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Creativity overboard

Yesterday was about the heralding of creativity, yet there is a setting where creativity goes overboad and the Washington Post gives us ‘Scarlett Johansson on fake AI-generated sex videos: ‘Nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image’‘ (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/31/scarlett-johansson-fake-ai-generated-sex-videos-nothing-can-stop-someone-cutting-pasting-my-image).

It is a lot worse than you think and even some might trivialise it by merely hanging onto the idea of women, mostly celebrities being inserted into porn, the problem is actually huge, not merely because of that application. The issue is that whatever I can creatively dream up, I can make a reality if I have enough images. The problem is that most of this software is free (for now), and the problem is growing on two fields.

In the first field we see not merely exploitation of any woman into porn, nudities or weird situations. The technology is close to perfect enough that it is harder and harder to distinguish the fake from the real, the deep fake is overwhelmingly convincing that the Washington Post comment “what your eyes can see and your ears can hear can no longer be taken for granted in the digital field“, that problem is a lot bigger than you think. Even as this example (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU9YAHigNx8) is easy enough to spot, the overall quality is very much on the high side. Here money gives authenticity, the better the computer, the smoother the result and the shorter the timespan to make that result. The average laptop will not get you far, yet a high end gaming PC gets you an optional 1080 HD deepfake version that is increasingly hard to distinguish from the real deal.

In the second field we see a failing, a failing to investigate and legalise the optional prosecution of deepfake video. Not merely the porn side of it, in its heart the opportunity to crate identity fraud and give rise to interfering with political, social and private lives will go further and will be the foundation of a lot more hardship. 5G will merely send these high end videos faster and wider on a global domain. How long until we get the videos of random politician (Emmanuel Macron) and random Celebrity (Anna Kendrick), whilst places like the Daily Mirror will give the innuendo “European Politician accused of hot Hollywood encounter” with a deep fake? The issue is not that a place like the Daily Mirror would or would not use that image intentionally maliciously, the issue will soon be that their trained professionals can no longer tell the difference between real and deepfake and there is more than one indicator that that moment could optionally be reached this year.

The third part is that not only is this technological field charging ahead, the legal field that should protect the people can no longer keep up, in addition the freedom of expression that allows for ‘creative alteration’ is actually assisting in what should be regarded as criminal activities. In addition there is a larger failing in the law, McMillan (at https://mcmillan.ca/What-Can-The-Law-Do-About-Deepfake). The working allows for a failing that no one is able to deal with. We see this in: “The tort of appropriation of personality arises where a person attempts to gain an economic advantage by using some aspect of another person’s name, likeness, or personality without that person’s consent. To be successful, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant appropriated his or her persona for economic gain. This is also enshrined in legislation such as the BC Privacy Act, which states that it is a tort to use a likeness, still or moving, including a likeness deliberately disguised to resemble a person “for the purpose of advertising or promoting the sale of, or other trading in, property or services.”” You see, the failing is not seen in what must be established, it is found in what is negated. We think of lone wolves as terrorists, yet there is another one, the political lone wolf. A person not recognised by anyone, but does the bidding to promote the political field (or alternative field like product field) of others.

When that person goes after the next political contender we see no ‘gain an economic advantage‘, we alternatively see no ‘trading in, property or services‘, yet the damage will have been achieved. Even when we look in the US regarding: “Malice in law is the intent, without justification excuse or reason, to commit a wrongful act that will result in harm to another. Malice means the wrongful intention and includes all types of intent that law deems to be wrongful“, to enter in court on the premise of malice and intent versus ‘creativity and freedom of expression‘ becomes a first amendment court case where the political player loses no matter what and if the transgressor is young enough the damages will never ever cover the impact. In this day and age of viral video and social media, one or two of these videos could end any political career within a day and that is merely the top of the iceberg. Larger players can lay waste to all kinds of opposition with a much greater ease by giving rise to confusion and relying on the gullible population to spread the damage.

McMillan gives one part that could give the smallest of coverage in British Columbia. As we are introduced to: “The BCHRT has the authority to provide a compensation order for any lost wages or expenses incurred as a result of the contravention, and to provide a compensation award for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.”“, how could any unemployed individual compensate for damages inflicted? The problem would not be the act, the issue would be to a much larger degree the setting of ‘injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect‘ when it is a public figure, especially when we consider the last 10 years where: ‘less than 20% of the orders made are over $10,000‘, in a setting where so far $75,000 has been the highest award. So tell me, who would not fork over $75,000 in some way to win a high end election? Even as the Canadian system is seemingly a little better than most out there, what they have is nowhere near ready to deal with the larger impact the deepfakes optionally have and that is merely outside of the porn application field. The experts that gathered in the SIGGRAPH 2018 annual conference on computer graphics in Vancouver from August 12th to 16th 2018 already agree that this is going to be an issue in the 2020 US elections, the question is will the law be ready and there is no clear indications that it is.

Even as we see that DARPA has been taking an active interest in finding forensic solutions, the department by Dr. Matt Turek, I also see the flawed impact as we see the optional miss that a high resolution result projected deepfake, then captured by a low res camera will create a version that is either negated completely of will be flagged amongst hundreds of thousands of others and still ends up having a 60/40 chance of passing through. Those numbers are not encouraging and this forensic field is for now in its early infancy giving the deepfake players close of half a decade of free reign on every social media with 5G merely impacting a much larger population, much faster. The overwhelming part is that computing power and high resolution recording equipment is becoming more and more affordable so the pool of non-malicious offender is growing close to exponentially for now. Let’s face it which horny teenager has not dreamt of replacing his prom date with the image of Amber Heard, Bailey Noble or Laura Vandervoort as his desired prom date?

It is for the most the absence of intent and malice that is driving the technology. America has 42 million teenagers, close to 22 million are male, most dreaming of the dream date they can never have, so when there is a software company keying in on close to 50% of those offering a $49.95 solution making their dream come true, that is a market surpassing $1 billion, do you think that this is not happening right now? It is a massive driving force, apart from the sex sells part; it is within us to be a pranker/prankster, to replace ourselves with an edited Batman/Batgirl making ourselves the superhero, others want to be seen with their idols (Frances McDermott/Zack Effron or Bailey Noble/Heidi Klum) depending on our age and spreading that imagined tale on Facebook. At heart it is deceiving (read: pranking) their friends intentionally yet completely absent of malice and for every 50 people that do it for the innocent reason, there will be 1-2 malicious people, yet the overwhelming drive for that software is there and the more that want it, the cheaper the solution and for now that this trial software is often free and it is becoming highly perfect in the result, after which it will soon be sold at an affordable price. The problem is that anything innocent can be perverted and the deepfake technology that made yours truly look like Batman (actually Batman was real, Bruce Wayne looks a lot more like me and a lot less like Ben Affleck) can do the same for any exploiter to look the political target look like an arrested person on the street, two of these viral events can totally impact the next elections. Even as the politician itself is the likely target, making the members of his team (like the spokesperson, the strategist and the writer) targets would be a lot more effective, we will dismiss the political person often out of hand, the people they work with less so, it will create doubt and stop their political engine overnight giving the election away to the other person and with the deepfake field evolving at the speed it does, every political party will need a high end reputation management firm in their corner watching out for these attacks and in addition spend too many resources dealing with these attacks, making the small players no longer a consideration and making the larger players spend a whole chunk of money in different areas impacting their visibility. The lack of law, or more correctly stated the lack of impact that the law currently has, will drag elections and public profiles along in very different directions soon enough.

That part is seen (at https://www.ubermetrics-technologies.com/blog/reputation-management-what-to-do-about-deepfakes/) where we see how Jordan Peele is doing the speech for former President Obama and more important, the fact that this looks authentic enough to fool most republicans into an emotional frenzy, game over and the next democratic president starts in 2020, that is the game now and it is frighteningly indistinguishable from the real deal. Even as we see here the stage of ethics, the issue is not merely consent (it only partially is), we see: “the person whose face is superimposed on deepfakes did not give their consent“, in the batman example, my image is the one superimposed and I am giving permission, it is the other part that is owned by DC Comics, or is that Zack Snyder, or perhaps Ben Affleck. Do you think that their engine is ready for millions of trivial cases, often limited to a ‘cease and desist’ order? Their workforce would not be able to deal with 1% of that workload and in the initial race that viral propulsion was optionally used to their advantage. The issue is more loaded than we think and when the court case comes and I would state in my defence: ‘I was merely expressing myself, fantasising on being the next Batman. I made no commercial gain, merely social visibility for my desired optional career in acting‘, do you think that I will get anything more than an optional slap on the wrist as I was pursuing my dream? With the right lawyer it could optionally be thrown out of court as there would be no visible harm or hardship to Ben Affleck, the case ends soon thereafter.

Even as law firms give us the stage of: “must typically prove that the defendant—the person who uploaded the deepfake, for example—published something that gives a false or misleading impression of the plaintiff in such a way to damage the plaintiff’s reputation or cause them great offense, in such a way that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person“, now consider Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988), there we learn that the first and fourteenth amendment is prohibiting public figures from recovering damages for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), if the emotional distress was caused by a caricature, parody, or satire of the public figure that a reasonable person would not have interpreted as factual. In that setting the deepfake field is wide open to be used against political figured to a much larger extent, that case was never ready for deepfake and by setting the stage to ‘a caricature, parody, or satire of the public figure‘ we see that the reasonable person becomes malleable to the greater extent making the deepfake field a much more effective political swaying tool than we imagined. I reckon that under this setting Larry Flynt will be laughing on the public stage that his case opened up for till the day he dies.

 

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The future arrived Yesterday

I was at an interesting gig yesterday. I was introduced by a friend to several new options to engage with an audience, and options to interact in engagement, not mere presenting, we got to see true engagement. Several solutions that by them self are impressive enough, but combine the abilities we see options for engagement that will knock the socks off from players like Marvel and Nintendo, options that large players like Microsoft set aside for too long, options missed by some players as they are pushing for similar results again and again. Yet like the failures of Ubisoft in the past, as I stated it ‘a game that was designed to not be a failure will in equal measure never become a true winner‘, Ubisoft learned that the hard way with the their Assassins Creed franchise and now, we see opportunities that EA Games could get with FIFA19 and micro transactions, not just that, the act of engagement would allow for plenty of additional visibility towards groups that are currently not considering certain products. Engagement has always been the primary key in that and I saw a truckload of that, much of it in a new wardrobe that fits basically everyone.

So even as some are given to be a display towards retail, they have the ability to be much more, this is a marketing dream and all available for so many participants before this year’s Christmas shopping spree sets in. Options that are more than just engagement, they are optional content distributors, unlockable gems that people in certain areas love, a simple image that can immediately translate with you in the foreground and your destination in the background, combined send as a postcard to your mobile on the spot.

It is a simple setting, where an RFID scanner that could instantly reveal what the Nintendo Amiibo offers to the customer in store, not relying on dodgy third party lists, one Nintendo list and places like EB Games could in store reveal what the person is buying. The applications are here and not in the stores, not used by players that could gain the brand additional momentum, so what gives?

Well, for the most retail and larger places are seeing these devices and solutions as a cost, which they are (to some degree), but they in equal measure forget the opportunity that they bring. If we consider Market Watch (which I question), we see the setting that the games market, in particularly the Augmented reality Gaming Market, we see a forecast where we are treated to According to Infoholic Research, the “AR Gaming Market” is expected to reach $284.93 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 152.7% during the forecast period 2017-2023“, I still think that this is ludicrous, I have zero percent faith in that, or to state this that I am predicting that this is 100% wrong. Gaming is a 135 billion dollar market globally, if we get “expected to reach $75 billion by 2023“, then this would be an awesome result for AR gaming. I am certain that Infoholic Research did not just get their wires crossed; I feel that they are buttering someone’s bread on both sides. In both normal gaming and gambling, we see that there is a trend on the rise and some of the systems shown yesterday can grab in on these potential markets in several ways, it is up to the creative marketing mind in the larger places to use this not merely for branding, but also for creating awareness and grow interest through engagement.

Consider that this goes further than mere advertising and branding, consider the information kiosks, you might wonder what a mere information kiosk could add. The new generation can also scan you or what you are holding. A logo, a brochure, or merely a QR code. These parts can immediately be converted to a shop with location, a digital travel brochure that can be interacted with on the screen or merely a QR code that your mobile device can scan, giving you the app, the additional information or a mere YouTube video to watch. All options actively available now and when you place such solutions in a place like Neom (for those not in the know) “Neom is a planned 26’500 sq. km transnational city and economic zone to be constructed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia close to the border region of Saudi Arabia and Egypt“, and Saudi Arabia has set aside 500 billion for the creation of that city. The option of being the first and more important, setting up the 5G hub allowing a primary spot for a 5G growth in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a place where Huawei is already roaring to set up shop, they have the lead there, and now consider that the push from the Saudi Arabia government is all about being ahead of the rest, the smartest of all smart cities and it will not take long before they realise that to get ahead of all the others you need to be willing and ready to have solutions for engagement there, primed, active and ready to grow. More important, three months ago, we were treated to “Chinese tech conglomerate Huawei is already committed to training 1,500 local engineers over the next two years“, so this is one place where Telstra got in way too late, as did the European players. The hub for a 120 million customer 5G population, when I mentioned this in the beginning of this year I was not kidding. Now we see that certain paths have started, we need to look at how you can get a smart city population to engage, because that is the trigger for growth. This directly relates to gaming as gaming is the big equaliser here, it has always been that, as early as the early 90’s. For 25 years I have seen how gaming and engagement lowered the threshold for those nervous about technology and yesterday I saw a whole range of engagement opportunities. Not merely interactions and RFID application in other ways to show interaction, but a setting where it pushes non-personalised data to a tenfold and that data can push the curiosity towards engagement for everyone.

When he European commission gave us the ‘What 5G is about‘ most looked at it and thought ‘Nice!’ what they missed is that is goes beyond mere RFID and Domotics. The direct interactions of Smart Wearables, Smart Mobility, Smart Grids and Smart Parking show that when the car is low on fuel (or an almost empty battery is you have a Tesla), the SATNAV will reveal the closes fuel point, or warn you if you cannot make it to the homestead, the smart wearable can link directly to health care, the nearest pharmacy, the doctor allowing for a prescription on the spot, the phone that now shows a map and receives the information YOU wanted to engage with from a kiosk that is now also a data hub and transfer point of information, all on the fly without YOU having to type anything, all done intuitively on the spot. In all this, you remain in charge of your data and (except for the healthcare part) all null and void of actual personal data.

 

Let’s take this to a next level, some have seen something like this, it looks like an old amplifier volume knob, but it is actually a Bluetooth speaker, place it on nearly any table and it becomes an amazing speaker, yet the next level is not merely a speaker, it is also perfectly placed to be a data hub. Now combine that with a sheet of Perspex as a display (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdDAG0uwg3s), when we combine the three, we get the information on the kiosk, transferred instantly to your ‘speaker’ that is also the data hub and displays the information on that sheet display, wearable or other option. Maps, data, and brochures, all instantly available; Google already owns that solution, a solution that is merely awaiting implementation. A setting driven by what I would call ‘dumb’ smart devices. All the fear of personal data gone and total interactivity remains, engagement and the ultimate lure that draws consumers into your business; that is what engagement allows for, no other way will get that great result because that is the advertisement of tomorrow, not the data they hold, but the curiosity that they bring, all linked to the need for engagement. All those people, millions, who would walk in because your window had something interesting to show, yet now it is not your window, your window is also in every data kiosk, every advertiser point and every screen.
It is no longer about the mobile, people are less trusting with their data, but a smart (dumb) device, their watch, their Pendent or ring, now a data hub and consider that the 15 mm for a micro SD fits into rings, pendants and watches, all optional long term data hubs on the go, without any long interaction and we can get 32 GB for a mere $5. Picking up the ideas and interacting from place to place, our shopping needs and information on the fly when YOU want it; the data kiosks merely one of many places to interact with the addressed needs everywhere.

All settings not yet available in such an advanced state and all options out in the field for those willing to be the enterprising in the new places where they are willing to spend $500 billion in total, to make a next gen tech hub a reality. Or as Jeremy Irons stated in Margin Call: “There are three ways to make a living in this business. Be first, be smarter, or cheat“, he said it and I agree, it is always best to be first and whilst some are still trying to market what they are trying to set as 5G, we see that Huawei who are setting the stage on what 5G could be, Huawei s in the implementation stage of preparing the engineers of setting it all up in a live environment. So whilst America is still in anti-China mode, we see “Now, the whole industry is taking the final sprint towards 5G commercialization. The completion of SA specifications which complements the NSA specifications, not only gives 5G NR the ability of independent deployment, but also brings a brand new end-to-end network architecture, making 5G a facilitator and an accelerator during the intelligent information and communications technology improvement process of enterprise customers and vertical industries” and Huawei has already started in Saudi Arabia, so my other prediction is coming to pass as well, By Q1 2019, Saudi Arabia will become a market leader in 5G and will connect with Europe soon thereafter. In all this Australia things will go from bad to worse, especially as we cannot tell whether we need to consider if people like John Watters, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Strategy Officer of cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc is bedding Telstra or the USA, the fact that no one has been able to produce any clear evidence in Huawei’s ‘dependency’ on the Chinese government and the overly fearful US Tech as well as Telstra in all this is more than what I consider to be merely a sham, they are currently quite the opposite of embracing engagement and new tech, it will end the end make them look like the fools they should have been trademarked as in 2017.

So as we might remember Telstra at IT News with “Telstra said in a slide deck that “full commercial deployment of 5G in capital cities, major regional centres and other high demand areas” would occur in financial year 2020“, we can now see that they will be almost a year behind Huawei. Al this angers me, merely because it stops advancement and innovation, which makes Saudi Arabia the one remaining golden opportunity for true 5G innovation and yesterday’s presentations showed me how much many more avenues can be approached, because some of the innovations are out here today, in some cases, merely linking the solutions remain. It is important that we consider the Huawei part a little longer, it is important because 5G is so crucial to all this. When we see the article (at https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/59w49b/huawei-surveillance-no-evidence), we see that the title gives us: ‘There’s No Public Evidence Huawei Spies on Americans‘, in addition we see “Huawei’s efforts to make inroads in the U.S. quickly resulted in numerous allegations over the company’s alleged connections to Chinese intelligence. Despite breathless hysteria, numerous investigations (one 18 months in length) found absolutely no evidence of such a threat.“, as well as “a follow up report by Reuters indicates that there has been pressure applied on U.S. telcos to avoid doing business with Huawei, with companies like Verizon and AT&T being told they risk losing their lucrative government business contracts if they strike deals with the massive Chinese multinational“, when we complete it with ““We knew certain parts of government really wanted (evidence of active spying),” one person familiar with the probe told Reuters at the time. “We would have found it if it were there”“, now we see the parts missing, in all this the Australian government needs to be optionally seen as a dog collar without a leash around the neck of a rabid dog named USA. This all smells like AT&T and Telstra in desperate need to not get drowned by an actually innovative technological opponent, who did just that, they became truly innovative. We need Huawei in all this more then most can comprehend.

To get this a little better, we need to look at ‘Media Engagement and Advertising Effectiveness‘ by Bobby J Calder and Edward C Malthouse. Here we see “Traditionally, marketers have thought about advertising as a process of translating a brand, expressed as a benefit, a promise to the consumer, a value proposition, or a positioning in the consumer’s mind into a message that is delivered to the consumer through some medium. This advertising will be effective to the extent that the consumer values the brand idea and the message does a good job creatively of communicating the idea“. Yet when we consider it more fully, we see: “It is engagement with a TV program that causes someone to want to watch it, to be attentive to it, to recommend it to a friend, or to be disappointed if it were no longer on the air“, through engagement, the TV Series Lucifer was not cancelled, it moved from Fox to Netflix, merely by the acts of engaging fans. Engagement can be that powerful and it goes beyond merely revitalising a TV series, it will be the bread and butter for most companies as growth is often seen as  linear with ‘advertising’ whilst we have to accept that exponential growth can only be achieved with an actual engaging audience. Because like in Facebook, that one engaging person is linked to dozens, if not hundreds of others, and their actions are more easily accepted by their close connections then the one advertisement is. In two stages this is seen that one engagement is optionally 900 hits in a low estimation, versus a mere advertisement that gets 5% out of 10,000 shows, so it took 10,000 attempts to get 500 people taking a second look, whilst one engagement event could be the start of 900 instant opportunities, so which option would you more likely turn to?

Yet, we must also be aware of the negative side in engagement. Calder and Malthouse give us that with: “Intrusion may produce a negative response from consumers because the advertising harms the experience of the media content. This in turn could lead to a negative reaction to the advertising, compromising its effectiveness. The consumer may feel that the ad has intruded on the experience with the content and accordingly may have a less positive reaction to the ad“, so in this the interactive kiosk becomes again not merely a vehicle, but THE vehicle in all this and Time is the one currency that is at the centre of it all, it is time that usually and largely triggers the intrusion emotion (waiting, or idle time tends to do that). With the smart ‘dumb’ devices, the automatism of storage whilst the interaction is merely a second, perhaps even two seconds. The element of intrusion decreases and engagement remains, or optionally even increases. It is achieved as the advertisement is not the focal point, but merely part of it and the experience is not impeached, as we get 125Mb in that one second, we get the brochure, the movie clip, the setting, the review and the applicability; all available to watch at our leisure and when we want to decide what to see and how to watch it. So from a $5 32GB Micro SD card, we can get more with a $100 200Gb card, and that is now, in 2-3 years we can get 5 times that storage for the same price. In this non-personalised interaction setting, we achieve to get heaps of analytical information whilst driving engagement. So in that we are confronted with all the latest trailers by merely passing a cinema. And we can just leisurely watch what we need and wipe the rest. It is a brand new day and those ahead in the game get to set that stage of new tech needs for an entire population, engagement is the key element to drive all that.

The future arrived yesterday, whatever will we get treated to tomorrow?

 

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Slamming the Game makers

There are many games that get released, there have been titans that we still yearn for and even as several games are upcoming or just now released, there is no denying that the gaming community at large have been anticipating the arrival of Mass Effect. YouTube is getting swamped by groups of people, some are utter idiots, trying to get traction in viewers, so the least said about them the better, some have outspoken opinions on the game, which is fair enough and some of those videos are actually decently insightful and some give us a view, but they do not give the game away. One of these very good reviewers is JV2017gameplay. In that regard, the video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGdGEqYYJjA), gives us a backdrop on the game in relation to the original trilogy. The video is well worth viewing. Seeing this before the game is launched is a very good idea, yet not essential. We get to see some of what we will see in the game, yet we are told explicitly, the video holds no spoilers, which is really good, because I like my surprises to come from the game, not from someone’s video. I have to admit that there were two issues in the story shown, but there could be a very good explanation. This movie and one other (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7hs5cu43Ck), which is about exploration show one element in absolute clarity. That is the fact that Mass Effect Andromeda is clearly arriving 5 years after the previous game for a very good reason. This game shows to be a massive leap forward from the last two games. There is a level of familiarity when we see the interfaces, so those whomever played it before is likely to get a quick handle on the game play. Two videos that show us that Bioware has taken the game to a new level, one that seems to be trumping the sum of both Mass Effect 2 and 3.

I am not going too much on the videos, you will just have to watch them, which is a good idea if you are serious about getting this game. What is important to me is that this game is one of the earlier games that is upgraded so that you could enjoy the maximum that either the PS4pro of Xbox 1s has to offer. So if you have the right TV, you would be able to enjoy this game in 4K resolution, which is great. My issue (in the positive) is that Bioware shows us, not unlike Bethesda did in recent past, that good games do not get released on an annual bases. I truly hope that Yves Guillemot learns his lesson from this. A second lesson that I hope he will learn, is that a game that has all the elements of different games, will not add up to be an excellent game at all.

Now, some will see this as my slamming Yves Guillemot, yet I disagree, although, if Yves proclaims to not agree with this assessment, he might not be 100% incorrect #JustSaying. It is my view on the creation of mediocrity. Yet, are all bad reviews correct? Here I feel that more than one person has not been fair against all things Ubisoft, which needs to be stated as well. You see I do disagree with the vision that James Marvin gives us on how adaptations of movies from films seem to consistently flop, this with the reference to the Assassin’s Creed film. What constitutes a flop? You see with a Production Budget: $125 million, a movie making $238,396,337 is in my view a success. I give $125 and I get back $238 that is 90% profit! With banks giving you 5% if you are lucky, that result constitutes a good day’s work. I will say that I did not consider this a great movie, yet it is not a bad one either. Anyone who saw the remake of Point break 2015 will happily agree with me. The AC movie had a good cast, the cinematography is actually a little overwhelming at times, but the filming shows to be slightly too chaotic and too many jumps to Michael Fassbender in virtual device mode, which is pretty much it. As it was a financial success blaming Justin Kurzel is equally unfounded, but here is part of the issue, it is the vision that was given. I think that the error was to some extent as stated earlier, not the greatest visions, making it less a success than it might have been.

This now reflects back to Mass Effect, because the game has one thing as it went from game 3 to game 4, it shows vision, the eternal platinum trump card that makes a game an instant classic and the 90%+ success rating that really good games get.

What should overwhelm you are the ‘upgrades’ that Mass Effect offers. Looking through windows showing the actual space where you are, which is a little overwhelming. Like the AC series, the voices have been taken well care of with Clancy Brown is the voice of ‘your’ father, an actor that the younger player will recognise as Mr Krabs (a SpongeBob square pants production). Others might recognise him from Cowboys and Aliens and the classic sergeant Zim from Starship Troopers. You, as the player will be voiced by either the stunning model Fryda Wolff, who weirdly enough has not seen too much camera on TV or the big screen (hinting towards Michael Fassbender here for his next production), but has been active in games like Civilisation, Final Fantasy 13, Call of Duty, Fallout 4, XCom 2 and the Technomancer, and if you are playing the male character by Tom Taylorson who is actually new to this level of work. Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, the Tudors), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey) and several others. Oh, and to be fair, Assassins Creed 2 had no lack of actors and actresses either. They gave us Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Alex Ivanovici (X-men, Mirror Mirror), Lita Tresierra, who sadly passed away (the Factory), Carlos Ferro (Dominic, Gears of Wars series). So this is what both sides took pride and effort in and there has never been anything but the highest praise for both game makers. Also it is the graphical side that was never a flaw, you only need to look at Assassins Creed Black Flag (which has other issues), to see what the Ubisoft graphical department can do when they set their mind to it, they really got the sense of the Caribbean right, it almost felt like I was actually there in that time, or so I would believe it to look like.

Getting back to Mass Effect 4, the entire game as shown so far seems to be nothing less than Mass Effect 2 on steroids. The exploration, the graphics and large land masses, the fact that a map has several fast travel points give rise to the facts that the planets are a fair bit larger than ever before. This will be the game for anyone who loved the original trilogy, anyone who has a need to shoot things and for those with a reverence to role playing games. Now, as this game is not out yet for another 7.61 days (roughly) we have no idea on the amount of hours of game play that this game brings, the actual amount of planets you can land on and explore and so on. In addition, the Mass Effect series, like some others have always lend their design for additions (DLC’s) and season passes, so I wonder if more would come. I cannot state whether this would come with the overwhelming value that the Fallout 4 season pass gave us, but we can hope, can we not?

The power of games is at times great to experience, especially when we see a game like Mass Effect Andromeda. True, several good games have been released, but when we focus on the 90%+ ratings, over the last 12 months gives us Nioh, Dark Souls 3, Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind divided and Overwatch. 5 games over the last 12 months (Witcher 3 GOTY edition is also making the cut, but the original was released in 2015, which is why I omitted it). So as you can see 5 (or 6) great games a year. Now, there will always be games that did not make it to the 90% level, but we still want to play them (sport games), those games are niche games, but consider how many games you play per year and how many of them were in that 90% plus range? Now consider Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla games, which is one of the newer players on the block (2000), Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (2002), which is CI Games first attempt to produce an AAA game, or Elite: Dangerous, who is now entering the PlayStation 4 field, a game originally made on a BBC Micro B in 1984 (a machine with 32Kb RAM). Last I want to mention Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment, which is a company that has 20 employees. Its founder Charlie Cleveland shows what vision can bring, in his case an ‘open’ world survival game where you are adrift on an ocean after crashlanding on a water planet. What happens after that is up to you, so as the radio tells you (when you get it fixed) that you can wait 99,999 hours, which amounts to 11.4 years, or make a life for yourself. This starts a very different game which you need to see to believe. I hope that the PlayStation people get to experience it as well, because the game will bring you a hundred hours or more of challenges, entertainment and visual wonder. This is visionary on a new level! There are a few other surprises in this game. You have not lived until you tried to get anywhere in this game in hardcore mode (1 life). In this I would slam both Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. I honestly cannot state whether it is complacency or what I would call an adherence to mediocrity. The two makers who bedazzled us with greatness have been regarded as below par too often for a little too long. This visibility comes out even stronger as we see how great Mass Effect 4 could be (Electronic Arts) and Ubisoft who basically has not produced a 90%+ game since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013). When did spreadsheets overrule the need for excellence? When we all expected that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands would give back some confidence in Ubisoft, we see reviews that hardly make 80%, which is a really bad thing for Ubisoft. When I see the review comment ‘Writing is terrible and it’s riddled with bugs, but there’s fun to be had with friends‘, I wonder whether the second part was given there to be soft to make sure that Yves Guillemot would not cry too loud. Yet the truth we also see is “Of all the publishers out there, it’s Ubisoft that has most affectionately embraced the open world” should have been the driving force that could have given Ubisoft a super seller (a slice of Skyrim anyone?), yet the reviews imply that it is not to be. In addition the reviewer (Sam White) shows the lesson I tried to impart on Ubisoft more than once “that is when you realise that Ubisoft has taken collectibles too far“, a lesson they should have learned before Assassins Creed Unity was released.

When smaller places like Unknown Worlds Entertainment and Hello Games surpass you with each less than 25 staff members, you need to seriously wake up. I am actually surprised that Ubisoft Still exists, because to be honest, they should have imploded with no funds left by 2015 (so you see, I can be wrong too!). The question is how such places stay afloat. Marketing only make up for so much, in the end it is the product that matters!

The question is where do gamers go to next? In all this, I too need to keep an open mind. I have a specific desire for games and even as I admire Dark Souls 3, I know I will never actually finish it. I am not that great a slasher. I am all for stealth games, which is why Styx was such an amazing experience and challenge, so as we are about to get its sequel, I too join a group who will accept a lower than 90% game (which shows that there is more than just high ratings). However, we do know that Ubisoft has had its successes in that genre too: Blacklist and Conviction are both 90% games and they delivered (apart from one annoying issue in blacklist) and I cannot wait for a new instalment of that series. Here too we see that when we look deeper that there are lines of games that could result in new 90% versions, not just because the player group is large enough, but because developers like CI Games are showing that there is interest in getting a stealth game that is a serious challenge (Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3). Will this statement remain true if the reviews scores are barely making the 80% grade? I believe so, I believe that quality games will always find a home and I also believe that the proper attention will drive new players, especially if the reviews and scores correctly reflect the quality of the game. This is what I meant again and again when I stated towards Ubisoft: ‘A game that is based on a matrix on how to not make a bad game, will reflect that and not be a bad game. Yet in that same setting it will also never become a truly great game‘, Mafia III, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch Dogs 2 have proven me correct. On the opposition, those who made it (like Witcher 3 and its additions), excellence is more than merely its own reward, it creates a following and it sets a milestone for others to strive for.

In the same way that I see stealth games, I see that ‘open’ world games like the ones Bethesda produces, gives us options and replayable versions unlike most other games, which now give rise to the question why can’t others get there? Oblivion (2006), Fallout 3 (2008), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Skyrim (2011) and Fallout 4, all of them 90%+ games. With two of them given a 100% score by more than one reviewer; that is what makes them essential games to own (for those not hating RPG games). I think we can agree that there is a fairly sized group of people who are not into RPG’s and that will always be fair enough. In that same view, I am not, and am unlikely to ever become a GTA fan. Yet the RPG group is growing, so I wonder where these two players go. You see, living on Mass Effect alone will not aid EA in its growth, who actually was one of the innovative distributors of one of the pioneers in this field (the Ultima series), so why not seek in those revamps? In that same light Wing Commander and Privateer brought the light of space flight, now they will have to compete, but our love for these games have (for the most) not diminished, so where is the IP on that? Eidos gave us Soul Reaver a game that could be rebranded in something awesome (even though the originals were actually pretty good). Yet, here I go on in the remake directions. What I hope is that these two once great development houses will seek visionaries to give us the next batch of (hopefully new) true visionary game play. If crowd funding took only 9 days to get the minimum requirement to get the relaunch of System Shock started, do you really think that RPG and tactical games are on the way out? No, most gamers are looking towards the thrills we once had and some are looking for that next new original challenge. Perhaps the makers need to start looking into the Comic book dimension. Marvel might be booked solid, but there is a league of comics that might never ever make the light of day outside of its own clique following. Even if we look at what has been tried before, an actual good Buffy video game would draw millions towards the shops. An actual good version would ensure large lines in front of a game retailer. The Darkness, what I considered to be a fine game (not great), but a good reflection of the comic style which I considered to be essential. Series like Witchblade (awesome artwork, yet awful TV series), or perhaps Michael Turner’s Fathom. You see, the ‘non-failure’ spreadsheet of Ubisoft might not allow for a game based on Fathom to be created, yet Subnautica seems to be proving them wrong at present. So as the elements of Fathom with ‘members of a race of aquatic humanoids called the Blue who possess the ability to control water‘ give rise to very interesting settings (as well of the majestic unknown that we call the seven seas). The idea of a game, open world or not (more like large levels) where we need to think in three dimensions when playing calls for quality gaming, if properly executed, we could see an entirely new level of game play one that does require next gen consoles and powerful PC’s. Consider that in 2015, the sales of comic books surpassed $1,000,000,000. Now also consider that the market size of comic books was estimated to be $280-$200 million market in 1998, and even though we have seen a decade of hard times, this market has never stopped growing from 1998 to 2016 (source: http://www.comichron.com). Is it such a leap to not seriously consider that market? And in this case, I am specifically taking DC Comics and Marvel out of the equation.

Visionaries are worth their weight in gold. So if EA and Ubisoft have any, then give them a 6′ stack of comic books and see what they can come up with. I reckon that these two players waste more money on some brainstorm lunch with BI executives, so that expense should be easy to justify. For me? If this results in them each producing at least two 90% plus game within 3 years, we all end up winning. Is that not a beautiful consideration?

 

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