Tag Archives: David Braben

The sting of history

There was an interesting article on the BBC (at http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43656378) a few days ago. I missed it initially as I tend to not dig too deep into the BBC past the breaking news points at times. Yet there it was, staring at me and I thought it was rather funny. You see ‘Google should not be in business of war, say employees‘, which is fair enough. Apart from the issue of them not being too great at waging war and roughing it out, it makes perfect sense to stay away from war. Yet is that possible? You see, the quote is funny when you see ‘No military projects‘, whilst we are all aware that the internet itself is an invention of DARPA, who came up with it as a solution that addressed “A network of such [computers], connected to one another by wide-band communication lines [which provided] the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval and [other] symbiotic functions“, which let to ARPANET and became the Internet. So now that the cat is out of the bag, we can continue. The objection they give is fair enough. When you are an engineer who is destined to create a world where everyone communicates to one another, the last thing you want to see is “Project Maven involves using artificial intelligence to improve the precision of military drone strikes“. I am not sure if Google could achieve it, but the goal is clear and so is the objection. The BBC article show merely one side, when we go to the source itself (at https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1254719/project-maven-to-deploy-computer-algorithms-to-war-zone-by-years-end/), in this I saw the words from Marine Corps Colonel Drew Cukor: “Cukor described an algorithm as about 75 lines of Python code “placed inside a larger software-hardware container.” He said the immediate focus is 38 classes of objects that represent the kinds of things the department needs to detect, especially in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria“. You see, I think he has been talking to the wrong people. Perhaps you remember the project SETI screensaver. “In May 1999 the University of California launched SETI@Home. SETI stands for the” Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” Originally thought that it could at best recruit only a thousand or so participants, more than a million people actually signed up on the day and in the process overwhelmed the meager desktop PC that was set aside for this project“, I remember it because I was one of them. It is in that trend that “SETI@Home was built around the idea that people with personal computers who often leave them to do something else and then just let the screensaver run are actually wasting good computing resources. This was a good thing, as these ‘idle’ moments can actually be used to process the large amount of data that SETI collects from the galaxy” (source: Manilla Times), they were right. The design was brilliant and simple and it worked better than even the SETI people thought it would, but here we now see the application, where any android (OK, IOS too) device created after 2016 is pretty much a supercomputer at rest. You see, Drew Cukor is trying to look where he needs to look, it is a ‘flaw’ he has as well as the bulk of all the military. You see, when you look for a target that is 1 in 10,000, so he needs to hit the 0.01% mark. This is his choice and that is what he needs to do, I am merely stating that by figuring out where NOT to look, I am upping his chances. If I can set the premise of illuminating 7,500 false potential in a few seconds, his job went from a 0.01% chance to 0.04%, making his work 25 times easier and optionally faster. Perhaps the change could eliminate 8,500 or even 9,000 flags. Now we are talking the chances and the time frame we need. You see, it is the memo of Bob Work that does remain an issue. I disagree with “As numerous studies have made clear, the department of defense must integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning more effectively across operations to maintain advantages over increasingly capable adversaries and competitors,“. The clear distinction is that those people tend to not rely on a smartphone, they rely on a simple Nokia 2100 burner phone and as such, there will be a complete absence of data, or will there be? As I see it, to tackle that, you need to be able to engage is what might be regarded as a ‘Snippet War‘, a war based on (a lot of) ‘small pieces of data or brief extracts‘. It is in one part cell tower connection patterns, it is in one part tracking IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) codes and a part of sim switching. It is a jumble of patterns and normally getting anything done will be insane. Now what happens when we connect 100 supercomputers to one cell tower and mine all available tags? What happens when we can disseminate these packages and let all those supercomputers do the job? Merely 100 smart phones or even 1,000 smart phones per cell tower. At that point the war changes, because now we have an optional setting where on the spot data is offered in real time. Some might call it ‘the wet dream’ of Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor and he was not ever aware that he was allowed to adult dream to that degree on the job, was he?

Even as these people are throwing AI around like it is Steven Spielberg’s chance to make a Kubrick movie, in the end it is a new scale and new level of machine learning, a combination of clustered flags and decentralised processing on a level that is not linked to any synchronicity. Part of this solution is not in the future, it was in the past. For that we need to read the original papers by Paul Baran in the early 60’s. I think we pushed forward to fast (a likely involuntary reaction). His concept of packet switching was not taken far enough, because the issues of then are nowhere near the issues of now. Consider raw data as a package and the transmission itself set the foundation of the data path that is to be created. So basically the package becomes the data entry point of raw data and the mobile phone processes this data on the fly, resetting the data parameters on the fly, giving instant rise to what is unlikely to be a threat and optionally what is), a setting where 90% could be parsed by the time it gets to the mining point. The interesting side is that the container for processing this could be set in the memory of most mobile phones without installing stuff as it is merely processing parsed data, not a nice, but essentially an optional solution to get a few hundred thousand mobiles to do in mere minutes what takes a day by most data centres, they merely receive the first level processed data, now it is a lot more interesting, as thousands are near a cell tower, that data keeps on being processed on the fly by supercomputers at rest all over the place.

So, we are not as Drew states ‘in an AI arms race‘, we are merely in a race to be clever on how we process data and we need to be clever on how to get these things done a lot faster. The fact that the foundation of that solution is 50 years old and still counts as an optional way in getting things done merely shows the brilliance of those who came before us. You see, that is where the military forgot the lessons of limitations. As we shun the old games like the CBM 64, and applaud the now of Ubisoft. We forget that Ubisoft shows to be graphically brilliant, having the resources of 4K camera’s, whilst those on the CBM-64 (Like Sid Meier) were actually brilliant for getting a workable interface that looked decent as they had the mere resources that were 0.000076293% of the resources that Ubisoft gets to work with me now. I am not here to attack Ubisoft, they are working with the resources available, I am addressing the utter brilliance of people like Sid Meier, David Braben, Richard Garriott, Peter Molyneux and a few others for being able to do what they did with the little they had. It is that simplicity and the added SETI@Home where we see the solutions that separates the children from the clever Machine learning programmers. It is not about “an algorithm of about 75 lines of Python code “placed inside a larger software-hardware container.”“, it is about where to set the slicer and how to do it whilst no one is able to say it is happening whilst remaining reliable in what it reports. It is not about a room or a shopping mall with 150 servers walking around the place, it is about the desktop no one notices who is able to keep tabs on those servers merely to keep the shops safe that is the part that matters. The need for brilliance is shown again in limitations when we realise why SETI@Home was designed. It opposes in directness the quote “The colonel described the technology available commercially, the state-of-the-art in computer vision, as “frankly … stunning,” thanks to work in the area by researchers and engineers at Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a $36 billion investment last year across commercial industry“, the people at SETI had to get clever fast because they did not get access to $36 billion. How many of these players would have remained around if it was 0.36 billion, or even 0.036 billion? Not too many I reckon, the entire ‘the technology available commercially‘ would instantly fall away the moment the optional payoff remains null, void and unavailable. $36 billion investment implies that those ‘philanthropists’ are expecting a $360 billion payout at some point, call me a sceptic, but that is how I expect those people to roll.

The final ‘mistake’ that Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor makes is one that he cannot be blamed for. He forgot that computers should again be taught to rough it out, just like the old computers did. The mistake I am referring to is not an actual mistake, it is more accurately the view, the missed perception he unintentionally has. The quote I am referring to is “Before deploying algorithms to combat zones, Cukor said, “you’ve got to have your data ready and you’ve got to prepare and you need the computational infrastructure for training.”“. He is not stating anything incorrect or illogical, he is merely wrong. You see, we need to realise the old days, the days of the mainframe. I got treated in the early 80’s to an ‘event’. You see a ‘box’ was delivered. It was the size of an A3 flatbed scanner, it had the weight of a small office safe (rather weighty that fucker was) and it looked like a print board on a metal box with a starter engine on top. It was pricey like a middle class car. It was a 100Mb Winchester Drive. Yes, 100Mb, the mere size of 4 iPhone X photographs. In those days data was super expensive, so the users and designers had to be really clever about data. This time is needed again, not because we have no storage, we have loads of it. We have to get clever again because there is too much data and we have to filter through too much of it, we need to get better fast because 5G is less than 2 years away and we will drown by that time in all that raw untested data, we need to reset our views and comprehend how the old ways of data worked and prevent Exabyte’s of junk per hour slowing us down, we need to redefine how tags can be used to set different markers, different levels of records. The old ways of hierarchical data was too cumbersome, but it was fast. The same is seen with BTree data (a really antiquated database approach), instantly passing through 50% data in every iteration. In this machine learning could be the key and the next person that comes up with that data solution would surpass the wealth of Mark Zuckerberg pretty much overnight. Data systems need to stop being ‘static’, it needs to be a fluidic and dynamic system, that evolves as data is added. Not because it is cleverer, but because of the amounts of data we need to get through is growing near exponentially per hour. It is there that we see that Google has a very good reason to be involved, not because of the song ‘Here come the drones‘, but because this level of data evolution is pushed upon nearly all and getting in the thick of things is when one remains the top dog and Google is very much about being top dog in that race, as it is servicing the ‘needs’ of billions and as such their own data centres will require loads of evolution, the old ways are getting closer and closer to becoming obsolete, Google needs to be ahead before that happens, and of course when that happens IBM will give a clear memo that they have been on top of it for years whilst trying to figure out how to best present the delays they are currently facing.
 

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The end of diversity?

We are seeing a push in the gaming world, one that is coming before the next gen follow ups are here. Before the PS4Pro is maturing, before even the Xbox Scorpio is launched, we see new games that are told to be another style of Far Cry (Horizon Zero Dawn), another Dark Souls (Nioh), another Sniper Elite and in that same trend more sequels and more prequels. Yet, the overall game time seems to be dwindling down. Resident Evil 7 for all its amazing changes and story line, the game can be played in 10 hours, with speed gamers (not my cup of soup) doping it in less than 2 hours.

The same people who trolled No Mans Sky, pointing at absurd newscasts by writers trying to score exclusivity points and airing utter BS video’s with ‘scientific’ reviews whilst the game offered well over 50 hours (to get the 100% achievements) of gaming fun. That game gets trolled! In equal measure they all praise Tomb Raider, a game that could be completed in 12-15 hours. The quantity and quality of games falling more and more when considering the cost of games in dollars per gaming hour.

Now, let’s get back to the mention of Far Cry 3. For me a pivotal point as the first one on Xbox 360 was the only game I ever traded in because it was such a bad game. I had never done that before and I had not done that since. I steered clear of the second game and I only played the third one when it was offered on either PS Plus or Gold Live (I forgot which one), that is when I learned what an amazing game Far Cry three had turned out to be. So as Horizon Zero Dawn is ‘tainted’ to be some Far Cry/Tomb Raider game, some people get nervous. Are they doing it because of the references, or the lack of play that Tomb Raider offered?

Dan Silver of the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/20/horizon-zero-dawn-review-a-stunning-but-barely-evolved-rpg-contradiction) states “At times Horizon: Zero Dawn, the latest title from Dutch studio Guerrilla Games, those behind the Killzone series, feels uncannily like prophecy rather than escapism” as well as “in truth, there’s no real freedom here to play any role other than that proscribed by the game’s writers” and in conclusion “the RPG elements of Horizon: Zero Dawn are undercooked and ultimately unnecessary, or a sneaking acknowledgement that its action is so good players will want to jump straight into it – but both sentiments have a ring of truth“. The last one gives the part that matters with ‘both sentiments have a ring of truth‘, this is the can of worms I see.

Now let’s state this up front: ‘I have not played this game yet!

The game gets released in a week and what YouTube offered via Guerrilla Games shows a game that is well worth the time and also worth the effort. It is the image shown by Guerrilla games and there is no doubt that they are showing the more enticing parts. Yet the fight in the dark showed that there are more sides to the game, there is a mandatory intro part and there are parts that separate acts, so that you cannot take some ultimate short cut. All very acceptable in gaming.

In that same manner I saw some 15 things to learn before you buy Mass Effect 4 and I never bothered to watch the whole list. Speculation and listed ‘innovation’ from demos by people who are not involved with making the game. The only part that was interesting is that the launch was done between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, which is not surprising. At this point, in light of the Microsoft Console Unconsented Data Collections that are currently happening, I have switched off my Xbox One for now, which is annoying as I love Elite Dangerous and SubNautica, but fortunately one of them will be released on the PS4 in the coming quarter.

Yet, in the same air of originality I want to play the remastered version of System Shock (also coming to PS4). I feel that my drive is the ability to play this game in what is now possible. In that same trend System Shock 2 makes me equally anxious to replay what I loved so much. There is a list of games that give me this feeling, mainly because they were the originals. These games drove the existence of other new games. Games that were not bad, in some cases great, but it is the original game that drove us towards these games. Yet the creation of some games were uncanny, some made games with vision. Just like the maker FTL games who saw Asteroids and Moon lander and decided to create Oids (very addictive in those days). They were already famous with Dungeon Master and less known was the space explorer and trade game Sundogs, but overall they were true visionaries in games. So was the game the Sentinel on the Atari ST, which was later relaunched (with an awful cover story) on the PC. Cover story or not, they gave the game with the sentiment that the original had with the amazing bonus of the music made by John Carpenter, which was a bonus you should never deny yourself.

It is the decades of experience that made me design the story for a new single player Elder Scrolls (Elder Scrolls: Restoration), which is still on my desk. It gave me the idea for a New Ultima game, yet none of this is original. Our minds allow to create what we loved in the face of what we see now, which is re-engineering at best, it is not creation as such. It might still be the foundation of a great game, yet it is unlikely to become a great game without proper evolution of what initially was. It will appeal to the original lovers of the game with an updated following of those who never played it. Yet as greed comes around the corner, what we hoped to be great (example: Dungeon Keeper on the tablet), becomes a hoax that is soon after hated by all who loved the original. In that same fuel we might love a new Dungeon Keeper 2, a new Magic Carpet and a new Populous. In a similar trend, remaster these originals to Tablets could still work (when we kill the greed driving entities connected to them). Games like Flood were fun to play and the history of games is full of examples that people could and would enjoy if given the chance to play them again.

The issue of diversity rises again and again as we see the failure of true innovative gaming. Far Cry 4 gave us that as it tried to upgrade Far Cry 3 and as I personally saw it fail. In that Far Cry Primal is to some extent equally a non-winner. I phrase it like that because the game has good sides and it is not a bad game, yet the curve and growth allow for more escapism, whilst not giving true challenges in gaming. The issue with the ‘duplicated’ map is not even on my radar because anyone who could memorise a map like that has perhaps different issues to work with. The Ubisoft failure checklist is as I personally see it their biggest problem. In addition, there approach to include more and more might generalise gaming, yet I feel it, it is also reason these games lose more and more success ratings.

This is clearly in contrast with For Honor, which is reviewed as not a great single player game (some advised against getting the game for that reason), but at its core it is an overwhelmingly amazing multi player experience. So far having seen several video’s some at amazing resolutions, For Honor seems to deliver the best multi player action that 2017 is likely to offer. Which early in the year is quite the statement to make.

In all this Horizon New Dawn is still a force to be reckoned with. The biggest threshold now becomes, how many hours does the game offer and have they given thought to replayability. So as we replay Diablo 3 again and again with different characters, we see other games failing in that attempt, or succeed only to the smallest degree. Skyrim is perhaps the only one who offers decent levels of replayability, although we can all accept that the need to surpass level 70 to get to the legendary dragon achievement is still decently beyond ridiculous.

As we accept certain needs, values and requirements, there is always the danger that my view is the view only I would appreciate. In that I disagree, as I have heard similar views from others, some to a smaller extent and some to a larger extent. As I see the replayability option grow, I see that games like SubNautica will score high with the gaming community when the full game is launched on other platforms, seldom have I ever seen a game where the evolution of a game keeps on coming as it now enters the 4th wave of evolution and additions. It is to the same degree that nearly all RPG fans agree that the Witcher 3 is pretty much the most perfect RPG game ever created and as Project Red still has a future RPG (we hope) on the development table (read: Cyberpunk 2077), most gamers are looking forward to what 2018 and 2019 will bring.

So if some places see the light by opening their eyes, we hope that a specific place (Electronic Arts) will take steps to avoid to get the repeat label ‘A Cancer That’s Eroding The Market‘ (by Kotaku), where the quote ““A cynically motivated skeleton of a non-game, a scam that will take your cash and offer nothing in return,” writes Escapist’s Jim Sterling, “A perversion of a respected series, twisted by some of the most soulless, selfish, and nauseating human beings to ever blight the game industry”” is at the heart of the matter of despicability. You see, there are plenty of other games that could make the jump, yet as I see it, when such a game still acquires 4 star ratings, we know that the game is rigged and the provider of these games are trusted less and less. There is a certain failing when we see 136K people gave it a 5 star rating. Not with the push for money spending this game offers! Yet it is a similar population that is crying ‘foul’ with the 50+ hours that No Mans Sky offers and the fact that no extra cash was needed. When you look at the initial videos, the game was to the greatest degree what was promised. We have seen actual issues with the game and most of them were all patched away, none of the patches have been over 150 Mb, whilst the Ubisoft patches that did not solve too many issues surpassed Gigabytes in size. Hello Games with only 11 people achieved something amazing, but that is not what this is about!

I reckon that games like No Mans Sky are likely to be at the rear end, some of the last games that had true diversity in them. It can be the Horizon New Dawn is equally a game offering diversity, but the reviews call that in question to at least the smallest degree. Prey by Arkane Studios shows some originality, but when you play, there are elements that give a Bioshock view, a Dishonored view and more than one source is making the reference to System Shock. It led me to the question, when is new diversity no longer diverse? When we see the architecture and internals, there is a Bioshock feeling to it all (even though this is not under water). When we see the first person abilities with alien powers we see a glimpse of Dishonored. And it is the wrench start that gives us other references. They might just be winks to games like Half Life, it does not make it less diverse. Yet it takes more time and more game play to see actual diversity, so I wonder if we are seeing the end of it. As we play games and wonder about the replay of the Mass Effect and Fable Trilogy, is that the part we now hunger for? That feeling we had when we took another path to see Bowerstone Old Town evolve in a place not with gardens, but muddy with thugs?

Perhaps we want to do the journey one more time, because no matter how we slice it, both trilogies had an amazing storyline and it shows that the TV station FX had the best slogan of them all: ‘the story is everything‘. This is the side we desire and System Shock delivered like no game ever did ever before. Dungeon master had the long term challenge based on the shallowest of reasons (get to the exit). We saw again and again that storylines do the job. In that, a game I never cared for (Final Fantasy series) did deliver way beyond my comprehension, so I am very aware that this game has plenty of reasons to be adored by millions. So as I see it, it might be the equal view that shows us that a game like Prey will deliver on its own merit.

I wonder whether diversity without a decent story has a chance, just like great stories without diversity. In that last example it is the Assassins Creed line that is the best example. From my point of view it is the glitches that killed it, but diversity is equally a reason. When we consider these points, we see that the old great games are still optional winners. They offered originality, diversity and challenge. The response that remake (even 20 years later) is no diversity at all is true and I agree for those replaying it, but for those who never played it before it will be plenty diverse. Now we can depend on that element, as well as the essential element that it is the personal desire to replay a game, yet how does that get us to the never completed remake (at present) game called Midwinter? In the old days, being able to do all these different things on the Atari ST was truly amazing, but those moments have been surpassed long ago by Far Cry 3, so where is its need? We can see that plenty of people would love to see the remake of Paradroid 90, a game that should work easily on tablets and as such it could be a nice way for Andrew Braybrook to increase his retirement fund by a fair bit, because absent a few little issues, the game was near perfect and playable to the largest of extents. I always regarded Loderunner, the ‘1984 game of the year’ in a similar way. I actually had to take the day off (read: sickie) one time as I had been playing all night and continues playing through the day, when I finally made it to level 151 I saw the very first level again yet now at a higher speed. With 80+ lives left I started again until I had enough, I stopped before level 200, exhausted with millions of accumulated points. Best gaming day ever, I was deaf and blind to whatever happened around me and the biggest workout for my Sharp TV ever (in those days).

Perhaps it is that feeling I desire, a feeling many gamers desire, but I do not think so. I believe that the challenges we saw in the past (Mass Effect trilogy) were almost equalled, but never surpassed by anyone, System Shock falls into that category, so do the titles Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Master (1+2) as well as the 1985 original Elite, which was released on the PC, MAC and Xbox One as Elite Dangerous. The fact that the Elite Dangerous group on Facebook gets dozens of images added on a daily bases for places seen and Elite statuses achieved, shows that this game enhanced and surpassed its own limitation due to limited hardware in 1985. That alone gives rise to the remake of other games. Bullfrog games are likely to top these games, yet the quality that Origin games (Ultima series) offered then and could offer now boggles the mind. In light of what Bethesda Elder Scrolls crated offers a view to remade games that would be overwhelming, whilst not needing to be an Elder Scrolls clone, the challenge of Britannia and the Serpent Isles (Ultima locations) have massive levels of original, never remade options here. The fact that Ultima 4-7 has a deep philosophical drive is equally good as the bulk of RPG games never emulated that part to the degree the Ultima series did. In an age of Intellectual Property, the gaming industry has millions up for grabs, the question is how well this IP has been maintained and at what price are the owners willing to part with it?

This leaves me to the final game that can make it on several fields. In this day and age where the people are eager to have their kids learn abilities through gaming, I cannot remember when, but in the 80’s I was handed a game by Epyx, that was an isometric game where you had to program a droid to walk around scan and avoid obstacles. It was called Chip Bits but never saw the light of day. We can agree that it was a geeky game, but in this day and age where the user age lowers with every iteration of computer hardware, it seems to me that teaching a skill like that could change the implementation curve (and it was truly original). So we are looking at two groups, the ones that were great and the ones that for the silliest of reasons never made it to the final stage. As we see the ease of releasing IOS and Android games, we see a fountain of possible revenue on many levels and the best part is that the starting obstacle is low enough for most toddlers to pass. Even as we see the success of all these mini consoles with dozens of games being released and most of them initially sold out in every shop, is this such a leap? We know that plenty of games have been redone and in some cases surpassed, that is for the games some publishers deemed worthy for release. I remember Psygnosis and the only reason that Lemmings got released because the Marketing manager had nothing to do, literally ‘had nothing to do‘, and those who remember the game might also remember the success it became in the end. So what about the games that didn’t make the cut? Of what about the games that were not that highly regarded initially? ‘Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?‘, an educational game that can easily become a tablet mega seller. Yet, what about the Castles of Dr Creep? Remapped that game might make for a nice puzzle game. So many options, but in itself, there is too much remake on the horizon, which returns me to the initial question:

Are we seeing the end of diversity in gaming?

The answer is yes to a certain extent, but that does not need to be a bad thing, because the limits that we saw in games like Soul Reaver are those we can easily surpass nowadays, meaning that a game that was 20-30 hours on the first PlayStation, could be a 50+ hours game on the PlayStation 4 (and equal systems), giving us plenty to game and plenty to enjoy, whilst the question whether it is diverse enough remains a valid question; one we need to keep in the back of our minds. This remains a valid stopper for a game like Rampage world tour, but is that equally true of a game like Crusader: No remorse? That answer hangs with the evolution the game goes through, meaning that it requires added diversity, showing again that diversity is a gaming currency which decides success to some degree, but it gets added value as the story and challenge are high in the game.

 

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Gaming ‘after silence’ or ‘pre noise’?

Well, I am back after a few days of silence. You see, I found a few links that were massively worry some. Yet, nothing could be confirmed in any way shape or form. It is all linked to the Australian submarine deal and the issues that are escalating in France. So it is indeed worthy to note and report on. Yet at present there are too many question marks, too much is unknown, more important too much of the material I saw remains speculation, so this is not going to be about the shipyards on Brest and Cherbourg, until I get my fingers on something a lot more reliable.

So what does one do when you need an hour of relaxation from stress and life in general? Well, until No Man’s Sky arrives on June 22nd, I need to find something to help me forget about it all. This is why June 10th the game Batman: Return to Arkham will be a nice distraction, which is the Next Gen editions of Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City, so the Batman fans can go nuts on that part. The two games are close to perfect as Batman games and the initial Arkham Asylum showed a level of gaming on PS3 and XB360 that was so high that not having it could be considered a crime (unless you do not care for Batman, which is fine too).

There have been noises in the past by bloggers and reputable sites on ‘remastered’ games. I remain on the fence. When you can replay God of War, Batman or the Last of Us, games that had set a new level of quality gaming, how can this be a bad thing? I have had my issues with Mass Effect (mostly the last one), but that will not stop me from rushing the queues to get a remastered edition of that trilogy, especially when the achievement bugs of the first game and the sloppiness of the third game are removed.

The second game was near perfect, which is why your shy Lawlordtobe.com (read: me) was part of that adventurous vacation all over the Universe (see photographic evidence below; the photo of me with a Justicar was removed on grounds of censorship).

LVR_MassEffect2 - twitch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet is this it? Is there nothing more? You see, that is indeed the issue gamers face nowadays. I have been a part of gaming and its industry since 1984, so I have seen it all (well almost all at least). No Man’s Sky could be one of the last true new games I will play for several reasons.

If we look back into our memories than the term ‘god’ game is not new. The idea goes all the way back to the 80’s. The idea hit me initially from a comic as it was published in Computer and Video Games (C+VG) magazine. The Comic was a reason to get it, the other reason for the magazine is that it was in the early days one of a few good magazines that informed gamers on games (remember those pre internet times)? The reference is found at http://www.weirdretro.org.uk/the-bug-hunters-the-forgotten-80s-comic-series.html. The actual comic can also be seen (at https://archive.org/stream/Bug_Hunters_The_1990_Trident_Comics_GB#page/n21/mode/2up), in my case that page gave me the idea of a ‘god game’, which at that time (the age of Commodore 64) was not really realistic.

Much later we would be treated to Black & White, but it is not until 2016, June 22nd before the world gets a first glimpse of a galactic exploration game the way we used to dream of. Consider the three comic quotes “It’s only when your world made in detail that it gets to you“, “When you start playing god with the people in it” and “Some players get the whole world worshipping them as the deity“. You might laugh at these quotes, but consider these statements and now consider Minecraft, Black & White, Populous and now No Man’s Sky. The statements and the games touch deep within any gamer a truth that many others deny. We don’t just want to be better than anyone else, to be the one who survives, we want to bend others to our fictive will (either openly or hidden). This is a dangerous statement in light of gaming, because I am making the danger of relating to Bicameralism and in specific The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes, 1976). I believe that it actually goes a lot deeper. Good vs Evil, Light vs Dark, Commanding vs Obeying, Order vs Chaos. In this light we tend to see a correlating alliance between Evil, Dark, Obeying and Chaos. The statement that control comes from order is equally unsettling. We, our person, our being is more often than not about balance. We are the seesaw of ourselves and as such we keep a preconceived version of order though the balance as we see it. So, there it is, a deeper reflection on the gaming need. When you pick up a game and play an hour every now and then, it tends to be to unwind. When you (like me) have spent thousands of hours in the Bethesda worlds of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout, it tends to be a little different.

I hope that you see how these elements connect. I believe that part of this is subconscious, when we play Minecraft there is a subconscious part that gives us the drive to play it again and again. It goes beyond the sandbox part, it taps into our creative side, like LEGO did when we were kids. Now, not everyone feels that way and I personally believe that there is a group of people ignoring the game as they are in denial because the graphics are not high end. Some are not comfortable tapping into their creative side. I can relate to that latter group, my grasp of drawing is pathetic to say the least. The lack of one element of a creative side does not make a person non-creative. That part is a side many ignore. This links to the games.

SimCity, SimLife, SimWorld, SimTown and Minecraft gives us “It’s only when your world made in detail that it gets to you“. The first part gives us the evolution of games from the limits of systems with 640Kb and VGA displays until Mojang took it into another direction and gave us Minecraft. Your world, making it as ‘detailed’ as possible. This game intersects with the option (read: need) of exploration.

Little Computer People, Populous, Dungeon Keeper and Godus gives us “When you start playing god with the people in it“. This is a game type that is not always appreciated, let’s be honest, some work from a tactical point of view and as such they do not like it. That’s fair enough! There is no negativity towards the game or those who do not like them. I was never one for GTA, plenty of fans there. We play whatever makes us happy as gamers. These games evolved over time and remained a niche style of games.

Black and White (1 and 2) which gets us “Some players get the whole world worshipping them as the deity“, as well as the statement of the previous topic. The smallest of niches, Godus falls in this one too. Worshipping has been an element in several games, yet in that it reflects on one player in the game, in more true godlike games, you are just the element behind the screens.

These games are about control (aren’t they all), so whether you go from the premise of a trader (Elite Dangerous) or an open world exploration (No Man’s Sky), I see the near completion of an area of gaming in a new light. In this No Man’s Sky, as far as I see it at present, is not just an element, it has become the defining moment in time for a large share of gamers.

Let me explain this!

If we see the past with games like Seven Cities of Gold (1985), where it was truly about ‘exploring’ the ‘new’ world. Now we get to explore the ‘known’ universe. This goes beyond the mere sandbox approach. As I see it, the elements of No Man’s Sky have the option to change gaming, especially Role Playing Games forever, If I see the IP correctly (for as far as I saw it), it is worth millions. When we consider the video’s we saw, especially the behind the screens part, than we can consider that the ‘random’ formula part works in two directions. The side we have not seen yet would be the future ability to turn cartographical data into an equation. Once this works the IP of No Man’s Sky will be worth billions. Consider the initial part and that the limited worlds we have had so far in Oblivion, Skyrim, Morrowind and Ultima. Now consider the inverted engine to actually build Tamriel and Sosaria from detailed maps. Worlds where we can actually spend our times in, in real time in a 1:1 environment. This is the ‘after silence’ we are about to experience, the need to grow worlds to play in; a new level of playing. Not just for Hello Games, but consider the options when the gaming map has no further limits, almost like Phantom of Pain, but now with entire Afghanistan mapped. In the last party we can clearly argue whether it brings additional gaming pleasure, yet in our hearts we all know that the thought crossed all our minds. SimCity (older versions) with planetary constraints, the Sims with biological constraints, Sniper 3 with biological constrains but absent of geographical constraints. Games are evolving because we can now surpass constraints we were never able to surpass before and remove them where they were/are limitations. These elements will grow gaming hardware to facilitate and the IP will facilitate the possibilities we never had.

Now we reflect back to Mass Effect. Consider that same game, but now in an evolved setting where the Citadel is 100% available. Where mining and hunting on Gemini Sigma is not on a x*y grid, but planetary. It resets these games in true challenges to get them done in a lifetime (which could become the next hurdle).

Is this a good path?

I believe that size is an issue and overall games at large skipped that part for the most. Witcher 3 is the massive exception and it has opened doors towards the gamer’s expectation. No Man’s Sky and Elite Dangerous are changing it further still. David Braben showed that his re engineered idea from the BBC Micro B (48Kb) becomes a massive platform of gaming on the PC and Xbox One. A game from 1985 as addictive and fulfilling as the original was then, now with the latest graphics and a massive increase of depth.

We are moving towards true open world gaming. The hardware is there, some of the old idea’s fit and now the imagination of the creator(s) needs to evolve the next stage. That is taking into account that the game, fits the description that defines the game. If we want to race all over America we might see that the Crew ‘addresses’ that need, but when we see a 60% score, we see a clear indication that the game did not address the initial need of the gamer. Here is the part that does bring it forward. The growing need that we get when we play games with a 92% score or higher. The RPG’s I mentioned fill them all. We want more, it is there that I see the growing need for true open world. If someone tells me that this is just me, than this might be right, yet in all this consider those who like more than merely RPG, consider the multiplayer Mass Effect 3 part. How many of you (who played the game) want that element to be played out on a much larger scale? When we consider Firebase Glacier, but now the size of a proper base with a full complement of staff. Not a mere trigger point with waves of hostiles, but a base set with security a complement of personnel. Perhaps that is not what people want? I am not certain. I think the appeal in For Honor is set a lot wider than just hack and slash. I think that Evolve (4 vs 1) was initially too limiting from the bat (but great in looks and originality) with a new original approach to teamwork and of course with the option to play as the monster so you can ‘slay’ your friends. For Honor is the next step and perhaps Battlefield 1 takes that a step further still (time will tell). This is not me saying that For Honor is already surpassed. This is me saying that if For Honor is truly the victory I hope it to be, that it will start the growth of an ‘open world’ edition. As we hit the edge of our current games, we feel the need to surpass them, that has always been the case and I personally believe that No Man’s Sky is an essential step forward towards this reality.

This is just my view on it and I expect to be proven correct before the end of 2018, possibly even sooner.

 

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The choice of a new religion

The Guardian had an interesting article yesterday by none other than Alex Hern. He and I look towards the gaming world in very different ways, it does not make him wrong and it does not make my view right. We have at times different views on things. That is the wonderful world of gaming, it is one of the few fields where the approach to any solution tends to be almost artistic, many views, none the same can still warrant true correctness or success. In ‘Apple wants the Apple TV to be a games console. But can it be trusted?‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/12/apple-tv-games-console-can-it-be-trusted), which is a very true piece. The subtitle states ‘Apple would like to see its new set-top box become the next Nintendo Wii. But it’s questionable whether the company really understands gaming‘, which is as true as it gets. I have been ‘connected’ to Apple systems in one way or another since 1990. One thing from the very start is that the Apple systems were always ahead in many ways, even in artistic ways, yet true gaming was never supported to the extent it should have been. One of my very first freelance jobs was to take a look at ‘Balance of Power’ (by Mindscape), I ended up checking it on the Mac as well as the Amiga. Another one was Shadowgate by the same makers. Even though these games were always worshipped, but on the Mac they seemed to be on the side, accepted as in existence, but never truly part of the ‘Apple’ environment accepted. It is hard to get it into words. You would have had to be there to understand it.

The quote “The problem is that games are treated as just another type of app by the company – albeit a very profitable type. The games store, for instance, is organised in exactly the same way as the rest of the app store, with prominence given to a few select apps and then three charts of top-selling paid games, most-downloaded free games, and “top grossing games”“, helps here. It is like a bunch of economists see games in the spreadsheet as deep green and those economists really like deep green (as in profit). Yet games is a lot more than numbers (something Ubisoft has an issue with too). To see Apple people look at games and advice their users on is like going to your accountant for sex guidance. That person gets off on spreadsheets and a balance books, for many people not the orgasmic solutions to embrace. Yet there is also a side where I have to disagree on.

Part one is “Similarly, in the newly-released guidelines for Apple TV apps, the company reveals that “the maximum size of an Apple TV app is limited to 200MB”, with no persistent local storage. In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, part two is “The top-tier consoles right now ship their games on Blu-ray discs, which store at least 25GB and can rise to 128GB per disc (twice the total storage of the highest-capacity Apple TV“. Now, Alex speaks the truth and he is 100% correct. My issue is that quote 2 implies (he never really states it anything in that way) that size makes the game, that is wrong. Still there is a truth here. 200Mb is nowhere near enough for any decent game. If we look at previous games, like Metroid Prime on the GameCube, that game exceeds the 200Mb. Many games from the PC could get close to the 200Mb, but will in all likelihood exceed that part.

In addition, the statement “In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, which now implies that we are all dependent on quality connection. A property that is even debatable in parts of Western Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. For Apple it must be good to know that at least Scandinavia and its 18 million people will see the bulk of Apple TV gaming. The second issue is “Unlike PC games, consoles have always been fairly locked down by the platform manufacturers. In a way, it’s “no sex, no drugs, only rock and roll” attitude is merely replicating the same approach that Nintendo has emphasised for years in its efforts to keep its games consoles family friendly“. Now I am all for family friendly games, yet some people want more than Mario Kart. Some want to play the master Sergeant (HALO). Some want to be in the wasteland (Fallout) or they want to sneak their ways around a city (Thief). Many of these games would never be allowed, with a massive portion of the gamers being 21+, they end up being nothing more than a nuisance to Nintendo and without a massive arsenal of IP that will not happen any day soon.

It is the final quote that is concern as well as the source of howl of deriving laughter “But its success as a games console would be handing yet more control of the medium to a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming. And that should concern anyone who likes to play“, wasting this level of resources on a system with no expertise on quality gaming will put a dent in the Apple coffers, in addition, once rejected by gamers, those at the helm will be forced to take a harsh look at their choices and their considerations. It seems that so far in new gaming only Elite Dangerous made it. If the iMac 5K would have one additional hardware update. If they had something in equal or exceeding the Radeon R9 295X2, the system would become something to behold, not just with Elite Dangerous, but in addition with games like No Man’s Sky (if it ever gets here). The iMac would be an option, the Apple TV is clearly not that option, beyond Minecraft there is not a lot that plays on the Apple TV. So do I disagree with Alex?

Actually no! When we consider his quote “Despite my concerns, there is the chance that the Apple TV could be good for gaming“, it connects to my thoughts that good gaming is not about the size (well not completely). Consider that some of the games that were a massive success on the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST can still be the games in the new generation systems like the Apple TV. The games by Sid Meier, games like seven cities of gold, some of the legends like Lemmings, Dune 2 (Command and Conquer), pretty much most of the games Peter Molyneux made (including Dungeon keeper), there are loads of other games. The opposite is also true, now we can get a pirates game Sid Meier could never offer when he did because technology stopped him. In equal measure quality gaming has dwindled as there are no limitations, so that game designers are no longer trying to squeeze the maximum out of a console. Tomb Raider is an example here. When we consider that Apple TV could get a market, whilst the hard core end games on consoles and PC remains, I state ‘Yes’, that is a definite option. Yet Alex does illustrate a side of Apple that the foundation of Apple should be ‘concerned’ with. “If you want to criticise a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store”, in all fairness there should be space for that approach, but it will hinder your business. You see, the guidelines at 15.1 state “Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected“, which is nice but that pretty much sums up almost every game ever made, including New Zealand Story, where the little Kiwi loses health when he touches a spike. 15.3 makes any WW2 game a non-starter, unless Apple insists that Nazi Germany was never a real government where my response becomes: ‘good luck with that one!’

So, even though we can accept that guidelines are needed to keep certain groups (read children) free to wander on the app store selecting games. I get that, but as I stated before, it limits the Apple TV to the realm of Nintendo who already has a massive grip on its user base through several means, why would Apple TV wander in that field? It almost reads like Apple wants to add to the foundation of a failed system. The idea that was a write off in 2007, regarding a big fat fail in 2010, suddenly got the title ‘How Apple’s biggest failure could be one of its greatest accomplishments‘ in 2014 (at http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/saving-apple-tv-think-different/) we see: “Apple has a chance here to beat its competitors to the punch, first and foremost, by making sure that you can play every significant type of video file type that Apple TV doesn’t offer now. This will broaden the range of apps the device can support, and ensure they never have an issue like they did with Hulu again. They would also be wise to create a browser for the device, and to let users access its hard drive“, which is true, yet the article reads like a marketing approach to ‘new’ options for Apple TV and now a year later we see the games ploy. Is it truly about that, or is there a fear within Apple that they are being passed by, passed by those who had a clear goal and by growing in any direction they get to hold onto non-write-off a little longer.

I will let you decide on the parts that are a given, but are they truly a given? I must warn my own view that it is tainted and also clouded. There is a view that comes from true gaming and as such Apple TV does not add up to much, yet what is small can grow and as I stated, let true innovation grow through limitations. It gave us true pearls on three generations of consoles, innovations that seem to be missing in NextGen. Yes, there is still innovation, but not to the extent there was in the past. The idea that Apple starts it up again is partially pleasing. Pleasing because that is the one part that have been downplayed by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to the larger extent, if you doubt that, then look at how many independent productions made it to consoles in the past. The fact that this year is a lot more about independents is not a given, it is a fab and no guarantee exists that independents will make it through in 2016 and 2017.

That is the part where Apple could grow, you see I personally believe that the next 12 years will be all about the small innovators. As larger players have become vultures, eating the small ones and carrion eaters as they devour their brands in the insane vision that growth comes from interactive innovation, large jumps are ignored. You only need to see the success of Markus the Notch and Minecraft to see that I am right. Will Sean Murray be the next one to show this? David Braben is on the right track to do so too and they are not alone. Even though Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not likely to be the success others are becoming, the truth is that this game is innovative. Even though in respect to my Tomb Raider view that 10 hours of game play is not acceptable, it would be equally unacceptable to see a 6 hour story as a good thing (source: YouTube). Yet, it is a story and the challenge as such is too small. You only need to look back at the game Portal (by Rob Swigart) to see something a lot larger, even though not in an open world environment, the result as well as the story was truly unique. That does not make the game a failure or inferior, yet the truth remains that the challenge needs an upgrade. Too small, yet remains a true innovation compared what is out there. In all this my own perception is an issue for discussion too. Where is it a given that a 10 hour game is insufficient? I base it on past play and play that some games give, as such 10 hours of gaming just doesn’t hack it neither does 6 hours. Yet all this started with a new religion, one of gaming. not the worship of a controller, or the divination of a system, but the choice of what we believe is to be an open direction, a choice of innovation, because without innovation gaming seizes to survive and we get iteration of a given, in the artsy world gaming exists in, that part can never be allowed to remain in iteration. This is one of the core reasons why the iteration of Assassins Creed, the iteration of Lara Croft the raider of Tombs and Call of Duty will simmer down, will cease to be the cash cows they once were.

The future is all about true innovation in gaming, in that Apple TV could have a space if it opens the doors to independent developers. When we consider the iPad, it has had a nice collection of games and some are truly innovative, in all that IOS has a place and the Apple TV could bring it to the big screen (and I do mean on your TV). In the final part, I agree with Alex for the most, except for the part “a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming“. I am not certain it does. It seems to have an approach not unlike Nintendo. Do we look down on them? The question does remain when we see gaming as a religion. It could be the one religion that should be without a bible, which is fair enough, but what about the 10 commandments? Should we not consider some guidelines? Personally I state no, but then again, I started in a world where gaming was born, where it evolved. In all this gaming can evolve within any limited system (consider the 16KB VIC-20), as such any system can bring the joy of gaming, we only need to consider where we take gaming. Nintendo took a direction, there is nothing stopping from Apple taking it in the same direction. In my mind, it should be now and forever about innovation, because that is what draws us to a new game. Consider how Elemental Kingdoms took the concept of CCG and gave it a digital evolution, that is just one of many options, I hope many that are yet unemployed and it awaits the next visionary to create that path.

Who? That is up to the developer that dares to dream and make it reality.

 

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Wakey, Wakey

Finally someone in the Guardian tech section seemed to have gotten a clue, the title ‘Video games have a diversity problem that runs deeper than race or gender‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/10/video-games-diversity-problem-runs-deeper-than-race-gender)makes an attempt to scratch a surface that many gamers knew and until recently I was nearly the only one trying to break it to the audience. So happy hurray hurray to “a games industry insider with years of experience in a variety of studios. They wish to remain anonymous“, a singular person hiding in plurality! The quote “I don’t really care if you put a female avatar into Assassins Creed” is interesting, but also extremely wrong. Not for political correctness reasons, in that regard I can be even more politically incorrect than an ecstasy head shagging a crack prostitute in the main chambers of the House of Lords. No, this is all about innovative gaming, a female character could change the field and the quote is part of the problem as I will illustrate soon.

It is the quote “The problem of marginalisation in games development isn’t just about women, or people from different religious or ethnic backgrounds, it’s about entire genres. Marginalisation is happening in the very fabric of the design process, and this is just as damaging to the health of the industry and its ability to hold our attention” that gives a pause, because I have stated part of this for well over 2 years. You see, when Ubisoft started to claim the release of an Assassins Creed every year, which I still see as the beginning of the end for Ubisoft. They show a nice face, their books might seem nice, yet overall they have been lucky with over 50% now based on the digital channel. Yet, there is also cause for concern, first the Division is delayed again until 2016 (Q1), which if it is truly a good game will still rake in loads of capital, yet consider on how AC Unity was close to a flop, in my view the ‘sales numbers’ seem high because Unity came free with nearly every Xbox One shipped. It is one way to get the sales numbers up, but will it give contribution (you know revenue minus costs)? Now AC Syndicate and so far the game is another iteration with another location, with Prince of Persia styled chase scenes, repetitive missions and triggered events. This is part of the problem. Yet, Ubisoft must also be praised, you see, the game ‘For Honor’ is part of the stable that can revive gaming. Gamers wants something new, they want change and For Honor seems to be all that, new, smooth and challenging (as far as I could see).

My biggest issue with Ubisoft remains that success is not a formula, yes a formula does tend to diminish the chance of failure, in equal measure a true success becomes utterly unobtainable too. Add to that unrepaired glitches and a QA department that adheres to marketing regulations and a disaster is close to an assurance. I have stated it in the past on more than one occasion. The article states “Mainstream big-budget video games have been shifting towards a mechanical singularity for years, and it’s really time to ask if that’s something that might be keeping people away too“. It is not a wonder that independent developers are now starting to be the big thing in gaming. If we ignore a release date we get Hello Games, by Sean Murray with ‘No Man’s Sky’. What is interesting here is that even the gospel papers are using ‘hints at release dates’ to pull in the viewers to their site. This must be a first in gaming history too! The old games still have the pull of two generations of gamers, David Braben is proving that with Elite Dangerous. More people are flocking towards the games that offer more than a mere 10 hour trip, a game that offers more than just the chases, the views and a fake open world. Metal Gear Solid 5 is in that case unique, Fallout 4 is unique, and none of those game franchises come on an annual base. The weird part is that Ubisoft sat on a treasure, Black Flag could have been the pirate RPG Sid Meier could not make because technology stopped him and marketing relied on the AC brand to proper something that was close to utterly perfect. They got lucky because Black Flag become the only decent game on launch night of the PS4. I reckon that is pretty much the only reason why it became the success is should not have been destined to be.

Linked to all this is the quote “The thing is, the recent excitement around Capcom’s decision to release a remastered version of series favourite Resident Evil 2 suggests there’s still a large audience for the original recipe“, this is absolutely true. The second one was an amazing piece of work and gamers remember that, which means that the IP can be reapplied to the new consoles. Re-applicable IP is worth a fortune, because any established IP of quality is more than a mere lottery ticket, it is the grail to a 9 figure revenue ready to be a pool of sustenance. This is why I believe that games like Ultima 4,5,6,7, System Shock (1+2) are not dead, they only await the right team to fix it up for the system of today (or tomorrow) ready to feed 50 million hungry gamers. That’s just 2 out of a dozen of IP’s ready to service a community that has a hunger that will not go away. Even as we speak, new games are coming, yet the approach that Tomb Raider took, no matter how nice it looks, it shows perfect graphics at 10% of the gaming time the first game brought. It doesn’t matter whether this was a lack of budget or vision. Gamers are offered less and less, which means that the old IP shows 5 times the gaming the new games are doing.

This is all proven in addition with the quote “Nintendo’s recent Wii U multiplayer “shooter” Splatoon provides a pretty good example of how thinking outside of the box – mechanically as well aesthetically – can turn a “core” genre on its head and make it speak to people who enjoy a slightly different way of playing games“. I think it goes beyond that. This game is worth buying a WiiU for. An original game has always had that effect. PS One with Tekken (Tomb Raider can almost a year later and truly brought sales numbers to a high), PS2 with Ridge racer V, Dreamcast with Soul Calibur, GameCube with Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, the list goes on and in that regard PS4 and XB1 both disappointed. Yet overall the next gen consoles are now showing less exceptional games and the future is not super bright. Yes there are really good releases but the number of them are not great, in that regard we see a new wave, consider that many (including me) are currently more interested in the remake of the 3 Mass Effect games for NextGen systems than in Mass Effect Andromeda. That is brought through disappointing NextGen releases and sloppy QA. So far Phantom Pain is one of the few true NextGen releases that are turning public opinion about by being truly exceptional, another title in that regard is Witcher 3.

The appeal for the massive joy that playing these old masters brings cannot be ignored, yet that also brings the problem that the title gave, namely ‘Video games have a diversity problem‘, it does and until true NextGen originality comes knocking (more than 3 titles) this feeling remains. Yet, good games are coming, the E3 showed that, but gamers do not know when and the Ubisoft problem is not going away at present. The quote “A new generation of successful indie developers is currently moving into the mid-sized AA space that so many more experimental companies occupied throughout the 1990s – and they’re hiring” is the most uplifting one, because that brings more likely than not a new wave of originality (we hope) and that will get the gamers on board.

I believe that 2017 is what will make or break the current consoles, yes the PS4 is doing extremely well, yet both systems have a massive market share and as the great titles are brought that field will move in either direction (PS4 vs XB1). That struggle will keep gaming alive and as more gamers have both systems they will win no matter where the game ends up, but the winner will be decided by the best games, Microsoft learned that with the 360 and ignored that with the XB1 as the powers that be decided on some ‘family entertainment system’ a choice that nearly bankrupted the Microsoft console division. In all this one part must not be ignored. It is ‘diversity’ and the owner of that part will bring the winning ticket to a console, for a long time Sean Murray held it with his upcoming game, yet as the flawed choice of keeping people in the dark on release date grows, so will the interest in the game dwindle to anti-climactic proportions, which is a shame. What Sean forgot was that gamers do not mind waiting, as long as they get some insight as for how long. We will wait until Q1 2016, but we want to know about the delay (and for roughly how long) so that we can buy something else to play. Sean forgot about that part, the fallout will come and as fallout 4 is released people will no longer wait and just move towards another game that gives them long term pleasure. I truly hope that we get to play No Man’s Sky because I believe this to be the one new game that will give me long term pleasure, the one side AAA game marketeers just do not grasp. It was never about the price, it is about the fact that 10 hours of gaming is not gaming, it nothing more than a narrated short story we can do without.

One part the article did not illuminate.

 

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Get the right info to choose.

I have always believed in this, a person has to make a choice and it is up to the informers to make sure that the people are given the true choices. This is always hard, there is no denying this. You see, we are all biased to some extent. I fell in love with Elite in 1984 and with the coming of Elite Dangerous, that passion returned. So when I read ‘Will Elite: Dangerous Be Wiped Out by Star Citizen & its Beautiful Ships?‘ (at http://moviepilot.com/posts/2015/07/23/will-elite-dangerous-be-wiped-out-by-star-citizen-its-beautiful-ships-3406342) I just had to take a look.

For me there were two reasons, the first is that as a previous passionate Elite player, I am very aware of the game and I feel that I am in possession of expert knowledge to counter most attacks on Elite Dangerous (without having played the game until my XBN1 arrives next month). I know next to nothing about Star Citizens, so when I hear that a game like No man’s Sky and like Elite is out there, I will take a look (I believe that there is a place for all three games if they are up to scrap).

The first quote that got to me is “It’s a beautiful game, but it can also be isolating and boring. You have to be prepared to invest a lot of time into Elite: Dangerous in order to benefit from its gameplay” which was preceded by “it’s held back by numerous irritations“, which got to me just on the go. This all linked back to a previous article. From this I wonder what level of investigation Kenny McDonnell did to begin with.

Now his allegations from the previous will be addressed shortly.

Can also be isolating and boring

Is that true? The game has Solo Mode (just you), Private mode (just you and your friends) and Open mode (you, your friends, soon to be new friends and all unmentioned wankers), so what do you mean isolating? Now the XB1 version is still not finalised, so this is still coming, for now that version is solo only (well decently dependable solo). There is no denying, that version still has bugs because it is not finished yet and if that is not a real bother you can get the game for $31, which is AWESOME!

Prepared to invest a lot of time

Well, is that not what a game is about? For the record, the game has several trainings missions for you to get into the game, I reckon that this will take a little over an hour to get it all done, if you also watch the attached trainings videos to help you get the best out of it all you can complete the trainings missions a little under 55 minutes (rough guess). Now, if you want to know the truth, you should watch

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

This is by far the best intro video made. It is the work of Troa Barton, watching it is a must. In one hour he shows the beginning highlights. In that time he gives a short explanation and shows more than I bargained for, so I was hooked again in 10 minutes. In that time he kills half a dozen opponents with the ship you get at the very beginning of the game. So you get a good start in 1 hour, which is again AWESOME!

So is there any truth to ‘prepared to invest a lot of time‘? Yes! You see there are 20 ships and 10 more coming. Ships fall into different categories and some will cost up to 200 million to buy and outfit, you start with 1000 credits, so this is not a small game it is a massive journey and you get the universe to traverse and grow. Some will like mining, some will prefer hunting, smuggling and piracy, some will prefer trading. All options, whatever YOU decide.

Some parts can be boring especially when you are trading, however, boring is good because some trade ships are not that good in fighting, by the time you have earned enough outfit an anaconda, which sets you back over 200 million, you have a ship that can devastate loads of opponents and carry 260 tons of goods, which at 15K per tonne per haul nets you a quick 3.9 million. So all this is not boring at all.

If you are a feistier person where you can tell the opponent that he/she is no ‘2B’ (and kill that person) you are in charge of choosing what to do.

Now we get part 2 with the quote “However, there’s another game on the horizon. One that promises players a space sim like no other; Star Citizen. Star Citizen may have a release date in 2016, but I can see it excelling on the PC“, so Kenny (not the ‘oh my god they killed Kenny’ person), is dissing a game in a bad way against a game that is not out for another year? Odd, because he becomes all speculation for a game that is not even out yet. And let us not forget that Elite (the original) was an established level of excellence in 1985 and now again from all the videos you can see online, this game does it again.

Then he states “We’ll have first-person space combat, mining and trading, all colliding with first-person shooter elements in a massively multiplayer persistent universe“, which is what Elite Dangerous on the PC already is (in space flight). So what’s the beef?

Then we get “Personally, I can’t see Elite: Dangerous performing well under the pressure that Star Citizen will bring to the space sim community on PC“, which is fair enough, it is his view and as such he is entitled to think this. I personally believe that Elite is already bringing the pain of great gaming now!

Now I need to step back for a moment to look back at his previous article which is linked in the article I linked at the beginning.

The price of minerals is too low and therefore not profitable or worth doing.
 – Really? True that your first ship is not equipped for that, but the later ships are and you can get a few millions per trip down the track.

Exploration data could also be upgraded as the player isn’t given enough of an incentive to do so – other than the universe is pretty.
 – Really? Larger ships have great exploration options, but you need a large ship and several components costing millions.

A small point that someone on Reddit made I completely agree with: Lower the scanning range on planets, so while exploring the player has to go close to the planet to scan them, therefore providing better visuals and experience.
– That might be a fair point, I cannot comment on that.

A greater variety of missions for those that aren’t Elite would be much appreciated.
– Again a fair point, yet Elite is still growing on the PC, so that is an option, further the power play option in the game has several goals to achieve and you get to select yourself HOW to achieve them.

More merits for getting cargo or resistance pockets – they’re not really worth the hassle in the game’s current state.
– I actually do not know (so again this might be a fair point)

An improved in-game chat feature
 – true, for now it is one on one, unlike the XB1 edition where you would have group chat as the system is made for that.

Now, some points here are valid, yet this game is still growing and the game offers 100 times more than the original ever did and it is currently in state ‘released’ something Star Citizen is not.

In addition, the current article had to mention for Star Citizen:

Over a hundred star systems in game which will be hand crafted and will include heavily themed, scenic landing locations from day one unlike Elite: Dangerous.
– fair enough but that game is still a year away, in addition, a hundred systems versus billions of systems is a far stretch of competition.

No procedural generation could lead to less boredom when traversing space.
– So far people opposing ‘procedural generation’ seem to not understand it, for that part just look at many no man’s sky videos. Procedural Generation does not imply boring iteration, that has been shown in No man’s sky a few times (will get to the Elite side shortly)

Far more freedom in terms of ships and their customisation.
– Possible, yet Elite already has 20, 10 are upcoming and there is no information that it will end there, in addition there are all levels of customisation, which is about the ship, not the look.

Superior graphics and more well-designed worlds.
– That is massively subjective, on the PC what I personally saw, some of the sites are beyond amazing and let’s not forget this is a space game, space is overwhelmingly black.

Better control over your ship, with improvements like yaw and more focus on first-person shooting mechanics.
– That shows that Kenny did not do his homework, the instruction videos on the PC show all that, including advanced lateral movement, strafing and so on. I reckon that it requires a decent HOTAS to enjoy (in opposition of the keyboard), so as I expect the XB1 to have the same options, I have not personally seen that.

Now let’s take a look at Star Citizen, the work of Chris Roberts.

Important is that he was one of the people behind Wing Commander, which I played intensely, so I know that this was a good game. So the person behind all this is not a newbie or a wannabe.

Now even though Star Citizen has had its share of Scepticism, we must remain honest. This is a crowdfunded game and it is well funded at present. In addition, a game like this is not an easy feat, yet also, the person behind this has proven his merits with Wing Commander. So as this is a 2016 game, my first view is that whomever start nagging and whining before October 2015 is an absolute idiot and should not have crowdfunded this (or just shut up until the beta is out there in its full potential)

So as we take a look at Star Citizen we need to keep an open mind. From the first go we see something very well done, but this is a trainings mission, if the rest of the game is on par than this game will be well worth it. So apart from walking around, the game definitely looks good (as it is) but the game has a long way to go (several glitches were shown, but as I stated, this is a beta at best). This was an April video, so I can assume that the game has processed from that point. I will not judge the game on what I saw, apart from the fact that it looks good, in addition there is no way to correctly assume that this game will outdo an established game like Elite Dangerous, but I feel that if the game goes on with the level of views that I see now, there is nothing stopping this game to become the third game next to Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky. There is no way that it overtakes either based on the information I currently have but that does not stop Star Citizen to become an equal game with a growing fan base.

Now for some future Elite expansions (as per the Elite Dangerous Wiki)

Landing / driving / prospecting on airless rocky planets, moons & asteroids.
Walking around interiors and combative boarding of other ships.

The first two are nice and adds to the experience of Elite

Combat and other interactions with other players and AIs in the internal areas of star ports.
Accessing richly detailed planetary surfaces.
Availability of giant ‘executive control’ ships to players.

The rest is nice too, but I hope that these extensions are not an attempt to add a ‘Mass Effect’ mode to the game (although walking through Space Stations could be an awesome experience.

So both games will have their own moments in where they excel. I do not agree with the view that Kenny McDonnell has regarding Elite Dangerous, but he is allowed his own view. I believe that there is space for both games.

The additional question becomes why must all games have all the options?

I believe that the lover of No Man’s Sky will love Elite Dangerous and there is a decent chance that they will love Star Citizen too.

I see that Star Citizen (from the training mission) is a more serious attempt to create a space flight flight simulator, it seems more on a ‘military’ approach to fighting than Elite Dangerous is. If I would compare it to other games than Elite Dangerous versus Star Citizen in that regard relates to Privateer versus Falcon 4.0, so from what I see now, the people who love more realistic fight flight Simulators would push themselves towards Star Citizens (when it arrives), so feel free to have fun with Elite Dangerous until that game arrives. That is from the little I saw from Star Citizen now, but that is not a guarantee that a more basic flight and fight options would not be available. Star Citizen is, as I see it at least a year away. So in all this I personally have a few issues with the article Kenny McDonell wrote.

From my view, you the reader, if you are into these kind of games, watch the Troa Barton video and decide from that whether you would give Elite Dangerous a go, as it will be one year until you can start the discussion whether you want Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous or both.

Just make sure in the end it was your choice due to receiving the proper information!

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Getting back on the horse

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

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

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

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

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

So, why is all this an issue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this relate?

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

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

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

 

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