Tag Archives: Bethesda

The shows on E3 (part two)

It was time for Microsoft to give us the goods and they started really well. The Outer Worlds (by the makers of Fallout New Vegas), Minecraft Dungeons, Blair witch, and a few others giving the intro towards 60 games, 14 by Microsoft Studio (implying 14 exclusives) and 30 gamepass titles. Then we got to see a new side to Cyberpunk 2077 and it looked amazing. That part ended with Johnny Silverhand, who looked a lot like Keanu Reeves, at that point Keanu Reeves walks on the stage and the roof came down, the crowd went insane and rightfully so. Eurogamer took a moment to highlight that (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2qAUP1m_vE), see event two for that part, it is so worth it. We get to see that the flight Simulator is coming to Xbox One, which is pretty cool and a whole range of other news. At this point I rated the show at 97%, it was that good. There was plenty of stuff I did not really care for (like Gears 5), but there are plenty of fans of that franchise and it seems that they are upping the bar on that game so gears fans will go nuts soon enough. This is when they screw it up at the end on going towards Project Scarlett. As we hear ‘It is all about choices’, yet are there? The Verge also noticed something I picked up on, but I thought it was just me. the Verge gives us ‘Microsoft’s new Project Scarlett console is now a key part of xCloud‘ (at https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/10/18659448/microsoft-xcloud-game-streaming-e3-2019) and we get that, yet they also give us: “If Microsoft sticks with its Xbox One S hardware for xCloud, then it won’t be able to immediately compete with Stadia’s promise of 4K gaming at 60 fps. There are still far too many games that only run on an Xbox One S at 30 fps, and the console won’t even support most AAA games at native 4K.” I believe that Microsoft has the same premise to face as Google Stadia, but Google is playing the long game and they know what they are in for, something Microsoft did not grasp in time (or too often for that matter) and they are keeping quiet as a previous president loudly boasted ‘always online‘ and nearly sunk the entire Xbox One before it had been released. For me the giggle came when I got told ‘up to 120 fps‘, ‘8K capability‘, ‘the combination of SSD and Solid State Drive are really what is giving you a totally new experience‘ was the one that did it for me, was this not properly vetted, were these actors or engineers? The presentation just went down to 80% and that is where it stayed at, silly move Microsoft!

There was no reprise of two step in models (the low and high end as stated a year earlier and all these catchphrases are given by different people, so you can more likely than not forget about 8K and 120 fps, all hype giving comments but totally wasted on the people who want clarity beforehand. It is true that there is still a full year, but the Microsoft method of trying to create hype has backfired too often and now I hope it will do so again. Even as the console is not coming until holiday 2020, giving clear information on storage and several other parts would have been nice at this point. I personally believe that this will be a total push to XCloud and streaming your games, there will be some storage for older games and the fact that optical drive is there implies that there is still physical storage, as direct to cloud installation seems meaningless and it would be too cumbersome, but that is what it feels like, when I am clearly proven wrong I will give you all the goods. for now, the realisation that 5G becomes essential and the congestion issues that many will face between 2020 and 2022 will be a sight to watch, just you wait.

Bethesda

Bethesda was a solid 80% from beginning to end. there is more for the games with Fallout 76 (year two) added options, as well as a battle royale mode and additions to rage 2 we got the largest part, there will be two Wolfenstein games, but we knew that last year. The big parts were that the Wolfenstein games are coming to Switch too, which was nice as well as the fact that the mobile Game Blades was coming to Switch and just like Fallout shelter it was going to be free. The part that I like the most is that there is an option for micro transactions, yet I have never had to spend a dime on Fallout shelter to enjoy it, if Blades continues that, it will be an amazing ride. New is Ghostwire Tokyo which looks pretty good, but it was an intro movie only. Some new Commander Keen, Deathloop which is coming from Arkane, as well as a new streaming technology called Orion, optionally making bandwidth a lesser issue, and Doom Eternal was given a first light. Finally we got a little more Elder Scrolls Online, now with Elsweyr and that wrapped it up. I would have liked more actual gameplay which was missing too much as I personally see it and that is why Bethesda only gets 80% this time around, still a solid presentation.

Ubisoft

We start off with the Assassins Creed Symphony. A decent start for the mere reason that the music of Assassins Creed has been pretty amazing from the second game onward and never stopped being inspiring and extremely amazing. Watchdogs Legion kicks off with actual gameplay and a display of Permadeath in action, so there is that. Plenty of sarcasm and a super granny (retired assassin) that makes any bull look like a calf with snow peas instead of actual balls. Stealth looked decent and that was the Ubisoft intro to the presentation, which gives me the consideration that Ubisoft has gone serious on Watchdogs and it is seemingly taking Legion to a higher place than Watchdogs two was.

After that the presentation starts and Mythic Quest is first, and that presentation needs to be seen to be believed (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9mRj_tzNH4) starting at 25:10. After that more Rainbow Six, Adventure in Time, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, at which point Jon Bernthal walked in (the Walking dead, Punisher) and gives us his intro to the game. He did well; he is a charismatic presence as he gives the talk on the game and challenged the gamers to take him on. At this point we had not seen a lot of games, but the intro’s, the views (legion) and new reveals on AI with solo play we see that the focal points were stronger. Then we get elite squad, a mobile game, and more of Just Dance (10 years), with a funny video. Just Dance 2020 is coming to all systems, after which For Honor took over and gave us a new addition named Shadows of the Hitokiri, and another Rainbow six option coming, this one called quarantine and the Division 2, Kenly college, and in the fall episode two, the pentagon (a big building in Washington DC with 5 sides), with a second raid which have 8 player action. More games and at the end a new game called Gods and Monsters.

I give the presentation 86%; I would have added 4%-5% if there would have been more actual gameplay shown. Still the first part showing us Legion was pretty overwhelming and it took that wow through most of the presentation.

Square Enix

They start with the Final Fantasy VII remake, I remember playing that puppy on the PlayStation, I was never a big fan, yet I was overwhelmed on those days on the depth of the story and the intuitive side of the game play. The part here iis that we are casually introduced that this game will be on 2 Blu-ray discs gives rise to the fact on just how huge this game will be. Here we get to see active and tactical play and just how evolved this game is. This might just call over all the players who never got into the game originally (me included). After that Life is Strange two makes an appearance and a new Chrystal chronicles, a game I loved on the GameCube, now on mobile phones, so there is the option to relive a few lovely moments. Some Octopath Traveler, a dash of the last Remnant remake which is available now for Nintendo Switch, a look at Dragon Quest builders 2, a PS4 game that seems to combine RPG co-op with elements of Minecraft, making it an interesting and optionally an addictive one straight off the bat. As the game is seemingly in game footage, we get to enjoy more playtime than expected. Then we get Luminary on Switch aka Dragon Quest XI; after which Square Enix focusses on indie developers. There were more intros and videos coming, Shadow bringers (FFXIV) and an extended intro to Dying Light 2, now with the launch date of spring 2020. It is clear that the entire Final Fantasy universe will get a lot more games on consoles soon enough.

Ending the presentation with the announcement of FFVIII remastered coming, we see that this year will be nearly all about the Final Fantasy universe and the remastering of the IP they had, and on all platforms, and as such the Switch is gaining even more momentum. Then the crowd goes wild, Marvel Avengers makes its entry showing us a little of what is to come, the game will have additional element over years (at no additional cost), the ‘no loot boxes ever’ statement made people go wild. The game will release in May 2020. Like Ubisoft it would have been nice to get a little more actual gameplay, yet overall the presentation rocked and it gets a solid 91% making it the best presentation of the show at present, now only Nintendo remains and that is for tomorrow.

 

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Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019

After last year there were issues, several on all fronts, and as Sony announced not to attend, we see the larger question, is there a need for E3? From my personal point of view, Microsoft will not be trustworthy (after their choices between the Xbox 360 and now), making it a Nintendo & Indie show, now, I am all for that and it could be awesome, but that is no longer an actual E3. Also, we will see the front carried by a few titles, yet they did so too last year and the blip verts show many images of what we saw last year too.

So as I use GamesRadar (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNCFmrkqQuY) as a handhold, let’s take a look at what we could optionally consider not watching in person there.

  1. Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, we saw a lot, we saw a lot before and for the most, we have blind trust in CD Project Red, they gave us the goods from the very start ‘You’ll see it when it is ready’ and with the Witcher III as evidence, we have all the confidence that it will be a smash winner when it is finished, the problem is that everyone is speculating or giving ‘I know a guy and it comes at …….‘, but the truth is CD Project RED has not giving a final date, if there is one, it will most likely be given at the E3 2019.
  2. Gears of War 5, it seems to be more of the same, it was never my cup of tea and as such, I hope people will love it, I truly do, but I see it as too much of the same, just like the next HALO which has number 3 and even as 4 player part might be nice, yet after Anthem, and every version connected to it (exception of Fortnite and Overwatch) I have seen enough to last me a lifetime, so the orchestra part was definitely overkill
  3. Another Star Wars game? Likely an absolute must for every Star Wars fan, I am not judging here, merely awaiting to see real game play.
  4. Session, a skateboarding game. It comes from Microsoft, so we will have to await the actual game footage and YouTube video to see what the actuality of that game is, personally I am kind of over all the Microsoft marketing, and we will likely see more on Crackdown 3, the game that was announced in 2014, coming in 2016, and has had delay after delay and is still not out. A game that is years too late, supposed to be AAA and gets a mere 57% from Metacritic, I think it was PC Gamer that gave us “It’s an OK game that could’ve been exciting a decade ago“, so as we were given presentation after presentation on the of Cloudgine for cloud computing support, we see the entire part blown out of the water. This now interacts with my article ‘At the end of a journey‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/14/at-the-end-of-a-journey/) where we see the issue of Tim Stuart, Microsoft CFO giving us: “Xbox CFO on Google Stadia: “Cloud Won’t Match Local Experience”“, yes we said that for decades, making Crackdown 3 a joke at the very least and the years of delay a questionable side in what Microsoft regards as game design.

There are a few more games, some definitely interesting of checking out and a few to race for to the release date shop. Bethesda will be present with another Doom, for the lovers of that type of game a decent must. Ubisoft will try to wet the appetite with more ‘Beyond good and evil 2‘ yet there is no indication that there will be anything playable and GamesRadar as well as a few others have been whispering NextGen, so this might be a PS5 and whatever Microsoft puts on the market with an expected optional ‘always online‘ push by badly facilitating, and lets not forget the massive amount of space reserved for advertisement on your Xbox screen.

Nintendo will be killing the show, the next Pokémon is already making waves at present, so the impact will only increase, and that is merely the beginning, there will be an animal crossing, an exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance for Nintendo Switch, which must anger all the other consoles, as the previous two had quite the impact on gaming. And no matter how others slice it, the Nintendo Store with Switch version of CBM-64 golden games is only increasing the desire to own a Nintendo Switch, the idea to replay the Epyx great ‘Impossible Mission’ is just too fantastic to ignore.

We will get another call to Dying Light 2, yet at present no actual reliable release date as well as third installments of Luigi’s mansion and Borderland, both a reason to watch, both have a following and both have creatively emphasized on fun. There are more and more titles that are looking good (also on the Xbox), the makers of Fallout New Vegas and now part of Microsoft will be bringing the Outer Worlds. For those who remember Fallout New Vegas, consider an RPG, a lot larger, with more options, more challenges and more choices, there is zero chance that this game is not on the wish list of anyone who loves RPG’s, which is fair enough, Microsoft can’t get everything wrong. For Ubisoft it will be an important moment, Watchdogs 3 is on the list and according to rumours it will now be based in London. It is important because the first game became a massive letdown, yet Watchdogs repaired it to a decent degree in number two, not in the least because of the cast of Ruffin Prentiss who did an amazing job. So for Ubisoft the stakes are nothing short of monumental, they cannot afford to mess this one up. As I personally see it the Quality department better have their marbles in a row on this one. Ubisoft will have more if some of the leaks are to be believed. So their show, as well as the Bethesda one are the shows to be in the top ones both seasoned with the anticipation from viewers and gaming fanatics alike.

Gaming is more and more true mainstream, but it is also splintering gamers to a larger degree, in part we can blame people like Fortnite. It is not really their fault, they made genuine innovations, and more and more people nowadays expect that the system is no longer an issue when you are playing with your friends, which is actually no longer a given. With newbies Apple and Google, the interaction of games across platforms becomes a larger issue and no longer a given. Yet the audience is pushing and setting for a stage that remains debatable. Is it fair to expect PC’s and next generation consoles to group play?

The option that Microsoft consoles will interact with PC’s is to be expected, but is that stage equal for PS5 other solutions (Mac systems)? I am not claiming a yes or no, merely asking the question. If anything happens in the 5G stage, it will be that those interactions will find a larger footing, whether it will happen gets a TBA (to be announced) flag for now.

As I said Ubisoft has Watchdogs 3 nearly on ready is a large issue, on the plus side, if they pull it off, the value of the Watchdogs Franchise will skyrocket, mainly because the second in San Francisco was a large step forward from the first. The idea of London is appealing to many in other ways, the American population that needs to adjust to driving on the left lane is going to set the stage of many hilarious moments and the open world of London could be breathtaking. They gave us a great experience in San Francisco, so I expect nothing less than spectacular. It also implies that my idea for Watchdogs 3 could be an optional Watchdogs 4, so let’s just hope that game 3 knocks it out of the park. The only larger question will be Bethesda, they have confirmed that there will be no Elder Scrolls 6 or Starfield, which is nice to know, but Bethesda has a lot more IP so there is likely to be plenty to watch, and to be honest after all the slicing and dicing of Fallout 76, they need a win, a big win would be better.

In all this we see more of the same, the IP has stagnated to some degree, Minecraft (2009), Skyrim (2011), Grand Theft Auto V (2013), Elite Dangerous (2014), Witcher III (2015), No Mans Sky (2016), Fortnite (2017), all great moments of IP. I now distinguish between IP and a great game; they often go hand in hand, but not always. I believe that sandbox games, RPG games and tactical games will overlap more and more and will for the growing population of new gamers to be more and more important as well. We saw what could have been possible to some degree in Ghost Recon Wildlands, but not to the degree that could have been achieved. I believe that this is the IP that Google Stadia can build on.

Say What?

To see this, we need to look at the two stages of gaming. For the most, the games have a combined approach (the image is an analogy), so there are parts in the game that are used and in the core of the game, accessed when it is applicable. Yet another way is to take the Covert Action (an old Microprose game) approach, but now a next generation version. In this version in any sandbox, as we add a new element, the world would actually become bigger, or there would be more to do in that same world.

It was the foundation when I started the design of a game called: ‘Equilibrium, nature versus the machine‘. The biggest elements were finding a large enough play field (in my case Amsterdam), and set the stage where replayability would be more fun, so the stage required a very different approach, so that people could not chase from one point to the other to get a quickest time finale. In addition, I needed to set a stage where it would not merely be some kind of a ‘seek’ game (which is too much of a given when you finish the game more than once). In addition, there is the eye candy bit, so making sure it looks appealing and not repetitive was equally a challenge. For the most Amsterdam filled that bill. Yet, as I was contemplating the foundations for Elder Scrolls 7 and Watchdogs 4 I knew that they all had their hang-ups (not in a bad way), in every case it was what the player (in my case me) relied on, I wanted to change that concept, and in all honesty after hundreds of hours of Diablo 3 it felt an essential first to solve.

No man’s sky gave me additional idea’s. We look at it as some kind of failure, but the game is an achievement in many ways. If we accept that the worlds were set to a formula, what happens if we change this world into a formula and let the NoManSky IP recreate that world again and again? Then I considered what could one day be another Watchdog game, in this I wanted to push the envelope in another way. Hence I considered the stage where Kyoto was completely set to the game map, and I mean EVERY street. The game would now be large enough to keep a person busy for hundreds of hours and in the gender setting the game would have 4 versions two for each gender and each gender could get through the game as a criminal or a non-criminal, so the city had a light and a dark side. The interesting part about Japan is the lack of guns (and super strict gun laws) forcing stealth and forcing unarmed combat. As the monkey fist was a brilliant choice in the second Watchdogs, there was the option to keep it in, but also to make other weapons, weapons not to bleed, but to knock out. The nice part is that Japan has about 4 centuries of weapons in their history, so plenty of options. Technology (read: applied technology) is also more advanced (in many cases), so letting the game revolve not merely on the smartphone, but also Google glasses and the fact that in the hard setting there will be no English, gives light to a much bigger challenge. Having to rely on you wearing Google glasses (in the game that is) to read signs and to read instructions in the game to get your local language was appealing for a few reasons. It makes the game a much larger part of you. Adding weather and time constraints adds to the challenge and excitement. We forgot that the ‘you’ in your character was neglected more and more is also a consideration, having to eat and sleep on a regular basis could translate into a larger experience.

Finally the part where the elements come to shine; as we look at the coloured balls, we can see that mixing blue and red would create purple and between blue and dark yellow we would get a moss green. Now consider replacing the colour for a level, in normal mode hacking is one version, yet when we tweak that it is not pressing a button, we could replace the button with code segments that need to be found (and chosen), drastically increasing the challenge of the game, so what is a joy and still a challenge as well as an achievement on normal could be a mind boggling experience on hard and higher. So the smartphone could be upgraded, other versions of the (in game) app, also gives more options and buying an up scaled phone (more expensive) would give the player more destinations where he/she could strike it rich. Yet giving merely more and more is not enticing either, the added plus needs to be balanced with the drag in the negative.

It is what I envisioned in a new Elder Scrolls, adding the old limits. For example a person could not be fighter guild and mercenary (Blackwood company), a Mages Guild member could not be a member of the Thieves Guild and so on, so that at the most 3 guilds could be joined and until one guild had been completed some guilds could not be started. In this setting the game becomes more fulfilling, even in replay, as you start the second game with the Mages guild or the guild of Necromancy would impact your character to a much larger degree. To keep it appealing the setting of what used to be called the red wire challenge, a challenge that is not part of any main quest and happens over the entire stage of the game, so I came up with another challenge, to get there you needed masons, as well as special books (to be found) you could influence the look of the outcome with an Elvish, a Dwemer, the Imperial and the Ayleid version, all having distinct different looks and as the books are to be found in a different locations in every game, the hunt could be on for quite a while. With the introduction of new elements, reverting to an applied extra from Oblivion, So in the game there would be the option for Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, Speed, Endurance, Personality and Luck to be increased in other ways. Mining would result in additional strength, trading gives additional Personality, and Luck would grow with trade deals, finding mythic loot and so on, so even as the Skyrim approach of Illusion, Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration, Enchanting, Smithing and so on remains, with certain levels of Smithing and/or Mining surpassed the player would also gain additional strength, which gives added value to the carry and stamina numbers, whilst sickness and wounds have a much stronger negative impact. So a stealth master remains with attributes in the same area, any stealth master would have much higher agility giving the player an additional bonus. In addition, the stage of the game as I considered it had additional choices making for a much higher desire to replay the game in other ways and options. And as I went through it, it was the idea of changing the map in another way, As Oblivion was stated to be 40 KM2, Skyrim was stated to be 37 KM2 (this is clearly a: I thought it was bigger moment) ESVII (Restoration) would be no less than 780 KM2, adding to the game in a massive way, yet that also gave the stage where the current approach to a game map would no longer work (assumption on my side), so another approach would be essential. Optionally a two disc solution where the first disc is the install and map disc, the second one would be the actual game disc, yet in that stage the game would require a reserved space of no less than 150 GB (very loose estimate), as such the game would require other checks and balances as well. Whether it ever happens or not does not matter, the entire part is important in another way. When we consider the images I gave where the play world grows with the added segments, that approach would work very well for Google Stadia, so it opens up a new area we have almost never seen before, true open source gaming, a collective of gamers that could add to the game (with permission from the maker) not unlike some kind of a creation club, but in the foundation (the small balls), as a new enhancement is accepted by the game owner, we see that the entire gaming map and experience would grow as well, so over time, we get a largely enhanced game. Consider the merging of Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky, so not only do you play Elite Dangerous and travel from planet to planet, each planet could end up having an algorithm that allows to planetary exploration on every planet for the size of the planet, it would make it a game that takes a lifetime to play even in part. Yet what happens when someone created the module to add your own space station in an unexplored location? Consider the option for the gamer to have their own small station, grow it so that the station itself becomes an economic mark on the game as a larger whole. The nice part is that Google Stadia is in a much better position to bring that reality in gaming in the short term, so as the elements of IP are created and offered, we see the optional short term reality that Google Stadia could take sandbox gaming to an entirely new level and that would create the interest of millions of casual and recreational gamers overnight. That is not all, the stated lack of latency and the larger balance (implied) between latency and quality (much higher quality with less latency) only rises the level of opportunity for the Google players in the immediate future. I am not certain how active Google will be at the next E3, yet I believe that every eye will be on what Google can deliver, at that point the game changes for players on a global scale, so when I stated “we do hope that Sony is not stupid enough to follow the short-sighted path that Microsoft is on, they are now merely console number three and optionally before 2021 number 4 out of 5“, in ‘Lifting the Veil‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/17/lifting-the-veil/) I did know what I was talking about and I knew what could optionally happen. Microsoft forgot what the power of true dreamers was (and optionally clueless on what they can still do), that is why Google could be the number 3 choice for a global gaming community soon thereafter, how far they rise depends on how innovative they continue to be, they are up against two titans that actively shaped the world of gaming for well over 5 console generations. So when these new technologies come, we will see a much more driven need for these players to be the best innovator in gaming, at that point it does not matter who leads, the gamer wins and that is just fine by me.

 

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The next gamer plus

We can speculate in all direction, but I believe that the next big thing is Transference. It will be on several fields and when it comes to gaming, it is perhaps the clearest field of all. Many players want to take their game with them, many players want a larger exposure to the games that they care about. Especially in RPG gaming.

Bethesda

Bethesda might be the clearest example of all, they decided to do something nice and gave away a free game called Fallout Shelter. Now consider that you could export a maximum of three vaults to Fallout 4, as soon as a minimum degree is reached, you could do a one-time export of that vault. This now becomes a much more revealing part of a game you just spend 30-70 hours of gaming on, but in addition to that, depending on the level of the rooms, that vault is exported to a 3D version where you can walk around. Now, we can understand that the connection might require a purchasable DLC (which is fine by me, but consider that you get three new vaults (three new personal spaces) in the commonwealth, who would not want that?

The upcoming Elder Scrolls: Blades, might offer a similar path when the new Elder Scrolls 6 is released. All that time, all the effort and you get to transport a set of weapons and armour to the big game, how awesome would that be?

It would optionally add to the gaming experience and fun. For example (going back to Fallout shelter), level 1 rooms will be 25-50% operational, level 2 51%-75% and level 3 rooms 76%-90%, so you might have to clean out that vault, make repairs and set the stage to make it operational. That could be an easy 10 hours per vault more.

The concept of transference is not new, yet the interactions of mobile and console gaming will grow, 5G is making it happen, dedication to a franchise makes it essential and the fact that any good mobile game would optionally being in a DLC (or via season pass) gives more and more value to the franchise we enjoy.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft dropped the ball initially around the Unity release, yet what bummed me out was that the mobile game looked spiffy and appealing, it looked like a real winner. The fact that this fell through in a disastrous way was quite the shame, even as the previous Facebook attempt with Brotherhood was actually really good.

There are games that could have added so much. Titles like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Division would have added more depth and more joy to the game. Now, this is not a solution or option to all games, yet for the most, the RPG games could benefit greatly. This push is more and more to likely to happen, especially as Google and Apple are entering the gaming arena. Also unknown games like Watchdogs 3 would prosper in bigger ways. There will of course be the interactive person who will complain that it could have been added as a mini game. This is of course a fair call and there is nothing stopping the makers to add these games on both sides, yet we should consider the smoothness of adding transference to games, especially when the games are online games.

It can go in several directions, consider a game like System shock that is being relaunched within the next year. What could you get when the mobile part is about hacking into consoles on the mobile giving you optional rewards that you can pick up when you log back into the game? Another example could be World War Z, a game that has no mobile game, but a mobile tag with the option that passing people could blindly exchange weapons, more so, the receiver will always get a +1 version of the game transmitted to them, that too is the power of an app; weapons and armour of equal levels are exchanged and they get a +1 version of the given item, it will push interaction close to tenfold overnight.

All options to keep the gamers interested, most of it free and in some cases a real dealmaker to upgrade to that DLC, or merely buy it on the spot. The more I think on it, the more sense it makes. It will also be interesting for Nintendo to make that jump. They had done so to some extent, yet the swapping of your Pokémon collection (from any Pokemon game) via the mobile? And the versatility of that approach just keeps on growing, so as we consider all the cursing we have seen over the last weeks regarding Anthem, was there no one at EA that gave the entire stage a much larger setting giving players all kind of options on the go.

The nice part on all this is that it does not merely give reason for interaction with others. The option will also give more gamers the consideration to buy that game, which is a win-win for maker and gamer. I believe that we will see a growth of this in 2020-2021, even as most are now already considering this to some extent (or optionally considering not doing that) there is the most likely stage that the makers want to offer 5G gaming as fast as possible and adding new options will draw gamers in.

It is becoming a numbers game and those with social media and online links will merely offer more for the same amount which is always a good idea to get the success rate of a game up in the beginning, on launch day traction for a title is everything and I predict that not unlike Fable 2 with ‘Pub Games‘ on early release is a path that will find a renewed interest for all the people gaming involved, especially as it could help create visibility and awareness for the game maker, as well as a much larger exposure. So I do hope that anticipated games like Fable 4 will consider renewing that path.

It is also a consideration on the amount that Mass Effect Andromeda missed, when we consider the options that the Mass Effect 3 data pad gave us, moreover, the additional opportunities (with no more than 4G) could have given the makers of that game a lot more to their gamers, I had forgotten about the app initially and of the 72 missed opportunities (OK, that was an exaggeration, I only saw 67 opportunities), we see a sad part on what was, yet we can rejoice on what the next several years bring, especially as 5G and tag technology will raise the bar for everyone, not merely in gaming.

The next gaming generation could be one where we get the partial unification of single players in a multiplayer environment, the one part that every single player has been looking forward to for well over 6 years at present.

So when you see these ‘hot air’ articles on the fourth industrial revolution, consider what RFID, beacons, sensors, and drones could also facilitate for. Pokémon go opened the door, yet in the next 2 years we could see a whole range of new applications of technology that could spell more interactions and additional awareness on a global scale. For close to 95% of the people, their most important device is their mobile, for consoles and games to properly connect to that device adding options for gameplay and awareness makes perfect sense.

 

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The TV as a weapon

There is an old saying and there are alternatives to it. In Australia we say:

Q: Do you know the difference between ABC and Channel 7?
A: ABC shows you how bad things are in the world, Channel 7 shows you how screwed up your TV life is.

In the Netherlands it used to be NOS versus SBS6, and every nation has its own version. So what happens, when we see the millions of smart TV’s and Apple enters the race opposing Netflix? The New Daily gives the quote: “Spielberg who appeared live, touted the revival of his Amazing Stories anthology, while Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell then took the stage to discuss another Apple original, The Morning Show” with the added: “a range of new streaming entertainment services, as well as financial products, at a star-studded event Tuesday morning“. the message was apparently clearly brought and when we get to see: “Apple is expected to spend US$2 billion this year on original content to challenge established steaming players Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney+ service“, we need to realise that Apple has an optional goldmine in the making. In addition we see: “Hot on the heels of the Google game streaming service, Stadia, Apple launched Apple Arcade in a bid to grab a slice of the multi-billion dollar gaming market“, which will be fun to watch as Apple has shown a keen interest in negating the need of gamers (which is not all their fault in all honesty), will they figure it out this time? At least with the established Android gaming platform size, Google does have a huge advantage for now. OK, apple does have a gaming community on IOS and I was not short selling that (yes, I was). Yet the overall view I have seen in the past gives a better light of gaming to gamers on the android, than the Apple (a mere personal view on the matter).

So here we are watching two streams being created. First is the Netflix drain by Apple and as soon as they realise that 2 billion is a mere stack of money, to get the TV series that get the people to sign up, even besides Netflix will requires series that surpass The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Haunting of Hill House, Bird Box and a few other gems, Netflix has the writers, will Apple have them? We all know that Game of Thrones will enter their final season, so there are plenty of needy watchers to pick up after that conclusion, yet if Apple does not have the IP, they are not going anywhere. Even with the added Spielberg Amazing Stories anthology, which was actually quite decent when it was initially released on VHS, they will still have quite the task at hand. More important, even if they have all the ducks in a row, they will still having to deal with the market shares of Hulu, Stan, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney + service as well (and a few local others). Do they have the IP when that goes online? I can see half a dozen series that could be hits, and I am not the only one. Plenty of dedicated story tellers will have a list. Yet, does the Apple executive (whomever Tim Cook handed this hot potato to), does that person have a clue? The difference between a good presentation and an actual good idea comes with a gap that can fit the Grand Canyon and many Apple executives are a little lost when they face that gap.

It goes further, having a great idea is not enough and most visionaries have that in mind. to see that part we need to reflect on: “Apple, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in August last year, had been dropping cryptic hints about the launch event for weeks, sending the internet rumour-mill into overdrive“, yet since then Apple lost well over 20% of its value and the next few ‘slam bam’ misers will dent that even further. The next part is interesting as it impacts gaming and TV.

To get a great product you need at the very least (before marketing gets to have a go):

  1. A script, a story that will compel the reader to go on. Loading it with sex and graphics will only hold a small percentage for some time. A great example of a near perfect script was I Claudius by Robert Graves.
  2. A cast that works well together, each good actors, but together they become ambrosia, wine and nitro-glycerine, all at the same time. Again I Claudius became the golden standard. With Derek Jacobi, George Baker, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, James Faulkner, John Hurt, Patrick Steward, Ian Ogilvy, John Castle, and John Rhys-Davies we got something unheard of. They were already good actors, yet together they created greatness, they are now globally celebrities, but in 1976 that was not a given, they were iron rods and the director shaped them into high tempered steel increasing their mark close to tenfold.
  3. The director. Not merely the man implying 3, 2, 1, action! No, he is the person that becomes the visual visionary and Herbert Wise delivered. The evidence is seen in his work. As a director he has 91 marks on his career rod and when we look at it all, it is all decent work, insightful work, yet I Claudius is a 180 cm person walking in Indonesia (where the average height is 152cm), it stood out tall above all others. So, even as we accept that I Claudius could not have been done without the cast, it equally required the right director to make it work.
  4. The Producer (in this case the BBC), who had to put up the dough with a need of blind faith and no idea how much they were going to lose. These four required to be completely in sync and they were as such I Claudius is still seen as the best BBC drama ever produced, even now, 43 years later we see that new TV series merely hope to equal this achievement, thinking that it can be surpassed is mere folly (yet optionally not impossible).

This is the setting that Apple is trying to get into and throwing 2 billion at it thinking that it will be easy by presenting a few famous people is as reliable as getting rich by spending what you have on blow and hookers. It looks pretty, yet it is an absolute non-winner 100% of the time. Finding the right people will be the task for Apple and as they are all competing for the same pig through increasing the value of good scriptwriters, yet they too are starting to look critical at the offers, because they lose value with every failure and often enough, they do not get to blame the director of the production company, they get to be the scapegoat. So they will require their optional bosses to set an income and levels of freedom and commitment to a much higher degree.

As for gaming

Gaming has a similar setting. It will be about getting the gamers on board and that requires a great product, in an age where Apple has been all about marketed iteration, they are vying for innovation? In a market they do not seem to really comprehend? I am slightly puzzled.

There the director is the project director; the cast are the graphic designers and the scripters and coders. The art and stage might have similar issues, but finding these parts to intertwine and interconnect is where good coders are required. Then there is the learning curve of the game. And it gets to be worse fast when it becomes a product relying on micro transactions. Ubisoft, Bethesda too never quite worked it out and the first screw up will diminish the value of the event overnight. Apple will have to steer clear of micro transactions in the first year by a certainty of 100% and in the subsequent 2-3 years for 90%. Can they afford that game? Their essential path will be the RPG games that call the horn of attendance for gamers on a global scale, if not, than this becomes a long term project that will not end up becoming a winner. In that they have additional competition form makers like Nintendo, their Switch is still gaining momentum and the games I have seen lined up for that system shows that Nintendo is taking this momentum extremely serious. I wonder if Apple has thought this through beyond their return on investment expectations from executives who rely in spreadsheets and lack essential data skills other than identifying their ROI and bonus column. Once that goes south Apple will take a few hits in short succession and they will be painful. If it goes wrong (I am not stating or indication that this is the case), they could face the hits where their total value is a mere 50% of what it was on September 16th 2018.

Yes, Apple could rise high with streaming on TV and consoles, but in the end they require the golden eggs to get there and I am not convinced that they have what it takes to get there. For the most it is an art, I have been involved in gaming since 1984 and I still miss elements in all it. It is both science and an art, the moment you separate the two is the moment you lose. That has been an essential given for close to two decades. Ubisoft got it wrong more than once, Bethesda took massive hits with miscalculations and they are dedicated experts in that field, I doubt Apple has seen that shortfall at present.

To illustrate that we need to look at a game called the Division 2, an Ubisoft product. Important fact, it is seen as a really good game, better than the first version and steps forward, at times leaps forward, some reviewers have stated that is sets a new bar of online gaming and that is awesome to learn. Now add the two headlines: ‘Ubisoft Patches Annoying ‘The Division 2’ Skills Bug‘, as well as ‘The Division 2 PC players report a 100% CPU usage issue, Ubisoft is investigating‘, on games this size this will always happen and the fact that it is looked at and fixed this early is really good, so this is not about pulling Division 2 down. This is what happens on games this big depending on online elements, which is besides server down times. A consequence of online gaming and in this Apple is as I expect it not ready to see gaming to the higher levels it needs to see it.

If they see these two elements as a method to use the TV as a weapon, a data weapon for additional wealth, we see a company that is about to get hit really hard. That is in the foundation of it all. I believe that they are making the same mistake that Microsoft made. Microsoft is talking a good talk, yet the people all over the world are seeing the impact, the most powerful console in the world is being surpassed by the weakest of the three. Their setting of always online, their bullying tactics, their essential inability to listen to gamers (or ignoring what they are being told) is what is dragging down Microsoft and Apple will experience that lesson in a very hard way soon enough if they walk that same silly line.

Just like Microsoft, we see a company that more likely than not does not comprehend gamers and will falter because of corporate ROI needs soon enough. They see the two as connected to grow better, but these are two separate entities (TV and Gaming) representing 6 dimensions that can go in any direction, when these executives learn that lesson the hard way and they are looking what to do next, I will offer Tim Cook my last $99 for the company (Apple, a fruit of the loom division).

Could I be massively wrong?

Absolutely, yet the Apple marketing need of the hype and their viral needs seem to be on my side, as the gaming industry as a whole tends to be as gossipy as any old tea lady, so word would have circulated into my inner core of contacts much earlier, as such I think that Apple is not ready, nowhere near ready, personally I do hope to be proven wrong. I would love to see more contenders in the gaming world, more choice, more innovation and better games is the consequence from that war, and I do love playing good games.

I will keep you all posted on what happens next.

 

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A Congressional Country Club Neighbour

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

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

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

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

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

So how is that better?

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

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

What else could there be?

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

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

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

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

 

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Battle of the giants

The Guardian has released a list of the best games of the year. As a Sony lover, I expected to see god of War and it is there, we also see Microsoft’s Forza Horizon 4, which ought to be there too. I was never a racing fan and still that game blew me away, so there!

We also see games that never were my fancy; Monster Hunter World is not a game I tried as I was disappointed with the grinding that the 3DS version gave. I admit that the graphics on the new consoles looked amazing, yet i felt no need to try. Ni No Kuni 2 is not a surprise and the absence of Bethesda is no surprise. I am quite frankly amazed on how many times Bethesda dropped the ball in this quarter alone. I have no idea what got them hit with the stupid stick this many times. Red Dead Redemption 2 is there too and my only surprise is the remastered Shadow of the Colossus. I actually did not expect it to show up, as I saw Dark Souls Remastered. If we look at those two, they deserve to be there, and even as it hits the mark, they do have the benefit of having a long time to be the original, when we look today, it is much harder to find an original game, as such these two might be regarded as having an unfair advantage.

I also missed titles that should have been there. first there is Spiderman, it is not merely the best Spiderman ever made, it is graphically perfect, it has the clear feel of a Peter Parker adventure and it is true to a Marvel world, as such I expected it to be there, right next to God of war, two games that made Sony to be the Huge success it became in 2018. The Xbox One misses out due to exclusivity, and I am in conflict with myself over Assassin’s Creed Odyssey not being picked, there are reasons it should be there and optional reasons for it not making the cut, yet I feel the balance scale is still on the side of it being there. I believe that in this case the DLC is added reason for it making the grade this time around as well (the cultural DLC of life in Egypt last year was a stroke of genius, you walk through it seeing just how much as a gamer you missed out on, making the replay 150% more satisfying). As a PlayStation lover (an important distinction), I need to side with Keza MacDonald on this one. Her statement: “This game is a beautiful experience. As driving games go, it’s the best I’ve ever played“, in the end, God of War blew me away as well, it was such a rush to see a game propel to the size it did, yet in the end, there is every chance that Forza Horizon 4 might end up being the best game of the year, it will be a title well deserved. In all my opposition to what Microsoft calls ‘good business‘ and their view of gamers, this one they got right, well done Microsoft!

If gaming is perception and presentation, just to call the attention, we need to stop and take another look at Bethesda. Even as the media titles have been ‘protective’ like ‘Bethesda Accidentally Leaked Personal Data of ‘Fallout 76’ Customers Looking for Help‘, as well as ‘Bethesda’s attempt to fix a Fallout 76 blunder leaks angry shoppers’ PID‘, we need to be mindful, accidental or not. Personal data is out there, possible due to an overreaction by Bethesda. Many consider Fallout 76 to be a failure; I am slightly less pessimistic calling it ‘work in progress’. That is the nature of the beast, when you tackle the online gaming, things go pear shaped, not merely because of the dangers of online resources, the mere consideration that 4 eager gamers can ask more of a system than 23,665 programmers can correct for, it is a mere truth of the online stage. And it was my personal feeling that after Tamriel in an online stage, Bethesda would have learned enough to get it much better from day one, they did not!

So it is unlikely that Bethesda is going home with any prices and awards this year (however, there is still Legends, and optionally blades).

Why look at this?

Games are not merely games, when a person buys a game; he or she pays for both an experience, as well as a stage of engagement. It is hard (read: impossible) to merely see AC Odyssey, without going back all the way to Masyaf and the very first Assassins Creed (if you played it as early as then), this is why AC2 and AC brotherhood are still seen as the path of perfection that AC Unity devastated. I got this Ubisoft punishment device (see image), just so I could explain it to the skull of Yves Guillemot as graphically as possible (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

We have had plenty of reasons to get mad at Ubisoft for a whole range of reasons and now we see a growing group of people angered with Bethesda. I say one optional flop does not make a raging crowd, yet the views, visions and YouTube’s out there say different. As for perception, this game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWwyhymcDxI) was one of the first 5 games I ever bought (3rd or 4th), I still think fondly of this game, even after 34 years. I got the Broderbund title as it got the IBM joystick award (in those days there was no proper game reviewing). It was an instant success. When you get emerged in a game, your world changes, and you tend to focus on fun and challenge. This is not unique for me; this is for anyone who loves games. Now we can hardly perceive this, yet I still remember the challenge that level 5 was initially. For many, their first console, the first game they truly got involved in, that title they will carry in their hearts for the longest of times, they will judge other games by that game. For many it will be on all systems, others will judge it per system (which is fairer anyway). So the new gamers will hold a light to any new game, comparing it to FHIV, AC Odyssey, Super Mario Odyssey, and Red Dead Redemption 2. That is the nature of the beast and when we find the developer lacking, they will get slapped around by these gamers (poor poor Yves Guillemot). Yet when a developer gets it right, when they deliver beyond the over marketed title (like AC Origin) they also get the benefit of powerful acknowledgement (as they are entitled to that too). For me (in the Mario universe) it started with Super Mario 64, and until we got Super Mario Sunshine, it had the crown, even later as we saw Wii and WiiU, Super Mario Sunshine still ruled and now we see the optional crown going to Super Mario Odyssey (I only played the demo so far).

So when we see this, when we realise that best game of the year is also smitten with what they made before, we see a difference, another measurement. So in that light, I do hope that the rumours of Samus Aran and her trilogy for Nintendo Switch will be true. So far in 14 years no one ever surpassed the fun and challenge value that Metroid Prime delivered and I loved Metroid Prime 2: Echoes to that same degree. So to get that on Switch will up the ante for any game developer. The fun, the challenge and getting to the conclusion of the challenge is everything to the gamer, Nintendo has forever understood that part of gaming to a much better degree than any other developer (Bethesda had a good grasp of comprehending people on the past).

So when we see that the reality is that we will optionally be able to replay those titles via the Nintendo Switch Virtual Console, we see that Nintendo has a long term future as well, as these titles can capture the older hearts, as well as new players giving them a lot more bang for the buck. Nintendo rules these waves, we see this with the latest addition Super Smash Bros (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWo9wfsnj7M). It is Super Smash Bros that gives the main dish as a desert. When we realise that the impression of fun is not merely looking good, it is about getting it right, it is in this view that looking perfect will always lose against getting it right.

It is that distinction is also important when you look towards the best game of 2018, even as a PlayStation fan (a bias that is forever important), we see that Spiderman PS4 got it right, Forza Horizon 4 merely got it right better. So Microsoft on a game type that I am not really a fan of; justly wins with a title by getting it right the best. Even as God of War was perfect, exceeded everything they made before, we might compare it to why Super Smash Bros got 94%, yet in the end, the game that blew us away more will take the cake and candles in all of this. FHIV might never be in my collection as the One versus One X is just to distinct here (for now), yet the fact that whenever I see FHIV, I get the desire to race, as a non-racer, that impression is extremely distinct; it is why my vote went that way. To capture the heart of a player that has another game style is an achievement that we all seem to forget. Just like Super Smash Bros has the ability to get all kinds of people to pick up the game and play against as many people as possible, we see the impact of excellence in gaming through fun and the joy of getting there. Nintendo mastered that ability a long time ago and whenever we see any other game getting there, we rejoice.

Far Cry Primal got close and then dropped the ball by being ‘predetermined’. Far Cry 5 never got there by offering everything and becoming nothing at all, the God of War got there through the people who knew the originals, giving us a new track, another path in almost perfect graphics and with a rating of 94% they did excel, set that against the 92% of Forza Horizon 4 and in my state of mind, there would be no contest, game over for Microsoft Studios, yet that was not the case, challenge and fun, they merely got it slightly better. Even as we see that they got Best Racing Game and Xbox Game of the Year (which was not really that much of a challenge this time around), they are still on track to get Ultimate Game of the Year, Best Sports/Racing Game and Best Audio Design, it is my personal opinion that they would optionally lose the third one and anyone who has heard the soundtrack of God of War is likely to agree with me. As I see it, Forza Horizon 4 gets to be the Ultimate Game of the Year; at least that is how I personally would vote.

The annual award is a battle of giants, some excelled for a long time, some excelled in every way and some merely competed to some extent. What is important in not merely who wins, and who gets nominated, we see that the winners will impact what we see in upcoming 2020 games and that is important to realise.

As we will anticipate on the coming of the Trilogy on Switch, some might wonder why. It is not merely the FPS part, it is open (to some extent), it is a challenge and it is an adventure, even in 2002 when it was released, even with the more ‘advanced’ graphics that the Xbox and the PlayStation 2 had, they could not touch Metroid Prime and its 97% rating. That small disc, holding a mere part of a DVD blew away all competition and with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes at 92% it did so again, and those who loved gaming want to get that feeling again. That is the impact that fun coated in challenge, or is that challenge coated in fun? Whichever way it is presented it creates gamers and it creates desire within a gamer. The ultimate game of the year can impact that future of where we will look next, what we will try next, even if it is not our cup of tea. When it hits the mark we will all order a pot of it, not merely a cup. That is one part that the game makers understand, and they are eager to get into the sweet spot of gamers there.

Should you think that gamers are selfish, think again! Digital trends reported less than 2 weeks ago: “Grandma Shirley — had left expressing her doubts at living to see The Elder Scrolls VI, a petition was created on Change.org to have her immortalized in the game“, gamers care to this extent, especially when they share a connection to a game, so I think that Bethesda needs to be truly stupid to not consider this, and to be honest Bethesda has been overly considerate in the past, not for personal gain or marketing, their actions regarding Erik West (Eric the Slayer), and there are more examples. Bethesda has forever been trying and aiming to get it right and to a larger extent, they have, so I was puzzled on how they got Fallout 76 so wrong. I merely cover it with ‘a work in progress‘, which in light of the approach is probably as correct as it gets (for now).

Gaming is for me not some state, or an escape. It is a world you become a part of, not replacing reality, but having it on the side. Making it part of the 24 hours a day you have, not replacing the 24 hours you should live in. Some choose sports, some choose a passion (or passion itself) and some hike, trail and be out in the open. Gamers do the gaming thing and when developers get that mindset right, the games will propel in excellence, it is a lesson Nintendo learned early on and they are still able to surprise us. In this Bethesda and Nintendo are optionally more alike. They both got it wrong (WiiU/Fallout76), yet as Nintendo Switch is now the golden mark of excellence, we might get the same from Bethesda (with whichever titles comes next) and that too is gaming, when the challenge is met and we get that satisfying feeling of a new challenge and we look forward to every second that comes next. That ‘Oh Yeah!‘ moment (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB8BLMMVFLg) when you see that they are got it right. Gaming has had plenty of these, which is why developers are getting additional chances. Witcher 3, Mass Effect 2, Diablo 3, Skyrim, Metroid Prime, GTA5, the Last of Us, Golden Eye, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The list goes on and will remain growing after tomorrow, because any developer that flops now (Far Cry) will optionally be able to hit it out of the park at a later stage (Far Cry 3) and that is gaming too, to be there and live through the successes, even after a massive failure (AC Unity anyone?)

Gamers can afford to wait as there are plenty of players offering the next golden egg, or is that the next golden eye? And with results like God of War, Forza Horizon 4, Ni no Kuni 2, and Subnautica I personally believe that the future of gaming is in good hands. No matter who gets to be called the ultimate game of 2018. There has been 45 years between Pong (1972) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017), it was never about who had the best graphics (Minecraft 2011 is evidence of that), any category can win, any style can win (Rock Band 3 2010) and it opens us optionally to playful directions we might never have considered on day one of that game (Limbo 2010).

Personally I love the yearly gaming awards for reasons mentioned earlier, but for the most, for me it is about to consider a game that stood out in one way and merely missed out on that game initially having something to look forward to, which in my clearest case was Far Cry 3, the previous versions were not up to standard and therefor I never considered it, which gave me in the end more joy than I bargained for, exceeding expectations can end up being that rewarding.

It will be Monday morning in 60 hours, so try to take a moment and play a game this weekend, even if it is for merely an hour and it is something as simple (and highly addictive) as Minecraft.

 

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We test da game

It is time to talk about Bethesda. It is having a rough week and not wrongfully so. Yet the application of exposure is something we do need to talk about. We see headlines like ‘Publishers like Bethesda Should Accompany Sony in Skipping E3 2019’; it is time to do a little more than merely disagree. Another review, the one from Eurogamer made a real effort to keep it clean and academically and that should be appreciated. With: “Bethesda’s attempt at Fallout multiplayer is, like so many of the series’ vaults, a failed experiment.” Those who played the Fallout games will know that this is a jab at Vaultec and that is fine. You see, the short and sweet of it is that we can look at Bethesda and think Nintendo; we can consider that Vault 76 is the Bethesda version of the WiiU and guess what? Out of those ashes the Nintendo Switch was born and it is a massive success, as such Bethesda can do the same, get a similar solution. Now, that does not stop the immediate, and it might not be immediately fixed, is that so bad? The fact is that Bethesda has never been a real ‘more of the same‘ company and we have applauded them for it and this time, we get to wait a little longer. Guess what, Ubisoft made us wait 9 months for Watchdogs (2012/2013) and the end result was still flimsy, Bethesda can outdo that achievement (effortlessly) whilst sleeping. Even as we see articles like ‘9 Ways Bethesda Can Fix Fallout 76‘, we see the impact of some people that have an axe to grind, merely because their expectations were smashed and that is fine. You should have seen me rant in the direction of France (specifically Yves Guillemot for screwing up the AC Franchise to the extent that they had done), we all have axes to grind and it comes with the field of gaming, emotions will run high. It is all linked to the complex mind and the necessity to play. We value that downtime like the hall passes we get on powernaps in the office on Monday morning, isn’t that what the Monday morning is for? When I looked at the list of 9 (at WhatCulture) there were parts we can optionally agree with and some we might not. You see, fast travel is a nice way to exploit glitches and the soul of Vault 76 might be the survival of you, as such the option “There’s not really any reason for the game to charge for fast travel, so it’s simply an unnecessary annoyance. It can be easily patched out of the game without upsetting its balance, and so it should be done” might be rejected, and focus on another stage. I very much felt like agreeing to ‘Add an Offline Mode‘, as this has been the core of everyone, to play offline, or online in solo, singular and lonely mode, optionally merely with the additional path to invite friends.

There I would go with ‘United we Stand, Lonely we Quest‘. I have friends (merely a few mind you) and I got unnerved way too much as they got into my line of fire. You see a marksman needs a clear field and when you get in my way you will get a bullet in the back of your head to remind the others not to get in my fucking way (I apologise for my applied use of French here). In a stage where an opponent needs to cross the 800-400 meter range so he/she can effectively open fire on me, my friends better not screw up my stats, I fought hard to have a decent accuracy rating, so one idiot getting in my way in whichever way is not my choice of acceptance, and people catch on quick, they kept out of my way and whichever enemy got too close was made permanently redundant (and they went down with satisfying graphics) . This is why I never cared for the Olympics, I absolutely love that the winner is heralded, yet why are the others allowed to live? (Sorry, I do have a weird sense of humour)

So back to that list as the previous part was linked to this. You see, I disagree with: “With the inclusion of an offline mode, though, Bethesda could also add in accessibility options for players to toggle the punishment factor of the survival elements“, I disagree here, if Vault 76 is about survival, having an impact and penalty is important, it also prepares you to not run into situations as most gung-ho players tend to do, survival is something else, it is cautious and tends to be slow. There is no greater sense of achievement as wiping out all life in a village and until the last person remains alive, these NPC’s had no idea what he was up against, which is a little wink at the Oblivion ‘Whodunit?‘ mission. In his list of 9 I failed to see a true link for greatness. There are valid points in there and some should be considered fast. Yet the bigger picture I miss is not what I saw, it is what I missed. In my view (apart from the bug fixing) which will take time and Bethesda is on it, I want to give a few points of my own.

  1. A built site needs a much bigger budget; in addition, the cost of defences should be down by at least 50%. Optionally build sites should be expanded on, so when the building budget is full, optionally expand it (for a price, or expansion mission add what would be up to 3 satellite mobile builders (one for each time a maximum budget had been reached), giving you the option to gain well over 100% of space, to optionally create an actual outpost, or perhaps link to a building, an official or community building, so that you can build something lasting. Not sure if that would be possible (software architecturally speaking), yet consider Fallout 3, who had not considered making the US Capitol their own personal space? Perhaps it is too large an example, yet that impact, like a subway station might be an awesome idea to build your own ‘town’. That was my hope when I was introduced to the intro of Vault 76, we understand why another vault is not an option, yet a failed vault (one that was not ready in time) is still an idea. Whether that idea is added as a DLC will not matter. It can even become a quest line in the game.
  2. Quests, there is (seemingly mind you) a lot missing here, as I mainly gathered from loads of reviews. My immediate idea was to add quests like ‘the Greenhouse effect‘. A mission that sets a stage where we need food to survive, aiding an NPC in setting up a greenhouse, growing vegetables and setting the stage to sell groceries to other settlers (a wink to fallout 4 Greygardens), not merely getting the entire structure up, but creating robots so that the work can be long term and automated.
    A similar quest could be created for clean water ‘the shape of aqua‘, and should not be repetitive in shape and challenges like the previously mentioned one. With these two in place, the game can give perks for outposts created. Another part for general goods stores ‘Crazy Goods‘ (a Crazy People wink). The trick is to make the challenges very different and testing, giving not merely a stage of improvement, but one with different sided challenges. It is one thing I partially missed in the past, there is a sneak preference in me, yet having a mission that is dependent on a technical skill, and perhaps one on heavy weapons/explosives and one on sneak gives a new view to how we ourselves, play that game, it is merely a thought. And it important to see that this is merely partial criticism on all this, I have not played the full game, not played to any large extent (merely a few hours at a friend’s place, as he has 4K and I do not). Even as it all looks impressive and even as it is buggy, it is still new, as well as in a new direction and that is what I love about Bethesda. I was never a rage fan, I never went beyond the first ‘the Evil within‘, yet they never stopped surprising me and they are willing to take leaps. They prove that their games are not for everyone and that is fine, the ones that do like their games tend to be extremely committed, you merely have to look at the Rage population for that part of the equation.
  1. Diversify! There are too many ‘password for terminal‘ moments in all this (I was given awareness of this, I have not tested this part). I get it that this is the operational stage of the Fallout series, yet the alternative to download terminals so that your Pip-boy can hack it (over time) gives us the need to find empty Holotapes and perhaps add the write capability to the Pip-boy (for the downloaded terminal), was that considered? How come that we cling to the ‘caps’ part, if this is the beginning, is there not a real needs for goods? Making the water, food and goods part more important and optionally also making those missions more rewarding? Then there is the option of ‘RandomWare‘. Spawn unique pieces in solo mode whenever a new game is created. So you cannot run to a place, you have to genuinely find it. For example a power armour helmet with sneak abilities (converting that item to sneak perks card perhaps), or a level 4 Rifleman card (+25% damage). This could be done for different sets and in different ways giving much more challenge and reward to the game. For example, adding 2 special parts for every S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill might give the people true incentive to find every location and if those 14 parts are scattered randomly over 200 locations, the cheat guides will take a step back requiring people to become better players, it is merely a thought to consider. Consider that you have a game where you need to get lucky. That feeling that you get with Diablo 3, when after finishing the game 10 times, you still get a legendary item you never had before, in a trait that really gives you an edge; it is a real Adrenalin rush when that happens.

These are merely three elements that could add heaps to the challenge, prestige and rewarding sensation that is currently temporary lacking in Vault 76. I use the word temporary as I have complete faith that in the end Bethesda will come through for its players, so far it has never failed them and that must be said too. With about 5000 hours in the Elder Scrolls (not online) and Fallout, I feel that I know what I am talking about, besides the part where I have been connected to games going all the way back to 1982 (CBM Vic-20).

Is there more? Yes, there is always more but is that not the main concern with every Monday morning quarterback? So far Bethesda has not disappointed me and they will get past this, or perhaps not and the next gem we truly end up desiring is the one that comes after. It is always a side we have to accept, merely because games and gaming is not science, it is an art and art will always be personal, we either embrace it, or we do not. Yet in the end, like junkies we hope that the next Rembrandt is another Nightwatch, yet the next one might be merely ‘An Old Woman Reading‘, which is still a Rembrandt mind you. So when you realise that both him and me are both from the ‘van Rijn’ family branch, yet did that branch matter? It absolutely does not and I am not related to him at all, we are two separate trees completely (implying it at times, especially in New York was heaps fun, seeing the shock in the other person alone is worth the entertaining act), giving us another form of artistic entertainment.

When we realise that art is the foundation of any game you should start to realise how insane the Ubisoft claim ‘another Assassins Creed game every year‘ was. As I stated in a different blog before, it took me no more than 8 hours to create the foundation of Elder Scrolls 6 (not the one being made now), yet it is not merely the story, it is the art, the graphics (a part Ubisoft has truly mastered in all their AC games). It is the science of ‘AI’ so that the NPC’s are acting natural in the game and that part is still not perfect (in any game), there are so many parts and they all need to interact (making the Ubisoft claim much worse), because it all takes time and time will never ever bargain. It will never state that it will decrease itself in speed by 10%, it is the one constant we all face (until we die that is), making game testing crucial to success and taking into consideration that a game is finished whenever that is (the perfect CD Project Red) response to its fans. We can design and conceptionally spring the game in moments, yet it still needs to be done in the end and the visionary programmer will be worth gold at that point, yet the interactions with other parts of the game makers (graphics and sound) are still part of it all and that requires time. Bethesda’s approach to use golden oldies songs (in the fallout series) was a master move, we all (most of us at least) want those soundtracks with those old songs and they also give life to the consideration of classics, two home runs for the price of one. All parts that can be used to add to the game even more. The question becomes how to give proper positive impact to the gamer? It is a question no one can honestly state, not even the best marketeer. We can merely hope that the impact is appreciated, perhaps even loved by the gamer exposed to it. So far Bethesda has done really well and even as I was not playing them from the beginning (I started in 2001), I have so far never really been disappointed. Is that because I await the game, or perhaps I refuse to adhere to my own expectations? The second one is extremely dangerous. The moment that you start to live by your own expectations you will miss out, as I did ignoring Far Cry 3 for too long. It is an important moment even as I have raised my fist against Ubisoft for the longest of times, they got that one really right (4 and 5 a lot less so). If there is one impact for Bethesda is that they will face (deservingly) the issue that their launch day following will decline, yet I believe that they will overcome and any really great game will restore faith in the brand. Ubisoft faced that upbeat when we were introduced to AC Origin (still a true gem).

EA could face that same upbeat if they remaster (still a big if) the Mass Effect trilogy, they would have an option to fix the Andromeda parts if they are willing to go all out, but in the end, will they find the cash? It is important to look at this now; you see, most gamers cling to the old successes and so far plenty of people have seen the positive impact of a remaster, so the noise for the Mass Effect series is increasing again (and again, and again). Yet, is that enough? There is an option to set the stage for a fifth Mass Effect game, if the makers can learn to ignore the shouts for early release (aka muzzle their entire marketing division) and focus on quality, if the errors (seen in the first hour) are addressed and looked at as a challenge to make a better product, we see and we get to live through a new challenge that is a true new Mass Effect, but it implies that EA Games needs to be willing to put it all on the table and so far, they have not shown to be testicularly ready (aka they lack the balls), so why mention it? I am a gamer like all the other gamers and Mass Effect 2 is still one of the most perfect games I ever played; like everyone else I do want more of that and it is within EA to find that solution (there are millions of gamers wanting that) implying that if they get it right, it will come with millions of copies sold. Consider that Andromeda might not get that, yet link it with Mass Effect Hegemony (fictive future title) it becomes another matter altogether, especially if they are willing to change the focal point. I merely have to point at movies like: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Earth 2, where the humans are basically not the good guys to create a stage that is invigorating, creates moral ambiguity and gives consideration to other venues. A game like that would be a game changer, especially in the Mass Effect range. That same path should be considered with Bethesda. What happens if we up the game, what happens when there are real setback to the choice of becoming Railroad, Brotherhood of Steel or Institute minded? Just like we saw in New Vegas, where a direction impair another one, when direction offers options as well as impairment, we see a need to replay the gamer and that replay is actually just as exciting, providing that the missions are different and new, not merely a palate of sense (replace goods with slaves), it is a path less trodden because of the effort needed, yet the impact also implies that the game is valued up to 200% more that way.

We are all protective on what we desire and love, especially the games we embrace, it is natural to do so, yet we must be willing to be honestly critical when it does not meet our realistic expectations. As long as our expectations were realistic we will be able to do that, as such I feel no reason to joining the AOC (Active Oxhorn Critics). Here we see (via Reddit) “Seems like people hate the game despite it being good or not“, as the operative part is: “Oxhorn gets hate for actually liking Fallout 76“, it does not matter whether the expectations of Oxhorn were really low, or that he is like me, in Bethesda he trusts, all others pay cash up front. His dime, his choice. People are entitled to that part, plain and simple.

Faith is strange and fickle that way. I believe that the entire setting of the stage is not the one or the other, it is the appreciation of art, especially art that remains in transit and is still being upgraded, when the final product is a good one. We got the value for our bucks. Even if that is not the case, the price of art is what we are willing to pay for it. I have always been willing to pay $20 for any Rembrandt, yet that is the limit of my budget for an oil painting. Others pay $1200 for a pre-released No Man’s Sky, it is merely what we are willing to shell out at that moment and it is up to us to learn that we accept the choices we make. So even as some feel really bad of getting a launch day copy of Vault 76, we merely need to learn to look at the right sources informing us on what is and what is likely to be. Granted that this is difficult when a game is as large as Bethesda, or Project Red RPG’s, yet in this the success versus fail rate with these two players is so far massively in favour of the ‘I trust my maker‘ that we tend to go with the launch day part.

We win some, we lose some.

So get over it, especially as Bethesda is openly and loudly committed to fix the product, which in the end is still the biggest part we need to accept and I did mention the result after 9 months of waiting for Watchdogs 1, did I not? So let’s give them time to do the Sir Fixalot routine and await the upgraded result.

 

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