GP for the Ouya (which is basically a dead console now but hey, points for effort), a 3D version of Super Hang-On.  Not sure how you can access such a game...I don't have an Ouya so I'm SOL from the start.

So...back to Drift Stage.  What do I really think?  It's a breath of fresh air.  I mean we're actually looking at gameplay footage, something that The 90's Arcade Racer hasn't delivered on for over a year.  Drifting looks like a lot of fun, however I'm a bit concerned that without manual transmission or unique track layouts (preferably with varying road widths) that the game will get too predicable or easy.  

The colors are nice and bright.  However, I think the game will be a little TOO saturated.  The demo video is entirely blue and orange which can be interpreted as "retro" but the original 1986 OutRun and even 1981 Turbo utilized the entire hue wheel.  Drift Stage's cars, a Ferrari 288 GTO/512 BB, a Lotus Esprit, and Toyota AE86, look quaint and pixelated (no "realistic car models" BS, thank God)  but again, the two-tone colors...make me consider the alternative--that fully-colored cars would fare better (or at least black tires).  It's an acquired taste, thus the more I observe this game, the more I'll loosen up to it.


The sense of speed and environments have great potential.  Barring the color palettes, the environments could use a wider variety of "stuff."  I only see two types of fences, buildings, trees, and other doodads.  One of the things that made OutRun so great is because you would whizz by so many things and give you that riveting sense of speed (I wrote a whole article about sense of speed).  if Drift Stage can capitalize on this, this game will be AWESOME.

Finally, the soundtrack.  I didn't like the music in that first gameplay video.  I can see they're trying to recreate OutRun's poppy jazz-fusion stuff so odds are I probably won't warm up to it for a while due to unfamiliarity.  But anyway, soundtrack (as well as audio) is KEY to these sort of games so hit it hard!  Get some real car engines and pay Richard Jacques to get his ass down here in the studio.

Yeah my review is a bit negative but consider it constructive criticism.  I want this game and The 90's Arcade Racer to succeed!!!

Also I'm honestly surprised that a lot of the Sega sites (SegaBITS, TSSZ News) didn't report shit on this game.  Why not?  Because it doesn't have the SEGA logo on it despite being heavily influenced by said arcade games?  Even lousy Kotaku beat those sites to the punch.  Labels aren't important anymore.  I love FAST-PACED, COLORFUL racing games.  Sega used to deliver on these but nowadays, not so much.  So while you guys give your write-ups on the next dreadful Sonic, Aliens, and Hatsune-Miku games, I'm going to focus on Sega's legacy.  So yeah, keep an eye out for Drift Stage!  GET READY!!  VROOM, VROOM!!....

When you post GIFs like this to promote your game, you're automatically a winner.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Staying Optimistic, Plus Uplifting Fan Mail

It has been in fact a long time since I had posted on the blog.  Rest assured, it makes me feel crummy when an idea starts to coalesce in my head and for whatever reason I peter out.  Racing games, Shenmue, Yu Suzuki, E3, my job, Slidell, Orlando, Austin.  Don't worry, I've paid plenty of attention to those things.  I'll probably address them once inspiration strikes (which can be a day to a year, I won't make any guarantees).

I did get an email on May 2013 that piqued my interest.  It's an email from a Musings of a Sega Racing Fan fan!  I remember reading this the day it was sent but for some reason I didn't reply.  I wasn't feeling good that day.  But it still perked me up a bit and reminded me what all this blog nonsense is all about.  I won't share the guy's name or e-mail unless he's okay with it.

Hello Eric,

it's been years since I planned on e-mailing you, but I never did.
You could have been my brother, I have always been passionate about Sega Arcade racing games. Really just Sega.
I have my own arcade room, which had it's fair share of Sega cabinets the past years. Some get replaced, some stay etc.

I started with collecting pretty much every Sega console and game ever released. In the end I had about 300 boxed mint versions of basically every console release, from every region, in every different visual version. The next step of course was going for the real thing, arcade machines.
I have owned pretty much every version of Daytona USA. The single LE, the Deluxe version (god, that thing is really to big I can tell you, it's practically unmovable), wooden twins, plastic twins etc.
Also Daytona USA 2, Scud Race twins etc.
In general as soon as I decide to sell one to get something else, I regret selling it and buy another one back. I think I had about 10 Daytona USA twins in the past years due to this, I just can't live without it :)
I don't play daily, I sometimes don't play for months, but I just must need to have that stuff in my arcade room.
Sadly, most Model 2-3 games start dying out in the world due to oldness (especially Video board problems in all these games), I guess it's a matter of time before almost no Model 2-3 game will be operational anymore. More the reason to hold on to working ones and hope they keep working.

I have no clue why I mail all this to you, I guess I just wanted to get in touch with you once, and tell you I have enjoyed your blog the past years, and really appreciate it.

*insert first name*

Thanks man.  I know it's been 433 days since I actually "replied" to your email.  It meant a lot to me reading it then as it does reading it now.  I don't own an arcade cabinet, mainly because they're so huge and I live in a second-story apartment, but I want to get that Daytona/Sega memorabilia.  I wear a Daytona (NASCAR) hat to work every other day, which is a pretty clever way for me to take Sega everywhere I go!  I should buy more Sega stuff, I should go to Daytona again and wave that stupid sign.  I don't care, it makes me feel good.  Sega fans have always been diehards and it shows.  Keep up the good fight!

But let's face it--Sega is a really stupid and disappointing company.  They blew up their consoles, beat Sonic into the ground, and disregard all their classic IPs.  I've been lackadaisical when it comes to getting the latest Sega news cause frankly, I know it's not going to be any good.  Sega makes a new Sonic, a new Yakuza, publishes another Aliens game, Hatsune Miku, what a piece of shit.  And then there's the classics we already have on consoles, PCs, and emulators.  I don't know whether it's a result of depression, work-related stress, aging, or the complete lack of progress made to any Sega racing game, but I definitely haven't been playing games as often as I used to.

But that's okay.  I think these games have gone past the point of me wanting to play them.  They've become "cultural"--they've shaped who I am and what I think about other games.  Daytona, OutRun, Sega Rally, Scud Race, Crazy Taxi--all games that are burnt into my psyche.  It's stuff that makes me exclaim "now THAT is cool!"  You take a game like Daytona, it only has one car and three tracks, yet somehow it's more memorable than 99% of the games I've played in my life.  I mean, just thinking about them, the cars, the atmosphere, the adrenaline, the soundtrack at any time gets me excited.  This doesn't mean I won't play these games anymore, it just means playing them is no longer a "requirement" to sanity or well-being.

I'd like to think that in all the disappointment in the last 14 years, at least Sega games made my life a little more blissful, optimistic, ambitious, and intriguing.  I admit this isn't the first time I've said this on my blog but living in a "post-Sega world" where I've become more realistic than I ever have about what they are capable of and how the game industry works, I think it's a pretty big damn deal.

As to what I've been doing recently, I've been flying under the radar but rest assured--I'm working.  I'm actually making forward progress with my career and when the time comes to work for Sega, for someone else, or on my own game, I'll be prepared.  Do not doubt me.  As for my readers (whichever ones are still left), stay loyal fans, don't give up, tell your friends, show off your flair, and MAYBE a little Sega goodness will rub off on your friends or game developers!  Take care!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cleaning Up The Site

If there's one thing to take away from my blogging hiatus.  I regret not trimming the fat on my site any sooner.  The central focus of the blog should be personal opinions of video games, cars, auto racing, and, to a certain extent, my personal life.  Topics like sports and TV have their respective places but not here.  Nobody clicks on a link titled "Musings of a Sega Racing Fan" to read about football, primetime television, pop culture, Internet memes, and so forth.  Also, less news aggregation and more opinions.  Cool, want to learn more about Sega, read SEGAbits or TSSZ News.  I can't "out-news" them if I tried (nor do I care to) so I should definitely focus on more essays and treatises.  I've definitely improved on that since four years ago but still, several posts with little-to-no context remain.

I've zapped a lot of said pointless posts recently.  This includes the three-year old Drew Brees/GameFAQs post that drew the ire of a couple of salty NFL Board posters.  The context of my post was, being the young "BS detector" I was, large swaths of the media was dogging on the Saints for stat-padding and because my animosity for GameFAQs was running high back then.  Oh, and a few NFL-related anecdotes of my own.  Boom, easy blog material for myself in a time where I posted at least one entry a day.  Fast forward three years I quickly stopped caring about what dreck was being said about the topic.  It was a "useless" post that I had no intention of revisiting again.  But alas, a shit storm came out of it.  The storm has been quelled (for now) and I don't want to revisit that either and give GameFAQs and the cretins that post there any more attention.  However, this was the impetus I needed to actually refurbish the site again.  Pick better topics to talk about, update the layout and the personal info, and other stuff that comes to mind in the future.  Oh, and finish the Super Sprint game I talked about.

Also one more thing.  On the blog posts in the future and the past, it's suffice to say that over four years, my interests, opinions, and worldviews have changed.  When I was young and brash, I was an Internet hipster that blasted everything and had quixotic views about the future.  Then you get older and the real world materializes itself before you.  Getting a job in the game industry is hard.  There are some battles you shouldn't fight.  You can't always get what you want.  And sometimes, the things you want weren't all that great to begin with.  As a result, a lot of old posts now look "stupid" in my eyes but hey, that's part of growing up.  The word "musings" is in the damn title which basically means nothing here is set in stone.  I can still work hard to achieve my original goals but now I'm a little wiser about it.  Now that I'm feeling rejuvenated, time to get back to work whenever my procrastination period ends.  Later...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Back In The Race, Baby!

Oh snap guys, where do I begin...

Well, as you guys know, I've been in the wilderness looking for game programming jobs for a whopping eight months (June 2013-March-2014).  It's been hell having to sit on the sideline and watch my friends' dreams come true and watch Sumo Digital/Sega jobs come and go.  I've spammed resumes to numerous game and simulation studios in the Southwest US.  I've done numerous phone screenings from recruiters and have taken a couple of written tests too.  Needless to say, I've gotten use to the phrase "we're not looking for someone with your skill set," which is the blandest way to say "you suck" without any good feedback on what to improve on.

But that's all changed now.  I am in sunny Austin, Texas at my new job in a inconspicuous game studio.  I'm honestly not telling you where I'm working.  All I know is out of all the butchered job applications, this place flew me in for an interview which resulted in a 2-hour written test, a 1-hour interview with two programmers, another 1-hour interview with two other programmers, and a 30-minute interview with two producers.  A 4-and-a-half hour long interview.  Thankfully I knocked it out of the park and everything that could've went well did.  The tides turned in my favor for once, thank God!

Again, I'm not inclined to tell you where I work.  It's not a racing game studio nor is it affiliated with Sega.  It's a place that treats me well and has the potential to be better than my previous two jobs.  I am in debt to them because if not for this generous offer, I'd still be out on my ass because I had no other leads at any other game studios.  Seriously, this company has been very nice to me thus far and I no longer have the disdain I once had for them.  Now not the time to be a hipster!  Don't let Reddit circlejerkers or personal vendettas get in the way.  Seriously, the Reddit crowd is useless.  Those slovenly neckbeards grovel and complain but they don't contribute anything of value besides shitty gaming memes.  Get off your ass, get a gaming degree and a job, and make your own games for once.  Otherwise, shut the fuck up.

I have to work hard to impress my coworkers.  I'm serious when I say this because through grief comes wisdom.  I learned what not to do at my previous jobs and now I have a chance to put that wisdom to work.  Also, I have nothing else to do in Austin so why not sell myself wholly to my work?  I need to make money anyway so I'm going to hone in on my work as much as possible.  The fear of being fired for a third time lingers in my head and I have to power through it and get my stuff done and NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

"Gentlemen, it is better to have died as a small boy than to break the build," said no one ever (until now).

Also, a little solace to my firing at my previous job.  Basically, when I was let go at the end of May, the game I was working on was canceled in November and a bunch of people were laid off.  That was the last green-light they needed to pass before they could go gold with it.  But they failed.  Did I have anything to do with it?  I'd like to wish that them firing me was the reason it failed but not very likely.  Needless to say, there was a bit of schadenfreude to be had but it was short lived once I realized "damn, now I have more people to compete against for job openings."  Sadly I cannot tell you what game I was working on.  This haunted game has sunken to the ocean floor and anyone who dares explore it will be cursed.  So yeah, my previous three months of work completely destroyed but at least I don't have to worry about whether my name would be in the credits or not (odds are it wouldn't, man, fuck you guys).

Still, I'm not exactly feeling good about our Sega chances regardless.  Sega hasn't filled me with optimism lately.  The Wii U and its Sonic games are an abysmal failure in terms of sales.  Sonic Boom is looking more like a cash grab to sell more toys and permanently change Sonic's image for the worse.  Sega of Japan reeks of xenophobia as they are denying service/banning non-Japanese players on Phantasy Star Online 2.  Then Sega loses the Shenmue license!  That's more of a good thing since Sega won't use it for anything good so give another publisher (Sony?) a chance to work with it.  And--what's this?  Nagoshi-san is counterfeiting his own money now???

100 million yen, what a baller.

Yush, Sega is boring me.  Though this mini-resurgence of Sega racers (Sega All-Stars Racing, 90's Arcade Racer, Model 2/3 emulators) do buy us some time to seize the return of the glorious Sega racing golden age.  Gotta get back to business!  Had a wet dream a few days ago of Daytona USA 2 in Xbox One/PS4 graphics.  Needless to say that was a hella good dream.  Let's do it boys and girls!!! :D

Friday, February 21, 2014

Inquiring About The Public's Opinion Of SEGA (Part 2 With Sonic) ...


This is a part two of a rant about irrelevant and stupid Sega is.  I left off talking about how Sega and Sonic are one of the same.  If you're in doubt, the best example of Sonic's dominion over Sega is the Sumo Digital line of games.  First was "Sega Superstars Tennis," a game that, despite the nostalgia, was okay at best and didn't sell well.  Then comes "Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing," a better game with more Sega nostalgia, but they put Sonic's name in the title for good measure because "Sega" is a dirty word that doesn't get the fans buzzing.  Finally, they release "Sonic All-Stars Racing: Transformed," the best of the three games but they completely removed Sega from the title altogether.

This is as embarrassing as having a Christmas display without the word "Christmas."  Casual fans mocked the game as being "another shitty sonic game" while Sonic fans (yes, the dreadful always-whining fanbase you love to hate) tried to assert dominion over it, even going as far as to complain "why is sanic driving a car???"  They all completely missed the point and that is this was a SEGA game, not a SONIC game, but people can't shut the fuck up about Sonic when it comes to Sega, can they?  Sonic already has three series of racing games dedicated to him (Sonic R, Sonic Drift, Sonic Riders) so why can't they go muck those up and leave All-Stars Racing to the Sega fans as a whole???  (yes, I did go on this spiel multiple times already, but it's one that needs to be drilled into your friggin heads).


Now look.  I do like Sonic the Hedgehog though I wouldn't call myself a diehard fan of the franchise.  If Sonic keeled over and died, I'd fear more for Sega's well-being more than anything.  To me, Sonic 3 and Sonic Adventure 2 will be the pinnacles of Sonic games in terms of fun and storytelling and they haven't been surpassed yet.  To me, those games were "cool."  The new Sonic games aren't and I'd probably feel embarrassed to tell my friends if I did play them.  Hell, the Internet loves to make a mockery of Sonic and I can't blame them.  Here's two reasons I came up with for Sonic's ineptitude.  They're rather common sense, but I'll explain it the best way I can.

1. There's no consistency left with these games.  Every single new title tries to reinvent the wheel.  Of the post-SA2 era, Sonic Generations seems to be the one people like the "most" but still, you get complainers anyway.  Case is, there will never be a "good" Sonic game for a long, long time.  And even if you get that "good" game of yours, Sega will mix things up again the next time!  It's like that Twitch Plays Pokemon experiment in which 60,000+ users are constantly kicking a ball around in the general vicinity of where it should go but in a manner that pisses everyone off.  The fans want way too much input and usually get it, even if it reveals new flaws in the process.  More 2D!  More 3D!  More speed sections!  More puzzles!  Only Sonic and Eggman!  More new characters!  More old characters!  Less melee sections!  Easier!  Harder!  Hand the game over to Nintendo!  Let Dimps do it!  Get Yuji Naka back!  It's like before every Sonic game, you must be given an index card with all the game's problems and nuances.  They don't call the Sonic fanbase the worst fanbase on the Internet for no good reason.  Then again, when your fanbase was exposed to the radioactive waste that was Sonic 06 and Shadow the Hedgehog, of course that's going to leave a permanent mark.

Also, who the hell is buying Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games?  The first one was intriguing--mini games featuring Mario and Sonic characters!  Cool, it's worth a shot!  Now we are on the FOURTH title???  Is this some psychological experiment to see how far Sonic fans will go to support the series???

2. I really don't know how to say this without ruffling a few feathers so here goes.  Post-SA2, the Sonic cast of characters has become entirely unlikable.  If SA2 was a movie, I could potentially sit down and watch it all the way through.  Sonic 06 and Shadow, as inept as they were, had okay stories that kept me interested enough to beat the game.  After that, sayonara Sonic, because your storytelling has degraded to shit.  The characters have become predictable: Sonic is a smartass who is never threatened by anything and always wins by himself, Tails is a useless nerd, Knuckles is braindead, Amy is a psychopath, and Robotnik is an idiot who's just a speedbump to Sonic's awesomeness.  It's so cheesy and incoherent it reaches to Zelda CD-i levels of bad.  I don't care if it's Sega of Japan or the tag-team duo of Warren Graff and Ken Pontac (of f**king Happy Tree Friends, for God's sake) writing the plots, they can't do this shit anymore.  I did watch part of that "Sonic Dissected" series again, especially the part on humor and Sonic Colors, and it's really eye opening how much potential they missed out on these games.

Of course, in the context of the "cool" theme I was going with before, these Sonic game cutscenes CAN be enjoyable...but from a storytelling perspective, does it even compare with the dialogue from more respected game franchises like Halo, Mass Effect, Fallout, etc.?  No.  If I told people I played Fallout recently, I'd get pats on the back.  On the other hand, if I told people I played Sonic Colors recently, I'd get my ass kicked.

Also I'll go ahead and say this.  Fuck Jason Griffith's voice.  I can't stand him as Sonic.  His voice is so damn boisterous it just accentuates all the things I dislike about this new Sonic.  There, I said it and I mean it.  I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in thinking this.

Two more links to click on that I read.  Here and here.  Now that Sonic is officially part of the Nintendo family, you get Sonic: Lost World which is basically Sonic with Nintendo's greasy fingers all over it.  The gameplay is "meh" all over again and it doesn't strike me as memorable or good like previous entries.  All I see is the Yoshi's Island DLC and that anti-climatic ending (compliments of geniuses Graff & Pontac), both of which make me want to punch a baby.  I think the less said about this game, the better.  Why Sega is still riding the sinking Nintendo fail-boat, I dunno.

So what's next for the blue blur?  Sonic Boom.

Oy vey, this is tricky.  Especially Knuckles, MAH GAWD, KNUCKLES, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU???  Sega is on record saying the game is not canon, which is codeword for, "if this game sucks, we'll pretend it never existed."  While I do commend Sega for allowing Big Red Button Entertainment (a Western studio formed from some Naughty Dog guys) to come up with their own interpretation on the franchise, I'm afraid if this game/cartoon/toy combo (yes, Sega is going all in with this new style) is a success then hey, guess what--maybe Sonic Boom will be a permanent rebranding on the Sonic franchise for the new generation of gamers!  That...really doesn't make me happy considering how much squandered potential they had over the last 10 years of Sonic that they're sealing with concrete.  I mean I kinda liked Sonic with the Soap shoes and without the duct tape.  But hell, like I said, I don't give a damn what they do with Sonic, just as long as Sega gets money, right??? :D :D :D

UPDATE: So yeah, Sega released a behind-the-scenes for the game and TV show.  It looks nice (albeit somewhat generic) but the characters and plot sound a Westernized Sonic Heroes (bad) with juvenile Sonic Colors humor (terri-bad).  Sonic dresses like Nathan Drake because Naughty Dog devs think this is Sonic's ultimate "adventure," okay, because the last decade of games weren't adventures at all.  The VA's and jokes still piss me off.  I'm not too optimistic but it sounds like the game devs had a lick of sense to what they were saying and doing so I'm not going to denounce it just yet...

You know, back to what my original point about Sega being cool, here's what I'd do about it.  And frankly, it's not going to work without talented, dedicated individuals, but here goes!  My bullet points:

> DO SOME HOUSE CLEANING!!!  I have a hunch Sega is swimming with inept employees.  Get 'em out of here.  I want to see skilled employees at Sega who are emotionally invested in the company and actually like the games they make.  Employees who are willing to take a bullet for Sega.  Okay, maybe not that far but you get the message.

> START ADVERTISING BLUE-SKY GAMES AS COOL AGAIN!  Grow some balls.  As a gamer, I'm sick and tired of being trampled by the grey-sky, realistic, doom & gloom games.  Start making colors fashionable again.  Come out and say, "so-and-so game is cool" and actually mean it.  Aim for that 18-35 year demographic.  Steal the cool baton back!

> STOP DROPPING THE SONIC FRANCHISE ON ITS HEAD!  Again, Sega lives or dies by the Sonic franchise.  What can be done about it?  Well, find that niche again between speed and platforming.  Cut down on the bland storytelling and bad jokes.  Bring in other characters that actually serve roles rather than stand there and act stupid/clueless.  And most importantly, give Sonic WEAKNESSES because an invincible protagonist is BORING.  Again, read the thousands of other Sonic articles out there for hints on how to improve Sonic! :)

> STOP PUBLISHING BAD GAMES!  Stick with Football Manager and Total War.  Kill the Aliens franchise, I don't want Gearbox taking any more of your money.  Speaking of which, stop using publishing as a crutch.  You should do this...

> START PROTOTYPING GAMES AGAIN!  What's beautiful about a lot of Sega arcade games is that they're small yet concentrated experiences.  Daytona USA only had two cars and three tracks but it's one of the most memorable racing games ever.  Sega needs to start churning out small in-house games, maybe posting them as online arcade or mobile titles, see what works, and then expand upon them if they are successful.  This allows you to get publicity, revive old IPs, and experiment with things that work.  Genius, right?

> RELEASE SHENMUE 3!  Oh, what's that?  You might've lost the Shenmue trademark because of inactivity?  Well get it back and make it anyway!  Help old man Yu Suzuki out!!!  He's the man that made Sega the ex-superpower that it was, you should return the favor to him and the stalwart Sega fans! Cheers!

Come on Sega, I know you can do it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Inquiring About The Public's Opinion Of SEGA...

As I sit here mulling over the bowl of cereal I don't have because my family forgot to buy some, I got to thinking about our dear friend SEGA once again.  You see, brand recognition and popularity is what helps keep companies in business.  So this leads me to ask this vital question...

Do you think Sega is "cool" anymore?

Where does Sega go on the Cool Wall?
Top Gear, telling you how it is since 2002.

Now.  Some of you will say, "Well of course Sega is cool!  They made some kickass games!  Who cares what people think of Sega?"  You're sorta right.  Us Sega hipsters got this little circlejerk going on and screw what anyone else thinks!  But it is IMPORTANT what other people think of Sega.  Sega cannot survive alone cause of a couple of fanboys on the Internet, they need a portion of the Average Joe gamer demographic to run out and invest in their stuff too.

See, that's what I mean about being "cool."  The term "cool" as in "genuinely interested in their products."  Being cool is important--it's how crap pop music, TV, movies, and video games manage to be relevant despite lacking any original content or substance at all.  Being "cool" is neither a good or bad thing--it's like handing off the baton or being "King of the Hill."  You gotta reach out and grab it somehow.  Sega was cool back in the 90's!  Sonic the Hedgehog!  Game consoles!  Arcades!  Kickass!  People loved that stuff.  But nowadays, everyone has written off Sega as a decayed corpse as they flock around the Western developers--FPS, RTS, adventure, MMO's with "realistic/grungy/shockingly depressing" hi-res graphics.  In other words, the complete antithesis of Sega! :(

This whole "cool" topic came about reading this compelling article about Nintendo and violent games' places in the marketplace.  Basically how the concept of "family entertainment" that Nintendo has relied on for so long has eroded over the last decade.  Think about it....what are the most popular games these days?  Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Gears of War.  Games with copious profanity, violence, and (some) sexual content.  They sell Halo and GoW toys in kids/family stores though MS/Epic shrug at the thought of directly advertising violence to kids.  Case in point, these games have claimed the "cool" mantle.  Realistic, gritty games are in vogue, clean happy games are out.

How did this happen?  You can name many reasons.  Kids look up to teens/young adults for what is cool--adults play violent games, so do kids.  The concept of a "family" has diminished--we spend less time face-to-face and have high numbers of single parent households therefore.  We've conditioned ourselves to violence and the "Jackass generation" that we hardly flinch at the idea at our of kids disrespecting each other.  I'm not a sociologist so I won't pursue the issue longer but look at this point mentioned in the article--55-60% of parents do not check nor do they even care about ESRB/PEGI ratings.  This is ridiculous.

But don't get me wrong...I'm not blaming violent games for society's problems, nor am I saying you can't enjoy these games yourself.  But these kind of games are adverse to Sega's M.O., plus don't you get tired of people realistically shooting, stabbing, blowing each other up?  Why is it that whenever anyone unveils a non-violent, colorful game, it's a cringe-inducing kids title, a shameful freemium game, or both?  Also would you let this kid play Call of Duty?  There's thousands of kids like this every day.  Boy, violence is good for them!

EDIT: This YouTube video makes another good point about game popularity--YouTube Let's Plays.  Nintendo has been vigilant in the past about taking down any YouTube gameplay videos.  Other companies, notsomuch.  I'm not a Let's Play watcher but I can see what they're getting at here--YouTube clips are basically free advertising and Nintendo better accept that soon.

And what does Nintendo, Sega's last ally in the war against gray skies, do about it?  SUCK AT EVERYTHING!  The Wii was a success cause they advertised it to that core young-adult demographic and did a great job with the motion control stuff.  Now the Wii U gives us some awkward gaming pad and is advertising itself to...little kids?  I swear, I saw a Toys R Us commercial last Christmas with little kids harping on a Wii U sales deal.  Is THIS the game console that the mainstream demographic (18-35 year olds) going to buy?  Especially with its outdated graphics and same old games from last generation?  I'm not a graphics junkie but at least Sega's new releases were top-notch technology (i.e. Scud Race/Daytona 2 being years ahead of the N64/Playstation).  Seriously, the 3DS is the only thing keeping Nintendo alive.  I still don't know how Pokemon remains relevant as ever these days, especially since all I hear from Pokemon nostalgists is bitching about how perfect Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow was (news flash--there were "bad" Pokemon in that game too) but shit, if it makes Nintendo money, then great.

Nintendo is a company I, NEED to succeed in order to establish "balance" against Sony and Microsoft.  Now they are throwing their arms up and open for acquisitions or mergers?  RED FLAG!!  The fact Sega has hooked its anchor to Nintendo's sinking ship (in the form of Sonic games exclusive for the Wii U) is suicidal.

You want a kids console?  Buy a V-Tech.

Now, time for a pop quiz!  Get out a sheet of paper and writing utensil.  Write down up to five things that you think Sega has done that was "cool" at any time in its history.  You have thirty seconds, now....GO!


Time's up!  Compare your list to mine.  If you're like me, you've probably written down a list of things like this:

1. Sonic the Hedgehog!
2. Expertise in home consoles!
3. Expertise in arcades!
4. A backlog of vibrant blue-sky games that made fun the primary focus!
5. A brash, edgy marketing campaign!

Now, let's run through this list and compare them to the Sega of today.  Home consoles?  Sorry, Sega put the kaibosh on that in 2001 so let's cross that out.  Arcades?  Those are dead in the West and the only stuff we see are mediocre and never live up to the 90's so cross that out too.  Blue-sky games?  HA, please spare me, Sega does the bare minimum to keep their legacy from eating dust by releasing sparse, straight ports of their games to cash in on nostalgia from the fanboys so let's cross that one out.  Brash?  Edgy?  Name for me ONE bold thing that Sega has said or done.  No "Sega does what Nintendon't" or Sega screams.  Almost all of Sega's official advertising is done through their online blog site as they cut and run like a scared puppy.  So cross that one out as well.  So what does our list look like now?

1. Sonic the Hedgehog!
2. Expertise in home consoles!
3. Expertise in arcades!
4. A backlog of vibrant blue-sky games that made fun the primary focus!
5. A brash, edgy marketing campaign!

Yes, it's true, love it or hate it, Sonic IS Sega.  Sonic is the only thing that Sega has going for it...the only thing Sega hasn't given up on in the last 22 years, even dragging the franchise through the horse shit that was the post-SA2 era.  Seriously, just listen to the first forty seconds of this Giant Bomb video and you'll see what I mean.  "Sonic" = "Sega"  I'll probably talk about this in a Part 2 next time cause I'm tired and have gone on for too long, good night all.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Ryo Hazuki In Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed: It's Not Pretty...

Alright, it's been a while since I talked about Sega racers so let's do this.

So we all know that Ryo Hazuki is in Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed.  Sumo inserted pics of Ryo in the Yogscast DLC trailers like a parent that says, "Don't open your eyes, I got a present for you!" and you open your eyes anyway.  Here, he's driving OutRun, Hang-On, and Space Harrier cabinets which is really damn clever and also a great ode to the classics.  It's a million times better then that Yogscast Charity DLC dreck.  Who knows about Yogscast?  I don't but then again, I'm not from the UK.

Your stats suck.

Yep, this is the guy who got his own character in Sonic All-Stars Racing.  Good work, Sega.

So what's my initial response to seeing the Ryo character?  This:

Now, it's not that I dislike Ryo but come on guys, Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed is OVER A YEAR OLD.  It's a great game, yeah, but the hype for this game has gone down drastically.  I let my Xbox Gold expire last month (and had to enter a chat room with a MS representative to disable it because MS is too lazy to put the button on their site, thankfully the rep was very polite to me) so I won't be playing online for a while now (assuming I do play again).  Had Ryo been introduced back in the game's heyday (while the fans were doing those stupid online petitions) then yeah, we'd be partying til the break of dawn.  But now it's sorta like, "Okay...thanks Sumo!  Glad someone there actually cares about the hardcorez fans and shiz."

Then things went from "meh" to "Oh Please God No" in a heartbeat:

In this situation, Ryo is vindictive of why we can't have nice things.  Simply cause Ryo is an iPhone-exclusive character.  You cannot play him on Xbox 360 and PS3.  You CAN play him on PC but not for a while now.  All I know is that Sumo/Sega saved Ryo for a year later just so they can convince us to buy the iPhone version.  In the ideal world, Sumo would put all the characters into one superior version (PC version) but now they're playing patty-cake with gamers to make another buck off the same damn game.

Sooooo...why complain?  The iPhone version can't be that bad!  Well, it's a mixed bag for a multitude of reasons.  They can be narrowed down to two:

1. Game's stripped of a load of content.  There's only 13 characters in this version and they are Sonic, Tails, Amy, Gum, Ulala, Amigo, BD Joe, Joe Musashi, Eggman, AGES (Thank You Lord Jesus!!), Ryo, Ralph, Metal Sonic, Knuckles, and Shadow.  That's right, they nixed Beat but kept Gum in.  Plus they didn't cut any of the Sonic characters at all, proving that Sumo is catering to the major Sonic fanbase out there and screwing the rest of us fans.  Gee whiz, I know this is an 1.0 GB iPhone game but it's really a downer.

As for tracks, well I don't have a clue.  There's no outright "pick a track and race," the game's sort of an amalgamation of Grand Prix and World Tour modes--not much flexibility in terms of single-player.  I'm guessing Ocean Hill (a track I'm really getting sick of), Skies of Arcadia, and Afterburner will get a shiatload of facetime so get ready for those.

2. Microtransactions.  Let me explain how this works.  You pay $5 for the game.  No big deal, sounds good.  But all of the characters (sans your one choice of Tails, Amy, Gum, Ulala, Amigo, BD Joe, or regular Joe) are locked from the start.  That's right, Sonic is locked from the very beginning of the game.  You unlock rings through races which allow you to unlock most things, just like any good iPhone game.  But with any race mode outside the Easy difficulty level (there's 4 levels), you have to pay rings to enter and restart the level.  That's also right, you can't just pick a Medium/Hard/Super Hard race and replay it over and over until you win.  If you run out of rings, you have to restock by doing the Easy races all over again.

So what does Sumo do?  Include a $10 DLC that removes this restart cost, allowing you replay the races without any entry fee.  It's pretty damn dirty to include extra costs on top of a game that's already not free to play.  I mean if you go into the game thinking $15 is a decent price for the game, sure that's not too bad.  But they just had to sneak that extra $10 in there.

The recoil from this decision was so immense that Steve Lycett AKA DarthS0L had to play Sumo PR Agent and take to the message boards explaining his decision.  Yeah, he's been scooting around the official Sega forums, Sonic Stadium, and NeoGAF which is kind of ridiculous cause if you need someone to actually explain a controversial decision to your face, odds are you f**ked up somehow.  He says it's entirely possible to unlock everything in the game without paying any more than the initial $5.  Which is reasonable because I've played a couple of the Nimblebit iPhone games and haven't spent a dime on 'em--Tiny Tower, Tiny Death Star, Pocket Planes, Pocket Trains.  Grinding works on these games.

But as we all know, these microtransactions are a HUGE shortcut.  For instance, I could unlock AGES by playing the game for 10-15 hours and saving up my in-game currency.  OR I can just pay $5 and unlock him right now.  $5 to skip 10-15 hours of grinding.  I honestly don't know how long it takes to unlock AGES but the point is by making Ryo an iPhone exclusive, it boosts the number of sales this game gets and Sumo can make an average of $15 for each person that invests in this game.  That can be huge considering how this game is a straight port with little gameplay changes.

Aside from these two things, the game looks okay.  You level up your characters' stats rather than unlock these stupid Speed/Accel/Boost/Console mods like in previous versions which is a nice touch.  It runs at a constant 30 FPS and the iPhone controls, while they look manageable, still look difficult and imprecise like playing Mario Kart Wii with the Wiimote.  Online play only includes 4 players max.   I just can't imagine playing any action-heavy game on an iPhone--I'd rather save that for consoles/PC, and even throwing Ryo into the mix doesn't change my mind much.

Also to unlock Ryo, you have to beat a bunch of Weekly Challenges.  He's this game's AGES--just a pain in the ass to unlock.  And I also know that Ryo has the words "Shen 3" written on his license plate.  Everyone knows that.  But think of the possibilities--perhaps Sumo/Sega introduced Ryo as a character to gauge the interest in a Shenmue HD port.  The likelihood of getting a Shenmue 3 from the iOS Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed is nil and odds are the Internet-savvy DarthS0L threw that on the license plate just to tease the Shenmue petitioners out there.  But Sega is just weird like that so I don't discount the possibility of a Shenmue 3 someday.  After all, if Yu Suzuki wanted to conclude the storyline, he could release a manga, satiate the fans, and call it a day.  But he hasn't spoiled it yet which leads me to believe he's still trying to persuade Sega to make that Shenmue 3 game.  I just hope he doesn't take it to the grave with him.

UPDATE: Ryo Hazuki has since then been added as DLC for the PC Steam version of Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed.  It costs $1.59.  This was a couple of days after this entry was posted.  While this is certainly good news, it leaves the console versions hanging (Xbox 360/PS3 are the plague and not worth touching), plus Sega/Sumo did play some of us into buying the iPhone version.  Take this news what you will.

I don't plan on buying Sega All-Stars Racing: Transformed on the iPhone.  Does that make me a bad Sega fan?  Well, that's your opinion.  I just don't think it's worth the money.  I'll play the crap out of the the console & PC versions but the iPhone version needs to be better for me to consider it.  BTW, putting characters aside, it sure would be hella nice to get some track DLC too.  But no, we're stuck playing Ocean Hill, After Burner, and Hagia Sophia--I mean Panzer Dragoon for eternity.

One more interesting thing.  I do check the Sumo website occasionally for job openings.  Nothing that I can get, sadly.  But here's something interesting--"Vehicle Handling and Performance Specialist."  Yep, they're looking for people who know how to make race cars in video games!

We require a gas-guzzling, do-nutting Petrol-head for an exciting design opportunity!

Are you a car freak? Do you have at least three years of design experience on high profile console driving games?

Sumo is looking for someone with great experience and a passion for tweaking the physics and performance characteristics of a wide range of vehicles in a successful driving franchise to join our team of Stig Fantasists in Sheffield. A background of successful game design experience is important, as is an understanding of (and passion for) car handling, set-up and the console racing genre.

If you’re auto-obsessed and want to contribute to one of the most successful driving franchises of all time, get in touch ASAP – we want to talk to you.

Do I have a chance?  An infinitesimal one.  Here's why.  One, I'm a programmer and not a producer.  Two, I don't have three years of experience in ANY professional studio, much less racing game studios.  Sure, the yearly requirements can be stretched a little (i.e. you have two years instead of three and they accept you anyway) but three years is out of my reach.  Three, what am I going to cite--this blog???  Hell, if Sumo read this blog, they might recoil in disgust and not hire me.  Yeah, I'm a big fan of theirs but I'm too much of a hipster and am critical of everything and that might not bode well with 90% of the game industry.

It sucks but look at it this way--Sumo is still making racing games.  That's awesome and that includes the potential for a new Daytona game.  I just hope I can get on-board soon enough...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Not Buying The Hype On Next-Gen Gaming

Happy New Year.  As you may have guessed, video games in 2014 are off to a great start.  Here's what I have to say about all the new titles.

It's time for the anti-video game circlejerk!  Now I'm pretty sure everyone's seen this PS4 commercial before but here it is anyway:

This commercial is beyond cheesy and pisses me off.  Two dudebros playing their mainstream games together.  But after a while, I noticed there is more to this commercial than meets the eye.  Two things:

1. These are the same kind of games we've seen a thousand times.  Hack-and-slash medieval/fantasy game.  Racing sim.  Gritty futuristic FPS.  Originality at its finest.
2. They all involve killing people and/or destroying things.  Think about that for a sec.  Two games involve outright killing people.  The third isn't really about violence but you're encouraged to smash things to bits.  Hence for no reason at all, one dudebro rams the other into the wall, sending him into a slow-mo Burnout/Split-Second wreck.  Games thrive off of destruction/death way too much these days.

Neither of these consoles impress me.  Sure, the Xbone was one massive skidmark that MS went back and corrected but I still have disdain for because MS tried to take us for fools and I don't forget that easily.  There's also the PS4, but I'm only marginally interested it compared to the Xbone.  Sony is still trying to smuggle DRM policies into their console like Microsoft did, just a lot more covert.  Both of these consoles are vanity goods that you really don't need.  Need top-end graphics?  Get a gaming PC.  Need a wealth of new titles?  Errrm, we already had seven years of Xbox 360/PS3 games.  If you've played all of those, then you need to go outside.  Need a console that changes the channel when you tell it to?  Well, that's not a need, that's just stupid.  Come back in 2030 when everything is made out of chrome and holograms.  You know what I'm getting at here cause I already talked about it before.  I think a year or two down the road, when they fix all the bricked consoles, the price goes down, and the library grows (including a new Sega racer, fat chance...) I might invest in one but until then, screw you both.

Anyhoo, you may be surprised to find out that my family is in possession of TWO Xbox Ones.  Yes, one Xbone, two Xbones.  They were Christmas presents for two of my brothers.  It's a load of crap, I know.  We own one game at the moment--Dead Rising 3.  I watched my brother play it for about an hour.  All I have to say is I just don't really care.   The game takes place in a fictional Los Angeles, a zombie outbreak happens, and you play as some mechanic dude who turns into a macho badass.  I didn't need a plot or anything, just as long as I get to kill zombies and rescue survivors.  Off the bat, I recognize the improvement in graphics.  Great, but it wasn't as shocking of a transition as, say, Super Nintendo to Nintendo 64.  It's just the same games as before but with a slight layer of polish.

Maps of Dead Rising 1 (upper-left), Dead Rising 2 (lower-left), and Dead Rising 3 (right)

The map is bigger this time around with huge streets for driving cars.  But the problem is the environment looks so piss bland I find nothing recognizable about it whatsoever.  Sure, they put a huge emphasis on cars now but it's hard to drive anywhere without plowing over zombies and getting stuck on debris.  If I wanted to free drive around, I'd probably play Grand Theft Auto.  If I wanted to kill zombies in cool locations, I'd probably play Dead Rising 1 or 2.  Just my two cents, you enjoy the game, great for you.  If you were a Dead Rising/zombie aficionado then yeah, you'll like this just cause it gives you more stuff to kill.  Otherwise, it's really a placebo game designed to sell the Xbone, as you can tell cause the game is exlusive to that console.  It's crap cause Dead Rising 2 was available for PS3 but whatever man...Capcom and Microsoft can fudge up the game however they like so I'm not losing sleep over it.  

My brother was playing Spiderman 2 on the Gamecube, got DR3 on Christmas, beat the game in a week, and went back to Spiderman 2.  Don't think he's touched his Xbone yet since.  True story bro.

Another thing I should mention, going back to the paragraph before the previous one, is that these games don't really do anything "new" for me.  Sure, the graphics are better, there's more zombies, and they ditched the load times (sorta, you still get them when fighting psychopaths), but other than that, the gameplay STILL feels the same as games from 5-10 years ago.  Your special weapon attacks still kill zombies in that canned animation sequence.  Quick-time events.  Predictable trigger-based   Psychopaths run back and forth trading blows with you until you smack them enough times and they die.  Friendly AI is not very smart.  The thing that surprised me the most was seeing your character climb out the windshield of the wrecked car.  With new consoles bragging about "new ways to play the game," it certainly doesn't feel like it.  But as long as they keep the games running at constant 60 FPS, then I'll give them a modicum of credit for that.

As for other launch titles, all fifteen of them, you got Zoo Tycoon.  Yes, Zoo Tycoon is a launch title.  Killer Instinct is lacking in the content department.  Ryse looks pretty but it's a redundant hack & slash that'll go the way of King Kong and Eragon--such pretty launch titles but with bland gameplay.  Call of Duty, Madden, FIFA are what you expect--same game but prettier.  NBA Live 14, which was EA's response to the shit-canned NBA Elite, is a total embarassment.  Forza is a mess because the game is loaded with microtransactions like a Facebook game.  And Need for Speed's frivolous online gameplay has up to six players (that's right...SIX PLAYERS MAX, an abysmal number for an online racing game) zipping across the map far away from each other as everyone does their own thing to progress their respective campaign/story modes.  In other words, crap, crap, mega crap.

Give the consoles a few years to gel and the games should get better.  After all, the first Xbox 360 games looked like Xbox titles.  That's all well and good much bigger can these games get before they collapse under the weight of their own production costs?  Models and worlds get more detailed, stories expand, gameplay branches rapidly, advertising money and review payola, etc.  Sure, we have tools to accelerate these things but the point is we're spending more and more money to make these games.  Remember that GTA5 required over a thousand people to make it.  Tools can't speed up the creative process much--you still need producers to sit down and think these things up.  We're outsourcing our art overseas now which I guess helps with the overhead but sucks for my art friends out there.  So expect less risk taking more and more DLC/microtransactions to milk the consumer's wallet for what it's worth.  The corporations need their money!

EDIT: A little aside, basically Kotaku posts an article about the worthless piece of crap that is the Kinect and how they are "a little it worried about it," citing how much it sucks that you're forced to buy a lackluster piece of hardware with your Xbone.  Nope, no one saw that coming, complaints about the Kinect 2.0, why who would say such a thing???  Also, I saw Madden 25 up-close and aside from the beatdown my friend put on my brother, I wasn't impressed by what I saw.

As for PS4 games, there's Gran Turismo 6.  Which is basically GT so nothing surprising like that.  Except for one feature--you can drive on the moon.  At 19 miles per hour.  I honestly don't know whether to think this is the most awesome or most useless thing in racing game history.

Compare to this gem of a racing game:

I think gaming isn't going to crash because it's so insanely popular, like today's terrible pop music.  But I've never been this jaded before about gaming in my life that I think SOMETHING has to blow up before I can get excited about these games again.  I'm done here, enjoy the hot air I'm emitted into the atmosphere.

P.S. There's no Ridge Racer launch title.  Whoops, someone tell Namco they planned their release one year late.  AWWWWWW.....