Tag Archives: Anthem

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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Game of failures

This is for those who love games. Games are important, it has always been important even as plenty of people do not realise it. Getting your kids into gaming at an early age is increasingly important. Our lives revolve around interfaces; interactivity of systems, so lowering that threshold to children as soon as possible is important, very important. Those parents who think that they will get it school are out of their minds. To get any child to be aware of how a tablet is used, to how a mouse is used and a controller is close to everything. Yet this path only works when the software is up to scrap and whilst this was easily the case for Putt-Putt, the games nowadays that go beyond merely being an educational support idea is far from perfect, in some cases they are disastrous.

Some kids get to tap their parent’s smartphone and that is fine. This is not a new issue; it goes back to the early 90’s where Humongous Entertainment created amongst others, the Putt-Putt series, an interactive game that worked like a picture book story and as the player learned to click on the environment, it started to be more and more interactive. I thought it was the greatest idea in 1992 when I tested the game. I already saw at that point that lowering the threshold for the next generation was going to be a big thing and this game delivered. Even as that side did not survive, it had set a seed in motion and created learnware, a way for people to get engaged into the use of computers at an early age, an age that went beyond the Atari 800 and Atari ST. It was a game available on PC and allowed people to fear the mouse less and become inquisitive in a natural way. I got the game via Electronic Arts in the UK if I remember correctly. It hit me how wrong the company has gone. Well, that is not entirely fair, the larger missed stages are not by Electronic Arts, yet their link to Bioware taints them the same way, no matter how removed they are from the equation. As Forbes states: ‘Five Extremely Basic Things ‘Anthem’ Gets Wrong And Needs To Fix‘, not merely an elemental flaw, a much larger massive flaw from beginning to wherever the player ends. Forbes gives us “even if BioWare manages to patch all the technical issues out of the game, what ails Anthem goes deeper, and fixes will require some pretty core reworks of entire systems that are currently in the game“, this is what you get when marketing decides on the products and proper game testing is either ignored or never properly done. I particularly liked the introduction by Paul Tassi: “While I am Mr. Anthem-Is-Not-That Bad-Actually, trying to push back against a flood of negative reviews to let at least some people know that they may enjoy the game if they’re a fan of the genre, I am also not blind to a number of very, very obvious problems with Anthem“. For me it goes back to a more basic part. Bioware has been sitting on IP worth close to a half a billion dollars and squandered it to the largest degree. Even if there is a repair to the Mass Effect universe, if they are not ready to dish out $50-$100 million and take a very new direction, ne not seen before in gaming, they will be in hot water getting boiled alive. It is not merely the ‘hope’ on Anthem getting repaired; you cannot hold the audience with E3 presentations for almost 2 years and make colossal mistakes to this degree. Bethesda is similarly not in a good place, yet they have been changing direction 180 degrees trying to get fixed in their first massive failure (Fallout 76 for those in the dark). In case of Bethesda, it is their first tits up event, so they have time to get it fixed and they got the rudest wake up call. For Bioware it is not the first time, with the Andromeda failure, they have a lot less to go with and that whilst Anthem was supposed to be trying to budge in on the Fortnite hype (and similar games), as such we can come to the conclusion that Anthem is in much deeper waters, and there is no safe swimming there.

Forbes gives us a lot more, with ‘Viewing and Equipping Loot Is Absurd‘ is the indication that no proper game testing was done, or if it was done, it was not scrutinised towards the minimum levels it needed to be, the essential 6 steps that were discussed (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2019/02/24/five-extremely-basic-things-anthem-gets-wrong-and-needs-to-fix/#3f7327ce63a5) shows just how wrong it was implemented and handled. This makes for a clearly shown wrongly tested game. And when we get back to Mass Effect 3 and their loot boxes, we know that it could be done better and there was a much better example at hand. Forbes goes one better and shows the Ubisoft method (the Division) a two year old game where loot deployment is well done and take 8 seconds against the 12 minutes loss you face now (as was stated by the reviewer), how could you ever achieve in captivating and maintaining a proper audience?

With the comment: “there is no way to see your overall stats anywhere. Not basic stuff like health and shield, which are added up between components with no total shown” I am on the fence. In a real shooter (Bagdad 2003, Beirut 1983, Kandahar 2011, or Aleppo 2015) you are alive, wounded or dead (preferably not dead). When you get shot you do not get to check your health or shield status. The Kevlar either held and you felt like a mule kicked you hard, or there is red all over the place. Yet, this is a game and a choice was made not to give it. I am not sure whether the gamer accepts this, but it was a choice made and we have to accept it. We all have come a long way from the Wolfenstein 3D health indicator. Paul gives us a lot more, from the free play, to crafting to the revive issues. The game is seemingly flawed in too many ways, in a day and age where getting it right from the beginning is almost everything, when we consider that the first teaser was in June 2017 and we see these levels of shortcomings, we need to realise that the larger players have lost the plot somehow. Is it management, project management or merely marketing that cannot get the time lines straight? No matter what the reason is, between the need to grow knowledge in a global gaming dimension as well as the revenue driven side of gaming, it goes beyond what we know now, it is all about how to evolve a system that is as mature as it gets. Perhaps the curse for Bioware is that Mass Effect three was close to perfect. You don’t get to mess with perfection ever; they learned that the hard way twice already. And as we see an exploding amount of videos on YouTube on loot grinding and chest locations after a mere weekend of availability, we see that there is a lot more to fix on this game, from my point of view, a game that is still such an alpha should not have been released, not ever.

In the past I have had good cause and plenty of reasons to have a go at Ubisoft, yet in comparison there are plenty of indicators that they are getting it right. The Division 2 is a much better version that the original, it is not really a new brand or a new game; it is a much better game. Even as it is too early to tell, there are some voices (who had early access) and they are comparing the division 2 after the first game to the Assassins Creed 2 compared to that first game. If that is true, if that holds up than those who embraced the division are in for one hell of a ride, crushing Bioware further still. In a world where we are driven to choice as our budgets limits us, the problems that Anthem created for themselves is one that they might not survive, to get this much opposition to a game three days after release is a really bad thing, those who bought the game might run back return the console games (not an option for PC games) and put that money towards the Division 2 and wait three weeks to start a proper multi player shooter.

When it comes to this generation gamers, we are faced with a failing generation as they are confronted with decision makers who clearly have not had the best track record in game design, that is proven with the mere sight of so much failure on any day one edition.

If I had to make a judgement, my personal response would be a simple one: ‘Looks like this could be a nice game, call me again if you ever get to a workable beta version‘, a game that is optionally a year too early, unfinished and unbalanced in a world where there are half a dozen better made alternatives. Bioware strikes out a second time, will they be around to make that mistake again next time?

My version is upheld and given strength when we see the ‘Anthem Day One Update Patch Notes‘ (source Gamespot) which is massive and filled with issues that should not have been allowed to be around past an alpha version. It gets to be worse for the console owners. The information in the open is that the day one patch too that is around 7GB on consoles. So you buy the game and still you need to patch 7GB from the start, I expect at least half a dozen more patches in the near future and if they are core patches, the download size is likely to be higher. Forbes gives us more than mere patch information in the several articles that Paul Tassi wrote. Last week he gave us: “In addition to the sizable day one patch, BioWare has moved swiftly to hotfix two other issues right now. The first being killing a chest exploit that was allowing players to easily farm endgame gear“, it is merely proof (as I personally see it) that this game is still pre beta stage giving us a lot more issues to ask questions on and for the most, I do not see that such a critical look is being taken by many reviewers. I have had no issue going for the throat of Yves Guillemot (apparently still CEO of Ubisoft) in regards to the AC blunders; do you think I was going to pull my punches on Bioware after the Mess Effect Andromeda bungled to that degree? Bioware needs to sit down and take a hard look at where they are at and what they think they can do next, because squandering IP to the degree that they are doing is not a good sign and it will affect EA just as badly, because that is the impact of a game with this many issue relying on micro transactions. Their best action at present is to hand out the $39.99 pack for free to all those who registered in the first 7 days, and I would double the amount of shards given in that pack, because when we start seeing the dozens of copies of the console editions of Anthem in the preowned game section that will be the first sign that Anthem will become a dead product, death in 60 days, it could be the worst result a multi-player shooter has ever faced, and it is not all on them, in this case the increasingly higher regarded and higher review scores of Division 2 will be part of that death stroke.

Anthem for a failing gaming experience‘, it is quite the epitaph to put on the tombstone of any game.

 

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Commerce inverted

A decently intelligent salesperson educated me (some time ago) in the concept of think global, act local. it is something to live by for several reasons. It made perfect business sense, yet what I did not know at the time that it came from the consideration towards the health of the entire planet; to take action in communities and cities. It comes from that ‘sane’ period of time when individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. It is what founds the event we now call grassroots efforts, occurring on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers. So when we consider this and in the business sense we see that It asks that employees to consider the global impact of their actions. It can be applied on a near universal scale and it is a setting of common sense as I see it. So why exactly is Microsoft doing the opposite of it by acting global on a local way of thinking?

Now, they are not alone, but they are the most visible one, because that is how they played the game themselves. When you want to consider an eCommerce move, you need to consider what you are up against and adjust your model accordingly. So why exactly do they advertise the new game Shadow of the Tombraider for AU$144 and the Digital download for AU$114, whilst the shops in Sydney are already offering it for AU$79 and a special edition for AU$89? How does a 42GB download (speculated size) become 44% more expensive, whilst getting an actual physical copy in Sydney is stated to be up to 61% more expensive to download from the Microsoft store? So here we saw (all over the E3) ‘pre-order it on the Microsoft store‘ to be slightly too none lucrative for anyone to ever consider it. Another (weaker) example is FIFA19, where the download is a whole AU$2 cheaper than the physical copy. Yes, it seems to make perfect sense that 4-11 hours download to get that game AU$2 cheaper, does it not?

Now, in itself, I have no issues with the Microsoft store, there are several perfect examples where the store comes with awesome deals, absolutely a given, but now, just after the E3, the new games are what counts and that is where we tend to look. OK, not everyone, I saw ‘games coming soon‘ and the entry was the anticipated game ‘We happy few‘, so I wanted to take a look at what it would cost (and when it is released), and guess what, it wasn’t even in there at all. It is just as deceptive as ‘Play FIFA World Cup Free‘, whilst you are taken to the FIFA18 game of AU$24 (which is a good deal) and in the text is somewhere that it is an addition, a free DLC for anyone who has FIFA18, so why not state ‘Free FIFA 18 World cup DLC‘? It would clearly indicate that it is part of FIFA18 and gives out that it comes with a DLC. None of that is seen and Microsoft is not learning how to properly play the game, not to treating gamers like kids, but like the savant controller users most of them are (and many of them are adults). Microsoft needs to up their game by a fair bit at present.

Oh, and before you think that this is all me, that this is merely an error. I first mentioned it in regards to Shadows of War on May 13th in the article ‘It is done!‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/05/13/it-is-done/). There the difference was 50%. Microsoft made no adjustments of any kind. Now, let’s be clear, they are not required to do that, yet in light of the evidence we see where buying from the Microsoft Store will regularly be well over 30% more expensive than a physical copy, why would we consider getting new games there unless we needed that title desperately? This gets us to the entire ‘think local, act global‘. When the question becomes: ‘we need x% margin‘, and when it comes from an overpriced place, the equation changes and logic goes out the window (as I personally see it).

So when we tally the issues that Phil Spencer has on his desk, we also feel sorry for the man. Not, pity mind you, I do not give a hoot about giving him pity, his income is likely in line with a fortune 500 CEO, so he is laughing to the bank on payday (every month), yet he does have an awful mess to clean up from the previous sceptre wielding bosses, not a job I envy.

You see, these small matters are important. The gap with Nintendo is getting smaller and when you consider that Fortnite was downloaded 2 million times in the last 24 hours, you get to see the issue. These players will play on route to somewhere, it merely takes a view for others not having a Switch to consider one getting one at the earliest option, the Fortnite clans are also growing the Nintendo Switch population and cross play gives these people options to get the Switch. The bad side for Microsoft is that they buy additional games, non-Xbox games and that is where the hurt begins, because any gamer will initially get 3-4 games, so that takes an additional $300 away from both Sony and Microsoft. And that is not all, what kind of an impact do you think 120 million Fallout shelter users can make? You see part of this is that the top 10 of downloaded games has 5-7 titles with well over a million downloads, those numbers rack up. Anyone with a passion for multiplayer gaming will not ignore millions of gamers, especially when it comes to half a dozen games of multi-player capable titles. The numbers start to add up at that point, so when we see such shifts Microsoft really cannot afford the issues seen in the Microsoft store as they are at present and it has been an issue for a long time. Their only positive side is that Sony made pretty much the same mistake from day one, so there is no competitive issue on that side for them.

That brings us to another side, which to some regard shows Microsoft marketing dropping the ball. To be honest, it took me by surprise as well. We got to see a filmclip at the Bethesda show with a very special edition of Skyrim. We all laughed, yet the joke is on us, so as Business Insider (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/skyrim-very-special-edition-amazon-echo-alexa-bethesda-video-2018-6) gives us you can actually download the game for your Echo‘, and with Keegan-Michael Key on the sofa, why would you not think it was comedy? Yet when you look at Amazon (at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D6STSX8), you get the goods. So there is an actual Skyrim Very Special Edition on Amazon. The movie you can watch again (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=FnEW6dX_BmU). When we read: “Fans have since uploaded videos of themselves playing “Skyrim: Very Special Edition.”“, we see that Bethesda marketing is creating waves in several fields on several places and in places where we never thought to look before. So as we keep on seeing ‘the most powerful console in the world‘, there is a much larger need to adjust view and vision. Even as the hardware is slightly too flawed, the Game Pass, which I tend to call: ‘GamerPass’ is something to work with. Anyone who has the intent of buying more than 2 games a year would be crazy not to get it. No matter the congestion, the hardware flaws and other matters. Game Pass is an almost certain game changer for Microsoft, it will give them time to clean up other matters and it will set the stage for more. So why am I not seeing Game Pass on YouTube and on web pages at least once a day? In the last 3 days I have seen nothing from Microsoft. Anthem, Fallout 76, Summerset, Fortnite and a few others, they all got their advertisement minute in (more than once I might add), not Game Pass though. The digital visibility is everything and Microsoft seems to be blindly staring at some surface (pun intended), how will that help Phil Spencer? I might not be pro Microsoft, yet I remain pro-gaming no matter what format it is on. There lies the setting from both EA Access and Game Pass, to give but a simple example.

None existing example

When printing these ‘credit card funds‘ to buy and enter a code on your console, why do places like Gamestop, JB Hifi, EB Games not have the Game Pass out in front? There seems to be an English version. Why can’t we get a load-n-go Microsoft debit card to use for the Xbox for gamers? All simple implementations of systems that are already in the field, with additional account linking as well as additional download bonuses with every purchase (over a specific amount). If visibility is the essential need of any console, I am confronted with a personal belief that Microsoft Marketing is looking at the wrong surface, the surface of some tablet, not the surface of a 130 billion dollar a year industry. Does Microsoft want to matter or not, that should become the thought on the front of anyone’s mind that has one. I am getting pissed off and angry for the same reason I have been pissed off with Yves Guillemot (he apparently owns Ubisoft) for half a decade. He had an amazing IP and let it go to waste for years. We are starting to see the same thing here and it becomes a much larger field of where Microsoft needs to look. We can agree that to some extent Ubisoft is adjusting its trajectory (last 2 years already), now we see Microsoft starting a similar spiraling downfall (from the gamers point of view). Some things cannot be prevented, but a lot of them can be fixed and change the path for the future. It needs a visionary! The presentation showed that Phil Spencer has vision, but is it enough and will is he fast enough to correct all the previous mistakes (not done by him), that is the part I cannot tell at present. It is also unfair to confront him this strong a mere two days after the E3, but he needs to recognise that the third period is starting and he has 2 goals against him, so he needs to get his star players on the ice and against the teams that are slowing him down, even if it is his own Azure team dragging issues along (a 2014 issue). Now as the game changes, or better stated as Microsoft wants to change the game, they need to be on the ball all the time and that does not seem to be the case (a personal observation). You cannot do this with a static shop 11% the size of an Apple store down the road (less than 100 metres down the road), you do it be creating engagement. You set the stage where everyone can game for an hour and feel the goods, to get the parents involved and show why the Game Pass is the solution, get to the mothers, seeing how AU$120 per year gets them 100 games (valued at an average total of AU$ 7500), and how that value increases year after year, especially on money saved from not buying games.

Get the ‘Consider Game Pass‘ on every digital download card you buy in store, post office and supermarket. Because parents see the ones in the post office and supermarket, these places can start engagement, a path that gives long term visibility. In all honesty, I haven’t seen any of that. Is it merely placement of product? If it is that important, I should see something like that twice a day and not on my console, when I am there, I merely want to start the game I felt like playing.

Oh, and that is not merely my thought, Google has all these free advertising classes on learning to use their products, pretty much stating the same thing. The foundation of digital marketing seems to be missing. So when I get to the start page of a place like JB Hifi (everyone in Australia knows that one), I would care less on seeing ‘Surface Pro‘ every time I get there, There is no mention at all of Game Pass. I can actually search ‘Game Pass’ and I get all kinds of passes and the 19 linked to the Xbox One, not one is about the Game Pass. That is the game! That is how you lose it, by merely not having visibility. Oh, and they are not alone, seeking it on Amazon gives you one option in the ‘Currency & Subscription Cards, Subscription Cards‘ department. It is the 12 months Gold Live subscription. A mere example on how visibility is the key to forward momentum. Sony knows it, Nintendo definitely knows it, and it is time for Microsoft to wake up to the proper digital age. For these examples are all clear pieces of evidence of inverted commerce in the digital age. I’ll let you decide on how many of those corporations stay afloat whilst making a living through applying inverted commerce, if you find one, ask them to send me a postcard.

Was that over the top?

 

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The deceptive engine

We are all in anticipation of the E3, the one place where the game makers get to take the stage and either entice us for almost a year, or get completely destroyed. As we are 5 weeks away from the event, the game changes. It is all about creating hype, or creating optional falsehood. The false hype allegedly shows that the brand might still care to be inflated in perception value and regard. That is what I see when I look at the Daily Star, who gave us: “Microsoft games news: Has Xbox dealt ANOTHER KILLER BLOW to Sony and PlayStation in 2018?” That notion was so ridiculous that I decided to drill down a little. I have no idea who Dom Peppiatt is, but let’s drill down a little on the article (at https://www.dailystar.co.uk/tech/gaming/696572/Microsoft-games-news-Has-Xbox-dealt-ANOTHER-KILLER-BLOW-to-Sony-and-PlayStation-in-2018). So we start with “The company behind Xbox has recruited Darrell Gallagher to work on the Microsoft Studios Executive Leadership Team. Gallagher has a pretty significant history in gaming: he started as Head of Creative at Sony in 1997, then moved to Rockstar Games in 2004 to work as a lead artist. His next step was to become art director at THQ, before he joined Crystal Dynamics as art director in 2005“. This is fair enough, if Microsoft has acquired a titan like that, there will be optional forward momentum for Microsoft. I state optional, because we have seen that Microsoft tends to ignore its customer base and not listen to actual gamers, which tends to be a much larger issue. Then we get the not so nice parts “NEW Xbox One Games rumoured to be in development“, so the operative word is ‘rumoured‘, that was a first mistake, because we have seen that before, rumoured does not make it true and waiting for 5 weeks gives hype, yet in the same space gives massive amounts of resentment. With Rumoured we see references to ‘Perfect Dark’ and ‘Fable’ with old artwork and no evidence of any kind that it is true. Merely the ‘as leaked by Resetera user Klobrille‘ is given, like that ads any value to it all. The only one that is a decent given is a new (upgraded) Forza Horizons, it is the parade horse of Microsoft and it makes sense to make sure that it is there in all 4K glory. The second one is Age of Empires, it has been bled dry on the PC and it coming to Xbox One was merely a time setting. It was originally one of the better games they had, and if the interface is decently improved upon, it might be a niche market winner. So with 2 out of the 5 games that are ‘optionally’ games to come, what kind of ‘killer blow’ is that? It is not even close to a killer blow, so far they have not had any killer blows against Sony, and the Release of God of War last Friday is Sony showing all others that their games are of a massively higher plane of gamer satisfaction than anything Microsoft exclusively has to offer (at present), and they have close to nothing on the exclusive titles front. When we see “Microsoft and Xbox has acquired marketing rights on some massive upcoming games, including Borderlands 3, Cyberpunk 2077, Splinter Cell, Battlefield V, and Anthem“, we need to understand that ‘marketing rights’ does not make it an exclusive title. Another source had given us two weeks earlier “Borderlands 3 hasn’t been confirmed as being actively in development quite yet, Gearbox has unsurprisingly not given it a release date either“, with in addition “It’s likely to be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC“, so why acquire the marketing rights for a non-exclusive title? Seems a waste of money as I personally see it. Second is (from another source) “Ghost Recon Wildlands Splinter Cell DLC is getting a big reveal today. The Ubisoft content for the PS4, Xbox One and PC“, yet there is also mention that this is merely the setting for a new Splinter Cell and in that regard, there is every notion that Ubisoft, the people behind it will not be making it an exclusive title. The same is a given for the makers of Witcher 3, now prepping for Cyberpunk 2077, which leaves two titles none of these exclusives either. So as the article gives us “it’s important to note these are only rumours at the time of writing” in the end, the entire article was a waste of space for all gamers except for the need of Microsoft getting hypes out. The news that they have acquired Darrell Gallagher, which would be good news for Microsoft, yet to surround it with rumours, nothing to show and the fact that marketing exclusives were tailored whilst the games are not confirmed to be is merely a setting for failure, which we saw with the death blow against Microsoft with the release of God of War and actual exclusive title. It will only get harder for Microsoft; the consoles are set to 2.5:1 so for every Xbox One there are 2.5 PS4’s. There is not a game maker in the world that will not make for both if possible. The only option there is what Microsoft had exclusive and keep on converting the PC games that never made it to console. For Sony, it has its own worries. Both The Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding are exclusive titles, but these two players will not go to bed with anything but perfection and for both no official release dates are known, now that God of War delivered all it promised the hunger for these other two titles seems to be growing exponentially. And a gamer that gets too hungry for new games makes weird leaps, that has been proven in the past. So were the two titles just fabs? I am not certain there has been a massive desire to get the Fable line remastered (one, two and three) and the anniversary edition on the 360 only grew the fans of Fable. So getting them all three on the Xbox One remastered, not merely backwards compatible would be a real win for Microsoft, there is no denying it. It is not as clear with Perfect Dark, the heralded game just wasn’t the stuff of legends on the 360, so were some other games. Yet the fans will bow towards the Fable setting in a large way, in equal measure the Mass Effect rumours seem to resurface again and again, also in light of the Andromeda failure, that trilogy would be equally a win on the Xbox, anyone denying that is just utterly stupid. There are a few others, but they are in essence mere remastered games, not actual new games and that is what Microsoft desperately needs and so far they have too little, too few titles and no push towards exclusive wins.

It is in that regard that we see Forbes, who gives us “Sony And PS4 Are Beginning A Massive 2018 With ‘God Of War,’ And Microsoft Should Be Worried“. Yes, we all agree and even as actual numbers are not seen at present, we see in the UK “In terms of purely boxed units, it outsold God of War III by 35 per cent“, that is in merely 3 days, which is almost unheard of. The only title to ever pull that off was GTA5 in 2013. More good news is not console set, but for Ubisoft, it does not matter, Far Cry 5 broke the 100K boundary (on PS4) in Japan which should make the people at Ubisoft proud and happy and rightfully so, the fact that this will also benefit the Xbox One players is merely icing on the cake for Ubisoft and that is what counts. You see, actual gaming is never about the console itself, it is about the game and gaming. Even as God of War is ruling, Ubisoft is getting a nice global boost and with other Ubisoft titles ready to be released it will be a good thing. When it is about the gaming, we will not care, we only care about ‘gaming the play’, or was that ‘playing the game’? We tend to all get together I tend to burn whomever is trying to hand us hypes that are ridiculous, in that regard we have absolutely no regard for any hype bringer.

In the end, will it help us the gamers? Hypes do not, it is an engine of deception to maximise the product, that is the focal point, in this in that regard that the moment the hype is proven wrong (in 5 weeks at the E3), when any of the Daily Star mentioned ‘rumoured to happen‘ it will lash out to the Microsoft community and they will hold Microsoft accountable. You see, when it suits Microsoft they are all over a publisher with falsehood, when it suits them, so either the rumours are true (and I will reports one it), or this was a false hype that has the potential to sway more XB1 owners to switch console, which is overall bad news for Microsoft when that happens. I they have only one advantage this month than it is the rare case where the Gold Live Free games in April are actually better than PS Plus offer for a change. With AC Syndicate and Dead Space 2 ruling the free games, they are giving a better value in an uncommon move.

When it comes to the deceptive engine, it will not stop, not for at least 4 weeks and it is not limited to the Xbox, there are plenty of ‘rumours’ on the PS4 and Switch field, which we find equally annoying, in addition, it is not just limited to some papers, even a site like Christian Today is all about those rumours, which is unsettling on a few levels.

When you consider that ‘Deception’ is act of propagating a belief that is not true, or is not the whole truth, you might understand why we despise it in gaming. So if we consider that the ‘pro’ Microsoft article was optionally propaganda, as well as distraction, or concealment. The gamer has to ask, what is Microsoft trying to conceal or distract from? We will know in 5 weeks when we get to see the E3 presentation.

 

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The risk of androgynous automation

Today we see another message, another prediction and another approach to make people nervous. This time it is a combined effort from the fields of Oxford University and Deloitte, they find that ‘77% probability of ‘repetitive and predictable’ roles being automated‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/25/850000-public-sector-jobs-automated-2030-oxford-university-deloitte-study).

So how true is this?

Actually, there is a lot of truth in it. The truth is not just a given, it is an essential need. Yet the headline ‘Study says 850,000 UK public sector jobs could be automated by 2030‘ is a problem, not one of disaster, but one of opportunity possibly missed. The article gives us a few things, including links to the full report (indirect), which is a good thing and let’s be honest, Deloitte is no PwC; they stand miles above that group of Excel users. My first issue is with page 2. Not because it is incorrect, but the difference from my view is as I see it more than semantics. You see, they state “eliminating the budget deficit – into an era of parallel challenges as it moves towards Brexit“. I believe that Brexit will enable over time a speedier recovery of the deficit, it will be no picnic, but it will happen. Which is why I in earlier writing opposed the view the independent had. They wrote “Britain’s largest banks are planning to move business overseas due to uncertainty over the Brexit process, the head of the British Bankers’ Association has warned“, where my response in a decently diplomatic tone was “So, let them fuck off! The moment they feel the initial 2018 collapse of the Euro and the US Dollar, which will be voiced as ‘our currency will face a temporary contraction of value’, then they will see the cost they face and the revenue they are now missing out of. So, feel free to consider to return after learning that mistake under conditions of massive administrative fees for consideration of inclusion into the UK economy“. This is not an empty view, when the UK returns to strength, those moved away will see contracting economies in Germany, where the Deutsche Bank will be desperate to retain business out of fear of the damage of ‘written off’ collapsing corporations. France will be in a similar state, but there Crédit Agricole and Natixis are the Powerbrokers and neither will consider some ‘grocery bank’ that is relocating to ‘new shores’, so these moving banks will not be too welcome there. And several other nations are in a similar setting. So what is left? Italy? Greece? Good luck with that idea!

So as the UK is facing new issues and new challenges, Deloitte is showing that it is not all roses. The report shows on page 12 “The OECD and IMF views are backed up by OBR analysis that suggests spending on investment, public services and benefits are the interventions most likely to provide rapid economic boosts while providing a platform for medium and longer term growth“, this illuminates an earlier issue that has been mentioned by yours truly (aka: me) more than once. It isn’t just the £11.2 NHS IT failure the UK Labour party gave its citizens. The bigger issue is that governments at large have had a failing grade in managing such projects. Over micro-managing made these projects too massive and in the end no longer feasible or realistic. If this is the path, than it needs to precede an altered adjustment in procedures on how to manage and set these projects. The issue we see that still is required for the NHS, also clearly shows that the political interference tends to be a hindrance rarely a solution. However, the political part cannot be removed, but the entire setup can be altered in another way. A clear definition of what is required, that would after this point be scrutinised by proper IT specialists working for the government (to keep that part of the costing down), only then when that part has been dealt with, can the project move into a new field. If this was the Law and Mental Health, it might be best phrased that the government needs an IT version of a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Such a manual would need a data requirement part, and application part, a data networking part and a security part. Until such an approach is made, the need that we see, will end up being a massive expenditure towards the Exchequers chest, with the risk of no result and no alternative. These paths make sense in two ways. In the first there will be a lot more clarity on what is requested, required and delivered. There will be less contractual mud and as such whomever took the project will be responsible for the delivered bad boy and it would show a clear path of adjustment and repairs (where needed).

There is even a new side in this, it will shape the required need of technical universities. Because as they become involved, delivering the hours and manpower towards these projects, the costing will be reduced, the Universities will also gain an income and their students would end up with a partial career and years of work and subsequent income. You see, the need to move away from these ‘conceptual consultants’ and selling concepts not products is an essential need to make it all work. There is even an additional benefit that larger IT corporations will lose their grip on governmental budgets and it will serve a wider audience, a change that has been overdue for at least 10 years.

The report gives on page 20 the public’s attitude. My issue is number 2. “More people expect public services to get worse because of Brexit“, I am not sure if that is complete. It is not incorrect, but the point of focus would reset really quickly when we consider the Guardian where we read “Deloitte’s previous work has shown that all sectors will be affected by automation in the next two decades, with 74% of jobs in transportation and storage, 59% in wholesale and retail trades and 56% in manufacturing having a high chance of being automated“, any automation where we see the change from personal towards an automated androgynous system, tends to cause waves of rejection and stress. Even today, we still have an automated irritation when we hear ‘press 1 for sales‘. Until we can upgrade these systems into a much better evolved system, automation will fluctuate into people seeking other avenues in acquiring that what they need. In addition, there is still an aversion to automated sales in some areas as distribution misses the quality marks the recipient demands in some cases. Now, we can all agree that there is plenty of evolution in this field and the evolution is growing in many directions and in long before 2030 we will have systems that are vastly superior to the systems we have today, that is the way the beast tends to work. There is also a given that we cannot yet predict how that will be in 5 years, yet all this requires a solid foundation between sales, services and facilitation/distribution and that part is currently still missing.

Now we get to the part that is a little bit of an issue with the report. We see that the top issue is ‘Better public transport‘, but better how? We see it on page 21 of the full report, so when we see ‘What things would you say would most improve public services in your area?’ Here, I miss a part where we see what the audience now feels is missing or failing. Is it prices, the amounts of times the public transport comes in, how busy it is (no sitting options), you see, they all come with extra costs. More busses means more costs. The solution that seemingly addresses all three mentioned, but is that the failure, the flaw or is it something else? I think that this issue remains subserving to the public’s personal issues ‘Poverty, inequality and low pay‘ as well as ‘Housing‘, which is all about the quality of life for most people. How to address that part is also an issue and automation does not address these policies in any way. Which is respectively 20% and 18% of an asked population of 1099 adults, which in my view is a population way too small to set this ‘State of the State‘ to. For a decent level of reliability, especially as the UK is a mere 65 million people, having a response quota 5,000-10,000 on a national level would have been an essential first. If the results were weighted towards the UK demographics, than it is likely that this report will have additional ‘flaws’, making me wonder who signed off on the requested paper?

There is another side the Guardian gives “However, in contrast to the doomsayers who predict mass unemployment, the firm has argued that over the last 140 years automation has created more work than it destroyed“, I am on the side of Deloitte here. In addition to creating more work, from the issues I raised earlier when considering that 10%-20% is moving towards retirement, the new jobs that are brought will be largely long term jobs and as the setting from tertiary IT education focusses on the governmental automation needs it already has as well as those we will likely see over the next 5 years, the overall quality of the workers in this field could rise almost exponentially when set this against the prepared workforce in the last 10 years. The result of better and more focussed workers will also increase the curve of automation as well as the quality of it. Part of the new data world is discussed on page 34 of that report. the quote “A police and crime commissioner compared data security challenges in the public sector to those in banking, concluding that banks “have secure information and have got away with it”” reads a little weird, yet the foundation of it is a requirement factor that will grow immensely. That field will grow in two ways. The first is the growing field of non-repudiation, a clear register that a certain person accessed certain data and only that person could have done it. This field especially if a cause for concern because there is a gap in technology here and especially in the case of NHS data, that gap needs to be filled (as well as several other fields). Should you doubt that, or prefer to trivialise this, then look towards Ashley Madison, the Office of Personnel Management, Anthem, Hacking Team and Premera. In effect totalling the endangered personal details of up to 150 million people. And this is only the hacks of 2015. When we see the upcoming move towards domotics, the overall danger of personal data getting out has the option of growing the number of people exposed by 1000%, basically a lot more than the complete UK population, at that stage even the sheep, sheepdogs and pony’s on Shetland could find their personal details online. This industry will grow, with a large club of international career opportunities in IT and the growing niche of Data Security.

In the end, we can agree with the numbers, or we can disagree. No matter how the meat is sliced, the recommendation on page 49 are in the end what matters. That part reads a little too diplomatic, but in all fairness they are points that count. Yet, as I personally see this, especially when set against page 2, I am missing something. You see, in my view, there is an item 6. I would state “This state will need to grow into a different dynamic (Government, Non-Profit and Commercial), it requires to grow its government policies by actively engaging and hiring the final year students into its governmental workplace and make them part of the IT evolution“.

It is my view that corporate needs will always exist, yet by preparing these students, graduating them and for them to adhere to corporate policies as they sell their innovations to government is all good for those corporations and I am not against that, because they will get a massive dose of that throughout their careers. There is nothing wrong by having these places of education create part of the engines of solution for the UK government. It falls directly in line with the thoughts in recommendations 2, 3 and 4.

The paper is a lot more than just about IT, even though IT takes the forefront here. When we look at the Guardian quotes “Interactive roles, which require “a high degree of personal interaction, including jobs such as teachers, social workers and police officers”, face a 23% chance of automation“, “senior staff in “cognitive roles that mostly require strategic thinking and complex reasoning, including finance directors and chief executives”, 14% have a chance of being automated” as well as “but the number of health service staff in this “interactive” job is expected to fall to 266,000 by 2030“. This grows another side in the IT business. Over the next 10 years we will see evolution and change as we see CRM systems and the interpretation of ‘What is a CRM system?’

The interpretation of ‘manage and analyse customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle‘ has gone through massive change due to places like Google and systems like Facebook. This is an ongoing path and the inclusion of 5G and domotics over the next 5 years will create even more waves. It is starting to be almost essential that governments at large (not just the UK) are grabbing these changes by the proverbial balls before we see another iteration of lagging adapted technology. It is not the requirement to be ahead, but to be ‘inclusively ready’ will turn the tables on many issues. To be ready to include within the current technological iteration would give an additional decade of data and opportunities, whilst not adhering to these large changes could become increasingly costly over time. In an age where we move towards automation the need to be ahead is not the most essential one, it is staying behind where the danger lies. In that regard, you end up having to adhere towards whatever the commercial technologist brings, instead of shaping technology in ways where it is most useful for you.

A lesson most have learned the expensive way in this generation.

If there is one part I have to disagree with, than it is “Our wider research on automation also shows that while jobs are displaced by automation, new, higher-skilled and better paying jobs are created as a result“, the issue is not the need for these people, but as governments are no longer able to afford certain pricing plans (as those commercial managers hope they could price them at), it becomes a market where the cheapest provider is willing to offer it on, meaning that junior staff gets to be under higher scrutiny for less money, in a place where unemployment is relatively high, these hiring managers will get away with it. I reckon that the market will positively adjust by 2021, but that is still 5 years away. Unless you are a niche specialist, it will be your fate, but overall the quality of life would start to go up by 2019 (due to rising cost of living, aka rent), that is if you have the right degrees.

A slightly gloomy picture that is absent of doom and still a lot better than the issues the EU population overall is facing over the next 3 years.

 

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