Happy Birthday, Star Wars Battlefront! Not to be confused with Star Wars: Battlefront the 2004 smash hit. While the two share (basically) the same name, the 2015 release was not a remaster but instead a reboot. While the game was praised for being graphically stunning, it has taken more than its fair share of heat from the internet. The biggest beef fans have with this game was the content… or lack thereof. The content it did offer was great, and its conception at a time when Star Wars was at the peak of its resurgence from the world wide phenomenon “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hype should have launched it into the game hall of fame. So what went wrong?

If you log in today, you won’t find nearly as many people playing as most other DICE games one year after their launch, and this isn’t a generic military shooter– this is STAR WARS! Personally I think the game’s first misstep was to name it Star Wars Battlefront. While I get the idea of using the most beloved Star Wars Video Game I.P.(Intellectual Property), calling it “Star Wars Battlefront” and not Battlefront 3 or adding a sub title like “Star Wars Battlefront: Galactic Conflict” meant they had to compete with that nostalgic masterpiece.

As I said, the new game is gorgeous and is without a doubt the best Star Wars sim to date (at least from a graphical standpoint). I wonder how the game would have faired if they had instead titled it Star Wars Battlefield? I mean, it is a DICE game, and it plays like a Battlefield game, which is probably a bigger IP. It wouldn’t have to compete against anything except Battlefield games, and while it isn’t as deep and doesn’t boast as many maps or modes as most Battlefield games, it has the benefit of being STAR WARS! The complaints of it just being a Star Wars re-skin of battlefield would have been moot.

Naming aside, let’s talk content. What is there is great, what isn’t there shows as the game doesn’t have much replay value. The maps are all more or less designed for one mode, and after your tenth play through you kind of get what it’s all about. At least, those were my feelings during the BETA. 

The modes that came with the full release all seemed like nothing new except for Heroes vs. Villains. Though it wasn’t as much unabashed fun as its predecessor game mode from Battlefront 2, I do think it offers its own take on the mode that is truly something unique. Normally, Heroes are just a power weapon, a map pick-up that allows you to go crazy. The Heroes and Villains mode previously gave everyone that option non-stop, making a playground mode that resulted in many hours of delightful mayhem. This mode reversed that effect, making the goal of the match to kill all of the Heroes. This means, in theory, most of these Heroes will be playing back and working strategically with their teams, playing a game of chess with more than one king. Regrettably, unless you played with friends, that’s not really how most people played; the game probably would have been better off with a more insanity-driven game mode. 

Another major complaint came from the lack of a campaign. Yet, if you look at the series, a traditional campaign is not really the hallmark of this series. What the more loyal fans wanted was the return of Galactic Conquest, a mode which gives weight to each individual match you play with a star map control sim layered over it. It would have been interesting to see how this would have worked in a PvP environment but wouldn’t have really appeased those fans until the recent addition of skirmish, which allows you to play most PvP modes against AI. 

Honestly, it really has filled out over time and has more to come, but its recovery from the communities lingering “salt” is dubious.

//Redditors caption, “A solid foundation of s*** for our bargain bin at work.”

This game proves two things. First, that graphics aren’t everything, and second, that if the Internet hate train gets behind something then there is no recovering. Even so, over the past few months there has been a lot of talk about a sequel– Star Wars Battlefront 2, not to be confused with Star Wars: Battlefront 2… (sigh).

My fingers aren’t crossed, but with the time they have they could actually make an amazing sequel that would perfectly blend the original games with the new game they have given us, which would result in one of the best Star Wars games ever made.

I think the first thing they need to do is not scrap anything. The first game already looks amazing, so don’t fix what isn’t broken. What they could do is simply optimize the game for the PlayStation Pro (and Xbox Project Scorpio) with the scaled up graphics, 4k, and a locked FPS (frames per second). Then, have the game act almost like a GOTY edition with all the content, including DLC. For this to be a sequel though, they need to add more planets as well as more space battles. They could also offer more maps on each planet, recycling the art assets they already have. They also need to double down on the new movies, with maps and characters from Force Awakens and Rouge One for the base game. It would serve them well to release a free Episode Eight map alongside the movie release like they did with the battle of Jakku.

My hope is that they keep the new Heroes vs. Villains mode but offer the old version as an alternative, and that they offer up more of the absurd fun game ideas like the Wampas on Hoth.

With the amount of pushback they had for lack of single player content, rumors already suggest that the new game will have a story mode. While it would be enjoyable to play out Rogue One through Episode Seven in a campaign mode, without Galactic Conquest and Skirmish mode at launch, and a plethora of maps, they are still going to turn off original fans of the series. These modes are what give the game its infinite replay ability, and if they start from scratch, focusing too intently on a story mode and leaving out its namesakes, then they risk offering the world a game that is every bit as deficient as the first, and we will (once again) not be getting a Battlefront 3.

(Help us Front Wire Studios you’re our only hope)


The Age of eSports

Something happened this week that will change the history of the world forever! No, it wasn’t Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States. Even bigger than the election was what happened at BlizzCon. While that might be a matter of opinion, I’m sure this is receiving unanimous applause from gamers everywhere… Blizzard has officially made eSports a real profession!

On November 8th, Blizzard released a Heroes of the Dorm documentary titled “A New Hero: The Rise of College eSports” which followed the amateur college event’s 2016 finals. The tournament, broadcasted live on ESPN 2, single-handedly brought about a change in the way colleges view interactive entertainment as a competitive sport. Many schools (including the Heroes of the Dorm champions ASU) now have official teams and will be playing in school-sponsored events.

//The Real Dream Team, Heroes of the Dorm Champions 2016

This is huge- for what many considered a niche is now attracting traditional sports backers like Mark Cuban. However, that’s not the big news. This documentary might bring more light to an event that changed the course of eSports, but this week Blizzard has announced Overwatch League. The Overwatch League is a great addition to the also recently announced HGC 2017, both of which promise players will receive compensation as long as they make the cut.

Previously, pro gamers made a living off YouTube, Twitch streaming, sponsorships, and prize money. While the very best players who took home these victories made millions, most players struggled to get by, and after a few years as a “pro”, they retired and moved on. This system makes it almost impossible for all but the few to last in this environment long enough to become relevant. Now every pro player will get paid, the added security means players will stay in the scene longer, and fans can follow with the players they like without the fear of them dropping off the map.

The other huge addition is that major cities will each have their own teams. This gives the teams more of an identity than just what country they are from. It will give gamers teams to root for without having to be a hardcore fan or extremely invested in eSports. Traditional sports have proven more bandwagon fans will watch a championship match if their home team is competing for the trophy.

It is no surprise that Blizzard is the one making this push forward in eSports. The very existence of eSports must be credited to StarCraft. Not only was it the first to really catch on as a competitive video game, but the DOTA (Defense against the ancients) mod birthed the MOBA (Multiplayer online battle arena) genre, now so associated with eSports. Blizzard also has the most to gain with five of their games all currently being played competitively.

Of course, Blizzard isn’t the only game studio pushing for legitimizing eSports. Over the summer of 2015, I visited Riot Game Studios, and while I can’t say much about my visit there, what I can say is what is public knowledge: that the LCS doesn’t make them any money— at least not directly. Indirectly, the game definitely thrives off the community as well as the competitive scene.

//A bright and sunny July 17, 2015 in Santa Monica, CA

The League of Legends World Championship is the most popular eSporting event ever and had more total viewers than the NBA finals. Now, this is tallying global numbers, and the popularity of eSports in asian countries significantly increases the viewership. That is to be expected though because of how well their teams do in these world finals. This year both teams in the final game were Korean, where professional gaming has been legitimized since the early 2000’s.

While personally I will never play any eSport professionally, I have played in LAN tournaments with my brothers and our friends for over a decade. To this day, we still host an annual Halo tournament in our parents’ backyard.

//8 Xbox’s, 8 TV’s, 32 players, 4 Halo’s and Fifteen 12-packs of Mountain Dew.

I am happy to see how much is going into building up the competitive gaming industry, from Blizzard’s announcements to Xbox’s new tournament software Arena.

While I enjoy playing games and even playing in tournaments, I wasn’t always sold on watching others play video games. I mean, isn’t that what we hated about having older brothers or selfish friends that made us watch as they played? …Yes, but this is different. The commentators and, well, millions of dollars on the line give it a weight and sense of legitimate entertainment that strikes a very eerie cord as you start to feel as though it is not much different than watching a traditional sport.

It might seem strange or even stupid to some now, but- really- how different is it to watch some people run imaginary lines or follow arbitrary rules to score points that don’t really mean anything. The difference to me is that since Thanksgiving is just around the corner that means I haven’t played football in just about a year… but I played Halo yesterday.

Personally I don’t understand the kids today who watch endless hours of their favorite streamer play video games all day– the same kids who gave Pewdiepie his power as an influencer. Imagine when those kids grow up, watching others play video games wasn’t a negative experience but instead one of their favorite pastimes. Esports will be the logical progression to where these kids, now grown up, turn for entertainment. This likely won’t be for at least a decade, but it starts today, and it will only get more and more popular worldwide.

I don’t believe it will replace sports, but I do believe it will get as big- perhaps not in the US, but on a global scale. Not every game is created equal, and the more popular games as well as the best looking will rise to the top. First person shooters have the disadvantage of traditionally only showing one player point of view at a time, so I would guess they will finally take a backseat as other games that can display their content better will take precedence. I know this is already a given with MOBA’s being the favorite for eSports as of right now.

I am going to declare it here today, that I think Rocket League is going to be a gateway eSport for the masses. Not that it will necessarily be the most popular, but I believe it will bring them in and in many cases open people up to the idea of watching video games as a sport. The game is universally loved and is cheap enough to be highly accessible. It in some ways perfects the world’s most popular sport by adding in high-action moments and a faster pace. The games are usually five minutes so an entire best of 5 match could last only an hour, with brakes in between games.

//Rocket League, the 2015 smash hit pro tournament.

The same things that make the game great could also be its downfall though as long, drawn out games are often what builds tension in a traditional sport, and the limited number of actions the player has could produce a ceiling in terms of skill level, making all the pros indistinguishable from one another. Only time will tell, and on December 3rd we will see if there is a trend to my prediction at the World Championship.

Either way, eSports are on the horizon! More people and more money are getting in this ring, and the real competition involves which games become multi-billion dollar commodities and which ones fade into obscurity.

Press Start

Hello World,

I have been playing video games since I was four years old. I have played retro classics from Super Mario World to Pacman and modern masterpieces like Skyrim and Rocket League. I grew up alongside these games, during the largest leap in game development and technology to date. Graphics went 3D then HD, televisions got slimmer and by the end of the first decade in this millennium more games were being developed for phones than all dedicated gaming devices put together. Games have shaped the way I look at the world; they have become a part of me.

I don’t recall my first gaming experience. I was lucky to have older brothers who not only purchased many great PC titles but put an emulator on our computer to run hundreds of NES and SNES games. I had endless hours of fun playing game after game, bingeing Harvest Moon, and conquering enemies in both Warcraft 1 & 2. It was easily my favorite pastime; while my brothers all enjoyed video games, I loved them!

I didn’t always play to my maturity level; in the same day, I could play Putt-Putt Travels Through Time or GTA. I played whatever I could get my hands on, which was a lot of games. I played many games to completion but found myself cycling through titles searching for only those with the most engaging mechanics or story lines.

(Before there was twitch, August 1999)

As I went through elementary school, I discussed games with friends. I denounced rumors of China already having Halo 7 or that Michael, the kid who sniffed glue, had an uncle who “worked for Nintendo”. After school I focused less on homework and more on completing levels or unlocking characters. One of my favorite memories was a moment during a vocabulary test when I knew the definition of the word “adjacent” only because I had heard the sound bite “MUST BE PLACED ADJACENT TO THE GRANARY” every time I didn’t place a granary touching another one in Stronghold Crusader.

(Stronghold Crusader, Developed by Firefly Studios in 2002)

My love for video games continued through junior high- to the point where I started coming up with my own game ideas and writing rough game design docs. However, that love started dwindling as I got into high school and my time was spent more with friends, and games became an after thought. Occasionally I would hang out with a friend from elementary school, who I truly didn’t believe when he told me he had Halo 3 nearly a month before release. His dad actually worked for a computer hardware manufacturer and they had computers and parts all over their house. They also had modded or flashed all their consoles so they basically had every game in existence.

I loved going over to his house, playing the newest games, setting up our own server and playing CoD4 with all his friends. Unfortunately my friends didn’t want to do that kind of thing, so as high school went on I spent less and less time with this friend, and I stopped playing video games almost entirely.

High school came to an end and so did many of my relationships with various friends as they went off to college, moved out of state or just became too busy with jobs or girlfriends. I had messed around with programming iOS applications during the boom of the AppStore and made a few subpar applications. On a snowboarding trip I took with some friends, I read the infamous tweet by Dong Nguyen. 

I hadn’t worked on a mobile game in over a year, but I saw this as an opportunity to jump at my very “original” idea of making a flappy bird clone. No one else thought of that, right? I developed the game and art assets in three days and sent it to Apple on February 11th. It takes generally about a week or so for Apple to review and process an application, so on February 19th… Flappy Chick was born!

Between submitting the app and its launch, twenty other Flappy Bird doppelgängers were released via Apples AppStore alone. That being said, Flappy Chick did surprisingly well with over 50,000 downloads in the first week. Ad revenue brought in about $600, which wasn’t bad, but the game could have been more profitable had the $0.99 ad free version released the same day. Due to issues creating a Licensed Partnership, the paid version wasn’t able to be released and that is why my name “Austin Farnsworth” was shown on the AppStore instead of “Klick Ink L.P.” (my company’s name).

The following week no less than 2,000 more Flappy Bird clones came on the scene, and my downloads plummeted to under 30,000 and revenue to $400. The paid version finally released, but by then the craze was over. The app capped at nearly 100,000 downloads and netted me about $3,000. This “success” prompted me to spend my free time developing many more mobile games with simple mechanics. None of the next 10 games I launched performed anywhere near as well, so I ended up shutting down Klick Ink L.P. in early 2015, and the apps were all removed from the AppStore April 2016 when I didn’t pay to enroll another year in Apple’s developers program.

Summer 2015 I created a prototype for a game that I came up with in 2008 that is based on a favorite flash game I used to play. I expanded the concept with several artistic changes and game redesigns, but for now I have put that project on hold. My hope is to resume production on the game sometime next year. I don’t want to reveal much about the game so as to not fall victim to overselling a game. What I will say is the game is a 2D modern world RPG that focuses on comedy, community puzzles and a fun grind as its incentivizing mechanics. My hope is to have cross platform save files and a Virtual Reality port that is activated by taking a pill- like in The Matrix.

(The Matrix, released 1999, the same year I was playing Putt-Putt to a crowd of five people, coincidence… most definitely)

So… why am I writing a blog and not working on the game?

Well, first, it is much easier to write this article than to make a game. With no money or partners involved, getting the full game to come to fruition in a timely manner just doesn’t seem possible. I’m not Scott Cawthon, okay!

The second reason I am doing this is to generate buzz or to attract others to the project early on. I need a new artist, but- more importantly- I need fans. Individuals who are interested in my work. I saw with mobile games that the market is just too saturated for anyone to ever see your game. Unless I have thousands of dollars for advertisement, no one will ever play my game even if I were to finish it. So I am taking a different approach.

I also want to reinvent myself and my company. I want to have an open dialog with anyone who comes across my work and be totally open and transparent about my projects going forward.

The final reason I am making this blog is simple: I love video games. I consider myself a gamer, but it seems at times like I am the only one who still really enjoys video games. I know this isn’t true, but there has become so much negativity surrounding video games. Every complaint anyone has ever made about any video game ever is by default a “first world problem”. So then why is there so much toxicity and rage amongst players? Why so much vitriol directed toward developers and publishers? The only truly positive voice I have seen online is Extra Credits.

(Extra Credits, Seriously if you aren’t following them on YouTube you should)

I would like to join them as a positive voice and share why I still unabashedly love video games despite the problems this industry is facing. With the dozens of broken games, micro-transactions, lack of support and developer’s lies, I would like to weigh in as to why some hatred may be unwarranted, or at least offer the perspective of a long time gamer and budding developer.

Follow me, and I will show you the world of gaming through my eyes.