MetalFRO's Blog

Posted on Mar 20th 2019 at 06:28:17 PM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Google STADIA, Cloud gaming, modern gaming, streaming service, physical media

Image shamelessly linked from The Washington Post

Let me regale a story for you, from an event that occurred before I was born. On September 11, 1973, the Chilean government was overthrown. Sitting president Salvador Allende was ousted in a military coup, and was replaced with military leader General Augusto Pinochet. Despite Allende's refusal to step down, power was seized, and he was effectively removed from office. During the period of military occupation, famously, the Estadio Nacional de Chile, Santiago's giant sports arena and complex, was used as a detention center for civilians, Allende supporters, and ultimately, anyone seen as a dissident of the military coup.

What does any of this have to do with gaming, you ask? Very little, in fact. At least, that's the way it appears on the surface. Truth be told, my primary reason for bringing it up is the stream of consciousness that happens when you read or hear something, and it sparks a memory, or triggers a thought. When I heard the title of Google's new game streaming service, STADIA, it didn't immediately strike me as anything particularly interesting. The next day, however, I read it again, and I went right to getting a song stuck in my head: "Estadium Nacional" by the now-defunct progressive rock band, Magellan (R.I.P. Trent Gardner). It's a great anthem that tells some of the story of the Allende overthrow, and a fine slice of prog rock in its own right, even without the trappings of the tragic story as the lyrical focus.

They don't make 'em like they used to.

If you think, at this early point in the article, that I've completely lost the plot, bear with me. I'm merely setting up a discussion on the coup that is taking place within the world of video games. It's not a sudden, violent conflict; no, it's a slow burn. As the saying goes, rather than throw the frog in a pot of boiling water, it's easier to turn up the heat slowly, so the front doesn't even realize he's being boiled to death, until it's too late. In this scenario, we're the frogs, and the gaming industry at large is the cook.

Allow me to cut through the imagery, and get right to the point. Gaming, as we know it, is changing. It has been, for many years. Most gamers my age have probably lamented the things which have become common occurrences over the last few years, within the industry. We know that, as game development becomes increasingly more complex, more and more games are released in broken and unfinished states, only to be patched later (or often, on day one), to fix all the problems that weren't discovered with a game prior to it's release. We're also in the age of "games as a service" - you don't buy a game that gets small iterative updates over time. Instead, you pay a subscription fee for a game that is constantly changing. The experience you have with the game today won't be the same experience tomorrow, because there's no guarantee that the environment you're in will look the same from session to session.

What's becoming more prevalent are the "freemium" titles, that take after mobile games. Rather than paying a premium price for a new game, many games are free to play, or free to start, or occasionally there's a small charge to buy in, but then the company makes their money through "lootboxes" and various in-game transactions. Want to change the way your character looks? $5 please! Like your buddy's bazooka more than yours? That'll be $3.50. Custom hairdo? All yours, for a measly $0.99 - what a bargain! Sarcasm aside, this is the direction the industry appears to be heading for large game releases.

Fortnite uses its own virtual currency known as "V-bucks" that you can use to purchase assets in-game. These cost actual money, however.

All hope is not lost, however. Despite the gaming industry telling consumers that we don't want single player experiences, some of the best-selling and most well loved games in the last few years have been large-scale, single player affairs. The latest God of War game, for example, or Horizon Zero Dawn are both solitary experiences of different stripes. The former is a largely linear affair, guiding the player on their quest, whereas the latter takes a more open approach, with the game more subtly nudging the player forward, and hinting at where you're supposed to go, hoping you'll oblige. And on Nintendo's Switch, two of the biggest sellers have been single player campaigns as well. Both [/i]Super Mario Odyssey[/i] and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild have embraced the story-driven, single player narrative as their approach, and it has paid off handsomely for them.

More than just single-player games, indie developers have also answered the call, providing all kinds of interesting experiences, short and long, that are well crafted, and generally finished when they release. Sure, sometimes games have bugs, and that's hard to avoid them completely. But patching a few minor issues in an otherwise perfectly playable game is quite some distance away from knowingly releasing a game that is a buggy mess, and must be patched on the day of release in order to be at least marginally playable. That seems to be where the industry is headed. At that point, your game disc or card becomes merely a token - something that signifies physically that you paid for a game, or have a license to play it.

The irony isn't lost on me that many companies released buggy, barely playable games during the height of the "console wars" era, with 8 and 16-bit releases sometimes being so riddled with bugs, you'd think it's time to call the exterminator. But those scenarios were often the exception, rather than the norm. And enterprising players often found fun ways to use those tricks to their own advantage, clipping through walls or floors, glitching items for more health or ammo, performing impossible jumps to skip over difficult sections of a level, and so on. Today's games seem to be prone to more serious glitches, with characters getting stuck, graphics glitching out to the point of being indecipherable, or often a game locking up tighter than a rusted nut on an old bolt. And when a publisher releases a game in today's market that is decidedly unfinished, despite user outcry, they often give their mea culpas and everyone moves on. In a world of constant internet chatter and a 24-hour news cycle, one can only be upset about any one thing for a little while, before the next aggravation comes along.

I can't become this age again, but I can still play Super Mario Bros. 2 whenever I fancy it!

All of this to say that Google's newly unveiled STADIA service is the way that the gaming industry has been moving for some time. Previous attempts at streaming services have been attempted, with products like PlayStation Now, or the ill-fated OnLive, have shown. But a company like Google can pull it off, and make it successful. Anyone with a device that can get to the internet and play games has the potential to use a service like this. Putting aside the issues of slow Internet connections in rural areas and developing nations, Google has the money to make a venture like this profitable, and as technology continues to advance, this kind of service will become more viable for smaller enterprises to attempt, especially as services like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services become less expensive, and more competitive. This way, companies can get in on this space without having to build out large infrastructure.

The IT professional in me is excited about the prospect of this kind of thing: seeing all this technology pushed to the limit, to provide new experiences for people at a moment's notice, is a pretty awesome prospect. But the old-school gamer in me balks at it, simultaneously. The experiences gained from a "games as a service" platform are no less important or relevant than those gained from blowing out a Nintendo cartridge and fiddling with the console to get it to boot up. However, the more ephemeral nature of the former certainly makes recapturing those experiences later, a much more difficult prospect. I can walk into my game room now and pull a cart off the shelf, and play any number of games I experienced as a kid, and go right back to childhood. I can fire up Super Mario Bros. 2, and be instantly transported to the basement of my childhood best friend's house, him slouched over in the bean bag next to me, already asleep at 12:30 or 1 AM, as I frantically control Princess Peach to jump and float to new areas, trying not to wake up my friend. In 10 the span of the next 10 years, will any of us be able to go back and experience a major 2018 or 2019 game in the same form we did on day one, in a console that isn't connected to the Internet? Chances are becoming more slim that such is the case.

Yep, I'm becoming one of those old guys.

The death of the physical game release has been widely proclaimed, and we've been seeing those signs for years. Customer backlash against the lack of physical games with the Xbox One was enough to send Microsoft back to the drawing board to rectify that prior to the release of the console in 2013. But 6 years later, with everyone having giant libraries of Steam games that we never play, and large libraries of "free" games, thanks to services like Microsoft's "Games With Gold" or Sony's PlayStation Plus offering, the reality of an all-digital future isn't as far fetched as we perhaps thought just a half decade ago. There's still a contingent of folks, like myself, who champion physical media, and thankfully, there are still publishers who continue to meet the demand, with smaller companies like Limited Run Games and Strictly Limited Games filling those small niches here and there. The Nintendo Switch, with a more permanent type of storage medium, continues to maintain a physical media presence as well, since those games you buy at retail for the console still require the game to be plugged into the card slot in order to play, versus merely an install for many disc-based games.

I'm old enough now, where, I don't have to worry as much about what's going to happen with gaming over the next couple decades. I've collected enough games to the point that, I have more than I could ever play. And even if I did manage to get through everything in my library, by the time I made the journey all the way through, it will have taken long enough that, assuming the hardware all works, or I can emulate somehow, I can go back and do it all again, since the oldest of those experiences would likely feel more fresh years later. But I'm aware of the changes taking place, and I need to keep those in mind, as I continue to engage in the hobby. Such things will continue to inform my purchase decisions for new hardware and software, and may lead me to focus more on what I've missed out on thus far, rather than pushing forward with the latest and greatest. The industry may yet surprise me, and for that, I am hopeful.

But I, for one, welcome our new gaming as a service overlords...if only to make me glad I grew up in the era I did, so I can still relive the memories of games long past, and have "new to me" experiences that give me the same feelings I had as a kid. For that, I can be grateful.

Posted on Mar 14th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Shoot the Corecast, shmup, podcast, Zanac, Compile, shooting game, STG, shooter, shoot em up

This is Episode 009 of Shoot the Core-cast! In this edition, MetalFRO and Addicted look at Zanac, the classic NES shooter that most of us played as kids. Does it hold up? What's good about it? Why is it so well loved? To help us answer these questions, we called upon Collectorcast members Duke.Togo and Crabmaster2000, to weigh in on the game. We hope you enjoy it!

Direct episode link:

Check us out and subscribe (and rate!) on Apple Podcasts!

We're listed on Google Play - subscribe and review the podcast over there!

We're on Stitcher Podcasts now, as well, so if you use that service, have a listen to the show from there!

We have t-shirts! Help support the podcast, and rep the shmup community by buying a Shoot the Core-cast tee!

Here's the thread from the play-through:

Thanks for listening, and any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Posted on Mar 8th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Championship Pool, Game Boy, GameBoy Guru, Mindscape, billiards, snooker, game review, handheld

Here's my take on Championship Pool, from Mindscape and Bit Masters. You wouldn't think that you could do justice to a game like pool on the Game Boy's tiny 4" screen, but you'd be wrong. Rather than a simplistic game of billiards, this cart gives you a ton of game modes and options to play with, all backed by the "Billiard Congress of America" so you know it's official. Surprisingly deep and playable, Championship Pool condenses down the sport, without losing any of the rules or technique that you might expect. Even if you're not a fan of the game, this is a title worth looking into, especially for anyone looking for something different from the normal puzzle game fare on the handheld.

Posted on Feb 12th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Shoot the Corecast, Thunder Force IV, Lightening Force, shmup, shoot em up, STG, shooter, shooting game, Techno Soft

This is Episode 008 of Shoot the Core-cast! This time around, MetalFRO and Addicted discuss, at length, the 16-bit powerhouse shmup Thunder Force IV, aka Lightening Force! Does MetalFRO's favorite shooter of all time still hold up? What are the differences between the different versions? And what's with the "lightening" anyway? All this and more, in store for you when you listen!

Direct episode link:

Check us out and subscribe (and rate!) on Apple Podcasts!

We're listed on Google Play - subscribe and review the podcast over there!

We're on Stitcher Podcasts now, as well, so if you use that service, have a listen to the show from there!

We have t-shirts! Help support the podcast, and rep the shmup community by buying a Shoot the Core-cast tee!

Here's the thread from the play-through:

Thanks for listening, and any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Posted on Feb 10th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Streaming, Gaming, internet, online, Twitch, YouTube, Periscope, OBS,

I totally stole this graphic from Ars Technica. Give them some love.

Unless you've been living under a rock the last few years, you'll know that, not only is gaming a huge deal on YouTube, but it's exploded all over the internet, with regards to people streaming their gameplay live. With modern consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One allowing the ability to stream directly to services like, YouTube, and others, it's more accessible now than ever. Some people even manage to make a living from streaming, or by offering services in conjunction with their streams, so they can make a living doing what they love. Those individuals are the exception, rather than the rule, but as the greater games industry continues to rake in billions of dollars each year, more and more people find creative ways to make a living either directly in the industry, or in the periphery. Others, like myself, see streaming as a fun way to expand upon the hobby we already love, and to be more active within said hobby. I thought I would regale my experiences from my first month of live streaming, and offer a few thoughts on the subject.

Continue reading Adventures In Streaming

Posted on Jan 21st 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Atari 2600, Shoot the Corecast, shooter, shooting game, STG, shmup, Spider Fighter, Imagic, Demon Attack, Activision

Welcome to Episode 007 of Shoot the Core-cast! For December 2018, we decided to do a little something different. Instead of looking at a single game, we took 2 classics head-to-head, to decide which one is the superior proto-shmup on the Atari 2600: Imagic's Demon Attack, and Activision's Spider Fighter. Which game proved to be the bigger hit with the Shmup Club? Have a listen to the podcast, and hear what we had to say. Don't agree? Leave us a comment, or better yet, play the games for yourself, and decide!

Direct episode link:

Check us out and subscribe (and rate!) on Apple Podcasts!

We're listed on Google Play - subscribe and review the podcast over there!

We're on Stitcher Podcasts now, as well, so if you use that service, have a listen to the show from there!

We have t-shirts! Help support the podcast, and rep the shmup community by buying a Shoot the Core-cast tee!

Here's the thread from the play-through:

Thanks for listening!

Posted on Jan 7th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under wish book, Sears, video games, catalog,

The Sears 1991 Wish Book. The stuff dreams are made of.

Sometimes, a fond old memory can come rushing back to the forefront of your mind with such force that, you get a similar endorphin rush experiencing that memory as you did when it was happening to you the first time. Good memories of a departed loved one spring to mind, and you're instantly transported back in time to a happy memory of you and them, and you get that warm, safe feeling that makes you smile. Perhaps you had a favorite sports personality as a kid, and meeting them to sign a baseball or take a photo with them was a highlight. Years later, you find that baseball in a box in your parents' basement, or come across that photo in an old album, and the memories come rushing back, giving you that same big smile you had when it first happened. For me, I have very fond memories of lying on the floor of my grandparent's living room, next to my younger brother, quietly perusing the Sears and JC Penney catalogs my grandparents received in the mail.

Continue reading Wishful Thinking - Reminiscing About The Sears Wish Book

Posted on Dec 20th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Steel Empire, Shoot the Corecast, shooter, shooting game, STG, shoot em up, shmup, HOT B, Starfish, steampunk

Welcome to Episode 006 of Shoot the Core-cast! This time around, we take a good look at the HOT-B Sega Genesis classic, Steel Empire! We dive into the original game, and dissect the re-releases since then, talking about the changes, and getting into the game's steampunk world. MetalFRO and Addicted go into great detail about the game's history, talk strategy, share high scores from the month's participants, and discuss how this game has lived on since its initial release.

Check us out and subscribe (and rate!) on Apple Podcasts!

We're listed on Google Play - subscribe and review the podcast over there!

We're on Stitcher Podcasts now, as well, so if you use that service, have a listen to the show from there!

We have t-shirts! Help support the podcast, and rep the shmup community by buying a Shoot the Core-cast tee!

See all the discussion about Steel Empire, as well as participant high scores, in the discussion thread:

Posted on Dec 8th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Syphon Filter, 989 Studios, Eidetic, stealth action, spy fiction, Gabe Logan, Lian Xing

It's a good thing I bought this game based on the demo, not the cover art.

I have a very strong memory of when I first learned about Syphon Filter. It was probably late summer, or early fall, 1999. I was visiting a friend's house, and he was showing me his relatively new PlayStation console. I had previously played Twisted Metal, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy in college, but at this time, I had only recently acquired my own PlayStation, due to playing Tekken 2 at my cousin's house, and finding that I wanted to get something new, in terms of a game console. My friend showed me a PlayStation demo disc he had, and this cool new "spy action" game called Syphon Filter. I watched him play it for a few minutes, and thought it looked really cool. Then, when he was called downstairs to help finish getting dinner ready, he passed the controller over to me, and I dove in. From that point forward, I knew I had to have this game.

Continue reading Nostalgia Goggles - Syphon Filter

Posted on Nov 14th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under 1942, Shoot the Corecast, shooter, shooting game, STG, shoot em up, shmup, Capcom, WWII

Episode 005 of Shoot the Core-cast, the RF Generation Shmup Club official podcast companion, is now live and online! This time, we cover Capcom's 1942, and look at its gameplay, lineage, and historical significance. We share community thoughts about the game, and discuss its playability today, in light of its much improved sequels.

Episode 005 direct link:

Check us out on iTunes!

We're on Google Play!

We're on Stitcher now, as well!

Check out our podcast t-shirts!

Original 1942 discussion thread:

Many thanks to Perikles, who lent the audio for his 1942 arcade clear, for us to use as the background ambiance for this episode. Check out his many great shoot-em-up clears at his YouTube Channel, Perikles STG:

Posted on Nov 10th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Nemesis, Game Boy Guru,game review,Konami,shooter,shootemup,shoot em up,shooting game,STG

Konami was a prolific publisher, during the early days of the Game Boy, and the prowess they brought to the Famicom and NES translated well to the diminutive monochrome handheld. Aside from a minor misstep in the first portable outing with The Castlevania Adventure, Konami struck gold with most of their titles, including this one, the Game Boy exclusive shoot-em-up, Nemesis. They took the formula they established in the Gradius arcade and Famicom/NES games, and suitably shrunk it down to the Game Boy, but with some new areas, enemies, and elements at work. It makes for a unique and interesting diversion from the core series, and is a worthwhile game in its own right. It's certainly an impressive game for Nintendo's little, portable "box that could."

Posted on Oct 21st 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Shoot the Corecast, Shmup Club, shoot em up, shmup, doujin, freeware, PC gaming

Episode 04 of Shoot the Core-cast is online! MetalFRO and Addicted discuss the RF Generation Shmup Club game for September 2018; a lesser known Japanese doujin shmup called Warning Forever. This is a free to download PC game that is essentially a 25-stage boss rush. Have a listen, and see what we thought of it!

ou can listen directly here on the site, or download the MP3 to listen to later:

We're on Apple Podcasts (iTunes):

And we're also on Google Play!

We're now on Stitcher podcasts, as well!

Thanks so much for listening, and don't forget to subscribe on your favorite service!

Posted on Oct 7th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under shmups, shoot em ups,shooters,shooting games,STG

Thunder Force IV has been recently re-released on the Nintendo Switch as part of Sega's "Ages" series.

The last 5-6 years have been a marvelous time for the 'shmup' or shoot-em-up. Those of you reading the article are likely already familiar with the term, but for the uninitiated, it's a genre of games started in 1978, by Taito's Space Invaders, and continuing on through the 1980's, with landmark games like Namco's Galaga, Konami's Scramble, Namco's Xevious, Sega's Zaxxon, and later games like 1942 by Capcom, Gradius by Konami, and R-Type by Irem. These games usually scroll, though sometimes they're fixed, or single-screen, they're generally always 2D in nature, where the scrolling, or game area, remains on a single plane, and doesn't allow you to move in a "Z-Axis" sort of way, and pits you as a plane, space-ship, or other character/entity against a horde of oncoming enemies, all bent on your utter destruction.

Continue reading The Renaissance of the Shmup Part 2

Posted on Sep 9th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Shmups, Shoot em up, genre, video games, comeback

In the beginning, there was Pong. And people saw it, and it was good. And the medium of Video Games was born. And people liked it, and many games came, and people played them. And they were good. Arcades were created, and they were good.

And it came to pass, that in the Year of our Lord 1978, Taito did release Space Invaders. And in 1979, Namco did release Galaxian, and in 1981, Galaga, and Konami released Scramble. And in 1982, Namco released Xevious. And they were good. And the shmup was born. And the shmup was good.

Continue reading The Renaissance of the Shoot Em Up part 1

Posted on Sep 5th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Shoot the Corecast, RF Generation Shmup Club, Community Play Through, podcast, shoot em up, Raiden V, Seibu Kaihatsu, MOSS, UFO

Episode 03 of Shoot the Core-cast has launched! During the month of August 2018, we played Raiden V, the latest in the long-running series of iconic shmups. It originally released in 2015, signaling the 25th anniversary of the original Raiden, and was exclusive to the Xbox One for a short time. In 2017, the game was then released for the PlayStation 4 and PC as Raiden V: Director's Cut, with some additional content, and adding local 2-player cooperative play. This latest entry brings some new elements to the table, and changes up some typical genre conventions, which we discuss. What do we think of this game? Listen to the episode, and find out!

Podcast page:

Raiden V discussion thread:

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts (iTunes):

Check out the episode on Google Play:

Thanks for listening!

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