Tag Archives: EA

When we reconsider

We reconsider at times, we all do. It is not merely a stage of changing of minds, it is a stage of giving a game another chance. In my case it is F1 2020. The last one I had was F1 2000, a game that I got with my PS2, I am not much of a racing fan, but I enjoyed the game to some extent. The ‘some extent’ is not to be mistaken with some critical view of the game. I do not have one, I like racing to some degree, I am not a lover of it. It’s a simple stage. Another game I had was Project Gotham 3, it came with my Xbox 360. That game I loved, it was fun, the F1 game is less fun, more of a simulator, till it is a nice challenge to have and at times we reconsider getting the game, so after 15 years I am willing to get another F1 game. Some go with statement like ‘cleansing the palette’, some go with ‘something else to devour’, some people (like me) never thought negative of the game, merely saw it as something that was not their cup of tea. Yet we all get to a stage that we want to try tea again. It is partially natural. For me, in part it was the stage where F1 2000 was actually a good looking game, I merely was decently lousy in racing. And the F1 game was a decent simulator. That in position to the fact that Project Gotham Racing III was more fun, slightly less of a simulator. Yet this is not about the F1 game, it is about FIFA. The BBC introduced me to ‘FIFA 21 review: ‘The virtual, beautiful game is passing off old as new’’, as well as the Verge giving us ‘FIFA 21 Is Limping Toward Retirement’. Now we should all accept that it is one hell of a test to prolong a franchise, even as soccer is one of the most favourite sports in the world, renewing it for 20+ years is still a massive task. Now, we can all go Monday morning quarterback on the makers, but in the end, I wonder if anyone could have done the job the way EA did. Now, I am not blowing their horn, they have a marketing department for that. In addition, I support their view that loot-boxes is not gambling. I have always supported that side, even as they clearly have made a few mistakes, the fact that they were made is open to debate. And even add the UK gives us “The Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport (“DCMS”) has launched a call for evidence on the impact of loot boxes in video games to help it determine whether they should be classified as gambling products” I still have a personal nagging that this is is a rigged setting. 

Even as we see things evolve, we see a larger stage the is not explored, which is partially an option for discussion. Yet the stage is still in the open. Like the F1 game I looked at, others look at FIFA in a similar way, I am not a FIFA fan, I am an NHL fan and the disturbing part is the here in Australia, the game still cannot get ordered, which is an optional EA play push and a Xbox Billing wish. 

I get the stage that this is, not many Australians have a preference to Hockey. I played it when I was younger. Hence, my interest (and my delusional dream that San Jose, Ottawa, Edmonton, or Calgary calls me that they are in desperate need of a goalie and my name came up), who has not had that thought? Which soccer player does not want to be able to bend it like Beckham? There is a weird interaction with sports games, especially the one we really prefer. We go for the annual setting, but there too EA dropped the ball more than once. It is their right to drop it, but it seemingly gets them in the situation they are in now.

And the stage of sport games is larger than we consider NHL21, FIFA21, Madden NFL 21, EA UFC 2020, Rugby20 2020, F1 2020, NBA 2K21, PGA 2K21, a stage that is a lot bigger than we realise and even if we are not a great fan of some games, EA and others had the option to change the stage and get a much greater following, but they set the game to an event of capture the dough. We can all be or become Monday morning quarterbacks, yet what will this resolve?

We are in what I call a clear stage to reconsider, the gamers and the makers. This is not about sport games, yet this is the larger stage of gaming and to set the what is new, and the why renews. A stage the gaming seems to overlook again and again, As I personally see it it comes with the marketing field who increasingly limits the scope ‘How to acquire new money and how to get as much of it as we can’, it is a natural setting for marketing and that makes sense. But if gaming leads, it is time to set a very different stage. Even as some as in the setting of ‘What if that does not work?’ Nintendo faced that with the WiiU, yet that led to the Nintendo Switch, a system that broke all their records and pushed the Microsoft console from 2nd to 3rd position and as Switch is in 2nd position, still growing its markets, still growing after 3.5 Years. 

It is time to reconsider the plays that are currently being made.

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Exit stage right

Yup, I am back. In the first there is the Swiss issue I discussed earlier today, as set the free movement ending is not reached, 68% rejected that part. So in this the larger stage were (as I personally saw it) the fear mongering side, but that is merely my view on one part. The election was on a few items and the Swiss have spoken, they rejected the ending free movement part and I am fine with it, yet I do feel that the term of all those benefits, I wonder if we ever get to see a list on that. But no matter what it was up to the Swiss and they rejected the notion.

Then there is the corona issue (not the beer), as per now we have 33 million infected and one million are dead. I believe that this number is actually higher, but I cannot prove it, the top three are USA, India and Brazil. In this I partially reject it because I believe that Indian infected is most likely a lot higher and those who died are cremated rather fast, so even as the numbers are too low, I cannot say that there is intent here, consider that in India the alleged personal need for ignorance is high, a nation where the Mumbai region alone has 55 million people, so 6 million over all India and only 95,000 deaths does not add up. When we apply the global mortality rate, the death count in India is close to 50% too low, a nation where population pressure is through the roof. I get it, not every person gets tested, there are not enough test packages to get even close to the testings required, there is no blame, no one is at fault, but we need to realise the setting and in a lot more places than India, the setting does not add up. 

And in the third setting, we see that there is every indication that President Trump will be exiting the stage on the right side. There is an overwhelming amount of push on places like Twitter where we see the Rock, George Takei, Billy Baldwin, David Cross and numerous others are giving their voice to Joe Biden, there is even a growing amount of Republicans on that list (including me) and the stage that President Trump has set is for the bulk of all the people no longer acceptable. I reckon that if the voting amount is raised from 55% to 65% it will be over for President Trump. As far as I can tell, at no time in history have Americans united against an elected president ever before. These events are making the anti Vietnam and anti Lyndon B. Johnson events fade. Even as Joe Biden has presently a 10% lead, it is a dangerous setting. Some people will fall asleep and will not bother voting, but the is the danger that got President Trump into the Oval Office in the first place. I would hazard a guess that if only 65% votes, one could argue that the USA does not deserve saving, not t this stage. The active people seem to realise that and their voice is simple “please vote”, they do not say who to vote for, they seem to think that this will be enough to get them to vote and hopefully not for President Trump. People like Dwayne Johnson are more eloquent in this, they name the people they endorse and give additional information. Still, I am to some extent in awe, I have never seen such a level of unison coming from America since WW2 (the Hitler is bad group) and perhaps it is important to pause at this notion. Yes, I remember my last piece, yet that was not about being pro-Trump. That was about the law and the constitution, little pesky things all kind of people want to avoid, I do not. 

What else is on the table? 

Well, games would be my guess and even as we are all still reeling from the Bethesda, now Microsoft decision, PC Gamer gives us a past overview (at https://www.pcgamer.com/au/what-happened-to-12-of-gamings-biggest-studios-after-they-were-sold/). I understand what they bring and I do not oppose it, but what stands out is that Bethesda is bought for more than the amount spend on 12 other acquisitions (not all Microsoft), there we see the the purchase of Mojang by Microsoft implies that all is not lost for Sony, yet this close to release of a new console makes it a question mark at best. In this there is also the thought that EA has options for Mass Effect and even the original trilogy, yet that is for another time. For the most the countdown clocks are running for Cyberpunk 2077 and the PS5/Xbox series X. November 19th 2020 for Cyberpunk and the consoles will come at November 12th (PS5) and November 10th (Xbox). The mayhem starts in 43 days 6 hours and 34.2 minutes.

 

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Software as a salad

Yup, we all have our moments of creation, although this is a redesign, the idea is out there and it is set to be an open invitation to the owners of the game Clue, to take it to a next level. What happens when we change the tally? It dawned on me when I was walking in a mall and I laid eyes on the Harry Potter edition of Clue, it looked nice, it looked revamped to be as close to the Harry Potter world as possible, but it was still the classical game of Clue. It was funny, because around an hour earlier I was sitting down sipping on a coffee and try to wake up (well a fair attempt anyway), I noticed two tables over a gorgeous young lady (19-21) and she was talking to her friend (no idea what about) and she was getting slightly over enthusiastic over pictures of Professor Snape (Alan Rickman is cool). I had to giggle internally and I would have given anything for Alan Rickman to be blushing one table over, but that was not the case, yet it started a thought and after the coffee when I noticed the HP Board game, when a thought started to take hold, what if one game could lead to another? What if we take the EA original Murder on the Zinderneuf (yes, it was original in 1983), make it a first person adjustable mystery, yet every game unlocks specific randomised new options. What if the game unlocks the game clue, but what happens when the game, a game that is different every time (apart from the stage). The game offers a challenge already, but when you get a different murder mystery every time you play it, in addition, you get the board game Clue to play at home or online with opt in players or a computer character, as well as a stage where you could optionally unlock the HP edition, the Downton Abbey edition, the Walking dead edition, the Asterix edition, a Scooby Doo edition and so on. The idea of opening a game an unlocking the other skins one at a time sets a larger premise, sets a drive to play the game, especially for those who love the game. The game would not alter too much, but the location, people and object skins do and that are cosmetic items. The option to seed the game like a minefield with other cards (like the ones in the game), but with different outfits, so the game keeps on looking fresh. Then there are the stage where the initial game when replayed will offer a person to find objects, like a Golden Snitch, the Resurrection stone, An Asterix flask, Scooby Do’s bone and so on. A game with a long lasting half life, because there will be options to unlock for a long time to come, yet who took on considering that approach in gaming until the Google Stadia became a fact? Let’s face it, I never saw this for the years that Steam was out. 

There is no end towards what is possible, but what should concern you is why the makers of current games aren’t thinking the far ahead, or that much out of the box. This is my 7th game IP concept in under a year, and in the gaming industry, these so called captains of industry haven’t come up with 50% of that amount of IP. So I leave you with that thought, will you buy software, or will you mix it up like a salad, it might not taste the way you think it does, but it is more likely then not an original taste and that counts in gaming. The stage of ‘I never had that before’ and it remains true, it is not for everyone, but when you set the goal to make a game for everyone, you merely make a game that pleases no one. 

 

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Jealousy

We all have it and I am no exception. Yes, I am keeping the IP I have to myself (for now), and I have been involved in video games since 1985, so when I see ‘EA Executives Blocked From Receiving “Exorbitant” Awards’ (source: Kotaku) all whilst we see “Earlier this week, investors shot down EA’s proposed payment plans for their executives” in the same frame when I proposed a version of Mass Effect that would undo the damage the previous one did and give the players a 400% boost in exploratory gameplay is set on a slippery slope. When a group of people getting millions of bonuses for making junk why would I bother helping them? (slightly miffed me), yet when we see the list of games coming out, we see a drove of remastered games (now also coming to Nintendo Switch), with a huge spoonful of sport games, which was always their core business, yet there is now a hole, even as we accept that there is a border to Sims, there is an edge to the Medal of Honour and there is a life expectancy of Dead Space, EA had good games and that is merely in the near past. Especially now in the Google Stadia stage, they seemingly forget Populous, Populous 2, Seven cities of gold. Yes, we get it these are old games, but so are a large group of remastered games. EA has a large opportunity, Google needs fuel for its stadia, EA has a whole range of games that likes players and with Ubisoft the way it is now, EA has the advantage. We might see the temporary influx of a gem like Battle Chess and we all see it, yet it became a game that was (for a while) liked and optionally loved by a whole range of people with zero interest in chess gaming. So what happens when the tutor part of Battle Chess increases a lot more, what happens when a whole new generation of players can get into chess, optionally with the added play online, set groups of players and so on. A categorical side of Elo, the chess rating. There is still the option to add Battle Chess 2, yet the question becomes how many people warm up Chinese chess (different pieces, different moves). When we accept that we are willing to engage into the side of puzzles that need solving, chess puzzles are there for all and in the stage that Google Stadia finds itself in, there is a larger need to get the gaming fuel going and the fuel they are all forgetting about is the fuel that is out in the open. And it is not about the identical port, but it is about what more the games could offer and these games have plenty to offer, all whilst the IP is still in the hands of EA (most of them anyway). EA has a massive advantage. Even as there is a lot of anti-EA people, the quality of games was never below the par line, not like the par line Ubisoft waves anyway. There is also the stage to grow, a game like Shadow Caster was not the great game it could have been then, but the stage now could lead to a lot more gaming and dare I say it a higher quality level of gaming? And they are not alone, Ian Bird created a game called Millennium 2.2 31 years ago. A game that I still remember playing on the CBM Amiga, The CBM Amiga had to deal with 512KB of RAM and a disc holding 880KB of storage, Any system can surpass that now, so we could see a setting where this game could be restitched at the tailor giving us a new style of clothing, in new colours with more versatility. That is the stage that I feel the most on with Severn Cities of Gold. Ubisoft makes us chase in game loot boxes, yet the origin of this comes from discovering things and Seven Cities of gold delivered. Nowadays it does not hold up to our needs, but what happens when we set the stage to a much higher level, yet the original idea was sound. Yes, I know, we hear all these people with ‘I can do this much better’, but where are they? Where is their product? 

I am not claiming to do any better, but I see what is and what can be and they are merely mulling it over with their ‘improved product’ and not showing anything. It is a shame because there is a stage where Google Stadia can surpass Microsoft and I have a vested interest in showing them how wrong their approach was, treason to gamers is a stage I take very seriously and I am driven to see them fall, if only to show them the error of their delusional stage of self preservation. OK, I admit that this is a little over the top, but to see them having to swallow their words ‘We have the most powerful system in the world’, letting them surpass themselves by the weakest system (Nintendo Switch) and optionally set the stage of the Google Stadia surpassing them as well is a nice notch on my 6 shooter. The fuel for gamers is games and adding a whole range of games that entice, reward game time and let them feel the joy of gaming is rewarding to me. 

And the stage of setting loose on the gaming world of amazing games is just icing on the cake. In this EA is a good start, they had excellent games, no denying that and a package deal there would be a larger win for Google. I believe that the games that enticed the previous generation can still entice the current generation when we upgrade and adjust the game to what we expect in today’s environment. Let’s not forget that most games were created in a pre controller age, as such the quality of game play will go up a lot, and I believe that this stage is one that Google Stadia as well as Apple Arcade would want to pursue. They cannot beat Nintendo or Sony, but they can catch up with marketing driven Microsoft and optionally surpass them, I would see it as a personal achievement. A setting where bullet point driven executives are shown the door by the gamers they set up to milk. So I admit, there is some jealousy when my evangelical approach to gaming is not rewarded and the inferior approach to gaming is, on the other had, they delivered a product and I do not deny it, I merely wonder why some products (the non-sport games) aren’t better, yet I also recognise that the umpteen versions of Sims allow for jewels like Unravel to make it, one hand washes the other and we let slide the disappointment that was Mass Effect 4, especially as there is a stage where the mistake can be undone. All whilst those who love the Sims get another influx of juice, Jedi juice is you like.

We can channel our jealousy, we can ignore our jealousy or we can deny it, it is up to you to decide on your view, your choice and perhaps your drive. I will leave it with you, and to give a little shot to your drive, gaming revenue represented $120 billion in 2019, if you want a slice of that, get to work.

 

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Light of creativity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Ai setting

Yes, we have all seen and optionally commented on the blunder that was Mass Effect Andromeda, yet consider that we could undo the damage? Even now as the rumour mill goes on about a remastered Mass Effect. I personally wonder what power Apple or Google consoles gained if they owned the Mass Effect IP (or Bioware). Consider a new console with one of the most revered IP’s in gaming history. This is not some ‘what if’, well actually it is, but consider tens of millions of fans now in a stage where they are confronted with one of these systems holding onto the console so that they can play this game. It is not unheard of, we have all been in that stage before and consoles used to get ahead with this level of creativity in their exclusives list.

So as I (re)designed the Mass Effect concept I did the one thing that had not been done before in gaming EVER. Mass Effect 5 is not merely the fifth game, it would be games 4 and 5 together, yes some things will be the same, but the stage is larger and also has a lot of changes. In the first, the Nexus playing area is at least 10 times larger, and the stage is a combinations of additional and new gaming settings. Of course each of the sister ships of the Hyperion would need to be found, Habitat 7 does not change, it is the introduction to the story and to playing the game. Yet the planets of 4 (Elaaden, Havarl, Aya, Eos and Voeld) would also be there and they would be larger, each with additional missions and additional tasks (making replaying acceptable and challenging). In addition to this  the other parts are mostly there, except for the memories, they can only be on the hyperion (how they could be on planets never visited before is just weird). As I see it, every planet has stages 1. Arrival stage, 2. Post Remnant Vault activation, 3. Phase one of repairs and adjustments 4. Phase 2 of repairs 5. Phase 2 of adjustments

It sets a stage where the planets need to be revisited and in that light each of these planets gets a second area to land and to set up another base, so as one base is scientific in nature, the second one is military in nature. Apart from the Kett presence, the second base will be a lot more about flora and fauna. There will be some Kett, but not to the first area levels, and in addition to that, the player will need to set the stage of building the cars and factories so that they support the nexus best. It will be around choices made, but it will depend on the player. For example in the 4 planets staged (Aya is off-limits), Food will be staged on every planet, yet the return on one is 100%, yet the others will give you 70%-80%, so the need to make the choice is essential, but you have no real choice in location, making the stage of food different, for example Eos is the first planet you reach, yet to give the player choices, we get a different setting, a such finding the right places to grow food and mine for minerals becomes a little bit of a challenge, however we can level the playing field by setting the percentage stage to random (70,80,100 or 110), add to this the nexus and the stage where waking up the right people becomes important, as well as reenergising the nexus so that labs can open up as energy becomes available is a larger stage. 

Most elements that can be compartimentalised in the game could set a growing stage we can adjust to, it also sets Mass Effect to a much larger stage, one worthy of a successor to the first three. For the fifths game we should look deeper into the Kett, we see them as the great evil, but what happens when that is not the case? What happens when their existence is part of a crucible? We need another 4 planets, in this, we should try to set a larger stage and a different stage. So what happens when one planet is aquatic? What happens when one place is like a gas giant (not unlike Cloud city in the Empire strikes back)? A stage where we interact in other ways, as such 2 remain, one should be toxic in origin the other one I leave open (someone might have had an idea), with the stage in that regard, the larger stage to revisit meridian and a stage where we apply a new stage, a stage of resources shared and politics gained. There are a lot of options that a game like Mass Effect allows for and in this we haven’t even looked at the stage where the nexus is attacked and a fight in the corridors, not just that, the damage is ‘real’ and debilitating depending on where the station is damaged, so repairs need to be made (to some degree) before the station is back on track. All these options overlooked in the initial game, the nexus was supposed to equal Citadel, but was less than 10% its size in gameplay. That has to change, and the game is in a much larger setting if the new approach is taken, a game that revisits feelings on a game published and becomes better and stronger because of it. As such no matter where it ends up initially (Google Stadia or Apple console) they would have the setting to add a few million fans right off the bat, when we see the initial hype for Andromeda, that stage can easily be surpassed if the result is properly tested. I wonder if Electronic Arts ever considered that their product could end up deciding who the third most sold console could end up being, the stage is that certain at present, and of course, there is no reason why it should not be on other consoles, yet the financial power that a timed delay for other consoles is could fund a massive part of the development cost and that is when the larger profits comes in (for Electronic Arts), especially if a game like Mass Effect Andromeda sets the gaming bar to a much higher level. We have seen long term gaming in several ways, yet until Bethesda released the Elder Scrolls Online, long term RPG was a little in a corner, now you are given the light where they are no longer alone in this, it sets a different stage for Google and Apple, one they could only have hoped for and it is within their reach to set this stage to their system.

 

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Reflections

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

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

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

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

 

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Let’s call a spade a spade

It is an old expression, lets call a spade a spade, the pot calling the kettle black and so forth. It is (when I grew up) the expressions that refer to let’s call it what it is, let’s label it directly, let’s not beat around the bush. So when the BBC gives us ‘Loot boxes: I blew my university savings gaming on Fifa’ (at https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53337020), we see the story of an idiot, an idiot named Jonathan Peniket, who basically is voicing whatever excuse he has for the simple reason that he is (as I personally see it) indeed an idiot. So when we see “Better players give you an advantage, and there is a virtual currency and market where these cards are traded. You can buy packs containing a random selection of cards. The idea that it was gambling seemed ridiculous to me at the time. I understood that the chances of ‘packing’ my favourite players were low. I spent the money, opened my packs, got lucky a couple of times, and tried to be positive, despite being left feeling slightly underwhelmed. ‘If I could just spend another £15…’, I thought. Four years followed of spending more and more money on player packs – each time seeking that buzz that would only occasionally come.” We see here the driven and almost educated response of a crack whore trying to get someone else to pay for her addiction, a little bitch looking for the 3600 cards and a person who wants the 1200 cards in month one. I know it sounds ominous and even offensive, but that is life. So when he was a teenager, like two years before his first card (at 17), he got inflicted with the Pokemon vibe (gotta have them all), that empty feeling was transferred to FIFA and when we see “How one teenager spent nearly £3,000” we see a person who is too stupid for his own good. The game is a mere £55, so how stupid do you need to be to spend 60 times that amount? The BBC writers Felicity Hannah and Jane Andrews are quick to dismiss in a short term the truth of the matter behind “They say Fifa Ultimate Team can be played without spending any money and that purchases are entirely optional”, it is a truth, I play NHL, I get 3 packs a day, free of charge, the packs add up that in a month you can save up pack points to get to specula bronze packs, two silver packs and two gold packs. In addition, every pack comes with virtual money to buy other cards online (bid for them), in the second months, I had all 30 arena’s, close to all home and away jerseys for all the NHL teams and most of the goalie masks. After 6 months, I had close to 800 hockey players, a few legendary, and several really rare cards, the game also unlocks upgraded players as you play more and reach milestones (game achievements) you unlock even more players and upgraded legendary players. I cannot answer for FIFA, but it seems that this approach has been mimicked over all the EA sport games, as such I have all that and NEVER paid a cent, showing you just how stupid this boy Jonathan Peniket really is, but the BBC writers are happy to convey “I accept responsibility for what happened. The decisions I made to spend that money were made by me”, yet the little tough guy was eager to state that he “was addicted to the buzz of chance when I bought packs” and “I was spending £30 at a time, then £40, then £50. By the time my card began to block my transactions, I was throwing £80 into the game four or five times a night”, so that the statement “video game packs and loot boxes [a general term for in-game purchases involving chance] are a form of gambling”, yes you can go that way, but when a junk is taking drugs, he isn’t really medicating is he, so what he states it is is merely a form to avoid as much guilt for his stupidity as possible. Loot boxes are not now, not ever gambling, so until we see one of these packs give us the 15 cards all stating ‘Thank You’ it can never be gambling. You get cards, there is always one rare in EVERY PACK, and you can always try to trade it. Consider that there are 3600 cards, 1200 are rare, meaning that you have a 1/1200 chance of getting Neymar, Mbappe, van Dijk, De Bruyne, Lewandowski, Ronaldo or Messi. That is the simplest top-line stage and people with the intelligence of porridge (Jonathan Peniket) decided to spend £3,000 and optionally still hasn’t learned that lesson.

In all honesty, I am no fan of Electronic Arts, they made a few errors on several levels and the loot box stage is optionally too exploited, yet it is not gambling. I remain firm on that part. The fact that some are too stupid to be allowed near a Credit Card does not mean that it becomes the fault of Electronic Arts, and if someone state that Electronic Arts needs to do more to temper per person spending that I would not disagree, but it doesn’t make loot boxes gambling. Only when there is a chance that you lose all, that there is no reward at all, then it becomes gambling. 

Gambling to most is “the wagering of money or something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome, with the primary intent of winning money or material goods.” Yet the operative part in gambling is ‘uncertain outcome’, here the outcome is always the same: 1 Rare, 3 Uncommon and the rest are common cards. And when you realise just how big FIFA is, you need to realise from the start that you can never have them all. In most CCG games the games are at best 400-500 cards (without expansions). FIFA has over 6000 players, as such, your ultimate team will always be limited, you need to make the best of this and lets not forget “Better players give you an advantage”, that is true, but only in the field where both gamers are equal and with a person like Jonathan Peniket that is not a given, it is extremely doubtful. You see if he was a true gamer, then he would get the UEFA cup with West Ham United F.C. (if that was his local team) wouldn’t he? In all this posturing we forgot about the gamer involved, didn’t we? Now, I’ll be honest regarding FIFA, I (pretty much) suck at it, I do not like Soccer too much and that is fine, others love it and that is fine too. I loved the 98 edition on the N64, I played FIFA to some extent on an earlier version on the Playstation (the first one) and it was OK, yet I am not into Soccer, NHL is my game and there I see great things, I love the games, I play my dekes (and fail at times too) and I get beat a lot by kids in the US, Canada and Sweden as they live for hockey. I can live with that, they play it 6 hours a day as such, I expect to get beaten and no matter who is in my ultimate team, I am not going to win. It is simple math and the math shows the truth. I still love the game as I am a hockey man, the NHL game grew and over 18 years I have had my share of it. I loved the original version that came with my PS2, I loved NHL03 on Gamecube and so on, I still love my PS4 version of NHL19. I never had to spend $1 on any pack, so I am not complaining (not much for the Ultimate league anyway).

I have a nice collection of cards and I am happy to report that I got all the NHL jerseys and all the arena’s. Yes there is more to the game and I never stopped enjoying the game, I reckon that the same applies to those loving FIFA and apart from the few who cannot fathom limits, everyone is seemingly happy, oh and the fact that Felicity Hannah and Jane Andrews never gave you a list of all the packs you can get for free on a daily basis is also something you need to take notice of, they are all about headlining ‘EA’s response’ and the ramblings of a shopaholic junkie are equally issues that need to be seen. So as we see the article end with “Fifa was approached for comment, but has not yet responded.” We see the little nags that they reflect to be. What was that, a remark towards laying blame on FIFA for allowing for this? The fact that there is concern on what constitutes gambling should be seen as a first, all whilst there is absolutely no guarantee that under Covid-19, there is no way of telling who at FIFA are aware of this. It is seemingly an issue yet The worlds of Electronic Arts “the well-being of players is paramount – and all their games, including Fifa, have the ability to use parental controls provided by gaming platforms to cap or prohibit spend” are underplayed, so we see here that there was a option to ‘cap or prohibit spend’ and when we realise that this was a mere approach to give a vocal stage to someone who should be given lessened consideration as a junkie is setting the stage? Gimme a break!

In the end, yes EA could have optionally done a little more, but how long until we forget the initial setting that the consumer needs to accept responsibility for their actions and stop nagging like a little brat? He was there spending money on pack after pack and that was on him, not on EA. The part of the act was mentioned, yet focussed on the amounts, not the stupidity of the person spending. 

This is merely my view and you are (of course) welcome to disagree. 

 

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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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