It’s like Facebook and Xbox Had a Baby

The video game community is comprised a wide variety of gamers. You have competitive gamers and casuals. Console, handheld, and PC gamers. Yet, there is no dedicated online space that connects this community. For too long have gamers kept to comment threads and forums. There is room enough on the Internet for a social media site dedicated to gamers.

This social media site would be structured in the way Facebook is. Gamers can create and customize a profile, adding the variety of games they play, add friends, and follow other members of the community. It would provide gamers a space to interact across brands, consoles, and titles and share captured images and videos. Need someone to trade Pokémon with for a trade-evolution? Need a 6th fire team member for a Destiny raid? Or what about people to start a Rocket League team? This site could allow for all of that communication to take place under one roof.

Giving the site a similar structure to Facebook means users could acclimate to the user interface and experience with relative ease. The site would also work with producers of capture devices to promote online streaming directly to your page and timeline, i.e. Facebook Live, Twitch, and YouTube. A dedicated social media site provides gamers a way to interact with one another, without having to sift through extensive forums or cat videos. Video games are all about interactivity, so let’s give that community a flagship site they can call home.

Make a Documentary Featuring Low-Level Video Game Streamers

The popularity of online video is at an all-time high. Cornerstones of this new wave of media are video game streamers and content creators. The largest of these creative individuals & groups attract millions of views and also advertising money.  However, the Internet video industry is not an overnight success, and there are more and more fish entering the pond. A documentary series about the behind-the-scenes life, successes, and struggles of lower budget/smaller operations streamers would serve as an educational resource for those interested in making an attempt at Internet stardom.

Many may look at a company like Rooster Teeth and say, “well that’s so easy, I should just do that”. Famous for Internet series Red vs. Blue, Rooster Teeth is a company 14 years in the making. They did not do some podcasts one night, snap their fingers and BOOM! a fan base and fame appeared. They provided unique content that stood out from the crowd. They are now one of the big fish in the pond. With the Internet already saturated with video game streamers, what does one do when they decide they will play video games on the Internet for a profession?

That is where the documentary series would come in. The collection of films would highlight different areas of the industry. One part would be dedicated to the work the big fish put into their operations. One part would feature current smaller level streamers. A final part would be a “petri dish” where the filmmakers follow one individual starting a video game YouTube channel from the ground up. This documentary series has an important and timely topic with true educational value.

The NCAA Should Organize Division I ESports

ESports’ popularity with younger audiences will be the next great television rights battle. Competitive tournaments for games like Dota 2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, and Call of Duty, already attract thousands of viewers. It is becoming the chosen sport of the next generation of sports fans. That is why now more than ever, the NCAA should organize Division I ESports.

Financially there is room for this growth. Major television deals for NCAA football and basketball help fund the remaining NCAA tournaments. These cash cows provide the money that allows college field hockey, track, cross country, soccer, bowling, etc., to compete. ESports has the ability to bring in money like football and basketball. Even if television isn’t an option, media content is rocketing to the Internet. A major online streaming deal with YouTube or Twitch could be struck to solidify NCAA ESports as a gaming community staple.

It would also be relatively cheap for schools to operate ESports teams. No more expensive than a few consoles, a Wi-Fi connection, and some travel expenses. A lot cheaper than those big football programs. Student club teams already compete in independent tournaments, which is an opportunity the NCAA is missing out on. They are rooted in NCAA principles of teamwork, practice, and dedication. ESports are the centerpiece for a shift in the sports climate. That is why the NCAA should capitalize on it now or risk missing the boat.

I Want to Publish the Very Best … Like No One’s Ever Planned

Phew! My fingers were just typing faster than a Yanmega after a couple Speed Boosts. I just finished the first draft of my long-form written piece and sent it off for feedback. Now the ball is rolling, but I have a plan for how the rest of this publication process will unfold.

First off, my article takes the form of if an opinion column and a devil’s advocacy got busy in the Pokémon Day Care. It is an argument for the educational value of Pokémon‘s core series of games, why they could be effective classroom resources, and their relation to the process of inquiry and deeper skill-based benefits. Essentially, I believe that Pokémon can be a very effective teaching tool if used properly.

Where in Blaze Kicks would I publish an article like that? Well hold your Pontyas, I’ve given that some thought. A gaming-centric post like this could find a home on IGN’s or Gamespot’s websites. Gamespot is an enticing candidate because they are one of the brands controlled by CBS Interactive. This post on Gamespot could easily be linked to the SciTech section of CBSNews.com since a core part of the article involves technology in schools. Something similar is done by CNN for sports coverage as CNN.com will link to Bleacher Report’s content.

I am working to cover all of my bases with the article. I have done plenty of first-hand research playing the games and am currently 18+ hours into my 4th playthrough of Pokémon Y Version to test some of my theories. I also have nearly 90 hours logged in Pokémon Sun Version. I am well versed in the games core mechanics. My goal now is to easily translate my thoughts on how those mechanics hold educational value. I am sufficiently happy with the first draft of the article, yet I am well aware that the final rendition will most likely look nothing like it. I’m okay with that.

Here is my plan moving forward:

  • Wait for feedback on the initial post and continue researching.
  • Upon receiving feedback, read it, and write a completely new draft applying that feedback. The goal is to write a unique second draft not influenced by the first.
  • Send the second draft in for feedback. Once I have two completely different drafts, with feedback in mind, I plan to write a third draft using my favorite portions of both versions.
  • After the third draft is done, I will make final grammar and spelling checks.
  • Get feedback on the final draft. Make adjustments.
  • Once all is clear and I am confident with my article. I plan to reach out to Gamespot/CBSi through a contact page about the process of getting published to either their “News”, “Universe”, or “3DS” section since Pokémon is played on that console. The “Universe” page contains news updates and articles covering pop culture outside of pure gaming industry news.
  • Wait nervously for a response in the same way one waits nervously for the three little beeps necessary to catch a Pokémon.
  • If all goes well, get published!

That is the journey that lies in front of me. At times, this article will be my best friend, and other times I won’t want to look at it. But view this moment right now as my first few steps outside of Pallet Town. There is a great new adventure that awaits. Regardless of the outcome, there is a great new learning experience to be had.

 

Time for an Upgrade

Wardy’s Blog of Awesomeness has been a wonderful and fruitful experiment. Never before have I given myself a platform to express my thoughts with the written word. At least not publicly. I thought Twitter was a waste of time. I thought, “Well … no one is interested in what I have to say”. Rubbish. This journey has me on the verge of finding the treasure dearest to me. My voice.

I do not believe that my voice is at its full potential. It is not wholly unsuccessful; it is just lacking guidance. That feeling should resonate within the confines of my blog posts. Glimmers of true voice watered down by exposition. I do it too often. Instead of showing you what is beyond the door, I spend too long explaining what the door looks like and why I’m at the door in the first place. My voice seems to slightly alter to ensure that an assignment is getting across. A prime example of this lives in my Legend of Zelda argument post. Too much fluff, not enough Wardy.

There are pieces that I have absolutely loved writing. The devil’s advocacy allowed me to argue and exercise focus. I am still trying to find time to brush away all that fluff and sew the good pieces together. My résumé is my standout piece so far. I loved the creativity and decided to go all-in on utilizing game lingo. “Roll with it”, I said. I’m thrilled I did.

Fractures of my voice are felt in those posts. I feel so close to grasping it. Where I feel it the most are pieces written from the heart. I threw structure to the wind. No outside influencers. They are results of inspiration craving for me to put pen to paper. “Being Like the Cool Villains”, “Battle Buddies Forever”, the note to my dad. They are the most Wardy things I’ve written. Other assignments? They can feel claustrophobic as if you are caged, pressured by a due date.

In one piece, I wrote about ambition. My voice lies at the crossroads of ambition and inspiration. Where what excites me and what I want to do meet. Wardy is here to stay, we are still going to have fun. I mean, we are talking about video games. But, @BlogWardyBlog and the Blog of Awesomeness will be refocused. Ambition will be their pinnacle and inspiration as their foundation. I am not abandoning this journey. Too much progress has been made, with much still to go. I will find focus. My next post will be the start of this new direction. Wardy will evolve.

Add an “Add-Ons” Option for Your Search Filter Microsoft!

There is a three-letter acronym many gamers expect to see at some point in a game’s lifespan. DLC, or downloadable content, is additional content that video game developers make available for purchase some time after a game’s release. In cases, DLC is on the market at the time of launch. With legions of players and a slew of DLC, easy access to this abundance of content in online stores is important for customer satisfaction. One noticeable problem involves the Xbox Store. There is an inconsistency in information architecture. The Xbox Store on the Xbox One features an “Add-Ons” section which includes all DLC, the Xbox Store on the web does not.

A consistent user experience should be Microsoft’s first goal across all of their platforms. The fix is not all that difficult either. First, Microsoft would want to ensure that all DLC or additional content contains an “Add-Ons” identifier. Then, there are two places on microsoft.com that should gain the option to refine a search though “Add-Ons”. One is on the “Xbox games (download)” page located under the “Store” drop-down in the “Games & Entertainment” deep drop-down menu. All Microsoft would have to do is add an “Add-Ons” option to the “Refine results” sidebar. That small fix remedies this UX blunder.

The second page that needs a user experience Band-Aid is the “Xbox One games” page. This page can be accessed on xbox.com under the “Games” drop-down menu in the navigation bar. The page includes a “Filter by:” section with a variety of options in the form of checkboxes. All Microsoft needs to do is add a checkbox for “Add-Ons” and that solves the issue on this page.

Attention to detail in user experience designs is crucial to customer satisfaction. That premise is amplified for multi-platform companies. Sure, the user interfaces may vary, but all of Microsoft’s products should share similarities in their UX. These updates would be quick to implement and would do wonders for servicing Xbox customers that choose to acquire DLC through xbox.com.

Finally, A Wikipedia Page for Backflip Studios’ 3D DragonVale Sequel

DragonVale World

DragonVale World is an iOS game developed by Backflip Studios and released on November 3, 2016, for iOS. The game is compatible with iPhone and iPad. It is a 3D sequel to DragonVale. DragonVale World is free to play and includes in-app purchases [1].

Gameplay

DragonVale World shares similarities with its predecessor, DragonVale, as it is a breeding simulation game which players develop habitats and display dragons in a park. Players earn the in-game currency, “dragoncash”, while their dragons are in their habitats. Dragoncash can be used to upgrade the park with food, expansions, decorations, and habitats. DragonVale World relies on a countdown clock when breeding/hatching dragons and completing tasks. Different dragons and tasks require longer wait times. New to DragonVale World is the ability for players to change their dragon’s appearance through the use of “spells” [2].

Gems are another important in-game currency in DragonVale World. Players can use gems to speed up breeding, hatching, and tasks.  Gems can be acquired from Dragonsai dragons, completing various goals, and interacting with friends. Players may also purchase gems using real-world money within the app. Players may disable the in-app purchases feature if they choose [3].

There are 140 [4] dragons to collect with over 100 new [5] dragons not seen in DragonVale. Each dragon has an element associated with it, with rarer “hybrid” dragons containing a combination of elements. There are 7 basic elements dragons can have: Fire, Jungle, Earth, Frozen, Fairy, Water, and Air. There is also a variety of Epic dragons. These dragons earn significantly more dragoncash and are difficult to breed. Their elements include Rainbow, Ancient, Sunken, Treat, and Zen. Dragonsai dragons live in a special habitat and generate gems. Zodia dragons are special limited time only dragons and their availability is coordinated with the signs of the zodiac.

DragonVale World is currently in version 1.11.0 and requires iOS 9.0 in order to play [6].

Development

Backflip Studios was in the development of DragonVale World for two years [7]. The company did a soft launch of the product in November 2015 [8]. Backflip Studios’ original DragonVale was released in 2011 and still received support from the developer. The company continuously adds new events, new gameplay features and new dragons [9], with a total max park level of 90 and more than 340 dragons [10].

Concerns about future support for both games were put to rest by Backflip Studios Creative Director Matt Coohill. He said, “We have no plans to decrease the support for DragonVale and intend to continue offering a rewarding experience for the game’s loyal fanbase. We will use our extensive insights in this genre to provide exciting updates for both games.” [11]

Coohill also mentioned that DragonVale continued to add new players while DragonVale World was in soft launch and claimed that, “it’s clear that there is room in the App Store for both of these titles.” [12]

Critical Reception

DragonVale World has yet to receive a score on review aggregator Metacritic as it is awaiting additional reviews. The one critic score has it at a 70. There are no user scores on Metacritic yet [13]. DragonVale World has been rated 4.5 stars with 6632 customer ratings on the iTunes App Store [14]. Its predecessor, DragonVale, received a score of 84 from Metacritic [15].

Notes

[1], [3], [4], [6], [14].  “DragonVale World”. Apple iTunes Preview. Retrieved June 25, 2017.

[2].  Shaul, Brandy (November 3, 2016). “Backflip Studios Launches DragonVale World on Mobile”. Adweek. Retrieved June 25, 2017.

[5].  Jones, Elton (Updated November 13, 2016). “‘DragonVale World: Top 10 Things You Need to Discover’”. Heavy. Retrieved June 25, 2017.

[7], [8], [11], [12].  Suckley, Matt (November 7, 2016). “Backflip Studios on releasing DragonVale World five years after the original”. Pocket Gamer.biz. Retrieved June 25, 2017.

[9].  Fahey, Mike (November 2, 2016). “DragonVale World Takes Obsessive Dragon Breeding To The Next Level”. Kotaku. Retrieved June 25, 2017.

[10].  “DragonVale”. Wikipedia. Retrieved June 25, 2017.

[13].  “DragonVale World”. Metacritic. Retrieved June 25, 2017.

[15].  “DragonVale”. Metacritic. Retrieved June 25, 2017.