Tag Archives: CBM64

The missing gap

I woke up this morning (03:15) and I started to realise what I had been missing (no, not a gorgeous woman, but yes, that too). I have been a gamer for the longest of times and I have been active going back to the Commodore Vic-20 (1982). Over the span of 40 years I have seen a huge collection of games spanning the Vic-20, CBM-64, AtariST, CBM Amiga, Megadrive, Playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Xbox-360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Playstation 5. I am not counting the PC and Mac Games but yes I had them too. My mind suddenly wandered on certain titles and the one that woke me up was an old PS1 game, Kula World. 

I suddenly realised what I missed. Game makers are all about the achievements, the progress and the hardship. Yet, when was the last time you set down relaxed and just played to have fun? I reckon that most of you had with Minecraft, but with what other game? Do not get me wrong, Skyrim is heaps fun, but it is a game with missions, a game with targets and I do not oppose them. Sometimes we just want to have fun, either alone or with friends. I reckon that is why Mario Party is such a success. Gaming just for fun. When was that?

It is almost a setting that gaming is now intended to push artsy people into a business degree. It is OK for some and ok for some all of the time, but not for all people all of the time. The new games (even the ones I designed) are about targets, populations and getting to a point, but what if there is no real point? Kula World was a game with a target in the distance, but oddly enough, when you were playing it was about the fun and I actually miss that. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still love hours and hours of Elite Dangerous, I still enjoy my Skyrim time and at times even Watchdogs: Legion. Yet the stage of focussing on fun is dwindling down in gaming and I think that is a shame and it is a loss for all gamers. I get it, some want to get contracts done in Grand Theft Auto, some what to get their team to the cup (NHL) and some want to survive (Last of Us) and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet at times it merely needs about the fun of playing and that is gone in too many places. And even I am guilty of that, all the designs I created, my mind created was about going somewhere, and for moments I forgot the feeling I had in Oblivion to just look at the scenery. Why is that, what did the game makers forget? What were we made to forget? 

I do not know how it happened. Perhaps people (game makers) were too intent on staring at Ubisoft and their one AC a year, perhaps they all forgot what the fun of playing was or perhaps the makers hired Business degree people to get them a money making game. Yet I feel that something is being lost and I hope that some will rectify this sooner rather than later. I reckon that if I looked back to the last 3 years, playing Minecraft and losing time and the sense of time there is the most fun I have been having playing a game, which is a shame. I had that feeling a lot in the Amiga and CBM64 time and I miss that feeling, I suddenly realised that I missed feeling that way. There is no way in hell that I am the only gamer feeling that way, but there it is. The gap I am missing and it makes sense, after all that school, who took a gap year? Where is our console gap year? Even now as we marvel on the sanctity of new titles, new challenges and new horizons, where is the gap that allows us to sit and just have fun?

Think back, when was the last time you had actual fun playing?

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Jump into the deep part

I have a mission. In part I no longer need to look at the Sony side, they have theirs covered. Yet now I must focus on the Amazon Luna. Apart from a plan that will sell them 50,000,000 consoles. I also think it is important to fill the setting with more games. They have a selection, but not enough and in my mind. There will be no peace until I hand over the wooden spoon (with gold engraved Microsoft 2023) to Phil Spencer, I will not have done enough. I reckon it is time for the world to Microsoft to see them as they are, a mediocre organisation who ends up dead last whilst they have (by their own words) the most powerful system in the world. They are already surpassed by the weakest system (Nintendo Switch), and Google Stadia will not count as they do not develop games, but now only Amazon Luna needs to surpass them. One plan already gets them there, but more games will offer a much faster track and and the idea that shelling out $8,500,000,000 did not aid them will be the sweetest aftertaste for me. I just roll that way.

To set the stage, we need to take another gander at espionage games. Yet we need to be better and more refined (and larger) in this. We also need to make sure that there is enough variation to keep the need alive to play this game more and more. 

To take a few small steps, the first part is towards an old CBM64 game called the 4th Protocol after the book and the movie. As the image shows below, it was not much, but the idea was sound. Even for a system with 40KB of memory. Yet the idea is the dashboard, we should add a few items and set a larger station (like localisation), in the end it is more than a game, it should have an ‘educational’ side. In this we can grasp to some of the elements of the old Microprose game Covert Action. 

Here we see bugging and encryption. There is nothing to stop us from evolving these parts. Setting a much larger setting to include VOIP and normal telephones. (Still a game though). We see that as the game progresses we add more and more to the dashboard and the load of the operations spymaster. 

In the original game it was about setting up locks, but what if we take a gander to Hacker 2 (Activision, 1986) and add the camera feed? We now have a larger station than before and we have the technology to make it look really good. We can add the cross-over that as the hacks were more complete and better we see more camera views. 

And as we get operational settings underway and we add trainings we can up the agents efficiency, so in time settings we cannot do it all, we need to rely on agents, and as they are better the hacks and intrusions are more complete, so badly trained agents will give you access to less and no results. And in cities the size of London, Berlin, Washington DC, Paris, and Moscow we get two new additions. We can hack, but we can get hacked as well, then there are counter hacks and the danger of getting caught, so an agent with a 60% rating might float in Berlin, but not in Washington DC or Moscow. And as the agents get better (which requires you to get better), we get more access in more places. Then there is the allegiance side. What happens when we select to be the Spymaster of the UAE, Egypt or Italy? It will change the place where we are regarded as ally, neutral or optionally hostile. I do not think we can get a real live game (like Watchdogs, or Elder Scrolls), yet the setting that was once accepted could be upgraded and give us all a new challenge. The original hacking in Covert Action was the approach Julius Caesar used 2075 years ago. So what if we educate the players on encryption and as they get better we add encryption options? The nice part of Amazon is that a subscription service implies that they already paid for it, we merely need to add more, just like the addition of boardgames and achievements and rewards I wrote about a few months ago. The added value over time will entice more and more players to include the Amazon Luna, especially when it is only there that they can have it. 

Will this be for everyone? No off course not. The delusion of Ubisoft is that they make games for everyone, but a game that offer satisfaction to everyone is a game that basically pleases no one, that has been a truth for decades and it does not have to be that way, the stage becomes to offer games that pleases people in a niche and then make games to cover many niches, that is the only way to grow your population. A simple but harsh truth and why is my idea a good one? I do not know whether it is a good one, but it is one that others are not doing, to have something unique matters. Ask Sony if you disagree, they have a dozen games on that path. And yet we can do more, have more ‘hi-res’ games, but the larger truth is that until 5G is completely ready and rolled out, congestion will hit the Amazon Luna and other streaming consoles. So looking at the old games and seeing whether we can give them a new look, a fresh paint job and better rendering, w are merely digging our own grave if Amazon relies on Ubisoft they will be done for. Less then 2 weeks ago there was “Amazon Luna bug glitch” for Assassins Creed Valhalla. And when I search “Amazon Luna Ubisoft bugs”, I get pages of results. Now there might we an overlap with other systems, but the gamer wants a decent game and Ubisoft has been falling short of that, so Amazon needs a plan C (my 50M consoles solution is regarded, by me, as plan B). 

And it does matter, when there is a full 5G within the net 2-3 years, the streaming console war begins in earnest and that is when (my wish-list) comes to fruition and Microsoft wins (and earns) the wooden spoon. There are of course a lot more games they can work on, but I already covered several in earlier stories and I hate being overly repetitive. 

There is a time for waiting and a time for acting. It is my personal believe that the time for waiting is over, it now matters how Amazon will feel about winning that race. I know that Microsoft cannot afford loss there and that makes it more and more important (for me at least) for someone else to win it. 

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Insomnia non habit legem

Yup, could not sleep and it is 03:00. So what happens? My mind thinks up a new game, actually I came up with two games. One came to me via Ryan Reynolds (bloody bastard). I was watching his Gaelic Wrexham advertisement and things started to click, it is a game that is based on two games, two existing games mind you.

Consider Draughts (Checkers on a chess board) and Chess, but both playing on the same board at the same time (hence a digital game would be essential). Chess remains the same, all the pieces move in the same way, no difference. It is the draught game that alters. Consider you are playing checkers, you hit an opponents piece. There is a difference now, the move remains the same, but if a chess piece of the SAME colour as the checker piece, then the piece is NOT removed. It opens up a new way of strategic thinking. In opposition, it forces you to place your chess pieces in a different stratagem. Do you support your draught pieces or forfeit the location? I wonder if the game could be playable in that way and when you ‘king’ a checkers piece, the setting becomes more complex and in that fact, hitting pieces that are protected might set you up for the fall, you might end up losing your ‘king’ a lot faster. 

The second game is based also on an existing game. The original was a game on the CBM-64, it was called something like kinetic puzzles. It was a puzzle of a videoclip. So the image of the puzzle would always be in motion, as such the puzzle was more challenging. I liked that game and until today I had pretty much forgotten about it. Yet my mind wanted something more and now we go off the deep end.

As I was contemplating stories (some time ago) I came up with a quantum puzzle, the stage was a little bit like an episode of Fringe. We see a room and a person appears out of synch in a room moving irregular all over the place, like slices of a videoclip. Yet if you analyse the images, you will see a different timeline, something that shows (read: indicates) what the sequence of the motion is and when we see the image in time and side by side the image shows the image, or the person to represent a location, now if we see that same person in that location, the things we see will seem to make sense, the are all connected in some way (the way is the final part of the puzzle). Yet there is the crunch, we would need Google Maps to be able to translate the initial number (like a 14 digit map reference) to represent a location, any location in the world and that gives us the puzzle challenge, to set a puzzle not to a 2D image, but a 3D location and that place becomes the actual puzzle. I am still working on a few angles, but that I what my mind came up with. New ways to invoke a different way of viewing things. We forgot to take the stage and change the stage of application and distribution giving us a new way to solve things. I see it as an essential step in the evolution of our minds, if we do not, we are lost, we need to push forward and offer more to our brain, it can do so much more and if we get tuck in the setting of reinventing the wheel, we remain mere wheel dealers. I think it is time to tell the box that it has become too much of a limitation. 

It reminds me of a thought I had, or was told hen I was young (like half a century ago). The shadow one one dimension is the representation of the previous dimension. So the shadow of a 2D object is a line, the shadow of a 3D object is a 2D object and so on, so in that light, how do we see the shadow of a 5D object? Perhaps that view is too limiting to use but it we are to reflect pace as a shadow, what will we get? Computers can give us that represented image and as such we can use them to evolve our mind. I know it is far reaching, and perhaps it is over reaching as well, yet I believe that if we overreach we might be able to see what is just beyond our reach. Am I nuts? Perhaps I am, but the creative mind seeks an outlet, through gaming, through books, through art, through stories and in that instant we might touch on something we were not able to touch before. If reengineering is merely the setting to redesign something, it is not always to adapt to wider application, sometimes it is to start a new direction of what was never contemplated before. In my mind what does a game, a nuclear meltdown and a movie have in common? They are merely all the contemplation of stories, the question becomes, which of these stories can become a reality? More important, should they become a reality? It was Spielberg in Jurassic Park who gave us the question of whether we can versus whether we should attempt something. In the business world the only limitation is profit, cash is king, money is all. Yet we seemingly forget that we should or should not might not be a question of profit, but a setting of ethics. In that same setting I reused an image of a report yesterday that states that 50% of all pollution comes from 147 facilities in the world, the EU reported on it and the media remains seemingly blind. Some blame the rich and their jets, yet I did not find any newspaper or media piece that takes a long hard look at these 147 facilities, why is that? Is it too much about profit? It links because if we can learn to think differently, in different path and multiple stages, perhaps something could be done about these 147 facilities, it is merely a thought. 

If IBM completes its quantum computer to a degree we need it to be, we will need practical applications in quantum settings and at present there is a workforce of ZERO that can get us there, as such we need a next generation that thinks differently thinks on different levels and what I stated in the 80’s now applies. Gaming gets us there, it took some 30 yeas to get to that level of thinking. If we do not prepare the next generation, the ones that do will end up ruling all others. If you doubt that consider the 5G stage where America is blindly accusing and not providing evidence, they are losing the race and they are scared. So what happens when Asia and Europe rule the Quantum computing realm? As I see it the US and its Trumpism is setting itself up for a rather large fall and if he gets enough votes the economy will change, it will change by a lot and in that, should the 5G and Quantum computing fall outside of the US workforce, it will be game over for them. So they better learn that new shapes of games need to be taught to the next generation it is all we might have left. And yes, this sounds negative, but wonder for yourself if more of the same will solve whatever you see is wrong around you, or does it require a different form of thinking?

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Hammer hits anvil

Yes, that is the foundation of an idea, the idea is voiced, in the ear, the hammer hits the anvil, the anvil vibrates the wires and the lightbulb in your brain lights up the room and the idea is born. The setting is the same for all, the only difference is that when the hammer hits the anvil, not everyones wires vibrate, and as a result in some people the lightbulb never lights up that room that is known as ‘skull space’, still my setting was that I did not come up with one idea, I came up with three. It is an idea that was someone else’s idea, but that foundation can still be used today and in a cloud space game setting.

Lets go back to 1984, George Orwell was making noises in regards to government oversight (of everyone) and in that same year Mike Singleton had an idea and created ‘the Lords of Midnight’, now even as the setting was nice, it was set to computers with a limit to 48KB (ZX Spectrum) and the 64KB that the Commodore had. Yet what happens when we take that idea and use the map of the UK (that island left of France) and set ourselves in a stage of riding, stealth and travel to collect the alliance of a minimum amount of keeps to secure the safety and unity of one region, each keep is in one county. The stage is all set, so to change it and make it a real challenge, the stages vary, the keep is not always in the same place (sometimes they are), and we aren’t always starting in the same place, so there will always be more than one option. The area is all in a stage where there is an enemy, not always visible, but as we align, we are given who is not our enemy and they will give the information of what is against us. A stage that is more alike the old days, when communication took days, not seconds. We need to adjust our way of thinking without removing the first person challenge. Even as it is based on that game, it will be a completely new game, it will be a larger setting based on the entire UK, all with optional awards (virtual diploma’s) of achievement and a retirement award. A game that shows time in a new setting if you like.

The setting of a cloud will allow a larger setting of randomisation, as the server does all the alignments, as such if 10 players play it, there is a chance that 2 players have close to the same setup, but not completely. A game where you need to do the work and not rely on some wiki solution where the one solution fits all. 

About a decade later someone made a game called Virus! It was an original game and even as it never made any headlines, I never forgot the originality. Yet in this day, what can we do to innovate? For example, a shooting game is one completed a game that has been completed, but it does not need to be like that. What if the opponents and the level of play is determined by a QR code? In the game Virus! It was Windows and your hard-drive, which in those days was innovative, yet today it does not work like that (or at least it should not). QR codes are everywhere and any level completed will be one we have already seen, yet what if we had on any mobile the option to save the code and use it to transfer the image to the cloud game? It does not matter whether it is a spaceship with an environment, a soldier with an urban or rural setting, it is about the fact that we are not in control and the maker cannot be creating levels again and again, and random generators tend to be less random than you think. Yet the setting of a QR code is out of our control and we can decide what every dot means, we merely are in the dark whether that dot is used. A game with almost infinite levels and a never ending stage of challenges, a lovely idea for any shooter with drive to compete.

Yes, I agree that it is in fact an iterative idea when we revisit an old idea, but the people seemingly forgot about the idea and as such it becomes a new ballgame. When we are given “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Known Issues [Updated Feb 5]”, in a stage when Ubisoft gave the laughingly statement that the game would be released days early and we see 3 months later that there are well over a dozen issues with impacts on a dozen missions that cannot continue, is it such a bad idea to look at the past when these kind of screw ups would never make the cut of publication?

And a lot could have been prevented from day one by properly testing a game. In this I tend to fall back to Skyrim, a game that has issues, no one denies it, but in all the years (since 11.11.11) that I have played it, I only witnessed 3-4 bugs myself on any console (Xbox360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, PS5) and a dozen or so glitches, yet glitches do not break a game. And that was made almost 10 years ago. I think it is time to reconsider what we love to play and what maker consider to be a good game. When we consider the size of Skyrim, my only issue with the game (after playing it again and again at least 8 times, is that the missions are always the same, yet the openness of the game allows for a lot of exploring and doing things your way. But what gives when the QR code resets the opposition and changes what you face in every dungeon, crypt or hollow? 

And that gives me another idea, I reckon that there are a few nordic directors with a grasp of the dark side of tinsel town, and when you consider Troll Hunter (2010). I thought it was awesome, André Øvredal took a folktale and pushed it and us into another direction. I am certain that it can be done again. So, what happens when we take that part of Skyrim that is based on Nordic legends and create a new horror movie, but one that is close to the folktale of the Draugar “Draugar usually possessed superhuman strength, and was “generally hideous to look at”, bearing a necrotic black colour, and was associated with a “reek of decay” or more precisely inhabited haunts that often issued foul stench”. Lets not forget in the academic world where people hunt academic recognition, stupidity (read: shortsightedness) is found a dime a dozen and when we see the people’s admiration with the zombie apocalypse, the idea that it had already happened is not the weirdest idea to consider, so what happens when someone opens up the wrong thing (tomb or urn) in Malmo and before the authorities have any clue what actually is going on, the issue has spread to Norway, Denmark and Germany. So as we need to rely on folklore, folklore that is specific to Scandinavia, what will those do who have no knowledge? The military will merely grab bigger weapons, weapons that have some effect, but the stage is different, you can hunt cockroaches with a flamethrower, yet what happens when that roach is somewhat heat resistant? The option are nearly endless and it could make for an entertaining 2-3 hours with a box of popcorn. As you see, these AAA game designers are all about being cool and having hot items (riddled with bugs), I needed one salad to get three ideas on paper. I wonder what I will be able to think off with a decent cheese pizza (with extra oregano).

Have a great Monday!

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Before life was, I was

Yup, there is the ego, floating over your head, look to the right, no, your other right, look about 43.8 degree higher (if you are outside) take the second star to the right, yup, there I am. So as you might have guessed, it is time to talk about god-games and whatever I consider here, is free to use in any Sony exclusive game.

To see this, we need to go back to the foundation of god-games. My introduction to this type was in the 80’s when Little Computer People came to the CBM64. We all see the age of Peter Molyneux as the stage of the ‘true’ god games, but it is out in the open to accept or reject that notion. And in all this, most of us might remember the game Black and White. It was a more god game than most god games and even the guy upstairs agrees, right Hades? 

Yet what if we create a game where it is merely part of the game, not the game itself. For example, if we set to an example most of us remember ‘Assassins Creed Brotherhood’, consider that the game remains the control of Ezio Auditore, yet the god side of it is that we can to some degree control the actions of NPC’s. An example, Ezio is running through town, and that is fine, but in the god side we unleash rain on the area and as a result all the courtesans hide inside their houses. Ezio loses an ability to his side. This is a crude version. 

So if we use the divine powers in Black and White, it is a direct option, what if it becomes indirect? Like drawing a line in the sand, the ants will find another path, but that is as clear an option as it comes. So what happens when the game is about indirect channelling and it becomes about indirect guidance. Not as a setting in the game, but as a setting towards the game? So like Batman fights his opponents in Arkham knight, we influence the brutality of those around him, we set the premise of depression of the victims around him, it changes the game, it changes his focus, whilst the gamer does not see a change in the player, the stage we see in detective mode of Batman and we see the criminals are at some point terrified, Batman instilled this, but what happens when we set a secondary stage that affects the persons in the area, but Batman cannot directly influence that. That stage is influenced by the the NPC’s, not like the stupid wave like behaviour we saw in AC Unity again and again, but a sort of herd like behaviour in NPC’s, it changes the entire setting of the playable area and we forgot about that, thee gamer (and the developer was so focussed on Ezio Auditore, Batman, Edward Kenway, they forgot to set the influence stage on the population when Batman, Poison Ivy, or Vaas comes into the level. Yes, there was some attempt (AC Unity) the the fear was where we see street run away in front of you was a failed attempt at this. A stage where we can only influence a second tier (up to a point), is something we have never faced. In this I grab back to the Black and White part. Until we set the premise where an evangelist is created by their own choice, the influence is limited. So we can directly interfere in the game (buildings, infrastructure), yet the NPC influence is only limited. Games like Spore, Black and White set the action as direct. I want to change that, give a much larger challenge where the person having the finger needs to think where he draws the line for the ants.

It is a speculative setting, but that is all that I can offer in a conceptual setting. It is conceptual, because it has never been done before and evolution of games happens in a stage where things are new and never done before, there was always the first one. And that is what we are aiming for, something never done in gaming before, upgrading the level of gameplay down the line, and that was all that gamers want, a new level of play, we all want that, because sooner rather than later more of the same becomes tiring. And for the most, the sandbox games has left the NPC part of their game to too much of a limiting factor. So we need to change that side of things if only to make sandbox games more realistic and more believable.

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Alternative income

It seems that I hate Bethesda, I do not, I am not happy that they are part of Microsoft now, but that was their right. It is Microsoft I do not trust. So as I was playing (yet again) Fallout Shelter, we need to see how close to perfect that game is and it is a free game. The optionally dropped the ball on two issues, maybe three if they played their cards right, but that was their choice, gamer ended up with a near perfect version of gaming and that is what we all wanted (even though I would have paid $5-$15 for the game). Yet the game is not new, it is innovative adjusted, the origins of this setting goes back to Dungeon Keeper (1997), we tend to forget these little details. And when I say ‘innovate’ Bethesda truly did that to the game and their game rocks. 

It did however made me consider the stage and how it could be adapted. There was a Westworld edition, I had only heard about it, I never played it. The game was too much of a copy. Yet the setting of Dungeon keeper is one I tend to circle back to. It is the origin of that game that drives my thoughts. There is no advantage setting this to a larger Bethesda stage, Bethesda already owns it, but perhaps there are options in the Ultima stage (Richard Garriott), there could be a drive  through Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, there are plenty of options, but it is the drive of creation, with a little grasp of pragmatism (perhaps 1-3 optional micro transactions) that would make it work. The first thing is not the game, it is understanding the drive of the gamer, from that point we can move on to see what optional franchise has the larger cluster. We can chose any game, but if it has only 20 fans, the drive to a population large enough to make it work is one that we have to surpass and greed driven people always want revenue now (not me though). There are the protected franchises (Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings) that had its own barriers. There are less known franchises (Ultima) that has dedicated protectors, so we can align ourselves with a protector, or find IP that is no longer protected (which tends to take time). I stated it before and will do so again, on the Amiga Millennium 2.2 had close to all we need, so how to make that a success? To do that you need to understand the mechanics of the game. We can work with clocks, the free game only allows a clock speed of 4 and 5 skip days per day, when you buy anything, even once you get the option of clock speed 8 and that can be avoided by a one time payment of $4 giving you direct access to 16 times the speed and unlimited skips, considering that it takes up 235 days to fly to Uranus (I had to allow for that pun), we see a game that could show us optional revenue. Then there is the stage of the arcade, change your mobile into an arcade machine, play the old games for $0.99 and it will keep a track of up to 3 games, for $4 you can add 10 slots and every month another game is released, another of the classic games that can be played, the amounts of fathers that spend a fortune in quarters can now play their favourite game (optionally) for a mere $0.99, how is that not a guaranteed drive? And the nice part is that dozens of these games were never IP protected, it was not an issue in those days. 

There is a whole world out there ready for the visionary programmer to dig into, covid be damned. 

And when we see that some older games are almost forgotten (Paradroid, Boulder Dash, Spy vs Spy,  Joust, and not to forget Theme Hospital), we tend to think as what is old is useless, but there are real diamonds there. I still believe that a proper set Magic Carpet could do really well on consoles (no micro transactions), optionally mobiles could people forget their destinations when they get sucked into Populous, as such I wonder why the people at Electronic Arts are not awake. Another larger player used to be Epyx, and I cannot fathom why a game like Chip-bits, never was rereleased when the systems grew up, there are other players like Laser Squad, that might have gotten right what a legendary game like X-Com missed when they relaunched. And when the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) relaunched the game as a movie, no one considered that Arcade classic was fun to play and relaunching it might have been an option? I am not sure if there were IP’s in place and who owned it, but it seems that the owners did not move on the IP, as such I merely wonder why. 

As for the number one question you all have, why am I not doing it? The answer is simple. I am not a programmer and I am ready with my IP, but those with the $$$ (or £££) haven’t reacted yet, but that does not stop my mind of remaining creative and if it is a win for the gamers, it is a win for all of us. Life at times is that simple. I know my strengths, I also know my weaknesses and limitations, the latter two you tend to avoid for obvious reasons. Well, it is time to fee the inner person with a shepherds pie, I am feeling peckish!

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I see dead people

There is a stage we all see and we all think we seem to know, I am very set on the ‘seem to’ part. I stumbled upon a 5 years old article by TechCrunch, it is about Peter Molyneux, a person I personally know, so I was curious. It was the beginning that got to me. With “the British game development hero that spearheaded famous studios Bullfrog and Lionhead, but who also always had a reputation of being fluid with the truth. Molyneux was the guy who made Populous and led the studios that created Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate, The Movies, Fable, Black and White, Magic Carpet and many others. But Molyneux was also a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised” the game is on, you see it is about the games, and Bullfrog let by Peter delivered again and again on CBM64, Atari ST, Amiga and PC. I still miss some of these games. They opened the mind, the made us creative and it pushed us to think different. So when we get to ‘a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised’, we are b being misled on two fronts. The first is that (as far as I know) Peter has always been in the business of pushing gaming boundaries. It is hard to prove this, but I have an example, in those days I had a mouthwatering PC, it had all the bells and whistles and it would make coffee for me if it had hands, so here I am with a high end graphics card that can do anything with was, so even as Black and White is fun and amazing, it was that merely fun and amazing, about three months after the game releases there is a new graphics card and I install it, I had nothing real to do and I restart Black and White, so when the temple is built and I walk inside my mouth drops, it blew me away. Black and White was the first game that was ready for the nextgen graphics, it was the first time this would happen to me. Even now I still hope for a remaster of Magic Carpet on the new consoles, a rerelease of dungeon keeper, and only team bullfrog can deliver on that.

The second part is the one TechCrunch does not mention, in the early 90’s, the media was on gaming like nothing you ever saw, the journo’s at the ECTS were renowned, worse than paparazzi and always looking for a sound-byte, an exploit and that part is not mentioned, also the words of Molyneux have been pulled out of context more than once, he did something other gamer makers did not achieve, he surpassed the boundaries of systems. That can be seen if you compare the reboot of Syndicate with the original, the original remains vastly superior 20 years later. The reboot got a mere 66%, it is vision that get us games and Peter Molyneux had just that. Then we get a part the is hard to dispute and most likely correct “The other reason Molyneux thrived was that his team delivered. There are, and will forever remain, disputes over exactly how much he was involved with some of the titles to his name (Glenn Corpes, Sean Cooper, Demis Hassabis and a variety of others deserve their credit) but what was inarguable was that Molyneux had managed to create an environment in which great games happened”, yes Peter was not alone and we all get that, but Peter made it happen and it is undeniable, great games happened at Bullfrog and Lionhead. The titles are still revered and people still yearn for another fable, another dungeon keeper and another theme park, even now, even 20 years later, that is gaming at the edge!

Then we get a gem “He would combine those ideals to form an exciting story for what a game might be, often road testing a certain phrase or image with you before using it with the press. This, I gather, is not unlike the way Steve Jobs seems to have been”, the man was part visionary and could recognise visionaries in coders, that is part why his games were so great (the original concept is part of that), until Bullfrog, who had considered being the bad guy in Hero quest would be entertaining? And that is the foundation of great gaming, bel to turn the equation upside down and get another nugget of gold, he had this. I particularly like the end of the article “Ambitious design, big ideas and bold visions are what propel the games industry forward. When all is said and done, create-a-cash-engine mentalities are only ever temporary, but it’s the ambition that makes video games forever. I for one hope that Molyneux rises from the ashes one last time to teach us this lesson again”, it is all the parts Ubisoft forgot to be, it is all the sides the spreadsheet driven BI executives at EA and likeminded companies are dumbstruck on. I hope that he gets a few more notches on his 6 shooter with new titles on nextgen, optionally Google Stadia too. Consider the titles we saw at the beginning and consider that those who knew the games still remember them and love them 20+ years later, that is an achievement only Nintendo has been able to equal. 

So when it comes to Bullfrog, its staff and the man behind it, I tend to see dead people, it is the press behind it, not the makers of games, they have proven their grit, they did it several times. 

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The set stage

It started a week ago, not directly, but the thought was born at that point, it was the realisation that the stage is set to the player, the stage is empty, especially we set the stage as we are playing an RPG game, it is perhaps the largest issue that a game can have. The danger of repetition. To get there we need to return to 1985. I was a happy chappy. I had my CBM-64 and the whole world was in front of me. That year two games came to my attention, well, not completely, the first game I had already seen as a friend had a BBC Micro B. Yet getting the games was an issue, but there it was on a Friday I was made aware that a shop in Breda (90 minutes by train) had both games. It was odd as I was living in Rotterdam, but there it was a dealer in Breda had both Ultima-3 and Elite, both for the CBM-64 and I was off to the races (the train) and a little less than 2 hours later I was in Breda having bought 1 copy of each game. My love for these two games continues to this day. Of course Elite is now Elite Dangerous (and a few thousand times bigger) and Ultima no longer exists, but the stage is there. Yet as I remember my days in Elder Scrolls Oblivion, we tend to set course for the most beneficial route, but what happens when that is not an option? In case of Ultima, what happens when 3,4,5, and 6 are played, but in this, what happens when we influence the development of the game for others? Ultima is an excellent example as the map remained close to the same in 4,5,6, and 7. But those who have played Oblivion, perhaps you remember the Rockmilk Cave north of Leyawin. Because there are two fighting parties, you get to have the drop n those who survive and get a lot more loot, early in the game that matters, and it is close to a city, so it is a ka-ching moment. But what happens, when everyone does that? We get away with it the first time, but what happens when the people in that cave become a lot more adapt? What happens when the second time around the people are suddenly 1 or 2 levels higher and that happens in EVERY subsequent visit? This takes me back to Ultima 5, near Empath Abbey there is a good source of Spider Silk, so what happens when everyone does that? What happens when we suddenly have to ACTUALLY explore to find what we need? I have been thinking of a first person approach (an Oblivion approach) to the Ultima games. You see, that game had everything from the get go and it would take plenty of designers 10 years to get close there, so what happens when we get the stage like Oblivion, but with the entire land of Britannia mapped? The 4th game would b a great start, but even as we start, we set our mark on the land. As such roads will develop different. We will end up having much better roads between Britain and Paws. There was some form of an economy in Ultima 7, but that can evolve from the 4th game onward. This sets for a very different game, as such when we start Ultima 5, we are set in a land that evolved from OUR actions in Ultima 4, not just that, as markers of thousands of players are aggregated, the map might evolve differently, We could see that New Magincia and Buccaneers Den would be much larger cities the the places we had (and reset) from 4 up to 7. It is a set shape of RPG that we have not seen before, and that makes it exciting. Even as I was (initially) designing Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration, I had something similar in mind. Not merely a stage for a quest, but a stage where we set in motion the action, but beyond managing resources, we get to have no say in the matter. 

It is  stage that is enabled and disabled by us. We tend to forget about the latter part, but it is an equally important stage, because it sets for a different stage of replaying a game. Consider Oblivion and Skyrim, what happens when we set the new Dark Brotherhood? What if we choose not to place the new sanctuary not in Dawnstar? What if there had been an option to place it near Whiterun? The choice is then set for re-playability, which was a focal point for me in TES7: Restoration. 

In addition, I had set more than one red line in the design, a red line the follows markers as you play the game, but markers that cannot be influenced after voices are made. Basically, you get to sleep in the bed you make, you do not get to design the bed. Makers of RPG’s have been so involved in getting everything there that we drown in options, but at times, the gamer can merely inhabit the stage, he/she does not design the stage, it is the cornerstone of something we want to replay and when you consider that Skyrim is still going strong since 11.11.11, what do you think happens when we take away some f the training wheels and give the player the fun of playing and the consequence of choice? It is something that had been lacking in RPG’s for the longest time. I set that in motion in my design, but in the end, it is what the owners of the IP decide to do. 

It was the only issue I had with Skyrim, the grinding to get to the legendary dragon, and I know there are part I missed (not many), yet it gets me back to the avoidance of grinding. What if levels are not the only way of measuring? Why if the player class needs to have at least 1,2 or 3 skills at 100? The thief might have bow, lockpick and sneak at 100, but what would the Mage have? What  would the fighter or assassin have? We forgot to set the stage to a larger field, I cannot tell whether that was intentional or not, I reckon that the PS4 already had the power to take care of these matters, but that is me. What if every skill will give the player an ability at 100? Not skill point driven, but automatically, it could be something trivial. For Sneak it might be pussyfoot for 60 seconds, for the Bow it might be the arrow dagger, for Restoration it might be paralyse soul, for illusion it might be daylight, and so on. We seemingly have forgotten that there are any rods to a solution, but some of the makers (due to no fault of their own) have made most missions a linear stage and we have to evolve from that. Limitations is one way to do that. When you were playing Oblivion (or Skyrim), how many benefits did you get by going to White River Watch on the second play (Skyrim) as soon as possible or Crumbling Mine (Oblivion)? We can up the NPC level on subsequent plays, but what can we gain by limiting what. Person COULD find at the first few levels? What happens when we set a randomiser to some loot not on whether it is there, but where it is? In Skyrim some books are always in the same place, what if that changes? Consider that we have 4 levels of loot, what if those levels (when it is not a quest item) are 4 mixed piles? As such, we could run to the Milkrun Cave, but what we get there would not be a guarantee, in addition, some loot can only be found ONCE! As such certain loot will not be there to spike our personal coffers, just a thought. 

In this day and age, we are not merely on one system, as such we should see what benefits the games could get, it is my personal belief that this is not done enough. I get it, makers like Ubisoft (merely an example) like to be on ALL systems, but what if we set another premise? What if we use the power of Sony and for example Google Stadia to the max what that system can give? Will the gamer not end up with a much better experience? If you doubt that, consider Metroid Prime 1 and 2 on GameCube, a game that is still mostly unsurpassed on Xbox One and PS4 11 years later, an entire generation later, the is the premise we need to return to a field that is maximised, not equalised by the lowest system around. 

Just my point of view, have a great weekend.

 

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Light of creativity

In creativity we normally see a theme, or perhaps better phrased, some (like me)( are thematically driven, it might change per project, but in me there is a drive to think thematically, it is how I set the the stages of Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration, Watchdogs 4: Refugee,  and Far Cry 7: Timing

In this I have spoken about the Elder Scrolls and Watchdogs before, but not too much about Far Cry, in this game the stage is a little bit different. The game has two sides, a day side and a night side, yet that is not really made clear in the beginning, The game is stages in Japan on the Island of Amakusa, the man is in the city as it is today, yet when he falls asleep he becomes the boy or Girl named Sage. For the kid its 1945, for the adult its 2010, and the stage is different, the man learns skills that the boy has when he falls asleep, the kid finds things and places (and avoid US troops) the difference is that this is a game without guns, the US troops have them, but the boy/girl cannot fire them. The man learns to be better and more apt with knifes, and it helps the other one, but is only deadly to animals. The story starts in 2010, the man is evicted, he lost his job in the meltdown, he is making it on his own and when he gets to an abandoned house, he finds an engraved phalange, and as he holds it, he falls asleep. 

At that point it becomes morning 1945 and the boy takes over. 

It is the foundation of the game, in this we see the entire island twice, once as the boy in the midst  of an American occupation, with lose combats against the Imperial army, we see the game starting in one stage in July 1st 1945 and July 1st 2010 in the other stage. The idea of having two stories that intertwine is interesting, the 2010 story sets the stage of what knowledge is gained in 1945. This stage is depending on stealth, that is often not important in 2010, as we try to gain the treasures and rare items to pay the debt, as that unfolds, we see two stories unfold as well as two needs to be scored in a single night, and as the stage unfolds more and more we get to see a WW2 story from a Japanese side, yet the Americans are not shown too evil, but they are scary to a 11 year old child. 

That is merely the beginning of the setting and it took no more than two hours to come up with it. So when we see “a small team at Visceral also worked on a pirate game code named Jamaica. That game wound up being canceled when Ubisoft announced the pirate-themed Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and EA wound up with a bigger a bigger priority for its “genre” studio: a Star Wars game”, a quote a mere three days old, yet I was able to (semi)create three games in a week, so where is their creativity? I came up with the setting of the game Evolution which was came from an Idea I had when I was playing the game Mercenary on the CBM64 and was based in Amsterdam, The centre of Amsterdam was completely mapped and I came up with a map change which I got from the documentary Zero Hour, as I see it, the lack of creativity from some of these large software houses baffle me, it really does.

Well, its fine as I see it, I came up with 6 games (completely) original in its foundation, as such the entire stage of ‘being canceled when Ubisoft announced the pirate-themed Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’ passed me by completely. And in that regard, we see that even their version is not that original, Sid Meier set that stage with Pirates, as such I wonder what they will create next, and beyond that, which of them will actually make it to the consoles, because that is another setting.

As we see all over the place ‘Apple clashes with Microsoft, Google, and Facebook over cloud gaming’ no one is asking the question, who will hand us original games? In this the setting that only Sony and Nintendo remains is not the weirdest idea. So as the others are fighting on how to gain the largest slice of pie in the GaaS game, some will focus on originality and make the largest gains. 

So what games will you play and which system will focus on original games? Is that not important too? 

 

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Reflections

These are the days where a lot of people reflect on choices made and I am not any different. I was at the foundation of gaming, when gaming was young, when people thought that this was the sport of nerds and I did not care. I reviewed games for 13 years and I never regretted it. I was there when Commodore release the CBM64 and the Amiga 500. Sony released the PlayStation, I was there when Nintendo released the N64 and the GameCube. I had the Sony PlayStation 2 on day one, I saw with amazement when the SEGA Dreamcast was released. I saw an amazing range of games and systems, even now I think back to how great gaming was in those days. Even now we see how some makers misrepresent their games on how unique their game is whilst in the end it is merely another version of Candy Crush or Bejewelled. The hide behind quick animations and we see some Zombie game and the list goes on, they all need to make a game that is quick so that it is downloaded, their name depends on the amount of downloads, the sheep that play games follow the games that have a lot of downloads, yet they miss the larger stage. A game is something larger, it keeps you interested, it offers a larger stage and there is no denying that Microsoft Game Pass might actually entice people who call themselves gamers will actually end up playing actual games. Yet there is a danger there too. I personally believe that Microsoft is in it for the soft money, the micro transactions and it makes sense, micro transactions represents billions a year in revenue, and there mobile systems are the biggest source of micro transactions and that too is a reason why Microsoft wants Apple access. 

It is time that this stage changes and if there is one stage we want to protect then it is the gaming stage, that stage gives direct access to the younger players. Even as these ‘critics’ proclaim loot boxes are ‘gambling’, there is no status on games like Candy Crush and all others designed to drive gamers to spend money, the addiction of achievement. Yet we see a lot less on that part do we? I remember playing the very first Lemmings, from the first hour I saw just how addictive it was, I still have great memories on Magic Carpet, I saw amazing games from Mirrorsoft, Microprose, Psygnosis, Rare, Westwood, Bullfrog and too many others to mention. Even then the creativity outranked corporate types and the gamer won. That field has changed!

Even today, I remember playing games like Millennium 2.2, Lemmings, Covert Action, Ultima 3, 4, 5, Eye of the Beholder, and that was long before PC’s started to take gaming serious. One title I am leaving for last, In 1987 FTL (Faster than Light) created Dungeon Master, it changed the way people looked at RPG games. It was only surpassed by Dungeon Keeper because Dungeon Master paved the way and created the love of the RPG game, Dungeon Master became the best selling game of all time for the Atari ST, others would follow and Dungeon Keeper would push the love of RPG to even greater heights, in the end 700,000 copies would be sold and it is there where we see what we can gain, in those days 700,000 copies were sold, in this day it would be 10 to 50 times as much. And we overlook the playability of those games now, yes we see the hypes created (and the games EA screws up), yet they also had there share of successes and underestimations. Who remembers ShadowCaster and Black Crypt? Upgraded they would make interesting games and in that same setting EA has close to half a dozen games that could raise the setting for Google Stadia. So what happens when we tinker Magic Carpet to become larger and multiplayer? And that is only the tip of the iceberg, Microprose has even more titles and that is all before we look at the near future and see what else we can do to set a larger stage of games that people either cast aside or ignored in the first place. An excellent example of that is Microprose’s 1990 release of Knights of the Sky. I loved the game and many others did as well, but the larger group seemingly forgot about this game, a game that could be upgraded and work on a whole range of systems, including Google and Apple systems. We need to take another look at these games, games produced in the era spanning from 1985-2005 gives us close to 100 titles spread over half a dozen systems and we forgot about them. Why is that?

I get it, some people moved on, they moved on to other things and that is fine, but there is an entire generation of people that is limited in its view of games and it is limited to match three shapes. That is not really gaming and we need to make sure that this does not happen. For a system like the Google Stadia, it is the difference from being in the game and setting a goal towards being the 4th system in gaming, from there the sky is the limit. There are enough games, the question becomes where do they (or Apple) want to go, offering a system or committing to a system. It is a small but distinctive difference, one is seemingly going that way (it doesn’t matter who), yet it opens up a larger stage. A stage where people can optionally now play a larger and repaired Mass Effect Andromeda, a game that is game 1 and game 2 together. A stage that Google Stadia and Apple allows for and that is good, perhaps the others will catch on, but that is not a given and perhaps not even required. Hardwire gives options, but when did all systems need to offer everything? I believe that Nintendo and Sony can work side by side, I feel certain that either Google or Apple will be the third system, there is a chance that people will select EITHER the Google or the Apple system, but I cannot be certain of that at present. And it does not matter, like Android and iOS, people will make a choice giving Google an edge but at present not a given victory, time will make determination, yet in time and over time we need to revisit the old games, the fact that we see more and more remasters is because the old jewels remain jewels, some of them merely need to get dusted, others need polish, but they remain jewels and the sooner some see that, the better their hardware will fare. 

 

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