Category Archives: Gaming

Premise towards boredom

Yesterday’s article in the Guardian by Alex Hern is a bit of a wakeup call. When I re-read the article I start to agree with him more and more. As a gamer, RPG’s have been my life. This started in the old days with the Ultima series by Richard Garriott on CBM-64. The first full game experience was the third installment. On the CBM-64, the quality was a little less then you see now, but the entire experience was amazing. This game made me addicted to RPG’s for life and Ultima 4 made matters worse for me. I was lucky; some RPG’s will never have the amazing depth that the Ultima series offered, not for at least a decade.

Yet Alex asks the important question: ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ When I sat down I did exactly that, try to avoid predictability. In my version of TESVI I was at all times considering replayability. As such the creation required sidesteps, not to be reflectively repetitive, but to set the stage of 100 missions at least twice over, so you did not play two versions of a mission, but two very different missions. It allowed for the market value of a game to remain high, whilst at the same time give other players something to think about. I had been there. I must have played Oblivion 3-4 times all the way through the end. Yet at heart it remained repetitive, so my design was the thwart that nuisance. Skyrim was a little the same in many ways, and Skyrim even as it outperformed Oblivion by a large amount had a few issues, some slightly terminal, but with a game that large it is almost unavoidable (I did say almost). So if we open The Elder Scrolls to number 6 a lot more was required, and as I set the model in play (not the one Bethesda is releasing) I remained dedicated to what Bethesda will offer, because so far they have not disappointed me (this is NOT about Fallout 76). So as we see the push towards the outer Worlds, we are given: “In this world, where mega corporations are starting to take over alien planets, you can act like a hero, an opportunistic mercenary, or a total idiot. The writing is sharp, snappy and funny, the world exciting and vibrant, and there’s a classic New Vegas interplay between factions of characters, any of whom the player can help or hinder“, I am not questioning, not judging, and not placing a verdict. I await the final result that is open for review and purchase. The writer (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/aug/20/from-cyberpunk-2077-to-the-outer-worlds-are-role-playing-games-getting-too-predictable) is giving us a lot more. So when the article ends with: “But their genre needs its Breath of the Wild moment: an outsider to toss out the conventions, and build something beautiful from what is left. Surely choosing between shooting, stealthing or sweet talking can’t be the only options that the next generation of virtual worlds have to offer“, I find myself agreeing with him to the part that games (at times) need more. Yet is that in part the limitation of an RPG? What if we take another look at the Ultima range? Ultima 7, the Black Gate is one of the few games that EVER received a 100% rating from me (on PC). In that time (1992) that game surpassed anything else, and others never came close to what The Black Gate offered. So when we see the part ‘shooting, stealthing or sweet talking‘, we need to consider alternatives. There was the option of getting a job (so not shooting and killing), stealing (stealthily not working), and Retail industry (not sweet talking). In part we saw the retail on Skyrim by selling (just like in Oblivion), in Fable 2 and 3 we see the option of doing jobs and gaining money that way, even buying the place and getting the revenue, so we have seen it (almost) all. Yet what happens, when the world is truly a lot larger? What happens when your impact is seen as one of thousands creating commerce and in that way create price fluctuations? What if the game needs to be set to the larger premise? To get one part right, and through the linked limitations create a new system of balances to get the whole environment correct? Make the game impact seen through the changes that not just you create. As a member of the thieves guild you can never be a companion, or with the fighter guild or the Mages guild. So what happens when we take a much larger bite out of the apple of gaming and actually set the apple to be an actual much larger play of impact? The apple of knowledge (Eden), the golden apple (Olympus) and the apple of immortality (Asgard), set the stage where you can merely choose one of them, creating a tripod where one leg is rigid and the other two vary to create some form of balance.

What if one choice demolishes the others and through that path offer 300% more? There is still the challenge of making all missions decently unique and challenging, and if you realise that the Skyrim guide is over 1100 pages, we are facing a serious clambake, not a mere picnic. It was the largest stage setting, so whatever I considered to be the design of TESVI, needed to be able to surpass that, and I mean by no less than 20%.

Now, this does not mean that boredom will not set in, the biggest issue with any RPG is the danger of grinding, and preventing that is a first. Most games have become decently adept in minimising that risk, yet it is not zero, even my version would not have zero grinding, so the need to remain long term appealing is essential. The game does not stop there. Now that the gamers soon get Google and Apple with streaming gaming, the game changes even more and finding original content in any RPG game is the essential search for every gaming junk (I am proudly part of that family), so basically the ante is upped by a fair bit. It becomes even more impressing as I look to more challenge and the Skyrim guide has 350 quests, which implies that in my book, I will need close to 800 missions to keep head of the curve and in all this, anyone getting the range of 800 quests is less interactive in what we see and the mountain of work we look up to. It also requires very different IP to continue on a higher level of gaming.
The second level of grinding is often the places where things are found. In many situations we needed to get to the same places (shouts) and we needed to find essential hardware, however if the word wall did not contain Kyne’s Peace, but a random shout? In addition, what happens when you influence the entire game by making another choice as to where the Fighters Guild, the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood and the clan of Minimarco is placed (Necromancers), more important when you shape the game as you play and the impact is seen on a larger scale. A stage where the trade route from Skingrad, via Arenthia, to Riverhold, Orcrest, Rimmen and Bravil takes another step as the Fighters guild is placed in Riverhold and not in Rimmen, these are all choices that shape a world you live in. Consider the real (non-virtual) world if not Brussels, but Paris had become the centre of the EU, it would massively impact Belgium economy negatively and France’s economy positively, the direct aftermath is that living in Paris would be almost impossible, cause and effect in play. That same setting might be applied to gaming. Where the aggregation of the lowest and highest 1,000 gamers sets the parameters of your RPG game. a game not set in stone, but in motion as 2,000 players are not set to the average, but on the outliers of the high and the low players, a game that is shaped by all as the economic footprint changes. Yet to prevent deal seekers, we make time a much more definite in any RPG game.

As the measure evolves over time, other players become part of the low and the lower high end. A game now in flux, no longer rigid and confined. Add to that that they all might have issues on some of the resurrection choices and we get an entirely new path towards gaming. Boredom can only start to set in when the game is fixed, so we start by setting change to the game itself. A second choice is to add a management part, not just overall, but a specific super large quest, where you cannot complete the quest, but you provide the options for the quest. I can no longer sneak in like William Tell grasping apples, now we create a workforce working the field and still we are involved to maximise what is possible. Yes, we need virtual worlds that have more and differences to offer, but the best option is allowing evolution in ways that we cannot set, we might be able to influence them towards 6%, impacting but not overwhelming. That too allows for a game to be enjoyed again and again. That is the kind of RPG all RPG players want and yet up to now, no one delivered that option, it is surprising and perhaps it will be the cornerstone of any RPG, the amount that cannot be predicted, for all those coming from the very bottom of the maze and interesting challenge to face.

For now we await The Outer Worlds and Cyberpunk 2077 to make it into the family of RPG fanatics, yet we too await the next Elder Scrolls, and who know, perhaps my idea makes it into The Elder Scrolls VII, as a gamer I can only hope to be given the chance to change the game for thousands of RPG lovers in a new never seen before direction. Even as I accept that this is almost not possible and I would settle for a ‘novel’ place in new original gaming, we need to see that it all has been done before, well, it almost all has been done before. Yet so far, the idea’s I had have not popped up anywhere, so I am sitting pretty for now.

I actually do not care whether someone else finds them and implements them; it means new and original gaming, the ultimate rush for an RPG gamer, preferably additions done to a game that the gamer loves. So Alex Hern is correct and the first step in avoiding all this is to make sure that we take a non Ubisoft approach to gaming, I have faith that Bethesda can do that, they might have missed the ball with Fallout 76, but still, they took it in a direction that had not been done before. Let’s not forget that before Nintendo gave us the Switch, we were given the WiiU. Everyone gets to have a bad day and when we realise that Bethesda have given us winners from 2002 onwards, over a dozen clear winners in 16 years, the existence of one less popular title (Fallout 76) with so many winners is not an issue at all, in Bethesda we trust, the rest can take a number and await their turn with the global RPG population.

 

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A night with Clio and Alecto

It started 2 days ago, I have been wondering about the news (no actual new news, just the rehash) and what to write about. I heard snippets all over the place on ‘more of the same‘ and ‘lack of originality‘, yet until yesterday (around 03:30) I had no idea what to consider when the article (at https://www.inverse.com/article/58121-google-stadia-launch-games-6-aaa-titles-to-get-in-november) hid behind ‘6 Huge Google Stadia Launch Games That Will Make You Rethink Consoles‘ to invoke interest in the Google Stadia.

It was the sight of 6 titles that had been available for some time that made me wonder if some people at Google had any idea what they are doing, so I decided now to counter it.

When we look at these games, we see a first person need, no one denies this, yet if the power is applied, we can go so much further. For example, we might see the RPG giant System Shock in a new light (it is being remade). We might look at the Citadel (Mass Effect Series) and consider it is too big (or the death star for that matter), but the situation is nice and contained. What if we set up a large space station, fill it with crew, not spawning them at certain stages, but a station with the amount of people that would ordinary fill a space station. Now the Death Star has been rumoured to contain a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 storm troopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew, so too large. Yet is the idea too far-fetched? What if we scoop back to Citadel Station (System Shock version) and we have to contain a situation with 5300 people? Now the numbers start making sense. The game has difficulty settings impacting available ammunition, health food and so on and in addition, we can set the scenario to Contagion (zombie apocalypse), Competitor (sabotage), Patent run (thief) and Entity removal (assassin), each with their own issues, challenges and options. The ability to blend in, to not be seen, to steal stuff and more important to remain hidden whilst you optionally kill (or incapacitate) a specific target. Yet the station is different, the crew is completely managed by the system and in some cases it has to be done within a time frame (any except the zombie apocalypse). The option to do it alone, do it together and the fact that this location can be reused gives it all a larger replayability value on a long term premise.

To some extent System Shock had many parts, yet the original had floors and the enemy would not pass that boundary. What if that is not a constraint? What happens when a place that big becomes its complete environment? Like the station on IO in the movie Outland (excellent role by Sean Connery). What if we had a station where the ‘AI’ error of waves of people do not panic (like in AC Unity, repeated to some extent in Syndicate), what if a proper hidden body does not set off alarms immediatly, but what if a missed shift does alert security to seek for the person, a station requiring ID badges becomes a new challenge.

How is this original?

Because the template might have been used to give rise to the environment, it can be any space station. Games like Destiny, Doom, are all about trigger point, all about spawn points and all about flag points. Yet what happens when it is already all there, how do we get through the game when we set off alarms, when we alert security by giving rise to an alarm. I think that this is the part that Hitman 2 really got right. Some will raise concern, but a lot of NPC should not notice, and that is at the centre of a much larger interaction. What if we consider that the stages of Hitman 2 are too confined (not for the story they had mind you), what if an entire city is the premise; do you think that every cop known everyone? They react to the badge, the uniform (medic), the identity (clearance) beyond that they often do not. So to set the ‘futuristic’ stage, millions of gaming fans have voiced the desire to actually walk around the Death Star, On Babylon 5, on the Enterprise, on Citadel Station and so on, yet no one pushed to make it happen to the degree possible, even Mass Effect Andromeda dropped to ball to the greatest extent there, an original game that allowed for (non IP secured locations) to be addressed. Locations to be originally designed, all with the option of giving a run, a challenge and optionally a group of friends united to stop an infection ramping through thousands. We now have the technology (we have had it for 5+ years) and yet they all rehash IP that has been done before. We even see YouTube on the 32 games that are coming, yet rehashing is not a solution, yes they do have some new titles, yet all IP that is already out there, or titles that will also come to other formats. It is interesting, yet we have seen since the very first PlayStation and Nintendo 64 that their true growth was through unique IP, I wonder when Google will figure that part out. We accept that sometimes doing something over is easier and I accept that, yet when we see that these designers ignore dozens of great titles that are on My Abandonware and evolve these titles into a new stage and challenge that will captivate its Google Stadia audience is interesting to say the least. Even now some of these original creators are looking at bringing life to what was an excellent game and turn it into a new great game. I wonder why Google might have thought that this was a path that was not googley enough for them to walk on.

Dinner with Clio

There had been noise around Netflix, several sources, including the article (at https://www.barrons.com/articles/netflix-stock-has-new-worries-including-disney-and-the-loss-of-friends-51563582983) give us a view on optional issues. The article gives us: “For its second quarter, Netflix added 2.8 million net new international subscribers and lost 126,000 U.S. users, versus Wall Street expectations for 352,000 domestic additions and 4.8 million international adds“, some might state that Netflix was not on the ball; personally I believe that Wall Street was setting the stage where the insiders could profit from the backlash of “The company’s shares fell 10% on Thursday, a day after the results. They fell another 3% on Friday“, it is a personal believe, but when we see that the difference between company and Wall Street is a difference of 2.2 million subscribers, a difference of almost 50%, it implies that Wall Street remains unfamiliar with realism. In light of the growing group of streaming services (Disney, Stan, and so on) gives additional rise to the delusional view of Wall Street, especially when you consider that Disney has Marvel in its corner. Yet with the spending spree of Netflix that is set to a $15 billion budget is also a concern. Even as Netflix studios are a one-time expense, the growth needs to come from new IP and mastering innovation in stories, it is the one part that Google and Netflix have in common. I can’t comprehend that they are not considering cooperation in that regard. There is overlap, but one that could be overcome, especially if they need to push Google Stadia to a much stronger position with Microsoft and Apple biting at their heels. They have to set a stage where they can overcome that optional weakness.

As such I decided to give a little diner party, Clio and Melpomene were in attendance, Clio came with a plus one. Not only did they confirm my view of Wall Street, they gave me another example, one I did not know, a story that never made it to print ever.

There is no time, there is no date, it was late summer and in the cool breeze of night, 4800 years before Jesus of Nazareth would be born Hades met with Apollo in a temple at Gortyn. There was no reason, or none that anyone remembers. They merely crossed paths to exchange words. It was after the talk when Hades walked towards the waters at Lentas that he sensed something, he sensed the end of a life and anguish, anguish to a degree that was rare and he moved in a blink to that source. He found a young woman; she looked at him, in pain and anticipation, but not in fear. It took Hades back for a second, this young woman showed more strength and dignity than the thousands of soldiers he received from the battlefields. He gave strength to her to heal by smearing the smallest amount of ambrosia over her lips, her wounds dissipated slowly to show true beauty, her name was Anemone, she was no one special, merely the daughter of a fisherman, brutally raped and left for death. Hades picked her up and took her to a shelter. It was during that night he bedded her and she gave herself to Hades. In that shelter she felt truly happy for months, and it was not until the second week of May that she gave birth, it was not something that she would survive, to give birth to the child of an Olympian was taxing enough the power of death that was there was too strong and it claimed her. Yet Hades knew that would happen, this was now all planned. The baby was named Elissa and Hades set forth his first part, he left her in the care of Tisiphone, Megaera and Alecto. The furies would raise her until she was ready. Over the next years 7-10 Elissa grew fast and became stronger and stronger. The realm of the Furies gave her a never ending supply of cannon fodder. Yet the furies were well versed in all matters and she was not merely of steel, Alecto taught her how to be anyone, to take shape, and how to reshape form. Form was a weapon that could attack the senses, the ability to temper anger to any degree and drive her opponents utterly insane. Tisiphone took Elissa under her wing to teach her about the act of murder, to see in other ways, the ability to charm any snake instantly and make it do her bidding. Elissa learned that cutting a small lock of her hair and cast it could turn it into a snake, to merely draw some poison from it, or let the snake scout for her. She could see through its eyes and she could see the heat of people without the use of a snake, in the deepest night she could see all around her and they could never hide their warmth from her. Her reflexes honed to new heights she was able to strike in the blink of an eye, her daggers thin and short would ensure death to all requiring the veil of Hades to fall over their eyes. Finally she ended with Megaera and there thing changed, as she taught Elissa the power of envy, to see the true worth and value Megaera did something Hades never expected. You see there is an unwritten link between the Furies and the Muses, it is that link that Magaera relied on in the past to see what is true from false and there the game changed. The furies always remember the services rendered and it was at that point that Terpsichore taught Elissa the art of dance and with that skill new levels of balance and creativity were taught to Elissa, Erato taught her poetry of the heart, so that she could always see the true love from the false one, feelings from deceit, as well as truth from planned falsehood, finally there was Thalia who taught her comedy, because Magaera had seen how the jester, the funny person was often overlooked by others, by serious people driven to greed, Elissa looked deeper into poetry and learned that comedy is not merely a relaxant, it was also an interesting weapon. As the lessons ended Elissa had levels of balance never seen in any person that was not Olympian, and it was at that point that Alecto fed Elissa her dinner which put her to sleep and started the dream of what her mother faced that fateful night near Lentas and they unleashed Elissa on the world.

What exactly happened that night will never be known, yet the 4 old men that ravaged her mother were found feasting on the flesh of their sons, who had grown up to be as despicable as their fathers were. In the morning the villagers found the four elderly feasting on a broth containing the bodyparts of their sons; skulls, ligaments were visible in the cauldron, the men old, grey and turned utterly insane chanting slowly and fearful “ένα ακόμα δάγκωμα για συγχώρεση“, Elissa had completed her training and was unleashed on the world, the furies regarded her as ready for a plan of their own.

In a blazing sun

It was deep summer; the sun was relentlessly beating the streets and people. A woman was walking the streets of Heraklion; she ignored the weather and casually looked at market stalls. The street was filled with tourists and she got plenty of smiling looks, it bothered her not, over the centuries she had gotten used to it. She had not seen Heraklion for decades, so she took it all in, she was on an errant to take out a murderer, she was still every much the girl the furies trained, slowly walking towards her goal, it was a building on Evaggelistrias and as she observed the building from a distance, looking at where she needed to be, she looked back at watching the poor boy beaten to death only 2 days before, the police had no clue, but she was not the police, she looked at the building and she saw her target, the two man relaxing, smiling, laughing and drinking beer, they felt good about themselves. She waited patiently until 18:30, most people were starting their meal and she slowly and quietly walked into the building. there was no movement, no sense of anyone and she walked up to their front door, she dropped a lock of hair and quietly entered the house and moved swiftly into the house, the two men were in the kitchen fetching beer and slicing meat, she walked past them as their backs were turned so that the balcony was not a place they could flee from she knocked on the wall and as the men walked with surprise into the living room she merely stared them in the eyes, as her eyes turned deep black, they went pale and white, they over overcome by fear so intense that they dropped their beers, and rant out the door only to see the large snake on the steps, they screamed and ran up, they kept running in fear feeling the hunt of danger behind them hissing loudly, they ran onto the roof running past the water tanks until there was no roof left, they never stopped running, not even as they fell to the grass field on Anogion and the last they felt was the anguish and pain of broken bones blood leaving their bodies and the sound of hissing snakes until darkness set it. Elissa picked up the snake and softly placing the snake in her bag, she would release the snake outside the city limits, her work was done.

That was merely the beginning!

It took me 30 minutes to come up with this idea, another 30 minutes to look into ancient Greece (and a few maps) and 30 minutes to write this, so when we see the implied lack of originality, I am not sure what that was coming from. Creativity is all around us, and it only needs to right spark to set the stage to something fresh. I believe it to be just around the corner and Netflix has an advantage, Disney will not consider certain paths, they rely on families and fairy floss sugary sweetness, it is partially the weakness that Achilles showed (see Brad Pitt in Troy). I believe that the people want something darker. It might have started with an unknown British director named Ridley Scott when he made Alien in 1979; it was that feeling that I had when watching that movie and that same feeling I felt came to me again when I saw Brightburn. It might seem a little shallow, it is not overly epic, but that same feeling is what David Yarovesky left in me, he got the jackpot and if Marvel does not see that and use it (for example in Moon Knight), they will miss out soon enough, Netflix has an advantage because of the limitation that Disney keeps and even if they go via Fox, the delays they call for give Netflix an edge, they merely need to find the right spark to entice watchers, Google faces the same setting, imitation might be the path to flattery, but in this game originality and creativity are much more powerful partners, Even now decades later we still listen to Queen, watch Firefly (or Star Trek) and we watch Top Gun, again and again. Originality and creativity did that, not imitation.

So find your muse and get creative

 

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Victimising criminals

OK, this is not the latest news. I got the news 2 days ago, but I was slightly too angry to deal with Zoe Kleinman directly. It all started with ‘My son spent £3,160 in one game‘, the headline was already an indication that I was dealing with a stupid person, which in itself is not a crime, yet when we are given: “I have a 22 year-old disabled son, who has cerebral palsy, complex epilepsy, autism, learning difficulties and the approximate cognitive ability of a seven-year-old child. He is unable to do any bilateral activities so relies heavily on his iPad and PlayStation for entertainment and educational activities

Yes, there is always some excuse and the dog ate my homework is right there on top reasoning here. ‘He has recently been playing a game on his iPad called Hidden Artifacts‘, yes this is part one and part 2 is “He has been charged £3160.58 between 18 February and 30 May 2019, clearing out his entire savings“.
It is an interesting excuse because the question: ‘How do I block purchases on my iPad?‘ is answered in three steps:

  1. On the iOS device, open the Settings screen. Tap General, and then tap Restrictions.
  2. Tap the option to Enable Restrictions. Enter and then re-enter a Restrictions passcode.
  3. By default, all of the apps and services are allowed. To disallow in-app purchases, tap on its button.

So, people can download free games, play free games, but cannot spend money to purchase. The fact that this is not a new answer but it has been there for years, moreover, I still have the very first iPad and the functionality is there too makes this a bit of a cry story. Unlike the previous story on FIFA (which I am about to get to), this was about a person’s savings and as the person is in the described situation, it could have been prevented if the parents were more on the ball, the fact that there is no casual investigation of his bank account on a weekly basis, to check if nothing funny was going on is also a parental failure to some degree.

The basic foundation that there is no ‘free’ in free gaming does not appear to sink in to the minds of people who think that gaming should be free, there is always a price to pay, it is either through captured data, or it will be through micro transactions. We can agree that many do not use that option, and they will stop soon thereafter as the frustration algorithm kicks in making the game harder and harder. Some will spend some cash and then there are a few that go overboard. Yet in all this the makers did nothing legally wrong, they should have set the limit to max spending to look better, but they did nothing wrong, the parents failed in this case and the parents keep on failing to a much larger degree.

It is the second part that is more striking. We are introduced to EA NBA, where we get: “He used my bank card and I didn’t realise until I had a payment declined. He accessed the app via Google Play. EA made no response to me and Google Play has a disclaimer about kids using parents’ bank details without permission“, so this 16 year old stole from his parents and the parents lets the other kid pay for it. OK, that was slightly unfair, but the case remains, this is a simple case of theft and EA has no blame here.

Yet there is another side, and it is found in the same article by Zoe Kleinman. Even as the stage is almost the same, in one case, the case of that dastardly Mini Golf King, we see an important fact that is important. The game was classified as PEGI 3, now we have something to slap the makers (and Google) with. The law could force a change that in game purchasing cannot be allowed to games that are below PEGI 12, so the games that are PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 should not have any in game transactions, other than rewards for watching advertisement. In this the Pan European Game Information failed its consumers miserably and that could have been avoided. Although I am willing to put some question marks at the quote: “this game successfully tricked him into spending £300 on in-app purchases“, the stage of deceptive conduct towards minors should be investigated by PEGI and Google, if it is supported the game should be barred and pulled, also, the change towards PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 should be made immediately. We can definitely argue that these two PEGI ratings (with a green background, to make it seem safer) should not have anything resembling in game purchases, other than optional additions that much be bought at a one-time price (like mulligan refresh every 24 hours), I am certain that parents will have no issue adding the £1-5 as a one-time expense. The truth is that no game is ever free and that should be advocated much louder.

FIFA

Yup time to go back to FIFA, there are two points, the first thing is that you cannot make EA guilty by victimising your little criminal. Although in this particular setting there is a sage of doubt whether they were fully aware, but it seems that they knew they did something wrong. As we see: “Mr Carter, from Hampshire, admits that he did not take full precautions to limit access to his Nintendo account: he did not use a unique Pin number and the emailed receipts were sent to an old email address with a full inbox“, I am on the side of the parent to some degree. Yes, this was an error in judgement and we all have them, I for one once fell for the witch Teresa Palmer until I learned that she married the actual original Scott Pilgrim 5 years ago. You see that is a guy who went up against the world to get one girl, I salute him, to the victor goes the spoils, and as I looked into the eyes of that witch one more time (they were sapphire blue, sniff sniff) I moved on.

We all make errors in judgement to the father I advice that never use a credit card, just buy some credit for the game, you can buy system credit for Nintendo Switch for Microsoft Xbox, and for Sony PlayStation, ranging from £20 to £50, you can buy in game stuff, renew subscriptions, buy DLC and at no time are your credit card details out in the open. All five (Apple and Google have that too) they had this option from almost the very beginning and it allows you to limit expenses and keep your details safe, a solution that works well, most articles never mentioned that part, did they?

Then there is the other part, where we see all the fire and hardship on kids trying to buy Lionel Messi, all criminals that are being victimised. And I particularly like it on how the BBC phrases it: ‘the contents are only revealed after payment is completed‘, it makes the BBC equally deceptive. When I see phrases like: “A 32-year-old FIFA player from the UK spent more than $10000 on FIFA in two years without realizing it“, I merely see a stupid individual that has no concept of purchase, no concept of value and no regard for credit cards (or his credit rating), he was his own worst enemy and he is not alone, in all that EA was not to blame, we are responsible for our actions.

Explain!

I myself am not a soccer fan, I always saw it as two monkeys in a cage and 20 fools chasing some ball, OK this is not my most eloquent moment, I admit. I am into real games (NHL) and the FIFA card setting is there too, yet like in the other games there might be differences between these two.

As I know it, FIFA gives a daily gift though logging in: “Every day you do it, you get free coins or a free pack. If you forget to log in you lose the offer of that day. The daily gift expires every day at midnight (UK time) and then it starts a new one“, it is different from NHL where you get a free pack every 8 hours. However, every pack has a token, and over a month these tokens give you a bronze, a silver pack and a gold pack. Every pack will have something and a random amount of coins between 100 and 1250 coins (largest amount I ever got). Within 3 months I had every NHL jersey (both home and away), every stadium, as well as all the NHL goalie masks and of course a truck load of players. Over time I got the jerseys from the Canadian League and a few more and I never had to spend anything. I could, but did not have to do that. On the other side, I have no real legendary players to speak off (I have around a dozen 90+ players), none of the Capitals (My favourite team). Am I upset? No! I have a great game that is fun to play, some parts I do not like, but plenty are great fun and NHL 19 is the best of them all (some dekes are just too finicky, I did not like that part), but overall a great game. I reckon that FIFA is similar. In addition, by playing the game, I unlock coins (no charge) and players, OK you need to get your game up, but those players come at no expense. Now there is a part I did not like in FIFA, you can buy an ultimate addition, which was $10-$20 more at the beginning, however it was digital only and it did include 2 gold packs a week for 20 weeks, each pack had 26 cards, 3 rare cards and a minimum of 6 players that times 2 every week for 20 weeks, so it is worth the extra, I merely hate digital downloads (this is just me), there is of course always a side to nag about and that is fair, but it is still value (for some) and more important it is not gambling!

How so, no gambling?

To explain this, we need to make two jumps, the first is to card games this entire concept was started by Wizards of the Coast with a game called Magic. In case of their other game Netrunner we see a box are 36 packs, each pack has one rare, 4 uncommon cards and 10 common cards. Consider that the game has 374 cards, 100 rare, 125 uncommon and 149 common cards. So in that setting 3 booster boxes, would make a complete set, the truth is no, but for the most it fits. 36 rare cards and three boxes means 108 rare cards, yet you will get doubles, so you need to find another person to switch rare cards and complete your set. The math also plays a part, you have one rare, but 1% of a chance (1/100) to get a specific rare, and in the end you get 108 times 1% (which is not 108%) to get a specific complete set. In this case the amount of uncommon and common cards you get will be completed 98% for certain (commons 100% complete). There is a chance you might miss out on 1-5 uncommon cards, but they are usually easy to swap, it is the rare cards that make for the difference.

So, why is it not gambling?

Because you always win, you always get cards and you always get the same distribution, so those with plenty of fellow friends who play will get their collection complete, it is not the one player buying the three boxes, it is the 50 players doing that who play the same game that level the playing field. It becomes gambling when the booster pack is empty and you only get a ‘thank you card‘, that never happens, you always got the 15 cards and the same can be said for FIFA and NHL. The packs you buy will always have a distribution, have certain content. the fact that it might not have Messi, Pele, Cruijf, Beckham or Bale, but you get players, players that you can trade, yet there will always be an issue, not every player will get a Messi, there are 211 countries connected to FIFA, 11 players per team, which gives us 2321 players. Now we get it that not all countries are in FIFA 19, but you are starting to get the picture, if every nation has 2 legendary players, or one player and one goalie, we are looking at one hell of a collection you need. And FIFA 19 is true to its word, it has 30 leagues and over 700 playable teams, so we have a setting of well over 1400 players that the bulk will want and desire. Now, we get that Scandinavians have no interest in some of the Latin teams, but you bet your life that they all want the classical Pele (nowadays Suarez/Maradona) card. This creates another mess on a few levels and even as it is not gambling there is a collector’s pressure in play.

Media is guilty, EA too

The media is also guilty of propelling this pressure, not in the least with the accusations and pressing for a larger visibility of criminals being placed as victims, the game intensifies when you look at the hundreds of YouTubers adding pressures for their own need for visibility following and reputation. You merely have to search FIFA 19 in YouTube to see the mess it creates by the vocals of subjectivity on what they think is fair and not, what is sic and mundane. This all creates an unreal dimension of fake imagination. And in all this EA tries to create hype after hype and becomes the evil it should be preventing. In addition, we see a lack of exposure by the media on that part on a few levels.

So as we look at the origin of CCG cards, we learn from the very beginning that these games all have checklists, so that you know what you have, and what you are missing. EA never gave out that list; as such they are propelling the stage that works against them. Not one list of what cards there are, merely what is optionally in a pack. EA should have been clear upfront on which cards are in the game, and they have (as far as I can tell) never done that, yet when they propagate their 700 teams, they should have added digital checklists and on which players are bronze, silver and gold and we do not see that part. EA failed its fans!

EA should have set up a Wiki page from day one, giving us lists too download so that we can see what is what, but they also realise that the list will blow he socks off every player realising the daunting task and there for did not do that (as far as I could tell). That is perhaps the one deceptive part on the side of EA as I can tell.

So why the card reference?

The origins are important, it makes us comprehend where it all came from and in this specific case, Wizards of the Coast, there is also another side, it is seen with the game Netrunner.

That game was re-released as Android Netrunner with a big difference. The starter kits and expansions are all identical. So as you buy an expansion you got all the cards, no rare cards, no uncommon cards and no common cards, the base set has a set and the expansions (one box with 60 cards) ever month, so as long as you had the expansion, you had every card and you all had a level playing field, even as some tactics would never require any additions, having the additions allowed for tactical options you might really like. So as EA switches from one set to another, selling a factory set of KNVB (Dutch), AllSvenskan (Swedish), BundesLiga (German) and so on, the national players could get all the players for let’s say €5 for country and down the track for €10, European, Latin America, Asia, Africa and so on. Yet the money in this shape is too inviting and EA is unlikely to change, yet we can force on part, for EA to set up an open list of every card that can be acquired, consumables, outfits players and so on. When the player realises how huge this list is, it might temper spending and change the way these games are addressed. I remain on the fence and denouncing this as gambling, but the fact on how many cards there are should be clearly stated, so far I cannot see a real comprehensive list anywhere. The media failed us all by not looking at that part. Even as there is a FUT database giving us: “The EA SPORTS FUT Database is a complete catalogue of Players in FUT. You can search for Players by their nationality“, I want to see a pdf with a complete list (which will be hundreds of pages I reckon), so that every player see clearly what they are in for, not some implied number, but a complete list to browse, when they all realise just how large it is and how insane it is to think you ever get all the players, or a specific legendary one, at that point it will clearly sink in how much money is involved. The EA site (at https://www.easports.com/au/fifa/ultimate-team/fut/database) does give you the option to search the ‘gold list’ and that does merely give the total of 2189 players and 220 goalies that are golden cards that make up for merely that part of the list, yet a better visibility of exactly how large that list is seems absent in many places that are so bound to push for the gambling tag.

So tell me, what media gave proper light to that part of the equation?

I am not saying that EA cannot sell cards, I still think it is not gambling, but the completionist part will never be realistic and that too is a problem, we might not have all players at our back and call, not in FIFA, not in NHL, but pushing for a dream team in a $90 game, when it requires $12,000 to get every player is equally insane and not realistic. We should add the limelight to that too. Yet I do remain on the team that does not call this gambling and EA might consider to create a factory set of all these players (non-tradeable) after 6 months of initial release, if they truly want to be seen as a decent company, a phase that they are still in denial off at present.

So we have plenty of issues, but to a decent extent they are not the gaming baba-yega, at least not when it comes to FIFA and NHL, other games might require deeper scrutiny and optionally an overhaul.

 

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Game of labels

Yes, we all have games on the mind, mind games, video games, war games, and not to forget political games and economic games. These are not games that we see on the console or computer. Games do not usually rename waters from Persian Gulf to the Saudi Straight, or perhaps we will name it the Sea of Dammam. When we see that the US is changing the stage at which they can operate, mind games is all that they are left with. They failed to political game, they bungled the economic game, they are blocking their ability to play War Games so what is left? Yup, you got it mind games is all they have left.

So see this stage we need to visit USA Today (at https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/07/12/house-passes-bill-bar-trump-from-launching-iran-strike-and-end-us-support-saudi-arabia-war-in-yemen/1708612001/) where we are told ‘House approves measure to block Trump from launching military strike against Iran‘, so not only are politicians weak weasels they have now blocked their own commander in chief to do the responsible thing against Iran, it has dwindled to this. OK, let’s face it war is not a good thing, there needs to be a really good reason to start one, as wars are expensive and the house does seemingly need approval to spend large amounts of cash that is not directed at Wall Street.

And in fairness the text: “bar the Trump administration from using any federal funds for military force “in or against” the Islamic Republic, unless the president receives explicit congressional approval for a strike. It would not bar the president from responding to an attack on the U.S.“, yet it is also interesting that this is the cowardly act (as I personally see it) to cross swords with expectation and a lack of determination. Is it not funny that I quoted in ‘Be the bitch‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/07/07/be-the-bitch/) on July 7th: “when we see: “that nuclear agreement prevented war“, it never stopped it, it merely delayed it so that Iran could get ready and that part has been shown in several ways over the last three years alone, now that the pressure is growing we need to consider that no one wants a war, but Iran made it impossible to avoid and as they make tally of all who are willing to become the bitch by not acting, that is how we might lose this upcoming war, not merely by inaction of them, but the mere fact that these politicians are willing to grab their ankles and let happen what would happen next. They will call it: “We have reached an immediate cease fire so that a diplomatic agreement can be drawn” that will be the second sign that the war was won by Iran“, we now see this very scenario unfold. It is seen with the additional text: “It would not bar the president from responding to an attack on the U.S.” We all know that a direct attack on America is most unlikely, but this also means that America will only come to the aid of the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia AFTER Congress approves it and there is absolutely no guarantee that Wall Street will give approval at that point.

It is no longer a mere expectation, less than 12 hours ago Newsweek got us: ‘Iran launches strikes in Iraq and responds to Israel;s threat as it vows to defend itself against any attack‘, and here we see: “The Revolutionary Guards announced Friday that they conducted strikes against anti-Iranian government insurgents operating along the Iraqi border in the Kurdistan region“, Iran is lashing out, in this particular case to appease their Turkish ally (they always enjoy Kurdish slaughter). When we add the pressure of the Iranian tanker, as well as the threats between Iran and Israel, we see a much larger stage evolving, and the US, just like the stage of the Syrian war was unable to accomplish anything; they merely pulled support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a nation that they call an ally. The question is that we do not know who states it, who means it and who ignores it. That is the stage that the US Senate, the House of Representatives, the presidential administration and Wall Street are in, like it is an episode of Musical Chairs, and we cannot tell which party takes on which pose, they merely refer to it as: ‘an extremely complex situation‘.

Then we get to the Washington Post, who gives us: ‘Iran’s nuclear program seems to be accelerating. Will Saudi Arabia take a similar path?‘ (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/07/12/irans-nuclear-weapons-program-seems-be-accelerating-will-saudi-arabia-take-similar-path), here we see the escalation in another way. With the direct headline ‘In a multipolar world, curbing nuclear transfers becomes more difficult‘, we merely see one side. So even as we see: “Riyadh has vowed to match Iran’s nuclear capabilities, including the ability to enrich uranium and acquire nuclear weapons if Tehran gets the bomb. My research, recently published in International Security, explains how Riyadh’s ability to play nuclear suppliers off against one another can increase its chances of securing nuclear technology.” There is no denying this, and that is only when we look at that side. You merely have to look back towards 2004 and remember “Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer (A.Q.) Khan, then famous for his role in developing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, confessed on live television to having illegally proliferated nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea over the course of decades. Today Khan is enjoying a resurrection at home, where he is again touted as the “Mohsin e-Pakistan,” or the savior of Pakistan” to consider that this might already have happened. Pakistan has ties to Saudi Arabia. The fact that this is largely in a stage where we see: “Wouldn’t the United States and other countries interested in stopping proliferation block Riyadh’s access to sensitive nuclear transfers, such as enrichment technology?” We see the wrong question, the stage is that America is no longer a significant super power, it is too broke, it is too much bankrupt. That gave Russia an edge and more important, other players are no longer heeding America’s word, it becomes simple for them when the infighting in America is doing most of the work for them, so seemingly America has become really good at trivialising itself as a world power. In all this (from recent events) America failed twice, it did not act when the Syrian issues were playing, so as the world saw the Ghouta chemical attack unfold on 21st August 2013, the world saw the Obama Administration sit by and do nothing, even as there had been decades of messages that a chemical attack is a red line that was not to be passed, Someone in Syria passed it and nothing was done. Again we see failure now under the Trump administration that when the calls for Yemen were needed, the US pulled away and the media set the stage for this war to continue for at least 3 years more costing the lives of hundreds of thousands. Two direct failures in the last 7 years and when someone is asking others on why the USA is not taken seriously, did you actually expect a serious response?

So when the Washington Post gives us: “As Matthew Fuhrmann explained here in the Monkey Cage, there remains debate over whether peaceful nuclear technology transfers lead to proliferation — but the risk of proliferation is high in the Saudi case“, again the stage is miscommunicated. It is not about the Saudi case, it is about the not stopping Iran case. For over 2 years we have seen and heard spokespeople from the KSA state that they have no interest in nuclear technology as long as Iran does not move forward on where they are. So now that the nuclear pact has collapsed and as Europe and America do not do anything after 2+ violations by Iran, Saudi Arabia does not really have any options left.

In all these events Iran was clearly the powder keg and the two larger players are unwilling to act. As I personally see it, the US has benefit to a lack of stability in the Middle East (outside of Iran) and is now courting Qatar to keep in the game, we see all the threats by Iran and the media is always good to make sure that we all hear the threats made (but little else) and that is now pushing for a very different stage. With the UK sending a second warship into the Sea of Dammam, escalation risks go up, not down.

The third problem is not merely the players that are out and about, when this goes south the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain will have little options left, they will be caught in the middle, all because certain players are unwilling (or disallowed) to make the hard calls. Finally there is the last piece, there is Hezbollah. We see all kinds of statement in the last few hours and they are merely that, mere statements. Yet, when Iran does make a move how will Hezbollah act? The statement that they gave 6 hours ago with ‘Hezbollah can target all of Israel with it’s missiles‘, might be true, but is it Hezbollah or Iran doing the work? The missiles are all Iranian, the knowledge to strike more precise came from IRGC instructors, the (upgraded) hardware is also covered in Iranian fingerprints. So when Hezbollah does make a move, there will be consequences and at that point the US and Europe will have no cause, no call and no right to make some lame humanitarian statement. They left this mess unattended for too long, so whatever Israel decides should be regarded as acceptable.

I still believe that the strikes that come will be 79.5% against Israel, 19.5% against Saudi Arabia and 1% against both. The Houthis are losing more and more options, Hezbollah is nowhere near ready to face two armies and Iran needs to play the game very carefully, because even as the US and Europe are not acting, there is every chance that Israel and Saudi Arabia can make short work of Iran, the Iranian threats that we have seen over the last few hours (the usual) as well as mention of a special weapon give rise that they took a little too much on their for and striking now might be the only way to defuse a nasty situation.

It is time to push back to Iran and if the politicians can’t make it work then we must make it work, so my first action to diffuse the situation is not to strike with weapons (I only have a steak slicer and a cricket bat at home at present), is to make war through mind games. I call for a change on the map; we rename the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Dammam.

It trivialises Persia and therefor Iran, when we take away the old naming mistakes, we get to trivialise Iran to a lager degree, when they cannot counter they will need to push harder or fold the hand. I saw that they were only holding a two and a seven in this poker match and there is not a lot you can do with that, to win you need to get really lucky or bluff like a god and they are unable to do the second.

So I scored an easy victory over Iran with the greatest of ease and without firing a bullet in real life, but we can keep that option for later. So take a look at the city of Dammam, with the Sea of Dammam to the right, or consider my second option below, I did made a mention of video games in the beginning and we can all bluff, we can optionally argue that bluffing is all that Iran has left, but that is a story for another day. In my case of bluff I went up against my cold war adversary the Russians (always a decent opponent to cross, and we can’t have Alexander Bortnikov feeling too relaxed in all this, can we?)

 

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A sucker is born every minute

It is a nice expression; it is one that those who live by the rules of ‘opportunity knocks‘ rely on. In slow times you need the occasional sucker to infuse the grounded capital with lose change and they are all for it. Then there is the expression of ‘there is a hustle Smurf nearby’, where the experienced player creates a new account to amass gear from inexperienced players and newbies.

It comes down to the status on how something is seen. Some Investopedia page passed in front of me this morning and woke me up instantly. It linked to Barron’s (at https://www.barrons.com/articles/microsoft-stock-videogame-streaming-cloud-xbox-xcloud-51560373000) where we see: ‘Buy Microsoft Stock Because of Its Videogame Opportunity, Analyst Says‘, the entire setting is like a rewrite of the Divine Comedy, as Inferno is all that Microsoft seemingly delivers on a whole (as I personally see it). They went from an innovative system (Xbox 360) to a flawed concept and in the three iterations we see basic shortcomings that have never been fixed over the space of 6 years.

The beginning is already fun to work with: “Microsoft stock will rally because of its strong position in the videogame industry, according to Evercore ISI” No! It does not have a strong position, Microsoft degraded from 2nd to third position, and they could end up fighting over 4th position. The strongest console of the world got surpassed by the weakest one; the Nintendo Switch system surpassed them as they truly comprehend gaming and gamers. They got there in 2 years; it took Microsoft almost 7 years to get to this stage and ending up decently below 50% of the share that Sony has with its PlayStation. Microsoft games survives through marketing and bad decisions, with the optional good decision every once in a while.

The Microsoft stage of pushing for online, whilst basic shortcomings are frustrating gamers more and more, so when we see: “Ultimately, we believe gaming can become the next major narrative as it relates to Microsoft’s long-term growth opportunity” my response is: ‘Not Really, whilst the exclusive range of games is not impressive, the shared stream (Xbox and PS4) are often shown to be PS4 gems, whilst Microsoft is merely nice (with Assassins Creed Origins being a clear exception). The PS exclusive range is still growing and whilst the larger part of Microsoft IP is done through buying software houses, it has been in history the first step towards a more complete level of failing. There are examples all over the world for over 20 years.

Then the final part: “Materne is also optimistic over Microsoft’s cloud gaming offerings, where gamers can stream gameplay over the internet. Its XCloud service is slated for release this fall“, this is not a given. Microsoft decided to stay very quiet on the entire xCloud during its E3 and in addition, it is a soon a more direct competitor to Google Stadia. With the basic failings that Microsoft has shown to have, the audience is willing to take a look at Google Stadia, new brands have that effect, and it will gnaw directly on the Microsoft slice of the gaming cake. Apple is another contender, but there are still questions on that front for now. In short Microsoft got surpassed by Nintendo Switch, it is at less than 50% of the Sony PlayStation stage and it has disappointed gamers too often in their need for online dependency, a side that gamers do not like to relate to at all. There are enough indication that the next project (Project Scarlett) is more likely than not to hold onto the flaws of Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Its mixed media on mentions given in E3 2018, whilst giving less or no clarity on E3 2019, loaded with one liners that are implied to be connected but are regarded to be seen as separate statements show the flaw of Microsoft to a much larger extent. So as we see that ‘Microsoft is the Netflix of gaming‘, whilst not realising that there is more to that, we might go with the quote: “Xbox Game Pass is described as the ‘“Netflix of video games” and lets Xbox and PC users play a range of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games for $9.99 per month. xCloud will essentially be an upgraded version of this pass, and will work on more platforms, so it will likely cost more than $10” (Source: Inverse)

This entire setting only works well if there is enough bandwidth, in this stage the chance of congestion grows close to exponential as there will be no solid large 5G in many places until 2022, This means that it will be select in the US, Europe and outside these two. So as such the market slice will collapse overnight, Google Stadia will have a similar issue. Yet whilst Microsoft is about the marketing Hype and WOW factor, Google has been playing a more cautious long term game; it will pay off for them. All whilst the solid information that is essential was not given at E3 merely hinted at. It implies that Microsoft has not figured out how to best maximise on the revenue (read: an implied stage to exploit gamers). That in itself is the recipe for disaster. It is like the silent ‘always online‘ push that was tried in 2012 and pushed an angry mob straight towards the Sony solution. I personally believe that Microsoft has not learned its lesson yet and will give more disappointment soon enough. that whilst the bulk of the frustration could have been avoided in more than one place and never was, that alone convinces me that Microsoft might be an option, but it will be a risky one, one that is flawed and dangerous to boot, but then some investors like the rough stuff.

Now we get to the part that Investopedia has (at https://www.investopedia.com/microsoft-s-strategy-to-become-the-netflix-for-games-4691138): “One of the things Microsoft has going for them, unlike say Amazon, Verizon and Google, is a popular gaming console and a host of already super popular games, such as the entire series of “Halo” games. At the recent E3 video-game conference in Los Angeles, the company unveiled 60 new blockbuster games for both its console and PC, including “Gears 5,” “Batman: Arkham Knight,” “Cyberpunk 2077,” and “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.”” Now consider that this list of 4 only has one exclusive and for the most 50% of that list has nearly everyone desiring it on PS4 and optionally PS5 as well. The fact that ‘Batman: Arkham Knight‘ is a 2015 game giving rise to some people not doing their homework #JustSaying.

It is true Gears and Halo are Microsoft exclusives and they do have a large following, no one denies this, yet two titles don’t make for a victory (they also have the Excellent Forza IP which was oddly missing in that list).

Yet overall the entire matter of being surpassed by the weakest console is a much larger issue. The matter of change is upon them and their play is to not do this implies that there is a larger online need and the people a shivering back from that stage. They feel a little more powerless. Even as xCloud is all online, the push to completely be there will backfire, if only to be able to game when the internet congests, a part that too many have not considered to the degree it needs to be considered.

Until 5G and 5G speeds are commonplace, the gamer will be confronted with ISP’s that will react towards congestion through bandwidth throttling, when that happens, you do not want to be in a multiplayer game like Fortnite losing your connection, any promise that this will not happen is bogus from the very start. It is still a tool used, even within the last 24 hours we see throttling in combination with ISP’s all over the world, because it is a tool they need to minimise congestion. The moment throttling hits, the game is quite literally over for these players. So how often does this need to happen for people to trade in their xCloud (and optional Google Stadia) solution?

When that crystalizes in front of you, what will the losses be? I believe that there is a clear future for this kind of gaming, no one denies that, yet until there is a much stronger 5G presence, I am not sure how it will actually properly work (outside of a staged test phase). And for now that stage is for the larger global gaming population 2-3 years away.

 

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The shows on E3 (final part)

Time for part 3, this time it is Nintendo that makes the waves and they did make waves. Right off the bat, my first issue was a slight lack of game play, but that is not quite fair, there was plenty of gameplay, it was so mixed in with the other parts that it was at times impossible to tell what part was game play and what was not.

Smash bros got the highlight in several ways and the arrival of everyone’s favourite bird and bear gives us that there will be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for a very long time to come. It has been nominated for 20 awards these last two years taking home 6 of them and Metacritic gave the game 93% (Ubisoft please take notice of this part). Lisa Dahlgren reported recently that the game had sold over 13.81 million copies worldwide in March 2019, making it the best-selling fighting game of all time and still Nintendo adds more.

Then the focus goes to Luigi Mansion 3 giving us a lot more in a new game, with local and online co-op play that you can do alone, or with a friend, (Gooigi), optionally known as per today as the Google Janitor.

Dark Crystal Tactics did not give us much, but it looks good and it is based on the famous movie by Jim Henson, so there is plenty already and that was just the start. Now I have to make a sidestep to something I wrote in May 2013 in the article ‘Previous Generation towards future Games‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2013/05/09/previous-generation-towards-future-games/) where I stated “They were able to deliver a game that was able to run on a 640Kb system (yes, I know that most do not even have a memory card that small). So, consider how the bulk could be transferred to something as ‘simple’ as the Nintendo DS. Add slightly better graphics and several of these titles will soon be more coveted then several high marketed products on the game store shelves today. After 20-25 years that is some achievement” and now we see that Nintendo is doing just that. Not merely a new Trials of Mana (2020), but in addition to that we got collection of Mana which were the previous three and they are now available as per today, some of them were never released outside of Japan, the digital version is available as per today, there is a limited version that is physical, so if you see it, buy it immediately! It goes further the remastered games kept on going Resident Evil, Resident Evil 0 and Resident Evil four, five and six. And the avalanche just kept on going, Dragon Quest Builders 2, AI: The Somnium Files, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, Daemon X Machina, Grid Autosport, Spyro Trilogy, Witcher 3 and many more.

We got very little regarding Pokémon sword and shield in the presentation, but there were playable versions at the Nintendo stand (bastards!). We can even do some predictive steps as Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is all about Tokyo 2020, but coming to us in November 2019. Seeing that gameplay made me think back to the days of Epyx and the summer games on CBM-64. These graphics were truly new and amazing, yet that playful competitiveness is something that had been missing and Nintendo must have noticed it too apparently. We also got some Animal Crossing on Switch, so almost all the big hitters of the previous console are now on Switch.

I had to re-watch the show more than once, there was so much information and even if not everything is for all (we all have different tastes) there is no denying that Nintendo is about to unleash a tidal wave of games over the coming 52 weeks alone, and that is besides all the games that Bethesda, Ubisoft and Square Enix announced for Switch.

My final rating for Nintendo is 92%, making it the best E3 presentation in 2019.

There is more on the E3, but mostly now Steam, PC gaming and a few small ones; I will let the gaming community reviewers like Eurogamer work on that. As I see it, for gamers this will be a decent year, if you have a Switch as well, it will truly be a fantastic one.

So in the end, the trophies for best E3 show go to:

Gold: Nintendo

Silver: Square Enix

Bronze: Ubisoft

Honourable mention: Microsoft for Cyberpunk 2077 (the Keanu Reeves surprise) and the three WW Superstars under the podium.

To all, have a great year of gaming and let’s see what E3 2020 brings, because that one will have a lot, a lot more than we saw in these four days, that is an absolute guarantee.

 

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The shows on E3 (part two)

It was time for Microsoft to give us the goods and they started really well. The Outer Worlds (by the makers of Fallout New Vegas), Minecraft Dungeons, Blair witch, and a few others giving the intro towards 60 games, 14 by Microsoft Studio (implying 14 exclusives) and 30 gamepass titles. Then we got to see a new side to Cyberpunk 2077 and it looked amazing. That part ended with Johnny Silverhand, who looked a lot like Keanu Reeves, at that point Keanu Reeves walks on the stage and the roof came down, the crowd went insane and rightfully so. Eurogamer took a moment to highlight that (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2qAUP1m_vE), see event two for that part, it is so worth it. We get to see that the flight Simulator is coming to Xbox One, which is pretty cool and a whole range of other news. At this point I rated the show at 97%, it was that good. There was plenty of stuff I did not really care for (like Gears 5), but there are plenty of fans of that franchise and it seems that they are upping the bar on that game so gears fans will go nuts soon enough. This is when they screw it up at the end on going towards Project Scarlett. As we hear ‘It is all about choices’, yet are there? The Verge also noticed something I picked up on, but I thought it was just me. the Verge gives us ‘Microsoft’s new Project Scarlett console is now a key part of xCloud‘ (at https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/10/18659448/microsoft-xcloud-game-streaming-e3-2019) and we get that, yet they also give us: “If Microsoft sticks with its Xbox One S hardware for xCloud, then it won’t be able to immediately compete with Stadia’s promise of 4K gaming at 60 fps. There are still far too many games that only run on an Xbox One S at 30 fps, and the console won’t even support most AAA games at native 4K.” I believe that Microsoft has the same premise to face as Google Stadia, but Google is playing the long game and they know what they are in for, something Microsoft did not grasp in time (or too often for that matter) and they are keeping quiet as a previous president loudly boasted ‘always online‘ and nearly sunk the entire Xbox One before it had been released. For me the giggle came when I got told ‘up to 120 fps‘, ‘8K capability‘, ‘the combination of SSD and Solid State Drive are really what is giving you a totally new experience‘ was the one that did it for me, was this not properly vetted, were these actors or engineers? The presentation just went down to 80% and that is where it stayed at, silly move Microsoft!

There was no reprise of two step in models (the low and high end as stated a year earlier and all these catchphrases are given by different people, so you can more likely than not forget about 8K and 120 fps, all hype giving comments but totally wasted on the people who want clarity beforehand. It is true that there is still a full year, but the Microsoft method of trying to create hype has backfired too often and now I hope it will do so again. Even as the console is not coming until holiday 2020, giving clear information on storage and several other parts would have been nice at this point. I personally believe that this will be a total push to XCloud and streaming your games, there will be some storage for older games and the fact that optical drive is there implies that there is still physical storage, as direct to cloud installation seems meaningless and it would be too cumbersome, but that is what it feels like, when I am clearly proven wrong I will give you all the goods. for now, the realisation that 5G becomes essential and the congestion issues that many will face between 2020 and 2022 will be a sight to watch, just you wait.

Bethesda

Bethesda was a solid 80% from beginning to end. there is more for the games with Fallout 76 (year two) added options, as well as a battle royale mode and additions to rage 2 we got the largest part, there will be two Wolfenstein games, but we knew that last year. The big parts were that the Wolfenstein games are coming to Switch too, which was nice as well as the fact that the mobile Game Blades was coming to Switch and just like Fallout shelter it was going to be free. The part that I like the most is that there is an option for micro transactions, yet I have never had to spend a dime on Fallout shelter to enjoy it, if Blades continues that, it will be an amazing ride. New is Ghostwire Tokyo which looks pretty good, but it was an intro movie only. Some new Commander Keen, Deathloop which is coming from Arkane, as well as a new streaming technology called Orion, optionally making bandwidth a lesser issue, and Doom Eternal was given a first light. Finally we got a little more Elder Scrolls Online, now with Elsweyr and that wrapped it up. I would have liked more actual gameplay which was missing too much as I personally see it and that is why Bethesda only gets 80% this time around, still a solid presentation.

Ubisoft

We start off with the Assassins Creed Symphony. A decent start for the mere reason that the music of Assassins Creed has been pretty amazing from the second game onward and never stopped being inspiring and extremely amazing. Watchdogs Legion kicks off with actual gameplay and a display of Permadeath in action, so there is that. Plenty of sarcasm and a super granny (retired assassin) that makes any bull look like a calf with snow peas instead of actual balls. Stealth looked decent and that was the Ubisoft intro to the presentation, which gives me the consideration that Ubisoft has gone serious on Watchdogs and it is seemingly taking Legion to a higher place than Watchdogs two was.

After that the presentation starts and Mythic Quest is first, and that presentation needs to be seen to be believed (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9mRj_tzNH4) starting at 25:10. After that more Rainbow Six, Adventure in Time, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, at which point Jon Bernthal walked in (the Walking dead, Punisher) and gives us his intro to the game. He did well; he is a charismatic presence as he gives the talk on the game and challenged the gamers to take him on. At this point we had not seen a lot of games, but the intro’s, the views (legion) and new reveals on AI with solo play we see that the focal points were stronger. Then we get elite squad, a mobile game, and more of Just Dance (10 years), with a funny video. Just Dance 2020 is coming to all systems, after which For Honor took over and gave us a new addition named Shadows of the Hitokiri, and another Rainbow six option coming, this one called quarantine and the Division 2, Kenly college, and in the fall episode two, the pentagon (a big building in Washington DC with 5 sides), with a second raid which have 8 player action. More games and at the end a new game called Gods and Monsters.

I give the presentation 86%; I would have added 4%-5% if there would have been more actual gameplay shown. Still the first part showing us Legion was pretty overwhelming and it took that wow through most of the presentation.

Square Enix

They start with the Final Fantasy VII remake, I remember playing that puppy on the PlayStation, I was never a big fan, yet I was overwhelmed on those days on the depth of the story and the intuitive side of the game play. The part here iis that we are casually introduced that this game will be on 2 Blu-ray discs gives rise to the fact on just how huge this game will be. Here we get to see active and tactical play and just how evolved this game is. This might just call over all the players who never got into the game originally (me included). After that Life is Strange two makes an appearance and a new Chrystal chronicles, a game I loved on the GameCube, now on mobile phones, so there is the option to relive a few lovely moments. Some Octopath Traveler, a dash of the last Remnant remake which is available now for Nintendo Switch, a look at Dragon Quest builders 2, a PS4 game that seems to combine RPG co-op with elements of Minecraft, making it an interesting and optionally an addictive one straight off the bat. As the game is seemingly in game footage, we get to enjoy more playtime than expected. Then we get Luminary on Switch aka Dragon Quest XI; after which Square Enix focusses on indie developers. There were more intros and videos coming, Shadow bringers (FFXIV) and an extended intro to Dying Light 2, now with the launch date of spring 2020. It is clear that the entire Final Fantasy universe will get a lot more games on consoles soon enough.

Ending the presentation with the announcement of FFVIII remastered coming, we see that this year will be nearly all about the Final Fantasy universe and the remastering of the IP they had, and on all platforms, and as such the Switch is gaining even more momentum. Then the crowd goes wild, Marvel Avengers makes its entry showing us a little of what is to come, the game will have additional element over years (at no additional cost), the ‘no loot boxes ever’ statement made people go wild. The game will release in May 2020. Like Ubisoft it would have been nice to get a little more actual gameplay, yet overall the presentation rocked and it gets a solid 91% making it the best presentation of the show at present, now only Nintendo remains and that is for tomorrow.

 

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