Tag Archives: Fallout

To emphasize ‘flawed’

There are all kinds of issues playing. Murdoch who admits that they benefitted from hacked emails (so what else is new), the call for the leadership of the Tories or even more annoying the battering ram of North Korean rants and counter rants and the nauseating gossip train of the Las Vegas shooter. All of that is worth a few dozen words, yet in my mind, in light of yesterday’s view of IP and gaming IP, I think it is clear that a few more words need to be spend on the category, but now on a different field.

IP is at the heart of the matter, but now we will look at another side. For those who have had a view of games and gaming, many will remember the awesome trilogy called Mass Effect. Those who went through the growth of the Xbox 360 brand will have been aware of the Mass effect trilogy, there is no way escaping it. The first one gave us something new and exciting. When we consider the Elder Scrolls and the Fallout games, we were clearly introduced to a competitor in this field and Mass Effect delivered something new, 2007 became an almost magical year. Then something new happened, in 2010 we saw the sequel, a sequel that is still regarded as one of the best RPG games that the Xbox 360 ever received. I will skip the final part in all this. So in this history, you might understand that the expectations were so high (perhaps too high) for Mass Effect Andromeda. The people at Bioware had 5 years to get it right and they failed. The game was flawed on several levels and even as we need to accept that it is not a bad game, the utter quality of Mass Effect 2 was not equalled, not by a long shot. I am not alone, many reviewers saw the game as one that does not equal the initial trilogy and even now, the interest of a remastered original trilogy is desired a lot more than Andromeda is. I finally played the game, I was unwilling to pay the full amount after being shown the most basic of glitches and issues, but when offered as a new (not pre-owned) game for $25, I gave it a go. So as I have finished the game in a week, I concur, the game is flawed on several levels. I am not going into the animation and graphic glitches, too many did this. The game from the beginning shows a flawed approach to several sides. Now, it is shown in the initial level, a level which I usually ignore as it tends to be an intro level as to train the gamer how to play the game. So after the intro movie (which is actually quite brilliant) we get to go to the first place. Here we see the impact of flaws. So after 650 years in travel we get to a planet and whatever they have we can use to reload our own weapons. We see a new opposing player and that is fine, yet the battle strategy, the weapons, the resources show us a flaw from the very core onwards. Ammunition is the clearest part, but it goes beyond that. The Nexus, the entire evolution that we play through, we can go two ways here. Either the game should have been a lot bigger with a lot more to do to grow us into the nexus and locations, or live with the assumption jumps that were made, jumps that were wrong on a few levels (as I personally see it). Now, we need to accept that things like this happen in action games and shooters, because the focus of such a game is different. Yet in RPG you can’t get away with it. The plot does not thicken, but the elements get to be a lot more questionable. The Salarian ark and the Turian ark are just on the surface of that. When we get confronted with those elements in the story we see the flaws grow. Patched stories for the sake of whatever they thought it was going to be. So when we see (from Wiki) “Mass Effect: Andromeda required a team of over 200 developers and, according to Aaryn Flynn, was given a total budget of C$100 million, which included marketing and research costs.” we get the first realisation on the bungled level of a game. My initial personal design (concept) of the sequel to Skyrim took less than an hour to construct in my mind and an additional 4-5 hours to type. So I got to be in a much better place from the get go. Now, do not take my word for it, because you never should. So instead I am going to introduce you to a group of 20 people, not having anywhere near such a budget. The team is Unknown Worlds Entertainment and their take on RPG with Subnautica is one of the best, one of the most refreshing (all that water helps) and amazing trips I have had in my lifetime of gaming. I hope that this game makes it to the PS4 and if it is still available on Xbox live in early release do it because it will be the best $30 you are likely to spend this year. The comparison is important because even in its non-final stage Mass Effect does not get close to what Subnautica has already delivered. OK, granted that if shooting is your need in Mass Effect, Subnautica might not be for you, but overall Subnautica kicks Mass Effects ass on several fronts. Three programmers outshine the dozens that Mass Effect had and that is just embarrassing. If you want to learn more take a look at IGP (the Indie Game Promoter) who (at https://www.youtube.com/user/TheIndieGamePromoter) has all kinds of videos. So take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgyCiWXPZzE&index=76&list=PLVxH6E2fftrfbnmjYAXXiCJJwleb-HZvB for a first view of the game which gives a view almost two years before the final release. You want to skip to 1:45 and skip to the start of the game. The game is very much the truest view of RPG as they can get. So the intro is not as flash as Andromeda is, but that is the only time Mass Effect wins. Now, as stated, this is not a shooter, so be aware of that. The part that should amaze you is that this game is more about survival and the basic survivalist edge is often ignored by many RPG’s.

So as I am giving you a parallel on the skips of Mass Effect and also ‘story lining‘ of Mass Effect, we need to dig a little further. Now in their defence at times we cannot prevent that in the case of Mass Effect, but consider that after a trip for over 600 years, we get to aid certain players (Salarians) ‘just’ in the nick of time. This is an issue on a few levels.

Also even as we accept that many bought it soon and the game had sales close to three quarter of a billion, which is a financial success, it comes at the realisation that the game scores 72% which at the budget given is a massive flaw, yet here I will admit that the shooting side of the game is as some stated it: “The core shooting mechanics feel stronger here than anywhere else in the series“, which was made by Scott Butterworth of Gamespot and he is right, this part they did do very well and it is likely the one reason why the game remained the financial success it has turned out to be.

Yet the QA was far below par, the delivery was wrong and in the end I personally profited by getting a decent game for $25, a mere 6 months after release. So consider how this game could have gotten closer to the $1 billion mark by getting things right? An additional twice the investment by thinking things through and properly testing it from the start, and not even requiring to think too intelligent; the basic story line debated on the flaws that they needed to avoid from after the intro level onwards. Consider that the ‘Salarian Ark’ event became a basic shooting mission, whilst it optionally represented dozens of hours of additional gameplay on several levels. So apart from the timing as a ‘just in the nick of times‘ mission that is underused and oversold, we see that the other Arks become mere wasted moments in the game. In a place that has so many shortages, leaving behind an ark that has thousands of tonnes of resources seems weird, even if it does not have any lives left. It is not as the Nexus had an abundance of resources, did it? So there we see more, just after a setting that had a revolt, shortages and deviant issues, we see every time the Tempest comes and go’s (too often because of other flaws) we see that the docking level shows an environment that equals the embassy level of the citadel itself, all missed options and opportunities. There we see the option of an additional 10% score if it was done and properly tested. So now we get from 72% to 82%. Then there is the premise that this is a game with only 5 worlds to fix?

There could have been a few more, and more important, changing the way the vaults were accessed on at least one world might have made the game a little less obvious (to some extent). So here we have another 5% in the making, making the game approaching a 90% game, which is a given need when you waste 5 years and a hundred million. Subnautica, when you like that part of RPG gaming is giving you at 25% of the full price of the Mass Effect game. A game that was already awesome when I decided to get it and whilst playing the early release, the game added at least 4 more expansions to the main game and they are now part of the main game. In one part Mass Effect wins. The graphics, there is no denying that the graphics of Mass Effect were really good, but we might see that an additional 80 staff members (and 90 million more) should guarantee that part. All this and as we know that RPG’s are set over time, so we can accept that growing the impact over time as we play might have given a few more options and a few more changes to the way that the game was played, giving the gamer a better game (and optionally a much larger game).

So as I have enlightened you on some of the flawed parts, there is now the link to the previous article to set. The longevity of a game as well as the IP is the sellable part of any developed game and in that part Subnautica is all about original IP and they got the IP to grow value, loads of value. Even as we see that Mass Effect is to some extent more of the same, they did grow their IP range, but only to a fraction of Subnautica. This now gets us to the setting that is the link. In the digital age the value of the service purchased is the money we invest in the product we thought we bought. You see, as gaming progresses, we see a dependency and as such we no longer buy the property, but we lease it in some ways and rent it in other ways. The gaming industry has no choice but to set the multiplayer sides into a renting foundation (buying with an open point or termination), whilst the single playing part (the missions) will be leased for the term of the console. Now consider the satisfaction you get from leasing a game that is rated at 72%. Are you willing to go on paying the amounts we see? At this point I have now shown you the essential need to properly test a game before release. You see, it is shown in the quote that several sources gave. With: “Following Mass Effect: Andromeda’s poor critical reception and lacklustre sales, BioWare put the Mass Effect series “on ice”“. So even as we saw some sources state a sales numbers surpassing $500 million whilst there was $100 million invested, so either the numbers given were wrong, or we see the impact of greed as others walk away from a $400 million milk cow. In that part, what were the true costs and why would any company walk away from a possible $100-$250 million in season pass revenue. This part and the issues had shown from several sources that the detrimental financial health of IP and IP value is shown to be at least to a larger part to be due to the flawed quality of proper testing. Ubisoft has been though it (Assassins Creed Unity) and as we see Bioware and Electronic Arts walking away from half a billion dollars, we need to consider beyond games and the value of a gamer, we need to see that the impact of IP is not set in stone and the quality of the product (or service) is at the foundation of what we think we purchase and what we expect to receive. In this there is the clear evidence of the flawed product that is Mass Effect Andromeda and the weird part is that I saw the flaw in the first hour of the game. This now sets the premise of the wrong players (read: business parties) that were in charge within Bioware and Electronic Arts. It is my personal believe that their marketing division has either too large a vote and they looked at the wrong sides of the game. This in a setting of a 100 million invested, how weird is that?

So now we get the treasure that the Cullens, Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys give us on their web site. With “Whether buying or selling a business one of the most overlooked aspects of the transaction is the intellectual property of the business. Proper identification, scrutiny and valuation of intellectual property will have benefits for both the purchaser and vendor“. It is the issue that is really the bread and butter of growing game developers. In this the word business can mean either that or it can be set to ‘product’ or ‘service’ and the realisation of this quote which is not new, shows just how flawed (or sloppy) Mass Effect Andromeda turned out to be. Now, we look at the bad sides here, but the game has loads of good sides too. Yet it missed the boat by at least 20% (72%, instead of 92%) and I lighted up 15% in the easiest of ways. The last part we see when we dig into the world of the game testers. Now I can relate here, because I reviewed and tested games for the better part of a decade. My knowledge and skills showed me the parts I illuminated and I truly believe that there are better testers than me, so that implies that none of them work for either Electronic Arts or Bioware which is statistically near impossible, so that means that the large investment was made on a flawed infrastructure, or at least that is as I personally see it. You see, the old joke (from when I was young) has been that it takes 90% of the time to fix the last 10% of a project. At some point highly educated graduates were hired in places where the foundation of art is the core of the business and they introduced the setting of ‘linearity’ of art based projects. So that a project is done at 10% a month and the last two months of the year were for testing, which is not how it works and not how it will ever work. Now, I simplified the idea for illustration, so it is not an exact given, but the clarity of flaws that Mass Effect Andromeda shows on day one of release gives the validity of my view and shows just how breached the concept of design linearity is (perhaps you remember the Ubisoft statement of ‘every year a new Assassins Creed game’). As such, I believe that the game lost out on massive revenues.

Now consider the two headlines:

Bringing Mass Effect to a new galaxy isn’t quite the shot in the arm the series needed” or “Blown away in another universe 640 years later“. The first is IGN and the second one is one I came up with, if they had done a proper job. So would you buy the game if you read ‘isn’t quite the shot‘? Gamespot had “After the first few hours of Mass Effect: Andromeda, I was discouraged“, whilst Forbes gave us “I don’t think anyone will claim it outclasses the original trilogy, outside of maybe the very first game“, so a new game merely on par with a game released a decade ago. This is the setting of a flawed product and the fact that this was not seen in the beta stage of the game is questionable. So in an age of digital rights that are moving more and more from the permanent availability into a stage of temporary usage, where we no longer get to own the product, yet merely lease (read: rent) a product also requires others to realise that the game of gaming is shifting, and these players can only continue if they ‘up the quality’ of the product or service they make available. This shows in one way just how amazing a game like Skyrim is proving to be, the fact that the game still embraces gamers 6 years later whilst Electronic Arts loses the bulk of value of a product within 26 weeks. That is the evidence that shows that flaws are becoming a much larger issue for all in these fields and it shows that the players like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and others as well, need to take a harsh look at what they offer and not merely listen to their own marketeers as the value of what they bring forth is now shifting whilst a product is in development, which is the third nail in the coffin for Electronic Arts as it took 5 years to get to a very much less than perfect place they ended up. I believe that the flawed setting can be improved upon, yet the people at Bioware better realise that the stakes are raised and they are raised by a lot, in that we need to ask whether they can match the needs of a shifted market.

I cannot answer for them, and like Nintendo Electronic Arts and Bioware are not out of the game. You see, even as Nintendo bungled the WiiU, they hit back with the Nintendo Switch, which is becoming a game changer in gaming. I believe that both Electronic Arts and Bioware can do the same, the question is whether they will, time (read: the next release) will tell. Should that fail, they could always move forward by charging their fans an additional $10 for a steel box of a game. Oh wait, they are already doing that with FIFA18, ahhh how the world turns!

 

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Approaching death of Scorpio

Do you remember the day when gamers were all looking forward towards the initial presentation of the Xbox One? Perhaps you do, perhaps not, what became the issue is that the person, who disappeared soon thereafter was talking about mandatory online presence, news of no longer getting second hand games also came to light and the gamers shouted in outrage. The changes Microsoft had to make were not small, the business managers of Microsoft at that point actually got scared and the consequence was that Sony became the undebated ruler of the next generation console.

Sony made a few errors, but they were small and some have been rectified. For the Xbox One it is an entirely different matter. They have gone to some extent from bad to worse and there are decent indicators that Scorpio will continue on that downward spiral.

The article in the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/27/project-scorpio-xbox-chief-microsoft-plans-console) gives some highlights, especially on the speculation of native 4K gaming, yet in other uncertain terms other elements are not addressed.

Since the Xbox 360 the gamers lost the ability to play offline, with the option to keep their achievements. Now there is a cumbersome need to change settings. Sony had the same issue, but has rectified this, although the gamer needs to click two additional times, offline achievements can be viewed. Microsoft has been unwilling to reset to the Xbox 360 options in that regard. More important, the issue seen only a few months ago shows that Microsoft without consent has been uploading massive chunks of data into their Azure cloud. Within one week I lost 50% of my monthly bandwidth allowance ($60 damage). The press has not looked at this at all, the press remains silent on non-consensual uploads and the Microsoft helpdesk plainly blamed my ISP for this (what a load of rubbish). In that frame, my less diplomatic view would be that Microsoft has become a data lady of ill repute.

The fact that Microsoft remains silent on storage is equally a failure. They should have figured out that some gamers have much higher needs and we should agree that this is not for everyone, the option that gamers would want to get a larger hard-drive from day one (even if they have to personally upgrade like it is the case with the PS3/PS4), the fact that Microsoft remains pushy towards clouds and mineable data is a large issue, especially as this constitutes backwater thinking on the part of the developer. Lessons that Microsoft could have seen and learned from Sony 5 years ago, and with 4K gaming, you better believe these patches will continue to grow into several gigabytes per game. In comparison, I have as per this morning 4 patches waiting requiring 29GB storage, do you think that will get less on 4K? You only need to look at a few Ubisoft games (specifically the size of their patches) to realise that the storage requirement will grow faster and faster. A 2TB drive will not satisfy the need of the gamer, let alone a 1TB drive. Microsoft as ben aiming for data control too soon and to stringently, an error that could be the death of Scorpio, in that regard Death on Release date is not that far fetched at present.

In addition, we read that Phil Spencer makes the biggest blooper of all. The quote: “it may be possible for some teams to add extra gameplay content only accessible to Scorpio owners”. So those who recently bought an Xbox One or Xbox One S will face a system renewal within a year. So not only is he resetting gamer needs, he is basically downgrading the current generation console from a gamers point of view, because gamers want 100% of the game they play, not some restriction. In this he gives extra ammunition to Sony, so he might get a nice Christmas hamper from Kaz Hirai himself.

In all this the article is a good read, not just for fans of the Microsoft console, but more or the competitors (read: Sony) for the elements that have not been raised or discussed. The fact that the console OS requires more than half a dozen upgrades and improvement, just to get back to the decent levels of the Xbox 360 is one issue, the idea that we might see a mandatory push to Azure is also a danger that Phil needs to put to rest real quick, because a large group of gamers are not in places where unlimited bandwidth is an option, and that is in the better locations. When Microsoft learns the hard way that 7 US states and chunks of Japan and Europe wont facilitate those data needs, they will need to adjust their scope again and again. This whilst the gamers get to suffer limitations and outages for a console that will be pricey to say the least.

All issues that have been known in advance if those at the top had done their homework. Now, we should realize that the console will not be here for some time to come, but at this point, if the hardware specs are not upgraded (like the laughable 1TB drive), getting enough consoles sold by the end of the year will be a stretch and I reckon that within 4 months the gamers will face limitations they have never experienced before, which will push the console down in sales faster and harder. All elements that could have been avoided 2 years before launch. When we consider that the better games will require 50GB-100GB of data space, the idea that a 1TB drive with an operating system would only have space for 5-8 games could be the most laughable part yet. In that regard, those who love their RPG games (Witcher 3, Fallout, Skyrim) could see a special marketing deal of the Scorpio console with 5 games because that is all the console has space for. I agree that this is me being mean, but Microsoft has been warned by gamers more than once. The fact that we have enough evidence that they will not learn or listen is a mere consideration to drop the Scorpio from your wish list until such time comes that they clearly clean up their act and please their customers, not the need of others business groups to keep certain power users on a monitored online presence. This is how I see it, and this is what you need to consider before you waste too many of your hard earned coins on an announced console that comes with too many limitations even before the system ships on day one.

Oh, and the news (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/27/xbox-chief-netflix-video-games-episodes-subscription-downloads-phil-spencer),  how much bandwith and storage will that require? Not to mention upgraded Netflix on 4K, that poor 1TB storage system will unlikely make it past the second month. Yes, Scorpio might sound revolutionary, but not for the gamer.

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When game makers don’t get it

This is another day where we get to bash the game maker. This is not done out of malice or spite, this is done because certain ‘players’ in this industry need to wake up and consider hard and clear that they are running out of rope, out of options and out of any future. For the same reason why the malicious bashers of No Man’s Sky don’t get why it is a good game, the same reasoning why many of the triple-A game makers are now no longer producing 90%+ games.

So, this all started this morning when I saw ‘Mafia III review: how can a super stylish 1960s shooter be this boring?‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/10/mafia-3-review-1960s-shooter-gameplay). First of all, I haven’t played it. Yet, to offset this, I looked at several sources. The issue is seen in the quote: “To say Mafia III is a disappointment is an understatement. It has all of the surface components to form a great game: the writing and acting are superb, its direction and style are great, but its mechanical underpinnings are archaic and desperately unimaginative. It’s ironic that Mafia III’s predecessor had a similarly stylish open world, but wasted it by giving players nothing to do besides its main story missions. Mafia III has the opposite problem – tons that you have to do, you just don’t want to do any of it“, which gives us the main goods in all this. I played the first game on PC, a game that had more than a few issues, but overall it was original and showed a game style that was novel in those days. So when I see this, I see another issue, which I will address later. The second review is one you cannot miss if it is your intent to buy the game. It is the video review on IGN (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7mkCsJm8Lk). This is actually an excellent view on the game. It also supports the reasoning I had (I will get to that, I promise). There are a few issues that also popped up, which are not negative sides, but they are linked to this all.

IGN mentions it in the video. There are references and similarities to the generic play of Assassins Creed and for what I saw, partially to Watchdogs 1 too. In these semi-open world games, there is a need to explore the world and find things, but what is the issue when you have to get items again and again, for no other reason than to find them? I reckon there is a plus to find album covers and playboy covers, if they are the actual covers and issue covers. A little historic on one side, a little sultry on the other. Yet, if it leads to nothing, why run through the city of London, finding all the ales? In Mafia 3 and as I am from the era, finding a Jimmy Hendrix album cover would be cool and could bring a tear to my eye, remembering this great guitar player, yet, what is the point? Same for AC and finding all the chests filed with cash all over the city where everyone is in states of poverty? Apart from the ridiculousness of it all, it stopped fulfilling a purpose long ago. The same in Watchdogs. Getting all those jackets without some bonus is just emptiness of cash spent.

This is where we see the emerging issues of these games nowadays. There is no longer proper play testing and the fact that the game is only given to reviewers on release day is only in support that the game makers know this. In my view when properly addressed it could make a 75% Mafia game a 92% mafia game, with the clear option to double revenue, because gamers will jump at a 90%+ game and there have been a lack of it.

In opposition we see Ubisoft, not their generic games. No! When we see the effort that For Honor has been showing with closed alpha’s additional rounds and now the closed alpha game on PS4 with releases on YouTube. This is exactly why I foresaw that For Honor would be a high scoring game, I want it and I am not even a true fan of this game type, but what is shown is what I see, gaming on a new level, a different level. That is what makes a top game. Even as Ubisoft has been dropping the ball in several games, they have shown a multitude of evidence that they got this right! Proper play testing is all the difference and taking time to get that right is all the reason why Mafia 3 is as I can see it the non-success at present it could end up being.

 

When you lack the open world that Bethesda has, play testing is the only way to get the semi-open world and mission based games correctly. This is why the original game released on 11/11/11 was the long term success and now it is about to be rereleased on HD for consoles. After 5 years it still have the appeal it originally had. I am of course speaking of Skyrim, and now that people have had a taste of Fallout 4, the Skyrim fan base could grow even further, Bethesda achieved that chance and in likelihood, it will be one of these games that will be found gift wrapped at thousands of thanksgiving parties, especially when some November releases decide not to deliver. Even though my version of Elder Scrolls 6 will not make it to the systems, Bethesda is already looking at new projects and as we are unlikely to see them before 2018, whatever makes it will be a new game changer, just as Fallout 4 was the game changer for players on all systems.

The others (Ubisoft, 2K, Square Enix) have issues to some extent, in some cases the issues are not big of massive, but they are still the reason that a game makes 80% instead of 91% and in this business 11% is not a margin, it is the reason that people wait for the game to drop 50% or more in price. In my view Far Cry4, Assassins Creed Syndicate, Assassins Creed Unity, Far Cry Primal, and this list goes on are all games that suffered such blows. I think for me Infamous Second Son remains one of the best examples. The game that started great became bland, repetitive and too linear. It is hard to point the finger at a single reason yet the elements tend to be their marketing department, the timeline pressed upon them and the vision of the people behind the game. That last elements is shown when we think back to Jason VandenBerghe when he gave a glimpse at E3 2015. This is not whether he should or should not have done it, he gave a glimpse and at E3 2016 he showed stuff, I think what he showed wetted the apatite and in 2016 we became thirsty for the real deal, which is now a mere 15 weeks away. More important 15 weeks with increased game play testing and movies that showed more and more final quality in a near flawless gaming interface. He showed vision, he did not just show a game, which set him apart from a lot of game producers. He also looks like he is the adviser for the Baltimore Stegmer Brothers on how to make a Skull Cleaver (just kidding, the Stegmer Brothers are experts in their own right with any kind of forged weapon). Here we see the issue, as explained in ‘When they get it right‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2016/07/30/when-they-get-it-right/), so when you consider these elements and take into consideration the multiplayer movie (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r59DAyolTyw), we see how a multiplayer game is not that ‘simple’, not because of game play, but because of the required tactics. So multiplayer will require people to team up, because for single players in a team match will have no chance to survive an actual team. Giving this game more than just a little edge. As I personally see it a quality play test crew is what made the difference (beyond vision and good coders). Yet the latter two were not the most important players. In my view, those two elements were present with Infamous Second son, well at least the good coders. Proper play testing and evaluating the game and post adjustments could have resulted in at least 11% more. When such a margin impacts the revenue to the degree we have seen in several games, the need for proper overhauling a game studio becomes apparent and the fact that this is either not happening or not having the desired effect, is now cause for concern (it should be for the game developer). You see, that part is shown in Mafia 3 (especially in the IGN video), because apart from all the nice little Easter eggs and other little titbits, the fact that we see “tons that you have to do, you just don’t want to do any of it“, is likely to limit sales and it will push people towards other games. In light of all the clips and advertisement we have seen in the big cities, that seems to be a massive impact on a game that would have had an 8 figure development cost. The weird issue in addition is that these game makers want a success, they want to be known for the 90%+ game they made, so partially, the road not taken is not making sense at all.

So we see that there are more games coming this year, the question becomes how good will they be? I am holding my breath for a few of them, including one that even as extreme snow sports was never my thing, this game has piqued my interest. Ubisoft is releasing the game Steep in December, so far it is the most ambitious and the most appealing snow based game I have ever seen in my life. The in game quote “Challenge cancelled, no death allowed in this challenge” is just hilarious (and you better realise that elbowing with a rock tends to be a terminal choice). One video titled ‘How an Open World Changes Action Sports‘ is exactly the issue. As written before, I have never been this excited over this type of game before, even when I was excited on playing SSX, when it got released with the PS2, it never came close to what I thought a snow game should be about. This game is it, yet, when we see the movies, which do look great, how much play testing did the game go through? We see the Ubisoft version of how smooth things play, and that might be so, but individual or independent are lacking. How many play testers went to the top of one mountain, just skiing to the very bottom? Ignoring all the tracks and challenges, just an open world ski trip, seeing if the game rears its ugly heads with a glitch?

The few I saw were all the same track and that is not what is supposed to make the game great. So, when we see the actual open area, what will it be then? (Not attacking, just actually asking). Like me, many others acted really positively on the initial parts we saw. The map implies that there is a massive amount of area’s to see and to explore. The game shows 4 ‘play modes’, which is not a given. From my point of view, there is a lot more that they could add, especially when the dynamics are already in play. In the lower area’s cross country skiing (not exciting, but a completionist option) and the way that reaching points could open up markers, I would have considered sleigh and bobsled tracks. Again, it is a completionist idea and adding this might give the game a feeling of completeness, especially when you are not multi-playing (which would be the driving force in a game like this). My idea’s will not make it a better game, it might make the game a lot worse, the question is what was considered, what was done and how was the game play tested? What is the impression a professional boarder has when looking and playing this game? Parts that I have not seen published or I missed it). The reason to ask these questions is because until December there is still time, for Mafia 3 it is too late to make a good first impression, for Steep there is time to get the upgrades done if required, depending on the time needed this game might miss thanksgiving and would need to globally rely on Christmas, which is not a bad thing. What is important is that the not extreme snow sport lovers are considering this game, implying that Steep could make a massive splash (revenue wise too). As to the verdicts of certain games, we will need to see the release of quality reviews, what is a given is that no early reviews is no longer a tool to get a better revenue, too many gamers have felt the impact of that flaw. Ubisoft lost a lot of cloud and 2K is getting hit as well soon enough, the question is what these players will do to up the game and get the gamers back to their fold. Time will tell, however in this year, there are a few too many games being released, so those hoping to see this level of revenue, would face the risk of losing their revenue being used to pay for games like Dishonored 2, games that have already proven themselves and are already showing to be equal or better. Some will even be holding on to their cash for the coming quarter, because Q1 2017 shows at least 3 games that are setting new levels of game play, and buying a wannabe for $49 is a lot better than the same anticipated title for $99. So make sure you get to the actual quality review goods BEFORE you buy the game you thought was going to be great.

 

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Gaming ‘after silence’ or ‘pre noise’?

Well, I am back after a few days of silence. You see, I found a few links that were massively worry some. Yet, nothing could be confirmed in any way shape or form. It is all linked to the Australian submarine deal and the issues that are escalating in France. So it is indeed worthy to note and report on. Yet at present there are too many question marks, too much is unknown, more important too much of the material I saw remains speculation, so this is not going to be about the shipyards on Brest and Cherbourg, until I get my fingers on something a lot more reliable.

So what does one do when you need an hour of relaxation from stress and life in general? Well, until No Man’s Sky arrives on June 22nd, I need to find something to help me forget about it all. This is why June 10th the game Batman: Return to Arkham will be a nice distraction, which is the Next Gen editions of Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City, so the Batman fans can go nuts on that part. The two games are close to perfect as Batman games and the initial Arkham Asylum showed a level of gaming on PS3 and XB360 that was so high that not having it could be considered a crime (unless you do not care for Batman, which is fine too).

There have been noises in the past by bloggers and reputable sites on ‘remastered’ games. I remain on the fence. When you can replay God of War, Batman or the Last of Us, games that had set a new level of quality gaming, how can this be a bad thing? I have had my issues with Mass Effect (mostly the last one), but that will not stop me from rushing the queues to get a remastered edition of that trilogy, especially when the achievement bugs of the first game and the sloppiness of the third game are removed.

The second game was near perfect, which is why your shy Lawlordtobe.com (read: me) was part of that adventurous vacation all over the Universe (see photographic evidence below; the photo of me with a Justicar was removed on grounds of censorship).

LVR_MassEffect2 - twitch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet is this it? Is there nothing more? You see, that is indeed the issue gamers face nowadays. I have been a part of gaming and its industry since 1984, so I have seen it all (well almost all at least). No Man’s Sky could be one of the last true new games I will play for several reasons.

If we look back into our memories than the term ‘god’ game is not new. The idea goes all the way back to the 80’s. The idea hit me initially from a comic as it was published in Computer and Video Games (C+VG) magazine. The Comic was a reason to get it, the other reason for the magazine is that it was in the early days one of a few good magazines that informed gamers on games (remember those pre internet times)? The reference is found at http://www.weirdretro.org.uk/the-bug-hunters-the-forgotten-80s-comic-series.html. The actual comic can also be seen (at https://archive.org/stream/Bug_Hunters_The_1990_Trident_Comics_GB#page/n21/mode/2up), in my case that page gave me the idea of a ‘god game’, which at that time (the age of Commodore 64) was not really realistic.

Much later we would be treated to Black & White, but it is not until 2016, June 22nd before the world gets a first glimpse of a galactic exploration game the way we used to dream of. Consider the three comic quotes “It’s only when your world made in detail that it gets to you“, “When you start playing god with the people in it” and “Some players get the whole world worshipping them as the deity“. You might laugh at these quotes, but consider these statements and now consider Minecraft, Black & White, Populous and now No Man’s Sky. The statements and the games touch deep within any gamer a truth that many others deny. We don’t just want to be better than anyone else, to be the one who survives, we want to bend others to our fictive will (either openly or hidden). This is a dangerous statement in light of gaming, because I am making the danger of relating to Bicameralism and in specific The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Julian Jaynes, 1976). I believe that it actually goes a lot deeper. Good vs Evil, Light vs Dark, Commanding vs Obeying, Order vs Chaos. In this light we tend to see a correlating alliance between Evil, Dark, Obeying and Chaos. The statement that control comes from order is equally unsettling. We, our person, our being is more often than not about balance. We are the seesaw of ourselves and as such we keep a preconceived version of order though the balance as we see it. So, there it is, a deeper reflection on the gaming need. When you pick up a game and play an hour every now and then, it tends to be to unwind. When you (like me) have spent thousands of hours in the Bethesda worlds of the Elder Scrolls and Fallout, it tends to be a little different.

I hope that you see how these elements connect. I believe that part of this is subconscious, when we play Minecraft there is a subconscious part that gives us the drive to play it again and again. It goes beyond the sandbox part, it taps into our creative side, like LEGO did when we were kids. Now, not everyone feels that way and I personally believe that there is a group of people ignoring the game as they are in denial because the graphics are not high end. Some are not comfortable tapping into their creative side. I can relate to that latter group, my grasp of drawing is pathetic to say the least. The lack of one element of a creative side does not make a person non-creative. That part is a side many ignore. This links to the games.

SimCity, SimLife, SimWorld, SimTown and Minecraft gives us “It’s only when your world made in detail that it gets to you“. The first part gives us the evolution of games from the limits of systems with 640Kb and VGA displays until Mojang took it into another direction and gave us Minecraft. Your world, making it as ‘detailed’ as possible. This game intersects with the option (read: need) of exploration.

Little Computer People, Populous, Dungeon Keeper and Godus gives us “When you start playing god with the people in it“. This is a game type that is not always appreciated, let’s be honest, some work from a tactical point of view and as such they do not like it. That’s fair enough! There is no negativity towards the game or those who do not like them. I was never one for GTA, plenty of fans there. We play whatever makes us happy as gamers. These games evolved over time and remained a niche style of games.

Black and White (1 and 2) which gets us “Some players get the whole world worshipping them as the deity“, as well as the statement of the previous topic. The smallest of niches, Godus falls in this one too. Worshipping has been an element in several games, yet in that it reflects on one player in the game, in more true godlike games, you are just the element behind the screens.

These games are about control (aren’t they all), so whether you go from the premise of a trader (Elite Dangerous) or an open world exploration (No Man’s Sky), I see the near completion of an area of gaming in a new light. In this No Man’s Sky, as far as I see it at present, is not just an element, it has become the defining moment in time for a large share of gamers.

Let me explain this!

If we see the past with games like Seven Cities of Gold (1985), where it was truly about ‘exploring’ the ‘new’ world. Now we get to explore the ‘known’ universe. This goes beyond the mere sandbox approach. As I see it, the elements of No Man’s Sky have the option to change gaming, especially Role Playing Games forever, If I see the IP correctly (for as far as I saw it), it is worth millions. When we consider the video’s we saw, especially the behind the screens part, than we can consider that the ‘random’ formula part works in two directions. The side we have not seen yet would be the future ability to turn cartographical data into an equation. Once this works the IP of No Man’s Sky will be worth billions. Consider the initial part and that the limited worlds we have had so far in Oblivion, Skyrim, Morrowind and Ultima. Now consider the inverted engine to actually build Tamriel and Sosaria from detailed maps. Worlds where we can actually spend our times in, in real time in a 1:1 environment. This is the ‘after silence’ we are about to experience, the need to grow worlds to play in; a new level of playing. Not just for Hello Games, but consider the options when the gaming map has no further limits, almost like Phantom of Pain, but now with entire Afghanistan mapped. In the last party we can clearly argue whether it brings additional gaming pleasure, yet in our hearts we all know that the thought crossed all our minds. SimCity (older versions) with planetary constraints, the Sims with biological constraints, Sniper 3 with biological constrains but absent of geographical constraints. Games are evolving because we can now surpass constraints we were never able to surpass before and remove them where they were/are limitations. These elements will grow gaming hardware to facilitate and the IP will facilitate the possibilities we never had.

Now we reflect back to Mass Effect. Consider that same game, but now in an evolved setting where the Citadel is 100% available. Where mining and hunting on Gemini Sigma is not on a x*y grid, but planetary. It resets these games in true challenges to get them done in a lifetime (which could become the next hurdle).

Is this a good path?

I believe that size is an issue and overall games at large skipped that part for the most. Witcher 3 is the massive exception and it has opened doors towards the gamer’s expectation. No Man’s Sky and Elite Dangerous are changing it further still. David Braben showed that his re engineered idea from the BBC Micro B (48Kb) becomes a massive platform of gaming on the PC and Xbox One. A game from 1985 as addictive and fulfilling as the original was then, now with the latest graphics and a massive increase of depth.

We are moving towards true open world gaming. The hardware is there, some of the old idea’s fit and now the imagination of the creator(s) needs to evolve the next stage. That is taking into account that the game, fits the description that defines the game. If we want to race all over America we might see that the Crew ‘addresses’ that need, but when we see a 60% score, we see a clear indication that the game did not address the initial need of the gamer. Here is the part that does bring it forward. The growing need that we get when we play games with a 92% score or higher. The RPG’s I mentioned fill them all. We want more, it is there that I see the growing need for true open world. If someone tells me that this is just me, than this might be right, yet in all this consider those who like more than merely RPG, consider the multiplayer Mass Effect 3 part. How many of you (who played the game) want that element to be played out on a much larger scale? When we consider Firebase Glacier, but now the size of a proper base with a full complement of staff. Not a mere trigger point with waves of hostiles, but a base set with security a complement of personnel. Perhaps that is not what people want? I am not certain. I think the appeal in For Honor is set a lot wider than just hack and slash. I think that Evolve (4 vs 1) was initially too limiting from the bat (but great in looks and originality) with a new original approach to teamwork and of course with the option to play as the monster so you can ‘slay’ your friends. For Honor is the next step and perhaps Battlefield 1 takes that a step further still (time will tell). This is not me saying that For Honor is already surpassed. This is me saying that if For Honor is truly the victory I hope it to be, that it will start the growth of an ‘open world’ edition. As we hit the edge of our current games, we feel the need to surpass them, that has always been the case and I personally believe that No Man’s Sky is an essential step forward towards this reality.

This is just my view on it and I expect to be proven correct before the end of 2018, possibly even sooner.

 

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Persecuting the prosecutors

Sometimes things get to me. We all have those moments, we all consider the things that touch us in different ways. For me, I have been a gamer since the beginning of gaming. This world started for me in 1983 with the Vic-20 and was followed up with the CBM-64 a year later. I never stopped gaming, so when I got hit with the article ‘I couldn’t save my child from being killed by an online predator‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/23/breck-bednar-murder-online-grooming-gaming-lorin-lafave), I kind of lost it. This gaming world is a world I share, virtually and in reality. I talk to my co-workers on the new games, the challenges some games give and how we feel about some games. A few friends are all about GTA, some share my passion for Fallout, Diablo 3 and Minecraft. Whilst some games we all play by ourselves, because we cannot be into every game that is a mere reality. We hunt down the mutants, kill them with our rifles (all by ourselves), and when we get that legendary monster we get to talk about it the next day. This is a world of fun, joy and challenges. We do not ignore the real life, we interact with others too, which is not always about games. So, I was slightly dismayed when Olivia Wilde chose Jason Sudeikis over me (it must have been the beard). Life goes on, so as you see, we have our dreams, our fun, our joy, our fantasies and we go out of our way to get as much joy into our lives without bringing harm. That is as I see it a way of life that the bulk of us gamers have.

Some are a lot more competitive and even relenting on gaming as they kill virtually to be the best, some of them have a too vivid drive to be winners and dissing the losers or at times being the wannabe’s that strike out to winners. In that world we have all kinds, but actual harm, those cases are rare to say the least. So as I read the article, a form of anger flushed over me. This is for the mere reason that, for a large part of my life, I have been driven by logic and common sense (apart from that Olivia Wilde moment). From what I have read, there are several things wrong here. Not towards one person, but towards a few, including the victim himself.

This is the first quote that actually came after the second one “He claimed to be a 17-year-old computer engineer running a multimillion pound company. Sometimes he was in New York, working for the US government. Other times, he was in Dubai, or off to Syria” and “the ringmaster, whose server they played on. While the other members were known to Breck or his friends, Lewis Daynes was not someone they knew in real life“.

These two quotes should have been a red flag to all parties. We cannot blame a 14 year old, but this should have been the red flag to upset the parents. You see, I will never be a multi-millionaire (actually if Larry Page listens to an option I came up with, I could be). What is the issue is that gaming comes at a price, for the most the really wealthy ones work too much to get time to be on gaming servers. In addition, his location should have been all over the place, any Cyber squad could have seen that, it would have been a real orange flag to the victim that not all was on the up and up, the first thread on the loom of disaster would have been dismantled.

The quote “Lewis says I don’t need to finish school as he can get me a Microsoft apprenticeship when I turn 16” is the second flag. It should have been the alert on several levels. The man was either some ‘multi-millionaire‘ working for Microsoft, or again this was a ruse. The additional “I should be allowed to game as long as I want“, should have alerted parents and police. You see, in common Law even at 16 Breck Bednar would have remained a minor. So, why is a stranger deciding on what someone else’s child does?

The final quote on that topic is “I’d be telling Breck to get offline and he’d literally have Dayne’s voice in his earphones telling him not to listen. I could see Breck’s face, torn between me and his cool mentor who had the whole world going for him”, which now gets us a stranger involving themselves in the life of a minor.

The police as well as the cyber groups should have been all over this, in addition, did anyone contact the FBI here (even though after the facts it seemed an irrelevant act)? You see, the events not yet known could have been averted before zero hour, as Lewis Daynes was from Grays, Essex. This could have diffused a lot of issues. His stories out in the open, for Breck Bednar and all his friends to know what kind of a person Lewis Daynes was before he could strike. Now we can blame the police, and I am doing that partially. Yet in all this, we must also expect that there is a limit to the resources the police has, limitations in time and hardware. Not all is a given.

But there is an issue when we go solely from the article we see in the guardian. You see the quote “I told the call handler what I’d heard, what I feared. She obviously didn’t understand online grooming” has more than one side.

The known elements here are that Breck Bednar was a minor and that there was a clear indication that Breck Bednar was unlikely to be the only minor. We have the following parts, when we look from the other side: ‘Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk an individual. It may include monitoring, identity theft, threats, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass‘, I edited the non-relevant parts out of here. So we see that Lewis Daynes was monitoring, we have identity theft, we can make that case as he assumed to be a person, moreover an industrial who did not exist. This could be seen as a danger to the life and wellbeing of minors.

The elements here are now another matter. You see, in the eyes of the court there is no established guilt, or even crime at this point, yet exposing the elements would have diminished the threat Lewis Daynes was and would most certainly have protected at least one child, leaving us with the reality that Breck Bednar could have been alive today. In this we might consider that the police is to be blamed to some extent, but in equal measure, they did look for the elements, the issue here is the fact that does also count. When we see the quote “Daynes later pleaded guilty to murder with sexual and sadistic motivation“, we are confronted with a combination that is really rare, and with the elements as found, or better stated those that were missing, mainly that the police didn’t find a single image or text about bodies or sex. Certain flags were never raised, but as stated, from what we can see, enough flags should have been raised to take this serious, to give clear indication to Lewis Daynes that he was under open investigation, perhaps enough for him to back off. Enough to diffuse the situation.

Here is my part that is now also an issue. This took me mere minutes, which also beckons on what more precisely happened. You see the police is not lacking or stupid, I would go even further that the involved people might be burdened with guilt. So why is it so clear to me? Well, first of all, to see this in the article is simple, a mere exercise of logic. The true elements over time are a lot less clear, but in all this, the main elements were gamers, gaming platforms and servers, they have time lines and logs. Any level of logs missing would have been another red flag, any other interactions would create even more red flags. So why were these elements missed? Where did the police system fail? In my view there was a clear failure here. Police 101 had failed in a few ways, but it is uncertain whether the failure should allow any level of blame. You see, there is an element that is in the article, but cannot clearly be weighted. it is  “Now 18, he was unemployed, living alone in an Essex flat where he bought server space and used it to game with teenage boys“, we are looking at a 2012 system, so what kind of server space? Did he have his own server? Or did he lease hardware? Unemployed and cash for that? If it was a solitary server, we see another element, because it would not be in an enterprise environment, showing even more flags, if it was a personal server, the cyber division had a place to look at, who had Lewis Daynes been interacting with? Even more parents would have been alerted, other gamers would have been informed that he was a jobless no one, and not the 7 figure income person dangling IT jobs from Syria, New York or Dubai.

All elements, all flags and more issues. All out in the open could have prevented the fatal consequence to Breck Bednar, but that is me talking after the events. As stated, this one article is not a proper setting for it. Yet the BBC article gave a few more issues to consider. The fact “Five other counts against Daynes, including the rape of another boy, were not pursued as there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction, the prosecution said“, so perhaps the fact that the element of rape might have been an additional flag that there was a real risk of danger to Breck Bednar. Yet, the BBC is unclear as per when those criminal elements would have been known. Yet there is additional evidence. If there had been a clear investigation the evidence “encrypted electronic equipment” as stated by the BBC could have given additional issues, because they might have been there validly in an organisational situation, in the case of an unemployed 18 year old, such elements could give rise to flags of a criminal aspect, a criminal aspect that had children in the mix.

Even though there have been investigations and even though a misconduct notice was brought, it took almost no time to find enough flags to raise concerns on several levels. This gives concerns to what else is getting missed. Not because I am so bright (I am that), or that the police is that stupid (they really are not), but the need for an evolving infrastructure. If you think that issues are missed now, what do you think will happen when the transition to IPv6 really gets underway? With handheld and mobile devices all stronger than the average data server in 2007, what was reserved to data servers and corporations, is already in the hands of individuals, most of them having no clue what they are holding onto and what these systems are capable of. How can any police force sustain its workload if it is not reshaped into an evolving infrastructure that is able to adjust to other criminal elements? This level of evolution is currently not happening, moreover, it is not happening in many nations. Which is a worry when we consider the case of Lewis Daynes, you see, in this age of economy, the danger of extreme behaviour in a time when people have no jobs, no outlooks and no prospects, these souls are more likely to become extreme, that is a given, yet the extent to it happening is not known, it cannot be predicted and it requires for a better level of investigation. If we are to lower the dangers that kids like Breck Bednar face, we have no other choice but to evolve and change the way we investigate these issues. There has been a clear call for a long time that legislation requires adaption to all kinds of cyber-crimes and cyber based crimes. This for the mere reason that the jump to IPv6 allows a jump from the 4.3 billion addresses that IPv4 gave, to the amount that every person on the planet would have a unique address for every device it owns. More important, IPv6 will allow for every person on the planet to have 1,000 devices, each with their own address and even after that less than 0.1% of all available IPv6 addresses would have been used. We are pushed into an evolution because IP addresses are no longer available. Our devices, each 1,000 times more powerful than the computer that got Apollo 11 to the moon, the computers required to monitor the satellites is now no more than an app and nearly every mobile phone from the previous generation would be able to run it. We moved technology that far ahead. We are now moving to the situation where we see that almost 4 Exabyte a day is transmitted. All that data, once we are in IPv6, all that data can be identified per person and the amount of data will increase almost exponentially. When we get there, how impossible will it become to find extreme elements like Lewis Daynes? That is just the extremes, we haven’t even considered what organised crime could be up to. A situation that brings more questions than answers. Some answers are being sought by Lorin LaFave and I wonder if enough parties are asking the right questions, because some questions come with the element of costs, and they will grow, yet the costs will already be high to begin with. A dimension many politicians are not ready for because the coffers are empty and budgets constraints will limit the steps that need to be made, many are aware of it and nearly no one are voicing those elements.

There is a reality to that, but the reality we need to address is the nightmare Lorin LaFave is forced to face and she is not the only mother who should be worried.

 

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Bashing the Sky

Like many other people, I have been really looking forward to No Man’s Sky. Like many others I was blown away what the E3 of 2014 brought. Like many, I kept my eye on a daily base on when the game would be released and when the IGN August special started, like many I felt that the game was almost upon us. This was just my interpretation and perception. So as no release date was known, I joined some to feel a little uncertain, a little worried because it was bad business practice. When something this wanted is out there, you might not be able to keep anyone in the loop, but to leave everyone in the dark is not good practice, which I voiced to Sean Murray as well. Now, I do not agree with some that ‘release dates need to be known immediately‘, yet the approach of Quarter, or even the initial news that a 2015 release was unlikely would have been fine. In the end I want a really good game and I am willing to wait, I feel that many gamers are on my side here, we do not mind waiting, we just want to know (in the roughest way) when a game is coming. I would have been very accepting long ago that if a Q2 2016 was given, it would have set my mind at ease. Even though not many are like that, the true gamer is.

As we waited we saw that even the Christian sites were luring people to their places with innuendo articles on the release date of this game, does that not beat all? A Christian site relying on a video game for web traffic, that part remains hilarious for a long time to come.

Yet there are a few more sides we must consider. The hype Sean caused as he went from show to show might seem good, but in the end it is a dangerous escalation because the negative cloud of the internet is now hitting them as well as us gamers. It hits you and me! First off there is Forbes, it is the article form Paul Tassi (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2015/10/28/will-no-mans-sky-end-up-being-the-next-spore/), which is a problem. The quotes that bother me are: “the footage shown is literally exactly like everything we’ve seen from the game since December 2013” and “And after all this time, I still don’t really understand how this game will play, and despite a slew of media appearances, the creators haven’t been able to explain that properly“. Now, important is that he is not lying. I think that the game is founded on a base to grow, but it is early days. Even as the planets are now adhering to a mathematical foundation, there are many other elements to consider. Yes, we have seen it all but is that not the point? What we see is supposed to wet the apatite, not give away the game in full.

So it is likely that the game will have a much larger evolving part to play in exploration, in economy, in growth and in evolution. Let’s not forget that reaching the centre of the universe is no small feat. I am trying to do that right now in Elite Dangerous (to get the achievement), a game where I currently cannot land on any planet surface and it is still a massive trip to undertake. Still in this No Mans Sky shows itself to be a high resolution version of Minecraft so there is no given that we are set to no less than building our own domicile on a planet of choice. If these planets are life sized then any planet could take a lifetime (which amounts to 7 weeks in Minecraft time). So this game is already showing more gaming promise than the last two Tombraider games, (including the upcoming title Rise of the Graved Robber) and considering that the second is merely more of the same. So Rise of the Tombraider could be ‘More repetition of something you finished in 10 hours the last time around‘, which is not a marketable title, but a realistic one. So when we see in Forbes the message “the game is starting to wear out its welcome“, we have to consider the source here. The same firm that stated the title “Credit Default Swaps Are Good for You” is now judging games? So for Americans, how did Credit Default Swaps play out? Perhaps we need to take another look at the media here. Going on innuendo and instead of dropping the subject on getting hammered again and again on a deadline, in there Sean Murray might have been wrong to enable the ‘media beast’ to the smallest extent by going all out in visibility, but it was a choice and it was his to make. The true gamer will wait for the final product when it is ready.

So as we now see many press releases on spouting negativity whilst inserting ‘If this latest rumour is true‘ we should realise that none of this can be trusted. Especially, as they rely on the emotional end “Look up at the stars and despair in the comments section below“, which is just an invitation for the ranting masses, but where is the truth?

In my view, I do not care, Hello Games have given an estimated release of June 2016 and that is fine with me. This month there is Fallout 4 and I still have my empire growing in Elite Dangerous, after all that there will be space for No Mans Sky in 2016 too. Part of me hopes that there will be a playable beta that can allow us to explore one system in solo mode. It might give good feedback to the people at Hello Games too, which is something they might consider for next year February/March. Such a step will give a threshold to some to see the game. And let’s not forget that this still gives credibility to the rumour that No Mans Sky will be a Sony Morpheus launch title. If so than the gamers could be in for a massive treat! Does this debunk value for a game that is in development or does that show that No Mans Sky is truly a new generation of gaming?

It is too soon to tell and I am willing to wait to see if Hello Games goes that direction, which is more than we can say for Forbes, Push, Kotaku and several others ‘reviewers’. Although Kotaku had an interesting quote “So I’m going to play Spore now, years after the hype has dissipated and the game has been all but forgotten. I’ve installed it on my Windows PC. I will be back to tell you if it’s any good. And what if, separated by a decade from expectations that no game could possibly fulfil, it is?” Which gives me the ammunition I needed. You see, if you were controlled by ‘hype’ you should not have gone into the games reviewing business. the part ‘I will be back to tell you if it’s any good’ gives me the indication that this writer never did his job, now if he is trying to be funny than the joke is on him, because writing towards the hype is the most stupid of all actions, hype is merely an unrealistic perception of what might be, it would be his job to give the goods, what can the player expect when they buy this game. To give a fair and balanced review is in the interest of the producer and the gamer.

I believe that No Mans Sky can be the product we are still waiting for and I will let Hello Games get on with it. My advice to you is to ignore the news on this game as much as you can you get until May 2016, because it will be tainted with emotions and it does not show what we are in for, so basically our times will be wasted, time that can be spend on many other games (especially getting your Diablo Dream team in Hardcore mode). Other games that were there before No Mans Sky and games that will be released after No Mans Sky. The true gamer will play many games and he/she will desire only a few, in my case will No Mans Sky be placed in a slot of ‘play regularly forever’ next to Minecraft, Fallout and Diablo 3? I cannot tell yet, but I truly hope to learn that when the game gets released, it will set the bar of games really high, because I the game makers need a reset of values, a value line both EA and Ubisoft have relied on remaining under for a little too long. I do not rely on hype and I do not wish to create it; I merely await its arrival and hope for the experience to be truly awesome. What if that is not the case? Does that matter? In that case there will be something else to play, which is the reality of the life of a gamer, so let’s leave Hello Games (as well as Sean Murray) alone and let them finish the game for us. If the delay bothers you than consider that a Billion plus company like Ubisoft needed 9 months and in the end was unable to deliver the Watchdogs we deserved, so let’s see if Sean and his keyboard minions can put Ubisoft to shame, which might up the level of games for all gamers around.

Have a great weekend and never stop gaming!

 

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Sandbox games

The first time I saw the title I thought it was a new brand for the younger player. It is an easy to make mistake, we see sandbox, we remember the hole in the ground, or the large box wooden square filled with sand in the yard where we used to play as kids. Yet, this is not it. Sandbox games are true open world games, even more important, the true sandbox game lets you change the world you are in.

Well, a first sandbox game would be the Sim city, made by Maxis. It is likely the first one that allowed you the player to change the world you were in. I remember the game in its old days, it was 1989 and I was already reviewing games. I saw it as more than just a game, yes, the core was a game. You could not change landscapes in the first edition but the start of open choices was there. I saw and reviewed it as more than a game. It had the foundations to be a learning tool and a Planological simulator. What happened when you build houses by the lake? When industry gets to close and so on, how to keep the balance of commerce, industry and residents as you grew your town larger and larger? The game was addictive, it was fun and it had an educational side. The game was a great success and it was the sequel SimCity2000 that truly brought the wave of open editing.

Some define the true sandbox game to be without a goal. I feel the same way, which is why most of my favourites are not sandbox games, but open world games, with Bethesda games being pretty much the pinnacle of open world games. Yes, they do have goals, yet in Oblivion we see how the goals can be ignored and you as an adventurer can just go on your merry way. This is almost true open world. It comes with the usual downsides and glitches, but for the most, Bethesda, makers of Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas kept an openness to the games that make them as close as ‘sandbox’ as possible. Yet the ‘changing the world’ in almost its most founding form makes those games fall short and we are left with one overwhelming winner, namely Minecraft.

I reckon that this is the reason it is such a success. The game offers true openness; you can go on your merry way and as you mine, build and explore the world will shape according to your actions. It is one of the most compelling versions of gaming, because it is the one game where you are for the most, only limited by your own imagination. This makes it in my mind such a compelling game, it all comes to maturity as the game was released on PS4 yesterday and as per today it will be available for the Xbox One, making it one of the widest released console games ever with over 100 million registered users on the PC alone. This shows that a good game will outperform a graphic game EVERY time. Yes, according to Gamespot, only 14.3% has bought the game, yet the Xbox 360 has already sold over 10 million and the PS3 edition surpassed the one million mark. Now we will see how the NextGen gamers react and they get a treat, because who already have it on their other consoles will be able to buy it for $5, which is an awesome deal.

I hope you are all catching on at this point, because the question that follows should be ‘Why are there not more sandbox games?

This is indeed one of the questions that linger in the wake. The answer is actually less simple. The line between the Bethesda RPG games (open world) and Sandbox games is actually a lot finer than most consider. Some will consider GTA (Grand Theft Auto) and Fallout to be sandbox games, I do not! The option to change the world is not there, which makes it open world in my book, but that line is really not that big so it is an easy mistake to make. I also think that NextGen systems now allow for large true sandbox games to be made and time will tell how this will continue, because allowing for the limit to be ones imagination is a lot harder than you think and Minecraft had it just right!

There will be a truckload of open world games to come and many will allow that to be enough, but when will they come to NextGen? That is at times the question. We will see the next massive sandbox game to arrive in 2015 when No Man’s sky is released yet is that the only one? There could be a host of re-engineered games going all the way back to Midwinter on the Amiga/Atari ST, which could be seen as the initial Far Cry 3, but then without a storyline or missions. Far Cry 4 is coming soon, yet again; this is open world and not sandbox (from my definition). In my view that small margin is important, yet both versions will allow for immense gaming pleasure, so do not let the label ‘sandbox’ or ‘open world’ to stop you from having fun, because I personally feel that the old title ‘RPG’ (Role Playing Game’ was too often ignored by players, who thought that these games were dull. I think that Minecraft is one reason why people feel more and more drawn to the Open world and RPG gaming.

There is also another side to the sandbox; we are seeing it at present the most clearly in the Elder Scrolls online. I had mixed feelings; first of all it is a daring undertaking to get there, so Bethesda should get a large applause for even attempting it. Yet, there is an overwhelming shortfall. You see, Oblivion and Skyrim both had their quirks (read plenty of bugs), but for the most, they could be addressed and many of them are not fatal (but extremely vexing at times), yet unlike the Assassins Creed series, there has been a massive amount of improvements and as such Bethesda has shown an A-Game programming approach throughout their releases. Here is the first kicker: a monthly subscribed MMO is not a bad idea, yet with World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online and Destiny (to be released soon) we are confronted with a version of gameplay that is more expensive than a Foxtel subscription, which is not what a gamer wants, especially after paying $100 for a game or $115 for the limited edition, add to that the fact that most gamers are left with less and less time playing and additional fees for internet and such, the pickings tend to get mighty slim.

I had an idea for a new Elder Scrolls named Elder Scrolls 6: resurrection, which I committed to a document and is already well over 20,000 words for the setup. It allowed me to reconsider the RPG and their approach to location. Instead of a system with new locations, some gaming franchises have grown to the maximum extend, not just because there are several version, but by the way they approached it all, that we see a world that had evolved beyond the simple markers of the box. The first game in this is the Ultima series, as the gamers passion grew, so did the need for the reality of the location. I personally thought that Oblivion was part of that fulfilment. What if ‘Sosaria’ could be completely mapped according to these lines? I personally feel that The Elder scrolls gave us that notion and Skyrim made that notion grow more and more. What if they had changed the premise, not into an MMO, but by evolving their maps and mapping approach? What if, the engine on the disk is not just a map, but an evolved mapping system, like an automotive mapping system that allows us to grow where we are and where we go? That was at the foundation of ES6 Resurrection, not by just ‘adding’ Elsweijr and Valenwood, but to transfer the maps from both Oblivion and Cyrodiil (added to ES6), so that the game grows upon the complete map. So, the map gets transferred to the hard drive of the console. Consider the game where we could literally run from Solitude to Haven (Valenwood). It would become more than just a simple RPG; Tamriel would become a growing iterative entity where you can live, run, swim, quest, and off course grow. Let’s not forget that if we properly scale the maps, we would get an RPG world where we can literally spend days by just travelling (if we do not use cart, coach or fast travel). Not unlike the Ultima fan, is that not close to the reality of a Role Playing Game that gamers dream of?

In my view I had adjusted the map of Cyrodiil from a 3×3 to a 9×9 grid, so everything would be 300% larger in actual space. The imperial city would actually become 900% larger and the other towns would become larger, yet not that much, it would be the map where we see the massive difference and it would take a lot longer to get from one place to another, so we would at times be actually exploring Cyrodiil. One of the largest missions would be to truly rebuild (Kvatch), yet you the player would not (it seems a bit silly to manually rebuild it). Yet to quest and find people, workers and to see Kvatch rebuild over many months (actual many months of gameplay), is what would have set this RPG apart from all other games. Quests to influence the look of Kvatch as well as what would be in the city, so the player influences whether Kvatch was to be a mere larger city or to make it the jewel that rivals the imperial city. Yet the main mission would remain in Valenwood and Elsweijr.

This growth would transform the Elder Scrolls from open world to something so close to a Sandbox game in what I would call a true unparalleled level of gaming.

You see, soon game developers will see that the dollar only gets you to a certain place, gamers will pay the $149 for such a sizeable game, but the long term of $19 a month will stop them sooner rather than later because the bills need paying and the student population will be left with less and less sooner still. Then what will they play?

You see, this is the response from Elder Scrolls Management: “And it’s important to state that our decision to go with subscriptions is not a referendum on online game revenue models. F2P, B2P, etc. are valid, proven business models – but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best“.

Is that thought through? It seems that you also need Xbox Live Gold in addition on the console, which is not free. They state that it is ‘only’ an additional annual $60, which might be true in the US, but in Australia it is $90, which is again 50% more, so did they think through the numbers and when they consider the established competition, did they see the danger, threats and weakness of this model? The additional outrage which we quote from the gaming site Kotaku shows an additional weakness to their model “Tomorrow night at 10PM AEST, players who have purchased The Elder Scrolls Online but have yet to set up a recurring subscription or entered a game time code will no longer have access to the game. The issue with most players making their objections heard in the Elder Scrolls Online forums over the past couple of days isn’t the subscription itself — the minimum $US14.99 monthly fee comes as no surprise. What is surprising is that Zenimax Online is pre-authorizing users’ credit and debit cards the full $US14.99 (or more) fee” (at http://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/04/players-upset-over-the-elder-scrolls-onlines-subscription-system/), which shows more than just a small issue. The game lacks the comfort of the solo play, which is comfort the RPG gamer loves. Yes, they are all for teams at time, but like me, many love just to be by themselves and just explore the great digital unknown. The MMO seems to lack that ability, apart from the reported rampant troll issues (actual trolls, not the well-known harassing player trolls).

Al this leaves us with the larger bad taste that there is more and more noise of people leaving the Elder Scrolls Online style and replay either Oblivion or Skyrim. My model allowed for that and in addition would have almost guaranteed loyalty for at least two more instalments, as well as a league of income from additional DLC options. It is a missed opportunity for Bethesda/Zenimax.

Yet the hungry new developers can also learn from the missed options as can current established brands. Consider the current/new Mass Effect universe where we see a new reach of places that become additions, the same could be stated for Neverwinter (from Neverwinter Nights), the earlier mentioned Sosaria as well as the Fable series. This is the final side of the sandbox game. You see, creative freedom seems to breed a mix of addiction and loyalty that cannot be broken. I found it driving me back to Minecraft as well as Oblivion again and again. It also seems to prove the strength of the Diablo 3 approach and the weakness of the Elder Scrolls Online choice.

When we look deeper at the quote “but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best” might be true for their board of directors, but it clearly leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the players, when they move towards the next solution, their board will feel what a deserted franchise feels like, a feeling that Mojang (makers of Minecraft) is unlikely to experience with their simple but genius approach.

 

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