Friday, June 23, 2017

Still Alive

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for me. I'm not going to get into it, because it's the usual "real life" stuff that crops up now and then. Everyone in my family is doing great, nothing bad is happening, but I needed desperately to back off of just about everything and focus on my work and my family.

Things are still crazy, I'll be honest, but I feel like I really need to come up for air and see what's been going on in the outside world! During my hiatus I went as far as to delete Twitter and a bunch of other social media apps off of my phone to stave off the temptation to check them. It was like a detox - at first it was really tough - but pretty quickly I realized that I didn't need to check Twitter every few minutes and that life would go on. All that to say, I am completely out of the loop.

So what can I write about? About the only thing I've managed to do for myself since the start of March (and earlier than that, really) has been to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Yeah... so... I got a Nintendo Switch. On launch day. Even though I was rough on the idea of the Switch when Nintendo first did their presentation back in 2016, I softened to it over time. I realized that most of the gaming I actually managed to do lately has been on my Nintendo 3DS and it's mainly because it is a handheld and it makes games really easy to drop in and out of whenever I have a few minutes to spare. So when I started to think about how I was going to play Breath of the Wild - a game I've been eagerly anticipating for years - I decided it made sense to get it on a portable console and give it a shot.

Getting the Switch was actually a bit of a fluke. I pretty much decided on launch day I was going to do this thing, so early on March 3rd I drove out to a local Wal-mart on my way to work. I saw a line gathered at the front door, like I'd expected, but when I actually popped inside the foyer I saw there weren't that many people at all. Then the manager stuck his head out to let us know they had plenty of Switches to go around and he handed out tickets. At that point, I felt like I had to pick it up!

One hitch was that they only had a few of the Neon versions, which was the one I wanted. I was far back in the line, so by the time I got my turn up at bat they only had the Grey version available. so I picked up anyway and made my way to work.

Later that day I was browsing reddit - about the only site I let myself go to during my hiatus - and I saw that was going to have Nintendo Switch for sale on their website. I popped on and saw they had the Neon version, so I snapped it up! For a brief period of time I actually had two Nintendo Switches. Considering I was so grumpy about them a few months prior, I had to take a picture of my hypocrisy.

I won't lie, I was seriously tempted to keep both.

Now I still had no games. But that was quickly rectified. My wife had seen the preorder for Breath of the Wild on Amazon Prime one day - and knowing I'd eventually get a Switch for their future exclusives - picked up the Switch copy for me at the Prime preorder price, so within a few days of the Switch launch I finally held Breath of the Wild in my hands and it was go-time.

So over the next few months - whenever I had time to spare - I would drop in and out of Hyrule. One thing I'll say about the Switch is that it is so easy to do that. Pick it up, play for 15 minutes, and put it back to sleep. Occasionally I'd get some time at the house to play, and I'd dock it and play on the TV, but for the most part I've played in handheld mode - and in the unlikeliest of places... work!

I've been really busy with work lately - a lot of traveling and ramping up on a huge project - but I've allowed myself some time here and there for breaks at work where I take my Switch, brew up a cup of coffee, and head to the lobby at the office for a half hour of blissful Zelda time. It's helped me relax at work and give a mental break, which has been much-needed, let me tell you!

On my work trips I've gotten some quality Zelda time in, as well. Between the small bursts at home and a few decent gaming sessions I'm actually over 60 hours into the game and I'd say about 50% done!

I don't want to talk too much about the game itself - I think it deserves its own post - but I will say that I'm having a great time with it and the Switch as well.

Another game I've been playing the last few weeks or so has been Friday the 13th: The Game, which although I didn't kickstart I found myself dying to play on launch, so I dropped the $40 to see what it was like. The only problem was that I bought it on Xbox One and if you've followed the launch of this game you know that things have been bumpy on all platforms, but none so bad as Xbox. All that aside I've had some serious fun playing the game in private matches (matchmaking has been totally fried) and it's another game I'd like to dedicate a post to, being that I'm such a huge Friday the 13th fan.

So that's what I've been up to. I'm going to be heading back to the Twitterverse and trying to catch up on all things Sausage Factory and Cartridge Club related, but I'm not diving back in the way I was before. I still don't have the time to dedicate to my hobbies the way I'd like to, and that's fine. Like I said, everyone is healthy and happy and that's what's important.

Just to note you'll notice a new paint job around here. I spruced things up a bit. Most people would go for an all white display these days, but I'm a programmer/developer by trade and I always code with a black screen and light text - it helps when you stare at a monitor all day - so that's why things are so dark around here. It's not related to my mood, I promise! I've directed social media related to the site to two new accounts, as well. The new Twitter handle is @retrodef83 and Facebook is @retrodef. You can still follow me @RyHoMagnifico, of course, but I'll post links to any new content to the new social sites. So follow them and stay up-to-date!

I hope everyone is well and I'm looking forward to catching up!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Nostalgia Bomb! - Couch Co-op

What is it?
The term "couch co-op" is actually a retroactively applied term for what we used to fondly know as "two-player" or "multiplayer" gaming. From the earliest days of video gaming, many of the devices sold to the home market, and some arcade games, were built with a second controller so that friends and family could either work together toward a common goal or - and more often - face off against one another in their favourite games.

With the advent of online gaming and the ability for a video game console or a PC to connect two players across the globe the term "couch co-op" gained strides as a way of describing the old school method of playing a multiplayer experience, where two or more people would physically sit next to one another on a couch playing a game on the same device.

"Multiplayer" today

When did it start?
Whether you consider Spacewar! or Pong to be the first video game, both were two-player titles. In Spacewar! - developed on a PDP-1 computer at MIT in the 60s - two players would take control of ships and face off in against one another in space. In Pong, two players would control "paddles" and bounce a virtual ping pong ball back and forth for points.

Pong in all its glory

What about today?
The vernacular today is typically "co-op", short for co-operative, which - when you think about it - doesn't make sense, since most multiplayer games are actually competitive in nature. The issue is that it's all geared toward the online experience, which makes sense for two reasons: 1) the software/hardware developers get to make more money, because it requires each individual to buy a console/PC and their own copy of the game they want to play, and 2) most people are playing games solo nowadays so really this sort of thing is catering to the crowd.

Goldeneye 007 (N64) 4-player split screen

Some games still provide a couch co-op option with split-screen, but that sort of thing is going more and more the way of the dodo.

Why do I remember it?
I remember it because of all the great times I've spent playing multiplayer games with my friends in our parents' basements! I can't even begin to tell you all the games my friends and I have sunk hours upon hours into, huddled together on a couch, basking in the electronic glow of a CRT television.

Some titles that come to mind were Super Bomberman (which required the SNES Super Multittap so that up to four friends could get in on the action), Mario Kart 64, and Goldeneye 007. Halo 2 was another highlight, where my friends and I actually setup two Xbox consoles, cross-wired them with ethernet crossover cables, setup two different TVs, and played up to 8-player couch co-op together. The smack-talk was out of control!

The Multitap, which NEC/Hudson Soft actually released for Super Bomberman

Of course, Japan's was cooler

The old fogies like myself will always decry the problems with the current status of online co-op, but only because we have warm fuzzies over the memories of sitting in a room with our buddies, eating pizza, and playing games together. The reality is that with today's technology you and all your friends can be all across the globe and you're still able to see, speak to, and play games with anyone, thanks to the advances of online capabilities. All that said, there's a little something missing when you lose the "human element" involved with couch co-op and it's that something that I will always miss.

And that's why someday soon (unfortunately) couch co-op will be a blast from the past!

Hope you enjoyed,