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Presented choices

There is a flow in two directions, it is in most of us, it is stronger in the people who actively engage in critical thinking. It is often mistaken as ‘the devil’s advocate in us’ and I have made the same mistake. This is a dangerous place to be, not precisely dangerous, but hazardous. You see, we want to give ourselves time to mull things over and often that is good, nowadays with COVID, vaccines, lockdowns and other things happening at the same time it is hazardous. You see the media is no help, they are in it to create click bitches and stir flames, which gets them digital advertisement funds and traction. When you mull things over too many people are in a stage of making up their minds whilst the media is trying to cross them over to a field that benefits THEM and not the reader. Unless you are able to reject ALL media at a moments notice, that place you are in to mull things over goes from hazardous to dangerous and that is when things fall apart. The doubters get pushed into a place where they are slightly too uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to forcefully take a stand.

This matters as gaming is in a similar place, or better stated the gamer is in an RPG game and is left to mull things over in doubt on what to do. There is a correlation of inaction towards too much signals as well as no signals at all. The brain seems to find the stage of non-signals too unnatural. And that is the stage any new RPG will find themselves in.

In the past it was not an issue for the mere reason that technology was not ready, now that it is too many gamers expect there virtual life to signal them in a similar way and even as technology is there, the game makers are not. 

It is not a setting of what to do to make it fit, it becomes a stage of adjusting the gamer to the ‘new life’. I was reminded of that in the last two days as I was rewatching the Harry Potter series. In the third film we are given the choice between what is easy and what is right, which fits the storyline of Harry and his gang (plus owl). Gaming and real life tend to not have that question, yet I see a larger wave go towards ‘What is easy or what is pointless’ and that is not the bill, but it is a concept of the two choices seemingly given. The mind loves a choice, even a fictive (or virtual) one and that gets us in hot water. 

So whilst we await the Hogwarts Legacy game, we wonder what is in it. We tend to compare to the RPG games that were truly fantastic and there we see Skyrim and Witcher 3 being the larger stage. So will Hogwarts have the Harry Potter CCG as an element? It is extremely doubtful, but there is an internal need to get a new RPG with some Witcher 3 Gwent game. We would want to be able to have our own house decorated in OUR style of choice (Skyrim) and the list goes on. This pushes the needs towards pointless, yet where is the setting on what the line from gaming to pointless becomes and that line differs per gamer and that low range and high range of that line is a gap no smaller than the Gran Canyon and that makes for an awkward programming stage. The opposite side leads to easy and grinding which could spell an early death for any future RPG game, so where to go? Fable 2 had an awesome solution towards vocations (Forge, Bartender, gambling) but the stage becomes how to remain unique, have elements like mini games and larger ownerships without breaking the IP and that is not an easy task. Even Skyrim with its levels of grinding is so close to perfect that people still desire this game 10 years later. I myself had the game on PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One and optionally (hopefully) in 9 weeks and 3 days I will have the PS5 edition, optionally a little later as I face all kinds of budgets, but the message behind this is strong, a good game lasts a very long time and that is where the game makers need to be. I believe that the best option is set towards a trilogy solution. We can play, we can alter and we can circumvent. Alter is adding a CCG or mini game option. Instead of looting the same place with consistent time, we can have the CCG to make is smarter, the mini game to make us richer and a combination for investments. It takes the mind of grinding. The CCG element could give us cunning, intelligence and the cards we win could lead to unique items like clothing that are rewarding depending on the class we play. We could get rare items that we need to make special potions (like the golden cauldron in Harry Potter CCG), and the list goes on. In Fallout New Vegas we were given the useless Snow globes that is until we met a person who paid dearly for it. There are the Vault-boy bobbleheads in Fallout, so what can we do to create the part that adds value to the game?  That depends on the game maker, but the objective would soon become a race to avoid the pointless borderline. 

The second borderline is less visible. Metal Gear Solid got there and it was not their intent because the last game was magnificent to behold, yet they got there, the game had gotten too big and soon in the game you felt like you were in a stage where it felt pointless (it was not) the game was too big for its own design and even if you consider revamping the stages, at some point (ACT 3) you started to wonder what it was for. I got there a few times and I loved the game, so we need to design carefully and become weary of what signals we give the player, too many and the gamer seeks the easy route, that same route gets trodden on when there are no signals, so there needs to be enough signals to make it worth your effort.

I believe that we are due for more time based stories and the best way is to let the conversations with NPC’s progress that, but there too too many of those and the game gets to be regarded as pointless. So how to go about the presented choices? One option is to limit NPC’s to optionally give quests in a set of two parameters. The first is the day of the week and the second is a correlation of conversations with other people in town. It gets so that each town has optionally 2-3 side quests a day, so beside the main quests and storyline quests you can score new quests each day in one place, to throttle the over-quest danger we limit the chances we get to the pointless border. By having enough signals we also limit the dangers of people heading for the easy line and on top of that, if we create a random partition that directs all the quests to a day at the beginning of the game there is a chance that two players end up having very different experiences making all players more and more curious on what more is there and how to find it. 

There are more things to do, but this is enough for today, today was to address the dangers of the pointless borderline and that borderline is a lot more dangerous than you think. 

If you do not head that line you could prematurely kill your own game in month one, an eerie setting that no game maker would ever want to face. More importantly, it also shows how we are treated by the media in todays events and that tends to reverberate in us too. So when we escape towards games we really need to get that signal stopped as soon as possible, it is perhaps the one danger any RPG faces, we tend to push ourselves into our RPG games the way we were before we started that game, emotional baggage and all, we cannot really hope to stop ourselves, but we can demand that whatever RPG game we play takes that feeling away within the first 10 minutes of gaming. I reckon it is part of the success of Skyrim.

Have a great day!

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Mix and match

I was having a few thoughts on the matters that I have been writing on these last two days when a thought reappeared in me, I thought of it before, but now the idea was forming in a few ways. As my thoughts go it is best released in streaming games first. Others can and will have it too, but this is something that will take a few attempts to get right. You see, I love RPG games. Yet in all the years none of them EVER mixed the setting of Simulators with RPG’s, not that the RPG needs to become a simulator, but a setting where we train people around us. So in case you own a castle, you get to improve the ‘programming’ of the NPC. So as I see it, the approach is towards the use of deeper learning to ‘educate’ the guards. So you can imbue your bow and arrow skills on the guards on the high walls, you can imbue your weapon skills on the patrolling guards and so on. It has never been done and it could open up a lager playing field. Consider that we can train our troops, but the skills are also transferred to 75% of your skills, or the maximum they already have to all other NPC’s? So it is no longer merely about the level of the opponent, their skill level will up the game for all gameplay in an RPG, so why did no-one think of this? Perhaps they did, I do not know. Yet with the evolution of deeper learning (what some erroneously call AI) this is no longer a thought, there are several ways that NPC’s can evolve in any RPG and it gives us a much better game to look at, so why was this not yet done? I am not accusing anyone, merely asking. If I can come up with a TV series, a mini series, a movie and several games, I remain amazed how the others are empty of new ideas and they are merely hiding behind sequels. OK, not all, Guerrilla games is one of the few exceptions. We see remastered games (I am happy about some of them), we see sequels adapted for the next generation consoles, which is nice too. Yet real new IP remains largely absent, a circular movement surrounding 2 decades of gaming. I do not think it is all wrong, I myself opted to a few parties to remaster their old games, actually it was remaster and upgrade severely towards the new systems and there is a lot that is available out there. Yet how many real upgrades have some RPG’s received? Again, not an accusation, yet when you consider that we know Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. Now consider that I got the idea of empty holo-tapes that could be used to add to the story and the functionality of the character before Fallout 76 was released, which was almost 4 years ago. So am I the only one thinking out of the box to increase the level of games and gameplay? One would think that if you pay a group of people well over 7 billion, one would imagine that they would be far ahead of me, but that does not seem to be the case. 

Yet this is not about pointing fingers, or blaming people. It is merely an idea I was having to increase the value and power of a game. We are all gamers and some of our ideas are whacky, some are brilliant, some can bridge a massive gap between the game maker and the game player, we cannot blame the maker for not thinking of EVERY corridor, that’s where we come in. And this stage is more easily adapted in streaming, because streamers are in a stage where they have one environment to consider, the one that goes to ALL players, so they do have a few advantages and I reckon they need to home in on those advantages. There is no real benefit to have the same Ubisoft game on all four consoles, yet a streamer and a console? That could pan out the be a very different cattle of fish. 

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Playing the stage

In light of the actual brilliant move by Microsoft to buy Bethesda, Sony has a bit of a problem, or t least they had one, so I decided to set a new stage, if Bethesda is limiting their exposure to Sony, which we get from Eurogamer, who gives us “Bethesda games don’t have to launch on PlayStation for Microsoft’s $7.5bn deal to pay off, Xbox boss insists”, in addition we see in 

IGN “When I think about where people are going to be playing and the number of devices that we had, and we have xCloud and PC and Game Pass and our console base, I don’t have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support in order to kind of make the deal work for us,” Spencer continued. “Whatever that means.”” With the emphasis on ‘I don’t have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support’, I see it as a clumsy way for Microsoft to give the news that Sony is done for from a Bethesda release point of view. I reckon that they will not make a change immediately, projects were on route, but there will be delay upon delay for others. In a stage where one out of three were Microsoft fans and two out of three were Sony fans, the purchase of Bethesda by Microsoft is definitely a genius move, but the gang fans are not without options. I am hereby offering whatever I create to be used freely for any Sony exclusive game. 

Houses of Magic

Any RPG that is set in a Middle Age stage has always been depending on magic, this is how the world we created worked, which does not have to be the case, but there it is. So in that trend, I offer the five houses, however, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s start at number one.

House of Forests

This is the house where druids are created, to set a stage for druids, it implies a close knit connection to forests and fields. Yet there is more to druids, in Gaelic past they were seen as legal authorities, adjudicators, lore-keepers, medical professionals and political advisors. Instead of merely focussing on the tree and magic part, being these gives the setting where in the new game you an be an in-between between two disagreeing factions, you can advice on options to lords in castles and you also will be a healer. The lore-keeper can write magical scrolls, can wield wood into stronger bows and stronger staffs. Giving the druid the only one to create a wooden knife, a mistletoe knife. Setting the fight environment, staffs and wooden weapons are 40% stronger, the mistletoe knife 400% better, so as we look into the character, charisma is much higher, so is intelligence. A druid is a better dealer and much better healer. All healing potions are twice the strength. So this is the ability in the game, the setting of the druid requires a backstory. 

In need of a bandaid?

It started a long time go, 3500 years in facts. In a village was a young man, he was obedient and he did what he could to forward the needs of his father and their family. He was a proud man, worshipping the gods, yet he felt an unnatural pull towards Hades at times, the darkness appealed to him. Now, it is important to note that he was not evil, he felt he understood things. He was not unhappy when the old crops whitened and died. The wheat was captured, the dead leaves became straw for the cows, it made sense to him. So every year he would praise Hades ‘Thank you for taking the remaining crops, let new crops be bountiful’. He would always bring wheat and fruit as homage to Demeter, but after the harvest, after it was all done, he would also bring homage to Hades. It felt right, such as he was. As he was in the courtyard he heard a slam, like a bag of flower hitting the ground. He looked, yet he saw nothing. He walked to the edge of the farm, he looked at the waters of the Aegian, yet he saw a staff, the serpent on the staff was alive, yet the tail of the snake was part of the staff. He heard of it, yet a simple frame like him would never be shown the Staff of Aesculapius. He walked towards the staff, but kept his distance, it was then he saw the man, he walked over and helped him back to his feet. Greetings young man, I am Therapeutae of Asclepius, I tend to the need of the gods. I upset one of them and here I am. The young man offered his arm and it was at that moment when the snake was close enough and bit his leg. The man was scared for one second, then he looked around and set on the low wall surrounding the courtyard. He looked at the land, and softly whispered ‘Hades, I am done for, a snake got me’, Therapeutae looked at him and smiled. You are in a fortunate side young man, this was not intended, but it happened. The venom of the snake makes you an immortal. It is clear that you are a good man, I am back on my feet. The staff flew back into his hands. He shimmered and faded into nothingness. It was today, the man was thinking back to the day where his mortality had diminished, it had been almost 25,000 moons, yet he remembered it like it was yesterday. As he looked into the distance he saw the tavern and the corrupt bailiff and his cronies. He walked towards them, and as it was set, he was quite angry. The two cronies did not see him coming, they were taking to their boss, he hit them both with one swing, he then hit the boss, but did not hit him squarely enough. The Bailiff got up and drew his word. The druid spoke ‘That does not work on me’ and as he stood still, the Bailiff struck, the sword swiped from left to right and the Druid was struck. Then something happened that had never happened before, he felt the spilling of blood, and he looked down. The wound was closing and he focussed again on the Bailiff. He slapped him from left to right to left again and one over the skull for good measure. He looked down, he was whole again, and apart from the small scar, there was no evidence that he had ever been wounded. But what happened to his powers?

So that was the first start of an origin story and the setting of one class, I will try to set out another class perhaps the Floating house, this took me a mere hour, so I might have something more tomorrow. I have nothing against Bethesda, but they deserted Sony and their population, I need to make Microsoft understand how expensive a bill of $7.5 billion is when it misses it objective as Sony will have a somewhat delayed answer to Bethesda Elder Scrolls, and perhaps I will continue to set something to counter Fallout as well, which is a little harder, I know. Will it work? I do not know, but there is a stage where Bethesda will face not only the loss of Sony clients (which is huge), but Sony will get you an alternative, as such Bethesda will end up gaining a contender.

Perhaps Microsoft will learn, perhaps not, Whatever they decide on, it is a lesson that came with a $7,500,000,000 tag, lets see if we can teach them a little more, they seemingly part with money easily enough.

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The power of push

Yup, push is by far the greatest power in levelling the playing field. So when I heard that Bethesda had joined the Microsoft farm. From a tactical point of view, it was a brilliant move, the research a few weeks ago showed that merely 1 in three would select a Microsoft system, 1 in 3 is set to 3 in 9, but now there is every chance that the purchase might give Microsoft a shift towards 4-5 in 9, this is an important shift. We might see that it is a shift that cannot be avoided, but I see it as the opportunity to add to the power of Sony. You see, every RPG game is the same, there is land and there is a story, but what happens when we change that? What happens when the map is not defined by the story? What happens when we set it in two different dimensions? So what happens when the story has a localisation part? What if the map is wherever we need it to be, and we add the story on top? What if we can add the story to the map wherever it is? There is off course the need to transfer the map of the world into a playable map (which is not initially possible), yet the segregation of the two is a first step in a much larger frame, a frame that RPG games have not considered in the past. Yet it is only one of two parts, the second part is the revitalisation of the maps we play on. Yet what happens when the actions of a first game transfer to the second game? I am not talking about merely a change to an area because of actions (Fable), but the stage where the castle we add in the first game will be there in the second game as an existing location. At present, games are designed retroactively to avoid issues (Harry Potter), yet what options come alive when we embrace them? I thought in the direction before, but not to this degree. So consider the stage in a land, as we play the first game we offer quests we offer choices and so forth, but what happens that even beyond what we see in Mass Effect, the impact is not merely people, what happens, when we add and destroy locations, so the second game has the added/removed parts? We have seen shadows of this in games, but not to this extent, it is a larger stage of the accountability of the player. We accept that some will choose to only add locations, but in all this we forget that any RPG can have two sides, so what happens to the power core of any land, when there is no destruction? Bethesda did that quite nicely to leave us the options to save or destroy Megaton, but the is merely a fraction of what is possible, in that game the trade routes and the surrounding locations were not impacting by a shifted economy. So what happens when (in Fallout 4) the vaults become power villages? Each with an economy? That was in the back of my mind as I was looking at the Ultima setting, but that game is not alone. Yet there is no good example, because it has never been done to this degree before and it opens up all kinds of new settings and options in RPG gaming. 

In all this we need to thank Bethesda, no matter what reasons they had (the number 7,500,000,000) is a pretty nice reason, the station is now a larger setting, all kinds of needs to see a larger RPG change and even as Microsoft has the lead with its (as some say) 23 first person studio’s, it was a guy like me on a sofa who came up with the idea that no one ever brought to a game, not to this degree and that is where 23 studio’s came up short and Sony has the option to make a change to gaming, a larger change and that is what they have always done, I wonder how they will do it this time. I hope that we get to teach Microsoft another lesson, they have already been inclined to the fact that not listening to their gamers comes at a cost (only 1 out of 3 decided to buy the next Xbox), but there is every chance they get to learn that money does not solve everything, if you do not have the grasp of those who can create, you have nothing.

The power of push tends to hand a lending hand, but this time not to Microsoft.

 

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The house of RPG

Yup, the news only just hit the walls of the internet and a new stage is already underway. This is not about slamming Bethesda, they made a decision and I reckon that 7 billion plus is a nice looking bandaid, but now the house is falling over, because the stage of gaming is set into another realm. Do you think that Sony will like the age of dependancy of Microsoft? So as Bethesda becomes a Microsoft institution, Sony will have to look in other directions. Yes there are good RPG’s out there. There is the Witcher and Cyberpunk is about to arrive, yet the stage is largely untapped and now we see that there is a larger need for an exclusive option for Sony. Lucky for them there might be an option. Richard Garriott created the Ultima series in the early 80’s, yet it was in 1985 that Ultima IV: Quest of the avatar was born. It would take RPG’s to new heights, heights that would not be equalled for well over a decade. Now consider a first person RPG (like Skyrim) with its own rules, its own places, and a storyline that can surpass most RPG games out there. On a map that would be close to 6,000% larger than Skyrim. The map of Britannia (Ultima 1-9) was almost completely designed by the time Ultima 4 was there and the game only got better. The stage would add new dimensions to RPG gaming, something that could be done again in a 1st person setting. It would add new directions in gaming from the original setting, something that had not been done for some time. And then there is the story. Even now I see new stages in shrines and stones that the original never allowed for. There is the stage to combine Ultima 4 and 5 in a much larger setting in sequence in one game. It implies a gaming size that surpasses most RPG’s in hours and way the game is played. The Ultima series set a larger stage with the use of ships and that could remain, so there would be more in the game and more challenges. The largest is to stay original to the Ultima formula and not be swayed towards more of the same. A game that becomes a journey, a journey that we have not seen before and in this Bethesda opened the door by becoming part of Microsoft. I hope that they will remain on the Sony systems, but there is every indication that Microsoft will take a time advantage and use Bethesda games to push people towards their console. That move makes sense because there are plenty of Elder Scrolls and Fallout fans, but that also means that Sony now has the task to protect its core gamers by offering an exclusive brand of their own and that is where we see the value of Richard Garriott optionally go through the roof. I believe that for Richard Microsoft buying Bethesda might seem like the opportunity of a lifetime. No matter how Bethesda phrases it, they are quoted to have stated “all future Bethesda games will release on both Xbox and PC, but their appearance on other consoles will be determined on a “game by game basis”” this is what I would call a dicey setting for Sony, but not all is lost, they could look towards what was and redesign it to the new. Ultima is one of the most likely franchises and the stage is much larger than you think. Microsoft has paid over $7 billion for Bethesda (actually they bought Zenimax Media, the parent of Bethesda), it is a clever move, but if Sony counters it with new RPG, that price might be a little sour, especially if the RPG marketshare brittles away from Bethesda. Microsoft ends up in a stage where the overpaid for a brand that is well worth it, but as Sony counters what was not set to value, the value of Zenimax media will take a bit of a dive. So not only is there an alternative, my mind has already seen the optional design for an adjusted RPG game that would be every bit as satisfying as the original, more so when you consider that the original was never first person, but in my mind I added a stage that the Elder Scrolls never possessed. It is not merely good news for Richard Garriott, it would also be great news for Iolo, Jaana, Julia, Dupre, Geoffrey, Mariah, Katrina and Shamino. They can dust off the weapons they hung up in 1992. And the world would optionally see them back into action as early as 2022 if Sony gets a deal with Richard Garriott sober rather than later, because Microsoft was sly in getting the deal, but was it a clever move? I am not so sure about that. If we are to believe some market research results, only one in three opted for Microsoft, the rest went the way of Sony. I had issues with the results as it was against two systems and Nintendo was left outside the choice, I believe that the Microsoft numbers are not that great to begin with, but that is pure speculation from my side. Will I be proven correctly? 

I actually do not know, but the Bethesda move has set a level of shock on me, that is true enough, yet I have made up my mind, I will not get the Xbox, and if that leaves me without future fallout and elder scrolls games, so be it, yet it took me no more than an hour to set an optional new stage of Ultima, so there is always an option, there will always be RPG, the question becomes will Bethesda be part of that? I actually do not know, there is too much unknown at present.

 

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Rad 451

Yup, creativity bone got active again. It is a thought I had before and in light of the PS5 coming and the time of a new Fallout (Fallout 5), I decided to think things through. I loved Fallout 3 and 4. I never played Fallout 76, for the mere reason that I am not in multiplayer games. And in all this the idea floated to add to what Fallout 4 brought and in this I started. The first thing I did as consider Fallout shelter, what if the players can transfer the three vaults to the game? Your own vault, they can all become places to live (once they are cleared out) and the game will set a stage based on the amount of rooms and on the locations used. There is a form of randomisation in this, but consider the situation where you the player have created a vault and it can become your new home. In addition I thought of a way for Bethesda to gain a few millions by making one change to the game, but that is for another time. So there I was thinking on the additional vault(s). So up to three vaults can be added (as Fallout Shelter has three vault options), and the stage is set to add it in another way as well. Each vault becomes a larger storyline in several ways to gain a larger stage. The new game is set around Seattle, from the Atlantic, the Olympic National park, Raymond, Centralia, Mineral, all the way north to Bellingham. It will be some area to explore. As such, one vault will be around Forks, the second around Blyn and the third will be around Yelm, these three will be additional to the Vaults in play and the stage that is set will aid to more exploration and a larger stage of exploration. The story in this game will be around restarting a new city, so the build option is required. In Fallout 4, it was limited to about 20, now it will be up to 100 for a city and three need to be created, beyond that there will be chapters on growth and chapters on each of the actions required. Filling it in will take time (this took me two hours). When we set that stage we have to evolve short and long distance weapons, we get a form of experience, each experience can be set to holo-discs and be used to create a stage of experience. Yet the holo-discs are rare, really rare. So we need to find those as well as holo-readers (one for each town). The challenge is to make it non-repetitive. In this game there will be 5 by 5 sectors, there must be a ring of non towns around the town selected, so that there is ample distance, in addition, the towns each will have one speciality (greens, fishing, hunting, building, tinkering, vehicles, armouring or X (currently unknown). The second part is that certain items will be class E (Exclusives), they will be placed in selected locations, but the 70 places will get 50 items seeded (so 25 remain empty) and they will be shuffled every new game, so there is a new situation, running after a guide or solution is a thing of the past. The idea of the 25 empty locations is to keep the pressure on and to allow expansions (or DLC’s) to add a few items over time. Then there is the situation of the Shelter locations will stage 5-15 additional spaces. 

There will be 10 main stories, one for each of the shelters, three for the villages created and there will be in addition a railroad, a synth, a story of a Brotherhood of steel equivalent, and a Mariner story. Apart from the 10 main stories, I was considering adding several stories founded and connected to the native American tribes that were part of that region. So there are 10 main stories and 5-10 connected stories and after that smaller sub-quests that players could be connected to. 

The idea is to set the stage where we get a adventure that is well over twice the amount that Fallout 4 allowed for. 

In all this, there is a need for me to address the small issue I had with number 4. The workbenches  made sense and were accepted, but what I saw from Fallout76, having a mobile one that we can place wherever. As such we get the second part, not just the mobile part, but to get a piece that like the holo-disc is really rare. It gives the game another dimension. As the title implies through innuendo, there was a thing in Fallout 3, There was the need to find the ‘pre-War books‘, here we will add 100 titles (out of 300) to a loot class, so 100 books will be set in locations, even as there are 200 locations, first 100 from 300 will be set, and they will be spread over 200 locations. Just a thought.

There is more to come, yet in an age of iterative gaming that gives us more of the same (certain Ubisoft titles), I have now given the readers 5 games (over the past stories) with highly innovative parts in gaming, so what is keeping makers like Ubisoft giving its gamers true innovative gaming?

 

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The thought counts

I am still in some level of debate on this, Alex Hearn published an article last August (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/aug/20/from-cyberpunk-2077-to-the-outer-worlds-are-role-playing-games-getting-too-predictable) and I happened to re-read the story this morning. The main hitter was ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ I believe it is a valid train of thought to have, yet in this situation is it the game, or the gamer that bears the guilt? As we see the first paragraph we are confronted with: “Not only is it directed by Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, it shares a lot of DNA with Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas – a spin-off with a reputation as the best in the series“, you see there are two trains of thought, the first (not the most embraced one) is that the game was designed by a ‘one pump chump‘, you see a one trick pony is too harsh here. The second is the one I embrace, it is set on two principles.

  1. Relation
  2. Online cheat guides

The relation factor is how you relate to it all, It is easy in the Elder Scrolls, or Fallout, these are plain drives concepts and for the longest time, we go along with it. Even as we are offered options, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 still try to guide you, yet the reality is that you can go wherever you want ignoring the first stage altogether. The Elder Scrolls 4 (Oblivion) gave you a clear option after you get out of the sewers, The Elder scrolls 5 (Skyrim) did so a lot less, but left the door open to explore. In that beginning we get the option to grow and either you start staging the story, or the game leaves you a little in the dark. In a lot of cases you are a little in the dark, this is seen in Witcher 3, you can go in any direction, yet if you avoid all the missions in the first stage, your character tends to be too feeble to get around, and you die a lot. Until you grow skills you tend to be on your own, now we can see that the first village is an introduction (like the sewers of Oblivion), and yes after that you can explore and decide the way you want and that makes Witcher 3 an amazing game. In that same setting we see Horizon Zero Dawn, it is storydriven, but you can explore your heart out, merely consider that too far away, without proper upgrades your life does not tend to make it for a long time. Still, the origin story that Guerilla Games released is as awesome as any RPG that was EVER released.

It is in that stage we need to see a game like the Outer Worlds, there is a larger stage of introduction and it tends to make the gamer fumble a bit, that is the foundation of RPG, you have to feel your way into any RPG game. Yes, New Vegas was amazing and the stage is still among the very best, but there we get it, when we start exploring, we need to realise that the enemies a little further ahead can make short work of you really fast if the beginning is absent of exploring. Still, New Vegas did one thing better than all others, you have a good and a bad you and some cases can only begotten when you decide on the bad you. It gets to be even better as the third option (Caesar’s Legion) comes into play. It was an RPG founded on replayability, making it one of the very best.

The second stage is another matter, those who rely on online hint/cheat guides. They all go the same direction and it is clear that there are thousands of them (all claiming to have done the path without help), as such the foundation of ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ becomes slightly less reliable. And for the most, the story is partially that simple and partially not so simple. That part is revealed in Horizon Zero Dawn, the story is so overwhelming that it pushes you from stage to stage, it really was one hell of a trip. The cut movies over the entire game add up to almost 6 hours, almost 6 hours of story and information and some parts are not that small, the story truly is everything and it pushes the player in a direction and not on a path, Guerilla games really outdid most designers. In opposition we see Fallout 3, which had moment, not a story that pushes you and it pushes you more towards places. The article then gives you the Cyberpunk 2077 line with “But the fundamental skeleton the games are built on is so constricting that, given an hour to show off everything they could be, both developers independently converged on a near-identical script“, I personally am not convinced that this is so, in the first there was a quote “open world feature to their upcoming RPG. Players are given the freedom to explore the fictional Night City, take on the side quests that they want to, and be a part of the world that CD Projekt Red has developed“, in the second there is the option to be a Netrunner (hacker), techie (a badgetteer) or Solo (Assassin and direct action). The class you select will influence to some degree the way you play, or the way you play will push you into a class. It changes the way you overcome missions and locations and this changes the game (not the main story). As such did the game become too predictable? 

Well that is still out in the open, yet predictability is often depending on lack of choice, CD Projekt Red (Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077) has never had that, and overall neither did Bethesda (Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout). Yet it is the way WE play that gives the impression of lack of choice. In the Verge we are given “Obsidian Entertainment’s new role-playing shooter The Outer Worlds, I met a man miserably playing a corporate mascot, his head semi-permanently enclosed in a large, ghoulish moon mask. I spoke to him for several turns, hoping there was something I could do to help. But if there was a way to improve his life, he never suggested it, and I never found it“, as such I never met the man (or played the game) but if we consider that we can help, ignore or optionally kill him, is that a lack of the game, or a lack of the player? You see that is the foundation of RPG, the gamer decides and that is where I oppose Alex Hearn’s statement (not his point of view) ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?

I believe that the statement is a little out in the open. The makers of New Vegas had an amazing setting (especially after Fallout 3), from one mission you decide whether you go to ‘The House Always Wins 1‘, ‘Render Unto Caesar‘, or ‘Wild Card: Change in Management‘, Obsidian created a phase where we are confronted with a level of brilliance and definitely an opposition of predictability. But Alex is not entirely incorrect, we might agree that there is a good and a bad choice (each with their options) but not much more. the Fable series tend to have them too, as did Mass Effect, but the last one is less RPG set. Yet how many genuinely found the 4th option in Mass Effect 3? I see all the people nod ‘yes’ but in the end, they learned of that options like me, in a YouTube video. Only a few actually found them by their own choices, it tends  to oppose ‘too predictable’. And then we get to a beautiful line in The Verge: “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, it shows the largest flaw in RPG, the truth of the matter is that you never mattered, that truth is often pushed out of the RPG, you are merely flock people, you either suck up to the needy as a newcomer, or you decide on what someone larger and more powerful needed and you are the fixer, you are almost never yourself, the person you want to become, the RPG left that out of the equation as it is close to impossible to program too and it does not make an RPG ‘Too Predictable’, it merely makes an RPG ‘less unpredictable’ those two are not the same, not by a long shot.

However, the words of Alex Hearn are still in me and we see that view emphasized in Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2019/10/23/the-outer-worlds-review-roundup-heres-what-critics-are-saying-about-obsidians-new-space-rpg/#2350c4927d34) where we see: “The Outer Worlds, we were promised the kind of RPG we know and love. And that’s exactly what we’re getting, a familiar experience in a new setting” it is the stage of ‘the kind of RPG we know and love‘, and ‘a familiar experience‘, which basically gives Alex the power of his words, an RPG might be many things, but when it is a new title, those two are the foundation of predictability, the question becomes, if that is what the gamer wants and searches, is it the game maker adjusting its view on commerce that is wrong? Is predictability a dangerous part? I believe it is, but is it any less an RPG? That part was not in debate, yet from my side, when I play a different RPG, I need a different stance. Put Elder Scrolls against Witcher and you get that, in either direction, put Elder Scrolls next to fallout and we see it less. Even as the story and the graphics change, we are not the in the stage of countering predictability, we are in a stage of gaming in a different hall, yet doing the same dance and that is where RPG’s tend to fall short (a little) and that is why I loved Horizon Zero Dawn. Even in my own design, as I drew up Elder Scrolls: Restoration and Watchdogs: Refuge, I continued on the franchise as they already had it, new elements, yes, but the setting remained in part the same, so as such am I enabling repetition and as such predictability? I believe that if we move away from “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, we can start that the premise, and predictability (to a certain extent) goes out the window. 

He also gives us “every now and again, a game comes along which shows that innovation can happen without putting people off and revives a genre in the process“, yes that is the part I can agree and align with, there were parts in Skyrim that went beyond Oblivion and id just that. Yet what is also a consideration is that both opened the field by allowing everything to be done and it took the replayability away to some extent, as such in Elder Scrolls: Restoration I went back (allegedly) to Morrowind (which I never played) and left a barricade in place, as such not all classes could be done at the same time, a student of one could not join another path. In addition, the end of the mission often would result in the loss of location and a transfer to other places. One cannot be in University all the time, you are replaced as you are merely a student in one. that path lowers predictability to certain levels, even more so as I set the stage where choices were abundant, but limits choices later on. Without going towards a Red wings match in a Blackhawks Jersey (which tends to get you killed). Yet these settings give a much larger joy towards replayability.

RPGs forgot about the stage of limitation. As we are set in a game, we want to do it all, we ourselves become predictable, not the game (although the game did allow for it).

In Watch Dogs: Refuge I decided to set gender and language as barriers, the stage of pushing for time to drink and eat (in Watch Dogs one and two) I merely did weeks of actions on one fruit drink, so how is it I survived? An RPG should take that into account and make food and sleep an essential. You could try to get through a week on red bull without sleep, but you end to look like the zombies in university (in the 3 weeks before final exam). We took options away as debilitating factors, yet when you consider that Okinawa is a cuisine haven (as is most of Japan) making that a factor as overlooked. I reintroduced the option with an optional achievement or two, considering that one should never go for the stressful places loaded on Cheesecake, you get the idea that a lack of food and sleep can be a debilitating factor, we merely programmed that part away, but is an RPG not about the stage of a whole day, not merely the part you crave for (battle and mayhem)?

So why Japan? Well most gamers of Watch Dogs are non-Japanese, so pushing you into a place where you cannot read or comprehend anything sets you in a much larger stage, when we  get everything in english, we see what we need to, yet what happens when language becomes an actual hurdle? We forget that, did we not? for those who are still in the dark, try watching Passion of the Christ without subtitles. When Aramaic and Latin are your only companions, you either get smart (real fast) or you tend to forfeit your life. Italians (Romans) were really not to be too discriminating to people who did not speak their language (they were all considered slaves).

To set the stage where we counter the RPG in ways we forgot, I still wonder if that is because of the hand holding that the RPG maker is willing to make, or the side where we are just too shabby a player of RPG. I am not certain where it goes, but there are plenty of indicators that both are factors, as such we might consider that RPG games are too predictable, yet I remain in a stage where the makers became too enabling. 

It is merely a point of view and whether it is gaming limitation or predictability, it is a setting that are two faces of the same coin. I am still unwilling to say that Alex Hearn right, but he makes a fair point, even though he seemingly forgets that part of the predictability is the gamer him or her self. 

 

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The next gamer plus

We can speculate in all direction, but I believe that the next big thing is Transference. It will be on several fields and when it comes to gaming, it is perhaps the clearest field of all. Many players want to take their game with them, many players want a larger exposure to the games that they care about. Especially in RPG gaming.

Bethesda

Bethesda might be the clearest example of all, they decided to do something nice and gave away a free game called Fallout Shelter. Now consider that you could export a maximum of three vaults to Fallout 4, as soon as a minimum degree is reached, you could do a one-time export of that vault. This now becomes a much more revealing part of a game you just spend 30-70 hours of gaming on, but in addition to that, depending on the level of the rooms, that vault is exported to a 3D version where you can walk around. Now, we can understand that the connection might require a purchasable DLC (which is fine by me, but consider that you get three new vaults (three new personal spaces) in the commonwealth, who would not want that?

The upcoming Elder Scrolls: Blades, might offer a similar path when the new Elder Scrolls 6 is released. All that time, all the effort and you get to transport a set of weapons and armour to the big game, how awesome would that be?

It would optionally add to the gaming experience and fun. For example (going back to Fallout shelter), level 1 rooms will be 25-50% operational, level 2 51%-75% and level 3 rooms 76%-90%, so you might have to clean out that vault, make repairs and set the stage to make it operational. That could be an easy 10 hours per vault more.

The concept of transference is not new, yet the interactions of mobile and console gaming will grow, 5G is making it happen, dedication to a franchise makes it essential and the fact that any good mobile game would optionally being in a DLC (or via season pass) gives more and more value to the franchise we enjoy.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft dropped the ball initially around the Unity release, yet what bummed me out was that the mobile game looked spiffy and appealing, it looked like a real winner. The fact that this fell through in a disastrous way was quite the shame, even as the previous Facebook attempt with Brotherhood was actually really good.

There are games that could have added so much. Titles like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Division would have added more depth and more joy to the game. Now, this is not a solution or option to all games, yet for the most, the RPG games could benefit greatly. This push is more and more to likely to happen, especially as Google and Apple are entering the gaming arena. Also unknown games like Watchdogs 3 would prosper in bigger ways. There will of course be the interactive person who will complain that it could have been added as a mini game. This is of course a fair call and there is nothing stopping the makers to add these games on both sides, yet we should consider the smoothness of adding transference to games, especially when the games are online games.

It can go in several directions, consider a game like System shock that is being relaunched within the next year. What could you get when the mobile part is about hacking into consoles on the mobile giving you optional rewards that you can pick up when you log back into the game? Another example could be World War Z, a game that has no mobile game, but a mobile tag with the option that passing people could blindly exchange weapons, more so, the receiver will always get a +1 version of the game transmitted to them, that too is the power of an app; weapons and armour of equal levels are exchanged and they get a +1 version of the given item, it will push interaction close to tenfold overnight.

All options to keep the gamers interested, most of it free and in some cases a real dealmaker to upgrade to that DLC, or merely buy it on the spot. The more I think on it, the more sense it makes. It will also be interesting for Nintendo to make that jump. They had done so to some extent, yet the swapping of your Pokémon collection (from any Pokemon game) via the mobile? And the versatility of that approach just keeps on growing, so as we consider all the cursing we have seen over the last weeks regarding Anthem, was there no one at EA that gave the entire stage a much larger setting giving players all kind of options on the go.

The nice part on all this is that it does not merely give reason for interaction with others. The option will also give more gamers the consideration to buy that game, which is a win-win for maker and gamer. I believe that we will see a growth of this in 2020-2021, even as most are now already considering this to some extent (or optionally considering not doing that) there is the most likely stage that the makers want to offer 5G gaming as fast as possible and adding new options will draw gamers in.

It is becoming a numbers game and those with social media and online links will merely offer more for the same amount which is always a good idea to get the success rate of a game up in the beginning, on launch day traction for a title is everything and I predict that not unlike Fable 2 with ‘Pub Games‘ on early release is a path that will find a renewed interest for all the people gaming involved, especially as it could help create visibility and awareness for the game maker, as well as a much larger exposure. So I do hope that anticipated games like Fable 4 will consider renewing that path.

It is also a consideration on the amount that Mass Effect Andromeda missed, when we consider the options that the Mass Effect 3 data pad gave us, moreover, the additional opportunities (with no more than 4G) could have given the makers of that game a lot more to their gamers, I had forgotten about the app initially and of the 72 missed opportunities (OK, that was an exaggeration, I only saw 67 opportunities), we see a sad part on what was, yet we can rejoice on what the next several years bring, especially as 5G and tag technology will raise the bar for everyone, not merely in gaming.

The next gaming generation could be one where we get the partial unification of single players in a multiplayer environment, the one part that every single player has been looking forward to for well over 6 years at present.

So when you see these ‘hot air’ articles on the fourth industrial revolution, consider what RFID, beacons, sensors, and drones could also facilitate for. Pokémon go opened the door, yet in the next 2 years we could see a whole range of new applications of technology that could spell more interactions and additional awareness on a global scale. For close to 95% of the people, their most important device is their mobile, for consoles and games to properly connect to that device adding options for gameplay and awareness makes perfect sense.

 

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A Congressional Country Club Neighbour

There is a problem when you are the neighbour of the Congressional Country Club. It is not on the CCC mind you, they did nothing wrong. No, it is all about their neighbour Bethesda. Yes, you guessed it; the slamming of software developer Bethesda is just escalating and escalating. The latest one (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ-kIlMPoYY) gives a rise too blunders on many levels, all made by Bethesda. The tweets are off the wall; Bethesda is in actual problems at this point.

I believe that in part the mockery is deserved, apart from the fact that Fallout 76 was an error, or published way too early, the clarity of failure on how the entire mess was dealt with, the lack of communication, shallow party lines and bad response to an even worse situation is what is strangling Bethesda, and to some degree, deserved or not. It is unfair.

Until Fallout 76 the bulk worshipped Bethesda, consider that a game like Skyrim, released on 11.11.11 is still played today, that requires true vision. Many (like me) became fans of Bethesda as ES: Oblivion was released. There is another view (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kRRYgf54oM) that takes itr into another direction. I believe that he is wrong, but I get the point of view. You see, what we call puzzles are basically locking systems in the game. That locking system was staged in those days and these places were filled with soldiers in those days, so the ‘puzzles’ were actually merely locks for those without keys. It is not a hard core puzzle and should not be seen as such. Yet the same person also makes a point with the Fallout 4 references in RPG, the gutting of the Special perks part. He has a point, there was regression, making it too much like an action game with RPG elements. Was it a mistake? It never bothered me whilst playing Fallout 4 over and over again, but that is just me, the story itself did not suffer to the larger degree, if that was the case, my reaction might have been different.

He makes a good point, New Vegas is actually superior in a few ways and that is a shame, even as we loved the ability to make our place more specific, we lost in other ways and that was a shame. When I decided to design ESVI: Restoration, I added from Oblivion, added to Skyrim and made two additional sidesteps, that is progress; that is game evolution.

So there was additional challenge, new options and additional lines to complete. More important, I realised that not everything is in your hands, so I added a side quest where you can influence, but not control it all, that is a part of life. That question will move like a red line through the entire game and in some cases that project will not be completed by the end of the game, time had become a factor as well, an element often ignored in RPG. In my view, you can influence time in the project, yet the end is almost predetermined as you find the elements.

So how is that better?

The fact that there are several choices and you can only commit to one, is the part that matters, it makes for replayability. Also, the end result will influence the economy in play and more important, ass certain choices were obtained/found the place will also open up another set of NPC’s in the game giving another feel and optionally other quests and optionally another achievement. That is merely one place.

I set the stage for 23 side quests that are not the same, require a choice to be made (to some extent) and in addition, would optionally change the favour you get in return, that is something that had not been done before. Although based on previous games, the entire main storyline is set in the past, in the past you played before (to some degree) making the entire line of ES games a historical part of what had happened, optionally what you had played before, that is a side we have not seen before (as far as I know).

What else could there be?

Well, that was my initial thought when I started Restoration and what if we get to choose? What if it is not as shallow as the legion versus the storm cloaks? What if the choice is a fundamental one? What if we select progress of now versus the return to the old age? That is an RPG, it is your choice, it is something given to us in the very beginning of Oblivion.
This is exactly why I considered what I did and I believe that it has the merit of giving the gamers optionally over a hundred hours of gameplay, more than that, they can replay and get a partially different game out of it all, something a lot more than merely manic versus mania; more than Elf versus Imperial. What if we take this to a new level and realise that the light cannot exist without the dark. When we accept that there are no clean solutions and that we have to live with choices and see the impact around us, that is when vanilla RPG transforms into something we seemingly have not seen before (implied as I never played all the games that there are).

And what happens when this is translated to an entire new level of Fallout later on? My ideas are new and partially unique, but the evolution I have in mind is not something that is unheard of. the question becomes is Bethesda (or any other serious RPG developer) willing to take the gamer into a different direction, adding to the need of a lot more graphics and a lot more changes, but that will in the end entice people to replay a game like that again and again. Skyrim opened many eyes, I am merely offering the part where a place like that becomes your universe and you can actually tinker it through gameplay into something more, it has been seen before, but it is really really rare as it requires the software maker to be truly committed to a product for the long term and those in charge now are all about the full time hit, as fast as possible and make it the next profit treasure. Ubisoft showed us that in Assassins Creed, the Division (version 2 more so), Far Cry and Watchdogs. I need to start with the clarity that this is never about the graphics; the graphics from Ubisoft are close to sublime on all these games they really worked it out. The long term part is missed (especially in the Division) as this is about non-stop action. Now, that part seems natural, but it is not. When you have been in a warzone you will get it. You see, it is about stamina. Not fictive but actual stamina. We might think that this does not apply, but it does. It is so much clearer in Division 2, as we see the game to be a much better game, we see the failure on how a person does what they do with 30 Kg of backpack and weapons and do the stuff they do. Stamina should have intervened to some degree; in addition it was ignored as a reward. When you play more, your character will have a better level of stamina, have you ever run for your life holding onto a 7.62mm FN MAG? I have and trust me it is intense, when stamina leaves you for the moment. Things become a little blurry, motor skills diminish a little and you really need 5 seconds to get a hold of yourself. Now, this is a game and I get that, but it is the ignored element, which is a shame. We see Stamina in Skyrim and there it makes sense, yet Skyrim missed a little as well, not intentionally and perhaps not even noticeable and it does not matter to the degree it might, but the internal blocks have not been addressed in any RPG game as far as I can tell, which is a shame. It does not make the Division (1 and 2) a bad game, not at all. I am not a great fan of online gaming and plenty are, yet there is a side of me that looks at the game and whilst there is nothing to say about the first division (we all have to start somewhere) we see that the second one needs to be a step forward and that is clearly the case. It is a large leap forward, anyone telling you different is merely insincere on it all (not lying, merely not seeing it all correctly) Now, there I might be wrong, even as i am not much of an online player, others are and they hold a much larger candle towards the quality of such a game. They will look at other elements. I merely noticed that Stamina is a missed opportunity in the Division both one and two), but in the end it is merely one element of plenty of elements that might be improved on. Stamina is the most visible one as it equally impacts Assassins Creed, Far Cry and Watchdogs. Consider, when was the last time when you had to climb up a tower with gear, let alone the pyramids?

We see to leap forwards in many areas except debilitation (like Stamina). So what happens when you do need to get from place to place and also rest at spots to regain stamina? We played Fallout 4 and Skyrim, yet how many took time to sleep and eat? What if that becomes the foundation in the game for the character? What if we see that the Khajiit needs sugar and meat at least once a day? What if the High Elf needs little food, but will require fresh clean water every day? What more can we get out of the game when we focus beyond the story and make sure that our time in the elements are properly addressed? I believe that plenty of games will end up with an added level of game play and satisfaction when the elements become actual elements to take heed of. Fallout New Vegas had so much of the added elements in its game that the consideration that Fallout 4 was a step back is not that big a leap and that is such a shame.

It is a shame because future games will be measured in different ways, the growing demand for survival games is showing us that path and RPG’s need to catch up fast, or better stated Bethesda needs to up their game in several ways. They do not have the luxury they had in January 2012 (after the first Skyrim wave). They now need not merely a good game, they need a landslide rating to get the people aboard and enthusiastic again, they dropped the ball that often in the last year alone. If they do not, we will see the RPG community moving to other shores and perhaps that is what Obsidian Entertainment will deliver with the Outer Limits. Time will tell, and the gamer has time to go from game to game, Bethesda no longer has that benefit, they squandered too much of it internally, and externally towards their fans, the gamers and their marketing will need to learn that merchandising is not a solution, it is not a stop gap. Every piece of merchandising is another piece of evidence to hold Bethesda as a company up to scrutiny, did they not realise that?

 

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It’s about time, slappers only

Even as we look at games, play games and even improve games, we all tend to have our own idea on how things should be. So I decided to take a look in another direction, I decided to look at the Unreal Engine (Unity too), on how to make a game. To be honest, I have no plans to create a game, even though I have a few ideas on at least one original IP, I feel out of my depth on creating the game myself.

So why look at these engines?

I noticed whilst I was observing someone else making a ‘game’ and introducing people on how to make a game, I noticed that my mind wandered into how that applied into my own IP. It also gave me the additional ideas on how to evolve gaming (my IP) and give the player something new, something they have not played before; more important, a version of view that has not been done before, which in light of all the games out there is quite the statement to make. Even as some effects seem familiar as we have seen different visions in games like Splinter Cell (night vision, thermal vision), what can you do to gaming when you do not get to have a choice? What if your evolution also brings with it changes in how you see things? It was an interesting view that we saw (read: read about), in Infocom’s Suspended. It was my first Infocom game (CBM64) and also the only one where I actually had to buy the hint guide for (came with a marker to make invisible statements visible. So as we took control of Iris, Whiz, Waldo, Auda, Poet and Sensa, we saw something different as all of them looked at the same thing. That idea was pretty interesting to read about, yet what happens when we ‘see’ the difference? That was the first foundation of a new title. The second part came from a memory of a game called Mercenary (Novagen). There were the Palyar and the Mechanoids, now what if they were one and the same (a Dark Chrystal reference), what if we have a game where the environment forces us (not allows) for evolution from one to the other, yet also with the setbacks that one or the other has. A game where you can choose to go one way, go the other way, yet gives us the puzzles and challenges that does not merely make it a fun game to play; it would in addition also give us a challenge that makes the fun of replay much higher. As an RPG fan, the option to replay a game is important to me for the mere reason that if I am able to buy a game at $100, I would like to be able to play it several times, or as they say in Fintech, if you can squeeze a $10 bill and you get 11 $1 coins, only then have you maximised your currency. I can do that to games, so hence the stage to create something that is a great return on investment.

So as I am looking at these Unreal Engine presentations, I am seeing all kinds of changes that could make the game even better, more challenging and more fun to play. I am now also seeing a few things that I had not actively considered to the degree that I needed to consider it. After merely seeing 3 hours of presentations, I saw half a dozen items that added to the thoughts of the new IP I am ‘creating’. So what happens when you are in one stage? You want to be in a stage where you can have two challenges without repeating the methods. It is almost an Alien versus Space Marine part, but not the same, the difference is still there, yet in another way. The best example is seen in the original Daredevil with Ben Affleck. So what if our view is based on some version of: ‘sonic plus’? This was merely one of several iterations my mind was going through to set the stage of the game. And just watching the run through gave me additional idea after idea and as such, my version of this non existing game kept on evolving.

Why do we care?

Well, you might not, yet consider the elements I came up with, it seems that it is not entirely unique, yet the version I have has to the best of the knowledge never be seen and if I can come up with this, why de several development houses work with a new version of that same Franchise again and again and we see a total lack of actual original new games. What makes for a game to be squeezed in repetition with a larger lack of new IP? It seems to me that certain houses have been lacking in true new IP and that seems like such a shame. If a gamer is depending on something new, not something relaunched, we see the flaw that is out there, and in that same light we see the growing desire of golden greats like System Shock. Do not get me wrong, I loved that game and I hope to play the remastered edition when it is done. More importantly, it also gave me other ideas on how to resolve play value. You see, in System Shock, what was working had to be destroyed (camera’s) systems had to be switched (VR Cyberspace level parts). Yet what happens when you have to get it fixed. Not some blatant ‘repair tool’ that shines on the object. No, what happens when you have to scrounge systems to find parts to rebuild a server, strip tools, strip consoles to get the keyboard, the display and the processor system? Get to the router and then get to the server? We seem to think of such elements too easy. So what value do you get when you play the game in hard core mode and you have to set the stage to repair network access systems? You might only have to do it once, but there we get the additional choice of fixing a system, versus stripping systems to create a mobile version. Now what additional solutions will we see when it goes beyond merely network. In System Shock it is on a space station, so water, environment and other elements would optionally be broken and that is how I saw my new IP, not merely fixing and scrounging, but the fact that in any biological disaster we see the impact and limitations of a dangerous zone. Now, what if that is not set straight, but could alter from game to game? New routes, now solutions and other options would need to be found to get to a certain stage, in addition, as we change those parameters, the steps to do certain things will also alter as to where and when we choose to make changes and that too adds to the challenge.

A next stage

So what happens when we take that to a new level? What if we consider Watch Dogs 4 (three is being made now)? What if the setting of the stage is completely out of our comfort zone? What if we impose limits on ourselves? How willing are you to go into true survival RPG when it is not some irradiated mess (Fallout series) or Post-apocalyptic (Horizon Zero Dawn). How ready are you to be a real gamer and in the game you ended up in Korea or Japan and that game is all Korean or Japanese? Will you fold or rise to the occasion? In my view in Watchdogs 4, you and your sister/brother escape from people smugglers and you swim ashore to end up being in either country. Having no knowledge of the language, in Seoul or Tokyo and the introduction leaves you with a clean smartphone and Google glasses. Now you have to get the software, use the glasses to translate signs on the go, you need to learn language and you need to figure out how to get another party free (who is still captive somewhere). You get to choose on a criminal or non-criminal lifestyle all with its own challenges of work, odd jobs, a place, food and other elements. Can you complete both sides whilst also freeing your parents and not set of the alarms that running to the police will get your parents killed? Now consider doing that in a completely set city (a 900% version of the Watchdogs 2 map), also consider the elements that can be added, additional challenges and a true evolved NPC stage of interactions. I got part of the idea when watching the YouTube channel Only in Japan * Go (at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDsvL48jluG3tvlyurB4K3g), what if the interactive part is truly AI driven and it has a lot more responses than we have now (like 5,000% more). A stage where time is more important, not merely a day rotation where 30 minutes represents 24 hours, but where time is closer to actual and the game will have constraints in time management. We have seen elements of what I described here and there, yet for the most we have never seen them all united and when you are in a game that should last you 100-150 hours of gaming to complete. Taking the stage forwards by adding long term playing challenges, with the essential need to avoid grinding we see a new stage in gaming, a new stage in RPG, even as we see the truck load of people being anti-Bethesda for now. They did make a huge change and even as there is an essential need to patch the 34,554 bugs and glitches (a mere speculated rough estimate), we are looking at a game that is more about survival than the series have ever added before. We see the option to push a similar evolution into the Watchdogs series, where survival becomes an issue when we are no longer in our element; also we are no longer in a place where we can just walk around. The option to show new technologies and add technologies in a new light, where a device like Nudle Glass, could translate any sign we see in the game by adding a text balloon with the translation. where the phone will do voice translation and we add mobile technologies where we start getting the ability to hack, the ability to interact and the ability to emboss the storyline and challenges. A place where you need to get the odd job (on a food market, a market or just some courier job) where you get the cash to get by for the daily cycle whilst still having to find a way to safe your parents. More importantly, a stage where you have to get it done within a certain time (250 days for example) before their health gives out, these are all stages that we have seen before, yet never all at the same time and not to this extent. We need food and water (the one real fault in Subnautica), yet when we are given hours to get things done, we see options to stretch a game in more meaningful ways. the need to get transportation and to get on public transport as we cannot run from one end to the other (like in Watchdogs), as we have to get from one place to the other in Tokyo (or Seoul), yet when we have to get by 13Km to do that, time becomes a factor and that is the part game makers ignored because they lived by the act that all of it had to be fast and dynamic, yet the longer RPG game could benefit from the additional challenge of getting transport and learning to find your way by public transport (time skipping). It is not merely for the challenges and the storyline. You get to be part of the environment; you will need to clearly think on your feet. We might have been able to forego sleep in Fallout 3 for 200 days, yet the need for sleep will be here (even if we skip it in a few seconds wait time), we impact the other elements and when time becomes a deciding factor in the game we get a more true survival game. In opposition of Elder Scrolls (Oblivion or Skyrim) where we loaded up al every mission we could, making time a factor means that we need to focus on a mission. Even as we need not consider time for everything, we get to have a time driven to do list, affecting the way our NPC’s regard us, as we miss the deadline for jobs.

We also get to consider how we survive, not only is making the wrong enemies a much larger concern, adhering the game to, for example, Japanese law where they have ‘No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords’ gives new needs for being creative. The Thunder ball in WD2 was extremely innovative, in WD4, we might resolve to set the stage for a walking cane, or perhaps a belt (strangling). By adding the locations realism in practise, we also create new solutions towards game play. We can still use the WD hacking weapons, yet now we add new elements to the challenge. We might think it is not cool to be unarmed, however when we consider the reality of ‘Japan has some of the world’s strictest gun control laws with punishments that even scare gangsters‘, when we see that, the need for creativity makes the entire enterprise more rewarding too. I hope we can all agree that opening vents via remote in WD2 was as lame as it could get, the challenge can still be met in other ways. So when it is no longer about the killing, but now it is about creativity (like collecting data) we create a new kind of survival game, an entirely new challenge and is that not what gaming is about? When it is not about dropping bodies; when the stage becomes about paths that are about industrial espionage, true surveillance and getting the wealth that could purchase freedom, or perhaps the paths that will expose the people holding your parents, we see applied creativity in another way. We open the door for people to find another way to get to the end and that journey is open for anyone, yet by making time a new constraint and a more truthful constraint we see that people will try to adopt ‘glitches’ when that fails (and it should), we end up getting a real gamer and the game that does that changes the dimensional view of anyone playing a game. When the silenced scope is not available, when the knife gets you years in jail (parents dead, end game!) we can start looking at what we can do to give the challenge of a watchdog. You see, a watchdog is a person who ‘warns members of the community when potential or actual problems arise‘, we saw that to some degree in WD2, running all over San Francisco, yet we can take it to a much larger scale. When the game allows for the criminal side by data invasion, corrupt journalist devices and hack police terminals, or do the opposite by resolving hacks, by deleting criminal data bases and transmitting video of criminal activities in the game, we can become rich, famous and well known or have both worlds by getting a second identity and do both. If we can set the stage of double dipping and we can also create the stage where we can be found out playing both fields and as such impede progress, angering both sides of the social isle; we get a much larger scale to play with and a much bigger challenge. It makes the game more rewarding when we replay the game.

Is this a good idea?

Most likely in this shape not. It needs work and we now have the resources to take it to this level, yet most software houses have not shown the willingness to take it this far (exception Ubisoft- Far Cry 5 and Bethesda- Elder Scrolls), and a lot more is possible. You merely have to look at Horizon Zero Dawn and how much further it could go is a clear indication of what might be reached. Having the map online is one solution (Fallout 76), yet when we realise that in Horizon Zero Dawn is in a scale of 107.5:1 (in miles) compared to real life. What if we see a game where it is less than 10:1 (1:1 being the optimal solution), what other parts will you open? Not merely a place like Tamriel with suddenly the space for 24,999 additional locations, but the stage where we actually need to keep mind on mapping to find the location of Telepe, we see a new challenge added to it all. The nice part is that we can still scale according to level of gameplay, having from easy (90:1) towards hard-core (1:1) we get a game that is not merely more challenging, we get a game that no one has seen before, it needs a true new approach to skills, levelling, completing and time that changes the game. The nice part we saw in Fallout, is where we in Survival (hard-core mode) we see the one life part as well as the absence of fast travel. We see them all as interesting challenges to try, yet when we add them all together we create an entirely new level of gaming. The PC has been there for some time, and with their drives installing it all to the drive is a breeze nowadays (one Blu-ray for the map, and one for the game) For consoles it is a different matter and one that needs work, optionally requiring an online connection for single play, where all the other players will work from an ‘image’ of the same map. No matter how we slice it, the players and gamers are all ready for a new level of gaming.

The downside?

Well, there is no real downside; there is an additional challenge of avoid the mistakes we see in AC Odyssey. Several sources give us: ‘Lots of level grinding‘, ‘Repetitive missions‘ and ‘Long load times and stuttering‘. The last one is a technology issue and should be resolved; grinding needs to be avoided at all times, yet at times will be there. If your daily routine requires income, we get grinding to some extent and food and rent, yet when you pay rent every month, we need to find the week to get through, whilst getting paid in the process. The challenge is to keep grinding to a low. when we see the comment ‘Simplistic combat’, we accept that in some cases, yet when we are in a game where combat is to be avoided and reduced to slappers only (pugilism), we still get a decent challenge if the AI is good enough. In addition, as I see it I want the gender to set the stage for entirely different play throughs, As the girl you have retail options, and also a stage where invitations to the right party places could offer all kinds of opportunities, yet on the criminal side of the game, it might not be so rewarding. To overcome (in a creative way mind you) on how we can add no less than 5 dozen ways to get income (two dozen of one and 36 of the other), we have the setting for not merely an achievement, depending on where it is, we might set a financial stage, as well as a social stage that opens up location (housing opportunities) to shift the range of time requiring to be spend doing one or the other.

When we approach that part, the game becomes bigger, not more tedious. Some might say that if there is no kill score, there is no game and perhaps those people would feel better moving to Detroit, yet in light of any RPG, is violence required? I never did it myself, yet some have played and finished the game in pacifist mode. I admire that as I never considered that in the first few play throughs. Those are defining moments in gaming, when you go out and try that one option you never tried. When you are merely left with the MacGyver placement to get the dough you need for next month, how can you apply it in enough ways to avoid getting the ‘grinder’ label?

In light of the AC Odyssey reviews that might be the larger challenge, especially when you want to equal or even surpass the 150 hour game challenge. I particularly like the Watchdog setting as we get to explore new ways where technology is pushing the envelope of gaming, not the hardware, but the devices in the game. When we need to evolve the software in the smartphone used to get better at hacking, get more in receiving and skim more from people, how can we do this in creative ways? As the locations change and we see that in ‘richer’ places we see more NPC’s with RFID protection, how can the player still get by? In WD2 we merely got the apps and that was it, it was an opportunity missed. Several apps had the potential to be upgraded to a ‘better’ version. When we see that in action, we can contemplate what foreign refugee life in that new place could be. Push beyond the apps and elements like health tags, domotics, smart monitoring, entertainment hacking for students (extra income in game), so many options to add to the game. At some point the question becomes, will that much data break the game?

The other way round

The largest issue we see in many RPG games is that linearity is an issue; Infamous Second Son is the best example. It starts truly great, yet when you get to Seattle it becomes as linear as a ruler and even in hard mode it is not a real challenge (apart from the third boss). To avoid that we can do what they avoided in Horizon Zero Dawn. There (in my personal view) the Tallneck had too much information; it is an equal flaw in the AC series. What if we change it so that some sets have some types of information (not unlike the server hacks in WD1), yet other information like food, shops, are found in other places. What happens, when we need some version of Yelp for one and a WD version of Lifull (Japanese rental app) for another part? Why did they not use a much larger App Shop tool, where apps had advantages and disadvantages and you can only use one, giving a new challenge in the game. You see we can use it as a benefit and a limitation. We get the benefit of one, whilst losing out on the other (luck becomes a factor) and if every game tweaks these elements (like rental prices, income per hour) we take a risk in using the same solution, diversifying the choices we make, enhancing the replay option.

Every time the ship sinks

It is an old joke, yet did you imagine in 1997, that watching Titanic (preferably in IMAX) had a different outcome when you watched it the second time? It might not work in the movies, in gaming it will. When we are confronted with a new challenge and we can reset the parameters, we can add a chance that some actions happen, making the rush towards a goal more urgent and by moving from easy to normal or even survival some chances increase. It gives two parts, the benefit that you are truly challenged and the stage where there was no chance to win (like in Shanghai, when you end up having two identical stones on one another), we can try to avoid the chance, yet should the chance be zero?

RPG & Realism

I added the no guns part earlier not because I like it that way, but because I admire the option of the pacifist path, it adds to a game, so we can still have weapons, we can still use them in the equation, making the penalty and danger a lot larger if caught. Yet having a weapon and especially in the far east where we all think that life is incomplete without Katana or Geom, we see all kinds of options to enhance the game and gameplay. Yet in my mind WD4 should be much stronger on technology, hacking and devices, maximising what we can do with them. It was pathetic in WD1, yet in WD2 we saw a really nice boost, we can however do a lot more than it had and we should push for that. At present there are a whole host of actual hacking apps. iRet, netKillUIbeta, iWep Pro, Myriam iOS Security App, iSpy, Hopper App, Cycript, Frida, Firecat, Highster Mobile, et al. What if there is a Watchdog version of some (or all) where we have to rely on other means to get information to get further in the game? We can have one to three apps that have these abilities and as we get access to another app, we can evolve one of those three to give us more hack power. In addition, the merging of app and stealth gives us more time to get what we need before we are blocked (an income limitation). So as we go forward we get challenged more. We could just go Fred Flintstone, bash the person hack the phone an walk away. Getting more initially, yet also getting loads of infamy from the boys and girls in law enforcement blue.

All options that would have been available, yet the present RPG lines never truly pushed the envelope, it seems a little bizarre. There is no way of telling how popular any RPG game gets, yet when we see that the greatest foes are ‘repetition’ and ‘grinding’, it seems odd that some of my ideas were not there in WD2, as it was something we could have seen coming a mile away.

This might not have been interesting to anyone but gamers, yet when we see how the US is seemingly angering Iran and Saudi Arabia to an equal degree, do you really want to wake up and drink coffee, or play a video game and hope that after 4 hours it was all merely a bad dream? When we consider the dozens of additions that took less than a few hours to add, against the fact that some of these games have been out since 2014 and sequels in 2016. Is it not interesting that so much of the same is shown to gamers? Not merely Watchdogs (Ubisoft), Fallout (Bethesda) could have made additional usage of terminals, writeable holotapes and other bits as well, between 2008 and 2018, we saw 3 products and we see forward momentum to a decent degree, no one is debating that, yet how much more could we have seen? When we see in regards to Far Cry 5 ‘it’s very much More of the Same‘, should we fear the beginning of iterative gaming? I can tell you now that this would be a really really bad thing. We went from Forbidden Forest (1983) to Tekken 3 (1997), which shows a 1000% improvement in all directions, yet when we consider Tekken 6 (2007) and Tekken 7 (2015) we are for the most merely confronted with better graphics and the list of games with a similar issue is growing rapidly. A truckload of gaming leaps all ignored for a few reasons I gather, so in my view there is too much wrong and the fact that we are confronted with Forbes asking “is it fresh enough, or is this just another Ubisoft open-world game checking off all the boxes?” and the fact that Metacritic gives us 78% rating for the game. When you consider that the game had a budget between $80 and $130 million, and a 78% score, we need to worry. Ubisoft might not care as some claim that it made over $310 million in the first week. Yet, if we consider that it could have been a 90% game, is this a stage where Ubisoft missed out of an additional $150-$200 million? There is no way to tell and it is highly speculative from my side. In this I am not hammering Far Cry 5, merely using the most visible example. Is one a sign of the other and as such is it also a sign of iterative game development? It is an important fact and one that needs investigation as the game in gaming is set for more and higher budgets. As gaming was set to a $108.9 billion stage in 2017, and as the predictions given to us, that in 2020 $20 billion more will be made, is it not important to maximise that as much as possible? Especially now in a stage where too many are on a tight budget, relying on Black Friday and Week 12 discounts, getting it right as much as possible will be adamant in getting the larger chunk of that $120 billion pie.

When we (speculatively) see that ‘more of the same’ is part of the 78% rating, a diversified game is becoming more and more important. Some might not care, others might oppose, yet when we see that GTA5, a game (not my style of game mind you) that some regard as perfect as a game can get, that game made $6 billion, my case is, as I personally see it made.

If some are to be believed, there is the idea that 2020 would be the year of GTA6, with the view as is, there is every chance that every owned of GTA5, will get GTA6, implying that all the other game makers will vie for the additional budget left for gaming. In that stage, as I personally see it, they will not spend it on a game that is more of the same, so the other game makers will have to consider upping their development ante by a lot.

Whatever comes out then will also require extremely serious testing, as the people are getting mighty annoyed with the amount of huge day one downloads they face.

 

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