The excellent people at Tether Studios have added Hell in a Cell 2015 content to the wonderful PickSix app for iOS. So in addition to virtually betting on NFL, MLB, and League of Legends games, you can bet on WWE PPV event results. If you’re not familiar with PickSix for iOS, here’s a brief writeup on the game. If you are familiar with PickSix then I triple-dog dare you to challenge me in a round of Hell in a Cell 2015 bets.
The bet questions are totally straightforward and easy to follow. You can choose individual match results by winner, pick how each match will end (pinfall, submission, DQ, etc.), make over/under bets on the length of each match, and more. There are even some wonky bets to place, like the number of tables that will be broken in the WWE Tag Team Championship match between New Day and The Dudley Boyz. There’s even a speculative bet on John Cena’s WWE United States Championship “open challenge” opponent (I’m hoping for Daniel Bryan or Samoa Joe, but would bet on something tame, like Dolph Ziggler). Since Hell in a Cell 2015 is in Los Angeles this year, there’s a chance that part-time wrestlers like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Chris Jericho will show up. Think they’ll make an appearance? Put your virtually currency where your mouth is and bet on it in PickSix!
Check out the screenshots below for some example questions. I’ll be waiting for your bets, sucka!!! (Imagine that I said the last sentence as if I were Booker T.)
Earlier in the week, The Late Show With Stephen Colbertfeatured music from The Legend of Zelda played by The Symphony of the Goddesses. Colbert has had several nerdy guests on his show, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. As a nerd, I absolutely love that The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has had tech and gaming segments. Considering that many of his viewers grew up as gamers and technology is more mainstream than ever, it makes sense for his audience. Still, I was surprised (pleasantly) that his show’s guests have been so nerd-friendly.
Changing the channel to NBC, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has been a disappointment in terms of nerd content. When the comedian hosted Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, guests from gaming and tech were common. Off the top of my head, I recall Kudo Tsunodo giving a demo of Xbox Kinect, Cliff Bleszinski showing off Gears of War 3, and journalist Josh Topolsky talking tech gear on the show. For whatever reason, these types of guests have largely been absent from The Tonight Show. Perhaps the producers felt that gaming and tech content weren’t appropriate for the “big” show. Perhaps some hack executive mandated that Fallon go with traditional guests that have movies, music, and TV shows to promote. Whatever the reason, it’s disappointing that Fallon has mostly abandoned nerdy programming.
The unfortunate programming choices on The Tonight Show, have made me appreciate the guests on The Late Show. Hearing the wonderful music from Zelda on a late night talk show was brilliant. Watching CEOs of the companies that make products and offer services that I love (or in Tesla’s case, dream about) was outstanding. It’s fantastic that these types of segments are mixed in with the overly polished “artists” promoting their latest movie, album, tour, TV show season, etc. When Colbert debuted on Comedy Central, I was delightfully surprised by his mix of comedy, intelligence, and satire. With The Late Show, he has delightfully surprised me with his nerdy guests. Keep ’em coming, Mr. Colbert!
The followup to the highly influential Ultima Underworld games from the early ’90s, Underworld Ascendant aims to dazzle gamers with an atypical style of fantasy role-playing. The original games were lauded for their sense of immersion; they are considered the first RPGs to offer first-person action in a true 3D environment. While many modern RPGs bombard players with millions of words of text, Underworld Ascendant will attempt to captivate gamers with environmental immersion and unscripted player-driven narrative. In many ways, the game is a throwback in the sense that the developer wants the player to put himself or herself in the game, as opposed to following the adventures of a heavily scripted character.
Underworld Ascendant will give players all kinds of choices, whether it’s character development or puzzle solving. As far as character creation goes, there are three types of skill sets that players can draw from: fighter, rogue, and mage. The skills can be mixed and mashed, accommodating a wide variety of player styles. Similarly, encounters with monsters and environmental puzzles can be handled in drastically different ways. Again, the emphasis is on player choice. You’ll be able to play Underworld Ascendant with the character you want to be, adventuring in the way you want to adventure.
Occupying the Stygian Abyss are three rival factions. There are dark elves, dwarves, and shamblers to encounter. The developer was quick to note that these races don’t fit into typical RPG trappings. For example, the dwarves in Underworld Ascendant will not have Scottish accents. The shamblers are particularly interesting — fungus-like creatures with mushroom heads that operate in a hive-mind society. The way you interact with and help (or not) these factions will alter how you experience Underworld Ascendant.
The interview below was lots of fun for me on several levels. First off, Otherside Entertainment founder & CEO Paul Neurath is a frickin’ legend. The man founded Looking Glass Studios, one of the all-time great game developers. Looking at the list of games Paul has worked on is mind blowing. He should be put on exhibit at The Smithsonian. Also in the chat below is design director Joe Fielder. I met Joe in the late ’90s when I was a corporate hack at Ziff-Davis and he was heading up GameSpot. He was one of the first videogame journalists I met and it’s awesome watching his career in game development burgeon.
Anyway, check out my chat with Paul and Joe below for more details on Underworld Ascendant, as well as lots of gameplay footage.
Okay, dear RPadholics. I need you guys and gals to do me a favor. At your earliest convenience, kindly download PickSix for iOS. I don’t ask you for a lot (possibly untrue), but I would love for you to check out this app (certainly true). PickSix is a fun and simple fantasy pick ’em game with all sorts of possibilities. Currently, you can bet on NFL and League of Legends games, but the content opportunities are tremendous. It’s easy to envision PickSix used for the Oscars, the 2016 US presidential election, Premiere League, the MTV VMAs, etc.
In some ways, the extensibility of PickSix reminds me of the versatility of QuizUp. They both use a simple core mechanic to extend the fun of existing events by adding an interactive social layer to the mix. Similarly, both apps can be used for a wide variety of topics. Whether it’s a small group of friends or the millions of people enjoying a particular event, PickSix can make anything more fun through gamification. Of course, I want to hear about the content you’d like to see on PickSix, but before we get to that, I need to share my nerdy idea.
I’d love to see WWE PPVs on PickSix. The cards are usually set the week before the event and it would be fun betting on sports entertainment. I’m going to use the last WWE PPV, “Night of Champions,” as an example of what a WWE PickSix looks like in my (silly) head.
1) Out of the five WWE championships being contested at “Night of Champions,” how many will change hands?
2) Who will win the WWE Divas Championship match?
3) Seth Rollins is defending two championships. What will his “Night of Champions” record be?
4) How many “Night of Champions” matches will end in a disqualification?
5) How will Ryback vs. Kevin Owens end?
Ryback retains Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens wins Intercontinental Championship
Disqualification or schmoz
6) How many tables will be broken during The Dudley Boyz vs. New Day match?
5 or more
(On a side note, my friend Kate says that I would use my WWE contacts to…influence PPV outcomes. I assure you that I have no such power and if I did, I wouldn’t use it that way.)
Obviously I didn’t give these questions too much thought, but I think you get the idea that PickSix can work for all kinds of things. Now it’s your turn! If you’re an iOS-using RPadholic, please download the game. I fully expect you to challenge me to some betting. Irrespective of your mobile OS, I’d love to hear about the content you’d like to see on PickSix. Please leave a comment below with your excellent ideas.
Once one of the biggest franchises in videogames, Activision’s Guitar Hero series has been dormant since 2010. That’s going to change on October 20, 2015 with the release of Guitar Hero Live. With a reimagined guitar controller, a revamped visual style, and an all-new GHTV mode, Activision hopes that Guitar Hero Live will appeal to a new generation of gamers and longtime fans of the series.
The biggest and most obvious change to Guitar Hero Live is the controller. Instead of a single row of five buttons, the new controller features two rows of three buttons. In normal and harder difficulties, the new button arrangement is pleasantly challenging; you’ll often have to hit multiple buttons in multiple rows. For newcomers and those that enjoy music games but aren’t very good, the easier modes allow for single-row play.
It took me several songs to get used to the new controller and even then I didn’t have enough time with it. I enjoyed being challenged by the different permutations of button presses. The dual-row “chords” make the game more interesting and difficult (in a good way). While some claim that Guitar Hero Live approximates power chords, I disagree. The game is certainly more fun with the new controller, but still a far cry from playing an actual guitar. I don’t see that as a fault at all (go play Rocksmith for that) — just disagreeing with some game writers.
The first three Guitar Hero Live songs I played were a mess due to a combination of the new controller and songs I was completely unfamiliar with. I recall butchering a song by The Black Keys, murdering a Fallout Boy song, and demolishing two songs by two bands I never heard of (I fail at modern music, fyi). After getting accustomed to the new controller and switching to a different kiosk that had songs I knew, the game was easier. Part of it was simply spending time with the controller, while part of it was my deep love of Warrant and Faith No More.
Guitar Hero Live adds some significant visual changes too. Instead of cartoon-like graphics, the game uses live concert footage from the perspective of the guitar player. You’ll see your bandmates and the crowd as you play. The visuals change depending on your performance. I’ve never paid too much attention to the graphics in previous Guitar Hero games and the new graphics were mostly lost on me in the bit of Guitar Hero Live I played. I’m so focused on the notes that I block out most of the visuals. That said, it was cool to watch other people play and there are plenty of gamers that watch the whole screen while they play music games.
In addition to the main “Live” mode, Guitar Hero Live features GHTV mode. This mode features different channels of music, allowing constant access to a variety of new songs and different genres. Songs in GHTV mode feature music videos from the associated acts, as opposed to concert footage in Live mode. While you can play along with a GHTV song as it’s streaming, replays require a microtransaction purchase. It’s an interesting approach compared to traditional scheduled downloads, but I’m not sold on it just yet. I need to experience GHTV when it’s full functional and accessible to millions of players before making any judgements.
If you’re interested in the developer of Guitar Hero Live (and I hope you’re interested in all creators of the games you play) then check out FreeStyleGames. Acquired by Activision in 2008, the company has experience with music games, including B-Boy, DJ Hero, and Sing Party.
For the most part, I enjoyed the brief time I spent playing Guitar Hero Live and am excited to play more. Part of it is that I haven’t touched a music game in years and part of it is because the new controller is lots of fun. I’m confident that fans of the old Guitar Hero games will enjoy Guitar Hero Live and curious to see if it will appeal to younger games (i.e. those pesky Snapchat kids).
Guitar Hero Live will be available on October 20, 2015 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
It was a strange privilege interviewing Kabam senior vice president Aaron Loeb on behalf of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences for DICE Europe 2015. It was a privilege because Aaron is an excellent fellow that has accomplished a lot in the videogame and theater worlds. Prior to working at Kabam, Aaron held high-level positions at Planet Moon and EA, while his plays have been performed across the country. The interview was strange because we both used to be videogame journalists. It’s true! Once upon a time, before Aaron became a powerful executive and I became a verbal entertainer of international renown, we used to be game journalists in San Francisco. To paraphrase the immortal Phil Collins, “Take a look at us now!”
Here are a few excerpts from the interview. The first clip is about whether Aaron’s experience as a videogame journalist has had any impact on his work on the development side:
For a little while there, no. For what I’m doing at Kabam, very much so. As you know, when I was a journalist, I was entirely in the web space and was never really on the print side — even back in the ’90s. Learning how to talk to an audience every single day, learning how to see what they’re interested in or not interested in, and figuring out how to target your editorial to cover the topics the audience actually wants to hear about and how to target your editorial to come up with stuff that the audience doesn’t yet know they want to hear about — those are all things that help me today.
Next, Aaron talks about his experience as a playwright crossing over into his day job:
When I’m working with writers from one of our games, they take my feedback more seriously because they know that I’m also a writer. I’m not just an executive pinhead. [Laughs] Normally if you’re a writer and you’re getting feedback from the senior vice president of the studio you’re thinking, “Why is this jerk talking to me?!? How can he possibly know the difference between good writing and bad writing?!?” So I do get some respect from our game writers because of my background as a playwright.
Check out the full interview when you have a chance (please!). Aaron is an excellent man and I’m thrilled for his tremendous success.
Just when I thought Ronda Rousey couldn’t get any hotter…I discovered that she loves Pokemon! That’s right, the first lady of UFC and queen of MMA is totally into Nintendo’s pocket monsters. In the interview below, she discusses how she got into Pokemon, the numerous Pokemon games she has played, and some of her favorite creatures. Miss Rousey is clearly a most impressive physical specimen, but her encyclopedic knowledge of Pokemon takes her sexiness to a whole new level. It’s almost…too much.
Ronda claims to have put in more than 200 hours in her first Pokemon game. I wonder if she’ll be impressed with my nearly 700 hours on Pokemon Pearl. Yeah, that’ll be my in when I meet her. Ha!
Anyway, check out the video below and prepare to be dazzled by Ronda Rousey’s Pokemon mastery. It’s seriously impressive and completely hot.
It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Unity founder and former CEO David Helgason. While it’s normally intimidating talking to someone that’s exponentially smarter than you are, David Helgason is such a nice and interesting man that the exercise was fun. We had a lengthy chat about Unity’s evolution, games that inspire him, and his eclectic taste in movies. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
You know, we didn’t even call Unity an engine in the beginning. We thought of it as a tool to help developers build the games that they wanted to build. At first, we focused on small platforms, where the target specs were pretty low. When mobile started to grow, we targeted that — around the time the iPhone 2 came out. At the time, the hardware was super low end. As the market grew, our customers became more and more demanding, wanting to build bigger and bigger games. Then we started working closely with the console manufacturers. These days, AR (alternate reality) and VR (virtual reality) are really taking off, so we’re working closely with that as well. We’re constantly working to try to stay ahead of the curve and provide our customers with all the technology that they need. It’s very different when you’re working on a high-end VR game than an iPhone 2 game in 2008. [Laughs]
We’ve been very lucky that we have a lot of customers that are happy to pay. Unity doesn’t really cost a lot, but we have enough customers that are happy to pay the pittance it costs. That enables us to aggregate the revenue and hire a lot of great people. We’ve been hiring like crazy in order to invest really deeply and long-term into the Unity platform.
When we started, we were out to democratize game development. We wanted to significantly change how games were built and who could build games. We wanted to expand that universe, so we had to give people great tools.
Again, I’m really, really happy with how this interview turned out. Please, please, please hit the source link, give it a read, and let me know what you think. If you’re a male gamer nerd then I guarantee that you’ll have a man crush on David Helgason. If you’re a female gamer then it’ll more likely be a crush crush.
Here’s a brief chat I had with Alf Tan, head of games business development for Amazon. Prior to joining Amazon’s game team, he worked for Microsoft Game Studios and Microsoft’s Xbox team. His goals at Amazon are to make Amazon a great platform for developers to publish their games on and for customers to buy their games from. In the interview below, Alf talks about Amazon’s culture, how the company views developers and gamers as its customers, his favorite movie, and more. Here’s a brief clip:
We see developers and gamers as customers, and will relentlessly drive hard to deliver what both want. One of the core areas we are focused on is the set top box space to deliver a great gaming experience. Today, many customers have to find gaming experiences in their living rooms through a $300 console. We see an opportunity to deliver great games to customers at a vastly different price point. We have done that through providing fun and challenging gaming experiences on Fire TV with launches like Flappy Bird Family, Crossy Road, some of our own games like Sev Zero, and new experiences like GameFly Streaming.
Alf wasn’t as forthcoming as the other DICE Europe 2015 speakers I interviewed, but he has an interesting position at a powerful company. While Amazon has had success with its games division, the sheer size and influence of the company give it a chance to be a dominant player, especially as it pursues original content. I’m curious to see how big Amazon Games can get.
When you get a chance, please hit up my interview with Alf Tan and let me know what you think.
Another E3 Expo is in the books! Since we’re a few years removed from console launches, E3 2015 was gloriously software heavy. That said, virtual reality hardware was huge at this year’s show and generated lots of excitement. There were tons of great games on the show floor and behind closed doors. Special thanks to old friends and new friends that let me cut lines and sneak into demos that I didn’t have appointments for. Now here are some random thoughts on E3 2015.
Console Press Conferences: Sony crushed it. The company had lots of great original content and showed off juicy timed exclusives. The Shenmue 3 and Final Fantasy VII announcements won the hearts of millions of old-school gamers. Sony has come a long way with presentation too (remember those old Kaz Hirai PowerPoint slides?), largely because Microsoft raised the bar for E3 press conference theatricality. Microsoft put on a good show, but I found Sony’s press conference far more exciting. As for Nintendo’s latest direct-to-video presentation, the company had lots of games that I’m excited for…but the Nintendo executive muppets will haunt my dreams for the next few months (the Satoru Iwata muppet is terrifying).
Publisher Press Conferences: I’m probably in the minority here, but I was more impressed with Square Enix’s presser than EA’s or Ubisoft’s. While Square Enix’s presentation was flat and the company didn’t have the celebrity star power its competitors flaunted, the games were excellent. Square Enix simply had more games that I wanted to play. While many of my friends loved Ubisoft’s lineup, it didn’t do much for me, save for South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Ubisoft gets bonus points for Aisha Tyler hosting and for Angela Bassett’s appearance. As for EA, it had frickin’ Pele — one of the coolest and most legendary single-name celebrities ever. EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst had me amped, but not as much Kingdom Hearts 3, World of Final Fantasy, Life is Strange, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy VII (more on that in a bit).
Virtual Reality: I played a bunch of VR games/demos and totally understand why so many people are excited about this type of gaming. It feels fresh and exciting. When VR works, it’s amazing and makes you feel like you’re playing a game from the future. When the frame rates are clunky, VR games give you a headache. What I’m unsure about is the business model. From what several people told me, making a VR game is very expensive. Gamers will need expensive hardware for the best VR experience. From the (admittedly limited) information I gathered, Valve has the best plans for making VR accessible for developers and consumers. I’m curious to see what the other VR companies will do to help make VR affordable for creators and gamers alike.
Wattam: Going into the show, I was certain that I’d be charmed by Funomena’sWattam. The creation of Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Robin Hunicke (Journey), Wattam is wonderfully creative — a game that’s simple, but with complexity that makes it difficult to describe. Some people are calling it a puzzle game, while others feel it’s adventure, and some are calling it a platformer. Check out the trailer below and see for yourself. Whatever category you think Wattam fits in, there’s no denying that the graphics are cute, the gameplay is creative, and the sound design is adorable. I love that Sony publishes atypically delightful games like Wattam.
Final Fantasy VII: Some gamers feel that FFVII is the best game in the series. Others feel that it’s the most overrated. Either way, it’s a huge deal that the game is being remade and coming to PlayStation 4 (initially). While I enjoyed the original game, it’s not in my top five for the Final Fantasy series. Having said that, I’m a big fan of FFVII world, since Crisis Core and Advent Children helped make sense of everything. I’m going to dedicate a full topic to this column next week. No matter how good or bad the FFVII remake ends up being, I’m excited to watch the process and listen to the debates. I expect full fanboy fury over FFVII and gamers better not disappoint me.
Mario Tennis: I “accidentally” spent more than hour playing Mario Tennis Ultra Smash at Nintendo’s booth. I’m a longtime fan of the Mario Tennis games, both on home and handheld consoles. Even though the game is early and there were only two playable characters, I had a blast with Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. The core gameplay is tight, while the addition of power-ups gives it a wackier feel that make sense in the context of the Mario universe. I’ll give this one a full preview in a bit.
Sword Coast Legends: As a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I was really looking forward to learning more about Sword Coast Legends. After getting a demo and playing the game, my expectations were exceeded. It will surely satisfy fans of the isometric PC RPGs that I mentioned, but should also satisfy fans of pen-and-paper RPGs. The dungeon master features look awesome, powerful, and fun. While most of the game will have professional voice acting, I was delighted to learn that there will be opportunities for live action role-playing. I vow to make a character based on Azrael Abyss from Saturday Night Live and annoy the hell out of anyone foolish enough to let me be a dungeon master. I’ll be giving Sword Coast Legends a full preview too.
Your Take: Naturally, I didn’t get to play or see everything I wanted to. This is where you come in! I’d love to get your take on E3 2015. How did it play from home? What games are you excited for? Who do you think “won” the press conferences? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.