Posts by Ken Gagne

The site's editor, Ken founded Gamebits in 1997, three years into his career as a technical writer. He has previously served on the writing staff of Syndicomm's Showbiz RoundTable on the GEnie online service, and as a sysop of Games Site on CompuServe (previously Video Gaming Central) from 1994 to 2004. He is currently editor-in-chief and publisher of Juiced.GS, the last remaining print publication devoted to the Apple II computer. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

Xbox One Tour: Road to Launch

Posted in News by on Sep 22nd, 2013 10:34 AM

This past week, Microsoft's Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson, launched the Xbox One Tour: Road to Launch, with stops at the Microsoft Stores in Burlington and Boston's Prudential Center. With him were playable Xbox One units the public was invited to play. I scoped out the Burlington stop on Thursday and snapped a few photos.

The event ran 7:30–9 PM EDT. By the time I got there at 7:20 PM, the line to get into the store was already about a hundred people long, with more queuing rapidly. Hryb, sporting a Price is Right-style jacket, was shaking hands, signing Xbox 360 faceplates, and posing for photographs. When the store finally opened, there were enough Xbox One stations that the line progressed quickly, then halted while the first wave goggled over the new machine. I'm unsure what the maximum playtime was.

I chose not to get my hands on the Xbox One that evening — I already have my Xbox One preordered and don't need to be sold on it. But the staff of the store, which had opened just that day, did allow me to skip the line for the purpose of taking photos of the console. Enjoy!

Highlights from BostonFIG 2013

Posted in News by on Sep 16th, 2013 12:49 PM

Robin HunickeDespite being the second annual event, this past weekend's Boston Festival of Indie Games, or BostonFIG, bore little resemblance to its 2012 debut. Gone were the crowded classrooms in which a few dozen developers and a few thousand curious gamers were crammed; now the developers had an entire sports arena in which to entertain 5,000 attendees, with parallel tracks of speakers, lightning talks, and concerts spread across the MIT campus.

If anything, BostonFIG was too much of a good thing: it'd be generous to say I saw half the games on the show floor. That's still more than the budding developers participating in the day-long Game Jam, who were sequestered in their own building. Between the 60+ complete or near-complete games on display and the half-dozen Game Jams written in just six hours to the theme of "equality" BostonFIG 2013 offered an embarrassment of riches.

But what I did see, I enjoyed immensely, beginning with a thoughtful, inspiring keynote speech by Journey's brilliant designer, Robin Hunicke of Funomena. The creator of the game that proved not everyone on the Internet is a jerk encouraged budding developers to start with a feeling, and then create a game that is an expression of, and consistent with, that feeling. Indies may be best suited to do so, given their size, as I wondered how that notion would scale to larger teams, when different developers have conflicting feelings; even Hunicke admitted that working with other people is chaotic, since people by their nature accept sensory input, add feelings, and respond unpredictably.

Fortunately, Journey tends to evoke positive feelings and senses, as demonstrated by the Videri String Quartet, which opened Hunicke's keynote with an original arrangement of her game's score. The musicians and developer had never met, and each was more than a bit emotional over the other's work.


If you missed BostonFIG, you'll eventually be able to get your hands on all the event had to offer. The talks were recorded and I expect will be published to the BostonFIG website, and the games will be released when they're done. I picked ten games off the show floor to profile on; please read that blog for gameplay videos and more. My photos of BostonFIG are available below.


How to upgrade the Xbox 360 hard drive & transfer saved data

Posted in News by on Sep 6th, 2013 1:05 PM

When I got my Xbox 360 in December 2008, the included 60 GB hard drive seemed like plenty of space. As long as I deleted any demos I was done with, I always had room for whatever games and saved data I wanted.

Then Microsoft started giving its Xbox Live Gold members two free retail games a month. These games are often several gigabytes each, bursting my hard drive at the seams. Although I knew I could "purchase" the game without downloading it, making it available for later retrieval, I barely had room to download even one game I'd so queued. It was time for an upgrade.

Having the Xbox 360 Premium or Pro model, I couldn't replace its inbuilt storage with any of the many drives available for the Slim model. I bought a third-party 250 GB drive for $50 off and a first-party transfer cable with CD for $9.49. Swapping the hardware was easy, and transferring the data took about an hour.

For anyone unfamiliar with the process, I recorded a tutorial for upgrading your Xbox 360's hard drive:

The old hard drive and transfer cable, both having served their purpose, were bundled and put on eBay, where they sold for a Buy It Now price of $30.

PS4 vs Xbox One: Which console to preorder?

Posted in News by on Sep 5th, 2013 11:17 AM

The Sony PlayStation 4 is releasing on Friday, November 15, 2013, with an MSRP of $399. The Microsoft Xbox One will follow a week later on November 22 for $499. Which one should I get? Watch my latest YouTube video to find out!

Yes, it's true: I've preordered each console twice. GameStop had already stopped taking preorders, and though I prefer not to give my business to Wal-Mart, they were the only ones still taking preorders, starting August 24. I got there when they opened and found no line, though one person eventually showed up behind me and said that Target was also taking deposits. I called that store and found their preorders began on August 25. Their location is closer, so I got the consoles there, too.

Still want a PlayStation 4? As far as I know, you're out of luck — but you can get the Xbox One directly from the Microsoft Store. This special "Day One" edition includes "a commemorative controller, Xbox One chat headset, an exclusive achievement, and special-edition packaging". Hmm… maybe I should get a third?

Honestly, neither console excites me, especially when I consider how many of the current generation of games I've left unplayed — I could continue gaming for years without buying any new consoles. But the opportunities to shoot unboxing videos are rare, so I'll be taking a few days off from work this November to keep my YouTube channel updated. Please subscribe to see what's inside the box!


What's the appeal of Let's Play videos?

Posted in Let's Play by on Sep 4th, 2013 3:03 PM

PBS Digital Studios, which previously published the most excellent music remixes of Mr. Rogers and Reading Rainbow, is moving into the game space with their new web series, Game/Show, hosted by Jamin Warren, founder of Killscreen. Their debut episode analyzed why no video game hero is likely to maintain the legacy that Mario, Link, and Sonic have achieved. The short, snappy format worked well to address this single topic.

Their latest episode answers a question I've had for years: what is the appeal of Let's Play videos? Although I've shot dozens of these videos myself, it's not a content type I consume, preferring to play the games instead of watch them. Why would anyone else choose otherwise? Here's Warren's answer:

"Gamers have been a lost and lonely breed for quite some time, and now they can finally reconnect with each other," says Warren. What do you think? Do Let's Play videos have the same appeal as online gaming in creating a gaming community?

Let's Play DuckTales Remastered

Posted in Let's Play by on Aug 20th, 2013 1:00 PM

This weekend, I completed my third Let's Play video game walkthrough: DuckTales Remastered, Capcom's modern re-imagining of the classic 8-bit Nintendo platformer based on the Disney cartoon. The game was released for Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC; I played the Wii U version. Check out my seven-part video series:

Why the unboxing video — thirteen minutes of me downloading the game, with no audio commentary — has more YouTube views than any of the individual levels is absolutely baffling.

After beating the game once, a new option becomes available: you can now enable the original, 8-bit soundtrack. Awesome! I remember the old game fondly, but if want to know what changes have been made for the modern revival, here's a side-by-side comparison:

Let's Play The Wonderful 101 demo

Posted in Let's Play by on Aug 15th, 2013 12:14 PM

The Wonderful 101, a Nintendo Wii U action game developed by Platinum Games and published by Nintendo, releases on September 15 — but you can play the demo today! It's a free download from the Nintendo eShop.

Watch as I take the game for a quick spin.

Want some sweet wallpaper? Here's the opening splash screen to The Wonderful 101 at 1372 x 771 resolution.

The Wonderful 101

Let's Play New Super Luigi U

Posted in Let's Play by on Aug 14th, 2013 1:59 PM

I've finally finished New Super Luigi U! This DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U was released online on June 20 and will be available at retail on August 25.

Since the 82 new levels each start with only 100 seconds on the clock, I was able to fit more, shorter levels into each video. Compared to the 24 videos and eight hours it took to complete New Super Mario Bros. U, the Luigi expansion took only 5 hours and 14 videos. I also found all the Star Coins in four of the eight worlds — perhaps I'll continue the series with Rainbow Road. In the meantime, I'm pleased to present you with Let's Play New Super Luigi U:

Let's Play New Super Mario Bros. U

Posted in Let's Play by on Aug 13th, 2013 1:45 PM

Earlier this summer, I completed New Super Mario Bros U for the Nintendo Wii U. It was the first time I'd played a game while recording all my gameplay, providing voice-over narration, and uploading it to YouTube, contributing to the genre known as "Let's Play", introduced to me by former Gamebits contributor kahme.

Since I finished this series more than a half-year after the game came out, during which time Nintendo prohibited LPers from profiting off their games, my motivation was experience and enjoyment more than timeliness and profit. Ideally, future videos will combine all four!

Here's all eight hours and 24 videos of NSMBU:


EarthBound releases on Wii U eShop

Posted in News by on Jul 18th, 2013 5:27 PM

Earlier this year, I delved into the history of the EarthBound franchise and the failed efforts to convince Nintendo to bring the first and third games in the series to the North American market. Many fans have toiled for years without acknowledgement from Nintendo. Instead, they taunt us by holding back the JRPGs we've longed for these past two decades.

But perhaps those pleas did not fall on deaf ears after all. Today on YouTube, Nintendo announced that Mother 2, released for the Super NES as EarthBound in 1995 and not seen since, is now available on the Wii U eShop.

The game is $9.99, and the Player's Guide that came with the original SNES release is available for free online.

The game's SNES incarnation saw only 140,000 units sold in North America, where the console had an installed user base of 23.35 million units. By contrast, the Wii U has sold only 3.45 million units as of March 31. Proportionately, Nintendo should expect to sell only 20,685 units of the virtual EarthBound — but that doesn't take into account the legacy the game has achieved in the intervening 18 years; few games of that vintage have inspired such followings as seen at The game commands eBay prices of $150 – $1000, making the $10 eShop pricetag a steal.

I've always believed in voting with my dollars, so I'm going to buy this game immediately — not only because it's a great game to add to any gamer's collection, but because I want to show Nintendo that I'll buy Mother 3 when and if they finally release that, too.

Congratulations and thanks to Reid Young, Clyde Mandelin, and all the community leaders and fans who have asked for this release for so long! Perhaps there is hope to see the franchise's two previously unreleased titles eventually make their way to our shores.

Can I play the Wii U without the GamePad?

Posted in News by on Jul 15th, 2013 12:00 PM

Eight months after posting my Wii U Frequently Asked Questions video, I continue to respond to YouTube comments asking how the Wii U works. Here are a few standalone blog posts that address some common questions.

Can I use the Wii U without the GamePad controller?

For whatever reason, some gamers want to play the Wii U without its trademark input device. But the two products are not sold separately, and you cannot set up the Wii U without the GamePad.

Once the console is configured, how restricted you are to the GamePad depends on the game or service you are using. New Super Mario Bros. U is pretty flexible, allowing you to use whatever controller you like. If you want to use the GamePad for a one-player game, it'll even stream the audio and video to the GamePad, so you can turn off the television.

New Super Mario Bros. U supported controllers

But navigating the Nintendo eShop without a GamePad is prohibited, as warned by this screenshot:

Nintedo eShop supported controllers