Tag Archives: EA

What if they redid it?

I got lucky last week. I stumbled upon Cash converters with a Mass Effect Andromeda (for Xbox One) for $2, even as I had the PS4 edition, replaying it for $2 was just too nice to pass up. There was another reason to not get it for any more than that. I was hugely disappointed with the game. The makers were holding a huge pastry in front of us, only to offer a mere outdated carrot in the end. Still, the graphics were nice, the game remains flawed on several levels and the goals are for the most too linear.

It was at that moment that my mind redesigned the game again (I did that exercise after I finished the PS4 edition). And I wondered about the one question that needed answering. What if I created Mass Effect Andromeda 2 (MEA2), whilst upgrading the first game from a 72% game to a 91% game or better, would you replay it?

In this stage the game would be 3 discs with the first game (mostly), the second disc would be the Nexus and the third disc would be the second game called Mass Effect Andromeda: Debellatio.

First off, the first game would end up being twice the size, the entire memory segments part would be on the Hyperion alone, the Hyperion would be roughly 20 times the current version, whilst the playable part of the Nexus is 10 times larger and the view makes it 200 times the size. The missions of the first game would remain (there would be more of them) and the story would be amped up to give a larger storyline to the Kett, the scourge as well as the Angara. The question is: Would you seriously consider playing it again?

I believe that this could work. The game would be massive on the consoles (200GB), yet the stage created would give close to 200 hours of gameplay. The original touched on great topics and then let them simmer, which was a waste on a few levels. Still, there is really good material to work with and if the maps are enlarged by well over 50% it becomes more of an exploration. We could also fix the flaws in the first version by making the second tier (after the vault is restarted) a lot more challenging and rewarding. The mining part required upgrades, so that there is a direct link in building the nexus and completing it linking it to the resources found and mined. These are all elements that add to the game and add requirements to the need of exploration.

Lastly, the arks, all 4 (with an optional 5th) will be found by the end of the second game, making it part of the main storyline and not some DLC. Consider these elements and ask yourself, would you buy a game at $160 that offers all that? I believe it would, especially when the multiplayer part is upgraded to a Mass Effect 3 level. It could be a new wave of multiplayer hungry admirers, it will of course come with the guarantee that I get to cut off the head of any EA executive that messes with that concept or forces the buying of loot boxes, the Mass Effect 3 formula was utterly perfect, so let’s not ever mess with that again.

It took a mere hour to consider the steps that could get this game from 71% to 91%, and I get it, there are budgets to consider. The question becomes what does an EA executive see as the difference of a budget toward a 70% game versus the one delivering a 90%+ game? I wonder if they can really set a number to that. Consider that the first version was staged by a budget of C$100 million, which included marketing and research costs, whilst I designed in my mind improvements over a mere cappuccino. There is a benefit of having been a part of gaming since 1985, and I believe that I know what pushes a decent game to a great game. If the EA/BioWare executives make that claim, I wonder why they failed the first time, whilst they had 3 examples in front of them and they owned the IP of it.

Even as Forbes gave us in 2017 ‘EA Is Now Singing Mass Effect Andromeda’s Praises As A Revenue Driver‘, yes it is true, but the bulk of all these were people who had played the previous games and hoped for a glimmer of greatness. And a revenue driver sounds nice, but if it cannot be repeated it becomes lost IP, and who ever won a war by losing its IP?

The important part was that the combat part did not suck, it was a good combat system and that is at the core of the success that was and the greatness it could be. There is also a business case to be made, as Anthem is seen as a failure by more and more, we need to recognise that EA desperately needs a win, one that will allow them to be regarded as an AAA developer. The news ‘BioWare Loses Lead Producers for Both Dragon Age 4 and Anthem‘ that got out two weeks ago supports the placement that Bioware (EA as well) are no longer the high end developers they used to be. It is about business and profit at the expense of gaming, a disastrous formula well beyond twice over. I would go as far as stating that until these two players do not learn that lesson, they have lost their ability as an actual game maker.

The fact that there are options for both EA and Bioware is merely a stroke of luck on their part, hugely due to the previous designers who did do an excellent job, even now, one generation later Mass Effect 2 is still seen as one of the best games ever to grace the Xbox 360, moreover, the Xbox One has only produced games that equalled it, optionally with the exception of Assassins Creed Origin, a game that did break all the records.

And even now when we realise that a few months ago we got ‘EA ‘learned a lot’ from Anthem but doesn’t apologize‘ gives us the larger stage, we don’t need their apology, we need them to make an actual game (if they still can, and sport games do not count).

Yet the premise remains, what if the first MEA is added to the second and upgraded, would you pay for it, and would you play it? I personally believe it to be the case, especially when you realise the amount of times the first two games were played to be a nice and a naughty Shepard, optionally 4 times if you wanted to do it all for the ‘he’ as well as the ‘she’ version of the game. The groundwork was decent, but too largely unfinished and the amount of stages where the game failed on a few levels was just mind boggling, Mass Effect 3 had a few of these issues, but not as much, and they were less irritating I might add.

Why?

All gamers (including me) we yearn for the high of really good gaming and we want that feeling again and again. It is not just the sound of the achievement; the feeling of getting to the end of the game; and not to forget the entire journey to get to the end. We will go through great lengths to get that feeling again and again, hence the power of the Franchise, even after 5 partial failures, AC Origin made up for that and for the most we feel really happy that we got to that point. Ubisoft has seen this personally, EA might say that they learned, but it is still unlikely that they actually did. For the most EA became a pool of business graduates and there is nothing against that group, yet the business is gaming and not spreadsheets. You might want to keep it for your numbers, yet profit is no valid KPI of joy, the KPI of joy is excellence, it always was joy, Elder Scrolls, Ultima, Fallout, Dark Souls, Witcher, and God of War, not to forget the latest new RPG franchise Horizon Zero Dawn. They all know that excellence is what keeps you in profit, EA (optionally Bioware) forgot about that part and now they are bleeding, the amount of damage cannot be seen, it can only be seen in how they survive and whilst they think that profit and margins are the most important, these two players will miss the ball again and again. This is such a shame because before 2016 the Mass Effect franchise was a great achievement, the question becomes are the makers ready to fight for greatness?

Gamers care for that and even as we realise that others are vying for our attention and our allegiance, they now see that the time of options like Anthem is transient at best, the fact that gamers are willing to pay full price for a well-made remaster of the original three, even now after 10 years is the part that matters. You either rely on old games for a little while or you up the ante. It is at Ubisoft where we see that optionally become reality, even now, as far as we can tell, they went all out on Watchdogs 3: Legion and so far all the response is raving, and the fan club of those wanting to play it in the first hour is still growing non-stop, even after its initial view several months ago. Watchdogs had a speckled past, but they upped their game in the second game and it seems that now, in the third game they up it all in a very different and very novel way, the path a gamer did not see coming, the most enticing drug of all, the surprise path, EA and Bioware should learn from that.

It is important to learn and important to up the game because serious games do that and they are up against a larger community of games, games that will include Cyberpunk 2077, God of War 5, an optional Horizon Zero Dawn 2, Watchdogs 3, all games that have (seemingly) upped gaming and both EA and Bioware will be up against it. If they are to be considered an AAA developer they have to equal and surpass that opposition, a lesson that business graduates often did not learn, it might mirror the US stupidity in the Middle East, it is based on the American standard of ‘Money talks, Bullshit walks‘ it is there that the middle east policy failure shows it for what it is. It is the same in gaming, you need to flaunt it, but to do that, you have got to have it, there is no other way and business graduates are too often of the path: ‘Fake it till you make it‘, it merely keeps you afloat in an ocean of gamers, all well versed swimmers mind you.

I have seen excellence in gaming since 1984, I can recognise it almost instantly and it is not linked to micro transactions. I saw the excellence of Elite on a CBM64 in 1985, is still lives today as Elite Dangerous, 30 years later it creates a large following of over 4 million gamers, not a bad result. There were more games and there are even games that are successes and I missed them, I cannot be everywhere. Yet I have never failed to spot good games and I have seen the path to improve bad games several times. I believe that the Mass Effect Andromeda franchise could be resurrected as a great game; I wonder how far Bioware and EA are willing to go to make that happen.

 

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Heaven is coming

Last weekend some (including me partially) decided to look at the Deep Dive Video of the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 release. The video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FknHjl7eQ6o) gives fair warnings, and to be honest, I initially decided to not watch all of it. Not because of anything negative. What I saw blew me away in several ways. If you think that CD Project Red broke the mold with Witcher 3, think again, I am watching something that could establish a totally new level of gaming excellence in RPG, optionally an entirely new level of gaming experience altogether. The video gives two play styles, direct and brutal, as well as stealth and hacking. It also gives caution that footage was edited to minimise spoilers, you get to see an advanced stage of the game, seeing characters ahead of schedule, and so I stopped watching soon thereafter the first time around. The little I saw overwhelmed me. This is what gaming excellence looks like; this is what EA, Ubisoft and several others never learned. To get a game this perfect takes time and even now in pre beta mode, this game surpasses anything brought to gaming before. If the story surpasses God of War 4 (and I have no doubt it might) this could optionally be the game of the decade.

The little I saw was that amazing at present; I watched a little more second time around and saw a little more and a lot I never expected. It is in part the Netrunner side that has so many options and both sides that have so much freedom that this game is not merely a game; it is what some might regard replay heaven, two different sides with different ways to get from one place to another. It seems that CD Project Red has taken time to maximise this world.

I would love to know how William Gibson values this game (the writer of the original Neuromancer), I wold love to see him play this game anywhere and comment on the game and how it aligns with his cyberpunk vision (he is after all the father of cyberpunk). I got into his book when EA created Neuromancer, that game on CBM64 was my introduction to Cyberpunk, so to see that concept mature in Cyberpunk 2077 into something beyond I thought possible, and the fact that any game could surpass the expectations of the imagination of any person to this degree is pretty much unheard of.

Yet, that is how it seems to unfold. For the most I will avoid spoilers to the max and I will when commenting on the game, it will be to the engine and control of gameplay and avoid (whenever possible) leaving any spoilers untouched. I believe that games like this require that as a game unfolds shaping the story, the way I saw it as an option also implies that one person’s spoiler is not another one, the implied impact of solo person (visceral combat) versus netrunner (hacker stealth) could be that large and it is rare to see that unfold. There is one additional part and that makes me happy. Cyberpunk is expected to be released 5 months after Death Stranding and that makes me happy (I feel certain that Kojima agrees), never before has Kojima faced an opponent on his level of gaming experience. The fact that there is genuine concern whether Death Stranding (Kojima) or Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Project RED) is the best is a new level of gaming. Never before was there any competitor going up against Kojima at the same time. The fact that CD Project RED could seemingly equal and optionally surpass Japanese gaming excellence is a new bar on gaming standards and it has been set to the highest possible level, the final days of XB1 and PS4 are going to be awesome, especially in 4K, what a way to end a console cycle!

Be properly alerted that only non-gamers and those who cannot game would avoid these two titles, or better stated the titles that will be on their system only (Death Stranding is exclusive PS4), and let’s not forget that as it seems to be now, the makers of Witcher 3 surpassed what they did there and that game ended up being a 93% result. A stronger message towards Ubisoft to focus more clearly on gaming excellence could not exist.

 

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Victimising criminals

OK, this is not the latest news. I got the news 2 days ago, but I was slightly too angry to deal with Zoe Kleinman directly. It all started with ‘My son spent £3,160 in one game‘, the headline was already an indication that I was dealing with a stupid person, which in itself is not a crime, yet when we are given: “I have a 22 year-old disabled son, who has cerebral palsy, complex epilepsy, autism, learning difficulties and the approximate cognitive ability of a seven-year-old child. He is unable to do any bilateral activities so relies heavily on his iPad and PlayStation for entertainment and educational activities

Yes, there is always some excuse and the dog ate my homework is right there on top reasoning here. ‘He has recently been playing a game on his iPad called Hidden Artifacts‘, yes this is part one and part 2 is “He has been charged £3160.58 between 18 February and 30 May 2019, clearing out his entire savings“.
It is an interesting excuse because the question: ‘How do I block purchases on my iPad?‘ is answered in three steps:

  1. On the iOS device, open the Settings screen. Tap General, and then tap Restrictions.
  2. Tap the option to Enable Restrictions. Enter and then re-enter a Restrictions passcode.
  3. By default, all of the apps and services are allowed. To disallow in-app purchases, tap on its button.

So, people can download free games, play free games, but cannot spend money to purchase. The fact that this is not a new answer but it has been there for years, moreover, I still have the very first iPad and the functionality is there too makes this a bit of a cry story. Unlike the previous story on FIFA (which I am about to get to), this was about a person’s savings and as the person is in the described situation, it could have been prevented if the parents were more on the ball, the fact that there is no casual investigation of his bank account on a weekly basis, to check if nothing funny was going on is also a parental failure to some degree.

The basic foundation that there is no ‘free’ in free gaming does not appear to sink in to the minds of people who think that gaming should be free, there is always a price to pay, it is either through captured data, or it will be through micro transactions. We can agree that many do not use that option, and they will stop soon thereafter as the frustration algorithm kicks in making the game harder and harder. Some will spend some cash and then there are a few that go overboard. Yet in all this the makers did nothing legally wrong, they should have set the limit to max spending to look better, but they did nothing wrong, the parents failed in this case and the parents keep on failing to a much larger degree.

It is the second part that is more striking. We are introduced to EA NBA, where we get: “He used my bank card and I didn’t realise until I had a payment declined. He accessed the app via Google Play. EA made no response to me and Google Play has a disclaimer about kids using parents’ bank details without permission“, so this 16 year old stole from his parents and the parents lets the other kid pay for it. OK, that was slightly unfair, but the case remains, this is a simple case of theft and EA has no blame here.

Yet there is another side, and it is found in the same article by Zoe Kleinman. Even as the stage is almost the same, in one case, the case of that dastardly Mini Golf King, we see an important fact that is important. The game was classified as PEGI 3, now we have something to slap the makers (and Google) with. The law could force a change that in game purchasing cannot be allowed to games that are below PEGI 12, so the games that are PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 should not have any in game transactions, other than rewards for watching advertisement. In this the Pan European Game Information failed its consumers miserably and that could have been avoided. Although I am willing to put some question marks at the quote: “this game successfully tricked him into spending £300 on in-app purchases“, the stage of deceptive conduct towards minors should be investigated by PEGI and Google, if it is supported the game should be barred and pulled, also, the change towards PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 should be made immediately. We can definitely argue that these two PEGI ratings (with a green background, to make it seem safer) should not have anything resembling in game purchases, other than optional additions that much be bought at a one-time price (like mulligan refresh every 24 hours), I am certain that parents will have no issue adding the £1-5 as a one-time expense. The truth is that no game is ever free and that should be advocated much louder.

FIFA

Yup time to go back to FIFA, there are two points, the first thing is that you cannot make EA guilty by victimising your little criminal. Although in this particular setting there is a sage of doubt whether they were fully aware, but it seems that they knew they did something wrong. As we see: “Mr Carter, from Hampshire, admits that he did not take full precautions to limit access to his Nintendo account: he did not use a unique Pin number and the emailed receipts were sent to an old email address with a full inbox“, I am on the side of the parent to some degree. Yes, this was an error in judgement and we all have them, I for one once fell for the witch Teresa Palmer until I learned that she married the actual original Scott Pilgrim 5 years ago. You see that is a guy who went up against the world to get one girl, I salute him, to the victor goes the spoils, and as I looked into the eyes of that witch one more time (they were sapphire blue, sniff sniff) I moved on.

We all make errors in judgement to the father I advice that never use a credit card, just buy some credit for the game, you can buy system credit for Nintendo Switch for Microsoft Xbox, and for Sony PlayStation, ranging from £20 to £50, you can buy in game stuff, renew subscriptions, buy DLC and at no time are your credit card details out in the open. All five (Apple and Google have that too) they had this option from almost the very beginning and it allows you to limit expenses and keep your details safe, a solution that works well, most articles never mentioned that part, did they?

Then there is the other part, where we see all the fire and hardship on kids trying to buy Lionel Messi, all criminals that are being victimised. And I particularly like it on how the BBC phrases it: ‘the contents are only revealed after payment is completed‘, it makes the BBC equally deceptive. When I see phrases like: “A 32-year-old FIFA player from the UK spent more than $10000 on FIFA in two years without realizing it“, I merely see a stupid individual that has no concept of purchase, no concept of value and no regard for credit cards (or his credit rating), he was his own worst enemy and he is not alone, in all that EA was not to blame, we are responsible for our actions.

Explain!

I myself am not a soccer fan, I always saw it as two monkeys in a cage and 20 fools chasing some ball, OK this is not my most eloquent moment, I admit. I am into real games (NHL) and the FIFA card setting is there too, yet like in the other games there might be differences between these two.

As I know it, FIFA gives a daily gift though logging in: “Every day you do it, you get free coins or a free pack. If you forget to log in you lose the offer of that day. The daily gift expires every day at midnight (UK time) and then it starts a new one“, it is different from NHL where you get a free pack every 8 hours. However, every pack has a token, and over a month these tokens give you a bronze, a silver pack and a gold pack. Every pack will have something and a random amount of coins between 100 and 1250 coins (largest amount I ever got). Within 3 months I had every NHL jersey (both home and away), every stadium, as well as all the NHL goalie masks and of course a truck load of players. Over time I got the jerseys from the Canadian League and a few more and I never had to spend anything. I could, but did not have to do that. On the other side, I have no real legendary players to speak off (I have around a dozen 90+ players), none of the Capitals (My favourite team). Am I upset? No! I have a great game that is fun to play, some parts I do not like, but plenty are great fun and NHL 19 is the best of them all (some dekes are just too finicky, I did not like that part), but overall a great game. I reckon that FIFA is similar. In addition, by playing the game, I unlock coins (no charge) and players, OK you need to get your game up, but those players come at no expense. Now there is a part I did not like in FIFA, you can buy an ultimate addition, which was $10-$20 more at the beginning, however it was digital only and it did include 2 gold packs a week for 20 weeks, each pack had 26 cards, 3 rare cards and a minimum of 6 players that times 2 every week for 20 weeks, so it is worth the extra, I merely hate digital downloads (this is just me), there is of course always a side to nag about and that is fair, but it is still value (for some) and more important it is not gambling!

How so, no gambling?

To explain this, we need to make two jumps, the first is to card games this entire concept was started by Wizards of the Coast with a game called Magic. In case of their other game Netrunner we see a box are 36 packs, each pack has one rare, 4 uncommon cards and 10 common cards. Consider that the game has 374 cards, 100 rare, 125 uncommon and 149 common cards. So in that setting 3 booster boxes, would make a complete set, the truth is no, but for the most it fits. 36 rare cards and three boxes means 108 rare cards, yet you will get doubles, so you need to find another person to switch rare cards and complete your set. The math also plays a part, you have one rare, but 1% of a chance (1/100) to get a specific rare, and in the end you get 108 times 1% (which is not 108%) to get a specific complete set. In this case the amount of uncommon and common cards you get will be completed 98% for certain (commons 100% complete). There is a chance you might miss out on 1-5 uncommon cards, but they are usually easy to swap, it is the rare cards that make for the difference.

So, why is it not gambling?

Because you always win, you always get cards and you always get the same distribution, so those with plenty of fellow friends who play will get their collection complete, it is not the one player buying the three boxes, it is the 50 players doing that who play the same game that level the playing field. It becomes gambling when the booster pack is empty and you only get a ‘thank you card‘, that never happens, you always got the 15 cards and the same can be said for FIFA and NHL. The packs you buy will always have a distribution, have certain content. the fact that it might not have Messi, Pele, Cruijf, Beckham or Bale, but you get players, players that you can trade, yet there will always be an issue, not every player will get a Messi, there are 211 countries connected to FIFA, 11 players per team, which gives us 2321 players. Now we get it that not all countries are in FIFA 19, but you are starting to get the picture, if every nation has 2 legendary players, or one player and one goalie, we are looking at one hell of a collection you need. And FIFA 19 is true to its word, it has 30 leagues and over 700 playable teams, so we have a setting of well over 1400 players that the bulk will want and desire. Now, we get that Scandinavians have no interest in some of the Latin teams, but you bet your life that they all want the classical Pele (nowadays Suarez/Maradona) card. This creates another mess on a few levels and even as it is not gambling there is a collector’s pressure in play.

Media is guilty, EA too

The media is also guilty of propelling this pressure, not in the least with the accusations and pressing for a larger visibility of criminals being placed as victims, the game intensifies when you look at the hundreds of YouTubers adding pressures for their own need for visibility following and reputation. You merely have to search FIFA 19 in YouTube to see the mess it creates by the vocals of subjectivity on what they think is fair and not, what is sic and mundane. This all creates an unreal dimension of fake imagination. And in all this EA tries to create hype after hype and becomes the evil it should be preventing. In addition, we see a lack of exposure by the media on that part on a few levels.

So as we look at the origin of CCG cards, we learn from the very beginning that these games all have checklists, so that you know what you have, and what you are missing. EA never gave out that list; as such they are propelling the stage that works against them. Not one list of what cards there are, merely what is optionally in a pack. EA should have been clear upfront on which cards are in the game, and they have (as far as I can tell) never done that, yet when they propagate their 700 teams, they should have added digital checklists and on which players are bronze, silver and gold and we do not see that part. EA failed its fans!

EA should have set up a Wiki page from day one, giving us lists too download so that we can see what is what, but they also realise that the list will blow he socks off every player realising the daunting task and there for did not do that (as far as I could tell). That is perhaps the one deceptive part on the side of EA as I can tell.

So why the card reference?

The origins are important, it makes us comprehend where it all came from and in this specific case, Wizards of the Coast, there is also another side, it is seen with the game Netrunner.

That game was re-released as Android Netrunner with a big difference. The starter kits and expansions are all identical. So as you buy an expansion you got all the cards, no rare cards, no uncommon cards and no common cards, the base set has a set and the expansions (one box with 60 cards) ever month, so as long as you had the expansion, you had every card and you all had a level playing field, even as some tactics would never require any additions, having the additions allowed for tactical options you might really like. So as EA switches from one set to another, selling a factory set of KNVB (Dutch), AllSvenskan (Swedish), BundesLiga (German) and so on, the national players could get all the players for let’s say €5 for country and down the track for €10, European, Latin America, Asia, Africa and so on. Yet the money in this shape is too inviting and EA is unlikely to change, yet we can force on part, for EA to set up an open list of every card that can be acquired, consumables, outfits players and so on. When the player realises how huge this list is, it might temper spending and change the way these games are addressed. I remain on the fence and denouncing this as gambling, but the fact on how many cards there are should be clearly stated, so far I cannot see a real comprehensive list anywhere. The media failed us all by not looking at that part. Even as there is a FUT database giving us: “The EA SPORTS FUT Database is a complete catalogue of Players in FUT. You can search for Players by their nationality“, I want to see a pdf with a complete list (which will be hundreds of pages I reckon), so that every player see clearly what they are in for, not some implied number, but a complete list to browse, when they all realise just how large it is and how insane it is to think you ever get all the players, or a specific legendary one, at that point it will clearly sink in how much money is involved. The EA site (at https://www.easports.com/au/fifa/ultimate-team/fut/database) does give you the option to search the ‘gold list’ and that does merely give the total of 2189 players and 220 goalies that are golden cards that make up for merely that part of the list, yet a better visibility of exactly how large that list is seems absent in many places that are so bound to push for the gambling tag.

So tell me, what media gave proper light to that part of the equation?

I am not saying that EA cannot sell cards, I still think it is not gambling, but the completionist part will never be realistic and that too is a problem, we might not have all players at our back and call, not in FIFA, not in NHL, but pushing for a dream team in a $90 game, when it requires $12,000 to get every player is equally insane and not realistic. We should add the limelight to that too. Yet I do remain on the team that does not call this gambling and EA might consider to create a factory set of all these players (non-tradeable) after 6 months of initial release, if they truly want to be seen as a decent company, a phase that they are still in denial off at present.

So we have plenty of issues, but to a decent extent they are not the gaming baba-yega, at least not when it comes to FIFA and NHL, other games might require deeper scrutiny and optionally an overhaul.

 

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The shows on E3 (part one)

Jedi Fallen order, which looked pretty amazing, I saw several parts, a few questions did rise, but as this is merely a pre alpha part, I will wait until there is a final version. It did what it had to do, amazed gamers and as such Fallen Order succeeded 100%. A little additional caption is that the droid is the cutest Star Wars droid ever.

There was more Battlefield 5, FIFA and Madden 20 and Sims 4. Basically more of the same and for the fans of that type of game, that is good. With FIFA it came across as a lot of bla bla consistency bla bla technical improvement on one on one with keeper bla bla bla. OK, I am not a FIFA fan (no soccer fan either), what I took from the game that the claimed in game capture did look better than previous versions of FIFA. Graphically all these games looked top notch, there is no denying that.

Madden_Cover_SocialI will not touch it further was my initial setting; however that was before the Madden 20 presentation was given. There we see a lot more than just good graphics.

Abilities, X-Zone, The fact that a signature is linked to one quarterback is not just a game changer, it makes for choices to stage the gameplay you want and then you still need to be good enough to make that play. It will raise the game and to get such a surprise after 20 years of Madden is pretty impressive. So, ever as EA did not have a lot to offer, what they offered was up there.

Still, when we look at the overall part EA did not overwhelm, and with one actual new game (Fallen Order), it seems that there is not a lot to look forward to, in my case the absence of NHL20 is a little lame, but that is the nature of the game. With a presentation set around 6 titles where 4 are merely expansions or annual renewals gives us not a lot to work with. The presentation was too much of a ‘Yo Bro!‘ gig, which is a choice. Overall I will give that presentation a solid 70%.

Next will be Microsoft and after that Bethesda so this article will be updated on Tuesday.

 

 

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Comprehension amok

We get it, some games are flawed, and some games go for the image of coolness and fail. We heard it well over 12,324 times, through articles and YouTube videos. Anthem, a game that is not bad is a failure. Some have a deeper idea, was this due to EA, or to Bioware? The issue is that the makers were no beginners. Bioware, the people behind the Mass Effect series, Dragon Age and a few more had a great track record. Even now, Mass Effect 2 is still one of the very best games to make it to any console ever, which is some achievement, and it remains a factor, even today.

Some give the decent feedback ‘a cool looking game that is not bad, but it is not getting us where we want to be‘. I can get along with it. Then I got a hold of a slide which is more important than you might ever realise. Another quote that matters is: ‘Anthem is an example of EA’s monetisation plans in action‘, we now have two settings that can easily make a game go from acceptable to really really bad. This matters when it is not merely a game you buy, but when it becomes Gaming As A Service. The issue is not how much you pump into it; it is how right you need to get it the first time over. They dropped one optional solution to it (not part of this conversation) and focussed on the artificially created Hype called Anthem.

I had seen issues with Destiny, so I was giving this game a wide birth until the game had proven itself and within 24 hours, the massive amount of complaints starting to hit the internet in close to every way possible. I was actually decently amazed how neutral and how considerate some reviewers were. the AngryJoeShow was its usual self, but for mere entertainment watching it is still the first step to consider, I do to see where haters come from, and he does not disappoint (a https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AJsKyh0x7w). When we see the statement (supported by evidence of sorts) that the loading of the game took longer than the actual gameplay, we see just how far Bioware had fallen of the wagon, or was that EA? Angry Joe gives a list that does not screw around. This does not merely indicate that there is a core issue, there are other parts linked to the core that give strong indication that EA failed on too many levels, optionally Bioware also failed on several levels, yet in all this we need to take a look at a screenshot.

When you make a game where jet packs are central in the gameplay, the makers need to consider that some people think outside of the box. So when we are in a cave and we see a large opening, large enough to fly through, so when you try and you get slapped back for no good reason, we see the first larger failing, the tactical side that was not thought through. Levels made on cosmetic states where the state of consideration should only ever have been tactical, so either remove the good looking hole giving you ambient feelings of lighting, or make sure we can use it as an escape cover. The second screenshot was early art work I was able to find. Now, I do not know whether that is in the game, but it seems to me that it is a clear sign of copyright violation and an optionally downright stage of plagiarism.

For some reason the stage reminded me of Alien 1979 and Aliens 1986, but then I might be wrong. If that is set as early concept art, it should have been a huge wake up call for both Bioware and EA, right there is where people had to consider the danger they were walking into.

Yet, for me this is not about those failings, for me there is another side, there are actually two sides. We see that with the GAAS image. The two elements that were there above all others were Player Centric and Lifetime value. Al the indications shown by so many people give us that these two were not merely ignored, they were not comprehended by the people trying to sell the idea, and they added catchwords to sell the money maker, without comprehending the impact it had, that is how I see it.

Player Centric comes from Customer centric. Yet there we see in one place: “Customer centric is a way of doing business with your customer in a way that provides a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, customer loyalty and profits. But, a customer-centric company is more than a company that offers good service. A place like Amazon is a prime examples of brands that are customer centric and have spent years creating a culture around the customer and their needs“, and when we consider that part, we see that Anthem would not have passed the Alpha stage at present before August 2019, that alone means that of the 6 elements, one is a 80% failure, making the game 17% less effective right of the bat. The additional testing and reconnaissance of the game in real live server environment would have shown 4 essential elements to be too far below par. The load screens, the loot, the tactical setting of the map(s) and the story-lines, storytelling as well as the interactive parts (those three all count towards the story dimension).

Here we see the failing of the presented Player Centric part. This also impacts the second element, namely ‘Lifetime Value’. The moment the player centric parts were hit, ‘Litetime Value’ was equally hit, but to a much larger extent. It is clear that proper testing would have ousted many of the elements, as such it stands to reason that either the makers BE-A (my optimistic version of this merger) never cared, or did not properly do the essential testing and fixing. All what I have seen (console versions only) indicates that it could have become a nice game when it gets to the beta stage; the game is nowhere near that ready. The graphics look good, but good graphics on a failed core is still a failed game.

Say What?

that is where the issue starts, a game that does not look bad and has potential is in the GAAS (Gaming As A Service) still a failed project when it does not meet certain expectations and Anthem fails a few of them. Even as I was never a fan of this genre, I see issues that I should never have noticed and those are really badly managed issues.

Still we should acknowledge that it is a failed, but not a bad game, which also implies that what went wrong, could optionally be fixed, yet when we get to the loot part, we see just how far the model failed. The loot is mentioned by several to be massively repetitive, in the stage of this game where the weapons are shown we see too much repetition making the loot way too bland, so when we look at this part against ‘High User Engagement‘, over a period of 6 years, we see that the third part fails too, at least when we consider player expectation. In all this when we see that other elements can only be bought, we see the drive towards Recurring Revenue Business, a side that will not be successful as three elements have already failed for too much. At that point the game has gone from 83% to a mere 41% effective as a GAAS experiment, a stage that could have been avoided to a much larger extent if it had only been tested better, stronger and with more diligence.

They did get the graphics right, and it looks cool, but there again we see that a real GAAS solution is so much more and the fact that one of their alleged slides show the failures to this degree, we see that gamers should be upset. A game like this could not be sold in any other way than an open BETA, optionally an open BETA that is for those who have pre-ordered (and pre-paid the game) offering these people unique gear and weapons, for their effort, that might have worked, giving them additional options would have made things even better and it would all have been in support of ‘Recurring Revenue Business‘, as well as ‘Multi-Platform Business‘, gamers love that shit. To be regarded as official beta testers upping the game to such an extent? Gamers would buy the game for the mere notion (as long as it comes with actual unique gear).

So as we see this game and the game maker we see that comprehension went amok on a few levels, in this I would point the finger at EA (for the most) yet the stage of whomever let this game slip towards the ‘approved for release’ that person should never ever be allowed anywhere near the gaming industry ever.

In the end I wonder if they have seen the Single Player GAAS opportunity that Mass Effect Andromeda would enable for. That is if they ever get a visionary to call the shots on that part of the equation, because if they fix up that game, they could have the stage of ‘High User Engagement‘ that surpasses 110%, which would be a legendary achievement to say the least.

If there is one accomplishment that does stand out beyond the graphics then it is the person who decided that hiring Sarah Schachner was a good idea. She created two pieces, AC: Origin and Anthem both soundtracks that make you wonder if they were even made by the same person and she hits the ball straight out of Fenway Park, twice in a row mind you. Two soundtracks that were utterly amazing, yes, the Music of Anthem does exceed all human expectations (merely my view, but I stand by it); as such I expect to see more great work from her in the future. If EA and Bioware can get the rest right, they might have a chance to survive this expensive overpriced, wrongly focussed ordeal called Anthem.

The EA shareholders would definitely be appreciative of that notion.

 

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Warring consoles

There are a few wars to look at, but the setting for the consoles is one that is shifty as hell. I have been outspoken against a certain brand whose name starts with ‘M‘ and ends with ‘icrosoft‘ for a few reasons, but that is not what it is about. It starts with the Sato. A writer for Siliconera giving us the sales of consoles for last week. The systems that matter for the week of 10th to the 16th of September in this are Nintendo Switch that sold 38,738 consoles, down from 43,513 last week. The PS4 12,057 down from 12,281 last week, the Xbox One 58, up from 19 last week, the PS4 pro 4,959 down from 7,442 and the Xbox One X 159 up from 30 last week (Japanese sales numbers). So we can go with the fact that Microsoft is the only one on the rise. We can go with the optional truth that Microsoft consoles (plural) merely represent 0.5% of the Nintendo Switch sales. I did not even consider News Nintendo DS systems in all this, the number would become laughingly small (and blow away whenever you open a window), if it has not done that already. Microsoft Xbox One systems are a mere 3% of the PlayStation 4 systems and that is not a good thing either (for Microsoft that is). Yet we must also acknowledge that Nintendo is a force of nature at present. You see, at present the Nintendo Switch might merely be at 45% of all the PS4 systems sold (normal and Pro), the fact that they did this in under 2 years is an amazing achievement and there is no stopping Nintendo. I expect that they will break additional records at both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year (as well as the Saint Nicholas festivities in one or two places).

It goes even further when we see the Nintendo games exploding on the screens when it comes to the revenue. This year alone, the revenue for Nintendo went up by a cool 100% to a net value of almost 10 billion dollars, that is a massive achievement in gaming and their growth is still enduring. With online play being free and Fortnite still on the rise and with 30 titles still arriving before the end of the year. It seems to me that Nintendo figured something out and Microsoft is paying a high price for the wisdom gained (Sony gets hurt too but much less).

So whilst Xbox UK is still hiding behind what I would clearly define as ‘deceptive conduct’, they might think that it is ‘innovative thinking’ we are merely confronted with a once growing game maker that is now becoming obsolete in its thinking.

So why deceptive conduct?

You see, the people were confronted with a tweet a mere three days ago. The tweet: “Play 500+ Classic Xbox & Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One today… totally for free“, yet when we read down the tweets, we see the hitch. We see: “If you already own them – no need to buy again! Just download or put the disc in, and away you go“, news that is 2 years old and we are still confronted with a digital department that just does not get it. They did not tell us “We have upgraded our backwards compatibility program to 500+ games“, no that would be too honest. No we get: “Play 500+ Classic Xbox & Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One today… totally for free“, it is not merely deceptive conduct, it is what I would personally call an open blatant lie. You see: “totally for free” would have been the setting if pre-owning the game was not a requirement, so some purchase was required, giving the setting one that is a an outright lie, as I personally see it.

Getting back to the sales I mentioned earlier, we need to realise that this is not global. The numbers come from merely a Japanese source, sales in Japan. Yet the setting is still clear (to some degree), Nintendo is here to stay and it is growing its influence on a global scale and when we see the mere achievement of 58 Xbox One systems over a week in a nation that is around 130 million people, whilst some sources give us that 50% of them are into gaming. We do not have a comprehensive data file that gives us a more complete picture. Yet we see that there are around 700 million online gamers, which is well over 40% of the online population, when you consider that, we see that the numbers and the setting is massively important. Venturebeat gave us in the past that spend per person is Japan (#1) with $120 per person, the US (#3) with $62 the UK and Australia in 4th and 5th, whilst they are on equal footing with $62 and $55 per person. So at that point do you still think that all this misrepresented loot box mess is merely about gambling? So when we were given: ‘Australian Senate inquiry extended after study calls loot boxes ‘psychologically akin to gambling’‘ merely three days ago as well as both “The Australian Senate inquiry into micro-transactions is taking into consideration a large-scale study that claims “loot boxes” are psychologically akin to gambling“, as well as “The paper is the result of a paid online survey among 7422 gamers. Curiously, over 6000 responses to the survey were discarded because the answers were either not serious or incomplete“, which is interesting because I never saw that link in any place and I have been a gamer since 1984, long before the word ‘gamer’ was cool. The article is actually good and gives us one part that I can stand behind: “recommends adjustments to the current game classification system advising “parental advisories for games that feature loot boxes” as well as “a descriptor outlining that the game itself features gambling content”“. I would be willing to take it one step further. I would demand that there are two additional parts. The first is that there needs to a clear path where we can earn loot boxes for free (not unlike the Mass Effect 3 setting), in addition we need to see a clear sticker on the front of the box stating that ‘no loot boxes are required to play or complete the game‘ Several games have clearly stated that in the past, yet adding this on the front of the cover is not the worst idea.

I still disagree that it is gambling, yet having a clear mention that loot boxes are set to chance and optionally the chances of getting a certain rarity is not the worst idea either. And in all this, the console war is now setting to a much larger stage, even as they all (partially correctly) point their finger at EA Games. Ubisoft has unlockable content (at a price as well, yet they ALWAYS clearly stated ‘this item can be unlocked through regular gameplay‘ as well. So it is not immoral that they offer it as an initial unlock for $5, it merely shows us that that person is not really a gamer, merely a player.

In this there is more to Ubisoft; it is clearly seen in their Assassins Creed games. Going back to Assassins Creed 2, they had the Ubiclub. You can buy things there. Unlocking premiums and extra’s (skins, backgrounds, outfits and weapons), to buy them you play the games and when you get to a stage, like completing a set of conditions, making it to a certain point in the game you get points, these points re kept in you profile and you can unlock them for any Ubisoft game you have, giving you more and more by merely playing. It opens up the need to complete, the drive to achieve and the option to get cool things. Here I clearly state: ‘Well done Ubisoft!‘ and this is still an ongoing stage with badges and cool stuff with every additional game that they release. So as I state that loot boxes are not gambling, I am for the most not against the setting: ‘Study urges games with Loot Boxes to be Restricted to Players old enough to Gamble‘, which is not the same. The question is not merely on how to check it; the issue will soon be that abuse is harder to check. Even if they cannot be merely bought online, even when the loot box cash needs to be bought in the store, we will see the irresponsible act of the parent giving in to ‘junior’ buying more and more loot boxes. It is important to raise the issue as more and more consoles are confronted with games that depend on loot boxes, and that is not nearly the beginning. We see part of this in Eurogamer (at https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-07-23-fifa-player-uses-gdpr-to-find-out-everything-ea-has-on-him-realises-hes-spent-over-usd10-000-in-two-years-on-ultimate-team), when we are given “Michael was sent a data dump by EA via two PDF files each over 100 pages long. This amounted to a huge number of files, which include engagement data, FIFA 18 stats, device information and more than 10 audio files (these are recordings of his calls to EA support). It also included details of every player Michael bought and sold over the past two years in FUT“, so beyond the setting of “EA also provided data relating to how much real world money (in dollars) Michael had spent on FIFA Points, and he told Eurogamer he was “gobsmacked” to discover he’d spent over $10,000 in just two years“. Apart from the fact that you are losing your screws, the mere fact that you are not aware wasting cash to such a degree is one part, yet in this, the part that everyone ignores is “30 days later, Michael was sent a data dump by EA via two PDF files each over 100 pages long. This amounted to a huge number of files, which include engagement data“. I never played FIFA, yet when Microsoft remained in denial that 5 GB in 10 days was uploaded without my consent or knowledge into the Azure cloud, they merely pointed at the internet provider and stated that this is their responsibility (whilst I had not played any multiplayer games), and now we see what EA collects, in all this, the collected data is not an issue in any of this?

And the console wars are not done, not by a close margin. This goes beyond which system is popular, with system has loot boxes. This is about data and with all these systems being online and optionally ending up collecting personal data, there is a larger for not merely gamers and players. It is about classifying people and the setting of how bankable have we become? We saw this a few months ago with ‘Esports streamers and gamers are among the most bankable influencers, pitching to a new generation of consumers that don’t track traditional‘, it is about finding money people, those who propel the brand and when we realise that we seem to have a few additional problems and the fact that no attention is given to that part in the equation is equally a problem.

 

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