Tag Archives: Assassins Creed

A Congressional Country Club Neighbour

There is a problem when you are the neighbour of the Congressional Country Club. It is not on the CCC mind you, they did nothing wrong. No, it is all about their neighbour Bethesda. Yes, you guessed it; the slamming of software developer Bethesda is just escalating and escalating. The latest one (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ-kIlMPoYY) gives a rise too blunders on many levels, all made by Bethesda. The tweets are off the wall; Bethesda is in actual problems at this point.

I believe that in part the mockery is deserved, apart from the fact that Fallout 76 was an error, or published way too early, the clarity of failure on how the entire mess was dealt with, the lack of communication, shallow party lines and bad response to an even worse situation is what is strangling Bethesda, and to some degree, deserved or not. It is unfair.

Until Fallout 76 the bulk worshipped Bethesda, consider that a game like Skyrim, released on 11.11.11 is still played today, that requires true vision. Many (like me) became fans of Bethesda as ES: Oblivion was released. There is another view (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kRRYgf54oM) that takes itr into another direction. I believe that he is wrong, but I get the point of view. You see, what we call puzzles are basically locking systems in the game. That locking system was staged in those days and these places were filled with soldiers in those days, so the ‘puzzles’ were actually merely locks for those without keys. It is not a hard core puzzle and should not be seen as such. Yet the same person also makes a point with the Fallout 4 references in RPG, the gutting of the Special perks part. He has a point, there was regression, making it too much like an action game with RPG elements. Was it a mistake? It never bothered me whilst playing Fallout 4 over and over again, but that is just me, the story itself did not suffer to the larger degree, if that was the case, my reaction might have been different.

He makes a good point, New Vegas is actually superior in a few ways and that is a shame, even as we loved the ability to make our place more specific, we lost in other ways and that was a shame. When I decided to design ESVI: Restoration, I added from Oblivion, added to Skyrim and made two additional sidesteps, that is progress; that is game evolution.

So there was additional challenge, new options and additional lines to complete. More important, I realised that not everything is in your hands, so I added a side quest where you can influence, but not control it all, that is a part of life. That question will move like a red line through the entire game and in some cases that project will not be completed by the end of the game, time had become a factor as well, an element often ignored in RPG. In my view, you can influence time in the project, yet the end is almost predetermined as you find the elements.

So how is that better?

The fact that there are several choices and you can only commit to one, is the part that matters, it makes for replayability. Also, the end result will influence the economy in play and more important, ass certain choices were obtained/found the place will also open up another set of NPC’s in the game giving another feel and optionally other quests and optionally another achievement. That is merely one place.

I set the stage for 23 side quests that are not the same, require a choice to be made (to some extent) and in addition, would optionally change the favour you get in return, that is something that had not been done before. Although based on previous games, the entire main storyline is set in the past, in the past you played before (to some degree) making the entire line of ES games a historical part of what had happened, optionally what you had played before, that is a side we have not seen before (as far as I know).

What else could there be?

Well, that was my initial thought when I started Restoration and what if we get to choose? What if it is not as shallow as the legion versus the storm cloaks? What if the choice is a fundamental one? What if we select progress of now versus the return to the old age? That is an RPG, it is your choice, it is something given to us in the very beginning of Oblivion.
This is exactly why I considered what I did and I believe that it has the merit of giving the gamers optionally over a hundred hours of gameplay, more than that, they can replay and get a partially different game out of it all, something a lot more than merely manic versus mania; more than Elf versus Imperial. What if we take this to a new level and realise that the light cannot exist without the dark. When we accept that there are no clean solutions and that we have to live with choices and see the impact around us, that is when vanilla RPG transforms into something we seemingly have not seen before (implied as I never played all the games that there are).

And what happens when this is translated to an entire new level of Fallout later on? My ideas are new and partially unique, but the evolution I have in mind is not something that is unheard of. the question becomes is Bethesda (or any other serious RPG developer) willing to take the gamer into a different direction, adding to the need of a lot more graphics and a lot more changes, but that will in the end entice people to replay a game like that again and again. Skyrim opened many eyes, I am merely offering the part where a place like that becomes your universe and you can actually tinker it through gameplay into something more, it has been seen before, but it is really really rare as it requires the software maker to be truly committed to a product for the long term and those in charge now are all about the full time hit, as fast as possible and make it the next profit treasure. Ubisoft showed us that in Assassins Creed, the Division (version 2 more so), Far Cry and Watchdogs. I need to start with the clarity that this is never about the graphics; the graphics from Ubisoft are close to sublime on all these games they really worked it out. The long term part is missed (especially in the Division) as this is about non-stop action. Now, that part seems natural, but it is not. When you have been in a warzone you will get it. You see, it is about stamina. Not fictive but actual stamina. We might think that this does not apply, but it does. It is so much clearer in Division 2, as we see the game to be a much better game, we see the failure on how a person does what they do with 30 Kg of backpack and weapons and do the stuff they do. Stamina should have intervened to some degree; in addition it was ignored as a reward. When you play more, your character will have a better level of stamina, have you ever run for your life holding onto a 7.62mm FN MAG? I have and trust me it is intense, when stamina leaves you for the moment. Things become a little blurry, motor skills diminish a little and you really need 5 seconds to get a hold of yourself. Now, this is a game and I get that, but it is the ignored element, which is a shame. We see Stamina in Skyrim and there it makes sense, yet Skyrim missed a little as well, not intentionally and perhaps not even noticeable and it does not matter to the degree it might, but the internal blocks have not been addressed in any RPG game as far as I can tell, which is a shame. It does not make the Division (1 and 2) a bad game, not at all. I am not a great fan of online gaming and plenty are, yet there is a side of me that looks at the game and whilst there is nothing to say about the first division (we all have to start somewhere) we see that the second one needs to be a step forward and that is clearly the case. It is a large leap forward, anyone telling you different is merely insincere on it all (not lying, merely not seeing it all correctly) Now, there I might be wrong, even as i am not much of an online player, others are and they hold a much larger candle towards the quality of such a game. They will look at other elements. I merely noticed that Stamina is a missed opportunity in the Division both one and two), but in the end it is merely one element of plenty of elements that might be improved on. Stamina is the most visible one as it equally impacts Assassins Creed, Far Cry and Watchdogs. Consider, when was the last time when you had to climb up a tower with gear, let alone the pyramids?

We see to leap forwards in many areas except debilitation (like Stamina). So what happens when you do need to get from place to place and also rest at spots to regain stamina? We played Fallout 4 and Skyrim, yet how many took time to sleep and eat? What if that becomes the foundation in the game for the character? What if we see that the Khajiit needs sugar and meat at least once a day? What if the High Elf needs little food, but will require fresh clean water every day? What more can we get out of the game when we focus beyond the story and make sure that our time in the elements are properly addressed? I believe that plenty of games will end up with an added level of game play and satisfaction when the elements become actual elements to take heed of. Fallout New Vegas had so much of the added elements in its game that the consideration that Fallout 4 was a step back is not that big a leap and that is such a shame.

It is a shame because future games will be measured in different ways, the growing demand for survival games is showing us that path and RPG’s need to catch up fast, or better stated Bethesda needs to up their game in several ways. They do not have the luxury they had in January 2012 (after the first Skyrim wave). They now need not merely a good game, they need a landslide rating to get the people aboard and enthusiastic again, they dropped the ball that often in the last year alone. If they do not, we will see the RPG community moving to other shores and perhaps that is what Obsidian Entertainment will deliver with the Outer Limits. Time will tell, and the gamer has time to go from game to game, Bethesda no longer has that benefit, they squandered too much of it internally, and externally towards their fans, the gamers and their marketing will need to learn that merchandising is not a solution, it is not a stop gap. Every piece of merchandising is another piece of evidence to hold Bethesda as a company up to scrutiny, did they not realise that?

 

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Warring consoles

There are a few wars to look at, but the setting for the consoles is one that is shifty as hell. I have been outspoken against a certain brand whose name starts with ‘M‘ and ends with ‘icrosoft‘ for a few reasons, but that is not what it is about. It starts with the Sato. A writer for Siliconera giving us the sales of consoles for last week. The systems that matter for the week of 10th to the 16th of September in this are Nintendo Switch that sold 38,738 consoles, down from 43,513 last week. The PS4 12,057 down from 12,281 last week, the Xbox One 58, up from 19 last week, the PS4 pro 4,959 down from 7,442 and the Xbox One X 159 up from 30 last week (Japanese sales numbers). So we can go with the fact that Microsoft is the only one on the rise. We can go with the optional truth that Microsoft consoles (plural) merely represent 0.5% of the Nintendo Switch sales. I did not even consider News Nintendo DS systems in all this, the number would become laughingly small (and blow away whenever you open a window), if it has not done that already. Microsoft Xbox One systems are a mere 3% of the PlayStation 4 systems and that is not a good thing either (for Microsoft that is). Yet we must also acknowledge that Nintendo is a force of nature at present. You see, at present the Nintendo Switch might merely be at 45% of all the PS4 systems sold (normal and Pro), the fact that they did this in under 2 years is an amazing achievement and there is no stopping Nintendo. I expect that they will break additional records at both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year (as well as the Saint Nicholas festivities in one or two places).

It goes even further when we see the Nintendo games exploding on the screens when it comes to the revenue. This year alone, the revenue for Nintendo went up by a cool 100% to a net value of almost 10 billion dollars, that is a massive achievement in gaming and their growth is still enduring. With online play being free and Fortnite still on the rise and with 30 titles still arriving before the end of the year. It seems to me that Nintendo figured something out and Microsoft is paying a high price for the wisdom gained (Sony gets hurt too but much less).

So whilst Xbox UK is still hiding behind what I would clearly define as ‘deceptive conduct’, they might think that it is ‘innovative thinking’ we are merely confronted with a once growing game maker that is now becoming obsolete in its thinking.

So why deceptive conduct?

You see, the people were confronted with a tweet a mere three days ago. The tweet: “Play 500+ Classic Xbox & Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One today… totally for free“, yet when we read down the tweets, we see the hitch. We see: “If you already own them – no need to buy again! Just download or put the disc in, and away you go“, news that is 2 years old and we are still confronted with a digital department that just does not get it. They did not tell us “We have upgraded our backwards compatibility program to 500+ games“, no that would be too honest. No we get: “Play 500+ Classic Xbox & Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One today… totally for free“, it is not merely deceptive conduct, it is what I would personally call an open blatant lie. You see: “totally for free” would have been the setting if pre-owning the game was not a requirement, so some purchase was required, giving the setting one that is a an outright lie, as I personally see it.

Getting back to the sales I mentioned earlier, we need to realise that this is not global. The numbers come from merely a Japanese source, sales in Japan. Yet the setting is still clear (to some degree), Nintendo is here to stay and it is growing its influence on a global scale and when we see the mere achievement of 58 Xbox One systems over a week in a nation that is around 130 million people, whilst some sources give us that 50% of them are into gaming. We do not have a comprehensive data file that gives us a more complete picture. Yet we see that there are around 700 million online gamers, which is well over 40% of the online population, when you consider that, we see that the numbers and the setting is massively important. Venturebeat gave us in the past that spend per person is Japan (#1) with $120 per person, the US (#3) with $62 the UK and Australia in 4th and 5th, whilst they are on equal footing with $62 and $55 per person. So at that point do you still think that all this misrepresented loot box mess is merely about gambling? So when we were given: ‘Australian Senate inquiry extended after study calls loot boxes ‘psychologically akin to gambling’‘ merely three days ago as well as both “The Australian Senate inquiry into micro-transactions is taking into consideration a large-scale study that claims “loot boxes” are psychologically akin to gambling“, as well as “The paper is the result of a paid online survey among 7422 gamers. Curiously, over 6000 responses to the survey were discarded because the answers were either not serious or incomplete“, which is interesting because I never saw that link in any place and I have been a gamer since 1984, long before the word ‘gamer’ was cool. The article is actually good and gives us one part that I can stand behind: “recommends adjustments to the current game classification system advising “parental advisories for games that feature loot boxes” as well as “a descriptor outlining that the game itself features gambling content”“. I would be willing to take it one step further. I would demand that there are two additional parts. The first is that there needs to a clear path where we can earn loot boxes for free (not unlike the Mass Effect 3 setting), in addition we need to see a clear sticker on the front of the box stating that ‘no loot boxes are required to play or complete the game‘ Several games have clearly stated that in the past, yet adding this on the front of the cover is not the worst idea.

I still disagree that it is gambling, yet having a clear mention that loot boxes are set to chance and optionally the chances of getting a certain rarity is not the worst idea either. And in all this, the console war is now setting to a much larger stage, even as they all (partially correctly) point their finger at EA Games. Ubisoft has unlockable content (at a price as well, yet they ALWAYS clearly stated ‘this item can be unlocked through regular gameplay‘ as well. So it is not immoral that they offer it as an initial unlock for $5, it merely shows us that that person is not really a gamer, merely a player.

In this there is more to Ubisoft; it is clearly seen in their Assassins Creed games. Going back to Assassins Creed 2, they had the Ubiclub. You can buy things there. Unlocking premiums and extra’s (skins, backgrounds, outfits and weapons), to buy them you play the games and when you get to a stage, like completing a set of conditions, making it to a certain point in the game you get points, these points re kept in you profile and you can unlock them for any Ubisoft game you have, giving you more and more by merely playing. It opens up the need to complete, the drive to achieve and the option to get cool things. Here I clearly state: ‘Well done Ubisoft!‘ and this is still an ongoing stage with badges and cool stuff with every additional game that they release. So as I state that loot boxes are not gambling, I am for the most not against the setting: ‘Study urges games with Loot Boxes to be Restricted to Players old enough to Gamble‘, which is not the same. The question is not merely on how to check it; the issue will soon be that abuse is harder to check. Even if they cannot be merely bought online, even when the loot box cash needs to be bought in the store, we will see the irresponsible act of the parent giving in to ‘junior’ buying more and more loot boxes. It is important to raise the issue as more and more consoles are confronted with games that depend on loot boxes, and that is not nearly the beginning. We see part of this in Eurogamer (at https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-07-23-fifa-player-uses-gdpr-to-find-out-everything-ea-has-on-him-realises-hes-spent-over-usd10-000-in-two-years-on-ultimate-team), when we are given “Michael was sent a data dump by EA via two PDF files each over 100 pages long. This amounted to a huge number of files, which include engagement data, FIFA 18 stats, device information and more than 10 audio files (these are recordings of his calls to EA support). It also included details of every player Michael bought and sold over the past two years in FUT“, so beyond the setting of “EA also provided data relating to how much real world money (in dollars) Michael had spent on FIFA Points, and he told Eurogamer he was “gobsmacked” to discover he’d spent over $10,000 in just two years“. Apart from the fact that you are losing your screws, the mere fact that you are not aware wasting cash to such a degree is one part, yet in this, the part that everyone ignores is “30 days later, Michael was sent a data dump by EA via two PDF files each over 100 pages long. This amounted to a huge number of files, which include engagement data“. I never played FIFA, yet when Microsoft remained in denial that 5 GB in 10 days was uploaded without my consent or knowledge into the Azure cloud, they merely pointed at the internet provider and stated that this is their responsibility (whilst I had not played any multiplayer games), and now we see what EA collects, in all this, the collected data is not an issue in any of this?

And the console wars are not done, not by a close margin. This goes beyond which system is popular, with system has loot boxes. This is about data and with all these systems being online and optionally ending up collecting personal data, there is a larger for not merely gamers and players. It is about classifying people and the setting of how bankable have we become? We saw this a few months ago with ‘Esports streamers and gamers are among the most bankable influencers, pitching to a new generation of consumers that don’t track traditional‘, it is about finding money people, those who propel the brand and when we realise that we seem to have a few additional problems and the fact that no attention is given to that part in the equation is equally a problem.

 

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Taught by the past

There will always be one TV channel that remains in my heart. It does not matter how they go, what series they have and whether they stop existing. They had one thing right, the one thing above it all was their slogan ‘the story is everything‘, it still reverberates in my heart, and for years (when I had cable) they proved that they understood their own premise. The story was indeed everything and they stood by it. It should be the cornerstone in entertainment, but it is not (for some). Some have a setting that is nowhere near there. It does not matter how they go that journey, how they pass the time in their product, they forgot that one truth that makes all the difference.

This takes us to Eidos. I had a good connection there for the longest time, so when I got an early copy in the summer of 1996 to take a look at some game called Tomb Raider I had no idea what I was in for. I loved it, apart from the part that the hero was a woman, the game was new, it was different and we all wanted more, that would be delivered a little over a year alter and for the most we were all hooked, not merely because of Lara, little Lara, but the setting from the first to the second became a much larger leap. Even as the story for both was not the greatest, the levels, the design and the challenges made up for that. Over time we saw that the story become much more important and as we went through the stages, on PlayStation, PC, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One the story evolved and it became to some degree a real story. In all this there was an evolution (to some degree). Now we are confronted with ‘Tomb Raider – makes Lara Croft look boring‘. The Guardian gives us (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/sep/10/shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-review-lara-croft) “This game revels in its own beauty, but the plot collapses under the slightest scrutiny“, now first the important part. I did not play it myself, but I saw a large amount of videos. First the bad part, a few games back. When the definitive version on PS4 was launched, I became very upset. Not only was the game shallow, too easy (on hard) and way too small. It became the first game I ever returned to the shop. I had finished the game in hard mode under 10 hours. It was perhaps one of the most upsetting acts I ever did, mainly because my gaming experience with Lara Croft over 4 systems had been so good. When we look deeper into that game we see something that was perfectly placed on an island, the setting could have propelled in many direction and the graphics were amazing, even now I look back (in my mind) to that level when you arrive near the ocean and you see that large tugboat in the sea, I need to acknowledge that graphically it was an amazing feat, so when we see the setting where we could have had at least 20 hours of additional play, but the makers overlooked or ignored that opportunity. In a gaming sidestep, I realised the same with Assassins Creed Rogue, the remastered edition. What could have been nice story to side missions ended up being merely the setting of running to a marker and press the dig button or simply violently resolve it. All opportunities missed (in that case) by Ubisoft. So back to Lara, after that disappointing episode, I decided to give the second game a miss, something I partially regret now, because the third game (for hat I saw was a pretty amazing result). The graphics were still really good, yet the story is, as I saw it better and they took effort with the stealth part. A much better game overall (comparing to the first relaunched PS4 game). I liked Lucy O’Brien’s review in IGN giving us the parts that count (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEfROL2Wx8). If there is one part that I personally do not like is the use of ‘scripted moments‘. I get it that it essentially needs to be there (especially in the introduction), but in the end, the best game does not require scripted events, or requires them to be minimised to the biggest possible degree. Even as the stories are better, we need to address the Guardian verdict. We see the first quote “Shadow of the Tomb Raider nails the former, with sumptuous South American locations to climb, dive and rappel around, ranging from ancient Inca cities and missionary crypts to modern-day Peruvian jungles and towns. But it does Lara a disservice, turning her into a deadly mud-camouflaged jungle warrior without much interesting to say, pushed along by a plot that’s more concerned with prophecies and supernatural artefacts than with its main character“, so was that not always the case? I personally like the entire stealth upgrade, but is that just me? It might be, I was merely in that setting of trying to figure parts out. Yet I saw too many references towards Uncharted and Far Cry 5, which makes sense and it is not a bad thing, yet when we look back at what was and what should be, going through the other titles is not what I hoped for. Still Tomb Raider for all I saw remains Tomb Raider, so why did the Guardian give me that jump?

There were two parts in that. The first was: “Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s series of amazing places is held together by a plot that collapses under the slightest scrutiny. The narrative is an incoherent mess that goes well beyond the usual action movie/video game suspension of disbelief” and “when Lara shows up in an undisturbed native settlement filled with people who have somehow avoided the outside world for hundreds of years, is she instantly welcomed into their midst and put to work resolving their disputes? How does she communicate fluently with them? At first, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s narrative inconsistencies are ignorable, but with every new convenient riddle or magical artefact, pointless revelation or paper-thin character, my tolerance for nonsense wore thinner“. Now, I need to tell you that I do not always agree with the assessment of the reviewer Keza MacDonald, yet that level of disagreement is more about our preference for gaming. Keza is a good reviewer, hence her view matters to me, and I have absolutely no issue accepting her view on the Tomb Raider game. I like her two issues as I saw a similar setting as an optional solution towards Watch Dogs 3. Just like I designed what might optionally become Elder Scrolls VII (6 is being made now). My setting for my version of a new Elder scrolls would have been three times the size of Skyrim with optional story lines worth 150-200 hours of gameplay. In addition, if possible I could pull it off with Watch Dogs 3 as well. This is where the FX part comes in, the story is indeed everything!

So if I can add 100% to the first PS4 Tomb Raider, which merely took me an hour or so to come up with, why can some designers not do a much better job? In case of the new Tomb Raider, we see the optional shortage, but we also see that all the Far Cry games (3 and later) gave us similar parts and so did Far Cry Primal, and the less said on the story failings of Assassins Creed (except for Origin and optionally Odyssee) the better.

The setting is extremely important, as the current Shadow of the Tomb Raider could have been 90% instead of the 81% that Metacritic gives it now, and if we translate that to the three stars Keza rating, it would translate to an optional 70% at best. This gets us back to the story is everything, when we see that this translates to an optional 15%-25% more, ignoring that element is just too weird. It is to some extent the one element that Games and movies have in common. So if we translate that to the now, we see that the right story makes the larger impact. Merely see Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai, rated by IMDB at 93% to see how the right story makes for the impact. This translates to games as well, the better the story, the better the game. It is visible on nearly every level. Yet, that is not the only part in Tomb Raider and We see the goods on the negative side of the game as Keza gives it to us with: “Salvaged outfits for Lara offer meaningless bonuses (“gain more experience for assault kills”), crafting materials are so plentiful that they are not an exciting reward, and new skills or weapons are seldom used. Oddly, items such as lockpicks that open up new treasure-hunting possibilities are sold by merchants, not earned through exploration. It is very weird that so much of this optional content is incorporated so badly“, as well as “The places Lara visits and the things that she does, especially when she doesn’t have a gun in her hands, are beautiful and entertaining. But it lacks a coherent plot or creative vision to hold it all together, and the opportunity to make an interesting character out of Lara Croft is squandered“, that does grasp the heart in a not so good way and it matters a parts could have been dealt with in a better story setting and parts would never have been better. That negative part is exactly the impact that Ubisoft missed with AC Rogue. There we run for Viking swords, crosses on the map, opening bars with thugs, merely points to run to, yet the ‘rescuing’ of a bar from thugs could have been the start of a side quest line and in all this, much more could have been reached, when one leads to the other, instead of running over the island, from chest to chest, glitch to glitch and sometimes doing a Prince of Persia for some pirate shanty, meaningless actions that could have been a dimension all by itself in the game, all options lost and even as both franchises have amazing graphics, we see that this alone does not hold a game. I wonder how many developers are revisiting the current setting of their game that is in development, because if they are not then it does not matter to anyone how many games are being released between now and December 2019. If they do not up the ante for their own game, they will merely release something that is good, not great and it sits on the shelf until the game retail store has a large sale and the game is up for grabs at 50% or less, or people merely wait for one of the producers to add it to the ‘for free’ subscription monthly download bonus, what a waste! Merely because the simplest of all lessons was ignored by too many; It all starts with a good story, not with ‘Lara needs to look cool (or different) in the jungle, how can we do that?‘, or ‘Where is the next Assassins Creed story? When have we not yet been?

 

That is the part given to us in complete contrast when we realise that with the end of God of War we were treated to: [CENSORED TEXT REDACTING SPOILERS]. When I saw that unfold on my screen, my jaw dropped on the floor. It was not merely some twist, it was the setting for at least two more games in a way I never saw coming and I do remember my Nordic mythology. It was brilliant, indeed the story was everything and Santa Monica Studio’s treated us to the perfect meal (listening to Bear McCreary was an added desert that is just too surreal).

In the end, I know that I am a goof, I am creative and I can weave a tale like no one in my mind at the speed of the Deep Blue Super Mainframe, but overall, I cannot fathom why the game makers are not better at this, I never got that, because until lately I never thought I was on their level, yet recently I was shown (confirmed by a few sources) that I am on their level and even higher, but I am not a programmer. So when I see the lack of a storyline, I merely get sad, when opportunities are missed I get frustrated and when too much scripted issues show up, I tend to get angry. I do get the fact that some part requires scripted events. A certain boss fight, the introduction to one is the setting that cannot remains unscripted, yet at times it is too scripted deflating the tense moments it had been built to and the first PS4 Lara Croft had that flaw too much (as well as the shortness of the game).

So how can they do it better? Well this is seen in several clips in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and you might have missed them. Consider an optional reality, a reality we missed in the Far Cry, Assassins Creed and other games. You pick them off one at a time, I get that part. What I do not get is that when you are on a patrol and You are in a team, when one falls away their nerves are up (like in the Arkham games), yet in the earlier games, often enough they relax and go to their old ‘relaxed’ setting. In reality, my nerves would be in the stratosphere, so there will be no lapse and even as you can get the drop on others, only the first one is ‘free’, the others need to be close to perfect or all hell breaks loose. That part was never learned correctly, not in one decade of stealth gaming, weird is it not? OK, Far Cry did get that part right (to some degree). And even as the setting evolves over an act, a larger level or a chapter in the storyline, we see that some opponents are harder, yet the overall setting no longer gets to be more complex, which is also weird. It seems to me that only Far Cry 3 got that part better the most other games and here too Lara had her lesson to learn, or better stated her opponents. So even as we see her take out the enemy, in most cases when other vanished nerves did not get that much bothered, a missed opportunity.

Even if this is the optional end of Lara Croft, we see that there was a lot more to be had and it was missed. Will that lesson not be learned? The story is everything, but how to set the story properly in the frame of it all. That part will remain a challenge and solving it, or finding some level of a better solution will aid the game makers as well as the player, a win-win for all. In this, the loss is already there, but not setting the in-game bar higher, we see what looks really well is merely a 70% game, yet with the insight that should have been there, it could have been a 90% game which makes me sad. Yet I do acknowledge is that this game is a good game, everything shows that there is positive growth in several places and in many ways (especially the underwater parts, they were awesome), yet I feel that it is steps short of being a great game, whilst it could have been a great game. It is hard to put my finger on it without playing the game through until the end, but all reviews do support my view, the story could have been better making it overall better, and this game is not the only one that had that ‘flaw’.

So, as we agree that the past is a good tutor we see that partially the past is used to make this game better, that is good, some of the levels and the natural view that these levels seem to give is always good and this game got to be better at it and that matters too. In the end, on everything I faced, I regard this to be a 80%-85% game, whilst I feel that the setting and upgrade of the game would have made it a 90% game at least, and they should have done better than I would have been able to be and that makes me sad, especially as it might be the end of the Tomb Raider games for now. It will not ever be the death of the Franchise; it is in comparison very much a better game than that first relaunched game and several other Lara titles, which is a good thing. In my personal views, after seeing the play parts, seeing the reviews and watching the cut scenes, I get to the end conclusion that this is not the game to buy on day one, especially with Spiderman PS4 available, yet on special, Christmas sales and at discount sales? Yes! At that point it will definitely be my game of choice.

What a difference a stronger story makes.

I wonder if the makers will catch up to that part down the line, because higher ratings turns that, down the track to buy outright and in the end, that is still the name of the game in gaming, and not merely gaming. There is in my view every indication that the entire Chris Pine mess (OK, mess is a perhaps too strong a word), is not entirely about the money (what some sources indicated), I believe that the story is part of that too. Do you think that some starts would have given any ‘eff’ (censored) on money if they had the chance of becoming a main player in The Usual Suspects, or Silence of the Lambs? You have got to be kidding!

Yes, you want some decent remuneration. When you are a lead player in MI-Fallout, costing $178M to make, whilst the return at present is $726,386,554, one would hope that their income is slightly better than $73,559 for their part. If you are an extra, then you need to shut up, when you carry the family name Cruise, Cavill, or Pegg the amount should be larger (I have no idea what they are making, and I personally do not care either). Yet if the story would have been a legendary one, would you care? That is the part that matters in the long run, because over time, we will forget the MI titles, however we will forever remember titles like Ghandi and The Usual Suspects and that can drive a career (especially in the beginning as well). Star Trek showed in the Movie Star Trek Beyond that it did not consider that part too strong (even as I enjoyed watching it, and it had fresh looks), it did fall short of Star Trek Into Darkness and that was a shame. I have no illusions, getting to the Wrath of Khan levels is not to be expected, yet the relaunch in 2009 did pull it off (based on Rotten Tomatoes), so in that it had options and started to fall flat after that, I believe that this is also part of the decision for some actors to feel worried, Star Trek (2009) opened door, yet I personally believe that Beyond started to close doors, even with Idris Elba upping the ante by a decent amount, also in my personal view largely the reason it got an 85% rating and not an 80% rating. So when the actor is the pillar and not the story, we see a much larger flaw in all this and even as I do have idea’s to fix it, they will need a specific person to fix that for them over two movies (as I see it) and get the rating back to 94%, the number that the 2009 movie pulled off. The question is can they afford him and more important, are they willing to stick their necks out? In my personal view they have the option of doubling the 2009 box office revenue twice over and with two movies the overall cost goes down as well making it even more appealing, but in the end, their saviour will not be special effects or merely a good cast, it will be the story, it will be everything. Are people like JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof willing to make that $250M splurge? In the end it remains an actual risk whether that $250M becomes $1.3B (hopefully better), and it the one factor is the one writer who can pull it off. It has never been done in any Sci-Fi ever, making it not merely novel, if it does work, will it be the game changer that brings 1,635% of cost (Jurassic Park), or an Iron Man 2 giving a mere 312%? Yet, what if we consider that it is like Gravity, ‘only’ 716%, yet regarded as the 4# best Science fiction movies of all time, would you still not do it?

How strong is the story in all that? I personally remain with the faith that the story will forever be everything, yet when it is all about the box office and $1 billion versus $600 million, what path would you take? In this games and movies are more alike than not; making it a fascinating setting, but also a very personal, and set on one’s own perspective. It is the ultimate objective versus subjective view and I am not sure what the best path is for either game or movie, making the setting for a movie of gaming score harder, not correct or incorrect, merely harder.

 

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They did what?

Newsweek is bringing out the news, news that had me rattled. The story (at https://www.newsweek.com/saudi-arabia-bans-47-popular-video-games-general-commission-audio-visual-1028013) gives us ‘Saudi Arabia bans 47 popular video games including ‘Assassins Creed,’ ‘Deadpool’ And ‘Final Fantasy’‘. For a moment I could not fathom why video games would be banned. Now, even as Deadpool is unlikely to be my choice of game ever. It does have a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ approach to gaming, which gives it a positive flair. Yet overall, even as I loved the movies, I never read the comic books, so there is a gap there and I reckon that the comic book fans are most likely the ones who would want the game.

So, I was intrigued to learn what the reasons were. The article merely gives me “The kingdom’s General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said Monday that 47 games will be banned for violating rules and regulations“, pretty much all the media gives the same setting some of them give other titles, even though as far as I could tell, none gave the full list. All of them set the stage that the game ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is the starting point for the decision involved. Now, I do get the fact that censorship remains strong in Saudi Arabia, the fact that this is the first year that the cinemas are open, the movies are still all to be screened before allowed in the cinema.

The National (at https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/after-suicide-in-saudi-arabia-parents-urged-to-do-more-to-curb-gaming-effects-1.746328) had another side in all this. Here we see one of the Saudi fathers in question giving us: “A Saudi father has blamed the suicide of his 12-year-old son on an online game that he said “broke the spirit” of his child. But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in“, I feel sorry for the loss of that father and the other parents. Yet in this part, even as a gamer and gaming expert for decades, I do not agree with the response. Yes, parents need to step in at time, yet the setting given against that father is unrealistic. You see, for a large portion of the world, gaming is life. Let me explain that, so that you do not get the wrong idea. Our lives are bettered through social interaction, at times we also need our own space to unwind, to relax and let the brain work things out. Gaming allows for all that. The multiplayer games allow friends and schoolmates to compete and sometimes cooperate in games like Fortnite and online RPG’s. By ourselves we can escape our place for a little while and seek comfort elsewhere. I myself can lose myself for hours in Minecraft by myself and feel really awesome after an hour or so, games have that ability. The nice part of Minecraft is that you can play it at times without even thinking, a version of virtual Lego that allows you to create, explore as well as destroy spiders and skeletons. Now with the ocean world addition the game just become more than twice the size it already was. It is great to game at times. All these games are positive reinforcements, no matter what the game is. You might be scared of every corner in Bloodborne; you might see the cliffs and not know the next move like a Tomb Raider should, or sneak through the corridors removing the henchmen of the Arkham Knight. None of them are negative against you and for the most they are positive parts. Even in Assassins Creed where you are correcting great injustice through killing mind you. You are one against an army! It is a challenge and at times even more. The cultural references and the additional scenes in Assassins Creed Origin were overwhelming, making it a learning experience as well.

In the darkness there are monsters

Yes, there are monsters too; in this case it is one person. It is Philipp Budeikin. The information on him is sketchy to an extent. He is a former psychology student who was expelled from his university for reasons I have not found yet. According to his own claims he invented the game in 2013. In more than one source we (BBC was one of them) he gives it to the press that his intention was to cleanse society by pushing persons to suicide whom he deemed as having no value, they were he referred to as “biological waste”. This is new; this is the first time where someone with psychological skills was out to make children destroy their own life. The game known as the ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘, the game allegedly instructs challengers to participate in a series of strange and disturbing challenges. These can include live streaming self-harm and staying up late to watch horror movies (source: The New Arab). The challenges are stated to grow increasingly extreme, until they are reportedly instructed to kill themselves as part of the 50th and final challenge. Apart from any person doing that, or being willing to do that. The fact that someone is willing to go this path (I refer to the game maker) is just weird and insane. In addition, the fact that this person was intentionally and knowingly targeting vulnerable people and the fact he is merely facing 3 years in jail is equally an issue. I will be the first one to sign any petition to ban this game for life on a global scale. This is not about the freedom of expression; this is not about freedom of speech. This is about protecting children! I have seen weird games in my lifetime. The most offensive game I saw was on the Commodore-64 in the late 80’s. It was a game called ‘Paki bang’, an offensive game where you have to shoot Pakistani’s. You got 1 point for every Pakistani you shot and -1000 for every Caucasian. It was offensive and I walked away within a minute, a game with absolutely no redeeming values, little did I know how bad could turn to worse. In my life, the setting where children are intentionally targeted by someone with psychological skills is just too unnatural; the setting clearly makes Philipp Budeikin “biological waste”, as he states the value himself. I do like and agree with the response that we see in The National. With “Omar Sharif, owner of Geeky Lizard, a gaming community and store in Dubai states: “But it’s the job of parents to make sure that kids are engaging in healthy online habits”“, I believe that to be a truth, online has many positive sides, but it has negative sides too. Parents need to be aware what their children are up to, it might not make sense at times to parents, but there is a difference between kids shouting at their friends in competition and collaboration in a game, against the setting that they are given a challenge to physically and emotionally harming themselves. We can argue that children do not always realise this, but the setting of protecting ourselves form harm is coded in our DNA, we tend to not act in self harm, the fact that ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is stripping away these defences is an issue and the ‘defence’ given by some with “But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in” is not one that I can agree with. The fact that this ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is not hunted down on every server by government and hackers alike is much larger issue. This setting is so unnatural that parents would not have been ready. We all should have stepped up and made sure that any server having this software got hacked and all its data removed any way possible.

In the end, the Saudi government will need to make another ruling here, it might not be immediate, but in the long run it is perhaps essential to consider the reason for any games banned other than ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘. In the end, we need to realise that Saudi Arabia has strict rules on what is allowed and the event that caused the death of two children was the one step that caused a clamp down on certain matters. Saudi Arabia has a sovereign right here. Gamers might not like it, but it is a reality. Even as we might not agree with the verdict on nearly all but one game getting the “Saudi Arabia today banned dozens of video games that it says lead children to harm themselves” label of non-approval.

Time will tell on how things evolve, in the end, we need to realise that it is a list of 47, whilst most consoles have hundreds of titles that were not banned, let’s make sure that we do not forget that part of the equation either.

In other gaming news

The predictions I have given in the past regarding Butterfingers Microsoft versus Eagerly Innovating Nintendo is taking a stronger turn, unofficial numbers (and not from a reliable source I must add) have implied the setting that Nintendo has now approached the 2/3rd marker. It is about to pass (or has just passed) the line where since the release of the Nintendo Switch (March 2017) now equaled two thirds of all the Microsoft Xbox One sold in its life cycle (since November 2013). In less than 18 months it has reached the speculated 2/3rd marker (It is hard to be precise as Microsoft is no longer releasing total consoles sold). It might be because the ‘most powerful console in the world‘ is getting surpassed by the weakest one, but that would be speculation on my side. I see it as the price for being short sighted and narrow minded, not to mention the inability to listen to their customers. 3 elements that became the alleged cause on a lessened revenue path for ‘the most powerful console in the world’.

That moment is still important, it is the clear message that it is all about playing the game and Microsoft has not been doing that. Even as Forbes gave us merely 4 days ago “Microsoft continues to surprise us with strong support for backwards compatibility and an equally remarkable offering with its subscription Xbox Games Pass as it quickly becomes the Netflix of video games” (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2018/07/14/xbox-one-vs-ps4-vs-nintendo-switch-the-state-of-the-console-wars-in-2018/#21fbe2571a8e), yet it is interesting that Forbes seems to be so protective of Microsoft, ignoring that the ‘the Netflix of video games‘ does so with a massively inferior storage system. It talks hard against Sony (validly I might add), and acknowledges the ‘Nintendo has had a remarkable resurgence‘ with the added ‘but investors are still spooked about the system‘, is that not interesting on how soft Forbes is on Microsoft? so as we get ‘will investors ever give Nintendo a break?‘, which might be a valid statement, yet it is not properly set in the dimension against the Microsoft failures (four times over), as well as ‘and will Sony stop being such sore winners?‘, which is a fair call, yet the question is how many are truly hurt by no cross playing? In the past it was never an option and we all wanted it, Sony might not be ready on a few levels, but the Sony remark is still valid, correct and acceptable, so why be so soft on Microsoft, because they are getting a beating from Nintendo? I do not recall such sentimental considerations when Microsoft Word took WordPerfect to an abattoir and gutted it completely. It was not about consideration then, so why is it now?

I am still uncertain whether Nintendo Switch will surpass Microsoft before New Year’s evening this year. The delay of 2-3 big titles are largely the cause of that, yet in light of the amount of games released, there is good cause for joy around Christmas time for Nintendo. At that point it does not really matter whether the Xbox One life cycle sales gets surpassed no sooner than Q1 2019. What matters is that gamers get to play games, perhaps it will wake up the board of directors of Microsoft to rethink their choices on all the times that they fumbled the ball, because one fumble was enough to end a console in the past (with the exception of the Sega Dreamcast, they lost because Sony was willing to be the marketeer with deadly intent). Or perhaps the fact that Microsoft advertises in Forbes? I might be speculating on the three steps on a certain Wi-Fi enabled print ad, but that does not take away the setting that we see the valid existence of ‘its subscription Xbox Games Pass‘. For me that setting comes across as someone telling a leprechaun to go screw an elephant, to which the leprechaun responds: ‘with what?

Having a small drive tends to be not so memorable. #PunIntended

 

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Merely my view

Yesterday, the Guardian confronted me with the writing of Ben Parfitt, his article ‘Server crashes, 40GB patches and DLC: gaming’s biggest irritations explained‘, drew my attention. It was the ‘biggest irritation‘ part that got to me and even though it is a very nice article to read and any gamer should read it (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/04/server-crashes-patches-dlc-video-game-irritations-explained), there were a few issues on it from my point of view. Still, there is a lot and much of it is very valid. So why would I object? Well, there are a few points and it is time to take a look at it.

The article starts with Downloadable content and that is an interesting side to games. The quote “So why do so many full price games now offer mini-payments? The obvious answer is that it works: downloadable content (DLC) is hugely popular” is one that needs a little more light. The writer does that by giving us part of the goods and in addition he separates it from part 2, the season passes. Basically they are connected. A season pass offers a range of DLC’s and the DLC is a single item (often). There are good games and there are some less good. In this I see Bethesda as really good and they are not alone, whilst we see Ubisoft in the Assassins Creed range, not as bad but as different. In the Assassins Creed you can buy additional items, additional game currency for a few dollars. This is a personal choice and Ubisoft is clearly warning the buyer that they are buying something that they can unlock later in the game up front. This is a good thing, so basically these are items that you can buy to give you an edge early in the game, like a sword that it twice as powerful from anything you can get in the beginning, in game currency that lets you upgrade long before you could normally afford it. This is a personal choice and there is nothing against it, thousands of gamers want an edge, so be it. This is not to be confused from other options they offer in their Ubiclub, which is actual pretty cool stuff to unlock. The really great ones, like we see in Bethesda are DLC’s that offer entire new regions to play with additional new items, monsters and goals These additions can be massive, they are also offered as season passes on day one, the nice part is that the season pass amounts to a 50% discount, which is really nice. Fallout 4 and Witcher 3 have taken that concept to an entire new level last year; they are the two players that have set the stage for many players to get a season pass on day one. Just realise that this could constitute to a download with a size up to 20Gb, which is pretty much the size of an entire game. Some DLC’s (example: Blood and Wine) are getting close to a game added to the game.

Some offer that it should merely be added to the game on day one. I offer in opposition that getting 40% more gaming for $30 is certainly worth it, these additions were never part of the base game. In some cases it was not worth the dollars, (example: nipple DLC), yet that is a personal choice, the nice part is that you do not need to get these DLC’s. Another one worth mentioning is Arkham Knight. They were offering all kinds of different DLC’s with different shops, for the most all of them were Skins. Several month later (I think around 6 months later), these skins all became available as free downloadable extra’s. So we see that some might object to DLC’s or Season passes, yet in the end, not much of the opposition is in my personal view regarded as valid opposition.

Day one patches, those are the ones we truly hate at times. The quote given “Jason Kingsley, the head of UK developer Rebellion, points out that the protracted submission process for console games means day one patches are often inescapable“, is one I cannot agree with. The entire day one patch has been in well over 80% of the cases due to bad QA. Graphic glitches, wrong controls, mission parameter freezes. In case of No Man’s Sky it was a mere 5MB, which is nearly nothing, when we see a 14GB day one patch, that is where we all get truly irritated.

Still, day one patches will happen. Skyrim and Oblivion might be the most visible ones, yet here, when we see that the Skyrim strategy book is 1120 pages. At that point we will see needed patches, which are just a reality for any game that is so big, and again, when we see Assassins Creed Unity, we see merely the flaw of a developer, one that could have been largely prevented.

When it comes to pre-orders I have mixed feelings. I think that when it is offered later on for free there should be no objections, when it is part of the Season Pass later it becomes a little debatable. The quote “why should I pay for a game before I know if it will be any good?” is not the best argument given, because the opposition states, those believing in us up front get a little extra. The quote “There are good pre-orders and there are bad pre-orders” is one I agree with, there is the additional issue that some pre order extras are limited to a certain shop, which is not a great feeling when you get the game somewhere else. It becomes all about how will others get that extra? When it is, let’s say 2 months later, there should be no issue.

The last item is the one I object to the most, Server Crashes. I get it, it is annoying and in some situations it sours the milk of happy gaming a little. Yet there is only so much QA a maker can do and there is no decent way to truly test for a few hundred thousand players. In addition, Microsoft and Sony have other setups in this matter, which implies that any multiplayer game will have a little rough patch in the first month. As a gamer you will just have to live with that. GTA5 has a huge start up issue, but guess what; after that one was solved soon thereafter millions of gamers had a happy game time for years to come. Many are still happily playing that part for two years now, so these gamers all got bang for their buck.

The article gives us a light of what bothers us to some extent, I get that. The questions become:

  • How valid is your annoyance
  • Was it solved?

There will never be a complete satisfaction with some DLC options, yet did it really spoil the fun your game offered?

We see another side from Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2017/07/01/its-time-for-bioware-to-come-clean-about-the-future-of-mass-effect-andromeda-dlc), the issue has been around the rumours of optional DLC’s for Mass Effect Andromeda. The quote “BioWare has never gone into detail about DLC plans and didn’t offer a Season Pass for Andromeda. That’s unusual in the gaming industry these days, but in keeping with the previous three Mass Effect games, which had plenty of DLC but no Season Passes” as well as “BioWare needs to come clean about the company’s DLC plans. The sooner, the better! Leaks, rumours and anonymous sources only muddy the waters. I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, whether or not it’s good or bad news. Not just a statement about Sinclair Networks, but a clear statement about whether or not the game will receive any story DLC.” Here we have two sides. One, why should Bioware come clean on unsubstantiated rumours? It could be that Bioware does not want to set the stage until it has investigated certain options. As some see the latest Mass Effect, it is stated to be one of the largest disappointments of 2017. Apart from the glitches and other small issues, it is rated far below what was expected from a product that had five years to get it right. With the issues like ‘substandard combat’ and ‘poor mission design’ is not what the people expected from the makers from the initial brilliant trilogy. So these people are hoping that they would feel better with some additional DLC packages. Not a realistic option, but the feeling is fair enough. So is that a fair part? From the point of view of the disappointed gamer it might be valid, yet the makers sell the game on the ‘as is’ package and that is valid from a business point of view.

The core of the issue for any player remains, they might love or hate it, yet as I see it, if the core was satisfying and worth the $$$, why object to a DLC that costs a few $$$ more? You could get it or not, it should not impact your view on the original game. We can agree that Fallout and Witcher brought a massive value with the DLC’s and there too are issues, especially with the Fallout one (you can no longer play the game offline), which is a devaluating part to the base game, but that is the only issue here. By large there will be players that add value and those who do not add value, the latter one will feel it by selling less DLC’s, so it is up to them to consider the choices.

Yet with only a minimal amount of exceptions, the DLC’s seem to have been worth it. Although that is as I personally see it set to the tone of the fans to the game in question. From my point of view, if I have not played the game, or if I did not particularly like the game, I tend to stay away from getting or commenting negatively on any DLC (the Nipple DLC excluded from that).

If one thing is certain than from my point of view it would be that there is validity in the existence of pretty much all DLC’s, it is however up to the publisher to set a fair stage when these DLC’s are set to outlets or DLC’s set to limited editions. We don’t begrudge those people to get a time advantage, yet the bulk of players who like a certain franchise will pretty much lose it when such DLC’s are not available to them at a later stage (for free or for very little). Part of me would like to look at the value that we get from Season Passes, yet would that be fair? We can all see how the two mentioned earlier are value without the shadow of a doubt. So if we consider other titles, are they less value? It is extremely subjective and personal. In the end when we love the game we play we will always want more or additional ways to play the game. What we can be thankful for is that the positive DLC’s are there in abundant; the bad ones are actually decently rare, or better stated have become decently rare. It is an evolving platform that has changed in an overwhelming positive way, a fact that we as gaming fans can be thankful for. It is merely my view on the matter.

 

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the next game stage

There is a new game coming. Keith Stuart writes about it and is taking loads of space for it. The title ‘Far Cry 5’s violent civil unrest is a much-needed reality check for games‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/02/far-cry-5-games-civil-unrest-trump-us-reality-ubisoft). Now, you know hat I have issues with Ubisoft. My issue with Far Cry is even more out there. Let’s start with my introduction to the game. I started it once on the Xbox 360, that version was my introduction to the game. In the past I have only ever returned 2 titles, Far Cry was returned the next morning. I did not like it. I thought it to be a bad game. Now, this is not the end or the killer here. We will always have a game that seemed interesting but ended up not being the game we signed up for. So I ignored Far Cry 2 completely and initially Far Cry 3 as well.

I had heard good things regarding the third game, yet we don’t all like the same games, so as such I have no issue with Far Cry. Next thing I get to (several months later) is that my PSN plus allows me a free download of Far Cry 3, so as I had heard good things, I downloaded it and had a go. Boy oh boy, what an excellent game that was. It starts great with the intro and Vaas is just one of the greatest lowlife badass villains in gaming history and the game stays on a decent high note, which is rare for an open game like that. Yes, there are issues, there is repetition (to some degree), yet the part that a game took a 300% improvement over the first game is stunningly rare. So I was on board! Yet, as we got to Far Cry 4, Ubisoft was facing a lot of issues. I believe that they started in 2013. You see, Black Flag was a good game, yet as I see it it was not an Assassins Creed game. Someone dropped the ball here in a massive way. You see, Black Flag could have been the pirate game that Sid Meier could never make because technology stopped him. The game is excellent in so many ways, but it was not an AC game (my personal view). It had a few other issues, but lets not squander time on those details. Ubisoft with the large issues of Watchdogs was already on the ropes, that is when we got AC Unity (a failure in so many ways, graphical glitches not being the biggest one), Far Cry 4 arrived and The Division was delayed (and would receive more delays until 2016). So Far Cry was already under the gun. It was more about explosions, too much repetition, running back to the outpost you just freed. The game had its fair share of issues. The biggest one was that it was basically a new crazy person and pretty much getting the same thing done. This last part does not need to be a bad thing, yet it was not great either. Like the previous game, the graphics were great, the AI was still shoddy (not the worst part of it all). I found that there were too much scripted issues. Wave after wave after wave of attacks, their AI not being great lessening the joy of the game. yet some parts were brilliant too. the dream missions to the temples were really awesome as it added a little more to it all.

So as I saw the choice for Far Cry 5, I saw another path, not necessarily a bad one, but a different one. The quote “I began to get the sense that America was ready for a Far Cry,” said producer Dan Hay during a recent press event is a fair one, it could be anywhere, so why not the US? The next quote gives us “The group gathers under the edict ‘Freedom, Faith and Firearms’ which is so close to the language of pro-gun religious right firebrands it cannot be coincidence. Furthermore, during the press event, the 2016 armed takeover of a federal building by a civilian militia in Oregon was even name-checked as an influence, tightening the game’s connections with the modern US, with civil unrest and unease, and with the intricate connections between religion, politics and gun control“, which should increase the interest in the game. I remember Bethesda Fallout 3, I was hooked, because I have been to that area, yes it was in 1998 and it was recognising the train station and how alike it was, just added a bit to it all. It is like watching a movie (3 in my case) as the shoots were in the places you have been in (one in my street), it just adds a little tingle on your spinal cord when you see it. This would be the same if an open world arena is placed in an area you know and recognise. When it includes events that actually happen, the suspense of the game goes up, so good for Ubisoft here. Yet now we see Keith going into the wrong direction with “The politics of Trump’s US and Brexit Britain are fascinating cauldrons of fear, uncertainty and division“, which is not false, but he does not mention that ‘cauldrons of uncertainty‘ are created by the media as it prefers too often to leave the people in the shadows instead of clearly exposing certain elements. Yet he hits the nail on the head with “Fear and truth make great, compelling art and the idea of a game steeped in the complex politics of the modern US is hugely enticing“, that is shown as the desire of Cyberpunk 2077 just keeps growing. In addition, the option to drown in ‘fear and truth‘ is not enough, as I see it, the gamer wants to influence both become the decider. In that we need not just more of it, we would like something truly new (or reengineered). Consider the chances that Far Cry 5 will have hunting not just for food, but to increase your backpack? Why not just for food? Why not the need to find scrap and other materials to upgrade the backpack, or the pouch, or whatever? Montana is not a small place. So are they looking at that part? Perhaps they are, it is to soon to tell, yet what if your success is not just to prove yourself to one native American? What if a better chance would depend on getting connections to the Blackfoot, the Cheyenne and Crow? Perhaps this is done, we will know when the game arrives. Keith writes that Ubisoft is ‘already taking steps away from broader controversies‘, which is actually a shame, because it is in the limelight of possibilities where true legendary games are shaped. In addition, we see “And by framing the group as a crazed sect, rather than a plausible conservative right-wing operation, the game distorts any sense of true representation.” Now, this is a shame, because keeping that as close to the reality could be a really good thing. Do not forget that some of these conservative groups are only made crazy by the media. Some prefer to be left alone, they get along with their neighbours, but most important, there is growing evidence that they are not always the bad guys. If we just look at the EPA violations in Montana, and how they were settled, some for less then $400K whilst the cleaning of the water is often no longer a possibility. So skating closer to the reality and options and opportunities could make Far Cry a true legendary game, yet will they go there? I doubt it, we will have to see. I like the very end where we see: “Whatever happens with Far Cry 5 it is at least a tacit admission of something important. We can’t, with a straight face, claim that video games are the storytelling medium of the 21st century, unless we’re telling stories about our real lives, our real fears and the very real monsters around us“, which is actually a really good path to consider. So as we have looked at covert spies (Splinter Cell), at the option to survive in the wild against crazy evil people (Far Cry) and as we have protected the good by cutting throats (Assassins Creed), so what happens when we take certain TV series to an entirely new level? What if we had Washington DC mapped in detail and we re-release ‘Covert Action’, but now we use the latest in digital options, in surveillance where you would have to break into places of ill repute (the North Korean Embassy for example) and truly hunt for intelligence by hacking and gathering intel? To become an actual data broker. Now some is not done on those locations, some happen in server rooms, in cars, in apartments. However, the idea to take Watchdogs and Splinter Cell to a new level, one that is based on an actual flowing political situation? Could that be done to the degree that gamers would like to go. Yet in this game, we apply legal issues as well, so murders are a problem, evidence is an issue, more important, visibility of any kind would stop you to take missions on. You see, the setting in a game is one, but it is set on a storyline, because that is the part that gets us through the game. We can accept that scripted issues happen, especially in the intro of the game, yet we tend to find interference of scripting a lot less fun in the game. In Far Cry 3 with Vaas, it was resolved pretty brilliantly, yet it would always happen there at that point. So what happens when the game has a path that is altered by parameters? What if the shift from Acta to Actb suddenly shifts?

For example, that the Dead Space path has two additional elements, one is time (the longer it takes, the less time you get for the asteroids, or the more subsystem you repair, additional paths or rooms become available later on. We see that story driven games are confining, yet open world games lack direction at times. So as we do every mission in Skyrim or Oblivion we tackle the game in one go, but if we are another race or gender, or even the actual time? What if that decides our missions and paths? I see it as a way to ignite a larger value for replayability. Paths that have been ignored for the longest time in gaming. Although Dishonored gave us additional options to get somewhere based on our powers, that is exactly one of those reasons why Dishonored is a ladder higher than most other games. In such ways Ubisoft dropped the ball in several games. Primal could have given us more if certain considerations were made. It seems more and more that it is not entirely with the makers. It seemed to me (I could be wrong) that Ubisoft Marketing thinks it knows its gamers and from that limited view ‘decisions’ are made that seems to be more and more about the stakeholders, and not the need to get a 95%+ game. They have settled for less, whilst the impression is clear that within the timeframe other considerations could have increased the value and the need for the game. Again, that is just my personal view. So as we see other games coming this year, we will more likely than not see the failing of certain other choices, which is a real shame, because we were truly baffled by Assassins Creed 2 and Far Cry 3. Games that took the edge of gaming, and stretched it making the world of gaming truly larger. So they do have the ability to do that. Yet whether they still have it remains to be seen, time will tell us that. yet the fact that Watchdogs, Far Cry 4 and AC Syndicate are nowhere near the reviews of AC 2 and Far Cry 3 are gives us the clear need to not stay on the same path. In addition, the least stated on Mafia 3 regarding this, the better for all involved. We can agree and accept that some winners face hardship as a flaw was introduced, that happens (Microsoft Vista for example), yet from that we got the winner Windows 7, some Ubisoft titles could end up on the same high path. They only need one person with vision to make it happen.

I have to conclude that Ubisoft due to their number of titles was chosen, yet I think we can agree that other makers have made similar mistakes (Mass Effect Andromeda anyone?) For me it is almost a crusade, not against Ubisoft, but for the next Assassins Creed to give us the buzz that the second and brotherhood gave us. If it is done before, it can be done again! The Ubisoft graphics department proved that by setting a new level of graphical excellence with Black Flag.

Let’s all hope for the best!

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Slamming the Game makers

There are many games that get released, there have been titans that we still yearn for and even as several games are upcoming or just now released, there is no denying that the gaming community at large have been anticipating the arrival of Mass Effect. YouTube is getting swamped by groups of people, some are utter idiots, trying to get traction in viewers, so the least said about them the better, some have outspoken opinions on the game, which is fair enough and some of those videos are actually decently insightful and some give us a view, but they do not give the game away. One of these very good reviewers is JV2017gameplay. In that regard, the video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGdGEqYYJjA), gives us a backdrop on the game in relation to the original trilogy. The video is well worth viewing. Seeing this before the game is launched is a very good idea, yet not essential. We get to see some of what we will see in the game, yet we are told explicitly, the video holds no spoilers, which is really good, because I like my surprises to come from the game, not from someone’s video. I have to admit that there were two issues in the story shown, but there could be a very good explanation. This movie and one other (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7hs5cu43Ck), which is about exploration show one element in absolute clarity. That is the fact that Mass Effect Andromeda is clearly arriving 5 years after the previous game for a very good reason. This game shows to be a massive leap forward from the last two games. There is a level of familiarity when we see the interfaces, so those whomever played it before is likely to get a quick handle on the game play. Two videos that show us that Bioware has taken the game to a new level, one that seems to be trumping the sum of both Mass Effect 2 and 3.

I am not going too much on the videos, you will just have to watch them, which is a good idea if you are serious about getting this game. What is important to me is that this game is one of the earlier games that is upgraded so that you could enjoy the maximum that either the PS4pro of Xbox 1s has to offer. So if you have the right TV, you would be able to enjoy this game in 4K resolution, which is great. My issue (in the positive) is that Bioware shows us, not unlike Bethesda did in recent past, that good games do not get released on an annual bases. I truly hope that Yves Guillemot learns his lesson from this. A second lesson that I hope he will learn, is that a game that has all the elements of different games, will not add up to be an excellent game at all.

Now, some will see this as my slamming Yves Guillemot, yet I disagree, although, if Yves proclaims to not agree with this assessment, he might not be 100% incorrect #JustSaying. It is my view on the creation of mediocrity. Yet, are all bad reviews correct? Here I feel that more than one person has not been fair against all things Ubisoft, which needs to be stated as well. You see I do disagree with the vision that James Marvin gives us on how adaptations of movies from films seem to consistently flop, this with the reference to the Assassin’s Creed film. What constitutes a flop? You see with a Production Budget: $125 million, a movie making $238,396,337 is in my view a success. I give $125 and I get back $238 that is 90% profit! With banks giving you 5% if you are lucky, that result constitutes a good day’s work. I will say that I did not consider this a great movie, yet it is not a bad one either. Anyone who saw the remake of Point break 2015 will happily agree with me. The AC movie had a good cast, the cinematography is actually a little overwhelming at times, but the filming shows to be slightly too chaotic and too many jumps to Michael Fassbender in virtual device mode, which is pretty much it. As it was a financial success blaming Justin Kurzel is equally unfounded, but here is part of the issue, it is the vision that was given. I think that the error was to some extent as stated earlier, not the greatest visions, making it less a success than it might have been.

This now reflects back to Mass Effect, because the game has one thing as it went from game 3 to game 4, it shows vision, the eternal platinum trump card that makes a game an instant classic and the 90%+ success rating that really good games get.

What should overwhelm you are the ‘upgrades’ that Mass Effect offers. Looking through windows showing the actual space where you are, which is a little overwhelming. Like the AC series, the voices have been taken well care of with Clancy Brown is the voice of ‘your’ father, an actor that the younger player will recognise as Mr Krabs (a SpongeBob square pants production). Others might recognise him from Cowboys and Aliens and the classic sergeant Zim from Starship Troopers. You, as the player will be voiced by either the stunning model Fryda Wolff, who weirdly enough has not seen too much camera on TV or the big screen (hinting towards Michael Fassbender here for his next production), but has been active in games like Civilisation, Final Fantasy 13, Call of Duty, Fallout 4, XCom 2 and the Technomancer, and if you are playing the male character by Tom Taylorson who is actually new to this level of work. Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, the Tudors), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey) and several others. Oh, and to be fair, Assassins Creed 2 had no lack of actors and actresses either. They gave us Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Alex Ivanovici (X-men, Mirror Mirror), Lita Tresierra, who sadly passed away (the Factory), Carlos Ferro (Dominic, Gears of Wars series). So this is what both sides took pride and effort in and there has never been anything but the highest praise for both game makers. Also it is the graphical side that was never a flaw, you only need to look at Assassins Creed Black Flag (which has other issues), to see what the Ubisoft graphical department can do when they set their mind to it, they really got the sense of the Caribbean right, it almost felt like I was actually there in that time, or so I would believe it to look like.

Getting back to Mass Effect 4, the entire game as shown so far seems to be nothing less than Mass Effect 2 on steroids. The exploration, the graphics and large land masses, the fact that a map has several fast travel points give rise to the facts that the planets are a fair bit larger than ever before. This will be the game for anyone who loved the original trilogy, anyone who has a need to shoot things and for those with a reverence to role playing games. Now, as this game is not out yet for another 7.61 days (roughly) we have no idea on the amount of hours of game play that this game brings, the actual amount of planets you can land on and explore and so on. In addition, the Mass Effect series, like some others have always lend their design for additions (DLC’s) and season passes, so I wonder if more would come. I cannot state whether this would come with the overwhelming value that the Fallout 4 season pass gave us, but we can hope, can we not?

The power of games is at times great to experience, especially when we see a game like Mass Effect Andromeda. True, several good games have been released, but when we focus on the 90%+ ratings, over the last 12 months gives us Nioh, Dark Souls 3, Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind divided and Overwatch. 5 games over the last 12 months (Witcher 3 GOTY edition is also making the cut, but the original was released in 2015, which is why I omitted it). So as you can see 5 (or 6) great games a year. Now, there will always be games that did not make it to the 90% level, but we still want to play them (sport games), those games are niche games, but consider how many games you play per year and how many of them were in that 90% plus range? Now consider Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla games, which is one of the newer players on the block (2000), Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (2002), which is CI Games first attempt to produce an AAA game, or Elite: Dangerous, who is now entering the PlayStation 4 field, a game originally made on a BBC Micro B in 1984 (a machine with 32Kb RAM). Last I want to mention Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment, which is a company that has 20 employees. Its founder Charlie Cleveland shows what vision can bring, in his case an ‘open’ world survival game where you are adrift on an ocean after crashlanding on a water planet. What happens after that is up to you, so as the radio tells you (when you get it fixed) that you can wait 99,999 hours, which amounts to 11.4 years, or make a life for yourself. This starts a very different game which you need to see to believe. I hope that the PlayStation people get to experience it as well, because the game will bring you a hundred hours or more of challenges, entertainment and visual wonder. This is visionary on a new level! There are a few other surprises in this game. You have not lived until you tried to get anywhere in this game in hardcore mode (1 life). In this I would slam both Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. I honestly cannot state whether it is complacency or what I would call an adherence to mediocrity. The two makers who bedazzled us with greatness have been regarded as below par too often for a little too long. This visibility comes out even stronger as we see how great Mass Effect 4 could be (Electronic Arts) and Ubisoft who basically has not produced a 90%+ game since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013). When did spreadsheets overrule the need for excellence? When we all expected that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands would give back some confidence in Ubisoft, we see reviews that hardly make 80%, which is a really bad thing for Ubisoft. When I see the review comment ‘Writing is terrible and it’s riddled with bugs, but there’s fun to be had with friends‘, I wonder whether the second part was given there to be soft to make sure that Yves Guillemot would not cry too loud. Yet the truth we also see is “Of all the publishers out there, it’s Ubisoft that has most affectionately embraced the open world” should have been the driving force that could have given Ubisoft a super seller (a slice of Skyrim anyone?), yet the reviews imply that it is not to be. In addition the reviewer (Sam White) shows the lesson I tried to impart on Ubisoft more than once “that is when you realise that Ubisoft has taken collectibles too far“, a lesson they should have learned before Assassins Creed Unity was released.

When smaller places like Unknown Worlds Entertainment and Hello Games surpass you with each less than 25 staff members, you need to seriously wake up. I am actually surprised that Ubisoft Still exists, because to be honest, they should have imploded with no funds left by 2015 (so you see, I can be wrong too!). The question is how such places stay afloat. Marketing only make up for so much, in the end it is the product that matters!

The question is where do gamers go to next? In all this, I too need to keep an open mind. I have a specific desire for games and even as I admire Dark Souls 3, I know I will never actually finish it. I am not that great a slasher. I am all for stealth games, which is why Styx was such an amazing experience and challenge, so as we are about to get its sequel, I too join a group who will accept a lower than 90% game (which shows that there is more than just high ratings). However, we do know that Ubisoft has had its successes in that genre too: Blacklist and Conviction are both 90% games and they delivered (apart from one annoying issue in blacklist) and I cannot wait for a new instalment of that series. Here too we see that when we look deeper that there are lines of games that could result in new 90% versions, not just because the player group is large enough, but because developers like CI Games are showing that there is interest in getting a stealth game that is a serious challenge (Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3). Will this statement remain true if the reviews scores are barely making the 80% grade? I believe so, I believe that quality games will always find a home and I also believe that the proper attention will drive new players, especially if the reviews and scores correctly reflect the quality of the game. This is what I meant again and again when I stated towards Ubisoft: ‘A game that is based on a matrix on how to not make a bad game, will reflect that and not be a bad game. Yet in that same setting it will also never become a truly great game‘, Mafia III, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch Dogs 2 have proven me correct. On the opposition, those who made it (like Witcher 3 and its additions), excellence is more than merely its own reward, it creates a following and it sets a milestone for others to strive for.

In the same way that I see stealth games, I see that ‘open’ world games like the ones Bethesda produces, gives us options and replayable versions unlike most other games, which now give rise to the question why can’t others get there? Oblivion (2006), Fallout 3 (2008), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Skyrim (2011) and Fallout 4, all of them 90%+ games. With two of them given a 100% score by more than one reviewer; that is what makes them essential games to own (for those not hating RPG games). I think we can agree that there is a fairly sized group of people who are not into RPG’s and that will always be fair enough. In that same view, I am not, and am unlikely to ever become a GTA fan. Yet the RPG group is growing, so I wonder where these two players go. You see, living on Mass Effect alone will not aid EA in its growth, who actually was one of the innovative distributors of one of the pioneers in this field (the Ultima series), so why not seek in those revamps? In that same light Wing Commander and Privateer brought the light of space flight, now they will have to compete, but our love for these games have (for the most) not diminished, so where is the IP on that? Eidos gave us Soul Reaver a game that could be rebranded in something awesome (even though the originals were actually pretty good). Yet, here I go on in the remake directions. What I hope is that these two once great development houses will seek visionaries to give us the next batch of (hopefully new) true visionary game play. If crowd funding took only 9 days to get the minimum requirement to get the relaunch of System Shock started, do you really think that RPG and tactical games are on the way out? No, most gamers are looking towards the thrills we once had and some are looking for that next new original challenge. Perhaps the makers need to start looking into the Comic book dimension. Marvel might be booked solid, but there is a league of comics that might never ever make the light of day outside of its own clique following. Even if we look at what has been tried before, an actual good Buffy video game would draw millions towards the shops. An actual good version would ensure large lines in front of a game retailer. The Darkness, what I considered to be a fine game (not great), but a good reflection of the comic style which I considered to be essential. Series like Witchblade (awesome artwork, yet awful TV series), or perhaps Michael Turner’s Fathom. You see, the ‘non-failure’ spreadsheet of Ubisoft might not allow for a game based on Fathom to be created, yet Subnautica seems to be proving them wrong at present. So as the elements of Fathom with ‘members of a race of aquatic humanoids called the Blue who possess the ability to control water‘ give rise to very interesting settings (as well of the majestic unknown that we call the seven seas). The idea of a game, open world or not (more like large levels) where we need to think in three dimensions when playing calls for quality gaming, if properly executed, we could see an entirely new level of game play one that does require next gen consoles and powerful PC’s. Consider that in 2015, the sales of comic books surpassed $1,000,000,000. Now also consider that the market size of comic books was estimated to be $280-$200 million market in 1998, and even though we have seen a decade of hard times, this market has never stopped growing from 1998 to 2016 (source: http://www.comichron.com). Is it such a leap to not seriously consider that market? And in this case, I am specifically taking DC Comics and Marvel out of the equation.

Visionaries are worth their weight in gold. So if EA and Ubisoft have any, then give them a 6′ stack of comic books and see what they can come up with. I reckon that these two players waste more money on some brainstorm lunch with BI executives, so that expense should be easy to justify. For me? If this results in them each producing at least two 90% plus game within 3 years, we all end up winning. Is that not a beautiful consideration?

 

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