Shenmue I & II, Headed for Xbox One, PS4, Steam & Sunshine, Sento-Sake

Their crowd-funded sequel, Shenmue III, is still on its way, but how should someone new to the series get up-to-date with the premier picking-up-objects-and-turning-them-over-in-your-hand sim? It turns out that Sega is publishing the first two game on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam for Windows.

The updated versions of the game promise a better user interface, more modern controls with the original as an option, higher resolution choices, and a subtitled Japanese audio experience if you’d prefer that over the English voice acting. There aren’t any pre-order bonuses, and no price is up yet, so it’ll be good to wait for the games to be released this year and read how the ports turned out.

It doesn’t sound like they’re changing much at all, but it’s good to see the original Shenmue games available off of the Dreamcast and the original Xbox. I’d like to take a crack at playing II, which I’ve got somewhere but never got it going on my old Xbox.

This is mostly unrelated but I’ve been watching the completely ridiculous Japanese television series Sunshine, Sento-Sake, and it is a complete trip. Unfortunately the show is only available via Amazon’s Prime Video service.

Here’s how I would describe it: A guy working as a business-to-business ad salesman is extremely mediocre at his job, but always finds a way to relax in the middle of the day at a public bath, and then gets some beer and good food. I heartily recommend it for anyone interested in seeing someone appreciate the joy of relaxing and savoring food and drink, but be prepared for lots of old butts in those Sentos.

Dan and Bianca Ryckert recommended Sunshine on their new podcast, and I feel like they’re the best at explaining the fun in the show if you’re put-off by the butt warning. Check out that episode of their podcast here.

Listening to Game Designers

As good as interviews with game designers can get, designers are sometimes more open about their work when they’re talking with other designers. The Idle Thumbs podcast network has two great podcasts with these kinds of interviews, get blasted:

  • Tone Control
    Steve Gaynor (Tacoma, Gone Home) interviewed developers for 13 episodes. You’ve got your Ken Levine and Tim Schafer interviews in addition to greats like Tom Francis of Heat Signature and Gunpoint and Brendon Chung of Atom Zombie Smasher and more.
  • Designer Notes
    Adam Saltsman (Canabalt, Overland) and Soren Johnson (Civilization 3 & 4 and Offworld Trading Company) even interviewed Steve Gaynor with their take on this genre of podcast. It’s so good at giving you insights into game designers. I’m currently on episode 2 of the 4 episode series with Sid Meier and there’s so much great stuff in there about the process of working on his incredible games. Some of the best episodes are with designers I wasn’t familiar with at all. One of the recent episodes had Margaret Robertson on and she discussed her work with a game about a movie where a woman was found dead in her apartment after three years.

Google Play Music App Getting Podcasts

Elias Roman:

To that end, today we’re launching a portal for podcasters to start uploading their shows to Google Play Music before we open up the service to listeners.

Translated from Google-speak: The Google Play Music app for Android (and iOS) is going to download podcasts to Google servers and rehost them on their own servers. Podcast publishers will only have access to listener metrics for Google Play Music listeners through Google’s interface. Google will also insert extra ads around the podcasts that aren’t from, and won’t benefit, the podcast publisher:

Google reserves the right to show display (image) ads alongside podcast content. Google will not insert any pre-roll ads before podcast content starts or mid-roll ads during a given podcast episode. Google reserves the right to serve post-roll video or audio ads after podcast content. Google Play Music does not provide direct payment or revenue share for podcast content.

Today, podcast publishers put up an RSS feed that anyone can use. It’s an open standard that any client can download one of these RSS feeds, get a list of episodes, and download them. Publishers interpret the one metric that matters, downloads, and use that in addition to occasional surveys of their listening audience to sell ads to advertisers if they choose to run advertising. If Google Play Music becomes the way that most people listen to podcasts it will destroy the open standard and increase the number of advertisements that people are forced to listen to. This is not good.

Cast Your Net unto Thy Darkness. It is Time for Some Pods.

podcastGenerally when I look out on the surface of the Podcast listings on my iPhone I’m confronted with two things; NPR and Video Games. Neither of which are exactly expanding my listening horizons.

Every so often though, I find a few that fit within those publishing categories but also expand my interest and thinking. Here are three episodes listed in order of least-to-most video-gamey.

  1. Fresh Air from 1/28/09:
    This episode continues the fine tradition of Terry Gross’ 30+ year tradition of excellence through interviews of cultural and intellectual icons. The recently deceased John Updike’s past Fresh Air appearances taking the place of the show’s usual format. I will admit to having never read one of Updike’s books, though after hearing this interview I am inspired to try them.
  2. What They Play from 02/03/09:
    The meat of this episode has little to nothing to do with the usual content of this podcast, which is why I find it so surprising. The usually chipper host John Davison surprises us by being boring and uninterested in his own show to start, and then he throws out a substantial bit of discourse with ngmoco‘s CEO, Neil Young. Complete 180 from a usual What They Play episode, but not entirely unexpected from John Davison. Listen to this show if you have any interest in the iPhone gaming market. Then go download ngmoco’s great games if you haven’t already.
  3. A Life Well Wasted Episode 1:
    Usually when you get to the most game-y side of discussion you’re prepared for unintelligible fart jokes and prattling on about the latest Gears of War in a round table format from a group of schmucks over Skype. I’m certainly no exception having contributed to that for a good while. Then along comes Robert Ashley to class the joint up without giving up any kind of personality. Though the subject matter of the first episode is kind of played out, it is a great example of what to expect from this new podcast in the future.

There you have it, three podcasts to which you most likely haven’t listened. Enjoy.