Category Archives: entertainment

MyGamer.com: The 3D Empire Strikes Back

(This is an editorial I wrote for MyGamer.com back in 2004.)

Is it me, or are we caught in a time-loop? What was fashionable in the 90’s seems to be making a comeback. Amidst uncertain economic and political times, we have: another Bush in the White House, a war in the Middle East, and a deficit the size of Ben Affleck’s head. Much in the same way, it seems that we are experiencing a comeback in gaming trends. While modern updates of classic titles are old-hat, other practices by the gaming industry are returning as well, and their iron-fisted tactics are even less welcome than the recent 3D rehashes of E.T. and Pong combined.

As an avid gamer, I like to keep informed on the latest news. There are several websites and forums that I frequent for my gaming journalism fill. While cruising through various forums one day, a blurb caught me off-guard. Viewtiful Joe, the GameCube-exclusive action-platformer, was rumored to be heading to the PlayStation 2.

Nothing new,” I thought, “Capcom wants to get more sales…

…But then I kept reading. It appears that the PS2 port is planned for Japan (and possibly Europe), but no word of a North American release. This piqued my interest. Games planned for a Japanese and European release usually see the light of day in the U.S. The possibility that we might miss out set me off on a mission. However, after looking for more info I didn’t like what I found. Several articles were devoted toViewtiful Joe, but many of them also contained an unconfirmed rumor: Sony already denied the game for a North American release.

I shrugged it off. “They’re rumors! Rumors, I say!” I didn’t want to believe that Sony would turn a deaf ear to one of the most creative platform games in some time, so I kept reading.

Capcom recently made news of translating several of their games — many once GameCube and Dreamcast exclusives — to Sony’s behemoth. Perhaps in part due to the slowdown of the gaming industry or the sales backlash of Capcom’s GameCube-exclusive deal; several of their games are now being primed for greener pastures. Like the Viewtiful Joe rumors, these releases are in jeopardy for our side of the Pacific. The arcade conversion of SVC Chaos: SNK VS. Capcom as allegedly been canned in the USA. Similarly, news on the PS2 port of Street Fighter III: Third Strike reveals that no date is set for American-soil. Even a few non-Capcom games, Metal Slug 3 and The King of Fighters 2002, are rumored to not meet Sony’s approval.

Then it all hit me. I had seen this kind of behavior before. In September of 1995, Sony stuck its toe into the gaming pool with the original PlayStation. Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) supposedly enforced strict policies against role-playing and two-dimensional games being released in the United States, much like Nintendo’s ivory-tower policies during their heyday. Never mind the fact that RPG’s had an increasing fanbase, thanks to Square’s stellar SNES Final Fantasy games, Chrono Trigger, and Secret of Mana. Never mind that 2D games were still a viable commodity, and that the majority of game releases were sprite-based. Never mind that 3D console games were still in their infancy and suffering growing-pains. SCEA wanted all of their games to be polygon-based.

Gamers cried foul. Letter campaigns sprouted up to demand Japanese-exclusive releases in the U.S.. They wanted Arc the Lad and Beyond the Beyond to soothe their role-playing itch. Capcom fanatics e-mailed and wrote in hopes of seeing the 32-bit Mega Man 8 one day grace our shores. They fought against SCEA’s oppression, and it paid off a few months later. Sony relaxed the silent ban, and gamers were rewarded with new and exciting experiences — although no one won with the abysmal Beyond the Beyond. They even gave us a crappy port of The King of Fighters ’95 (no, thank YOU! ).

If you think about it, we wouldn’t have Final Fantasy VII orCastlevania: Symphony of the Night if SCEA had their way.

Now almost nine years later, we are seeing a similar trend. 2D games are once again the target of scrutiny. Officially, there is no reason for the sudden turn. For the three year plus life of the PS2 in the U.S., we’ve seen everything from Gradius to Marvel VS. Capcom 2 to Guilty Gear X2 head our way. While there are significantly more 3D games, quality 2D games still find their way onto the shelves.

Sprite-based titles have become a niche market in today’s gaming culture. Gamers weaned on their Playstation may see 2D games as inferior. The eroding 2D fighting genre is now a shell of its former self, with few games taking advantage of the amazing hardware of the current generation of systems. Many of the more notable releases — Marvel VS. Capcom 2 and Capcom VS. SNK 2 — are ports from the arcade or other consoles. Meanwhile, 2D powerhouse games like Keio Yugetaki and Silhouette Mirage are due for mind-blowing sequels on today’s systems. In general, little advancement has been made in what was once considered an art form.

Unfortunately, 2D titles don’t sell. The gaming industry now carries the burden of multi-million dollar budgets, meeting substantial fiscal goals, and pleasing stockholders. Few developers are willing to pony up the funds to take a chance on a niche game in America. If a game is less than likely to make back the money spent to develop it, common sense would suggest to not bother; and from all sides, 2D games no longer seem to fit into the financial equation. It wouldn’t hurt to note that SCEA pockets a percentage from each game sale, so do the math.

Being a passionate game player, I don’t want to buy into that logic. I don’t care about the bottom dollar. I do not care whether the penny-pinchers cry in red ink. I care about playing the best games, and damn them if they don’t believe it to be in the best interest of their bottom line. What about the gamers that miss out on the releases their Japanese and European comrades get to enjoy? What about the future of hand-drawn, meticulously animated, sprite-based games on console systems? I don’t want to have to modify my system to play the same games we should have received in the first place. Why spend the extra money and void my warranty to import these games? If Capcom was able to bring the ultra-niche (and ultra-expensive) Steel Battalion and controller to America, the less-expensive Hyper Street Fighter II should be more than feasible. I guess I’m crazy, huh?

In the grand scheme of things, the losers end up being the gamers. We should have a voice about what should be brought over. Fiscal concerns aside, the game players ultimately determine the size of the gaming marketplace. Quality games are being left behind because of the ignorant belief that it won’t sell. The market has to tell publishers what will sell, and the only way to do that is with our wallets. The age-old credo of spending money to make a difference speaks volumes.

Another way to get heard is to actually say something. One person might not make a difference, but a few hundred certainly do. Forums and gaming news sites are great places to voice your opinions and learn about possible (and not possible) releases. Publishers are within a few keystrokes of the average gamer, and a few thousand e-mails might drive the point home, it certainly worked for Square fans in 1998. Xenogears anyone?

So it seems that gaming on Sony’s platform has come full-circle; and, once again, the only way to get the games the Japanese and Europeans enjoy is to fight for them. If you care at all about what you’re not getting, let the publishers and Sony know. Some trends are good for gaming, but being denied games on the basis of graphics alone is not a good one. Reading these rumors has me riled up for a good battle. I’d like to have the option to play Viewtiful Joe and SVC Chaos on my PlayStation 2, and I have every intention of letting Capcom and Sony know it. You should, too.

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UAT: UAT Student Earns Karrlin Field Scholarship

(Here is a UAT article from 2007.)

UAT Student Earns Karrlin Field Scholarship

Story by Trevor Green

A passion for technology, a love of creative arts and an unbridled drive toward a career in video games: prospective UAT student Karrlin Field had that in spades.

When the 17-year-old passed away in 2004 from cystic fibrosis, her family connected with Admissions and created a scholarship honoring the young woman. They were looking for female students excited about gaming and pursuing fruitful careers.

The 2007 spring semester recipient, senior Game Design student Erin Ali, was the spitting image of what they were looking for. Erin received $1,000 towards her tuition, which she planned to use to further her education.

“I’m really excited that I won, and I’m really happy that this is going to help towards my last semester here,” she said.

Her zeal for video games as a lifestyle and career were the subject of her essay, a two-page composition presented in a magazine-style format.

“I sat down and went through a whole biography on myself and how that experience had got me to where I am today, and with more help I could do more,” she recalled. “And then because I’m so graphically oriented, I made it look better so I didn’t just send in a Word doc – I actually sent in a layout with the text in it, somehow revolving around my life.”

Erin was awestruck after reading Karrlin’s website, viewing the games, stories and writings made in her brief life. She was inspired by Karrlin’s achievements despite her physical ailment.

“You could tell she didn’t do it because she had to or that she did it because she felt she should, but it was something she really wanted to do,” she enthused. “She did a ton of stuff, and it’s like to me small things that affect me every day to me no longer mattered when I was reading her stuff.”

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Peoria Journal-Star: Power Plays – Mega Man X5

(Here is my first freelance article: a video game article for the Peoria Journal-Star newspaper’s “Kids Journal-Star” section.)

Power Plays

April 2, 2001

Video game of the week: Mega Man X5.

Format: PlayStation.

Recommended ages: All ages.

How the game works: Mega Man returns in the latest sequel of the spin-off Mega Man X series. The overall feel of the game is similar to Mega Man X4 (also on the PlayStation).

If you have played any of the previous Mega Man games you will feel right at home with X5. Even those who have never played a Mega Man game will have no problems picking up a controller for the first time.

A meteor is on course to collide with Earth in 16 hours, and the Maverick Hunters (a group of good androids) are called upon to save the planet. At the same time, a deadly virus is affecting all robots on Earth. Little do they know that an evil menace is behind the virus and meteor threat. The Hunters have two devices capable of destroying the meteor. Mega Man X and his partner Zero have to collect the parts from eight bosses to rebuild the devices.

The eight-stage format will feel familiar to those who have played other Mega Man games. You can choose which stage to visit at anytime. Each boss is weak against certain weapons, and using the right weapon will make the fight easier. After the early eight, you face bosses from past MM games, as well as a surprise battle.

Collecting items is key to doing well in the game. Collecting heart tanks will give you more life, and finding sub-tanks helps you store extra energy. You can also find extra lives and armor upgrades to increase your abilities.

X5 has a few small problems, but they don’t take away from the game. The control is tougher to handle than the older Mega Man games. For example, dashing and jumping requires practice to get right.

Good points, bad points: X5 gets a B for graphics. The cartoon-like visuals are detailed and full of color (although not as great as games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night). The graphics suffer due to being on the older PlayStation. A more powerful system like the Dreamcast would have helped greatly. The sound gets a B for the great music. Control is great, but can be a little frustrating for those new to the X series. It deserves a B-plus. In terms of gameplay, the game is a blast to play, but may feel too old for some. Overall, the game deserves a B.

The verdict: If you can get past the similarity to previous Mega Man games, Mega Man X5 is a fun game. It combines the best parts of past MM titles (including references to other MM games), as well as good graphics and cool music. It’s a keeper.

– Trevor Green

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MyGamer.com: What Defines a Classic Game?

(Here is an editorial I wrote for MyGamer.com in 2004. Enjoy!)

What Defines a Classic Game?
By Trevor Green at 2004-05-04 15:11:19

Every so often, I happen to stumble into an old-school gamer moment. For me, it often involves glassy-eyed reflection or wistful longing for the gaming days of yore. Ignorant gaming fanboys and shoddy sequels tend to evoke the bitter old man within with disastrous results. Lately though, it has been marketers and brainwashed kids claiming the newest mega-hyped game to be the next big thing. When I see how similar those games are to everything else, I yearn for the times where no one rushed to proclaim a game as the offering from the divine gods of digital entertainment.

Recently I had such a moment, but it wasn’t the usual heady rush of reminiscence. I was watching my 10-year old cousin play I-Ninja, and it was about two minutes in that the gears started turning. The borrowing of ideas from better games like Super Mario 64, the bonus games of the Sonic series, and the “pull the switch” tedium of every by-the-numbers adventure game reared their head. Now wide awake, Grandpa Old-Timer was mighty upset! “How can anyone like this durn game? It’s rehash! There’s no way it can be a classic! I’m tired and gassy.” True, the warmed-over escapades of bland ninja-platforming were a stretch, but I somehow snapped out of my tirade. The next-to-last sentence struck a nerve. Why did I care if this game could be compared to the gaming greats? Why would it matter?

I’m sure that it didn’t matter to my young cousin, who hopped and slashed away happily. But it got me to thinking. Somewhere along the line, it did begin to make a difference. I started grouping the newer games in their own category. Subconsciously, I was comparing the recent generation as if they were challenging the gaming throne. I was putting an unnecessary asterisk next to their accomplishments. Of course I played and liked most of the current greats, but the question still festered beneath the surface: “Can these games be considered classics?” And I knew that I had to find the answer.

Before I started my quest, I consulted my dictionary for the definition of the word “classic”. Webster’s “Wal-Mart 97-cent special” defines the word as: belonging in a certain category of excellence, or having a lasting artistic worth. Not much, (after all, it is a Wal-Mart edition) but it was a good place to start. Both definitions contain the idea of esteem and merit; something that you won’t find in the millionth ad-blurb of big-name magazines. We tend to value something that holds special meaning to us, or stir up a fond memory. More often than not, we deem an item of quality to be of merit. After all, there is a reason that few people loved Superman 64 (and those who did should book a few sessions with a therapist).

Now is a good time to really grasp what is worthy of being classic. We are often bombarded with the word, to the point where it has lost the discriminating nature of its definition. Those magnificent (or malevolent) marketing ad-wizards of the media somehow managed to put the word in our daily vocabulary. Networks like “ESPN Classic” market recently played thrillers as “instant classics”. Everything from movies to food products and computer programs carries the word somewhere in its advertising. Someone wisely figured out that the word “classic” carries prestige, so why not use it to promote pork rinds or “You Got Served”? With all the hype surrounding nearly everything with money riding on it nowadays, it takes something truly special to earn the title.

The first definition, belonging in a certain category of excellence, holds up well. If we were to compare games to cars, would you want the gaming equivalent of a Kia Rio or a Lamborghini? Would you rather have the game that was crafted with love and care, or the economy model that does everything poorly? Any sane person would want the best gaming for their dollar, and games are a pretty penny. So then a classic game would embody the qualities that people seek out in a game. It might have great graphics, a good soundtrack, involving storyline and a healthy challenge. More than that, though, it would be fun to play. And above all else, it would rank up there with the best years down the road. Not many Kia’s could claim to compete with sports cars (not that they do), but a Lamborghini is a lasting favorite that does most things well.

The second definition, having lasting artistic worth, is a little iffier. Art carries a different meaning to different people. There are fans of horrifically-bad movies, giving them gratuitous cult-status. Therefore, artistic can be interpreted in numerous ways. When it comes to games, an extraordinary work is one that pushes the envelope in its aesthetics. Games like Yoshi’s Island obliterated the notion of 2D games, with a living and breathing storybook world that still amazes today. The Final Fantasy series offers warm, enveloping soundtracks that are timeless, as is their engrossing storylines. Super Mario Bros. 3 forever changed the way we view and play plaforming games, with a captivating adventure, dozens of helpful items and powers, secrets upon secrets, and loads of imagination. These games are often ahead of their time, and do not get their due until years later.

A great game a few years back may look and feel dated now. This is often the case with sports game franchises, in which the sequel often outclasses the previous model. For example, try playing Madden Football ’93 after a few quarters of Madden 2004. Meanwhile, another might play as well as back in the day because of the tried-and-true game play that launched a thousand copycats. A classic game is one that stays true to the age-old credo: simple enough to pick up, difficult to master. The true sign of a classic game, or any great game for that matter, is one that you can pick up and play years later.

The main key a game becoming a classic, like anything else, is time. In life, there are few greats and even fewer legends. Eventually, most only remember the true icons from past generations. The greats that are outstanding in their prospective qualities are those remembered down the line. The games that we love as kids are the ones that we wax the nostalgic about years later. They’re the ones that we drag out and dust off the old system to play. Out of thousands of potential options to choose from, the ones that brought us joy are those that we hold dear. As kids, we don’t find ourselves hung up on defining a great game, but we remember having fun playing it. The little things add up. And those rare games that deliver the complete package are the crowning achievements.

And that’s when it all came together for me. A classic game is one that stacks up well against those in its genre and its generation. The pieces of the puzzle- graphics, sound, play control, challenge, and replay value- work together in such a way to deliver a fun experience every time you pick up the controller. A classic game might not have the best visuals or tightest controls in comparison to others, but the combination of all the little details make it well worth playing. It is a game that makes a bold statement that sings to your soul. There is at least one aspect that always, and I mean always, brings a smile to your face when you play it. And that is worth more than its weight in hype.

So as I watched my cousin flip another switch in I-Ninja, I sat back and watched his intensity as he played the game. Maybe this will be his classic game, and maybe it won’t. If he’s still playing it five years from now, then that is cool. But as long as he is having fun with it, then that is all that should matter. That’s what gaming is all about, right? “You’re darn right, you crybaby!” the old-timing gamer shrieked.

At least I can agree on that.

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New Writing Samples Unearthed!

Sorry for the long break, but I’ve been busy excavating! What, you ask? Writing samples from the early aughts!

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I dug up my first published samples from 2001-2004. The wonder that is the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (www.liveweb.archive.org) helped me locate and download files that I thought were lost to those damn series of leaky tubes.

So keep yourselves glued to this site as I mix up the UAT posts with features from MyGamer.com, GameFAQs, Bradley Scout college newspaper and the Peoria Journal-Star newspaper.

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UAT Student Creates Sword with 3D Printer

(Here’s another sample from my time at University of Advancing Technology.)

UAT Student Creates Sword with 3D Printer

Story by Trevor Green

University of Advancing Technology’s campus features a wealth of hardware and software to give creative ideas life. Special topics classes like ENG 415 – King Arthur literature, taught by Professor Micah Chabner, give students freedom to display their gained knowledge in imaginative ways. Student Josh Follis decided to exhibit his fascination with medieval weaponry by using University tech in an innovative way.

Follis combined his love of sword design and the fabrication technology of 3D printers for his King Arthur-themed blade. The 4-foot long plastic weapon, created and constructed via 13 interlocking parts, is the largest design sourced from the University’s Dimension uPrint Personal 3D Printer.

He came up with the idea in the first week of class, tasked with the creation of a midterm and final project relevant to the subject matter. His list of ideas – one being a card game – conjured the memory of the 3D printer. The sword designer, with several wood-carved sabers to his credit, decided to try a new medium for his passion.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I design a knight sword for my final?’ So I got to thinking and I figured the long sword version of it would be about right,” he said.

Follis initially planned to create a miniature sword with the 3D printer with his first concept sketch, but a change of heart led to a loftier plan.

“The idea ran across my head to make it full-scale and I got to thinking, ‘Nothing’s ever been done that big, not on the 3D printer.’ And to date, I haven’t had anybody disagree or prove me wrong that there is anything physically larger to come out of the 3D printer.”

Inspiration included designs from the Knights of the Round Table lore and more modern fare – the sword handle mimicking the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The conversion from idea to physical product involved help from student Dennis Porter to recreate the plan in Maya 2012 3D modeling software. Porter drafted the complete model and broke it up into segments to fit in the printer. Lego-like extension bits were added to construct the pieces like a puzzle.

The sword took approximately 120 hours to print and complete. Three print sessions – which constructed 4-5 pieces at a time – each took 20-26 hours. (Every print session concluded with an 8-hour acid bath that dissolved the supports that held pieces in place.) The sections were then sanded and painted.

UAT freshmen saw the final product at the recent CONNECT orientation as Follis, a CLP leader, used the sword to break the ice. He relished the shocked faces when they learned it was for his English class.

“I really wish I had a camera for half of them because they’re like, double- and triple-takes and, like, ‘What? Your English final?'” he recalled. “I modeled and printed a sword for my English final!”

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UAT-Online Student Creating Super Game

(This is a piece I wrote for University of Advancing Technology, my former employer.)

UAT-Online Student Creating Super Game

Story by Trevor Green

University of Advancing Technology master’s student Justin Woodward was a year out of college working as a graphic designer and ready for a change. Craving a return to video game development, he enrolled in UAT-Online’s Game Production and Management program to gain training as a supervisor. The project management and marketing knowledge he is gaining is influencing his education and his outside projects.

Woodward fused his love of fighting games and old-school beat-’em-ups with his administrative experience as co-founder of game developer Interabang Entertainment into his latest project,Super Comboman: Struggles Adventures. The genre-bending side-scroller, in development for the PC, is a labor of love for Woodward and his team.

“We’ve always liked beat-em-ups, so we decided that ‘Why not make a beat-em-up for the people who like fighting games?'” said Woodward.

The brawler stars the socially inept hero Struggles, unable to hold onto a job partly because of his obsession with comic book hero Super Comboman. The creators’ love of fighting games can be seen in the game’s combat, influenced by fighters like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and the Tekken series with juggle combos and destructible environments – useful in opening new paths. Each level represents one of Struggles’ many jobs.

(Watch the making-of video at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/interabangent/super-comboman-struggles-adventures.)

Super Comboman has more than novel influences and gameplay mechanics; the developers are using project-funding website Kickstarter to recruit financers for the demo. A friend turned Woodward – looking for fiscal backing as the developers toiled for months on “sweat equity” – onto the site and he and the team created a pitch to garner support from the Kickstarter community, with the goal being $15,000 to secure economic support.

“It was a process… it’s not like something instantaneous where you just send them something and they’re like, ‘Ok.’ You have to kind of make them believe in your project first, so it took a few months to get on there.”

Donating on Kickstarter for the game’s production gives access to beta testing and feedback. He anticipates demo development to be about 4-5 months with funding, and about 7 months without. The completed game may see release on other platforms via digital distribution.

Woodward and the team wanted to distance themselves from recent downloadable games with a retro feel (like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game) with a modern take on two-dimensional games. The developers, friends and peers living and working in San Diego, blended anime-style exaggeration, iconic Capcom and Sega characters and their goofy sense of humor into the sharp, high-resolution art.

“We wanted to make sure that we created, not a retro feel like a lot of games are doing now, but have everything look really crisp to take advantage of the technology that’s available now but still have the gameplay mechanics from the past,” Woodward stated.

Super Comboman is the second game from Interabang Entertainment. Their first title, retro-flavored Brooklyn to Babylon: Shinobi Ninja Attacks!, is available for purchase on iTunes.

(Check out the Interabang Entertainment’s website athttp://www.interabangent.com/.)

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