Inside deserves all of the praise: an intentionally vague reaction post

My favorite games are heavy on the story. They’re mostly narrative-driven action or RPG games, with all of the fancy CGI cut-scenes and extensive dialogue. But every once in a blue moon, a game can come along and tell a story without saying a word.

A lot of people are casting Inside as their early game-of-the-year pick, and I’m in that company.

From the very beginning, you’re thrust into a world with no direction. There are no tutorials to be found here. No on-screen guides to tell you what objects you can and cannot manipulate. You’re as helpless as the in-game character, just trying to absorb the surroundings and figure things out along the way. In an era where a lot of games feel “dumbed down,” so to speak, Inside doesn’t.

And the game never lets up. It’s a puzzle-platforming hybrid, introducing new mechanics just long enough to toss them out for new ones. Again, with no hints. You’ll probably die a lot throughout the course of the game, not in the monotonous-slash-frustrating Dark Souls way  — you likely won’t die two-dozen deaths in one location  — but simply because you haven’t figured out where you’re supposed to go in a new area, especially if an enemy is in pursuit. Learning how to progress isn’t time-consuming, but it’s satisfying, nonetheless.

And that story. Whoa. Again, there is no dialogue in the game. The entire story is told using the gameplay and the atmosphere. Both do a spectacular job. Inside is the kind of game that will have you Googling theories as to what it all means, because you’ll be both intrigued and disturbed when you reach the credits. I’ll mention nothing — I’d prefer you experience it yourself.

tl;dr Inside is an experience you, as a gamer (on Xbox One now, and on Windows July 7), should have. I don’t do numbers. I do whether you should play it or not. You should.

This guy is really good at Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

On Twitch and YouTube, he goes by the name Summoning Salt. Over the past several days, this speedrunner has been trying to overtake his own Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! world record of 15:31.66.

Last night, he did it. The new world record is now 15:12.14.

As someone who loves (but isn’t very good at) MTPO, the clip above is truly something to behold. Who knew that every single opponent in the game can be downed in the first round, many in under a minute? As it turns out, each match has a recipe to follow. Punching at a certain time, ducking or moving in a certain way — these bring on actions from your opponent that put you in a better position to win, and win quickly.

Is it foolproof? Unfortunately, it isn’t. There is some randomness thrown in, so a player can still be tripped up, even on a seemingly perfect run. But sometimes, the game will accidentally offer up a gift, too, like an extra star for an uppercut. The embed below is Summoning Salt’s “victory lap” of sorts — running through the game one more time while he explains where he got lucky and where he didn’t. If you geek out on this kind of thing, it’s definitely worth the watch (skip to about 02:45).

Watch live video from Summoningsalt on www.twitch.tv

Ellen Pao and Reddit

Ellen Pao has been the target of unyielding harassment over the past several months; from unhappy Redditors who didn’t like her policies, and from chauvinists who saw her as a “money-grabber”.

She’s probably read heaps of ugly words. I’m sure it was tough to miss the Hitler Photoshops. She’s been put on trial thousands of times, each sentence one-upping the last. No one should have to endure that.

I think Reddit board member Sam Altman said it best: “People are still people even if there is Internet between you.”

Ellen Pao is smart. You’d have to be to navigate that sludge. She’ll go somewhere else and be an outstanding CEO. Maybe she’ll create her own startup. She could be a great fit in a lot of places.

Was she a great fit for Reddit? No. And you’re allowed to hold that opinion without being part of the angry mob.

*

Reddit is a strange beast. All websites are dependent on visitors. But not many are almost entirely run by their users. And not all users are as well-organized as they are on Reddit.

How many “boycott Facebook” posts have we seen? Anytime Facebook makes a controversial change, users get all riled up, swear they’re quitting… and then they continue using Facebook. Meanwhile, on Reddit, the executive team made a personnel decision the community didn’t like, and Reddit’s most heavily trafficked sections ceased to operate.

That is power. And it speaks to just how much Reddit is at the mercy of its users. Those users hold certain beliefs about how the site should be run, and they aren’t big on interference.

Just as you wouldn’t go into a relationship and try to dramatically change your significant other, the next person who leads Reddit has to accept it for what it is; a flawed community. The newest CEO is founder (and former CEO) Steve Huffman. He knows Reddit very well. He’s familiar with the site’s ideals. He could work out.

But it’s worth noting that Steve will have to answer to the same owners Ellen Pao did. Those owners answer to shareholders, and those shareholders want growth. That growth will have to come from change, and it’ll be up to Steve Huffman to walk the tightrope of introducing that change while keeping the community happy.

It won’t be easy. Ask Ellen Pao.

Well, I’ll Have Some More Free Time Now

Seven-hundred and fifty-nine. That is the number of stories I published at BestTechie over the past two and a half years.

759.

Some received few visitors. Some received many. Some generated great discussion. Some brought out the trolls.

Some made me feel, for just a second, that I actually might not be bad at this. Interviews, for instance, or any post where I got even slightly ranty. Others made me feel doubt. Like, how do I interest people in a story about firewalls and… yeah, see, I’ve already lost you.

This past week, we were informed that BestTechie would scale back so that more resources could be devoted to KYA. Long story short: Mr. Brian P. Rubin and I (the only two left) would no longer be paid writers at the site.

I was (extremely) part-time — so I will be totally fine. Brian was, too, and he actually writes quite a bit for ReadWrite now. So you can go check him out there.

It’s been such a blast, honestly.

I have to thank Jeff for keeping me around for so long, and thank everyone who ever wrote at the site at one point or another (Brian, Landon, Cassie). We also had some pretty cool ladies at Knock 2x helping us out with some things. And to the countless PR folks who took the time to learn what I liked to write about and didn’t send me the same pitch five times a week… thank you. :)

I’m not eager to give up the title of “tech blogger” just yet, by the way. That’s not a thing that’s going to happen. I will still be keeping an eye on the space, and I will still write about stories I like, or that I feel should be fleshed out more. Those posts will show up here for the time being.

There was a podcast idea kicked around, as well. That was originally going to be hosted on BestTechie, but I’m still very interested in doing it.

Anyway, that’s all. When I know more, so will you.

Onward.

For the Sake of Gaming, Let’s Hope Nintendo Watched the News Today

The battle for next-generation supremacy began last year at E3, and it continues today. Unfortunately, there are only two participants: Sony and Microsoft.

After the debacle that was the PS3 launch, Sony worked hard to please gamers over the course of that console’s life, and with the launch of the PS4. Microsoft, the darling of the last generation, got a bit full of itself with the launch of the Xbox One, but today’s announcements show the company is committed to righting its wrongs with that console.

The odd company out is Nintendo, a company that seems unwilling to help its own cause.

Like the Xbox One, the Wii U is bundled with a fairly expensive accessory that isn’t all that necessary for gaming on the system. Like Microsoft, Nintendo claims the Wii U Gamepad is a major selling point; a “differentiator.” And, like the Kinect, the Gamepad has shown small flashes of brilliance, but it’s mostly been underutilized and has added to the price tag of a system that is more expensive than it should be.

Microsoft, whose Xbox One is outselling the Wii U substantially despite having only been on the market for six months (compared to the Wii U’s year and a half) made tough decisions in order to play for first instead of second. I have no doubt that we’re going to get a better next-generation contest as a result. But it could be a whole lot better if Nintendo were playing for first itself, instead of being satisfied with a distant third.

Perhaps today’s move by Microsoft will change Nintendo’s mind about dropping both the Wii U Gamepad and the console’s price.

Does Nintendo Deserve to Die?

I’m a fan of Nintendo. For that reason, I want the Wii U to be a success.

Part of me can’t wrap my head around the idea of Nintendo developing games for third-party platforms, because I look at what that did to the once-proud Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. It ruined it.

Another part of me feels that the industry needs that third player in the game to keep things interesting.

But Nintendo just isn’t doing itself any favors. The company has stubbornly gone its own way on many occasions when the industry and its consumers went another. The company balked at high-definition in 2006. It still hasn’t put together any kind of meaningful online multiplayer system, despite the original Xbox debuting one back in 2002.

And now the company has the Wii U, a home console that lacks both an identity and a healthy third-party library. Outside of developing more first-party titles and releasing them every couple of months, there’s not a whole lot Nintendo can do to add games. Moving more systems would get more developers interested, but Nintendo refuses to drop the console’s price any lower.

Mario Kart 8 comes out in May, and I assume that the company sees that game as its Titanfall; the game that will finally get Wii U consoles flying off of store shelves (a year and a half after release). If that doesn’t happen, though, look out.

Xbox Live ‘Games with Gold’ vs. PlayStation Plus ‘Instant Game Collection’

Both Microsoft and Sony offer “free games” with their respective subscription services. Microsoft’s Xbox Live has Games with Gold, and Sony’s PlayStation Plus has the Instant Game Collection. When discussing the two, you usually see the same arguments for each side.

Xbox fans will say that Microsoft lets you “own” your free games, even if you cancel Xbox Live. They’ll say Sony is merely “renting” games to you.

PlayStation fans will say that Sony is offering higher-quality titles.

Both sides are correct — sort of. What the Xbox fans are missing is that “ownership” isn’t ownership when it comes to digital games.

Yes, you can keep your Xbox games and play them after you’ve canceled Xbox Live. But you’re merely licensing a digital copy of that game. You don’t own it. You can’t resell it. You can’t let someone borrow it. And should something happen to your Xbox 360 a few years down the line, you might not get that game back. It’ll be as though you never had it.

Let’s say that, in five years, both your Xbox 360 and your PlayStation 3 bite the dust. If the servers are pulled offline for both systems, you’ll have zero digital games. It doesn’t matter if you “rented” them or if they were “given” to you.

This is why I believe digital copies should be priced way lower than physical copies. And it’s why I don’t place a lot of stock in owning digital games.

Instead of thinking of it as “renting” versus “owning,” ask, “which will provide me with the best experience?”

Personally, I’d rather be playing AAA titles.

WhatsApp Voice Calls Aren’t a Big Deal

The newly-acquired WhatsApp plans to add voice calls to its service.

Here’s a link to an NBC News article about the new feature.

And here’s a quote:

The news that the most powerful of them was adding voice calls to its service will likely be seen as worrying for telecom operators globally, which got about $120 billion from text messaging last year, according to market researcher Ovum.

Here’s why I don’t think this move is worrying anybody.

Cell phone minutes — especially those on a smartphone — are things many haven’t had to keep track of since 2007. Ever since the modern-day smartphone came to be, voice communication has taken a hit and text/data communication has gone up.

Remember when we had a finite number of minutes, a finite number of text messages and unlimited data? Fast forward to present day, and we have unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and data caps.

Voice isn’t where the money’s at for carriers anymore. Texts aren’t raking in the bucks, either. It’s data.

The smarter our smartphones get, the more data we’ll use and the more carriers will be able to charge. WhatsApp voice calls will need data. And we’ll still need to pay for line access so our smartphones can be phones when necessary. So carriers will get their money regardless of how we use their networks, and maybe a little more.

The only thing that could possibly worry carriers is free, ubiquitous Wi-Fi, because it would allow consumers to bypass carriers entirely. Good luck getting that.

A Quick Two Cents on Comcast & Time Warner Cable

It seems a lot of people are not thrilled about the prospect of Comcast buying Time Warner Cable. I’m one of them. A transaction like this one, where #1 and #2 are joining, should benefit the public in some way. I don’t think that would be the case here.

Comcast is absolutely right when it says not much will change. Comcast and Time Warner Cable both have monopolies in their respective regions. Joining the two won’t decrease competition today, as the two companies don’t really go toe to toe in many markets.

The thing is, if Comcast is allowed to buy TWC, that means TWC won’t ever have the chance to enter Comcast’s territory to compete. Time Warner Cable may be number two, but it has the best shot at expanding into the markets that Comcast currently serves. An acquisition would leave it up to Cox (a very-distant third) to apply pressure.

When you look at it that way, the purchase would remove any shot at meaningful competition in the future. That is bad for consumers.

Comcast has made it a point to keep us focused on the TV side of things (and the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board did a great job following the laser pointer) but broadband is what’s really at stake here. So while Comcast is pointing to services like Netflix and Hulu as reasons the deal should go through, look instead at the number of broadband options you have in your neighborhood, and then remember that Comcast wants to acquire the only cable broadband provider with a shot at catching up.

If government regulators do their jobs, this deal won’t go through.

What the PS4 Does Right That the Xbox One Does Wrong

This.

ps4-digital-code

One of the biggest complaints from Xbox owners (both on the 360 and the One) is that digital games are too expensive. It’s a legitimate beef. Buying digital means you can’t resell a game or let a friend borrow it. So why are digital titles sometimes more expensive than their physical counterparts?

As far as the Xboxes are concerned, the answer is pretty simple: Microsoft is the only company selling digital games. There are no competitors, so the company has no motivation whatsoever to lower its prices.

Sony, on the other hand, allows other retailers to sell game codes. If you don’t like Sony’s price on a digital copy of Killzone ($59.99), you can buy it from Amazon instead ($43.01).

When asked about competitive digital game pricing in a Reddit thread, Microsoft’s Larry Hryb stated that it is “on the agenda.” Should the company need some direction, it should look no further than its biggest competitor.