Tag Archives: CBM-64

Games in Motion Review?

It seems that there is a lot of polarisation going on. If it isn’t the mudslinging on those opposing Brexit, showing what a bad losers they really are and if it isn’t those crying over commerce whilst the bulk of those so called managers won’t put in an honest day’s work. Then there is a collection of people playing a game, not comprehending what they are doing (go figure).

It is the last group that gets my attention today. The Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/05/no-mans-sky-perils-infinite-promise-sean-murray-hello-games) had an article called ‘No Man’s Sky and the perils of infinite promise‘, and because Sydney is now 3 weeks away from the EB Games EXPO it matters. You see, if you are a casual player fine! That’s OK and as such you might have missed a beat, which is not any criticism. It starts with the utter misconception we have nowadays on what we buy “Clutched in a crinkly bag we held the perfect product“, that is what a true fan will say regardless. This is how we felt when Assassins Creed 2 came our way. When we started a game called Ultima 4 (on CBM-64) and when we started Elite Dangerous. Those who knew had a reference of feelings, we played it, we ‘completed’ it and we desired to get it. This could never have applied to No Man’s Sky, or Subnautica, or Horizon Zero Dawn. Yet it might apply to Mass effect Andromeda! You see when we know it, it has reference, just like buying that album. We heard it, and we want it!

Then we get the quote “The reputation of Peter Molyneux, a veteran British video game designer, toppled after he habitually promised alluring features (knock an acorn off a tree and over the course of the game you’ll be able to watch it grow, he once claimed of Fable) that never surfaced in his games”. Again, Peter’s reputation is very much alive and on heights at my address. I met him a few times and he has delivered time after time again, and as for the ‘Acorn’, he did deliver that too! When you decide on a path in Fable 2, where your actions decides the fate and the look of Bowerstone Old Town.

Now we get to the goods. You see No Man’s Sky very much delivered on its promise. I even rewatched some of the aired clips and shows on YouTube. In this part the Stephen Colbert show had one of the best presentations (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqeN6hj4dZU), of course a few things changes a little (the way naming works), yet what we saw there, we are seeing in the game we play. The only thing not there is the galactic view, yet that is pretty much the only thing. What I don’t get are some of the weird gamers. You see, I get it, I understand that this game might not be for you. You gaming preference might be limited to FIFA, or NFL, or Call of Duty. That’s fine! So many games, so many choices! I love Minecraft, yet many of my friends do not. Again, we all have our preferences. So why are those people, who hate the game so much not sending it back to the shop? Instead of whinging and whining about a game they do not like they could perhaps exchange it for a game they do like.

However, there is a growing group of people who seem to get pleasure into releasing hate reviews of a game. I seem to prefer to take time into reviewing games I do like. Try to transfer my interest in a game, it seems more natural and functional than just vomiting hatred, which is just an idea from my side. The issue I have is that the anger is just so illogical. Yet the quote “In an expansive New Yorker profile, Raffi Khatchadourian wrote that Murray feared the game had become “a Rorschach test of popular expectation, with each player looking for something that might not be there”“, a not inaccurate but flawed. You see, there is a side that has not been exposed, not by any of the publications. Places like The Christian Times one of several who were trying to get some traffic to their site as were a lot more, yet those pages have now miraculously vanished. All making claims that could not have been supported or seconded and as such people suddenly got a dose of info that was not substantiated. Quotes like “The update will also add more diversity to the universe by adding new creatures and alternate galaxies“, so as we see some of the outrageous quotes, claims never made by Sean Murray or Hello Games (as far as I can tell). The quote “When former Sony employee Shahid Kahmal Ahmad criticised some players for requesting refunds, even after, in one case, playing the game for 72 hours, he became a target for online harassment“, which shows just how delusional some gamers tend to be. Yet the article has another side, it does not illuminate it, yet it does mention it with the quote: “Video game-makers struggle in unique ways when it comes to raising audiences’ expectations and then matching them in reality“, which is not the video maker, but its marketing department or the publishers marketing department. The issue was never a given in No Man’s Sky, it created the hype, by merely showing the game. Many games are not anywhere near the uniqueness that this game have and it is up to the marketing departments to create a wave of interest. Many might be able to recall Call of Duty : Ghosts, what was hyped the be the beginning of next generation gaming became the one game that showed that bad planning and good marketing that is, until people started to play the game. Another game that had to rely on hype was Watchdogs. Now, here there is another matter. For one, the development was hit with delay after delay. It was supposed to be the PS4 launch day game and became the game that screwed PS4 players over and gave birth to its own game 36 weeks later, which was just about the delay it had.

You see, I have bashed Ubisoft and Electronic Arts more than once in these matters. What is very much centre to this discussion is how marketing and press seem to smooth over the disappointments that the large players are bringing, whilst Hello games and CD Project Red as small development houses are bringing epic achievements in gaming. The fact that some (me included) regard Witcher 3 to be the perfect game, the perfect achievement in gaming of this kind is probably accepted by all (even those who have no love for that genre). The fact that the unfounded anger towards Hello Games is coming, whilst one of the most guilty parties is the press and the wannabe press reiterating news cycles with added insinuation to lure traffic to their sites as was happening on a near daily basis in the 3 months leading up to the release of the game is left unmentioned. I ended up giving ‘An Early Verdict‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2016/08/08/an-early-verdict/), because of some of the unacceptable rants I saw passing by and because a person named DJ Angel put up an actual decent review of the game and I stand by what I wrote three days before the release and now after well over 50 hours of gameplay: “No Mans Sky exceeded my personal expectations!

Now we need to get to the gritty, because this is going beyond just this game and mere reviews. There is an issue evolving, the issue with this issue is that there are no set standard, there is not limit or barrier that could be regarded as valid. It’s is the job of any marketing department to create a hype, to create interest and it is the job of the reviewer to cut through this all and give a correct reflection of what he/she has played. Yet there are recently two issues evolving. The first is that the game sites seem to encourage hype creation through advertising for example. Yet the reviews are not given until several days after the game is released, leaving the gamer in a vacuum.

I once stated in an article “reviewers should investigate is what I would call a ‘redundancy level’ of gaming. To ‘accommodate’ the marketing divisions to optimise their path, some companies have done away with massive levels of quality control. Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Far Cry 4, Assassins Creed Unity and the list seems to go on, all have the same problem, when you buy the game, you are again forced online to download a day one patch, many of them well over 1 Gb“, the issue that seems to originate through a massive failure of quality control. I would accept a day one patch from Hello Games and Project Red because they are in fact small development houses, they tend to survive on massively cramped budgets. Yet when we see this level of failure form EA and Ubisoft, where they are supposed to be ‘billion dollar companies’ one would imagine a much better prepared track. Often setting almost impossible goals for release and hen coming up short. The fact that the reviewers are giving those larger players all the leeway is perhaps a larger concern then just the games, because once the trust is gone, where will gamers find the information they can trust? The review of games is a field that has been in motion for a very long time, yet I feel that the overall trust of reviews and reviewers is perhaps on its lowest level ever. It seems that that beside printed reviews, the ones online should always be carefully regarded, regarded in a way, of being very precise in what is written (also known as the Murdoch insinuation approach to writing). Whilst some of those outrageous reviews we saw in the past months of No Man’s Sky seems to have vanished, magazines cannot vanish that easily. It seems that the words tend to be less innuendic (is that a real word?) in nature.

So for those who felt let down by No Man’s Sky I ask, did you see some of the video’s on YouTube? Specifically the DJ Angel one? Perhaps you saw the launch video from Eurogamer. The first one (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdJnpf7uXaw) showing 50 planets in 7 minutes. They started the game 50 times and showed just how different the planets were, which was indeed a promise that Sean Murray made and kept! The second one shows 3.5 hours of gameplay (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eASULWu2Ups on launch night), here we see how Aoife Wilson and Johnny Chiodini, comfy on the couch are getting through the initial hours of the game. There is close to no chance that 30 minutes into that gameplay won’t give you a decent idea of what you face even more so than a mere online or printed article.

There are cases when the people have a real reason to complain (remember Assassins Creed Unity), yet as I see it, there is no validity with No Man’s Sky. In addition, the patches we got (4 so far), they were all less than 100Mb if I remember correctly, so whatever patching was done, it was at less than 0.9% of the space that AC Unity needed whilst offering well over 18 quintillion times the gaming space (OK, low blow, I admit that).

So in conclusion I say:

 1. Research the game you are getting hyped about
2. Put question marks to games that have no quality reviews before release dates
3. Stop whining, the first two points should have prevented you from buying a dodgy game.
4. Realise that game videos could get you to guy a game you never expected (it is how I got recently Subnautica)

Make a game about what you want to play, not what other gamers proclaim to be ‘cool!’, you might actually become the cool gamer others proclaim to be!

 

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Persecuting the prosecutors

Sometimes things get to me. We all have those moments, we all consider the things that touch us in different ways. For me, I have been a gamer since the beginning of gaming. This world started for me in 1983 with the Vic-20 and was followed up with the CBM-64 a year later. I never stopped gaming, so when I got hit with the article ‘I couldn’t save my child from being killed by an online predator‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/23/breck-bednar-murder-online-grooming-gaming-lorin-lafave), I kind of lost it. This gaming world is a world I share, virtually and in reality. I talk to my co-workers on the new games, the challenges some games give and how we feel about some games. A few friends are all about GTA, some share my passion for Fallout, Diablo 3 and Minecraft. Whilst some games we all play by ourselves, because we cannot be into every game that is a mere reality. We hunt down the mutants, kill them with our rifles (all by ourselves), and when we get that legendary monster we get to talk about it the next day. This is a world of fun, joy and challenges. We do not ignore the real life, we interact with others too, which is not always about games. So, I was slightly dismayed when Olivia Wilde chose Jason Sudeikis over me (it must have been the beard). Life goes on, so as you see, we have our dreams, our fun, our joy, our fantasies and we go out of our way to get as much joy into our lives without bringing harm. That is as I see it a way of life that the bulk of us gamers have.

Some are a lot more competitive and even relenting on gaming as they kill virtually to be the best, some of them have a too vivid drive to be winners and dissing the losers or at times being the wannabe’s that strike out to winners. In that world we have all kinds, but actual harm, those cases are rare to say the least. So as I read the article, a form of anger flushed over me. This is for the mere reason that, for a large part of my life, I have been driven by logic and common sense (apart from that Olivia Wilde moment). From what I have read, there are several things wrong here. Not towards one person, but towards a few, including the victim himself.

This is the first quote that actually came after the second one “He claimed to be a 17-year-old computer engineer running a multimillion pound company. Sometimes he was in New York, working for the US government. Other times, he was in Dubai, or off to Syria” and “the ringmaster, whose server they played on. While the other members were known to Breck or his friends, Lewis Daynes was not someone they knew in real life“.

These two quotes should have been a red flag to all parties. We cannot blame a 14 year old, but this should have been the red flag to upset the parents. You see, I will never be a multi-millionaire (actually if Larry Page listens to an option I came up with, I could be). What is the issue is that gaming comes at a price, for the most the really wealthy ones work too much to get time to be on gaming servers. In addition, his location should have been all over the place, any Cyber squad could have seen that, it would have been a real orange flag to the victim that not all was on the up and up, the first thread on the loom of disaster would have been dismantled.

The quote “Lewis says I don’t need to finish school as he can get me a Microsoft apprenticeship when I turn 16” is the second flag. It should have been the alert on several levels. The man was either some ‘multi-millionaire‘ working for Microsoft, or again this was a ruse. The additional “I should be allowed to game as long as I want“, should have alerted parents and police. You see, in common Law even at 16 Breck Bednar would have remained a minor. So, why is a stranger deciding on what someone else’s child does?

The final quote on that topic is “I’d be telling Breck to get offline and he’d literally have Dayne’s voice in his earphones telling him not to listen. I could see Breck’s face, torn between me and his cool mentor who had the whole world going for him”, which now gets us a stranger involving themselves in the life of a minor.

The police as well as the cyber groups should have been all over this, in addition, did anyone contact the FBI here (even though after the facts it seemed an irrelevant act)? You see, the events not yet known could have been averted before zero hour, as Lewis Daynes was from Grays, Essex. This could have diffused a lot of issues. His stories out in the open, for Breck Bednar and all his friends to know what kind of a person Lewis Daynes was before he could strike. Now we can blame the police, and I am doing that partially. Yet in all this, we must also expect that there is a limit to the resources the police has, limitations in time and hardware. Not all is a given.

But there is an issue when we go solely from the article we see in the guardian. You see the quote “I told the call handler what I’d heard, what I feared. She obviously didn’t understand online grooming” has more than one side.

The known elements here are that Breck Bednar was a minor and that there was a clear indication that Breck Bednar was unlikely to be the only minor. We have the following parts, when we look from the other side: ‘Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk an individual. It may include monitoring, identity theft, threats, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass‘, I edited the non-relevant parts out of here. So we see that Lewis Daynes was monitoring, we have identity theft, we can make that case as he assumed to be a person, moreover an industrial who did not exist. This could be seen as a danger to the life and wellbeing of minors.

The elements here are now another matter. You see, in the eyes of the court there is no established guilt, or even crime at this point, yet exposing the elements would have diminished the threat Lewis Daynes was and would most certainly have protected at least one child, leaving us with the reality that Breck Bednar could have been alive today. In this we might consider that the police is to be blamed to some extent, but in equal measure, they did look for the elements, the issue here is the fact that does also count. When we see the quote “Daynes later pleaded guilty to murder with sexual and sadistic motivation“, we are confronted with a combination that is really rare, and with the elements as found, or better stated those that were missing, mainly that the police didn’t find a single image or text about bodies or sex. Certain flags were never raised, but as stated, from what we can see, enough flags should have been raised to take this serious, to give clear indication to Lewis Daynes that he was under open investigation, perhaps enough for him to back off. Enough to diffuse the situation.

Here is my part that is now also an issue. This took me mere minutes, which also beckons on what more precisely happened. You see the police is not lacking or stupid, I would go even further that the involved people might be burdened with guilt. So why is it so clear to me? Well, first of all, to see this in the article is simple, a mere exercise of logic. The true elements over time are a lot less clear, but in all this, the main elements were gamers, gaming platforms and servers, they have time lines and logs. Any level of logs missing would have been another red flag, any other interactions would create even more red flags. So why were these elements missed? Where did the police system fail? In my view there was a clear failure here. Police 101 had failed in a few ways, but it is uncertain whether the failure should allow any level of blame. You see, there is an element that is in the article, but cannot clearly be weighted. it is  “Now 18, he was unemployed, living alone in an Essex flat where he bought server space and used it to game with teenage boys“, we are looking at a 2012 system, so what kind of server space? Did he have his own server? Or did he lease hardware? Unemployed and cash for that? If it was a solitary server, we see another element, because it would not be in an enterprise environment, showing even more flags, if it was a personal server, the cyber division had a place to look at, who had Lewis Daynes been interacting with? Even more parents would have been alerted, other gamers would have been informed that he was a jobless no one, and not the 7 figure income person dangling IT jobs from Syria, New York or Dubai.

All elements, all flags and more issues. All out in the open could have prevented the fatal consequence to Breck Bednar, but that is me talking after the events. As stated, this one article is not a proper setting for it. Yet the BBC article gave a few more issues to consider. The fact “Five other counts against Daynes, including the rape of another boy, were not pursued as there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction, the prosecution said“, so perhaps the fact that the element of rape might have been an additional flag that there was a real risk of danger to Breck Bednar. Yet, the BBC is unclear as per when those criminal elements would have been known. Yet there is additional evidence. If there had been a clear investigation the evidence “encrypted electronic equipment” as stated by the BBC could have given additional issues, because they might have been there validly in an organisational situation, in the case of an unemployed 18 year old, such elements could give rise to flags of a criminal aspect, a criminal aspect that had children in the mix.

Even though there have been investigations and even though a misconduct notice was brought, it took almost no time to find enough flags to raise concerns on several levels. This gives concerns to what else is getting missed. Not because I am so bright (I am that), or that the police is that stupid (they really are not), but the need for an evolving infrastructure. If you think that issues are missed now, what do you think will happen when the transition to IPv6 really gets underway? With handheld and mobile devices all stronger than the average data server in 2007, what was reserved to data servers and corporations, is already in the hands of individuals, most of them having no clue what they are holding onto and what these systems are capable of. How can any police force sustain its workload if it is not reshaped into an evolving infrastructure that is able to adjust to other criminal elements? This level of evolution is currently not happening, moreover, it is not happening in many nations. Which is a worry when we consider the case of Lewis Daynes, you see, in this age of economy, the danger of extreme behaviour in a time when people have no jobs, no outlooks and no prospects, these souls are more likely to become extreme, that is a given, yet the extent to it happening is not known, it cannot be predicted and it requires for a better level of investigation. If we are to lower the dangers that kids like Breck Bednar face, we have no other choice but to evolve and change the way we investigate these issues. There has been a clear call for a long time that legislation requires adaption to all kinds of cyber-crimes and cyber based crimes. This for the mere reason that the jump to IPv6 allows a jump from the 4.3 billion addresses that IPv4 gave, to the amount that every person on the planet would have a unique address for every device it owns. More important, IPv6 will allow for every person on the planet to have 1,000 devices, each with their own address and even after that less than 0.1% of all available IPv6 addresses would have been used. We are pushed into an evolution because IP addresses are no longer available. Our devices, each 1,000 times more powerful than the computer that got Apollo 11 to the moon, the computers required to monitor the satellites is now no more than an app and nearly every mobile phone from the previous generation would be able to run it. We moved technology that far ahead. We are now moving to the situation where we see that almost 4 Exabyte a day is transmitted. All that data, once we are in IPv6, all that data can be identified per person and the amount of data will increase almost exponentially. When we get there, how impossible will it become to find extreme elements like Lewis Daynes? That is just the extremes, we haven’t even considered what organised crime could be up to. A situation that brings more questions than answers. Some answers are being sought by Lorin LaFave and I wonder if enough parties are asking the right questions, because some questions come with the element of costs, and they will grow, yet the costs will already be high to begin with. A dimension many politicians are not ready for because the coffers are empty and budgets constraints will limit the steps that need to be made, many are aware of it and nearly no one are voicing those elements.

There is a reality to that, but the reality we need to address is the nightmare Lorin LaFave is forced to face and she is not the only mother who should be worried.

 

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How trolls do not review and I do

OK, I’ll admit that I am slightly overprotective when it gets to Elite, yet here it is, that is just my side of it. I have loved this game from the very moment I saw it in 1984 on the BBC Micro B of a friend of mine. I got the CBM-64 edition and the fun of wonder never seized for me. I am telling you all this so that you know that I am a biased reviewer in all this.

The reason for all this is a video that was uploaded by ‘The N-Gen’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irUThzqrNT8

in the first 6 minutes you will hear a ‘mumble-rant’ like approach of someone who just does not seem to get it. After 6:30 he will admit that he does not get it.

So finally he decided to just take the training exercise. Now we hear more, but here he makes a few valid points. I see in 2 seconds a lot more than he does in 90 seconds, yet I have played v1 for years, so I had an advantage. This mission would have needed a little tweaking (if you ignored the basic flight video). Because he did not notice the lower left canister, he started to aim with a multi-canon on a target 500m away. Which is, detrimental to your ammunition count (considering the size of a canister). SO, from the video I personally gathered that he was tired, he was on a deadline to ‘produce’ a new video and that he was not getting it. Now, that is fair enough, we do not all like certain games, or we don’t get certain games (in my case that would be any NBA game). In his case at the very end his response is ‘it is a load of nothing’, so good to know that some reviewers should find a decent day job as a non-reviewer, which in this case is ‘The N-Gen’.

As for the facts!

  1. This is an early adoption game, you get to test the game and play the game, you get one hour for free and you can buy it for $31, so when the final version comes out you will play the full version with no extra money required and several of the benefits awarded to you, you get to keep, so you become a day 0 player with extras! I see zero, I repeat zero downsides to this.
  2. A better review came from PloTTwisted, which gives us a lot of parts, he shows that there are bugs, there are glitches, but as he states, the benefits of having a free go for an hour to make up your mind as well as a discount for being the early player is just too good to pass up. He loved the game, he brings out a few issues which EVERY beta has. I for one, as I still see Elite as one of my first loves (Ultima 3 was my first true love in gaming), there is absolutely no way that I am not getting it, I am getting the Xbox One just so that I can play this game (and because waiting for No Man’s Sky for the PS4 is just too irritating).

PloTTwisted also shows that for now you should keep to solo play, which is fair enough, because taking time to be a good player is so worth the experience down the track. So back to the training, you see, when in training mode, you see on the right the text “New pilots should watch this pilot training video” with below that the basic flight link.

Now, for the impression video you might not want to record that part, but watching this would not be that far-fetched. Elite is a space flight simulator, that means travelling in three dimensions and that is something we might take a moment to realise. I think I am the only one who can fly the space shuttle with zero training, oh wait, I can’t do that, so, I too might want to watch the video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crL9H_Vx68Y

which seems to be the PC version). The Xbox One edition is likely to be almost identical. So all the ignorance ‘The N-Gen’ showed, could have been averted by the tired him taking 4 minutes whilst sipping coffee before he wasted 12:51 by not telling anyone anything useful, oh wait, he actually had found an issue, oh no, after watching the basic flight video, it seems he had not, so what should we make of this?

Well, first of all, he has freedom of expressing, so he was perfectly valid in making his movie, I am for that same reason in opposing his view in my blog, and I will make a video the moment I have my Xbox One so I can show people what an amazing game Elite: Dangerous will be. In addition, I am not alone, there is a person named Troa Barton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rtajDGnqAo

which is excellent! He takes a decent look at it all on the PC and explains several things clearly and precisely. In addition I got introduced to parts of Elite that were never there because a CBM-64 with 64Kb of memory tends to have its own level of limitations, levels that the PC and the Xbox One from 2015AD will not ever face. So for me there is plenty of new stuff (which is fine by me) also, v1 of the game had a few hundred systems to fly to, now we get millions of systems each with planets and space stations, so the game is more than just slightly larger. The fact that you can now upgrade individual systems on any ship just adds to the fun of it all, it will however require you to think a little before you spend, which Troa Barton explains quite clearly and he shows it too.

Trading has grown into a massive choice of legal and less legal commodities, there is the option of mining and trading in rare goods, smuggling was always there, yet in the past it was limited to fire arms and narcotics, we get a lot more options now. The game is truly taking a game into the next generation and that comes with a little consideration, to get good you will need to take a little time, however, as Troa Barton shows, choosing wisely and spending 30 minutes gets you really far on track to going places, so watch his video, it also shows clearly parts that allow you to excel the trainings in pretty much one go, which is awesome in his own right.

And in light of No Mans Sky, people should not worry, there is no choice whether you play one or the other, not only is the universe big enough for both games, if you like this type of gaming, getting both would soon the only consideration you end up having. Based on my non-gaming of the new version and relating to what I saw on the video’s than Elite Dangerous might (not a given) one extra dimension of gameplay if you get a pilot stick with throttle. I wonder if any of them would work on an Xbox One and even though it might not be essential, adding that Top Gun feeling for a mere $89 could be so worth it, but that is for me to consider once I get the Xbox One.

Now the one final thought you might have is how could I comment on a game I have not played? Well there are two parts. In the first, I played the original for years so I can clearly relate to the dynamic of the game. I deduced more from watching three videos than ‘The N-Gen’ did by pointlessly screwing around, dissing a game he basically did not fathom. In the second, I did professionally test and review games from 1989 until 2001, so I have been more than just once around the block when it comes to gaming and game testing.

My verdict is simple, no matter how the Beta will look, the PC version gave me that wonderful returning feeling from playing a game I never stopped loving. The fact that this is not a ‘mere’ remastering but an extreme evolution from 8 bit limitation of hardware to a 64 bit limitation of imagination is the most massive of jumps for any game to make. The added fact that unlike most games that this is not a 10 or 50 hour game. This is one of those games that will stay with you for the duration of your console (if you like this kind of game), which is something that seldom happens in gaming. If I am fair and objective than I should also name a few downsides to the full game (Beta’s are exempt of such judgement). I am not sure if that is possible, the universe is a cruel place, so whatever happens will likely happen to you the player too. Yet, from what I saw in the video’s it seems to me that there is a push for combat (if you want to make it rich fast), which implies (from what I saw) is that the mining side seems too unbalanced (by the time you can afford the hardware), yet in all this, I have not seen how you could scan for rare minerals and collect them, because that should not be a 45 minute trip and in all honesty, when you do strike it rich then, the credits should wash over you like a massive ocean wave in summer, but that could just be me (and that is one side that we never had in v1 of the game).

So in all ways Elite Dangerous exceeds what I could have imagined, so as ‘The N-Gen’ had his view, I will have mine! So what about you the reader? If you have an Xbox One, please check it out, you lose nothing from a free download and playing a game you never played before might open up a door you never considered. Even if you will not like it in the end, you should decide for yourself, not just rely on the other fellow or on my view for that matter.

Good luck and enjoy whatever you decide to play!

 

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Getting back on the horse

Finally a blog article from me that is for the most all about my view of gaming  (because there is nothing interesting about reading stories regarding Varoufakis being a sore loser in the Guardian).

We all have these moments where we go shopping, whilst there are no funds available. A situation I have been very familiar with, yet we still go browsing in many places to see whether there is something to work towards. This certainly describes my case and as I found out soon thereafter, I got myself into a mingled world of facts and none facts a lot more than I bargained for. So what started this?

I’ll be honest, ever since the release of Elite: Dangerous I have been living on the edge of my previous addiction. It is one of the most loved games I had ever played. I still think back with utter fondness playing this game on the CBM-64. Wireframe and low resolution were at the core of a game that offered such fun, its challenge and entertainment that left its mark on me ever since. I played the remake on the Amiga somewhere in the 90’s, but the original was still the soul breaker for me. With David Braben making the ‘now’ version for today’s PC environment and by adding not just a galactic map, but by almost mapping the ENTIRE galaxy, this game is now an entirely new revelation and because Sean Murray keeps on not giving a release date for his upcoming masterpiece No Man’s sky, my desire to play Elite: Dangerous increases. It is however not that simple, my PC (which still works excellently) is now 9 years old, so it cannot deal with today’s gaming. As I stated, there is no way to afford a new PC at present, which is why I kept on browsing.

Now we get to the issue: The amount of gaming systems out there appear to be a joke! I lost two days getting back into the field I had high expertise in, but as I moved to consoles (as keeping up with gaming PC’s became way too expensive, even when I had my good income), the market moved on (as it would) and I learned that changes had been many. Now, for the most I understand it all, but the diversity to learn what is needed to know is one that a non-hardware savvy person, gamer or not, is one that could boggle the mind.

It took me two days to get back onto the level of knowledge I once had. Even now, there are still diminishing gaps.

So, why is all this an issue?

Well, even though the graphics card was always an issue, in my days I moved from a Diamond Viper (which was top of the market in 1998) to a NVIDIA GeForce 6800 card (in 2005), which was again pretty high up (and not cheap), at this point I could game pretty much anything, I had the top of the range SoundBlaster and a good screen and I could game and compute my life away behind my desktop.

Now gaming has changed. For one, it is no longer really about sound cards, the system board has all it needs for gamers, so we are left with the proper processor, the right amount of memory and the graphics card. This is where the issue starts. The diversity of graphic cards is now a jungle, how can any parent choose the right system for their kid, or for that matter, how can any newbie gamer select the best card for their needs?

I can tell you right now that many shops are truly lacking in knowledge there. When you go to online places (which is an initial MUST), you get a boatload of options too. System prices range from 999 to 4299, so where is the best choice? In the middle or at the far end? Questions that many do not have and others state: ‘the more expensive the better’ (which is a truth to some degree). You see, at some point I decided to stay one hardware iteration behind, so that I could game at a very high level, yet needing a decently less amount of money. That truth in gaming remains to be an almost absolute truth. There is a new property in play, one that was never a real issue even 5 years is now a massive part, it is about the noise level of the graphics card as some of those bad boys make noise when they are working, which is not that dissimilar an issue from the Xbox 360 DVD drive and fan noise. So getting a quiet system is worth it. A lesser item is the power consumption of such a card, which at maximum uses as much energy as two PS4 systems in full gaming mode and at the price of $999 (just for a graphics card), that bad boy costs the same as two PlayStation 4 systems. So is gaming on the PC worth it?

That is the question you must ask yourself, especially considering that gaming will take another bang in hardware in 3-4 years, even as you might only need to replace the graphics card, you see a devaluation of 25% a year. That is the part many people are not always considering, which fair is enough. Now, the truth is that if you see some games like Skyrim, where some mods were made to truly blast the hell out of the word pretty, as an RPG fan, I would fold like a bad poker player at the mere sight of the created graphics, yet, I never felt that Skyrim was anything less than amazing on a console, and I knew that the PC was a lot better.

Fortunately for me Elite: Dangerous does not require the most massive card, so that system is a lot less unaffordable than any new system, but unaffordable it remains, so what is this about? First of all, people need to really take a look at what they are willing to afford online before walking into a computer shop. Places like http://www.pccasegear.com and http://www.mwave.com.au/ (for Australian consumers) are good places to take a first look. When you see the prices you are in for (that is before you add the keyboard, mouse and display), you need to see what the graphical needs will be, and moreover, how some games perform. In this I relied on http://www.tomshardware.com/  in the past and it is still around. It is here where we would read “In the graph, MSI’s card is listed at 34 decibels. This is done to represent just how quiet the Twin Frozr V solution really is. The meter wouldn’t register a reading two inches from the rear panel, even when the fans started up“, that is indeed one part that matters, another part is frame-rate, so how smooth is the game, this site gives us that too, although one setback is that Tom does not seem to test all resolutions whilst the new gamers all want 1440p and a few now demand 4K resolution performance graphs, but the new upcoming cards will likely show that too.

There are other sites that give good independent review of cards, just be willing to spend an hour looking at the different places before you go shopping, I have tried a few conversations out there and I can tell you now that these places (read: shops) are often devoid of true inside knowledge on cards, finding one gamer amongst that lot is a treasure, but also a hindrance, as you might find yourself overspending a bit sooner and a little more than you expected.

In all this, PC gaming will remain and there is no reason why it should not, but in this day and age that part is too often forgotten, and electricity, especially in the UK does not come cheap. The amount of gamers not considering their electricity bill is growing on a daily basis.

For example, 9.429p per 1kWh, 600W PSU means 0.094 x 0.6 x 24 = £1.35 per day, meaning that your gaming PC (if you keep it on all day) will cost you £495 a year alone. The Australian example is harder as energy suppliers seem to REFUSE to give out clear pricing, only when they know all your facts will they give you any information, making them slightly less reputable than the ice dealers in Kings Cross. So if we go by the same system and a 20c per KwH, we get: 0.2 x 0.6 x 24 = $2.88, which amounts to $1042 a year on power to the gaming system alone.

You might think that this is trivial, but in this day and age, in these moments, you better consider shutting down your PC. A friend of mine got scared as he got his quarterly bill, he now shuts down the computer properly. It is one of the running costs of gaming that people forget as they think it does not matter, and when you are renting in a university dorm it might not, but when you work, you are not working to be the bitch of Energy Australia, or EDF Energy for that matter, are you? At least UK power (www.ukpower.co.uk) gave me some decent prices to work with.

How does this relate?

Getting back on the horse is a term we see ourselves confronted with, because the term ‘is the juice worth the squeeze’ is becoming a predominant question in gaming, not just in PC gaming, the fact that several high profile cases have changed the industry is linked to all this. When we see Assassins Creed: Unity, with needing gigabytes in patches, where a game almost a year old is still receiving patches (number 5 was released 3 days ago). The gamer’s view of quality demand and the industry of lacking the ability to meet even the minimal requirement here is also affecting the choice of gaming system. Why spend $4200 on a system that will require patching for a year? And that game is not alone. Arkham knight is now treading that same line, an industry inherently unable to even meet basic expectations. And even though Witcher 3 exceeded expectations wildly, the new patch is massive at 7Gb and as Forbes is informing us (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2015/07/18/theres-a-problem-with-the-witcher-3s-new-patch/), where we see “the new patch means that The Witcher 3 doesn’t perform as well on either the Xbox One or the PS4, dipping down to 20 FPS fairly consistently in some of the game’s busier locales” gives clear indication that PC gaming is however much desired a path that is riddled with issues at a price so much higher than the console world.

So even if it were possible for me to get back on that horse, I have serious doubts whether the juice will be worth the squeeze, because at $4200 ($1999 is a more realistic choice in decent gaming PC’s) I would demand a decent level of perfection in gaming and even though the hardware meets it, it seems more and more clear that the industry is no longer able to meet these expectations, so even though I will require a PC at some point, my old one still (thankfully) suffices for non-gaming purposes and gaming on a PC is no longer truly surpassing the joy of a console.

Many will not agree with me on the latter and that is just fine, some will get great gaming on their PC when it comes down to World of Warcraft and League of Legends, yet when we consider the following headlines ‘Battlefield 4 – what can we expect from the summer patch?‘ (July 10th 2015), ‘Batman: Arkham Knight PC Version Fixes Not Coming Until Fall‘ (July 16th 2015), ‘The Huge Witcher 3 Patch Is Rolling Out Over The Next 24 Hours‘ (July 17th 2015) and the least said about ‘F1 2015 Errors, Crashes, Bugs, Performance, Low FPS, and Fixes‘ the better, with 2 patches within a week (including a day 1 patch) and as stated “PC community still seemed to struggle to get a decent gameplay experience” the question is not just about the massive cost of hardware, the issue becomes, if this industry does not up its game by a lot real fast, will there still be a long term future for these less affordable gaming PC’s?

 

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How it should be

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

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

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

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

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

So, how should things be?

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

Should we allow for reshaped originality?

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

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

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

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

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

So how should things be?

 

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As we trusted games

There is an interesting article in the Guardian I had an issue with to some degree. There is nothing wrong with the article itself, Keith Stuart made a good piece and it reads well (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/13/games-reviews-are-changing-from-product-assessments-to-tourist-guides), so it came out last week and I only saw it just now.

First paragraph: “A decade ago, a games publisher would send out early copies of its latest release to magazines and websites. It would arrive with some sort of embargo restricting the date of any subsequent review coverage. Then, before the game hit the shelves, there would be range of critical responses to read through. That’s how games reviewing worked for 30 years“, well apart from the embargo, which I was never got. That is pretty much how it went. I started my reviewing in 1988. The age of CBM-64,  Atari ST, CBM Amiga and the IBM PC, which had something graphically ‘state of the art’ called ‘EGA’, the enhanced graphic adapter, which added up to the 15” resolution roughly the same of the average low level smart phone today. Games were in CGA and even though the quality of graphics was low, the quality of gaming was exceptionally high (for what we knew in those days). Roberta Williams (Sierra-on-Line), Peter Molyneux (Bullfrog), Richard Garriott (Origin) and Sid Meijer (Microprose) were the titans of gaming; they are the most profound, but not the only ones from those days.

The second part is the first part I disagree with “Now, it’s so much more complicated. Publishers don’t like releasing code early. It’s not just about protecting sales of mediocre titles (though that happens): they worry about piracy; they worry about major spoilers that could put players off purchasing a game that is highly narrative driven“, I personally believe that it is about mediocre titles. The worry of piracy is less an issue, for the reasons that consoles don’t really allow for piracy any more (compared to the days of Atari ST and Amiga), PC Games need more and more internet authentication (like 99.99% of them), and there is a truth in narrative driven games. When a $50 MGS Zero can be played in less than 30 minutes (according to Gamespot), you know that there is an issue. I go for the mediocre side, because in case of Ubisoft, we saw Watchdogs, AC Unity and now Far Cry 4, Far Cry 4 might have gotten themselves a 85% rating (only 70% on Gamespot), yet this is below par (for such a triple-A title), it means that Ubisoft failed to deliver a main title with a 90% plus game review this year, which is a really bad thing. In addition, Destiny didn’t make the high numbers and on the PlayStation 4, the only titles that truly showed the rating was ‘The last of us’ an amazing game originally released on PS3. From my point of view, it is one of the worst release years in a long while. No matter how new Nextgen consoles are, there is a level of competency lacking more and more.

This links directly to the next part of the article “With triple-A releases now costing $30-50m a pop, no wonder the companies responsible want to control the dissemination of their data and messaging. As in movies, everything is geared toward that opening week – millions of dollars of marketing, the acres of shelf space bought at key retailers – everything has to work just right“, if everything has to work just right, it made me wonder why quality assurance was not managed in better ways. If we see the failing that Assassins Creed Unity shows, gaming is overdue for an overhaul, especially considering the cost of such a triple-A game.

It saddens me to say, as a Sony fan, it did hurt me to see that PS4 gamers have not met the high octane game quality I had expected, I was personally more impressed with several titles exclusive on the Xbox One.

The next part is one I do completely agree with “And then the games themselves have changed. Most new titles have intricate and extensive online multiplayer elements – or they require you to be online just to download updates and/or because publishers want to keep an eye on you“, even though in several regards online play is less and less appealing, or just plainly inferior, the updates are more and more an issue. GTA-V, which is regarded as a good game ended up having a day one 1 Gb+ update need. Which is not the worst, but it shows a level of pressure to market deadlines and not quality. Our broadband internet connections seem to have removed the need of quality testing and fixing before release.

Then we get the part that is indeed an issue “The industry is always telling us that games aren’t products anymore, they are services. You get the initial release, but after that, you get updates, downloadable content, new modes, missions and experiences … So what are you reviewing when a game comes out? It’s potential? It’s raw functionality? You are not reviewing the complete experience anymore” Keith is nailing the nail on the head with a massive hammer, we are now getting a service, not software, but if we see the option that a bought game is nothing more than a service or a potential, how can we be treated fairly as a consumer, when we do not know the full article we are buying? It is a dangerous development when we buy not a game, but a concept. We are not there yet, but the danger is slowly creeping towards the installation drive of the computer we use for gaming, and with that approach is a larger and larger danger that the PC/console will get invaded in a hostile way and how can we be protected when not the system, but the game becomes the backdoor into our private lives, because that is a danger that several parties are not yet looking at (as far as I know).

The rest of the article, you should just read on the Guardian site. I do not completely agree, but Keith gives a good view of his reasoning and it is sound and well worth reading. The question becomes where will we go next? There is more and more indication that people (gamers), are less and less interested in the MMO/multiplayer experience and more into a quality solo play game. There is also a feeling from many that Multiplayer is more and more about micro transactions and less about quality fun. Most will accept micro transactions in free multiplayer games like ‘Blacklight’ and ‘War frame’, we can accept micro transactions to get the weapons that really pack a punch, yet with $90 games, people are not interested in additional charges. Even though in the situation of Black Flag, the additional $4 to get the weapons or technology advantage is nice, and the option clearly states that the upgrades can be gotten in the game whilst playing it. It is left to the person to choose. There is nothing bad about it, but when we see AC: Unity, where micro transactions can get up to $100, questions should be asked, even if those parts can be unlocked through playing. Now, I am not judging the $100 micro transactions, but there is a worry why such a purchase is even offered, how much can be leaped through? The worry is not with Ubisoft’s Assassins Creed: Unity, but after the ‘lessons’ many players were taught through Forza 5 how unsettling micro transactions were. Yet, in all honesty (as I am not an Xbox one user), can they be normally unlocked? If so, the issue is not really there, yet the value of high end cars, when we consider that in Forza 5 you get driver payouts of 35,000. However, some cars go into the millions, you need 285 level updates to be able to afford the 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO and that is only one of many cars, which seems to be an unacceptable way to push people towards micro transactions, it left many players with a bad taste in their mouths. If we look at the issues we see, no matter how we feel about a game, there are sides we’d not agree with and there are sides we are truly against. This varies per player, and as such we need to balance view and feelings, because there is no denying that gaming and games are all about emotions. We go for the games that drive our passion. I myself have been a massive RPG fan, yet when I look at the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) game, I see little interest to continue this path, yet when I look at Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3, I see and I experienced the best multi-player ever. To illuminate, ME3 has micro transactions, yet the boxes can be gotten by playing multi-player games, each round gets you credits and the higher leveled you played, the more coins you would get, and then you buy a box with random stuff, some good, some amazing and some average. Diablo has no micro transactions; multi-player there is just great and makes the bosses harder, which gives you better loot. There are not the only good games, there are more, and there are many games are nowhere near this good.

In the end it is about good gaming and plenty of games have it, but my issue is as mentioned earlier, overall quality is down, more often not properly tested, whilst as Keith Stuart states it, newer games seem to be about buying the concept, not the finished product. How games get higher in graphical quality, yet not in gaming quality. Is it just about the new systems, or are we faced with a new level of designers, that cannot stand up to the older titans, the actual visionaries. Titles like System Shock (1+2) can, when graphically updated, compete with the RPG games that were released almost 20 years later. If you want to consider First Person Shooters, then in my mind, Metroid Prime 1+2 are top notch achievements that have not been equaled. They were released on a system inferior to the PS3 and Xbox 360, so why are there no games of that calibre? Well, that would not be honest, they have games of that calibre, but they are equals at best, two games, and the first one 12 years old.

This shows the issue I have with the statements some make. ‘A new game each year’, now we must allow for the fact that marketeers will make wild statements at any given place to keep the press at bay and well fed, so we should not overly ‘analyse’ that part. An example can be found when we look at the Tomb raider series, a series that has seen highs and less so. The series also illuminates a flaw in the gaming industry, when we consider the earlier games we see an amount of gaming that is unparalleled, especially when we consider the first two games. No matter the graphic levels, the games were truly large in comparison and some of the levels were amazing in design. The cistern in the first one and the ship in the second one show a level of design the last one cannot even compete with. What took days in the first two games, took a mere 15 hours in the last game. I will agree that the graphics were amazingly unreal in that game, the game looks large but the levels are in the end small. I saw it as opportunities missed on several levels, but not for the quality of graphics. the interesting side is that Tomb Raider shows the gaming industry as it moved from storyline and innovation towards graphics and narration, which is not that big a mystery. Yet in that shift we have lost levels and game time. Which is why the appeal of RPG is vastly growing, the option to play long times, to visit places and go it your own way and speed, not hindered by narration, scripted events and scripting is more and more appealing to the gamers at large.

Even though many are focusing on the next generation of systems, the next level of gaming is not ready. As I see it, 2015 will show a large rise in quality of gaming, but the true gems will not come until 2016. Mass Effect 4 could be such a game, but will we see true innovation, or will we see a sliding line as the Assassins Creed series have shown. This thought also has a drawback. Good gaming is based on vision, a franchise is about evolutions and forward momentum, but visionary is not a given, but for good gaming an essential need. This is where the wheels tend to come off the wagon. God of War 3 brought that, the AC series did not, it brought iteration. Mass Effect might, and so far, the hype of No man’s sky is likely to bring new boundaries in gaming, but the reality is not always a given and as such, we can only wait and keep faith with the developers, which is why their change and their approach to gaming is so essential to us. There are of course issues with other approaches too. Even though the title ‘Whore of the Orient‘ sounds appealingly original, but will it be so? Time will tell! The danger isn’t what will be good and what won’t be. The issue is that we know how rare visionaries in gaming are. The last proven one was Markus Persson (maker of Minecraft) and Microsoft bought his idea for a mere 2 billion (it’s not that much when you say it fast), which is the highest amount paid for a gaming IP EVER! Consider Microsoft paying that much for one title and you know how rare visionaries in this field are, which is exactly why games are not set in one year increments, and why franchises seem to be key for gaming, but there is a new iteration that some forgot. The upcoming release of Elite, a revamp from the original game decades old, shows that good games are rare and will stand the test of time. The initial interest for Elite could be regarded as proof for that.

So is this about trusted games, trusted developers or new endeavours?

I have one thought, but I keep it to myself, it is important that you the reading gamer make up your own mind. I have given my thoughts on that what I experienced and what I value. I ignored some parts as they are not my cup of gaming, which we all have, out there are leagues of GTA lovers; I am not one of them. I do not debate the 90%+ score, gaming is for gamers and there is space for all of us, no matter which part we run to, from Silent Hills to Mario land. there is space for all of us, some will slaughter in the world of Unity, some crush in the lands of Diablo, we have our preferred places, yet the overall issue is not where we play or who we play as, but the quality of what we play is now in question, it has been in question for some time now and it seems to be getting more and more visible as the industry is pushing for revenue on 5 systems. My direct worry is that we end up with a product based on a 60% effort, which is something none of us had signed on for.

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The fear of creativity

It was not that long ago that I wrote the blog ‘Sandbox Games’. Now I learn that Microsoft has offered 2 billion for Mojang. 2 billion is not much when you say it fast, but the reality is that this is a massive amount of money, even with the ludicrous high taxation norm in Sweden, what is left with leave the man ‘Notch’ with an amazing amount of luxury time to come up with something new and unique. You see, visionaries like that cannot sit still. He might think he can, he might actually truly believe he can, but visionaries like Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriot and a few others never do. Now Swedish Markus Persson joins this group!

Some did not agree with my view given on September 5th, which is fine, but the facts seem to back me up. In the same story there was also an issue with subscriptions, and behold we see ‘World of Warcraft Loses 800,000 Subscribers in Three Months‘ (source: Gamespot), now let it be known that this fact was out before I wrote my blog, so I am not giving any weight to this. It is only my voice that claims that I did not see this until now. There is however another side in the article. It claims: “The company called the decline ‘seasonal’ and pointed out that the dip in subscribers was similar to what we saw in the second quarter of 2012, ahead of the release of World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria“, this is a fair enough answer for now, but overall Blizzard is not out of the woods yet, even though the nextgen versions of Diablo 3 are as wildly wanted as any other version they released, which makes for a quality long term dedicated relationship between Blizzard and their gaming fans. I feel the same way and hope on an additional Act 6, hopefully with the Necromancer and the Assassin.

There is another side to all this, at present several gamers are feeling the cold breath of Sony in several ways. First there is the change that only when online, can a person see his trophies, the port from PS3 to PS4 also came with losses, the gamers at large lost PlayStation Home, and it is such a coincidence that rumours from so many games places up to the days before the release of the PS4 have since gone quiet. Yet, recently Games industry dot biz gave us the following quote “Sony’s virtual world Home will close in Asia and Japan in March 2015, according to an announcement on the official Japanese site“. This has a few consequences down the road, because all you have bought, and all you buy now, will be utterly lost to you. So no more houses, no Harry Potter, no Hogwarts and a league of other items bought will at some point be lost.

We now see two issues:

  1. A console purchase might be temporary at best, and as this market evolved we see a move towards leasing, not buying games. I personally think that this is a dangerous development. We feel for that what we consider we own. Which means that this would enable places like Pirate Bay to grow vastly, even potentially in a exponential way, giving us a new issue, but mostly giving certain corporations new nightmares.
  2. The acquisition of Mojang (if it happens), could be the start of a new wave of indie developers (I really hope so). 99.8% will never have the visionary gene Mojang has, but those who do would soon be bought out and these amounts of money do tend to give the creativity gene the hyperactive status.

Finally I get to have a small go at Pirate Bay. I am no fan of theirs, if you like a movie, or soundtrack, you buy it! I have and lately I have not been able to, but that does not mean I am going all out with downloads. Yet, they could have other options; it seems to me that a large chunk of the population would not like certain steps to be taken to the public. IMPORTANT! Sony has not announced any changes outside of Asia/Japan, but is that such a far-fetched consideration?

I personally see these developments as dangerous for Microsoft/Sony. Yes they are NextGen, yet overall consider the success of Minecraft, people want a GOOD game, is that Google contraption (ouya) such a bad option? Ubisoft can go high-resolution all they want, but if people see their payments dwindle away, another issue will come knocking on their doors too. Ubisoft delivered, I think that it was partially because Watchdogs was new and on NextGen there was NOTHING, so there! Yet, this is not fair either. Yes, it has certain repetitiveness, not unlike the initial Assassins Creed, yet what came after (AC2 and AC2 brotherhood) was such an amazing leap forward, that it pardoned the mediocrity of AC Revelations and AC3 as they were to some degree ignored. This could also be the case for Watchdogs; whatever follows could set entirely new records (hopefully not dependable on cars all the time).

Because of my personal view of a failed Black Flag, I hold out for Unity at present, yet the initial views are a lot more interesting than any presentation of Black Flag EVER was. Yet, in Forbes magazine we see an additional view “If Far Cry 4 is anywhere as good as its predecessor”, and I agree. I kept away from Far Cry 3, for the mere reason that the original Far Cry on 360 was the worst game I played on that console, Far Cry 3 is not that. It had in my view a few issues, but nothing major. Far Cry 4 could set a new boundary and in gaming that is NEVER EVER a bad idea.

So where will gamers go to next? Well, that remains to be seen, but they tend to go where the games and the gaming value is. That part has been forgotten by both big boys Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo is picking up a little, yet the Google console could pick up a lot and they could do it a lot sooner too. Consider that a game like Minecraft can get any person to switch, now consider a treasure trove of great games, or even decently satisfying games. The CBM-64, Atari ST and CBM Amiga, three systems that have a league of quality history, that is even before we consider the early PC games, all waiting to be rediscovered by an entire generation of new players. With a system that can run it, independent developers who can re-engineer it and an eager audience ready to try and buy it.

System shock (1+2), Dungeon Master, Dungeon Keeper, Oidz, Eye of the Beholder, Ultima series, Wing Commander series and Lemmings (believe me, there will always be space for Lemmings). The list goes on and on. Giving it here will keep you needlessly busy for too many hours. I have played hundreds of them and I still smile thinking of some of them. If we could enjoy them in a system with 64Kb, why must we get pushed into impossible hardware requirements? Even today Fallout 3 and Oblivion have never lost their charm. Diablo 3 is another example, yes there is more graphics and resolution, yet both Diablo 1 and 2 have not lost their charm. It is clearly not just the resolution, but a basic form of gameplay that appeals to us.

As the gaming industry is pushing more and more to new micro transactional business models, it is within our grasp to push back and walk towards other solutions that is not about holding us ransom to a monthly fee. Yet, all is not fine there either. At present these monthly MMO’s are doing just fine, ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) with a little over 770,000 subscribers, millions of dollars come in on a monthly base, yet for how long? When the economy is good, many might not care, yet in the view of current developments, that revenue wire will become ever increasingly thinner, then what? At some point many will be forced to select 1-2 of their favourite games to continue, which leaves a gap soon enough, as the business model ‘fails’, or better stated, as the net income will not be in the area of acceptable numbers, what will these companies do then?

I stated it before, there is space if you change the premise of the player and change the options for play, be more fluidic. In my initial view it was a new mapping system, using established locations, but what else can be done? This is at the heart of many contemplations by gamers all over the world, this is partially (IMHO), because the new player tends to be smarter and is also more inclined to listen to their personal friends on social media, so 1-5 will drive the change of 25-100. It becomes a different issue, and if too many of these people are in the student budget ballpark, then the word ‘micro transactions’ will drive them away a lot faster. We will always have novelty moments with Unity (even though the main story line can be completed under 20 hours), Elder Scrolls Online, no one denies that, but the time that EVERYONE goes into the WOW mode is pretty much a given impossibility. I personally believe that WOW continues, not just because they are good (they are good, no one denies that), but the bulk continues because of the vested time they have on their characters. However, WOW is pretty much the only game that can rely on such a level of comfort, or make a claim anywhere near it.

I reckon that as No Man’s Sky develops, the eyes and ears will move more and more in that direction. The ‘promise’ of eternal gaming sandbox style is a lot more appealing than many realise, if you think I am wrong, then wonder why Microsoft is willing to pay 2 billion for a ‘basic’ looking game like Minecraft. Mojang got it just right and re-engineering a wannabe is a lot harder than shelling out 2 billion (Bill Gates likely found it in a jacket he brought to the dry cleaners).

This is the fear these larger players have, not that Minecraft is such a success, but the fear that 2-3 new indie developers have that one idea no one in the high income suits had thought of. Minecraft already represents a low billion and that is only at the start of nextgen gaming. As the game moves from system to system, that revenue will only increase, the secondary danger they fear is as the game is there on Nintendo and other consoles, the uniqueness of nextgen becomes smaller and smaller. A fear that only sounds more and more overwhelming as some regard the failure of Sims 4 and other established brands like Mass Effect are delayed until 2015, which could spell more consequences for the NextGen population, but none of this is new, so why come with this again?

Here we are not looking for the failing established brands (well not really), but the other side of the established makers, the indie developers are getting slowly but surely a new option to shine, as some issues by Sony and Microsoft have not been going forward, we see a growing interest of android development games. this we see (at http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/23/google-play-quarterly-app-revenue-more-than-doubled-over-past-year-thanks-to-games-freemium-apps/) where we see the title ‘Google Play Quarterly App Revenue More Than Doubled Over Past Year, Thanks To Games, Freemium Apps‘, now, I myself do not see my mobile as a gaming tool, but with the Chrome books and the Google ouya, we see a new player and his/her title is ‘gaming enabled’, a group that seems to have been forgotten by executives and gamers alike (myself partially included). Now look back at the games I mentioned earlier and now at the games that Rare developed for the N64. Games released between 1996 and 2003, some became the standard of excellent gaming. The N-64 original of Golden Eye is a lot better than the Wii remake and the Xbox had Time Splitters 3, but then they forgot to make a good compatible version for the 360. a host of games ignored, now ready for grabbing on low end consoles with the promise of great gaming, a premise the high end executives all forgot about.

This is a change in gaming that we had ignored!

We all seem to naturally want to move forward, but is such a step even affordable? Consider that there is a market going towards Christmas, many not able to scrap the coins together for Nextgen, yet the ouya with 3 games at $109 (the price of one nextgen game in Australia) is another matter. good business is where you find it (Robocop quote), that is a reality we have to face, the ‘better’ economy position for many is not getting released until past Q1 in 2015, so if you are an indie developer get used to creativity, because if you get that nice idea out into the open, there is a potential group of well over 100,000,000 gamers who cannot afford a nextgen system with an included game, especially if the android solution is set at 25%, it is an alternative to consider. A global population going the way of pragmatism, one good game is all they need.

This gets us back to my blog ‘The Toothless tiger‘, which I wrote last week (September 8th). I wrote “larger companies have been all about continuing a brand and less about the new idea, which makes indie developers the future (consider the massive success of Mojang with Minecraft), that is the streamline part all ignored“. I truly believe this, which makes the foundations of NextGen rather shaky as cash strapped developers will move towards an open android environment. It also gives us an interesting side effect. The larger players are so used to having the large pool of resources to drown in, that the limits of android will bring forth the old developers as they designed for Commodore and Atari. Games that are slim, sleek and possibly even decent bug free, which in turn gives waves of additional creativity. Will this come to pass? It seems a logical conclusion, but I am not sure. Personally I hope it will and I also hope we will see additional non-male developers, they can shine in this field just as easy as their male counterparts. Time will tell!

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