Well, Happy New Years everybody. Hope you had a good time last night counting down from 10, but for me, I was asleep. Got to get my rest, because I've got a big job in 2013. Tackling my pile.
With the help of the gamerswithjobs forum and a site called backloggery, I've embarked on a journey, one that will see me finish all the games in my pile, and not buy too many new ones. You can see my backlog here, and see the games I'm working on currently. There are 35 unfinished games in my backlog, 6 of which are unplayed.
Right now I'm playing New Super Mario Bros. U, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, and very shortly I'll be starting The Last Story. I'm planning on live streaming The Last Story, if you're interested you can catch it on twitch.tv/gamerparent, or click on the TV tab right at the top of the site, and watch this excellent JRPG as I play through it for the first time.
I am committed to buying 4 games in 2013, Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and Mass Effect 3 Wii U Edition. Anything else is contingent on my finishing the pile.
So wish me luck as I plow through the pile this year, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you for each of these games.
This article was going to be all about how awesome it was that the Wii U was coming out tomorrow, and how I couldn't wait, and how excited I was as I waited for the delivery truck to ship it to our house.
But scrap all that. I'm going to talk about anticipation, but not for the Wii U launch.
You see, launches come and go. But the console remains. And it's that console, formed at launch but an evolving updating growing thing that I'm looking forward to.
Launches can be rocky things. Things can go wrong, features can be delayed, or software may need patching. Case in point, the Wii U will not ship out of the box with online features enabled, but will require a patch out of the box in order to add that functionality. And in the case of the TVii feature, it's not going to be available at launch, but instead will be rolled out sometime in December.
Cue the uproar.
"You promised, Nintendo! You said! Why Nintendo, whyyyyyy?"
Which would you rather: ship a product with something that doesn't work quite right, and have people complain, OR delay a feature to fix it before release, and have people complain? If you're a company that cares about its product, you delay. I'd rather have customers waiting for a feature that is fully baked, than give them something that isn't ready and sully their user experience with something that you knew wasn't ready for launch.
If Nintendo can deliver on its promised features in a reasonable amount of time, I don't think that people are going to remember that it didn't come with TVii on launch day. Just like people won't remember that you used to have to put in a disc to get on to Netflix (remember that?) when it first came out for the Wii.
So it is that I am anticipating the console that is to be, rather than the one that is. Sure, when I get the Wii U in my hands I'll be excited and happy. I'll play games on it, I'll be sad that there's no TVii feature yet, but then I'll have one more thing to look forward to.
Ready for launch!If you would have asked me what games I thought Nintendo needed to successfully launch its next console, I would have said "Mario." Historically we all know that a Mario game sells like hotcakes, and boosts the sales of any hardware associated with it.
Many have been critical of the launch line-up of games, either panning it for having too many old games in it, or for not having any 'core' Nintendo franchises like Metroid or Zelda. Others bemoan the fact that there isn't a Wii Sports equivalent, there's no system selling 'killer app'.
There's no question that the number of launch games is pretty good, with over 20 games available. Look at the list, and the strategy this time around is apparent. Nintendo is fortunate to have a lot of third party games coming out at launch, and so has the luxury of reserving some of its games for later on in the launch window. Three months from now, six months, a year from now, Nintendo plans to keep the games coming in a steady flow, rather than release everything right away.
Nintendo itself has only Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U in terms of its own franchises at launch. It is also publishing Ninja Gaiden and Sing Party. All the rest are third party.
The Wii U is not going to launch into a void, where there are only a handful of games available. There is something for everyone in the list of launch titles. And lets not underestimate Nintendo Land just because it's not Wii Sports. It has the potential to be a lot of fun.
The rest of the line up is third party, and of those the strongest, most unique game is Zombi U, which is both innovative in its use of the Gamepad as well as exclusive to the Wii U. Second is perhaps Call of Duty Black Ops II, given that title's massive popularity some players may opt to try it on the Wii U for the new Gamepad features. Remaining are mostly ports of games that have already been released elsewhere (Assassin's Creed 3, Mass Effect 3, FIFA 13, Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, etc.)
As I've written before I'm looking forward to some of the smaller indie games that will be available on the eShop, and some big name games that will be releasing in the next six months to a year. That list consists of titles like Nano Assault Neo, Little Inferno, Rayman Legends, Pikmin 3, and Injustce: Gods Among Us.
There's so much variety in the launch games, which ones are you most interested in?
Is it a tablet? Is it a controller? No, wait, it's the Nintendo Gamepad!
When Nintendo introduced the Wii U tech demo at an E3 two years ago, many people were confused at first. Is the Wii U a tablet add-on for the Wii? That's the biggest question Nintendo has had to answer as it tries to launch the Wii U.
There are tablets everywhere, now. The ubiquitous iPad, numerous Android products, all have served to raise the prominence of the tablet in consumers minds. Everyone knows what a tablet is. So at first blush it's easy to think that the Nintendo Wii U Gamepad is "just another tablet".
Ironically, while the Gamepad looks like a tablet with controls added to the sides, it is fundementally not a tablet at all. It has a touch screen, but no computing innards. What is displayed on the screen is actually a clever subterfuge, so complete a deceit that you can't believe that this thing isn't really a tablet.
Until you're out of range of the Wii U console.
Then you realize that this glorious device, this technical marvel, this Gamepad thing that you hold in your hands is not a tablet, nor a handheld. It's an incredibly well executed wireless controller with a screen. You have been experiencing the local version of Onlive, streaming a game to your hands, with no latency. Everything you have been seeing on the Gamepad, interacting with, playing with, has been an elaborate trick accomplished with wireless streaming technology developed with blood, sweat and tears by the engineering teams at Nintendo.
How should you feel at this moment of epiphany? Betrayed, perhaps? This tablet that is not a tablet, this purveyor of all things Mario and Zelda, this companion that sits on the couch next to you, has been unmasked. It is not what you thought it was.
I know how I will feel. I will feel like Nintendo has given me a true next-generation game system. One that does not compete with the others by besting them in specs, but by innovation in experience.
My bold closing statement is this; the Gamepad screen is the first gameplay innovation in the console space since motion control.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
What is Monster Hunter? The conversation goes something like this.
Before: "Hey, there's this awesome game called Monster Hunter, and you go and hunt these huge monsters that are like dragons, and you have to gather stuff and take parts from the monsters and make weapons and armour, and you totally feel like a badass! You should try it!" Response: "Oh." Shrug.
Now: "Hey you should check out Monster Hunter. It's like Dragons Dogma but with 4 player co-op online multiplayer!" Response: "Ooohhh, awesome!"
Monster Hunter is a huge Japanese phenomenon. People play it on their PSP's and 3DS's, they play it on the subway, they play together at breaks during the work day. It's huge. When a new Monster Hunter is released, the lineups are long, and the excitement is palpable. People in Japan love this game.
But in the West, it's been a tough road for Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise. There's something about it that hasn't quite clicked with western audiences, and that has lead to modest sales numbers.
The game is not easy. It requires a lot of learning, patience, and practice. It helps if someone is there to guide you, to show you the ropes. So much so that in Japan, there are mentor student relationships that form around Monster Hunter. Roy Blakely, of the My Fair Hunter podcast and @kotowari on twitter, has written up the Monster Hunter Beginner's Guide, which you can get as an eBook or in physical book form. It gives a great getting started guide to anyone who wants to check out Monster Hunter, or who is starting to play but needs some pointers. It also features beautiful illustrations by Sarah O'Donnell.
I wish I had this guide when I was starting to play Monster Hunter Tri; like many others it was my first experience with the franchise and I found it frustrating when I started. Through tons of online reading and listening to podcasts I was able to piece together some strategies and approaches to the game that helped me get over that initial hump.
And then I was hooked.
Monster Hunter has two parts to the game, an offline part and an online part. Offline you play on your own, or assisted by computer controlled companion creatures. You hone your skills, build up your resources, and stock up on supplies. You then carry over your equipment into the online world, where you face new monsters, but with the help of three other hunters. Online is always co-op, always on the same team. Quests are based on a pass/fail system. You fail the quest if your hunting party reaches three casualties ie. "faints", where your character's health goes down to zero. Three faints and you're out. And that's three for the whole team, not three for each player. This structure encourages team play, because if anyone on your team faints, it means you are one step closer to failing the quest.
Playing Monster Hunter online was one of the most rewarding online experiences I've ever had. Because of the team nature, and a culture of helping others, as a newcomer I found many experienced players willing to help me out on my initial basic level quests. "Are you sure you don't mind doing this with me?" I would ask. Invariably the replies would be, "No problem," or "I don't mind helping out the newbies." As I gained in skill and experience that spirit stuck with me. Now I was the one helping the new players, just as the high rank players had helped me. And so the cycle continued.
I haven't played Monster Hunter Tri (or just "Tri", if you're into Monster Hunter you only have to say "Tri" and people know what you mean) in a long while. After working my way through the offline portion, and fighting every monster in the online portion as well, I had to take a break.
I will admit to some silent inner squeal of delight when I heard that Capcom was going to release a Monster Hunter for the Wii U, in essence an expansion of "Tri" called Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. If I lived in Japan I would be getting the Monster Hunter special edition of the Wii U instead of just the Deluxe Set. Sadly we will have to wait till next year for the localized Western version to appear, but I will be getting this on day one, without question.
I wish that Monster Hunter was more popular in the West, it would be great to have more people to play with and to experience hunting together. For me it's a system seller, but I understand that not everyone shares my opinion. For now I'll be content to hunt without many of you. But when you're ready, I'll be waiting.
One of the earliest things I did when I got my Wii was to go and put an SD card in it to expand the memory. At the time, it was a pretty big card, with 2GB on it.
Times have changed, of course, and not only does the Wii U have an SD card slot, it also comes with internal memory (32GB in my case) and the ability to add an external USB hard drive.
I recently picked up this 1TB external hard drive for use with the Wii U. It's a small form factor portable drive, the Seagate Expansion drive, for about $90 CDN before tax. My main criteria was that it be bus powered, because I don't want to either have to remember to switch it on and off, or to have to reach in behind the Wii U to do so. Call me lazy, but I just want to turn it on from the couch with the Gamepad.
As an added bonus, it's black to match. My only concern now is that it is only a 5400 rpm drive, but hopefully it's adequate for games. Given that the Wii U is only using a USB 2.0 connection, it should be fine. We'll have to see.
Nintendo's decision not to incorporate an internal drive is making me do some legwork to figure out what a good drive would be, and I don't mind. After all, it gives me something to tell you about!
One time I bought what I thought would be a good accessory for my Wii. An induction charging system. In principle, the idea was genius. You simply lay the Wii remote on top of the charger, leaving the rubber sleeve on, and it would charge while it lay there. Genius, right? The only downside was, the batteries weren't any good. They wouldn't hold a charge worth a lick, and I would inevitably pick up a controller, hoping to play, and find that the battery was dead.
In the end I decided to just switch back to AA rechargeables, and now that they have those kind that hold their charge for months, even while on the shelf, I'm much happier.
I'm hoping that I'll be happy with the Wii U Gamepad charger as well, because I think that thing is going to get a lot of use, given that the Gamepad's battery life is estimated at only 4 hours.
Thinking about batteries led me to reflect on all the peripherals that the Wii has managed to get me to buy over the years.
There were the steering wheels of Mario Kart. The gigantic maracas that came with Samba De Amigo. The Wii Fit balance board. And the granddaddy, the drums and Hofner bass that came with Beatles Rock Band, and the additional guitar that I bought to play that game. I cheaped out on that one though, I didn't get the Beatles guitar (although those did look really sweet) but got a cheaper yellow one that looked like a Telecaster.
There was the Classic Controller, and the Classic Controller Pro that came with Monster Hunter Tri. The Tatsunoko vs Capcom fightstick. The two wireless Wavebird Gamecube controllers that I got so I could play Soul Calibur II and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes.
And let's not forget the additional Wii remotes, the Motion Plus dongle, the new Wii remotes with Motion Plus built in... that's a lot of peripherals to support one console.
Now that there will be two Nintendo consoles in the house, I'm not sure what's going to happen. I know that I want the Wii to be a Gamecube and virtual console machine, so I'll probably only need a single Wii remote, the Wavebirds, and the Classic Controller for that.
There will probably be some more nunchuck controllers purchased to match the number of Wii remotes I have, but that new wireless Pro Controller looks sweet as well. That can wait though, becasue I'm going to try to use the Gamepad as much as possible, to get as much of the intended experience as I can.
So I'm counting down the days till my Wii U gets here, and what better way to make the wait go faster than by talking about the things I'm most looking forward to, right?
Today it's TVii, Nintendo's new media centre idea that was totally under the radar until they announced it in New York back in September. It was an Apple-esque achievement, keeping TVii a secret.
What is the promise of TVii? Well for starters is the idea that your Gamepad will be a glorified remote control, allowing you to change channels, volume, etc. on your TV, no matter the brand. That is at its most basic level, however. The really interesting part is the integration of online services and, if you have it, a TiVo box into the mix.
Nintendo TVii hopes to offer the user a level of abstraction from stations and networks, and instead lets you focus solely on "what do I want to watch?". Type that in, and TVii will bring up that show or movie, and let you know where it's available for you to watch or rent, whether it is Netflix, Hulu, amazon, or recorded on your TiVo, or showing live on TV. Netflix is huge for me, and even though I have a HTPC I think I will use the Wii U instead if it has a nice interface and search built in.
There is a social component to it as well, which is supposed to allow you to recommend shows to your friends, comment on a scrolling timeline of the show as it's happening, and get sports updates in real time.
It's all very ambitious, and the big question is whether it will all work. Personally, I can't wait to find out!
As I write this I'm staring at the counter I have on the site, 9 days, 7 hours, 35 minutes... 9 nights of sleep left until Wii U launch (NOSLUWUL). Nosluwul... is that Japanese for anything? No? Ok, nevermind.
To celebrate I thought I'd count down the days with 9 of the things I'm most looking forward to with the Wii U launch.
There have been so many unboxing videos of the Wii U released since yesterday, that it's almost spoiled for me now, but I still like that feeling of opening up something for the first time. The new electronics smell. The unwrapping, the peeling, the unwinding. I love it! I want to savour each moment... so I promise that I will make my own unboxing video, unlike any other...
Unfortunately, I didn't get an advance press kit with a Wii U, so I'll have to wait until Best Buy ships me my pre-order. Which also means I'm not likely to get it day one, so I'll just have to contain myself until then.
Speaking of videos, I've been tossing some ideas around in my head for what kind of videos I'd like to make for gamerparent, so I'm excited to announce that to start with, I've got gamerparent.tv registered, and gamerparenttv on youtube as well, so when I start making videos, you'll be able to see them there!
gamerparent the site was started in 2012, born out of a love for games and my kids.
the gamer parent came into being in 2003 when my first child was born, and I learned how to give her her bottle one handed while I played Diablo II with the other... with the sound off, of course. Since then I've found ways to sneak in gaming, and also involve my kids with games.