Tag Archives: Dungeon Keeper

The gaming mandate

We all seem to know what is best for all, we talk about policies, protocols and even mandates. Yet are they valid? I looked at a game based in the Walking dead on iOS, I looked at it for 5 minutes, saw how it played and deleted it. In my view it was not a game. It looked awesome, the graphics were amazing, but the game play is set to short term events that will get increasingly harder, not challenging, merely harder, and soon there after too hard. The game draws you in and after that it will be about pay to play through microtransactions. Their actions are not invalid, they are not illegal. I merely see it as this being no longer a game, but a mere cash cow. The problem is that these games also attract people who do not really know what gaming is, or sometimes even what games are. That is a shame.

You see, I am not trying to set out some mandate, but there is the joy of gaming and that needs to be protected. As I saw this game of short term bursts of gaming, the idea of gaming tends to be larger, should be larger and often on non-micro-transaction foundations will be more joy. So I started to think, what if the premise of that game is altered?

A different stage of play, a much larger map, even at the same foundation, consider what you know of the Walking dead and now have a Dungeon keeper approach. A map that is set, but in that map we can create a small protected place, we can place a garden (hatchery) that offers sustenance and calls a type of player, we sleeping quarters (lair) that does the same, but lets people rest. And we can see how we can add a workshop, a gym, a guard post and so on. As the game goes from level to level the players gets attacked, walker after walker with a wave or two and  the player can figure out hat to build where, how to get resources and so on, a stage NOT build on micro transactions, but a game build for joy and the consoles are doing their jobs, but soon it will be to the streamers, if they cannot break the cycle of pay-to-play, a whole generation will optionally lose the joy to play at all. Consider that Activision Blizzard generated 5.74 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. That is ONE company. Now we get it, Blizzard is big, and we cannot compete with that size, but there are dozens of smaller ones competing for revenue. Candy Crush generated revenue exceeding a billion dollars in 2019. Now consider that they did nothing wrong, but their game is set on algorithms that are set on you almost making it, and yes for $1 in special candy you could make it, it is ego versus mathematics and the ego will ALWAYS lose. Yet what happens when we invest into that $5 a month Amazon Luna solution? What if we enjoy long term gaming? You see, Amazon Luna (Google Stadia too) have a much lower threshold than consoles do and that is the barrier that is easily broken, to set players into a field where they can explore, enjoy and have fun. You see when we crush short term achievement drives and we get people on the bandwagon of fun we can change a lot and hopefully create a few people to take over the sceptre from people like Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriott, and Sid Meier. We have some really good game makers, but t present there is ALWAYS room for more, especially when their dreams, ideas and perseverance brings us new and original gaming IP. That is what we need on pretty much all systems. When the wish becomes the mandate it can be a force for good, but it is not a given, I merely hope it will turn out that way.

Yet in all earnest, and even as I am ripping old IP apart to use what is good, we need the stage of what is good to hopefully create something new and better. Even now I still think of a game released 24 years ago. It was GoldenEye 007. It changed things and even now it still holds a candle up to what is created today. Some of it is found in TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, almost 17 years ago. Games that enticed whole scores of gamers. So what happens when we look back and consider the IP we cast aside? We ignore Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods, a game 30 years old, but even now it still has appeal. Even as graphics need improvement, the makers then had really nice ideas and we forgot just how much fun we had for weeks. Even now, a 23 year old game like Sentinel Returns could still generate a whole score of fans and they are not alone. There have been makers like Peter Cooke who created Tower of Babel well over 30 years ago. Even as it requires an upgrade (graphics), the foundation of these games was good and engaging and we need them, we need to break the cycle of micro transactions. This sounds a little wrong, because there is nothing with microtransactions, yet I see everyone hammering against loot boxes and EA, all whilst the problem of microtransactions is well over 1000% worse. And the issue is not that they exist, or that they are not illegal, because they are not, but the foundation of the kind of gamers we create is. And I am not including the stupid people who go crying to some lame journo on how they wasted $12,000 on loot boxes, all whilst that journo is ignoring the stupidity of the person, but the draw of gaming is partially to blame. By setting the stage to ego (like a puzzle with a diminishing IQ counter), instead of a joy that has no time pressure, we change the foundation of our playing habit, and it needs to change. The old systems were harbouring dozens of games that could be added to any gaming arsenal and bring joy to the gamer Not all of them are RPG, some are shooters, some are platforms and some are a combination. We all have different needs, but we all have an overwhelming need to have fun, and too many games in todays android and iOS environment are driven to make it an ego driven event. If I were wrong there would never be a lego game, but I am not. There are well over 80 games based on the lego concept and they are (for the most) all fun. They are not alone but they are out there and their presence sticks out, they are not alone.

To call for a gaming mandate is wrong, because gaming is different for us all, I get that and some like the match three games, but they are hidden traps and that has never been made clear, The Conversation linked to this in 2014, There we get “During a recent radio talkback discussion, on which I was a guest, parents rang in with extraordinary tales of their children’s accidental and expensive online spending. One parent divulged that his six-year-old had spent A$700 in 15 minutes upgrading to new levels using in-app purchases.”, we still see news on loot boxes and the need to tax it all, yet none of them are looking into micro-transactions and match 3 games, are they? And they are not alone, a source gives us “The mobile games industry shows no signs of slowing down with consumer spending reaching $44.7 billion for the first half of 2021, an 18 per cent increase year-over-year.” And how does that add up compared to loot boxes? I think certain political players are unwilling to look into the directions that they have no hold over, and micro-transactions are not illegal, neither are loot boxes, but their legal status is wrongfully being changed. The stakeholders have a little too much power, so I need to make sure that we can change the premise of gaming before it is too late and in this the streaming solutions are the easiest to tackle, they are the station where the independent programmers could make the larger impact and with disregarded IP on a dozen systems there are additional options. I believe we need to press for this change before people forget that gaming has always been about fun, not ego.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT

It’s good to be evil

It is the the phase that gave life and fame to Dungeon Keeper 2, it was not used by the first game that was released in 1997, but the fame of the first game was not less, it was a time when games were still in its infancy and good ideas were wasted all over the place. Both the first and second dungeon keeper were amazing games, as was an earlier release by Bullfrog named Magic Carpet. Still the IP was used later on by EA to set Dungeon Keeper in a stage of micro transactions and there EA screwed up the IP for life. A stage set to ‘maximise’ earnings became the downfall of EA. Yet the original games are still revered by a lot of people, as such wouldn’t it be nice if EA cleaned up its act? In the last week we got ‘EA now owns Codemasters and its many, many racing games’, ‘Here’s why Glu is an excellent strategic fit for EA’, as well as ‘The Silence After EA’s Anthem 2.0 Decision is Concerning’, you see Glu could be a good buy, yet in all this it only sets out the stage if there is an option to get a return on investment towards the $2,100,000,000 spend on this. The investigation (at https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2021-02-22-heres-why-glu-is-an-excellent-strategic-fit-for-ea) is quite good. It shows a part that I never considered and that does not matter, yet what is important is “The acquisition helps EA address a weakness by acquiring a suite of high-grossing titles that are very female-friendly and have large, loyal audiences. Plus, Glu’s expertise with these genres means that EA is gaining a lot more knowledge and insight into this demographic, which we expect will translate into enhancements for future Sims games.” It is important, because we see an element that is mostly ignored “have large, loyal audiences” is nice, but only if you treat them right and that is where EA loses the wheels on their wagons, not once, but multiple times. As I see it greed driven executives tend to destroy signs of loyalty. And there the shoe becomes a larger stage of concern. You see we can accept that we can either do right by loyalty or create it, the first tends to be easy, muzzle the greed driven executive is a first, creating it requires the greed driven executive to leave the room permanently and EA does not seem to be able to do this. 

In this, there are a few options, consider the stage we saw when we were offered Magic Carpet. So what happens when that game is relaunched in an upgraded version, one that would play wildly on a Nintendo Switch. Elements of the game can remain in place but the game needs alteration as to not infringe on the IP of Bullfrog (now EA), I feel justified as EA ignored it old IP for well over a decade and the ones they did not ignore was clobbered towards the stone age. 

As such Magic Carpet could be a much larger sandbox game. A map of Iraq extending to the Mediterranean Sea, with parts of Saudi Arabia and Iran. A stage where the power of your castle and the magic carpet comes from growth, a stage where we can learn new tricks and new abilities are found all over the map. You see the old systems could never do this, the computers were not powerful enough, but the Switch might make a new setting true, its controllers will have one for movement, one for fighting. A stage grown to the new systems. As such we can grow the fortress, and as abilities are acquired we can do more, go further and unlock more. As such the game takes a rather new turn.

The same can be done with Dungeon keeper, but that will have to take a massive adjustment, the stage of Dungeon keeper is too set. Still the idea was awesome. Consider the stage of Silent Hill, but now you are not the player, you are pyramid head, a stage where we consider the games were you play the antagonist. Pyramid Head is one of the more famous ones, yet consider that station with the man Dirk Garthwaite who became wrecker (a Marvel character), what if we can reshape such a person to our personal taste? We are all getting overwhelmed with the Norse gods through TV series and games, yet that same setting might come from Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Inca or Aztec deities. All options to consider in the stage of making a game, yet how many still embrace the good old slogan ‘It’s good to be evil’?

I am asking because some sources give us ‘Global game revenue to reach $29bn by 2021’, all whilst a country like Australia only set their notch on $140 million, which amounts to 0.4%, not a lot to write home about is it? If loyalty is indeed key and when we see EA (and a few others) bungle the cake, how come they still end up with a large slice of that pie? As I see it, it should be relatively easy to take it from them with a better product and a better product is key in gaining loyalty. EA might have paid $2.1 billion for that database, but that will not stop competitors Nintendo and optionally Amazon to take over that cake. These two players are driven to loyalty and they can have it if they play their cards right. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT

Alternative income

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT

I see dead people

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming

As crazy ideas go part 2

Yup, there is a part 2 to this, my mind would not stop considering and as I am not getting any sleep (it is now 4:14) I decided to give up and give in to creativity. I tried to wear myself out by playing a game on my mobile, but the idle games become tedious at best, they are clever but there is one original and the firm makes several copies, one involving dope, one involving western times, one involving swamps and one involving mining and from there we go on, play one play them all. So I went out of my way to consider what I like. There is Merchant, which is a lot more fun that I reckon it is, and I have supported (through purchases) of the Book of heroes on two systems. There are a few others and one that must be mentioned is Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter, which is still utterly gold. I played it on 4 systems so far. And that got me thinking, there was a Westworld game, I never saw it, but it was based on Fallout Shelter. So what if we unite the worlds of Fallout Shelter and Dungeon Keeper? The Dungeon Keeper out there now is an exploitative joke. Yet the combined form might be different. Consider (those who can) the two games. Heroes enter the cave (the fallout entrance) and they need to get to the heart. The heart (at the far right) is always linked at the end of the first level, and on level 1 there are 4 rooms, now consider that you can go down, but the lower level is no use until you move the dungeon heart. In addition to the imps building new levels and additional rooms, we need to move the heart, so there is a larger concern to be strategical about the growth. And as every room and combinations of rooms invite certain troops, you want to be clear on how you go about it. The troll is no longer a trap-maker, but his presence doubles the speed of the imps, and as we take a look of rooms, we see thinned to make choices and to change rooms. The library gets us the warlock, but a library next to a prison gets you a sorcerer (more powerful), a prison gets you skeletons, yet a prison next to a graveyard will result in vampires. By setting the rooms next to one another and by combining the size of rooms, we create a larger stage of fiends to aid us with the hordes of heroes the will come for the heart. A training room will set the stage for stronger fighters, just like in the game, yet a training room next to another could infill the presence of another kind of character and the implies that the setting of replaying will be overwhelmingly more interesting. Especially when we consider that not only our troops could go to level 50, but so does the opposition. We could also set limits, like the game, a temple will invite up to 2 Dark Angels, but only if the temple is next to the Dungeon heart and the dark angels NEVER leave the temple, so their training will only come from heroes travelling through them. As such you can set more limitations and in that stage we get a new game, an optional essential as the dark angels were WAY too strong. Even though it is in part based on Fallout Shelter, Dungeon Keeper is an established game that has been around a long time and as the game changes increasingly, there would not be an IP violation, Dungeon keeper merely went from top view to side view and Fallout shelter does not have inter-depending rooms. So there, a new mobile game thought through in less than 2 hours, not a bad result I reckon. 

Of course, if anyone else then EA actually creates that game, they will face a few charges of ownership (EA bought Bullfrog), but the stage could be altered and if it is different enough, it might be made. Oh for those making games, let the gamer switch off the bloody music for your game and do not force them to listen to it through the entire tutorial, some do not care how nice it sounds, we merely want to play the game, not listen to the bombastic fanfare of ego.

And that is merely the beginning, when we consider the old games and the new games (Impossible Mission / Covert Action), in this, we see a stage of partial ‘action’ and a game of tactics, so what happens when Impossible mission is much more tactical? As the altered phrase goes ‘You won’t stay a while, you’ll be there forever’ and if the gamer likes the challenge, why not?

All this within an hour (4:59 now), my job is done, time to see if my sawmill can start (the snore capacitor). Time to prepare for the weekend (after some Zzzzzzzzzzzzz).

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT

Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Science

It’s been that long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1 Comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Science

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Media

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Media, Science

Another online danger

It seems that we the consumers are soon in danger of being left out in the offline cold. You might not realise it, you might not even worry, but your money, your payments online are finite!

You see, not only are the events of last week troubling (not the UK election mind you), the consequence of allowing this to move forward unanswered could be a costly one.

With online presence there is the additional danger of non-online absence.

For this I will emphasize it with one example. The game is from Enix and the title is ‘Order of War: Challenge‘, if you had bought it from Steam, then you have a possible issue, because the game has been wiped of your account. Now, this is not a massive issue of today, this is an issue from the sheer point of view called ‘You paid for it!’ and now it is no more and you can never play it again. An important fact is that this issue played in 2013, so you might wonder what gives!

That is an excellent question. I for one would not care too much for Steam, I never did. Yet the issue of yesterday is now quickly progressing towards issues out today and even more important those who are out tomorrow and after that. This goes far beyond the wiping of a ‘Silent Hill Playable Demo’. Some changes are made because the circumstances changes, which is fair enough. That is not the true issue (even though the Silent Hill fans who missed out would be miffed).

The issue is found in the mobile and console games out now and more important those released after tomorrow.

Let me give you an example.

The mobile/Tables environment has a game called ‘Dungeon Keeper’. Many of those who loved that game when it was originally released on the PC went nuts the moment that game reappeared. Yet, in hindsight this new game was a massive failure on many levels. The game had actually destroyed the image the masterful game maker Peter Molyneux had built. The game is now all about delaying events and forcing people to make very expensive purchases online in the form of Gems. As micro transactions go, this game is the one example why micro transactions should be illegal. A nice view is given at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpdoBwezFVA. Yet compared to the pc edition of the second game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DJmS7prcmE), the mobile game is horrendous.

Now we have an additional side, I cannot tell when this happened, but several people (including me) have only had access to the game once in the last two weeks, there have been ongoing server connection issues. In light of the issues that have been mentioned in the past there is now a matter for other cause. You see, if there is an issue with a game, if you had purchased enough gems, the issue at hand is not just that you are forced to a server, the fact that the server is no longer there and the player can no longer play gives weight to the question whether there should be legal consequences for those eager to sell a micro transaction relying game. Can something offered as ‘freemium’ but will only work smoothly when purchases be made, should that game be allowed to be non-functional?  Should the makers not offer an offline side to the game? That is at the foundation of what is wrong. The danger of consumers paying for something that can be removed as soon as the exploiters no longer consider the product to be viable and it stops working for various reasons.

What are those reasons?

Well Dungeon Keeper is a first example. The fact that a server is down is one thing, the fact that the server cannot be reached for two weeks is an entirely other matter. Which leads us to the question, should games that only have online server options be allowed? Beyond that, when gameplay is removed, are those who paid for additional gaming experience be entitled to credit vouchers?

This is the loaded question because basically it is payment for a service, which should be regarded as temporary, however, was that clearly communicated to those buying the service? Now we have ourselves a different video game altogether!

You see, this part will be a growing issue as people are dependent on downloads and could storage of games that are not played on a daily basis. There is the added consideration that these providers never did anything wrong as they might have specified that in the terms of service, yet who reads them? This is not a business agreement, or isn’t it?

Let me move on (for now to another example).

Now we have (or better states we used to have) the PlayStation 3. It has the option of PSN and PlayStation Home. PlayStation Home was discontinued, but what about those people who have spent money for years on the locations there? There had always been an implied assumption that there would be PlayStation Home in PS4. Clearly implied is not correct, too many sources stated most options in silence. Then when the PS4 came it was initially incomplete and in 2014 the verdict was final, no PlayStation Home on the PS4. And recently PlayStation Home was also removed from the PlayStation 3. There was no fault here, there was never any clear agreement that PlayStation Home was to be ported to the PS4, but to lose it on PS3 would never be an acceptable option to those who like it.

I thought it was a cool place, it was partially useless, yet it had the option of being a playful marketing tool. Trailers, unlockable extra’s for games and so on, there were even a few decent games in that environment. Because it had channels so that people could chat, it was something that is out there that would forever be an option. Now it seems that Sony is mostly rejecting the social media, or it is partially doing that. PlayStation home is not the only place, the profiles are a second part, but here we are forced online and in an almost ‘anti-social network’ situation.

This is where the wheels come off the wagon, you see there is another side to all this!

This all links to the previous as there is a real danger that someone at some point will deactivate a service, then what? There is currently an uneven, unequal and a dangerous push to force people online. There is now a second part that has massive consequences for gamers on a global scale. I have made references with the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) before, and it seems that several other sources are now on the bandwagon regarding the dangers here, gaming is only one aspect (and not even close to the biggest one, but because of the global setting of gamers a lot easier to spot). It is not just the ‘profile’ issue, that is the least of it all, but it is a driving force around it. More important, the cost of being ‘online’ could soon be another matter altogether.

It would be too simple to state that the TPP is just a bad consequence of a group of utterly incompetent politicians, mostly staying presently at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but that would be not entirely correct either. You see, their inadequacies resulted in a group of industrials to change the premise on Digital Rights Management (DRM) on a massive scale. For the most, I have mixed feelings. I believe that it is perfectly legit for a corporation to protect their product from being illegally copied. Now, the internet providers (ISP’s) are all about bandwidth, so as such, they like people who copy movies, they love it even better when people copy Blu-rays, because 100,000,000 people going for 2-3 blu-rays every night is a massive amount of bandwidth. There is to the smaller extent that a DRM is all about setting up who can legally use something and who cannot, but that seems to be the smallest tip of the iceberg.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald gives us ‘http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/politicalnews/trans-pacific-partnership-will-push-medicine-prices-up-review-finds-20150303-13sxty.html‘. This is not entirely correct, but not wrong either. If we take this quote “The leaked treaty text also reveals new American and Japanese proposals designed to enhance the ability of pharmaceutical manufacturers to extend and widen their patents on drugs and medicines“, it is the word ‘extend’ that is the issue. Because some pharmaceuticals are all about prolonging, we see more and more new patent additions to give any drug a longer exclusivity, which means that generic medication will be less and less of an option. There is in addition the quote “Jeffrey Bleich, accused Australian consumers of habitually stealing copyrighted content and of being some of the worst offenders with amongst the highest piracy rates … in the world“, that statement makes Jeffrey Bleich an idiot to some degree (not the worst he’s ever been called), because his peers in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden say exactly the same and he should properly investigate these matters before making those statements.

Now, he was not being too bright (or massively misinformed) and a mere voicer for large corporations, which is to some degree his job I reckon, but he could have been a smudge more thoughtful in that regard. You see, the American side has been utterly stupid for a long time. Because it was always American first, then ‘whomever is left’! We have seen that in Movies, Music and games. Although music not as much. It started in the mid 80’s when Greed took over and American corporations were utterly clueless on global corporate actions from day one. I am not just talking about Games, or movies (even though they are the most visible ones). No the utter consumer disrespect shown by Ashton-Tate, IBM, Lotus Development Corporation, Oracle, Novell and Adobe was beyond belief in those days. You would actually look forward to meeting with Macromedia, WordPerfect and Corel to see that humanity in IT was an option. Now many of them changed tunes over time, the movie and games industry stayed behind for a long time, it is only recently that the US is seeing that the money of their blockbusters are coming from outside the US in some cases in excess of 75%. Now we have ourselves a ballgame! Now we see the shift some are making, but in other ways.

You see, there is a reason why some people have an aversion to buying a game at 40%-70% more. In my early days, I had no options, a game advertised in the American magazines at $19.95 would cost me $69, that’s a not so nice 300%, so America changed the environment from the very beginning. Even today, Australian gamers will pay 40%-70% more for a new game. Now, we will see casual mention on how it is all about shipping. Well guess again. PSN (PS4) was offering games on day one in a shop for $89, On Amazon it was $59 and guess what, the download in Australia was priced at $99.

How do these elements link?

There are two parts. First the quote by Julian Assange “The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies“. It is actually not that far a stretch, you only need to consider the legal disagreements between Apple and Samsung to see the dangers here.

After which the following claim is made “The leaked text shows that this agreement is more about corporate power than “free trade”. Investor-state dispute settlement is really a form of corporate sovereignty“. That part can be found here (at https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/WikiLeaks-TPP-Investment-Chapter/page-1.html).

Basically, in there you can find the issue “where foreign firms can ‘sue’ states and obtain taxpayer compensation for ‘expected future profits’“, this now reverts back to the earlier mention of games, movies and especially music. A false dimension of revenue has been maintained by corporate ‘baboons’, claiming ‘loss of revenue’. Relying on incomplete information from Napster, Kazaa and a few others players in the peer to peer networking solution. They basically went on the premise, one download means one sale lost. I believe that this was never a reality. People might download and listed, but would never have bought the bulk of it in the first case. That same premise of certain lacks is seen when we see the quote “Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled his intention to introduce more stringent copyright laws to crack down on online piracy“. In that regard the attorney general does not seem to strike too high on the academic scale of logic (on any given day for that matter). I posted an article on September 10th 2014 called ‘Changing topics?‘, in there the issue is better shown, you see it is not just about copyright, because that could have been dealt with quite easily. It was about Malcolm Turnbull’s anti-piracy forum. You see, if copyright was truly the issue, which would have been easy. But in that event the words ‘revenue‘ and ‘bandwidth‘ were very much skated around. Telstra was extremely cautious (and eager) to steer clear of that because in the case of Telstra, monitoring bandwidth, people actually stopping copying movies will cost Telstra billions! Now we see the consequence!

You see, America is figuring out that it cannot deal with its own ISP’s and they definitely cannot deal with the others like Telstra, Tele 2, Com Hem, KPN, TDC and a few others. They are doing it stepwise and the TPP will give them some options. Now back to that term that is laughingly referred to as ‘expected future profits‘.

One source states: “Losses to Video Game Makers Due to Piracy: $8.1 Billion“, based on what numbers? ISP’s state they cannot monitor. Then we get “Pirated Software Impact to Businesses: $63 Billion“. Again on what premise and how?

Well the first one gives us: “Video game piracy of hand-held games leads to the loss of about $8.1 Billion a year, as losses due to pirating of Sony PSP and Nintendo DS games between 2004 and 2009 lead to worldwide losses of nearly $42 Billion“. Here we see an interesting side. These are only two consoles. More important, these consoles have again and again limited legitimate access to games released in US and Japan again and again. So is this truly about piracy, or is the decision as seen here “Monster Hunter 3rd is the best-selling PSP game ever in Japan with 4,780,000 copies sold. Its PS3 HD remaster sold an excellent 500,000 copies as well, yet neither version is scheduled for an international release“. By the way, is the maker not guilty of discrimination? Let me be frank, I will not and have never condoned pirated games. I believe in getting a game and playing the original (I rarely buy games, so when I do, I will go for the VIP options that an original game brings). So, is this about piracy, or about segregation?

That part is harder to prove in the business case. The source “Business Software Alliance, “2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study,” May 2012” is an issue. I cannot be certain how they got to $63 billion, but with so many illegal versions of Office, that number seems a lot more plausible. It is funny that there, US and China are the biggest transgressors representing a little less than one third of the entire lost stack. The UK is set at 1.9 billion and Australia less than a billion, yet how were these numbers achieved, through ‘rough’ estimation perhaps?

Now we get to the monkey’s banana moment “Losses due to Music Piracy: $12.5 Billion“, which is stated “According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)“, yes, they wanted the number to be as high as possible, because it made bad productions and louse representatives look a little better. In addition, some of these numbers cannot be decently vouched for in any way, shape or form. It boils down to well over 500 million CD’s, in a numbers game that number on a population of 7 billion seems small, but here is the kicker, that same source had the following, which I found illuminating: “In a survey of over 6,000 people in Finland between the ages of 7 to 84, researchers found that on average each person who downloaded pirated content online had about 2,900 pirated music files and 90 pirated movie files. The researchers who conducted the study believes that downloaders have more music files is due to the ease of downloading pirated music. According to the study, downloading movie files require faster internet speeds, more digital storage space, as well as a higher technological ability to playback movies“.

The term ‘each person’ now becomes really interesting, because 90 movies boils down to 360 Gb, and 2900 songs come to an rough (very rough) estimation of 14.5 Gb. A person downloading that much would be visible on the ISP counter. You see, you buy bandwidth monthly and downloading this much, as well as watching online and perhaps stuff they no longer have, you are looking at $80 a month, however, only 6 years ago, I paid $70 for 25Gb. you see how the picture changes? That is centre here. By the way, if you think that 25 Gb is little, consider that I have only hit that maximum once during my entire contract with my ISP and that was because on a Friday my system decided to update Windows 7, Office 2013 and my Adobe Master collection, which was quite the resource drain that evening.

Your online presence is now a danger in more than one way. In the first more and more ‘providers’ are forcing us to save on the cloud, forcing us using bandwidth. Now, I understand the first download, but many systems are now gearing towards less memory and more reliant on cloud drives. Which was my issue with the Microsoft Xbox One even before that system was launched.  Are those not streamed services? More important, my issue there was that once a service is disconnected, would we just lose it all overnight? Consider your movie and TV series collection. What happens when your old versions of Star Trek, Dexter and Game of Thrones are discontinued?

In addition, if online presence is essential for our services to run, how will that be monitored? I only need to refer to the Sony hack, to give you a first fright that certain owned items could be lost by a mere scripted command. Again, a situation the consumer is not ready and not prepared for. Now, in the case of PlayStation Home, there is some understanding that certain services will be lost, could a local copy have solved it? (I am asking, not telling). There are unresolved issues, mainly because the new technologies move so fast and to be quite honest, some considerations are new, we never had to make them before. We the consumer must accept that some parts are lost to us at some point. Yes, I loved HERO on the Atari 2600, but to expect that game to function 30 years later is not that realistic either. In that regard, we have attached to software (especially games) to the same extent we hold onto a book. They are not the same, which is a simple reality.

But the dangers of online remain, or do they? In that regard, the issues I raise are mostly about time. We see the failing of a game and losing out on what we spend within a year totally unacceptable, yet in that same notion, we should find peace in the notion that nothing lasts, it is all a mere matter of time. Yet, there we see a partial solution, we cannot realistically expect the provider to give ‘eternal’ support, but is a local version (no servers) after a while, or before the service is pulled a possible solution? That I have yet to see and it is not that far-fetched, because in the end, with the amounts of products and the change of IP, that part is slowly but certainly becoming an essential step to consider, especially in light for the business model of any software corporation. Consider you the player with your game of Halo, or Gears of War. I reckon that at some point, you will accept that online mode falls away, but how would you feel is the single player option falls away too, especially if you still have the console or PC to run it on?

A gaming dimension that will fall away at some point, but are we ready to let go of those moments? Now consider that your console/PC can no longer link to the service, even though you have the original disc. In the new DRM, it is entirely possible that no online verification means no playing the game. This is the certainty that we face and the TPP will push us there a lot faster than you realise. Should you doubt any of the last part, then consider the site gog.com. It holds some of the most brilliant games ever created (sold at very low prices), people still revere these games and many of them (especially the original dungeon keeper) will find a place in the heart of gamers. Moreover, several of these would make fine console games when adapted (higher graphics in most cases). I believe that the MSDOS Dungeon Keeper could be a hit 3DS game (like many other games on that site), even today.

Gaming is not about the latest game (decent graphics and sound aside) it is about joy and the games on that site are most pure joy to play.

Now you might all think that this is about games and many of you readers do not care about games, but now consider that same step when you look at your Office 365 account and the fact that you are pushed away from a version that works perfect for you (like the nightmare Office 2007 users faced in the past). There is an abundance of programs that offer a similar scary outlook.

Now translate this to collections you do care about. Your music, your TV shows, perhaps even your digital books. Do not take the word of those stating that it will not happen, because it will, it has happened in the past, it is happening now and it will happen in the future. The DVD and book on your shelf are a touchable item, that part is (if you treat them properly) secure, something online can be lost by merely removing a server or damaging its data. If someone states that this can never happen, then look at Sony, they experienced that event first hand.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Law, Media, Politics