Archive for Disney Infinity tag

My Farewell To Vancouver’s United Front Games. (Thank You For Your Service!) 😔

UFG + Sleeping Dogs Image
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From Lear Canada, To Graphic Design, To Video Games

I remember my dad always getting laid off from his job back when I was a geeky teenager. He was a union man who worked for Lear Canada as a welder for 24 years. Lear Canada was a huge, historical, manufacturer right in the heart of Kitchener, Ontario, that produced seating components for the automotive industry. I have fond memories of driving to pick him up after his shift on numerous occasions.

My sister even spent a short time working there after high school…the money Lear paid was good back then and attracted a lot of teens – many of which who didn’t finish high school because, well, let’s face it, why would they need to when Lear Canada was offering such a good wage (that was the thinking back then of course) – but much to their dismay, my dad’s and every other blue collar worker there, multiple lay offs, year after year was the reality.

Lear Canada finally shut down at the end of January, 2016. Volatile industry number one.

As for myself, I’ve only been laid off once. I first became a production artist for Watt International back in 2007. Watt is a leading consumer brands and retail agency in Toronto. I started out as a freelancer, eventually became full-time, then let go later in 2009 due to the company not having enough work, and re-hired back as a freelancer because new work had surfaced and Watt was now understaffed to deliver.

This type of “recycling” of employees was very similar to what my dad went through with his job. When work gets slow, you get let go, but when it picks back up, you’re called back into action. The only difference is that with graphic design (or production) you can be a little more prepared for it because as a freelancer you know when you’re contract is going to end…most of the time. There are some cases when you don’t. Volatile industry number two.

Watt is where I learned that the graphic design industry also has it’s own ebbs and flows. Watt is still doing business, as far as I know – I no longer freelance for them and have since moved on to work for other companies – but I know of many graphic related companies that have suffered the same fate as my dad’s.

So what’s the common denominator here? What do these delightful tales from my past, about Lear Canada and Watt International, have to do with United Front Games? Well, they’re all companies that had some sort of impact on my (working and gaming) life. Their layoffs and/or shut downs have caused some temporary setbacks, but I feel that it is my sworn duty to showcase just one of these companies, in a way that a gaming worker like myself only knows how. By doing a series of let’s plays, courtesy of United Front Games: a developer that has regrettably gone to that great, big, checkpoint in the sky, but they won’t be forgotten.

Another Good Studio Bites The Dust

It comes as no surprise that another game developer has closed it’s doors for good. In an industry so unpredictable, many developers (and publishers) struggle to maintain operations. It’s a game of hit-or-miss that these very talented group of individuals have to play, and every once in a while developers end up missing the mark.

When you’re an independent developer your game has to be a smash hit. It’s that plain and simple. Your game has to sell millions of copies or you’re business is dead. I’m no expert, but I’m starting to realize that this has to be incredibly tough to do when there are so many types of games already floating around, and new ones being announced every single year. With all of the great Triple A games already out there, not to mention the indie ones, developers have to figure out where their games fit in and what makes them stand out.

But even if you have the perfect formula for the perfect game, there are no guarantees that it’s going to sell. If you launch your game within the same window as another big game, that will almost always kill your chance to penetrate the market. If your game gets delayed and/or takes too long to develop, that could kill the momentum. If an influential YouTuber, or credible game journalist, gives your game a bad review, that could certainly impact sales as well. There are just too many variables. But even if none of these plausible scenarios affect game sales, there’s still the fact that the market is super-saturated with games that consumers are already satisfied with.

For example, if a fraction of all gamers are exclusively playing Call of Duty, and another fraction of them are playing Destiny, and another fraction of them are playing Overwatch, and so on, who’s left to play anything else? There are only so many gamers to play these games. There’s too much supply and not enough demand because there’s just not enough people. Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent here. This is a brand new topic (about the state of game sales) that I should revisit…perhaps in the new year. I need to get back to the point.

United Front Games released a smash hit four years ago, so that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that they didn’t follow it up with a sequel. Now I won’t pretend to know why it took them so long to start working on, and announce, Sleeping Dogs 2. As the overseeing publisher (with all the money), Square Enix must have had their reasons. Maybe the sequel was in early development and Square decided to put it on hold. Whatever the reason it’s always saddening to hear about another developer shutting down, but it’s even more sad when I hear that the developers are Canadian.

In mid October it was reported that United Front Games was shutting down. (I’m very much dialled into gaming news, so when I see a headline about another studio closing, I read as much as I can on the matter. Especially if it’s a studio that I know and love.)

I’ve dedicated a few of my filthy casual, PS3 gaming moments to Sleeping Dogs back in the day (when it was free on PlayStation Plus). Awesome game…didn’t finish it though – quelle surprise – but I knew that I wanted to get back to it one day. Looks like that day has finally arrived, but before we get to that, here’s what was also truly surprising about this latest development for UFG.

The two pieces of information that took me completely by surprise, about the now defunct developer is that, one: they’re based in Vancouver, and two: they’re the studio that actually worked on the Marvel Battlegrounds play set for Disney Infinity 3.0. How did I not know? Avalanche Software (who shut down back in May) was the lead developer – they created all of the toys and video game assets – but United Front Games was the studio that Disney Interactive (also defunct) chose to work on Battlegrounds.

I had no idea that this game that I loved so much was outsourced to UFG, nor did I realize that they were Canadian. I feel like the post I did back in August is incomplete now that I’ve stumbled upon this new information. So I’m writing this post to provide clarity and pay homage to a great Canadian studio that is no longer with us. There are a few other notable studios that closed this year, but United Front Games is the one that resonates with me the most. Ok, time for some let’s plays!

1️⃣ Marvel Battlegrounds (Disney Infinity 3.0)

This game needs no introduction. I love Marvel – you know this – and this awesome, toys-to-life, brawler is the closest game I’ll ever have to Super Mario Smash…I like to call it Marvel Smash (or MASH). I now have all of the mini figures – “Thank you Amazon!” –  so when my family and friends come over, it’s a no-holds-barred blood sport!

⬇️ Please click on the image to watch the Marvel Battlegrounds Let’s Play

SHIELD Lunar Base Concept Art | Marvel Battlegrounds | Enhanced by The Gaming Worker

2️⃣ Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition

This is, undoubtably, the game, the smash hit, that United Front Games is best known for. Sleeping Dogs should have gotten a sequel – maybe then things would have worked out differently – but instead they tried to give us Triad Wars: the ambitious, online, open-world, Sleeping Dog spin-off for PC. Now I’m not going to lie, Triad Wars looked pretty dope, but clearly it just didn’t gain the traction it needed to keep it’s development going. Triad Wars was cancelled on January 20, 2016 – “Talk about reading the tea leaves!” Here’s hoping Square Enix can find a worthy developer to continue the actual Sleeping Dogs story.

⬇️ Please click on the image to watch the Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Let’s Play

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Altered Image by The Gaming Worker

3️⃣ Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (Xbox One)

Without question, Tomb Raider is one of my favourite games on PlayStation! Now it appears that UFG were the devs responsible for porting this game to Xbox One – “Blasphemers!” – but due to the nature of their tragic demise, I’ll allow it. Tomb Raider is a special game, and I love the way the controls feel when you pull back, aim and shoot, with your bow and arrow! I did my first Tomb Raider let’s play two years ago – here’s the next installment (finally)!

⬇️ Please click on the image to watch the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Let’s Play

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Altered Image by The Gaming Worker

And last, but not least…

4️⃣ ModNation Racers

Don’t let the cute and cuddly, Powerpuff-like, characters fool you – ModNation Racers is a masterclass create, share, and play, PS3 game! Even though I didn’t spend a fair amount of time racing (back in the day) – I did mess around, quite a bit, with the creation tools – this game definitely deserves an honourable mention. I created a pretty basic racetrack six years ago, and if I had stuck around a little while longer, I would have pushed myself to be more creative. Still, there was fun to be had even though it was short-lived. I now know that I’m not much for these creation-type games, but this one by United Front Games made an impression. The online community for this game is still active, believe it or not. It’s small, but it’s there. Another reason (perhaps) not to sleep on this game, but you’d better act fast before this community vanishes into thin air.

⬇️ Please click on the image to watch the ModNation Racers Let’s Play

ModNation Racers Enhanced Image by The Gaming Worker

To The Talented Developers Of United Front Games

It’s very sad to see (yet) another studio succumb to the (sometimes) harsh and unjust realities of the games industry. May each of you bounce back swiftly, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Marvel Battlegrounds Is Where The Disney Infinity Magic Really Begins 😁

⚠️ Don’t forget to watch the feature video        ✏️ For comments click on the headline and scroll to the bottom

I Love Marvel, Remember?!

Last year I wrote about my unwavering obsession with Marvel, as well as my appreciation for the Disney Infinity mini figures. I went on to say that I only wanted these, well-designed, pieces of plastic to add to my toy collection, and for showcasing. Their actual purpose: syncing them to another piece of flat plastic (the asymmetrical, hexagonal, Disney Infinity base), which connects via USB to my PS4 – so that I can play as that particular character in-game – was lost on me. As much as I love Marvel (and Disney) I had no intention of playing Disney Infinity. I had watched a few of the play set adventures on YouTube and I honestly wasn’t too impressed with what I saw.

Visually everything was great, but the gameplay just seemed lackluster. The environments were unpopulated, the stages and set pieces were bare, and the game mechanics were almost too simple. It looked like an entry level game for a novice – and if I was going to invest in this super hero game (version 2.0), then it would have to up the ante. So just having these tiny toys (for my toy shelf) was going to be good enough for me.

Michelle bought me a Marvel play set, and a bunch of figures, for my birthday last year to jump-start my collection. They remained in their packaging (up until last month) because the toy shelf that I speak of doesn’t actually exist yet.

It’s a plan that we have for our office on the top floor, but we’re still looking for the right pieces to furnish that space. So with our office space being a work in progress, it didn’t make sense rushing to EB Games to buy more Infinity. After all, these things weren’t cheap – especially if you wanted to collect them all – and I already received a small army of them for my birthday.

The Disney Infinity toys-to-life platform was very popular with gamers and toy collectors; new versions and play sets were being announced, which was proof enough that this thing was here to stay. There was no need to buy more in a hurry. I had time…well, I thought I had time.

Disney Infinity Shattered

As it turned out, back in May, Disney announced that they would be discontinuing their Infinity video game line, and shutting down their internal studio: Avalanche Software. The news took me completely by surprise. I believe my words were “What the f@#k?! How could this be? I thought that everything was fine. There must be – what the f@#k?!” But the toys-to-life genre had it’s winners: Amiibo, Skylanders and Lego Dimensions are still competing to be the number one, toy and video game platform of choice. Disney Infinity, on the other hand, is taking their bronze medal and going home…indefinitely.

It was a sad day…one that I didn’t see coming, but you know what? Someone had to lose. That’s just the reality of it, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying. What’s even more saddening is knowing what Infinity had looming over the horizon: a new line of 12-inch figures, the launch of Disney Infinity 4.0, and more according to the incredible article that senior reporter, Patrick Klepek, wrote on Kotaku.

It appeared that Disney Infinity was planning to be a force to be reckoned with in the toys-to-life space, but the universe had a different design. I knew immediately what I had to do, because when a disaster like this strikes you have to act fast!

Preparing For My Very Own Civil War

My knee-jerk reaction was “Shit, now I have to buy all of the figures and play set before retailers run out of stock!” And that’s what I’ve done – well, I didn’t buy all of them. I’m only aiming to collect all of the Marvel figures so that I can play copious amounts of Marvel Smash…I mean Marvel Battlegrounds (more on that in a bit).

Now that time is of the essence, I can’t just sit idly by because I probably have one year (maybe two at the most) before I won’t be able to find any of these figures, let alone the one’s that I want. After a year (or two) my only option might be buying the nearly-extinct figures from online retailers, like Amazon, or resellers on eBay. By that time it won’t be worth it. Not with the huge mark-ups that will be added (due to rarity and demand), and the ridiculous shipping rates. So the time is now.

As if gaming isn’t expensive enough…now I have this bloody toys-to-life nonsense putting a dent in my wallet. I am a true victim of circumstance, but if there’s one thing that I’m pretty good at, it’s getting the games I want at a discount! I do this by a couple of ways: one, resisting temptation and not buying the game on launch day (like everyone else), and just waiting six to eight months; and two, redeeming my credit card points for Best Buy gift cards and using that to by my games. Simple and effective – both requires time and patience!

So I chose the latter: using my newly acquired gift cards, and ending up paying a total of $26.42 for the Disney Infinity 3.0 starter pack and the Marvel Battlegrounds play set. Without the gifts cards, those two items would have cost me $101.68, so I can honestly say that I made a good decision.

Almost immediately after that, the EB Games, close to my workplace, had a bunch of Infinity figures on sale! The stars were certainly aligning so I snatched up a bunch of those bad-boys for $9.99 each; they normally cost $16.99. Again, I made a good decision.

Now We Fight!

Um, yeah…

Living In A Marvelous Disney Universe And Loving Every Minute Of It

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🇺🇸 America’s 😍 Favourite 😈 Superheroes

Now you might argue that Justice League America would actually be America’s favourite superhero team. I mean they have the word “America” in their name. That’s patriotism right there. And I must admit that I’m currently getting a kick out of watching Justice League America Unlimited the animated series on Netflix. I had a conversation with wifey just the other night on why Wonder Woman would be interested in dating Batman. I am only a few episodes into the first season, but so far she’s making it blatantly obvious that she wants to date him. And just like the douche that Batman is he keeps stopping her dead in her tracks. He said it best in the fifth episode, and I quote “You’re a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I’m a rich kid with issues.” LMAO. It totally amuses me. He’s basically telling Diana to go bark up Superman’s tree. And maybe she does, which makes way more sense to me, but I’ve gone off on a tangent. Justice League is a fabulous team, but I’m here to show respect to another team. My favourite superhero team lead by non other than Captain America himself. Wait, I mean Iron Man. No, wait…is it Cap? Whoever the bloody leader is I am dedicating this post to Marvel’s Avengers. Or should I say Disney’s Avengers? Ok, Disney’s and Marvel’s Avengers! So there. Great. That should keep both conglomerates happy 😁

To Disney Infinity And Beyond

Fact. I’m just a tiny (tiny) bit obsessed with The Avengers. For my birthday, which happens to be today, my lovely wife Michelle bought me eight Disney Infinity figurines. Six of The Avengers from the 2.0 Edition and two Star Wars from the 3.0 Edition. It was a wonderful surprise. So wonderful in fact I almost made her return all of them because they’re not cheap. And what’s funny is I almost bought myself the Captain America figurine a few nights before my birthday, but I decided against it and opted to buy her the Merida figure from the Infinity 1.0 Edition. She likes the movie Brave, but let’s get back to my Avenger obsession because that’s what you’re dying to hear about.

So now I have these funky new toys to add to my geek collection. This is all well and good, but you should know that my evil plan is to only display them like trophies. This Toy-To-Life video game experience, which is the primary focus for these tiny heroes, actually doesn’t appeal to me all that much. I just love the super well crafted toys. Shout out to the talented art directors and designers at Avalanche Software who did an outstanding job creating these miniature masterpieces. Disney Infinity is a work of art, just like everything that Disney touches, and I am very happy that they have Marvel (and now Star Wars) in their roster. It makes for some interesting gaming mash ups, that’s for sure. Who knew that there would be an experience this crazy where you could play as Marvel, Star Wars and traditional Disney characters, all in one game? You know what? On second thought, maybe I will play this game after all 😃

Avengers Assemble

I finally finished watching Phase 2 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Michelle and I went to the movies and finally saw Ant-Man! I wasn’t sure how it would “measure” up to the previous films from Phase 2, but I was pleasantly surprised. Earlier this summer I saw…no scratch that…I experienced Avengers: Age of Ultron! Twice! In two weeks I’ll be picking up the Blu-ray! Actually let me back things up a bit to truly make you understand. Prior to watching Avengers: Age of Ultron on opening weekend I had an Avengers party at my house! There was no cosplay, well, just an Iron Man mask, but that was it. That and all of the Avengers decorations that you could think of. Lol. I bought this decorative kit that came with Avenger swirly decals to hang from the ceiling, big and small pop-out center pieces for the table, and one inch round Avenger confetti to scatter all over! Are you still paying attention? Because it didn’t stop there! I created a tattoo station and had Avengers tattoos for all of my guests! And finally, if that wasn’t enough, I bought every flavour of Doritos that had an Avenger on the packaging! What did I tell you? Obsessed. With all of that in place the idea was to re-watch the first Avengers movie on the Saturday and continue this ultimate Avenger weekend by going to watch Age of Ultron the very next day. Talk about an amazing weekend! The cinematic adventures that is The Avengers are second to none and it’s all due to this ragtag Marvel team/amazing cast lead by the uber talented director Joss “Once More With Feeling” Whedon! Grr Argh! (For my Whedonites out there 😉)

Marvel Cinematic Universe

I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I know what the people at Marvel Studios are drinking, but Jiminy Cricket, whatever is in the water over there is doing the trick. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, silver screen undertaking in Hollywood history. From now until 2019, if you’re a Marvel fan, all of your summers will consist of lining up at the box office, at one point or another, to see what Marvel has in store for Phase 3. And guess what? I’m all in! All of these movies are just damn good. Yes, there have been weaker films. I’m not a big fan of the first Thor and I had to watch Iron Man 2 a few times before it started to grow on me. But over all both Phase 1 and 2 were successes in my book. And the fact that all of these solo projects connect and bleed into one another just adds to the excitement of it all. When the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossed over into Marvel’s Agents of Shield TV series, I nearly lost my shit! Not only are these big budget movies connected to one another, but they’re trickling over into the small screen TV shows as well! Tell me, who do I send my MCU love letter to because they are hitting all the right notes for me. Don’t even get me started on the Daredevil Netflix series!

Now who knows how much longer these movies are going to be popular with the mainstream. But ten or twenty years from now we are going to look back at this time and say that this was the heyday of comic book movies. And rightfully so because when you look back to when these kinds of movies originated you can clearly see the progression that has been made. There’s no doubt that Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins/Dark Knight trilogy raised the bar very high, but let’s save the DC movie discussion for another post. Marvel wants the next five years of your life. Maybe ten if there is a Phase 4. Whatever their evil plan is Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has me by the gonads and I’m not even the slightest bit upset over it. If I could give them my movie ticket money for the next five years in advance I would because I know that I won’t be disappointed. Marvel’s track record so far has proven this to me. Are they capable of producing a weak film? Of course. But at most that is what it will be. Just a weaker film. Marvel will never bomb at the box office, but if it so happens that they do, I think I’ll allow it 😏

🎬 Marvel Phase 2 Recap (Spoilers)

Here’s a recap of what happened in all of the movies in Phase 2

📅 Marvel Phase 3 Calendar

Here’s the movie calendar for Phase 3, not including the Spider-Man reboot slated for 2017

MarvelPhase3

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