Last night I participated in a teamworkcast community hunt, featuring mostly dads like myself. GamingCthulhu, clembk, Tomcattt and I banded together to take down a wide range of monsters. Here is GamingCthulhu's stream from the hunt! Check it out, you can watch me trying not to die!
Big news today for Monster Hunter fans! Capcom, acting on community feedback, are working on a patch for Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U that will add cross region servers for online multiplayer between North America and European servers, as well as the ability to have off-TV play. These were among community members' top requests, and it's awesome to see Capcom listening and responding.
This patch will be released roughly a month after the game's release in March. These features will be added to the Wii U version only, because the 3DS version, well, it doesn't really do online multiplayer, nor does it do off-TV because it's already off your TV now, isn't it?
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate hits stores on March 19th in North America, and March 22nd in Europe. Day 1 digital eShop availability was also promised in today's news.
From the capcom-unity blog of Yuri:
Not news: we have ears... and listen to community feedback.
News: we're working on a software update to add Cross-Region online and Off-TV play for the Wii U version ofMonster Hunter 3 Ultimate! (thanks to community feedback!)
Cross-Region Servers: Said update will come post-launch (sometime in April) and it will merge both North American and European servers into one big network for all western hunters out there. This is happening solely because you communicated your thoughts very loud and clear - and it made sense ;)
Just to be clear, the online component of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate is totally free - but you knew that already, right? Speaking of free, MH3U will have steady post-launch support with free DLC quests going live almost every week for quite some time. (The first DLC quests will be available at launch, and I'm already working on getting the full schedule, btw)
Off-TV play: Adding more to the good news package, the update will also give you the ability to play Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate solely on the Wii U GamePad screen, with the Off-TV support. This was one of the first requests I heard when we announced the game, and I'm glad we can finally deliver upon it.
So look out for Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate as it hits the shelves on March 19 (North America) and March 22 (Europe), with a day-1 digital release on the Nintendo eShop for both territories!
I was thinking about the Wii Mini this week (no, really) and to be honest, it got me all existential for a moment. As in, why in the name of all that's good does this thing exist? I get that it's a cheap way for people to enjoy Wii titles. At the low end price of $99, it captures that bargain basement market. I understand that.
But to reach that price point, Nintendo felt that it had to remove some features. Most notably, the Wii Mini has no online functionality at all. There is no way for you to play any Wii games that have multiplayer, no way to access the Wii Virtual Console or Wii Ware, no Netflix. You get to play what's on the disc, and that's all.
So let's contrast that with Sony's big announcement last week. The PlayStation 4. Among the biggest enhancements that the PS4 will bring is the idea of video streaming, both to share gameplay videos with your friends, and also to offer back catalog PlayStation games through streaming. Being online is a fundamental requirement for Sony's vision of the PS4.
It's all well and good that Sony is planning to offer its older games through streaming, leveraging the technologies of Gaikai, the company that it bought last year. But let's think about long term for a moment. How is Sony going to transition from the current PlayStation Network to the PS4? How long will they support the network infrastructure for their legacy device? The honest answer is, we don't know. And frankly, I think it's just a matter of time before it eventually gets shut down.
And that's what troubles me about cloud gaming. If all your games reside on the cloud, and you never install them or download them or get a disc, what happens when that company or service shuts down? Poof, your games, gone.
So back to Nintendo. The real agenda behind the Wii Mini, I believe, is to signal the eventual and imminent shut down of all Wii online services, and a complete focus on Wii U moving forward. Nintendo is cutting loose the Wii, and eventually there will no longer be any online services for any Wii, Mini or otherwise. We are already seeing third parties signalling this move. Capcom is shutting down their Monster Hunter Tri servers on April 30, now that there's a new game for the Wii U.
Nintendo has long been the company that is philosophically opposed to charging for online. They don't have a subscription based network, they don't hide Netflix behind a paywall, and for their own first party games at least, online has been free of charge. Is that about to change? How long can we reasonably expect companies to operate and maintain servers for free?
On this point, it's less clear what Nintendo will do. Nintendo used to be opposed to paid DLC as well, but are now moving slowly in that direction. It recently announced that 80 new levels for New Super Mario Bros. U would be paid DLC. So perhaps eventually they will reconsider charging some kind of monthly fee for their online services. I hope not. It's refreshing and decidedly user-friendly to offer everything for free.
As the Wii Mini branches out to more markets (it heads to the UK next month), one thing is clear.
The Wii as we know it, is dead. Long live the Wii U.
Nintendo has made clear their policy regarding its younger users and the Miiverse, in a recent update to the Miiverse code of conduct rules: "For the protection of younger users, direct friend requests are not possible in Miiverse for users aged 12 and under. At the same time, younger users can make friends on Wii U outside Miiverse by entering each other's Network IDs in the friend list on the HOME Menu."
So it's basically back to the way we used to do it on the Wii, you'll need to both directly add the Nintendo Network ID of the other person you wish to friend into your friends list, rather than making a friend request from Miiverse itself.
Nintendo also provided some guidelines for kids to follow when adding friends, recommending that they only add people that they know in real life, like friends from school or the neighbourhood. They also cautioned children not to attempt to share their Nintendo Network ID's over Miiverse.
The Wii U has launched in North America and Europe, with the Japanese launch around the corner. After having the system for about 2.5 weeks, I have some thoughts. Here they are, in no particular order.
To me, the Wii U marks a change in Nintendo's approach to its console. With the Wii U, we've seen a Day One update, we've seen game patches, we've seen YouTube/Netflix/Amazon Video/Hulu app rollouts, we've seen a system update at the two-week mark. There have been more updates in the past 19 days than there probably have been in the 6-year lifecycle of the Wii. Make no mistake, the Wii U is an online console, and Nintendo sees it that way. In a way, it's refreshing to see Nintendo release system patches in a timely manner, as opposed to the glacial pace with which they updated the Wii.
The Miiverse, well, that to me is brilliant. Let cordial conversation and drawings prevail, I say. Off to a good start.
The eShop has a few faults, namely I feel it could be organized better, and there could be more demos available? That would be nice. However, the fact that pretty much all first party games and most third party games are available to download is great. It's already much much better than the Wii Shop ever was. Indie games are already making a big impact on the eShop, and I predict that many indie developers will find a home on the Wii U. The ability to see your downloads and redownload games you have purchased is super. I did this with both eShop games I purchased, just to test it out, and it worked fine.
Storage and Memory
I know a lot of people complained that the Wii U didn't come with enough internal memory, and that you are forced to buy an external hard drive if you want to do a lot of eShop downloading. Many eShop games that have large file sizes will actually have a warning for Basic Set owners that they need to have an external drive in order to download this game.
I'm ok with that, to a degree. If you're going to be downloading a lot of games for your console you probably want a big drive anyway, and they're so cheap now. Nintendo also neatly sidesteps the issue of price gouging for memory (have you seen the price of Vita memory cards?) and leaves it up to the consumer to find a good deal. I don't have a problem with that. Could Nintendo have given us more memory to start, maybe 32GB be basic and put 64GB in the deluxe? Perhaps. It would have been nice. But even 64GB is overshadowed by the 1TB drive I have attached. In the end I don't think it matters.
Shiny black collects fingerprints. Be warned.
Playing your games with the TV off, or while watching TV, is a near life changing feature. Seriously.
I find myself reaching for the stylus when using the Gamepad. I'm not sure if it's because I don't want to get fingerprints on it, or if it's just more natural for me to use it like a DS. Obviously drawing messages for Miiverse is better with the stylus, but typing is faster with fingers.
Nintendo should make a Draw Something game. There Nintendo, free ideas, right here.
Menus are a bit slow. Depends what you're used to. Compared to a Wii they're a little bit faster. Whatever. I use the time to center myself and reflect on what game I'm going to play next, or how awesome that game I just played was.
I understand people are experiencing freezes and locking up of their systems. So far I haven't seen it. Also people are bricking their systems during updates. That's a big problem that I really feel bad for people, and that Nintendo needs to solve so that it doesn't happen. I don't think they planned for that contingency, but clearly they should have. Any number of things would help: a more responsive progress bar, so people don't think that nothing is happening; smaller updates so downloads don't take so long; faster servers, again so downloads are quicker.
Games perform great and look great. At least the games I've been playing. And if they don't, publishers are releasing patches. If games are coded for the system properly, they can achieve 60 frames per second and great looking visuals. Games like Nano Assault Neo (which is a paltry 50MB download, by the way... let that sink in) or Tekken Tag Tournament 2 don't have frame rate drop, look gorgeous, and pretty much set the bar for third party developers to get their stuff together and code their games right.
Nintendo Land with 4 friends is a good time. People really dig Luigi's Ghost Mansion, a glorified game of tag, but man is it satisfying to catch people as the ghost! SO much fun.
Nintendo Land by yourself is OK. Multiplayer is where it really shines, but I've had fun with the throwing Ninja stars game, and Donkey Kong Crash Course is a tricky challenge.
I'm not regretting buying the Wii U day one. Not at all. I'm getting a lot of enjoyment out of it, and it's interesting to see how it's worked its way into a permanent fixture on the coffe table. One of the original hopes for the Wii was the people would turn it on and interact with it not just to play games, but to check the weather, or see news. It's why the original Wii menu is arranged into channels.
I think the Wii U is Nintendo's next iteration on that concept, and with the Gamepad I think they've succeeded. I check Miiverse pretty much every day, even if I don't play a game every day, I have the Gamepad in my hands and I'm interacting with the Nintendo ecosystem.
Score one for Nintendo.
According to gamespot, parents setting up a Nintendo Network account for your children under the age of 13 will need to pay a one time fee of $0.50.
This acts as proof of consent to create a Nintendo Network account, and is in accordance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
According to Nintendo, credit card information will not be stored on the Wii U. Additionally, because this information is not stored, gamers must re-enter their information to make purchases through the eShop.
Parents and guardians with multiple children will not need to pay the fee again to create additional Nintendo Network accounts. Once the first child is set up, the Parental Control PIN is the only information needed to create additional accounts.
It's a minor annoyance, to be sure, but I think it helps highlight the difference between Nintendo and other platforms. Nintendo actively assumes that there may be kids playing on their system, and thus is proactively compliant with child safety standards.
It is surprising because I hadn't heard of anything like this before. I knew that there was a facebook age limit of 13, perhaps this is the same COPPA regulation at work?
Note that this applies to an online Nintendo Network account. It doesn't apply to user accounts on the system, or Mii's, or anything that is just local.
Bill Trinen recaps what Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata shared in the Japanese Nintendo Direct recently: Nintendo Network and ID; Miiverse; and the Internet Browser.
One of the interesting things he notes, is that players from around the world will be showing up in the Nintendo Land Plaza, and that even though you may not be able to understand their language, you can communicate through drawings, that anyone can understand. I never thought of drawings as the universal language, but I guess it works.
Also, at 14:01 in the video... priceless.
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!
Kotaku headline reads: "Mother Grinds Through Online Game So Her Daughter Doesn’t Have To".
This happened in China, where a daughter's restricted screen time lead to many tantrums. And so, like any loving parent would do, her mother did the only thing she could. She plays the game, Mole Manor, and grinds through to level up her daughter's character.
The headline should read, "Mother secretly loves Mole Manor and purposely restricted her daughter's screen time so she could play"
Have you ever played your kids games for them? I have. Mostly when the game is on my iPhone, which the kids don't always have access to, I am 'requested' to check Snoopy Fair or Pocket Frogs during the day.
At least we're not doing their homework for them, right?
- no more friend codes, right?
- how will it handle usernames?
- will one Wii U system handle multiple users?
- will there be Club Nintendo integration? eShop? Wii accounts? can we unify them all into one Miiverse account?
- what is the extent of the mobile devices support?
- sounds like Miiverse is a social network, what about multiplayer matchmaking? leaderboards?
- can you access the Miiverse from your computer (i.e. through the web)?
- achievements? accomplishments? how will they work?
Please Nintendo, we need to know!
In a sarcastic post, Kotaku's Jason Schreier blasts ABC Local News for a story warning parents that when playing games with online interactions, your kids might be exposed to language and content that are definitely not kid-friendly.
ABC Local is on top of its game this week, warning the world that, according to experts, there is cursing on Xbox Live. And racial slurs! And cyber-bullying!
While it may be obvious to gamers that online interactions are laced with profanity and racial and sexual slurs, many parents are unaware of what happens when a game has an online chat component.
Because none of this happens, on, say, a playground. Or at school. Or anywhere that 11-year-old kids hang out because this is what 11-year-old kids do.
Sure, it happens. But it doesn't happen without consequence. Kids get expelled, parents get called in, a lot of things happen if a child behaves inappropriately at school. And just because it happens elsewhere, does it mean it's ok? And surely schools aren't allowing adults to come to the playground and taunt the kids, are they?
Yet that's what could happen online, because online game chat is open to everyone and anyone.
The ABC article does give some good tips, namely, be involved in what your kids are doing, no gaming in their bedrooms, that sort of thing. It also highlights the work that Microsoft is doing on Xbox LIVE to look out for bullying and predatory behaviour.
Remember the target audience for this article is not us, the gamers and gamer parents. We already know this stuff. It's for the average mom and dad who don't know, and who need to know.
Parents need to be more informed, not less.