Category Archives: Wii

Frozen Friday Afternoon Bullet Points

There is no polar vortex going on out here on the left coast, but it is raining and chilly enough that the roses might take a rest from their otherwise year around blooming.

The previous post about Steam started as a bullet point last night, then grew into its own post.  That happens.  It was pretty much the anchor of the post too.  Now I’m left with the other items hanging about.  Might as well just post them and move on.

  • A Smaller Switch

While there are no details out yet, Nintendo has said they have a revised version of the Switch they plan to launch this year.  It is supposed to be smaller so as to emphasize portability.  The hope is, no doubt, to get the remaining Nintendo 3DS/2DS users to consider it as an option.  Nintendo 3DS/2DS sales were pretty well strangled by Nintendo over the last year, undoing a sales surge in 2017.  We’ll see if the new Switch unit will hit the price, size, and durability metrics that would be required to replace the durable dual screen models.

  • Wii Unplugged

This past week saw the Wii Shop channel turned off.

Memories

This closed the door on getting any digital content onto you Wii.  Yes, the Wii has been around since 2006, and is now two generations behind, with Wii U having stumbled before Nintendo hit pay dirt again with the Switch.  But our Wii is still hooked up to the TV in the family room and still gets an occasional play.

  • New EVE Launcher Coming

CCP has a new launcher coming in February for EVE Online.  It will support new features, like “launch groups,” which will allow you to log on all your associated alts for specific tasks.  It will also make tasks like saving logins a little more obvious.  We’ll see if it remembers them, a chronic issue with the current launcher.

The 2019 launcher

Looking at the design though, the primary goal seems to have been better announcement placement.  Probably not a bad idea.

  • Esports Trying Too Hard

There was an article up in the games section at Venture Beat about how the top ten mobile esports players had roped in $8 million in prizes in 2018.  And seven out of those ten were women.

Infographic from that post

At least that was what the headline said.  Most of the article was yet another attempt to prove that esports was a legitimate competitive arena by comparing esports to various professional sports.

I was actually interested in the topic in the headline, but that was barely covered.  Of course, it is hard to blame Venture Beat, since the press release they were working from… and which they pretty much regurgitated word for word, so maybe they get some blame… was just as scant when it came to details.  If you have to spend that much copy establishing that esports are a thing, you don’t sound convincing.

  • Esports Denied

Of course, there might be a reason to feel defensive.  There was a forum to discuss bringing esports to the Olympics in some sort of exhibition capacity that fell through once the International Olympic Committee saw just how violent the most popular esports were.  Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

But then the president of the German Olympic Federation Alfons Hörmann said that esports do not exist and that people should stop using the term because esports have nothing to do with sports.  He seemed quite determined that esports should never be a part of the Olympics in any way.

While I’m not in league with Herr Hörmann, I do find the pushing of the parallels between competitive professional video game leagues and sports to reach the level of the absurd at times.  Again, the burning desire to be seen as a legitimate competitive event seems to get the best of those promoting esports.

Our Wii Lingers, Waiting for Retirement

Our Wii was unboxed six years ago this week.

Wii in the Box

Wii in the Box

It was at the height of the Wii’s popularity.  People were talking about it.  Wii remotes were breaking TV screens.  It was fair game for humor.  It spawned hilarious peripherals.  It was practically a meme on its own.

The previous Christmas season you could not find one for love or money… well, unless you wanted to spend a LOT of money on eBay… while competing consoles were sitting on the shelves, primarily due to their high price tags.  My wife was able to score one in the post-holiday season, but it had to stay under wraps for a couple months because we were moving.

But once it was out of the box, it was a hit in our house.  My daughter and I played a lot of Wii Sports and Mario Party 8 and LEGO Star Wars, various flavors of Mario Kart (though never Mario Kart Wii), and old classics from the Wii Virtual Console.  Miis were created in imitation of friends and family.

It was a time of excitement, as the Wii represented something new.

It was also perfect timing in our lives.  My daughter was just five years old when the Wii showed up, which was just about the perfect age for the games we were playing.

It became a Saturday morning tradition.  My daughter would wake me up early… before 7am early… and we would get up, jump in the giant Love Sac not-a-bean-bag-chair in the family room ( I really miss that thing… one of our cats was constantly peeing on it, so it had to go), and play games for hours.

Later, the Nintendo DS and Pokemon took over our Saturday morning focus, though the Wii still found ways to stay a part of the picture.  There was Pokemon Battle Revolution, which was deeply integrated with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (but not any of the subsequent Pokemon titles) and Pokemon Ranch, which let you store and track your Pokemon collection.

Time went on.  Pokemon began to fade.  My daughter got a Nintendo DSi XL, which could download demo software on its own, without having to connect to the Wii, a restriction we faced with the DS Lite units.

But there were still things to do.  Rock Band was a big hit.  We actually had adults coming over to play.

But things were starting to sour a bit.  There was that horrible Wii Music, which actually prompted my wife to suggest Rock Band.  The unit itself started making noise.

And my daughter started playing Wii games that I did not like, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or at which I simply sucked, like Super Mario Bros. Wii.  But her friends liked those games and played them with her instead.

At that point I was pretty much done with the Wii aside from Netflix streaming service, which at the time was free for any Netflix subscriber.

Time passed, the old TV died and we got a new, high def TV.  That, in turn, prompted me to get a PlayStation 3, as the Wii does not support anything beyond 480p.  We could now stream Netflix in HD and watch movies in Blu-Ray.  The Wii started to get used less and less.

Then Little Big Planet showed up on the PlayStation 3.  That became pretty much the only console game getting played.

My daughter’s interests are better served with by her iMac.  She has PhotoShop Elements and a Wacom tablet hooked up for art.  She has Minecraft.  WoW doesn’t thrill her any more, though maybe if Runic could get to work on Torchlight II for the Mac as they promised, that might be of some interest.  I already bought her a copy.

But my daughter, now very much a pre-teen, is not so interested in the Wii, or even the PlayStation 3.  It is all about her phone, her Nook Color, and her iMac.

And I am a PC gamer from way back, so console games, which always feel limited to me, have little pull.

I think the Wii went from Christmas to Easter without getting used once.  At Easter we had friends over, and their kids have a Wii, and Super Mario Bros. Wii is still on the list for them, so we broke that out.  Our Wii got played with a little bit.  But it will likely make it from Easter to Thanksgiving without much of a workout in between.

Its days are numbered.  Even Nintendo is beginning to shut down services on the Wii as they try to push people towards the Wii U.  We have no interest in the Wii U around our house, which seems to be a common theme.

Wii U in white

Wii U – Not for us

It is probably just the small size of the unit in the entertainment console that is keeping it around.  And the fact that the Wii Fit balance board fits under the whole setup.

At some point it, the controllers, and its games are going to get boxed up and stored away, waiting for somebody to get a pang of nostalgia.

The Wii was a fine console for our family, and showed up at just the right time.

Wii Sports was great, Mario Party 8 and its mini games were lots of fun, and all the LEGO games were great until they started doing split screen, which gave me a headache.

But that time seems to have mostly passed at this point.

I have said in the past that I get a game console every 15 years.  There was an Atari 2600 in 1977.  A Sega Genesis in 1992.  And then the Wii in 2007.  The PlayStation 3 doesn’t really count as it only gets used for Blu-Ray, streaming video, and, since I set up the NAS service with a hard drive on our router, a bit of music streaming now and again.

So I guess the next stop is in 2022.  What will we have then?

Side Notes About Used Games

There has been a bit of a controversial breeze blowing through the console news, with the rumor being that Microsoft will be putting an end to the used game market with their next generation console by simply not allowing it to play used games.

Used games and piracy are the two things that keep some big game publishing execs up at night building enormous castles in the sky with all the wealth that could be theirs if only they could be rid of these meddlesome practices.

Not that I am unsympathetic to people whose software is being pirated.  I work in software as well, and it irks.

But with the threat of a final solution to the used game problem potentially on the horizon, it was extremely refreshing to hear somebody from EA come out and say that the used games market is not 100% evil.

Basically, in their view, used games have helped prop up the traditional retail channel for the last few years, which is still an important source of game sales.

Oh, and the fact that people who buy new games can then turn around and trade them in for credit increases the likelihood that they will then buy another new game.  So the used games market might actually be boosting new game sales, at least in certain segments of the market.

Using Used to sell New

Using Used to sell New

But they still want to kill the used market because… despite the above… they still hate it and can’t stop telling themselves that every used game sale would have been a new game sale if not for that damn gray market.

At the other end of the equation there is GameStop, a company that pretty much depends on used games to stay open.  They are upset.

No surprise there.

And they have some numbers that say some gamers won’t buy Microsoft’s icky new console if it doesn’t support used games.  And while I cannot speak to the validity of their poll, they are probably right to be worried.  The end of the used game market probably means the end of GameStop in the medium-to-long term.

And GameFly too, while we’re at it.  All those game rentals would have been new game sales, right?

Microsoft dreams of having control over things in the way that Steam does.  And they have been headed that way with things like direct purchases through XBLA.  Of course, Steam itself is in a bit of a fix in Europe, where the European High Court ruled that digital content should be transferable.  The concept of used might not be going away… and Microsoft throwing in against used will probably just inflame the issue in Europe.  They like Microsoft even less than most people here do.

And I expect typical Microsoft avarice when it comes to pricing, at least initially, which will stoke people’s ire even more so.  Steam thrives in part because of their massive sales, which rope in the buyers who didn’t have to have a given game on day one for list price.  Will Microsoft relent on the $60 price tag for games when there is no used market?  I bet not.

My only solace in all of this is that it does not impact me for the most part.

While we have two consoles, a Wii and a PlayStation 3, but I doubt that we will be jumping on the next generation.  I have been a PC gamer since 1983… wow, 30 years… and will likely remain so.  Our PS3 is mostly used to play Blu-Ray movies and stream Netflix, and our Wii hasn’t been on in months.

And, even when we were playing consoles more, I was not a big spender in the used game market.

Once in a while I would buy a used game from GameStop.

But I do not buy used games to save money or to stick it to the publisher.  I buy them because a given game I want simple isn’t available new any more.

Quite a while back I wanted Tetris for the Nintendo DS.  However, it was no longer being published and so was simply not available new.  It was even hard to find used.  GameStop had a copy for me, for which I paid nearly list price.  And not a penny of that went to Nintendo.  But not because I wouldn’t have given them the money.  However, I am sure that would lump me in with those killing single player games in the eyes of some.

Likewise, I had to go looking for a copy of Civilization II in order to be able to play it on Windows 7 64-bit.  The used market was the only choice.  The same went for Mario Kart Double Dash, a Game Cube game my daughter and I wanted to play on the Wii.

Of course, with another aspect of the next console generation… doing away with backward compatibility… the out of print game issue won’t rear its head any time soon.  Still, at some point, unless we go completely to digital distribution, there will games that have had their production run and are no longer available.

So where do used games sit in your world view?

Random Items for a Friday – Wii U, Wallpapers, and Nostalgia Edition

Remember the Sleeper

Over at Giant Bomb there is a post up titled Tales from Norrath: Don’t Wake the Dragon.  It recounts the famous, one-time (per server) event, the waking of The Sleeper in EverQuest.  A unique event and a bit of MMO history.

I told you to just let him sleep…

What Ever Became of Wallpapers?

Walltreipers, the SoCo alliance that defiantly held onto the system T-IPZB in the 2012 Delve War after the region had been abandoned by its allies and Nulli Secunda had thrown in the towel (see Notes from the War in Delve), were hailed as champions on par with the 300 for a short bit.

Cornered in Gaul, but holding firm

There was all sorts of loose talk about bringing them ammo or coming to some sort of honorable accord with them, and then the Honey Badger Coalition finally brought their weight to bear and stomped them, thus completing the conquest of Delve.

What are they up to?  It looks like they are still together and active and gate camping TEST in Fountain these days.  I just wonder that nobody has found a system for them to hold.  This seems like the type of alliance you want guarding sovereignty in a corner of your region, not as renters but allies.

Launch of the Wii U

Consoles were never really my thing.  Yes, I had an Atari 2600 like… 35 years ago… but after obtaining a personal computer, console gaming fell by the wayside, as did arcades.  (My arcade memories are pretty old.)

That changed with the advent of the Wii.  The Wii became the favored past time for my daughter and I.  For a long stretch we would get up early on Saturday morning, jump into the big beanbag chair parked way too close to the TV, and play Mario Party 8 and LEGO Star Wars and other titles, including some classics from the Game Cube era.  It was a golden age.

The Wii has since fallen into disfavor at our house.  After a couple of years, the computer started to take over.  Like father, like daughter.

My daughter plays the Wii when she has friends over, but it ceased to be a daddy-daughter thing after she began to favor games at which I, frankly, suck to an embarrassing degree.  And her favorite games aren’t on the Wii any more.

Now the Wii U is coming out.  It promises backward compatibility with the Wii, which is good, and a controller that looks like a PDA, which is… I don’t know.  Ars Technica has all the Wii U answers, at least around the technical side of things.  And the price isn’t that bad, relative to the the historical launch costs of consoles (thanks Tesh).  But do I really need this thing?

Wii U in white

Indications are that I do not.  Sure, Penny Arcade seems hot on the idea, or at least its potential, but they are hot on a lot of games for about two minutes before they are installing the next thing.  And then there are the forecasts by those who purport to know.

https://twitter.com/michaelpachter/status/246666561555922945

How about you?

Torchlight II Next Thursday

The next game on my “must have” list is less than a week away.  I did not pre-order it, as the incentive was a copy of Torchlight and, well, I already have that.

This means I probably need to get my mage a lot closer to level cap this weekend.

Then again, my daughter is insisting that I play Minecraft with her, which is all the rage with her and her friends these day.

As I always say, we shall see.

Little Big Planet Defeats the Wii

We have had a PlayStation 3 for well over a year now.

Just in case you wanted to see a box

It showed up in our household where the Wii had been our only video console for the previous four years.

The PlayStation 3 was planned to have three roles in our home.

The first was to play Blu-ray disks.  In this role it has performed admirably.  It has show itself to be completely compatible with all the disks I have fed into it and Blu-ray movies look fantastic on our TV.  The opening scenes of Star Wars Episode III from the Blu-ray set were of such high quality that I had to get up and stand closer to the TV and drool.  Still, the unit was a bit pricey for just a Blu-ray player.

The second role involved streaming video.  This has been primarily from NetFlix, though Amazon Prime has jumped into the market with a PS3 app.  This has also delivered high quality.  I have been quite surprised actually at how smoothly NetFlix streams given our relatively low bandwidth DSL and the fact that the PS3 hooks up to the router over WiFi from half way across the house.

And the third role, the one for which it was designed, was to play… you know… video games.  And this is where it fell down on the job, much to my surprise.  I figured it would be higher quality video and about the same when it came to controllers.  In one of my more ironic complaints, I had previously griped about the fact that most Wii games end up having use the Wii remote and nun-chuck as a two piece standard game controller.

So imagine my surprise when I started using the PS3 controller only to discover that having the game controller in two pieces is actually much easier the body when playing for more than 20 minutes at a stretch.  It turns out that the small PS3 controller forces you into that “gamer’s clutch” with the unit grasped in front of you… a position which makes your arms and shoulders ache after a while if you are not used to it.

That was part of the issue.  A small part of it in any case.

The bigger reason for the PS3 failing to take on a significant role as a game platform in our house was that my daughter and her friends just like Wii games.  They all have Wiis and like the same games and so the PS3 would sit quietly while the Wii got all the game time.  And my daughter has become the real driver for console gaming in our house.  Long gone are the days when she would come to me to help her out.  Now it is she who pities me when she wrangles me into playing Super Mario Bros. Wii or Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a platformer and a fighting game respectively, neither of which were my strong suit even when I was young.  Now suddenly I am my own father struggling to simply not fail utterly while playing a video game with my child.

But recently, one game from the PS3 has been taking hold of my daughter, Little Big Planet.

Not the box we have…

I picked this game up early on, along with a couple of others people recommended, like Mod Nation Racers.  And while it was clearly a deep and interesting game, it still got shoved aside for the most part.  My daughter had Super Mario to play with her friends and as much as I liked the game, it was still a platform jumper, which meant I was horrible at it.

Over the last couple of months though, LBP came into fashion for my daughter.  She is trending on the creative path right now.  She wanted PhotoShop Elements for her birthday and saved up money for a Wacom tablet.  So the ability to dress up your sack boy avatar struck the right chord with her.  Then she started playing people’s custom levels.  Then she started making her own custom levels.  And recently she has been after me about some downloadable content that will give her more tools and features with which to create levels. (She wanted the Pirates of the Caribbean pack, since it let you have water in your levels.)

And then one day I noticed that on Raptr I was ranked Elite for Little Big Planet, something measured not in hours but achievements.  There were 42 listed, which put me in the top 10% of Raptr users.

Steam sales explain those 20 “newbie” ranks

I got the ranking because I hooked Raptr up to my PlayStation account, but those achievements were all earned by my daughter.  Those include achievements for having a given number of people play levels you created.

This has become her game of choice for the moment.  The Wii still gets its time when her friends are over, but even they are being introduced to LBP.

So now my daughter asks me to come and play LBP with her… and I still suck, because it is a platform jumper.  Once in a while she’ll play Mod Nation Racers with me, where I can still hold my own.

And just the other day she heard there was a Little Big Planet 2.  This, of course, came up just after I let her buy some content for LBP.  Fortunately, all of the DLC for LBP appears to transfer over to LBP2, along with all the levels you have made and so forth.  It all just shows up in higher quality with better visual effects.

So we might look at the sequel at some point, though for my daughter we are now at the far end of the calendar for birthdays, Christmas, and such.  Our change jar collection might have to go towards that rather than a certain panda-themed expansion.

LEGO Lord of the Rings The Video Game Announced

Back in December, when LEGO announced that they would be doing Lord of the Rings based kits, my first thought was, “And a LEGO video game as well, right?”

LEGO Kits Coming Summer 2012

Well, now I have my wish.  Traveller’s Tales, LEGO, Warner, and a series of other companies involved in the whole thing have announced LEGO Lord of the Rings The Video Game!

A LEGO Fantasy!

There is also a video… ahead of which YouTube has placed a 30 second ad.  They know what people want I suppose.

Direct link to the video here.

Now all that is missing is a date.  I did not see one anywhere.  Maybe it will be something for the Christmas wish list.

LEGO Star Wars III – The Clone Wars

It is no secret that we are quite enamored with most of the LEGO games that Traveller’s Tales has put out.

We own almost the whole set, and have played them all.  Our current household ranking of the games, from most to least favorite, is:

  1. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy – Maybe our most-played game on the Wii, this was TT’s second LEGO game, and they nailed what makes the games fun.  Lots of puzzles, hidden surprises that make you want to replay levels, and breaking things… lots of smashing things into their little LEGO parts.
  2. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 – We call this one LEGO Harry Potter: Movies 1-4, since the game follows the movies and not the books.  But it does follow the movies very closely.  We found that we could watch the movie for a given year, then could play through that year in the game without ever needing a hint.  The spell system was fun.  My daughter could not wait and played through the game without me, which was a first.
  3. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Combines the Original Trilogy with a reworked and more fun version of the original game.  We played it through, though replay value was tainted a bit by the fact that we had already played episodes IV through VI to death.
  4. LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures – Lots of fun, though light on content.  Made us go watch the movies again.  The Temple of Doom segment, like its movie counterpart, was our least favorite.
  5. LEGO Batman: The Video Game – Fun, though we are not as into super heroes around here as we might be.  Introduced the split screen concept, so my daughter and I would stop playing tug of war, but the flicker and playing on a partial section of screen was more annoying that the tug of war.  Also, the controls on the driving levels needed some improvement.
  6. LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues – Like The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, proof that more is not always better.  Split screen flicker got worse, the cut scenes were too frequent, and they tried to make the lobby area part of the game with its own requirements, which turned it into a confusing mess.  My daughter played with the level creator more than we played the game, but the level creator didn’t seem to have a lot of real purpose in life.
  7. LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game – The first game in the series, and TT was still figuring out what was going to be fun.  This game is hard… that lava jumping level was a royal pain and there were a few levels we could barely start, much less finish.  All the levels were reworked in the spirit of “puzzles and breaking stuff” in The Complete Saga. Fortunately, TT quickly figured out what made the games fun and hit the mark squarely with LEGO Star Wars II.

So we had to get LEGO Star Wars II: The Clone Wars.

We received it in the mail about two weeks ago and it is currently vying for the second or third spot on our list above.

It follows the story, or at least the first two seasons, of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series which we have been watching every Friday night at our house.  And while I have not been paying the closest attention to the series, I recognize situations that have come up over the course of the series.

The game introducing a new engine for the LEGO series which seems to help the Wii along as it tries to render things on screen.  The downside of the last few games, including Harry Potter, is that the Wii seemed to be quite taxed to keep up with what it was being asked to do.  That goes away, to a certain degree, with LEGO Star Wars III.

The flicker that bothered me seems to have been reduced.  Of course, those of you who grew up in the age of LCD monitors might not know to what I am referring, but flicker used to be a serious annoyance on CRT based monitors and tube TVs used as monitors.  The reduction in flicker might, of course, be attributed to the fact that we no longer have a tube TV, but a nice big LCD screen.

This bigger screen, since the game expands out to play on the full 16:9 screen, and the reduction in flicker makes split screen play more bearable.  I still am not fond of it, and neither is my daughter, and I wish it was an option that you could turn off, but it is not.  In fact, there are sections of play where two players work on separate parts of a level on a divided screen.

So my daughter and I make do by using the “drop out” option that lets one player leave the game so the other player can have the full screen to perform some task that really needs the whole screen to accomplish.  This is something of a weakness of the game, in my opinion.  Any number of times you have to take over some huge laser cannon and blow up an objective in the distance, only to have your screen cut diagonally across your view by you partner who is trying to knock off some droid troopers who have just shown up.

The game itself has all the things we have become used to in TT’s LEGO games, unlocks, hidden items, fun puzzles, and lots and lots of LEGO objects waiting to be smashed to pieces, an aspect of the game that is more satisfying in some visceral than it probably should be.  And it never gets old!  Never!

There are some new features.  You can now command a platoon sized group of clones, using them to target specific structures that need rapid fire to destroy.  There are a number of battlefield scenarios where you have to destroy separatist structures and capture their power sources to build Republic structure.  This includes a mini-map at the top of the screen which the Wii, its output limited to 480p, is unable to display clearly.  I would like to see the whole thing on 1080p output.

And then there is that clone troop with the Gatling blaster in the Ryloth missions.  I could just run around shooting that thing all day long.

Reviews of the game have come up in the “mediocre” range of 6.0-7.5 on a lot of sites.  The DS and 3DS versions, which lack a number of the new features, score at the low end, while the home console versions rank a little higher.  The main complaints, paraphrased by me, seem to be “not much new, and what is new gets over used.”

I cannot really argue with that.

We are only 30% into the game, but it still seems like a lot of fun us.  If you wanted more LEGO Star Wars, you’ll probably like it.  That is where we stand.  We wanted more and we got it.

If you did not like the past versions, you probably won’t like this any better.

And I am looking forward to the next installment from TT, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.

I might have to make another pass at my old post about Five LEGO Video Games I Want.  If they can do Pirates of the Caribbean, the door is open to other ideas.

[Keen and Graev have a nice review of LEGO Star Wars III posted.]