What is happening with the Solid State Gamer?

Hello everyone. This is Jon Rivera from the Solid State Gamer with an update on what has been going on with the website. I could simply say not much and leave it at that. However, that would not be particularly honest and it would be unjust if I didn’t fully explain why the site has been at a standstill. It deeply pains me to see my dream of my own gaming coverage site repeat history for the third time.

 

SSG’s Birth
During the latter half of my high school career (2006) I began to grow more and more fascinated with the world of gaming and the industry via magazines like EGM and websites like Gamespot. With Gamespot in particular, the notion of a close-knit team of individuals driven by their passion for the medium of interactivity coming together to deliver news and offer analysis was a very attractive to me. This site had a cool community feature that allowed members to create their own sub-communities or unions. It was around this time when I create the League of Cartridge Gamers or LCG for short. The focus of the group was self explanatory, but the goal was more than just talking about retro games. It was about diving into the details of that games’ history and analyzing their accomplishments in technical design. This was the initial seed that would eventually grow into product of my mind that is the Solid State Gamer.

Another important event that led me to create the SSG into its own thing was the firing of Jeff Gerstmann from Gamespot and the ensuing exodus of the site’s veteran members back in 2007. During that transitional time between Gamespot and Giant Bomb, Gerstmann started his own blog using WordPress to keep up with the industry. That really inspired me to try my hand at creating my own space where I could write about the video game intellectually. Shortly after Jeff put out his review of Burnout: paradise the Solid State Gamer was born.

 

Red Light, Green Light
Unfortunately, the Solid State Gamer’s history is rife with being put on hiatus for nondescript amounts of time. The site is currently dealing with this problem right now. The sad thing is that the issues leading up to these pauses has always been the same. That cause is the lack of a substantial dedicated team of like-minded folks who believe in what they are doing and are willing to put in the work to turn a humble game coverage site into something great.

During the first leg of life, the SSG only had three writers working on it. This included myself, William Figueroa and an old co-worker of mine. That co-worker was not able to contribute much for personal reasons and it was too much to expect only two people to add meaningful well written content. I had put the website on hiatus for a time because of this and time I had to invest in my college education.

I ended up taking on freelance writing jobs and started out with small sites. In 2011 I wrote for a little publication called The Unsung Heroes, which was a comic book coverage site with an interest in covering the games industry. It was an interesting learning experience as was my time at Buy Poe and Default Prime as a news a features writer. Afterwards, I tried for a time to go it alone and resurrected the site in 2012. I then ran into the same issue and could not publish reviews, news and other features at the speed that other larger publications could do. After putting the site on hold again, I vowed to never bring the site back unless I had a team of folks who were willing to commit and put in the hard work required to make a successful game coverage site happen. It was understandable in some ways and heartbreaking in others. Regardless, I am proud of the work that I had done when the site was in its infancy.

 

This Current Solid State Gamer
I had pretty much dropped the notion that I could make a comprehensive gaming site a reality by the time 2014 rolled around. It was at this time that one of my old friends from college Matt White proposed doing a video game focused podcast or something along those lines. It sounded like a fun idea, but I was leery about a couple potential issues. The first thing that worried me was I previously tried the whole gaming website thing and it didn’t pan out because of not having a solid team able to bring in a big way. The other issue is that you cannot simply have a gaming podcast and expect to create a big entity around one production.

I suggested to Matt that, in order for us to create something successful in the gaming world, the podcast would have to be a provision of a bigger thing – a game coverage publication. Matt seemed to be all gung ho about doing it, but I  caution concerning it. Running and working on a gaming site requires a lot of work and dedication even when it does not yield any financial livelihood or profit. Matt still insisted that we start up something and he wanted to record a podcast anyway.

The idea was not to initially resurrect the Solid State Gamer and it was to be an original name and brand. Matt suggested some names for the site and audio production and they were all sort of crappy. None of the names suggested any semblance of professionalism and that really bothered me. I wasn’t out to be like so many folks on YouTube who make funny videos where the video games were just a backdrop for sophomoric humor. I wanted to do proper games journalism. I then suggested that we bring back my old name and publication along with its ideals. It was agreed upon that this was going to be the plan. We then started on the plan to bring back the Solid State Gamer with Matt White and his friend Richard Hunt – it is a decision that I now regret.

 

Working with Matt White

I stressed to Matt that it was important to publish as much solid written content as possible, as this would create awareness and give us topics to talk about on our podcast. Things started out slow mostly because we were just figuring things out and I was still working my old job at Bellini’s. I was working a sous chef job their and was being worked like a slave, so I didn’t really have time to do full time coverage going in. I eventually left and started posting new content and porting older features that I wrote for previous publications onto the site.

Matt started out okay and posted a two articles weeks apart on retro console hardware. Unfortunately, that’s where he hit a wall when it came to work output after only a couple of months. This was a constant issue for the whole time he worked for the site. To be fair, Richard was worse in this area, only producing one article during his short time on the site. It was not that great of an article either. Richard only lasted a few months before he was ejected from the team. He and Matt had a falling out over a situation that is between the two of them, so I will respectfully not go into detail about what exactly happened.

The site’s podcast, called The Solid State Romcast, started out being fairly low tech and was not the quality that I wanted. I suggested investing in the audio equipment necessary to create a high quality audio production and the tech could also be used for video production. He agreed, but nothing ever came of this exchange. I refused to do another podcast without the proper gear, so I purchased it with my own money. Not once did I demand anyone else on the team to give money to buy equipment; I merely suggested what things needed to be bought to produce quality audio and video content. This course of events transpired every time we needed to get something for the site. It was always suggested and Matt would always say, “we really need to get this or that,” but nothing would happen, so I would end up buying it myself.

With the podcast, there were issues. For the time, there were no news articles being published on the site proper, so we looked at news features on other sites. This was not a practice I liked, and insisted after a while that we would only cover news topics that related to content published on the site. Even with this rule in place, Matt would want to resort to other sites talking topics. This was mostly because wasn’t really writing much for the site. Every recording day he would come over with a six-pack of beer and then ask, “So, what are we gonna talk about today?” It even got to the point where he wouldn’t even park his car and come to my home to record. He would drive into the driveway and text me to come out and join him for a ‘beer run.’ He wasted a lot of time and insisted that we spend almost an entire day on one podcast when there was much more to be done for the website.

 

Matt Trying to be The Boss

I didn’t mind if we took a break or even had fun in between segments, but Matt never knew when to stop goofing around and get back to work on the task at hand. I tolerated these antics for a time and I even indulged myself in having a beer occasionally, but it just kept getting worse and worse. I started to put my foot down against goofing around all the time and spoke out against the unprofessional and unproductive antics that simply wasted time. Matt didn’t care and kept on and didn’t see any issue with his conduct.

This stuff was a problem on its own, but this was compounded by the fact that he would not write anything weeks or months on end. He would barely contribute work, but he had no problem coming in to record and frequently check the site stats and comment on it. He also had the tendency to text me about gaming news, but he wouldn’t write an article on it. I have no idea why he constantly did that. He would also delegate a lot. It was almost as if he thought that he was my boss and the Solid State Gamer was under his ownership. Whenever he said ‘we’, he meant myself. This applied to what needed to be done to get more hits and improve the site’s success. Whenever he said ‘I’, he meant himself alone. Matt White had a tendency to take partial credit for the contributions of others, but would turn around and take full credit for one thing he published.

If you listen to all the episodes of the podcast, you can hear him doing this on countless occasions. For a while I let go unchallenged, but I began to call him out on that sort of nonsense toward the end of his tenure. On top of these problems it was like pulling teeth to get him to pull his wait and actually work on anything. Whenever he would bring the site’s stats or the subject of money (he brought this up often), I would turn around and address that fact that he hasn’t done any work for this publication in weeks. He would make an excuse and I would end the exchange saying that he needed to do his fair share of work. We had this conversation several times.

During December of last year, we had brought on one of our friend Nathan VanDyke as a news writer. His work was solid and he would post news stories on his own, which pleasantly surprised me. After a few months he quickly overtook Matt in work output. This made his lack of effort stick out even more.

 

The Final Straw

The whole situation came to a head when Matt decided that he wanted to make a video. Now, that alone isn’t an issue in and of itself. The problem comes from the fact that I was the one who owned all the equipment for making videos and recording audio. He wanted to shoot a hardware teardown video of one of my retro video game consoles – essentially without my consent. This made me angry, but I compromised, saying that he could only work on systems that I had a double of. He then wanted to work on it on one of my free days. The issue was that he had no plan for how the video would be structured. There was no script, no structure and he didn’t even have a name for the video series. I then told him that I was not about to waste my time working on something without a plan. For some reason, he wasn’t happy me saying that.

I told him we would record as soon as I see a document detailing how the video feature would be named, structured, shot and edited. This is not an unreasonable request. Being true to form and surprising no one, he never created such a document. Roughly a week after this situation, Matt and Nate came over to record another podcast. Before we got to it, Matt put me on the spot with Nate as his defense in order to accuse me of holding the website and the equipment hostage. He also tried to defend is lack of work output and used site stats to justify that he didn’t have to do anymore work for the site. I then told him the same thing I had said to him in previous discussions. The issue was nothing to do with me being some evil dictator, rather the problem was Matt not pulling his weight. At this point, I got very stern with him and told him like it is. The meeting ended with everyone stating they had no more questions, but I could tell that Matt wasn’t happy about how it went.

A week later, on a day we were supposed to record the podcast, I had to call Matt because he never showed up. In the working world, that is referred to as a “No call, no show.” I asked him what was going on and he told that he was quitting that moment. The reason was that he wasn’t having any fun anymore. He said that we would still be cool and that our out-of-work friendship wouldn’t change. Though I wasn’t okay with how he quit (one of the most unprofessional ways to quit), I was glad that he was at least honest with me… or so I thought

 

An Apology That is Long Overdue
After Matt quit, I could no longer do the podcast. Nate was still working for the site, but he works a lot and doesn’t have a lot of time to record. Recently, he hasn’t any time to write for the site. He was always honest with me and I will always appreciate the work he did for the website while he was able. He gave and honest effort. The last proper article is the Final Fantasy VII remake news piece and that’s where things have sadly ceased.

For a while I tried to find others in Lexington to join the site and write for it, but there seems to be little interest in game journalism in my town. For some reason, I ended up calling a semi regular guest who would join the podcast. Leo is a fellow who has been professionally covering games for nearly half a decade and was a lot of fun to talk to. I suppose I missed talking to him about games and how we would bounce information off each other. I got a hold of him over Skype and the two of us had the most interesting conversation. The exchange was a bit awkward in the beginning for reasons I didn’t know at the time.

After telling him that just wanted to know how he’s been, he then explained that he was initially worried I called him in anger. I was confused until he spoke of Matt. After telling Leo about the SSG site situation and my dealings with Matt, he then told about his woes while working with Matt. He joined up with Leo almost right after he quit the SSG. Apparently, Matt told Leo that I didn’t do any work and that it was Matt that did most of what you see on this space currently. Also he said that I didn’t give Matt the same right as an owner – he never did the work that warranted having access to administrative tools. That’s for someone who actually administrates and works.

In that conversation I basically found out that Matt is a liar and lied to me and stabbed me in the back. The worst thing is that he could have ruined another person’s website plans. It was bad enough that he quit in the way he did, but learning of his lies and deceit has hurt me on both a professional and personal level. Mathew White owes me an apology for wronging me as both a friend and as a colleague.

 

The End?

Well, this is the end, beautiful friends. After a year and a half of honest effort on my part, I am announcing that I will be ceasing work on the Solid State Gamer as a core game coverage publication. Perhaps I will convert it into a personal gamer blog where I speak more personally about my life with video games. As for my professional work, I now work for Leo M. on his new game coverage publication called Gaming Instincts. If you want to see my work as well as that of my colleagues, you are more than welcome to join us there. I want to personally thank everyone who supported our little gaming website that could. We would never gotten this far without you. This been a very interesting learning experience for me for better or worse. Again, it is understandable in some ways yet painful in others. This could be the end of the Solid State Gamer, but this isn’t the end for me and my passion for the medium of interactivity… bang.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake Will Be Episodic And Feature A Dynamic ATB Combat System

ffvii remake logo

During the Sony PSX 2015 event a new trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake was revealed, creating quite the stir in the process. In this new footage there was quite a bit of information to digest. The members of Avalanche (Barret, Biggs, Wedge and Jesse) and Cloud Strife speak during the  trailer, giving a glimpse into the current state of the voice acting and how these characters will sound. The graphical fidelity of the footage definitely matches what was seen in the announcement trailer for this work in progress title. Some of the video shows the player as Cloud running through the streets and Mako reactor facilities of Midgar. However, the bigger reveal shows some of the battle sequences, which looks feature a real-time combat system accompanied with a small window of options and character status window. This display of action RPG game play has provoked many reactions from fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, with some embracing this new system and others longing for the familiar Active Time Battle system. Despite first perceptions, this trailer technically does feature the ATB system, but it is presented in a more dynamic way and does not telegraph itself particularly well.

ffvii trailer 1

Cloud Strife takes a swing at one of the Shinra troops.

The characters have received a heavy graphical overhaul and some have been heavily redesigned. Barret specifically has seen many revisions in terms of his build and his outfit. It is nice to also see more attention given to Biggs, Wedge and Jesse of Avalanche. The environmental design of the Mako reactor and the streets of Midgar have seen some design changes, but still maintain a similar unsaturated steampunk aesthetic like its original counterpart.

ffvii trailer 2

Cloud and Barret traversing the innards of the Shinra Mako reactor.

There are a few other interesting aspects of the trailer, but the visuals action oriented nature of the overall game play is what caught the most attention during its PSX presentation. After the presentation, Square-Enix issued a press release announcing that Final Fantasy VII Remake will not be presented as one game. It will be released in an episodic format and there were no details explaining how this would affect the game’s release and/or development initially. This revelation has worried critics and fans alike with speculation germinating from this known distribution method.

ffvii trailer 3

Cloud crouches to squeeze through a hole in the wall.

In an interview with Dengeki Online, Square-Enix’s Yoshinori Kitase (Producer) and director Tetsuya Nomura (Director) both addressed the reason for breaking  up the remake into multiple parts. They stated that the scope of the game is ambitious and is more densely packed, which cannot be done with just one release.

The idea that a remake of Final Fantasy VII would not fit into a single release was there from the very beginning. We still can’t share more information about its multiple parts, but please look forward to future announcements…

…As you can see in the trailer, we showed Sector 1 and Sector 8, but in those areas alone, I think you can see a lot of density. When you’re remaking the entirety of the original version in that quality, it’s not possible to fit it all in one release.  ~Yoshinori Kitase (Producer, Square-Enix)

ffvii trailer 4

Cloud looking forward after jumping off of the train at the reactor.

If we dedicated our time to a single release, parts of it would become condensed. We’d have to cut some parts, and additional parts would come in few, so rather than remake the game as a full volume, we decided to do multiple parts.  ~Tetsuya Nomura (Director, Square-Enix)

Even with this explanation, this announcement has been met with a mixed and heavily polarizing reception. It is far too soon to tell how this will affect the final release of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Nonetheless, many are concerned that this design choice may bode ill for this highly anticipated game.

 

For those who have yet to see the latest Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4) game play trailer, here it is:

 

Thoughts From Rivera:

So far, I think the game looks impressive with the character redesigns offering some familiarity while making aesthetic improvements. It is also really interesting to see Cloud interacting with obstacles in the environment when trying to traverse it. The thing that has me the most intrigued is the combat system because of how fast paced it appears. It is hard to tell how much of it is action and how much of it is strategic – you can only discern so much from a few seconds of combat over which you have absolutely no agency. The whole episodic nature of the game’s eventual distribution is the only aspect of Final Fantasy VII Remake that sounds troubling to me. How is this game going be handled in a physical retail capacity? Will it simply be an digital download only release? There is still a bit of ambiguity surrounding this title and I hope that it becomes more clear in the coming months.

 

 

What do you think of these new FFVII Remake details? Let us know!

Unboxing: Sony Playstation 4 500GB Uncharted Bundle

Jon Rivera purchases a brand new Sony Playstation 4 system for coverage on the website. The particular SKU bought is the 500GB Nathan Drake collection bundle. This SKU sells at a MSRP of $349.99 ($299.99 during Black Friday/Cyber Monday). This unboxing shows all the contents in this specific console bundle.

Bundle/SKU contents:

  • x1 Playstation 4 500GB system with a black matte finish
  • x1 6″ power cord
  • x1 6″ HDMI cord
  • x1 Dual Shock 4 controller
  • x1 earbud and microphone communicator set
  • x1 Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection game

As always, thanks for watching! If you enjoyed our video, please rate and subscribe for more video features. Check out our main site for videos, podcasts, written features and more! Look us up at:

http://www.thesolidstategamer.wordpress.com

If you have and comments, suggestions or criticisms be sure to drop us a line at:

solidstateromcast@gmail.com

Weekly Mailbag: 11-24-15 Edition

In this edition of the weekly mailbag series, Jon has acquired a new console on top of a few games. He also addresses some of the technical hiccups and slow time with the website. Here’s a breakdown of what he found on the cheap:

– Playstation 2 console [slim version]
– Time Splitters [PS2]
– Shockwave [3DO]
– Shockwave: Operation Jumpgate [3DO]

As always, thanks for watching! If you enjoyed our video, please rate and subscribe for more video features. Check out our main site for videos, podcasts, written features and more! Look us up at:

http://www.thesolidstategamer.wordpress.com

If you have and comments, suggestions or criticisms be sure to drop us a line at:

solidstateromcast@gmail.com

Fierce Harmony: An Interview with Michael Pierre Price

fierceh

Over the last few months, I have still been searching for any information pertaining to a special game that has remained long forgotten by the mainstream gaming masses. This was an online-only multiplayer sword combat title known as Fierce Harmony: The Beginning. It started development in 1996 by Indigo Moon Productions and eventually saw release through Kesmai’s Gamestorm service in 1999 along with other titles like Air Warrior III, Aliens Online, the aptly titled Legends of Kesmai and many other games meant solely for online play.

Fierce Harmony took place in a fictional plane of existence known as the Nexus and was composed of several regions that served as ceremonial battle grounds for the tribal combatants of this universe. These beings would then engage in one-on-one sword-based duels in a format that was more strategic and deliberately paced than other weapon oriented fighting games like Soul Blade [PS1] and Battle Arena Toshinden [PS1]. Each player would have a window of time to input his or her commands that would then translate to the on-screen action.

Unfortunately, Fierce Harmony had a very short lifespan and was eventually shut down sometime in 2002. The development studio, Indigo Moon Productions, would eventually close its doors some years after. The online nature of the title coupled with a lack of a proper standalone physical retail release has possibly rendered this as a lost game, meaning that it may no longer exist in a playable form.

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Through a great deal of research and pleasantly serendipitous events, I was finally able to learn more about this intriguing piece of gaming history by speaking with Fierce Harmony composer Michael Pummell. In that interview, he conveyed just how much he enjoyed working on this project and that it is a creative work that he is truly proud of. He also expressed how great an experience it was to work with Indigo Moon founder Michael Price.

In an effort to learn more about this unique game, I tried to find a way to contact Mr. Price. This proved to be very difficult because little information about Indigo Moon exists. Fortunately, the first interview caught his attention and he expressed an interest in speaking further about Fierce Harmony. In my interview with Michael Pierre Price he elaborates on his start in the video game industry, the history of Indigo Moon Productions, the development and release of Fierce Harmony: The Beginning along with many experiences during his 30 year long career in the industry.

Jon Rivera and Michael Pierre Price

 

Rivera: Firstly, I would like to start with thanking you for speaking with me about Fierce Harmony. I greatly appreciate it.

Price: Oh, my pleasure. I didn’t think I’d ever do anything like this, so this kind of a treat in a lot of ways.

Rivera: It is very much a treat for me too. It’s a game that, from what I have researched, seems really interesting. It is a very fascinating cul-de-sac in multiplayer online gaming. It took a lot of bold moves and risks and I definitely learned about that talking to Mr. Pummell. By the way, he sends his regards. He hopes all is well.

Price: Yeah. I really liked working with him.

Rivera: He has definitely done quite a lot of amazing work as far as gaming goes and games I personally played. I guess the best way to begin is to ask you got your start in the video game industry. If my research serves me correctly, you actually started in the realm of pen-and-paper role playing games. Is that correct?

Price: Yes!

Rivera: It’s funny. I actually exhumed my copies of Gamma World and Star Frontiers that my stepfather gave me [Price laughs] and, sure enough, your name was in the rulebooks. I said to myself, “Oh my goodness! He [Price] has had a bigger impact on me than I first realized.”

Price: Well, that’s pretty cool!

Rivera: Absolutely. So, you started out at TSR?

Price: Yes, yes I did back in 1980.

Rivera: What other things did you work on during your time at TSR other than Gamma World?

Price: Well, one of the very first games I did for the company was one of TSR’s mini games. The title was They’ve Invaded Pleasantville. TSR was doing a bunch of mini games at that time and then I was involved with the D&D [Dungeons and Dragons] expansions from Basic and Expert. That whole thing during that time frame as well. [I] did a lot of behind-the-scenes things, a lot of play testing. I was originally brought in because of my background in physics and astronomy to help with Star Frontiers. That was being developed at that time as well, and did a lot of play testing help. So, it was really formative time for TSR and myself as well. It was a really cool fun time. Also, the last big thing that I was involved with was trying to help them launch the very first products in their computer game area. That was kind of an exciting time, that was around 1982 or 1983. So, that’s how I got started. I left academia and joined as a game designer, one of their first game designers.

Rivera: Ecxellent. Another game I played was Star Frontiers. I was raised on the good stuff; the classics.

Price: That’s cool stuff. Awesome.

Rivera: I have to assume that your time at TSR was sort of a springboard that propelled you into the world of interactive entertainment. Was this starting with Coleco?

Price: Yes. In fact, Lawrence Schick, who had hired me at TSR, had left several months ahead of that [for Coleco]; Maybe even a year ahead from when I left. When I’d left TSR he and I stayed in contact and he was telling about Coleco and video games. To be honest, I really didn’t know much of anything about video games. It was still obviously a very new phenomena at that time and I didn’t really consider that as any kind of possibility. Eventually, I did join Coleco. So, it was a lot of on-the-job training in terms of the whole new technology component on top of things. [Laughs] It’s crazy because the games that were being made at that point were 4Kb cartridges… 4K [laughs]!

I mean, you know we have textures these days that are a lot bigger than that! It was really, really fascinating to get a chance to be involved with something that was emerging into the mass market conciousness at that point.

Rivera: What are some titles that you work on? Did you do game development work on the Colecovision exclusively, the Adam Computer exclusively or both?

Price: Actually both. The Adam was the last stages when I joined on board. There was still a lot of internal play testing on some of that along with some of the entertainment titles that were being packaged with it. That was part of some of my involvement and then working on just the Colecovision titles as well. Development times and the scope of the games obviously was very different than what we’re kind of used to these days. The design department really was made up of traditional pen and paper game designers and we were working on multiple titles not only as the leads for those titles, but then also helping to serve as play testers and additional developers on other titles. So many of the titles were arcade knock-offs or arcade adaptations (arcade to home console ports) for the Colecovision and adaptations from other consoles at that point, other machines, to the Colecovision. We were working with Japanese developers on the arcade side. We had a lot of arcade machines within Coleco that we would play test to understand what all the ins and outs of the games were, so that we could then replicate that on the Colecovision. It was a chaotic environment, but it was really cool!

Rivera: It must have been an extremely interesting learning experience. Just as a non sequitur, did you have any involvement with the K. C. Munchkin games or did you experience the strife of the Sid Sheinberg Universal lawsuit for Donkey Kong?

Price: Yes, in some respects. Well, it was really interesting at that point. With the Adam version, I believe that Lawrence was the lead on Super Donkey Kong and we actually created some new levels. Apparently, I guess the license holders nixed most of that. For me, so much of this was new, other than some of the classic arcade games, and was really fascinating. Also, to be working with a new technology within a hugely successful company that had other products made for an interesting dynamic too.

Rivera: For sure. How did it come to pass that you would found Indigo Moon Productions?

Price: Well, I left Coleco and that wasn’t because we really wanted to; it was because they basically made a business decision that shut down the electronic game division. I managed to get involved with a privately held company that had licensed laser technology that they wanted to do some entertainment titles with. That led me, for a few years, to work in the location based entertainment industry. Things that you would find maybe at Disney World that would be dark rides and things like that which then led me, in the mid 90s, to a company that was building virtual reality arcade games for the location based entertainment industry that was based out of Louisville, KY. I then got hired on as their director of game development to create games for their VR efforts. After a year of working with them, myself and two programmers and one of the business development guys saw that the management running the company had some issues, so we decided we would go off on our own and start our own company doing game development for the games industry. At that time, our two programmers were really experts in 3D, which was emerging. We started Indigo Moon Productions without any clients and we went to CES [Consumer Electronics Show], got a rep for our company, landed a title with Interplay to do programming development and grew the company. The company lasted for six or so years based in Louisville, KY which was an oddity at the time.

Rivera: Absolutely. I was actually quite intrigued to find out that there was a video game development studio in Louisville at some point in history, which is pretty close to the Solid State Gamer headquarters in Lexington. That is how I first discovered the title, through a fellow with whom I work with. He does acting work on the side and had mentioned something about doing the preliminary fight choreography for a small game title called Fierce Harmony.

Price: Oh my Gosh!

Rivera: Yes, Mr. Phillips. Thomas Phillips!

Price: [Laughs] Yes! He was awesome. Oh my god, he was so developmental in helping us hone and really target what we conceptually wanted to do for the fight sequences. Oh my gosh, what a small world [laughs]!

Rivera: It sure is a small world! What time would you say this was in the development cycle of Fierce Harmony? Was this 1996 we are talking about?

Price: Yeah, in that time frame. I literally spent two months working at home away from the other guys in fall of ’95 conceptualizing the major game play ideas that would become Fierce Harmony. It was really a major effort on my part. The other guys had no idea of what I was working on and, after about two months on my own, I came back and we went through a lot of the concepts this was our first title that we wanted to pitch to the newly emerging online game space. There was a lot of excitement, but also at the same time for a really new small company the idea that we could kind of pitch our own idea was a real big double edged sword at that point. A small pun intended I guess [laughs].

Rivera: How did you come to contract Micheal Pummell for composing the music for Fierce Harmony?

Price: Well, that was definitely further down the road, but I really wanted to create a very otherworldly, atmospheric and primal environment. Not something that would feel like being on another planet, but something that would feel like being in another plane of existence. We were looking at creating visual environments that would be evocative of a lot of the conceptual things going on and I knew that I wanted to create music and sound effects that would tie in and really enhance the visuals at the same time. We had nobody on board with the capabilities or the background in that area, so we went searching and had heard that there was this group in Cincinnati, OH [Goldman Productions] that existed and we reached out to them. We had a few meetings and that’s where I met Mike. I don’t exactly remember was his title was there, but anyway we got along. He, I would say, almost immediately had a good feel for what we were trying to achieve and there was a lot of back-and-forth experimentation and collaboration; a lot of things we didn’t end up using. For me, it’s what’s magical about working with other creative people when you get in sync with them. Things happen and come into existence that could have never happened if you were the only one doing it. So, for me, Mike was a real joy to work with.

Rivera: It is always great when that sort of magic happens. With how you have described in terms of doing development on the game, could I make the conjecture that there was a lot of working remotely between different facets of the game’s development?

Price: Well, on the sound side, yes. The rest of it was done internally. We had a small team of about a dozen people. It was a pretty good mix between 3D and texture artists, animators and the programming side as well. It was a real cool experience because there were only a few really major massively multiplayer titles at that point, all of the classic RPGs. There were a small number of companies that had been experimenting in this area and our title got picked up by the Imagination Network which became World Play and became a part of America Online. Unfortunately for us, AOL dropped their external developments and then we ended up getting picked by Kesmai, which was a whole other experience for us as a small company trying to stay afloat. We finally got released on Kaesmai’s GameStorm network in 1999 when we finally got out of beta and launched.

Rivera: I see. Not to skip around the chronology too much, but when you had Tom Phillips do the fight choreography, was there any semblance of motion capture or was just recording his movements on film or tape?

Price: Yeah, we recorded it on video camera. What he was doing for us was giving us the visual language to take to the folks that we worked with on motion capture. So, a lot of Tom’s choreography was from classic sword fighting and what is done in theater and also with movies. He gave us a lot of the basic language and the basic stances with transitional concepts in going from one movement to another, the different defensive postures and offensive techniques. I guess I had been influenced a lot by the sword fighting that I liked seeing in The Highlander, so for me, I was kind of looking for a mix between martial arts sword fighting to some degree and classic European style sword fighting. The folks that got to do the actual motion capture for us were expert martial artists experienced in sword fighting, so they added their own innate way in which they did things based on the kinds language and concepts that we had developed. It changed even further from what Tom showed us, but Tom gave us the basis for being able to talk to and direct the guys that did the motion capture movements that we would have never been able to do without Tom. So, he gave us the vocabulary and the concepts for us to make the time we had in the motion capture studio productive. He was very instrumental with that.

Rivera: Was the game itself, if I can get into the mechanical framework, to be a real-time action oriented experience or was it supposed to be a more deliberately slow paced turn based experience?

Price: That is an excellent question. That was the challenge I faced as a game designer when we were doing this because, at that point in time, the technology for online gaming made a fast-paced button masher game an impossibility if you were trying to reach a mass audience. We made the decision to create a hybrid between fast-paced action and a deliberative turn based approach, so it was turn based in the decision making that the players had, but they were limited in terms of how much time they were given to make those decisions. There was the definitely the back-and-forth [with the action], but at the same time you had to be making your strategic decisions within a certain time frame.

Rivera: That is really interesting.

Price: Not microseconds, but several seconds. The time pressure was there, but it was enough so that you could strategize.

Rivera: What were the other features of the game? I noticed that the combatants, in the few stills I could find on the internet, showed different creative looking avatars that would serve as the vessel to put the player in. was there a character character creation suite?

Price: There was, but not in the sense that you could pick lots of different physical characteristics. You were really picking qualities about your character and that created the fighter. It was very limited and the body type was pretty standard. Some of the tones of the character could change, but the big feature was about how your abilities grew. Each of the fighters basically had a mohawk on top of their head and as your abilities grew your mohawk got bigger and bigger, so you could tell who the badasses in the game were by how big their mohawk was. Most of your abilities related to your fighting skills and fighting approach, whether you were opting for being a straight forward attacking player versus a more deliberative fast, but more defensive and reactive player. The world in which the player existed had sympathetic vibrations that would either enhance or detract from your various abilities depending on the region were fight took place. There were 12 different areas in this world, 12 different arenas and they were all made up of these various elements like air, earth, fire, water, lightness, darkness; the classic elemental features. Your fighting style could be sympathetic with some of those elemental features and could be opposite some and that would give you certain pluses and minuses. Depending on who your were fighting, they would have their own pluses and minuses that you had to kind of get a sense for how they did and that’s were a lot of the strategy element come into play.

Rivera: That is actually really interesting how the arena environment plays such a big role in the game play. Leaping from that point, what was the story of Fierce Harmony? Was there an overarching narrative or was it just a simple backdrop for action that would take place in that universe?

Price: Well, I had a grand scheme that I wanted to do basically a trilogy. By the time we were in development and had gotten this off the ground I think we were more concentrated on keeping Fierce Harmony as a single title and then if we were lucky enough and successful enough then maybe we would do a followup. The grand concept was gonna be that this was a first look at this and that there was going to be some kind of evolutionary moving forward, but it was a lot of stuff that never really came into being.

For us, we were trying to take the excitement of the arcade fast-paced games and look at what goes into becoming a master sword fighter, you know? Whats the training? What are the things that you learn? What are the things you need to master? If you could do the equivalent of bullet time for sword fighting [this was obviously before The Matrix], what would that look like? That was kind of what we were looking at as my approach, trying to find a cool solution within the technological limitations of that massively multiplayer environment. Instead of throwing everybody into one big arena and having a shared world that you were trying to compete in, we toned it down to something much more manageable where you could play against a smaller group of people [and] almost have little micro tournaments and kind of grow within that environment. I think we were successful within the limitations of the time frame that we existed in, but the online world in which we were connected to at that point was rapidly changing and some the hosts that had existed for while like Kesmai and World Play… it really just a time in flux. Unfortunately for us, we got swept up in and not to our benefit and not in our favor.

Rivera: That is unfortunate. Speaking of World Play, I have briefly contacted Susan Manley, previousy of 3DO and World Play, about possibly talking about Fierce Harmony.

Price: Yes, she was our producer.

Rivera: How would you describe your professional interactions with Ms. Manley while working on Fierce Harmony: The Beginning?

Price: Again, another person that I think was very visionary. She understood the necessity for diversity in types of games and I think she saw the potential in us as a team, myself with my direct experience, our technical abilities and the game concept. She was an advocate for us from the Imagination Network from the get go. If it wasn’t for Susan I don’t think we would have ever gotten the game out there, so for me, she was wonderful and very professional. She understood the necessity for deadlines, budgets and focus. She really kept things moving forward whenever we ran into issues. She was one who said, “Don’t be like a lot of other developers that try to hide and spring surprises on us at the very last moment.” I hate that kind of work as well, so we got each other. The working title for the game was Nexus and we decided we wanted to to really come up with a more evocative name and Susan was the one came up with the idea to call the game Fierce Harmony. As soon as she said it I fell in love with it, so kudos to Susan. She’s the one who really came up with the name of the game! We owe a lot to her. I had never worked with her before and I have to say that I am glad she’s still in the industry. She’s definitely one of the women in the industry who’s been around for a long time and has a remarkable job, often times going against the flow at moment.

Rivera: I have a lot of respect for her as an industry veteran and a professional.

Price: Yes, me too.

Rivera: In terms of distribution, obviously this game was a multiplayer online only experience that a facet of a bigger thing, with that bigger thing being AOL/GameStorm. Were there ever plans for disc based or physical retail distribution of Fierce Harmony?

Price: Yes. In fact, that was the original model because of the data, the art and the music assets. The assets were going to be delivered on CD and that was the game plan. That was the delivery mechanism that was planned for and that’s how we did get delivered on GameStorm as well; it was on their CDs.

Rivera: Theoretically, there are disc-based versions of this game that do exist?

Price: Right. However, you couldn’t really play the game unless you were online. If you were offline you could practice. There was a practice arena that you could play on your computer and test things out, but you couldn’t go beyond just the testing.

Rivera: I see. Was this an experience that was in its own window or did it operate in a browser window? How did the framework of the game operate?

Price: It was full screen. Behind the scenes, oh golly, now you’re asking me. I’m trying to remember which version of DirectX we were using at the time. I want to say DirectX 5.0.

Rivera: That sounds about right given the time frame. So, the implementation of the deliberately paced combat mechanics and the strategic elements were done just make sure that, latency aside, the game would just run under the best possible conditions and be playable for all players?

Price: Yes. That was really the whole reason for the game mechanics. Plus, for me, nobody had ever done it and I like trying new things. So, I knew there would a lot of players. If some were into the quick style arcade game then this might not have appealed to them, but I also knew there were a lot of turn based game players that would see something like this that love strategy; that they would see this as a new kind of hybrid sort of game that wasn’t necessarily your standard RTS [real time strategy], but could potentially appeal to players who may be looking for a similar feel done in a brand new way. As a battling game with a strategic focus and we were very successful with that. I think one of the things that was very interesting was that we had a very small amount of community issues. We didn’t have the kind of issues, the disruptive issues of the young teenage players or other players that would just come in and wreak all sorts of havoc in games. We had a very thoughtful player base that made playing the game really cool because they were there to solely enjoy the game. As a new kind of game, we didn’t have the community management issues that other games in the online multiplayer space had. We had very few discipline issues to worry about with Fierce Harmony, which I thought was a reflection of the overall style of the game play.

Rivera: That is something that is sorely missed nowadays in the realm of online multiplayer gaming. I can attest to that as one who still plays a heavy amount of multiplayer games. The anonymity coupled with the adolescence of boys, whether they be 15 or 40 years old, is definitely huge problem. I suppose it comes down to that old phrase, “whatever you put out there eventually comes back.” that is a testament to Fierce Harmony being a game that placed a lot of trust in the intelligence of the people who played it. That level of complexity probably attracted a similar level of maturity. Speaking of the community or player base, do you remember Chadd Mazac who went by the alias The Watcher?

Price: Yes! Absolutely, I remember him. Oh, my gosh!

Rivera: I have spoken with him briefly and he has fond memories of playing Fierce Harmony.

Price: That’s great to hear.

Rivera: How long did Fierce Harmony last? At what point was support for the game cut?

Price: I don’t remember precisely, but I believe it might have been sometime in 2001. I don’t know if it was late 2000 or early 2001. I could be wrong on that. The game was running past that time. We were running it on our own for a while, but I don’t remember precisely. I’d have to look at documentation to know that directly and you may know. You may have some insight into to that.

Rivera: As far as my research tells me it was sometime in 2001.

Price: Okay, I see. We officially closed our doors in summer of 2001, Indigo Moon did.

Rivera: If you don’t mind speaking about what happened with the closure of Indigo Moon Productions, I did find some snippets from publicly open court documents having to do with Indigo Moon, Hasbro and a licensed Clue game during my research. Is there any chance you may be able shed some light on that?

Price: We, unfortunately with the state of the industry with the Dot-Com Crash and a lot of things transitioning at that point in 2000 and 2001, were affected. We actually thought we were in great shape because we had gotten a contract. In 2000, we were working a licensed Mattel title for an online Hot Wheels racing game. We actually went to E3 and showed it there and it was going great. Unfortunately, Mattel made an internal decision in 2000 that they were no longer going to be a game making company and that they were going to be a traditional toy and game making business, so our project got killed about three or four months after the E3 show. That what a huge blow for us, so we then spent the latter half of 2000 looking for followup work, partly for survival and partly because we still thought we were in fairly decent shape and were going to grow as a company. We had some good contacts at Hasbro and we were pitched and pitched to them an idea. What they were looking to do was basically create 21st century iterations of their classic games, but for the current generation at the time. We managed to pitch them a new version of Clue, which built on the classic game elements, but also threw in some new twists and wrinkles. They loved it and we were in the negotiating process in fall of 2000 with Hasbro Interactive to move forward with development. We were really excited because we knew this was going to be a cool project. Unfortunately for us, it was around that time that Infogrames came around and bought Hasbro Interactive. We were assured by the Hasbro Interactive guys that we should just wait for some time in the new year [2001] when the buy-out would happen and then we could start moving forward.

They assured us not to worry and that it was just a new company coming in and everything would be fine. So 2001 comes around and we’re still nervous, but we were being assured. More time went by, it was getting to be late winter to early spring time and we found out [from Infogrames], “We ended having to open this [the Clue game] up to bids.” We were really upset at that point. Long story short, we didn’t get to do the game, so that really put us in huge financial bind. We had to layoff some of our staff and tried pitching another title with Hasbro which didn’t turn out. By the summer time, we just couldn’t make a go of it any longer and simply had to close down at the point. Then, I don’t remember what year it was, but Hasbro came out with some new hybrid Clue game that had some technology elements to it that was really similar to a lot of the core concepts that had pitched them. We felt like they had ripped us off and taken a lot of those ideas, but we couldn’t get any internal documentation from them to confirm whether or not they had developed this internally, independent of us. We then talked to our former investors and there was a decision made that we should explore legal action; because if they had ripped us off then we should have been compensated for that. Things progressed and finally there was the exploration phase of the case. They presented their documentation, we presented our documentation and it was eventually determined that there was sufficient evidence suggesting that the folks who developed the game never saw any of our work. The court felt like there was anything done maliciously on Hasbro’s end. That was the final adjudication and there was nothing to move forward with.

Rivera: That’s so unfortunate to hear that Mattel licensed game project falling through.

Price: It was so cool! It was basically going to be your classic 50’s Style street racing. It was called Saturday Night Racing and we had modeled out some of the classic Hot Wheels cars and you would be drag racing against other people. It a bunch a really interesting ideas. The interface was very innovative; it was a big disappointment when they walked away from the whole project.

Rivera: That is really sad considering that, in 2006, they [Mattel] got back into the ring in the game industry with the Mattel Hyperscan with… low results [Price laughs]. So, not a very good move on their part.

Price: But that’s the nature of the industry, the nature of the beast. I did some teaching a while back and told students that the game industry is not for the faint of heart. If you look at most people’s resumes, they’ve been at multiple companies just because there is such a large ebb and flow of the wave – fortunes and misfortunes.

Rivera: I definitely agree. So to close things out, is Fierce Harmony technically what you would call a lost game?

Price: Lost in terms of nobody knowing about [laughs]?

Rivera: I mean lost as in the sense that it no longer exists in any playable form. I try my best to chronicle gaming history, so that is why I am curious.

Price: Regardless of its fate, I have to say that this [Fierce Harmony] is one of the the games I am the most proud of. We didn’t have much commercial success, but had a loyal following. I believe if we had been able to be part of an emerging audience and company that could have supported that then our fortunes would’ve changed. However, you don’t always get that, you don’t always get to wave the magic wand and have everything turn out perfectly. We were definitely not the only ones that this has happened to. So, from that standpoint, I think the game fits that concept you are talking about.

Rivera: I feel in a lot of ways that Fierce Harmony, above all things, is a victim of being pretty far ahead of its time.

Price: Yeah, yeah. I would agree [laughs].

Rivera: When I first saw anything related to Fierce Harmony I saw it as an interesting experience that was a fresh take on the sword fighting concept. Something even more interesting then a game that Bethesda Softworks made called The Elder Scrolls: Battle Spire.

Price: Yes, I remember that one.

Rivera: Even though Bethesda has made some great titles, Battle Spire was not one of their shining moments. With the few stills I saw of Fierce Harmony they made feel that the world of the game was very otherworldly and fascinating, especially when paired with Micheal Pummell’s music. It is gripping simply with those two lone elements and I just had to learn more about this world.

Price: We strove for a unique artistic approach to it both from a music standpoint, which again Mike Pummel was awesome, and from a visual perspective; it was very experimental. At the same time, from a design standpoint, I wanted to create something that could have developed, under the right circumstances, a really big player base. Again, if we had been able to launch in a different environment that was growing and not simply existing or contracting, which is nothing against Kesmai, we might have gotten a chance to ‘get above the noise.’ I hate using that phrase too much. I think it was an eclectic game, but I also feel that we would have hit a nerve for people looking for something different that has its own unique appeal. Something fun that didn’t require the investment of a million hours to get a payoff. Again, that didn’t happen and I’m sad about that, but I am still glad and proud that it was made. I am proud of the team internally and externally and all the people that were our promoters that tried get us the people who invested in us in terms of money and time. I am grateful for the connection that I have made during the project. So, there is the frustration that I wish more player could have experienced the game, but it just didn’t happen.

Rivera: Despite the sad fate of Fierce Harmony it is a work that I am sure you are proud off and you should definitely be proud of creating this game that tread new territory and pushed the boundaries of design.

Price: It is, thank you.

Rivera: Mr. Price, I want thank you again for taking time out of your day to speak to me about Fierce Harmony: The Beginning.

Price: Thank you, Jon. I appreciate it.

 

mpp site front page

The front page Michael Price’s digital website MichaelPierrePrice.com.

 

Though he no longer works in the video game industry, Michael Price is still pushing boundaries creatively to this day as a digital artist and fine art photographer. For anyone who has an interest in digital art and fascinating fractal art be sure to check out Mr. Price’s gallery and shop at MichaelPierrePrice.com. It was a great experience learning more of an unsung gaming classic from Michael Price as well as his other accomplishments and contributions to the game industry. He and the other members of the Indigo Moon development team including Brad Gianulis (lead programmer and founding member of Indigo Moon), Denise Wallner (art director), Steve Jakab (programmer), Scott Fannin (programmer), David Paull (programmer), Keith Watkins (lead artist), Angel Fucaraccio (artist) and Ian Auch (artist) pushed boundaries and proposed concepts that were pretty far ahead of the time. Regardless of whether or not Fierce Harmony exists in a playable form, it still remains an interesting nested topic in the annals of gaming history.

Solid State Underground 11-16-15: Alterations And Experimentation

Hey guys, this is Jon Rivera from the Solid State Gamer with some updates on what has been happening with the site. Right now, we are still trying to figure podcast timing out, but I have been up to some things in the meantime. Working on my interview with Michael Price of Indigo Moon has taken quite some time solely because I am not a good stenographer and we talked about a lot during our conversation. However, the transcribing process is finally done and I will be sending my work to Mr. Price to make sure he is satisfied with how the exchange looks. Once that is done, the article will go live. Also, I have put up a couple of news articles with one of them being a breakdown of the latest Nintendo Direct broadcast which had quite a bit of useful information.

SSG live test

Just a prototype of the presentation window for a possible live streaming program that, so far, I have aptly dubbed ‘Solid State Gamer Live.’

I have the new set up running now and have been working on some new quick look videos along with some new weekly mailbag entries; I am far behind on those. The idea of doing weekly or fortnightly live streams has also intrigued me. It seems like a good opportunity to get my feet wet with games that I have never played thoroughly and could possibly take that experience to pour into my quick look videos. Open Broadcaster Software has been fun to tinker around with for a few hours and what you see above is the result of that self education. Like I said, I am very new to this. Lastly, I wish to fix and update our main pages having to do with our background, mission statement, guidelines and a code of ethics. It’s a lot of stuff to take care and hopefully we can get it all done before the end of the year. It will help anyone approaching the site to understand what we are all about and may attract more folks wanting to work on our team with articles, audio and video productions. Anyway, I will try to make all this stuff happen. Thanks for reading and I would like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

Original Megarace Composer Brought On For Megarace Reboot

It has been announced through Lance Boyle’s Twitter account that Stéphane Picq is going to be the official composer for the upcoming Megarace reboot being headed by the Zoom Platform and Jordan Freeman groups, with JF being headed by chairman Bernie Stolar (previously president of Sega of America). For those unfamiliar with the history of the Megarace Franchise, Stéphane Picq composed the entire soundtrack to the original Megarace and gave it an interesting techno flare that definitely added a great of character to the game.

megarace composer announced

This news has die-hard fans of the original very excited to see what lies in store for the future of the Megarace franchise and its reboot.

Latest News From Nintendo Direct [Nov. 2015]

nintendo direct

Nintendo has uploaded a new installment of their news series Ninendo Direct earlier today; the first time the program has aired since the tragic passing of Satoru Iwata. During the program, there were quite a few announcements concerning releases on both the Wii U and 3DS and upcoming DLC updates.

ff7smb

On the Wii U side of things, Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics will be a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Wii U (he will also be made playable in the 3DS version). The next installment in the storied The Legend of Zelda series will be coming out at some point in 2016 (this has been a known quantity for some time). A high definition remastering of LoZ: Twilight Princess has also been announced and is being prepared for release on March 4, 2016.

star fox zero

Star Fox Zero’s release date has been pushed back yet again. In this past September, Shigeru Miyamoto made the decision to postpone SF Zero’s release until Q1 of 2016. Fortunately, Nintendo has given the specific date of April 22, 2016. It is alleged by Platinum Games, co-developers of SF Zero, that some time was needed to make sure that the game had “that Platinum feel.”

Mother 3 release date

Mother 3, also known as Earthbound 2 by North American fans of the series, will be seeing an official release on the Virtual Console. According to the announcement banner shown above, it will launch on December 17, 2015. Unfortunately, this release is a Japan exclusive. No plans to officially localize Mother 3 for North America or Europe have been announced.

Mother-3-Cart

Pictured here is a photo of a reproduction cartridge containing the unofficial fan translation of Mother 3 for the Game Boy Advance. So far, this has been the only way for game players in North America and Europe. Many of these ROM hack repro carts have been floating around the internet in online auctions and other unofficial game vendors for a couple of years now.

Many hold on to hope that Mother 3 will eventually get a chance to shine in the west because of the eventual release of Earthbound: Beginnings. EB: Beginnings is essentially the North American localization of the first Mother game that was finished in its software and physical prototyping stages for release, but was cancelled before it could be officially mass produced for consumption. Taking this work that had already been completed years before and making it work with an emulator wrapper is more feasible that what is required to give Mother 3 the same official treatment for the Virtual Console in the west.

ebproto1

An old photograph of one Earthbound NES prototype cartridges. Roughly five of these are known to exit in the entire world.

As mentioned before, Mother 3 still has no official English translation or localization as far as the gaming world knows. With that, the game will still require the time, money and manpower necessary to translate and localize an extremely text heavy role playing game that cannot be sold at the same price point as AAA high profile titles.

SI_WiiU_Splatoon

New free content will be available for the critically acclaimed third person shooter Splatoon. There are two new stages in the form of Muse D’d Alfonsino and Mahi Mahi Resort. Muse D’d Alfonsino features environmental hazards in the form of rotating objects and Mahi Mahi Resort, taking place in a pool resort, will reveal more surface area to cover in ink when a time sensitive switch forces the pools to drain. As of today, 40 new pieces of gear and equipment were made available via an update. Nintendo has state that the company will continue to support Splatoon with new DLC at least until January 2016.

Wii U BF Bundle

Nintendo Announced a special Wii U bundle for Black Friday, which includes the 32GB Deluxe model of the console. The system comes with digital copies of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Splatoon pre-installed. Though no price point has been formally announced, one of Walmart’s Black Friday ads show this bundle retailing at $250. The company is also working on a website companion to Super Mario Maker that will allow players to find custom levels of their liking more easily.

Linkle Concept Art Collage

Here is a composite image showing some of the concept art of the female version of Link dubbed Linkle or Linkelle.

On the 3DS side of the Nintendo Direct program, a few new characters will be making their debut on Hyrule Warriors: Legends. One of these new playable characters, contrary to clamber among many in the gaming community, is a female iteration of Link named Linkle. Concept art of this mystery lady was first seen in an art book for Hyrule Warriors under the section of early concepts that were rejected for the final retail release of the game. Some of these pieces depict Linkle as a Hylian warrior who wields a sword or a crossbow. However, her weapon will be the crossbow and a spinning kick attack will replace the sword spin attack.

pokemon picross

Pokemon Picross!

The 3DS will getting a large RPG injection with quite a few releases hitting the portable. Both Dragon Quest VII & VIII remakes will see release in North America at some point in 2016, with Dragon Quest VII coming during next summer. Remakes of the Pokemon red, blue and red versions will be available on the 3DS eShop on February 27, 2016. Other news for the franchise includes a “free-to-start” Pokemon Picross game launching sometime this December. Fire Emblem Fates will launch February 19 next year and will have three retail versions including a special edition. Lastly, The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes is seeing DLC in the form of The Den of Trials. Unlike most of the other dungeons seen in the game thus far that have only four stages, this new labyrinth has 30. This new DLC launches on December 2, 2016.

From this installment of Nintendo Direct, it looks like the company has a solid game plan for this next year and a steady transition from this slow time to the next year. Hopefully, nothing else gets pushed back and the Wii U can some more solid software and current game with great online communities like Splatoon will be given continued support in the months to come.

Fallout 4 Has Finished Brewing Up. In More Ways Than One

fallout_beer-970-80

Carlsburg UK Corporate Affairs has revealed a new, and somewhat obvious, way to help promote their pairing with Bethesda Softworks for the upcoming release of Fallout 4. Since the first title came out in 1998 those fans have had time to grow just a little older with the later releases in 2008 and 2010, this has led the famed developer to work with Carlsburg brewers to make a batch for them just ahead of release next month(November 2015).

The beer is described as:

“A refreshing zesty hoppy taste and a floral aroma,”

Carlsburg Corporate Affairs Director Bruce Ray has said of this pairing:

“This is something of a world-first. Adult participation in videogaming is a truly social activity, on a par with cinema and music. We’re proud to work with Bethesda to produce a beer Fallout fans can enjoy.”

Being sold in 330 ml bottles in packs of 12 featuring a new label that would make Vault-Tec Proud.

Though fans will almost assuredly like the idea, it is for relatively few of them. Only being sold in the UK and at an increased price over the pilsner Carlsburg is most famous for. At just shy of 30 Pounds Sterling(don’t have a button for the proper symbol on my US keyboard), it is substantially more.

At least this comes out the same day as some other really good news. The production has finally wrapped up on one of the most heavily anticipated titles of 2015. Which has recently seen a clip of Deathclaws dodging back and forth worryingly quickly to dodge some shells from a Gatling like cannon.

New Star Wars BattleFront Off To Strong Start With 9 Million Players

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EA clearly has quite a hit on their hands. After a short stint for open and free beta version of the upcoming game Star Wars BattleFront which has a date set for release on November 17th has already demonstrated it will almost assuredly be a big hit for Electronic Arts. EA has released the numbers of players that took part in the limited play allowed to the public for the brief time allowed; they are indeed impressive. Over 9 million people played across all the major platforms right now including the Xbox 1, PS4, and PC.

The numbers for each platform weren’t released, but this maybe even larger than CoD: Black Ops III for the PS4’s largest beta of it’s 2 years after release.

Reviews seem to be generally positive. Though EA only allowed very limited play for a smaller single player mode and a limited multiplayer players were allowed to get in some vehicles ranging from anti-infantry guns and anti vehicle weapons, to AT-ST and the behemoth AT-AT.