Tag Archives: Elite Dangerous

The next challenge

Gaming IP is always a challenge. There is the iterative challenge of getting a sequel or a remaster into play. Even as the innovative charge does not hold up for too long, a great game remastered can fill the coffers of a software house rather fast and nicely. We have seen it in the past, we could optionally see it when someone decides to take SEGA Dreamcast IP to a new setting. I personally think that both Fur Fighters and Wacky Races are undervalued and cast aside. Fur Fighters has its own challenge and graphically on the Dreamcast it would be able to hold itself up against most of the IP we see today. It had the quirks that made us wonder what else would be possible, and that is a good thing.

There there was the Hanna Barbera classic Wacky Races. It was a race game that held up against Mario Kart and it was unique, a setting where the racers all had special abilities and overall each racer was gifted with all kinds of options, it was when the game was done against one another when it truly started to shine. There are of course more, but a lot of them were done in new ways and with new options. Yet these two were forgotten and in the age of play that is a shame.

When we look at the innovation station, the setting becomes oblique, there is a lack of clarity, in almost everyone and I am no exception. You see, we look at the games that exist and how we might do better or how we might change the way we play and that is hard, it really is, I do not deny it. I created several pieces of IP, yet I am also gifted with the weakness of looking to those who did make amazing games. I believe that is a problem, not a big one, but one none the less. I tend to look at the age that stands between the CBM-64 and the CBM Amiga (Including Atari ST). That era gave us so many games and so many could be upgraded and improved upon. Not  because the makers failed, they did not. But what is possible in 2022 was not an option in 1986, moreover there is every chance that the makers never considered it in those days. In this David Braben might have been one of the few to move Elite (1985) into Elite Dangerous (2014), it was great then and it became overwhelmingly amazing in 2014. It is one of the few games that made a multi generation leap and the best part is that there are dozens of games that could have that ability. I wrote about it in the past. The 1983 EA game ‘Murder on the Zinderneuf’ could be the next thing. In this that it could be revamped, set to a larger stage and it gave me the idea to set the streamers (Google Stadia and Amazon Luna) to a new set of achievements one that could transfer into other games. Setting a new premise towards gaming and optionally trying new games. Yet that does not make it innovative. I believe my generation RPG, see previous story ‘Recap to the intro’ on September 25th 2021 (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2021/09/25/recap-to-the-intro/) for details. The question becomes how many original new parts are required to move from iterative to innovative? I actually do not know. An RPG is not like other RPG’s and I avoided to copy the settings that Bethesda had, and I added options that Ubisoft ignored in the Assassins Creed. Sucks to be them! I ended up with more than 1 IP and a setting where Amazon could grow its population by 50,000,000 (not a typo). All settings that Microsoft just overlooked and ignored. The strongest console in the world? My ass! A ship is only as good as its captain and their board of directors are pushing ideas for self preservation whilst they do not understand what gamers want and need, as such they tend to lose battle after battle and it was Nintendo (the weakest console) that overtook them in less than half the time Microsoft had to grow its population. 

Yet the station remains valid. If we need more gamers, the need for innovation is adamant. Yes, we ca add iterative new games and that keeps the interest going for a little whilst, but it is long term games that a console need to gain real traction with consumers and that is why innovation remains key. Innovation is the next thing that drives hardware sales and that is what Ubisoft forgot about long before their 11th hour was up. And now that we see partnerships and all kinds of marketing messages (all whilst they lost another creative director), we can see that players like Ubisoft is trying to make their life last a little longer, all whilst the gamers know and see that their game is done. My prediction given last year was a lot more on the nose than most expected it to be and it matters. There is every chance that the headlines of Ubisoft that left become the new indie designers we hoped for and in this both Google and Amazon have a need to set that directive to their systems as fast as they can.

Time is running out and when gamers look around for a good game, it would be really nice if they are ready to support those gamers. Sony is ready, yet as a gamer I feel that a good gaming environment requires more than one platform and Microsoft is no longer a contender, so who will be the number two? Nintendo? Will the the people at Google and Amazon take this console war serious? We will let them decide.

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The missing gap

I woke up this morning (03:15) and I started to realise what I had been missing (no, not a gorgeous woman, but yes, that too). I have been a gamer for the longest of times and I have been active going back to the Commodore Vic-20 (1982). Over the span of 40 years I have seen a huge collection of games spanning the Vic-20, CBM-64, AtariST, CBM Amiga, Megadrive, Playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, Xbox-360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Playstation 5. I am not counting the PC and Mac Games but yes I had them too. My mind suddenly wandered on certain titles and the one that woke me up was an old PS1 game, Kula World. 

I suddenly realised what I missed. Game makers are all about the achievements, the progress and the hardship. Yet, when was the last time you set down relaxed and just played to have fun? I reckon that most of you had with Minecraft, but with what other game? Do not get me wrong, Skyrim is heaps fun, but it is a game with missions, a game with targets and I do not oppose them. Sometimes we just want to have fun, either alone or with friends. I reckon that is why Mario Party is such a success. Gaming just for fun. When was that?

It is almost a setting that gaming is now intended to push artsy people into a business degree. It is OK for some and ok for some all of the time, but not for all people all of the time. The new games (even the ones I designed) are about targets, populations and getting to a point, but what if there is no real point? Kula World was a game with a target in the distance, but oddly enough, when you were playing it was about the fun and I actually miss that. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still love hours and hours of Elite Dangerous, I still enjoy my Skyrim time and at times even Watchdogs: Legion. Yet the stage of focussing on fun is dwindling down in gaming and I think that is a shame and it is a loss for all gamers. I get it, some want to get contracts done in Grand Theft Auto, some what to get their team to the cup (NHL) and some want to survive (Last of Us) and there is nothing wrong with that. Yet at times it merely needs about the fun of playing and that is gone in too many places. And even I am guilty of that, all the designs I created, my mind created was about going somewhere, and for moments I forgot the feeling I had in Oblivion to just look at the scenery. Why is that, what did the game makers forget? What were we made to forget? 

I do not know how it happened. Perhaps people (game makers) were too intent on staring at Ubisoft and their one AC a year, perhaps they all forgot what the fun of playing was or perhaps the makers hired Business degree people to get them a money making game. Yet I feel that something is being lost and I hope that some will rectify this sooner rather than later. I reckon that if I looked back to the last 3 years, playing Minecraft and losing time and the sense of time there is the most fun I have been having playing a game, which is a shame. I had that feeling a lot in the Amiga and CBM64 time and I miss that feeling, I suddenly realised that I missed feeling that way. There is no way in hell that I am the only gamer feeling that way, but there it is. The gap I am missing and it makes sense, after all that school, who took a gap year? Where is our console gap year? Even now as we marvel on the sanctity of new titles, new challenges and new horizons, where is the gap that allows us to sit and just have fun?

Think back, when was the last time you had actual fun playing?

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What sells better?

That is the question that was racing through my mind today. We all know (or have heard of) the expression ‘Sex sells’. It is used to market, to advertise and to entice (usually the men). But what if that is merely the setting? What if in actuality fantasy is the part that sells better? I had a small daydream this afternoon. I was in Toronto and I was chosen to be the backup goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs (yes, the dream is not very realistic). I was sitting in some cafe, the staff was nice and suddenly addressed by Sheldon Keefe (their coach) and he said to me “Lawrence, today your most desired dreams becomes a reality”, my dry response was “What? You arranged a weekend of wild and passionate sex with Laura Vandervoort?” The team was howling with laughter and the coach deadpan response was “Well almost most desired then” and I was given the 62 Jersey to be the backup goalie that week, and lets face it, not unlike my blog name, if we want to have a fantasy, lets go for the really satisfying ones. 

So there I was with my jersey there were a few other jokes and giggles after that I woke up from my daydream (without the LV special), such is life. But the dream stuck and when I was watching someones drawing of Alice in wonderland I started to put things together. What if we are not looking at a porn or some sex movie, but what we used to call in the old days a soft porn movie (all innuendo and little or no show, except for the boobies). What if the movie is a new take in Alice in Wonderland? We go through the motions (or Alice does) and the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, the rabbit, they are all men with masks and onesies. A movie that is like not some cheap movie, but high end special effects (not unlike The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) and a storyline that does follow the book, but with a twist at the end. The end being that [CENSORED]

A stage that reminded me of a movie that impacted with me, Jacob’s Ladder. So what happens if Virtual Reality takes over our lives too much? There are settings (Elite Dangerous) where I would love to have the hardware to do just that, but the hardware for now is too expensive and (for now) not immersive enough. So when that changes (most likely in 2-3 years) what are the applications? What happens when we can dig into the fantasies of any person (like The Cell) 

So what can we learn? I am not merely thinking healing, but interrogations, information retrieval and a few other avenue’s. So when we take the stage and turn on the fantasy, what could be achieved? We have seen this in the past but always as the end goal, as far as I can tell it was never used as a mere waypoint. Why was that? It cannot be the limit of Hollywood, it could be the limit of any producer yet I believe that this path could lead to a load of green as the faith of Americans go. I believe that there is a host of options here, and as streaming channels are competing more and more, whatever we can do that is truly original is one that streamers will entice, I merely hope that they wake up before they cancel the series too soon (way too many examples) because it is the slow start and the deep story that entices a crowd and engages them. Not the Marvel versions. This is not me having a go at Marvel movies, because I love them, but there is more and that part is not explored, or perhaps explored too little. I personally would have loved where Dollhouse season 3 would have taken us. Eliza Dushku, Dichen Lachman, Enver Gjokaj, Tahmoh Penikett, Fran Kranz, Olivia Williams, Harry Lennix and Amy Acker were all beyond good, the story was engaging and enticing, yet we were sold short, a cancellation after season 2. So will a new approach to Virtual Reality as a weapon make it? I honestly do not know but as far as I can tell no one took that route and in a stage where games can almost take us there, the lack of such a direction seems like a loss.

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Clouds with a change for gaming

Yup, I started it yesterday, and part 2 is today as I had a few ideas on the subject. These ideas can be used as public domain by Amazon (Luna), but Microsoft will have to pay big time (if they can hand over $7,500,000,000 to Bethesda, they can pay me at least 1%).

Changes (by David Bowie)
The first thing I will do is to introduce Milestones, it is for the most part merely a name change to ‘Achievements’, yet over time it will be a little more. The second is to add a second tier to this, I will add ‘Discovery’ to this, yet all you Susie Dent boffins can clearly see it is a Synonym, yet the function of Discovery is different. As you discover something in one game, it gives you a token that can be spent as YOU see fit. For example if you find a ‘golden chess piece’ in a game like Clue, or a ‘Golden Revolver’ they will become Discoveries that wield the token of a revolver, or a Chess set. In a game like Battle Chess (in normal or battle mode), the Chess token will unlock a Greek Chess set, The golden revolver could unlock a weapon in another game and so on. This is one of the nice parts of the Cloud, we can add a lot more over time and give the people a reason. David Bowie sang:

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
So the days float through my eyes

I think it is time to take a page from that, we see gaming chances in perspective, but never remove you from where you are. I am setting a stage where that is possible, where games have a longer lasting appeal and I am offering the stage where the player tries something else as well. Most gaming options outside of the console and singular streams do not offer you this, merely an optional DLC and an optional skin, I want the token to take on new life and a much larger stage. This is about gaming and this is about making gamers happy. The nice part is that there is no guarantee that the token is there at game 1, I thought it through, yes there are some internet driven completionists, yet it is time for them to smell the reality of gaming.

We have largely ignored the masters of yesterday because they were 8 bit, yet some of them with today’s graphics and better intelligent response mappings could become the heroes of tomorrow and the nice part is that the groundwork is already done. Consider Millennium 2.2 with an upgraded map of this solar system, with additional information, more options and a larger stage, can we truly think it will not matter? I wrote about Murder on the Zinderneuf, Seven cities of gold and a few more in the past, close to a dozen games ready to be ‘captured’ (if the IP was abandoned), and the early bird that hesitates grows its own worms, so let’s get cracking. 

Microsoft throws money at everything, wouldn’t it be nice for players like Amazon (optionally Netflix too) to show them how silly that idea was? You see, I love Bethesda products, I really do, yet I also believe that gamers like the next fresh (and original) game. Consider that the top 100 of all time (by Metacritic) has a top 10 with 3 games older than 20 years and an additional 4 games that are between 10 and 19 years old, giving us that the 70% of the top 10 is 10 years or older, these numbers are in front of everyone and as far as I can tell, none of them are Electronic Arts or Ubisoft and 30% of the top 10 is Nintendo. So I have a clear case here, so why are the different board of directors pushing for some game every year, cool graphics will do the trick or perhaps having the most powerful console is the solution. As I see it, without a really good game they will not continue and that evidence is all over the place. 

So where to go after this? Well that is up to I reckon the Indie developers, they will need to choose an optional winner and in that platform create their original or remastered and revamped game. Consider that Elite was released in 1985, now the revamp called Elite Dangerous has 500,000 active monthly players. Ubisoft has plenty of successful games not being that busy, as such we can see that the old games still have appeal. OK the difference between Elite and Elite dangerous is larger than the Grand Canyon, but the foundation remained the same and that is the pull we need to consider that close to a dozen games released in the last decade could have a great revamped and remastered life on streaming even if they were not that successful in an earlier life. The difference is to truly look into a game and see what is possible. Like a sculptor to take that block of marble and chip away what is not needed and reveal the Torlonia statue and yes, it is not merely about chipping away, in some cases it is about polishing, upgrading and adding which we cannot do in a statue, but the statue could be given a shield, a sword (or trident). All options and streaming will give us a larger and adjustable stage as well. A stage where your game will be in the streaming stores for close to a decade. There are clearly options for streaming and it will not hinder consoles, the console gamers will most likely choose an additional streaming solution on the side.

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