Sapience
Doc, Rick, Mike and Liz try doing things remotely. We cover a lot of ground in this episode so be sure to check it out!


In this month's podcast
Egad! It's Pinky! Liz has some voice trouble. Mike Talks about our E3 plans. Rick has a close encounter of the Batman Kind. The Animaniacs donate some time For The Kids! (Rob paulsen, Tress McNeille, and Jess Harnell) More info on the coming changes to the Extra Life Community. Update on Extra Life 2015 Stats. Who won (lost?) The Wario Challenge. We might need some help here! Dot Warner (Tress MacNeille) reminds us to Put your money where the miracles are.

Note: Rob, Jess, and Tress were kind enough to record a number drops for us as Yakko, Wakko, Dot, Donatello from TTMNJ, and Pinky. We'll be adding them in from time to time. So keep an ear out!

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Sapience
Doc, Rick, Mike and Liz are joined by Laurie from our Canadian office. We cover a lot of ground in this episode so be sure to check it out!


In this month's podcast
Liz gives an overview of our upcoming Build to a Guild program for Hospitals. Laurie tells us what the heck is up with Canadian receipts. Mike Talks about upcoming website improvements and API update. Jeromy and Rick talk about the upcoming official Guild Logo template. A new community site and hub is coming, Rick gives a peek into what's in store. How many Extra Life registrations will we have in May Challenge. General confusion, mayhem and fun.

*Note: The Stephen King short story mentioned is 1408 not 1301.


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Sapience
This time out, Rick, Mike, Liz and Doc talk about our incredible partner summit, Extra Life T-shirt contest, and who really has the coolest forum name on the team. (Spoiler alert, it's Liz)


This week, we covered:
 
2015 T-shirt Contest 2015 Partner Summit : What happens when you lock Twitch, Humble Bundle, Rooster Teeth, IDG World Expo and the ESA Foundation in a room? AWESOME happens! We reveal our 2015 Extra Life Fund Raising and Participant Goals. The Team talks about Sophie's Place. Mike Loses at "What are the Chances" and it's Epic!


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Sapience
This week, join Rick, Mike, Liz and Doc for a run down of who went where and did what during our guild launches. We also promise Mike is really not trapped in a 1940s style phone booth, he just sounds that way.



This week, we covered:
2015 Guild Launches : Who went where. Stories from the road.
2015 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Spring Meetings.
We introduce the community to a Team Extra Life game of risk, and basically no reward; "What are the Chances?"
... and more!
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Sapience
Welcome to the brand new Official Extra Life Podcast. For our first episode we're covering a recap of 2014 as well as a few updates on plans we're laying in for 2015. This week, join Rick, Mike, Liz and Doc for a 30 minute catch-up. Pardon the sound quality and lack of sizzle. We're about to launch 24 guilds and didn't want to wait for all of the shiny stuff before we got this info out to you!

This week, we covered:
Extra Life United Recap
Some improvements we want to make to your EL Experience
What this podcast could end up being
How to get in touch with us
2015 Guild Launches
... and more!
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Jack Gardner

 
We are all at a loss today. Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, is no longer with us. Nintendo officially released notice of his death today, noting that the sudden passing of the 55-year-old executive was the result of complications during surgery to remove a bile duct tumor. 
 
There are a lot of quotes and stories being exchanged in the world of gaming today. Many of the quotes are snappy and concise. Many of the stories are great testaments to Iwata's humility and character. However, we are all at a loss. There are no quotes, no stories, that can replace the man. 
 
Satoru Iwata built many of our childhoods in a profound way. He created Balloon Fight and EarthBound. He helped design Mario, Kirby, and Zelda titles. Along with Masahiro Sakurai, Iwata constructed the prototype for Super Smash Bros. He worked in the trenches, developing and designing games into his 40s. Without Iwata, video games would be a dimmer medium. 
 
In an era where many have become cynical and disillusioned with video game companies and the familiar PR lines, Satoru Iwata stood out. Instead of going bigger and flashier with Nintendo press conferences, he took them smaller and more intimate, using technology to talk directly to each person who supported Nintendo. He opened up Nintendo to the public, a company that had fiercely guarded its secrets and privacy. He changed the way a staple of the video game industry talked with its fans. That's incredible.
 
Satoru Iwata was the kind of man who was willing to leave the corporate office and spend weeks personally fixing bugs and looking over code to make sure Super Smash Bros. Melee released on time. As CEO, Iwata took a 50% pay cut to allow people at Nintendo to keep their jobs. Throughout his life, Satoru Iwata displayed impeccable decency, dedication, and joy. Those things shown through in his work, the games he poured his life into, the games we played and laughed and bonded over. 
 
How do you properly send off someone like that? How do you say goodbye? 
 
The man was more than a corporate suit, more than a meme, and more than a creator of idle pastimes. People formed friendships over the fun infused into his games. Kids grew up with childhoods that were that much happier because they had spent time with his work. I believe that his good labor made us all better people and that his death leaves a little hole in all of us. In truth, there is no proper way to say goodbye. The world is a poorer place without Iwata. His effort meant so much to so many and now he is gone. 
 
Satoru Iwata leaves behind a legacy filled with countless smiles and happy memories. Some of those smiles and memories are mine and that's why I find myself wishing so hard that I was writing a story about a new Iwata banana meme instead of an obituary. It hurts when we lose someone with a good heart and Satoru Iwata had one of the best.
 
Thank you, Iwata-san. May God watch over you as you rest in peace. We'll keep smiling for you.
 


Jack Gardner

Review: Bloodborne

By Jack Gardner, in Features,


 
Since the release of Demon’s Souls in 2009, From Software has made a name for itself creating dense worlds of macabre horror and adventure. Bloodborne follows in the footsteps of Dark Souls and Dark Souls II in tone and difficulty, while the gameplay has evolved considerably along with a slight departure from what has become From Software’s signature medieval aesthetic. It is a hard journey that opposes insane gods, raving demons, and everything in between. 
 
Bloodborne was reviewed on PlayStation 4.
 
For those who can properly gird themselves for the difficulties that lie ahead, Bloodborne will prove to be a satisfying gameplay experience. From Software decided to almost entirely remove blocking from their combat formula, retooling encounters to revolve around precise dodging and regenerating health by attacking. This system works very well and encourages a more aggressive attitude toward fighting that many who were shield-reliant in previous From Software titles might find difficult to embrace.
 
Firearms replace shields as the dominant off-hand piece of equipment. While the implementation of guns might seem like it would break combat, it does just the opposite. A limited quantity of ammo means that players need to use their shots carefully. Timing shots perfectly can stun enemies and open them up to powerful visceral attacks, which both look cool and do immense amounts of damage. Each main weapon can be altered on the fly to become a two-handed tool of destruction. On top of that, players can equip an additional weapon on each hand to switch to in the midst of combat. All of this contributes to a very fluid experience that scales depending on the player’s skill. At its worst fighting feels like ineffectual flailing, but at its best it can feel like a surgical dance, floating just outside of enemy’s reach before going in for the kill at the perfect moment.
 

 
Tied in with combat is the leveling system, which uses blood echoes collected from killing enemies to advance a player’s stats. In a major shift for the series, all of these stats are actually understandable and it is easy to see how they affect combat. This avoids problems from previous From Software games where players had to puzzle over what Poise, Attunement, or Resistance actually meant within the context of gameplay.
 
That isn’t to say that the combat system is perfect. There are times when hit detection can be confusing, why can my two-handed weapon go through some parts of walls, but not others? Why did that attack hit me, despite not visually touching me? I could rarely use my gun effectively, though I’m pretty sure that was due to my lack of skill rather than any problem with Bloodborne. Additionally, most enemies that are appropriate to the player’s level can easily kill in two to four hits, which can make it tricky to navigate through areas with a large number of enemies. The reliance on timing works against players during these long stretches as one poorly timed move can mean death or serious injury.
 
In Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, players would receive a certain amount of health-regenerating Estus Flasks each time they revived. Bloodborne takes a different approach. As players kill enemies, they obtain blood vials which can be used to heal injuries. Players can only carry twenty at any one time, though excess blood vials will be stored for use when the player next revives. This works rather well during the early stages of Bloodborne, when blood vials are given out by almost every enemy. However, later on, blood vials become scarce, which can be particularly bothersome when attempting to take on a particularly ferocious boss.
 

 
I’m a bit torn on blood vials. On the one hand, I like that the design encourages players who have been defeated so many times that they’ve run out of blood vials to grind for more, which also allows players to build up more blood echoes and level up. I think that’s some pretty solid, subtle game design. On the other hand, grinding blood vials seems to be the most efficient in earlier areas. So, if you become stuck on a late-game boss, backtracking to those early areas won’t help you level. It’ll just feel like a chore with the only payoff being another attempt at the ‘roided up monstrosity that has already utterly wrecked you a dozen times. A bit more consistency with the doling out of blood vials might have smoothed the overall gameplay experience. The lack of a decent way to obtain blood vials later on in the game just seems like a way to artificially inflate the difficulty (rest assured, I can already hear the chorus of you all saying “git gud, son”).
 
Bloodborne is a blast, one of the few truly “next-gen” feeling exclusives on the PlayStation 4. Completing it gave me a genuine sense of accomplishment. That being said, I think it is time to have a discussion about the philosophy behind Bloodborne, something that comes out in both the gameplay and story.
 
While I thoroughly enjoyed Bloodborne, I developed a growing feeling of unease about my actions and the underlying themes of what I was playing. Bloodborne is, at heart, a game of Darwinian Nihilism. There are no moral questions regarding the inhabitants of Bloodborne’s world, almost everything is out to kill the player and the player fights back in order to survive. This plays into the core gameplay loop of killing and becoming more powerful. Through a cosmic loophole, the player is able to bypass the natural law of “survival of the fittest” in order to accumulate enough power to become the fittest in any given scenario. Ultimately, this escalation of power topples even entities that humans revere as gods. There is no real triumph here, only the momentary relief that comes with the knowledge that you have killed something that posed a considerable threat. The ending, whichever one you get, makes it clear that this has all happened before and it will happen again because that is the way this particular universe functions. The core struggle in Bloodborne is just trying to get by in a world your character is unwillingly thrust into; a world that neither knows who you are nor cares; a world where there is always a bigger fish. Rest is an illusion that lowers your guard, there is only the struggle to continue on for as long as possible.
 

 
One might be tricked into thinking that the gods in Bloodborne serve as some kind of metaphor for religion in the real world, but I think it is less a commentary about that than it is an extension of the broader nihilistic concepts at play in the rest of the game. The deities are completely self-interested and their interest seems wholly detrimental to humans, but they are also not truly divine. Though hard to kill, they are wholly mortal creatures that simply exist either entirely or in part on different planes of existence.
 
Given Hidetaka Miyazaki’s role as the director of Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne (he oversaw the development of Dark Souls II, but did not direct), perhaps Miyazaki has taken on the role of an auteur at the company where he is currently president. Maybe the games he has directed have been his message to the world, a cry that all of our ideologies, morality, and beliefs are all just noise, the ravings of madmen behind closed doors. We’re each the protagonist in our own Bloodborne story, just trying to survive, but constantly encountering new challenges and problems. And those problems, like the enemies in Bloodborne, can sometimes be seen from a long way off, both other times they leap out from the unseen darkness with murderous intent.
 
Bloodborne is a power fantasy. Lately that term seems to have taken on a not-so-great meaning, but against the background of From Software’s larger point, that fantasy shines. It stands out because Yahrnam operates on that power fantasy. The “power” is simply that of survival and it is the only thing a character trapped in a world such as Bloodborne’s can do, even though everything in Bloodborne implies that survival is ultimately pointless.
 
While I disagree with its outlook on life and the grand scheme of the universe, Bloodborne still manages to resonate with me. Art imitates life, and the world of Bloodborne imitates our own. Life can be unfair, beautiful, insane. Living means that travesty occurs unexpectedly and misjudged moments can mean the difference between success and failure. Of course, in life there are all kinds of different problems that we all have to deal with: broken bones, taxes, familial squabbles; but Bloodborne simplifies life into a gothic fantasy where those problems can be solved through combat and catastrophe only postpones victory.
 
 
Conclusion:
 
Arguably the finest From Software game to date, I like Bloodborne quite a bit. The world it holds is beautiful and ugly and weird. The gameplay is almost flawless in its execution. However, if one looks under the surface, I think the underlying message of Bloodborne is sad and, to me, rings hollow. However, I think the conveyance of that message and the way it is worked into every aspect of design makes Bloodborne a very thematically resonant piece of art. That’s something I can respect, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.
 
Bloodborne is now available exclusively for PlayStation 4

Jack Gardner

 
Witching Hour, most well known for their Ravenmark series on mobile devices, will be making their first foray into RPGs as well as PC and console gaming when Masquerada: Songs and Shadows releases in 2016. Until then, we have a few details and an intriguing reveal trailer!
 
Drawing inspiration from medieval Italy's powerful city-states, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows takes place in the city of Ombre, a city full of influential and devious nobility. Players step into the shoes of Inspettore Cicero Gavar who is tasked with navigating the tricky social climes of the great and powerful while solving the mystery of a kidnapping connected to a variety of dangerous people. Combat revolves around a system inspired by BioWare's real-time combat and encourages pausing on the fly to plan out maneuvers and give orders to party members. Magical masks will also play a large part in the combat and story of Masquerada. 
 
 
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is currently in alpha and will release sometime next year for PC, Mac, and consoles.

Jack Gardner

 
Hawk announced the new PlayStation 4 skateboarding title during Sony's CES keynote speech.
 
 
As exciting as that announcement might be, there are no additional details about the game, not even a title. We know it will release this year and that it will come to PlayStation 4. There was no word on whether it will be exclusive to PS4, leaving open the possibility that Tony Hawk might make its way to other systems. Heck, we don't even know if it will be a downloadable or physical release.
 
Some speculate that Activision and Sony have cut a marketing deal reminiscent of Destiny's Sony exclusive advertising. Of course, it is a bit too soon to jump to any conclusions with the limited information available. It's enough for now to know that Tony Hawk 2015 exists.

Jack Gardner

 
In an unlisted year end YouTube video, the creator of Mega Man says that Comcept has finished the core game of Mighty No. 9 and are now entering the porting and promotional phases of development. 
 
 
In the video, Inafune wishes everyone a happy new year and talks about how hard the team at Comcept has been working to bring Mighty No. 9 to the public. Comcept's initial Kickstarter asked for $900,000 to make the spiritual successor to Mega Man, but the company received over $4 million in crowd funding.
 
Usually receiving several times the amount of money asked for in a Kickstarter campaign results in delays, but Mighty No. 9 looks to be chugging smoothly along toward its spring 2015 release. 

Jack Gardner

 
The Internet Archive added a staggering 2,388 pieces of video game history to its collection today. It has also launched the beta for its website that will make its contents more accessible and visually appealing. 
 
Jason Scott, one of the leaders of the Archive's push toward a more comprehensible website and a proponent of making these old game playable in-browser, explained in a blog post that not all of the MS-DOS games will be stable, but "on the whole, you will experience some analogue of the MS-DOS program, in your browser, instantly."
 
And it is true! Some of the games on the Internet Archive work splendidly in-browser. There is no fiddling trying to get the programs to run on machine that can barely recognize what they are. True, some of them don't work properly, but all of them work enough to give you an idea of how they played; what they looked and sounded like. It is a really impressive feat. 
 
I highly recommend you go over and poke around the titles on stored on the Archive just to see what's out there. If you have trouble with the beta site, just switch over to the old version.

Jack Gardner

 
Beginning January 13th, PlayStation will be launching a subscription for their PlayStation Now streaming service. PlayStation owners can currently only pay to rent individual titles for differing period of time ranging from four hours to ninety days at prices that vary from as little as $1.99 to $14.99. Subscribers will have access to every PlayStation Now title for as long as they remain subscribed. 
 
PlayStation plans to implement two subscription bundles. One month will cost customers $19.99. Alternatively, a three month package will run $44.99. PlayStation points out that if the price seems steep, the service grants access to over 100 titles from the PlayStation 3's library. For the skeptical, PlayStation is offering a seven-day free trial. 
 
The subscription will be rolled out on PlayStation 4 before making its way to other systems and devices. To celebrate the launch of the subscription service, a free PlayStation Now theme will be available for PS4 users in early January. Downloading the theme before the end of January will automatically enter PS4 owners into a drawing for a shot at netting a one-year subscription to PlayStation Now. 
 
 
PlayStation Now has been criticized for having inflated prices and being a bit jittery or sluggish when it come to responding to inputs. Is a subscription plan the solution? Does this announcement make you more interested in using PlayStation Now?