How 2 Revive #DefJamFightForNY As A Generic Fighter – BUILD A LABEL mode EXPANDED

My love for the Def Jam gaming franchise has stood the test of time. Vendetta and Fight For NY remain nostalgic favorites for most wrestling and hip hop fans that have been graced with the opportunity to play. As time moves on, PS2 era gamers wonder why we haven’t seen a proper reboot or clone. Personally, I’m trying to lead the charge to change this!

For years, we gamers have seen some of the biggest game franchises become a fusion of ‘traditional’ genres. The Elder Scrolls franchise is hailed as an RPG despite being an FPS style action game with RPG progression. I think we can all agree that this evolution was more than welcome in the pantheon of RPG games. The same can probably be said of The Witcher which is considered to be one of the greatest games ever made as well. I say all of this to validate the need for game sequels and reboots to innovate rather than settle for a money grab. With a return to the Def Jam franchise, I suggested a few ideas for this innovation and want to elaborate a bit.

 

BUILD A LABEL FEATURE

In Def Jam ICON, this feature appeared to have depth but didn’t end up having much to it beyond budget management for releases. I really think this feature could be expanded to add quite a bit of replayability in single player mode and/or a really interesting basis for a multiplayer mode.

It was AMAZING how BAD the gameplay was in this game.

Just off the top, providing a Create-a-Label and a Create-an-Emcee feature would have gamers salivating! After seeing the thousands of creations of NBA teams and logos in NBA 2k as well as wrestlers in WWE 2k could only open the door for MASSIVE creativity when you get passionate fans able to dream up their own hip hop stars, labels, and logos for each! But I digress! To the meat of the situation.

Since the original feature was single player, let’s look at improving what was there. If you refer to the IGN Wiki page for this feature you’ll notice by page’s end that the feature is a bit hollow. The strategy basically tells you spend the max you can on each request for song and album release to gain the most benefit. BOOOOO! Honestly that is boring and requires very little strategy or thought behind it. LET’S PUMP THIS UP!

In the other games, the idea was to battle emcees to bring them under your label’s umbrella and best the rival faction let by Deebo… I mean, D-Mob and eventually Crow (aka Snoop Dogg). To up the ante in a sequel, the objective should be to battle against a number of ‘crews’ around the nation. Each crew could be led by an iconic emcee or parody of a popular emcee. NYC, Jersey, ATL, Houston, New Orleans, Cali, Detroit, Toronto (Canada), and Philly could be a good start (DLC for other international crews could be great too). The player could either choose one of these cities or begin their own crew. Starting in an existing city would force the player to ‘compete’ against the local Kingz before they can ‘flex’ against any others. With that ground work, let’s move onto the actual strategy of the mode.

Label rosters are meant to be somewhat fluid. Contract deals determine for how long you have each emcee. Translate that into the game and you have an element (possibly a ‘business sense attribute’ for each character) that should be included in the game to provide longer gameplay and replayability. Somehow, each of the emcees should have a personality element to them that determines how well they get along. Keep rivals on the same label too long and they could hurt the ‘chemistry’ (or earning potential) of others on the label as well.

Once on your label, the inbetween fights ‘strategy’ could be a kind of convo tree style mini-game that works through your character planning a new emcee’s next album release. Decisions on whether to make a concept album, a true school classic, a club banga, or a radio friendly effort could be thrown in to give options. Success on these would be determined by RPG style attributes (0-100 ratings on different music styles AND fighting attributes) that help or hinder the success potential of the album. Album creation can be training fights against that emcee to ‘provide inspiration’ or maybe even something that just happens in the background with a bit of randomization thrown into the math to keep things unpredictable. Finished product gets a ‘blogger rating’ and then a ‘critics rating’ before the eventual release numbers are calc’d (timing would be vs other label releases at the time of course). Maybe setting it up so that high blogger buzz leads to higher ‘streaming numbers’ while high critical acclaim leads to more award show opportunities and/or sales.

The success would be harder to do given you’d have your label’s budget to spread between your character, as well as the releases and promos of your label mates. Popularity could be handled much like NBA2K players. Performance in fights helps or hurts where the fights don’t ‘end the game’ if you lose. They simply dock your popularity which hits sales numbers of your label.

Somewhere in there, it makes sense to have an element to improve your label mates’ abilities too. The ‘missions’ could be done similar to how the Assassin’s Creed franchise does where you send them off to festivals and concerts where they’ll square off against a number of other emcees from other crews around the nation/world. Maybe having a choice to use that emcee in their fight could also be an option.

These fleet missions in AC:Black Flag were a nice distraction that gave in game rewards.

 

Want to expand this and have a mobile game that feeds into it? I got ya covered. The mobile game could be the actual song/album creation mini-game. The easiest template to use is a match 3 style game like Puzzle Quest or Marvel Puzzle Quest. I mention the latter because it involves using a team of 3 heroes with special abilities that affect the puzzle board in different ways once you charge up one of the colors they specialize in. This could be catered to music studio or concert performance events or actions with relative ease. Collecting emcees could be a part of the whole collectible card game thing with microtransactions and different versions of different emcees or producers or dancers. The different powers could be tag lines, ad libs, metaphors, disses, story-telling, bravado, or whatever else could be thought up to represent aspects of hip hop delivery.

As you can see, however it is done, the RPG depth could provide an intense amount of customization and replayability that could even find a sensible way into the multiplayer realm as well! Let’s keep the energy going! Share these blogs with all of the fighting, wrestling, hip hop, gamer fans you know!

How To Revive #DefJamFightForNY As A Generic Fighter – Part 1

How To Revive Def Jam: Fight For NY As A Generic Fighter

Wrestling is REAL…ly enjoyable y’all! Even wrestling games are fun for those who don’t even follow wrest…*cough* I mean sports entertainment. For years gamers have enjoyed over the top fighting and beat em up games with ‘pro’ wrestlers thrown in as marital arts contestants. There have even been a chosen few, like Def Jam Vendetta/Fight For NY/ICON, that have taken the love for wrestling to new heights!

Beat ’em up games back in the 90’s were popular thanks to the love for local co-op games found in arcades. Games like Streets of Rage, Final Fight, Double Dragon, and so on were all the rage before 1 v 1 fighting games like Street Fighter, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat brought about the competitive spectacle they’ve become today. Still, the genres feel and are quite different. Nowadays, beat em up games are few and far between. You’ll see the occasional Dragon’s Crown and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World from time to time, but all in all, the scene is pretty quiet.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World is so much fun!

Wrestling games, on the other hand, have been a part of gaming almost since the genesis. I remember playing arcade games like Nintendo’s Pro Wrestling, WWF Superstars, Taitio’s Mat Mania, and Konami’s The Main Event. I absolutely loved these quarter eating imitations of what has become the WWE2K sports entertainment wresting sim. Surprisingly enough, I’ve not really played a WWE2K game that faithfully felt as good/fun as the WWF games on the N64. Ask other wrestling fans and you’ll also hear Super Fire Pro Wrestling as a game that needs to be revived as well.

With that said, the Def Jam fighting games were more of a wrestling 1 v 1 fighting game more than anything. They didn’t play like a Street Fighter game with complex special moves and lengthy combos. The combat was basically a wrestling game merged with a bit of a beat em up thrown in.

I think, for me, that this game held a soft spot in my heart because of the fighting engine was pulled from the old WWF No Mercy engine from N64 days. Considering there are slim to no wrestling games outside of WWE games, that kind of leaves a diversity void in the genre that needs to be filled in my opinion.

Def Jam FFNY and its predecessor Vendetta had a unique niche due to adding over-the-top finishing moves, street fighting flavored environmental interactivity, popular hip hop music, wrestling, local coop, rpg elements, and a simplistic story that pulled you from fight to fight in order to meet and beat all of the recognizable hip hop and celeb characters featured in the game. The appeal of unlocking popular 90’s hip hop stars like Method Man, Redman, Snoop Dogg, and then pulling off these hilariously painful finishing moves on each other was beyond satisfying. The controls were great and the battles were difficult if you didn’t use the environment around you to do extra damage to your foes. I loved how all of the moves  looked and sounded so painful. Throw in the timely trash talk from all of your foes and you’ve got a franchise that felt liked it fell off before it really even got started.

Of course, if you think about it, with the ‘Def Jam’ label, there would be problems in the future with artists leaving the label and hip hop fans wanting to play as other artists that aren’t even on the label. I can imagine arranging the contracts and dealing with licensing the music became an expensive chore. Still, I feel as if the franchise could use a reboot.

Imagine this. A new game with an updated engine, graphics, and everything featuring generic hip hop characters voice acted by indie artists not on a label. In some of the games even popular actors and actresses had fake emcees created that they could voice over to add to the appeal of the roster. Possibly get it sponsored by a hip hop website or something of that nature and you at least have a start! You keep the over the top moves and fighting styles (such as ‘street fighting’) and then you do things a little different..

In the ICON game (which was a tragedy of a game by the way), there were two attempted innovations that seemed like a good idea but failed due to poor execution. The use of the environment and ‘beat detection’ for all music played during the fights made for an interesting dynamic. In theory, if you had your character’s music playing and he landed an attack on the beat, there would be extra damage. ICON also allowed you to change the track and rewind and such in the midst of the battle to change the beat timing and so forth. This is an interesting kind of ‘taunt’ or ‘crowd hype’ tactic that could balance the playing field for weaker characters in the game or players that aren’t quite as skilled. In a flashy kind of way, this innovation could add depth to the fighting system… if the system was any good.

The other innovation was the ‘Build a Label’ feature where the player basically ‘signed’ emcees he defeated and then built a release ‘budget’ for individual singles. This would then lead to a fake Billboard chart mini-simulation where you’d see the performance of the single on the charts leading to additional income. This little ‘music industry’ sim could be a good little strategy-rpg sim to incorporate in the game to spice up the between fight downtime. If done correctly, maybe the ‘Build a Label’ mini game could become a mobile game that feeds rewards into the main game.

With so many games taking on a multi-player role, this is where the new game could shine even more. While the fighting portion would have its challenges over the network (as evidenced by EVERY WWE2K game having issues), if resolved, a healthy community could be sustained. Imagine players creating their faux emcees and crews to battle much in the same way NBA2K MyCareer players do.  Labels (aka clans or factions) could be created and formed with the intent of ‘dominating the charts’. Matches could be virtually graded for entertainment value which would add to the popularity of each emcee and label beyond just flat out wins and losses. This is already a dimension that the WWE 2K games use that push the competition between a plain win or lose dynamic. Then, somehow, the multiplayer could incorporate some kind of lootable reward system (maybe cards since that is the ‘in thing’ in games today) that could be used in lieu of acting out music or album creation in the game. Like I said before, the integration of music and reminder that these are all emcees/producers/dancers/whatever could be worked in to add depth and interest.

As so many other franchises have seen, the addition of RPG elements allows the player to customize their avatar to whom they like to allow them to play how they like. That is a powerful tool to make good games better through replayability. The ‘Dominate the Charts’ multiplayer RPG would need to have ways for players to collaborate (features if you will) in fights (tag team style) as well as in the ‘song/album creation sim’. I see rewards, tournaments, and events likened to the NBA 2k My Park and My Player community as a great template to build from.

Regardless of what innovation is done, this franchise is sorely missed (the early ones that is). The THQ style wrestling beat-em up games faded and disappeared stateside and we’ve yet to have a return to that game style (even in a WWE game) yet.

 

Here are more that want a return of this franchise:

I Miss RPGs: A Geeky Father’s Creative Lament

As a lifelong geek, I’ve found that even my geeky hobbies/interests have changed in my old age. As my time to devote to such geeky pursuits have dwindled, I’ve constantly searched for ways to stay ‘in-tune’ to my core. Video games, TV shows, comics, books, and movies have long been a part of my geeky resume yet one dimension that I crave has effectively evaporated. RPGs.

My teenage years were filled with glorious all evening sessions of table top role playing games. Two of my closest high school friends would create adventures in the campaign settings of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms (Oriental Adventures), and RIFTS (a Palladium Books campaign setting) sessions that played out the adventures of characters that I created and effectively became. We even had a superhero themed Heroes Unlimited setting, but the adventures really never got off the ground. I loved the process of making characters and attempting to fill their backstory with just enough to allow for the campaign to fill in the rest. I also loved learning more about the campaign settings by reading the wealth of novels that fleshed out the history of the land and the legendary heroes that shaped it. While those stories were mostly high fantasy themed, I would occasionally throw in other sci-fi classics in hopes of starting my own campaign in a setting of my own creation.

It took time but I eventually did so. While I wasn’t able to start adventures, the creation of the setting is something that tickles my creative bones every now and then even to this day and I miss it dearly. As a writer that craves creative writing yet doesn’t have a short story finished to his name, I wish I had carved out time to achieve that.

At one point in my adult age, I did manage to find a veteran crew of adventurers through a co-worker. Once a week we would pull snacks and such together and get a team of 4 souls together at a table to power through some truly hilarious and epic stories. The wives would be nearby and hear the hilarity only to wonder if they should dare join in or not (we were quite the odd bunch). Given all that happened back then, the sessions were the highlight of my week and were sorely missed when they ended.

via GIPHY

Now, as a father, I thought that I would be able to pass down my passion to my sons (who are now pre-teens). I’ve seen them quickly absorb my love of video games (which is easy to do) yet I feel as if I’ve failed in piquing their interest in RPGs. Creativity is a skill, in my eyes, that has to be nurtured and exercised in order for it to flourish in ANY person. Given that I know I’m of that ilk, a part of me can’t wait to see what my sons may be able to come up with if encouraged to do so.

RPGs are the perfect vehicle for that. Countless times I’ve seen and heard of people that are writers or actors or game designers today praise their days of playing D&D and how that process spawned their continued love of all things geeky! On the flip side, I’m continuously looking for ways to pull them together in a unique way that would have them bragging to their friends about what they did the last time they visited me. I fantasize about sitting around at the table and setting up a scene for them and watching their little minds devour the description in anticipation of tossing out some 20 sided dice! I suppose watching Stranger Things kind of sparked that ember within as well. The bond between players and the DM is unique as the creative process is at full tilt when in a good session.

Now that my older sister is getting into table top games, she has gotten them use to games like Magic: The Gathering, 7 Wonders, and other card and board style games. Almost like a hybrid RPG, I bought and played Ghostbusters The Board Game with them with much success. While there wasn’t much actual character ‘role play’ in the experience, they did get a feel for combat, decision making, and miniatures.

What I may do is lean on their love of people watching them play (a la YouTube) though. Given ALL of my kids want to do what they see so many others do, maybe I can leverage that desire to get them to do the first step… create characters! Of course, I have to figure out what setting is the one they’ll stay in and learn about.

Wish me luck! Maybe I’ll film the character creation to let you all see how it goes!

(featured pic courtesy of www.unepicgame.com)

2016 – A Terrifying Year Of Amazing Music

This year will forever go down as a HUGE turning point in my life without a doubt. My beautiful wife is carrying my 5th child. I bought a house. My favorite musician of all time (Prince) passed away in the strangest fashion (not to mention countless other deaths like Denise Matthews aka Vanity, Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, Muhammad Ali, Chyna of WWE fame, Pat Summit of Lady Vols fame, and many others). Police brutality continues in our country. Donald Trump is now President-elect Donald Trump (*sigh*). We are undoubtedly in a new age of activism in this tumultuous country of ours.

With all of that said, you would think that the poetic muse in me would have plenty of soul food to manifest some semblance of a resurgence. After years of not penning more than a poem or two, I have traded the art of poetry for the title of a streamer and occasional video editor and podcaster. Unfortunately, even that progress has stumbled about this year.

As I creatively search for answers, I’ve come to realize one particularly abundant aspect of this year has been the music and the musicians that I love.

While the year started off kind of odd with an album, that dropped and didn’t drop at the same time, in Kanye West’s “The Life Of Pablo”. I’ve yet to hear the album to this day and scratch my head in trying to decide if I even care to anymore. While his last album was sonic sandpaper to my ears, I can’t deny his potential to prick my ears with his production skills from time to time. Thanks to the poison that is 2016, I guess we’ll never hear “Watch The Throne Part 2”. 

Forward moving and we have the early gems from Rihanna and Anderson .Paak. Rihanna’s albums always seem to have hidden gems that I pick up on well after my first listen and this album didn’t disappoint. Her cover of Tame Impala’s song “Same Ol’ Mistakes” hit my ears and I was instantly addicted. I soon traced the appeal of the song to a commercial for Donald Glover’s FX show ATLANTA. Anderson, on the other hand, displays his funky talents as a drummer, an emcee, a vocalist, and a keyboardist on his latest album Malibu which caught my ear as well. Dr. Dre himself was blown away by his talent and signed him which made me curious at least. After seeing him perform on The Colbert Show, I new that I had to at least listen to his album. Trust… after hearing “Come Down“, that was all she wrote!

The very weekend that I was recovering from the loss of Prince, Beyoncé secured her status as a music icon in my eyes with the amazing visual album LEMONADE. That album has such a wide range of styles and provided my favorite country song of the year in “DADDY LESSONS”. It also provided me a new poet in Warsan Shire to follow and learn from.

raw

Time moved on and I began to see artists that I adored and missed were finally dropping projects once again. Maxwell, Mya, De La Soul, Phonte & Eric Roberson, Slum Village, Zo!, and Tweet all delivered quality projects that I’m still sifting through and evaluating as I parse selected tracks into themed playlists on my phone.

Oddly enough, the Maxwell album didn’t make an impression on me for some reason. The same can be said for the Phonte & Eric Roberson and Zo! albums. Not necessarily bad but just not what I wanted. Maybe each of them will grow on me.

tigallerro
Phonte and Eric Roberson’s Tigallerro will have to grow on me.

Thankfully, the De La Soul and Tweet albums were superb. De La took the odd route of using Kickstarter to fund this project which features the likes of Little Dragon, Usher, Snoop Dogg, 2Chainz, Pete Rock, and more. The sound is more of an experiment almost like Common tends to do at times only the result has been magical. Tweet’s effort also carries on her tradition of melding her honey sweet church blues to some southern fried guitar riffs that more than make up for the hiatus since her last full project in ’05.

Next came the ‘out of nowhere’ curveballs in KING and Nao’s debuts as well as the next effort from Solange. KING had been on my radar ever since The Foreign Exchange collab’d with them in 2011 on the song “All The Kisses”.

Nao equally struck me with her Deniece Williams or Shanice styled voice that was ridiculously perfect for the funk that her album delivered. There was even one song on the album that has shades of a very funky track that I love by Jai Paul called “Jasmine”. The whole album is a danceable and upbeat effort that is just lots of fun to listen to. Her voice is amazingly capable of so much soul and the harmonies she unleashes are electrifying.

nao

Solange, on the other hand, delivered a calming classic that screamed the production of one of my fav artists in Raphael Saadiq. As I listened to the album and kept hearing of all of the praise she was getting as it went to number 1, I never realized how talented Solange truly was. As a multi-instrumentalist, she knows what she wants her sound to be like and it came across clearly working with a legend like Raphael Saadiq who credits her so much. Her song writing has always been something that her sister praised her on ever since the days of Destiny’s Child and her social commentary on this album is proof. The lyricism is strikingly poetic and doesn’t allow you to always dwell on the verbatim. It has layers beyond what the first impression of the words imply.

Fall in your ways, so you can crumble
Fall in your ways, so you can sleep at night
Fall in your ways, so you can wake up and rise

Rise” – Solange (click to hear on Spotify)

If there is any album on this list that would possibly lead to me writing again, it would be Solange’s. It is filled with a great energy, strength, and relief that always seem to accompany a Raphael Saadiq project in my opinion. I think those new to her material will be beautifully surprised.

solange

Then the nuclear bombs dropped. First, the myth that was finally a reality in a new Frank Ocean project coalesced in the double album “Endless” and “Blonde”. For a while the whole ordeal was beyond frustrating since I refuse to use iTunes. While that is yet another album I’m absorbing it is safe to say that I’m not disappointed. The brotha is mad talented and has a unique ear for harmony that few artists do vocally. Needless to say “Pink + White” fell into the favorites category that just seems to have that lazy day thoughtfulness ring to it.

Just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, A Tribe Called Quest decides to counter the election day news with word of their new and final album (which I didn’t even know was a thing!). The bliss that has and still is currently ensuing is far beyond the trainwreck that was “The Love Movement”. From the first minute of “The Space Program” I was hooked. Hearing excellent new material from the crew that ushered in my adoration of hip hop instantly put me at ease (if that is even possible). As I watched Jarobi and Q-Tip embrace Dave Chapelle on SNL performing their new material, I recognized how hard times like these tends to coax out the best in artists of all types. While their medicine only address the symptoms we all suffer from, the relief is important in allowing us to be productive.

snl

With that inspiration, I hope that my continued exercises in writing and video content creation will continue and grow.

CoD Fatigue and Battlefield Adoration

This 2016 gaming season has been a bit spotty at best when it comes to evaluating the games that have come out. Looking at my current roster of games that I play and return to, there are but a few that are ‘new’ games. Then when you look at the holiday blockbuster releases that I have/crave, it has become a common them for me to sigh at Call of Duty and absolutely crave Battlefield….again.

Last year, I remember craving the likes of Metal Gear Solid V, Sword Coast Legends, Halo 5, and Fallout 4. As the cherry on top, the jedi in my desired (and ultimate was gifted) Star Wars Battlefront. I was fortunate enough to play and be happy with most all of those titles and yet, Call of Duty Black Ops 3 didn’t seem to tickle my fancy. I eventually caved in and bought it on sale one day but only because friends and fam played it a lot. I later regretted the decision as the experience only made me long to play CoD Advanced Warfare (which I LOVED by the way) or Battlefront 4.

Fast forward to this holiday season and I look down my current gen roster of games and I’m a bit disappointed in some and surprised by others.

For example, The Division appeared to be a GREAT game as I dumped many hours into it yet, down the stretch (as in around the time the Underground DLC dropped), my friends and I felt burned out by the bullet sponges, the uber shotgun foes, and the unbalanced loot drops. I suppose a part of me was hoping that The Division would be my alternative to Destiny but so far, the so called changes and such just missed their mark. Still, when I consider how many hours I’ve played the game so far, I would have to still call it one of my favs of the year.  With that said, I REALLY want this next DLC to be worth what I paid for in the season pass, because Underground was straight booty 😛

Anyhoo, fast forward a buncha months and you’ve got my supposed first blockbuster of the year in No Man’s Sky. I was so hyped for this game for over a year only to get the game and essentially spend all my time naming weird creatures and farming for elements. In other words…IT WAS BORING. I was sooooooo hoping for a Wing Commander Privateer or something styled game where I could be a space pirate or a …well… something different than what I was in the game I got. I’m not certain if that means I didn’t read up on what the game was intended to be or if I was misled by the marketing attempts they made in promoting the game. Either way, I’m drinking my digital-download-that-can’t-be-traded-in tears.

Once I got over that crying game, I marveled over games like Halcyon 6 Starbase Commander, Mafia 3, Gears of War 3, NBA2K17, and a quick replay of Bioshock. With all of those games though, nothing prepared me for the addiction that was to be Battlefield 1! MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN! I love this game!

Now, those gamers that know me know that I know you know I love me some Battlefield. You know?

Well, Battlefield 1 basically took all of the beautiful loveliness of Star Wars Battlefront, slapped it in WW1, added some great gadgets, some bangin’ maps, and some ill bayonets and booyah. ADDICTION! Now why that formula works for me and the current release of Call of Duty does not is a slight (not really) mystery.

The essence that is Bunneh3000 excels in tactics. I’m a leader. A commander. Not a great soldier. See… I die…a lot…mostly because I want revenge on EVERYONE that takes me out and that leads me to a lot a wild goose chases. Unfortuately, that leads me to getting killed by the same person numerous times until I either take them down or a teammate does. I’ll even turn down taking a flag JUST so I can stalk a sniper or camper. Call me petty but err um uh…it’s my thing.

Also, I get a high from being able to outscore an entire field of 64 players with a kill tally that is less than 10 (yup, I’ve done it). Battlefield stresses team/squad work and I love that it can be done without needing to even chat with your squad (even though that helps…A LOT).

On the flip side, Call of Duty just looks…Advanced Warfare-Titanfall-y. I already have games like that and I’m not looking forward to another one (unless its Titanfall 2 that is because I HEART mechs!). I could absolutely be wrong on this assumption if I ever buy the game but for now…no dice. I’ll stick with my cravings and my mech love for now.

WATCH ME PLAY GAMES, PWEASE!!

twitch.tv/bunneh3000

 

Watch live video from Bunneh3000 on Twitch
 

My Stream Journal: From For Honor Beta to Mafia III

Streaming on Twitch.tv can be an amazing experience at times. Other times, it can be a lonely one. As I search for my voice and community, I’ve found that having a regular schedule to stream  during the week is one of the hardest things I’ve taken on since trying to start and maintain a podcast! Thankfully, I think I’m getting the hang of things though…

First thing I’ve noticed is that I jump around between games entirely too much! Yeah fam. I have gamer ADD. If you look at my streaming history in the past month I’ve played the following games:

mafia-3

Mafia III

I’m absolutely loving the decision to embed this game within the racial turmoil of the late 60’s. The tension feeds into the excellent story that was written. Trust. The racism in this game will make some uncomfortable. But hey… how is that any different from the Trump-ist society we live in today?

halcyon-6

Halcyon 6 Starbase Commander

I spent a great deal of time playing this funny and addictive Star-Trek esque game. The nods to sci-fi movies and shows are rampant and the potential for this game to be much bigger and larger is so exciting to me. The combat is deep and pushes you when you least expect it. The XCOM like strategy also keeps you wondering if you should have chosen to research or build something else all the time. This is an EXCELLENT game. Hope to see more content VERY soon.

bioshock_collection_hero

Bioshock

Filled with three story rich games, this collection features my fav game of all time, Bioshock. A part of me wishes this was a full fledged remaster but just being able to smoothly play it on my PS4 is enough for now. I doubt we’ll see a studio truly redo these games but the nostalgia will forever be high for me during playthru’s.

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MechWarrior Online

The constant release of classic Battletech mechs keeps me coming back for more. This game has quickly replaced my love for Call of Duty competition. Grinding for money so that I can do my own rebuilds of new chassis’ fuels my constant return to this game.

nba-2k17-logo

NBA2K17

The adventures of Bunneh Shuttlesworth (MyCareer mode) and my management of the Minneapolis Panthers (MyTeam mode) will keep me busy long into next summer. Hopefully I can work up into some serious MyPark and ProAm burn this edition!

fallout-4Fallout 4

Open worldy goodness at its finest. I like this game a lot. Hoping that mods can work there way in to allow me to really be able to build in the encampments rather than the scare building Ive been forced into thanks to having so many places to build and not that much money to build from.

for_honor_keyart_2016For Honor Beta

The beta quickly pushed me to pre-order this game. The melee combat was skill based, ferocious, and gorgeous. Can’t wait to show off my growing skill in streams when this drops next year.

As I’ve delved into each, I’ve certainly tried to speak to anyone who’s come into my chat room, but since they are often the only ones there, they often leave after a few minutes. As you can imagine, building a community is hard unless you’ve a platform that they either recognize you from already or you are referred by other quality streamers. Still trying to get up on that.

For quite some time, that ‘platform’ was supposed to be my Geekswagg Podcast and while we were getting some great convos, I never truly got that ‘community’ established. Growth has been slow and the journey has been a bit discouraging.

I’ve certainly learned that there is a need for me to utilize more plug-ins to bring in either music, bot based chat room management, and a regularly scheduled sweepstakes. It seems that many that pop into my channel are looking for handouts so, I suppose I gotta work into that. I also feel the need to work on my commercial and intro/outro polish. While watching the ‘pros’ I’m regularly astounded by their various layouts for different games, their professionally made vids that act as commercials to big up other streamers, and so on.

I’ve also gotta work to secure my own personal streaming clique. If I’m going to grow, I’ve got to actually play with other streamers regularly. That is probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed. This can be a bit difficult until I find that one or two streamers that seem to always play the games I do. EdJohnsonPresentsNERD is on that wavelength somewhat but that was back when DirtyHelmet and I played a lot of Halo 5. That died down quickly as we both started playing a lot of The Division (man I wish those endgame issues could get ironed out). I love my #LORTStreamTeam fam but many of them don’t hit up the game roster that I frequent as well. Whelp, my #BunnehRaid will grow in time I’m sure.

bunny

Within that, I need to have the setup to allow myself to hear that streamer on my stream as well. I think I have that covered with the Elgato Chat Link Cable I purchased. During my hardcore Division days, the chat lag coupled with bad chat room audio really hurt my streams. I think I have that all resolved now.

Next up, I need to either utilize the green screen I’ve acquired or get a web cam the already strips out the background for me. This will help with doing custom videos, intros, and commercials as well since I’m trying to improve my video editing and content creation skills. I may even have to save up and buy Adobe Premiere. I currently use Pinnacle Studio but after watching a tutorial on how to make my own custom Borderlands boss intro style vids, I recognized that some features and default filters weren’t provided in Pinnacle. We’ll see though.

 

 

Parenting In A Trump-ist Society

(featured pic courtesy of weekendcollective.com)

 

Being passionate about politics was particularly foreign to me as a kid for quite some time. I would occasionally see talk about presidents and local government races and see that it was important but couldn’t really figure out why. As I prepare to vote this year, it amuses me how I’ve come from not really caring too much about politics to it becoming my number one concern. As I discuss it with my wife, we are both quickly learning that this race is affecting more than just our views on politics… its affecting our parenting as well.

09-27-ax-edittoon-clinton-and-trump-400x257-c-default

When I was in college in North Carolina, I got my first dose of needing to become political when known bigot and apartheid supporter named Jesse Helms was up for Senate re-election in 1996. My fellow Carolinians remember him as a stalwart conservative Republican who regularly stirred the fires of bigotry and hatred to get his victories (sound familiar).  I watched as virtually the entire campus of N. C. A&T SU talked about the election, held rallies to get everyone registered, and then encouraged as many as possible to vote. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as Senator Helms won for his 5th and final Senate term.

jessehelms

I began to do as we all seem to do with politics. I viewed anyone who considered themselves a Republican as someone who held the same racist views as Jesse Helms. A kind of guilty by association deal. I mean, I felt who would allow themselves to be affiliated with such a hate filled person and allow him to represent them? I quickly learned that it wasn’t quite that ‘black’ and ‘white’. Many didn’t agree with the bigotry that he spewed but because it didn’t affect them in a negative way, they dismissed that part of his platform. Denial…

Now as I am almost 40 now, I find my stomach turning as I delve into the social media posts, memes, and articles about the coming Presidential race. I’m exhausted and worried. Still, that passion is due to something else that has reared its ugly head in this troublesome Age of Trumpism. You could almost say the resurgence of Helms-ism.

Labeling aside the point is that Trump’s brash talk is encouraging the darkest and most selfish parts of this society to stand out and not be ashamed. His lack of empathy and his drive for ‘Making America Great Again’ has driven an emotional stake into the heart of civility. In a way, the Tea Party was the beginnings of this yet at that time, they were helmed by a circus of unimpressive gas bags. Still, their rhetoric made one trend… “Obama is to blame for everything”. Republicans made sure of that as they blocked and gummed up the works for any and everything that Obama tried to do in order to bring this country out of a deep recession. Whether or not he ‘did enough for minorities’, I thought Obama was the leader this country needed after years of hearing that the world hated us. Now, it seems that the world is sad to see Obama go and this election has the world worried as well and disappointed. I think… (drones strikes are not a great legacy to leave behind for the world to remember…)

I digress though. My wife and I both recognized that whether Trump wins or not, the ‘damage’ has been done. Politics aside, Trump’s ability to say what he wants and then blame the media if it is viewed negatively has enabled a dormant racist community in this country that millennials thought did not exist. There are even millenials whose ignorance of the pains, ills, and lingering wounds of the Civil Rights Movement in this country seem dangerously close to repeating the offenses that those before them committed. The result is an increasingly toxic climate that our kids are growing up in. As if it wasn’t already scary with the rash of police brutality and police department scandals popping up, now we’ve got people who agree with the whole Judge Dredd sense of justice.

As we both looked at our kids and the potential arguments they’ll face in their coming maturity, we recognize that finding the ‘facts’ are way more important and difficult. Unfortunately, journalists have been replaced with biased reporting and news media that fight for ratings rather than to reveal truth and … GASP… the news. We must warn them to avoid the social media bullies and educate them on the CORRECT way to use the internet to find truth. Unfortunately, even that seems to be a skill that should be taught in college nowadays…

Not only that, but teaching them that ‘political correctness’ isn’t quite something that should be tossed aside. As we watch Trump say what he wants and not see what is wrong, we have a growing community that values offending someone over respecting someone.

“If you’re offended by what I say then that means you’re too sensitive”

pc-trump

For quite some time we’ve had a culture that used certain terms that are offensive to minorities and gays and used the excuse that ‘we always used to say this and no one complained’ as an excuse. That ignorance bullied people into accepting the behavior even to the point that some would not be offended by the behavior. Doesn’t make that behavior right though. Disrespect should not be acceptable.

In addition to reclaiming respect as a value in our society, it’s clear that parenting today also needs to stress the importance of diversity. Seeing others differences as a strength is amazingly a new thing for a number of industries (*cough* Hollywood, STEM fields *cough*) Representation is important and showing our kids all they can do and become in this country is possible. It is also important to those whose communities are NOT diverse to see these positive representations as well. Otherwise, their views are skewed to negative portrayals of whatever culture they’ve little to no experience with.

Trust, these aren’t the ONLY things that I need to stress and in fact both of these things are even something that I didn’t intend to stress. Despite the fact I’ve never encountered KKK-styled racism to my face (that I can remember), I never thought that it didn’t exist. Having to question different things in my life as well as make heads or tails out of awkward questions and situations is a normal thing for me. Still, I’ve always been concerned with assuring my sons new their ‘identity’ in this country. It just feels horrid that the reality of Trumpism has skewed what I thought the country viewed.

With all of the technology and such at our kids disposal, thinking about what they’ll find and how truthful it is seldom crossed my mind before this election strangely enough. Truthfully, I even have a hard time determining what a ‘reliable source’ is.  One thing is for certain, though. US politics will never be the same.

 

 

Purple LEMONADE – A Weekend 2 Remember 4Ever

The weekend following the death of an ICON can mean quite a bit for a great many people. For years, I never understood why or even how a ‘regular’ person could be so devastated by the loss of a celebrity… until now.

The day that Prince passed,  my loving wife called me to let me know. At that time, I didn’t want to believe her and couldn’t process how I felt about it even possibly being true. Since I was particularly busy at work that day, I trudged on seemingly unaffected. Quickly, as I unknowingly came to terms with my personal connection that I had to Prince’s artistry, I lost that productive steam.

Not too long after my wife called, I read a quote on Twitter (that I can’t find now) that basically said that we don’t cry when celebrities/artists pass because we think we knew them, but simply because their art helped us know ourselves. I instantly took that post to heart and then went on to write my own Ode To Prince.

prince thisisthefilm

Once I was done, I’m not even certain if I noticed but I felt a bit relieved. Or rather like a wall that held my emotions in check had finally been lifted. The clouds rolled in and eventually, as I rode home, ‘it’ happened. While listening to “Sometimes It Snows In April”, I quickly lost composure and let loose a few tears. The song is so beautiful and accompanied the death of Prince’s character in the movie Under A Cherry Moon. Despite the movie not being particularly good, Prince’s soundtrack expertly complimented the various moods of the film from the comedic (which Prince and Jerome Benton were pretty good at) to the solemn.

Oddly enough, a number of friends and family reached out to me to be certain that I was alright. This stunned me mostly because for them, I was the biggest Prince fan they knew. I would constantly speak of his ability to float from genre to genre and why a common dream for my wife and I was to visit Minneapolis in hopes of chilling at Paisley Park. Hailed as a focal point of musical creativity, numerous artists have visited the Purple compound to listen to ‘The Vault’ or experience a new Paisley creation throughout the many years of Prince’s life.

I proceeded to listened to a Prince tribute channel on Satellite Radio that only played ‘Purple Music’ and then occasionally played covers and other songs that Prince wrote for other artists. It further reminded me of his intense dedication not only to music but to providing songs with a spiritual message. Prince used his music to promote his faith, the ills of American society from a black perspective, the hypocrisy of our culture and thinking, the dangers of the music industry, and so much more. There was always a message. Many casual and less than casual fans stuck to his sexuality and couldn’t get past his androgynous appearance at times which blinded them from his importance as an artist. Even as a die hard fan, I had to re-evaluate how I listened to his lyrics after reading various Prince biographies by Alan Light, Toure, and Matt Thorne. Each opened my eyes to how spiritual a majority of his music is as well as the immense amount of respect and conservatism he applies to his representation of sex AND women. Where most of us see sex as taboo, Prince saw sex as a connection to God.

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As I continue to listen to his most sensual songs, I’m also reminded of how his portrayal of passion affected my relationship with my wife. As a woman who is very guarded with her innermost emotions (especially her passion), she always preferred Prince’s music. I have realized that our connection to each other was also made stronger by our affinity for Prince’s music as well. She would often ask me for playlists to rock in her car or for choice selections when we’d lounge at home. Eventually, she would always end up asking me what I thought a certain song or lyric meant which would lead to a deeper discussion about our past or our life together. Deepening a bond that was already meant to be.

prince lotus

Later on that weekend, we found ourselves watching BET Soul on various television sets throughout the house as we cleaned in preparation for a house showing. From time to time, my wife and I would stop and watch to either reminisce or take in a new song or live performance we hadn’t seen or heard before.

And then… the mood quickly shifted as the evening set and my wife hipped my to a new visual album by Beyoncé called LEMONADE!


Watch live video from LadiesOfTheRoundTable on Twitch

As discussed on my Geekswagg Podcast with Makeda Dejene, Beyoncé effectively supplanted the loss of an icon with the birth of another in my eyes. Finally understanding the importance of music with a message, Beyoncé (whether it was a personal journey or not) delivered a STUNNING visual album filled with the undeniable energy of Warsan Shire’s poetry and well thought out visuals. This was all set to an album that is without a doubt my favorite of her catalogue. From start to finish, the shadows of what may or may not be a personal truth in her own life managed to send chills as I felt the pain and anger emoted through her music. Everything from relating to the betrayal of her father’s infidelity to highlighting the suppression of the strength of black women if not just women in general. Beyoncé is a BOSS!

beyonce boom

My wife and I both sat glued to the TV for the hour that it played on HBO and did not regret a second of it. Of course, the aftermath of its release on Saturday had the Beyhive bouncing all over the place from slamming Jay-Z to trying to see who #BeckyWithTheGoodHair was. There were many unfortunate targets an yet through it all, not a peep was released from the Carter household. BRILLIANT. Whether the lyricism is true or false in part or as a whole, the entire project throws her and her husband into a sort of mist of uncertainty that only those close to them can confirm (sound familiar to any Prince fans?).

Beyonce breeze

She’s taking risks. She’s making a stand. She’s brushing off all harsh criticism and becoming more than a pop star. She’s drawing a line in the sand for all who’ve come to respect her artistry. Now that she’s being wrongfully deemed as ‘racist’ due to a bit of sensitive imagery, I feel that she has finally ‘made it’. Welcome to icon status Beyoncé.

Sweet FORMATION…

beyonce super bowl

Nevertheless. The weekend of April 22nd, 2016 will forever be branded into my memory and that of my wife’s as well. In the meantime, let’s celebrate #PurpleMusic by enjoying Prince’s catalogue as we wait and hope for at least some of the vault to be shared with the world.

LOVE4ONEANOTHER

P.S. – For more insight on the significance of LEMONADE, check out an absolutely BEAUTIFUL explanation of how it related to the life of the author (Dominique Matti) entitled Why LEMONADE Is For Black Women Despite Centering A Man’s Misdeeds.

A Proud Gaming Father – Thanks X-Com

(originally posted on www.ladiesoftheroundtable.net | Jan. 2015)

Gaming and parenting always presents such an interesting challenge. With all of the M rated games the major consoles have as best sellers, many parents just wished Nintendo had a larger library with a better console. Alas, they do not and now gamer parents are force to constantly cringe every time we get into a Call of Duty lobby with 10 year olds who’s idea of party chatting is singing whatever comes to mind and spouting all kinds of racists obscenities that their parents have no clue that they’re saying. So when I speak to my son (who lives with my ex), I’m always paying close attention to the games that he says he’s interested in.

Recently, I was speaking to him and we frolicked through an enjoyable discussion where he talked about games like Five Night’s At Freddy’s, Destiny, Forza Horizon 2, and (surprisingly) XCOM Enemy Unknown. Now, the first three games mentioned were mostly expected when discussing his favorite games. I honestly thought the convo would lead to Halo or even Call of Duty (which I do not let him play), but instead the mention of XCOM honestly caught me off guard and instilled a since of pride.

 

Ever since my sister and I played and even allowed him to play a couple of years ago, he was captivated by the experience of sending a selected away team to drop in, achieve an objective (typically of alien extermination), and then plan for more, he was hooked. I suppose I forgot how interested he was in the back and forth that my sister and I had on countless phone convos as well as when we were playing the game together locally. He’d even interject at times his own suggestions.

So as I heard him say that this game was his most favorite game, that since of pride kind of surprised myself. During a discussion on the Geekswagg Podcast, I even asked DirtyHelmet if he had that moment of pride with his kids simply based on what game they actually liked. Instead of hearing a particular title, he had a moment when he saw his youngest daughter’s creation on Minecraft boasting that is was huge, beautiful, and something he probably could and never would do. Oddly enough, he still doesn’t really consider them true ‘gamers’. Their tastes are quite different from his yet they all have a decent amount of skill even in games like Call of Duty.

That brought me back to that age old question of “what is a real gamer?” Many of us tend to bully other gamers by mocking their gaming choices whether it is an affinity for mobile games, Dynasty Warriors games, sports only gamers, or FPS only gamers. It is quite regular for me to hear of people saying that console gamers aren’t ‘real’ gamers or those to stick to one or two game libraries aren’t gamers either. Honestly, I would like to think I am progressive enough to not subscribe to such short sighted views. It is hard enough for gamers to not get judged in the public eye when we say anything about our affinity for this time consuming past time.

(pic courtesy of gamespot.com)
(pic courtesy of gamespot.com)

 

So again, I wondered why I held a game like XCOM Enemy Unknown in such high esteem when it came to my son’s choice of favorite games? I suppose it is because the idea of playing a strategy game tends to activate an entirely different portion of the game than the reactionary and reflex intensive experiences of most action games. As a gaming advocate, I’ve always seen gaming as a relaxing escape that is similar to playing a TV show that you can control. Decision making is a constant part of gaming and I’d like to think that playing games of all types helps you to better make good decisions on the fly. While it’s a stretch, that’s what I hang my hat on.

With XCOM, I suppose I recognized that the decision making process is one that is in the forefront of the gameplay. Not only must you make decisions to figure out how to best take down that new enemy you alerted in the battlefield, but you must learn what decisions to make at your base to uncover better tech and raise more money. You are forced to think of what types of soldiers and weaponry are best for each mission type and whether helping one country over another is going to lead to keeping their threat level down or gaining that money or resources that you sorely need. There’s so much to consider with each decision and it forces you to think ahead across many steps rather than what is immediately in front of you.

I’d like to think playing games of this sort are a kind of necessary life lesson in that it shows the benefit of thinking ahead. In that I figure that my pride in my son’s intelligence was reaffirmed seeing him enjoying that kind of a mental exercise knowing that it isn’t for everyone. In a weird way I’d love to see his gaming tastes evolve to playing much more cerebral games involving more puzzles and a bit less violence but I’ll take what I can get here.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I consider him any more or less a gamer for this choice though. His desire to play games ALL DAY and become a game tester when he grows up (which I told him was NOT a good idea by the way) essentially confirmed that long before his choice in games did. Still, I’m sure the hardcore gamer debate will continue forever.

In the meantime, I thank you Firaxis Games. You’ve made me a proud father in gaming.

The Podcast Journey – From Movie Maker to Pinnacle Studio

Podcasting is a fulfilling and exhausting hobby that has its ups and downs. Considering that, for myself, the effort is purely a hobby / freelance gig, the experience has provided me with a number of interesting opportunities and experiences that I’m sure will continue to increase as I go along.

When I started podcasting roughly 3 or so years ago, I cobbled together tech and software to push out a show with my friend Jason “DirtyHelmet” as an unexpected realization of a dream we both had. For the longest time, we’ve enjoyed playing and discussing video games to the point that co-workers would listen to us chatting and begin asking us questions. At first, the questions were around what to and not to purchase for their children. After a while, other gamers at work would hear about interviews I had done and the questions evolved to personal suggestions on games to try out. I’m not certain why but the joy of introducing people to a gaming franchise that they can be passionate about is a great feeling.

Watch live video from Bunneh3000 on www.twitch.tv

What I did notice is that as my podcasting efforts grew, my writing began to take a backseat. The time I was usually spending writing reviews I ended up reserving for gameplay recording and planning out for video reviews. Not to mention the time needed for hoisting the social media banner, searching for guests, and networking. Of course, as I lept into this new skill set, I quickly realized the immense amount of time that video editing takes. I remember spending almost 5-6 hours creating, editing, and finalizing a 4-5 minute video game review taken from hours of personally recorded gameplay! It is not a process to be taken lightly!

 

For the longest, I had been using Microsoft’s simplistic Movie Maker app to do all of my creation. Now that I have a basic understanding of the process, I’ve taken the next step by paying for a cheap copy of Pinnacle Studio 16 and have dedicated myself to redoing all of the intro and outro vids. On top of that, I’m hoping that I can piece together Mechwarrior Online videos previewing or demonstrating my tactics and customization preferences. This should be some really good practice as I have quite a bit of footage with each that I can use or I can simply do ‘live’ sessions on Twitch.tv. Honestly, that might be preferred since it is easier to simply let her rip and record…mistakes and all!

Now, my next goal is to upgrade the quality of the actual stream. I use Xsplit Broadcaster since I’m too lazy to figure out and use OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) myself. It works well even though I have to pay to use it (can’t integrate Skype without paying). It has been a great platform to use given its easy UI and setup. I’m in the process of either trying to make my own overlay or commissioning someone to create one for me so that I can spruce up the look of the gaming sessions. In the venture, I’ve attempted to use a new application called GameShow which is a new template for making your own overlays as well as streaming. It seems pretty handy but my first encounter with trying to make my own overlay didn’t look very good. I’ll have to keep at it.

When it comes to making the podcast look better, I’m hoping that I can either learn how to put individual video feeds in their own separate windows wherever I want on the screen. Either that or have someone do it for me. I plan on somehow getting someone to volunteer to do that for me or figure out how to pay for them to do it. This is critical for me considering my best shows are interviews and the talent I want to bring in is really tied to the film and TV industries. I think having guests of that caliber would REALLY boost my viewership. Problem is that I’m a bit embarrassed by my setup and my ‘feed quality’ since I’m doing the show LIVE on Twitch. I may be able to arrange some actual studio time to do the interviews but the ball hasn’t gotten rolling in that court as of yet thanks to my home life needs and schedule.

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Another way to upgrade the quality was in buying a new webcam. I snagged the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 and can’t wait to get it! With the whole autofocus and clearer picture, I’m hoping I’ll get the ‘grainy’ out of my vids and be able to eventually get a green screen (for cheap) to enhance my presentation!

In the meantime, I’m hoping that I can get the word out to other established podcasts that I’m a great guest… somehow. In that venture, I figure I need to either create something to promote or build an audience sizable enough to bring interest to another show. Hard sell either way but I’m game. I suppose that goes with networking so…on with the connects!

Til next time folks!

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