The Little Handheld That Could

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“Console Experiences on the go.” That’s what the PlayStation Vita promised, and after the success of the PSP who could argue. The track record was solid and the future looked bright, a good price, and a promising launch line up to come, something any hardware needs to succeed. Well it didn’t quite work out that way; the first red flag was the weird memory cards and the even weirder prices of them. The fact that they weren’t announced with the handheld itself made it seem more shady than intended. But even beyond that the Vita launched somewhat successfully at first but then tailed off rather significantly; games like Uncharted golden abyss, Stardust, and Unit 13 showcased the cool potential of a handheld with twin sticks, a bright LED screen and HD graphics.

But as the Vita’s Life went on it started to become apparent that this was never going to be the PSP, it’s not even going to be the 3DS. As the first party games began to fade it only made it more obvious that no one wanted to develop for this strange little unproven device, and if no one makes games for it, it will never be a proven handheld. PlayStation has a mountain of bad ideas under its umbrella but the Vita feels more like a missed opportunity, I would wager that if they had a second go at it. They would take out the back touch pad and apps like Near to just make a great little gaming machine. So since console experiences on the go is no longer possible the vita has to press on as something else, and it has. It’s become the must own device for people who want to play great indie games and obscure Japanese games now since those genres are fairly niche that’s what the PlayStation Vita has become.

I was an early adopter of the vita, not the earliest but pretty close. Playing Uncharted and Assassins Creed on my tiny handheld got me in the door but the reason I’m staying is because I absolutely love playing Persona 4 golden and Hotline Miami on those little twin sticks. The Vita’s audience will never get any bigger than it already has, but I don’t ever see it getting any smaller as long as the games they keep pumping out are of quality. And who knows maybe one day we get another Sony handheld. With the Phone market the way it is they would certainly need to restructure a few elements but it seems to be working for Nintendo.

The reason I bring all this up is because everyone’s favorite little device is turning three years old soon, and it’s important to show the life of the Vita so far is not really a failure and not really a success. As the PlayStation 4 continues to sell bajillion’s of dollars (estimation) I get the feeling that PlayStation will soon just let the Vita fade off into the distance, our last big game on the system was Freedom Wars and the sight on the horizon isn’t very bright when it comes to big triple A types of games, but on the other hand the Vita has the most Confirmed games announced for any system, granted that most of those are PC ports but still, it’s a lot to look forward to if you’re into the games that the vita has been putting out lately.

Shaping A Universe

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The concept of an Iron Man movie before Marvel studios ruled the world is a crazy one. Imagine the pitch meeting, “We want to make a movie about a man who is a drunk, misogynistic, billionaire, who builds a tin suit and saves the world.” If that wasn’t worrisome enough “We want to cast Robert Downey Jr, someone who had his own set of issues that Hollywood wasn’t ready to trust yet. When I first heard the news of a Iron Man movie in production I was in the ‘what?! why?!’ phase. Iron man in the comics was always an interesting concept but he never broke that final ceiling for me as a kid. And to be honest he never had that many great story lines in the comics anyway. Of course ‘Demon in a bottle’ always comes to mind as his most memorable, but there was nothing setting him apart, that’s why when the movie released my head exploded. He was witty, clever, smart, and more importantly he was a bad ass, whenever I think of Iron Man I always think of the scene of him blowing up the tank with a tiny missile and walking away before it exploded but little did I know that this movie would be the start of something bigger, And thus began the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

Most movie studios are hit or miss when it comes to making good movie, but as of me writing this, (we’ll see how Avengers: Age of Ultron turns out.) everything that Marvel Studios touches turns to gold, even their TV programing is surprisingly good. If you are a comic fan you knew that building your universe on Captain America, Thor, and Hulk was a solid plan but something like this had never been done on this scale, everything in “Phase One” culminating in one of the biggest movies of all time, ‘The Avengers’ and then it was over, Right? Well no because now you gotta do it again, so instead of driving these heroes down our throat like most studios would do, they bring us Guardians of the Galaxy one of the strangest and most unremarkable comics on Marvel’s shelves. And you know what it was awesome, that movie bought so much trust in so many fans eyes that they can’t do any wrong.

So in many ways the golden egg that fell into Marvel’s lap is the pseudo failure of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ franchise under Sony’s umbrella. As a side note, I thought Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were perfect in every aspect of those movies; it’s the movies themselves that had more of an issue. But the struggle of those films brought Sony back to Marvel asking for help, and now we are getting something I thought would never happen. Spider-Man appearing next to Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the marvel family, but the bigger reason for all of this is so that marvel has a conduit for the phases after Iron Man, as sad as it is Robert Downey Jr, cant portray Iron Man forever, but having a lovable character to take his place is something marvel can do easily with Spider-Man. Building a universe around the web head is something that marvel needs to have a figure head for the studio, sure Guardians’ 2 and Ms. Marvel will be awesome but that doesn’t draw in crowds of normal people. Marvel Studios is batting a thousand at this point in the game, regardless of your thoughts on the Iron Man sequels or the strangeness of Thor, they are still leaps and bounds better than anything Marvel ever made before 1998. With their future secured and their wallets heavy, Marvel has set the standard for Hollywood.

Please Fix Your Connection

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It’s tough to imagine games today without some sort of connectivity to the internet, I mean just picture Destiny without being able to play with others, kind of a boring wasteland if you ask me, even the rise of Call of Duty doesn’t happen without a basic internet connection. This connection to the World Wide Web has revolutionized the way games are made and played but even more notably the way they are preserved. DLC and a day 1 patch are almost accepted assurances at this stage in gaming’s young life, a lot of games won’t even work correctly if you can’t download the most recent patch. And that’s because games are bigger and better in a lot of ways, and the developers have a limited time to get these things done.

The reason this topic came to my mind to write about is the fact that Evolve is coming out soon and everyone has gotten their socks in a bunch over the fact that the game has what seems like an excessive amount of DLC coming along with it. I will not play evolve, I have no interest in evolve and I didn’t have any interest before I even knew about the game, I won’t play it simply because that kind of game doesn’t appeal to me. But the concern’s that people are throwing at Evolve does concern me a bit. The more I look at it, the more I think people are simply upset with the game having so much extraneous material and also costing 60$, on one level that’s a really weird thing to complain about, having more options available to you is always a good thing in gaming it’s never a bad thing. You just have to pay for more options, and if you don’t want to pay (and the vast majority of people will want to pay.) you don’t have to buy it. The game has enough options, guns, outfits, and monsters to justify a 60$ price tag. But evolve is not the point of this article, DLC and being online is.

Downloadable content is one of those things that you think is stupid until you want it. I don’t want DLC for Call of duty, but I do want it for Dragon Age. It’s all about tastes and publishers realize that, that’s why every E3 (electronic entertainment expo) we hear about all the exclusive capes and armor my batman on ps4 can have while your batman on Xbox only has a normal suit of armor. It sounds stupid but it must sell otherwise they would stop doing it. So while DLC is a controversial issue that people on the internet yell about, it seems like the more vocal are in the minority. Now what would seem like the downside to the online connectivity of it all, is having to patch your game as soon as it arrives. Now while it is cool to actively affect the game after its initial release it seems that every game released these past few months is broken in some way, whether it be trophies, or faces melting off of characters it’s becoming an epidemic.

While epidemic is a melodramatic term, online issues are incredibly annoying when I’m running through dragon age mission after mission and then I hit a brick wall and just can’t continue the next mission because some code somewhere is wrong, even buying a horse in dragon age has become an issue for me. That’s just an example because I know there are many other games out there and Dragon Age is one of the smallest offenders it’s just the first that came to mind. Being online can be a crutch or a money maker for many developers but at some point we need to think about fixing the games before they are released.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

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There are many smaller and quicker art pieces I put one here that take me maybe a couple days but every now and then I start something and finish it 4 or 5 months later. This is one of those pieces, it toke quite a while to get this Bruce Timm inspired piece in a place that I liked and felt finished.

(DC comics version)

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Building Anticipation with The Order: 1886

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The Order 1886 is one of too few exclusives coming out for PlayStation soon, originally it was meant as a release window game and then it was delayed a couple months than a year, clearly the game has had some sort of issue that prolonged its release, a problem that we will never know. But when it was initially announced you could tell the studio ‘Ready at Dawn’ was chomping at the bit to make a big and powerful next gen game, from toweling away on PSP games year after year they suddenly became one of PlayStation’s big dogs, weather they stay that way is another thing.

Most games today are good looking; no one can get away with a crappy looking game anymore. But there was something different about The Order, it felt like a crazy fantastical movie, and you could tell even though the trailer gave you almost nothing, other than an ‘alternate history’ kind of game. The thing that separates good looking games from the order is the cinematic feel to it all, the ridiculous lighting reflecting off characters faces to the physics of clothing whipping in the wind, and it cemented that different kind of look with the widescreen bars all throughout the game, making it as though you are watching a movie. Weather this type of flourish is accepted or rejected by the video game community is up for debate until the game finally releases.

The Order’s biggest controversy has been its control every time I read an article about the game being played at an event; I hear about how amazing the world and atmosphere is but the downside has always been how clunky and unintuitive the controls are. Well those claims have slowly gotten quieter, they are not gone completely but they have calmed a bit. It’s strange to imagine a game developer nailing every aspect of a game except the actual gameplay, you would imagine that the first thing you try and clean up (after initial concept) is the gameplay itself. But from everything I’ve heard it has gone from awful controls to a generic 3rd person shooter ala Gears of War.

PlayStation exclusives are tough to come by these days, after DriveClub’s debacle to Naughty Dog’s internal upheaval; we have many mixed thoughts and messages. That’s why all the weight in the world is on The Order and Bloodborne, simply because they are the only tent poles left for the PlayStation banner since the release of Infamous: Second son. But even more so the studio ‘Ready at Dawn’ they want to be a big deal under the umbrella of PlayStation and if this franchise kicks off they have cart blanch in terms of respect and leeway. And if it doesn’t they are probably back to making tiny games they have no creative control over. But I don’t need to tell them that. Because they already know the weight bestowed upon them, and I have hope that The Order: 1886 will do well critically and commercially. Simply through what I’ve seen so far and all that delay time usually adds up to some significant improvements.