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Of 2016: The Bummers

Of 2016: The Bummers

I wrote down a bunch of games that I personally didn’t care for but it’s not like they were bad, broken or offensive, it just wasn’t my time to embrace them. Instead, my Bummers of 2016 are all about trends, both personally and industry-wide.

Playing Fewer Games
I miss my glory days when I was able to put my hands on hundreds of PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and PC titles. Between press contacts, freelance writing, working at Blockbuster — and regrettably, piracy — I played through so many more games than I have in the past half-decade. Nowadays I seem to double down on a smaller assortment of endlessly replayable experiences. The kind with more mystery to their mechanics rather than an emphasis on story or the size of their worlds.

It’s not that I feel I’m wasting my time or am left unsatisfied — in a lot of ways these games are more personally rewarding than 12-hour single player campaigns — but there are still loads of games I’d like to have seen through first hand. See the Might’ve Been Cools for just a tiny list of games I intended to play, but still haven’t.

Oh, you mean the 360? Yeah that was great

Xbox, what’s that?
I really did love the Xbox, all the way back to the original. The 360 era was my favorite generation of gaming and most of it was thanks to that console. We even got an Xbox One around its launch and I fully expected it to be my platform of choice this generation. But the games, they did not come. Instead it was the PlayStation 4 that brought the most exclusives that I was personally excited about. With the PS4 always at the ready it became the place I preferred to play and watch just about everything in 2016.

  • After 7 years I let my Xbox Live Gold membership expire and I don’t feel even a pang of remorse about it.
  • Not even their offerings of “free” games were enough to keep me on the hook.
  • We still only own a single Xbox One controller.
  • Even Kinect, whose voice commands are the best way to navigate the kludgy Dashboard, was retired.

Maybe Scorpio will win me over or maybe I’ll build a new gaming PC and the Play Anywhere stuff will really take off. But outside of a precious few exclusives like Inside and FRU the whole Xbox experience in 2016 was a dusty, distant and dormant afterthought for me.

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Delisted Games and Delisted Games
I didn’t fall into a rabbit hole with delisted games so much as I dove into a labyrinthine ant nest with contorted tunnels sprawling out into the darkness. I launched DelistedGames.com in 2016 and spent the spring and early summer really drilling into things. It’s still very much console-focused but without the support I was hoping to find it’s going to be much longer before it grows to encompass PC and mobile delistings. Still, I have a pretty good base and I’ve done my best to keep up with shutdown notices and sudden disappearances throughout the year.

We lost even more games in 2016 due to licensing deals and studio consolidation. Just a very few include: Project Spark, Dead Star, Disney Infinity, The Beatles: Rock Band DLC, Xbox Fitness, Asteroids: Outpost, Asheron’s Call, SMASH+GRAB, Forza Horizon, Castle of Illusion, The Devil’s Third, Planetside, Legends of Norrath, DUST 514 and Nosgoth. Thankfully we got more advanced notices in 2016 so fans could temper their emotions and enjoy the last few days, weeks and months with these games.

It’s still sad to see a game go and it isn’t going to stop, ever. It’s also getting harder to dig up details after the fact as so much of the modern web lacks permanent URLs. Even the invaluable Archive.org can’t capture the current PlayStation Store leaving research to exhaustive data mining or forum heresay. Microsoft recently transitioned all their web stores over to a similar structure leaving a mess of URLs that may or may not be navigable in its wake.

Of 2016: The Most Played Games

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It’s getting harder to track playtime than it used to be. I feel like most games used to give you the full stats breakdown but this year I’m basing most of these on gut feelings. The biggest guestimation is for Dragon Quest Builders which I’ve pegged at 95+ hours. The only stat the game tracks is “days passed” which I timed out to be about 10 minutes. Time stops during dialog scenes though, as well as when you’re in any of the menus and at the beginning of each new chapter until you progress to a certain point. For a game with a restrictive inventory system there’s loads of time spent juggling items, using up materials and deciding what to throw away. What kept me going for 95 hours? Look for my Top Five of 2016 post coming up.

Ace Combat and Starbound, 2 very different games I spent 90+ hours with in 2016

Surprisingly, 2nd and 3rd place are tied at 91 hours between Ace Combat Infinity and Starbound. Having picked up a more reliable slim PlayStation 3 I felt like I could push the hardware with months of non-stop, repeatable Ace Combat action. It’s a free-to-play amalgamation of the series’ greatest hits and it became my new Spelunker World for most of 2016. I checked in daily to use up my free “fuel”, running missions and racking up rewards to pump into the gargantuan upgrade system. Aside from October when I was totally absorbed by Dragon Quest I think I kept at it almost every day from July through December.

Starbound’s time was much more concentrated around its launch in late July. After 4+ years in the making I was ready to dive into the spiritual follow-up to Terraria with Katy at my side, crafting and exploring our randomly generated galaxies. One of the few games I played on Xbox this year was Dead Rising 3 (ironically, in the same year they announced and released a brand new sequel) in which I racked up a reasonable 40 hours. It was a good balance of traditional Dead Rising race-the-clock quests with some forgiving modern concessions. It was a fun and frivolous romp and most of those hours were spent hunting down the array of collectibles in the game.

I Let it Die so many times

Back on PlayStation 4 again is Let it Die with 36 hours, an impressive feat considering I only started it in December! It’s peculiar style, crafting system and punishing multiplayer invasions have me ready to throw myself against its challenges most evenings. A single run at the tower usually requires 60+ minutes and with only a sneaky way to “pause” the action it’s demanding and captivating. More often than not I come back down the Tower of Barbs with my heart racing but ready to do it all over again. It’s the most harrowing grind I’ve ever experienced in a game and it’ll probably last well into 2017.

Honorable Mentions go to Spelunker World which was still going strong through the end of May. It doesn’t have an hour counter though so there’s no way to tell how much time I really spent. My guess would be well over 10 hours, if not 20 or more. Also without a counter is Big City Stories, the free-to-play SimCity lite that I loaded up for between 5 and 30 minutes most days. It’s hard to tell if I put in a lot of time or just played it for a lot of days. The Witness also lacks a counter but I can’t even guess at this one. There were probably hours spent staring at the screen and doodling out solutions in a notebook. I even cut out little Tetris pieces to help brainstorm new solutions outside of the game. It probably makes it into the top five but when it was expanding my consciousness I definitely wasn’t thinking about the time.

Of 2016: The Game Music

Of 2016: The Game Music

For another year my top music post is housed over on Original Sound Version where I managed to write nearly 90 game music posts in 2016 (!). It’d be really great if you’d check out the full post with some very special honorable mentions but since you’re already here I’ll give you the highlights.

Game Soundtrack of the Year: Starbound by Curtis Schweitzer
There’s a tiny caveat with Starbound. Although the game was released in 2016 I’ve been sitting on this massive soundtrack collection since the backer rewards went out… three years ago. I can only give you my solemn Boy Scout promise that I really didn’t start listening (or playing) until the months leading up to the 1.0 release.

Like my pick for Metal Gear Solid V last year, Starbound has a soundtrack I still haven’t tired of even after hearing it on loop for dozens of hours. My wife and I clocked over 90 hours in the game, the majority of it spent farming on our starter world all set to the same few songs. Some of the 60+ tracks are faster or more dramatic but it’s the long, expansive symphonies that stretch for 8, 13, even 20+ minutes that continue to stir me. It’s shocking how much emotion this music whips up in me for a game that looks so simple.

Runner Up: The Flame in the Flood by: Chuck Ragan
Similarly stirring is Chuck Ragan’s original soundtrack to The Flame in the Flood. It’s short but so, so sweet and somber. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the torment of the roguelike gameplay that it accompanies. It’s also a rarity to hear acoustic folk music, heavy with lyrics, on a game’s soundtrack, even if some of these songs aren’t directly in the game. VGMO has a fantastic review of the album and you can listen for free on Chuck Ragan’s YouTube channel.

Arrangement Album of the Year: VGM NXC 001 by: Party Members
How did this April Fool’s joke that spiraled into an actual release become my favorite arranged album of the year? It’s choppy and frantic in all the right EDM/dub/trap ways that speak to me on top of featuring familiar video game themes. It’s the one remix album I’ve come back to the most and the one I desperately wish was longer. You can call me the April fool but I still call this one my favorite!

Runner Up: Fire Pro M: Volume One by: Sonny Bone (and the FP Community)
I’ve only observed a little bit of the Fire Pro wrestling series from afar so when I saw this community remix album pop up on Bandcamp I tentatively clicked to check it out. I did grow up watching the WWF so the samples from early promos and Beyond the Mat were welcome additions to the variety of remixes from the Fire Pro series. It’s another brash, slightly jarring EDM album that really stuck with me through the year.

Hey, that's me in graph form!

Along the same lines as my YouTube Stats post, here’s some data mining insights from Last.fm for 2016. It isn’t entirely accurate as I did some listening on Spotify, Youtube and other apps that I don’t scrobble from but I can’t argue with these figures. I “scrobbled” (meaning I listened to) over 5,182 songs with an average of 21 songs a day. Be it familiar favorites to accompany my daily drudgery or research for a review on OSV, that breaks down to 961 albums from 1,046 artists.

Last.fm gets even more in-depth, pointing out that I listened to music the most from 7:00am to 8:00am on Wednesdays. I apparently had a hot streak going from June 12th through June 30th, listening for 19 days in a row. It was one of the most heads-down periods at work where I frequently turned to Disasterpeace’s Famaze OST and Mindwipe Goes Sonic from Mindwipe for solace while checking out GaMetal V from the self-titled remixer. Appropriately enough, my top tags were Video game music,  Soundtrack,  Electronic, Japanese and Chiptune. Yup, that’s me.

I thought it’d be fun to dig a little deeper and see what the first and last video game related songs I listened to in 2016 were and I was surprised to find they were from the same artist, Shiryu. The first was his remix of Turrican on January 8th and the last on December 30th was from his most recent album, Deckard, B26354. He was one of my top twenty most listened to artists of the year but I didn’t expect it would line up quite so perfectly.

Of 2016: The YouTube Stats

Of 2016: The YouTube Stats

I asked for it, and I got it: stats on my YouTube channel! This may not be terribly interesting to you but here it is anyways because it’s the only time I really look back at what I’ve recorded. Once again things were on the up and up for me with a few milestones in 2016.

It was the year that I topped 1,000 subscribers (Hi to the 404 new ones) and just over a million minutes watched! My videos racked up 441,695 views, a 23% increase over the year before. Unfortunately, the average view duration dropped again, down 11% to 2 minutes and 25 seconds. It’s been dropping steadily since 2013 though which I think is more indicative of the YouTube audience in general than just my annoying voice.

Total Likes of 3,173 far outweighed the Dislikes of 126 and 699 comments were posted. My heart jumped every time I saw a new comment come in, fully expecting the worst. Yes, plenty of them were filled with irrational name calling but I think a greater percentage were positive; thanking me for taking the time to record something obscure or being constructive on my production. Loads of them were also to lament the Kojima/Konami split and theorize what P.T. would’ve been like.

The single most viewed video was a returning favorite, the beloved Battletanx “Snuggle Bear” commercial with 49,953 new views for a lifetime total of 86,764. It made its way to some of the people involved in the commercial last year and we found out that Jamie Hyneman and Co. were behind the production and that Trip Hawkins went to court to defend the commercial from the Snuggle Bear owners.

The remainder of my Top 10 most viewed videos were all familiar faces from years past. The Speed Racer movie game, Body Harvest and Metal Gear Solid V each had tens of thousands of new views. Sadly, my all-new 2016 uploads fell much shorter but there were some highlights. Here’s a quick Top 5 of original 2016 content:

4,884 views   Hands-On with the PlayStation 4 Universal Media Remote
3,545 views   2016 Emulation Station Theme – ‘Striation’ Final Release 1.0!
1,806 views   Let it Die: All (Beginning) Naomi Detox dialog
1,669 views   Spelunker World: How Upgrades, Item Fusion and Litho-Stones Work
810 views      NBA Jam: The Music Videos VHS (1994)

Finally, the heavy hitters. Here’s the rundown on new views in 2016 for my most regularly watched series:

94,017 views   Metal Gear Solid V [Music Tape 1]
83,847 views   Speed Racer: The Videogame
60,455 views   GameLuv Retro
     including 31,050 from “Snuggle Bear”
     including 2,313 from Nintendo’s E3 2001 Conference
22,700 views   Delisted Games Videos
17,462 views   Body Harvest series

Of 2016: The Might’ve Been Cools

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First, a quick check-in with 2015’s “Might’ve Been Cool” entries:

Deception IV: never got it, still interested.
Lara Croft: Rise of the Tomb Raider: waited for it on PS4, now waiting for it to be on sale again.
Murasaki Baby: still haven’t touched it and the Vita memory card is in the PlayStation TV so I probably never will.
Just Cause 3, Mad Max: a friend gifted me Mad Max and I still haven’t played it! Just Cause 3 will have to be a bargain bin find for me to jump in now.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: got it with PlayStation Plus, I should really give it a weekend to see it through.
Helldivers: solo’d a ton of it, absolutely love it. I really do need a crew to get farther though.

Eeeesh, 1 out of 7 ain’t bad, right? How very disappointing. Now let’s move on to 2016’s titles that looked great, cool or promising that I just never got to.

Watch Dogs 2 sure looked cool

Watch Dogs 2
I really, honestly enjoyed the first installment of Watch Dogs as long as Aiden wasn’t talking. Being a cyber ghost and playing non-lethal (or at least without firing guns) was a great experience. The sequel expands on all of that and has a more approachable attitude but, ya know, I may have finally played enough open world games. The idea of spending another 50 hours on minigame side quests and looking for collectibles has put me off of this and Dead Rising 4, for now.

Dishonored 2
Here’s another sequel to a game I greatly enjoyed that has somehow left me uninterested. I haven’t touched Dishonored since 2012 but it still feels too soon for me to go back. Maybe on sale in 2017 I’ll finally get the urge for methodical whalepunk stealth.

No Man's Sky: Deceptively Overhyped

No Man’s Sky
Unlike the vast majority of the gaming populace, I saw the shaky early reactions to the game and *gasp* decided not to jump in almost totally blind. What a wild idea! I honestly think I would’ve enjoyed the game as it was but the additions that have since rolled out only make a stronger case to finally give it a go. I’m just waiting for the right magical price point and maybe another update or two.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
That Activision got me to even consider a Call of Duty game should make them feel especially proud. Not since the very first game have I entertained the possibility. I did think about renting Infinite Warfare from a Redbox over Thanksgiving weekend but The Dailies kept me perfectly entertained. Maybe some idle weekend I’ll finally give it a go.

Flame in the Flood: That Roguish Look

The Flame in the Flood
I went overboard on roguelikes for a few years there and have felt more than a little burnt out on them lately. But there never seems to be an end to new ones that look intriguing, exciting or gorgeous. The Flame in the Flood has been one of the more appealing in recent years but I just don’t know how long I’d stick with it if I got it. The outstanding soundtrack has helped push me closer to a purchase but 2016 remained another year that I didn’t play this game.

Hitman
Io didn’t do me any favors by making Absolution one of the worst experiences and then following it up with the “live” and regularly-updated 2016 Hitman. I still plan on getting the GOTY package at some point but I do feel like I missed out on being part of this year of Elusive Targets and celebrity cameos.