Separated at Birth: Scarlet Witch and Aerith Gainsborough?

I was psyched to see that io9 posted photos of Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch from the set of The Avengers 2. I have high hopes for Ms. Olsen, as she’s on her way to supplanting her evil sisters as the best Olsen sibling in Hollywood. The news that she was cast as the Scarlet Witch was especially exciting. While I didn’t expect her to wear the ridiculous medieval swimsuit from the ’70s and ’80s comics, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

Apparently the costume designer from The Avengers 2 dropped by Final Fantasy VII and jacked Aerith’s clothes. Look at the red top and ridiculous boots! I half-expect her to cast “Holy” during the movie’s climax in order to thwart Ultron. The Scarlet Witch costume looks like a mashup of (mostly) Aereith and (a sprinkle of) Tifa!

Elizabeth Olsen’s version of the Scarlet Witch looks just like Aerith Gainsborough…to me, anyway. When you have a chance, check out the pics and give it some thought. Do you see the resemblance between Avengers 2 Scarlet Witch and FFVII Aerith? Or did somebody slip me crazy pills?

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Coffee Talk #619: When In-App Purchases Go to Heaven

As many of you know, I’ve been playing the hell out of Heroes of Dragon Age. Part of it has been for work, part of it has been for fun, and part of it has been habit. I’ve also been lurking in the Heroes of Dragon Age forums. Reading about the in-app purchase adventures of many players has been a revelation. I’m astounded by how much money some players drop on in-app purchases and how frequently they do it. In the immortal words of Brian Fellow, “That’s crazy!!!”

As a longtime Pokemon fan, I totally understand how addictive collectibility in videogames can be. Mobile games exploit that addiction and mask the habit in clever ways. Like several of its competitors…continued

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, being happy about Chris Brown going to jail, spicy meals you have to sign a waiver for, or the countdown to MLB opening day, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

As many of you know, I’ve been playing the hell out of Heroes of Dragon Age. Part of it has been for work, part of it has been for fun, and part of it has been habit. I’ve also been lurking in the Heroes of Dragon Age forums. Reading about the in-app purchase adventures of many players has been a revelation. I’m astounded by how much money some players drop on in-app purchases and how frequently they do it. In the immortal words of Brian Fellow, “That’s crazy!!!”

As a longtime Pokemon fan, I totally understand how addictive collectibility in videogames can be. Mobile games exploit that addiction and mask the habit in clever ways. Like several of its competitors, Heroes of Dragon Age doesn’t show in-app purchases in actual currency. It uses a gem system. Gems can be purchased in various increments, with 1,600 gems offering the “best value” at $99.99. Many players lose track of the actual dollar value of gems after they’re purchased. It’s much easier to justify 49 gems for an awesome new character than it is $5 for a virtual dolly.

Heroes of Dragon Age In App Purchases

The developers of Heroes of Dragon Age release new character packs every few weeks. Players can buy a chance to acquire new characters. It’s all about the random-number generator. Sometimes you’ll get lucky on your first pull and sometimes it takes dozens of attempts to get the character you want. When a hot new character or characters get released, some players spend hundreds of dollars on in-app purchases until they get the heroes or villains they want. Perhaps I’m just too used to the cartridge/disc model of gaming, but that seems completely nuts to me.

The free-to-play videogame model is relatively new and still evolving. Even in its infancy, I’m amazed by how successful it can be. It blows my mind that Heroes of Dragon Age players are spending hundreds of dollars on in-app purchases for a videogame that could very well be offline in three years. They’re not even buying new characters. They’re purchasing a lottery ticket for a chance to win the character they want. One poster in the Heroes of Dragon Age forums said they he/she spent a little over $300 until he/she got the latest “hot” character.

I wonder what these in-app purchase whales will feel like when the game goes offline. Will they be satisfied with their in-app purchases and consider it money well spent? Or will they be shocked by how much money they spent on a game that they can’t play anymore? As much as I’ve been enjoying Heroes of Dragon Age, I can’t imagine spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on in-app purchases. I’d feel like a dick when the game goes offline and my in-app purchases have gone to heaven.

Of course this could very well be a generational thing. A lot of younger gamers are being raised on free-to-play games and it’s possible that they think this is simply how the videogame world works. What do you think about gamers spending hundreds of dollars on in-app purchases for games like Heroes of Dragon Age? Can you see yourself dropping that much dough on a mobile game? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.

Coffee Talk #618: Nerd Subscriptions and You

As you know, we are living in a digital world (and I am a digital girl…err, scratch that). One of the byproducts of the digital age, particularly for people with nerdy hobbies, is that we’re spending more money on subscription services. For nerd subscriptions, Microsoft’s Xbox Live was the first monthly subscription for many geek chic. Since then, the nerd subscriptions have multiplied like Gremlins. For an endless supply of geeky media, people are dropping money every month on Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, Netflix, Hulu, WWE Network, Marvel Unlimited, and more. I’d love to hear about your nerd subscriptions. It’ll be fun to see the services we all subscribe to…continued

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, Captain Kirk drunk driving in New Zealand, your favorite sandwich getting snubbed by this list of the best sandwiches in America, or NBA excitement building up as the playoffs approach, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

As you know, we are living in a digital world (and I am a digital girl…err, scratch that). One of the byproducts of the digital age, particularly for people with nerdy hobbies, is that we’re spending more money on subscription services. For nerd subscriptions, Microsoft’s Xbox Live was the first monthly subscription for many geek chic. Since then, the nerd subscriptions have multiplied like Gremlins. For an endless supply of geeky media, people are dropping money every month on Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, Netflix, Hulu, WWE Network, Marvel Unlimited, and more. I’d love to hear about your nerd subscriptions. It’ll be fun to see the services we all subscribe to.

As for me, I’m a current subscriber to Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, Netflix (though to be fair, it’s a comped press account), and WWE Network. While I need those services for work purposes, I think they all provide good to great value and would happily pay for them even if they weren’t tax deductible expenses. The videogame service subscriptions are necessary; I don’t really have a choice there. I’m committed to WWE Network for six months, but that would be the first one to go; I love watching classic Ric Flair matches, but from a value standpoint I want to see how live pay-per-view events perform. Netflix has so much great content, with a growing library of exclusives (PokemonStar War: The Clone Wars) that makes it a must-have nerd subscription.

Now it’s your turn! Kindly list your current, cancelled, and prospective nerd subscriptions in the comments section.

What Are You Playing This Weekend?

I suddenly find myself with a bunch of games that I really want to play. Sadly, Final Fantasy: Lightning Returns and Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster will have to wait. I’m always juggling around 10 games of Wordfeud and Heroes of Dragon Age gets played every few hours. The big priority this weekend is sinking some time into South Park: The Stick of Truth. I’ve been high on this game for a long, long time. It has classic turn-based gameplay that I love, old-school RPG elements that I adore, and a heavy layer of South Park humor. Aside from the obvious (plot, voice acting, etc.), the South Park flavor permeates so many aspects of the game. Character classes, weapon descriptions, and more are made hilarious through the inimitable style of Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

So how about you? What’s on your weekend playlist? I know that a few of you have picked up South Park: The Stick of Truth. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Fire away in the comments section (please!).

Dragon Age: Inquisition Trailer

Here’s the latest trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition. As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, it’s game I’m looking forward to the most in 2014. Even though I’m not terribly big on graphics (I’m more of a story and characters guy, especially with RPGs), I was really impressed with the visuals in the trailer. The footage is all in-engine and it’s a safe bet that Dragon Age: Inquisition will be the most visually impressive BioWare game to date.

Visual splendor aside, I’m dying for more plot details. I’m sure lots more will by revealed by E3 2014, but I want details now! I want to know more about the main plot. I want to know more about characters from the first two Dragon Age games, the books, and the comics having a role in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I want to know whether or not BioWare used my suggestion to have the Hero of Ferelden and the Champion of Kirkwall joined by That Really Interesting Guy From Antiva. Yeah, those answers are still a few months away, so for now I’ll just watch this trailer a few dozen times and make up my own stories.

What do you think of the Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer? Are you excited for another romp in Thedas?

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Team Up For Console Wars Movie

In addition to working on the nerdily anticipated Preacher TV show for AMC, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are teaming up for a movie based on Blake Harris’ Console Wars book. Rogen and Goldberg will be directing and writing the movie. The book’s subtitle is “Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation,” so as you can imagine, the Console Wars movie will cover that chapter in the never-ending saga known as Robotech The Console Wars.

Console Wars focuses on former Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske. Known for his brash and aggressive moves, Kalinske helped Sega thrive from 1990 to 1994. At the time, it was unusual for a Westerner to have such a prominent role in a business that revolved around Japan. Of course he also contributed to Sega’s demise with the mishandling of the Saturn console (1995-1996). It will be interesting to see how the book is adapted and what portions of videogame history will be covered.

Here’s a clip from the press release:

Sony Pictures and Scott Rudin (Moneyball, The Social Network) are developing Console Wars as a feature film to be directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Knocked Up, Superbad). Rogen and Goldberg are also writing the screenplay. Harris is serving as Executive Producer, and is also co-directing a documentary on the same subject, with Rudin, Rogen and Goldberg producing as well.

Of course I’m excited for the Console Wars movie. The subject matter is near and dear to my heart. I’m also a big fan of the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg duo. I’m sure they’ll treat the topic and the people involved with reverence. Those guys seem like nerds at heart.

How about you? Are you interested and excited for the Console Wars movie? Have any of you read the book? Kindly use the comments section for casting ideas.

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Coffee Talk #614: Who’s the Best Mortal Kombat Sonya?

My friend Justin and I have had several arguments about the hottest Mortal Kombat Sonya. In the red corner, there’s Bridgette Wilson from the first Mortal Kombat movie. In the blue corner, there’s Sandra Hess from Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. To me, the answer is a no-brainer, but I accept that not everyone has the same opinion. So let’s break it down and examine which actress makes the sexier Mortal Kombat Sonya. After you’ve made up your mind, please vote in the poll below…continued

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, Chris Paul’s triumphant return to the Los Angeles Clippers, the start of the Sochi Olympics, or Marcus Smart’s war on fans, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

My friend Justin and I have had several arguments about the hotter Mortal Kombat Sonya. In the red corner, there’s Bridgette Wilson from the first Mortal Kombat movie. In the blue corner, there’s Sandra Hess from Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. To me, the answer is a no-brainer, but I accept that not everyone has the same opinion. So let’s break it down and examine which actress makes the sexier Mortal Kombat Sonya. After you’ve made up your mind, please vote in the poll below.

Bridgette Wilson Mortal Kombat Sonya

Bridgette Wilson: This lady gets mad bonus points for starring as Miss Veronica Vaughn in the legendary Billy Madison. She also gets additional points for her roles in Saved by the Bell and Last Action Hero. A former Miss Teen USA, Wilson did an adequate job in the Sonya Blade fighting scenes in Mortal Kombat. Objectively, Second Sonya kicked more ass. Subjectively, her body of work made her my pick. Going against her is the fact that she married tennis legend Pete Sampras. Sampras’ uncanny resemblance to Eugene Levy means Bridgette Wilson finds Eugene Levy sexy on some level. Yeah, that’s kind of weird.

Sandra Hess Mortal Kombat Sonya

Sandra Hess: This Swiss beauty dropped out of the University of Zurich’s law school, so she’s smart and beautiful. Her fight scenes in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation were more impressive than Wilson’s, showing a sexy flexibility and the willingness to fight in mud (for no apparent reason). While her body of work isn’t as impressive, she does get some nerd points for starring in Beastmaster III and playing Viper in Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. On the plus side, she did not marry Pete Sampras. While she’s objectively more beautiful and had a better run as Mortal Kombat Sonya, it’s tough to compete with Veronica Vaughn.

Your Turn: Kindly give this hugely important matter some thought, vote in the poll below, and explain your choice in the comments section when you have a chance.

Who's the sexier Mortal Kombat Sonya?

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Amazon Acquires Developer Double Helix, Amazon TV Box Next?

Amazon has acquired independent videogame development studio Double Helix Games. According to Wikipedia, the studio’s credits include Killer Instinct (Xbox One), Battleship (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360), and Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360). While the move indicates that Amazon has aggressive gaming plans up its sleeve, there’s all sorts of speculation about the nature of those plans. Some pundits have postulated the Amazon will be making a videogame console, others believe that the company will have its own line of television sets with embedded videogame capabilities, and some believe that an Amazon set-stop box is on the way.

Personally, I believe a set-top box makes the most sense. I don’t see compelling reasons for Amazon to get into television hardware. A gaming-focused box doesn’t make much sense either. A streaming-Internet box (think Apple TV or Roku) that uses Amazon’s custom version of Android (see Kindle Fire) and revolves around Amazon Prime Instant Video content could be compelling. The company has tons of great movies and television shows available through streaming. Add some original gaming content to the mix and an Amazon Internet streaming box could be a big hit.

Then again, a box might not be necessary at all. Amazon Prime Instant Video is already available in hundreds of televisions from several top manufacturers. Perhaps a more robust embedded service that includes games is the next logical step. The issue here is inconsistency; I’ve seen Amazon Prime Instant Video apps run smoothly on TVs and I’ve seen them run like garbage. Controlling its own box with set hardware specs and a clear path to software updates would allow Amazon to offer a more consistent experience.

Now it’s your turn to speculate and get in touch with your inner Michael Pachter. Why do you think Amazon acquired Double Helix? Do you think the company is on the verge of offering an Internet TV box similar to Apple TV or Roku? Would you be interested in an Amazon box that offered Amazon Prime Instant Video and original videogame content? Share your sage thoughts in the comments section (please!).

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Nintendo Fusion Rumors Debunked?

Nintendo fans around the world were sent into full-fanboy mode when the Nintendo Fusion rumor hit yesterday. Nintendo News reported that the Nintendo Fusion initiative consists of a new home console (Fusion Terminal) and a new handheld system (Fusion DS). The web site posted a bunch of specs to back up its reporting. Many longtime Nintendo fans were hopeful (wishful?) that Nintendo Fusion would allow the company to compete with Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One.

More recently, the specs Nintendo News posted have been called into question. VentureBeat’s “Dancing” Dean Takahashi (one of the best reporters in the videogame business) posted a great article with opinions from a chip engineer that call the rumored specs into question. Here’s a clip:

Pallab Chatterjee, a seasoned chip engineering editor and founder of the Silicon Valley Trade Council, said, “A couple of things don’t make sense.” He noted that the Adreno cores are part of the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip set and are not offered or licensed to AMD. The ARM architecture currently cannot run PowerPC code that IBM uses in the existing Nintendo products. That would mean a 100 percent loss of legacy code compatibility, Chatterjee said.

He also said the 3GB of memory in the portable device also seems small for the applications that will reportedly run on the machine, especially if the screen is a high-resolution one. The camera specs seem a bit light as well, Chatterjee said.

The initial rumor is interesting. The Wii U is a relatively new system (November 2012) and it’s unusual for any console company to release a followup so soon. It seems like a complete panic move, which would be highly unusual for the conservative Nintendo. Then again, the company’s last financial numbers were dreadful and the Wii U has been getting trounced by the competition. It can be argued that Nintendo Fusion is a bold and necessary step for Nintendo.

Naturally, I want your opinions on the matter. What do you think of the original Nintendo Fusion rumor? Is it legit or bunk (like those daily Apple rumors)? How about The Dancing One’s information from Pallab Chatterjee? Do you think that Nintendo needs to release new systems? Or should it bide its time for an all-new, all-different strategy in the rapidly changing field of videogames? Kindly fuse your thoughts into a comments box below!

Nintendo Fusion

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Coffee Talk #611: Five Things I Liked From CES 2014

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) is wrapping up and tech nerds are still recovering from being inundated by awesome announcements. Looking through the retroscope, I wish I had gone to this year’s show. It had the expected technology and gaming announcements I expected. What surprised me was the amount of vaping goods on display. Gah! Before I plan for CES 2015, let’s take a look back at five announcements I liked from CES 2014…continued

Welcome to Coffee Talk! Let’s start off the day by discussing whatever is on your (nerd chic) mind. Every morning I’ll kick off a discussion and I’m counting on you to participate in it. If you’re not feelin’ my topic, feel free to start a chat with your fellow readers and see where it takes you. Whether you’re talking about videogames, the fraudulent NY Knicks giving fans false hope with their fluke win over the Miami Heat, the Broadway musical based on the lyrics of Tupac Shakur, or the unfortunate news of Emma Watson dating some fool rugby player, Coffee Talk is the place to do it.

The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) is wrapping up and tech nerds are still recovering from being inundated by awesome announcements. Looking through the retroscope, I wish I had gone to this year’s show. It had the expected technology and gaming announcements I expected. What surprised me was the amount of vaping goods on display. Gah! Before I plan for CES 2015, let’s take a look back at five announcements I liked from CES 2014.

  1. WWE Network: I wrote about the CES 2014 WWE Network announcement yesterday and I’m still jazzed about the news. This streaming-video service is a dream come true for marks, smarts, and smarks. For $10 a month you get all 12 live WWE pay-per-view events, some original programming, and on-demand access to classic pro-wrestling matches. Hell, I’d pay $10 a month just to watch Ric Flair’s vast library of five-star matches.
  2. First-Gen Steam Machines: Valve-powered Steam Machines are potentially disruptive for the entire videogame universe. Steam Machines could dratically change things for gamers, game developers, and game publishers. I was thrilled to see that first-gen Steam Machines will be coming from top hardware vendors at a broad range of prices. Steam Machines are on the way from Alienware, CyberPowerPC, Digital Storm, Falcon NW ,GigaByte, iBuyPower, Origin PC, and others.
  3. T-Mobile Pays For ETFs: T-Mobile USA’s John Legere is easily the most entertaining CEO in technology today. I love his bold moves and juvenile antics. Some of the things he does aren’t exactly professional, but damn they’re funny. It was hilarious that he crashed AT&T’s CES 2014 party…and promptly got kicked out. In a serious move, I dig the latest step in T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” initiative: paying early-termination fees (ETFs) for customers moving from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon to T-Mobile. It’s just the latest in a number of aggressive moves from carrier.
  4. Razer Project Christine: Speaking of bold and aggressive, I’m absolutely smitten with Razer’s Project Christine concept design that was unveiled at CES 2014. This modular PC chassis looks amazingly cool and is extremely practical. It makes upgrading and expanding a PC’s capabilities a snap. Even though I’m mostly a Mac guy these days, I’d love to get a Project Christine PC for when I’m working on PC games.
  5. PlayStation Now: The Gaikai streaming-videogame service will be reborn as PlayStation Now. In addition to streaming older PlayStation games to PlayStation consoles, the service will be built into select Bravia televisions. This is a fantastic value-added feature for casual gamers that want to play videogames every now and then, but aren’t into it enough to buy a dedicated machine. It could even serve as a gateway service and create born-again gamers. It’s a very cool and very smart move from Sony.

How about you guys and dolls? What CES 2014 product or service announcements did you enjoy?