Trigames Schedule Updates -- WE WANT YOUR MAILBAG QUESTIONS!

I never blog here or anywhere else, so I don't know why I decided to pick up the keyboard again, but feh, who cares.

Referring to the blog title, it's not as if we had any set schedule in the first place. Trigames has always just been a thing that Al and I did--at times, with differing goals depending on where we were in life, but still ultimately just a "thing we did"--and these days it's been serving two functions.

One, the podcast keeps me and Al in touch with each other. Yes, we live in the same city, and we're an hour apart by subway--shorter if I'm leaving from my girlfriend's place--but our work schedules are vastly different, he being a night owl and me on a more "normal" schedule.

Two, that the site exists keeps me driven to plow through my backlog and try to complete games, instead of just tasting them and then putting them aside for later. This comes about because I like writing or talking about them, and if I don't play through a lot, there's not much to talk about. (Unless it's a game I dislike early on. Then it's just fun to rail on.) That's why I've been trying to post some video.

By no means is this a ticket to a job in the industry--my freelance Gamespot dalliance was great and it's helped me scratch that itch sufficiently. And by no means can it become as much of a fixture in our lives as we once envisioned it to be.

BUT STILL!!!!! "Schedule" updates.

Al and I used to record on Saturdays. We've been doing this sporadically ever since his son was born. Weekends are now out of the equation, though, as he takes up a more aggressive fatherhood schedule. So we're going to experiment with a lunchtime Friday cast, which can only be limited to an hour if we end up doing it (and my conference call schedule allows). What this means is, if we can discipline ourselves, shorter episodes, but hopefully more frequently--ideally back to our weekly output (I'm not holding my breath).

I miss the listener questions, though. Of course with our reduced output and--I suspect--my reduced participation on game site blogs, I'm almost positive our listernship has decreased by, like, a million percent. Hopefully I can change that with an obnoxious, italic all-caps plea:

SEND US YOUR QUESTIONS! MAILBAG [at] TRIGAMES [dot] NET

Or you can always tweet us at @MrCHUPON and @DRedMage of course. I suppose spamming out a plea to friends and old-time listeners like @eduardo @Slunks @yeah_write @TonicBH @LordAndrew @skrutop @DrFish @m0zart @lordofultima @jimb0 @Dendei @SophinaK @aspro73 and anyone--forgive me--whom I may have missed.

Yeah. I'm shameless. Less shame. No shame!

Also I'm thinking of adding a "How I Would Fix [insert game title]" feature where I'd talk about a game that has just one or two small but deal-breaking things that get in the way of an experience that I believe I would ultimately enjoy (inspired by Parasite Eve 2's tank controls). Any other editorial ideas?

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The Wii U Controller: The Thin Client of the Future?

It's rare that I blog anywhere nowadays, but sometimes all it takes is a bombastic announcement and reveal to get me all up in arms again. Nevertheless, I'll always be late to the party, so I'm sure that my general mixed reactions to Nintendo's new Wii U interface have already been echoed elsewhere. I like the concept. I'm NOT feeling the form factor. I'm hearing the ergonomics are still great, so I'm hopeful. But I'm anxious about the price per controller. Will it be just another port machine now, except this time you get the same game... with a map? (Remember the doubts that arose during DS launch?) Will it still be able to significantly differentiate itself from its once-again competitors? Is this TOO bombastic a move on Nintendo's part? Will it part the seas and sell in droves like its predecessor?

I'll skip all of that. Instead, what's sticking out in my mind as THE intriguing aspect of this whole reveal--at least to me, personally--is the continuing maturation of the ability to stream dynamic content to a remote screen.

Let me be specific. I don't mean browsing the web and seeing your email widgets update in real time on your Xoom or iPad. I'm not talking about watching Netflix or Hulu on your iPhone. When I say "dynamic content" I'm talking about videogame graphics, which are calculated and pushed out to a display in real-time. I'm talking about calculating ginormous quantities of polygons, applying several layers of textures, and spitting that glory out at 30 frames per second (60, if you're nasty). It's a trend that started with the Playstation 3 and PSP Remote Play, when people learned how to play Lair while dropping their kids off at the pool. Now we're looking at the potential of zapping 1080p graphics over to a remote display, wirelessly, and I look forward to the trends that these capabilities could set if the Wii U succeeds in bringing it mainstream.

For us who play videogames, the benefits are obvious. Nintendo highlighted them during its press conference already: Play a game on your TV, then switch over to your controller seamlessly when your roommate, friend, significant other or family member decides she/he/it wants to watch the Lakers get smacked down on ESPN, and keep slicing up octoroks without having to wait for the big screen to be available again. Imagine PC games adopting this trend, giving you the ability to guarantee yourself (with enough cash) the luxury of the best possible visuals while lying in bed (the necessity for a viable mouse-and-keyboard combination duly noted). If you're wondering why this is such a big deal, the important thing to remember is that the set top box is the one crunching most of the numbers. Granted, the price per controller is still unknown, but this generally means that state-of-the-art visuals from anywhere in the house just became more affordable. And for as powerful as tablets are getting, you can be sure that workstation-sized tech will always be noticeably more powerful than its mobile contemporary.

Will this spur quicker research and development of high-bandwidth wireless technologies that enable this type of connection to happen over a distance greater than that between the TV stand and your couch? If OnLive stays, er, alive, long enough, could it take advantage of such wireless bandwidth if it's feasible to support such an infrastructure fiscally? As storage moves to a wireless cloud, will we return to a real age of thin-client architecture--now wireless--when it comes to processing power, but with inexpensive devices fast enough to keep up?

But I'm getting ahead of myself--that's all pie in the sky. But even within local confines, it's exciting. Right now I'm just excited about the implications of playing high-res videogames anywhere in the house OR on the TV. I'm excited about the push for acceptance of wireless connections between any display and any piece of hardware, whether it be a PC, Blu-Ray player or other videogame console with no lag to impact the interactivity. All of those crappy wires? Gone--unnecessary. For those in the 3D modeling business, imagine a Pixar office where you can design and render a character, in a meeting down the hall where you'll show it off to your fellow design teammates, on something as portable as an iPad but at one fifth the price.

At a high level, Nintendo isn't necessarily starting anything unheard of technologically. Thin client architecture is an ancient concept (in tech years). We already had Sony's Remote Play. But as it did with motion control; as Apple did with the tablet PC; as Sony did with the Walkman; Nintendo has the potential to push an idea into the mainstream where people will understand and appreciate its potency--where they will get, finally, why they should care.

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PAX East Bingo

A few friends and I were bored and put together a randomized Bingo board for PAX East. Just print out the sheet--or multiple sheets. See someone or something out there that fits the board criteria? Mark it down! Then tweet what you saw to the #PAXEastBingo hashtag. Remember: It's randomized, so you can hit REFRESH to see the different squares that are out there. What do you win? Shit if I know. I'm just doing it for fun. 
 
If you want to crumple up and throw your Bingo board at my face, I'll be tweeting my location throughout the day (@MrCHUPON) so... there you go. 
 
See you in Boston!

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2 Months, 2 Electronics Deaths

 Almost exactly two months ago, my original Xbox 360 gave up the ghost after over 4 years of service. I had Ol' Bessie replaced with an Arcade unit (I needed one on the cheap, and that very night), which currently helps the spirit live on through the old 20GB hard drive it has strapped on its back.

Three nights ago, I was looking forward to spending the extra hour gained from the end of Daylight Saving Time by playing a little bit of Crysis and then passing out. I got back home from dinner with the missus and decided to watch a little bit of the Quicklook of Fist Of The North Star: Ken's Rage before starting up Crysis. About 15 minutes into the blood- and explosion-fest, my computer completely shut down.

No warning.No blue screen of death. Just immediate silence and dark monitors.

Two nights prior I had overclocked my CPU by about 100MHz. I also had my video card overclocked by the same amount. I figured maybe they were overheating, so I booted up again to revert both components to their normal clock speeds. Everything looked fine, so I figured I'd just finish the rest of the quick look. But about 2 minutes further into the video, the same thing happened again. I'm not sure if the chill went up or down my spine, but it went somewhere, and I panicked. Did I boot up too quickly, and were the chips still too hot?

I waited for about 20 minutes, then started it up again, this time turning on all the software I used for monitoring temperatures. I decided to run my video card's fan at full blast, which resulted in a comically audible uptick in "wooshiness". About 45 seconds into super woosh mode, the computer shut down again.

It certainly wasn't that the temperatures were too high. But Al and I had a couple of theories. Maybe there was a virus in the OS. Maybe I had a failing hard drive (later ruled out because failing hard drives blue screen; they don't just shut off). Maybe it was my power supply... which meant that my computer would be completely useless until I got a new one. I have multiple hard drives and more spares; a dead drive just means that I would have to swap out the dead drive and reinstall XP. If my video card were blown, I'd use the on-board video until I could get a replacement card. The worst things that could have happened would be a dead power supply or a dead CPU, and none of the symptoms pointed to a dead CPU.

After I watched 2 episodes of House on DVD, effectively giving my PC a "rest", I decided to go for one more try. I pressed the power button. The monitors stayed black. Waited a few seconds. Darkness. Waited a few more seconds... ...and the machine fell silent again. It had to be the power supply.

The next day I plugged the supposedly-dead power supply into a backup PC I had lying around, a PC prone to blue-screening because the case was too old and not well-ventilated enough. I left the case open in the living room, so that it wouldn't overheat, and crossed my fingers. I turned it on. "Whiiirrrrrrrr--" and then silence. Turned it on again "Whirrrrr---" silence. I went to go shoot a video on my Droid of the power supply dying there too, but right when it gets put on the spotlight, it decides to put on a show and work.

I left it looping a Baten Kaitos preview video I had sitting on that old backup PC. It looped for six whole hours while I was away at a dinner. I came back, found it still running, mentally punched it in the face, and turned it off, wondering if I had somehow revived it. After plugging it back into my current system, it pretty much gave me the finger and refused to run.

I've just begun the RMA process with OCZ, the provider of my power supply. However, that crap usually takes a few weeks to run through, and I have to pay for my own shipping. Instead of waiting, I went ahead and bought a new power supply. After rebates and discounts, it ran me $65, and it's an upgrade over what this one could do when it was alive... but that's $65 I could have put towards a new game, or a season of a television show on DVD/Blu-Ray, or some nice dress shirts, or--whatever, you get the picture.

The moral of the story is to buy two of everything. Buy two Xbox 360's in case one red rings (though that should no longer be a problem). Buy two of every computer component. Buy two smartphones. Start dating two people, marry two spouses. If you are heterosexual or homosexual, become bisexual just in case.

No--screw that. The moral of the story is that tech sucks and we should go back to the stone age and draw pictures on walls. Or something. Herp-a-derp. Oh hey, e-mail our podcast! Yeah.

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Inafune: Japanese Developers are 5 Years Behind

Past creating the DmC page and seeing that Radiant Silvergun was (OMG!) getting a release on XBOX Live Arcade, I didn't really have the fortune of paying much attention to TGS last week, so I went to various websites to get my fill of information. Among the various news stories, game announcements and interviews as a little bit where Keiji Inafune, Lord of Awesome at Capcom, mentions that he believes that Japan is "5 years behind" the times when it comes to game making. 
 
The main reasons? 
 
1) Japanese developers stick to tried-and-true formulae. 
2) From the business side, Japanese companies aren't willing to make the proper investments towards development and marketing. 
3) Many Japanese aren't taking "globalization" seriously, specifically in terms of understanding foreign tastes (probably closely related to item 1). 
 
Last week on the podcast (for which I was absent), Pete mentioned that he felt that TGS just wasn't as big of a deal in recent years. Either last year or the year before, this similar type of conversation occurred on the erstwhile 1up Yours a.k.a. 4 Guys 1up (I believe it was Mark MacDonald specifically who spurred this discussion). Year after year, it seems as if there's always some conversation about Japan becoming either less relevant, less in touch, or just... less, period, in the realm of gaming, with noted exception towards Nintendo and Sony's in-house development. 
 
Personally, I find it interesting that taking a formulaic approach is cited by Inafune as a prime reason for Japan's supposed lagging status. Over here in the States, we've got Activision pumping out Guitar Hero after Guitar Hero with little being implemented to shake things up. There's always a first person shooter here, a cover-based shooter there, and some open-world sandbox game in the middle. People here eat that shit up. Over in Japan, people eat Monster Hunter up. They will flock to any Dragon Quest release, day one. Yet, like our shooters and Madden and Guitar Hero, those games barely change. Maybe it's just that the formula works for only very well-revered franchises, just like over here, but still, the first two reasons seem like reasons that plague struggling developers over here as well. 
 
The third reason is the one I find most interesting. I was perusing Gamespot's TGS coverage when I saw that it had posted an interview with Deus Ex: Human Revolution's producer. The blurb for the blog post was this: " Deus Ex: Human Revolution has been a big hit at TGS 2010..." 
 
Oro? A decidedly "western" game being a huge hit in Japan? 
 
Now, I have no idea if they were referring to the press only, or also the public (TGS is traditionally open to the public after a few press-only days), but can anyone help refresh my memory with how well games like Oblivion, Fallout 3, and other similar games were received? I hear many people saying that the "balance of power" has shifted westward and that Japanese developers could learn a thing or two from western devs, but I never thought that the general gaming public would be ready to accept it. Is Japan finally ready for one-man, open-world RPG's with more action and fewer menu commands? Will games like Vanquish (which I am absolutely dying to try) succeed on both shores? And whether or not they do, is it time for Japan to stimulate its own indie games market such that it hopefully sees a boon in that area like we've been seeing here in the states? 
 
I truly hope Japan "catches up" or does whatever it needs to do for Inafune to deem it "in touch" with games today in general. It and its culture have given us too many great things for me to see its own developers chastise its status without feeling sad about its state of affairs. 
 
What do you guys think?

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Publisher / Developer Motivations: SSFIV for PC nixed

This is something Al, Pete and I are going to discuss on the podcast this Saturday, but I had to vent about it here. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this, either in the comments or as an email to our mailbag.
 
Recently on the front page of Giant Bomb, I saw this piece of news: 
 
http://www.giantbomb.com/news/
 
This spurs on a topic that I find myself annoyed with. Basically, the "official justification" is that due to piracy, Capcom doesn't think it'll make money if it releases Super Street Fighter IV on PC. Piracy was listed as a major concern, so why not release it on Steam? The response to that was that they don't want to release it only on Steam as because it would be "unfair" to those PC gamers who don't have Steam.

I have numerous problems with this.  
  
1) Steam itself is free to download and sign up for. It is also awesome.
2) Both Mac Users and PC Users can get Steam.  
3) Street Fighter IV itself already forced an install for Games For Windows Live*, in and of itself a piracy preventive measure (which it really janked when you bought Street Fighter IV on Steam because you were loading GFW Live within Steam. Uh, what?) 
4) So you're telling me that it would be better to be unfair to the entirety of PC gaming by not releasing it at all, than to alienate some folks who aren't on Steam but could easily get it? Even though, again, GFW Live itself is already an anti-piracy measure and you don't have to release it on Steam? 
 
There has to be some alternate motivation for Capcom to not want to release the game on PC, and although in the end it really doesn't matter to me as a consumer, I'd still really like to know what it is. If the justification is simply that, "Dude, we just won't turn a profit on it; not enough people will want to buy it on that platform, period, the end," then okay. Say that. Maybe you'll annoy me slightly by saying that, but you'll also be telling me the God's honest truth and a reason that makes sense from a business perspective. Not wanting to release it just on Steam because of their reasons is both a bogus reason and also a moot point, and hearing what sounds like bogus reasoning frustrates me much more than giving me the straight-up business reason. 
 
*Note: I have no idea if GFW Live has widespread and vicious hacks allowing for pirated copies to be played, but if so, then well, that kinda sucks.

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The well is dry. We need some questionnes!

In case you haven't heard... Trigames.NET Podcast Episode 174 has been up for the better portion of the week. Didn't know? Well, then, that means you should be subscribing to our RSS ( http://trigames.net/rss.xml) with iTunes, Zune Marketplace, or your RSS reader. (You can also get it direct from the site: http://bit.ly/cWucez)

We're running dry on listener topics this week (i.e. we haven't thought of any) so, please, send us your question, comments or monetary gifts! Either hit up mailbag [at] trigames [dot] net, comment on the group wall, or Tweet us @MrCHUPON, @DRedMage, and @Ryvvn before noon EST this Saturday.

Special thanks to TheRoadHead for an epic long email last week. But the dude doesn't blog. Egg him on!

Spanks a lot, and play on.

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Which current-day games would you give a retro makeover?

So on Episode 173 of the Trigames.NET Podcast, which you can download now off of iTunes, Zune Marketplace or any other podcast feed ( http://trigames.net/rss.xml), we talked about older games that we'd like to see remade in this day and age, and not in the Ninja Gaiden way, but the Bionic Commando Re-Armed way--i.e. keeping the core spirit of the gameplay and not totally overhauling it. Pete, then, came up with a great idea for this week's topic. What current-day games would you like to see given the retro treatment? Think about things like how Dark Void came out with a short, 8-bit promo game on DSiWare.

What game would you like to see get this treatment, and what would you have them do?

You can send in your thoughts via the following means as usual:

1) Email! mailbag AT trigames DOT net

2) Leave a comment right here!

3) Leave a comment on our Facebook Page wall: http://bit.ly/aszhgQ

4) Twitter any of the podcast staffers, though we'd prefer ideas more than 140 characters long :) (@ MrCHUPON, @ DRedMage, @ Ryvvn)

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