Category Archives: News

BAM. Ride Along – Forza 6 Let’s Play

This week kicks off the release of the Forza 6 demo on Xbox One, as a change of pace I decided to capture some of the gameplay to showcase what to expect. Since I’m doing a single installment I’m breaking these down track by track in text but the video will cover the experience. Not all videos will be this way but when it’s something new and pretty direct like this I might change it up.

That said, I used the stock Xbox One controller, I don’t have a racing wheel for the system so that’s where things will come from on the platform as I’m not sure when I’ll pick one up or if any companies would be interested in jumping along with a donor.

Video removed for now – Content ID claims for music made the original recording impossible to use. I’ll have to do another recording without the soundtrack. Future note, if you want to use Forza 6 footage on Youtube, the content creators will flag the life out of your videos. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that Microsoft has sorted out anything to help the community at all.

First up we’re in Brazil on Circuito Do Rio De Janeiro in the 2017 Ford GT, the supercar takes to this street course against a pretty heavy lineup of opponents. As the first experience of Forza it’s also the safest delivery, the game sets all the controls to easy mode so you’re coddled along with safe lines, turning assist, braking assist and assist assist. For some it’s perfect because you have kids or others playing so you can just hold the trigger and basically have a racing experience. If you want to fudge the controls you can do manual braking and line switching and escape the grasp of the support system to some degree.

It’s a beautiful track though and without the assists in a Ford GT I think many players would leave chunks of that car scattered throughout the stage. Fortunately that’s not the case and it’s just scuffed bumpers and lots of rage in the narrow corridors of the track when passing feels nearly impossible or line blocking becomes the most frustrating experience in history.

After you complete the first level you jump into car selections, yada yada yada classics skip the hubbub pick your favorite car / the Subaru Impreza 22b or RX7 (it’s okay you know you want to) and jump into the mix.

The first of the qualifying series brings players to the Lime Rock Full length track, it’s 3 lap race where players work on coming in Top 3 over the 1.5m course. The track is fairly relaxed with open corners and lots of wiggle room, if  you’re new to the game leaving it on easy or normal is probably a good choice to understand things a little more with the car selected. The AI tends to let off in the easier corners and avoid any connections on the rumble strip so passing is usually possible on most inside turns.

Following Lime Rock is Yas Marina Circuit, for some it’s a pretty awesome track full of challenges… but it’s always been a nemesis track for me. Yas focuses on grip and downforce and without the right mixture it means going off-track is a given and struggles to regain that grip will act as a constant throughout the race until a steadier approach hits. This race isn’t a pretty one but I’ll keep taking cracks at it until I’m able to really produce a clean run without having to resort to flashbacks.

With Yas turning to a distant memory the qualifier skips to a drivers challenge with a battle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a 7 lap Indy run. Going from heavy corners and low 100mph speeds to 220mph is a change of pace, fortunately as long as upcoming traffic patterns are anticipated correctly it doesn’t turn into a nightmare. The goal of the race is high-speed without ramming the car up the backside of all the opposition. Key things to remember are the behavior of the car under acceleration and deceleration as those will become critical during passing. It’s an enjoyable break and for the most part the experience was clean minus a few bad calls or late turns where I did end up touching with other cars.

The last leg of the journey ends at a wet and rainy Sebring International Raceway, it’s a nightmare to say the least with puddles and hydroplane for all. The key factor here is harnessing the power of the car to avoid bad slips when crossing puddles. For those in RWD cars that means working the gas as needed to keep up control of the car without sending the car into a race ending spin. Traction is obviously reduced and plowing the car off the track with understeer increases along with it, so it’s just a wild wacky fun zone of under and oversteer with a side of traction loss and spin. Gotta love it. The 22b used the AWD to its advantage most of the track to help pull it through fudged corners and away from the pack in general, it’s a good overall car but it’s not without challenges in Forza 6 as seen with Yas Marina.

The demo is a well-rounded experience for Forza 6, good variety of cars and tracks and it showcases the weather system and some of the custom options for players. Given the full game is only weeks away it’s worth checking out if there is any interest in the game, on top of that players can also earn special perks that transfer over to the retail game so why not?

Skylanders Superchargers E3 Impressions

So Skylanders has a sequel for 2015, not really a shocker but there are a few items that stand out in the demo made available at E3 this year. One, the trap team pieces will have a function in the new title which provides elemental bonuses, it’s handy and a nice way to keep pieces relevant between generations. Two… the game incorporates racing / driving into the mix and while that allows them to gain traction on other popular franchises it’s the incorporation that hurts in this demo and by hurt I mean it really kills me a bit to see racing used so loosely.

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Most racing titles have adopted the standard of triggers as acceleration and braking mechanisms, they work well they’ve been doing this for ages as they’re not an on or off mechanism and they’re not bad to reach for most hands. Unfortunately Superchargers doesn’t want to follow this mindset, it now works to redefine how these controls work and make them a bit more complex than they need to be and even worse, it makes them harder to use than other titles on the market. A key point here is drifting your car in-game, normally there’s an e-brake for this in sims and arcade racers but in children’s oriented games they allow tricks, flicking the brakes and gas on and off or other sequences to create it, Mario Kart has done this for ages. Instead we’re stuck using trigger acceleration and buttons for braking or sliding which don’t mesh well.

For some it doesn’t sound odd, but it really is, let the thumb direct the car, the fingers pull the gas or brake and go from there as it minimizes the actions of the hand and in the event someone is using the right thumb for action it’s fine because it’s largely just sitting there on the gameplay anyway. It’s not Forza and even Forza doesn’t make this mistake, worse is that even if that was addressed there’s also a problem of inverted steering when deviating from a normal path. Going onto that half-pipe? Sorry, you controls stopped making sense. Going up that other side path straight ahead? Nope, doesn’t work there either, let’s flip those for you and turn every experience into opposites.

SSC_SuperCharged Barrel Blaster

It’s problematic because a childrens game is designed to be accessible and fun without overdoing it and alienating them while their older siblings or parents get it and tear things up. As it stands, Superchargers fails to consider the key demographic behind the game and offers a subpar performance in the car area. I really hope they’re able to pick things up in the future before release otherwise it’s a title I’d really hesitate to pick up. It seems like Activision would have put more time into the control system of the cars but in the current state it’s more like an afterthought.

Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility Announced for Xbox One

Xbox 360 backwards compatibility on Xbox One was announced today at Microsoft’s E3 Conference today.

Users who still have their original 360 disks will be able to load their disk into their Xbox One and the console will download and install a new digital version that will run on Xbox One.

For members of the preview program the feature is active starting today, with a public rollout of the feature set for this holiday featuring one hundred games.

Starting today the games that are available are:

A Kingdom for Keflings
A World of Keflings
Alien Hominid HD
Banjo-Kazooie
Banjo-Tooie
BattleBlock Theater
Defense Grid
Geometry Wars Evolved
Hexic HD
Jetpac Refuelled
Kameo
Mass Effect
N+
Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark Zero
Small Arms
Super Meat Boy
Toy Soldiers
Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Viva Piñata
Viva Piñata: TIP
Zuma

An adventure of sorts awaits, BAM. reviews

There’s little doubt BAM. has been pretty idle lately, being someone who writes for other sites, works a regular job and manages other network sites there’s not a ton of time to divide for personal projects like this site. Recently I’ve made some adjustments and I’ve realized that instead of chasing down the latest releases I’d just take a look through Steam instead and spend essentially the next year at least going through 300+ releases I own, not including older PC games, Origin, Uplay and anything else.

Will all the games be new? No, not really. Some might be super old but the point is to take a look at gaming a whole or at least games that I own . If I have to mod them to work I’ll note it and if I can recall how I came about the game I’ll note it as well, some of these were review samples ages ago and some were bundles that I bought, others were gifts from friends or family and honestly it’s kind of messy backtracking.

We’ll see how things go after the dust settles, for devs or publishers hoping to join into adventure… I have no idea what to say really. The contact page is there, my game selections will be at random (basically what I feel like taking on any specific day). I promise nothing for places in line, this is more about the experience and the adventure than getting someone launch day coverage, if it was I’d be like 15 years late on some  of these games.

What will coverage entail? Right now I’ll start with writing, if I can get some time to record vocals and edit footage I’ll also include video, ideally I’d have video and text articles going up at the same time but I’m trying to manage expectations and reality now.

That said, let’s get this going, the first game up will be… well, why would I show that? I don’t even know yet but I will soon. Stay tuned.

-VeGiTAX2 / VX2

LA Games Conference 2014 Coverage (Part 1)

So I attended the LAGC 2014 conference this year, it’s been a favorite of mine for quite a while now but with the reduced schedule jammed into one day I wanted to see how it stacked up and what the panelists were bringing to the table.

For newbies to the event, LAGC covers a more business focused track of topics, from monetization models, current trends, state of the industry and where people are going next. It’s not a showcase of game demos and booth girls which is a relief. This year focused heavily on what’s next in the industries, addressing Free to Play and related models, tablets, user generated digital content and crossover challenges and branding.

Tons of large topics although while it might not deliver exactly what was expected it gives some insight to the other side of the table beyond PR and normal channels we interact with.

Next Big Thing in Gaming Panel

Kristian Segerstrale of Supercell, GluMobile and Playfish was on hand in the opening to discuss the next big things and where we might expect them. Topics covered the change of hardcore traditional and casual to midcore titles that brought a new audience (midcore) games like Hearthstone capture this market and it’s likely just the start of this new branch and player base. We’re watching genre’s bend and new changes take over as seen with the MOBA field that dominates the landscape.

When asked about team building and capital to get into these genre’s there was a pretty flat response, about 12-14 staff in development to try and produce a MOBA or RPG and $3-5 million in capital to back it with more post launch to support the new infrastructure especially if it takes off. Lesser is possible with teams using 8-12 members and $2-2.5 million but it will be more work.

The big transition the discussion leaned toward was driving a moba experience to a tablet but the issue is internal testing vs live testing and it seems at the moment Apple is hesitant to embrace allowing companies to run an open beta of an app to work on stress, bug hunting and other things normally discovered in a traditional product release these days. As the platforms for iOS are standardized there’s a huge potential to do something there and create that universal experience. Who does it though is in the air and the big stress was that given the worldwide adoption of these platforms, it could be from anywhere and investors can now digitally manage and observe those teams without having to bring them over, instead just reaching out can be sufficient and cost effective.

Monetizing Games through Free to Play

Universal agreement really hit this panel, F2P gaming is a challenge that hasn’t really found a formula yet. There are models but largely it depends on how you start your development, are you designing for monetization or are you adding it in later? Is the game using monetization for aesthetic growth or is there a pay to win design? All these factors are items to consider and depending on the analytics of the market targeted they may or may not work.

Focal points were making the game fun before focusing on the money, this doesn’t mean you ignore the features or implementation, it’s just not the primary view. Designing for pay to win is a bit of a falling star for many games (Maple Story) and that ideally, free and paid have equal perks to retain those users in the system for the long haul and can be beneficial depending on how micro transactions and ad development are used.

Ultimately the game once it reaches market needs to continue to adapt to the audience instead of trying to mold the audience to one model, Nexon notes that just about every version of Maple Story is different depending on the region, not only does the art and story adjust but even the monetization model. Ideally using proper analytics to study behavior there would be frictionless ad placements when the user is stumped or at an idle point in the game so there’s timed user interaction and exposure. The focal point is delivering an organic experience vs a poorly timed or executed delivery to the end-user.

As Free to Play expands the data is coming in for devs as they witness changes of 8-12% participation on transactions (in-game items) vs a growing 20%+ on consoles, a large factor attributed is the console users are invested in the hardware and likely to continue to invest to better their experience as they’re accustomed to a $60 game and a $300+ system just for this purpose. The big point here is frequency of that content fresh and story updates within the game, what events are being used, how are the ladders working, what is succeeding and is it being nurtured to encourage more.

On the mobile front this is a tougher area, social competition using leaderboards and push notifications getting them to challenge each other at the right moments depending on the usage patterns. Timed updates are essential to getting that return engagement though vs just sending it out there and having custom events that allow higher social interaction with the core team (GM’s, devs).

Evolution coming forward is a change in how these games continue to grow, with mobile there’s the push to see more real time gaming happen on iOS and Android, Fire Age and Clash of Clans taking notes from the PC market and driving higher interaction for more invested hours into the game and higher return rates. This won’t necessarily convert the 35 and above female market that King has reached out to capture but it can bring in fresh players. It’s unlikely we’ll see genuine casual to hardcore crossover but conversions from hardcore to midcore or casual are out there and happening.

More coming soon, stay tuned for part 2 later this weekend

Gunnar Optiks Long Term Review (Rocket)

No doubt in the coming week’s a wave of buzz about Gunnar’s will start to emerge while going into the holiday season. There’s a large marketing push to bridge the market and get buzz going about the style and appeal of the frames and help develop a larger culture around the product. No doubt this is a good thing, while reading it’s clear I do believe Gunnar produces a solid product but there are some things that come with the benefit of using them a year before writing thoughts.

Gunnar thrives on lightweight and sturdy construction, the Rocket frames I purchased last Fall have no actual adjustments available, everything sits firmly with machined slots and pins to prevent inevitable lost screws or broken hinge systems. It’s a relief for a product designed for people on the move and after a year of use, not a sign of wear has hit those parts. The ear comfort band has stayed in tact despite being worn practically everywhere I go, it’s a comfort when normally the paint on other frames will flake and expose the chemical process to the side of the head.

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Moving on from construction we hit the lenses, the infamous yellow and blue, does it work? Yes, it really does especially as contrast / brightness exposure from monitors increases, the ability to filter the light and concentrate for 15-20 hour days working on reviews and coding with 3 white screens filling the eyes for a year and come out with less headaches than just standard glasses is something I’ll always remember.

There are some shortcomings to the lenses though, the default non Rx lens has a love affair with smudging and smearing, on normal glasses one can use a microfiber cloth and just buff it away. The stock Gunnar lens attracts and clings to oils and smudges, if using multiple cloths owners can essentially have a cleaning cloth and a drying cloth to help resolve this but they are picky. At the time my model came with a white bag to store them in, it’s fine for stationary use but I’d never pack a travel or convention coverage bag in such a fashion, as such they do tend to attract dust more often than I’d like. In general the upkeep seems to be stronger with these versus a standard pair of glasses or sunglasses with all the coating techniques involved.

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The inevitable question is, do these improve game skills (what about my KDR bro)? If they’re prescription (Rx) I’m sure they would for obvious reasons, in standard play the biggest factor I can take away is a reduced fatigue on the eye when I really sit in with a game (anything over 30 minutes) in the day the impact isn’t as high but as the darkness sets in, it’s a massive factor. Contrast headaches are essentially absent and I’m able to lock in for as long of a period as I have available. There’s no magical skill increase or unlocked vision ability, it’s just better use of the eyeballs in a focused state for long periods that really drives it home for my experience.

I would suggest going through Gunnar if planning to invest in a prescription pair, I attempted to navigate my area for places to get lenses made and was quoted up to $580 for lenses and a basic Gunnar frame. Gunnar has an in-house system that essentially crushes the competition in pricing and multiple quality tiers available. I have yet to make the upgrade but when I have a feeling my experience will continue to increase. With only a slight correction in my vision I’m able to still get a fairly sharp experience with the stock Gunnar model that has worked so far.

The final thoughts here are simple, the metal frames are a tool free design, they incorporate lightness and functionality over all else, the lenses take off the eye fatigue that leads to headaches induced by contrast. They work even when pulling insane hours to write code, articles, edit videos and do other tasks, as long as one is pushing forward the lenses will continue to do their job and guide the eyes to a safe landing. If it’s a case of being on the fence and looking at a stock pair but need a slight prescription, I suggest taking the plunge from the start so to avoid regrets while dealing with subtle blur issues later.

The Rocket frames took no physical damage during this year of use, the ear band stayed in tact without degrading and the only shortcoming was the front lens has taken a few scratches over the year of wear. As far as product wear goes, these have probably taken less damage than standard glasses of any level would, simply solid no matter where I wore them.

I’d like to thank Woot for having these during one of their sales, well worth the purchase and I would easily pick these up at a regular price rate in the future (Rx of course) when the time comes to replace my Rocket’s as they take up scratches here and there.