Tag Archives: Balder

Value of original gaming IP

When my mind designed the sequels to a new Elder Scrolls game, Far Cry and Watchdogs I did not care about the revenue, I did not care about the revenue factors in gaming franchise, I was merely one creative mind devising new ways and new stories, because the story is everything, it really is. 

Consider the intro and staging of Far Cry 3 against Far Cry 5, the stage of Assassin’s Creed 2 versus AC Unity, or AC Origins versus AC Odyssey and you might get a glimpse of that setting. In all honesty, I never considered revenue in any of it, but I realise that it is a driving force of the houses that publish them. Lets face it, would Mario exist if we did not consider the value of the $650 million it represents? In that same light Call of Duty, GTA, FIFA and Zelda, they all represent a serious level of coins. As such I see the need to continue some franchises, yet  wonder when we test their push for the storyline, how far will some get?

Consider in all this that the Elder Scrolls represent less than a billion, Skyrim alone represents half a billion dollars and has sold over 20,000,000 copies. And let’s face it, we always want to do better than the previous one, which is what drove me to set the story design of Elder Scrolls: Restoration.

Yet even as we see more versions of a game, Apple and Google are driving the need for original IP, it is the larger drive in gaming, not because it is Apple and google, but because the makers see that the original IP can be the beginning of a massive drive towards a system. There is also the fact that when we get a new system we do not want to play the same game over again on that system. 

Yet there are exceptions and they tend to be System driven. The Last of us on PS3 and PS4. Skyrim xbox360 – Xbox one and PS3 – PS4. Pretty much anything involving Mario, and the list goes on, yet Google and Apple do not have that yet and they need to rely on original IP to get the people in. That part was shown all the way back to the Nintendo 64 and the first PlayStation. 

IP that is owed is easier to evolve and more important, when the first game is a hit, it tends to be easier on revenue expectations as well. However, as we look at Apple, we see the need and the logic to have the subscriptions, yet when we see a game like Pilgrims with a mere 14,000 subscribers, the path for Apple is still less than stellar. Now we can push franchises like No Man’s Sky (Hello Games) there, however if Apple is to make a name for itself, it needs original IP, an original RPG, and original racing game and so on. that will drive sales, that will drive longevity in gaming and in a $120 billion industry last year alone, it makes sense to carve a name for yourself.

Yet there is also the stage where the expected and the non-considered walk. When I started to first design an original IP, was it truly original? It was (for the most) and I even added a new game mode that none had considered. Arcade is the way we consider, yet who has considered ‘historically accurate’ as a game mode? 

In this I wanted a more original RPG were the stage is Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden mapped), where you start in the land and get a choice of three places to start, from there you grow your village, grow your interest on the terrain and grow, after which you need to plunder, need to destroy your neighbours and add to your place (and take it from there), an RPG where you can set the rune tone to one god and receive the back handed prayers in success. Yet how can we link ‘Arcade’ and ‘historically accurate’? Well there we get the test of how good a person can play and basically they play two games. Even as a person buys provisions (with real cash) to get an advantage, they buy more, because the purchase in an arcade also comes with a ‘boon coin’ in the ‘historically accurate’. So if a person buys a load of fish in Arcade, they also get a boon coin with a fish in the historically accurate, which sets the chance to find a fish shoal to 100% there. Get two for the price of one. The same for weapons where a kart is bought for one side and the other side gets the smithing coin, giving them a 100% chance of a quality forged weapon. I even set out the stage that an actual player in one village would influence the growth in the virtual version where another player is a neighbour (like choice of stone, location and direction of growth)

I also wanted to make sure that ‘historically accurate’ was there to show that life is not a game and when we slice and dice like in Viking: Battle for Asgard, yet I thought that the game was too small, it was too easily defeated (except the boss at the end) and even as the game had good points, I wanted to see this game in a much larger setting. I wanted compelling to translate to addictive and I wanted a lot more to stand out, I also wanted to make sure that the choice of a god rune had a much larger impact, so over time as people played the game, they would have a new experience if the village rune stone was not set to Odin, but to Loki, Thor, Balder, Frigg, Vidar, or Tyr. What benefit do you want to see? And when chosen in Arcade it will be the set stone for ‘historically accurate’ as well. As such as the history of your village evolves we see that people realise that the impact one would hope for in Arcade would have a different term in the ‘historically accurate’ (HA), we forget in playing that famine was a real think in those days, as was disease and that could go from village to village. We could push it to Greece on the same premise and see where this leads, yet Scandinavia where the weather would have a much larger impact seems to be a more preferred personal feeling in this. So how many games take that into consideration? 

Yes, games like Fallout have a survival mode and there we see “The only means of physically saving the game is to sleep in a bed, on a mattress or in a sleeping bag. The exit save function is still available, but is a temporary save that is deleted automatically upon loading“, it is almost like hardocre mode in Diablo, how many times did you have to die before you figured out that running into batle is as stupid as it could be? As such the HA mode will give the player a much larger consideration to what he’s doing, it is not intend to drive microtransactions, which is why you can optionally only buy stuff in the arcade mode and only the real gamers and winners will get through the game without ever buying anything, that is why I would add an achievement named ‘no purchase required’, how many games heralded the need to not embrace microtransactions? 

It was a stage that my mind evolved over a few days and that is the easy part of the creative element in a game, I wonder how many creative minds are out there in the gaming industry, because I feel personally that people like Sean Murray and David Braben are as rare as it gets in this industry (no insult to other game makers intended), for me it is a stage where I see where places like Apple Arcade (and Google Stadia) are and where they go, so far I am actually not that impressed, not when it comes to companies this big.

 

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In awe of Ares

The independent is throwing its readers a curveball with ‘The survey comes after it was revealed that a new political party with access to up to £50m in funding has been secretly under development for more than a year‘, it is change, change of a kind that makes us wonder if politicians are getting there ‘inspiration’ form somewhere else. This is not about that, this is absolutely not about politics. This is about the curveball.

Santa Monica Studio, they awed us two years ago at the E3, where we were treated to a teaser, one that made our jaws drop and we were nowhere near ready to see the real deal. That happened 48 hours ago, 48 hours since we woke up, in optionally the most overwhelming way. If you missed it all, you missed a lot. For those not entirely aware, let me explain, let’s take you back to 2013, when the people on the PS3 were treated to ‘the Last of Us‘. It was a game that surpassed whatever came before, the end of a console treated to the diamond of diamonds. Now take that feeling, multiply that by 3 and that is what you will feel with the normal God of War 4 edition on a normal PS4, I haven’t even seen it on a Pro with 4K yet. The beginning is simple yet still overwhelming, the graphics are beyond awesome and the music and sound effects give it an entirely new dimension.

So here we are he who took the powers of Ares, god of war. Now we are in the setting of Norse mythology. The initial intro to the game, the movement, the draughr, Balder and a few others are just overwhelming. When we dig deeper into the game we get to certain points that this is still very much a God of War game, yet there is also evolution. even as button mashing got you most of the way previously, this time around you need to be a little clever, button mashing gets you killed again and again (and again). It has the chests and it has health parts, slightly different, but still in spirit basically the same. Some chests now come with puzzles and a few are a little trying. It is all a step forward. The graphics throughout the game remain overwhelming and are beyond awesome. The tactics are a little more essential, yet it remains a God of War game. Christopher Judge, the (in)famous Teal’c from Stargate takes the axe from the predecessors and gives Kratos soul in a way that is amazing, the deepness of voice and the entire embodiment of Kratos slayer of gods comes to life with Christopher Judge, a stellar performance.

There will always be issues with any videogame, so has this game its little snippets of frustration, but the overall impact of the game is what I would regard it a 97% game, Metacritic gave it a 95% rating, what means that it should be regarded as a must for any PS4 owner. Even as you play the game, you feel a little lost at times, wondering where to go next. It is not a bad feeling, you get a clear view of your surrounding and it is close to breathtaking. The people at Santa Monica really outdid themselves, and not just them. In equal measure Bear McCreary, famous for his soundtrack work on Battlestar Gallactica truly shines. His music adds to the game in several ways. I wonder if anyone would be able to play the game on a TV with a sound bar, the music is that amazing. I am actually listening to it on YouTube whilst writing this. I hope that it will be a download option soon enough (or a soundtrack for sale). So in nearly all matters the game shines. So why am I using ‘nearly’? Well in the beginning as you have the options to better your character with outfits and upgrades, you are a little in the dark and in the beginning of the game optionally accidently wasting resources on the wrong parts and it is a merely a small loss, yet it makes for a great replay. This is perhaps the only small flaw in all this and it is so small a flaw that not heeding my words in this is just fine. Yet as you play the game you are almost overwhelmed by what you see and when you think that you’ve seen it all, you get introduced to Alfheim. If you consider that Midgard is the forest in midwinter, then Alfheim is the forest in spring and everything is in full bloom, a second whiff over being overwhelmed and I haven’t even seen the subsequent parts yet. Whilst I have been upgrading my skills and my weapon, the monsters have been becoming a lot stronger too, so the opposition is not getting easier and you the player are forced to thinking a little more tactics and no mash buttons, it is essential to making it through. It is almost like Santa Monica Studio saw the setting of Dark Souls and borrowed an idea or two, which is not a bad thing at all. In this, I found that the avoidance by Kratos is not completely flawless and it makes for a more challenging fight, all defence and no offence being pointless in the end. It makes a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things and God of War is more than the jackpot. If the next Last of Us is anything to go by, we are witness to a new level of gameplay, one that the Xbox cannot match, because Ubisoft will not be able to match it. That is not an attack on Ubisoft, it truly is not! They have shown with AC Origin to up their game by a fair bit. Microsoft was just not ready (read: awake enough) to up the game for gamers other than their ‘most powerful consolestatement. Now with the God of War first released, and the Last of Us 2 teasers making us desire more and that is whilst we know that there is every chance that Death Stranding will surpass them both, a Kojima special that does not ill to the other two titles, but we know that Sony is about to up the game for gamers a fair bit and that is merely the top of the 2018 iceberg.We have no idea what we will see in 7 weeks at the E3 2018.

That whilst Windows central ‘treats’ us to: “Ever since the Xbox One launched in 2013, Microsoft has revealed clothing items and other merchandise which were either E3 exclusives, competition rewards, or simply gifts for employees. Luckily, it seems like that’s about to change because a merchandise store is coming soon“, perhaps with a lack of exclusive games that is all they can offer?

Even as Bethesda has been giving us heaps of amazing options, the bulk of the gamer’s desires are set to Elder Scrolls 6 and an optional Fallout 5, and/or Fallout 4b. Bethesda is like Monica Studios and for the longest time they have delivered, even today Skyrim is still played, 6.5 year later, that is the trademark of the truly great and satisfying game and God of War 4 is a welcome addition. It is behind GTA5 the highest Metacritic rating ever and the people of Santa Monica Studio have all the rights, the reason and the ability to feel pride, be proud and enjoy the reverence they will receive for the rest of the year. In this they are sharing the warmth of reverence this year (optionally) with the makers of Spiderman for PS4, another exclusive title, which is now sold out on amazon. So the pre-orders of a game released in September 2018 are already sold out, so in that part Santa Monica Studios is just one player driving the Sony gaming force forward and the competitors have nothing even close to matching that.

Even as I am drawn to return to play God of War, I know that Santa Monica is likely to have a few interesting twists on their bow of confusion. So it will be essential to meet up with Morrighan, Crone of War. She can enlighten me to the opponents that Kratos may face. The Celts were always masters of the skull cleaver and I need to be alert and ready to whatever Santa Monica Studio will throw at me next. The life of a gamer, always trying to remain in synch with the game and with life to get the best results, only the truly great game makers allow us to do that.

When we consider the path that this game series has taken, the path seems obvious, but it is not, the upgrade and evolution of your weapon have options so it can enhance your strength or give power to the weaker side of you that in itself is also brilliant. If you are a range fighter of up close and personal, both have options to give you a much better chance of survival and in the end, you cannot really afford all the upgrades all the time, so choices must be made which makes the game even more challenging and rewarding when you get to the next point. That in itself is also a new victory for the series. The map reveals even more new sides, but I will steer away from that so you can experience that for yourself, making the impact even better.

In the end the God of War treated us to something special two years ago and now we are overwhelmed with what they have actually achieved, no small feat for any development studio, laurels well earned. Even if you are not into the hack and slash games, this game brings a new game, that overwhelms nearly all your senses that alone will be worth buying it for.

That is the curveball, the delivery of something special and again Santa Monica Studio surpassed our expectations, an art that politicians have been lacking for decades, perhaps they should actively listen to Kratos, Ares and Morrighan, nothing less will do at present.

There is one part that politicians can take away from all this. It is not the expected that makes you shine, it is the ability to exceed our expectations that truly matter, isn’t it funny that the one article that they looked down on for three decades (video games) have been able to deliver just that? I see it as the combination of art and imagination and God of War got it right on all counts.

 

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