Tag Archives: Electronic Arts

Alternative income

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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It’s not a problem

When was the last time you had the idea of ‘What if this is not a game, what if this is real?’, that is the stage that I faced this morning. Now, I have never made a secret of the fact that I have given views against the (a personal observation) stupidity of Ubisoft. Yet this morning, I had the idea that puts Ubisoft in the forefront of technology in real life. A stage where they could add billions to the value that they have. This advantage can be seen in Watchdogs 1 and is a lot more visible in Watchdogs 2. Can you guess what it is?

What happens when the head up display is visible when you are on route? What if you add Google glasses, or a google eye screen to the Apple Watch and an iPhone? You get a personal tracker and navigation system. So what happens when the arrow system in Watchdogs is reflected on the road via a google glass? It would enable you to find your way faster, especially when you are new to a location and add to this the option of enhanced tracking that 5G offers, we see that the IP that Ubisoft has already is entering an entirely new frame, a global frame where we can navigate in other ways too. I wonder if Ubisoft has considered what they have. Even as there are flaws in the game, the device will offer a much larger stage, and of course a stage to fix what is currently slightly below par. I wonder if game makers have considered the benefit of what their game offers (unless it is Kid of Rock), I do not think that the unicycle has a large benefit, but tracking and projection technology goes a long way, especially in light of where we need to be and for what we seek. It is not connected to my IP, but I can see the joint benefits that they have and there is a much larger stage in the viewpoint of the people who might need this, those who are elderly, bad in manoeuvring and limited in the freedoms of movements that they have. It is not an adaptation of a few thousand people, it will be the adaptation for millions of citizens, all consumers of a much larger need and Ubisoft might be able to provide there.

I personally do not think that they had considered the approach to this, games are there to mimic life and to give alternative options, not set the stage of project what the consumers need and there Ubisoft might be the first to set the way. It is fine if Electronic Arts wants to follow, but we already have Soccer players, Football players and Basketball players. Still, a few companies might want to reconsider the IP they have and how it might be applied to the 5G realm. And this is where it hurts, you see Huawei is close to ready for what is needed, Ericsson and Nokia are close to 3 years away from setting that stage. A union of smart mobility, smart wearables, and Domotics and the two non Huawei players have not made a dent in those approaches, their software is lacking and as I see it opportunities for Huawei and optionally Ubisoft as well. 

Good business is where you find it and the creative mind will always find alternatives based on less than perfect events. It was not about the perfection, it was about application.\

So in the end, whatever market Ubisoft loses, the IP they have can be set in a who range of optional new ways, even in ways that they had not yet considered. 

 

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Multiple rulers

We have a ruler at times. A ruler so we can see whether the size measures up to the setting we held ourselves to, and a size to what we hold others. We are all like that, and sometimes we use more than one, it is almost like we set a standard metrical and then another one to get the inch setting. There is one stage we avoid; not on purpose, but the stage we set because we did not think of it. That is the stage that I found myself in this weekend. Anyone who has a Playstation 4 (or better) has either been playing the Last of us part 2, or has been contemplating playing it. There might be the smallest group that did not (and that is fair) but that group is really really small. It started in 2013, a (small) player named naughty dog, famous for Crash Bandicoot and a few other titles, had an idea and made that game, that game was titled The last of us, we might not have realised it at the time but gaming history was written that very moment. They made the game that heralded the end of the Playstation 3 on a high. The game was graphically, musically and technically at the very top of gaming, do not take my word for it, the game got over 200 game of the year awards, which is a record by itself, so when it was remastered for the Playstation 4, I did not hesitate to get it, now there is the second part and what I have seen so far is blowing my mind (again). It als gave me the idea to come up with the two ruler rule. So far the only three passing that standard are Naughty Dog, CD Project Red and Bethesda. This does not mean that others are not good, some are great. Yet to fit this measurement you need to be better than the best. I believe that those makers could have turned their game into a movie and it would be as groundbreaking and as appreciated as the game. As I see it CD Project Red did that by getting the Netflix the Witcher made. OK, they cheated by getting Superman to play the lead, but still they got it done and it is every bit as amazing as the game was. Excellence is transcendental (or so I believe) and I feel certain that the Last of US (both 1 and 2) would make amazing movies/mini series. I played part 2 to some extent and then I remembered (I thought back to the first one) and I decided to play it again. Even now, 7 years later, the first game is as overwhelming as any new game is, yes, the second one surpasseds the first one by a fair bit, but both of them leave most others in their wake, the games are that good. This is not bad for the others, there will always be rocksteady, there will always be rockstar and they will endear the gamers in their own way, there is no doubt about it, yet when we see the bullet point memo people at EA and Ubisoft, they are done for. The few franchises they hide behind will not help them, even now, their games at 70%-80% reduced rate are a debatable buy and that is not a good place to be in. When a two billion company like Ubisoft gets passed over by what some regards as small studios, we need to realise that gaming has been on the fringe of technology since the 80’s. Some people decided to give the thought that gaming too is iteration (like every year an Assassins Creed game), some exploited other means, some good and some bad, and before some think that Ubisoft is all bad, they did bring us Assassins Creed 2 (and brotherhood), Far Cry 3, AC Origins, Watchdog 2, The Division and a few others, when we look past the iteration, we see that they make good games, if only they were properly tested and vetted before release, it is the largest flaw that Ubisoft brings us today. And it is getting noticed more and more as we take notice of games like The Witcher and The Last of Us. Wecan add games like Elite Dangerous and Subnautica and the remastered edition of System Shock (hopefully 2020), we see that the original ideas are still there and they are wiping the floor with the iterative wannabe’s. You see the stage is changing and gamers are not completely aware.

We see the created hypes and we see how Microsoft is hiding behind the marketing cry ‘the most powerful system in the world’, yet they got defeated by the weakest system of them all (Nintendo Switch) and as Microsoft hides behind the hype screen we are all missing the larger point. As 4K gaming hits the front yard of many gamers this holiday season, they tend to forget that the games will be twice the size and so will the patches. In this situation consider that in places like Greece and Turkey a Ubisoft patch will take up to a day (estimated), a day per game downloading a patch. The UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy and a few others have better connections, yet in these places in Rural areas their internet is not great, so the long term view of the approach that they are currently holding is that they will not be in a great place. Yes, France, Spain and Scandinavia the connection is well above decent, yet is that the same in rural areas? In France it is not and I just set the pulse point on millions of gamers who will be in an extremely agitated state soon enough, yet not if Ubisoft continues as it currently is. And we need to review that too. A game might seem amazing, yet in the 4K life, patches will be increasingly larger and larger. So what do you think will happen when a patch is not 38 GB, but 70 GB? How long until gamers lose their shit over this, because the second time it happens might already be enough for the gamer to demand a refund, and with some places having the 7 day purchase option in place, that cooldown will be enough to end the lifespan of places like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Activision. Yes, I get it, others will be in a similar place, but consider keeping a list of all your games and all the patches that come through, who will win the patch race agitation list? 

Yes, we get it Bethesda will also be in a bad place, yet RPG games like Skyrim are too great and will always have patches coming their way, yet overall when I look back at the games like Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fallout 4 the amount of patches have not been overwhelming. As I see it one breakpoint patch has had more to download then the sum of nearly all Bethesda games, that is the station we see, yet we forget that the station we face is nothing more than a small way station, the stations we are about to hit are proper terminals with larger needs. We need to measure what was and what will be to a much larger extent and use two rulers, the size of the game and the size of the patches, whilst we tally the number of patches. Breakpoint was regarded by gamers as the most disappointing game of 2019, 38GB of patches later and it is still up for debate, as I see it, they no longer have any freedom of movement, gaming will change but not in their direction, the games will need to be better and their infrastructure is not ready, the patch notes give a clear indication of that. So yes, we will see a console war, but we will see a lot more than that. Santa Monica Studios, Naughty Dog and a few others are ready and they make Playstation games. The people at Microsoft are not ready for the issues that sme games bring and their Azure cloud is useless at this stage, it is about innovative gaming, the iterative clowns have no place being here. We are about to see a console war and Microsoft could soon end up in 4th position, so when we consider the big three, who else will surpass them? Their marketing hype of the most powerful console for sale, and they forgot that they still needed good games to stay in that place, with less than half a dozen exclusive games, the pickings are slim for Microsoft, to see that you needed an additional ruler, a different stage of measuring. Just like the measurement of power, there are two ways of measuring it, all whilst the elements for both formulas were readily available, too many players were looking at one formula and forgot about the other one, and that is what the limelight will show at the end of the year and when that limelight shows bright, we will see that some players are done for, one ruler would not have shown it, they all focussed on the revenue and they forgot that revenue is hindered by the resistance that patches bring, these players forgot or basically ignored the danger of large patches and now that they are 26 weeks away from a new standard these players will panic, they will panic more and more and let marketing do the fight of the public arena all whilst it will merely stop activities for a few days and some patches required months. Now, we accept that both Sony and Microsoft have that house of Pox looming, but as I see it, Sony has more alternatives and in this fight, the one with alternatives is the most likely to win. In all this there is strength to any marketing endeavour, but its flaws are there too and once your board of directors start to earnestly believe the stories they tell, they have already painted themselves into a corner. 

 

 

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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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Game of failures

This is for those who love games. Games are important, it has always been important even as plenty of people do not realise it. Getting your kids into gaming at an early age is increasingly important. Our lives revolve around interfaces; interactivity of systems, so lowering that threshold to children as soon as possible is important, very important. Those parents who think that they will get it school are out of their minds. To get any child to be aware of how a tablet is used, to how a mouse is used and a controller is close to everything. Yet this path only works when the software is up to scrap and whilst this was easily the case for Putt-Putt, the games nowadays that go beyond merely being an educational support idea is far from perfect, in some cases they are disastrous.

Some kids get to tap their parent’s smartphone and that is fine. This is not a new issue; it goes back to the early 90’s where Humongous Entertainment created amongst others, the Putt-Putt series, an interactive game that worked like a picture book story and as the player learned to click on the environment, it started to be more and more interactive. I thought it was the greatest idea in 1992 when I tested the game. I already saw at that point that lowering the threshold for the next generation was going to be a big thing and this game delivered. Even as that side did not survive, it had set a seed in motion and created learnware, a way for people to get engaged into the use of computers at an early age, an age that went beyond the Atari 800 and Atari ST. It was a game available on PC and allowed people to fear the mouse less and become inquisitive in a natural way. I got the game via Electronic Arts in the UK if I remember correctly. It hit me how wrong the company has gone. Well, that is not entirely fair, the larger missed stages are not by Electronic Arts, yet their link to Bioware taints them the same way, no matter how removed they are from the equation. As Forbes states: ‘Five Extremely Basic Things ‘Anthem’ Gets Wrong And Needs To Fix‘, not merely an elemental flaw, a much larger massive flaw from beginning to wherever the player ends. Forbes gives us “even if BioWare manages to patch all the technical issues out of the game, what ails Anthem goes deeper, and fixes will require some pretty core reworks of entire systems that are currently in the game“, this is what you get when marketing decides on the products and proper game testing is either ignored or never properly done. I particularly liked the introduction by Paul Tassi: “While I am Mr. Anthem-Is-Not-That Bad-Actually, trying to push back against a flood of negative reviews to let at least some people know that they may enjoy the game if they’re a fan of the genre, I am also not blind to a number of very, very obvious problems with Anthem“. For me it goes back to a more basic part. Bioware has been sitting on IP worth close to a half a billion dollars and squandered it to the largest degree. Even if there is a repair to the Mass Effect universe, if they are not ready to dish out $50-$100 million and take a very new direction, ne not seen before in gaming, they will be in hot water getting boiled alive. It is not merely the ‘hope’ on Anthem getting repaired; you cannot hold the audience with E3 presentations for almost 2 years and make colossal mistakes to this degree. Bethesda is similarly not in a good place, yet they have been changing direction 180 degrees trying to get fixed in their first massive failure (Fallout 76 for those in the dark). In case of Bethesda, it is their first tits up event, so they have time to get it fixed and they got the rudest wake up call. For Bioware it is not the first time, with the Andromeda failure, they have a lot less to go with and that whilst Anthem was supposed to be trying to budge in on the Fortnite hype (and similar games), as such we can come to the conclusion that Anthem is in much deeper waters, and there is no safe swimming there.

Forbes gives us a lot more, with ‘Viewing and Equipping Loot Is Absurd‘ is the indication that no proper game testing was done, or if it was done, it was not scrutinised towards the minimum levels it needed to be, the essential 6 steps that were discussed (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2019/02/24/five-extremely-basic-things-anthem-gets-wrong-and-needs-to-fix/#3f7327ce63a5) shows just how wrong it was implemented and handled. This makes for a clearly shown wrongly tested game. And when we get back to Mass Effect 3 and their loot boxes, we know that it could be done better and there was a much better example at hand. Forbes goes one better and shows the Ubisoft method (the Division) a two year old game where loot deployment is well done and take 8 seconds against the 12 minutes loss you face now (as was stated by the reviewer), how could you ever achieve in captivating and maintaining a proper audience?

With the comment: “there is no way to see your overall stats anywhere. Not basic stuff like health and shield, which are added up between components with no total shown” I am on the fence. In a real shooter (Bagdad 2003, Beirut 1983, Kandahar 2011, or Aleppo 2015) you are alive, wounded or dead (preferably not dead). When you get shot you do not get to check your health or shield status. The Kevlar either held and you felt like a mule kicked you hard, or there is red all over the place. Yet, this is a game and a choice was made not to give it. I am not sure whether the gamer accepts this, but it was a choice made and we have to accept it. We all have come a long way from the Wolfenstein 3D health indicator. Paul gives us a lot more, from the free play, to crafting to the revive issues. The game is seemingly flawed in too many ways, in a day and age where getting it right from the beginning is almost everything, when we consider that the first teaser was in June 2017 and we see these levels of shortcomings, we need to realise that the larger players have lost the plot somehow. Is it management, project management or merely marketing that cannot get the time lines straight? No matter what the reason is, between the need to grow knowledge in a global gaming dimension as well as the revenue driven side of gaming, it goes beyond what we know now, it is all about how to evolve a system that is as mature as it gets. Perhaps the curse for Bioware is that Mass Effect three was close to perfect. You don’t get to mess with perfection ever; they learned that the hard way twice already. And as we see an exploding amount of videos on YouTube on loot grinding and chest locations after a mere weekend of availability, we see that there is a lot more to fix on this game, from my point of view, a game that is still such an alpha should not have been released, not ever.

In the past I have had good cause and plenty of reasons to have a go at Ubisoft, yet in comparison there are plenty of indicators that they are getting it right. The Division 2 is a much better version that the original, it is not really a new brand or a new game; it is a much better game. Even as it is too early to tell, there are some voices (who had early access) and they are comparing the division 2 after the first game to the Assassins Creed 2 compared to that first game. If that is true, if that holds up than those who embraced the division are in for one hell of a ride, crushing Bioware further still. In a world where we are driven to choice as our budgets limits us, the problems that Anthem created for themselves is one that they might not survive, to get this much opposition to a game three days after release is a really bad thing, those who bought the game might run back return the console games (not an option for PC games) and put that money towards the Division 2 and wait three weeks to start a proper multi player shooter.

When it comes to this generation gamers, we are faced with a failing generation as they are confronted with decision makers who clearly have not had the best track record in game design, that is proven with the mere sight of so much failure on any day one edition.

If I had to make a judgement, my personal response would be a simple one: ‘Looks like this could be a nice game, call me again if you ever get to a workable beta version‘, a game that is optionally a year too early, unfinished and unbalanced in a world where there are half a dozen better made alternatives. Bioware strikes out a second time, will they be around to make that mistake again next time?

My version is upheld and given strength when we see the ‘Anthem Day One Update Patch Notes‘ (source Gamespot) which is massive and filled with issues that should not have been allowed to be around past an alpha version. It gets to be worse for the console owners. The information in the open is that the day one patch too that is around 7GB on consoles. So you buy the game and still you need to patch 7GB from the start, I expect at least half a dozen more patches in the near future and if they are core patches, the download size is likely to be higher. Forbes gives us more than mere patch information in the several articles that Paul Tassi wrote. Last week he gave us: “In addition to the sizable day one patch, BioWare has moved swiftly to hotfix two other issues right now. The first being killing a chest exploit that was allowing players to easily farm endgame gear“, it is merely proof (as I personally see it) that this game is still pre beta stage giving us a lot more issues to ask questions on and for the most, I do not see that such a critical look is being taken by many reviewers. I have had no issue going for the throat of Yves Guillemot (apparently still CEO of Ubisoft) in regards to the AC blunders; do you think I was going to pull my punches on Bioware after the Mess Effect Andromeda bungled to that degree? Bioware needs to sit down and take a hard look at where they are at and what they think they can do next, because squandering IP to the degree that they are doing is not a good sign and it will affect EA just as badly, because that is the impact of a game with this many issue relying on micro transactions. Their best action at present is to hand out the $39.99 pack for free to all those who registered in the first 7 days, and I would double the amount of shards given in that pack, because when we start seeing the dozens of copies of the console editions of Anthem in the preowned game section that will be the first sign that Anthem will become a dead product, death in 60 days, it could be the worst result a multi-player shooter has ever faced, and it is not all on them, in this case the increasingly higher regarded and higher review scores of Division 2 will be part of that death stroke.

Anthem for a failing gaming experience‘, it is quite the epitaph to put on the tombstone of any game.

 

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Upping the game

Today started with a nice revelation, Microsoft has taken the sales offensive. Even as we were treated to ”Bethesda’s online action role-playing game “Fallout 76” won’t be available on Valve’s Steam platform during beta or when it launches on November“, the story changes when we look at the PC games in the Microsoft store we see: “Pre-order to get access to the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A.“, so it seems that Microsoft is setting the bar really high, in addition for that part the game is equally available on launch day for those who have the Microsoft Game Pass. The Game Pass is $11 a month solution (in Australia); you get no option to buy the pass for a year (as far as I could tell), which is a drag, and you better have the download options (not to mention the storage) before you commit to it, but there is no denying that it is a deal that is way too good to be true. Microsoft even offers a 14 day free trial, which implies that the games are only available to play as long as you are a member (this is speculation!), not unlike the PS Plus setting. The pass has XB1 and Xb360 backward compatible games and it is a HUGE list. It includes a list of the upcoming top games to be released this year makes the Game Pass an essential choice. The Pass at roughly $130 for a year) will include well over $600 of AAA+ top games, yet to be released in 2018. So apart from the download hassle the pass represents hundreds of dollars of saving in this year alone. I personally believe that they messed up some of the visibility and marketing, but that was their choice. The smaller issue is the backward thinking cap of the US, for people outside of the US (Australia for example) games (when bought outright) are roughly 28% more expensive (and that is after I corrected for the exchange rate). There are also ‘shadows’ here. I do not believe it to be, but there are. For example one source gave me “These eleven Xbox Game Pass games are “leaving soon”“, I cannot tell whether they will also be removed if you have added them to your library (so check this when you decide), the second shadow needs to be mentioned as the quote was: “Personally, paying for the Xbox Game Pass program and Xbox Live Gold is quite a monthly cost“, which is ABSOLUTELY BOGUS! The Xbox Live is a service subscription to play multiplayer, so if the Game Pass title has that, then yes, you will need Xbox Live as you always would have needed it. For the simple player part it is not needed, just as the setting is today. In addition ‘quite a monthly cost‘, is silly to say the least, even on a budget, the setting is that you have Xbox live $80 and Game Pass $130, gives us full and complete access to $12,000 worth of games for $210 a year, anyone debating whether that is expensive needs to get their heads examined. Now, there is no way that you will like all games that would be silly. Yet the setting now allows for you to try games at $0 that you would never have bought in the first place, a setting where you can grow the games dimension that you are in. I believe that to be a really great setting. The part not mentioned is of course the downloading time and subscription fees of the internet, even as those prices have been going down, or better stated giving you more download at the same price, it is a cost you need to consider, yet at the setting where you get access to $12,000 in games, which represents more than I have ever bought in a lifetime across the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One together is an astounding part you must remember. If only Microsoft had thought that hard drive issue through in 2012, things would be even better for them. I still see that as the one Achilles heel in all this, yet with the rumoured new Console (Project Scarlett) announced for 2020, we do know that Game Pass is a long term setting of gaming for Microsoft and whatever sets the console will be optimised for the billions that Game Pass will bring in. In all this we might ramble too early on the storage issue, but it is an issue Microsoft knowingly and willingly ignored and in all this ‘the most powerful console in the world‘ is impacted through it. In addition, I have had the longest issue with Microsoft marketing (for various reasons, so as Microsoft states in Windows Central: “Xbox Scarlett hardware will ‘set the benchmark’“, I tend to get nervous, you see, they have no idea (well some idea) on how gaming evolves, yet in the end, we will not know what will be available by 2022, so at that point any console will be merely on par, 14 months after it is bought. I moved to console gaming as the update for a PC in 2002 went overboard. Processor and graphic card showed that you would need $2500-$3000 to be up to date for high end gaming and that got you roughly 24 months at best. So gaming with the additional $200 a month, as well as updating drivers, patching and whatever else needed made me move more and more towards consoles and the Xbox 360 delivered perfectly for almost 8 years (at $700), so the cost of living was set to the games bought not to the additional cost of upgrading the hardware to play games. An awesome setting, Yes there was the one off for the hard drive (from 20 to 120 gigabyte, at $119 at that time), but it was well spend. In the end I bought 2 Xbox 360’s, the second one was essential as I got another red rings of death 75 hours before the release of Fallout New Vegas, so I went: “Eff That!” and got the one with the 250 GB drive and it still works, so apart from a high blood pressure event once, the Xbox 360 was a golden choice for any gamer. I also had the PS3, which had the option to upgrade the drive as the PS4 had, so in all this the entire hard drive issue was out there for 12 years, ignoring that part (as well as always online bullying) angers me, because there was never any need, for none of it.

Why does it matter?

It is a level of orchestration, pushing people into a direction before they are ready (and perhaps they never will be). In this Cambridge Analytica is a larger hurdle then anyone imagined and the gamers are sketchy under the most stable conditions. Hackers, phishers, cheaters and trolls are always around the corner and it is best seen when you investigate ‘League of Legends’, I never played the game, but the amount of messages giving way that the victims of bullying and trolls are worse off than the perpetrators is why there should be an online ‘off’ switch. It is essential because the resources needed are allegedly not used correctly (debatable if that would have been possible), and the systems do not have the settings to protect players. The option to just play offline for a while is perhaps the only pressure valve that works (not on all games though), so when we look at MailGuard and we get it in regards to Office 365 (just one day old): “The cunning thing about this phishing scam is that once the victim has entered their username and password, the fake login page redirects them to a genuine Microsoft website, so they think that nothing is amiss. Meanwhile, the criminals have collected their login credentials and are able to steal their online identity for all kinds of nefarious purposes, like fraud, invoice falsification and malware spamming“, Microsoft needs to realise that they have a larger issue and they cannot fix it (basically no one can). Well it is possible, some of the kids involved have been identified, and by shooting them in the back of the head and leaving a message with the parents to start taking notice of what their kids are doing you get change, although some might find it a bit extreme (an issue that is probably a setting for the eyes of the beholder).

Why the extreme example?

The issue is not merely being online, the issue is that too much is online and even if we wanted to apply Common Cyber Sense all the time, there will be a hiatus and when it comes, it will be at the wrong moment in the wrong place. At present the actual success rate on finding and convicting cyber criminals is less than 2%, it is even less when we realise that not everything gets reported. It is in that atmosphere that game streaming is about to be set to a much larger extent. A setting that is based on mere authentication and not on non-repudiation (uncertain how achievable that is at present). You show me a company that guarantees you 100% safety and I will introduce you to someone who is lying to you. As the gaming industry is a $100 billion plus market, the issue was forever that gaming was low impact (for the most), people had more often than not a physical copy, there were more and more parts that one had to overcome, so for cyber criminals it was not an interesting market. Yet with the upcoming changes to the gaming environment it changes, all is online, all is set on central servers and that is when BlackMailWare and RansomWare will become a much more lucrative business for those targeting gamers. Even when you think it does not happen, what happens when your online account gets scrambled, your passwords changed from the outside and for a mere 0.01 bitcoin you can get it back. Systems like that are already used, some will consider that paying $88 is preferable to waiting and losing scores, statistics and access to files with the logs of hundreds of hours of playing a game. When you see the time some invested on games like Diablo 3, Skyrim, Fallout 4 and now upcoming Fallout 76 you get the optional setting where ransom might be successful. And the setting of ‘always online’ makes the threat to console gamers a lot more realistic. You merely have to google the issues on League of Legends and World of Warcraft to see the impact and it is much larger than some think it is. You think it is simple and an adult thing to live with, yet when Microsoft has to explain that danger 250,000 times to the non-technological mother and father of a 16 year old playing and suddenly losing all access, perhaps being permabanned in the process as well, at that point the game changes quickly.

Having a decent non-repudiation solution in place might limit the damage to a larger extent, but that system does not exist for gamers, mere authentication and even when upgrading the issue is not the 100 that do, it is the 15,000,000 who haven’t. this is part of the setting that Microsoft faces and it is facing it on a daily basis with Microsoft 365, where the users are (for the most) adults, so when we get to the console it becomes a different setting. This is why the console evolution is a little more treacherous. When the gamer has the option to remain offline (when needed) he/she has options, when forced online they fall away. Sony got hacked a few times (at least twice), with millions of accounts and the details in the open, the damage was larger than some expected and I reckon that most avoided damage was because the overwhelming amount of gamers had physical copies of the game. So offline gaming was never impacted, merely the multiplayers losing a few days of access.

Now, with Game Pass that would not be an issue and the optional overall damage of $210 (two subscriptions) are easily tended to, in the worst case scenario you pay for it twice and a few weeks later it is either refunded, or you are all paid up for +1 year.

Now, let’s change the setting that the Business insider gave us one month ago. With ‘A desperate hacker tried selling US military files for $150 — only to find no one wanted them‘ (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/hacker-us-military-drone-files-for-sale-2018-7), this seems hilarious, until you consider the following facts, the first one is “The hacker, who is believed to reside in a poverty-stricken country in South America, said his internet connection was slow and that because his bandwidth was limited, he did not download all the files prior to finding a willing buyer“, so it is in a low yield place, the second one is “The hacker also tapped into live footage of surveillance cameras at the US-Mexico border and NASA bases, and an MQ-1 Predator flying over the Gulf of Mexico“, we still have a sense of humour, live camera watching! Yay! Now we add “the vulnerable computers were taken offline, which inadvertently cut off the hacker’s access to the files“, OK, it happens, sometimes a computer has a missed security patch. Now we add ‘a maintenance manual for the MQ-9A Reaper drone, a list of airmen assigned to a Reaper drone unit, manuals on how to suppress improvised explosive devices‘, is seems harmless, right? Yet when you consider that this was a professional setting where the person had access to “documents belonging to a US Air Force service member stationed at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and documents belonging to another service member believed to be in the US Army“, we see the setting where Military security was circumvented, from a close to powerless place into Military hardware. so when we are confronted with “enough knowledge to realise the potential of a very simple vulnerability and use it consistently“, we see the first part, the second part was given with “The Netgear router vulnerability, which dates back to 2016, allowed hackers to access private files remotely if a user’s password is outdated. Despite several firmware updates and countless news articles on the subject, thousands of routers remain vulnerable“, this is a setting involving adults (one would hope), they cannot get their heads right and you are submitting teenagers and gamers (in a non-professional setting) to those exploitations. Microsoft can market all it can, and to some extent they can fix some parts, but the ‘always online‘ will still be out there and that is where the damage gets to the people.

The prosecution fail rate makes it cool and interesting to go after gamers and the many hours of having to download games will at some point present an opening for hackers, that market is growing and it will hit gamers, there is close to 0% avoiding that.

The question becomes, how ready will Microsoft be? How much resources will be impacted on their customer care and customer service when it hits? The Xbox 360 gave them the red rings of death issue (which went it happened to me was fixed awesomely, it merely took 3-4 weeks), which is acceptable as a new console was shipped to me. The setting when it is in cyberspace, the game changes as a million accounts could be affected. Some hackers will be creative and resort to a low corruption setting (like the dBase virus), some will merely download and wipe, the fact is that even if it is resolved, it will take time to resolve and that is where gamers lose patience really really fast. My setting to buy another console to fix it is one example (I had the funds when it happened), yet what happens when you are in the middle of a Diablo 3 season, which is time restrained and someone ransoms your access? In current setting the damage is partially avoidable; the new Scarlett setting leaves the partial part up for debate. In addition, as the number of people resorting to that path increases, the interest to mess with that part becomes a lot more interesting to Cyber criminals.

In this we need to look at the other side too, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) gives us “cybercrime is costing the Australian economy up to $1 billion annually in direct costs alone“, when we look global, we see Experian with the quote: “Ransomware attacks, data breaches, theft of intellectual property, sales of counterfeit goods and other illicit activities are generating at least $1.5 trillion in annual revenue“, so globally, when gamers are added to that list of victims, how high will that priority be? Do you think that they get prime time consideration, or will the party line become ‘the best and easiest thing to do is to just start again‘, I was told that by Microsoft when my Xbox one profile got somehow damaged in the first year. Now try the setting with access, invested cash and time and tenfold the amount of open targets. From my personal point of view, when there is an Office 365 impacting against the Xbox Red accounts wiped, how many resources will Microsoft have? I am certain that the business customers get first dibs on whatever they need. Now this last part does not count against Microsoft, it is merely the lesser of two high cost evils, it is reality.

Even as Microsoft is showing that it is upping the game on gaming and consoles, it is also upping to optional damage and hardship to gamers. I say optional, because in the first, we have no idea what that red box will be doing, we have no idea what the settings are for near future gaming (in 16 months) and we do not know how certain changes will actually impact the gaming sphere, but Sony has shown us that the dangers are real.

In the end, we see that Microsoft is upping the game when it comes to gaming, there is no denying it, yet how the future will pan out and whether Microsoft has truly upped the game for gamers is still to be determined. That is not a negative thing, because any expectation for the future is merely speculation, yet the dangers to their gamers will increase by a lot and that part remains the question mark in all this. Some could have been prevented by a lot, but Microsoft is clearly steering into a settings where adherence to ‘always online‘ is the setting they demand, one way or the other. Even if the prison has golden bars, it remains a prison and that part needs to be clear. The fact that gamers do not get the choice in the matter is what matters, not only from the cyber threat side. Congestion is a growing concern on a global scale. Even as Bill Morrow, Chief Executive of NBN Co. was idiotic enough to initially blame gamers for the congestion, the truth is that against 4K Netflix and YouTube, gamers are not even a blip on that radar, yet congestion is a present and growing issue, so there is a problem there too. The system is already under pressure and globally 200 million gamers when a large slice of that pie is set to the streaming and virtual copies of games only come into play, congestion will rear its ugly head and those gamers become more than a mere blip. Consider that Bethesda shipped 12 million units to retailers within the first 24 hours of Fallout 4, and consider that a large chunk of these people will immediately download the game on launch day of Fallout 76. so optionally up to 12 million people all downloading a game that is also stated to be 4K, so we are looking to around 100 GB download, that is merely one game title, it will be in a time when there is plenty to download and even now, as we accept that most are physical copies, the truth is that gaming in that way will add to the congestion in a really big way. Most providers are not ready and it will impact the gamers, Netflix users and Stan (the list goes on for a long time) are merely part of all this traffic. I named Bethesda and they are merely one of many players in all this. Microsoft, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and Electronic Arts; all people pushing (or getting pushed) towards the virtual release only side of things down the track.

Why does this matter now?

One of the big events QuakeCon 2018 starts tomorrow and that will also be the place where more specific information will be given by the actual makers on more than one title by the way. It will be important on how games are moving forward. It is not merely Fallout 76 (one of the biggest titles anticipated) that is in the upper limits of gaming on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation; it would potentially give the direction of where they are going with the Elder Scrolls VI. Merely two Bethesda games that literally has millions of followers, so there is an essential need to take notice of Bethesda for several reasons. This reverts back to Microsoft, because Bethesda games have a huge following on all platforms. It also means that in that setting (set against the rumour that Fallout 76 is online multiplayer only, yet you can play the game alone) any congestion will topple game joy completely. We know that there is enough experience with Elder Scrolls Online, so it is not the setting that Bethesda is going in blind in any of this, but at the same time the gaming dimension is changing at the same time, so that change is impacting in more than one way; that is the push that Microsoft is going for, which is all fine, yet at that that point we will be faced with more outside interference factors and congestion is a real factor, one that players will be confronted with to a much larger degree in the near future.

If Microsoft gets that all right, then it will be picking up momentum in a scary way and at that point the question will be, can Sony match this? I personally love that part, if we see a setting where Sony and Microsoft push each other to new heights is great because in all this, the gamer ALWAYS wins! And over time this push is a realistic one, yet in some places we will optionally see a time where the providers cannot match what the consumers need and that is a new setting for many gamers. In the past we merely accepted what was available, in the new setting you get to play based on what you pay for and that is something we have not been confronted with. Anyone thinking that this will not happen; think again! It might be the selling point for people to switch providers, but there will be a clear setting of borders, borders that set what you can do and that is where we see the overall cost go up, yet to what extent is a clear unknown for now.

 

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Be not stupid

There is an article in the Guardian. Now, we all agree that anyone has their own views, that has been a given for the longest of times, and those reading my blog know that I have a different view at times, yet for the most, I remained neutral and non-attacking to those with a different view, that’s how I roll.

Today is different, the article “‘Easy trap to fall into’: why video-game loot boxes need regulation” by Mattha Busby (@MatthaBusby) got to me. It is time for people to realise that when you are over 18, you are responsible for your actions. So I have, pretty much, no patience with any American, Reddit user or not, who gives us “a Reddit user who claims to have spent $10,000“. If you are that stupid, you should not be allowed to play video games.

The Setting

To comprehend my anger, you need to realise the setting we see here. You see, loot boxes are not new. This goes all the way back to 1991 when Richard Garfield created Magic, the gathering. I was not really on board in the beginning, but I played the game. The issues connect when you realise how the product was sold. There was a starter kit (which we call the basic game) it will have enough cards to start playing the game as well as the essential cards you need to play it. To get ahead in the game you need to get boosters. Here is where it gets interesting. Dozens of games are working on the principle that Richard Garfield founded. A booster would have 9-13 cards (depending on the game), It would have 1 (read: One) rare card (or better), 3 uncommon cards and the rest would be common cards. I had several of these games I played and in the end (after 20 boosters) it was merely about collecting the rare cards if you wanted a complete set. Some would not care about it and they could play the game. So this is not a new thing, so if you truly spend $10,000 you should not complain. If you have the money it is not an issue, if you did not, you are too stupid for words. In games it is not new either. Mass Effect 3, the best multiplayer game ever (my personal view) had loot boxes as well, I am pretty sure that they were the first. Yes, you could buy them, with money, or with Microsoft credit points. The third option was that you could gather points whilst playing (at the cost of $0) and use these gained points to buy loot boxes, the solution most people used. Over time you would end up with sensational goods to truly slice and dice the opponents, all gained through play time, no extra cash required.

So when I see places like Venture beat (and the Guardian of course) state issues like: “some people, policymakers, and regulators — including the gaming authorities in Belgium and Netherlands — that those card packs have are gambling“. I see these statements as moronic and I regard them as statements of false presentation. You see, that is not what it is about! When you see the attached picture, you see that these cards are sold EVERYWHERE. The issue is that the CCG card games are sold in the shops, which means that revenue is TAXED. The online sales are not and now, policymakers are all up in arms because they lost out on a non-taxable ‘$1.25 billion during its last quarter even without releasing a major new game‘, that is the real issue and they are now all acting in falsehood. So, when I see “I am currently $15,800 in debt. My wife no longer trusts me. My kids, who ask me why I am playing Final Fantasy all the time, will never understand how I selfishly spent money I should have been using for their activities“, as well as “he became addicted to buying in-game perks, which he later described as ‘digital garbage’“. I merely see people without discipline, without proper control. So without any regard for diplomacy I will call them junkies, plain and simple. Junkies who have no idea just how stupid they are. And, since when do we adjust policy for junkies? Since when are the 99% who hold themselves all plenty accountable, have the proper discipline to not overspend and some (like me) never considered loot boxes in a game like Shadow of War, now being held to account, to lessened gaming impact by junkies? Can anyone answer me this?

Now, we need to take into consideration one or two things. Are the FIFA18 loot boxes set in a similar light? That is the one place where (seemingly) FIFA is in the wrong. You see I have been searching to get any info on what is in a FIFA loot box, but there is no information given. I believe that this lack is actually an issue, yet that could be resolved in 24 hours if Electronic Arts would dedicate 1 page (considering it brings them $1.25 billion a quarter) on what is to be found in a loot box (Rare, Uncommon, Common). The second part that I cannot answer (because I am not a soccer fan) is whether the game allows loot boxes to be earned through playing and finally. Can the game be played without loot boxes? It seems like such a small alteration to make and especially when we see the fuss that is being made now. Some additional facts can be seen in Rolling Stone Magazine of all places (at https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/features/loot-boxes-never-ending-games-and-always-paying-players-w511655). So now that we get a fuss from several nations, nations that have been all open and accepting on games like The Decipher CCG games Star Trek and Star Wars, Magic the Gathering, The Lord of the Rings, My Little Pony, Harry Potter, Pokémon, and that list goes on for some time. In that regard, they are all gambling and in my view, I feel certain that these so called politicians and lime light seekers will do absolutely NOTHING to get anything done because the cards are subject to VAT and the online stuff is lost taxable revenue. That is what I personally see as the foundation of a corrupt administration.

You see, the fact is that it is not gambling. You buy something that is in 3 categories, Rare, Uncommon and Common, you ALWAYS get this in a setting of 1 rare, 3 uncommon and 5 common, which card you get is not a given, it is random, but they will always get that setting. Let’s for example state that the loot box is $7, you get one $3 card, three $1 cards and five $0.20 cards, so how is that gambling? For Electronic Arts, until they update the website to give a precise definition might be in waters that are a little warmer, but that can be fixed by the end of the day. Perhaps they do have such a page, but Google did not find it.

In addition, Venture Beat gave us (at https://venturebeat.com/2018/05/08/ea-ceo-were-pushing-forward-with-loot-boxes-in-face-of-regulation/) “EA will have to convince policymakers around the world that it is doing enough and that its mechanics are not the same as the kinds of games you’d find in a casino“, which is easy as these policymakers did absolutely nothing to stop CCG’s like Pokémon and My Little Pony (truly games for minors), so we can stat that this was never about the loot box, it was about missed taxable revenue, a side that all the articles seemed to have left in the dark.

The Guardian has one additional gem. With: “A bill introduced in Minnesota last month would prohibit the sale of video games with loot boxes to under-18s and require a severe warning: “This game contains a gambling-like mechanism that may promote the development of a gaming disorder that increases the risk of harmful mental or physical health effects, and may expose the user to significant financial risk.”” Here I am in the middle. I think that Americans are not that bright at times, a point of view supported with the image of paper cups with the text ‘Caution Hot’ to avoid liability if some idiot burns their mouth; we know that sanity is out of the window. Yet the idea that there should be a loot box warning is perhaps not the worst idea. I think that EA could get ahead of the curve by clearly stating in a readable font size that ‘no loot boxes are needed to play the game‘, which is actually a more apt statement (and a true one) for Shadow of War, with FIFA18, I do not know. You see, this is a changed venue, when you can add a world player to your team the equation changes. Yet, does it make it more or less enjoyable? If I play NHL with my Capitals team and I get to add Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretsky my chances to get the Stanley cup go up, yet is that a real win or is that cheating? That is of course the other side, the side that the game maker Ubisoft enabled in their Assassins Creed series. you could unlock weapons and gear for a mere $4, they clearly stated that the player would be able to unlock the options during the game, yet some people are not really gamers, mere players with a short attention span and they want the hardware upfront. Enter the Civil war with an Uzi and a Remington, to merely coin a setting. Are they gamers, or are they cheaters? It is a fair question and there is no real answer. Some say that the game allowed them to do this, which is fair and some say, you need to earn the kills you make. We can go to it from any direction, yet when we are confronted with mere junkies going on with spending $15,800, adding to a $69 game, we are confronted with people so stupid, it makes me wonder how he got his wife pregnant in the first place. If the given debt $15,800 is true then there should be a paper trail. In that regard I am all for the fact that there should be a spending limit of perhaps $500 a month, a random number but the fact that there is a limit to spend is not the worst idea. In the end, you have to pay for the stuff, so have a barrier at that point could have imposed a limit on the spending. In addition, we can point at the quote “how I selfishly spent money I should have been using for their activities” and how that is the response of any junk to make, ‘Oh! I am so sorry‘, especially after the junk got his/her fix.

The Guardian gives in addition an actual interesting side: “Hawaiian congressman Chris Lee said “are specifically designed to exploit and manipulate the addictive nature of human psychology”“, it is a fair point to make. Are ‘game completionists’ OCD people? Can the loot box be a vessel of wrongdoing? It might, yet that still does not make it gambling or illegal, which gets us to the Minnesota setting of a warning on the box. It is an interesting option and I think that most game makers would not oppose that, because you basically are not keeping loot boxes a secret and that might be a fair call to make, as long as we are not going overboard with messages like: “This game is a digital product, it requires a working computer to install and operate“, because at that point we have gone overboard again. This as a nice contrast against: “In the Netherlands, meanwhile, lawmakers have said that at least four popular games contravene its gambling laws because items gleaned from loot box can be assigned value when they are traded in marketplaces“, which is another issue. you see when you realise that “you can’t sell any digital content that you aren’t authorized to sell” and as we also saw in Venture Beat ““While we forbid the transfer of items and in-game currency outside of the games, we also actively seek to eliminate that where it’s going on in an illegal environment,”“, we see a first part where we can leave it to the Dutch to cater to criminals on any average working day, making the lawmakers (from my personal point of view slightly short sighted).

So, in the end Mattha had a decent article, yet the foundation (the CCG games) which were the creators of the founding concept were left outside the basket of consideration, which is a large booboo, especially when we realise that they are still for sale in all these complaining countries and that in that very same regard these games are not considered gambling, which sets the stage that this was never about gambling, but several desperate EU nations, as well as the US mind you, that they are all realising that loot boxes are billions of close to non-taxable revenues. That is where the issue holds and even as I do not disagree with the honourable men from both Hawaii and Minnesota, the larger group of policy players are all about the money (and the linked limelight), an issue equally left in the dark. There is one issue against Electronic Arts, yet they can fix that before the virtual ink on the web page has dried, so that issue is non-existent as well soon enough.

It’s all in the game and this discussion will definitely be part of the E3 2018, it has reached too many governments not to do so. I reckon that on E3 Day Zero, EA and Ubisoft need to sit down in a quiet room with cold drinks and talk loot box tactics, in that regard they should invite Richard Garfield into their meeting as an executive consultant. He might give them a few pointers to up the profit whilst remaining totally fair to the gamers, a win-win for all I say! Well, not for the politicians and policy makers, but who cares about them? For those who do care about those people, I have a bridge for sale with a lovely view of Balmain Sydney, going cheap today only!

 

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