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Friday, November 26, 2021

Habit-Forming Game Comparison: Ring Fit Adventure vs. Pokémon Smile

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Both these games want you to do pro-healthy things. But they have very different approaches.

More and more games want to instill good habits in users. Healthy habits. Games as a source for good. That's explicitly the goal for games like Ring Fit Adventure on the Nintendo Switch (even the antagonist says as much) for exercise and Pokémon Smile on mobile devices for brushing teeth, as well as Pikmin Bloom for walking.

Habits take time to form, and they need certain elements. According to author Nir Eyal—who has worked in the videogame industry helping companies motivate and manipulate their players—and his book Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products, designers can build lasting habits in customers with a four step “desire engine” (that you can learn about in significant more detail at this talk he gave with several gaming references) that he abbreviates as A TARI:
  1. Trigger—gets you to act. Can be external or internal.
  2. Action—when doing something is easier than thinking about it. Fast decisions where the brain doesn't have to think. To get an action, you need to be motivated and have the ability to do it (and have the trigger).
  3. Reward—habit-forming tend to be “variable rewards”, where every time you do the action, you don't know if you'll get something out of it. Your dopamine system spikes when you're searching for a reward, in anticipation for it.
  4. Investment—users think about future rewards that make the next (or repeat) action more likely.

Nir believes through proper design, designers can make a certain behaviour—started by someone trying to seek pleasure—into a habit. That means you feel pained (or stressed) when you don't do it. You can use that design for good or for evil. For this article, I'm going to review and compare Ring Fit Adventure and Pokémon Smile and see if they have this proper desire engine design. Did Ring Fit Adventure and/or Pokémon Smile succeed in their core design elements to build habits in their users’ lives?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Nintendo Switch Black Friday/Cyber Deals 2021

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Take your pick!

Just an upfront disclaimer: This article isn't going to be an exhaustive list of every interesting game on sale right now. If there's a game you think you're interested in... just look around the store listings. It's probably on sale. Unless it's something like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. But there are a number of first party Nintendo games on sale right now! Along with third party. So many of those. Including from Activision Blizzard, despite that company being deserving of a boycott.

Anyway, Nintendo put out a Cyber Deals news release with a video showcasing the games they REALLY want you to know are on sale right now until December 1 at 2:59 AM Eastern. Remember, this is their Cyber Deals list, so it's Nintendo eShop and digital downloads. There are many additional games not on sale on the eShop but are pretty universally on sale at retailers that will sell you physical copies of games, and I'll get into that as well in this article. But back to the Cyber Deals... while this article won't exhaustively list every game on sale, I will, for posterity, list the games in Nintendo's sales video that I don't think I can embed but it's just a montage of game footage so you're not missing much:

  • Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity—30% off ($60→$42)
  • New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe—30% off ($60→$42)
  • MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black Order—30% off ($60→$42)
  • Persona 5 Strikers—50% off ($60→$30)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Big Three Console Manufacturers’ Responses to Activision Blizzard's Misdeeds

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - How do they compare?

You may have read my reaction to the Wall Street Journal investigation that Activision Blizzard's CEO, Bobby Kotick, knew about on-going sexual harassment in the workplace for years... and in some cases, directly contributed to it. Since then, many others have also reacted (though focused on... different aspects of it than I was), and many people, including current Activision Blizzard employees, are calling for Bobby Kotick to resign. In response, Activision Blizzard's board of directors created a “Workplace Responsibility Committee”, still fully confident that the company's current leadership can turn its toxic culture around with an extra committee laying around.

It turns out that, one way or another, the big three console manufacturers (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) have reacted to the story. Let's review what those reactions have been up to this point.

How Nintendo Has Reacted to Activision Blizzard

Nintendo of America has not put out a public statement, but someone from within did leak an internal email dated November 19 from president Doug Bowser to all employees to media outlet Fanbyte. This leak was later confirmed to be authentic by Nintendo to multiple outlets, though Nintendo declined to make any further public statement.

In that once-private message, President Bowser expressed that what's going on at Activision Blizzard is “disturbing” and against Nintendo's values, but fell short of promising any particular, specific action. However, Nintendo is in contact with their Activision counterparts, as well as the gaming lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association, which every company in this KoopaTV article is a part of. What those conversations look like is private and not leaked. But it seems like Nintendo wants to raise the standards of every big gaming company in America. The ESA hasn't made any public comment about the situation

While Activision Blizzard's videogames aren't a featured part of the current Black Friday deals on the Nintendo eShop (which I'll write a dedicated article about very soon), many of them are on sale right now if you choose to look for them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Pokémon Center's Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl Shipping Delay

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Alternatively, why I haven't written an article about the release of Pokémon Shining Pearl/Pokémon Brilliant Diamond yet.

You must already know that Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl released on the Nintendo Switch on November 19, 2021. I've been discussing it on KoopaTV in optimistic terms because the Sinnoh region and Generation 4 are in my top three things I'm a total fanboy of. It turns out I haven't played a mainline Pokémon RPG since Pokémon Moon, which released five years ago. I've skipped everything else out of apathy (Pokémon Ultra Moon) or active dislike and distaste for its game design (Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! and Pokémon Shield).

So a game that goes back to the good times before GAME FREAK decided to stop being interested in good game design practices (with some... possibly non-minor unfaithful tweaks) is the type of Pokémon game I should be happy with. And so I pre-ordered Pokémon Shining Pearl from the official store ran by The Pokémon Company International, the Pokémon Center:

Pokémon Shining Pearl Pokémon Center store online pre-order starters plush keychain
You'll receive a bonus plush key chain of a randomly selected starter with your pre-order!
(While supplies last.)

Generation 4 is a rare generation where I'd be quite happy receiving any one of those random plush keychains (another being Generation 3) because I like the designs for Turtwig, Chimchar, AND Piplup. Obviously, Turtwig is my most favourite, but I'd like to have any of these. So the store expects the game to be shipped for arrival on the day of release... and to this day, I still don't have the game. What happened? Well, over the weekend, there wasn't any communication for what was going on. Then on Monday, the Pokémon Center Support site published this article and put it as a support-wide announcement bar, explaining that they are aware of a shipping delay and there are shipping constraints that will result in a new expected delivery date of November 26. I was one of the first few people to have looked at the article because I was... constantly refreshing their support throughout Monday. Perhaps the problem has to do with the greater shipping problems affecting other industries as well. (We can get into the politics of that in the comments if you want?) I dunno. But they are promising to expedite the orders.

Then today, I got an email finally saying my package has shipped and I should expect it to arrive November 26. I'm left wondering if I'll get the plush keychain after all or if they'll consider it a job well done just to get the game. Because if it was a matter of the latter, I could've gotten it by shopping elsewhere. Or via digital download but... I'd rather not do that. Still, it's annoying to get it after Thanksgiving and not before.

I'm also wondering if I should get that life-sized Lucario from the Pokémon Center. That's a pre-order, too. I dunno with these pre-orders... I already got this Delibird Holiday Express Moomoo Milk & Cookies Tank Car Figure and that shipped without any issue whatsoever. You can guess why I bought it. The quality is great, I gotta say.

If you wanted to keep track, the top three things Ludwig is a fanboy of are, in no particular order, the Ace Attorney series, the two Tellius Fire Emblem games, and Generation 4 (Sinnoh) of the Pokémon franchise. He's quite biased about them, but you would be too if you experienced them. Ludwig is eagerly anticipating to re-experience Sinnoh, and he will publish an article when he actually receives the game... and/or the plush keychain.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Expanding my Brain in the Limited Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain Demo

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - My brain's BIG-LEAGUE. I don't need this academy, clearly.

This is apparently a “Ludwig brags about high scores he got in a game demo.” article. Anyway, Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain releases this December 3, 2021 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. To remind people that the game exists (and the enormous social good it does for a fractured Earth), Nintendo released a demo last week. It's very quick, so I recommend you download it and let me know how you did.

First, you go through some very limited avatar creation, customising your looks and a quote. And then you can play three activities out of the... twenty that it seems are available in the full game. Only in practice mode. The full game has a test mode that will chain them together and give you a holistic brain score across five categories, in addition to ghost-data-based online multiplayer. The demo also had local multiplayer available, but I didn't check that out.

The three available games (and my high scores) are...

Friday, November 19, 2021

Ring Fit Adventure Fitness Log Week 53: Allegra's Top to Bottom Switch

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Deep breathing... of the wild!

Hello, and thanks for coming to the this edition of KoopaTV's Fitness Fridays series. In this fitness logs, I talk about my fitness journey for that week. Mainly through Ring Fit Adventure, though last week had a number of extra items to it!

Following the events of week 52, each of the Four Masters now get their own story arc. This week we're in World 53: Fitness Master Lv. 304, which is based on World 30: Extra Fitness Lv. 198. Allegra takes the stage here. ...Well, theoretically. Ring said that I'm already left in her dust, which is why she didn't appear in the world's intro, and I better catch up to her. Some story arc that is.

Ring Fit Adventure World 53 Allegra keep sprinting forward leave you in the dust
Why do Allegra's story arcs keep involving me chasing down a fleeing woman?

Starting on Sunday, I stopped by the Town at the beginning of World 53 to buy some outfits with the very limited number of Onyx stones (and money) that I have, and went north to clear Gluting Gallery (Novice) for 5 Peaches. Despite the game being based off the potentially problematic Overhead Side Bend motion, I got a perfect score on it. This was also aided by me getting a haircut last week so I could actually see in front of me.

And then we very quickly got to the problematic part of this entire world, right up-front: The Fitness Gym's Glutes Set. I should mention now that I play Fitness Master mode on the maximum difficulty level, 30, which means the following rep counts are the highest they can get since they scale based on that difficulty number. Behold what I have to go through:

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Panda and Nintendo to Start Officially Licensed Super Smash Bros. Circuit in 2022

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - With both Super Smash Bros. Ultimate AND Super Smash Bros. Melee!

While Nintendo of America has yet to publish a press release on this—a tweet doesn't count—today Nintendo and eSports organisation Panda Global has announced “Panda and Nintendo Partner for the First Officially Licensed Super Smash Bros.™ Circuit!” Their goal is to create a welcoming and fun space for Super Smash Bros. players, while also promoting competition... with cash prizes! Which is quite unusual for Nintendo, a company that has been sponsoring competitive online Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments but pays out in non-cash-redeemable eShop money and merchandise. The exact prizes and many of the details are unknown.

Panda Global Nintendo of America Super Smash Bros. Melee Ultimate official circuit invitation letter
I bet they wanted to have a Super Smash Bros. newcomer-style envelope/letter but got this instead.

We do know they described the circuit as a “short series” that leads to one single championship. Once large-scale events return and aren't cancelled by the Chinese Communist Party Virus, there will be in-person qualifying rounds for both Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Smash Bros. Melee, as well as online qualifying rounds for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Unofficial fan-made modifications to Super Smash Bros. Melee that allow one to play online through unauthorised emulations are, of course, not a part of this event.

This is the first time there is an officially licensed Super Smash Bros. circuit for both Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, though up to this point, Nintendo in Europe has had something similar for just the latter... though it got cancelled (or postponed indefinitely) because of the Chinese Communist Party Virus.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Riot Expands League of Legends Lore with Indie-Developed Spin-offs

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I like this conceptually! And I'd like other publishers to do this too for certain franchises.

There is no gaming community worse than the League of Legends fanbase. That said, I'll point out something cool when it pops up, so here's information about Riot Forge and the games they're publishing—they're a publishing arm of Riot Games, League of Legends's developer, that is publishing games in the League of Legends universe (known as Runeterra) developed by indie partners:

I suppose you don't want to watch that whole video (though more than half of it are two fireside chats) so I'll give you the gist. Given that League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) without a Player vs. Environment mode, it's not too conducive to story-telling, despite hundreds of Champions and potential for lots of lore and story.

The video mentioned the following games:
  • Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story by Tequila Works (known for Deadlight and Rime), about a child named Nunu looking for his mother. It's a single player narrative adventure with Willump, a protector for Nunu that is some kind of benevolent monster, taking place in the frigid Freljord. Nunu and Willump grow close to each other throughout this adventure and become great friends, with the game releasing in 2022.
  • Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story by Choice Provisions (known for developing the Bit.Trip games, which were all the rage back on WiiWare), about an unhinged weirdo named Ziggs who likes blowing things up, and a more cautious old man named Heimerdinger. It's a side-scrolling platformer rhythm game (or auto-run rhythm game... or music game where your inputs are playing along to the music) taking place in Piltover. There are scripted prompts and also... unscripted prompts to the music that will create even more explosions that you need to activate for full completion. It's available right now for $10.
  • CONV/RGENCE: A League of Legends Story by Double Stallion (their only other console game is Speed Brawl), about a teenage inventor named Ekko going through the polluted city of Zaun, filled with organised crime. Ekko invented the Zero Drive, enabling time travel. It's a 2D action platformer, developing the character of Ekko and the story of the city. The time control factors into the gameplay and you can rewind it if you make mistakes or want to do something more optimal. It's also releasing in 2022.
  • Ruined King: A League of Legends Story by Airship Syndicate (known for Battle Chasers: Nightwar and Darksiders Genesis), about several Champions, including: Miss Fortune, a pirate captain; Illaoi, a Kraken prophetess that can fight with unattached tentacles; Braum, a big (but positive) Freljord brawler; Yasuo and Ahri who are mysterious... people; and Pyke, a crazy swordsman. They converge in the crime-ridden Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles. It's a turn-based roleplaying game with puzzle-solving exploration. It's not a totally generic turn-based RPG... there's thinking and strategy with the Lane Initiative System, which can have you choose trade-offs between turn speed and power (but there are also hazards on those lanes you might want to think about). It's available now for $30.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Yeah, Activision is Dumb for Having In-Office Alcoholic Drinks

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - They're still dumb to this day.

The only dedicated article KoopaTV has on the Activision Blizzard sexual misconduct story was mocking Rosen Law Firm's class action lawsuit... less on the merits on the case and more that it's filed by a joke legal company that files class action suits en masse (in ambulance chasing style) that don't seem to go anywhere. And they ignore my repeated requests for information.

Since then, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has attempted to settle with the American videogame company for $18 million... which was OBJECTED to by the original government party seeking action against Activision, which is California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Apparently, that federal agreement would have allowed for Activision to deny wrongdoing and weasel out of the other lawsuits, like California's gender discrimination one. The EEOC then had its own OBJECTION, saying that the DFEH's lawyers have a conflict of interest against Activision, and of course Activision will agree with the EEOC and asked for the whole Californian lawsuit to be thrown out. Apparently, those DFEH lawyers worked for the EEOC in an earlier time when they were investigating Activision for prior misdeeds... so it looks like they're just out for revenge, or something. It sounds like a decent Ace Attorney plot, actually, especially since it even takes place in California. At least in this case, it seems like the Californian prosecutors are the good guys and the feds are the bad guys, which is the opposite of what was going on back when Kamala Harris was a Californian prosecutor and not a member of the federal executive branch. (Obviously, everywhere she goes turns bad. That's a really nice plot.)

Anyway, today there was yet another new development that makes Activision look bad, this time from the Wall Street Journal, that implicates CEO Bobby Kotick as knowledgeable of many transgressions and apparently approving of wrongdoing. He's described as quashing internal allegations and discipline, and not informing the board of directors. For their part, the board of directors, as a response to the article, put out a short statement expressing their confidence in Bobby Kotick. That statement is short enough I'll quote it in full before getting to the real point of this article as foretold in the title:

Monday, November 15, 2021

GQ Magazine's Phil Spencer Xbox 20-Year Anniversary Interview

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I think it's fascinating. And answers some questions I posed a year ago.

Today marks the 20-year anniversary of Microsoft's videogame console, the original Xbox. That means a bit more to Microsoft than 20 years of stepladder jokes, at least. By itself, it's not article-worthy, but it comes with GQ Magazine having an extensive interview with Xbox head Phil Spencer and some of his other reports. I found it interesting to read through and you might, too.

It's a lot more interesting to read and think about Xbox's future visions than Nintendo's. Throughout the interview, Phil and his team are referring to interesting investments in cloud gaming and the Xbox Game Pass and buying out ZeniMax Media. Phil is all about fundamental changes and big moves for new markets, like how xCloud can increase the Xbox addressable market by an order of magnitude by going into areas with high brand recognition but low access to high-end gaming devices, like Africa, which does have access to a number of low-cost open platforms. Meanwhile, Nintendo is planning to expand by... building out theme parks, merchandising more, and working on movies with weak Nintendo Account tie-ins. That's their whole strategy they've been repeating for years.

It's obvious which company has the deeper, more engaging plotline, though Xbox has the advantage of being able to pull from Microsoft's pool of money. I outright was wondering a year ago what the conversation was like between Phil and Microsoft's board of directors when they bought out ZeniMax, and in the GQ interview, Phil Spencer actually addressed my wonder and characterised it as: