Take A Leap Of Faith On Assassin's Creed Movie Trailer

Major Hollywood movies based on video games seldom turn out well, but I have hope for the upcoming Assassin's Creed film based on the Ubisoft game of the same name. Featuring new characters but based on franchise lore, the Creed film sends its modern day protagonist back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition. I certainly wasn't expecting that. The first trailer for the film gives us a look at all kinds of classic Creed elements such as the Animus, lots of climbing & parkour, hooded robes, and the iconic leap of faith. I'm optimistically excited! Assassin's Creed opens in theaters in December 2016. I really hope there's a scene where the Assassin kills a civilian and desynchronizes from the simulation as a result. "Assassins did not kill civilians," the Animus attendant would say. "Try it again."


Disney Exits Console Publishing, Disney Infinity To Be Discontinued

Disney InfinityFailing to definitively conquer the video game console publishing market, Disney Interactive is exiting the business and taking its Toys To Life game platform Disney Infinity with it.  The game will shut down in June following the release of the final two character packs (based on Alice Through The Looking Glass and Finding Dory) and the studio behind it all, Avalanche Software (not to be confused with Avalanche Studios, the Just Cause folks), is now out of business.  It's a grim day for Infinity fans as despite performing what any other company would consider to be successful in this business, it's not enough for Disney.  USgamer has the report.

Disney Infinity probably made a good deal of money, but for Disney, the licensed Star Wars Battlefront represented the future moving forward. Pachter estimated that Disney Infinity made $200 million in revenue last year, while Star Wars Battlefront earned $660 million. The $200 million estimate put Disney Infinity ahead of Lego Dimensions and Skylanders, but Disney is a huge company and its perspective on 'successful' is vastly different.

By licensing the Star Wars brand to Electronic Arts, Disney doesn't have to have developers on hand to make titles. It reaps the rewards and the risks are all Electronic Arts. At some point, management looked that the gulf between Infinity and Battlefront and wondered why it was publishing games in-house. You can probably expect to see more licensing of Disney properties, but most of that will probably lean on the mobile side.

If you're still interested in the Infinity figures, watch for clearance sales at your favorite retailer over the summer.  It's disappointing to see Disney exit the business, but now that the company is switching gears back to a licensing model, perhaps we'll see some creative ideas based on Disney properties from other companies.  Yes, there will always be a place for Star Wars games, but where are the Arkham Asylum-like Avengers game, Darkwing Duck Remastered, and of course my biggest, most wanted pipe dream of them all...

It's a shame that being merely successful at a business like this isn't enough for Disney which has an "engulf and devour" mindset in the video game industry as it engages in a repeated cycle of buying established studios, pushing them to deliver, closing them when they fail to quickly produce top selling sensations right out of the gate, and then withdrawing from the business altogether before trying again a few years later.  I don't understand why anyone would spend so much time and money to build a platform that is successful by standard metrics and then throw it away just became it makes only some money and not all money.


Power Button - Episode 203: Aliens Vs Podcast

Power ButtonAliens are among us!  Specifically, aliens in video games.  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I take you through Zen Studio's Aliens vs Pinball pack which leads into a discussion of our favorite video game aliens.  From the denizens of SR388 to Lavos to Halo's Flood and beyond, we're going past the stars and beyond the moon.  You cannot comprehend the true form of this show, but try it out anyway.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.


Duke Nukem Meets Nintendo In A Censorship Clash For The Ages

Duke Nukem 64Before Duke Nukem became an everlasting punchline with the often delayed and eventually disappointing Duke Nukem Forever, he was a franchise favorite thanks to the popular Duke Nukem 3D. The sci-fi shooter turned heads on the PC and was ported to a variety of platforms of the day including the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, so it was only natural that the Nintendo 64 should see its own version. The problem, of course, is that Nintendo's censorship and acceptable content policies of the day did not allow for much of Duke's crude humor, gory violence, and sexual content. If games like Doom and Quake could be safely adapted for the N64, surely Duke 3D could make the transition with its overall spirit intact, right? GamesTM chronicles how Duke Nukem 3D transformed into Duke Nukem 64.

The biggest alteration of all came with the approach the game made with its female characters, though. Known as “babes”, these young, good-looking women were victims of the game’s alien invasion and they appeared in various guises from breast-bearing strippers to those who were cocooned, trapped or festooned on posters. Controversially the babes trapped in the alien pods could be killed in Duke Nukem 3D but in the N64 version, they could be rescued instead and it became a fundamental part of the game.

“Just killing innocents like that was too much,” says Mills. “I may be wrong but I think it was my idea to have the rescues in and have it as a stat at the end of the game so there was something to search for in each level. It was another thing to do in the game and something for the completest. We’d hide the women in strange places so they were an extra thing to find.” At the same time, out went nudity along with bad language, drug references and anything religious (there was no chapel in the N64 version). It left a void, though, and while a lot of removed material was replaced with a pop culture reference, extra violence was used to bridge the gaps. “This wasn’t a conscious effort, it just happened,” explains Finney.

While I wasn't a fan of gore when I was a kid, I was amazed at what Duke Nukem 3D had accomplished and played through the shareware version many times on my PC.  When I saw the game had made the leap to the N64, friends and I rented it time and again to play through the full campaign and enjoy some splitscreen multiplayer.  Duke 3D would end up ported to many other platforms over the years spanning from the Sega Genesis to the iPhone, but it's the old Nintendo 64 version that I fondly remember when I recall my high school gaming days of first person shooters with friends.  We didn't care that Duke 64 didn't include any background music due to cartridge storage limitations or that the strip club level had been replaced with a fast food restaurant called Duke Burger (as horny teens we missed the strip club, but as seasoned gamers we preferred the burger joint).  We had fun!  Really, what else can one ask for from a video game?


The Lost Moves Of Street Fighter II

KenCapcom's famous Street Fighter II has been through a number of upgrades and spawned several sequels and spin-offs, and while the original arcade release has long been eclipsed by revisions containing words in the title like "Turbo" and "Super", the story behind that first iteration is exceptionally interesting.  Shmuplations has a translated interview with director/designer Akira Nishitani from 1991 in which he lays out all kinds of information about ambitious material that the team had created, but was forced to cut from the final release.  Here's a little of that, and I encourage you to read the entire interview to see it all:

There we were, one month to go before the final deadline. When you’ve come this far, time limits what you can do. With a calm and collected judgment (actually, it was really all my own selfishness) I had to decide what would be cut due to time constraints. Here is a list of some of the plans we had that got abandoned (man, I really wanted to do these!)

  • Add weak points depending on whether you hit someone in the head, body, or leg. If you hit someone there, they’d take more damage.
  • Add other special weak points outside of those listed above (you can see remnants of those in Blanka’s Rolling Attack, or Vega's Flying Barcelona)
  • The computer would change its tactics depending on who it was fighting against (it does do this a little bit, but we wanted to do something more detailed, like the AI knowing how close to stand to each individual opponent, etc)
  • Players would take more damage than normal when dizzied.

There's also mention of the original backstory for the game (though it doesn't compare to what the actual saga actually became), and what's especially amusing is that a typo crept into the game's subtitle and nobody noticed it until the very end of development.  If Nishitani hadn't been able to work some last minute graphic layering magic, we'd all have been playing Street Fighter II: The World Warrier [sic].  While I like the later Street Fighter sequels, there's something about that original arcade release that feels most pure before all of the high-level combos, complicated super moves, and other such things that make the game popular with pros were added.  I can do a Hadouken into a Shoryuken without fail, but some of the extended moves from Street Fighter V are way beyond me.


Soak Up The Little Details Of Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night

Castlevania: Symphony of the NightKonami's classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night originally for the Sony PlayStation is packed with all kind of small details and nice touches that are very easy to miss if you're blasting through the game at top speed.  Take some time to explore the haunted castle and really soak in the atmosphere.  VGJUNK has a list of little moments and quirky additions in Symphony that you may have missed if you weren't paying attention.  For instance, are you familiar with the list of field notes for each monster you'll find in the castle?

As is customary amongst lords of the night, Dracula's castle is packed with a menagerie of monstrous creatures including, but not limited to: bats, larger bats, skeletons, larger skeletons, ninja skeletons, demonic puppets from Hell, Great Old Ones, angry tables and, in the Sega Saturn version, something called the Human Face Tree, which is even creepier than it sounds. Once you've killed a monster, its information is added to the game's bestiary for you to peruse at your leisure, and I suggest that you do so because Symphony of the Night's monster list is an absolute joy to read.

Just take a moment to bask in the glorious phrase "specially trained war-goose." Not one of your regular war geese, oh no, it's one that been specially trained. Nothing but the best for Dracula's castle. It makes sense that a goose would be chosen for this military role, because geese are the most naturally aggressive and remorseless birds on the Earth.

Symphony and its sequels are full of these kinds of things, although you can tell that this game was especially crafted with love, creativity, and care.  This is a game where a vampire flicks peanuts into his mouth to restore health, where skeletons run away in delight when you slay their slavedriver master, and there's an optional shoe item that makes Alucard one pixel taller as its sole function.  Keep an eye out when you're stabbing demons and jumping across platforms.  You just might be entertained in the middle of all of that entertainment.  It's an absolute creative crime that Konami no longer makes games like this one.


Nintendo NX, New Zelda Coming March 2017

The Legend of ZeldaIncreasingly tight-lipped Nintendo announced this morning that its upcoming new console (still codenamed NX) is set to release globally in March 2017.  Fans hoping to learn more about it at E3 2016 in June will be disappointed to learn that the company has no plans to show any NX hardware or games at the event and is instead focusing their energy on showcasing the new Legend of Zelda title which is now also due to be released in March 2017 for both Wii U and NX.  Moreover, the Wii U version of Zelda is the only Nintendo game set to be playable at E3.  Chris Kohler at Wired explains.

You might think this is a pretty big kick in the pants for Wii U’s holiday season, and you’d be right. Legend of Zelda wasn’t just Nintendo’s tentpole release for Christmas, it was the whole damn tent. As of now, the only Wii U game scheduled for the latter half of the year is Paper Mario: Color Splash.

While it's disappointing that we'll have to wait a while longer for information about the NX, the Internet has already turned to predicting gloom and doom for Nintendo because of the 2017 date.  Can't we just skip the complaining?  If you're upset about this news, then there must be other games you want to play that you haven't found the time to enjoy yet.  As for me, I'm still working on Assassin's Creed Syndicate, then I want to play the new Ratchet & Clank before getting into the Wii U version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.  I want to replay Ghostbusters: The Video Game with my girlfriend before the new film releases in July.  I still need to finish Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam before I can think about Paper Mario: Color SplashUncharted 4: A Thief's End is due out very soon.  I have plenty of media to fill my free time and I'm sure you do as well.  Nintendo will show its cards when it's ready. We don't need all the negativity. You will survive without a new Legend of Zelda in your hands this year. 


3DO Port Of Doom Lived Up To Its Name

3dodId Software's revolutionary Doom was ported to many platforms during its initial run and even now ends up on all kinds of out of the way platforms, but the story of the 3DO version of the iconic shooter is truly a special one. Typically people in the video game business have some idea of what they are doing, but the leadership at the now-defunct Art Data Interactive was in over its head from the start when it licensed the rights to bring Doom to the platform in 1996. Rebecca Heineman was brought in to pick up the pieces. This is her story (the Doom part begins about halfway down the page).

There was a company called Art Data Interactive. The CEO was a guy who was just a member of a church somewhere in Southern California. Somehow he was able to convince his friends at the church and other friends that 3DO is the wave of the future and that he needs their money to go ahead and form a game company. "Get in on this."

He raises $100,000. He then starts making this game. A Battle Chess ripoff.

And he feels the way he wants to do it is he wants to film all the people dressed up as chess pieces and that's what he's going to put on the game board.

The guy has no clue at all of game development. Nothing.

I'm especially amused that a church paid to produce a version of the violent Doom considering that churches were hotbeds of anti-video game sentiment in the 1990s.  Heineman goes on to share my favorite part of this misadventure in which the CEO believed that adding new weapons to a video game was as simple as importing a drawing of the weapons into some magic development tool that cranks out finished video games.

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A Brief Tour Of Sega Hardware History

Sega DreamcastSega may be best known for its home consoles Genesis and Dreamcast, but there's much more to the company's hardware history.  From its earliest creations to its unrealized post-Dreamcast plans, the passionate engineers at Sega in its heyday were driven to create the best.  Over at Shmuplations you'll find a translated interview from 1998 with Hideki Sato in which he outlines Sega hardware from the SG-1000 and its upgrades to the “INTELLIGENT TERMINAL HIGH GRADE MULTIPURPOSE USE” of the Genesis to the unrealized Sega Jupiter console and beyond.  It's interesting stuff and a unique look behind the curtain.  Here's a bit of Sato discussing Sega's 16-bit Mega Modem add-on:

The Mega Modem was our response to the recent developments in networking technology. At the time, PC networking was just starting to gather popularity. The baud rate then was 1200 bps. We used that rate for competitive baseball, mahjong, and similar games, but the level of technology made it rough. Moreover, we made very little money off the Mega Modem, so even at Sega, hardly anyone understood it. But from that experience we learned that networking capabilities had a lot of potential, and we resolved to include them in our next console. Sega was an “arcade game culture” company, you see, so we were always quick to get back on our feet. (laughs) In the arcade industry, just sitting back and waiting for the technology to ripen was never an option.

It's bittersweet to see Sato looking ahead to Sega's plans for beyond the Dreamcast that were never realized such as faster modems and wireless controllers.  Engineering the Dreamcast's dial-up modem as an upgradable component drove up the cost of the console, but the machine didn't last long enough in the market to see the benefit of that design decision.  For better or for worse, the future of the gaming business was tied up in the sleek image that the Sony PlayStation 2 was set to deliver.  While the PS2 would eventually support networking capabilities and modern consoles include built-in Wi-Fi, the Dreamcast's modular modem was ahead of its time in a way that, at the time, just didn't matter to the marketplace.