9000cc in Mario Kart 7!

Think 200cc is pretty fast in Mario Kart 8? Wonder what it’d be like if Mario Kart games let you race at near F-Zero speeds instead of the somewhat slow ones present in the actual games? Well if so, it seems like the hacking community has you covered. Behold, what is apparently a 9000cc cc speed hack for the 3DS Mario Kart title, as demonstrated on Mario Kart 64’s Rainbow Road track:

Above: Video by MKGirlism on Youtube

It’s pretty damn fast to say the least. See that first part of the track? Yoshi just flies over it like a jet plane at this speed, and only just about stops at the wall at the other side. And just watch him go at the end, the poor guy flies so far after finishing that he ends up blasting out of the solar system/galaxy/known universe as a result! Guess this sort of thing would certainly make Mute City and the Blue Falcon kart somewhat more accurate to the source material!

The mod used to be found here, with additional 200c and 500cc settings:

Mario Kart 7 Trainer – GBA Temp

So, yeah. Eat your heart out Nintendo, 200cc is nothing compared to this!

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Coming December 3rd!

The long awaited next game in the Mario & Luigi series finally has a release date! Yes, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam is being released in Japan on December 3rd, with other regions to receive official release dates in the future.  It will be known as Mario & Luigi Paper Mario Mix in said region.

But what’s interesting is that the release date isn’t the only intriguing new piece of information that’s been announced today.  Oh no, it also turns out this game will have Amiibo functionality in some form, with the Amiibos for Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Bowser, Dr Mario, 8-Bit Mario and Yarn Yoshi unlocking special support cards that will aid the bros in battle!

Finally, we have the box art for the game.  It’s only a small picture, and it is the box art for the Japanese region only, but it’s pretty good to have regardless:

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Box Art

Above: Luigi looks disturbed by Paper Mario.

So that’s the latest round of news for Mario & Luigi Paper Jam.  Do you like the idea of December 3rd 2015 being the release date, or Amiibos unlocking support functionality in battle?  And what do you think about the box art for the game’s Japanese release?

Source:

Mario & Luigi Paper Jam Amiibo Page – Nintendo Website (Japanese)

The Video Game Voice Actor Strike; Our Thoughts

Over the last few weeks, there has been… a bit of tension between voice actors and the video game companies that hire them.  Basically, the actors (under the union SAG-AFTRA) want more transparency (knowing what game they’ll be working on), residual pay for when a game is successful (so a bonus for every 2 million copies sold), stunt coordinators at sessions for motion and performance capture and ‘stunt pay’ for vocally stressful roles.  Meanwhile, the companies themselves are less keen, with the likes of EA, Activision, Disney and Warner Bros (among others) not being able to come to an agreement on that stuff.

So there has been talk of these actors going on strike.  Apparently they’re opening the votes until October 4th, and have gotten quite a bit of support for it on Twitter:

But while in principle I do agree with the SAG-AFTRA and their demands for both transparency and better pay, I have to wonder how much power these guys actually have here.

For one thing, how relevant is voice acting to many games? I mean, it’s certainly important for your big triple A Hollywood blockbuster style games and script heavy ones like Metal Gear Solid, but for various others? To be honest, probably not that important. What does a platformer need for voices? A couple of grunts when the character jumps off the ground or dies? The most voice acting a Mario game has ever got has been the intro letter in Super Mario 64:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLA30ii-DTQ

Freemium mobile games? Yeah, as if Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga needs much of a voice acting team.

And puzzle games? The only thing Tetris needs is an iconic soundtrack:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmCCQxVBfyM&gl=GB&hl=en-GB

Even story driven stuff like RPGs doesn’t usually need a lot of voice acting, depending on the direction. On the one hand you have stuff like Final Fantasy and Xenoblade, on the other hand… how much voice acting exists in Pokemon?

Either way, video games are not like film or television. Acting is important in some cases, but is honestly completely irrelevant in many others.

So perhaps on that note, any strike might actually get us more platformers and less first person shooters and ‘movie’ style games. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all…

But even for those games that do need voice acting, there’s one other issue that people seem to forget…

Most companies do not use ‘professional’ voice actors.

Okay, some larger ones have huge budgets and hire Hollywood type talent to voice their characters. Like say, the Arkham series. But a lot of other games have a couple of other options, ones that don’t really involve the SAG-AFTRA in any way whatsoever. Namely…

1. Using their localisation/development staff as voice actors

It’s certainly the standard practice in Nintendo and Rare after all. Ever wonder why the WarioWare voice actors don’t seem to show up outside of Nintendo games, like most voice actors? Because they’re not professional actors, they’re members of Nintendo’s in house staff. Same deal is true of the Star Fox series, with recently fired localisation member Chris Pranger having lent his voice to the first boss in the upcoming Star Fox Zero game.

Above: It can work quite well.

And sometimes, even the game’s producers and directors are involved in this. Like how Masahiro Sakurai voices King Dedede in the Kirby and Super Smash Bros series. Or how for a Rare example, the voice of Conker the Squirrel is provided by Chris Seavour, the project lead and game designer for the entire Conker series (he also voiced many of the other characters in the games).

Now admittedly, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes, we have companies who cut costs so badly that they literally hire anyone they can to voice the cast, ending up with something like Chaos Wars.

Yes, the publishing company’s CEO got his kids to voice the main characters (presumably because of the shoestring budget the game was localised on), ending up with some of the most hilarious voice acting this site of Mega Man 8.

But it still provides at least one route a company could go if they don’t care to provide what the SAG-AFTRA demands. And given that it could sometimes lead to worse quality voice acting… do we really want to give the companies an incentive to do this?

And even if they want something a bit more professional than the WarioWare method of voice acting, there’s still an alternative there, because…

2. They can use non-union actors and actresses

Which unfortunately for anyone in the voice acting world, is much easier in video games than it is in Hollywood. Many video game voice actors don’t belong to any unions, and it’s not particularly hard to find an equivalent if the actor in question is part of one.

Or to quote a Simpsons joke:

Mr. Burns: Get me Steven Spielberg!

Smithers: He’s unavailable.

Mr. Burns: Then get me his non-union Mexican equivalent!

*cut to Señor Spielbergo*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWxcnl8PL_o

Above: Joke from A Star is Burns

But there’s also another source of labour out there…

  1. They can use the fanbase

Seriously. It sounds a bit silly given that you’re asking people on the internet to do stuff for free (or out of their own pocket). But look at recent history. Games are being funded on sites like Kickstarter, by the fans and buyers. News is being written and distributed for free by bloggers and people on social networking sites.

People are queuing up round the block to go for talent shows and to submit their works to sleazy self-publishing houses.

Now imagine if voice acting also gets out sourced to the fanbase. There are certainly enough great voice actors out there willing to provide their talents for free (just see the efforts provided for various game based cartoons, machinimas, fan games, etc).

It would be all too easy to skip the ‘professionals’ and the pesky ‘wage’ thing and just get people from sites like Youtube to voice the cast.

But even without that, there’s the question of whether voice acting will even be relevant in the future. Why? Well, in one word:

Computers

Computer generated speech is only getting better with time, and given that video games are already a near 100% computer generated medium, replacing the human voices with artificial ones doesn’t seem like a hugely futuristic thing.

And even before that’s possible, something like Vocaloid could work well too. Take a few voice actors, record a bunch of samples, then robotically string them together when you want the character to say something. It’s not perfect yet, but give a few years or so, and it seems possible that many characters (especially ones of few words like Mario) could be entirely voiced by archived samples and speech generation.

So while we do sympathise with these people and see their attempts to get pay and working conditions as admirable, we also wonder how much of a future the whole profession even has, or whether any union conditions will just be avoided by out sourcing and finding people with less of a need to make money.

And all bets are off when automation and AI comes in.

But what do you think? Do you agree with our thoughts on voice actors, strikes and unions, and the future of the profession as a whole? Or do you think they could completely succeed with their goals?

Source:

Voice Actors Voting on Strike Action – Gamesindustry.biz

Super Smash Bros Update Live with New Stages and Costumes

No new characters yet, that’s coming after the ballot closes in the next week or so. But instead, we now have a couple of new stages and Mii costumes available for Super Smash Bros 4! These include a stage based on Super Mario Maker (which was shown off a few weeks ago), the return of the Pirate Ship stage from Super Smash Bros Brawl and a version of the Duck Hunt stage for 3DS players. Here are some videos showing the new stages:

As far as music goes, the Super Mario Maker stage has the following songs assigned to it:

  • Style Switch: Ground Theme (SMB ground theme)
  • Title (Super Mario Maker)
  • Mario Bros. (the tune from the arcade game)
  • Super Mario Bros Medley (a medley of SMB 1 songs, including the ground theme and castle theme)
  • Ground Theme/Underground Theme (the SMB 1 ground and castle themes mixed into one)
  • Ground Theme (Super Mario Bros)
  • Underwater Theme (Super Mario Bros)
  • Princess Peach’s Castle (likely the Melee remix for Adventure Mode)
  • Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels Medley
  • Super Mario Bros 3 Medley
  • Ground Theme (Super Mario Bros 3)
  • Airship Theme (Super Mario Bros 3)
  • Underground Theme (Super Mario Land)
  • Super Mario World Medley
  • Yoshi’s Island (Melee)
  • Fortress Boss (Super Mario World)
  • Castle/Boss Fortress (Super Mario World/SMB 3)
  • Title/Ending (Super Mario World)
  • Main Theme (New Super Mario Bros)
  • Athletic Theme/Ground Theme (New Super Mario Bros 2)
  • Ground Theme (New Super Mario Bros 2)
  • Ground Theme (New Super Mario Bros U)
  • Peach’s Castle Stage
  • Ground Theme (Super Mario Bros 3, the original one)
  • Ground Theme (Super Mario Bros 2, the original one)
  • Ground Theme (Super Mario Bros, the original one)
  • Ground Theme (Super Mario World… you guessed it)

Nintendo World Report made a nice video showcasing all of it here:

Yes, that’s pretty much every Mario related song in the original Super Smash Bros for Wii U… as well as a couple of new ones based on Super Mario Maker. You certainly can’t fault the song variety with this one!

The music in the Pirate Ship stage is likely as equally diverse, since videos have shown everything from Gerudo Valley to the Great Sea music playing in the background.

So those are the new stages.  The new costumes?  They’re a bit less interesting, but including hats and outfits based on Toad, Viridi, Foz, Captain Falcon and various characters from the Monster Hunter series.  They can be seen in this video by NintendoViewer:

The Super Mario Maker costume costs $2.49 for one version or $3.49 for both, the Wind Waker Stage costs $2.49 and the costumes cost either 0.75 for one version or $1.15 for both.  The 3DS Duck Hunt stage is completely free.  All of these extras are available to buy or download right now, so you should go and get them if you have any interest in using them in the foreseeable future.

But what do you think?  Do you like the new DLC stages and costumes?  Are you buying or downloading any of them?  Or are you perhaps waiting to see who wins the ballot first?

Source:

Smash Bros Update Lives, Adds New Stages and Costumes – Nintendo World Report

The Legend of Zelda Tri Force Heroes; New Preview Trailer

Released just a few hours or so ago, below is a trailer for the Legend of Zelda Tri Force Heroes showing various aspects of the game’s story, characters, multiplayer system and outfits. Here it is:

So what’s interesting here? Well, for one thing, the alternate world seems to be named Hytopia. It’s about as creative a name as Lorule was, but hey, it makes some sense given the game and story.

Talking of the game and story, it was already looking a bit threadbare once word came out that the princess was called ‘Styla’ and the king called ‘King Tuft’. And with this trailer? Yeah, it looks about as hilarious narmy as possible, complete with the king even crying in time to the music.

The gameplay looks interesting enough, with the three Links having to do various things at the same time or in sequence to complete the different puzzles. For instance, they have to toss a ball like object around while standing on three specially laid out pillars to open a gate. Kind of like the doors operated by moving your sword a certain way in Skyward Sword then. Other puzzles including firing projectiles at the same obstacle at the same time (in other words, like in Four Swords and the Minish Cap) and tossing the other Links across gaps and onto higher platforms.

If that sounds a little familiar to you… well I guess you’ve played Donkey Kong Country on the SNES. Or maybe the Mario & Luigi series, where just about the exact same ‘gimmick’ was used in the same way. Almost every idea this game has seems to have been done better by someone else, whether that’s multiple characters (Four Swords, Minish Cap, Mario 3D World), tossing characters around (Donkey Kong Country and Mario & Luigi) or a fashion/costume basis (lots of games involving Amiibos and Mii costumes, as well as maybe Wario Master of Disguise).

But either way, it looks like a decent enough way to kill time while waiting for the real next Zelda title on Wii U. Just one that doesn’t really live up to the rest of the Zelda series and its pedigree.