LeaveIt2Beaver
Hey Extra Life Community -
 
We have some exciting news to share! In an effort to help make fundraising more fun, more accessible and ultimately easier, we’ve added two new applications to the Extra Life experience. Now you can fundraise through Facebook or on the go from your phone!
 

Extra Life Facebook App
Fundraising has never been quicker or easier than with the new Extra Life Facebook App. It installs in just a few seconds and allows you to opt-in to automatic status updates, upload Extra Life profile and cover pictures and ask your entire Facebook network for donations in just a few clicks. To start fundraising through the Extra Life Facebook App, login to to your Extra Life account, and click "Fundraise with Facebook" in the participant dashboard.
 

 
Extra Life Mobile App
Manage and share your Extra Life experience on the go with our new Extra Life mobile app. This free app lets you fundraise and connect with others through SMS, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Email. You can update your Extra Life page and check your fundraising progress all from the palm of your hand.

Download the app here: iPhone | Android
 
We’ve also spent the last couple of months improving the mobile experience on the Extra Life website so give the new apps a try. We want to hear what you think so send any feedback and ideas to community@extra-life.org or comment below and let us know!
For The Kids,

Mike Kinney
Team Extra Life
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Jack Gardner
Have you ever wished you could run with the Pokémon, bond with them in full 3D? A mod created for Ark: Survival Evolved allows players to do just that! Created by a modder going by the name Mystic Academy, Pokémon Evolved replaces the dinosaurs that roam the Ark world with over 30 fully realized Pokémon and unique, craftable items.
 
Mystic Academy's Pokémon Evolved mod has been around for a little while and became one of the most popular mods for the survival crafting game. However, the mod was slapped with a DMCA notice and closed down. Many expected that notice to be the death knell for Pokémon Evolved, but then something strange happened: The DMCA was lifted. Mystic Academy speculated in an interview with PC Gamer that the DMCA came from a rival modder working on a different mod that also inserts Pokémon into Ark. The DMCA claim probably wouldn't have been lifted if Nintendo had been behind it, as we can see from similar cases where Nintendo has protected their copyright.
 

 
Now that the DMCA claim has been lifted, Ark players can once more download Pokémon Evolved. However, people interested in the mod should probably download it as quickly as possible. Mystic Academy admits that most of the animations and character models used in their mod come directly from Pokémon X and Y. While they don't directly profit from the mod, Nintendo could very well look at the situation differently and slap Pokémon Evolved with another DMCA.
 
Ark: Survival Evolved comes out of its prolonged Early Access phase later this year when it releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. 
Jack Gardner
With new details of the Switch released, we recorded a special episode this week to discuss what we know about Nintendo's next console, its launch line-up, and the potential future of the device. It's not every day that a company launches a new console against two firmly entrenched competitors. 
 
Be sure to let us know what you think of the Nintendo Switch and its possible future down in the comments because we're definitely curious as to what you all think about this intriguing console and how Nintendo is going about launching it (in less than two months - how crazy is that?)!
 

 
Outro music: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker 'Ballad on the Sea' by MasterGi (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03304)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
Jack Gardner
Back in 2007, the internet was a different place and so was the indie gaming scene. Getting a title onto a digital platform like Steam was still enormously difficult for small-time game developers. Most solo game talent cloistered themselves within obscure forums or strove to make projects that might attract the attention of a game studio. However, many, many developers opted to put out in-browser games based on Flash software. Of these, Armor Games' Sonny was one of the finest. Sonny and Sonny 2 were played a over 35,000,000 times and garnered significant praise from critics.
 
After years of publishing games like Kingdom Rush, Armor Games has turned to Sonny and reimagined it for iOS devices. Not content to merely port the game they sponsored a decade ago, the indie publisher brought back the game's developer, Krin Juangbhanich, to remake the original Flash games with a new storyline and tighter strategic gameplay. The artwork has been redone by Jet Kimchrea and the action is now backed by an original score from David Orr, who worked on the original Sonny games and might be best recognized for his work on the Castle Crashers soundtrack.
 

 
As Sonny, a man resurrected from the dead with no memory of his past life, players must master an expanding assortment of abilities and allies to progress through a twisted, post-apocalyptic future. Strategy and planning pay off in the turn-based RPG that now features the ability to empower Sonny mid-battle to gain an edge over grunts and bosses alike. Honestly, the original Flash game was one of the finest the internet could offer a decade ago and a new, expanded version on iOS excites me.
 
 
Sonny is available now on iOS, check it out if you are looking for an excellent mobile RPG.   
Jack Gardner
Nintendo revealed a number of details on their upcoming console, the Nintendo Switch, late last night. The company revealed the price, release date, and a number of games over the course of their livestreamed event, which you can watch online. 
 
The night's information dump began with the reveal of the Nintendo Switch release date: March 3. That means the next generation of Nintendo's console line is less than two months away from hitting brick and mortar stores and that's certainly hard not to get at least a little excited about. Moreover, the Switch will retail for $300 making it roughly competitive with the consoles from Microsoft and Sony. 
 
Nintendo also revealed some scant details on how Nintendo will alter its approach to online with the Switch. Their plan is for players to be able to link a smart device, presumably a smart phone or tablet, to the Switch via an app. This app will allow players to invite friends to games and interact in various ways with the digital environment of the Switch. The online services will be free when the console initially launches, but sometime during Fall 2017 online services will change over to a paid subscription.
 

 
In order to more fully embrace the new digital age, Nintendo will be doing away with region locked hardware with the Switch. The company stated that this would be a general approach, so that still leaves open the possibility that some select things could still be region locked. 
 
Nintendo began to get more into how the console will actually function. Players can enjoy it in TV Mode, which functions like a traditional console. Tabletop Mode transforms the console into a portable screen that can be placed on a table while gaming outside the home in a party or travel situation. Handheld Mode slips the left and right Joy-Con controllers onto their respective sides of the Switch console and turn it into a portable gaming device.
 
One of the most talked about aspects of the Switch prior to Nintendo's reveal event was how long the battery would last when gaming on the go with the Switch. Nintendo estimates that the Switch contains 2.5-6.5 hours of battery life depending on what game is being played. While it can be played while it is being charged, the short battery life almost certainly limits the amount of usable time the console can be in use away from a power outlet.
 
Nintendo dedicated a significant portion of time to explaining the rather strange Joy-Con controllers. Each console will come packaged with two Joy-Con controllers, left and right, that can be clicked together inside the Joy-Con grip to form the basic Switch controller. Each of these functions separately, enabling the console to support a two-player co-op experience right out of the box. Both controllers house a light sensor that is capable of distinguishing shapes and movement; the example used highlighted its ability to recognize the symbols for Rock, Paper, Scissors. The two controllers also make use of Nintendo has dubbed "HD rumble" - a high-precision internal rumble pack that can deliver very specific rumble sensations. On top of all that, the controllers include gyroscopes and motion sensing technology that allow them to incorporate movement into some games. The Joy-Con controllers will be available in different colors at launch: grey, neon red, and neon blue. It will also come with a wrist strap accessory called the Joy-Con Grip that seems to make the individual Joy-Con controllers more ergonomic and hand-friendly. 
 
The right Joy-Con includes an NFC reader, and the left Joy-Con houses a button that can take screenshots and capture in-game video. The video capture function doesn't seem like it will be functional when the console launches in March, but that function will come eventually, according to Nintendo. Screenshots and recorded video can be shared on social media, which raises a question about how Nintendo will be handling YouTube and Twitch monetization with the Switch, given their past policies regarding Nintendo IPs and Let's Players/streamers.
 
All of these features come with a price, though. The base cost of the system, $300, seems pretty reasonable for a console launch, but Nintendo aims to make a killing on the cost of standalone accessories. If you are thinking of perhaps getting a second dock for another location in your home for the Switch, the $90 price for a single docking unit might put you off. Want to pick up two extra Joy-Con controllers to have four individual/two traditional controllers on launch day? That will cost you another $80 - more if you buy the Joy-Con controllers separately for $50 each. If you opt for the Pro controller, which is only sold separately, it isn't that much cheaper at $70. Anything beyond the base system will significantly increase the cost of buying into Nintendo's next generation. Just one extra controller nudges the cost of the system close to $400, a number the console will easily break as games are being sold separately at launch.
 

 
Nintendo envisions the Switch as a party-friendly device. Up to eight Switch consoles can wirelessly connect for local multiplayer games. Titled 1-2 Switch and slated to be available at launch, the first game shown during the conference highlighted the company's focus. 1-2 Switch consists of a number of minigames that involve person-to-person interaction with friends and family. The one highlighted most, a Western-style quick draw game, pits two players face-to-face and determines who can draw their Joy-Con the fastest. Other games briefly shown included sword duels, boxing, yoga, and more. As far as we know right now, there are no plans to bundle 1-2 Switch with the console, making it a separate purchase on launch day. 
 
The second game shown for Nintendo's impending console packs a punch. Arms looks to be a combination of Overwatch and Punch-Out!! pitting players against one another or the computer in the boxing arena. The major distinction between Arms and a typical boxing title seems to be that every character has extendable arms and a number of unique abilities to get the better of their opponent. The game's producer described it as a mixture of shooting and boxing. Arms makes use of the motion control elements of the Joy-Con to simulate boxing in a way that feels very reminiscent of Wii Sports' boxing, albeit highly refined. With a roster of colorful characters and a truly endearing aesthetic, Arms definitely catches the eye and should be one to watch as we inch closer to its release date. Unfortunately it will not be available when the Switch launches on March 3, but it will be coming sometime this spring.
 
 
Splatoon 2 made a splash with a new trailer showing new, inky gameplay. New special weapons can be activated when enough ink has covered the stage and players can use the Joy-Con motion controls to aim their tools of colorful destruction. Splatoon 2 turned out to be another game we will have to wait a while to see, launching sometime this summer. Much like the first Splatoon, Nintendo will support it post-launch with new stages, weapons, and ongoing, in-game events.
 
Hand it to Nintendo, they paced the reveals during their Switch presentation just right. Just as it began to seem odd that no major franchise names had yet made an appearance, they blew open the lid on a brand new Mario title. Super Mario Odyssey might just be one of the weirdest Mario games ever made, and that is saying a lot of a franchise that includes some of the most fever-dream worlds in gaming. Nintendo wanted to convey the idea that Mario was journeying to unknown lands and the trailer certainly establishes that, showing obscure and never-before seen enemies and locations - including what looks to be New York City, complete with realistically proportioned humans. I cannot stress enough how jarring the juxtaposition between a realistic human and a cartoon Mario appears. Oh, and Mario's hat seems to be alive now? Outside of the real-world areas, the game looks incredibly gorgeous and inviting. Bowser makes an appearance in a dapper white suit having kidnapped Princess Peach yet again. I don't know how any of this fits together, but the sheer oddity of it all has me on board, even if the ride could end up being a bumpy one. Super Mario Odyssey won't release until the 2017 holidays, so more details will almost certainly be shared during E3.
 

Monolithsoft is back with a sequel to their Xenoblade JRPG titled... Xenoblade 2. It might have been the stream, but some of the in-game footage seemed to be stuttering. Details on the game were practically nonexistent and Nintendo did not provide a release date. 
 
Koei Tecmo appears to be continuing their relationship with Nintendo by creating another hack-and-slash fighting game. However, instead of adapting The Legend of Zelda, this time the developers of Dynasty Warriors will be tackling the venerable Fire Emblem series. The teaser was pretty short and didn't display any gameplay, but color Fire Emblem fans intrigued by such a strange marriage of genres in Fire Emblem Warriors.
 
From this point on, Nintendo adopted a more rapid-fire approach toward unveiling upcoming titles. Nintendo claims that, between their studios and third-parties, over 80 games are in development for the Switch at this point in time. 
 
Dragon Quest X and XI are slated for a Switch release in Japan, while Dragon Quest Heroes I and II will also be coming to the Switch. A new Shin Megami Tensei has just gone into development for the fledgling console, though nothing beyond that and a short teaser were shared. Square Enix unveiled a new IP called Project Octopath Traveler, a game that appears to update the old-school 16-bit aesthetic with a few modern twists. Todd Howard from Bethesda to confirm that Skyrim will be coming to the Nintendo Switch, laying to rest the rumors that Skyrim's appearance might have simply been for the promotional trailer. Suda 51 from Grasshopper Manufacture, the studio behind the recent free-to-play game Let It Die, took the stage to let everyone know that he would be resurrecting Travis Touchdown for an as yet unnamed title for the Switch. People might remember the name Travis Touchdown from his protagonist role in the game No More Heroes. EA confirmed that FIFA would be coming to the Switch, too. Presumably we could also expect to see other EA Sports titles like Madden on the console, but so far only FIFA has been confirmed. 
 
 
A montage of games revealed and hinted at a number of other titles that Nintendo will be bringing to the Switch. Glimpses could be seen of Minecraft, a few Telltale titles, Farming Simulator, Rime, a Sonic title, Bomberman, and a flash of a futuristic racing game that might just be the first F-Zero game since the GameCube. 
 
The Switch will come in two different packages when it hits shelves on March 3. Both will be the same price of $300 with the only difference being the color of the Joy-Con controllers. One system will be packaged with grey controllers and the other will have Joy-Con in red and blue. The system will come with the left and right Joy-Con, a Joy-Con Grip, the system dock, console, an HDMI cable, and an AC adapter.
 
The final announcement was one that many were hoping for: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be a launch title for the Nintendo Switch and available on March 3. This was accompanied by what might just be one of the biggest hype-inducing trailers in gaming history. The game includes voiced dialogue! It has weird sci-fi elements! Epic scope in both landscape and story! Some nods to timeline continuity for the fans! A very impressive trailer that might have single-handedly ensured that the Switch sells out of stores on day one. 
 

Now, that was a lot of information to digest. Overall, this conference succeeded in fostering significant excitement for the Nintendo Switch, which had previously been a mystery. While there were certainly some tantalizing looks at future Switch titles, only two were confirmed to be launch titles, though one of those being a Zelda game pretty much guarantees a large number of people buying into the hardware. And that buy in could make Nintendo a tidy profit. I'd wager that they are selling the Switch at a loss to make that attractive $300 price point, but they will more than make up for that in software and accessory sales. That probably contributes to the seemingly inflated costs of the Switch's accessories.
 
 
Jack Gardner
2016 was a mind-blowing year in the world of games. VR, massive Kickstarter successes and failures, games that pushed the boundaries of what games can be, 2016 had it all. Jeremy, Daniel, and Jack bring their number one game of the year along with one honorable mention apiece. What games from the past year will be remembered as one of the best games period? 
 
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.
 

 
Outro music: Undertale 'Sunny Day Drive' by Just Coffee (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03474)

You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
StarkleSparkle
On October 4th 2016, we lost a special member of our Extra Life community, Christien Quiles. Christien is a perfect example of what a beautiful difference one person can make in the lives of others.
 
Christien made it his mission to improve the lives of patients at McLane Children’s Hospital. As a teen patient battling osteosarcoma, Christien felt everything was centered around his illness, and he recognized the need for teen patients to enjoy regular social experiences while in the hospital. He took the initiative to meet other teens in the hospital and form a group.  
 
It started with creating friendships, monthly meetings and discussion of how they could make their hospital even better. Through Christien’s dedication to giving all teens in the hospital a voice, his social circle grew to becoming an official Teen Advisory Board that Christien co-chaired. With the help of the hospital staff, and many generous donors, Christien and the Teen Advisory Board were able to see the opening of a Teen Lounge, a place for teens to hangout, socialize and play games while at the hospital.
 
Christien became involved with Extra Life early this year. He was thrilled to learn that every dollar raised would stay local to impact kids at McLane Children’s Hospital. He and the Teen Advisory Board formed an Extra Life team, McLane Children’s Champions.
 
Team McLane Children’s Champions set their goal at $18,800, which was specifically to purchase two needed pieces of hospital equipment, of which many members of the team had personally benefited from. Christien raised over $5,000 of that himself. After reaching their original group goal, they raised the goal to $25,000.00 which was also exceeded. Christien was excited to learn about the new winged avatars for Extra Lifers. He was anxious to receive his wings for his 1 year Extra Life anniversary, but knowing the seriousness of his condition, he instead focused his efforts on helping those around him. 

 

Christien is the first Extra Lifer to have legacy wings designed in his honor. His wings were created using two of his paintings that he created.  One painting was his interpretation of outer space and the other was an abstract interpretation of his experience and his emotions as he was battling Ostesarcoma.  Christien has impacted and improved the lives of numerous teens, individuals and Extra Lifers through his selfless service of others. As we celebrate this year’s game day and continue to raise funds and awareness for our local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, please join us in honoring Christien by approaching this cause with the same passion and selflessness that he did.
 

--------

 
 
 
 
Daniel Jones
Another Friday, another fifty dollars.
 
The first time Ron Carpenter received the generous donation to his PayPal account, he figured it was just a courteous one-time gift from a viewer of his YouTube channel, Cobra TV. Then week after week, the same donation continued to pop up in his account.
 
Another Friday, another fifty dollars.
 
Carpenter – like most YouTube personalities – started his channel on a whim, without much of a plan or very high expectations. Wearing a mask to retain anonymity, he ranted about games in stream of consciousness videos on a crude, but functional, webcam set-up. “I was depressed, and I was making videos,” he tells me over Skype. Those early videos featured Carpenter farting and making crude, offensive jokes about games. He doesn’t harbor much pride for those early days. As he recalls, “I guess you could say I was a troll back then.” Soon after, he discovered No Man’s Sky, a game that at that point remained a mysteriously intriguing space exploration title from an inconspicuous independent developer. Hello Games had made a splash at the 2013 VGX awards when it released a trailer for its procedurally generated space exploration game. Like many people in the games industry, Carpenter took notice right away.
 
The budding influencer’s curiosity piqued further when Hello Games director Sean Murray came onto Sony’s E3 stage in 2014 to show more of No Man’s Sky in a demo that has since become infamous. Carpenter watched as Sean Murray explored a planet full of dinosaurs and other creatures, hopped into his spaceship, launched through the atmosphere, and immediately started dogfighting in outer space. “It blew my mind away,” says Carpenter of the stage demo, which would prove to be a slight exaggeration of what the final product turned out to be. Misrepresentation or not, the demo was enough to hook Carpenter. “After that,” he says, “I searched for anything I could find on the internet about this game. I didn’t even know what Reddit was at the time. I started taking down notes just because I wanted to learn more.” His excitement for the game fueled his content from that point on; a commitment that proved infectious.
 
Carpenter doesn’t look back fondly on his early videos covering the game. “My first No Man’s Sky video, I’m sitting there in a mask and burping and farting through the thing,” he recalls, “when I realized I had such a passion for this game, those videos just seemed really disrespectful.” It might be strange for current followers to hear that Carpenter’s early videos contained such vulgarity, when he’s built a reputation for objectivity and candor. But regardless of quality, he eventually realized he wasn’t alone in his passion for the game. His viewership and subscription numbers began to reflect that fact. “People were taking me seriously finally. So I thought, ‘they deserve respect and I need to be better.’” As his audience grew, he began to accept donations through PayPal, to help improve the overall quality. He earned just enough to buy a new computer, webcam, and microphone.
 
As his channel found an audience, Carpenter’s Cobra TV became a prominent outlet in the burgeoning No Man’s Sky community. He began to see his videos pop up on Reddit and in Facebook fan groups for the game. In hopes of cultivating and providing a voice for that community, he soon began inviting fellow fans onto his shows to pontificate about the seemingly infinite possibilities of Hello Games’ universe. As such, he became the sort of de-facto leader of the word-of-mouth hype surrounding the game prior to launch. Carpenter had become the pope to god, Sean Murray – preaching to the flock for an increasingly capricious deity.
 
Hyping No Man’s Sky had itself become a popular pastime on the internet, and a burgeoning cottage industry for content creators like Carpenter. While the information that Hello Games released to the public was vague at best, Carpenter found himself filling a need. As he explains, his motivation had less to do with exploiting the game as it did with satiating his own desire to learn more about this mysterious universe. He tells me that what captivated him most about No Man’s Sky was the sheer creativity of it all. “It was the overreaching of the entire game as a package. I say overreaching now, not because of what happened, but because that’s what I wanted to find,” says Carpenter, alluding to the underwhelming state of the final product, “I wanted to find a game where the developers did overreach. They went out of the box and pulled out what was normal. They pulled out something special, put it into the limelight and tried to do something that nobody else has done. That’s what drew me in. The fact that somebody for the first time in a long time, was overreaching.”
 
As a kid, growing up in the marshlands of Florida, some of Carpenter’s most vivid memories are of long walks in the woods near his childhood home. As a child, he would join his father on exploratory walks through the swamps, with little intention other than to observe nature. “I would just look and see, and I was so amazed,” recalls Carpenter. These trips consisted of no hunting, no taking pictures, but just being in the moment and seeing what there was to see; an activity that would sound more than a little familiar to any diehard No Man’s Sky devotee. Later in life, he would take his dog Jasper, a mix of pit bull and German shepherd for long walks through those same marshes. Once in awhile, when Jasper began to snarl and sneer at the water, Carpenter says, “a gator would come out and my dog would sit there, run away a little bit and just bark and bark.” He recalls with a nostalgic chuckle, “I would stand on the top of the hill and yell at [the gator] to get back in the water.”
 

 
For those anticipating the game, the potential in No Man’s Sky wrested on the promise of finding metaphorical gators in that digital universe’s water; the potential of encountering epic space battles, long-necked dinosaurs, and giant sandworms. Even now, months after launch, and with the release of the Foundation update – a long-awaited content dump of new modes and gameplay tweaks – a common refrain can still be heard around the community: But where’s the giant sandworm?
 
For fans and detractors, so much of what makes No Man’s Sky’s story intriguing, even months after a failed launch, is best exemplified by that one question:
 
But where’s the giant sandworm?
 
Promotional materials and early footage showed a giant sandworm. Common sentiment among the community is that it must be in there somewhere. This is a near-infinite universe full of eighteen quintillion planet-sized planets, after all. Due to the sheer size of this world, it’s quite possible that simply nobody has found it yet. Not for lack of trying; Reddit and dedicated Facebook groups are full of fans posting videos and screenshots of worm-like creatures that could be long-removed cousins to something that might vaguely resemble a giant sandworm. However, not one player has recorded an instance of encountering such an animal.
 
It’s much more likely that the beast just doesn’t exist. But it’s also possible (if infinitesimally so) that it does. And that’s all that matters for some fans.
 
No Man’s Sky fandom is a strange place. Prior to release, fans of the game scoured the internet for any information they could find on Sean Murray’s creation, including Cobra TV videos. They created fan art, bought t-shirts, took to reading old science fiction novels (the Asimovs and Clarks that Murray likes to name-check in interviews), and even made fan videos thanking Hello Games for its time and effort in creating this procedural universe that none of them had yet experienced.
 
On August 9th, 2016, the game released and that fandom grew even stranger. When No Man’s Sky failed to live up to expectations, the community split into two camps: those shouting “Sean Murray is a liar,” and those defending the developer even as they acknowledged the product’s imperfections. The angry voices rang the loudest though, and hating on No Man’s Sky soon became just as sporting as anticipating No Man’s Sky had been just weeks earlier.
 
 
Here’s where this story gets weirder for me, as the author. I’m going to break a cardinal rule and insert myself into it a bit. I was one of those people who hyped No Man’s Sky far more than it may have deserved. I was one of the people playing gameplay trailers for family and friends, evangelizing the gospel of Sean Murray. I was one of the people that considered themselves a fan of a game that I hadn’t even played yet. Heck, I even found myself re-reading Frank Herbert’s Dune in the weeks before the game’s launch, because, well… giant sandworms! Prior to release, many people would say that anticipating No Man’s Sky was already fun enough, that the game itself didn’t even need to be any good. They had already gotten their money’s worth. Oh… if only that were the case.
 
As I began to research this story, I started to suspect that it was far beyond my scope of practice. I reached out to a few prominent individuals in the community, which soon became a depressing exercise in futility. One source, for example, would only speak to me off the record for fear of being ostracized for his criticisms of the game. Some other people who openly disliked the game declined to comment, and just quietly retreated from the imploding community. When the subreddit was abruptly deleted overnight on October 5th, I reached out to the moderator responsible only to find that he had deleted his own account, my only means of contacting him, due to the overwhelming backlash. That same subreddit, with over 150,000 members at the time, would soon be replaced with another dedicated page for the game, before finally being turned into a Mr. Robot subreddit as a sort of joke at the expense of Hello Games.
 
Did I say this story was strange?
 

 
I began to get the sense that I was working on uncovering some deep government conspiracy, when in reality, I was simply trying to talk to people about a video game. Even the game’s developers seemed to be susceptible to the drama. After having been silent on Twitter for months, the Hello Games official Twitter account tweeted out that “No Man’s Sky was a mistake.” It would turn out to be the work of a hacker, but it only further demonstrated just how divisive this game had become. Having started my research in October, I began to wonder if I should ever write this article at all, for fear that this story – like the game’s universe – was never ending.
 
And it most certainly isn’t over yet.
 
Hello Games recently released the Foundation Update, which adds base building, freighters, survival mode, creative mode, an online message system, and more. The game finally resembles what it probably should have been from the start, save for a few major features including full online support, factions, and, as far as anyone can tell, giant sandworms. Despite selling millions of copies at launch, No Man’s Sky’s player numbers had since dwindled to the hundreds. Those numbers have seen a minor surge with the update, and the game’s most ardent fans have seen their faith rekindled and rewarded, but it’s still not the smash hit that so many people expected it to be.
 
Those same fans never stopped watching Cobra TV and talking about the game, even if they stopped actually playing the game. Carpenter remains a spokesman for that community, despite never really aspiring to that label. With his smooth baritone and casual dialect, he has a voice for radio, something he’s aspired to since his youth. Although he never wanted to just be known as the guy that talks about No Man’s Sky, he appreciates the experience the game has afforded him. He just wanted to talk about fascinating games, but for Carpenter and his followers, the most fascinating game remains the one that earned him all this recognition in the first place.
 
Another Friday, another fifty dollars.
 
During Hello Games’ self-imposed sabbatical, many people wondered how Carpenter could continue making videos about a game while the developers themselves remained silent. But those same people were still watching. Just as 130,000 people re-subscribed to the new No Man’s Sky Reddit during that time, Carpenter’s viewers kept coming back. “Lots of people on my YouTube channel comment saying, ‘I feel sorry for this mother f___er for wasting his life talking about this game. He’ll never get these years back,’” reflects Carpenter. “I get comments like that all the time.”
 
Another Friday, another fifty dollars.
 
Carpenter had no intentions of accepting this money week after week. So he decided to email the donor to inquire, thinking that maybe it was a mistake, or maybe a glitch with PayPal’s system. It wasn’t.
 
The donor wrote him back to explain. “I received back, this email. [The email] said that one night he was sitting on his couch and he had a gun in his mouth, and he said that one of my No Man’s Sky playlists was playing on his computer,” Carpenter’s voice cracks ever so slightly over Skype. “He never told me what I said, but something that I said in one of my sub-casts, made him yank the gun out of his mouth and reevaluate his situation. He said fifty dollars is nothing compared to what I made him feel like his life was worth. He tried paying me that fifty dollars every week. Finally, I told him that if you continue to keep paying me fifty dollars I’m going to refund it to you every single time.”
 
“That,” he says, “That’s made it worth it.”
Jack Gardner
The second part of our holiday break focuses on answering a question that we've heard a lot over the years: How do you even start podcasting? At first glance the equipment, software, and even the recording space can all seem like insurmountable barriers to entry, but with some perseverance and tenacity, anyone can start a great show! Jack goes in solo to answer a lot of the burning questions surrounding podcasting and how to make your own.
 
Next week we will return with our best games of 2016 podcast, so stay tuned for us to resume our normal format.
 

 
Outro music: Pokémon Diamond Version 'Home Is Where the Luvdisc Is...' by PROTO·DOME (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02199)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
Marcus Stewart
Telltale’s Batman kicked off with a promising, but so-so, pilot and goes home with a triumphant bang. City of Light combines dramatic storytelling with an increased focus on gameplay to conclude Bruce Wayne’s struggle on an overall high note.
The final episode impresses right out of the gate by presenting two vastly different opening chapters (determined by the player’s final choice in Guardian of Gotham). Both introductions kick things off in high gear with tense conversations and high-octane action. I also enjoyed seeing how the effects of the previous episode’s ending ripple throughout City of Light. These differences chiefly affect Batman’s tech and provide worthwhile differences in gameplay, including a neat little costume makeover midway through. After playing every chapter in the series twice, City of Light’s playthroughs feel the most unique from one another.
Villain arcs wrap up in satisfying, if bittersweet, fashion. It feels liberating to finally knock off adversaries after being pressed under their thumbs for so long. I especially enjoyed the dark revelation to Catwoman’s story, which manages to surprise even a wised-up fan like myself. Lady Arkham, however, left me wanting a bit more in terms of development. Although City of Light illuminates her shadowy origin in a chilling segment, key questions I’ve been pondering in regards to her rise to power remain shrouded in mystery and feel like plot holes. On a positive front, Telltale succeeds at hammering the idea that she’s ultimately a disturbing, twisted reflection of the type of person Bruce Wayne could have potentially become. In a tale centered on Bruce’s identity crisis – both as a Wayne and under the cowl– Lady Arkham stacks up as an appropriate foil. Her climatic encounter with the Bat ends in spectacular fashion as well.

Witnessing the strained bond between Alfred and Batman has been a highlight throughout the series and comes to an emotional head. Their relationship has been severely tested; Alfred blames his lack of honesty regarding the Wayne family’s sinister past for causing many of Bruce’s current woes. He’s not completely wrong, but I always did my best to mend that crumbling bridge. That love endures nerve-wracking trials in the third act that, while ultimately leading to the same outcome regardless of making a pivotal choice, leads to one of the series’ more touching scenes.
Speaking of choices, do yours matter in the end? Yes and no. In traditional Telltale fashion, the story wraps up largely the same with notable differences peppered about to highlight your decision-making. However, City of Light’s final decision, as well as an ominous favor promised to a certain character, are seemingly poised to pay off in a potential second season. If a sequel comes to pass – and I expect/hope it will – I don’t mind Telltale leaving these enticing threads dangling as they’ve already got me itching to see more from this universe. If not, then they’ve left some large narrative holes, to say the least.
A lack of engaging gameplay hindered previous entries in the series. That’s not the case in episode five. City of Light showcases everything Telltale’s Batman has to offer with the most interactive sequences yet. The latest detective puzzles require increased deductive effort making them more fun to unravel. Even a fresh (albeit simple) spin on the concept appears when Batman must locate a missing ally. Unlike certain previous gameplay activities, nothing here feels uninspired or tacked on. Fast-paced and frequently occurring fight sequences entertain more so than in any other episode.  
Frustratingly, enduring technical flaws occasionally mar the fun. A stuttering frame rate and hard crashes to the home screen make the experience feel like it’s held together by bat guano at times. One especially bizarre (and humorous) bug caused an NPC to become invisible save for his floating eyes and teeth, sucking much of the gravity from an otherwise violent combat segment.
Conclusion
Technical flaws and a strange, underwhelming final scene aside, City of Light closes the book on Telltale’s captivating Batman saga in good form. A wonderful balance of high drama and interactive thrills kept me glued to the screen in a way that hadn’t happened since the stellar Children of Arkham. It’s been a lot of fun watching Telltale successfully shake-up Batman’s mythos while simultaneously making a Bruce Wayne-focused experience genuinely enjoyable. City of Light is a fine conclusion that inspires hope for a sequel.
Batman: Episode 5 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is available for Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android
Jack Gardner
As the year winds down to a close, it is important to remember those who are close to us. Jeremy and his son, Dylan, man the podcast this week to discuss the deep things in life, like which video games are best and how Daniel really is a monster for not allowing Dylan to eat marshmallows that one time.
 
This episode and next week's episode are a bit out of the norm for what this podcast usually tackles, but hopefully that makes them no less enjoyable than usual. We will be back the second week of 2017 with our episode on the best games of 2016, so bear with us while we take a bit of a break from our normal shows.
 

 
Outro music: Pokémon Diamond Version 'Bullet for My Piloswine' by halc, PROTO·DOME, and WillRock (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02192)

You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
Jack Gardner
Ubisoft created a hit with the original Assassin's Creed, but its successor, Assassin's Creed II, managed to establish a franchise that has practically become serialized with yearly releases. Set in Renaissance-era Italy, the history-rich action-adventure game places players into the role of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, a fiery nobleman whose family is betrayed and killed. Ezio dedicates his life to uncovering why and obtaining vengeance as a member of the shadowy Assassin Order. The sprawling city-scapes filled with realistic NPCs captivated audiences in 2009, but does the experience hold up as technology and game design have moved ahead?
 
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. 
 

 
Outro music: Hitman: Codename 47 'Chained to a Barcode' by Rayagon (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01075)

You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday