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Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Yoko Shimomura

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The gaming industry would not be the same without Yoko Shimomura. She is a talented composer and musician. Yoko has used these talents to bring some of our favorite video games to life.

Yoko was born in Japan in 1967. She started playing the piano at a young age and found that she really enjoyed it. Yoko then graduated from Osaka College of Music in 1988.  After graduating Yoko knew that she had options on how she could share her talents with the rest of the world. She knew that her music had the power to make the world a better place.

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She decided to pursue a career in a field where she would become one of the most famous video game composers in the world. Yoko started her journey by working for Capcom. From 1993 to 2002 Yoko worked for Square Enix. From 2003 on Yoko has been working as a freelance composer.

Yoko has given life and beauty to many different video games throughout the years. She has worked on the Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam soundtrack to give it a lighter and more upbeat feel. Gamers can listen to Yoko’s stylings as they restore the land in the Legend of Mana soundtrack. Anther popular RPG is the Kingdom Hearts games which Yoko also lent her talents to. Final Fantasy XY has also benefited from Yoko’s talents as a composer.
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Yoko Shimomura has given the world of gamers much beauty. She shows that all kinds of talents are needed to make the gaming industry great. She has taken risks to bring her music to the world and they have, thankfully, paid off. Yoko is an example of how hard work and creativity makes the world a richer place to live. Sometimes your talent can even make multiple worlds richer.

Always keep sparkling.

Games to Get Excited About: April 2018

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April is a short month for video game releases, but there are a couple of good titles in the mix, and a couple that I think people are going to be pretty excited about.  We also have some of the Nintendo Labo kits coming out, which aren’t games, but I’m sure there are some young gamers out there looking forward to these.

When the original Pillars of Eternity released, it was a great day for fans of classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale.  Those games are remembered fondly for their style, scope, and scale.  They set the foundation for the RPGs we have today.  Newer RPGs may be prettier, and have more bells and whistles, but people still consider those old school games to be the best.  Pillars of Eternity was a true callback to those games that created so much of what’s used in RPGs today.

Why I’m Excited

I haven’t played the original game yet, there’s just too many games and not enough time.  It is on my list to get around to and I’m glad to know that this type of RPG is still viable in the market.  These are the types of games I devoured in the mid 90s and I still love them.  This release just means I have more to look forward to when my schedule and budget allow.

I’m also excited because the developer, Obsidian, is basically made up of the people who gave us those classic RPGs we love.  They came from Interplay, which was part of Black Isle.  They helped bring us Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, Knight of the Old Republic II and quite a few other great RPGs.  They know their stuff, so it’s no wonder the original Pillars turned out to be so well received.  They have also chosen the crowd funding path with this one, which will allow them the creative freedom to deliver the game they want.

Pillars of Eternity II is set to release for PC on the 3rd, and consoles later in the year.  The developer notes that they are addressing some criticism of the first game and making some changes that should make fans happy.  This will be set in a new part of the game’s world so that players will see new landscapes and people.  They also say that the player’s actions in the first game will have an impact on this one, so that makes me think there will be some sort of saved game transfer like we saw with those older games.

In the story for Deadfire, the player will chase down Eothas, the God that you faced down in the first one.  Eothas escaped and the player travels to Deadfire Archipelago to find out what’s going on.  It will feature the usual conversation complexity and companion interaction we’ve come to expect.  This one, however, also adds a seafaring element.  A customizable ship/base from which to launch your adventure and use as a headquarters.  Sounds like a lot of fun.

Other Notable Releases for April

Extinction – Coming early in the month is a game from Iron Galaxy that will pit players, as a human warrior defending humanity from an invasion of 150ft tall monsters called “Ogres”.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life – The next installment of this action adventure series drops on the 17th for PS4.  The release will include other games in the package like Virtual Fighter 5 and Puyo Puyo.

God of War – Unofficially God of War 4; this game will take our hero to the frigid north to fight monsters of Norse legend along with his son Atreus.  It will hit PS4 on the 20th.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II – The second installment of this JRPG title comes out at the end of the month on PS4.  It was released for PC back in February.

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry- Kate Edwards

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In 2012, the International Game Developers Association needed a new director. Thankfully IGDA choose Kate Edwards. Really, it wasn’t a hard choice to elect Kate Edwards. She is a talented and intelligent person who uses her unique perspective to problem solve.

Kate Edwards really is an amazing brain. She is an applied geographer, writer, and content culturalization strategist. Kate’s background includes geography, cartography and geopolitics. She has traveled extensively which has given her wonderful perspective. All of this education and experience are tools that Kate successfully uses.

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After taking on the mantle of Director of IGDA Kate used her power in the best way. For the betterment of those who didn’t have a voice in the industry. She forayed her raining and talents to help tackle some very difficult problems for the network of the world’s game developers. Kate took a firm stand about Gamergate and sexism in the gaming industry. She also was outspoken about the topics of diversity and unpaid “crunch” time

Kate resigned as Director of the IGDA in 2017. She stated; “I felt it’s time for me to move on. When I first took the IGDA role, I told the board that this is likely a three- to five-year mission for me, and here I am nearly at five years. My top goals were to reinvigorate the IGDA’s relevance, reinstate the IGDA’s core mission as an advocacy org and voice for game developers (not companies), and to emphasize the ‘I’ part of the IGDA and strengthen our international presence.” Kate believed that after five years it was time for someone with a different skill set to help IGDA continue to move forward.

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In short Kate Edwards has made our world a little better place through her hard work at IGDA. She took an unflinching stand against injustice. She made the road a little easier for those in the gaming industry moving forward. Kate has shown us that by being brave and hard working you can make a change in the gaming industry. She has also had a good time doing it in cosplay.

Always keep sparkling!

Games to Get Excited About: March 2018

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The end of first quarter of 2018 is packed full of game releases, including two games specifically for PlayStation VR.  We have Final Fantasy XV finally coming to the PC, an HD re-release of the Devil May Cry series as well as continuations of series like Far Cry, Valkyria Chronicles, and Attack on Titan.  Honestly, though, this month there’s not one game I’m personally interested in, but I know there’s one that many people are looking forward to.

Far Cry 5 is the latest installment in a popular adventure shooter series coming near the end of the month.  Set in the fictional county of Hope, Montana, the game will follow a religious cult and the sheriff deputy (the player) sent to stop them.  The development of the game has taken longer than expected, releasing this year rather than back in 2017.  The player will be able to recruit allies from the local townspeople in the game as well as taming animals to assist with the mission.

Why People are Excited

Far Cry is a very popular series and this game has had a lot of talk around it already due to heightened political discourse.  Setting the game closer to home for a lot of people, instead of some exotic far-away land, has caused speculation about whether the game has some hidden meaning or not.  There was even a petition to change the game’s protagonists from American Christian fundamentalists to a group of Muslims.  Most gamers that I know took the petition as satire, which it very likely was, but it certainly stoked the flames of discussion.

For the important part, the game itself, it looks like Ubisoft plans to deliver a thought-provoking story with a couple of new game mechanics.  The writers want to explore the theme of separatism and what drives citizens to become so disenfranchised that they turn away from their own government.  What causes people who live in such a free and open society to turn against it so dramatically?  Dan Hay said the story looks at the consequences of belief and ideology taken to their extreme.  In the current climate of extremes from all sides, it’s a bold story to present, and hopefully one that they deliver well.

Right from the start, a new feature in this release is to introduce a character generator.  Rather than play a pre-defined character made by the developers, the player will be able to make their own.  They’re also bringing back an element from previous games which allows you to lean around corners again.  We’ll also see a wider selection of close-quarters weapons as the game focuses a little more on melee combat.  In this installment, the player will navigate the open world by way of outposts, working their way through the story by liberating them from cultists.  The writing and outpost element is meant to create a world where no two players should experience the game the same way, as each outpost can be found and overcome from different angles and at different times.

Other Notable Releases for March

Final Fantasy XV – The latest installment of Final Fantasy that released in November for other systems will be coming to PC on March 6th.

Devil May Cry HD Collection – An HD remake of this series will hit PC, PS4 and XBO on the 13th of March.

Kirby Star Allies – This side-down platformer is coming on March 16th to continue the Kirby series on the Nintendo Switch.

Attack on Titan 2 – The sequel to the game based on the popular manga and anime is coming to all major systems on the 20th.

Sea of Thieves – A new title from Rare to XBO and PC on the 20th as well. Cross platform play is promised in this cooperative naval combat game with a pirate theme.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 – The fourth installment of this strategy game is hitting the PS4 on March 21st and will introduce a new class and cast of characters.

Agony – A new title hitting PC, PS4, and XBO on the 30th will put players in hell as a tormented soul trying to survive and escape.

Games to Get Excited About: February 2018

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2018 promises to be a good year for geeks with a lot of exciting movies coming our way.  Gaming is no exception and February is packed with some interesting titles.  We Were Here Too looks cool; a sort of adventure exploration game where two players communicate over walkie-talkie in order to find their way out of a medieval castle.  Shadow of the Colossus has been remade and is being released for PS4.  Also with the release of Bayonetta 2, the original game will also be releasing on the Nintendo Switch.

There’s one release this month that I am excited about, and hoping I can pick it up for streams in the next month or so.  The history nerd, and gaming geek in me is excited for Kingdom Come: Deliverance.  This game had a rocky start with lack of interest and funding for a game from the newly formed Warhorse Studios.  It looked, for a time, like this game would be just another game that seemed like a great idea but never saw the light of day.

In 2014 a Kickstarter was launched to earn enough money to prove there would be interested enough to justify funding.  They secured the needed funds, and have since pulled in over $2 million.  It will finally come to us in a full release on the 13th of the month after being in beta since March of 2015.

Why am I excited?

Unlike a lot of RPGs, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is going to strive to be historically accurate rather than set in a fantasy world.  The game promises period appropriate architecture, clothing, armor and weapons from early 1400’s Bohemia (modern day  Czech Republic).  In the story the old king has died and the new king’s brother kidnaps him in a plot to seize the crown.  The player takes on the role of the son of a blacksmith, whose parents were killed in the war.  You will seek revenge for the killing of your parents, and attempt to restore the rightful king to his throne.  I love the idea of a historical fiction RPG, which isn’t a very common concept in gaming.  We get a ton of fantasy, science fiction, or variations of those but not many that try to replicate a time in Earth’s history.  I love RPGs, video games, and I’m a huge history nerd so this game appeals to so much of what I enjoy.

The game seems to put a lot of consideration into the details as well.  Your armor and gear will wear down and need repairs.  You’ll need to eat, sleep, and otherwise maintain your character’s health.  Even the horses have their own AI, can fight along with you, and have their own set of skills and equipment slots.  Every NPC has tasks that they perform in their daily lives, and the player’s actions have an affect on them.  From the description it looks like this will be a truly immersive RPG where player actions and conversations will have an impact on the world of the game.

They’ve even gone as far as layered armors and having their damage and wear show on the character’s appearance.  Skills will change when they are used.  Combat will include a variety of moves, defenses, and tactics all modified by a kinetic system where blows can affect what you can do and how fast you can do it.  You can commit crimes, but they can change the game’s economics and how NPCs react to your character.  The level of detail is impressive and it sounds like this will be a fantastic game if they pull it off as promised.

Notable Releases for February

Shadow of the Colossus – A remake of the original is coming to the PS4 early in the month.  This is a complete rebuild from the frame up but it will retain its original game play.

Civilization VI: Rise and Fall – The first expansion for Civilization VI adding several new features, including the ability for your society to rise and fall due to several factors.

Dragon Quest Builders – This game will see players take the role of a hero setting out to rebuild the world after its destruction.  Game play will be along similar lines of other block building games like Minecraft or Terraria.

Dynasty Warriors 9 – This next release of the popular hack and slash action game releases on the 13th of the month.  It will include stealth elements and introduce an open world format.

Secret of Mana – This is a full 3D remake of the 1993 Super Nintendo release of the same name.  It will release in the middle of the month.

Bayonetta 2 – The sequel to the popular action game Bayonetta will release in the middle of the month as well.  It comes to us on the Nintendo Switch along with a re-release of the original on the same system.

Influential Female Characters: Keyleth

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Most of my readers and our fans know that when I started gaming again, my Dungeon Master suggested I watch some Critical Role to help me. I have a habit of getting stuck in my own head and being too worried about rules to just play and have fun. The show did help and also give me the idea to try what has become my favorite class in D&D because of  the Druid, Keyleth. I felt for Keyleth because her backstory. I was also really interested in her powers. I started playing Druids and that has become the class which I feel most comfortable, but I would never have chosen that class so quickly if not for watching Keyleth.

Keyleth is a Druid of the Air Ashari. Without giving away too much for those readers who are catching up on Critical Role, here is a little bit of her backstory. Keyleth has always been a talented druid, even when she was a child. Her father was the Arch Druid of her people and her mother left at an early age. Keyleth’s  father sees her potential and chooses her to be his successor. As it is then explained in the old intro, “ Just like that, her jovial childhood was stripped and replaced with endless spell memorization, teachings from ancient traditions, and exceedingly high expectations.” Here, I thought my school days were rough. 

 

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We never really hear about Keyleth having childhood friends. Nor, as it would seem,  has she had a lot of socialization till she is sent away from her tribe. When her father thinks she is ready, Keyleth is sent on a journey to the other Ashari tribes to “establish respect” with their leaders where she becomes a member of Vox Machina, what the group is known as, along the way. Because of this upbringing Keyleth is awkward and, at times, socially inept. She is also reckless in times of stress.

Keyleth is played by Marisha Ray who is not only a gamer, but also an actress and writer. Marisha often comes under fire for her style of gameplay. There are many reasons for why viewers don’t enjoy how she plays. Some of which are because of how their Dungeon Master allows his players to experiment and, some say, he is not enough of a rule enforcer. Marisha also really commits to playing Keyleth, flaws and all. She doesn’t polish her just because she isn’t the most popular character. I know that some of her particularly cringe-worthy moments make it difficult for me to watch her as well.

That being said, I give Marisha a lot of credit. She took a character who comes from a strict and sheltered religious background to thrust her into the world which does not follow the rules. Keyleth has gone through a lot of growing and evolving throughtout the game thus far. She has put aside many of the religious beliefs that she grew up with and has had to learn how to interact with people who have not. Keyleth continues to find her own strength and control over her powers. This has been particularly hard for her since they scare her at times. She also has come to terms with guilt that she continues to bury throughout the game.

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In short, Keyleth is an evolving and flawed character. She is very real because of her flaws. She is kind. She feels things very deeply, including remorse when she makes a mistake. Keyleth is struggling to be worthy of the responsibilities thrust upon her by others. She is finding herself, making herself better and helping those around her.

Keyleth helped me to understand that it is okay for me to play characters who unflinchingly believe in good. That I can play a character who isn’t a perfect hero from jump. Marisha has taught me that it is okay to make a mistake in game and learn from it. Keyleth inspires me to be creative with my characters. To allow an awkward moment to happen if it is what I think my character would do at the time.

She is a great example of being present in the moment of gameplay. Of going with your gut as a player. Of taking a risk because it might lead to something awesome. Keyleth is all of us just trying to figure the world out. She is us trying to figure ourselves out. Keyleth is all of us, just with awesome powers and a really cool headpiece.

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Check out episodes of Critical Role here.  

You can listen to a pretty rad soundtrack that Marisha put together for Keyleth here.

Always keep sparkling!

Games to Get Excited About: January 2018

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I had to take a short hiatus, which meant less game-type excitement over the last half of the year.  Now I’m moved, settled, and looking forward to bringing you all sorts of great stuff in the new year.  Here we go!

January is always a little slow for game releases.  The holidays are booming with new things as studios and publishers try to catch those gift-giving sales and last minute shoppers.  That doesn’t mean we are without anything to look forward to as we ring in the New Year.  In particular we have several releases for consoles, most of which are based on anime titles, as well as current Japanese games getting released in the states.

The one that’s looking the most interesting to me is Lost Sphear.  It’s being called the spiritual successor to I Am Setsuna, also from the developer Tokyo RPG Factory.  It is being published by Square Enix and has been available in Japan since October.  It will release for us in North America on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4.  Despite good reviews and praise for its similarity to Chrono Trigger, the Japanese release of Lost Sphear didn’t sell as well as the previous title.

Why We Should be Excited

Square Enix created Tokyo RPG Factory for the sole purpose of creating JRPGs with a 90’s feel.  Some of you may be too young to remember the 90’s, but that era gave us some of the best and most influential RPGs.  Many set the stage for the games we have today –  the primary reason I showcase them on my own YouTube channel every Monday night.  It may be a good reason to pull Lost Sphear and its predecessor into my Saturday show to explore a new game built in a classic style.

The game’s story follows a familiar theme for a JRPG.  Young Kanata and his friends must discover the cause of something plaguing their home and eventually save the world.  Looking through the screenshots it appears to be built like a classic top-down game with turn based combat mechanics.  The graphics are more modern while keeping the feel of games like those early in the Final Fantasy series.

Notable Releases for January

Death Mark – Coming to the Switch and PS4 on the 19th, Death Mark is a horror adventure game previously released on the Vita.  The game centers around a group of people who have received a strange mark, driving them toward a mysterious mansion to find answers.

Dragon Ball FighterZ – A fighting game that borrows from other popular titles like Marvel vs. Capcom, this game comes to PC, PS4 and XBOX on the 26th of January.  It will be a tag team style game where players select three characters and can use one in an assist move against their opponent.

Monster Hunter: World – This open world action RPG is coming to XBOX, PC and PS4 on the 26th.  Much like the other games in the franchise, the game centers on capturing creatures to be studied.  Players will have single player as well as multiplayer available as well as many of the features, weapons and skills found in previous Monster Hunter titles.

As I said, light on the releases but it’s early in the year and close to the holidays.  I’m sure we have more exciting games coming as the year marches on.