‘Poppy Kart’; A New Blatant Mario Kart Rip-off on Steam

When it comes to Mario Kart clones, they’re just about everywhere these days. You’ve got the shovelware clones involving movie licenses like Shrek and cartoons like Woody Woodpecker. The app store is filled with free and ‘in app purchase’ supported knockoffs made to cash in on people’s naivety.  And hey, a game called Mole Kart was even temporarily removed from the app store after it was found to be a rip-off of Mario Kart Wii.

But very few clones are quite as bad as this. To put it simply, Poppy Kart is quite literally a carbon copy of Super Mario Kart for the Super Nintendo. Like, a literal copy, with the only real difference being some terrible GFX changes and atrocious level design. Just look at it for yourself:

Above: Video by Jim Stirling, who quickly points out blatant this thievery really is.

The similarities are just ridiculous. The game looks and feels like Super Mario Kart as drawn by an eight year old. The items are literally from Mario Kart, with the Green Shell and Star basically being copied over unedited and the Banana Peel replacement being nigh identical to its inspiration in all but colour.

The menus are seemingly stolen. The coins and question blocks are flat tiles on the floor like in the original game. The character sprites are seemingly edited from Koopa’s graphics in the original game (at a level of quality that would make both ROM Hacking.net and MFGG cringe). Heck, they’ve even got stuff like the little character sprites moving along the top of the screen as a position indicator.

Let’s not forget the identical track concepts either. Another video of this game clearly shows copies of Koopa Beach, Bowser’s Castle and Rainbow Road:

Above: Even the ‘missions’ seem to be inspired by another game.  Probably one with ‘Diddy Kong’ and ‘Racing’ in the name.

But do you know what’s even more depressing? This isn’t a fan game, ROM hack or experimental title on some flash game portal. Nope, someone is trying to make real money off this on Steam:

PoppyKartSteam

Above: When even the comments are calling you, you know you messed up.

You’ve just got to despair at how moronic this all is. It’s like someone has absolutely no idea about such trivial things as copyright law, intellectual property or the rules behind trying to sell games on a platform like Steam.

It’s literally Mole Kart 2.0 (or maybe ‘Super Mole Kart’ if you’re being extra cynical), and it’s probably going to be gone from the service within a week after Nintendo sends a DMCA or cease and desist notice.

So what do you think about this blatant Super Mario Kart knockoff that someone apparently thought was fine to sell for ten quid?

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

Minecraft Story Mode; First Footage

Here it is:

As you can see, the quality is… debatable to say the least.  I mean, it looks like Minecraft, I’ll give them that.  It’s got the characters and enemies from Minecraft and plays them in a ‘threatening’ way.

But to be honest?  I don’t think Minecraft really works as a linear, story driven experience.  The above looks and feels like a poor Youtube machinima series rather than something you’d release professionally, and it just doesn’t work.

Still, what do you think about this Minecraft spinoff?  Do you think Minecraft Story Mode could be a good game, or do you think the concept might just be too flawed to really work out as the type of game shown in the video?

Konami Ceases Triple A Game Production

With the possible exception of Pro Evolution Soccer, according to a report on French gaming site Gameblog.  How bad is this?

Well, they currently have a blank slate as far as triple A game plans go.  Apparently, beyond Metal Gear Online (which is really an additional part of Metal Gear Solid 5 rather than a unique game) and Pro Evolution Soccer, the company has absolutely nothing lined up for 2016.  What’s more, technology director Julien Merceron has left the company over the move to mobile game development.

Konami-Logo

Above: The logo from when Konami used to have a future in AAA game development/production.

Admittedly, the writing was on the wall earlier, when Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima left the company.  Or perhaps when working conditions literally fell to pieces to the point of restricted communications with outsiders and ‘monitored’ lunch breaks.

But now it’s seemingly official.  Unless Konami can come up with something out of the blue within the few few months or year, the company is basically done with console game production.  Perhaps this could be a worrying omen of the industry’s future and the possible paths ahead for other large Japanese video game developers like Capcom and Square Enix.

Above: Is the Metal Gear series in jeopardy?

What do you think about Konami seemingly ceasing triple A game production?

Source:

Konami Ceases Triple A console production on all but PES – Eurogamer

 

Someone’s Remaking Mario Maker as a Fan Game?

Well, it’s only the Super Mario Bros 1 side, thankfully.  But it’s apparently going to be a rather accurate remake of the game, complete with its own custom Amiibo costumes based off non Nintendo franchises.  You know, like Winnie the Pooh, Quote from Cave Story, Bob the Builder and Donald Duck.  Not to mention, the ability to make up to 3 million or so of your own via various templates.

Here’s a video:

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

As well as some pictures showing other Costume Mario style protagonists:

So, what do we think?

Well to be honest, while we do wish lu9 of Mario Fan Games Galaxy well with his project, we also suspect Nintendo might not be best pleased about a game that’s basically offering a quarter of Super Mario Maker for free without Nintendo getting anything in return.  And with their recent actions towards TAS and ROM hacks videos on Youtube and that Mario 64 remake in Unity, we strongly suspect this is going to last all of about five minutes before someone tries to get it shut down for competing with an official Mario game/product.

But hey, guess the costume Mario forms could be cool, if it ever does get completed.  What do you think of this free Mario Maker esque fan game in development over at MFGG?

Source:

Unnamed Mario Maker Thing – MFGG