Tag Archives: Fallout 3

Slamming the Game makers

There are many games that get released, there have been titans that we still yearn for and even as several games are upcoming or just now released, there is no denying that the gaming community at large have been anticipating the arrival of Mass Effect. YouTube is getting swamped by groups of people, some are utter idiots, trying to get traction in viewers, so the least said about them the better, some have outspoken opinions on the game, which is fair enough and some of those videos are actually decently insightful and some give us a view, but they do not give the game away. One of these very good reviewers is JV2017gameplay. In that regard, the video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGdGEqYYJjA), gives us a backdrop on the game in relation to the original trilogy. The video is well worth viewing. Seeing this before the game is launched is a very good idea, yet not essential. We get to see some of what we will see in the game, yet we are told explicitly, the video holds no spoilers, which is really good, because I like my surprises to come from the game, not from someone’s video. I have to admit that there were two issues in the story shown, but there could be a very good explanation. This movie and one other (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7hs5cu43Ck), which is about exploration show one element in absolute clarity. That is the fact that Mass Effect Andromeda is clearly arriving 5 years after the previous game for a very good reason. This game shows to be a massive leap forward from the last two games. There is a level of familiarity when we see the interfaces, so those whomever played it before is likely to get a quick handle on the game play. Two videos that show us that Bioware has taken the game to a new level, one that seems to be trumping the sum of both Mass Effect 2 and 3.

I am not going too much on the videos, you will just have to watch them, which is a good idea if you are serious about getting this game. What is important to me is that this game is one of the earlier games that is upgraded so that you could enjoy the maximum that either the PS4pro of Xbox 1s has to offer. So if you have the right TV, you would be able to enjoy this game in 4K resolution, which is great. My issue (in the positive) is that Bioware shows us, not unlike Bethesda did in recent past, that good games do not get released on an annual bases. I truly hope that Yves Guillemot learns his lesson from this. A second lesson that I hope he will learn, is that a game that has all the elements of different games, will not add up to be an excellent game at all.

Now, some will see this as my slamming Yves Guillemot, yet I disagree, although, if Yves proclaims to not agree with this assessment, he might not be 100% incorrect #JustSaying. It is my view on the creation of mediocrity. Yet, are all bad reviews correct? Here I feel that more than one person has not been fair against all things Ubisoft, which needs to be stated as well. You see I do disagree with the vision that James Marvin gives us on how adaptations of movies from films seem to consistently flop, this with the reference to the Assassin’s Creed film. What constitutes a flop? You see with a Production Budget: $125 million, a movie making $238,396,337 is in my view a success. I give $125 and I get back $238 that is 90% profit! With banks giving you 5% if you are lucky, that result constitutes a good day’s work. I will say that I did not consider this a great movie, yet it is not a bad one either. Anyone who saw the remake of Point break 2015 will happily agree with me. The AC movie had a good cast, the cinematography is actually a little overwhelming at times, but the filming shows to be slightly too chaotic and too many jumps to Michael Fassbender in virtual device mode, which is pretty much it. As it was a financial success blaming Justin Kurzel is equally unfounded, but here is part of the issue, it is the vision that was given. I think that the error was to some extent as stated earlier, not the greatest visions, making it less a success than it might have been.

This now reflects back to Mass Effect, because the game has one thing as it went from game 3 to game 4, it shows vision, the eternal platinum trump card that makes a game an instant classic and the 90%+ success rating that really good games get.

What should overwhelm you are the ‘upgrades’ that Mass Effect offers. Looking through windows showing the actual space where you are, which is a little overwhelming. Like the AC series, the voices have been taken well care of with Clancy Brown is the voice of ‘your’ father, an actor that the younger player will recognise as Mr Krabs (a SpongeBob square pants production). Others might recognise him from Cowboys and Aliens and the classic sergeant Zim from Starship Troopers. You, as the player will be voiced by either the stunning model Fryda Wolff, who weirdly enough has not seen too much camera on TV or the big screen (hinting towards Michael Fassbender here for his next production), but has been active in games like Civilisation, Final Fantasy 13, Call of Duty, Fallout 4, XCom 2 and the Technomancer, and if you are playing the male character by Tom Taylorson who is actually new to this level of work. Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, the Tudors), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey) and several others. Oh, and to be fair, Assassins Creed 2 had no lack of actors and actresses either. They gave us Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Alex Ivanovici (X-men, Mirror Mirror), Lita Tresierra, who sadly passed away (the Factory), Carlos Ferro (Dominic, Gears of Wars series). So this is what both sides took pride and effort in and there has never been anything but the highest praise for both game makers. Also it is the graphical side that was never a flaw, you only need to look at Assassins Creed Black Flag (which has other issues), to see what the Ubisoft graphical department can do when they set their mind to it, they really got the sense of the Caribbean right, it almost felt like I was actually there in that time, or so I would believe it to look like.

Getting back to Mass Effect 4, the entire game as shown so far seems to be nothing less than Mass Effect 2 on steroids. The exploration, the graphics and large land masses, the fact that a map has several fast travel points give rise to the facts that the planets are a fair bit larger than ever before. This will be the game for anyone who loved the original trilogy, anyone who has a need to shoot things and for those with a reverence to role playing games. Now, as this game is not out yet for another 7.61 days (roughly) we have no idea on the amount of hours of game play that this game brings, the actual amount of planets you can land on and explore and so on. In addition, the Mass Effect series, like some others have always lend their design for additions (DLC’s) and season passes, so I wonder if more would come. I cannot state whether this would come with the overwhelming value that the Fallout 4 season pass gave us, but we can hope, can we not?

The power of games is at times great to experience, especially when we see a game like Mass Effect Andromeda. True, several good games have been released, but when we focus on the 90%+ ratings, over the last 12 months gives us Nioh, Dark Souls 3, Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind divided and Overwatch. 5 games over the last 12 months (Witcher 3 GOTY edition is also making the cut, but the original was released in 2015, which is why I omitted it). So as you can see 5 (or 6) great games a year. Now, there will always be games that did not make it to the 90% level, but we still want to play them (sport games), those games are niche games, but consider how many games you play per year and how many of them were in that 90% plus range? Now consider Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla games, which is one of the newer players on the block (2000), Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (2002), which is CI Games first attempt to produce an AAA game, or Elite: Dangerous, who is now entering the PlayStation 4 field, a game originally made on a BBC Micro B in 1984 (a machine with 32Kb RAM). Last I want to mention Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment, which is a company that has 20 employees. Its founder Charlie Cleveland shows what vision can bring, in his case an ‘open’ world survival game where you are adrift on an ocean after crashlanding on a water planet. What happens after that is up to you, so as the radio tells you (when you get it fixed) that you can wait 99,999 hours, which amounts to 11.4 years, or make a life for yourself. This starts a very different game which you need to see to believe. I hope that the PlayStation people get to experience it as well, because the game will bring you a hundred hours or more of challenges, entertainment and visual wonder. This is visionary on a new level! There are a few other surprises in this game. You have not lived until you tried to get anywhere in this game in hardcore mode (1 life). In this I would slam both Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. I honestly cannot state whether it is complacency or what I would call an adherence to mediocrity. The two makers who bedazzled us with greatness have been regarded as below par too often for a little too long. This visibility comes out even stronger as we see how great Mass Effect 4 could be (Electronic Arts) and Ubisoft who basically has not produced a 90%+ game since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013). When did spreadsheets overrule the need for excellence? When we all expected that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands would give back some confidence in Ubisoft, we see reviews that hardly make 80%, which is a really bad thing for Ubisoft. When I see the review comment ‘Writing is terrible and it’s riddled with bugs, but there’s fun to be had with friends‘, I wonder whether the second part was given there to be soft to make sure that Yves Guillemot would not cry too loud. Yet the truth we also see is “Of all the publishers out there, it’s Ubisoft that has most affectionately embraced the open world” should have been the driving force that could have given Ubisoft a super seller (a slice of Skyrim anyone?), yet the reviews imply that it is not to be. In addition the reviewer (Sam White) shows the lesson I tried to impart on Ubisoft more than once “that is when you realise that Ubisoft has taken collectibles too far“, a lesson they should have learned before Assassins Creed Unity was released.

When smaller places like Unknown Worlds Entertainment and Hello Games surpass you with each less than 25 staff members, you need to seriously wake up. I am actually surprised that Ubisoft Still exists, because to be honest, they should have imploded with no funds left by 2015 (so you see, I can be wrong too!). The question is how such places stay afloat. Marketing only make up for so much, in the end it is the product that matters!

The question is where do gamers go to next? In all this, I too need to keep an open mind. I have a specific desire for games and even as I admire Dark Souls 3, I know I will never actually finish it. I am not that great a slasher. I am all for stealth games, which is why Styx was such an amazing experience and challenge, so as we are about to get its sequel, I too join a group who will accept a lower than 90% game (which shows that there is more than just high ratings). However, we do know that Ubisoft has had its successes in that genre too: Blacklist and Conviction are both 90% games and they delivered (apart from one annoying issue in blacklist) and I cannot wait for a new instalment of that series. Here too we see that when we look deeper that there are lines of games that could result in new 90% versions, not just because the player group is large enough, but because developers like CI Games are showing that there is interest in getting a stealth game that is a serious challenge (Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3). Will this statement remain true if the reviews scores are barely making the 80% grade? I believe so, I believe that quality games will always find a home and I also believe that the proper attention will drive new players, especially if the reviews and scores correctly reflect the quality of the game. This is what I meant again and again when I stated towards Ubisoft: ‘A game that is based on a matrix on how to not make a bad game, will reflect that and not be a bad game. Yet in that same setting it will also never become a truly great game‘, Mafia III, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch Dogs 2 have proven me correct. On the opposition, those who made it (like Witcher 3 and its additions), excellence is more than merely its own reward, it creates a following and it sets a milestone for others to strive for.

In the same way that I see stealth games, I see that ‘open’ world games like the ones Bethesda produces, gives us options and replayable versions unlike most other games, which now give rise to the question why can’t others get there? Oblivion (2006), Fallout 3 (2008), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Skyrim (2011) and Fallout 4, all of them 90%+ games. With two of them given a 100% score by more than one reviewer; that is what makes them essential games to own (for those not hating RPG games). I think we can agree that there is a fairly sized group of people who are not into RPG’s and that will always be fair enough. In that same view, I am not, and am unlikely to ever become a GTA fan. Yet the RPG group is growing, so I wonder where these two players go. You see, living on Mass Effect alone will not aid EA in its growth, who actually was one of the innovative distributors of one of the pioneers in this field (the Ultima series), so why not seek in those revamps? In that same light Wing Commander and Privateer brought the light of space flight, now they will have to compete, but our love for these games have (for the most) not diminished, so where is the IP on that? Eidos gave us Soul Reaver a game that could be rebranded in something awesome (even though the originals were actually pretty good). Yet, here I go on in the remake directions. What I hope is that these two once great development houses will seek visionaries to give us the next batch of (hopefully new) true visionary game play. If crowd funding took only 9 days to get the minimum requirement to get the relaunch of System Shock started, do you really think that RPG and tactical games are on the way out? No, most gamers are looking towards the thrills we once had and some are looking for that next new original challenge. Perhaps the makers need to start looking into the Comic book dimension. Marvel might be booked solid, but there is a league of comics that might never ever make the light of day outside of its own clique following. Even if we look at what has been tried before, an actual good Buffy video game would draw millions towards the shops. An actual good version would ensure large lines in front of a game retailer. The Darkness, what I considered to be a fine game (not great), but a good reflection of the comic style which I considered to be essential. Series like Witchblade (awesome artwork, yet awful TV series), or perhaps Michael Turner’s Fathom. You see, the ‘non-failure’ spreadsheet of Ubisoft might not allow for a game based on Fathom to be created, yet Subnautica seems to be proving them wrong at present. So as the elements of Fathom with ‘members of a race of aquatic humanoids called the Blue who possess the ability to control water‘ give rise to very interesting settings (as well of the majestic unknown that we call the seven seas). The idea of a game, open world or not (more like large levels) where we need to think in three dimensions when playing calls for quality gaming, if properly executed, we could see an entirely new level of game play one that does require next gen consoles and powerful PC’s. Consider that in 2015, the sales of comic books surpassed $1,000,000,000. Now also consider that the market size of comic books was estimated to be $280-$200 million market in 1998, and even though we have seen a decade of hard times, this market has never stopped growing from 1998 to 2016 (source: http://www.comichron.com). Is it such a leap to not seriously consider that market? And in this case, I am specifically taking DC Comics and Marvel out of the equation.

Visionaries are worth their weight in gold. So if EA and Ubisoft have any, then give them a 6′ stack of comic books and see what they can come up with. I reckon that these two players waste more money on some brainstorm lunch with BI executives, so that expense should be easy to justify. For me? If this results in them each producing at least two 90% plus game within 3 years, we all end up winning. Is that not a beautiful consideration?

 

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What is the mission?

This is not about Russian jets, I feel that some members of the press are only now realising certain elements in that case (better late than never) and in addition, the second element towards the cauldron filled by the demons of idiocy will require a little more investigation (legal papers can be consuming, with an exam due on Monday that part must wait). What is interesting is the article by Keith Stuart called ‘Has video game reviewing become an impossible task?‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/25/video-game-reviewing-critics-industry). He starts with: “four of the year’s biggest releases – Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Star Wars: Battlefront and Rise of the Tomb Raider – three stars out of five. All are decent in a lot of ways, all have intriguing ideas and look beautiful – but each of them is lacking in fundamental areas“, of course with my passion in there (fallout 4) that 3 out of 5 is not an acceptable rating (perhaps I am slightly biased). Now by itself, Keith is very much allowed to give that rating. It is his view, his review and as such I will not become an anti-Keithereen, however I still disagree!

I will skip both Call of Duty and Star Wars battlefront. Apart of not having played them, I am not a fan of either title, which is a massive issue when reviewing games!

Yes, you can remain neutral, you can look at a title academic, but how many academics can truly explain to you a poem or a painting? These items must be heard and seen, reading about them is often not a workable solution. In this, you must rely on the names of reviewers who are enthusiastic on that type of game. Yes, we can get a good indication of any game, but the non-fanatic will more often than not miss things, if that person did not miss anything, we must allow for the notion that the article gets to be ‘coached’ by the game makers. This is not something we want to see, especially when we consider the results from Ubisoft these last two years.

In this paragraph I will illustrate what I mean by giving a view, which will be revealed at the end (no peaking readers! see if you can make out what it was).

When I look to my left I see a man in pink, well groomed standing between a couple naked. They are outside and I notice the bunnies, a cat, blackberries, with blooming trees and a little pond in the foreground. When I turn to the right, I see what is either a gangbang or an orgy. I cannot hear the music, but there are plenty of musicians and no one in that crowd has any clothes on, I see a lady holding what seems to be a wine can, I noticed her firm breasts. She does not look happy, I think she is the waitress and this is the outfit of the evening. The other guests are enjoying the company of each other and they seem to leave the lady alone. In the distance I notice a mill and a castle burning. Perhaps this is what they are celebrating? I cannot tell! In front of me there is another garden party, none seem to be dressed. The people are talking and eating fruit. I see it all form a distance, I am not invited to this party.

You might find the paragraph weird, but the explanation will follow at the end.

You see, I do not disagree with the Rise of the Tomb Raider review, I would have given the same, but only because of the graphics, which are sublime to say the least. The game is not unlike the previous game, too easy to play and to finish, not that large in the end and repetitive and scripted items are too common in this game. I would state that this game is, to some extent, nothing more than a next generation version of ‘Dragons Lair’. I felt massively happy that I did not pre-order this game. When the game gets priced down to $29, I will most likely get it, because the graphics are truly amazing, no doubt about that. You see Fallout 4 is definitely 4 stars. As a fan I would like to give it 5 stars, but there are flaws and there are a few glitches (which is utterly unavoidable with a game of this size).

Now we get to a few quotes that bothered me: “The reviewer would then play it for a few days, often to completion” the second quote is to the point: “There were occasions where reviewers were forced to assess an incomplete version of the game, in which case the publisher would send a list of known bugs and beg that you ignore them, because they’d all be sorted before release“, I have been there several times. I had no issue with that, yet in the old days QA was a lot better dealt with by software houses, whilst the game makers are pushed by their marketing department to push out as soon as possible and rely on patches. So Keith is correct here, in the old days there was a straightforward process. In those days the makers were in charge, not its marketing department. Then we get “Nowadays, publications determined to get a review out on day one will be asked to attend special events, where access to the review code is strictly controlled and monitored” They did exist in the old days too, but they were pretty rare. In several of those cases it involved a gold master for let’s say PlayStation and only a developers system could run that, so going there was pretty essential. I had a few of those visits to London where I went to Virgin Interactive Entertainment. Whilst on the way back I bumped into Richard Branson and shook his hand, apparently it was Noel Edmonds (from Noel’s House Party), so I had that little embarrassing moment to survive.

This brings us to the event where Keith hits the nail on the head: “These days, you’re not a consumer when you buy a new game, you’re an investor. That’s a weird psychological leap to make“, I agree and I do not totally agree with the setting there. When we take a beta game as an early adopter (like Elite Dangerous) I get it and that is fair. When we look at a $110 full game that is incomplete and lacking it becomes something else. We again get to Assassins Creed Unity, which should never have gotten the 80% ratings that many gave, especially with the lack of stability, the bugs, the glitches and a few other failings. Any reference to ‘new console’ should be ignored as Black Flag did not have those bugs (as far as I saw). Personally I believe that software houses are more and more blocking reviews when their release is flawed, the fact that in light of AC Unity there were stories about embargos and NDA’s, which only made things worse.

Yet Keith has more gems to offer in the article: “Since the very beginning, game reviews have operated in a confusing no man’s land between arts criticism and product assessment“, this is where I agree almost completely. In my view it is a merging of both, without the console you cannot play, without the insight of the art you cannot comprehend, both are required. The third element here is the topic, the theme or the environment. You must have a certain feel for it, because without the third part the game will not be adequately be dealt with, the review of a product the reviewer did not understand. I will try to explain it. In those days we had ‘Myst’, which now seems to be ‘the Talos Principle’. If you have no patience for puzzles and mind boggles, you will miss out on the game. In my days there was Myst, I played it to some extent and the graphics were beyond believe, but I never got some of the puzzles, which meant that you become an aimless ‘clicker’ on objects, hoping that something will react. That takes away from the experience as frustration will set in sooner rather than later.

The next part is a little less agreeable. “Reviews would compartmentalise each game into its constituent parts – graphics, sound, playability – with each often separately rated in ever more complex conclusion boxes. This approach reached its logical conclusion with the 1980s magazine ACE, which reviewed games out of 1000, and provided a “predicted interest curve”, which attempted to map out the longevity of the game – like the lifecycle of a vacuum cleaner“, I disagree here. Yes Keith seems to state his view decently, but he forgets a little part here. When we see Rise of the Tomb Raider, we see a 30Gb game on a Blu-ray, yet the very first one Tomb Raider on PlayStation (one), offered 300% more gaming, challenges and puzzles on a disk no more than a CD (600Mb), when you know that you will be playing this for MONTHS longevity becomes a factor. And in those days there was no internet with cheats and walkthroughs, you actually had to get through the game by yourself, or with friends giving you clues (many false ones). In those days Lara was truly exploring stuff and as a result so were you. I still remember those final bosses and how one if the very first secrets in level one was one that I did not solve until much later. The massive increase of graphical quality should also not be ignored, that part has been continued, but as the games are now almost utterly flawless, the size of the game seems to be a mere fraction of that what was.

Yet, this is not a given, you see, RPG’s only became bigger, much bigger. Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 show this (as does Skyrim and a few others). I personally believe that the games are not more complex to review, for the most the makers are now too scared on any level of quality critique. So as Fallout 4 got 3 stars from Keith, the makers will have seen this game as a clear 5 stars (I remain at 4 stars), which is at the heart of the issue as well. Marketing fears the reviewer because they lose control at this point, which gets me to Ubisoft and their embargo and NDA. I have only faced one NDA ever, that was from Adobe and they had the valid reason as I got access to the product several months before release. So basically I could prepare the review and much closer to the release date (I believe roughly a month before the official release). I got the final product to write about and upgrade my initial article. That is a valid part. Game makers have for a larger extent lost the visionary part that the old makers had, which is also part of this situation. It is not just the reviewer, it is the product! Keith does go there! He quotes: “But unlike books or movies, games are now evolving platforms, open to updates and improvements“, again I disagree. The game in its core foundation should be the reviewed product. ‘The last of Us’ is an amazing achievement all by itself, ‘Left Behind’ is just an additional element which is totally worth the extra cash. The relaunch of Tomb Raider for all its graphical brilliance was not. There is another side to the quote of Keith and it does matter. When we see Skyrim his words do definitely hold meaning, but in another way. You see Skyrim was a complete product, people played it and then they improved upon it. Even today, 4 years after release that game is still being improved upon. Console players like myself miss out and for all the options I am jealous not having a decent gaming PC. That is seen in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCU862nVpJ0. Here we see some of the most incredible graphics. 4 years after release that game can be replayed and the amazement of graphical brilliance will overwhelm you. So here we also see longevity in another way. Bethesda created a game that allows people to enjoy the RPG world for a lot longer than we bargained for and as such we will anticipate an almost equal evolution and the first mods are already available. This takes care of the RPG, but I will not increase the score for that reason because it would not be fair to the other game styles. The issue is that Fallout 4 is massive, even as I relaunched the game, find places I missed the first time because I turned right instead of walking on the same road. Houses that are not on the map, places with some lovely items for my survival. More important, Fallout 4 is nothing like the previous version. In the previous version repairs was important, now guns will not break, but evolving weapons into something a lot more powerful (believe me, you will need that). The game has elemental differences which makes for an evolved game, which makes it partially a new game. My old tactics did not work as well as I expected which was awesome! Evolving new tactics is part of the fun. I heard that there is even an option to get through a big part of the game without killing the animals, how is that for a challenge? Yes, Fallout 4 is my baby so I give it a higher rating, not the highest as I am a realist. Yet my version does not invalidate Keith’s view.

Keith ends his article on strong curve: “All art forms are subject to erosion, but with games, that impermanence is now built in like a self-destruct mechanism. As a consequence, reviewing games is like reviewing a relationship: you only know what you have in that moment, and even then, nothing is certain or solid. Both the author and the reader need to understand that now“, it is a good view to have, but is it relevant? The impermanence is only founded on multiplayer issues. The solo part of a game remains a reality for a long time. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots can still be played and as long as the PS3 is around the game remains playable. Keith is right, Mass Effect 3 multiplayer will at some point stop, but with Destiny it is all multiplayer, so like World of Warcraft, the game will evolve, the servers will evolve and we will end up with an upgraded version, this does not invalidate the previous review, it would only validate the newest review. I also agree that reviewers need to adapt, but in all this I disagree with the title, reviewing a game is not an impossible task. It just requires the right editor with a good set of balls and mentoring skills, because the best reviewers tend to be younger and they lack journalistic skills. Now for the conclusion, I promised to talk about the ‘description’. I was looking at The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. I shows that I am not an art critic and I left out a few details too (on purpose here), yet what items would I have forgotten? That is the part that matters, that is why a level of passion for certain games are required. I will never review GTA because I personally do not like that game, it needs to be reviewed by a fan of that play style with a firm foundation of realistic reviewing. In all this do not forget that you do not have to agree with me and that Keith is from his point of view not wrong, I just think he was not correct, which is not the same. My view evolved from reviewing games all the way back to the VIC-20, the beginning of the 8-bit era, a lifetime ago.

And it is merely my view on the matter.

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