Tag Archives: Far-Cry 4

the next game stage

There is a new game coming. Keith Stuart writes about it and is taking loads of space for it. The title ‘Far Cry 5’s violent civil unrest is a much-needed reality check for games‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/02/far-cry-5-games-civil-unrest-trump-us-reality-ubisoft). Now, you know hat I have issues with Ubisoft. My issue with Far Cry is even more out there. Let’s start with my introduction to the game. I started it once on the Xbox 360, that version was my introduction to the game. In the past I have only ever returned 2 titles, Far Cry was returned the next morning. I did not like it. I thought it to be a bad game. Now, this is not the end or the killer here. We will always have a game that seemed interesting but ended up not being the game we signed up for. So I ignored Far Cry 2 completely and initially Far Cry 3 as well.

I had heard good things regarding the third game, yet we don’t all like the same games, so as such I have no issue with Far Cry. Next thing I get to (several months later) is that my PSN plus allows me a free download of Far Cry 3, so as I had heard good things, I downloaded it and had a go. Boy oh boy, what an excellent game that was. It starts great with the intro and Vaas is just one of the greatest lowlife badass villains in gaming history and the game stays on a decent high note, which is rare for an open game like that. Yes, there are issues, there is repetition (to some degree), yet the part that a game took a 300% improvement over the first game is stunningly rare. So I was on board! Yet, as we got to Far Cry 4, Ubisoft was facing a lot of issues. I believe that they started in 2013. You see, Black Flag was a good game, yet as I see it it was not an Assassins Creed game. Someone dropped the ball here in a massive way. You see, Black Flag could have been the pirate game that Sid Meier could never make because technology stopped him. The game is excellent in so many ways, but it was not an AC game (my personal view). It had a few other issues, but lets not squander time on those details. Ubisoft with the large issues of Watchdogs was already on the ropes, that is when we got AC Unity (a failure in so many ways, graphical glitches not being the biggest one), Far Cry 4 arrived and The Division was delayed (and would receive more delays until 2016). So Far Cry was already under the gun. It was more about explosions, too much repetition, running back to the outpost you just freed. The game had its fair share of issues. The biggest one was that it was basically a new crazy person and pretty much getting the same thing done. This last part does not need to be a bad thing, yet it was not great either. Like the previous game, the graphics were great, the AI was still shoddy (not the worst part of it all). I found that there were too much scripted issues. Wave after wave after wave of attacks, their AI not being great lessening the joy of the game. yet some parts were brilliant too. the dream missions to the temples were really awesome as it added a little more to it all.

So as I saw the choice for Far Cry 5, I saw another path, not necessarily a bad one, but a different one. The quote “I began to get the sense that America was ready for a Far Cry,” said producer Dan Hay during a recent press event is a fair one, it could be anywhere, so why not the US? The next quote gives us “The group gathers under the edict ‘Freedom, Faith and Firearms’ which is so close to the language of pro-gun religious right firebrands it cannot be coincidence. Furthermore, during the press event, the 2016 armed takeover of a federal building by a civilian militia in Oregon was even name-checked as an influence, tightening the game’s connections with the modern US, with civil unrest and unease, and with the intricate connections between religion, politics and gun control“, which should increase the interest in the game. I remember Bethesda Fallout 3, I was hooked, because I have been to that area, yes it was in 1998 and it was recognising the train station and how alike it was, just added a bit to it all. It is like watching a movie (3 in my case) as the shoots were in the places you have been in (one in my street), it just adds a little tingle on your spinal cord when you see it. This would be the same if an open world arena is placed in an area you know and recognise. When it includes events that actually happen, the suspense of the game goes up, so good for Ubisoft here. Yet now we see Keith going into the wrong direction with “The politics of Trump’s US and Brexit Britain are fascinating cauldrons of fear, uncertainty and division“, which is not false, but he does not mention that ‘cauldrons of uncertainty‘ are created by the media as it prefers too often to leave the people in the shadows instead of clearly exposing certain elements. Yet he hits the nail on the head with “Fear and truth make great, compelling art and the idea of a game steeped in the complex politics of the modern US is hugely enticing“, that is shown as the desire of Cyberpunk 2077 just keeps growing. In addition, the option to drown in ‘fear and truth‘ is not enough, as I see it, the gamer wants to influence both become the decider. In that we need not just more of it, we would like something truly new (or reengineered). Consider the chances that Far Cry 5 will have hunting not just for food, but to increase your backpack? Why not just for food? Why not the need to find scrap and other materials to upgrade the backpack, or the pouch, or whatever? Montana is not a small place. So are they looking at that part? Perhaps they are, it is to soon to tell, yet what if your success is not just to prove yourself to one native American? What if a better chance would depend on getting connections to the Blackfoot, the Cheyenne and Crow? Perhaps this is done, we will know when the game arrives. Keith writes that Ubisoft is ‘already taking steps away from broader controversies‘, which is actually a shame, because it is in the limelight of possibilities where true legendary games are shaped. In addition, we see “And by framing the group as a crazed sect, rather than a plausible conservative right-wing operation, the game distorts any sense of true representation.” Now, this is a shame, because keeping that as close to the reality could be a really good thing. Do not forget that some of these conservative groups are only made crazy by the media. Some prefer to be left alone, they get along with their neighbours, but most important, there is growing evidence that they are not always the bad guys. If we just look at the EPA violations in Montana, and how they were settled, some for less then $400K whilst the cleaning of the water is often no longer a possibility. So skating closer to the reality and options and opportunities could make Far Cry a true legendary game, yet will they go there? I doubt it, we will have to see. I like the very end where we see: “Whatever happens with Far Cry 5 it is at least a tacit admission of something important. We can’t, with a straight face, claim that video games are the storytelling medium of the 21st century, unless we’re telling stories about our real lives, our real fears and the very real monsters around us“, which is actually a really good path to consider. So as we have looked at covert spies (Splinter Cell), at the option to survive in the wild against crazy evil people (Far Cry) and as we have protected the good by cutting throats (Assassins Creed), so what happens when we take certain TV series to an entirely new level? What if we had Washington DC mapped in detail and we re-release ‘Covert Action’, but now we use the latest in digital options, in surveillance where you would have to break into places of ill repute (the North Korean Embassy for example) and truly hunt for intelligence by hacking and gathering intel? To become an actual data broker. Now some is not done on those locations, some happen in server rooms, in cars, in apartments. However, the idea to take Watchdogs and Splinter Cell to a new level, one that is based on an actual flowing political situation? Could that be done to the degree that gamers would like to go. Yet in this game, we apply legal issues as well, so murders are a problem, evidence is an issue, more important, visibility of any kind would stop you to take missions on. You see, the setting in a game is one, but it is set on a storyline, because that is the part that gets us through the game. We can accept that scripted issues happen, especially in the intro of the game, yet we tend to find interference of scripting a lot less fun in the game. In Far Cry 3 with Vaas, it was resolved pretty brilliantly, yet it would always happen there at that point. So what happens when the game has a path that is altered by parameters? What if the shift from Acta to Actb suddenly shifts?

For example, that the Dead Space path has two additional elements, one is time (the longer it takes, the less time you get for the asteroids, or the more subsystem you repair, additional paths or rooms become available later on. We see that story driven games are confining, yet open world games lack direction at times. So as we do every mission in Skyrim or Oblivion we tackle the game in one go, but if we are another race or gender, or even the actual time? What if that decides our missions and paths? I see it as a way to ignite a larger value for replayability. Paths that have been ignored for the longest time in gaming. Although Dishonored gave us additional options to get somewhere based on our powers, that is exactly one of those reasons why Dishonored is a ladder higher than most other games. In such ways Ubisoft dropped the ball in several games. Primal could have given us more if certain considerations were made. It seems more and more that it is not entirely with the makers. It seemed to me (I could be wrong) that Ubisoft Marketing thinks it knows its gamers and from that limited view ‘decisions’ are made that seems to be more and more about the stakeholders, and not the need to get a 95%+ game. They have settled for less, whilst the impression is clear that within the timeframe other considerations could have increased the value and the need for the game. Again, that is just my personal view. So as we see other games coming this year, we will more likely than not see the failing of certain other choices, which is a real shame, because we were truly baffled by Assassins Creed 2 and Far Cry 3. Games that took the edge of gaming, and stretched it making the world of gaming truly larger. So they do have the ability to do that. Yet whether they still have it remains to be seen, time will tell us that. yet the fact that Watchdogs, Far Cry 4 and AC Syndicate are nowhere near the reviews of AC 2 and Far Cry 3 are gives us the clear need to not stay on the same path. In addition, the least stated on Mafia 3 regarding this, the better for all involved. We can agree and accept that some winners face hardship as a flaw was introduced, that happens (Microsoft Vista for example), yet from that we got the winner Windows 7, some Ubisoft titles could end up on the same high path. They only need one person with vision to make it happen.

I have to conclude that Ubisoft due to their number of titles was chosen, yet I think we can agree that other makers have made similar mistakes (Mass Effect Andromeda anyone?) For me it is almost a crusade, not against Ubisoft, but for the next Assassins Creed to give us the buzz that the second and brotherhood gave us. If it is done before, it can be done again! The Ubisoft graphics department proved that by setting a new level of graphical excellence with Black Flag.

Let’s all hope for the best!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Science

The virtual reality of it all

Well, I would have expected my gaming ideas to come from many places, the Guardian was not one of them to be honest, but there you have it, we find information in all kinds of places. reason here is the other BAFTA, not the one eloquently mentioned by Stephen Fry (aka Reaver to gamers), but by the Gaming BAFTA, which will be awarded on March 12th (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/10/alien-isolation-2015-bafta-video-game-award-nominations). There are many titles that will be mentioned, many will become non winners, and remain nominees none the less and one will stand out. Let’s take a look at those categories and some of the games mentioned.

Artistic Achievement

This is the only place where we see Ubisoft shine, to be more precise their graphical teams, no matter how I spoke out against Ubisoft and how they neglected Assassins Creed, their graphical teams did not. These graphical gurus did show a level of excellence that has been from out of this world. No matter how many bugs we see in Unity, the graphics were unreal, as were they for Black Flag; it is a well-deserved nomination and a possible winner, although they will compete with their own title Far Cry 4 here.

Audio achievement

There is one title that stands out, more important, the title itself is an achievement that many will have waited for, for a long time. It is Alien: Isolation and it puts the SEGA logo back on the screen in a most wonderful way. This alien game is not about blasting, it is about staying alive. This is the one perfect horror survival game that places the genre in a new light whilst remaining true to the atmosphere of the original Alien movie. The Evil Within scratches the surface of this genre, Alien: Isolation breaks through the skin and leaves you sweaty with possible heart problems, just like the original movie from 1979. The game truly takes you to the nerve wrecking ordeal of sharing a spaceship with an alien in the most unwanted way. The audio is every bit as important as the graphics and the audio team delivered like nothing you ever faced before.

Best Game

Is always a hard nut to crack, many games stand out in their own way, for various reasons, SEGA is the strongest nominee here, but a truly exceptional game delivers on many fronts, as such all titles deserve to be there, personally Destiny is as I see it, the least likely title to win, as it depends too much on multiplayer events, yet, this does not take it out of the race, I wonder how the silent title in the back (Monument Valley) will do. It is a silent gem, the use of the masterpieces of M. C. Escher are not to be ignored. There is a mesmerising element in this game that is as addictive as a game like Minecraft ever will be. As I mention addiction, I must warn you to stay away from nominee handheld game ‘Threes’. what seems like a simple game of addition, will turn from one second into the next into a game of addiction and your next set of threes is only one little swipe away. I reckon that in this category it will be a fight between Monument Valley and Threes and either should be seen as a worthy winner.

 

I can go on but you will have to take your own look and see what you think should be the right one to win. The important element here is that we see two parts of gaming that are now clearly impacting business. The first one is quality, yes, I started with the good side of Ubisoft as their graphical teams truly deserve it, but overall Ubisoft bungled the ball and an event like this, where they should be in domination, they are only attending in the most minimalistic of ways. The critique on several levels for Far Cry 4 and the massive failure Assassins Creed: Unity has shown to be, should be a clear indication that Yves Guillemot needs to clean up his divisions and he needs to do it no sooner than 5 minutes after the gaming BAFTA’s have ended.

The second part in all this is originality in gaming. SEGA is showing that in no small matter, in addition, we see Minecraft mentioned a few times, but the stellar part is that silent achievement Monument Valley, developer Ustwo under guidance of fearless leader Neil McFarland shows that independent developers are the future in more ways than one. The Creative Assembly (those behind Alien: Isolation and the old EA sports games) are not indie as such, but they are a far stretch from a massive developer like 2K and Ubisoft, which in addition show those larger developers that the true gems are in the mind of a person and not in the massive visibility of a division.

It will be interesting to see who is elected winner in these BAFTA’s for the mere reason that those who decide might not be the group that largely play these games, the one part that will be interesting to see is that the audience might see the real Ellie (Ashley Johnson), it is always nice to meet the person you kept safe in a digital world, even if she looks nothing like the digital character, an issue Jonathan Irons who will be portraying Kevin Spacey won’t face any day soon. I am eager to see Cliff Martinez on the stage, hopefully for winning the BAFTA for Far Cry 4, which was an excellent piece of work. I have been a fan of his work since Solaris and Contagion, two of his many created master works. As a debut game, Hitman Go definitely takes a shine. They changed a shooting assassin into a tough puzzle game with pawns shaped like Sebuteo figurines, but in the style of Hitman 47 and the goons he goes after. However, in that same category we see Shovel knight, a true retro game, based on the best of the best old style console games, whilst looking new fresh and fun to play. It is a fun achievement for both the new and the seasoned gamer.

So we will all be looking forward, or in some cases dreading this awarding evening. The only worry might be that the people who casted their votes and enjoying a horror survival stealth game is too low, which might impact SEGA to get a decent amount of the 6 nominations it received. We will see it all on March 12th and no matter who wins, I feel certain that the winning views will entice several players to take a look into nominated and winning games they had not considered playing before, that in itself will make the gaming BAFTA a great event for nominee, winner and gamer alike

The full nomination list can be found at http://www.bafta.org/sites/default/files/uploads/baftagamesawardsnominationslist.pdf

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Media

How it should be

I have had my issues with the latest released games. No quality previews, no quality exams, just after released reviews. In that regard Gamespot has lost a lot of respect in the eyes of many gamers. An example is Dying Light released on January 27th (Digital copy) and reviewed by Kevin VanOrd on January 30th, 2015. It is at present debatable what value Gamespot has left for the gamers at large.

In opposition to this is the review by ‘the RadBrad’ Published on December 10th 2014 (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLHR5smxbsc).

To be honest I have never been too much for Zombie games and Zombie movies. I have seen a few good ones, but it was never my cup of tea. Why tell you this part? Because this game, as far as shown by RadBrad blew me away! This game looks beyond awesome. The graphics are smooth and it looks pretty detailed. When I took a second slow look, there were a few little ‘glitch’ like parts, but they were minimal. The graphics in the houses and rooms were top notch. This was the PC edition, so I am curious regarding the PS4 edition, time will tell. The video is a must if you are interested in this game. So now I get to the second issue. Kevin rated the game 7 out of 10 with as one bad mark ‘Too many missions are either boring, frustrating, or just plain bad‘. The first hour video (by Radbrad) shows a clear intro on how to play the game, which was pretty amazing. So, the question becomes how this game was just set to 7/10 (partially questioning Kevin’s reasoning). The game is very open world, but still scripted into missions, all in Zombie style. The approach is not unlike several RPG games, now in a modern setting. Here I get my first issue, Infamous: Second son, a game that started good, but then declined in many ways gets a rating higher than this game. So far this game is all full on great, so let’s take another look at the game. When I looked at the smooth Gamespot view, I did see the critique given, there is however an issue, these glitches seem to be PC glitches, were the consoles not compared? That is all a factor, especially as PC, Xbox One and PS4 are all separate consumer markets. YouTube also had a review by Playstation Access (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AyhZyOMX6A), showing that the PC version had superior graphics, yet the PS4 version still looked really good. So as such, it seems that Dying Light is a different challenge for those into RPG’s and a passion for watching the waking dead, Dying Light seem to successfully combine the two.

Now for the timeline, what was shown by RadBrad, which was not a finished version showed a lot more quality than the Gamespot version. There is of course a difference, Gamespot covers quickly in 5 minutes, what RadBrad takes an hour to show, which gives you a better overall view, but of course, seeing the actual first 2 missions are at that point a massive spoiler. Considering that the first two missions are all about getting the feel of the game, it is not a biggie.

For the most, my biggest issue is that RadBrad covered better and more in depth almost 6 weeks before Gamespot could be bothered to do so. I do not care about the reasoning, they are supposed to be the big boys, and all sponsored up by Ubisoft no less, so the delay and lack of view is not excusable. I am not attacking Kevin on the review, glitches and issues. They are his view (and he is entitled to them), and in the movie he clearly shows the glitches. It is so interesting that the consumer was denied this insight with Assassins Creed Unity until after the game was released in the shops. Dying Light will arrive in stores in 3 weeks; the digital copy is available now (for those who cannot wait).

So, how should things be?

That is at the core, when I was a reviewer; I had access to games usually 3-4 weeks before release. In a few instances that gap was a lot less, but it did not happen too often.

Should we allow for reshaped originality?

That is the question that is linked to all this as new markets are starting to open up. It seems that Sony is finally seeing the light. Perhaps better is the fact that they are seeing the light they initially ignored and now, a year later we are slowly seeing ‘new’ versions appear, new version of previously released games. This is not a bad thing or an issue. Is borderlands 2 any less original now on the PS4 when it was released on the 360/PS3 over a year ago? The game was amazing fun and will give loads of pleasure to the new additions on nextgen systems. The linked issue to all this, is how it will be reviewed. Even it is a transfer, even if it is a combination of the game and DLC parts, will it be properly looked at?

The next step reviewers should investigate is what I would call a ‘redundancy level’ of gaming. To ‘accommodate’ the marketing divisions to optimise their path, some companies have done away with massive levels of quality control. Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Far Cry 4, Assassins Creed Unity, GTA5 and the list seems to go on, all have the same problem, when you buy the game, you are again forced online to download a day one patch, many of them well over 1Gb. It seems that for the most offline play is a thing of the past. Sony and Microsoft needed their data and they will take whatever path they need to get it. So is the last part true, or is it a path that is only in my imagination? For Halo that patch was not 1Gb, it was 20Gb, which means that for some the patch represents no less than 30% of their download bandwidth, which also makes it over 10% of the total hard drive space of the Xbox One, a little excessive, isn’t it? In addition, when looking at the Gamespot review (at http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/halo-the-master-chief-collection-review/1900-6415958/), we see that not only was the review done 4 days after release, but the day one patch issue (the mandatory 20Gb download) did not get any mention, yes, the game did not get a decent rating (6 out of 10 is not that good), but when looking at the ‘bad’ points, the mention of the day one patch is blatantly not there either. So whether we like a revamp of a game, it seems that reviewers need to up their game by a fair bit, a side Gamespot has not been on par with.

These events all link to another issue, which is now getting more and more negative visibility to the audience at large. That negative view only became stronger when Sony got hacked again, and even though not deserved, Microsoft is getting hit by this negative paint to some degree as well. It seems a little too simple to call this ‘conspiracy theory’, yet from their own site we get “Collection and use of your information by Sony Online Services is governed by the SNEA Privacy Policy, which can be found here: http://www.qriocity.com/us/en/legal-privacy“. The link throws you to a generic page where we see a menu and no privacy policy. How interesting such an oversight, whilst this was a direct link, perhaps the privacy policy was removed? In addition, no matter how much we protect our system, no matter how strong our passwords were, the fact that at Sony we find the following: “We do not require that website visitors reveal any personally identifying information in order to gain general access to our websites. However, visitors who do not wish to, or are not allowed by law to share personally identifying information, may not be able to access certain areas of our websites, participate in certain activities, or make a purchase from the PlayStation®Shop“, which is nice, because that is where the patches seem to be, so again, your data is collected, which is than downloaded because of failing security measures and shared with the world. This also has influence on gaming as such, the fact that a less than acceptable version is sold, means that the gamer is not getting value for money. No matter how great the update is, we need to be online and lose time downloading the patch and installing it, with all the additional loss of hard drive space.

This is however not about data collection, but there was a reason for the mention. As we go to ‘reshaping originality’ and ‘how things should be’, we see that even though PS4 started a relaunch with ‘The last of Us‘, which was the last gem on PS3, it is not close to being the only one. The Russian based game Metro is another ‘re’-launch. The question then becomes, will the reviewer take their time to take a proper look at these games? We have seen lack of reviewing with true new titles, how much more lacking will a relaunched title be?

Time will tell, but there is definitely a little less time as gamers are less and less positive about the quality of the latest launches, I also suspect that as the ball is fumbled in both places (reviewer and game maker) that people are less inclined to buy and more inclined to get to a place like Pirate Bay to get the goods and properly test the game, however, there will be a definite drop in revenue for the game maker here. They partially only have themselves to blame, because this has happened before! We saw similar steps when the CBM-64 and Atari-800 were out and even more issues in the time of the Commodore Amiga and Atari-ST. The consumer demands a decent quality game and they want it when it is released (a global thing), not 6 months later on a local market. The second issue has been successfully fought in the past, and it is not as bad as it used to be, but as digital copy and physical copy are too far apart in price and release dates, people will resort to other means, the fact that digital copies tend to be well over 40% more expensive in Australia then in other places is another matter that is angering the gamers and as such, the move towards a place like Pirate Bay is slow, but also slowly but surely is getting a lot more profound.

So how should things be?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Media

As we trusted games

There is an interesting article in the Guardian I had an issue with to some degree. There is nothing wrong with the article itself, Keith Stuart made a good piece and it reads well (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/13/games-reviews-are-changing-from-product-assessments-to-tourist-guides), so it came out last week and I only saw it just now.

First paragraph: “A decade ago, a games publisher would send out early copies of its latest release to magazines and websites. It would arrive with some sort of embargo restricting the date of any subsequent review coverage. Then, before the game hit the shelves, there would be range of critical responses to read through. That’s how games reviewing worked for 30 years“, well apart from the embargo, which I was never got. That is pretty much how it went. I started my reviewing in 1988. The age of CBM-64,  Atari ST, CBM Amiga and the IBM PC, which had something graphically ‘state of the art’ called ‘EGA’, the enhanced graphic adapter, which added up to the 15” resolution roughly the same of the average low level smart phone today. Games were in CGA and even though the quality of graphics was low, the quality of gaming was exceptionally high (for what we knew in those days). Roberta Williams (Sierra-on-Line), Peter Molyneux (Bullfrog), Richard Garriott (Origin) and Sid Meijer (Microprose) were the titans of gaming; they are the most profound, but not the only ones from those days.

The second part is the first part I disagree with “Now, it’s so much more complicated. Publishers don’t like releasing code early. It’s not just about protecting sales of mediocre titles (though that happens): they worry about piracy; they worry about major spoilers that could put players off purchasing a game that is highly narrative driven“, I personally believe that it is about mediocre titles. The worry of piracy is less an issue, for the reasons that consoles don’t really allow for piracy any more (compared to the days of Atari ST and Amiga), PC Games need more and more internet authentication (like 99.99% of them), and there is a truth in narrative driven games. When a $50 MGS Zero can be played in less than 30 minutes (according to Gamespot), you know that there is an issue. I go for the mediocre side, because in case of Ubisoft, we saw Watchdogs, AC Unity and now Far Cry 4, Far Cry 4 might have gotten themselves a 85% rating (only 70% on Gamespot), yet this is below par (for such a triple-A title), it means that Ubisoft failed to deliver a main title with a 90% plus game review this year, which is a really bad thing. In addition, Destiny didn’t make the high numbers and on the PlayStation 4, the only titles that truly showed the rating was ‘The last of us’ an amazing game originally released on PS3. From my point of view, it is one of the worst release years in a long while. No matter how new Nextgen consoles are, there is a level of competency lacking more and more.

This links directly to the next part of the article “With triple-A releases now costing $30-50m a pop, no wonder the companies responsible want to control the dissemination of their data and messaging. As in movies, everything is geared toward that opening week – millions of dollars of marketing, the acres of shelf space bought at key retailers – everything has to work just right“, if everything has to work just right, it made me wonder why quality assurance was not managed in better ways. If we see the failing that Assassins Creed Unity shows, gaming is overdue for an overhaul, especially considering the cost of such a triple-A game.

It saddens me to say, as a Sony fan, it did hurt me to see that PS4 gamers have not met the high octane game quality I had expected, I was personally more impressed with several titles exclusive on the Xbox One.

The next part is one I do completely agree with “And then the games themselves have changed. Most new titles have intricate and extensive online multiplayer elements – or they require you to be online just to download updates and/or because publishers want to keep an eye on you“, even though in several regards online play is less and less appealing, or just plainly inferior, the updates are more and more an issue. GTA-V, which is regarded as a good game ended up having a day one 1 Gb+ update need. Which is not the worst, but it shows a level of pressure to market deadlines and not quality. Our broadband internet connections seem to have removed the need of quality testing and fixing before release.

Then we get the part that is indeed an issue “The industry is always telling us that games aren’t products anymore, they are services. You get the initial release, but after that, you get updates, downloadable content, new modes, missions and experiences … So what are you reviewing when a game comes out? It’s potential? It’s raw functionality? You are not reviewing the complete experience anymore” Keith is nailing the nail on the head with a massive hammer, we are now getting a service, not software, but if we see the option that a bought game is nothing more than a service or a potential, how can we be treated fairly as a consumer, when we do not know the full article we are buying? It is a dangerous development when we buy not a game, but a concept. We are not there yet, but the danger is slowly creeping towards the installation drive of the computer we use for gaming, and with that approach is a larger and larger danger that the PC/console will get invaded in a hostile way and how can we be protected when not the system, but the game becomes the backdoor into our private lives, because that is a danger that several parties are not yet looking at (as far as I know).

The rest of the article, you should just read on the Guardian site. I do not completely agree, but Keith gives a good view of his reasoning and it is sound and well worth reading. The question becomes where will we go next? There is more and more indication that people (gamers), are less and less interested in the MMO/multiplayer experience and more into a quality solo play game. There is also a feeling from many that Multiplayer is more and more about micro transactions and less about quality fun. Most will accept micro transactions in free multiplayer games like ‘Blacklight’ and ‘War frame’, we can accept micro transactions to get the weapons that really pack a punch, yet with $90 games, people are not interested in additional charges. Even though in the situation of Black Flag, the additional $4 to get the weapons or technology advantage is nice, and the option clearly states that the upgrades can be gotten in the game whilst playing it. It is left to the person to choose. There is nothing bad about it, but when we see AC: Unity, where micro transactions can get up to $100, questions should be asked, even if those parts can be unlocked through playing. Now, I am not judging the $100 micro transactions, but there is a worry why such a purchase is even offered, how much can be leaped through? The worry is not with Ubisoft’s Assassins Creed: Unity, but after the ‘lessons’ many players were taught through Forza 5 how unsettling micro transactions were. Yet, in all honesty (as I am not an Xbox one user), can they be normally unlocked? If so, the issue is not really there, yet the value of high end cars, when we consider that in Forza 5 you get driver payouts of 35,000. However, some cars go into the millions, you need 285 level updates to be able to afford the 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO and that is only one of many cars, which seems to be an unacceptable way to push people towards micro transactions, it left many players with a bad taste in their mouths. If we look at the issues we see, no matter how we feel about a game, there are sides we’d not agree with and there are sides we are truly against. This varies per player, and as such we need to balance view and feelings, because there is no denying that gaming and games are all about emotions. We go for the games that drive our passion. I myself have been a massive RPG fan, yet when I look at the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) game, I see little interest to continue this path, yet when I look at Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3, I see and I experienced the best multi-player ever. To illuminate, ME3 has micro transactions, yet the boxes can be gotten by playing multi-player games, each round gets you credits and the higher leveled you played, the more coins you would get, and then you buy a box with random stuff, some good, some amazing and some average. Diablo has no micro transactions; multi-player there is just great and makes the bosses harder, which gives you better loot. There are not the only good games, there are more, and there are many games are nowhere near this good.

In the end it is about good gaming and plenty of games have it, but my issue is as mentioned earlier, overall quality is down, more often not properly tested, whilst as Keith Stuart states it, newer games seem to be about buying the concept, not the finished product. How games get higher in graphical quality, yet not in gaming quality. Is it just about the new systems, or are we faced with a new level of designers, that cannot stand up to the older titans, the actual visionaries. Titles like System Shock (1+2) can, when graphically updated, compete with the RPG games that were released almost 20 years later. If you want to consider First Person Shooters, then in my mind, Metroid Prime 1+2 are top notch achievements that have not been equaled. They were released on a system inferior to the PS3 and Xbox 360, so why are there no games of that calibre? Well, that would not be honest, they have games of that calibre, but they are equals at best, two games, and the first one 12 years old.

This shows the issue I have with the statements some make. ‘A new game each year’, now we must allow for the fact that marketeers will make wild statements at any given place to keep the press at bay and well fed, so we should not overly ‘analyse’ that part. An example can be found when we look at the Tomb raider series, a series that has seen highs and less so. The series also illuminates a flaw in the gaming industry, when we consider the earlier games we see an amount of gaming that is unparalleled, especially when we consider the first two games. No matter the graphic levels, the games were truly large in comparison and some of the levels were amazing in design. The cistern in the first one and the ship in the second one show a level of design the last one cannot even compete with. What took days in the first two games, took a mere 15 hours in the last game. I will agree that the graphics were amazingly unreal in that game, the game looks large but the levels are in the end small. I saw it as opportunities missed on several levels, but not for the quality of graphics. the interesting side is that Tomb Raider shows the gaming industry as it moved from storyline and innovation towards graphics and narration, which is not that big a mystery. Yet in that shift we have lost levels and game time. Which is why the appeal of RPG is vastly growing, the option to play long times, to visit places and go it your own way and speed, not hindered by narration, scripted events and scripting is more and more appealing to the gamers at large.

Even though many are focusing on the next generation of systems, the next level of gaming is not ready. As I see it, 2015 will show a large rise in quality of gaming, but the true gems will not come until 2016. Mass Effect 4 could be such a game, but will we see true innovation, or will we see a sliding line as the Assassins Creed series have shown. This thought also has a drawback. Good gaming is based on vision, a franchise is about evolutions and forward momentum, but visionary is not a given, but for good gaming an essential need. This is where the wheels tend to come off the wagon. God of War 3 brought that, the AC series did not, it brought iteration. Mass Effect might, and so far, the hype of No man’s sky is likely to bring new boundaries in gaming, but the reality is not always a given and as such, we can only wait and keep faith with the developers, which is why their change and their approach to gaming is so essential to us. There are of course issues with other approaches too. Even though the title ‘Whore of the Orient‘ sounds appealingly original, but will it be so? Time will tell! The danger isn’t what will be good and what won’t be. The issue is that we know how rare visionaries in gaming are. The last proven one was Markus Persson (maker of Minecraft) and Microsoft bought his idea for a mere 2 billion (it’s not that much when you say it fast), which is the highest amount paid for a gaming IP EVER! Consider Microsoft paying that much for one title and you know how rare visionaries in this field are, which is exactly why games are not set in one year increments, and why franchises seem to be key for gaming, but there is a new iteration that some forgot. The upcoming release of Elite, a revamp from the original game decades old, shows that good games are rare and will stand the test of time. The initial interest for Elite could be regarded as proof for that.

So is this about trusted games, trusted developers or new endeavours?

I have one thought, but I keep it to myself, it is important that you the reading gamer make up your own mind. I have given my thoughts on that what I experienced and what I value. I ignored some parts as they are not my cup of gaming, which we all have, out there are leagues of GTA lovers; I am not one of them. I do not debate the 90%+ score, gaming is for gamers and there is space for all of us, no matter which part we run to, from Silent Hills to Mario land. there is space for all of us, some will slaughter in the world of Unity, some crush in the lands of Diablo, we have our preferred places, yet the overall issue is not where we play or who we play as, but the quality of what we play is now in question, it has been in question for some time now and it seems to be getting more and more visible as the industry is pushing for revenue on 5 systems. My direct worry is that we end up with a product based on a 60% effort, which is something none of us had signed on for.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, Media

The fear of creativity

It was not that long ago that I wrote the blog ‘Sandbox Games’. Now I learn that Microsoft has offered 2 billion for Mojang. 2 billion is not much when you say it fast, but the reality is that this is a massive amount of money, even with the ludicrous high taxation norm in Sweden, what is left with leave the man ‘Notch’ with an amazing amount of luxury time to come up with something new and unique. You see, visionaries like that cannot sit still. He might think he can, he might actually truly believe he can, but visionaries like Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriot and a few others never do. Now Swedish Markus Persson joins this group!

Some did not agree with my view given on September 5th, which is fine, but the facts seem to back me up. In the same story there was also an issue with subscriptions, and behold we see ‘World of Warcraft Loses 800,000 Subscribers in Three Months‘ (source: Gamespot), now let it be known that this fact was out before I wrote my blog, so I am not giving any weight to this. It is only my voice that claims that I did not see this until now. There is however another side in the article. It claims: “The company called the decline ‘seasonal’ and pointed out that the dip in subscribers was similar to what we saw in the second quarter of 2012, ahead of the release of World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria“, this is a fair enough answer for now, but overall Blizzard is not out of the woods yet, even though the nextgen versions of Diablo 3 are as wildly wanted as any other version they released, which makes for a quality long term dedicated relationship between Blizzard and their gaming fans. I feel the same way and hope on an additional Act 6, hopefully with the Necromancer and the Assassin.

There is another side to all this, at present several gamers are feeling the cold breath of Sony in several ways. First there is the change that only when online, can a person see his trophies, the port from PS3 to PS4 also came with losses, the gamers at large lost PlayStation Home, and it is such a coincidence that rumours from so many games places up to the days before the release of the PS4 have since gone quiet. Yet, recently Games industry dot biz gave us the following quote “Sony’s virtual world Home will close in Asia and Japan in March 2015, according to an announcement on the official Japanese site“. This has a few consequences down the road, because all you have bought, and all you buy now, will be utterly lost to you. So no more houses, no Harry Potter, no Hogwarts and a league of other items bought will at some point be lost.

We now see two issues:

  1. A console purchase might be temporary at best, and as this market evolved we see a move towards leasing, not buying games. I personally think that this is a dangerous development. We feel for that what we consider we own. Which means that this would enable places like Pirate Bay to grow vastly, even potentially in a exponential way, giving us a new issue, but mostly giving certain corporations new nightmares.
  2. The acquisition of Mojang (if it happens), could be the start of a new wave of indie developers (I really hope so). 99.8% will never have the visionary gene Mojang has, but those who do would soon be bought out and these amounts of money do tend to give the creativity gene the hyperactive status.

Finally I get to have a small go at Pirate Bay. I am no fan of theirs, if you like a movie, or soundtrack, you buy it! I have and lately I have not been able to, but that does not mean I am going all out with downloads. Yet, they could have other options; it seems to me that a large chunk of the population would not like certain steps to be taken to the public. IMPORTANT! Sony has not announced any changes outside of Asia/Japan, but is that such a far-fetched consideration?

I personally see these developments as dangerous for Microsoft/Sony. Yes they are NextGen, yet overall consider the success of Minecraft, people want a GOOD game, is that Google contraption (ouya) such a bad option? Ubisoft can go high-resolution all they want, but if people see their payments dwindle away, another issue will come knocking on their doors too. Ubisoft delivered, I think that it was partially because Watchdogs was new and on NextGen there was NOTHING, so there! Yet, this is not fair either. Yes, it has certain repetitiveness, not unlike the initial Assassins Creed, yet what came after (AC2 and AC2 brotherhood) was such an amazing leap forward, that it pardoned the mediocrity of AC Revelations and AC3 as they were to some degree ignored. This could also be the case for Watchdogs; whatever follows could set entirely new records (hopefully not dependable on cars all the time).

Because of my personal view of a failed Black Flag, I hold out for Unity at present, yet the initial views are a lot more interesting than any presentation of Black Flag EVER was. Yet, in Forbes magazine we see an additional view “If Far Cry 4 is anywhere as good as its predecessor”, and I agree. I kept away from Far Cry 3, for the mere reason that the original Far Cry on 360 was the worst game I played on that console, Far Cry 3 is not that. It had in my view a few issues, but nothing major. Far Cry 4 could set a new boundary and in gaming that is NEVER EVER a bad idea.

So where will gamers go to next? Well, that remains to be seen, but they tend to go where the games and the gaming value is. That part has been forgotten by both big boys Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo is picking up a little, yet the Google console could pick up a lot and they could do it a lot sooner too. Consider that a game like Minecraft can get any person to switch, now consider a treasure trove of great games, or even decently satisfying games. The CBM-64, Atari ST and CBM Amiga, three systems that have a league of quality history, that is even before we consider the early PC games, all waiting to be rediscovered by an entire generation of new players. With a system that can run it, independent developers who can re-engineer it and an eager audience ready to try and buy it.

System shock (1+2), Dungeon Master, Dungeon Keeper, Oidz, Eye of the Beholder, Ultima series, Wing Commander series and Lemmings (believe me, there will always be space for Lemmings). The list goes on and on. Giving it here will keep you needlessly busy for too many hours. I have played hundreds of them and I still smile thinking of some of them. If we could enjoy them in a system with 64Kb, why must we get pushed into impossible hardware requirements? Even today Fallout 3 and Oblivion have never lost their charm. Diablo 3 is another example, yes there is more graphics and resolution, yet both Diablo 1 and 2 have not lost their charm. It is clearly not just the resolution, but a basic form of gameplay that appeals to us.

As the gaming industry is pushing more and more to new micro transactional business models, it is within our grasp to push back and walk towards other solutions that is not about holding us ransom to a monthly fee. Yet, all is not fine there either. At present these monthly MMO’s are doing just fine, ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) with a little over 770,000 subscribers, millions of dollars come in on a monthly base, yet for how long? When the economy is good, many might not care, yet in the view of current developments, that revenue wire will become ever increasingly thinner, then what? At some point many will be forced to select 1-2 of their favourite games to continue, which leaves a gap soon enough, as the business model ‘fails’, or better stated, as the net income will not be in the area of acceptable numbers, what will these companies do then?

I stated it before, there is space if you change the premise of the player and change the options for play, be more fluidic. In my initial view it was a new mapping system, using established locations, but what else can be done? This is at the heart of many contemplations by gamers all over the world, this is partially (IMHO), because the new player tends to be smarter and is also more inclined to listen to their personal friends on social media, so 1-5 will drive the change of 25-100. It becomes a different issue, and if too many of these people are in the student budget ballpark, then the word ‘micro transactions’ will drive them away a lot faster. We will always have novelty moments with Unity (even though the main story line can be completed under 20 hours), Elder Scrolls Online, no one denies that, but the time that EVERYONE goes into the WOW mode is pretty much a given impossibility. I personally believe that WOW continues, not just because they are good (they are good, no one denies that), but the bulk continues because of the vested time they have on their characters. However, WOW is pretty much the only game that can rely on such a level of comfort, or make a claim anywhere near it.

I reckon that as No Man’s Sky develops, the eyes and ears will move more and more in that direction. The ‘promise’ of eternal gaming sandbox style is a lot more appealing than many realise, if you think I am wrong, then wonder why Microsoft is willing to pay 2 billion for a ‘basic’ looking game like Minecraft. Mojang got it just right and re-engineering a wannabe is a lot harder than shelling out 2 billion (Bill Gates likely found it in a jacket he brought to the dry cleaners).

This is the fear these larger players have, not that Minecraft is such a success, but the fear that 2-3 new indie developers have that one idea no one in the high income suits had thought of. Minecraft already represents a low billion and that is only at the start of nextgen gaming. As the game moves from system to system, that revenue will only increase, the secondary danger they fear is as the game is there on Nintendo and other consoles, the uniqueness of nextgen becomes smaller and smaller. A fear that only sounds more and more overwhelming as some regard the failure of Sims 4 and other established brands like Mass Effect are delayed until 2015, which could spell more consequences for the NextGen population, but none of this is new, so why come with this again?

Here we are not looking for the failing established brands (well not really), but the other side of the established makers, the indie developers are getting slowly but surely a new option to shine, as some issues by Sony and Microsoft have not been going forward, we see a growing interest of android development games. this we see (at http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/23/google-play-quarterly-app-revenue-more-than-doubled-over-past-year-thanks-to-games-freemium-apps/) where we see the title ‘Google Play Quarterly App Revenue More Than Doubled Over Past Year, Thanks To Games, Freemium Apps‘, now, I myself do not see my mobile as a gaming tool, but with the Chrome books and the Google ouya, we see a new player and his/her title is ‘gaming enabled’, a group that seems to have been forgotten by executives and gamers alike (myself partially included). Now look back at the games I mentioned earlier and now at the games that Rare developed for the N64. Games released between 1996 and 2003, some became the standard of excellent gaming. The N-64 original of Golden Eye is a lot better than the Wii remake and the Xbox had Time Splitters 3, but then they forgot to make a good compatible version for the 360. a host of games ignored, now ready for grabbing on low end consoles with the promise of great gaming, a premise the high end executives all forgot about.

This is a change in gaming that we had ignored!

We all seem to naturally want to move forward, but is such a step even affordable? Consider that there is a market going towards Christmas, many not able to scrap the coins together for Nextgen, yet the ouya with 3 games at $109 (the price of one nextgen game in Australia) is another matter. good business is where you find it (Robocop quote), that is a reality we have to face, the ‘better’ economy position for many is not getting released until past Q1 in 2015, so if you are an indie developer get used to creativity, because if you get that nice idea out into the open, there is a potential group of well over 100,000,000 gamers who cannot afford a nextgen system with an included game, especially if the android solution is set at 25%, it is an alternative to consider. A global population going the way of pragmatism, one good game is all they need.

This gets us back to my blog ‘The Toothless tiger‘, which I wrote last week (September 8th). I wrote “larger companies have been all about continuing a brand and less about the new idea, which makes indie developers the future (consider the massive success of Mojang with Minecraft), that is the streamline part all ignored“. I truly believe this, which makes the foundations of NextGen rather shaky as cash strapped developers will move towards an open android environment. It also gives us an interesting side effect. The larger players are so used to having the large pool of resources to drown in, that the limits of android will bring forth the old developers as they designed for Commodore and Atari. Games that are slim, sleek and possibly even decent bug free, which in turn gives waves of additional creativity. Will this come to pass? It seems a logical conclusion, but I am not sure. Personally I hope it will and I also hope we will see additional non-male developers, they can shine in this field just as easy as their male counterparts. Time will tell!

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Gaming, IT, Science

UBI is not going soft!

Another year and another E3 ends for the gaming industry and their devoted disciples, the gamers! Do not think this group to be soft, to be forgiving or to be misguided. They are running beyond 1 billion believers and they all believe in the power of joy from the game. It is a dedicated group. They have existed for over three decades and their numbers still grow.

They are not dressed in clerical outfits worshipping the house of Pong (it’s an Atari thing). They want their games hard, direct and lasting. I truly believed that this group had been deserted by UBI-Soft. I remain true to the feeling that UBI-Soft had gone soft on gaming. There was that Assassins Creed wannabe game regarding pirates (rated much too high), there were a few flops (which any maker will have) and Watchdogs, which was going to be a PS4 launch night game was delayed by a lot. Then we got Watchdogs, which was good, but had been overhyped too much by too many (not all due to UBI-Soft). So, here we have a maker, making a billion plus, losing the game, or so I thought.

I must admit that UBI-Soft is showing true gaming promise, even if some of the cut scenes are massively overdone (but the younger players love them).

There is Far-Cry 4, a game that until recently I would never consider touching. This game must be mentioned for two reasons. I bought the first one on the 360, and I still regard that as the WORST purchase ever! I did not play the second one, yet at some point I did play the third one and it was excellent. The game showed the openness of Midwinter (an old Microprose game), had the interest of many options, choices and sides and left me with a very good aftertaste in my mouth. UBI-Soft turned a fiasco into a winner. As I bash Yves Guillemot around at times, I must be honest enough to admit victory where he (or his minions) makes them.

I think that E3 2014 shows that not only is UBI-Soft back in the game; they are on route of reclaiming the number one development spot (which I considered that they had lost). There is more of course. I loved the Splinter Cell games, but they messed up Blacklist by not setting up the interface for replaying any better (it was the only flaw in my mind).

As for the new games, I was never much for racing, but the Crew has me yearning for the controller to play an ‘open’ racing game! There is a lot we might still wonder, but the presentation shows something that Sony with Drive Club did not deliver from demo day one and now is unlikely to equal. Now THAT is how you set up a game Monseigneur Guillemot!

Getting back to killing people! Whether the streets of Paris are the place to wander in anonymity is matter for another discussion, yet the idea that it will be an open environment game is without a doubt a massive step forward, especially in the light of the size a village like Paris represents. I was not impressed with Black Flag, but bought it regardless (lack of PS4 choices at launch night). It turned out I was right (read the other articles ‘A body blow to gaming‘ on March 6th and ‘Fifth in a trilogy!‘ on December 4th). Yet, the demo I saw in regards to AC Unity has me interested. It could be a massive turn for the better; I will however write fire and brimstone if they revert to the same ruddy glitches I have seen for 4 iterations.

Next, there will be more Tom Clancy in both the new Rainbow Six (not my cup of tea) and ‘the Division’ which seems to be very much my cup of tea.

Yes, as I see it, UBI-Soft is waking up to smell the need of the gamers and they are implying in their presentations that they are meeting the challenge. Time will tell, but I am a lot more positive about the course Yves Guillemot is taking UBI-Soft. I reckon that Next Gen gaming is finally getting a secure spot in the future.

When it comes down to Next Gen, I am not done yet. I have spoken out against Microsoft (or Micro$oft) in past items more than once. The image they left in 2013 drove me powerfully away from Xbox One and straight into the arms of Sony, which I considered to be the true consoles for a long time (PlayStation One, Two, Three and Four). Their approach of an ‘entertainment’ system in 2013 left me without a doubt that even though they seemed clued in with the Xbox 360, the top of Microsoft forgot what gaming was all about and came up with a half-baked device. I still think that the Xbox one is flawed on several levels, but their presentation on upcoming games does show that they are trying to figure it out. Their show was indeed really good (against Sony’s presentation which had slipped slightly) and the funny remark by Peter Molyneux in regards to Fable Legends that ‘it needs more dog‘ (via Twitter).

There is one more issue that I want to raise at present. It is all about the delays. Part of this is because of places like Gamespot, part of this is because of the Marketing divisions of places like UBI-Soft (and many others) and most of it is because of a truckload of gamers. Yes, I agree I want to play all the games today or even tomorrow, but a good game requires waiting at time. A good game will be done when it is done. So when we see a list of games like Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Order: 1886, Quantum Break, Dying Light and The Division that will not make it to the console in 2014, gamers need to stop crying like little bitches! We (me and millions of gamers) want to play a 90% plus game that is legend, not a game that became mediocre like Thief, because someone at marketing pushed for a quicker deadline. The difference between Arkham City (90%) and Viking: Battle for Asgard (50%) is both timing and vision. We cannot do anything about a lack of vision (something the delayed games are not in short supply of) and timing is what we should give them, even though the valid issue remains ‘why show anything at E3-2013’, which is a discussion for another day; let me assure you of that. If we get back to UBI-Soft, then we must admit that Watchdog, with a 500 page hint guide shows that this game is loaded with stuff. It ended up being an 80% game, on release date this would have been a mere 45% rated joke.

We should never be dependent on ratings, that evidence is seen when we look at Gamespot with AC4 Black flag at 90%, which was too high and Thief at 60% was unfairly low (in my opinion). Yet, they are indicators of what we might want to spend money on. Games will always be overhyped by all (including me), it is influenced by what we played (Thief 1+2) and what we expect to see (the Thief demo at E3 2013). So will the next Rise of the Tomb Raider learn from the mistakes (as I see them) that they made with the 2013 release?

Time and patience will tell!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, Media