Archives for March 2017

2016 Year In Review: Video Games, Technology & Other Things Geeks Think About

(Hey, better late than never!)

It’s almost April and we’re still going with our insane geek awards, the Unicorn Poopies.  Doing the series has allowed us to look back at 2016 and identify some interesting trends.  As we approach 2017 Q2, we wonder if our favorite industries and companies are moving forward or just regurgitating what they’ve always done.  These thoughts apply to everything we geeks indulge in: technology, tabletop games, video games, digital media, television, movies, books, music, etc.

What I’ve enjoyed most about doing the Unicorn Poopies is that it has been a great catalyst for round table discussions and the exploration of future topics.  Now that Obi is focusing on Topover Star eSports, we’ve been able to use our award show as a way to introduce our new hosts: Beard_And_Hat, WarChildMKIV, and Tukah44.  We’ve rarely agreed on our picks, which has made it all the more interesting too!  Of course, with a ridiculous name like “Unicorn Poopies”, we’re clearly just trying to have fun and we hope you will join us on the fun!

Official 2016 Unicorn Poopies Geek Awards logo!

Official 2016 Unicorn Poopies Geek Awards logo – thanks, Beard_And_Hat – w00t!

The 2016 Unicorn Poopies have covered all aspects of geek culture but we have TONS of categories for video games.  We also have awards for film, TV, happenings, tech, anime, and more!  Starting around Episode 172 of HorsePLAY! LIVE (Thursday, March 30th 4am GMT / 11pm ET / 8pm PT), we’ll start wrapping up the series with non-gaming awards..  That is, if we can restrain ourselves from going off on long tangents (probably not happening).

Aren’t there enough video game and geeky awards already?

Sure, everyone seems to have their own awards platform but I promise no one has done it in a podcast format and stretched it over several months like we are doing.  Video game awards usually fall short because they consolidate categories with too much variety.  As a result, the winners are always the same: the big names or the artsy-fartsy stuff that’s thrown in for credibility, creating the illusion of fairness.

We’ve taken feedback from our community, collaborators, and favorite content to round things out.  I hope that, when you finish the series, you feel that we have presented the most diverse, entertaining award show.  It’s a series for the people, by the people.  It’s also a nice opportunity to show more love to things many have missed like some of our favorite and lesser-known indie games, Dungeon of the Endless, Enter the Gungeon, and Risk of Rain.

Dungeon Of The Endless - Greatest Of All Time?

An indie experience that blends our favorite genres and is exciting each and every time you play.  Easily one of the best values in gaming right now.

In this new award show format, the focus is more about deliberating on our picks.  For the most part, each category was a close race, though there were some clear winners.  You’ll note that, to qualify as a nominee, it had to be a thing that we enjoyed in 2016, but not necessarily a 2016 release.  This made things A LOT more interesting as many of us are still playing catch-up anyway.

This is going to be one doozy of an article so, if you just want to see the nominees and categories, skip to the end.  The stuff in between will highlight some of our favorite moments so far!

Overwatch character splash

 

Overwatch Is A MOBA And A Class-Based Shooter

Overwatch is indeed a MOBA or at least it competes in that space.  Whenever I say this, I get bombarded with arguments against my logic..  But this is my opinion so I’m entitled to it.  That said, I will explain further because I feel you deserve that much and I love you.

Originally, I was going to make this into a full-on article but we have a lot on our plates so I’m going to explain my logic here.  First, when I play Overwatch and the Hi-Rez clone, Paladins, I look at it as an alternative to Smite, Heroes Of The Storm, Gigantic, and the like.  As such, it feels very much like a MOBA even if it’s not classified as such.  For me, Overwatch scratches the same itch as a traditional MOBA.  Here are my counterpoints to every argument that I’ve gotten since I made this comment.

  • Developers and reviewers classify it as a first-person shooter.  Classification of things is more a marketing strategy than a true indicator of the core experience.  It’s a matter of positioning the product against the right competition and targeting the best market segment.  Before digital took over, music stores have always classified albums under different genres, mainly to see where they more units.  Would you consider Coolio gangster rap?  Probably not, yet that’s where he would fall under at times.  By the way, Riot Games calls League Of Legends an ARTS (Action Real Time Strategy) game yet we all know it’s a MOBA. #justsaiyan
  • There are no creeps.  I can safely say that most people who use this argument have not played many MOBAs and they’re likely using LoL as their benchmark.  Creeps are only a requirement in the MOBA variants referred to as line wars or footies, where pushing and hoard-style defense are the core mechanics.  While creeps and laning are associated with traditional MOBAs, not all MOBAs are line wars/footies nor do they require creeps.  In footies style of MOBAs, there are more RTS elements with the use of armies to help you push and control points but the core experience still revolves around hero combat.  In fact, in it’s simplest form, MOBAs simply strip away the minutia that make RTS games hard to play casually.
  • It’s more like Team Fortress 2 than anything else.  This is probably the most fair argument because, certainly, Team Fortress 2 is not a MOBA.  I’ve played a ton of TF2 and TFC.  With regards to art direction, the similarities are undeniable, but the gameplay doesn’t feel the same to me.  I feel that Team Fortress has always been more about the gun play.  There’s far less variety in TF2 as well.  Overwatch may attract the same kinds of gamers but I would not call it a clone, though the influences are certainly there.
  • Objective play is standard in shooters.  Now for a little history and background: MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.  It evolved from RTS games as a way to focus on micro rather than macro.  Most will say Aeon Of Strife (1999) was the original but I would also consider games like Herzog Zwei and Total Annihilation as precursors.  The key is in hero battle with varying degrees of resource management and customization.  It is team-focused and objective-driven.  The objective play is evolving beyond the standard lane pushing stuff: domination, CTF, deathmatch, escort, and other modes are appearing in many MOBAs.  As such, using the objective play argument doesn’t work anymore as the types of objectives and modes no longer differentiate the genres.  Also, since MOBAs evolved from another genre, it makes sense that they will borrow from other genres as they evolve and come into their own.

Aeon Of Strife (1999) vs. DotA (2003), both of which were custom games within Blizzard engines.

  • Call Of Duty has abilities too.  Sure, you have superpowers and killstreaks in Call of Duty but is that the core experience?  No, it still comes down to the gunplay.  In Overwatch, effective use of your abilities is equally or more important than your shooting skills.  Also, MOBAs have a way of making you feel god-like when you use your superpowers and I don’t feel that CoD abilities are as epic, though they are certainly game changers.  From a game mechanics perspective, the core mechanics in CoD encourage you to camp and play selfishly to max streaks whereas Overwatch is more about fluid team dynamics, complimentary abilities/roles, and objective aggression.
  • The control scheme is more like a shooter.  Actually, this argument supports my opinion further.  If you look at most MOBAs, you typically have four to five abilities, including a super/ultimate.  The way Overwatch controls are laid out, it feels like Smite, Gigantic, League Of Legends, DotA 2, and just about any MOBA that is relevant.  In a pure shooter, whether it is first or third-person, the majority of controls are dedicated to the gunplay: ADS, reload, secondary fire, firing mode toggle, etc.  That is not the case in Overwatch.
  • Nope, it’s a shooter.  Last I checked, shooters are about ranged combat almost exclusively.  How, then, do you explain melee-based characters like Genji and Reinhardt?  This is where the arguments really fall apart.  Both MOBAs and shooters revolve around precision but Overwatch is about ability precision.  Headshots help but it’s more about positioning and using abilities the right way and time.

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DC vs. Marvel: The Road To Justice League Part One.. Going Beyond Batman

KAPOW! ZOK!! CRASH! WHAMM!!

Batman has been kicking some major ass for a few decades now. Even though I’m a die-hard Marvel fan, Batman is by far one of my favorite heroes. Heck, he is one of my favorite fictional characters PERIOD.  DC has some strong characters but it always seems to go back to Batman.  On the cusp of a revitalized DC cinematic universe and the new Justice League movie (Justice League Part One), you have to ask yourself:

Can DC do better than Batman?

Here’s a guy whose superpower is simply “resourcefulness”. He learned martial arts and is a bit of a ninja. He employs his knowledge of psychology to exploit enemy weaknesses. He’s arguably the greatest detective, second maybe to Sherlock Holmes (though that depends on which iteration of Batman we’re talking about). Oh, and he has cool gadgets that would make Iron Man blush. If you include the Batman show run from 1966 through 1968 (hey, it’s canon DAMMIT), his dance skills are undeniable as well – that Batusi, though!

FUN FACT: Growing up, Julie Newmar was totally my crush.. I still say she’s the most purrfect Catwoman ever.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Purrrrfect.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Those eyes always get me. They’re purrrrrfect.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Purrrrfect.

Batman has been a compelling force in all facets of geek culture: video games, tabletop games, trading cards, comics, novels, TV, and the big screen. In my humble opinion, all of the Batman content is timeless and even the horribad stuff (say, Batman & Robin of 1997, where there was an entire competitive ice skating scene and lots of frollicking) is enjoyable to some extent. Heck, if you go back to the Sunsoft Batman games of the 80s/90s, they are still super-duper fun and hold up well in spite of the dated graphics – even if you’re not a retro hipster like me! Hmmm, I smell a future #RetroFriday theme…

Animated GIF: Batman NES 8-bit wall jumping!

8-bit Batman goodness. Thank you, NES and Sunsoft. You climb them walls, Batman!

The Batman universe is so massive that it’s spawned countless TV shows and animated series. Just to name a few, we have Batman (1996), Batman: The Animated Series (1992), The New Batman Adventures (1997), Batman Beyond (1999), The Batman (2004), and Birds of Prey (2002). Yeah, I went there on the last one and you know what? Birds of Prey had tons of potential, as cheesy as it was. We got to see what happens in a world where Batman finally gives up and others pick up the slack. Plus you get to meet his daughter, The Huntress and an older Batgirl – AWESOME!

Ashley Scott as The Huntress (Birds Of Prey).

Casting for Birds Of Prey may be one of the reasons it didn’t succeed but Ashley Scott did bring a lot to the role of The Huntress. Rawr.

As huge as Batman is, he’s only a small part of the DC universe but it’s undeniable that he overshadows everything else. I mean, the recent slew of Batman games are still kicking ass, against all odds (you know, because licensed games tend to suck). Beyond the Arkham/Dark Knight themed video games of the Xbox 360/PS3 and Xbox One/PS4 generations, there are a slew of Batman-themed puzzle and arcade-style online casino games that are strangely sticky. It goes to show that we can’t get enough Batman! Now, if we can get a Batman-themed Texas Tea game, we’ll be set – that particular game has paid out quite well for me during my Las Vegas excursions

Texas Tea giant screen multiplayer model - EPIC!

FYI: Texas Tea is widely addicting and, if someone makes a mobile equivalent with online play, I bet it be a huge success. Just remember who gave you the idea.

Marvel vs. DC Cinematic Universe

So let’s talk about the DC universe as a whole. If you ask our fellow geeks, most might say that DC is still lagging behind Marvel. On the TV front, the combined efforts of The Flash, Supergirl, Arrow, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow have created a very believable world with compelling enemies and loosely-connected story lines. On the big screen, they’re not doing so hot.

DC has made it clear that they’re not interested in tying in their television series with their silver screen stuff. I think that is a smart decision as it gives them more creative freedom. Some fans would like to see the TV actors do large-scale productions but that may not work as well. For example, Steve Amell is great but he hasn’t done too hot in movies. Without the TV backdrop, however, DC needs to rely on their movie universe alone or risk losing people.

On the Marvel side, you have the Netflix shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and the most recent Iron Fist. Let’s just get this out of the way: Iron Fist is actually a really strong show but critics are slamming it because controversy and contrarian opinions garner attention. Anywho, all of these shows have fleshed out the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) nicely without getting in the way of each other too much.

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