Tag Archives: Atari ST

The edge of what could be

I thought about this and it intersects with stories over the last week. You see there is a change coming, but one that is openly ignored by some people. Not by the normal people. They ignore it all and so they should. But some want their life to continue as it is, to hang on to easy revenues a little longer at the expense of everything else. There is no real good here. The mistake was made by Sony in 2011 and again when the PS4pro came and now with the PS5 they still make the same mistake. I am uncertain whether Sony can (at present) correct for that mistake. They had the option to gain a huge advantage in 2012, but they decided to play the appeasement game with Facebook, now the game changes. Nintendo was not up to speed for a few understandable reasons and Microsoft only cares for self at the expense of others, so they would never go there. Now in the new setting the streamers are about to get to the same setting. I designed a few parts of it, I set the stage in my first IP bundle and it could apply to Amazon and Google in near equal matters. But that is one setting, the stage could now benefit Netflix in more than one way. Yet who does it fit better? I cannot say, yes a few items fit Amazon better and the idea of the Luna charging ahead sounds good, but the Google Stadia could face the same benefits and none of these parts are part of the additional 50 million consoles. There is the other shoe. I cannot tell how fair it would fit Netflix, but under similar settings all three could compete for that. But it is not about that part. It is about the other parts. 

You see as the game of gaming changes, the makers could adhere to the system, or they can adhere to the gamers and users. It is the second side that will push them forward. The system is clinging to the group of an ageing population, but when that falls away the game itself will be pushed into a new realm. Those not ready will fall behind really fast. In that new stage we have Amazon, Google, Netflix, Sony, Nintendo and Tencent. Yes, we see the claims that Tencent is not coming along, but a stage where hundreds of billions is part of the game and that is not including gambling is not a stage anyone ignores, no matter what they say. Whether it is merely Tencent, or a union with Huawei will be sought is not something I am aware off. But there is no way that Tencent will not be part of this. The part I cannot tell is how far along they will go. Will they be a console, a streamer, or a hybrid facilitating both? You see, I do not know any industrial willing to let go of a slice of $275,000,000,000. As such Tencent is a player, I feel certain of that. 

So where will it all go? There are several indictors that marketing and granularity will change. Meta is one factor, 5G is the other factor and it will all come to blows as Neom is completed. Neom will be the first step to clearly show the changes to marketing, advertisements and a few other matters. I saw this coming and as such I created the 5G IP I have. When the other parts are completed the companies that are still clearly in the dark will wake up and a rush will come. All racing for the same destination and not all will make it and now there are two sides that come to blow. Three if you reconsider the stage. In the first stage there is Meta, meta will be ready and adhering to whatever stage is played, it will be that flexible and I am not certain how or where it will go. Only the inner insiders of Meta know this. The second stage is seen by gamers and more importantly the streamers. The streamers are important fr a few reasons. They can become new clusters. Clusters where gamers and users are in charge, they will decide what they are exposed to and even as some will try to dissuade the consoles and streamers. The one successfully resisting will win that race. You see, the people have had enough and corporations are so used to the bully push that they will continue. Just to get their hands ‘in the game’ but that move will push them out of the game, there is no other solution for them and by the time they learn that lesson the hard way. The users and gamers will have had enough. They will of course cry like Chihuahua’s, making all kind of claims but at the end of the aged population they will be denied access, the people will have had enough. And on the third side is the explosion of marketing and advertising. Neom city might show the way, but they are not alone and that signal will show that there is a larger change coming it will evolve nearly everywhere, but mostly in metropolitan areas. And until recently I never considered that my IP would cover two of the three sides of that evolution. Which is also a larger weird part. Where will Amazon go, where will Google go and how far will Netflix get with their game streaming. All sides that give rise to questions, ones that I cannot answer yet, but I feel it is a temporary setting for me and after that I will consider whether I make it new IP, or make it public domain. In one part I like the public domain side, I have enough IP to last me a lifetime, some of the IP become public domain on June 30th if I do not reset the clock and I will watch from a distance how stupid industrials make claims and demand a seat on some negotiating table they have no business being at. They squandered it in greed and in the belief of their own ego, as such they should be allowed to die (go bankrupt) for that shortsightedness. A stage that has some repetition and a stage that is coming for a few too many of them, especially when they are no longer of what comes next. Yet it also is cause for worry. When these people are denied ‘their’ seat near edge of what could be they tend to become bullish, childish and they will resort to be the selfish people they always were, just a little bit more out in the open now, and still those around them will not act. This is why I like my public domain routine. It leaves the IP FOR EVERYONE and they can do nothing, well almost nothing. The only strength on my side is that I have is the willingness to lose it all, to make it public. 

It is the only thing I can do to protect the realm of gaming, when a company cannot own it, the larger base of players win, that has always been the case. The problem is that not everyone can see that. I do not blame them, I for one did not see it for a long time. I was never one for ‘free games’ and it all should be free or hacked. I believe that game makers are entitled their revenue and their profit. I never opposed that, but in the 80’s and 90’s games were more than entertainment it was a stage where the gamer was enabled. I feel that around 2005-2010 the gamer became a point of exploitation for the system and any digital revenue. I opposed that, there is no clear guilty party. Ubisoft might have some sides, but their need was revenue. I do not consider them guilty. Sony and Nintendo to some degree too. They are all guilty of adhering to a changing stage, but that does not make them guilty. There was a second layer, or at least it was my believe that the second layer was some mash of elements that pushed for a larger layer of exploitation. This continued until now, yet there is a new horizon, the streamers and there they have less power and when the power is pushed onto the gamers and users their options vanish,  that is my belief. There is a lot more and streamers can bring it to the front, the consoles had that option but they decided not to do that, for whatever reason they did not do this.

And now the edge of what could be changes, it alters in a way I cannot tell at present. Yet I still believe that the streamers will be at the core of gaming in the future. I will still play on a playstation as well at whatever number they are when that happens. Yet when I see what could be there is no chance that there will not be a streaming system next to it, as is most likely the Nintendo. Where gaming goes I cannot tell beyond a certain point. That is how things tend to be. I  reckon that it started when I created the foundation of what could have been The Elder Scrolls: Restoration in 2013. Over the years I upped the stage and set it to a much larger foundation. Then it fell away as Microsoft bought the place. So these ideas are now getting incorporated in another game, because the ideas were sound, they were merely precise. As a storyteller I can reshape them to fit another game with reasonable ease. Will these stories be part of the next edge of gaming? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. At times I wonder if pushing the edge of gaming is a good idea. But the edge of gaming was pushed by the CBM 64 (Loderunner), Atari ST (Dungeon Master), CBM Amiga (Dune 2), N64 (Goldeneye), PS1 (TombRaider), PS2 (Kingdom Hearts), Xbox360 (Mass Effect), PS3 (The last of Us), PS4 (God of War) and PS5 (TBA), now it is time for the streamers to do more than be the next copy of a game we see everywhere, now they can shape the edge of gaming that is not here yet. Only under these circumstances will gaming continue, evolve and inspire. Consider the old games and see where the new systems could take us. That is where we will be able to see the edge of what might be.

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First the weird

Yes, it was something that happened on Wednesday night. It was (apparently) important and it involved Batman. It was a dream, mot likely about IP, but I cannot state whether it is based on the comic books, I do not think it was the Arkham games series. I also do not think it was the movies, but beyond that it is blank, I just cannot remember it and if I do not write it down quickly, it becomes lost. So now I have to wait for the REM stage to kick in again. Beyond all that, there is new IP. A new setting, a digital setting that comes to mind on some of the MB games, in the first it is Hotel and now we have a new stage, Yes, we can ‘just’ copy the board game, but that is such a waste of time, unless it is a mode you can unlock. A board that becomes bigger as more players come to it. The nearly same setting, but now we add a library of hotels. So the original game had the Boomerang, Fujiyama, Royal, Le Grand, Safari, Taj Mahal, Waikiki, and the President. But the fun part is that digitally we can add, we can replace keeping the game new and fresh. So we can get hotels based on famous hotels in Dubai, Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, London and so many other places. As we add multiplayer options where the player can select from a pool of online players, friends and game fans, this game could get a lot more attention, and history has shown that there was an interest in this game. I still haven’t given up on the notion of collectible keys (used on the Amazon Luna) to unlock elements in games that other games provide for. And Hotel could be no different. Other games unlock additional hotels and this game could unlock other elements in other games. A stage that pushes novelty and pushes the desire to play, to find and to embrace any game that streaming offers. 

I mentioned the keys before and it could be one of several enhancements that could push the Amazon Luna (beside the 50M extra consoles option). You see, the need for gaming is different on streamers, yes there is a like minded setting with other consoles, but the plus value is not merely some subscription, it is the part where the subscription leads to additional sides, it keeps the gamer invigorated. And in sandbox games there is plenty to see, but in other games after you played it once or twice you think you have seen it all, unless you add to the game, unless the game keeps on developing. There is only so many times the bulk will play Monopoly. Yet if we can localise Monopoly and unlock local editions the interest in such a game evolves from medium term to long term enjoyment. And there several MB games could find themselves in a larger stage. In earlier writings I evolved the game Stratego to a much larger online stage. Yet what happens when we do this to the game Tank Battle? What happens when we evolve the game Clue to a version based on the CCG the X files? All games with multiple options, all games with an evolved nature that offers long term appeal. And as stated on multiple times, some of the original CBM-64 games could get a whole new era of gaming enthusiasts if they put their mind to it. 

All settings that some ignored, some were forgotten and many were overlooked, or perhaps the game designers never considered the early years of gaming. Just like some of us seemingly forgot  about some of the TV shows from the 60’s and 70’s, several of them bubbling with new life if the right director comes along. The acquired IP from the old days could be the cheapest and that offers a whole new stage. Some of the makers are all about looking at the new, but to find. Truly new series with no connections to the past is so utterly rare that it is almost folly to join those crusaders, all chasing windmills. Which is still weird because the fields are covered with fix them uppers and some of them have solid housing frames. 

The fact that some are racing to remaster decent PS4 games for PS5, and they are merely looking behind them, in the rear distance there are true gems waiting to be rediscovered and I hope Amazon does so, Google too, but then they decided not to develop games, so they need to rely on the indie developers and some will be looking towards the CBM-64, Atari ST and Amiga games. As I see some development notes pass by, I can see that they are and they will have decent chances to pick up an interesting amount of coins. 

 

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Relaunching IP

It is a thought plenty of people have and I am no exception. I was contemplating things and then I realised in light of the news I covered in the last week that educating people is always better than telling them how it is. Some people are afraid that THEIR thoughts are all, but I am not the most intelligent person on the planet. I am more intelligent than mot and my IQ is around two point short from the setting that Alan Turing had, so I have that to sulk about. But the station to educate others, to teach them where to look and what to look for remains appealing. So there I was sitting and contemplating an old master called the Balance of Power. I had bought the game on the Atari ST and I loved it. The game was a little shallow, but it was new, it had never been done before and as such it kept my attention for a long time. 

Wouldn’t it be great if someone picked up that idea and turned it into something serious? No longer a mere US versus Russia, but geopolitical field that included espionage. The US, EU, Middle East (Iran or Saudi Arabia), Russia, China and Japan? Consider that we have ‘quotes’ like “Problem analysis is the process of understanding real-world problems and user’s needs and proposing solutions to meet those needs. The goal of problem analysis is to gain a better understanding of the problem being solved before developing a solution”, and there is massive support to consider. There is J. J. A. Tacq who gave us Social Science Research From Problem to Analysis (1997), there is From Secrets to Policy by Mark Lowenthal which is now in its 8th edition. Foundational materials that makes us think and consider a much larger picture. There are economic works that could help creating understanding. Even if one book gets implemented in that game it becomes a whole new beast and to get the kitty turned into a behemoth that scares every tiger in Asia work needs to be done. But the game that was meant for a 640Kb Computer now gets 10,000 times the resources and has a setting of a massive data warehouse that could enable larger prototyping than ever considered before. I see some bloggers (journalists too) working the same equation again and again, all whilst they could create something much more explanatory and insightful for all readers. Some might not care and that is OK, yet the Balance of power had appeal to a fair amount of gamers and I believe even now in a new generational setting I believe that this appeal will still be there. And the benefit of streaming implies that you can try and you can see how the pawns fall down, the rooks optionally stand up and the political board shows a lot more than you ever considered. 

We seem to think that old is gone, but games and simulators were more advanced because they overcame memory obstacles, I reckon that some programs can still make us turn out heads, especially when some of these programs were created with the limitations that 1985 had and considering that my Abandonware gave the game 4.6 out of 5 gives another reason to consider what was out there. And let’s face it, what do you have to lose?

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I see dead people

There is a stage we all see and we all think we seem to know, I am very set on the ‘seem to’ part. I stumbled upon a 5 years old article by TechCrunch, it is about Peter Molyneux, a person I personally know, so I was curious. It was the beginning that got to me. With “the British game development hero that spearheaded famous studios Bullfrog and Lionhead, but who also always had a reputation of being fluid with the truth. Molyneux was the guy who made Populous and led the studios that created Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate, The Movies, Fable, Black and White, Magic Carpet and many others. But Molyneux was also a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised” the game is on, you see it is about the games, and Bullfrog let by Peter delivered again and again on CBM64, Atari ST, Amiga and PC. I still miss some of these games. They opened the mind, the made us creative and it pushed us to think different. So when we get to ‘a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised’, we are b being misled on two fronts. The first is that (as far as I know) Peter has always been in the business of pushing gaming boundaries. It is hard to prove this, but I have an example, in those days I had a mouthwatering PC, it had all the bells and whistles and it would make coffee for me if it had hands, so here I am with a high end graphics card that can do anything with was, so even as Black and White is fun and amazing, it was that merely fun and amazing, about three months after the game releases there is a new graphics card and I install it, I had nothing real to do and I restart Black and White, so when the temple is built and I walk inside my mouth drops, it blew me away. Black and White was the first game that was ready for the nextgen graphics, it was the first time this would happen to me. Even now I still hope for a remaster of Magic Carpet on the new consoles, a rerelease of dungeon keeper, and only team bullfrog can deliver on that.

The second part is the one TechCrunch does not mention, in the early 90’s, the media was on gaming like nothing you ever saw, the journo’s at the ECTS were renowned, worse than paparazzi and always looking for a sound-byte, an exploit and that part is not mentioned, also the words of Molyneux have been pulled out of context more than once, he did something other gamer makers did not achieve, he surpassed the boundaries of systems. That can be seen if you compare the reboot of Syndicate with the original, the original remains vastly superior 20 years later. The reboot got a mere 66%, it is vision that get us games and Peter Molyneux had just that. Then we get a part the is hard to dispute and most likely correct “The other reason Molyneux thrived was that his team delivered. There are, and will forever remain, disputes over exactly how much he was involved with some of the titles to his name (Glenn Corpes, Sean Cooper, Demis Hassabis and a variety of others deserve their credit) but what was inarguable was that Molyneux had managed to create an environment in which great games happened”, yes Peter was not alone and we all get that, but Peter made it happen and it is undeniable, great games happened at Bullfrog and Lionhead. The titles are still revered and people still yearn for another fable, another dungeon keeper and another theme park, even now, even 20 years later, that is gaming at the edge!

Then we get a gem “He would combine those ideals to form an exciting story for what a game might be, often road testing a certain phrase or image with you before using it with the press. This, I gather, is not unlike the way Steve Jobs seems to have been”, the man was part visionary and could recognise visionaries in coders, that is part why his games were so great (the original concept is part of that), until Bullfrog, who had considered being the bad guy in Hero quest would be entertaining? And that is the foundation of great gaming, bel to turn the equation upside down and get another nugget of gold, he had this. I particularly like the end of the article “Ambitious design, big ideas and bold visions are what propel the games industry forward. When all is said and done, create-a-cash-engine mentalities are only ever temporary, but it’s the ambition that makes video games forever. I for one hope that Molyneux rises from the ashes one last time to teach us this lesson again”, it is all the parts Ubisoft forgot to be, it is all the sides the spreadsheet driven BI executives at EA and likeminded companies are dumbstruck on. I hope that he gets a few more notches on his 6 shooter with new titles on nextgen, optionally Google Stadia too. Consider the titles we saw at the beginning and consider that those who knew the games still remember them and love them 20+ years later, that is an achievement only Nintendo has been able to equal. 

So when it comes to Bullfrog, its staff and the man behind it, I tend to see dead people, it is the press behind it, not the makers of games, they have proven their grit, they did it several times. 

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Reflections

These are the days where a lot of people reflect on choices made and I am not any different. I was at the foundation of gaming, when gaming was young, when people thought that this was the sport of nerds and I did not care. I reviewed games for 13 years and I never regretted it. I was there when Commodore release the CBM64 and the Amiga 500. Sony released the PlayStation, I was there when Nintendo released the N64 and the GameCube. I had the Sony PlayStation 2 on day one, I saw with amazement when the SEGA Dreamcast was released. I saw an amazing range of games and systems, even now I think back to how great gaming was in those days. Even now we see how some makers misrepresent their games on how unique their game is whilst in the end it is merely another version of Candy Crush or Bejewelled. The hide behind quick animations and we see some Zombie game and the list goes on, they all need to make a game that is quick so that it is downloaded, their name depends on the amount of downloads, the sheep that play games follow the games that have a lot of downloads, yet they miss the larger stage. A game is something larger, it keeps you interested, it offers a larger stage and there is no denying that Microsoft Game Pass might actually entice people who call themselves gamers will actually end up playing actual games. Yet there is a danger there too. I personally believe that Microsoft is in it for the soft money, the micro transactions and it makes sense, micro transactions represents billions a year in revenue, and there mobile systems are the biggest source of micro transactions and that too is a reason why Microsoft wants Apple access. 

It is time that this stage changes and if there is one stage we want to protect then it is the gaming stage, that stage gives direct access to the younger players. Even as these ‘critics’ proclaim loot boxes are ‘gambling’, there is no status on games like Candy Crush and all others designed to drive gamers to spend money, the addiction of achievement. Yet we see a lot less on that part do we? I remember playing the very first Lemmings, from the first hour I saw just how addictive it was, I still have great memories on Magic Carpet, I saw amazing games from Mirrorsoft, Microprose, Psygnosis, Rare, Westwood, Bullfrog and too many others to mention. Even then the creativity outranked corporate types and the gamer won. That field has changed!

Even today, I remember playing games like Millennium 2.2, Lemmings, Covert Action, Ultima 3, 4, 5, Eye of the Beholder, and that was long before PC’s started to take gaming serious. One title I am leaving for last, In 1987 FTL (Faster than Light) created Dungeon Master, it changed the way people looked at RPG games. It was only surpassed by Dungeon Keeper because Dungeon Master paved the way and created the love of the RPG game, Dungeon Master became the best selling game of all time for the Atari ST, others would follow and Dungeon Keeper would push the love of RPG to even greater heights, in the end 700,000 copies would be sold and it is there where we see what we can gain, in those days 700,000 copies were sold, in this day it would be 10 to 50 times as much. And we overlook the playability of those games now, yes we see the hypes created (and the games EA screws up), yet they also had there share of successes and underestimations. Who remembers ShadowCaster and Black Crypt? Upgraded they would make interesting games and in that same setting EA has close to half a dozen games that could raise the setting for Google Stadia. So what happens when we tinker Magic Carpet to become larger and multiplayer? And that is only the tip of the iceberg, Microprose has even more titles and that is all before we look at the near future and see what else we can do to set a larger stage of games that people either cast aside or ignored in the first place. An excellent example of that is Microprose’s 1990 release of Knights of the Sky. I loved the game and many others did as well, but the larger group seemingly forgot about this game, a game that could be upgraded and work on a whole range of systems, including Google and Apple systems. We need to take another look at these games, games produced in the era spanning from 1985-2005 gives us close to 100 titles spread over half a dozen systems and we forgot about them. Why is that?

I get it, some people moved on, they moved on to other things and that is fine, but there is an entire generation of people that is limited in its view of games and it is limited to match three shapes. That is not really gaming and we need to make sure that this does not happen. For a system like the Google Stadia, it is the difference from being in the game and setting a goal towards being the 4th system in gaming, from there the sky is the limit. There are enough games, the question becomes where do they (or Apple) want to go, offering a system or committing to a system. It is a small but distinctive difference, one is seemingly going that way (it doesn’t matter who), yet it opens up a larger stage. A stage where people can optionally now play a larger and repaired Mass Effect Andromeda, a game that is game 1 and game 2 together. A stage that Google Stadia and Apple allows for and that is good, perhaps the others will catch on, but that is not a given and perhaps not even required. Hardwire gives options, but when did all systems need to offer everything? I believe that Nintendo and Sony can work side by side, I feel certain that either Google or Apple will be the third system, there is a chance that people will select EITHER the Google or the Apple system, but I cannot be certain of that at present. And it does not matter, like Android and iOS, people will make a choice giving Google an edge but at present not a given victory, time will make determination, yet in time and over time we need to revisit the old games, the fact that we see more and more remasters is because the old jewels remain jewels, some of them merely need to get dusted, others need polish, but they remain jewels and the sooner some see that, the better their hardware will fare. 

 

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Sources of negativity

We are all binomial in origin, we like yes/no, we dislike yes/no, we hate yes/no and we love yes/no, yet most of us hide this in long winded excuses of reasoning, we all do that (including me). I partially hate Microsoft for what they did, for how they destroyed something that was pretty fabulous, I am upset with Ubisoft or how they squandered excellent IP and hid into the woodworks and made a quick buck, destroying the IP they created in the meantime. And as such as I was looking online for a few more tidbits as we approach the demise of Xbox, I came across a few items that puzzled me. 

I love Bethesda, I do not love all their products, which is fine. I am no lover of Rage, but others are, and that is fine. On the other hand I love Fallout, but was never a fan of Fallout 76 and that is fine too. I prefer my games not online and single player. Still, I accept that this is a pathBethesda went on, we all have growing curves and there is a collection of people (a large one) who do like Fallout 76. Perhaps the evolution of Fallout 76 will turn into Fallout 176, Fallout 276 and whatever comes and I will like it at some point, but the barricade that is out there is not one that Bethesda created. In another story we see the interaction, ‘Call of Duty: Warzone console players are turning off crossplay to escape PC cheaters’ it is merely one reason why I hate online play, I do not really hate it because I loved online Mass Effect 3, I was addicted to it, but the world has enough cheaters, when I game I want to get away from that and play on a level playing field, as such I focus on single player only, and in that my taste goes wide. 

As time went by I must have invested tens of thousands of dollars in console gaming, I agree when people say that it is wasted money, but that was my choice, I had a good job, my last ‘true’ vacation was in 1998, so when I get home I need escapism and puzzles, or challenges all at the same time and the consoles provide. It got me to the first issue on consoles, the pricing YouTubes are a little redundant and obsolete when you realise the origin.

When I look back, I started with the VIC-20, then the CBM64 ($1349) with disk drive. Overtime I evolved my systems. CBM Amiga ($700), Atari ST ($700) and there was the PC to use (I’ll get to that soon). As a gamer and reviewer I had made some waves, as such the Sega Dreamcast was free (christmas present from Sega), the Sony Playstation (I forgot what I paid for it, but it was less than the N4) The Nintendo 64 ($699) and after that I pushed towards the Sony PSX-II ($899). It was followed by the Nintendo Gamecube, a machine I loved. After that there was a small lull, I got the Xbox at the end of its lifetime for free with my mobile and it brought a few highpoints. We are now getting close to the time where everything changed. I was happy with my Xbox, the controller was a little bulky, but I have large hands, so it was a blessing in disguise. I played several of the games and Time Splitters 3 was an awesome trip, so good that I got it completed to 98% in hard mode. Then Microsoft upped the game, the Xbox360 came and I truly loved it, it was close to perfect in many ways, the 20GB drive was a little small, but you could upgrade it to a 120GB and within a year I did. Gaming life was close to perfect. I mentioned Time Splitters and it matters, there was the clear claim of backward compatibility and I fell for it, yet soon thereafter I learned the hard way that it was not and I never got Time Splitters 3 to 100%, the first annoyance was created. In all honesty, it is close to one defect in its life cycle. I too received the red rings of death and Microsoft replaced it, as such I was 3 weeks without my 360, but that was not an issue, the replacement was faster, the resolution was clearly better and gaming was at an all time high. Microsoft was a clear player in all this. The next step was the PSX3, Sony had always been great but I was not drawn to the third version, I was actually still enjoying the PSX2 (as well as the GameCube). So it was a nice relief when I bought a new TV and the PSX3 was part of this as a bonus, to be honest, I was not drawn to the PSX3, I did love the games I played on it, but overall, until Metal Gear Solid IV, games of the patriot arrived, I was not madly gaming it. As such, when it did the shift was starting to happen. 

Before that time the Xbox360 had 70% of my time, the GameCube 20% and 10% was for the PSX3. MGSIV was the first game to attack that pattern. Sony would give us more games on that system that impacted the consoles.As Sony got more adapt in exclusive games, the PSX3 would consume time: God of War 3, Infamous(1 and 2), Ratchet and Clank, Beyond two Souls, Gran Turismo and the end there was the Last of Us, Sony was reacquiring the timeline. Even as I had Oblivion and Mass Effect 3 on my Xbox, the timeline had shifted to 40% X360, 40% PSX3 and 20% Gamecube. Sony was back through great games, just like it did before and Xbox was not to blame. In all this I did not mention PC Gaming and that was on purpose, from 1989 onwards my PC was for gaming and I had more often than not the best of the best. A soundblaster card? I had it and when the first games came needing the better processor I had that system. Unreal Tournament, Black an White, System Shock(1 and 2), Wing Commander (1,2,3), Red Alert, Populous, Ultima, the list goes on, it was when Thief came that I ‘woke up’, I had a really good Diamond card yet Thief forced me to upgrade to the Diamond Viper 2 (no regrets) and the realisation set in (around 2003). Gaming is about the graphics card, sound, storage and the processor and at that point a graphics card was $600, the soundcard $500, and storage came as is. As such a console was a lot cheaper and my need for gaming was fulfilled. Only two years later a high end graphics card was $999 and as such console gaming was becoming increasingly cheap.

This all matters, when we are confronted with the pricing of the Xbox One X and the PS5, we forget that what came before was a lot more expensie and offers less, it was also the time that we started to realise that we need increasingly more space, the Xbox360 and the PSX3 already taught us that, as such the faults in the Xbox were more than merely stupid. Sony solved it by letting people selecting a larger drive and replacing the old drive, Microsoft had not caught on and would not catch on for the entire life cycle of the Xbox One, it is only now that they are seeing the light and their other flaws (always online) are showing that they are no longer to be the trustworthy system and trust is everything here. 

So when I see this tyrade of options and systems and whether I (and many other gamers) are willing to pay only $500 or are willing to pay $550, I wonder if these people realise that they are continuing a consumer base that goes into pillions and they have spent a massive amount of money. Microsoft is also making the mistake to hunt towards the most powerful systems whilst good games is where it is at, so where are the great games?  This is where Ubisoft comes into the mix, exclusive or not they went from great game maker to mediocre game maker and you merely have to look at the exclusive sony titles to realise that. Whilst the creation of titles gave them 90+% games, we now see that 80%+ is the best they can muster and for the most pushed deadlines and marketing promises that cannot be kept are the cause. The lack of proper testing is another matter where they failed and it impacts the choices of consoles we have, because whether we want to accept it or now, Ubisoft is a big deal in console gaming and as they fail, the exclusives are where it is at and there Sony wins, it is a landslide win. To get the greatest games we need Microsoft and Ubisoft to get back to the top or we need someone to replace them, it is that simple.

Players like Bethesda, Capcom and others help, yet the more the merrier (in the high end gaming cycle) and we are all starved for good games and the consoles are a driving force.

Let’s hope that this gaming force is driven to the max at the highest peaks for years to come by as many players as possible, for in that setting the gamer truly wins, no matter who tops the bill.

 

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Update to include monsters

I was thinking of some of the old games I used to play, especially one I never mastered. The game was released in 1985; I played the Atari ST edition. The game was called ‘Balance of Power‘ and it was basically the east versus the west and through the interface you could interfere (take control of) the balance of power between east and west. In the end I got overly comfortable to the expression “You have ignited a nuclear war. And no, there is no animated display of a mushroom cloud with parts of bodies flying through the air. We do not reward failure“, yes diplomacy was never my forte. There was an update 5-10 years later when the 1990 edition was launched, I never played that edition.

I believe that the world is ready for a true update of that game. When we add the atrocities by Turkey only a few days ago, when we add the Khashoggi debacle and the impact of social media and spin doctors at the heads of media outlets we see that the world has changed to a much larger degree and the impact of what actually could happen is perhaps worthy of a new game. We need to see and play with the impact of ISIS minded forces as political parties play with the impact on a global stage. The fact that the USA is no longer a real superpower and the fact that the treasury of Saudi Arabia, the consumer base of India as the technology footing of China are much larger influences than foreseen; we get to debate a much larger spectrum of what the balance of power looks like. I believe that when the people see the impact of these elements, we see that the world reshapes almost like some Sim City version with larger repercussions. When we consider the global powers of Google and Facebook we see that the game of world politics gets filtered by economic markers. The evolution of what was once regarded as the ‘Balance of Power‘ is optionally now the stage for a larger form of balance (or is that a forum of balance) staged in a collection of seesaws where one resets the balance of two others. the old balance of power staged on the bear and eagle are outdone, less valid, the entire proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran clearly shows that and the impact of the media as they filter the news is also a larger impact and we have never been able to truly look at the impact there is, hence the idea of a new Balance of power, optionally called: ‘the Power to balance powers‘, the optional new truth that Turkey is the fourth power to instigate multiple genocides (America as it degraded the population of Native American tribes to zero, as well as the Catholic powers who removed well over a dozen civilisations, and Russian combined actions in 1931 and 1932) is something we need to consider in a much larger scope.

It is this stage where we look at the news and we are confronted with ‘The Kurds’ commander in chief explains why his forces are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin‘, I have no way of seeing how this plays out, but there will be larger repercussions on many stages. It is time that the youth takes a serious look at the large issues that their parents are dumping on their doorstep, we need to figure things out and it is time that this is done out in the open, no longer hidden behind a screen of media filters and silencing diplomatic teams as they are trying to remain ‘non-accountable’ towards actions chosen.

The problem is not merely that we ignore the actions; the larger stage is that all kinds of ‘compromises’ are being made for the long term and the next generation needs to learn what those repercussions are and I believe that the right video game could do this. The previous generation was apparently taught that evil should never be allowed to win, yet 25 years after WW2 we all became complacent and we thought that evil was gone, evil never is and we all have optionally become part of evil as we condone the actions of many, hide behind the shallow needs that social media offers and we remain unaware as the news is decided by the wealthy (read: corporations) as they became the shareholders, stake holders and advertisers; they get to tell the media and the news what is important, what is filtered out. That is the stage where the balance of power can educate a lot of people just how dangerous our status is at present, not dangerous as if a war comes, we are beyond that, I mean dangerous as we have set the stage for multiple generations of anger, hatred and feelings of revenge, and a growing lack of tolerance towards one another. It is almost like a 4 seat seesaw and each of these seats is the balancing point for another seesaw, it becomes a game of trying to stay balanced, it also means that there is a lack of movement available, which implies that some parties will be about claiming actions when none (or that specific one) was not available.

when we see the media, we are pushed to the question ‘What is the omitted Information that Remains Missing?‘, this is a spin on two levels, the first is ‘Which question should have been asked?’, which brings us to ‘Has a quote or testimonial been taken out of context?‘ this is harder to answer, but it is an influence, which gets influenced by: ‘Is someone approaching the issue from a different set of values?‘, as well as the stated answers ‘Are the claims supported by well-done research as well as based on reliable sources?‘ and that is the foundation for merely looking at the media how it filters information, the entire stage becomes a much harder game to program, yet should it not be done because of that?

And that is all before we get to the political and diplomatic stage on “If the answer is not helpful, can we change the question to make it so?” these two elements interacting in media causes all kinds of communication (read: presentation) issues whilst both sides remain intentionally ignorant to the equation. The next generation needs to be educated on what a mess this generation is creating. That part is seen (only in part) with: ‘12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia‘ (source; NY times), with the quote “The Russian Air Force has repeatedly bombed hospitals in Syria in order to crush the last pockets of resistance to President Bashar al-Assad, according to an investigation by The New York Times“, which was set to events on May 5th 2019, many newspapers gave that information when it happened, the repeat from the NY Times gives us the quote “Russia’s position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has shielded it from scrutiny and made United Nations agencies reluctant to accuse the Russian Air Force of responsibility“, this is important as the United Nations Security council is now presented as an umbrella that offers a shield from actions it was supposed to stop, a stage we knew existed, but not to the degree we see now.

So when we see the NY Times quote: “Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital in southern Idlib Province served around 200,000 people before being destroyed in a Russian airstrike on May 5” which comes with assisted high resolution graphics of 40 mega pixels or better whilst we look at the exploding hospital, we wonder how lucky that photographer was, or perhaps someone knew in advance what would happen, we are left with too many questions and no real explanation that fits the morality and values within us.

It is becoming more and more important that we see the world as it is now being pushed by the monsters among us, we like to set the stage to merely Iran, Turkey, ISIS and Hezbollah, yet the real monsters are the ones claiming to fight the atrocities and in the end merely facilitate to it, it goes beyond the wear events, the technological feats we see in regards to 5G is also a global impact, and we can go on and on on all the events that are part of the stage, and it would soon become too complex. Perhaps that too would be the strength on any new version of ‘Balance of Power‘ the fact that too many issues are intertwined for several reasons. Yet when we add greed to the mix, the game becomes awfully transparent, add to that the actions by some making claims that they cannot prove; the created stage of carefully phrased denials, all out in the open and when we ask specifics we are left with half-baked answers that are not answers at all. This is a part that plays a role in all this, we seem to forget that governments have a duty to properly inform us, yet in the listing from government, through corporations to media to the viewer, we forget that there are three iterations of information, all bound by their own personal issues. It is almost an applied variation from Mark M. Lowenthal ‘Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy‘, the application of stages towards the drive of any policy (governmental or not) is also baked into the media and is subject to what we are allowed to see. Consider that impact, as well as the impact of data on the whole, it might become a massively complex new game, yet when we are able to show the impact of these elements to the people, we would optionally get a much more informed person, one who ends up asking the right questions, the questions that politicians, CEO’s and CFO’s fear. When that part comes out in the open, we get a first stage to truly fix things.

Yet with my sense of humour, we should make a lot more space to include the stages that Darrell Huff introduced us to when we were given ‘How to Lie with Statistics‘, and this gets us to today, we know that the balance of power is not merely what we have, what we get and how we get there. There is an internal stage where political power is also set to the stage of people in jobs (as enabled consumers) that was proven ages ago. Yet how that stage is managed is an entirely different matter. the pushed stage where enablers, facilitators and consumers become the ‘have group’ the rest will be the ‘have not’ group.

As we got told today (source: the conversation), we see this stage in Australia, “Centrelink generally requires evidence of looking for 20 jobs per month in order to keep receiving Newstart“, that sounds fine in theory, yet in the applied practice we see that the job search government links to a job search collector, whilst the seeding player of this group is another matter. So when we look at IT jobs in Sydney we see: ‘594 jobs with 715 positions‘, with the largest bulk (over 90%) being Adzuna, yet the reviews from some are stating that this source is riddled with ‘scam’ mentions, as well as overly positive claimed stages. There is a larger issue afoot and there is not enough scrutiny, even as the people can go to really valid places like Indeed, LinkedIn and Jora; the choice we see in the governmental site calls for question of scrutiny.

Why on earth did I mention that?

We see that the balance of power is set to what is done and what can be achieved, yet when we are confronted with a stage that is not available or realistic, how will we interact? When we are set in a stage of age discrimination on a stage where our issues are not heard, or set in a long winded stage of registration where the IT parts fails too often, the government gets to optionally report that no complaints were received. In Australia the mess with Centrelink data matching, the failing Biometrics Identification Services, the UK failures on IT in the NHS and the list goes on where the costs keeps on adding billion after billion, that directly impacts a government, its budget and its waning options, very much issues on a larger scale and the claim we see with “aggressive ICT outsourcing has led to agencies being left at the mercy of external vendors“, whilst there is no proof that growing the internal options would not have resolved the issue. It is a stage where corporations have a hold over the government, pushing cheaper solutions (another reference to age discrimination get pushed to the backbench and no solutions come forward. this is a direct application of the earlier mentioned ‘in the listing from government, through corporations to media to the viewer, we forget that there are three iterations of information, all bound by their own personal issues‘, which in the application of the Balance of Power means that corporations have a much larger option to disable or limit government actions. That is what the impact of corporatocracy is. In the original games there was no real corporatocracy, nowadays there is. The US is perhaps the strongest example and the impact we see in the FDA and DEA (see yesterday’s article) as well as the ATF limited through the powers of the NRA and by corporations addressing attachments to governmental needs we see a larger impact of where governments show limitations on the world stage.

Yes, the entire game has become a lot more complex which in the end leads us to the question, is any application of the ‘Balance of Power‘ still actual and realistic? That is partially seen in 2013 when the NY Times gave us: “Eight major companies, led by Google and Microsoft, are calling for tighter controls on surveillance of their customers’ data by governments“, yet the opposite was never put in place, the existence of Cambridge Analytics, the application of selling consumer data as well as the abuse of data collection through apps has never been stopped. We get all kinds of options to market through mined data giving a larger rise to corporatocracy, whilst the media remains silent on the dangers of corporatocracy. So when we see ‘This is what happens when corporations run the government‘ (Washington Post, March 2019) and ‘Australia’s march towards corporatocracy‘ (the conversation Feb 2017) we see merely two mentions on Google search page one, whilst he situation set the stage that there should have been dozen of clear mentions and investigations, yet the media seemingly have almost zero mentions, how is that? I think that there is a clear stage where corporations do not want to see any mention if possible and as I mentioned earlier ‘in the listing from government, through corporations to media to the viewer, we forget that there are three iterations of information, all bound by their own personal issues‘, and here we see how ‘through corporations to the media‘ is directly inhibiting exposure. The Balance of Power would be an awesome game if we can incorporate it into a new game, especially when we see how the media and corporations make sure that a lot of the information will not be shown, active censorship in nations that proclaim freedom of speech and freedom of expression, when you own the printing house you get to tell the people what they care about, we apparently forgot about that small part again and again.

It is the beginning of a rigged game where the next generation gets to pay for the screw ups of the current generation, feel free to ignore or deny that, yet when we consider the US with a debt of $21 trillion, the EU has around € 10.1 trillion and on a global scale we see that the Global debt had reached an all-time high of $184 trillion in January 2019, we see that the Balance of Power is a term that has become debatable, a stage where banks are basically in charge, limiting or directing the options that any government is allowed to consider. The original game never anticipated that reality, but there you have it. John Perkins tried to inform the audience with ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004)’, yet even after Berrett-Koehler published it, gaining an instant bestseller, whilst the major U.S. media refused to discuss Confessions or the fact that, because of it, terms such as “EHM” and “corporatocracy” were now appearing on college syllabi. A stage where the media claiming to advocate freedom of speech, whilst we see that its absence is allegedly corporation controlled, a direct (still alleged) piece of evidence showing that whatever balance of Power we envision, when it is set to nations and governments we get less than 50% of the players in view, making a larger injustice to the people.

In this, I wonder who exactly the real monsters are; are they identified by the acts of nations like Turkey, Iran and North Korea, are they the acts by organisations like ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas, or are the corporations and the media they control a lot less innocent in all this. Will the next generation be ready for what we, the current generation have facilitated for?

I honestly do not know.

 

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It’s been that long

I got alerted to a milestone yesterday on YouTube, you see, last week was the 25th anniversary of System Shock, one of my most beloved games from the past. I still remember the two moments that set the milestones for this game. The first was the PC Format by Future plc. About a month before the release, PC format included the entire first level of the game (medical level). So you got about an hour of gameplay into that game, a month later the game arrived and of course, I had to have that game on day one! I did and that started a tour of around a week getting through the game. Someone was nice enough to stream the game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IzNzVAxk8E) the stream starts at 10:00. Even now, hearing the intro music still gives me the good shivers. For a game to do that is so rare, it is to some degree scary. I am still awaiting the remastered edition by NightDive Studios. It will be launched a little later than planned (2020) but on all the consoles, so I might get that happy feeling again on all my consoles.

This is the foundation of better than great gaming, the story, the emersion and the control. The game offered all three to a great degree. That part is also important as System Shock 2, a game that came 5 years later had almost all the same controls, the first game was the founding father of RPG games, and control was close to that perfect. Graphics did upgrade by a lot, yet the shock (for me) in this game that the game only sold 170,000 copies, not much for a game this perfect, as such I do hope that the remaster will hand out the multimillion copy achievement sold. When we look at PC Gamer we see: “System Shock smokes. It is the most fully immersive game world I have ever experienced“, as well as “no matter what kind of game you’re looking for, you’ll find something in System Shock to delight you“. Finishing with “unquestionably raises computer gaming to a new level” (at https://web.archive.org/web/20000309153138/http://www.pcgamer.com/reviews/1024.html), I gave the game a similar review and gave it a 95% score when I reviewed it.

From that moment on, I reviewed RPG games using System Shock as the minimum bar, as you might imagine not many games got to that level. It was also the first game where ‘leaning around corners‘ became an option in shooting games. As far as you see the stream and listening to the makers of the game, you get the part how this game became a trendsetter of excellence, even if they do not mention it, it was a labour of love and passion gets to be the deciding driver in any game towards excellence.

Depending on your age, consider the game that you would play again after 10, 20 and 25 years. What titles come to mind? In my view Elite Dangerous (after 35 years), Ultima 4 (after 35 years), System Shock (after 25 years), Ultima 7 (after 25 years), System Shock 2 (after 20 years), and the list goes on, but it is not a long list, games that are dipped in excellence are rare to say the least. Yet I am a gamer, a game junkie and like all other gamers I remain hopeful that another developer gets it right to the largest degree, Ubisoft did that with Assassins Creed 2 (and Brotherhood) then stuffed up to a much larger degree until Assassins Creed Origins was released. That is why the scrutiny of 93%+ games is so essential. Most gamers will take a turn in other direction if it gives them excellence, yet when they leave their comfort zone in gaming, excellence is the only marker that they will accept to make them do so. Games like Mass Effect 2, The Witcher 3, Grand Theft Auto V, Horizon Zero Dawn, all games that relied on near perfection; it is a stage that is seldom reached. And in all this the FX Slogan was key (for me it is) ‘The story is everything‘. Horizon Zero Dawn is perhaps the strongest example. In the beginning I enjoyed the game, yet it was the storyline after the proving that set the stage for me to continue and learn more and more. The origin story of Elisabeth Sobeck and Aloy is absolutely marvellous. Yes, I have seen the rants against the game, rants like ‘Giving up Horizon Zero Dawn‘ (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv_1DzGf_1s). His response ‘I just don’t find it interesting anymore‘. Yes, I do not agree, but it is his view, and his view is valid to him, just when we see this he is still not completing: ‘The War – Chief’s trail‘. Yet the best story parts were still coming up and the game takes it time getting into the story, it is important to show this, because you might have a different love for games, I love stealth games, games with an essential need for stealth, not everyone loves this, I get that. You have to realise that, I might not be the voice for you; I might have other loves in gaming. I was never a lover of GTA5, I admire it for its excellence, but it is not my game, it is however for millions of other gamers.

In this view it is important to find more voices until you find the reviewer that aligns with your fulfilment in gaming. It is easy to find good reviews and for many games a lot will have the same view, but in the 90%+ range you need to find the one voice that is on your level of gaming. It is easy to merely see that The Last of Us was a great game, pretty much everyone will agree, yet Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne? I loved both games; I never got to complete them. With Bloodborne I actually stopped (after a dozen attempts), I still have the game as it shows excellence on many levels and the engine is sublime, but it is also an excellent example for ratings. I would give it 91%, yet others will give it 93%-95% and now we have the review issue. Are their reviews better? They might be, they might be better at playing this game, more important, they might highlight things I missed, because I was not great at this game. Graphics and engines are easy, the subtle parts defining Bloodborne (as well as Dark Souls 3) is another matter. And now you come into the mix thinking it was merely an 85% game as you did not like the game (which is fair enough), finding the right reviewer is important, more important, the one that aligns with your game play and this is where a game like System Shock differs. The game remained playable for a much larger audience. Now we accept that the gaming bar was not as high in 1994 as it is in 2014, yet playability had remained similar over 25 years, it is my view that Bloodborne is a great game, yet, to me, it is not as playable. That small distinction is important when you seek out buying a full priced game that totally rocks your world.

To me the story is a deciding factor, whilst play style is the most important second. That part is visible to many who remember Metroid Prime on GameCube; I still love that game as well. I never got beyond 98% completion, and I would love to play it again getting to 100%, that is because the game is extremely playable with a play style that is set to comfort. We might sneer at the graphic level (compared to the Xbox and Playstation2 in those days), yet Metroid Prime still delivered as an equal and better to anything the other two could offer. That part validates the 97% rating it received. Yet, if it is not your game, would you still regard it as high?

The question is important as System Shock did make that cut, even by those not loving the game style, they were all impressed with the game, it set a new bar of quality, Metroid Prime and Horizon Zero Dawn both did that as well.

And it is there where we see the stage for streaming games, for Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and thee we see the links. Apple Arcade shows smooth gaming, but not hi-res gaming. That is not an issue if you consider Metroid Prime, the lowest resolution of the three consoles delivered the best gaming experience of all. You can see this (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q73cHEAwKVw), I found the top 10 interesting, but not overwhelming, of course the number one is like some Zelda clone, with decent graphics, but not great graphics. There are 100 games announced yet there too I wonder if people are willing to pay $5 a month, $60 a year to do this, You can argue if you can find even 3 games you really like, then the money is well spent. So it is a decent idea, the issue I have with the stage is that the solution will be years two and later. However, in a family setting the game changes massively, the cost is per family (up to 5 players) as such $1 per person per month is just too good to pass up.
More important is the fact that the games look amazing on the iPad, so there is that to consider. My larger personal issue is long term. For me it is $8 month (Australia), as such in Australia it gets down to $100 a year. It has good games and the important dig is: no ads, unlimited access to 100+ new games rolling out later this year, as well as download for off-line playing are the catchers that will make people try this. Consider the initial $100 for the entire year, seems a lot, but playing 100 games for the price of one is still a game changer. I am assuming that you can only play for as long as you are a member, but we get the same on consoles, so that should not be the issue.

The arrival of Apple Arcade and Google Stadia is still important, but not for the reason you think. System Shock was important as the game was a true innovator in gaming. These new streaming services are set on a stage where the amounts of gamers imply the revenue for the makers. Even as marketing get you in the beginning, the bulk of gamers will push for games that are TRULY innovative and I have learned and seen that true innovation pushes the envelope of games in general. System Shock, Command and Conquer, Metal Gear Solid, Wolfenstein 3D, Gran Turismo, Warcraft 3, Minecraft, Tombraider, Diablo, Zelda – Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, Super Mario 64, Half-Life, Doom. These are on a short list of the most innovative games in history and the most important part is that most of them started on systems lacking resources. Systems like the first PlayStation, the Nintendo 64 and the PC-Pentium One. Most mobiles and tablets now surpass what was possible even in those maxed out years. As such, innovation was always about imagination and I love the idea of streaming services as it pushes the need for innovation. I go back to System Shock one and two, yet some might remember Molyneux’s titanic achievement Black and White, a god video game. A game where you influence actions and not control all actions, when you realise that innovation is creation linked to imagination, we start considering the lack of resources required, not the max of resources. In this games and gamers are about finding the right note, the right chord that makes your heart sing. System Shock still does that to me 25 years later (OK, Elite Dangerous does it as well after 35 years).

I still play Blockheads by Dave Frampton after 6 years on my very first iPad, it is basically the only reason I still use my very first iPad for anything else but reading (until I get a new one). I got the game to deal with my Minecraft addiction when I was not at home and I never regretted getting it (oh, and I found the tablet edition of Minecraft not that playable), even today (last night actually) I still play Blockheads.

We might think that innovation fades, as it would over time, but I personally learned that innovation creates a captive audience regardless of time, it is a personal observation and you might not agree, but I also believe that this is the stepping stone for both Apple Arcade and Google Stadia. Consider the re-released consoles. CBM64 mini that gives us: Boulder Dash, Paradroid, Jumpman, Temple of Apshai Trilogy, Uridium, Impossible Mission (1+2), Winter Games and Summer Games II all games that could be upgraded and give a new audience the games they love to play. The CBM 64 brought so much innovation in games with only 64KB available; these games became the foundation for better games as systems upgraded (Atari ST and CBM Amiga). In this Nintendo with their 64 was pushing the envelope even further, Super Mario 64 is just one title, Goldeneye (named after the bond movie) set the bar so high that it was still the most desired game a decade later, even as the Wii relaunched the game, it ended up being inferior to the original, that is the level of excellence we lost out on and in this resources are not the issue, these are games that could easily be streamed and offer gaming perfection.

The list goes on and it would take too long, yet when we consider sources like My Abandonware and other sources (like Amiga Emulators) we see optional chests containing hundreds of titles that are ready to be remade and a lot of it has no IP protection, as such the best programmers can take the great vision and turn it into a cash maker through streaming. I reckon that is what both Google Stadia and Apple Arcade are hoping for, I am uncertain to see a winner at present, but the games that make it will be the deciding factor and even as the games on Apple are not great, they are still off to a good start, I myself hope that the historic database will inspire game makers, and this is a field where both genders can excel, you merely need to remember the name Danielle Bunten Berry (M.U.L.E. and Seven Cities of Gold) to realise that creativity was key, not gender. As such I do hope that we see both genders remain active, even as Danielle Bunten Berry left us in 1998, her games could stay around for much longer, that is the other part of innovation, it has no expiration date; it is almost timeless. If you doubt that, consider her games as well as those by Roberta Williams (King’s quest series). That is actually another part of gaming, there the playing field for genders is almost level as creativity not ego decides on the quality of the game.

As such it might have been that long, but in the end, the timeline was not long enough, I am willing to get into streaming to some degree (Assassins Creed Odyssey might get lag issues) but there are hundreds of games that will never have that issue and the list of games that will hit the spot is a lot larger than anyone ever considered, especially when a good idea (or a great idea) gets upgraded with innovations that were not available when a certain game came out.

Consider the game Command and conquer, optionally a game like Battle for Middle Earth, or even Dungeon Keeper 2. We have gone through those games and finished all the maps; now consider the issues you face when the maps are created procedural, would your strategy still hold up? That question impacts all three games. Often the strategy was in the map design, take that away and the challenge changes by a lot. I believe that ‘It has been that long‘ is a premise that does not really exist in gaming, I truly believe that System Shock will capture the hearts of new gamers, I believe that upgrading innovation that was will give life to other games, even games that were in the 80%-90% and upgrade them by an optional 15%, and be honest, what game maker would not love to be linked to making a 90%+ game? At present Ubisoft is seemingly proud of their 70% games (so are a few other makers mind you), so we can see the essential need of excellence in gaming, the question is who will bring it and with two new players (gaming providers) entering that field, answering those question becomes a lot more important as we (gamers in general) have had our fill of mediocre games.

Even now we see that as we still yearn for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion as well as Skyrim; I stated to Richard Garriott (the man behind the Ultima series) a while go, if we could get the Oblivion/Skyrim engine and create Sosaria to life, we would have a winner that could entice millions of gamers. Skyrim with over 30 million sold is clear evidence of that and the tales of Sosaria were founded on great story-lines and compelling interaction of personal choices and philosophical concepts. The entire Ultima line (story 4 and later) are all about eh seven virtues (Honesty, Justice, Honour, Sacrifice, Compassion, Spirituality and Humility), it would be the foundation of 6 games, each one surpassing the previous one and to see the evolution from isometric to first person would be the game changer for anyone who loved that story-line, in addition, the Elder Scrolls never did concepts to that degree, which is not their flaw, but it could be the strength of any new Ultima IP.

It is in that part where I see System Shock one and two, it was near perfect and it is still ready for a whole new generation of players. Especially when you consider that the original System Shock on floppy (yes there was a floppy version) was a mere 15Mb, and Metroid Prime on GameCube was less than 1.5Gb, whilst Goldeneye was a mere 64Mb, so as you can see size was never the deciding factor.

I believe that 2020 will be an interesting year for games and gamers. I believe that those relying on ridiculous large games and high resource requiring games (like a Core i9-9980XE) will find that their size issue gets thumbed by true playability and innovation setting the stage for much better games after that. Innovation remains a game changer for games and I wonder how much change we get to see in 2021-2022.

 

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That one place

There is a place where everyone is the same, where it does not matter what your convictions are, what your gender is or how you swing your love life. That is the one thing I always believed, I remain faithful to the notion that games and gaming is the one place where it does not matter what you are, who you are and how you are, as long as you are fine that is. I grew up with games, I reviewed and tested games for well over a decade and played them for additional decades beyond that. I was already a gamer when the term did not even exist.

I always believed that games had, in those days two distinct powers. One was to entertain the person playing; the other was to lower the threshold of using computers, I ended up being correct on both counts. I started my gaming life in 1982, almost 36 years ago. I started with a Commodore VIC-20, after that a Commodore 64 and after that I was off to the races. So, the VIC-20, CBM-64, Atari 2600, CD-32, Atari ST, Amiga 500, PC, MAC, Nintendo-64, Sega Megadrive, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation 1, 2, 3, and 4, Xbox, Xbox360 and Xbox One. I had them all and played them all. I saw games evolve from blocks; I played Pong and many arcade games. I always hoped that the women would not keep on considering it ‘an act too nerdy’ and behold, in the beginning of the second millennia I saw more and more women taking up gaming to some extent. I always thought that gaming was a true equaliser and to some extent it became one, so I was a little upset to see ‘eSports analyst receives death threats after thanking men on women’s day‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/mar/09/soembie-soe-gschwind-penski-overwatch-league), there she is on the article smiling and announcing the Blizzard event, looking like an overwatch player. Soe Gschwind-Penski was not the pesky Peski adversarial player that was up against people, she was hosting the event as the excellent eSports commentator she is regarded to be. So, the lady born in the land of Cheese and Chocolate gave the tweet: “It’s #InternationalWomensDay I’d like to give a special shoutout to all the men in our lives who have supported us, gave us a voice when we had none, fought for our cause and treated us the way we all ought to treat each other…like a fellow human being – no race, no gender.” as @Soembie she gave us all a nice tweet, all positive in every direction giving a voice to an international day. So for the utter life of me, I cannot comprehend the fact that people hand out responses that lead to: ““Ive gotten death threats and hundreds of hate messages the past 20 minutes because I thanked men for treating me as their equal, on a day which is all about womens struggle for equality,” Gschwind-Penski posted. “Hate, because I am grateful for the men in our lives who fight alongside us for our rights.”“, from my point of view that could not have been done by anyone who is an actual real gamer. I see it as actions from people pretending to be ‘gamers’; pretending to know anything at all. Like those people claiming that they finished ‘Dead Space in Impossible mode in two hours‘, or something as ridiculous like that. They tend to use cheats and god mode codes or alterations so that they can run through a game not getting hurt by anything, they are not and never will be players. I never had any regard or respect for them. So am I a great gamer? Nope! I am a good gamer and I like to enjoy games, so I will never run through an RPG. What is the purpose of running through Skyrim, or Fallout 4 and missing on the magnificent views the game offers? I even admire the fact that Fallout 4 can be played as a pacifist. I never did that, but the fact that it is there is just awesome, it makes for a gamer to be an actual gamer (cause for a golden Achievement; Hint, hint). I am not one for multiple shooting games. I used to like it, but Unreal Tournament spoiled that for me. All people hopping like kangaroos through the game, it was just too weird for me. Still, there is plenty of awesomeness in going down the throat of Diablo 3 with three other players. A game I loved since the very first Diablo and my team of 7 hardcore mode level 70 characters are decent evidence of that.

So in that setting the entire abuse of Soe Gschwind-Penski makes no sense at all. Even when we see: “The two-year-old OWL did make headlines last month when South Korean teenager Kim Se-yeon signed with the Shanghai Dragons to become the league’s first female player. But high-profile eSports competitions remain a male-dominated space: Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team.

You see, for the most finding female gamers, serious gamers are still a rare thing. So even as there might be a case in regards to the fact that ‘Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team‘, we must equally realise that for the longest time, even today that a high estimate from my speculative view is that the women in gaming are set to a mere 10% at best (I apologise if I am wrong). So we are happy that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski, Aoife Wilson (@AoifeLockhart) from Eurogamer, Stephanie Claire Bendixsen (aka Hex), and Anita Sarkeesian. The list is way too short and we can point fingers at the reasons, but in the end I am not certain if there is an actual real culprit. If there is one than I might blame the makers of these review sites and channels as the culprit for not hiring more women, or is that actually the non-capability of finding more women?

You see, I started gaming in the age when nearly all women remained in enthusiastic denial of games for well over a decade. I know that because in those days woman in gaming was extremely rare. Roberta Williams was one of the very few. Jane Jensen would not appear until a decade later and the writing she did on EcoQuest and Police Quest 3 put her on the map (both excellent games). Yet the last two were two of a very small group of game designers, not game critics or reviewers (or hosts). Yet, I still believe that women are as welcome in the gaming industry and the gaming world as much as anyone else. Anyone who does not agree with that view is of course allowed to disagree, but he is not an actual gamer plain and simple!

You see, it truly does not matter what you are or who you are in gaming. It is merely the setting that you can hold your own in that virtual team, once you do you are in it for life! There are several women that I have met who can hold their own in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on platinum level. That is all it requires and even as the settings change per game, they are all about being able to hold your own and strengthen the multiplayer (MP) team. So in all this I have absolutely no clue why anyone would give death threats to any female gamer and I feel certain that this was not dome by any real gamer, at best a wannabe, and optionally merely a game hater and we have no real use for each of these two groups.

It is my view that it needs to be dealt with. It is in that regard that I remember an article (and found it) which was from 2014. The Guardian gave us (at https://www.theguardian.com/culture/australia-culture-blog/2014/nov/28/alanah-pearce-tells-on-her-internet-trolls-to-their-mothers) , so when we read the tweet “Sometimes young boys on Facebook send me rape threats, so I’ve started telling their mothers“, most actual gamers would be laughing out loud and when we read the results “more than 11,000 users had retweeted her comment, and more than 20,000 had favourited it, eight hours after Pearce made her original post” game reviewer Alanah Pearce struck gold! Actually, in my view it does not really matter how young or old the person is, when it comes to the threats that Soe Gschwind-Penski was exposed to, it should be standard practise to tell on them to their mommy’s. For them to be exposed as the utter disappointment they show themselves to be to others might not be a bad thing. The wannabe’s will stop pretending to be gamers and hide in a corner, the rest will get a quick moral adjustment they desperately needed.

In my view gaming is for all and everyone. It does not matter what your gender, religion orientation or conviction is. The world of gaming is about the gaming world you enter, whether that is in the depths of a cathedral in Diablo, the house in Overwatch, the landing site on Mass Effect 3, or the power chamber in Unreal Tournament. You only have to hold your own. If you cannot do that, choose a lower level and get there, or get better. It is the one part that every player can do and that is why gaming will remain a world of inclusion, it is the only place where your inclusion only relies on you doing your part which is awesome in nearly everyone’s view. And the nicest part is that if you are not ready today, you can practice, get better and return, gender was never an issue.

Yet, there is still a long way to go, not because of gamers or gender, the fact that the President of the United States is still a few cans short of a six pack and that evidence is shown in light of “Donald Trump will host executives from the video game industry at the White House on Thursday, resurrecting a debate over the link between violent video games and gun-related deaths in the aftermath of the Parkland high school shooting“, so how long until women (and some men) will turn away from Overwatch out of fear for being seen as an aspiring psychopath?

Do you think I am kidding?

The foundation of all this is values and inherent choices. The choice an abuser makes is seen in two settings. Psychology Today gives us the 5 types of abuse:

– Emotional (killing pet, playing mind games)
– Verbal (calling names)
– Technological (GPS system /Face book sabotage)
– Sexual (forcing sex while sleep or based on the bible)
– Physical (killing, punching, choking)

The issue is seen in the first two, emotional, and then verbal after that we get the physical one. Yet in gaming this is all in a virtual setting and the gamer knows this. So they know that the person they fight with is a virtual person, and in games like Half-Life counter-strike we know that the opposing person is a virtual one too. The issue is that every psychopath might be a gamer to some extent, but that person will not be able to tell the virtual world and the real world apart. They merely want to hurt people, to actually abuse them, a gamer never does. It was that same article that gave me something that I did not know. Did you know that an actual abuser ‘Holds very rigid gender roles‘? So basically these threatening people might be actual abusers and reporting them becomes a duty for every gamer, not merely every women threatened. This person, usually a male regards himself as ‘King of the Castle’, it is her duty to cater (and service) him. As I am not like that, I had no idea, but that becomes a worry and Trump is not making it easier. If anything he is currently catering to abusers and psychopaths. This could be a comforting notion if the entire issue was not that worrying, but it actually is.

Then we get the worrying part, worrying because it is a dangerous step. As we see ‘Treatment for this population‘, we get to see “Group Therapy is important because it allows the batterer to be confronted by his peers on his behavior. I’ve facilitated groups with 16 men in the room at times it would become very confrontational but it was important for the men to be held accountable for their behavior by other men and group facilitators so this might translate into “making them a group of inclusion, allow and accept them in our midst and calling them openly out on every transgression they make“. I for one am happy to shun abusers and never letting them in our midst, but I recognise that I would make matters worse, in my defence, I feel more compelled to protect my fellow gamer, whether he is a man or a woman, because quality gamers are rare and I feel that their protection is more important than curing a non-gamer in the gaming world. This is merely my personal view.

In the end I would call to my fellow gamers to call out those who attack gamers like Soe Gschwind-Penski because our population of true gamers is not that large when we compare 2-3 million on a total of 8 billion. I would love for that number to double the next few years, so as we grow we will hopefully see more women join our ranks.

In opposition

There is however a part I need to mention. I never agreed with it, but it is a view we must not ignore. In 2013 (at https://www.newstatesman.com/if-you-love-games-you-are-not-a-gamer), in the New Statesman there was a piece. In its origin the New Statesman is a British political and cultural magazine published in London. Founded as a weekly review of politics and literature on 12 April 1913, so a magazine from before WW1, gave us “The idea of the ‘gaming community’ needs to die“, it is one view. You see, as gamers we segregate ourselves, I am happy to do just that because I am proud to be a gamer, I always have been. One quote applies to the origin of the gamers (in the 80’s). With: “gamers are depicted as the contemporary nerd group, a mildly downtrodden crowd, shunned by the jocks and achievers. Gamers are the losers who spend their days in darkened bedrooms furiously tapping on controllers or keyboards in a solitary pursuit that sits close to masturbation in the mind“, in the old days that was certainly true as the image presented of gamers as others saw them. Yet is that true now? Now the gaming industry is a $100+ billion a year. Now we see that people group and identify with the worlds of Skyrim, post-apocalyptic USA and as other groups are formed around successful games like GTA5, Far Cry, League of Legends and Overwatch that image is not only no longer true, it is in opposition of all those developers called by the need of $$$ (and their developing powers). So when we see “Within the next century ‘gamers’ will be a term that encompasses every gay and transgender person, every girl and woman, every politician in the cabinet, everyone with a title in the House of Lords, every teacher, nurse, banker, social worker, dustman and paedophile“, which is an unsettling truth. It is unsettling because even as we all want our fellow gamers to be merely gamers regardless of gender, we cannot (and perhaps should not) see what they are in real life. So it is not impossible that the serial killer hides in GTA5 multiplayer, killing whatever he/she can until the call for real blood is needed. So my view is in opposition of President Trump, he is stating that every rectangle is a square, whilst I identify that every square is a rectangle, as well as proving him wrong at the same time. It is not the same but there is a foundation and a foundation where a person can hide in anonymity. I belief it is a good thing, but it could be abused by those who have in ‘the core of the matter’ no business being there. In that part the Statesman does not make the case but the call for the cancellation of any community is not overtly evil. It is a non-invalid view, especially when we see “the urge to form groups with like-minded people is a universal one. But when that collective power is turned against those on the margins of the group“, so even as we are gamers, and we unite and think alike, but when that makes us a target, is the call valid to endanger some of us? I believe that when we unite we are more than ready for those attacking us, even if we merely start protecting our fellow gamers by calling the mommy and daddy of their attackers, no matter what age they have.

In the end I hope that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski realise that every real gamer is happy that she is around and that we have no qualms about her presence, even if she, in addition, defeats us in the most humiliating way. It merely ups the ante for us to get better, and that is in the core of multiplayer gaming, a drive to improve, a fellow gamer that makes any of us a better gamer, how great is such a life?

Live it to find out!

 

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How it should be

I have had my issues with the latest released games. No quality previews, no quality exams, just after released reviews. In that regard Gamespot has lost a lot of respect in the eyes of many gamers. An example is Dying Light released on January 27th (Digital copy) and reviewed by Kevin VanOrd on January 30th, 2015. It is at present debatable what value Gamespot has left for the gamers at large.

In opposition to this is the review by ‘the RadBrad’ Published on December 10th 2014 (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLHR5smxbsc).

To be honest I have never been too much for Zombie games and Zombie movies. I have seen a few good ones, but it was never my cup of tea. Why tell you this part? Because this game, as far as shown by RadBrad blew me away! This game looks beyond awesome. The graphics are smooth and it looks pretty detailed. When I took a second slow look, there were a few little ‘glitch’ like parts, but they were minimal. The graphics in the houses and rooms were top notch. This was the PC edition, so I am curious regarding the PS4 edition, time will tell. The video is a must if you are interested in this game. So now I get to the second issue. Kevin rated the game 7 out of 10 with as one bad mark ‘Too many missions are either boring, frustrating, or just plain bad‘. The first hour video (by Radbrad) shows a clear intro on how to play the game, which was pretty amazing. So, the question becomes how this game was just set to 7/10 (partially questioning Kevin’s reasoning). The game is very open world, but still scripted into missions, all in Zombie style. The approach is not unlike several RPG games, now in a modern setting. Here I get my first issue, Infamous: Second son, a game that started good, but then declined in many ways gets a rating higher than this game. So far this game is all full on great, so let’s take another look at the game. When I looked at the smooth Gamespot view, I did see the critique given, there is however an issue, these glitches seem to be PC glitches, were the consoles not compared? That is all a factor, especially as PC, Xbox One and PS4 are all separate consumer markets. YouTube also had a review by Playstation Access (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AyhZyOMX6A), showing that the PC version had superior graphics, yet the PS4 version still looked really good. So as such, it seems that Dying Light is a different challenge for those into RPG’s and a passion for watching the waking dead, Dying Light seem to successfully combine the two.

Now for the timeline, what was shown by RadBrad, which was not a finished version showed a lot more quality than the Gamespot version. There is of course a difference, Gamespot covers quickly in 5 minutes, what RadBrad takes an hour to show, which gives you a better overall view, but of course, seeing the actual first 2 missions are at that point a massive spoiler. Considering that the first two missions are all about getting the feel of the game, it is not a biggie.

For the most, my biggest issue is that RadBrad covered better and more in depth almost 6 weeks before Gamespot could be bothered to do so. I do not care about the reasoning, they are supposed to be the big boys, and all sponsored up by Ubisoft no less, so the delay and lack of view is not excusable. I am not attacking Kevin on the review, glitches and issues. They are his view (and he is entitled to them), and in the movie he clearly shows the glitches. It is so interesting that the consumer was denied this insight with Assassins Creed Unity until after the game was released in the shops. Dying Light will arrive in stores in 3 weeks; the digital copy is available now (for those who cannot wait).

So, how should things be?

That is at the core, when I was a reviewer; I had access to games usually 3-4 weeks before release. In a few instances that gap was a lot less, but it did not happen too often.

Should we allow for reshaped originality?

That is the question that is linked to all this as new markets are starting to open up. It seems that Sony is finally seeing the light. Perhaps better is the fact that they are seeing the light they initially ignored and now, a year later we are slowly seeing ‘new’ versions appear, new version of previously released games. This is not a bad thing or an issue. Is borderlands 2 any less original now on the PS4 when it was released on the 360/PS3 over a year ago? The game was amazing fun and will give loads of pleasure to the new additions on nextgen systems. The linked issue to all this, is how it will be reviewed. Even it is a transfer, even if it is a combination of the game and DLC parts, will it be properly looked at?

The next step reviewers should investigate is what I would call a ‘redundancy level’ of gaming. To ‘accommodate’ the marketing divisions to optimise their path, some companies have done away with massive levels of quality control. Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Far Cry 4, Assassins Creed Unity, GTA5 and the list seems to go on, all have the same problem, when you buy the game, you are again forced online to download a day one patch, many of them well over 1Gb. It seems that for the most offline play is a thing of the past. Sony and Microsoft needed their data and they will take whatever path they need to get it. So is the last part true, or is it a path that is only in my imagination? For Halo that patch was not 1Gb, it was 20Gb, which means that for some the patch represents no less than 30% of their download bandwidth, which also makes it over 10% of the total hard drive space of the Xbox One, a little excessive, isn’t it? In addition, when looking at the Gamespot review (at http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/halo-the-master-chief-collection-review/1900-6415958/), we see that not only was the review done 4 days after release, but the day one patch issue (the mandatory 20Gb download) did not get any mention, yes, the game did not get a decent rating (6 out of 10 is not that good), but when looking at the ‘bad’ points, the mention of the day one patch is blatantly not there either. So whether we like a revamp of a game, it seems that reviewers need to up their game by a fair bit, a side Gamespot has not been on par with.

These events all link to another issue, which is now getting more and more negative visibility to the audience at large. That negative view only became stronger when Sony got hacked again, and even though not deserved, Microsoft is getting hit by this negative paint to some degree as well. It seems a little too simple to call this ‘conspiracy theory’, yet from their own site we get “Collection and use of your information by Sony Online Services is governed by the SNEA Privacy Policy, which can be found here: http://www.qriocity.com/us/en/legal-privacy“. The link throws you to a generic page where we see a menu and no privacy policy. How interesting such an oversight, whilst this was a direct link, perhaps the privacy policy was removed? In addition, no matter how much we protect our system, no matter how strong our passwords were, the fact that at Sony we find the following: “We do not require that website visitors reveal any personally identifying information in order to gain general access to our websites. However, visitors who do not wish to, or are not allowed by law to share personally identifying information, may not be able to access certain areas of our websites, participate in certain activities, or make a purchase from the PlayStation®Shop“, which is nice, because that is where the patches seem to be, so again, your data is collected, which is than downloaded because of failing security measures and shared with the world. This also has influence on gaming as such, the fact that a less than acceptable version is sold, means that the gamer is not getting value for money. No matter how great the update is, we need to be online and lose time downloading the patch and installing it, with all the additional loss of hard drive space.

This is however not about data collection, but there was a reason for the mention. As we go to ‘reshaping originality’ and ‘how things should be’, we see that even though PS4 started a relaunch with ‘The last of Us‘, which was the last gem on PS3, it is not close to being the only one. The Russian based game Metro is another ‘re’-launch. The question then becomes, will the reviewer take their time to take a proper look at these games? We have seen lack of reviewing with true new titles, how much more lacking will a relaunched title be?

Time will tell, but there is definitely a little less time as gamers are less and less positive about the quality of the latest launches, I also suspect that as the ball is fumbled in both places (reviewer and game maker) that people are less inclined to buy and more inclined to get to a place like Pirate Bay to get the goods and properly test the game, however, there will be a definite drop in revenue for the game maker here. They partially only have themselves to blame, because this has happened before! We saw similar steps when the CBM-64 and Atari-800 were out and even more issues in the time of the Commodore Amiga and Atari-ST. The consumer demands a decent quality game and they want it when it is released (a global thing), not 6 months later on a local market. The second issue has been successfully fought in the past, and it is not as bad as it used to be, but as digital copy and physical copy are too far apart in price and release dates, people will resort to other means, the fact that digital copies tend to be well over 40% more expensive in Australia then in other places is another matter that is angering the gamers and as such, the move towards a place like Pirate Bay is slow, but also slowly but surely is getting a lot more profound.

So how should things be?

 

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