Platforms of Expression

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Greetings and Salutations!

If you happen to be a regular reader – I really dislike the word “fan” – then chances are you probably know most of the places my writing presently appears — and for sure you know about the Cape Cod Times — but for the record the following are the publications I currently write for (in case you want to read my other stuff):

As you can see I do practically everything – I am presently mulling over the idea of doing a regular weekly Vlog on YouTube that will cover Video Games and Gaming News. Just a thought…

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You may have read me currently and in the past at the following publications:

  • Column – Business & Tech: Digital Grind @ Cape Cod Times
  • Column – Gaming Column: Game On @ The Cape Cod Times
  • Automotive Articles & Features: Backwoods Magazine
  • Automotive Articles & Features: EPinions
  • Food & Wine Articles & Features: Epicurean
  • Food & Wine Articles & Features: The Wine eList
  • Food & Wine Articles & Features: The Wine Reader
  • Gaming Articles & Features: FlightSim Magazine
  • avatar-body-255Gaming Articles & Features: Masonic Gamer Magazine
  • Gaming Articles & Features: Speaking Of @ boots-faubert.blogspot.com
  • Gaming News & Feature Writing: App Gamer
  • Gaming News & Feature Writing: Cape Cod Times
  • Gaming News & Feature Writing: Super Cheats
  • Games Reviews, Previews, WTG: App Gamer
  • Games Reviews, Previews, WTG: Game FAQs
  • Games Reviews, Previews, WTG: Gaming Update
  • Games Reviews, Previews, WTG: MMGN
  • Games Reviews, Previews, WTG: SuperCheats
  • History Features: Conspiracy Theories
  • Nautical Articles & Features: Cruising
  • News Reporting: Ex-Pat Daily
  • Outdoors & Recreation Features: Backwoods Magazine
  • Outdoors & Recreation Features: Urban and Underground Explorer
  • Scouts Articles & Features: Scouting LA

You can find lists of the stuff I have written at the publications listed above under the “My Work” Tabs on my Home Page and Website at www.boots-faubert.com.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo — 13 June thru 15 June 2017

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And it truly is so far exceeding all expectations

The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo is one of the most influential events in the world for video games and video gamers, because it’s the place where all that is new and exciting is revealed to the world – traditionally though the games journos who cover the Expo and, increasingly today via social media such as YouTube, which allows gamers access to information previously available only after it is filtered through the games journos.

Several times in years past I tried to explain why, despite having access to recordings and live streams for various press events, presentations, and the like, as well as feeds from the main floor, the element represented by games journos is still incredibly important. I am even willing to say that we are crucial to the process of communicating games news from events of the magnitude of E3.

The filtering mechanism is, depsite more open access, still critical to the process of sharing information about the games that are coming and the various new projects announced. The reason for that is the signal-to-noise ratios that attach to that information. I didn’t think that previous attempts at explaining this were very successful – so I vowed that this time, as I settled in to prepare to cover the Press Briefings and the show, I would make a special effort to get it right.

With the exception of a couple of years when things were dicey in the industry and he show was gutted and moved to hotels at the beach, and when the show appeared in Atlanta, E3 is mostly held in LA at the Convention Center. This year’s show runs from 13 June to 15 June – last year the show ran from 14 June thru 16 June (2016). The important point here – the fact if you will – is that the show takes place officially over a three-day period. That’s just 72-hours. Or if you count it by the minute, then it’s 4,320 minutes.

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Playing Pokémon GO on the show floor is officially verboten!

Regardless of the year then, E3 gobbles up the very same 3-days in abstract. So what happened at E3 2016 that is worthy of our attention now? Well, we chose E3 2016 for a very good reason – it is the most recent E3 for which we have figures and statistics available. Cold hard facts in other words. So let us begin to examine those facts, shall we?

E3 2016 was the 22nd Electronic Entertainment Expo, and as usual it was organized by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center. While the ESA organized it, in reality the bulk of the logistics — and the lion’s share of the success for the event — is down to the individual presenters and their efficient strategic booth design and operation.

Now to be fair most of the studios and publishers who exhibit at E3 hire consultants and coordinators who are expert in pulling off and organizing events like this. They offer organization so that the staff from the publisher or studio can focus on their presentations — the video games that they are briefing the press on that year — all of which are both professionally developed and organized and incredibly effective at delivering the information that the attending games journos need. And none of that is accidental.

The delivery and the content of the briefings at E3 have been carefully polished and refined at other events like PAX / PAX East, and for some publishers and studios at public venues like Comic Con. If you experience E3 and find yourself thinking – wow this is a level of efficiency and strategy I’d expect to see from the military! well that is far more accurate than you might realize.

The booths – and their tactical organization – and the effectiveness of the various presentations – are not the only evidence of organization on that level either. One of the more celebrated elements at E3 every year – in addition to the booths and presentations – are the Pre-Event Press Conferences held by the major game publishers (and to a lesser extent studios), during which important information is presented to the games press and, especially of note, the critical information that the presenter really wants to share with the press. All this happens before the official doors even think about opening at E3.

It is here that the most important elements of the information narrative that each of the studios and publishers lay out is delivered – especially with respect to their product lines and the energy for each – because often this is the only shot they’ll get to reach the games journos with their undiluted message before the chaos that is E3 takes over.

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E3 Security is looking very strange this year…

Pre-Show Press Conferences

Last year those epic events included formal PCs held by the major studios and publishers present at the show. While they have booths, the actual business that will be conducted at those booths is almost exclusively restricted to the choreographed game presentations that will play out there. Basically the display of either canned or actual game play, which is meant to give the games journos a sense of how the game looks now. Later in the year they will be invited to hands-on sessions where they get to play the games themselves – for now the idea is to prepare them to be able to write about the games with at least some first-hand knowledge.

The actual back-stories and any important elements of their narratives are delivered at the official pre-show press briefings – the idea being that these Press Conferences are the more ideal setting because only the press has access to them. Even though when they sit down for the game play demos on the show floor each journo will be handed a memory stick with the press releases and game data — including videos and still images suitable for publication — before or after they witness the game play presentations, the meat and bones and especially the back-and-forth in terms of Q&A and deeper information exchanges? That all happens at the PCs before the show opens.

And these PCs perfectly illustrate why today is our 4th day of a full work week that we will spend in LA to cover what is ostensibly a three-day event. Our fourth day of work and the show has not even opened! To highlight these for you, consider this PC schedule – and remember all this takes place BEFORE the actual show – E3 – opened:

  • 08 June 0830 — Square Enix (Deus Ex Universe Focus)
  • 12 June 1300 — Electronic Arts (EA Play Focus)
  • 12 June 1900 — Bethesda (Big Title Focus)
  • 13 June 0930 — Microsoft (New Xbox One Models Focus)
  • 13 June 1300 — Ubisoft (Old and New IP Reveals Focus)
  • 13 June 1800 — Sony (PlayStation VR Focus)

The idea behind the PCs that take place before the show opens is to allow for the heavy hitters to control the narrative briefly, so that they can tell the press – and thus YOU – what they think is important about their coming year, without that message being lost in the massive noise that is E3.

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We just have to make it until Friday…

All of those PCs went off without a hitch – call it with military precision if you like – but that is sort of the point. Because when the show opened it was not just more of the same. You see when the doors opened on 14 June last year all the way through the three days until the doors closed on 16 June, the event played host to:

  • 300 Exhibitors
  • 2,300 Game Titles (estimates)
  • 50,300 E3 Attendees (field professionals, analysts, and journalist)
  • 20,000 E3 Live Attendees (gamers and fans)

Last year’s E3 was the second time in the past decade when attendance numbers exceeded 50K – though to be fair the numbers for 2015 were a smidge higher, with the ESA reporting that attendance for E3 2016 was actually down 3.6% for reasons unknown. Industry experts expect those numbers to maintain moving forward, especially now that video games have exceeded traditional entertainment in both viewers, eyes, and wallets.

Even stranger, the meaning of the show changed for two major presenters — Electronic Arts and Activision — both of whom opted out of the E3 show floor, choosing instead to either hold their own off-site event (EA), or restrict their presence to appointments in meeting rooms at the venue (Activision).

Last year’s E3 also played host to a new venue in the form of E3 Live, a free event put on by the ESA at L.A. Live that was open to the public.

That might have been a test-run for the ESA, because the 20,000 members of the gaming public whose attendance at E3 Live appears to have been the model behind the 15,000 tickets that the ESA sold to the gamer public this year, when for the first time ever at E3  the event has been opened to non-industry and non-press gamers.

Tickets went on sale on 13 February 2017 at an early-bird price of $150, with the standard price set at $250 after the discount period ended. All 15,000 public tickets were sold out by late May.

The decision to open the event to the public has altered the fabric of E3 in only small ways so far, considering that the bulk of the actual business in terms of media briefing actually takes place at the pre-event PCs – with the show being mostly for demos of game play for the games press.  One new addition to the event is the E3 Coliseum.

The Coliseum event, designed specifically for the public, is scheduled for 13 & 14 June, and features game developers hosting discussion panels that will include behind-the-scenes looks at highly anticipated games, as well as the sort of Q & A sessions most gamers will recognize from other events like ComicCon and PAX.

While some panels will be streamed via Twitch for gamers who cannot attend, as is often the case, being there is he best way to see everything right away. I say right away because if the events follow the established procedures of ComicCon and PAX, attendees should be posting their own video coverage to YouTube and other social media sites shortly thereafter.

Filtering the Narrative

When I mentioned previously that the games journo presence at E3 has a distinct and valuable function I wasn’t exaggerating. That presence has the same value today as it has in years past – perhaps an even greater value actually. Despite the hits that the industry has taken due to some bad events, games journos and the news and reviews process are not dying off – they can’t.

Without the filter that games journos provide, the gaming public would be rapidly inundated with a disproportionate ratio of noise-to-signal as they try to navigate the wilderness of annual game releases.

It’s not simply a function of parcing press releases; the function and narrative are directly attached to the function games journos play in both evaluating studio and publisher claims, game realities, and properly ordering the actual and likely release dates so as to present the gaming public with information that they can actually use.

If some illustration is required, consider this: a tremendous selection and number of individual games were announced, touted, and briefed at E3-16. That does not cover titles already revealed at previous Expos and still in the production phase – it only references NEW and emerging games.

Considering the challenge of making each voice heard, the overall numbers are themselves very impressive to the point of terror:

  • 2K Games – x5 Major Titles
  • 505 Games – x5 Major Titles
  • Activision / Blizzard – x4 Major Titles
  • Anuman – x3 Major Titles
  • Bandai Namco – x9 Major Titles
  • Bethesda Softworks – x9 Major Titles
  • Bigben Interactive – x1 Major Title
  • Capcom – x2 Major Titles
  • CD Projekt – x1 Major Title
  • Codemasters – x1 Major Title
  • Compulsion Games – x1 Major Title
  • Deep Silver – x1 Major Title
  • Devolver Digital – x5 Major Titles
  • Electronic Arts – x8 Major Titles
  • Focus Home Interactive – x8 Major Titles
  • GungHo Online Ent, – x1 Major Title
  • Inti Creates – x5 Major Titles
  • Kadokawa Games – x4 Major Titles
  • Koei Tecmo – x3 Major Titles
  • Konami – x1 Major Title
  • Marvelous USA – x8 Major Titles
  • Microsoft Studios – x11 Major Titles
  • Natsume – x3 Major Titles
  • Nintendo – x11 Major Titles
  • Nordic Games – x4 Major Titles
  • Paradox Interactive – x1 Major Title
  • Sega – x5 Major Titles
  • Sony SIE – x11 Major Titles
  • Square Enix – x16 Major Titles
  • Team17 – x4 Major Titles
  • Telltale Games – x2 Major Titles
  • Ubisoft – x11 Major Titles
  • Warner Bros. – x5 Major Titles

To put this in perspective for you, and bearing in mind that the listing above is JUST the major games studios/publishers and their primary IPs (there were a LOT more studios/publishers and games present at E3 mates) the games publishers and studios need to front and brief their titles while the typical games journo (assuming that they did not have a team to cover the event though most of the major sites and publications DID in fact have teams at E3) was put in the typical position of having to cover 169 unique games JUST from these 33 Studios/Publishers.

That is 169 game titles from the estimated 2,300 titles that were present at the Expo! The genuine total for coverage and briefings is far more than that seemingly monumental number. But that is E3 mates. Which is sort of the point to this.

I am not making excuses – or whinging here – what I am hoping to do is communicate a better understanding of just how massive – and important – this event actually is. Both to the industry, to games journos, and ultimately to you, the game consumer, who we know will – over the course of the following six months leading right up to Christmas – be relying upon us to help guide you to the best of the best and then some!

Does our voice really matter to you? The answer would seem to be yes, very much indeed. Games journos and, to an even greater extent, games reviewers, remain an active and influential part of the games community and the defacto interface between the industry and gamers.

Thanks to the huge number of titles that are released every year, even when they are broken out by games genre and, even when the players have a pretty good idea as to what genres they prefer and are interested in, in the end the games journos help to finely tune the interest and game play rotation lists for the vast majority of gamers. In a nutshell this is our role – and if you are a good games journo you take that all very seriously indeed.

How influential can we be? Well if you knock-down and discount the number of gamers every year who say that they pay less attention to games reviews and their reviewers and more attention to the awards that a particular game has earned, allow me to clarify something for you alright then? You know the rewards that these games blazon on their covers and tout in their ads? Who do you think gives them those awards?

Yeah – you probably guessed right. We do. Games journos. In fact one of the by now set-in-stone traditions of E3 will mostly have taken place, and the show has not even opened yet!

What am I talking about? The Awards System. Specifically this year’s Awards – which I can tell you right now most of the journos with the franchise to vote have already pretty much decided upon their choices.

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Can you replace blood with NOS?  I think so…

2016’s E3 Awards

For the record, after the closing bell at each year’s Expo, a select group of games journos from more than 40 different games publications / sites gather and cast their votes across the various traditional categories for the Best of E3 awards.

Nominees were announced on 29 June 2016 (this year that will be 30 June 2017), with the winners having been announced on on 5 July 2016 (this year probably 3 or 5 July since 4 July is a holiday in the USA).

  • For each of the categories the one that received the most votes wins it – and then the four runner-ups get listed as well but in alphabetical order, so there is no way to tell how close the next game in line was. If you are curious – or you can’t recall – the pick-up-sticks fell like this last year:
  • Award / Winner (Studio/Publisher)
    • Best of Show / The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
    • Best Console Game / The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
    • Best Original Game / Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla/Sony Interactive Ent.)
    • Best PC Game / Civilization VI (Firaxis/2K)
    • Best Action Game / Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)
    • Best Action/Adventure Game / The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)
    • Best Family Game / Skylanders: Imaginators (Toys for Bob/Activision)
    • Best Fighting Game / Injustice 2 (NetherRealm/WBIE)
    • Best Independent Game / Inside (Playdead)
    • Best Racing Game / Forza Horizon 3 (Playground Games/Microsoft Studios)
    • Best RPG / Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix)
    • Best Sports Game / Steep (Ubisoft Annecy/Ubisoft)
    • Best Strategy Game / Civilization VI (Firaxis/2K)
    • Best VR Game / Batman: Arkham VR (Rocksteady/WBIE)
    • Best Online Multiplayer / Titanfall 2 (Respawn/EA)
    • Best Hardware/Peripheral / PlayStation VR (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

So there you have it – even when it doesn’t appear like your friendly neighborhood games journo is offering guidance they still are! No worries mates, we’ve got your backs.

If there were any typos I failed to catch in this – you have my sincere apology.  I am working on around 4 hours of sleep a night in order to make all of the briefings and meetings that we have to cover here.

I know that a lot of my readers think that E3 is Party-Town – and that might have been true once upon a time and a long time ago – but today E3 is a business event and it is anything except a party.  A madhouse is a more accurate assessment – but the important thing is that we are getting good information and solid briefings.  I won’t say that the 2017 / 2018 Games Season is going to be as good as the year we had in 2011 – that being one of the most impressive years in the history of the industry in terms of major title releases.

I won’t say that 2017/2018 is set to be as big or bigger a year as 2011.  Or will I?   What I will say is that from what I have seen so far, it’s looking very good.

A Frustrating Discovery

In Which I Discover that all this time the DLC add-ons I thought I was adding to my games on the Xbox One were not actually added to the games!?

The world of games and gaming is supposed to be an orderly one in which the tech that makes up the primary vehicle for gaming is reliable and trustworthy and functions like clockwork.  When you purchase a DLC expansion pack or item, or you grab a free one, you expect that after it downloads it WILL be added to your game, and you WILL be in a position – at the appropriate time – to take advantage of and use that new content or item, right?  Right!  No, WRONG!

Well, it should be Right – but it turns out at least in the case of the Xbox One to be all wrong.  And very frustrating.

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I first became aware of this due in no small part to another potential disaster that I am in the process of correcting – that being the sudden realization that I was out of storage space on my Xbox One.

What happened was the game I was playing suddenly started acting all strange – with stuttering video.  It got worse when I tried to apply a new accessory pack and it went V-E-R-Y freaking S-L-O-W.

A brief check revealed that my Internal Storage was down to less than 10 percent free.  So I tried to move some games over to my very spiffy and totally reliable external storage — a 2TB Western Digital My Book USB 3.0 external storage device.  Which I discovered I could not do because it was down to less than 5% free space!?

How did this happen without me being aware of it??  Why did the Xbox One not WARN me that I was running out of room??  Will little Stevie be rescued from the bottom of the well in time??

Okay well as for Stevie, it’s a coin toss.  And I never liked that kid anyway.  But as for the rest, well, the reason the Xbox One failed to warn me is mostly because the wizards at Xbox and Microsoft never thought to add that sort of alarm to the system.  I sent them an email suggesting that they do so – because hey mates, I got your back!

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Had Ta Get Some New Sto-Sto!

Understanding that my position was precarious – and that I would not be able to continue playing games, let alone working on any of my writing projects (which at the moment means working on the Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 Walkthrough and Guide for NeoSeeker – which is a game I am very excited about guiding) – I understood instinctively that it was time to get more storage.

That meant deciding on HOW to do that.  I had several options – though replacing the Internal drive was not one of them as this is an Xbox One, not a PS4.  Fortunately just as I was sinking into deep and dark depression fate stepped in and graced me with her presence in the form of the code for the game that was provided by my editor being for the PlayStation 4 edition of the game and NOT the Xbox One edition.  Catastrophe averted!

But I still needed to get more storage on my Xbox One, and here were my choices:

(1) Buy a new drive and add it to my Xbox.
(2) Buy a larger drive and replace the 2TB My Book with that.

In their wisdom the blokes at Xbox opted to add support for TWO external storage devices for the Xbox One, which by the way has a total of three (3) USB 3.0 Slots on it.

Logically that is a good thing because it means that, say for example I wanted to upgrade to a larger storage device, I could attach it to my Xbox and then transfer all of the content to it that had filled up my orginal drive, no worries.  So that seemed like the way to go – and then in the future depending on the cost per TB of storage hardware I may do the same thing or, based on my experience this past week, just add a second larger drive (more on that later) instead.

So I decided to go with replacing the WDMB with a larger unit.  Initially I thought to go with a larger Western Digital My Book – say a 4TB model.  But when I went pricing the drives I discovered that I could get a nearly identical external storage device from Seagate (it too is a 7200 RPM USB 3.0 AC-powered unit) but, if I opted for the Seagate model I could get a whopping six (6) TB for the same price as a 4TB My Book!

Naturally I went with the Seagate 6TB model.

When my honey brought the new drive home – along with a 1500VA / 900W UPS for my main system whose RAID Array does NOT like being suddenly without power at all – I was very happy as I installed it and began transferring the contents of the My Book to it.

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There Was Trouble…

But that is when I ran into trouble.  Not storage trouble mind you, but the trouble that has prompted me to write this post.  See as I was moving the contents of the old drive to the new I discovered something that both shocked and disturbed me.

If you are a gamer you know that the modern games environment is a very different one from what we used to have.  Today you need lots of storage because while the games consoles still use the original media for a game to verify you own the license and should be able to play it (that’s for RBE games – digital titles come with a digital license that is saved on your console), they also tend to have lots of DLC-based expansion content, be that new maps, missions, story content, weapons, or kit.

Okay that’s not a problem – so far.  But during the process of moving the data files and games from one device to the other, I accidentally discovered something I was previously ignorant of.  For a LOT of the games I owned, not ALL of the DLC and expansion content had actually been installed!

Understand this – the content – the DLC packs – had been DOWNLOADED.  They just had not been INSTALLED!?

For games like Just Cause 3 or Hitman if that happened it would be obvious – because the content would not be present in the game.  No, for those titles the DLC was faithfully downloaded, installed, and properly licensed for my games.  I noticed nothing wrong.

But in the process of moving the games I had to perform the following specific steps:

  • Open the Settings Option from the Xbox One Main Menu;
  • Select All Settings from that menu;
  • Select System and then Storage from the Settings Menu;
  • Select the device to move the games FROM (Internal or My Book);
  • Select View Content for that device;
  • Move the cursor to the desired game I needed to move and select Manage Game;
  • Select Move All for that game then select the Destination (my new device);
  • Confirm that I want to Move All.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Yeah, but here is the thing – in the process of doing this I accidentally moved the cursor to the Ready to Install option on the side menu, and there, where it should NOT have been, was the following in that selection for the game Gears of War 4:

  • Brothers to the End and Vintage Del Gear Packs
  • Crimson Omen LE Controller Content Pack
  • Map: Blood Drive
  • Map: Checkout
  • Map: Clocktower
  • Map: Diner
  • Map: Drydock
  • Map: Glory
  • Map: Hotel
  • Map: Impact Dark
  • Map: Old Town
  • Map: Slab
  • Map: Speyer
  • Map: War Machine

Are you freaking kidding me!!??!

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When I had originally obtained all of that DLC I SAW it download and I just ASSUMED it was installed into the game.  Big Mistake.  BIG MISTAKE!

NONE of it had been installed.  I just never noticed.  And when I checked I found that in one of every four or so games this was ALSO the case.  Expansion content and DLC I had bought and downloaded had simply NOT been installed by the system.  What the hell?!

So as I moved the games and any content that HAD installed over to the new device, I then had to INSTALL the stuff that had been downloaded but never actually installed.

I was pissed.  Very angry.  I seriously considered writing an email to President Trump to warn him about this because I knew that HE would be pissed.  After all he owns and plays an Xbox One – can you imagine how much uninstalled DLC that HE must have?!  In my fantasy head I could see agents from the DEA and ATF and FBI and IRS and ABC and LOTS of other three-letter acronyms kicking down doors at the Redmond Campus, and not even bothering with taking names.

They’d be like – “Bill of Rights?! We don’t need no steeenking Bill of Rights!  Who is the idiot that allowed this threat to national gaming security to take place?!  Tell us now or we will line you all up and start shooting you, one-by-one, until you do!  Because Trump!  Because ‘Merica!  Hell yeah!”

That could happen though, so I deleted the email.  Sigh.

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Opinions sometimes have that effect…

How The Heck?

I have no idea how this happened.  I have no idea how I failed to notice this.  I have no idea how to fix it other than to go through every title on my Xbox and check to see if there is content that failed to be installed.

It’s not like I can just look at the “Ready to Install” selection and know because it FAILS TO LIST THEM.  That’s right – there is NO number next to that selection in the menu to tell you how many or even IF there is content Ready to Install – and unlike the regular patches that appear in the Main Menu section appropriately titled “Updates” which DOES list the number of Patches that are Ready to Install, but on the Settings/Storage Menu not so much.  It just does not.

So here I am, with all my games finally installed on the new Seagate external storage unit, checking the games one-by-one to see.

This, mates, is a cautionary tale.  It is my suggestion to you that you just might want to start checking YOUR game library for content you downloaded but, for a mysterious reason, was never actually installed.  Because mates don’t let mates drink-drive, and they don’t let them have uninstalled content.  I’m just saying!

Game Updates – A First World Problem

Like most people in the world, I am capable of saying insensitive things. The likelihood of me doing that is inversely proportionate to my comfort level with the group of people I am among. So it is actually a fairly predictable event that tends to manifest itself as an off-the-cuff comment about something that has either annoyed me recently, or reflects a subject I might have been thinking about.

As a general rule, that sort of faux pas takes place in one of two situations – the first and most common being when I am among friends or my peers and we are engaged in the general sort of conversation more commonly known as “shooting the breeze” — and then there is the slightly less common and perhaps more risky occurrence — an observation made among people I don’t know well.

The way I view it, the biggest potential magnifier for this sort of situation is when the comment or observation happens to violate arbitrary lines – or a pet peeve – for one of the members of the group about which I have sparse familiarity.

Take it as a given that the faux pas will be uttered when I have no useful means to either predict and/or retain knowledge about the people I am with, and the often traumatic event(s) that serve as the trigger for the violent reaction about which I have no foreknowledge. And no, I am not making an excuse here, even if it sounds like I am. Truth be told I would be far better off sticking to topics like the weather or how badly the Sox are doing this season.

Basically what I am saying is that this is usually an unhappy accident in which I touch upon a subject that immediately sets off one of the listeners – and generally the subject is simply a random shot into the dark powder magazine of the enemy ship – a shot that despite long odds still results in a spectacular explosion.

Sometimes It Isn’t What It Isn’t?

Recently I managed to trigger one of the latter sort – having made a comment voicing my frustrations over the manner in which Microsoft implemented its updates and patch scheme on its Xbox One games console – and how frustrating I found it.

To be fair here, and in the interest of full disclosure, because I spend a LOT of time familiarizing myself with a wide selection of video games on a daily basis, this is a rather predictable event – but it still tends to irritate.

Sadly as it turns out, the explosion in question would have eventually happened anyway – it wasn’t so much the topic of the observation as it was the opportunity it presented.

In my defense I had no way of knowing that the thing was simmering in the background – HAD been simmering in the background – just waiting for an excuse to blow.

All of her mates knew this; I can say with certainty that they knew it – because later they admitted that they knew it when they took me aside and commented to me privately that it was such a relief that this particular demon was no longer lingering in the background of their collective relations.

They thanked me for triggering it in other words – assuming I did it on purpose – because (and this is the part that actually upsets me) I somehow have managed to earn a reputation as the guy with the short stick who enjoys poking at the irritating spot in other people’s psyche. Seriously?!

So there was that — and it probably didn’t help that the turn of phrase I used actually was as insensitive as the person it set off felt it was.

In any event, I triggered a long simmering visceral reaction from a member of the relatively small participatory audience for this real-world conversation — and was being thanked for it by the other members of this little community — all of whom felt an almost physical relief at not being selected by the fickle finger of fate to be The One. With hindsight being 20/20 I do sort of get it.

I mean there were signs – and anyone who knew that girl well – and who was actually paying attention to her body language during the conversation – would have seen those signs and known that the issue was there, just under the surface, waiting to explode. Anyone that is except me.

The only defense that I have is that, at the time, I wasn’t actually there. No wait – to be clear I was there physically – I just wasn’t there in spirit.

I distinctly remember this – I was thinking about how great it would be to have a cigarette.

No, that’s only half true. What I was thinking – the actions that I was going over in my head in sharp detail – was holding a box-style pack in my right hand – with its distinctive red-and-white pattern, and tapping the top of the pack firmly against my left palm over-and-over-again, so that the loosely packed tobacco grind would become a tightly-packed almost solid cylinder of tobacco grind.

I then saw myself opening the plastic film that encapsulates the package so as to retard the rate at which oxygen can contact the contents and oxidize it – and catching just the barest whiff of that special smell that is released when a fresh package of that specific brand is opened.

Cracking open the top of the package as its seal and the paper hinge resist the action, I saw myself carefully pinching the silver foil of the secondary seal that encapsulates the twenty cigarettes that are organized as two-rows of ten inside the package, in a paper sleeve that is wax-coated on the inside, and foil-coated on the outside, and is found when one pulls back the top.

I then selected one of the two cigarettes that are positioned in the center of the front row, depriving it of the company of its nineteen brothers or sisters, and raising The One to my nose and smelling that oh-so-very-distinctive aroma of a fresh cigarette.

I’ve heard other addicts describe this smell as unlike any other smell in the world – but that is horseshit. It’s exactly like ONE other smell in the world – and that is the aroma you smell when you open a fresh package of raisins and raise it to your nose to smell it.

So when an addict opens a new package of cigarettes – and especially one that has the distinctive red-and-white pattern that this brand sports — let’s call them Morley Brand because hey, that’s good enough for Fox Mulder so it’s good enough for me! – the smell that they are describing is one that is familiar to pretty much any kid from kindergarten to middle school – at least any kid whose parents make the effort to pack them a nutritious lunch that is.

That was what was going through my mind while the rest of the group noticed I had lit the fuse on this girl.

That was what I was seeing, smelling, and experiencing as I verbally picked up the business-end of the fuse and applied the flame from an imaginary green Zippo lighter upon which was painted in black stenciled letters “USE ZIPPO LIGHTER FLUID ONLY. PA. 16701 U.S.A.”

Before this continues: Yes, I know that I would not have used a lighter – I would have used a cap or one of those very cool pull-ring style commercial self-contained initiators – NOT a naked flame, But hey, just whose wool-gathering mind was this? It was mine, that’s whose!

Ignoring for the moment the fact that I quit smoking successfully in 2001, for some strange reason this is how it plays out. My mind creates this strange combination of truth-and-fiction. Live with it.

So yeah, the flame first scorched the yarn coating, which smoked, creating a very distinctive smell as the orange yarn-like casing which, itself, serves as the coating for the 10 gr/ft of PETN that was contained inside and that briefly began to burn.

You can’t confuse this with any other type of fuse mind you – this was very clearly Primacord Number 2. If it were Primaline 4D it would be coated in an orange plastic jacket, not orange yarn, and when the flame touched it, the end would have melted first – not smoked – before the flame ignited its 18 gr/ft of RDX.

Thanks to the Ensign-Bickford Company we have detcord that explodes at a rate of 23,000 feet-per second. Wait, yeah, you probably think that the fuse I lit above actually burns. Nope. That’s why I would not have set it off with a lighter – why I would need to use either a cap, or a commercial initiator.

See I may obtain my imaginary cigarettes from a TV Prop Company, but my imaginary explosives are drawn right out of the imaginary EO Bunker on the training base where some very special people taught us how to blow things up!

The reason why detcord is so reliable — and why you can cut a length of it and know when it will detonate the primary package — is because it is not burning, it’s exploding.

Now for the sake of argument, in this case, in my spiritually mental state, and considering that the imaginary package was not attached to a commercial initiator that, when triggered by the detcord fuse would have had a set delay to it, as I was making figurative love to that cigarette the distance between me and the girl simply must have been approximately 230,000 feet – or 43.5 miles.

Because THAT is how long the detcord would have to have been to obtain the 10-second delay between what I said, and the resulting explosion, since there was no commercial initiator at the other end to serve as a time delay.

So according to her friends and work-mates — thanks to me — the girl obtained the much-needed relief of unloading what was apparently a huge butt-ton of pent-up rage. On Me.

Maybe I didn’t deserve that – but on the other hand I took a hit for our side (men) and you guys owe me. Just saying. Wait, did you notice how I totally waffled above? How I did not come right out and name the thing I did? How I talked about the whole cigarette thing, then the technical details about the imaginary fuse, and all that goes with that?

The reason for all that dissembling is simple really: I was avoiding stating the actual details of the thing I said that triggered all of that.

The reason for my appearing to be diplomatic and discrete in the extreme actually has more to do with my desire to not trigger a chain of similar explosions that I am fairly certain would erupt were I to — in any way — treat the matter either trivially, or without due care and diligence.

Be patient mates! I will get to it – but not before completing this PC influenced dance of care in order to provide myself with a proper reason for bringing the issue up at all.

Knowing that to bury the lead is to lose half of the audience, I am now going to provide you with a brief preview of this so that you can decide whether or not it is worth your time to stick around for the remainder.

Please note that while I am still attempting to be sensitive to the matter, I have taken care in handling it but I am still about to fail miserably in that respect. Cheers!

The Underlying Cause

There are a number of fairly complicated simple issues, but ultimately it is about patching and updating video games on the Xbox One games console — and my frustration at the presumptuous manner in which that subject was handled by the Xbox Team in the first place.

Well, that and how my observations on the matter triggered a deadly attack from a Feminist Activist of the female persuasion from which I still bear scars.

So now you know what the issues were – and what the matter was that I was attempting to be discrete and diplomatic about.

Being forewarned about all of that, if you stick around for what follows I want you to be very clear that you chose to do so – that at least part of the responsibility for any anger you might feel as a result is your shared responsibility, and finally, you cannot say I didn’t disclose that aspect to you.

We’re On the Same Page!

At this point we should be able to discuss this without there being any misunderstandings. So it’s time to get to the source of the explosion – my observation that instantly resulted in an explosive attack.

To do that we need to provide a brief explanation of the events that caused the observation that, in turn, caused the explosion. This is going to begin in a specific way, because hey, it’s a war story! Be patient, you will see why in a bit. So here we go…

No shit, there I was, sitting in front of the TV, my honey by my side; I loaded up Hulu and tried to play this weeks episode of Designated Survivor, but it was not working. We would get like 40 seconds or so and then the little swirly thingy that indicates it is buffering would appear and the show would pause while it buffered.

So I immediately yelled out: “Who is doing bandwidth-intensive computing?! Mom and I are trying to watch TV!”

My son’s voice could be heard yelling “Not I dear Father!” while my daughter just yelled “Not me!”

So I asked if anyone had Skype loaded and got the same reply. I pondered the matter for a moment, then I looked at the display on our Ethernet Switch and I realized that the system pulling the bandwidth was my Xbox One – which was the very same device we were trying to watch Hulu on! So I opened the My Games & Apps to see what was running and discovered that the system was patching a bunch of games – and they were HUGE patches. Like 50+ GB in size.

So I thought to myself, “Self, you have not played World of Tanks in forever. Why is it patching that?!” And how in God’s name is that a 50+ GB patch?!”

It took some digging but what I discovered was that the default settings for the Xbox One is to automatically apply any and all patches and updates for any and all video games and apps you have installed on your console whenever said patches are released.

So there I was with my honey by my side, trying to watch TV and I could not do so. But clever fella that I am I thought – hey, I can pause that patch. And I did. Then I switched back to Hulu, started play and – no… Still buffering.

When I went back to look, Sunset Overdrive was now patching, and it was a 20+ GB size patch! WTH?! I thought – or maybe actually said.

So it turned out that in addition to those games there were others that wanted to patch and update. So what I ended up doing was researching via the web to discover that the Xbox One by default automatically patches, and I learned how to change that setting so that it only patches when you load a game and a patch is waiting – that way you are not at the mercy of the patch release schedules.

So I changed that setting – but discovered that World of Tanks was very persistent and, once it starts to patch it means to finish. So I had no choice but to uninstall that game with it in my mind that if I ever wanted to play it again, I would have to re-install it. Right, so, problem solved, right? Right! No, Wrong!

The issue was addressed at that point, but the problem – Microsoft presuming it was okay to just decide that for me without any consideration for my needs – that was still a problem.

I literally lay awake that night thinking – what if I was one of those unlucky souls who lived on a farm in Elbonia and the only way I could get high-speed Internet access was via satellite?

According to Wikipedia, modern satellite Internet access is Internet access that is provided via a combination of physical hardware at both ends with a geostationary satellite somewhere in the middle that can offer relatively high data speeds. In fact the newer satellites that utilize Ka band achieve downstream data speeds up to 50 Mbps, which is actually faster than a basic Urban DSL connection.

The problem with that sort of connection is that typically satellite Internet is expensive and it is almost always metered – which is to say you purchase your connectivity as a package that is based on the amount of data you are allowed to pull each month.

Comparing the most popular services the reality we get is that consumers who live outside of areas that are services by Cable Modem Internet Access, and communities that do not have access to DSL Broadband Internet, Satellite really is their only option.

You can pretty much do the math here yourself – having your games console automatically incur the massive hits that patches and updates will bring to your Internet Services will generate a potentially nasty surprise at the end of the month – and particularly when you have kids in the house who are big fans of their favorite games!

That being the case, if I failed to turn off automatic updates and patches – or Background Updates as Xbox likes to call it – I might get a bill at the end of the month for $700 in Internet data usage – all because they opted to set patches and updates to be automatic in the background. And unless you go looking for it, you won’t even know it is happening until you get that massive data bill! Man that is so wrong.

The Awful Event

So that was going through my head when, a few days later, I am sitting with people I sort of know for a coffee break (I was drinking tea, but still) when in the conversation one of my friends mentioned that I looked preoccupied.

Well, I was. Still.

So when they asked me what was bothering me, I told them about the automatic background patching and updates setting, and how Microsoft just assumed that was okay — even though when you BUY something from Microsoft in their online store, they show you a pop-up that warns you that downloads may cost you EXTRA.

See that warning is to notify you that you just bought a movie and it is NOT a small package and when you download it, IF you have a limit to monthly downloads, well then the download could end up costing you more money.

I am reasonably certain that they put that there for a reason.

At some point some parents somewhere got a massive data bill for their metered connection and, discovering that Jr. had bought a digital copy of GTA V and THAT was why they exceeded their bandwidth amount, ended up blaming Microsoft.

I am speculating that after the settlement, their lawyers told them it would be a really good idea to add a disclaimer pop-up to purchases online. So they did. Or something like that.

“It’s hard to believe that they would do that – configure the game console so that it has the potential to hurt you financially?” one of my coffee buddies observed.

“You know, considering that they have a disclaimer on their store, you would think that they would know better?” observed another.

In my own defense, please understand, when I said what I am about to say, I was thinking of my daughter.

“It was probably a woman who chose to go with the automatically downloaded updates and patches without actually asking anyone,” I said.

That’s when a woman at the next table leaned in and said “Excuse me?”

Okay here is the thing – I’ve been married now for 25-years. I have two kids, a house, two cars, a tortoise, three cats, two dogs, and a rat named biscuit. My life has been more or less run by other people now for nearly 20 years. So you should forgive me that my Trap Sensor and Self-Preservation Meter is a little rusty. Because it is. Never saw it coming in other words.

The table got quiet. Spooky quiet. And then – channeling Diana Edwards – I replied.

“Why, did you fart?”

Big mistake. BIG mistake.

“Why was it probably a woman?” she asked (demanded).

“Because in my experience the rules for women are different than the rules for men?” I replied.

“Oh? And how is that?” she asked, all sweetness.

One of my buddies kicked me under the table – but in my defense I should point out that the leg he kicked me in was the one that is 100% paralyzed so I never felt it.

A few months ago, when my daughter ended up repeating a mistake, and asking forgiveness AGAIN for something that she had done twice before now, I deviated from the response she had anticipated.

See she forgot that she’d already been busted for that on two occasions previously, so I was not in the same malleable state of mind that I might otherwise have been, which was why I trotted out Male Wisdom Rule 471: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.”

If you are a woman you may be unaware of that one – but based on my experience with women, probably not. That particular rule is a rare one in that it was actually adopted from an antagonist rather than protagonist, coming to us from the mad genius Auric Goldfinger, in Ian Flemings Goldfinger (1959).

Come to think on it, a large number of man rules seem to come from Ian Fleming. I should look into that.

Chagrined at having committed the same offense for a third time, and because my daughter and I are actually friends, she confided in me that she truly was sorry, but she was following the Girl Guide to Handling Men, and that was Rule 9: “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”

When my daughter told me that I experienced an event that normally you only see in movies and on TV – but I swear to God that I was suddenly in a whirlwind of sound and colors as a thousand different events replayed in my brain, and I saw woman after woman telling me that they were sorry or they thought since it was such an obvious thing nobody would object – and a hundred other excuses – and I realized in an absolute epiphany that my daughter had just violated the Girl Code and revealed a truth to me that she should never have revealed.

There is a theory among men that women have a code they operate under that has safety features built into it. One of those features was that, if men ever discovered the details of one of the codes, they had a mechanism in place to alter its parameters so that the men could not thereafter benefit from having cracked that code.

Basically they change that rule. Then men try to do something cute based on their understanding of the rule that one of them had cracked, only to discover that no, that was no longer the operating principle for that particular rule and now they have gone and violated it and bought themselves a world of hurt.

My daughter had violated the Girl Code by revealing one of their foundation codes. One that, let’s be honest here, they can’t actually alter or change. I was very close but not quite there to finally understanding women.

So naturally I had to prove that I am an idiot and demonstrate that I cannot be trusted with a secret.

“A pretty clever woman once told me that it is far better to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission – if you ask permission they can say no – when you ask for forgiveness if they get mad you can always start crying, then they forgive you!” I explained.

Okay you know in books, a writer will describe how the person grew red-faced by degrees, starting at their hairline, with a sort of establishing shade of red flowing like liquid down their face until it is fully covered and then how that establishing shade of red grows darker, and how that is a pretty good indicator that they are about to blow their top in anger? Yeah? No, didn’t happen in this case.

In this case instead of turning red, the face of my opponent suddenly became a very unhealthy white. Picture in your mind the technician that is normally in charge of facial colors and expressions having chucked a sickie that day, and the temp that was called in to fill in, rather than hitting the button marked “anger, red-face, progressive, warning” instead hit the one labeled “Nuclear Option.”

So what happened was the system then opened the drain valve for face color projection, and it all drained in one-go. Quickly. So what was left might have been a warning sign for anyone else, but not for me, because why? Because I can be thick that way, that’s why.

She sputtered. Like, literally. Sputtered. And while my self-preservation instincts may have been dulled by 25 years of complacency they had not been completely destroyed.

I chuckled.

I realize now that, of any reaction I could have chosen, that was absolutely and without question the wrong one.

I also understand now that the temp who hit the wrong button notwithstanding, it was that chuckle that actually detonated the nuclear bomb. Let me explain.

At the center of each atom is a “nucleus” — the plural of which is called “nuclei” — where neutrons and protons are bound in close proximity together. Most nuclei are stable, which is to say that they can walk around, shop for a dress, have tea, and otherwise interact with other nuclei all around them and remain comparatively static and unchanging.

The thing is, during the physical change effect we call fission, nuclei of certain heavy atoms will split into smaller and lighter particles called nuclei, and in the process they may release what we think of as excess energy as a side-effect of this process. Sometimes this happens spontaneously,

A very basic definition of a nuclear weapon might be an explosive device whose destructive potential derives from the release of energy that accompanies the splitting or combining of atomic nuclei. This process can happen during a very wide and diverse set of circumstances, but generally speaking we’ve found that the proper conditions for such an event will predictably occur during the follicular phase, as a byproduct of the formation of endometrium, which is somewhat predictable in that the process is thought to begin independently starting between 384 and 288 hours prior to menses.

With those conditions noted, in the case of the trigger, a neutron is shot at the nucleus and is absorbed, causing instability and fission. In some elements — such as certain isotopes of uranium and plutonium — the fission process also releases excess neutrons, which can trigger a chain reaction if they’re absorbed by nearby atoms.

When you magnify atoms to the extent that you can actually see them, and observe their interaction during fission, you will see that at the center of every atom is a nucleus. When you break that nucleus apart — or as is the case here, combine two nuclei together — the results are the release of a large amount of energy – seemingly more energy than those two nuclei have any right to possess and certainly an amount that far exceeds any reasonable expectations.

Nuclear weapons use that energy to create an explosion. As it turns out, so do women.

(Open Google.com, and search the phrase: “What is a shaggy dog story?”)

A Pokemon Master Trainer’s Need to Fill their Pokedex with Methods Examined

pokedex1

Pokemon is an international game – and I say that from my own personal experiences. I first became aware of the game in the Summer of 1996 while working a contract in Japan. I went outside to have a smoke (back then I smoked, I have been smoke-free now for 15 years – smoking is bad for you) and I noticed a group of Japanese office workers off in a corner and clearly they were using Nintendo Game Boys that were tethered together.

It was not a group of teenagers – these were adults. There were a dozen or so and they all seemed to be excited, cheering one or the other player on when something happened in the game they were playing. So naturally I had to go and have a look, right? And what I found was a pair of office workers playing a game called Pocket Monsters.

One bloke who spoke excellent English took me aside and explained the entire thing to me in about 20 minutes. I was hooked from that point – by the time I went to bed that evening I had a Game Boy and a copy of Pocket Monster Green and a bunch of scribbled notes for key words in Japanese.

Since then I have played the games for every generation – and I have proudly fashioned myself a professional Pokemon Master Trainer, who fills every Pokedex. Including many of the rarer and Legendary Pokemon. Well, early in the series that was a major feat – but since the games became Internet aware? Not so much.

I will admit that there were Summers when the family took mini-holidays to visit New York City for events at the Pokemon Center, and Winter Vacations in which we attended official Pokemon TCG events because they were distributing Legendary Pokemon for the games. More than a few day-trips to Toys-R-Us or Pokemon Centers happened to get a Legendary or special regular with unique abilities or items, and I can say with some pride that on more than just a few business trips I ended up battling with other Pokemon Trainers my own age in hotel bars!

I’ve taken part in battles in the USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, and most of Western Europe. So yeah, it’s an International Thing.

pokedex2

Completing Your Pokedex

There are rules about this – you cannot just run around willy-nilly getting the ‘mon to complete a dex – your game has to be READY to do that.

What I mean by that is that you simply don’t show up to a gathering or event with a game that you have not even obtained all of the badges in, or traveled Victory Road in. Because why? Because the other Trainers will think you are either an amateur or worse, a poser.

Once you have beaten the League, obtained the title for your game, and more to teh point, unlocked the full National Dex (Pokedex) only THEN can you legitimately seek out other trainers for trades. Or at least that is the way most of the trainers I have interacted with view the matter.

One of the rites of passage for a new game / generation is getting your game to the point where you have obtained all of the Pokemon that CAN be obtained in that game – found every single type off of every single route and etc. Then you do the same for its companion game, and trade in the types that are not normally present in your main game for that generation.

In addition to that, there are Pokemon you obtain from other games in the series to transfer into your base game – a base game being the game for that generation you consider your “home” game. That is the one whose Pokedex you care about.

ashandpikaThe Path To Pokedex Mastery

Ordinarily the process of completing your Dex goes like this: you play through the story and when you arrive at each new route or town, you make an effort to obtain every single Pokemon that is available there.

When you reach the end of the story and have beaten the Elites, you then carefully review your Pokedex to see if you missed any – then make a list of every Route you need to revisit. Then you revisit those Routes and catch those last few elusive Pokemon.

Once you have done that it is time to purchase the complimentary title for your game (if you have not already done so) and then repeat the whole process over again, playing through the story mode, getting all of the ‘Mon you can get in each Route – paying special attention to capture extras for the game-exclusive Pokemon so you have them to trade to your home game.

While all that is going on, you should be keeping an eye on your favorite News Site so that you connect to the Internet with your game when a special Pokemon is being offered via various sources – news about which can be obtained from the official source for Pokemon online: www.Pokemon.com.

On the official Pokemon Website you will want to click the Video Games button on the top bar, then check the main news box for any special give-away for Legendary Pokemon via the Nintendo Network (that is the online Internet connected distribution system you can access from the start menu of your Pokemon Game).

As I write this the final Legendary is on offer via the Nintendo Network – that being the Mythical Pokémon Meloetta who is the final Legendary being given away to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the game (they have been giving a different Legendary away every month for the past year).

You access the Nintendo Networks by selecting the “Mystery Gift” button on the main loading screen for your game and then select “Receive Gift” and “Get Via Internet” – saying yes to confirm each step.

When there is a Mystery Gift / Nintendo Network Pokemon you will be asked if you want it – you say yes of course – and the Pokemon will be added to your game via the green-hat-wearing delivery person at your closest Pokemon Center in game.

To actually receive the Pokemon you log into your game and head to the Pokemon Center, make sure that you have an open spot on your team by depositing one of the Team into your storage computer at the Center, and then speak with the delivery person.

They will transfer the new Legendary to your Team at which point you can go store it in your PC and reclaim the regular Team Member you put there to make room for this new Pokemon.

I was able to obtain Melotta for and on my following games:

  • Pokemon X
  • Pokemon Y
  • Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
  • Pokemon Omega Ruby

Moving Pokemon from Previous Generations

Pokemon may be transferred from the previous gen games using whatever system or scheme was created for that purpose, for that generation starting with Generation 3. I thought you might appreciate the details – so here they are:

Generation 3 to Generation 4

To make these trades – and they are a one-way trip you need to know – you will require a Nintendo DS that has both the Cartridge AND the Card slots.

Cartridge: Insert your copy of Ruby / Sapphire / Emerald / Fire Red / Leaf Green into the Cartridge Slot on your DS.

Card: Insert your copy of Diamond / Pearl / Platinum / HeartGold / SoulSilver into the Card Slot.

You then use the Pokemon Pal Park mechanism to trade the Pokemon forward from Gen3 to Gen4. Pal Park is a special Pokémon preserve that is located in the five Generation IV core series games, and can be found at the east end of Route 221 in Sinnoh and in Fuchsia City in place of the Safari Zone in Kanto.

thegangIn Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, you can only travel to the Pal Park after you have a Pokemon who knows the move Surf, and you have earned the Relic Badge Fen Badge, you have unlocked the National Pokedex, and you have seen all the Pokemon for the Sinnoh Pokedex.

Once you fully qualify, Professor Oak will meet you on Route 221 and invite you inside the building that contains the Pal Park offices. Oak will explain how Pal Park works, and when you load the games in the future that you have unlocked Pal Park in, you will find a new command — “migrate from (game name)” as an option from the main menu. Pal Park in HeartGold and SoulSilver is located where the Kanto Safari Zone is in the previous games, and functions like the Pal Park in the main games.

Bear in mind that when you transfer Pokemon via the Pal Park to the next gen game it is a one-way trip. The Pokemon you send CAN NOT BE RETURNED!

To migrate from Generation III to Generation IV games, you insert a Gen 3 game into the GBA slot of the same Nintendo DS or Nintendo DS Lite system that you have your Gen 5 game in. Select the “IMPORT FROM (GAME NAME)” option, and you will access a lite version of the player PC in the Gen 3 game.

From here you select the Pokemon you want to move and migrate, and then as long as the Pokemon being selected do not know an HM (if they do you have to go into the Gen 3 game, take them to the Move Deleter, and remove that HM first).

You must choose 6 Pokémon to do this, and once you have 6 valid Pokemon that can be migrated, the game will confirm the choices and you will send those Pokemon to the Gen 4 game. You then must use the Pal Park and capture all six Pokemon before you can use the Pal Park to migrate any more. If you have migrated Pokemon in the Pal Park you have NOT captured in a Pokeball, it will not allow you to migrate any more.

Using this system you can move all types of Pokemon – regular, special, and Legendary – to your Gen 4 games. That may be crucial if you mean to complete your Gen 4 Pokedex since it can be hard to attend all of the events for previous Pokemon in Gen 4 (well, impossible now anyway).

Generation 4 to Generation 5

To transfer (migrate) Pokemon from Gen 4 to Gen 5 you will need to gain access to the Poke Transfer Lab on Route 15 in Unova, and then play the mini-game there to effect the migration.

Step 1. Place the desired Pokemon you want to transfer in your Gen IV (HeartGold, SoulSilver, Diamond, Pearl, Platinum) game’s PC Box.

Step 2. Visit the Poke Transfer Lab on Route 15 in your Gen V game (Black, White, White 2, Black 2.) When you’re ready, start the Poke Transfer System in your Gen V game. Once your Gen V game begins searching for a Gen IV game to transfer Pokemon from, take a second 3DS, insert your Gen IV game into the slot, and select “DS Download Play” on the Home Menu.

ashthrowStep 3. Select the Download Play for DS rather than 3DS once it’s loaded. Wait until your 2nd DS detects the Gen V game. A Pokemon Black / White / Black 2 / White 2 icon will appear. Tap it.

From there, you should be able to pick 6 Pokemon from your Gen IV game’s PC and transfer those to your Gen V game.

Step 4. Play the mini-game using the crossbow to capture the migrating Pokemon.

There is no limit to how many times you can use Poke Transfer; you can keep transferring lots of 6 Pokemon until you have transferred your desired Pokemon from any Gen IV game.

Generation 5 to Generation 6

Download the 3DS application Pokemon Bank from the Nintendo eShop.

This application allows you to move Pokemon from any Generation 5 or 6 Game, and store them inside of the app. You can then insert your Gen 6 card and transfer the Pokemon from the Bank to your game.

Generation 6 to Generation 7

Download the 3DS application Pokemon Bank from the Nintendo eShop.

This application allows you to move Pokemon from any Generation 5, 6, or 7 Game, and store them inside of the app. You can then insert your Gen 7 card and transfer the Pokemon from the Bank to your game.

Pokemon Gen I to Gen 7

First, you can not transfer or migrate Pokemon from the Gen 1 Carts to Gen 7 Cards. It cannot be done. But very soon you WILL be able to migrate your Pokemon from the Digital versions of the Gen 1 (Pokemon Blue, Red, and Yellow) games to the Pokemon Bank, and then to your Gen 7 game from Pokemon Bank. I suggest you keep an eye on the official news at Pokemon.com for when that will happen.

Pokemon Bank

Pokemon Bank is a special App you can buy from the Nintendo eStore and install on your 3DS that allows you to transfer and store Pokemon from your games to your 3DS and then back again. It also allows you to migrate Pokemon from gen to gen for the later gens, and soon will allow you to migrate from the original digital Gen I games to the Bank and onward.

Bank is a subscription based service and app – I think it costs around $5 a year – so yeah, there is that.

And Finally…

Once you have exhausted all of these options, only THEN should you start thinking about looking elsewhere and interacting with other trainers for trades… Because real-life trades online is fraught with peril since you never can know if that rare Pokemon you are getting is legit. Was it hacked? Was it created by an app? Or did they really attend the Pokemon Event at the Space Center near Houston to get that Legendary?

I hope that this article helps you in your quest to complete your Pokedex. Personally I am in the process of wrapping up my game play in both Pokemon X and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire in preparation to my move to Pokemon Sun and Moon – the two new Generation 7 games.

I have not yet decided which of the Gen 7 games I will be calling home. It is a big decision. But I do know that I am going to be bringing my favorite Pokemon – and all of the Legendary ones so far – into the game. It is going to be awesome!

Hitman 2016 – the Episodic Adventure

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We’ve been getting a lot of email asking if the boxed edition of Hitman (2016) that is set to release before Christmas is worth buying? The simple answer to that is, uh, yeah! That said though with the release of the last episode it’s time to talk about Hitman.

The final chapter of Season 1 is the Hokkaido, Japan Episode (Episode 6), which released in October and marks the very end of the episodic release schedule for Season 1. We’re still not certain what caused the soap opera that seemed to surround it over the course of the past year, but when all is said and done, we are pretty satisfied with the way this all turned out.

When the reboot of the Hitman series – Hitman (2016) – was announced at E3, the game play video samples that they offered us at the Square Enix booth made a definite – and good – impression.

Originally the game was going to be released in the traditional manner, which is to say the wizards behind the game create it, it gets retail boxed packaging, and it gets played like most video games get played.

Then they announced that the game would be split up into several parts, with the initial release set for March 2016 and containing three locations — Paris, France; Sapienza, Italy; and Marrakesh, Morocco. But that was not what happened…

The Episodic Release Announcement

After the initial reveal and announcement – then the announcement that it would be split into chunks – the folks over at Square Enix – and the game wizards at Io Interactive – changed their mind and their plans for the new Hitman again, opting to release the game in two distinct stages.

The first stage would consist of the game engine and base game plus the first Chapter – the Paris Map – and the second stage would be made up of regular episodic releases.

Episodes (or chapters) that would arrive on a schedule of about one per month, which would contain a new map, and a new set of challenges built around the story mode level for that episode / month.

The way that they described it was as “a truly episodic AAA game experience, with a major live component.”

“We decided to take the full leap and publish Hitman as a truly episodic game experience,” said Hannes Seifert, head of studio at Io Interactive, in a press release.

“Part of that decision is for that little bit of extra time to ensure every location we release is at the quality level fitting for a Hitman game. But the main driving reason is that this will allow us to create a living game that will expand and evolve over time and establish a foundation for the future — this is the first game in a storyline which will continue and expand with future Hitman games.”

When the game launched on 11 March 2016 it did so in digital form; a physical copy in the form of a retail boxed disc would not be arriving until the entire set of episodes were released.

The game featured a rather creative form of pricing – the base game, which included the Prologue Chapter as well as the first Episode (Paris) could be had for $15, with each additional episode costing $10. Or the intro package could later be upgraded to the full package for an additional $49. Players also had the option to purchase the full game at $60.

Ultimately the first season of the game consisted of the following:

  • Prologue + Episode 1: France – Paris / The Showstopper (March)
  • Episode 2: Italy – Sapienza / World of Tomorrow (April)
  • Episode 3: Morocco – Marrakesh / Gilded Cage (May)
  • Special Summer Bonus Episode – Sapienza + Marrakesh / The Icon + A House Built on Sand
  • Episode 4: Thailand – Bangkok / Club 27 (August)
  • Episode 5: United States – Colorado / Freedom Fighters (September)
  • Episode 6: Japan – Hokkaido / Situs Inversus (October)

In addition to the above story-mode missions there were also Weekly live events that alternated between Elusive Target Contracts and Escalation Contracts, offering the players a combination of missable content and unmissable content in the form of escalating contracts.

Only the folks at IO and Square know for sure what the real reasons were for the game being carved up like it was – but we know that regardless, it turned out to be well worth the wait and the delay. Hitman (2016) ended up being a worthy successor to the last game in the series and we cannot wait to see what comes next.

That said though – if you were waiting to see whether this was worth getting you should really wait a little longer and buy the retail boxed disc rather than the digital version, because the disc comes with all of the extra content, including some sweet in-game items.  So yeah, worth getting, worth waiting a little while longer to get.

If you are curious about our impressions of the game, check out the game reviews we have written so far over at the Cape Cod Times:

Top 10 Video Game Clichés

Despite the fact that there are such a wide variety of video game genres, its seems that the process of being a video games development wizard means finding Clichés irresistible. Seriously, Clichés must be like, video game dev catnip…

Think we’re exaggerating? Fine! Say that after you read our Top Ten Video Game Clichés Listicle – and just so you know, when we started we had a list of well over 100 — which we narrowed down to offer you some quality Clichés!

And here they are – numbered from 10 to 01 with 01 being the best of the worse…

10: Killing Gods

While this generally doesn’t tend to crop up in puzzle games or sims, when it comes to a good old JRPG and most RPGs you can almost bet that if there ARE Gods in the game, you are going to need to kill them!

But wait – aren’t Gods omnipotent? Aren’t Gods omnipresent? So doesn’t that mean that he not only KNOWS you are coming to kill him, but knows HOW you will do it, WHEN you will do it, and the best way to prevent it?

Let’s take that logic a little deeper – they’re Gods – so how come they didn’t just kill you when you were an infant?

09: Miracle Food that Heals

No we did not include StimPacks or magic bandages, health elixirs, or potions in this one because, well, everyone knows those are real and they work!  What we are talking about here is food. You know, 200-year-old wingdings and canned chili you find on the shelf in that totally abandoned Red Rocket?

Say, how is it that the nuclear apocalypse has come and gone and you can still find Salisbury Steak and Spam on the grocery store shelves?

More important than that though – how is it that EATING a 200-year-old can of Spam will magically heal you? Is it magic Spam?

08: An Army of One?

In the world of video games – and especially the action-adventure and RPG sorts – the individual is often very likely to be a docile victim unless… Unless someone kidnapped their kid from cold storage and killed their wife in the process! Or killed their father! Or kicked them out of their village/castle/fortress/shelter triggering the all-important need for revenge.

Suddenly one man/boy/girl/woman who finds themselves in such a situation and somehow manages to obtain armor and a wepon turns into an instant hero capable of feats of prowess, of dragon-killing army-of-one badassery!

So if all of that pent-up rage was already inside you anyway, why did you have to suffer at the hands of your tormentors BEFORE seeking your revenge? Why not open up that can of martial arts whoop-ass on them WHEN they were trying to kick you out of your home and/or kill you in the first place?! We’re just saying…

07: Stealth Sequences

It really doesn’t matter if you are Solid Snake or Geralt of Rivia, or even a Pirate Assassin, eventually you are going to need to follow someone without being detected. Because why?

Well, because you cannot make a game these days without some sort of Stealth Sequence.

Following a target on crowded streets is one thing but when you charge your protagonist to ninja thier way through a swamp in a massive pirate ship? That’s just sick. That’s clearly sadism!

06: The Secret Sewer Entrance / Exit

When they filmed the Shawshank Redemption they filled an ancient sewer pipe with a mixture of sawdust and chocolate syrup to make the scene where the protagonist crawls through the pipe, puking as he goes because yeah, that would happen. There would be lots of puking!

You know how you catch a prisoner who escaped from prison by way of a ewer pipe? How about an enemy agent who has infiltrated your base? I’ll tell you how – you use your nose!

No matter how well they scrub or how many fresh changes of clothing they have in that sealed bag, the stench will literally cling to them. And then of course that only matters if they did not die in the pipe by breathing in the methane gas – or die AFTER they got through because the bad gases they breathed in finally built up toxicity in their brain. That takes time!

Here’s a clue to the devs: College Students die from diving into pools that have a layer of smoke from blocks of dry ice being thrown in – your hero is going to die from breathing the toxic gases from human sewage. Really!

Oh and that sewer pipe filled with chocolate syrup and sawdust? We were in Ohio last summer and we stopped there to do the tourist thing – you can STILL smell the chocolate when you get close to the opening of that pipe and its been what? 20 years since they filmed there? Just saying…

05: One-Topic Conversations

From Pallet Town to Raccoon City, when you run up to a person in the town chances are no matter what question you wanted to ask them you don’t get to – instead you get to hear them repeat the same thing every time you talk to them: “Hmm. Something nasty is afoot in the Frost Cavern… It could be true, right?”

04: The In-And-Out of Armor

Yes, armor is a critical tool to prevent enemy arrows and swords from prematurely ending your life. And yes, armor does wear out, get broken, and need repair – that’s only fair, after all it is usually constructed from heavy pieces of steel with lots of buckles holding it onto your body through complex arrangements of leather straps and… But wait a second.

Just exactly how is it that you can so easily get in and out of that armor? Hey! Did you find a new piece of armor in the field? That might be better than what you have on now – you should swap out your existing kit for that one. Like now. Instantly.

Forget for the moment that making the armor you are currently wearing properly fit you probably required hours of adjusting its straps and moving the buckles so that they don’t chafe, it’s all good! Because Armor!

03: Press Start

Almost every start screen in practically every video game prompts you to Press Start… But happily accepts it when you press “A” or “X” (depending on the game pad). Just once I would love it if the game screamed: “I said PRESS START! Does that LOOK like START?!”

02: Quick Time Events

Sure you invented a new twist on the QTE… Yeah, really fun and challenging – NOT!

Nobody actually likes these – and having one pop up when you are trying to disarm a bomb? Yeah then we REALLY don’t like them.

01: Regenerating Health

Even in worlds where there are healing items the Golden Rule is when you are near death, all you really need is about 10 minutes of peace and quiet and maybe a glass of water and you’ll be right as rain!

That’s right – as long as you can escape damage for a set amount of time, your health will refill – even if you have been punctured by sword or spear, or stitched by a bunch of bullets! And how cool is that?! It’s even more cool when you are playing in an uber realistic combat environment!

Bonus points for Regenerating Health during World War II.

Well there you have it – my Top Ten Video Game Clichés. Can you really say that these don’t bother you? No! I’m willing to bet that what you can REALLY say is that my list doesn’t have one you think should be on there – because you secretly have your OWN list of Video Game Clichés! Yeah, go on and deny it – you can’t kid a kidder!