Itch to Twitch; or, building an audience on gaming’s powerhouse streaming service

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Interested in building a Twitch audience? I’ve put together a little guide to better explain the types of broadcast formats there are in the world of gaming livestreams and how one can increase viewership (steadily over time).

Keep in mind this isn’t a how to stream guide. If you’re looking for info on how to get started with streaming (i.e. what broadcast software to use, equipment, etc.), Twitch has a start-up guide conveniently available on its website.

Preview below and a link to download the hi-res PDF.

Happy streaming!

Download (PDF, Unknown)

The Art of Ketchup; or, stockpiling the condiments of failure to flavor that success

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In the hierarchy of high school social circles, I can say that I got along well with almost all sub-factions that often comprise the divisional lines  of the high school experience.

I was in no way “popular” so to speak, but thanks to a prime spot in the journalism program I was able to talk to and get to know a lot of people. There were most definitely crowds, but from what I remember there really wasn’t ever an “in” crowd. Different groups held different standings, which is odd if you compare it to what you typically see portrayed in media. I was an honors student, but those in the honors program weren’t all “nerds” and even the athletes and cheerleaders weren’t brain-dead socially escalated zombies.

Quite frankly, school groups at good ol’ Burges High were cool. We coexisted. Kind of like skipping to the end of Mean Girls when everyone was at peace. Don’t get me wrong, there were some debacles and scuffles for sure — but nothing worth mentioning.

So in the absence of genuine political divides, there existed loose cliques which mostly comprised of friends of similar interests, but not in the way you would have pictured. I think what brought most people together into these cliques was more a result of upbringing than social or economical divisions (meaning, if a group of people were hanging out together, it’s likely because they had simply done so in previous schools and they just knew each other or lived near each other).

But I got along well with pretty much everyone in all these groups. The sad part being was that I didn’t belong to any of them.

I definitely wasn’t an outsider, but since I wasn’t originally FROM the area (military brat who moved around a lot) I was never really considered a “lifelong” anything to anyone. Journalism was my ticket to speak with a lot of people as were other school programs for which I participated. A lot of people KNEW me and I knew a lot of people, but I was never included in the often talked about social events that happened off campus.

Since then and over the years, I seem to keep finding myself in the same situation. Often on the outside of things, looking in.

I ultimately ended up doing for the military what I did in high school, journalism. It took me to a lot interesting places, introduced me to a lot of great people.

And still, I was often the person people loved to come to work on a Monday morning to recount interesting stories about weekend “adventures” or experiences. I listened and laughed, never judged and often gave advice on next steps among other things.

In each duty station, I was lucky enough to find a small group of friends with similar interests with whom I would spend my own personal time away from work. But it seemed to go every time that each person within my group of friends ended up engaging in a relationship and every time (and I do mean EVERY time) I was the last one left standing.

It’s weird, I’m not a socially awkward person. I enjoy talking to different people (I work in communications FFS). I just hardly ever find myself wanting for that person who completes me because often when I do find that person, I meet his husboyfriend of so many years. (cue the Alanis song).

When the time came to decide to stay in the Navy where I had ten successful years, or try something new somewhere else — I opted for the unknown. I figured I worked ten years to hone my communications skills, even getting a degree in the process (as one who never wastes an opportunity for such free education) and it was worth a shot to be somewhere else.

Because I had gotten along so well with people (even in failed romantic relationships where I’m pretty much still friends with all my exes) the only true forms of rejection I had experienced in life were the college applications I submitted my senior year. I didn’t apply but to handful of schools and scholarships ultimately being rejected to Notre Dame, Colombia, UCLA, etc…

But I’ve written about my sordid academic first attempts, so in the long run I’m actually glad I didn’t get into a big school. I made mistakes and have definitely learned from them, I’m just glad they weren’t at a big expensive school.

But rejection nevertheless isn’t cool.

I look at the last year of my life and I can honestly say rejection flat out sucks.

It was a year ago last month I submitted my first job application to Blizzard and since then I’ve had nothing but rejections for applications at all of my favorite companies. Last night I received my latest of rejections from both Blizzard and Ubisoft.

I have folders upon folders containing specially tailored resumes and cover letters, art projects and portfolios (I even taught myself how to make an app for posting on the iTunes store for my digital portfolio).

I carefully research every application ensuring that my skill-set and education would support it, often resorting to assistant, coordinator, or associate roles just so I was sure I was not overreaching. And every time the answer was the same…

“Thank you for your interest. We regret to inform you…” from the companies who were kind enough to actually give me some sort of response (which, rejection as it may be, is much appreciated). There are countless applications that have disappeared into the ether with no word of their outcome.

I’m not ungrateful for a job opportunity I recently accepted working for the Navy (this time as a civilian). But it’s far from the industry I want to be in, and admittedly I only accepted it because it will pay the bills. Whenever I was faced with seemingly doomed assignments in the Navy (like getting stationed in Meridian, Mississippi), I often made the best of such situations by seeking out an opportunity to learn and improve myself (which is how I ended up finish my Bachelor’s degree). I’ll do the same with this next job — give them the best person they could possibly want (hopefully) and use the time wisely in improving myself (master’s degree or a professional certification).

But I am still sitting here wondering where I went wrong. I sought out resume consultants to ensure the information communicated on mine read like a private sector professional. I went to workshops and job fairs. I networked with people over the last year, some who have become really good friends that I turn to not only for assistance and job leads, but for honest feedback on my application materials.

And still, well, you see the opening graphic — nothing.

After a year of applying, showcasing the best of my work of the last ten years, and communicating the ever-evolving, passionate person the Navy helped me to become, I sit here looking at more job rejections.

I can’t help but wonder, is it me? But really, is it?

Some say “well, it’s a tough economy…” It’s not. We’ve since dug ourselves out of that crisis.

Some say, “perhaps you’ve set your expectations too high…” Really? For a vast number of entry level positions my bar is set too high?

I’m usually a very humble person, but I’ve learned to balance that with the confidence needed to effectively communicate my skills and experience. It’s with that in mind that I’m perplexed at how a knowledgeable communicator with years upon years of experience and education, who also happens to be a war vet, can’t seem to catch a break in the tech and gaming industry to which I’ve LONG desired to work?

With companies that claim to have veteran hiring initiatives (such as Activision and Amazon) and companies that seem to have diversity issues (like Facebook and Google), why am I still sitting here looking at mountains of rejections from the industry? Just looking at this blog site, looking at the material I have shared on “The Professional” tab, what makes me undesirable as a candidate? Or better yet, what makes OTHERS better?

These are not unreasonable questions. I think after a year of trying and failing, it’s reasonable to ask. For without knowledge on how to correct something, how can it be corrected?

I’ve applied to almost all gaming and tech companies (Sony, EA, Bungie, NCsoft…and so on) with communications-related openings which include PR, internal communications, and community management and every time I receive a rejection letter, or get wind that I was rejected, that feeling Elle Woods had in Legally Blonde when she attempted to join her classmates in study group with fresh baked muffins replays in my mind. I mean, come on, it sucks.

What I find interesting when I frequent the job boards of all my favorite companies it is interesting that most of them are senior or manager positions. Few of them are at my level. It makes me wonder why SO MANY are at that level. Who the hell is leading these teams for these companies if they have a huge number of openings?

And then someone explained to me part of the reason those postings exist is because they already have people slated for those positions. And more often than not they come from other companies (namely competitors).

So let me get this straight — you want to hire someone WHO ALREADY HAS A JOB in the industry? And then they wonder why the tech and gaming industry is hurting in the realm of diversity. Such an incestuous hiring practice does no good for a company that is aiming to reflect the societal breakdown of the consumers it hopes to gain and maintain.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect and admire a company that chooses to hire/promote from within, but this bouncing of people between companies is not fair to those of us looking to break in. Especially when people like me chose to learn and grow while we served the nation.

Look, I don’t expect favors, and I don’t expect hand outs. I busted my ass for ten years to gain experience and knowledge which included doing so in environments where things exploded and people died in a tragically frequent basis. What I want is to be taken seriously as a candidate with a LOT to offer that I have MORE than efficiently communicated in a resume, cover letter and interview.

I’ve never been one to wallow (okay, maybe a little — but usually only for an evening with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a depressing movie), so people reading this are likely to ask,

“So what are you going to do about it?”

That I at least can answer. Keep trying. I mean, I lose everything if I simply give up.

Continue networking, seeking out opportunities for self-improvement. Continue applying.

I’ll wear them down Sandra Bullock at the Oscars style.

I work in communications — I’m not looking to make millions of dollars or live some lavish lifestyle. I don’t think it’s asking a lot to get a job at a company I really like (or love) even if the pay isn’t up to some unknown standard. I just want to work, to EARN my right to be there and to do a job that will make me happy. Happy because it challenges me in the right ways, and makes or develops things that I enjoy myself and can share with others. This is why I chose gaming and tech.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. “
Truman Capote

If that’s true, Mr. Capote, then I have  in one year, gathered enough condiments to flavor every hot dog at Yankee Stadium for a few seasons.

For now though: Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked…and, hehe, Legally Blonde. I believe things are in order for this evening.

Gaming Overload; or, E32014 round-up shows it’s all about the games

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No scandalous PR fiascos, exciting announcements, great demos — some have said that this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was a bit subdued, but having walked the floor I can tell you that wasn’t the case.

Traipsing around for two consecutive days, I tried just about everything I could get my hands on — even if it meant waiting in a line with a wait time that rivals any Disney theme park line.

I’m just going to say I might be a little biased because it was my first E3 (a trip made possible by wonderful friend in the gaming industry) so some dazzle and flare might have been in my eyes, but overall titles that were shown were solid, and since there were no pending console releases it was all about the games.

So speaking of the console wars, let’s get this out of the way so we can focus on the awesome games.

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Microsoft has stepped up its game with Xbox One in Indie support and has started LISTENING to its customers

Microsoft kicked off the entire week with its press conference, which set an amazing tone. At least amazing considering the bomb it dropped at least year’s E3 from which the company is STILL recovering.

  • Kinect? Gone.
  • Xbox Gold tax for media streaming services? Gone.
  • Extra $100 over PS4′s price tag? Gone.
  • Lack of indie developer support? Amended with a beefed up ID@Xbox program.

Also included in their press conference was the announcement of some awesomely tempting console exclusives:

  • Halo 5: Guardians (which coincides with an AMAZING box set, Halo: The Master Chief Collection)
  • Sunset Overdrive (which demo’d well on the floor)
  • Forza Horizon 2 (which ups the ante on stellar racing car game graphics and is simply stunning)
  • First access to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare DLCs

Overall it was a humble showing, which is the step Microsoft needed to take in the wake of Don Mattrick’s mishandling last year’s E3:

Was it enough to get more people interested in the console? Time will tell, but one can clearly see Microsoft is finally listening to its customers by exercising some of the more controversial features and supporting indie developers in way it should have been from the start. When console lifetimes span several years, and seeing as how we aren’t at a full year since release, Xbox certainly is in a place where it can catch up to Sony to remain the strong competitor it should have been from the start. Heck, even I sat up straighter during the Xbox conference:

 Sony solidified its reign with a bucket list of exclusives and remote play features

Not to be outshown by Microsoft, Sony pulled out all the stops during its opening conference.

The exclusives:

  • Destiny (not a console exclusive, but the beta is and early access — hopefully you PS4 owners signed up, as the website SHUT. DOWN. during the conference from people jumping on that offer so fast)
  • Little Big Planet 3 (seriously a WICKED FUN franchise and graphics are even more beautiful)
  • Battlefield: Hardline (again, not a console exclusive but the Beta and early access are)
  • Early Access to Far Cry 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, and even Mortal Kombat X
  • Hell even Blizzard got in on the action: An exclusive The Last of Us-themed nephalem rift in the forthcoming Diablo: Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil Edition.
  • And of course, the exclusives that were announced or previewed: Bloodborne, The Order, Uncharted 4, Grim Fandango reboot, and the visually stunning No Man’s Sky.

Also upping the ante is variety of remote play features that make most gamers drool at the possibilities of playing older titles:

  • Vita’s remote play that current owners enjoy will be more desirable when the libraries open up for PlayStation Now and is coupled with the remote play for PlayStation TV which enables the console to be played from any TV on an owner’s home network.
  • PlayStation Now will launch with more than 100 titles (beta access starts late July) and will open up older ones progressively.

Sony is showing they will fight hard to stay on top and really, who’s losing here? If this forces steeper competition between the console giants so be it — we get to reap the benefits as customers with better titles, stronger features, and somewhat lower costs.

Nintendo closed the conferences and kicked off E3 with the same humility of Xbox and blew people minds

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Day one of E3 opened with a conference from the last of the major console developers, which for Nintendo was smart move. It wasn’t as flashy as last year’s showing which attempted to sway people by shooting glitter in their eyes with what was then a $299 dust collector.

Over the last year, Nintendo has progressively started releasing smash title after smash title and from the announcements during their conference, the developer is showing no signs of slowing down:

  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl revealed new fighters and was the most prominent of its convention floor demo stations. Nintendo even had an amazing tournament with the winner busting out an 11th-hour win in sudden death with Zero Suit Samus that got the crowd seriously pumped for its forthcoming cross-platform title (WiiU & 3DS).
  • The announcement and previewing of a forthcoming Starfox title that opened people’s mouths in awe.
  • And of course other amazing titles that were available on the floor: Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, Splatoon, Yoshi’s Wooly World, and a preview (not playable on the floor) of the figurine system Amiibo, which will compete with the likes of Skylanders and Disney Infinity.

But the biggest most crowd-roaring announcement that had people talking the rest of the day on the convention floor was glimpse at a new open-world Zelda.

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It’s not entirely clear at this point what character players will control because people still aren’t even sure if that is Link in the photo. But the images shown during the conference and replayed on the floor showed a beautifully rendered Hyrule. Suffice to say, the mood on the floor was that “Nintendo is back.”

Again, time will tell. As I’ve written before about Nintendo, it seems to be resting on laurels, some of which are as old as the company itself. Granted it’s those laurels that saw the most success in the last year as Super Mario 3D World and the recently released Mario Kart 8 have sold in the millions. But hell, even I widen my eyes at the future which promises an open-world Zelda game.

So it’s really hard to answer “Who came out on top?” because I think each platform shined with its offerings. What made this year different was simply that E3′s focus was solely on gaming line-ups. Sony did well with justifying why I bought a PS4 in the first place. Microsoft did well with showing me it is willing to learn from its mistakes and is even offering things that would TEMPT me to buy a system, and Nintendo is finally making good on my WiiU purchase, which admittedly was a purchase more for the nostalgia of the developer than for the system’s offerings (at the time).

Now to a few of the games that had great presence or awesome previews.

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My first stop was at the WB Games booth where a dear friend of mine works. Of course that meant front of the line privilege for the theater room seating for the pre-release demos of both Mortal Kombat X and Batman: Arkham Knight.

1. If you are a fan of the Arkham Series for Batman, just you wait. Seriously. You’ve never seen a more visually jaw-dropping Batman game.

Batman: Arkham Knight has a few combat additions that made this offering unique such as the ability to actually drive AND USE the Batmobile in combat as players will take on a new enemy in the series, Scarecrow. Sadly though, release dates for this (and a majority of the more popular E3 titles) aren’t until well into 2015.

2. Mortal Kombat X will feature new fighters and a new story

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Having watched the announcement trailer several hundred times in the 24 hours it was shown online to the time I sat in the pre-release demo theater, I was already prepared for the gruesome showing. But that trailer pales in comparison to what we were shown and it shows Mortal Kombat doing what Mortal Kombat does best, great graphics, awesomely-bloody fatalities and fun environmental fighting quirks. It’s a return to form for Ed Boon and the gang at Netherrealm. And if the gameplay wasn’t enough the story had me intrigued even more as one of the new fighters shown was Cassie Cage, the daughter of MK vets Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade (apparently the game’s story is 25 years after MK9) — the entire theater reacted to that news and even friends I’ve told since have had similar “LOLWUT!?” reactions. Guess we’ll have to wait and find out about that story.

So moving around the different halls here are a few of my observations:

3. Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil Edition‘s UI Updates Make the game even more fun

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I have loved the synergy the development team at Blizzard has had for bringing a PC gem to the console. The best of both the PC and console versions seems to go back and forth and it has made for a great gaming experience on both ends. While people detested the initial launch of D3, the subsequent console release proved that certain features didn’t need to exist (i.e. the Auction Houses) and as such the PC version’s Reaper of Souls update saw a lot of emulation from console to much success. The UI changes make the game easier to navigate, especially with regards to loot scrolling and managing abilities.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the new The Last of Us-themed nephalem rift, but alas, it was not shown on the demo floor. Still though, Blizzard teaming with Naughty Dog to make beautiful zombie loot-piñatas  has me excited.

4. Onigiri makes a beautiful leap from PC to PS4

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Fans of Aisan-grinder MMOs (no judgement, not my flavor) will see last year’s Free-to-Play  CyberStep, Inc. release make a jump to the PS4 with the same offerings. I happen to be walking by the demo station and the gameplay caught my eye. I normally hate grind-heavy MMOs because, well…they’re grindy. So much time killing random things for a level increase to be strong enough to take on the next level of content. It’s honestly why I gave up on the beautiful and hair-pullingly frustrating Aion. But if Onigiri is considered a grinder, I couldn’t tell from the demo. The boss encounters were well designed and scale nicely depending on if one is fighting solo, or with a few people. It’s as beautiful as one would expect an anime-style MMO to be, and it comes with the same price-tag as the PC version: free. For gamers on a budget, you can’t really complain with free.

5. Kingdom Heart s 2.5 HD finds me wanting the LONG OVERDUE Kingdom Hearts 3.

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The only thing I find annoying about the release of games like this (which are amazing and visually top notch) is that they keep me from fully committing to my PS4 because of its release on PS3. But just as one would expect, the gameplay is much smoother and visually appealing on the HD release. The main screen in the Square Enix demo area played KH3 teasers and all it did was make me sad. Why they don’t release these HD versions on PS4 is beyond me. KH is a franchise that is being kept alive by the constant nipping at SE’s heels by rabid fans like myself because otherwise I get the feeling SE would rather focus more on its Final Fantasy franchise (which considering FF15 was announced last E3, one would not have guessed because there was NO presence  on the floor).

6. Evolve finally gives us a glimpse on the FPS gamer nerd version of “You’re It”

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Four players with guns. One player gets to be the monster (one that gets to, you know, evolve with every kill). I keep stating I’m not an FPS kind of guy, but more and more games keep being shown to me that make me want to rethink that (last year it started with the subtle FPS aspects of The Last of Us). This year it looks like Turtle Beach/2K’s Evolve will do that, and continue on to next year(ish) when The Division (announced and previewed with no demo on the floor) is released. The shooter aspects of Evolve are pretty standard, get gun, run around, shoot said gun, get upgrades, so on. But again, it’s the small twists that make this such an intriguing game, running around and getting to play the monster and watch it grow into a Kraken, for example. That is what will set this apart from the seemingly unending pool of titles in the FPS realm. This was quite easily the best title and demo station on the convention floor.

7. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was everything I wanted and more from the next offering in this franchise

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So much so, that it sucked up more than 60 percent of Nintendo’s real estate on the show floor. The character selection is actually what makes this offering more than just an updated SSBB for WiiU/3DS. I mean, Pacman, the Wii Fit instructor…it really shows Nintendo’s sense of meta-humor which is awesome. What’s more, it is an amazingly social game. Like, I’m looking at my GamePad and my two regular controllers and I’m thinking, “If I want more people to come and play this, I need more controllers.” Plus the interaction between GamePad and the game is exactly what it should be as it offers off-screen glimpses into the match at hand with scores and such. Though it IS SSBB, so you know not to take your eye off the match for too long before you’re booted off screen.

8. Little Big Planet 3 adds new characters and increases the fun on this puzzler franchise

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Both the single player and co-op modes are incredibly wicked fun. The visual aesthetic of the game remains unchanged, but what has improved is the finite detail in the emotes of the characters, the rich depth of the scenery, the realistic look and feel of the objects,  and the overall balance of the scene. If there were a “Mario” type of game for the PlayStation console, this would be it and Sackboy would (and should) be the mascot of PlayStation (even if it wasn’t developed by Sony per se, but rather Media Molecule). I mean really, the game has reached a third release (LBP3 being the first on PS4). Unlike most of the game shown or previewed, LBP3 comes out THIS YEAR (in November) and it will support the levels seen in the previous two titles that were released on PS3.

9. Project Morpheus is *pinches* THIS CLOSE for mainstream release

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I’m still trying to wrap my mind around full immersion games. Don’t get me wrong, PM and Oculus Rift offer great possibilities, but perhaps I’m just not ready to see myself getting stabbed in the chest by an alien in the VR-ready Alien:Isolation, the first of OR’s offerings. But seeing as how OR was only available for previewing to credentialed press and not regular attendees, I only got to try PM. And I can say, PM was pretty tight. It was still in demo-mode so I didn’t get stabbed by an alien, but it’s comfortable, the controls are intuitive and with Sony as its backer, you KNOW when this puppy is ready, it’s going to have some serious clout and the games to go with it. OR might have the jump on availability, but as we saw with last year’s E3, going second can have some SERIOUS advantages for Sony.

10. Valiant Hearts: The Great War kept my heart as I left this year’s E3

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I watched the gameplay demo, this after nearly balling my eyes out during Ubisoft’s conference where the trailer premiered. This game completely blind-sided me with its amazing story, yes, told through the eyes of the dog who had befriended each person featured in the game as you learn their story.  The art direction is nothing short of amazing, as is the music. Luckily PC gamers won’t have to wait long as its June 25 release date is fast approaching. It’s not an action game, or an FPS, but rather a story puzzler, much like last year’s phenomenal jazz-noir Contrast. Of all the amazing games previewed or demoed, this UbiArt offering had my vote for fan favorite.

Sadly, I left before the closing of E3 and I had but one title on my bucket list I didn’t get to demo, Destiny. Evolve and Destiny had the longest wait times in the demo lines and I opted for Evolve knowing that I’d get to jump in the PS4 Alpha-test for Destiny, well, today. :D Also not making the list were the vast number of indie games, particularly from Indiecade which had a huge corner of the publisher’s floor. This is actually a knock on me, because I tend to champion more indie fare than AAAs, save for my love of anything Blizzard, Naughty Dog, Ubisoft, and EA to name a few. Indie games tend to be more fun because they have a lot more to prove than AAAs, and as such have a lot of heart, sweat, blood and tears behind their production.

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As far as E3 outtings go, this being my first I have nothing to compare it to except for BlizzCon and San Diego ComicCon, but those are different venues so, yeah, no comparison there. It was a nice glimpse into the very industry I’m working hard to break into. A part of me did leave a little sad knowing full well my struggle to break in has so far yielded no results. But you know, that’s part of the challenge. So, dear friends…

…challenge is nothing without the struggle.

Deep Blue Sea; or, ending a chapter and starting anew in this thing we call life

And with that, my service in the United States Navy is officially complete. End of contract. Finito. Fin.

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Ten and a half years ago, I embarked on a journey. Spurred on from a drunken Cuervo-fueled argument with a dear friend about the direction of my life (or lack thereof).

My first attempt at college and living out on my own was a bust. I failed most spectacularly and spent a few years just roaming about. I did have a steady job for a number of years at Bath & Body Works and just worked to live. Plenty of dreams, but no degree or means of getting anywhere. It takes a true friend to call you out on that feeling of helplessness. A true friend will see your lack of initiative and call you out on it. So to my friend, Taryn, I love you and can’t thank you for that metaphorical Cher-esque slap across the face telling me to “snap out of it!”

I was humbled immediately by journey in the military. As the academic in the family, I always mistakenly thought I was above hard and menial work. They Navy said “Screw that,” and put a mop in my hand and told me to swab the centerline passageway. I worked from the bottom-most ring up meeting the most incredible and selfless shipmates and mentors along the way.

Traveling all over the world was an amazing experience. Moving about the globe by sea:

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Land:

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And air:

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Takin’ selfies before they were cool ;)

It’s not unknown that my deployments to the Middle East were – I’ll put it lightly – humbling, to say the least. My experience was not confined to the safety of an operating base. I traveled around Afghanistan (once even in disguise) on photojournalism and public affairs assignments covering patrol groups, reconstruction efforts, humanitarian assistance, and even the death of fellow comrades. I saw what war can do to a country and its people. I witnessed fire fights, battles, and even sent fellow Americans home in boxes:

afghanistanramp1Fair winds and following seas.

I was lucky. I made it home safe and sound. As it is Memorial Day Weekend, I feel it’s necessary to reflect on that part of the journey where I said good-bye to fellow servicemembers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation’s freedoms. They will not be forgotten.

I believe it was somewhere in the Middle East, likely Bahrain, when I had just finished paying off the school debt from my failed first experience that I knew I had to finish what I started. My parents had high hopes for me as I did for myself and I knew sitting at the media watch desk at U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain that I wanted to work at a place like Blizzard Entertainment. I’ve written ad nauseum about this, but it bears repeating as dreams often do. I knew the only way to get there was to buckle down, learn from the mistakes I made in college and take the experience I had thus far in the military and apply myself.

I found school rather enjoyable — even going full time some semesters. What started in Bahrain I took to San Diego and during my final tour with the USS Anchorage (LPD 23), I finished what I started:

degrees1This one’s for dad, and Taryn.

Where I go from here is unknown. But I feel so much more prepared than when I was putzing around before the Navy. There are so many great experiences I would not give up for anything and I know that this journey was meant as a learning tool. You see wherever I end up, be it at Blizzard, or any other great company, I’ll appreciate it more. It’s a lesson I saw firsthand in the Navy. Undesignated seaman tend to do better when they are finally selected for a job in the Navy because they appreciate it more — they had to bust their ass to get there.

I spent ten years busting my ass to get to this point so I know I’ll have that appreciation of landing that cushy office job because I know things could be a lot harder. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and I’m a more well-rounded person thanks to the many leaders who instilled those values in me. I’ve served with great people and I’m grateful.

Thank you all and much love.

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Revenge of the Nerd-orc; or, looky! My #BlizzCon badge art is done!

Well the artwork is done on my 2014 BlizzCon badge. I was able to snag a ticket when they went on sale and very much look forward to this year’s gathering. It’ll be occurring  around the 10-year anniversary of World of Warcraft, so I have a feeling this year’s show will be particularly nostalgic.

The badge brings together my two favorite titles at the moment, World of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm.

Nerd orcs are sexy. :D

ThirtyorckBadge2014

Sleeping with the Frenemy; or, a closer look at YouTube’s possible acquisition of Twitch

Twitch_YouTube_icons

Some rather interesting news over the weekend. Game-changing news.

If rumors be true, then Twitch is in talks to be acquired by video-on-demand giant YouTube (or, Google by extension) for around $1 billion.

Naturally when a giant corporation seeks to buy out a smaller one, particularly when such little information about the transaction has been made public, a huge outpouring of protest results. For example:

There are certainly concerns that need to be addressed, but there are also some positives that can be seen with the acquisition that should be considered as soon as the tables that have been flipped from the nerdrage are set upright. ;)

Because I like to end on a positive note, let’s discuss the initial concerns that has the gaming community specifically up in arms.

YouTube’s Copyright Detection Tech Left a Sour Taste In Gamers’ Mouths

Last December, YouTube launched its Content ID system which enabled it to scan uploaded video content for material which it deemed to be in violation of copyrights and regulated or penalized such content on behalf of their original holders. As reported then, gamers, such as those who offered playthroughs or game reviews, were falling victim to the copyright violations. This meant that any revenue generated by the advertisements running on the video content was being redirected from the video creator to the copyright holder of the material in question.

As I had previously written on this subject, I noted that the culprit for most of the copyright claims were musical in nature. The result was an uproar in the gaming community as content was being flagged left and right leaving behind more confusion than anything else.

YouTube responded to anger unflintchingly:

If you’re creating videos with content from other people, remember that rights ownership can be complicated and different owners have different policies. Be aware of music. Many games allow you to turn off background music, while leaving sound effects enabled.

Essentially YouTube took a rather cold posture. But it is understandable. As I wrote then, so shall I reiterate content created by others should be owned by the creator. However, there are multiple layers of content being used in any one video posted to YouTube . The policies and technologies are simply meant to protect users and the company itself from the myriad of possible lawsuits it would face (and did face in the past when it was more liberal with its video posting policies).

As news spread rapidly about YouTube’s acquisition of Twitch over the weekend, it was only natural that concerns about how YouTube’s Content ID technology would affect livestreams on Twitch dominated online conversation amongst prominent gamers in the Twitch community.

There are some legitimate concerns. As before, there is worry that unintentional copyright claims might flag streamers’ content inhibiting them in some way. Such situations would have an adverse affect on the revenue broadcasters gain from their subscriptions (more on this in a bit).

The secondary version of this (and not-so-legitimate) concern can be summarized by the following common sentiment amongst those commenting on this entire acquisition and exemplified in the Tweet above:

“Goodbye to being able to play whatever music I want while I stream.”

Okay, so here’s where I play Devil’s Advocate:

While it’s truly amazing the relationship broadcasters on Twitch have with not only their audiences but with the publishers of the content they stream, there are certain liberties that Twitch broadcasters have taken that were on a rather short expiration date, namely being able to stream music content alongside their gameplay and the smarter streamers saw this coming long ago.

FBI_Warning1

Look familiar? It’s the warning that plays before any film on at-home media be it VHS (if you have to ask, you’re too young), DVD or streamed online. And while these warnings specifically target motion picture, music falls under the protection of the very copyright laws this warning is meant to inform are in place. For example, you might hear a song in a movie, but if you play the extra content on the DVD where the director is commenting in a behind-the-scenes interview about the scene in which that song was played, you likely won’t hear the song at all. This is because the license to use the song doesn’t extend beyond the motion picture and playing it in the extra footage would be illegal.

In short, playing music during a streaming session is a copyright violation despite whatever comforts or expressions of freedom people who protest Twitch’s buyout would claim.

To put it another way, one cannot freely use content to their liking simply because of a sense of entitlement or ownership. When it comes to creative content, when purchased through proper channels, you don’t buy the content, you buy the license or permission to use it as the CREATORS intended. That intention is simply for one’s own personal enjoyment.

Of course there exists the ability to use this content in ways other than originally intended, but streaming music content during a Twitch broadcast without consent of the copyright holder is not one of them. So I reiterate…

…smarter broadcasters knew this liberty they enjoyed would be short-lived  and as such some have left to new streaming services and others have simply adapted.

In the end, the choice is up to the streamer if this is something for which they feel is worth severing their content with their audience. Because there are some great benefits to this merger. And with this ugliness out of the way, let’s look at some of them.

The ability to solicit donations will likely change because of YouTube’s nonprofit policies

While the initial fear of YouTube yanking broadcasters “donate” buttons is still yet to be discussed, what will likely happen is enabling streamers to become YouTube partners in the way Twitch currently invites popular streamers to become sponsored partners. As it stands, Twitch’s subjective policies require proof of a large followership before the mere possibility of a chance, but with YouTube’s recently revamped partnership program, clearer stated requirements will outline a path for more streamers to become partners which mutually aligns itself with YouTube’s desire to increase such partnerships.

The downside of course is that non-partnership streamers on Twitch who currently gain revenue through “donate” button solicitations would likely have to cease such solicitation as they would likely be considered to operate outside of YouTube’s non-profit creator specifications. Understandable is the discontent broadcasters have with the possibility of this change, but this is another example of a short-lived liberty that should have been enjoyed knowing limitation or restriction would be placed upon it at some point.

Google Services Integration Means Ease of Sharing Content

While Google may be drawing down on its forced Google+ integration among its online properties, offering such capability would have a profound impact on how audiences are notified when broadcasters go live. Additionally, the ease of connecting and adding viewers in a manner similar to adding people to G+ Circles would enable users to find the content and related content they wish to view. My guesstimation is that you will NOT need a Google+ account to access Twitch because recent shake-ups in that division of Google would account for such a direction. But with the integration, it will make it harder to not at least consider linking a Google+ account.

Streamers will also likely gain increased exposure through YouTube’s featuring capabilities and expansive reach to its much lauded 1Billion+ users. PCWorld’s Hayden Dingman explains it more eloquently:

And most importantly, Google offers an enormous audience—the type of audience that probably doesn’t even know what Twitch.tv is. That means more streamers can build a following, more viewers can behold the spontaneous creativity of the likes of Twitch Plays Pokemon, and there’s more incentive for third-parties to invest in creating “make my life easier” streaming tools, be it open-source software like OBS or premium products like Fraps.

Archiving and Video-On-Demand Transfer Will Be Much Easier

It goes without saying that Twitch broadcasters who capture their live content and archive it for Video-On-Demand content on their coinciding YouTube accounts will find it easier to do so when the parent company of their Twitch channel also owns their YouTube channel. Traffic driven to broadcaster’s channels on both services offer a cross-functional capability of gaining and sustaining audiences over time. Such cross-promotion will only enhance broadcasters’ revenue-generating methodologies if gaining revenue is their goal, keeping in mind that some content creators seek only audience and not money.

Overall, Once the Initial Cloud of Fear and Rage Have Dissipated, This Transaction Should Be Good For All Users

While most of what I have discussed is simply generalization and assumptive in nature due to the lack of details from this acquisition, in the end, one has to realize Twitch was growing too large too fast. It was a system that wasn’t meant to sustain such large numbers of broadcasters and viewers so it was only natural to seek backing by a company which has the resources to  support the service.

YouTube’s imperfect track record might make people uneasy, but I would imagine it learned some harsh lessons when Content ID launched and will take those into consideration when merging YouTube and Twitch services. Both Twitch and YouTube likely foresaw user outrage, so it’s probably with trepidation they proceed so that users do not feel alienated, jilted, or ousted by the outcome.

Once again, putting in generally: YouTube would be stupid to mess with the operability, ease of use, chatting and exploration features of Twitch’s services. YouTube will gain a gamer’s paradise and it must treat it as such.

It’s a trap; or, May the 4th Be With You

Just a fun day for us geeks. Enjoy it! I’ll be in SWTOR with my bounty hunter.

swtor_bountyhunter

And after lunch, I’ll be in front of the tube watching Episodes 4, 5, and 6 — the original theatrical versions.

Have a great day fellow geeks and nerds!

‘Hush’-ed; or, Hearthstone’s positive result from The Gentlemen’s visit

buffy_hush2_hs
Can’t even shout, can’t even cry
The Gentlemen are coming by
Playing on iPads and PCs online
They play Priest in arena and they need to win nine
Can’t call to mom, can’t say a word
You’ll rage when they MC but you won’t be heard.

Haha, that was for my fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. “Hush” was probably one of the most poignant episodes from the frequently awkward season four, The College Years.

The other day, Polygon Senior Editor Ben Kuchera, offered a rather interesting editorial on Blizzard’s somewhat controversial decision to silence players in their latest free-to-play offering, Hearthstone.

As a day-one closed beta tester, and a proud Mage deck player (yes, they still exist post-pyroblast nerf), I always found it to be an interesting turn to disallow communication between players during a match, save for the limited number of emotes one is able to use to engage the opposing player.

But when you think about it, it’s really not that hard to see why Blizzard made this decision. Let’s take a look at a few things:

Vitriolic Behavior Amongst Competitive Players

Last night, I was watching one of my favorite Twitch streamers, Gigasnail, stream – as he usually does – his 2v2 arena matches in World of Warcraft.

During their round of matches for which they were doing relatively well, they came across an Arms Warrior-Mistweaver Monk duo that proved to be particularly difficult to take down. Even to the viewing audience, it became apparent that the Monk was a rare, and unwelcome breed of player that resorts to the use of what is known as an “orb bot” which auto casts Healing Spheres at the feet of the Monk’s target be it himself or his partner as the Monk moves around the arena (which is hard to get around when you couple the bot with the Monk’s natural mastery, Gift of the Serpent, which ALREADY autodrops healing spheres — the resulting arena becomes RIDDLED with spheres that heal for an incredible amount and is an overpowered ROI for the mana-to-ability cost ratio). While the PVP community is undecided on the fairness of such a bot, it was apparent during Gigasnail’s match up that it was a rather difficult road block to overcome.

The result of the match was a verbal exchange between Giga and the Monk that while entertaining, was an example of the type of player behavior Blizzard wishes to prevent in Hearthstone. There are some extremely smart players in the Hearthstone community, some who play incredible hands that are difficult to counter, and as such, being on the losing end can be quite rage-inducing. The problem with Giga’s post match exchange is that both players were Alliance which thus enabled the two to talk to each other and encourage a more negative exchange with the colorful use of some words and phrases that would make the most politically-minded people grind their teeth into a fine powder. While I’m not easily offended, I can’t speak for everyone and when that vocal exchange happens all the time, eventually you will find someone who raise a stink and thus create an uncomfortable situation for everyone.

Such vocal negativity isn’t limited to Blizzard. Even more notable is the toxic exchange that can exist in the League of Legends community (and not just between opposing team players, but AMONGST team members themselves). According to Riot Games’ publicly released internal data, upwards of 80-percent of chat exchanges were negative. This forced Riot to deal with the issue by hiring a team of social behaviorists who set out on a mission to solve the problem.

Riot’s experiments on solving the issue had several options

The first and simplest option was cutting off all communications, or muting them so to speak. According to the linked Polygon article, this had a near immediate effect as players opted in, and thus, dropped negative communication 32-percent.

The next option involved the implementation of an honor system that offers interesting rewards to players for positive  and good sportsmanlike behavior.

But I think the most important and interesting option is the tribunal system that incorporates the use of “reform” cards that are offered to offending players. While MMO developers like Blizzard also offer an in-game reporting feature, bans and warnings that result from player abuse reports tend to offer the offender little insight on corrective behavior. Riot takes those actions and through such reform cards, offers feedback on what and why the player was receiving punitive action and what their corrective action hopes to accomplish.

While Riot’s actions are still evolving, it is a step in a much needed direction and can have a ripple effect throughout the gaming industry and beyond. Even non-virtual realm instances exist when in a competitive environment, people can suck. Riots ensue when favored soccer teams lose in the World Cup, or even when teams lose in the Stanley Cup.

To put it simply, in a game highly social and equally competitive in nature, people can ironically be its worst enemy, and as such, can hurt a publisher’s bottom line.

While some MMOs like Rift and Star Wars the Old Republic have adopted the ability to at least /say and /yell to enemy faction members, publishers of competitive games like League of Legends, have found that when pitting player versus player, it’s important to allow people the option to cut off or greatly limit others from communication.

Enter the (Hearthstone) Dragon

buffy_hush1

In “Hush,” the important message was that in a world where we can no longer speak, we find other ways to communicate that tend to be more, well, human. Body language, emotes, and expressions became a more endearing form of communication in the absence of vocal cords that ended up nurturing or re-establishing neglected relationships.

So Hearthstone gave players a handful of basic emotes. A greeting, a compliment, a friendly threat, an apology, etc. aimed at REMINDING you that you’re playing a person while keeping you from belittling that person’s existence (save for that annoying Wombo-Combo play you tried to avoid and still annoyingly fell for, HAHA).

What has been the overall effect of the game? A rather positive one. Where in a one-on-one environment it could easily become a nasty exchange of “aw, you jerk, I knew you were going to play that, you donkey raping shit eater,” it’s now a place where the focus is on what it should be, the “deceptively simple” and fantastic game Blizzard has built.

So as Buffy asks in the photo above, how DO we get our voices back? Well, in Hearthstone, you already DO have a voice. Our speech is communicated in great gameplay whether you’re on the winning or losing side of a match up. Seriously, WATCH any streamer on Twitch and even the most annoying plays are heralded on both sides for their creativity or luck…

…because as I always say, your best friend and worst enemy in Hearthstone is RNG, not the other player.

Rise of MegaMaid; elevating Diablo 3 into the gamer stratosphere with ‘Reaper of Souls’

d3ros1_malthael

If Diablo III: Reapers of Souls is the game we should have received two years ago, then what would the game be like today?

It seems to be that the biggest praise for D3:RoS is that it’s the standard of excellence that should have been met two years ago in D3′s initial release and said initial incarnation fell so far from the mark that people oft wish it be erased from Blizzstory.

It’s not a sentiment I particularly agree with.

Let’s be clear on some things though: RoS is an EXCELLENT addition by all means, but the initial release of D3 wasn’t the giant mound of triceratops poop people criticized it to be either. It did indeed have some missteps, but it was still by and large a fun and exciting game to play.

How interesting it is that people who criticized D3 often shoved the success and much-adoredness of D2 in the face of anyone on social media posting ANYTHING to do with D3 when they seemed to have forgotten that D2 was less than spectacular up until its one and only expansion, Lord of Destruction, was unleashed. D3′s missteps weren’t game-breakers, but they did warrant some correction. And thus, with the release of RoS, Spaceball One has now become Mega Maid (only, you know…without that pesky Lonestar trying to push the self-destruct button).

Problem the First: Game Identity

The initial problem that hindered the game was replayability. This marred Diablo’s search for game identity. Is it an RPG? Is it an action game? Is it a dungeon crawler? Is it an MMO?

This was exacerbated by the fact that the first goal was not simply to beat Diablo, but to level a character to cap level (then, 60). Further complicating things was that after a content patch, in order to track progression in a similar fashion to the leveling experience, the Paragon system was released and too offered then a cap on the progression of said characters.

The problem was rooted in the fact that one had to replay the same four acts (or simply find the most lucrative of Acts…Act 3 in my opinion) just to level a character or farm out gold and gear.

The solution: while it may certainly be debatable, I think it goes without saying Blizzard found that both the game and its players’ goals were more in line with a dungeon crawler, and as such, reduced other elements to back-burner status and elevated that which would enable the game to be enjoyed by breaking it up. Difficulty settings were modified not only to adjust for challenge, but also for reward bonuses (added experience points, chance at gold and epic loot, etc.).

What I find interesting about the difficulty settings is the ease of their adjustment. As one levels a new character, you can increase the content as you find challenges easier to overcome. In some cases you can increase the difficulty up one setting while playing (or exit out to increase it as high as you wish), or decrease it as often as you wish should you run into particularly gruesome roadblocks.

The best addition to Diablo’s dungeon crawler identity is Adventure Mode. Players can access it at any time (even while leveling) and can play through various taskings and challenges in any of the acts. Those challenges are randomly selected by the game and all must be completed to obtain a chest of gear which include key tokens for cross-dimensional challenge rifts (more on that in a sec), as well as gear you’ll either scrap for disenchantment material, sell for gold, or may even be an amazing upgrade (the beauty of the game is, you just never know).

The aforementioned Nephalem Rifts can also be accessed via Adventure Mode using key tokens one collects when completing adventure mode quests and boss challenges. Five tokens are needed to open a rift which will remain open until one logs out of the game or completes the quest that will close it out. Stepping inside one will find him or herself in any randomly selected dungeon setting with equally randomized enemy packs (desert wasps in a Westmarch dungeon, or Westmarch Death Maidens in a New Tristram crypt, for example). The final boss offers the most challenge and the highest chance at an exorbitant amount of loot drops both in quantity and quality. I found rift farming particularly challenging and engaging with friends rather than going in solo.

Problem the Second: Character Progression

levelingupGandalf

Leveling is an easy way to track progression. Ding. I’m one level higher than I was before. I have more power, I have more resources, I have newer abilities to melt or rip off a stronger enemy’s face. Paragon leveling offered the same progression to characters already at the maximum level (60 in Diablo’s initial launch and now 70 in RoS). In actuality it still does. A problem that existed prior to RoS was the fact that both the regular character and the paragon levels capped out at some point. Character progress became untrackable and replaying content became pointless, particularly because genuine loot upgrades were few and far between. In order for Blizzard to fully embrace the dungeon crawler identity, it needed to revamp gameplay that was encouraging to repeated runs through content.

The solution: The first step was to remove the Paragon level cap. This allows people to track their activity in game contributing to the mentality “ah, well, no loot this time, at least I got some Paragon XP which will make me stronger, and maybe I can try a higher difficulty setting down the road to get a better chance at higher quality loot.”

Also promising better progression was the Loot 2.0 system. Probably the most important system for character-specific progression is a system in which the loot dropped is USEABLE by your character, or “smart” loot as it’s called. I found the system to NOT be ENTIRELY perfect, if only because I managed two legendary demon hunter chest drops while playing on my wizard (Intentional? Game bug? Jury’s still out on that). The idea behind Loot 2.0 is that while rare and legendary gear drops may seem far apart, when you DO get something it should be valuable to you. If you couple this with the new enchanting system and legendary crafting patterns for your Blacksmith, you find that even non-upgrade legendaries now have a purpose. For example, disenchanting unusable level 70 legendaries yields a Forgotten Soul which is needed to enchant other legendaries (and by “enchant” I mean change an undesired property to your choice of one of three other randomly selected properties).

Loot 2.0, a rejiggered crafting system, and a new enchanting and transmogrifying service, all combined to create the Schwartz force necessary to push Mega Maid’s “suck” switch to “blow,” thus breathing new life into the attention spans of the community’s most demanding gamers and also laying to rest the franchise’s most controversial feature…

REST IN PEACE, AUCTION HOUSE

obiwan_disturbance_RMAH

Where D3 pre-RoS was a fun game all things considered, the one piece of it that spoiled it for most people was the Real Money and Gold-Based Auction Houses. People selling off trash gear for obscene amounts of money (because really, no one even LOOKED at the gold-based AH) contributed solely to the first problem mentioned in this blog. Why replay something when you can spend a few bucks to get the gear you know in all likelihood will not drop for you.

I will say this though.

While I am indeed glad to see both AHs gone, I have to give props to Blizzard for at least TRYING to streamline external game transactions. Again, how quickly D3′s biggest critics forgot about the loot transaction system that existed in D2. External trade channels and character muling often opened players up to botters and shady third-party services that could jilt players out of both loot and personal finances. While an account-wide stash resolved muling issues, the trade system remained particularly challenging, partly because those who revere D2 often attribute such reverence to the trading system that encouraged community interaction. The RMAH and GAHs aimed at providing a outlet for people to trade unwanted, though valuable loot while giving them  options on how they wish to benefit from their luck. Coupling the stigma associated with a “pay for play” progression mindset with that of the greed that tends to infest an AH environment, and it’s easy to see why the RMAH/GAH was an experiment doomed for failure. Though I find it alarming that Blizzard appeared to be so surprised by the anti-AH sentiments when all designers needed to do was go into World of Warcraft to see how awful that system is to see that involving real money would only exponentialize the hate. If there’s one thing positive that came out of the experience, is that it revealed Blizzard to be a developer that cherishes feedback and also forced it to rethink the progression systems, the revamps of which we now get to enjoy. But alas, this horse is officially dead and placed in a modestly marked grave with the epitaph, “Good riddance.” And so shall it be.

Stay awhile, and play…

Overall the changes offered in RoS are welcomed. Act V continues what I thought to be a great story in the beautifully constructed and darkly tragic Westmarch. The newly added Crusader class is wicked fun to play and with the changes in how one can level and progress it is relatively easy to reach cap level to continue Paragon progression. Lest we forget that the production elements and touches are what separate Blizzard titles from the pack — as such, a nod to the amazing environments, in-game cinematics and music must be made.

Now, if only we had news on the release of the planned PS4 (and XBox One) version, and I’ll be a happy gamer.

Unleashing the gaming hounds; or, Blizzard’s Karazhan-style eSports chess maneuvering…

What’s more fun than tin-foil hattings about the goings-on of one of the gaming industry’s biggest hitters?

unleashthehounds

There have been quite a few interesting developments in the structuring of Blizzard’s eSports line-up lately. Developments that affect all of the company’s current and future eSports offerings.

First up was the announcement of the Heroes of the Storm Alpha (which will likely be mostly in-house testing with a limited number of community influencers before the next phases of testing open up progressively). Having tested the game at BlizzCon, I can say that it was certainly much further along than I had anticipated and viewing a few of the panels meant that we’ll likely see the title before long (or, Soon™, as we’ve come to know from Blizzard’s timeline vernacular).

Next we got wind that Blizzard was mutually parting ways with North American Star League, despite having already started the current WCS Starcraft II tournament season. Both sides remain mum on the actual reasons, while only glossing over the situation with the more simplified “We couldn’t honor our obligations and decided to go our separate ways.”

But there are a few floating pieces that seem to indicate this is more than just a failure to meet obligations.  Because really, NASL was only in charge of ONE title with an average Twitch.tv viewership of maybe 10K viewers.

On top of the Heroes of the Storm developments, there was also the fact that Hearthstone finally officially launched — this a few weeks after Blizzard announced intentions to support it as an eSport title by updating their community tournament licensing to include the CCG title. Couple that with the Alpha release of HOTS, and one can easily see what those “obligations” were that could not be met by NASL’s quaintly understaffed crew. Granted HOTS still has more development to undergo before it’s officially launched, but Hearthstone is now complete and Blizzard is itching to take on the CCG aspect of eSports by storm (no pun intended).

So what does it all mean? Well, first it means that Blizzard is playing Karazhan-style chess by strategically placing all of its eSports pieces on the board to take on the community and blow everyone away (at least one would hope). 2014 will be a big year for the company in the eSports world, I’m almost positive of that fact.

What I hope to NOT see is Blizzard trying to market solely to the MOBA-format eSports community by sniping at competitor audience numbers through typical side-by-side comparison marketing (think Apple vs. Samsung, iPad vs. Surface, cell phone companies, etc.). Just as most MMOs have tried the “next WoW killer” strategy and failed, so too would Blizzard if it decided to take on Riot’s eSport-leading MOBA title League of Legends. HOTS is not a LoL killer, nor should it be. Between what I tested at BlizzCon and the current Alpha-test walkthrough video, HOTS will definitely succeed on its own merit.

What I’m excited to see with Blizzard’s eSports offerings is to see just how successful both Hearthstone and HOTS will be, but Hearthstone in particular. Even in closed beta, Hearthstone‘s popularity seemed astronomical as evidenced by its reception at the BlizzCon Invitational. There was such an enormous showing that all signs point to Blizzard having another leading platform title, especially since the CCG market isn’t exactly bringing the numbers as far as eSports go (meaning it’s just WAITING for a superstar title).

I said it before…2014 is going to be a BIG year for Blizzard.

Pon de HOTS video and commence drooling:

INB4 check and mate.

Serving Up Authentic Geek & Gamer Realness | Aramis X. Ramirez

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