Tag Archives: Alien

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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Comprehension amok

We get it, some games are flawed, and some games go for the image of coolness and fail. We heard it well over 12,324 times, through articles and YouTube videos. Anthem, a game that is not bad is a failure. Some have a deeper idea, was this due to EA, or to Bioware? The issue is that the makers were no beginners. Bioware, the people behind the Mass Effect series, Dragon Age and a few more had a great track record. Even now, Mass Effect 2 is still one of the very best games to make it to any console ever, which is some achievement, and it remains a factor, even today.

Some give the decent feedback ‘a cool looking game that is not bad, but it is not getting us where we want to be‘. I can get along with it. Then I got a hold of a slide which is more important than you might ever realise. Another quote that matters is: ‘Anthem is an example of EA’s monetisation plans in action‘, we now have two settings that can easily make a game go from acceptable to really really bad. This matters when it is not merely a game you buy, but when it becomes Gaming As A Service. The issue is not how much you pump into it; it is how right you need to get it the first time over. They dropped one optional solution to it (not part of this conversation) and focussed on the artificially created Hype called Anthem.

I had seen issues with Destiny, so I was giving this game a wide birth until the game had proven itself and within 24 hours, the massive amount of complaints starting to hit the internet in close to every way possible. I was actually decently amazed how neutral and how considerate some reviewers were. the AngryJoeShow was its usual self, but for mere entertainment watching it is still the first step to consider, I do to see where haters come from, and he does not disappoint (a https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AJsKyh0x7w). When we see the statement (supported by evidence of sorts) that the loading of the game took longer than the actual gameplay, we see just how far Bioware had fallen of the wagon, or was that EA? Angry Joe gives a list that does not screw around. This does not merely indicate that there is a core issue, there are other parts linked to the core that give strong indication that EA failed on too many levels, optionally Bioware also failed on several levels, yet in all this we need to take a look at a screenshot.

When you make a game where jet packs are central in the gameplay, the makers need to consider that some people think outside of the box. So when we are in a cave and we see a large opening, large enough to fly through, so when you try and you get slapped back for no good reason, we see the first larger failing, the tactical side that was not thought through. Levels made on cosmetic states where the state of consideration should only ever have been tactical, so either remove the good looking hole giving you ambient feelings of lighting, or make sure we can use it as an escape cover. The second screenshot was early art work I was able to find. Now, I do not know whether that is in the game, but it seems to me that it is a clear sign of copyright violation and an optionally downright stage of plagiarism.

For some reason the stage reminded me of Alien 1979 and Aliens 1986, but then I might be wrong. If that is set as early concept art, it should have been a huge wake up call for both Bioware and EA, right there is where people had to consider the danger they were walking into.

Yet, for me this is not about those failings, for me there is another side, there are actually two sides. We see that with the GAAS image. The two elements that were there above all others were Player Centric and Lifetime value. Al the indications shown by so many people give us that these two were not merely ignored, they were not comprehended by the people trying to sell the idea, and they added catchwords to sell the money maker, without comprehending the impact it had, that is how I see it.

Player Centric comes from Customer centric. Yet there we see in one place: “Customer centric is a way of doing business with your customer in a way that provides a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, customer loyalty and profits. But, a customer-centric company is more than a company that offers good service. A place like Amazon is a prime examples of brands that are customer centric and have spent years creating a culture around the customer and their needs“, and when we consider that part, we see that Anthem would not have passed the Alpha stage at present before August 2019, that alone means that of the 6 elements, one is a 80% failure, making the game 17% less effective right of the bat. The additional testing and reconnaissance of the game in real live server environment would have shown 4 essential elements to be too far below par. The load screens, the loot, the tactical setting of the map(s) and the story-lines, storytelling as well as the interactive parts (those three all count towards the story dimension).

Here we see the failing of the presented Player Centric part. This also impacts the second element, namely ‘Lifetime Value’. The moment the player centric parts were hit, ‘Litetime Value’ was equally hit, but to a much larger extent. It is clear that proper testing would have ousted many of the elements, as such it stands to reason that either the makers BE-A (my optimistic version of this merger) never cared, or did not properly do the essential testing and fixing. All what I have seen (console versions only) indicates that it could have become a nice game when it gets to the beta stage; the game is nowhere near that ready. The graphics look good, but good graphics on a failed core is still a failed game.

Say What?

that is where the issue starts, a game that does not look bad and has potential is in the GAAS (Gaming As A Service) still a failed project when it does not meet certain expectations and Anthem fails a few of them. Even as I was never a fan of this genre, I see issues that I should never have noticed and those are really badly managed issues.

Still we should acknowledge that it is a failed, but not a bad game, which also implies that what went wrong, could optionally be fixed, yet when we get to the loot part, we see just how far the model failed. The loot is mentioned by several to be massively repetitive, in the stage of this game where the weapons are shown we see too much repetition making the loot way too bland, so when we look at this part against ‘High User Engagement‘, over a period of 6 years, we see that the third part fails too, at least when we consider player expectation. In all this when we see that other elements can only be bought, we see the drive towards Recurring Revenue Business, a side that will not be successful as three elements have already failed for too much. At that point the game has gone from 83% to a mere 41% effective as a GAAS experiment, a stage that could have been avoided to a much larger extent if it had only been tested better, stronger and with more diligence.

They did get the graphics right, and it looks cool, but there again we see that a real GAAS solution is so much more and the fact that one of their alleged slides show the failures to this degree, we see that gamers should be upset. A game like this could not be sold in any other way than an open BETA, optionally an open BETA that is for those who have pre-ordered (and pre-paid the game) offering these people unique gear and weapons, for their effort, that might have worked, giving them additional options would have made things even better and it would all have been in support of ‘Recurring Revenue Business‘, as well as ‘Multi-Platform Business‘, gamers love that shit. To be regarded as official beta testers upping the game to such an extent? Gamers would buy the game for the mere notion (as long as it comes with actual unique gear).

So as we see this game and the game maker we see that comprehension went amok on a few levels, in this I would point the finger at EA (for the most) yet the stage of whomever let this game slip towards the ‘approved for release’ that person should never ever be allowed anywhere near the gaming industry ever.

In the end I wonder if they have seen the Single Player GAAS opportunity that Mass Effect Andromeda would enable for. That is if they ever get a visionary to call the shots on that part of the equation, because if they fix up that game, they could have the stage of ‘High User Engagement‘ that surpasses 110%, which would be a legendary achievement to say the least.

If there is one accomplishment that does stand out beyond the graphics then it is the person who decided that hiring Sarah Schachner was a good idea. She created two pieces, AC: Origin and Anthem both soundtracks that make you wonder if they were even made by the same person and she hits the ball straight out of Fenway Park, twice in a row mind you. Two soundtracks that were utterly amazing, yes, the Music of Anthem does exceed all human expectations (merely my view, but I stand by it); as such I expect to see more great work from her in the future. If EA and Bioware can get the rest right, they might have a chance to survive this expensive overpriced, wrongly focussed ordeal called Anthem.

The EA shareholders would definitely be appreciative of that notion.

 

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