Project Stream and The Future of Cloud Gaming

Cloud video game streaming will one day change the video games industry as much as mobile did. The question is when the technology will advance to the point where it is just as easy to use as regular apps on our smartphones.

Google has shown their new streaming project simply named Project Stream. I was fortunate enough to be invited to test out their streaming capability and did Google pull out all the stops by partnering up with Ubisoft to do it. Assassin Creed Odyssey couldn’t have been a better game to show off Google’s capabilities.

Assassin Creed Odyssey is a gorgeous looking game that is super addictive to play. Not only could this game show off how amazing Google’s streaming capabilities but draw you in with its amazing gameplay to continue stress testing the game. It is why I found myself testing out Google’s Project Stream for much longer than I anticipated.

I did run into issues while playing the game while streaming though. My internet is alright but it isn’t the greatest and it showed. Many times the quality would drastically drop and the visual fidelity would be quite poor. Granted this is my internet’s fault but that just highlights a major issue Google will have to address since I am not the only one with an average internet connection.

Streaming video games will have a very important place in the marketplace in the future. It also won’t replace the way many gamers will choose to play their video games because many will still care about having the best specs. What will happen is that will provide a valuable option for many gamers. Games like Fortnite show that gamers have a variety of platforms that they prefer to play their games on.

None of this will be possible though unless infrastructure for the internet improves. Too many gamers just don’t live in a situation where they can get access to high-quality internet. This problem is too big for just any one company to solve. The good news is companies, governments, and organizations are working towards possible solutions right now.

Who knows exactly how the future of cloud streaming will change video games. What I do know is that I can’t wait to see how developers will take advantage of the time when gamers can play their games on any device anywhere.

Games Most Excited For In 2019

When I do this list so many times some games won’t even come out that year. So I am gonna be much more strict on what games I will put on the list because I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much. Officially confirmed titles confirmed coming out this year so no The Last of Us: Part II or Pokemon. I will be super excited if they do actually get released this year though.

Kingdom Hearts III

I have been waiting for this game for a long time. Back when I was naive I thought this game would come out for the PS3 just to get an idea of how many years it has been since Kingdom Hearts II.  I got to play it at E3 last year and I can confirm hanging out with Disney characters will be one of my favorite parts of this game. I’m glad it’s coming out so soon too.

Judgment

I will one day play a Yakuza game since I feel like that game is right up my alley. While I know this is a completely different type of game I am still excited to try out what Sega will do since this will be an original game. They will have the freedom to be creative and take risks. Since I have no idea what the game will be like I will be on media blackout until then.

Vacation Simulator

I wanted to play this game last year but it got delayed which was unfortunate but understandable in this industry. I got to try a demo during E3 and came out very impressed. I loved Office Simulator and Vacation Simulator isn’t just a simple sequel. I only set up my PS VR for virtual reality games that I know I will enjoy and I know I will enjoy this game.

In the Valley of Gods

Firewatch was a unique experience I am glad I got to play. I am super excited to see what kind of game Campo Santo will deliver next. I only watched the trailer so I actually don’t know anything about this game and I plan to keep it that way. What I enjoy about games like this is going in completely dark.  

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I have never played a Fire Emblem game but I am excited to try my first entry into a Fire Emblem game. I know next to nothing about this universe or about this game but that just makes this much more interesting. Who knows how friendly this game will be to newcomers or if I will even enjoy it. I am just looking forward to trying my first Fire Emblem game and see why all my friends love cosplaying the characters from it.

My Top Games of 2018

This year I was focused on other things besides gaming so I didn’t actually play that many new games. I thought this game year wouldn’t have that many amazing games I would enjoy but I was pleasantly surprised.

God of War

This was the biggest surprise for me this year since I could never imagine a God of War game being this amazing. I only played the first God of War game on the PS2 many years ago and while I thought it had a polished combat system, I had no desire to play any more games in the franchise.  You bet I will be playing any future installments of this game now though.

God of War is a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and has everything from the story, side quests, and combat fit perfectly together to create a masterpiece of art. I honestly can’t think of much that I didn’t like about this game which says something since even my favorite games I can say has many flaws that I can remember.  

My favorite part of God of War is how they built the relationship between Atreus and Kratos using storytelling and gameplay.  I love exploring the world of God of War just to hear the interactions between Artreus and Kratos. There would be so many times I would just stop my journey just so I could hear Kratos finish telling a story to his son.

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Monster Hunter World

I will be frank the only reason Monster Hunter World made it into my personal top 5 is that I got to play this game with my closest friends. My friends have always loved this series and after playing Monster Hunter I could see why my friends are so addicted to this game. Working together with my friends to take down large monsters was very fun. It just isn’t a game I will find myself jumping back into any time soon.

This is not a bad game but a lot of the game I felt was unnecessarily complex. Which is saying a lot about the franchise since all my friends say that this is the most accessible Monster Hunter game out there. What can I say, so many times I felt frustrated. I am glad they did make this game much more approachable to newcomers like me though so I could play this game with my friends.

The memories I created with my friends who love this game was one of my best online experiences I ever had which is saying a lot.  I played many online games but I rarely have as many online sessions with my friends as much as I did with Monster Hunter. When the next major Monster Hunter game comes out I can see myself getting it just to play with my friends for a while.

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I did not expect Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to come out this year or that every single character would return. If you would have told me before it was officially announced that even Snake would return I would have said that you were wrong. Yet it did happen and the results are the most content filled Super Smash Bros. game ever released.

Smash is the same fun party and competitive game it has always been. Playing with my friends who are levels ahead of me is still fun even though they beat me constantly. I love the variety of characters I can play like Luigi who I have been playing since the very first Smash game and ones I haven’t played in forever like Snake.

I honestly thought nothing could top the surprise I had for this game when I found out all the characters would be returning. That was until the Video Game Awards this year and Joker made the biggest surprise ever. I bought the Fighters Pass that very night because I love Persona 5 that much. Now I will much more likely believe rumors of any character joining the Smash roster.    

Moss

My favorite virtual reality game so far is Moss even though I haven’t played that many. So far virtual reality has really impressed me with all the amazing games that have been released despite the hardships facing the market. I have hopes with patients that this market will only see improvements.

What I love about Moss is that it is still a fun game. Many virtual reality experiences just try to explore what is possible with the technology. In Moss, I wanted to experience as much as this world had to offer because I wanted to see what would happen to the adorable Quill. Even though I was the one guiding Quill I was so immersed that I truly felt like we were a team.

I will be breaking out my PSVR for more virtual reality games in the future just so I can experience them first hand. While it is quite bothersome to set up a great virtual reality game is worth the effort.  

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Spider-Man

I felt like a crime-fighting superhero in Spider-Man. This game fulfills the fantasy of playing as Spider-Man so well that I never wanted to fast travel but instead, just web swing my way across New York City because it just felt like the cartoons and movies I watched growing up.

What Spider-Man gets so right is how much fun it is to play as Spider-Man. Fighting criminals just feels so right and rewarding. Connecting different types of attacks into long combos just makes me feel like such a badass. I love switching between shooting my webs and punching the bad guys.

Since I have been so busy I actually haven’t even beaten Spider-Man yet. I am taking my time to play this game since I enjoy it so much. Even though I haven’t beaten it I know this is one of my favorite games of 2018.

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Other Notable Mentions

Celeste

Celeste is a special game that emotionally hit me. I am not the biggest fan of platformers and the difficulty of this game didn’t help change my mind but it didn’t matter since everything else about this game was just so special. This game should be played by every gamer even if they aren’t into platformers.

PC Building Simulator

The only reason this game is getting an honorable mention by me even though it is just in early access is that I actually built PC’s this year for my job. Knowing everything I know about building PC’s now made me smile about how much they did get right about this simulation.

Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

This game would have been one of my favorites this year if it wasn’t for the motion controls. I absolutely loved everything else about this game but the core concept on how to catch Pokemon. It is unfortunate since everything else felt like my childhood memories of playing Pokemon. Also, Eevee was just so darn cute.

Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight

The music in Persona 5 was one of the favorite things and the remixes in this game did not disappoint. I am not a music rhythm game kind of person but it didn’t matter since I just put it on easy and enjoyed my favorite characters dancing and talking with each other again while listening to awesome music.

Octopath Traveler

I loved JRPG’s growing up and when I saw the trailer for this game I knew I had to try it out. The music, art, combat, and story of this game are so on point it is a little unfortunate that the game has so much grind that ruined the pacing of the game for me. Still, Octopath Traveler got so much of what I loved about JRPG’s right.


Returning Back To Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO is my favorite ongoing game of 2018. I never expected this game to improve in such a way that I ended up planning my schedule for their community days.  I hadn’t touched the game in almost 2 years but decided randomly one day to jump in. Now I find myself in the park with my friends catching Pokémon on a Sunday.

When I first played Pokémon GO it was the craziest experience I ever had in gaming.  I never experienced so many people of all ages and backgrounds going crazy over a video game all around the world.  I will never forget walking with my friends in the park and running into a group of strangers that pointed us in the direction of some rare Pokémon.

Pokémon GO wasn’t that great when it first came out. The content was lacking and the incentives to playing were very low. I had no desires to catch all 151 since that wasn’t even something I did in the regular series. So when I eventually stopped playing I thought I would never come back.  

Coming back I realized how much has changed for the better and how Niantic introduced so many clever mechanics to keep me playing now. The most important to me is the ability to add friends and getting bonuses for playing with your friends. I care more about improving my friendship levels with my friends then I do about catching Pokémon.

The Pokémon GO community is the best gaming community I have ever had the pleasure to game with. I have played many multiplayer games in my life but wow is the Pokémon GO community so helpful. Many times when playing with strangers have I seen them go out of their way to help each other even when there was no benefit in doing so.

Something is just special about going out in the public and meeting people face to face to play a video game. I hate to admit it but this game has gotten me to exercise more than I have in years. There was a time when I would go on late night walks around my neighborhood just so I could hatch some eggs.

I will never forget going to my local park for a special event and running into a close friend. I knew he played Pokémon GO but he lived in a different city. It turned out he had a flight to catch and went to this park because he heard it was a good spot and was close to the airport. Even though we lived far away we still ended up coincidentally playing together. It made the world feel small and big at the same time.



Single-player Isn't Dead And It Also Isn't Necessary

Earlier this year when Black Ops 4 announced that they would not be including single-player campaign many popular online personalities were quite angry. It just shows how much the gaming industry has changed when a developer can not develop a single player campaign and instead focusing on a battle royale mode can be seen as a positive to its fans.

The reality is the majority of Call of Duty fans didn’t play that much single-player. The sales of Black Ops 4 was as strong as ever becoming one of the best selling games of 2018. I am sure there were many players that didn’t get Black Ops 4 because of the lack of single-player, but it wasn’t enough to stop it from becoming one of the fastest selling Call of Duty games.

Single-player games are far from dead and Red Dead Redemption 2 could very possibly become the best selling game of 2018. The marketplace will always have a place for single-player experiences. There will always be gamers that love games that have a focused gameplay experience that can only be delivered when the developer is creating it for one player.

We are now at a time though where a sizable amount of gamers only want to play online experiences. Many young gamers are perfectly fine with only playing online games since that is all they grew up enjoying. This has allowed a franchise like Call of Duty the ability to drop it’s single-player mode and have most of their fans be alright with it just as long as it continues to deliver high-quality online content.

We love watching every new season of our favorite TV shows and now we are getting that with our games. Sometimes you don’t even need to have much new content to please your fans like Counter-Strike. What matters is that you are listening to your community and creating content that they love. Just like how some shows won’t change the formula too much, some games can do the same and their audiences will still love it.

Online games have existed for a long time but what has changed is how companies have turned online games into a service. Many gamers just want more content for the games that they are already playing right now. While many gamers love to play as many new games as possible, there are many other gamers who just play just the same games for years.

Games are adapting to the changes in the market with more gamers wanting online persistent experiences. It is why Blizzard has the story for Overwatch not told through a traditional single-player campaign but through other creative mediums like comics and cinematic videos.

People love to support creators that they love because it means that those creators can continue creating. It is why so many people use Patreon to support entertainers, buy new games from franchises they love, or pay for a K-Pop inspired skin for a character they play.

Diablos Immortals Reveal

During the beginning of Blizzcon, I was actually being super nerdy with my friends and waiting in lines to get rare merchandise. So I missed the opening ceremony which caused me to miss the Diablo Immortals announcement and also the negative reaction towards it.

I remember when I first was introduced to Diablo was a little kid by my aunt. My aunt was pretty cool to introduce such a mature game to a little kid but it got me into the Diablo series.  I have probably sunk over a hundred hours into Diablo games. I love this series and can’t wait to see what the future holds for it.

So when I finally heard that a mobile Diablo game was going to be made my reaction was, that’s cool but I probably won’t play it. The only mobile game I find myself playing are ones that don’t require an internet connection or Pokémon GO. Nothing against mobile games but when I am relaxing on my phone I prefer to read about current events.  

Even though I am a Diablo fan that will probably not play Diablo Immortals I still want this game to be made. I want mobile gamers to experience what I have been enjoying from the Diablo franchise for years. Though making a game for mobile is extremely difficult and different and I hope the developers bring the same polish this series has been known for.

If Diablo Immortals turns out to be really successful this will only mean great things for the Diablo franchise. It will create a mobile option for Diablo fans and more importantly it will introduce many new gamers to the series. This is why mobile games are so important to the gaming community.

I understand the anger that many older gamers have towards mobile games. It can feel like all the production resources from gaming companies are going towards making mobile games and to be honest there is actually some truth to that. The reality though is we are at an age where so many developers are creating so many games across all different platforms.

When I was playing Pokémon GO with my friend during Blizzcon we ended up around Downtown Disney. We ended up at this one spot and ran into strangers that helped us win a raid and they started talking about Diablo Immortals. We didn’t even bring it up but they started talking about how they thought it was stupid. All I could think about was how we were all playing a mobile game right now.

Mobile games have created so many new gamers with many young gamers growing up playing their first games on mobile.  A generation of gamers that have only known mobile devices has entered our community and should be welcomed.

Gamers should be able to enjoy Diablo in as many different ways as possible. Whether it is playing Diablo on a PC, home console, Nintendo Switch, or even a smartphone. All that matters is killing demons and getting that sweet gear.  

Future of Cross-Platform Play

This year we saw Fortnite become available with cross-platform play on all the major gaming platforms. I honestly never imagined I would see this happen so soon. Now more companies will be asking their partners if they can implement this for their game too. It just shows the influence Fortnite has on the gaming industry.

I understand the reason why companies are cautious with cross-play. The revenue companies can make from their own marketplace is just too significant to ignore. Just look at how Fortnite itself, a game that is on so many different platforms, is not even on Google Play or Steam since it prefers it’s own marketplace.  

Money isn’t the only concern with allowing cross-play since many of these platforms are quite different. Playing games on a PC, touchscreen mobile device, and home consoles can be significantly different experiences. Overwatch is balanced differently on home consoles and PC because it takes into account the player's input device.

Players at the end of the day though just want choice. Many gamers will want to just play with just players playing on the same platform so they can have that competitive and fair experience. Others won’t care and just want to play with all their friends. Giving them the choice will create for a better online experience.

Keeping online communities to their respective platforms made sense at one point. Developing for multiple platforms sometimes is more trouble then it is worth. The difference now though is so many more devices are capable of playing the games we love.  With so many more devices capable of playing games we have seen the tremendous growth of new gamers.

Not all games should jump into cross-play right away. Developers still need to maintain good relations with all the different platforms and balance between all partner needs.  There are also design issues that certain games will find difficult solving. Games need to take everything into account to see if cross-play is right for them.

So many game developers will love cross-play because they want as many gamers playing together as possible. Developers would be happy knowing that their players base aren’t restricted to just one online community.

This progress in cross-platform play is a great step for online games. I don’t think that many gamers will actually take advantage of the games with cross-play. What I see as more important is that the different platforms are open to working together which is great for all gamers.  

Journey LIVE

Journey is one of my favorite video games of all time. It is such a complete artistic experience that still emotionally touches me to this day. One of my favorite things about Journey was the amazing soundtrack that Austin Wintory created for it. So when I heard his Journey LIVE was coming to San Francisco I had to come out for it.  

I first heard about this concert through Kickstarter and I knew I had to back it. It was actually my first experience using Kickstarter.  I discovered Fifth Ensemble because of it and have been a fan of their work ever since. All their concerts unfortunately never happened near me when I was available until this year.

Journey LIVE is pretty much what you expect a concert about Journey to be. You watch a live playthrough of Journey with a live orchestra. It may sound pretty simple but as someone that loves concerts, I can say anyone that loves orchestral music will enjoy this concert.

If you find yourself having the opportunity to see this concert I highly recommend it. Going to this concert knowing nothing about Journey can actually create for one of the most special experiences you can have with this game. I have been to video game concerts before so I know how important it can be to know the game but it is not the case for this.

I will see Journey LIVE again whenever it comes to town because it is an experience I enjoy that much. Thank you, Austin for creating Journey LIVE. It was a pleasure to meet you and I can’t wait to see what your next project will be.  

Impressive Xbox Game Pass News

Xbox Game Pass has announced that they will include all first-party Xbox exclusive games at launch. This could be a game changer but I remain cautiously optimistic since I still have my reservations about the subscription service model for video games. I remember thinking how PlayStation Now could shake up everything only to find out it didn’t but granted that was totally different circumstances.

This move by Microsoft was absolutely brilliant. While they are fine financially, I am sure Microsoft wants to make much more money out of their Xbox division. To do that they need to attract more gamers and grow their community. Changing Game Pass can revitalize interest in the Xbox by not just giving gamers access to much more of their library for great value but also show that they are committed to creating amazing first-party exclusive games.

Microsoft priced the game pass at $10/month which means enough of their users are only buying one Xbox first-party exclusive a year that they don’t mind losing the profits from their users that buy more than two games a year.  Even on PlayStation I rarely find myself playing more than two full first-party games in a year even though PlayStation has many more first-party exclusive titles.

If Microsoft can get many more users signing up for Game Pass and attract new gamers to buying an Xbox One then this will have been successful.  Not only have they profited but they would have expanded their market share. I suspect enough casual gamers will buy Xbox Game Pass that the number of hardcore gamers saving money won’t hurt overall profits.

With that said I am not sure that this will change gaming as we know it. I made the mistake of being a little too optimistic about PlayStation Now when it was first announced. Don’t get me wrong I am not calling PlayStation Now a failure by any means but it was not the momentum mover I initially thought it was going to back in 2014. I was much more young and naive about the pace of technology in my own self-defense.

Granted Xbox Game Pass has many advantages over PlayStation Now which is why I am sure it will do well. I am just not certain it will force Nintendo to create their own game pass or PlayStation to change PlayStation Now. Nintendo for one would certainly lose money at $10/month and if they go too much higher then no one will get it. The profits that Xbox makes would have to be pretty large for it to change the industry.

Who knows I am wrong all the time so I could very well be reading this in several years laughing again at how wrong I was. I hope Xbox Game Pass does immensely well and changes the gaming industry so that more people can afford to play more games.  

Thank You NIS America

It has been five years since my first NIS America press event and what a journey it has been. I got to meet so many amazing people that have become valuable friends. I have been going to NIS America press events for 5 years straight now and so much has changed not just for me but also NIS America.

I owe a lot to NIS America since they are the first major publisher I got to create a relationship in the gaming industry. It would become a relationship that would transform into years of friendships across multiple companies. I am forever grateful to everyone I got to meet and am always glad to see them throughout the years we have known each other. 

When I first went into the press event back in 2014 I honestly did not know much of what NIS games were or who I would end up interviewing but I did as much research as I could. The only big game I really knew was Disgaea series but I would quickly find out about the fan following that was Danganronpa.

I got to interview with the president of NIS America Souhei Niikawa and game producer of the Danganronpa series Yoshinori Terasawa. Since I didn’t really know too much about their games I asked questions I thought would be interesting such as the drinking culture in Japanese business.  

Then I got to become friends with the employees at NIS America even as I left gaming journalist to do gaming events. Danganronpa and Hyperdimension Neptunia series would become so big that they would create their own publishing studios in America and with it, I got to see my friends build whole new companies. 

Even after most of my friends at NIS America have moved on to different companies I am happy to still have great relationships with people at NIS America even after all the changes. It is always a pleasure running into you all at various events such as E3 and Anime Expo. 

Thank you to all the friends at NIS America former and current for all you have done. I am excited to create many more memories with you all and look forward to seeing what you all will continue to do. I will see you guys all very soon I am sure of it.