Tag Archives: Bethesda RPG

When the old is new again

Finally the news is there; on December 3rd people from the later generation can finally see what the first PlayStation was like. You might think that there is no value in that, especially as the machine is there just before Christmas for $159. What is remarkable is the amount of games I had hoped to see and we will only get 20 games. But not to fret, the 20 games include Final Fantasy VII (not my favourite game), Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, Rayman, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, Syphon Filter and Tekken 3. Each of these titles would have been worthy of the full price, so to get them all is so worth it, every penny of it. There are other titles, but this is the cream of the crop and even as I was never an FFVII fan, it is for that generation the pinnacle of Final Fantasy, a claim made by many.

Some will state that the very first GTA is also a classic, for me it is merely to see how far the game evolved over 5 cycles. It goes further, even as there has been rustling in the weeds, there is still no official confirmation for the N-64 mini; you might think that this would push Nintendo across and even as we have seen certain patents to optionally revamped N-64 hardware, there is still no official confirmation.

For me it is more than merely a sentimental journey. It should be the momentum to open the eyes of any optional game designer on how far games had gotten three cycles ago. In this stage that we were merely stopped by resources and in the end we get to see that the lack of resources made the game designers a lot more creative in adapting technology to the max. Even as I irritatingly got confronted last night with the Far Cry failure and taking into account “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” (source: Vice), we need to contemplate when is more actually less in the end? In my case it is the stage of adding more and more in Far Cry 4 that got to me (trying to get a few more achievements by replaying the game). It is my personal believe that Ubisoft should give both devices to the game developers and see if they learn something from it. The demonic precision and challenge that is known as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey is perhaps the most visible one. As puzzles go, I have never met anyone who without cheating and hacking got all 100. And even as I do not oppose people seeking the internet solutions, I have never met anyone who got all 100 in one play through; it might not even be possible. To get this on a system with 2 MB RAM and 1 MB VRAM, with a disc that stores 650MB that is the lesson right there. Now we do not want a copy of that game, but the ability to give something that is still revered 21 years later, that does count. I don’t expect Ubisoft, or many others to ever pull it off, yet does not also show our growing common lack of creativity?

Personally I thought Tenchu Z, not the greatest game, was still an awesome stealth game to play. The Xbox360 gave us a cool version of a 1998 game. Even as the score was a mere 56%, the fact that no one took that to the next level is a surprise. Even as the game had issues, it also had clear promise and direction towards a much better game. There are several reviews that have given since that Tenchu Z was underrated and I support that. It reflects back to the PS mini as we see (for all valid reasons) that Soul Edge and the Tombraider games might be missing, we do see an amazing classic Resident Evil Director’s Cut, that whilst the remake of Resident Evil 2 is about to launch, showing us what a dedicated fan can do when he gets his hands on a true classic. No matter how we view this, the first two set the bar high enough making it impossible to equal for several years and that took some doing. The remake is not merely a remaster; it gives new light to hardware what it can achieve when it is kicked to a higher level. Its application of torches (what the original did not do) as well as the challenge of limitation and choice pretty much made me shit my pants and for a video game to achieve that takes effort and dedication.

The danger is that someone merely makes a new version. I did not mind that, especially in the case of Loderunner (CBM64), or The Sentinel that when it got converted to PC, with music by John Carpenter himself, I was delighted to still feel the buzz of playing that game. Yet is it not time to add 20 years of games evolution and max out games that can be taken to the next stage? Even as we eagerly await the remake of System Shock (and hopefully System shock 2), we need to see that the older systems do have gems that still await their turn in getting a polishing and technological upgrades. I believe that Seven Cities of Gold (Amiga) could have all kinds of educational insights, not unlike the original SimCity did. The same could be said for Richard Garriott and a trilogy of his achievements (Ultima 3, 4 and 5), Ultima (6) and Ultima 7+7b in the third part. The power of one island with all games over time, a place 9 times the size of Skyrim with 6 main stories and close to a hundred side stories, it could optionally equal AC Odyssey in time to complete. We are already seeing an upcoming version of the Bards Tale, so the idea is not that novel, yet I see that the main players are still not looking into that direction, which is a shame. When a reviewer from PC Gamers gives you: “Three hours into the beta of The Bard’s Tale 4, I realized how late I’d stayed up puzzling my way through the labyrinth beneath a wizard’s castle“, you should be able to consider that these remasters and remakes are a clear golden path to good gaming and we all want good gaming. I personally believe that whilst we admire all the things Bethesda has done, I believe that it was The Witcher 3 that truly gave the RPG bar a nudge into a much higher direction and those who played it want a lot more than we had in the past. I believe that this is driving the players (and perhaps their desire to get Cyberpunk 2077 as soon as possible). I loved every moment of Bethesda RPG gaming and still do (after playing those games for well over 5000 hours), yet it missed a part (unintentionally), even as Bethesda was all about you shaping your character and the world around you, Project Red gave us Geralt of Rivia to play and the person that he is a pure blend of light and dark that we found overwhelmingly addictive. Project Red got the jackpot with that character and pretty much all the gamers want more of him, or perhaps better stated a taste of someone else like him.

So how can we evolve gaming? I do not believe it is better hardware; it never was about the hardware. When you consider the GameCube, it had 24MB RAM, 16MB of DRAM a 1.5GB RAM optical disc (30% of a DVD) and even today finding something that equals Metroid Prime (one and two) is pretty impossible. It is about the quality game and we need a new generation of game developers to open that gaming superhighway, and this is where the PS mini can open doors. You see Creativity is within a person, you can polish it, you can teach that person skills to tap into that creativity, yet when that person cannot tap into creativity, the best thing we can hope for is a new version of a spreadsheet program.

Limitations drives creativity, but it needs to be within that person. Here again we need to go to Ubisoft, because the game ‘With Honor‘ shows that Jason Vandenberghe has creativity and loads of it. It was not my game because I prefer to play alone, I am not a multiplayer gamer, and With Honor was all about multiplayer, which is fair enough. It might not have been the game for me, but I was pretty amazed with the game. We can Monday morning quarterback that game all we like, yet in the end it was a well-made game. Here too I believe that the 80% score was underrated (by close to 12%), and that is whilst I am no fan of multiplayer games.

I believe that Ubisoft is sitting on a hundred million dollars of underestimated or neglected potential and even as we accept that making games costs a lot of money, sitting on a chest worthy of funding a dozen games, a chest that is collecting dust seems like such a waste. Consider that Far Cry 5 81% could have easily added 10%, how much sales was lost because of that? In this I add parts of a list called ‘14 Ubisoft Video Games – Ranked From Worst to Best‘ and see what could have been done better.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity. There is no avoiding that title, the QA, the testing and the AI bugs were a joke. This game should not have been released before proper testing would have been done, but we have been here a few dozen times, so let’s move on.

Zombi (PS4 Edition). A game that was actually better on the WiiU, can we get any clearer, a decent idea was not properly set forward making it a joke. This went beyond testing, I can only speculate that it was never properly programmed and the original had loads of potential, for the limitations of the WiiU, the makers actually got a whole lot further, even as the random spawning had a few knockbacks of their own the end result on the PS4 was pretty much completely unacceptable.

Watch Dogs. I had this as a day one order (with the PS4 launch), so I was miffed. It went further in the game with programmed settings and a few other quirks (a lot of them) the game fell short in many ways (that is even beside the delay that outstretched any pregnancy), yet the concept was pretty good, I made the AC1 comparison that as an original it had potential and just like AC2, the game would make or break. Watchdogs two was weird in some way, but it was so much better, the second game made the franchise, so that was good. The first game had a good story, we all could relate to it, yet some parts were too awkward and it never got fixed or improved.

The Division. Again a multiplayer game, which was not my thing, yet the story line, was immersive and people around me really went for the game. So as we passed a few quirks and bugs (blocking the door being the most visible one), we see a game that in its first premiere has loads of potential, potential brought to light, yet these flaws were not deadly and that too is important to recognise. the two parts that Forbes gives us is “As excited as I am that The Division has matchmaking for every single activity, for daily missions, it’s a complete and utter disaster“, as well as “I mean it is literally bugged to all hell where you are lucky if you can even start a game, much less finish one”. They are both indicatory of larger failings and beta playtesting to a much larger extent might have shown the weakness, yet the biggest issue in these games will be hackers and cheaters. I do not mind that they are around, but when I get fleeced for everything I have, it becomes annoying really fast. Still it is a franchise with optional forward momentum, that too much be recognised.

Far Cry 3. We need to look at this, as it is quintessential the best Far Cry ever, the main adversary Vaas Montenegro (brilliantly voiced by Michael Mando) is amazing, the graphics are good, the stealth is stellar and the challenges are equally from out of this world. Chasing all these objects are well overboard (not in a good way) and the stage of cell towers and outposts are pretty amazing. the ballistics are a problem as I have never seen any tiger walk away from a .50 headshot let alone 2, but if that is as bad as it gets we have a winner here and that is exactly what it was, a winner. From this it was downhill, 4, Primal and 5 are nowhere the third puppy (neither were one and two for that matter) and even as 5 is a step forward in many directions, the game in the end was not a better end product. This ended as Vice gave us: “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” and they are right.

Assassin’s Creed II. The game that should be regarded as the franchise starter of the AC range is brilliant, even as there are a few issues; the game was so far forward from AC1 that we eagerly forgot about the flaws we saw. The game in every respect shows that it is the fortune maker for Yves Guillemot and his two baby brothers (Michael and Gerard). Even as AC Brotherhood was more of the same, it was still forward momentum in a few ways. These two games were the start of an addiction but also the end of the original push forward, in the end what came after was more of the same with too little forward momentum, It actually reflects TombRaider, which after the second one was trying to be too clever and ‘deceptive’ with twists, yet we never got something really new, just more and that would not change until the definitive version was released.

In the end we could also look at Splinter Cell and how that went not forward, but more and if you love stealth, you will love more, yet in blacklist the ball was dropped by too far and that is what hampered Ubisoft. This is seen when you consider that the ratings went from 94%, to 89%, to 85% and 84%. I would have thought that after the second rating alarms would have been raised, they might have been, but they did not work. It is this path that needs to be reflective in all this, because if we consider Watchdogs 3, Whatever AC comes next, the Division 2, Far Cry 6 and Hopefully another Splinter Cell, Ubisoft needs to consider on how to make the games actually better, not merely bigger, or give us more of the same. the story will be everything, yet the playability with have a massive weight on the vision handed to the players that is where a few dozen million Euros are hidden and Ubisoft might lose out on that; the amount of missed money represents well over 50 of my life time earnings, so I think that some of the people behind the players need to take a serious look on how to secure said optionally lost funds. I see it in another direction, if my mind can construct a virtual foundation of (an imaginative) Elder Scrolls VII within eight hours, how many opportunities did some designers lose by not truly investigate the projects they were working on? I might have been in games since 1984, but I know I am not the best, I have met the best (Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriott and Sid Meier) and I know they surpass me by a lot, yet I have the drop on some developers today and that saddens me. They should be running loops around me without breaking a sweat.

The gaming world is ready for new unique games and new franchises, even as some of the older games might point the way, we see that finding a new game, and actual new original game is a hard thing to do, it can only be done by a dreamer, a dreamer that others will listen too, an artist to give view to the dream, a programmer to set the stage and a writer to translate the dreams into stories, even as the writer and the dreamer are likely the same person, the place where the two acts are done is likely to be different and until that part is recognised, the making of any new 90%+ franchise will remain out of reach for all developers like Ubisoft. If you doubt that part, merely look at the history of a game called Lemmings. I tested it initially and I remember on how Psygnosis got to the game in the first place, so when you think that all good games are a calculated results of proper investigation, think again. A game released in 1991, whilst we still see today: “The best Amiga game of all time (2011)“, you better believe that artsy has everything to do with it. This is quite literally the shit that gamers live for, how else can you explain the desire after decades for a game like System Shock (or the remake of FFVII for that matter)?

If there is one part that must be told, than it would be the part that I never saw coming. For that we need to look at the Xbox360. I never knew the game, so I got caught off guard. I initially did not buy it as I was playing Bioshock 2 and awaiting both Fable 3 and New Vegas. So when I heard the score, I got curious. One gave it 90% the other 83%, this piqued my curiosity and it was not disappointed. They say that 97% liked this game and that should have been the rating. Mikael Kasurinen, Sam Lake, Mikko Rautalahti and Petri Järvilehto surpassed themselves and many game designers with Alan Wake. The game was everything we hope for and more, the setting of a mere danger by being in the dark was a direct original approach to our primal fear (even in games) and Alan Wake did use that to the max. It was an amazing stage of open world and level challenge all into one and your life does depend on the power of a battery here, so there was that to get worried about. Alan Wake also shown that the creative dreamer will always have the advantage over the stage of calculated new versions of a franchise. Even as Alan Wake might have that fear to deal with, the original was more challenging than many other developers were able to give us and Microsoft Studios actually created an instant classic on launch day, something not many game developers have ever achieved.

I never saw it coming, so I do not hold all the wisdoms, I will not even make such a claim even as the article might imply it. The fact that a game like Alan Wake could surprise me to such a degree is also the reason why I am still a gamer, just like a junkie hoping for its next fix of amazement. The nice thing here is that it is a lot cheaper than either Heroin or Cocaine, so there is that benefit for any gamer too.

We seem to chase the old to get a new version because of that feeling of amazement, which is good in one way (especially the owners of the IP), yet the lack of true new IP is also a worry for the gamers and getting the right developers and creating the right programmers is not about giving them all the resources, but to teach them how to overcome shortcomings in current architecture. It is not the programmes that maximises a system we need, it is the one who gets it done on a 75% system that is the one we need to get. Merely because that game will be lean, it will be mean and it will still transgress the borders that a seasoned programmer did not consider. to be able not to merely to make a stronger game, but to set a proper stage where replaying that game is just as rewarding as playing it the first time, that is the classic of tomorrow going home with a 95%+ rating and taking home the coffers of gold. This is what all the game developers need and some are in the process of getting there; it would be a shame if players like Ubisoft and EA games miss out because they were not willing, or able to go that distance.

And as a gamer as well as a dreamer, consider the game when you add AI in the mix, not the AI of the enemy, but the AI that you as the gamer get to shape. In this we need to consider an oldie like Sundog, Frozen Legacy by FTL Games (the maker of the legendary Dungeon Master and Oids). Now consider that the game starts with only you, but as you shape the AI, you can hand your navigation skills to an android and grow your crew. The game will only be as good as you are. As you grow the positions on the ship upgrade the ship and get a larger one. You will need to get more knowledge and only when you have one placement over a certain percentage an android can take over. You have to be the navigator, helmsman, the tactician and the engineer. You need to master one role after another, downloading your skill enhancements into the android and growing a crew, not programmed intelligence, but your game interactions that are transferred to the android. What game thought of that? Actually Epyx had a game called Chip Bits, yet I don’t think it ever made the light of day.

If such an addition is added to a game like Elite Dangerous when you upgrade from a 31 meter Eagle fighter to an 88 meter Python (see Image), how many hundreds of hours of gameplay would that get you? Elite Dangerous now has 30 playable ships and you have the option of ‘merely’ flying the ship, yet what extra will you get when you are adding functions and you have to repair the ship under combat conditions? A side that Sundog had to the minimum degree and with 1MB RAM the Atari ST did not get far, yet it gave us more than some games currently do, is that not weird either?

There have been so many games between 1984 (CBM-64) and 2005 (Xbox360), a timeline filled with gems, many of these gems could be the foundation of jewelry that is multifaceted, colourful and challenging in so many ways. Many of these are not merely remasters; they could be the foundation of new and optionally uniquely new IP.

In this, the CEO of Ubisoft might have stated it the best when he said: “There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us“, that might be true, so getting to new IP now makes perfect sense, in many ways. to do that in the streaming age is a dangerous move for a few reasons, mainly because the streaming power will not be with the gaming side of things, it will be with the telecom providers and there have been more than just a few indicators that this will start in the most rocky of ways, especially outside of metropolitan areas. I have had this issue a few times to a smaller degree, yet as we consider that this is 2 weeks old “Optus say it is congestion but can’t explain how you can get 100 mbs and then the next minute you have a dropout. They appear to be doing nothing as they can’t say how long it will take to fix or what they are doing to address the issue. Have been a customer for over 25 years but the last 6 months the service has been substandard“, I believe that this goes (a lot) further than just one provider, congestion is increasing all over the global field and until some telecom providers (multiple providers) get their house in order and up their game, streaming games will become more and more hazardous over time, it will take years to get this environment a lot better and 5G is not making it any easier. So the next generation of consoles is the best time to maximise IP, because the IP after that will end up not having as much value as the blame game between telecom providers and game developers are likely to flare and they will flare up all over the planet (or is that this planet).

It goes beyond mere gaming. You see The Network Congestion 2030 project, launched in 2009 (for airports), was designed as a two phased approach towards solving congestion issues, yet when we see that approach in the Netherlands we see “Unlike the Telecommunications Act, the Regulation furthermore allows Internet Service Providers to take reasonable traffic management measures, e.g. to avoid imminent network congestion. Such measures must be transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and may not be based on commercial considerations. The Telecommunications Acts allows Internet Service Providers to intervene in the Internet data flows only if a data accumulation must be controlled. A frequent criticism of the Regulation is that it is difficult to monitor traffic management measures aimed at avoiding imminent congestion, which may give rise to abuse. An example in the Netherlands related to network congestion is the ACM’s decision of 2013 to put an end to its investigation of the restriction of free Internet in trains by T-Mobile. ACM concluded that the blocking of certain internet services by T-Mobile was permissible to prevent “traffic jams” on the network“, with the mention of ‘may not be based on commercial considerations‘ we see the optional impact on gamers, because these systems have not been tested with millions of gamers streaming, in European terms even tens of millions. Netflix had a dramatic growth (after this entire issue started) and as gamers do the same added to that same construction devoid of much larger expansions the impact will be there and it will be there very visible; throttling streams will make them collapse and that is where we see that down the track the impact on gamers will be much larger and they are for now, not even considered.

So as the old becomes new, we see new challenges and other obstacles that are now not in the hands of non-gamers, but they will be the moment that streaming congestion becomes the daily reality of every gamer.

So the need of being able to be creative and set the stage for a 75% resource solution would at that point become crystal clear at the moment the situation emerges. Merely a new iteration of complications to solve in addition of all the other corrections needed. At that point to have a much better QA will be essential for the IP holder not to go bust almost overnight. You merely have to consider the Division launch day crash and the idea that this could happen once a month at the very least in that new setting. It will be something that is not the fault of Ubisoft, not the fault of the designers, it will merely be the impact of congestion and the telecom provider will mention that they are sorry, but it is out of their hands and they cannot explain to you why it happened.

Oh and this issue is as stated a global one, in the end you cannot blame the game makers when the issue is that your gaming evening depends on something like the Comcast outage map. When you see: “Comcast/Xfinity is reporting a widespread outage in the south suburbs” and you miss out on the season challenges of whichever game you are playing because of: “An aerial pole in Harvey was reportedly struck, damaging 288 cables, according to Comcast officials. The outage is expected to last until approximately 3:30 pm” and you can forget about gaming that day, that is when you get the first moment of irritation with streaming. In single play you can still get your gaming on, games like Elite Dangerous fall away that day and starting Fortnite becomes a foregone illusion. When all games become a streaming experience you might in the end only end up having Minecraft in offline mode available, a great game, yet when it is the only game it is more likely than not the evening you never banked on, or hoped for.

 

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