Tag Archives: CBM Amiga

First of two issues

I had a rage attack today, it was right after some stupid set of saggy t*** decided to attack Elon Musk in a Presidential briefing. It feels like she is from Forbes. They have been pushing the Musk envelope. It is my personal belief that they are close friends with Jack Dorsey, a person they seemingly never asked any serious questions from and ‘the national security danger that is Saudi Arabia?’ Oh, I got her number and then some. But there is time for that and I have seen that death is not the worst a person can experience. It will be my delight to introduce that terror to her. But there is time for that and certain plays are not completed. But then something happened. 

A tweet brought Me back to my senses. This lady is totally nuts about Elden Ring. I get that drive, that devotion, optionally that obsession. I do not agree with her, but that I her right. I did not play Elden ring. I could never finish BloodBorne. I still have it as it is one of the most beautiful games I have, next to Dark Souls 3, a game I equally never finished. Both utterly sublime, but in my lifetime I doubt I will ever finish that. Yet it was about her feeling. I thought I had the same with Horizons: Forbidden West. But then God of War: Ragnarok came. I am taking me time as every corner, every sight is a feast for the eyes. I lost a few lives, but that is OK. The game delivers again and again and the story is magnificent, as is the music. I do not believe that Guerrilla software has anything to fear. There is space to love control of both Kratos and Aloy. Two amazing pieces of faming IP, this was a good gaming year and I am not forgetting Gotham Knights. Three Amazing journeys. Yet at present I am knee deep in Asgardian folklore and epic myths and Santa Monica Studios deliver in ways you cannot believe (unless you are playing the game) it is good that in the twilight of my life I can still be amazed by games. I started gaming in 1984 and I never stopped. I might not have the drive I once had (like playing 167 levels of Loderunner on the CBM64 in one sitting). I did take a sickie for that event. It was a time when you could pause a game, but you could not save a game. Still, 38 years later and that gam is still part of me. Games evolved from CBM64 we got the CBM Amiga, then PC, then the PlayStation range one through five and gaming never disappointed. I might not like everything, but that is not required. There is space for the yearners of Elden Ring, the obsession with Quake, Halo and Bethesda games. It is an inclusive group, the more the merrier. 

There is no hindsight, not a new piece of IP (other than the ones I already have). Many forget that gaming is not a business (to some it is), it is the ones that see games as art, those are the games that get the 90%+ reviews and Sony has a basket full of those, no matter how many ‘opponents’ troll rating into the basement. The gamers know what is what and they are driven to success. To achieve the end of the story. Anyone finishing Horizons Zero Dark can tell you about that. There is a need to finish the story and God of War: Ragnarok is no different. Do not worry, no spoilers here. 

Passing that line yourself is so fulfilling it gives value to a game and you will cherish EVERY dollar you spend on it. Today was a great day for gaming. I wonder if that is why I became angry at Forbes with its BS sense towards an owner and a partner who owns a mere 4% of Twitter. Which is interesting as the China hatred in the US does not give rise to the partnership that Microsoft and Tencent have, not even from Forbes, where is their national security interest there?

I am contemplating words I once got from Frank Herbert “He who can destroy a thing, can control a thing”, he published it in 1965, 57 years ago. Words to live by and I am feeling rebellious and frisky, a dangerous combination in someone with my mindset, but Forbes will soon learn that lesson. I’ll give fair warning a day after I have completed the exercise. Only fair, not?

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The union of games

This started yesterday in the oddest of ways. I have had a few thoughts in this direction, but I do not remember this being so outspoken or clear. It started watching YouTube. Not sure what I was watching but something got stuck in my mind. Then my mind was thinking about the Assassins Creed series and how they always have a bird do the ‘hard’ work. That got me thinking. You see the Paris and London areas are nice, but what if it is modern days (Watchdogs: Legion) and a modern version of Paris (one or the other), now consider not an assassin but a thief and the thief does not have one animal but three. So like the Beastmaster (1982) with Marc Singer before he started hunting aliens in V, a stage where he gets support from three animals. One on land, one in the air and one in the water and it does not stop there. With the chosen animal, he also gets bonuses and that is where we almost intentionally stuff the player. They get one choice each and it has to last them the entire game, so you can select the animal and get the bonuses, but you forfeit others. For example, a cat has night-vision and gives him a large boost of agility, a dog has amazing smell and he becomes stronger, and there is the third animal a horse which makes him fast, really fast and strong, but he misses out on the other two. The same for water. With a fish he can swim underwater without end, the frog makes him agile in water and he gets infrared vision and a third animal (undetermined). The same for flight. It would be even nicer if there were 5 animals per side, more options and more replayability over time and that is what streaming needs, replayability.  The city has over half a dozen storylines, and in this each storyline has multiple sides, so that the player gets to make choices and live with consequences. But there is more (there always is), it is not merely the skills he picks up, but when he takes the view of the animal, also the way that animal sees the world giving the player a lot more to deal with. We have seen similar parts in games like Fur Fighter (Dreamcast), Fly (CBM Amiga), and a few more, but never to this degree and to such a blending of different sides. It could be awesome, but consider that on a game like Watchdogs: Legion, but the map is now 400% larger. So in Legion the map was about 3.5 kilometres each side, now we go to 7 or 10 kilometres each side. Now it becomes a whole new challenge. In that game we could run from place to place, now it becomes a whole new challenge. And it is a much harder challenge as you need to find your entrance in nearly every building (or optionally could) the cat has its ways, as does the dog, but the other animals cannot be dismissed. They all have a power bonus and that matters in the game. So it will be up to the creator to also include some level of added bonus. The cat and the hawk combined allow for one punch KO’s, the stork gives him the ability to carry much heavier loads (they used to deliver baby’s in the old days) and so on. No one has ever made a game like this and with streaming new possibilities open up, even the option to have well over twice the amount of ‘open’ houses in the beginning and add to that from there. So if you replay the game a year later you might never enter the same building again (on a mission).  

So whilst Ubisoft brings you a new iteration of something you have played for over a decade, I created the foundation of new IP in less than 24 hours. So any indie developer who reads this, have at it and good luck!

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Foundations

We seem to forget about foundations. You see we all have the essential need to play. And some like replaying the same games. We see what the Amazon Luna offers and we have seen these games before on EVERY other console. Not all mind you, but the Ubisoft games, Resident Evil and several others. Now there are plenty of people who want to play them again and there is nothing wrong with that, but these are all games that are driven to achievements. It is like every gamer is getting ready for Gaming Olympics. Now for some this is fine, I reckon that not all are like that. I am not a Chess player, but the streamers are uniquely qualified for games like Chess, Checkers, Backgammon and many more. Streaming offers the ability for those at home to engage in play with either the NPC system, or another player. Both Stadia and Luna have the ability to set that right. I am still in the mindset that either would do well with games like Millennium 2.2 and Paradroid. Games that allows for a single person just to have fun. Even now, as I am contemplating these games, whilst watching the very first Rambo movie. I hadn’t seen it for close to 2 decades. A time when Sylvester Stallone was actually young and innocent. And we can consider he was actually young and innocent once, or he would never have been able to play Corporal Weaver in Antz (LOL). I see the same kind of games, the same kind of challenges, but games that allow for the simple pleasure of play, which games are like that? I think that Skyrim was one of the last games that allowed for that. Oh, and there is Lumines. I am not closed minded, there are too many games with a time ticker, a pressure point and that is fine. Yet sometimes we merely want to play and forget about time. The two games I mentioned fill that bill for me, and I reckon that they would fill the bill for many others. A game that could use an upgrade in graphics and in play style. The asteroid bug would be fixed, the game would be more appealing in todays environment, I would add layers so that you cannot jump SolaGen power options.

The game has a few other sides. Optional need for additional life support settings. In the old version where there was only 256Kb Ram and the game fitted a 700Kb diskette. Now we can do so much more. As such there are plenty of additional sides to the game that allow for a much more interesting stage of playtime, you merely need to stretch your imagination the smallest of amounts.

Another setting is Paradroid, the CBM64 version was too basic, too little resources, the Amiga version was a lot more challenging and a lot more rewarding and could offer even more with todays equipment, the IP is out there and it is open (as far as I know) and that is merely two of a whole truckload of gaming pleasure. Playtime needs to be treated seriously or those stating that they are there for the gamers are merely there for their own ego as I personally see it. A setting that is open to both Amazon Luna and Google Stadia and whomever creates this game could even consider the mobile stage. And all this could escalate to serious settings when you add several of the Microprose titles. A dozen titles optionally ready for anyone to implement a remaster and a reengineered version. 

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The edge of what could be

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s been that long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Bragging becomes the burden

We have all done it; we have all made that one claim that was in our imagination the better truth, or perhaps the better part of a truth. I myself offered a certain lady a 10″ penis (a long time ago), it would be delivered in two installments. I kept my word, she basically faltered in math, was I fraudulent?

That is the thought I went with when I got the annoying message on more than one game trailer when Microsoft stated: ‘Play it on the world’s most powerful console‘, which is hilarious for a few reasons. Now when we consider the quote from Japanese Analysts that “Nintendo Switch Sales To Surpass Nintendo’s Forecast“, which is of course really good for Nintendo and with “Japanese analyst, Hideki Yasuda, from the Ace Economic Research Institute in Osaka, has released his latest forecast for Nintendo’s full fiscal year – predicting the company will shift 25 million Switch units and 140 million software units. According to DualShockers, this would put the total amount of Switch sales at 42.79 million units by March next year“. This now also implies that the total sales for the Xbox One (not just the world’s most powerful part) will be surpassed in their total life cycle in approximately 13 weeks, which is just before Christmas, making my worst case scenario for Microsoft a reality. By the end of the year, which I actually did not expect, but there you have it, a console surpassed via short-sightedness and of course the blatant stupidity of NOT listening to their customers. From these parts we get the setting that if Microsoft is pushing forward on Project Scarlett, they have to do it standing from last position, the wooden spoon place, all because certain players (Microsoft executives) thought that they knew better than those who actually are the gamers, who play the games, who live the frustration.

And that is not even the good news, the good news was hidden in the previous quote, with “140 million software units” we see that the Nintendo gamers are not merely happier gamers, they also game significantly more, adding largely to the coffers of Nintendo wealth. Even as Nintendo was less enthusiastic, we need to consider that Nintendo is still picking up momentum in the US, or better states (by US Gamer): “The holiday frenzy is about to gain some sick momentum“, implying that both Thanksgiving and Christmas could be ruled by Nintendo this year around. Apart from that the pressure is on for Sony as well. Even as Sony has been the front leader for the longest of times, we were treated to ‘Nintendo Switch Set to Overtake PlayStation 4’s Lifetime Sales in Japan‘ a mere 3 days ago. It has no chance to catch up on Soy global sales any day soon, but this milestone is important, because that is a milestone we did not expect to see passed this early. For any console to surpass its own Japanese opponent locally, as well as the other player globally is just too strong an achievement, it cannot be ignored; all this whilst software sales are equally booming for Nintendo.

Venture Beat added to that setting a mere two weeks ago when we were treated to: “The NPD Group revealed its list of the top-selling games of July in the U.S. today, and Nintendo is the month’s big winner. Octopath Traveller is the best-selling game of the month. Nintendo not only wins July in terms of software sales, but it is also at the top spot for the year so far when it comes to physical game retail sales“, all because one player listened to their consumer base and the other one merely considered its own ego. That is how businesses collapse into any basement. In addition, we see that half of the July’s top 10 are Nintendo exclusives. In variety we see the additional info: ““Nintendo Switch is the only platform showing year-on-year growth in full-game dollar sales with gains of nearly 70 percent when compared to a year ago, despite digital sales on Nintendo platforms not currently being tracked by The NPD Group,” said analyst Mat Piscatella. “Year-to-date sales of full-game software on Nintendo Switch have more than doubled when compared to a year ago.”” That is the simple situation when we are faced on giving the customer what they desire or giving them what we think they desire.

That difference is the one bringing doom (not the game) to Microsoft. Yet we also need to give consideration to the other side. CNet did (at https://www.cnet.com/news/xbox-chief-aims-to-be-the-voice-of-consumers-inside-microsoft/) and we see a few things there. The first is “Looking at Phil Spencer’s role at Microsoft is a bit like playing the game “One of these things is not like the other”“, I like the setting because it gives the voice of gaming at Microsoft in another way, my interpretation is ‘something here does not belong‘, not as diplomatic but it seems to fit, the business side of Microsoft for the longest of times never understood gaming and Phil Spencer is at the deep end there. We also see: ““The analogy I use with some people is we were like the garage band for a long time,” said Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming. “As long as we didn’t play our music too loud, we’re allowed to keep practicing.” He’s allowed to play music as loud as he wants now” this is a comprehensible point of view and it makes sense. It is almost like ‘you can play, but do not disturb the people doing actual work‘, which is wrong on so many levels, mainly because the other players (the work people) are set in a stage of making less and less revenue whilst the gaming sector could have been the supporting pillar for them if they had only listened to their customers. A mistake still not tended to I might add. The question now is not whether Phil Spencer comprehends the market, we know he does, but does Satya Nadella have a clue in all this? That is one part I am not convinced of, basically time will tell. Yet it is the escapist that gives us other goods, goods that matter not merely for the systems, but for the players too. You see, we are smitten with titles, with games, with ideas and in all this the JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) has been tremendous in all this, it has been driving sales and desire among the players, which is exactly the well of goodness for Nintendo. Sony has benefitted as well but not as much, so when we are treated to: “Even 17 years after the arrival of the original Xbox, Microsoft still hasn’t gained a foothold in Japan. At this point the situation probably seems hopeless. But I think there’s a way in, if Microsoft is willing to do something unconventional“, I partially agree here, it can work if the unconventional is addressed into a form of curiosity for the new players and an irresistible urge for those who are not new players. That whilst the article ends with: “History has shown that drastic reversals in fortune are possible, particularly when the buying public is being denied something they really want“, which turned out to be the killing game show that murdered their own console. Storage and off line achievements are the two most damning part, both easily adding to 40% of the non-buyers, or switchers (to another system). How can Microsoft survive? Well, first of all they need to get the right indie developers (and fast too), because there is a market that embraces indie developers. You merely have to look at Elite Dangerous and Subnautica on the waves that they created. Microsoft had the right moves there, but as those players are now no longer exclusive, people moved away. There are a few more options. The still anticipated System Shock will get people to the Xbox/PC if released in the right way, the following for that title was huge and they are still there waiting to replay the game that these players loved for decades, that is a need that will not die and there is more in the open to get. When we look back even further we see that there is a world of untapped games, games that were OK and sometimes even great in the old days and they are awakening the next generation, whilst at the same speed also calling back the old gamers.

The essential next step is not merely looking at new IP; the power is that old IP under new conditions can become a truly great IP. When we consider the older games on the CBM Amiga, we see a setting that a decent game remained decent game despite the utter lack of resources. What do you think will happen, when it gets true resources? When those playing the game realise that was merely passable on that system with 512Kb gets to be fully versed in a system with 8GB RAM and plenty of gigabytes on the Drive? What happens when we see a game like Seven Cities of Gold with some real resources? We are seeing that the makers of the Bards Tale moved to today’s systems and the reviews are giving us ‘Contemporary take shows Bard’s classic tale stands test of time‘, so basically, what was old is new again and it is one of several games that are out there. I mentioned Seven Cities of Gold, yet there was also the Black Crypt, Paradroid, Space Hulk (now released as Martyr Inquisitor), a collection of thousands of games, where several dozen could be revitalised, Indie developer can get the gamers what they desire, the question is which console will get to these games first? Will we see a smoother version of what was one of my favourites Knights of the Sky? You see, it is not merely about copying the idea that has been done before, but to set the stage on a scale of arcade versus realism, where the setting can be tweaked by the player to their own preference is more important than you might think. Some of the players are not Forza dedicated (they admire and love it), some are more for a little more arcade version of that game and the one who gives both will rule that land. Will Forza remain or will the Crew 2 take it all? When we see Steam giving it 60%, IGN 70% and Gamespot 80%, yet we see that 94% loved the video, we see that something does not add up. I was personally overwhelmed with the E3 video, even as I accept the review by some on ‘jack of all trades‘ to some part, the game is graphically amazing and it is perhaps more arcade then Forza, which is for some the part of gaming that many prefer. I have had my issue with Ubisoft for the longest of times, and even as I am not a racing fan (I never was) this game drew me in and that is what matters, or what should matter. So where is this going?

I think that we need a stronger setting for adjusting a game to the player. If the Crew had the option to switch ‘realism’ levels and become a Forza? Would that change the game? Is that even possible?

These issues are important because even as we want a true Crew 2 game, how far can we get? This now links back to Knights of the Sky (Amiga), the Red Baron (PC) was in that basic setting of realism versus more arcade playability. It is not merely the graphics, even as the comparison video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFTO7JHXn7s) gives us the part that we accept and that pushes us towards a decision which game to buy. The Crew does not win, and against a game that has been out for 2 years, it matters, yet the Crew 2 gives us a much larger arena to have fun in and that matters too. For gaming it will be to find a larger community and that is where we are when we see the upcoming game Forza Horizon 4 (due in one month), giving us a setting that is more Crew, all open and in Britain with all the seasons available making it an entirely new challenge. In all this Microsoft has outdone themselves, anyone claiming not, trivialising that achievement is merely a Microsoft hater. The question is, why is Microsoft not more aggressive in gaining this level of excellence on more fronts. If we accept that exclusive games are the wining card in any console war, why is Microsoft merely running behind other crews doing new stuff? When will the Xbox and PC gamer get treated to a set of games that gives them some level of an upper hand? God of War and Spiderman on PS4 shows that the queues in shops are large and growing. Merely waiting for the next Assassins Creed and Lara Croft is no longer good enough for Microsoft, not when they are about to become a mere third position, right behind the least powerful console in the world. Microsoft has to change the game and the games they play. Indie developers are soon to be the essential first in all this. That, and to address the pressures from the gamers, which is something they needed to do a long time ago, just some of the issues that is dragging Microsoft down. So even as some shareholders are smitten with that ugly term ‘Play it on the world’s most powerful console‘ they will be less impressed as they are soon confronted with a third position and that ‘most powerful’ expression merely ended them with the wooden spoon console trophy, at that point their enthusiasm will simmer down really fast.

Microsoft is running out of time and options, when they do get surpassed, the options they did have are very likely to melt away like snowflakes in the sun.

#HappyGamingSunday

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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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