Month: April 2015

Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:51:48

Free Comic Book Day is Coming!

It’s that time of year already, the first Saturday of May, when comic book nerds round up at their local comic book store to snatch up free comics. Three days away from Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), those who attend will have a choice from a selection of 50 titles.

12 gold sponsor comics and 38 silver sponsor comics will provide fans a wide range of stories to satisfy different tastes. Titles you can expect to see at the worldwide event are big names heroes like, the Justice League, Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Street Fighter, Sonic The Hedgehog, the Rabbids and more.  Those who attend will also witness new genres and publishers.

If you’re in Toronto, Silver Snail, on 329 Young Street near Dundas, will be hosting the event from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Where they’ll have artists, Jason Loo and Kalman Andrasofszky in house from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. doing signings and sketching for attendees.

Besides the selection of free comics, they’ll also have a bunch of discounted comics and graphic novels all day long. So those who have waited to see the end of their favourite characters story arc can pounce on the best deals. That’s not all either, if you want to pick up some toys, collectables or even some cool quirky clothes pertaining to the biggest names in comics, you can for 30 per cent off.

You’ll also get to see a special appearance by some members of the 501

st

. If you don’t know who they are, they’re basically an organization that has sworn an oath to create the most authentic costumes and props based off the Star Wars Universe since 1997. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Which titles out of the 50 titles revealed peaks your interest? Are you going to attend Free Comic Book Day? Let us know in the comments below.

The complete list of titles are below.

Gold books:

Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:31:09
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:31:06
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:31:03
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:31:00
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:57
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:52
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:49
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:46
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:43
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:40
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:36
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:30:33

Silver books:

Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:45:48
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:45:52
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:45:57
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:01
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:04
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:07
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:10
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:13
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:16
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:19
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:22
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:25
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:28
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:31
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:34
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:37
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:42
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:47
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:50
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:53
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:46:57
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:00
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:03
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:06
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:09
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:12
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:15
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:18
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:21
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:24
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:28
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:31
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:34
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:36
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:40
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:43
Free Comic Book Day is Coming! - 2015-04-30 13:47:46

 

 

Independent Developers and the Rebirth of Tough Games 7

Independent Developers and the Rebirth of Tough Games

You’re screaming out curses, you’re ready to throw your controller at the screen, your blood pressure has spiked to dangerous levels — and you’re having a fantastic time. There’s little else in life other than a well-crafted, incredibly difficult videogame that can be so thoroughly aggravating while simultaneously entertaining.

The only problem is — they’ve mostly ceased to exist.

Except for a few notable hold-outs (like, say, modern iterations of the Ninja Gaiden or Shinobi series) the days of the hard-as-nails game seems to have passed from mainstream publishing. Luckily, where there is a void in art, indie creators are almost surely working on filling it. Enter the recent resurgence of tough games from  small developers and the rabid fan followings that have accompanied the release of titles like Super Meat Boy, Demon’s Souls and VVVVVV.

Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy

Something Easy This Way Comes

The renewed creation of extremely difficult games is, in many ways, a product of the time. As mentioned before, where something is lacking in an artistic landscape, someone will almost always notice and work on compensating for it.

But why is the videogame industry, once so full of sweaty-palmed platformers and punishing RPGs, now dominated by titles that can be beaten while requiring little more than a set of opposable thumbs and sufficient spare time (with the Wii, Kinect and Move you could even strike off the latter point)?

The answer lies in a simpler time: the era of the arcade.

Arcades, like any other commercial enterprise, are designed to make money. Every cabinet, from the lone, drink-ringed tabletop shmup in a ‘90s bar to any of the sophisticated, sit-in racers of a multi-level arcade serve one purpose: to wring as many coins out of customers as possible — and promptly deposit them into the hands of the establishment’s owner.

Independent Developers and the Rebirth of Tough Games 5
VVVVVV
Independent Developers and the Rebirth of Tough Games 6
VVVVVV

In order to properly accommodate this, arcade games in the 1980s and through to the few surviving units still installed today have been developed in order to create a carrot-and-stick level of risk and reward for players. While the games themselves had to be fun, the bottom line of this approach centres on how best to make a given title hard to advance in, ultimately something that works to increase profits. Because the “arcade experience” was the contemporary watermark of technology, early consoles sought to emulate it and, accordingly, the first Nintendo, Sega and Atari home entertainment systems were inundated with incredibly tough games. Over time, as technology continued to evolve and the game industry became more enticing for a larger segment of the population, most mainstream games began to lose their punishing edge.

Our current, massively growing videogame industry is, not unlike arcades, designed to make as much money as possible. And just as the arcades were able to find the right recipe for success by installing scores of quarter-consuming cabinets, the contemporary game industry has sought to maximize profits by appealing to the widest possible audience.

Easier games are more appealing to more potential players because, simply enough, anyone can find enjoyment in them. Some of us may cherish the memory of finally seeing the credits after beating the last boss of a gruelling Mega Man or Castlevania title because there was a level of devotion that was required to reach it. But that same type of satisfaction — the kind that results from overcoming difficult odds — is exactly the sort that bars the “casual” or novice gamer from entry. Thus, game developers and publishers began to move away from the kind of titles that required intense concentration and refined skills. They instead focused on making it simpler to reach the game’s end (and provide closure on an interactive experience) in order to get as many people on board as possible.

Whereas difficult arcade games were designed to keep players pumping quarter after quarter into them to yield profits, it now makes better financial sense to have players pumping money into more and more individual games that reach their conclusions more quickly.

Independent Developers and the Rebirth of Tough Games 3
Super Meat Boy
Independent Developers and the Rebirth of Tough Games 2
Super Meat Boy

The Indies Respond

This recent rebirth of truly challenging games can then be seen as a natural response to the trends of the majority. Because current multi-million dollar, focus-tested videogames can be breezed through by nearly anyone, the smaller, less financially risky passion projects of small teams have sought to fill the hard-game vacuum left behind.

In recent years indie developers have tapped into the masochistic urges of many gamers by providing them with titles like Terry Cavanagh’s Flash-based VVVVVV, PC and XBLA megahit Super Meat Boy or Playstation 3 exclusive Demon’s Souls. Each of these games was created by small teams: Demon’s Souls was developed by Japan’s fairly obscure From Software and imported to the West by Atlus, a company known for publishing niche RPGs and strategy games, Super Meat Boy is the result of the two-man Team Meat studio (consisting of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes) and VVVVVV was crafted entirely by Cavanagh.

When looking at sales charts and Metacritic score aggregates it’s easy to see that this hasn’t been a wasted effort. The three titles listed above, as prime examples of critical and commercial successes developed by small studios, demonstrate that there still exists an audience of gamers, hungry for a more challenging experience.

Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV both came out of the gate strong with their launches, VVVVVV garnering praise for its inventive mechanics, stunning chiptune soundtrack and tight design ethos and Meat Boy sweeping the XBLA charts (before making a much-anticipated arrival on PC) on the strength of its quirky characters, offbeat sense of humour and retro-inspired platforming. Demon’s Souls demonstrates the kind of success that an indie word of mouth sensation can enjoy. Although its 2009 release (2010 for those always-neglected European gamers) was quiet enough, the following years since launch have seen it gaining in sales until, now, it sits just a few purchases away from reaching the milestone of one million units sold.

Demon's Souls
Demon’s Souls


And the development of these kind of experiences show no sign of stopping.

From Software is already hard at work on Demon’s Souls’ spiritual successor, Dark Souls and, understanding the reason why so many players raved about their previous title, the director of both games, Hidetaka Miyazaki, has promised an even more punishing experience with its “sequel.” Super Meat Boy has continuously grown in popularity from its browser-based beginnings (as Meat Boy on Newsground) to an XBLA sleeper hit and successful multiplatform present. VVVVVV holds a devout cult following of players and has provided its creator, Terry Cavanagh, with the kind of success and name-recognition necessary for working on further indie titles (like the recently released American Dream).

And now that the indies have shown the way, as always, the mainstream can start to absorb their lessons and incorporate them into business as usual. We can now expect to see a better balance of hard and easy games emerging in the future as the indie studios’ financial evidence (the arbiter of all industry trends) points to the fact that these two styles of play can coexist.

There’s enough room in the videogame marketplace for there to be games of all kinds. Easy, “casual” games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn can still sit on the shelves (and gain as much critical praise) as difficult, “hardcore” games like Demon’s Souls.

This is a good thing.

As the videogame industry continues to expand and advance itself as a viable entertainment (and artistic) medium, it needs all the expressional tools it can lay its hands on. Knowing that money can still be made, whether a title is excruciatingly tough or welcomingly easy, is important for ensuring that we all get the best possible product in the end.

 

This is originally appeared in the 2011 March issue of CGM.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Movie) Review 1

Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) Review

The Avengers was an unprecedented bit of superhero derring-do. No one had ever done a superhero team up on the big screen before and the epic blockbuster represented the cathartic pay off for five movies of set up. That made for a wild ride of crowd-pleasing that Avengers: Age Of Ultron simply can’t hope to match despite being a very well made and accomplished superhero blockbuster. Not only have we been here before, but writer/director Joss Whedon has to provide character arcs for no less than six protagonists, introduce four major new characters, and provide cameos for a handful of others. Plus, his movie has to be fairly self-contained, since all of the dollops of universe building in Marvel’s Phase 2 have been setting up Civil War and Infinity Wars rather than this Avengers picture. The fact that he even made a watchable movie while juggling all of those elements is amazing and he did more than that. He made a damn fine bit of superhero blockbusting. Age Of Ultron just isn’t quite the event of The Avengers and that’ll be enough to make some fanboys call it a failure, which it isn’t.

avengers-age-of-ultron

Things kick off with the Avengers back together again in the midst of a wild heist to steal back Loki’s pokey stick from the last movie. There are some big glorious action scenes and Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver are introduced. Then things slow down for a bit so that the Avengers can hang out and have a party. All sorts of wise-cracks are made and cameos pop up. Then the party is rudely interrupted when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s secret AI invention Ultron appears fully formed for a big speech about how he plans on destroying earth’s mightiest heroes to create a utopia. Ultron then blows a bunch of stuff up and jams a wedge in the middle of the Avengers. So now they’ll have to make friends again and find a way to join forces once more to stop a threat that just might end the whole gosh darned world. Plus Iron Man finally busts out his Hulk Buster armor for some Hulk-busting, Black Widow develops a crush on Bruce Banner, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver learn to harness their powers for good, Nick Fury returns from hiding, War Machine finally makes a mark on the team, The Vision is introduced, and a bunch of other stuff happens.

More than anything else, Avengers: Age Of Ultron posed an insane writing challenge for Joss Whedon that he somehow managed to meet. With the easy n’ satisfying “get the team together” structure of the last movie no longer an option, he’s got to juggle a massive swab of characters and plots while also delivering big blockbuster action scenes every 15-20 minutes. The movie could have easily been gobbledygook (and indeed there are times when it’s hard to keep things straight, like Thor’s subplot that goes absolutely nowhere), yet for the most part Age Of Ultron feels effortless. The best sequences are the ones when The Avengers simply hang out and Whedon gives them all crackling dialogue that plays off their personalities and is an absolute pleasure to watch. These moments are asides, which there theoretically should be no room for in a film of this scale, but Whedon finds a way to sneak ‘em in constantly without losing his rushing sense of narrative momentum. The film touches on themes like the perils of AI, what it means to be a hero in this wacky modern world, and questions the need for their even to be an Avengers. So Whedon’s script has some thoughts on its mind, there just isn’t much room for those thoughts to be explored thanks to all of the colorful characters and pretty explosions competing for attentions.

avengers-age-of-ultron

All of the returning cast members fit their roles like a glove. Whedon gives them all just enough to do to satisfy the fans and actors and thankfully they clearly still all enjoy each other. Robert Downey Jr. of course steals the show, but you know that already. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is charming enough to make you yearn for a solo picture that might never arrive, while Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson’s characters continue to be expanded to the point that their solo movies would be welcome as well. The new characters are all fairly welcome additions. James Spader’s Ultron is an amusingly smarmy and sarcastic evil robot in a way that only Spader could muster and despite limited screentime he’s one of the best villains in a Marvel movie to date (though to be fair, there’s very little competition for that title). Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen are endearing Russian accented and morally mysterious additions to the team, even though their characters are only really introduced here with plenty of room for expansion elsewhere. Ditto, Paul Bettany’s Vision, who looks and sounds right, but ultimately only shows up to be a ringer in the climax. There’s just not enough screentime to go around for the new characters to feel fully fleshed out while all the old stalwarts are getting showcased. Thankfully, Whedon’s good enough at pithy dialogue and quirky characterization that their brief appearances make enough of a mark for audiences to not really realize some characters have been short changed until the credits roll.

Now that Marvel Studios is an institution and it’s easy to take for granted that an Avengers movie can be as good as Age Of Ultron.

Once again, the MCU formula is starting to feel increasingly familiar. Whedon might come up with a clever twist on the “stuff falling onto a major city” cliché Marvel climax, but it’s ultimately not that different from what we’ve all seen so many times before. These movies are starting to become a little overstuffed and predictable, but that doesn’t by any means suggest they are bad. The trouble is that you can only be the new guy on the scene for so long. Now Marvel Studios is an institution and it’s easy to take for granted that an Avengers movie can be as good as Age Of Ultron after last summer delivered to unexpectedly brilliant additions to the universe with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Inevitably, these movies are going to get stale, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to enjoy along the way.

maxresdefault

For one thing, it’s astounding how unashamedly nerdy this superhero epic is after years of Marvel and DC movies that have tried to curb off the fantasy edges of comic book mythology for mainstream acceptance. Capes are flaunted, laser beams are fired out of heads, magic is wielded through dancing hands, and gloriously silly dialogue about fate and the universe is dropped without irony. Age Of Ultron feels like a flat out geeky Marvel Comics romp in a manner that few of the Marvel movies have been willing to embrace thus far. Five to ten years ago, it would be unthinkable that such a movie would arrive on screens in such a grand scale. Now it’s an exciting reality, but one that will come with a cost. As the MCU becomes increasingly, nerdily fantasy based, the universal appeal of the franchise will slide a bit with it. That’s the risk the studio is taking by pushing this series into flat out cosmic adventure mode. It’ll be fun to see that happen, but we’ll all also have to start to accept that these things won’t be for everyone anymore. The nerds must take it all back and hopefully a few bros will be willing to come along for the ride.

A Slew of Final Fantasy XV News

A Slew of Final Fantasy XV News

A slew of Final Fantasy XV news has emerged. The Final Fantasy XV: Duscae Demo is getting an update, the game overall will also be undergoing drastic changes, but the biggest of them all is that the anticipated title won’t make an appearance at E3.

The demo will be receiving patch between mid and late May. Designed to address the camera, troubled lock-on and active cross battle system that players were reporting, as well as some other fixes to resolve overall stability.  Players can also expect new moves, such as joint attacks, a possible dodge roll and changing the range of Noctis’ weapon.

Final-Fantasy-XV

Director Hajime Tabata is also looking to add more features into the game by allowing players to do quests with one or two characters of their choice, provoking new conversations each time. When your party regroups at night, every character will bring back uniquely different items.

Tabata also stated the game will be getting big changes following fan feedback from the Duscae demo. Taking from the fixes that we’re addressed in the demo, Square Enix plans to further to extrapolate on that throughout the entire game.  He says the team is “thoroughly” addressing all those changes and reveals the developer is more focused on frame rate than the importance of resolution.

Tabata also divulged North American and European players complaints differed, with American players complaining about the voice of Noctis’ being too deep, and Europeans were baffled by the sexualized depiction of Cindy. Both have received work to appease fans.

FFXV-13

Now Noctis’ will seem younger and that direction carries throughout the title. All his lines have been re-recorded. On Cindy’s behalf, her outfit will be altered and female characters will appear as guest party members and your party will react differently each time that happens.

But the biggest revelation that came out of today was that Final Fantasy XV will skip E3 for Gamescom in August. Simply put, the developers need more time to polish the game and with E3 fast approaching, they just can’t produce something to their standard for fans.  The demo release halted their schedule to bring something to the major E3 showcase this year. So in turn, the company is planning to target Gamescom for the next promotion and marketing initiative.

screenshot__2_-noscale

I find this baffling that they would not showcase their biggest title after they announced they’ll be at E3 this year for the first time hosting their own conference. Conflicting with Nintendo timeslot, who will watch this briefing knowing this title, is off the list. Hot off the demo they need to reassure fans this project is still in good shape outside of just words. We will be getting a short trailer at E3 but that’s about it. Playing is believing, and not leaving it out there on the big stage is huge mishap. Obviously they have more on their slate like, Kingdom Hearts III, Rise of the Tomb Raider and more but its shame their missing their biggest opportunity to get revised game in more peoples hands.

Do the fixes to Final Fantasy XV make you sleep easier at night? Let us know in the comments below.



©2010-2021 CGMagazine Publishing Group