Tag Archives: Gamespot

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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A simple choice for real gamers

We are forever confronted with choices, some clear and many not so. We seem to rely in most cases on experience, yet in some cases, your gut feeling is all you have and at that point, the more emotional you are, the less likely that the choice was a good one. Now this is nothing special, we all do to some extent that very same thing, the mind, the gut, the heart and the sexual drive. Although that last one tends to be highly driven by emotions, especially when you give into lust, temptation and desire. That is not a bad thing, it is just the way we are.

Gaming is another place where emotions run high. Some part is about desire, but most of it is about a drive, drive to experience. For me that drive is there. Yet I am on a different scale than many are. I am not on the list of those needing to go Call of Duty on my fellow gamers, although there will forever be a thump of my heart for Mass Effect 3 multi-player. In my view the best multi player action a console ever had. No, I am on a reserved list of players that will forever be smitten and tempted by games like Minecraft, Skyrim and Fallout. You see, the challenge of RPG is met in Skyrim and Fallout, yet the fun of just wasting a day away playing Minecraft, exploring, building is not lost on me. Like a kid with his bucket of LEGO, I will never stop feeling for Minecraft. I will walk away for months at a time, but I will always pick it up again and soon thereafter I will have as much fun as I had when I played it in the beginning. I have it on all my consoles. At the initial price of $20 and the upgrade to a NextGen console for a mere $4, it’s probably the best investment I ever made. So when I get confronted with ‘Gamer who bought No Man’s Sky early reaches galaxy center, deflating fans’ anticipation’ (at http://www.polygon.com/2016/8/1/12341236/no-mans-sky-how-big-length-beaten-center-of-universe-galaxy), I wonder what is wrong with people, especially the writer of the article.

The first quote “Daymeeuhn, the Redditor who bought the game, said his 30-hour play through was not simply an attempt to reach the galaxy center as fast as he could” is already a giveaway. You see, 30 hours is a lot more than many games offer (Tombraider offered a mere 10 hours and Infamous Second Son offered less than 20). Still people are worried. Why?

From what is given away there are two enormous elements to consider.

  1. If he has a review copy, he has a limited version of the game.
  2. The game will not be released for another week, so how did he get it?

Now we get the quote: “I actually intentionally took time out of my warp jumping over the course of going to the middle to explore planets to break up the monotony of it

Which gives us the following points of evidence.

  1. He was basically trailblazing. Did he not run out of fuel? How did he refuel, with what funds?
  2. He admits to not doing all the major ‘events’.

So we see a person, who for example like in Minecraft build a house and thought that the game was done, or glitches himself to the ender dragon and killed it. How? By cheating? If we stick to Minecraft we get a few parallels. Finding the fortress, getting to the Netherworld, Mining Obsidian, finding diamonds and getting blaze rods. The path is not short and chasing to get there defeats the purpose. No Man’s Sky, as I see it is about seeing the other worlds, actually spending time there, learning a ‘language’ grow your character as equipment evolves and as you see the universe, this does not mean mindlessly doing the following:

  1. Select jump point towards centre of universe
  2. arrive at next location.
  3. Go To a.

Which seems to relate to the oldest Basic program:

 

10 PRINT “Daymeeuhn is an idiot”

20 GOTO 10

Yes, that makes you a programmer in the smallest of ways. So this person is one of what I personally regard as ‘a mere wanker’, who wants to know a detective story, so he reads chapter 1 and the last chapter, then publishes quickly ‘The Butler did it!’. So not only did he not care for the story or the writer, he also decided because of his ego to just spoil it in falsehood for everyone telling an incorrect and half-baked story. And something like that calls himself a ‘redditor’? In addition, many of the game review places should know better and for the most ignored the actual story just to try and cash in on curiosity. A Murdoch approach to a world none of them seem to understand. Not only is that person off the boil, he was willing to pay $1300 to prove that there is something wrong with him.

Which leads me to the following question.

How come that anyone had the game four weeks in advance and how did he acquire it? In addition as this wet though eBay, how come the FBI is not all over this? Perhaps because it is an American company, but a British victim and as such they do not care? There is a decent amount of evidence suggesting that eBay was used for criminal purposes. That was not considered by anyone?

I like the response that Forbes gave the best. They stated: “There’s no way we can trust this Daymeeuhn character. Just look at the facts. He bought a video game on eBay for $1,300 just days before it was set to launch for $59.99. That’s crazy. You can’t expect people to take your opinions, analysis, or observations seriously when you voluntarily spend an extra $1,240 on a video game just so you get it a few days early. It isn’t rational behaviour, strictly speaking, and certainly ought to colour others’ reception of your opinions” (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2016/08/01/its-too-early-to-start-panicking-over-no-mans-sky).

They hit the nail on the head, the fact that other gaming sites are not really on top of things makes me question a few more things, more than I am comfortable with, mainly because the overall quality of reviews and gaming sites has been deteriorating way too much. Another linked video is ‘Trophy Review | No Man’s Sky‘ (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyfCYnUZ0SY). The reason is that I was curious on what trophies there were. The interesting side to all this, is that this video also refers to ‘a person’ who defeated the game in 30 hours and it took him a few days to get all the achievements. This is now turning into another issue altogether. So this person has been spreading himself all over the field giving us an even longer timeline as to how long that so called early copy has been out in the field.

Now, I cannot stress enough that I have no idea how true or false the claims are, yet I have seen the trophy list on PlayStation Trophies dot org. Here the following trophies come to my attention.

  1. Attain ‘Naturalist’ status in Uploaded Discoveries, with a nice reference to a cult movie. This trophy implies that you will have to upload plenty of discoveries of the planetary flora and fauna to get it. I would speculate that it requires more than one planet. So consider the time, walking around to get it.
  2. Attain ‘Legend’ status in Ships Destroyed. Now this might not require as many kills as getting the Elite Status as a fighter in Elite dangerous, but it would be quite a few.
  3. Attain ‘Magnate’ status in Most Units Accrued. This means you have massive funds and coin, enough to find a planet with Dragons, a white wall and enough coin that it would make Cersei Lannister to act and motivate Lena Headey to find you on that planet and asks you to stay with her for all the nights of the rest of your life.

Now, there is plenty of options to get this when it is a limited review copy, yet there is a growing and overwhelming sense that we are being fooled and this is a heist by a Troll with a hatred of No Mans Sky. As I see more and more fake hype attempt by all kinds of sources, I wonder why anyone is so afraid of a game that people are looking forward to. There is no moral or logical justification.

Can I be wrong?

I always ask myself this, in nearly any issue that I write about. Now consider the Achievement ‘Attain ‘Babelfish’ status in Words Collected‘ which is a gold achievement and remember the demo’s that Sean Murray gave? If those shrines all have one word, how many shrines do you need? Now also consider the fact that this is generated, so there are no maps and the ships scanners gives you dozens of interesting places all for different reasons, how long until you get to the 10th or 25th shrine (just calling these Obelisks that)? Not in a few days I reckon. That is besides the fact that some places are ultra-hot, ultra-cold or ultra-irradiated. As we see fact by fact add up, the mere claim by ‘Daymeeuhn’ seems to hold less and less water. Now, as Forbes stated. Wait for a week and decide then, I will get it regardless. There is enough shown to see that this could be the game I have waited for, for well over 2 years. With 5 major releases until the end of the year, no matter how you slice it, there will be plenty to play.

What bugs me is the lack of quality support by those who call themselves quality gaming sites and game reviewers. Those who did get a hold of play time at the previous E3 and other options have been too silent. How weird is that? In addition the sites all ‘heralding’ the unreliable news have not been looking at the potentials that this so called gamer missed. So in the end, we will know in a week and I am holding onto my copy for dear life, because like Minecraft, getting most blocks is not that hard, it is how you grow your world that matters and as I can see and by what was shown, the pleasure of just admiring the views that the planets are offering is already more overwhelming and reliable than what I consider to be the empty claim of a 30 hour games defeat.

 

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Where the gamers no longer go

There is an interesting development in the gaming industry. On the one hand, we see that Ubisoft is still cornering the mediocre side. On the other side we see that Gamespot might no longer be the site to watch. Let’s tackle the second part first, so that part one is a little easier to digest. Consider the following sources:

  • Forbes, January 21st 2016
  • PlayStation Life Style, January 26th 2016
  • PC Advisor, January 15th 2016
  • PC Gamer, January 8th 2016
  • Eurogamer, January 26th 2016
  • Gamespot, no review
  • Design & Trend, January 29th, 2016

Can anyone explain why a dedicated gaming site, one that is regarded to be less and less reliable for some time now. Can someone tell me how they did not have a review to offer? In addition this is not the first time. Is this a speculated first indication that this game is not really worth the effort?

Within the Forbes article Paul Tassi gives us “You destroy horns in encampments to prevent reinforcements. You still use beasts to wreak havoc on bases, only this time you can literally summon them yourself, rather than just hoping that the enemies are keeping a dangerous animal in a very flimsy cage on-site” which feels massively familiar to me when we consider Far Cry 3. In addition there is “you stalked around hunting down gun-less enemies with a bow and knife, a tiger at your side, attacking bad guys on command. It’s exactly like that, actually, though now with more combat options” (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2016/01/21/why-far-cry-primal-should-be-more-of-the-same).

These are not negative sides. I loved Far Cry 3, I skipped 4 for a few reason that do not matter here, but so far what I got shown, and what I am told, there are issues and I will mention them, because for a reason that will complete it all.

Second review is PlayStation Life Style (at http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2016/01/26/far-cry-primal-gameplay-video-blowout/), which depends mostly on videos. The linked story relies on the fair enough headline (which they got from FX) “The Story Is Everything“, which is actually true in gaming. This page has a link to the intro of the game, which comes with a fair amount of scripted events. As it is the intro, I have no issues with that, intros require scripting at times to get the gamer to a certain gamer skill level. Only a fool objects to those moments as the gamer learns how to play their character, beyond that point onwards it needs to become the real deal.

The PC Advisor (at http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/new-product/game/far-cry-primal-uk-release-date-features-gameplay-videos-3633525/), gives us additional gameplay, with one issue, namely Who made the play through? The movie came from Ubisoft, which is part of the problem. They give us a decent view, yet, we have seen in past events (the Division that the demo turned out to be a lot better looking than the final version, which is something that Eurogamer uncovered last month. Now we have a new issue, because is what we see going to be decently representative of what we will buy? Now, there is no indication that this is the case, but it is what Ubisoft has done in the recent past as well as the events that took place around Assassins Creed Unity, it is these events that is now, as I see it, to have a downdraft in trust towards the Ubisoft products.

 

It is now taking a turn for the even less optimistic as we see the review in Design & Trend as per yesterday (at http://www.designntrend.com/articles/69262/20160129/far-cry-primal-review-leak-story-missions-worst-far-cry-watch.htm). The title gives us “Its Story And Missions, Called The Worst ‘Far Cry’“, which is not very flattering.

We see in addition “too low quality for a triple-A game“, in addition we see that the review gives us the validation “The reviewer is apparently a career play tester that has spent several days with a near-final version of the product“. Yet in the end, the online magazine screws it up by giving us “Do you think this reviewer truly played “Far Cry Primal?” Are the leaked criticisms a sign of poor reviews to come? Tell us in the poll and comments section!” This is followed by the question “How do you think ‘Far Cry Primal’ will be reviewed by critics?” with the options: Well, OK, poorly and Who Cares?

One comment is not linked to the question, in addition, if the editor had any clear indication that the game was not really played, he had absolutely no business publishing that review. I wonder if by these words Design & Trend have set themselves up for a defamation case. You see, from their words this AAA game is not worth buying, now if there is decent support (through quality reviews) then fry Ubisoft must, yet if this article came from the imagination of an Ubisoft basher, the product is now smitten downwards, which as I see it makes the publisher liable as he questioned the review at the end, so they are no longer mere facilitators.

Now let’s take a look at a side that Eurogamer brought (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym5IYUTaH5M). The issue here: ‘all the buildings are pre-set and build in set locations‘, which is important, I will get to this soon. The video shows, the one thing that the people at Ubisoft do master, which are the graphics. There is no dispute, the bulk of all games have always excelled graphically. Yet here in the video we get “a little on the basic side” and “it would have been cool if Ubisoft had made more of a feature out of it all“, which is at the core of the issue for Ubisoft. Weirdly enough, it is the view that Eurogamer that changed my thought of getting the game, from ‘absolute not’ to ‘perhaps, maybe’, so not all negative reviews are bad or leave a person not wanting a product. That is what a good review achieves!

I think it is also fair that Ubisoft is given defence. This is seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhv3Jq6O-nw, it is a life stream of what I reckon is a final version as it was streamed on January 6th which shows the Ubisoft team showing of the game, so, do not just take my words, but also look at the other side, because you can only make up your mind as you see both sides.

So why going into this?

You see, the reviews and the impressions that Ubisoft is leaving with us is that their games is about recycling technology. This in itself is not a bad thing. The issue is not Far Cry Primal, it is an issue we have seen for too long with Ubisoft. The Eurogamer view on camp building is at the core of what we have seen for too long. Ubisoft had the option of creating legendary games, now we see games that are decent, sometimes good, yet overall no longer really great. Assassins Creed and Far Cry 4 are both examples. We are now getting close to 5 years of gaming mediocrity. Most of the games did not make the 90% or better rating. I will go one step further, the score they did get has been mainly because of the graphic and soundtrack groups. Game design, level design, area design and in game stories have been a problem for some time now and this started as early as Assassins Creed Revelations. Chests in Assassins Creed are the clearest, outposts in Far Cry 3/4, in Primal they are called bonfires. There is an issue here, not on the side of the game mind you. Many tactical players rely on a level of ‘repetition’ (read: goals) in games. Familiar actions to feel able. This is a side I understand and accept. I looked forward to synchronise in Assassins Creed. It gives us a detailed map and the view was always really good, but is it not interesting how synchronise has not ‘evolved’ in 5 iterations? There could have been so much more options than just to get to a high point. Additional to that part, the utter idiocy (as I see it, with the chests). Look, I get it, and having a few chests in there is fine, a link to the past, part of a mission, there are several options. But 20+ per area at times is just chest running and utterly bogus in my view. Now we see repetition in Far Cry. I get that some parts are there, like the sneak (which I love), yet, the idea of changing a gameplay so that replaying a game is not just an addition, it becomes a desired gaming must has not been explored to the levels it could (the fallout series has done this to a better extent). Now, that is not a side I can state for Primal, but the Eurogamer review shows us that upping the ante there could have been a game changer, it could make an 80% game into a 95% game, which does wonders to the audience and the coffers of Ubisoft. So the next Assassins Creed could actually be the last one as we see the interest in that IP change. If Ubisoft is willing to put it all on the line (and fix the massive glitches of the user interface), they have the option to truly rekindle their audience, or they can lose their audience. So far, the reviews on Primal are not great, which is an indication of an issue but in addition, this is not a given certainty for a failed game, do not make the mistake that one supports the meaning of the other, because that would be really wrong.

Until you yourself has seen the actual shared video’s from the released games and never take anyone’s word, not even mine! You should decide for yourself and regard the games you enjoyed playing!

As I see it, the issues that surfaced are the real evidence that the business formula that Ubisoft seems to be employing to prevent ‘failures’, shows that relying on certain repeated choices gives in addition a near certainty that games will not be regarded the legendary games they could have been.

I will remain hopeful that For Honor will crush the expectations of many gamers!

 

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Where is the egg timer?

There is an old saying that there is never an egg timer around when you need one. This being the usual response to a person shouting out: ‘watch this’, which is closely followed by moments of chaos. These things happens, they happen even more so when we act ‘ad-hoc’. Yet what should be the issue when we see ‘The 25 most anticipated video games of 2016‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/30/video-games-2016-dishonored-2-uncharted-4-xcom-2) by Keith Stuart and Kate Gray, which was published on December 30th, whilst a mere 22 minutes ago, @gamespot presents: ‘Scalebound release date delayed to 2017‘ (at http://l.gamespot.com/1Z2AZVS), which was actually published yesterday. So when we see gamespot flaunt the title “Platinum Games says postponement was necessary to ‘deliver on our ambitious vision’”, now let’s face it, the timeline does not shift that much (2016 -> 2017) within 5 days. We could speculate that at the end of the year Keith Stuart and Co were casually careless at the end of the year, a speculation I myself reject because, even though I do not always agree with Keith, the man is a professional and he tends not to be careless in that regard. In the second, Platinum marketing might have tried to ride the waves of free publicity as much as possible, which is more likely than not the case, yet that would be a casually stupid path to take.

Perhaps there is the idea that instead of trying to feed (or create) hypes (especially in the gaming and movie world), the media at large needs to stop feeding us ‘junk’ (read: rehashed news) when a game is more than 20 weeks away. So, perhaps not mentioning any title that is more than 20 weeks away might not be the worst idea. It would stop hypes to a larger extent, it could result in a focus from the media towards the games of ‘now’ or ‘soon’, which offcourse would include a lot more independent developers. How much have we seen in the media, not on half-baked triple ‘A’ ‘publishers’, but on titles like Adrift, which comes from Three One Zero and will launch this quarter on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? Is it not most anticipated, perhaps because the media ignored it?

It is my biggest issue with many gaming ‘pages’, especially in main stream media. Too many ignore interesting indie games that would be highly anticipated if more people were aware of it, yet many are pushed into the shadows as two ‘Big-Uns’ (EA and Ubisoft) get overly exposed on products well over a year away. I think that with the consumer in mind, these practices need to stop (or massively lessen). For example, it was only by accident that I stumbled upon Ghost of a Tale, an upcoming game for PC and XB1, I personally believe that this is not an anticipated game because the media seemed to have ignored it, but they kept on rehashing the same news on No Mans Sky again and again.

Which for a short time was understandable, but many kept on going when we heard the official news that the game was coming in June 2016, but as there were more speculations to be made, No Man’s Sky remained on the publications. The interesting part is that Ghost of a tale is a stealth game that would be very appealing to gamers that reside on the lower end of the Teenager scale (a rarity to say the least), what I saw reminded me of Don Bluth, specifically An American Tail and The Secret of NIMH. It came to life as a successful Indie go-go crowd-funding campaign and from what I saw it surpasses loads of games by ‘established’ software houses. How come not more information has seen the light through the media in regards to this title? You can see a lot more about the game at http://www.ghostofatale.com, they show the issues, the upgrades and more important just how amazing parts already look. The game got delayed from 2015 and it seems that 2016 could be the year of the mouse.

Just such a shame that the media at large does not take more time and space to see the wonderful world of the independent developer, with Technomancers on more than one platform and let’s not forget Kingdom Come by Warhorse Studios, it might initially not sound massively interesting as it seems to be released much later for Nextgen consoles, but the fact that the initial release includes both Linux and OS X should be massive as decent games for OS X tend to be really rare events. The fact that it is a Q2 release in 2016 makes it interesting to keep tabs on, as it would be released half a year earlier than games that are already receiving way to much exposure.

So as we look back on the egg timer, we must acknowledge two things, the first is that a sudden shift to another year is not the main reason, that’s just bad luck for some, but the fact that plenty of interesting games tend to not make the media (especially in their online editions) seems to be a lot less acceptable, especially when we see more and more lacking quality reviews. Yet these games all show that timing is still an issue to some degree, yet personally I find the shifting time lines a lot more acceptable from independent developers who try to get through with limited resources than the shifts we see in larger houses that are either close to or exceeding the billion dollar mark, there it is too often a failed form of managing expectations by not in the least of the culprits their own marketing departments; in addition, when I see what a mere independent mouse can show us graphically, I am happy that the group if independent developers is growing, because a mere dozen independent developers have shown me more to look forward to than several of the established branders of gaming. In all this I must point out that the Guardian article does give a fair bit of indie games attention, but they are one of few amongst way too many, which is a real shame.

For me, it is not about the 25 most anticipated games! I, like many others am a man on a budget. For me the important equations is, which games are released in the next 8-12 weeks, as my budget will allow me to purchase only one game, the hype creators seem to ignore that part, knowing that I have a few more options than many families with two working parents who are in possessions of often more than one playing growing young-ling, I would state that the media is ignoring a mainstream niche, one that should be rectified in 2016.

 

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The valiant never taste of death but once

An initial thought when I saw the title ‘Assassin’s Creed star Michael Fassbender had ‘never played the game’‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/dec/28/assassins-creed-star-michael-fassbender-never-played-video-game), now, my curiosity was peaked as it should be known to my readers that me and Ubisoft are at odds. i think they demolished what could have remained a legendary brand. Will the movie change that? Not sure, more important, does it matter? A movie fan can enjoy a good game and a gamer can enjoy a good movie. Yet, we must admit that our passion also instils the dangers of our folly when we do not see the result we expected. That danger is a lot more intense when it crosses platforms (Hobbit anyone?)

The article is a little shallow and it alerts us to what comes (which might have been the intent). The quote that got to me was “Michael Fassbender, the star of the highly anticipated film adaptation has admitted never having played it prior to being offered the lead role“, I think that this might not be a bad thing, actors and their roles are about getting ready for them and we can all agree that Michael Fassbender has the stellar experience to excel so this should not be an issue. I did like his response on @Fassbender_Way (Twitter) stating “I don’t need anyone’s permission“, which is not quite right, he needs the permission of Ubisoft, but they asked him, so that is OK, is it not?

The issue with the movie is not the movie, it will be our perception on the transfer. If the movie becomes too much of a Prince of Persia steeplechase then it could falter, if it is too much on ‘massive’ fights (like the intro to Revelation) the same thing could happen, but if it is the dark, the deep and the shady cutthroat version of an assassin getting in and out, it could be a hit. Well, that is my take on it. Is it yours? A game that sold so many millions will spawn millions of views, which is the challenge not for the actor, but for the director to give vision to. In that the second quote comes to view “the actor said he first got to grips with the video game only after being approached by Ubisoft to join the production“, this is fair enough, he cannot remain unaware, but how to prepare best? Playing is one, watching a few play throughs is another (almost an essential secon), he will do what he thinks is best that’s why he gets the big bucks!

Yet this is not about Michael Fassbender, it is about Ubisoft. There is no denying in the wisdom of making a movie which in turn will give loads of cash to Yves Guillemot. A mere statement of fact, my worry is not what is now, but what comes next. As I see it Unity massively damaged the brand and certain sidesteps are equally dangerous. As we see the unfolding of AC Syndicate, we also see that repairing the brand will take more than one game and in this Yves Guillemot himself needs to stay focussed and involved in whatever follows Syndicate because in this many gamers feel that their bucket got prefilled by sources that lost their reliability (like Gamespot). The Verge had this headline ‘Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is everything that’s great and terrible about the series‘ (at http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/23/9602584/assassins-creed-syndicate-review), which gives us the issue. The quotes “there’s so much that grounds the experience; boring missions, overly complicated side activities, and stories that straddle the line between dull and nonsensical“, which was already in play for some time. Now we get “you can commandeer one anytime you need, GTA-style“, which is another side I hate. More of something else. These two quotes do not represent the full article, which is also why I added the link, but it gets to the core of the issue Yves has ignored for too long. When you add too many other sides, when your business model is all about not getting a failure, you in equal measure forget to focus on that what makes a game truly exceptional. Shades of grey will not allow for the blackness of failure and it will in equal measure not allow for the whiteness of utter victory. It is the price of compromise that issue has been around since AC3, involving little Connor with bow and arrow.

the final quote “Unfortunately, the button used to hop in the cart was the same used for picking up his dead body, so instead of getting away safely, a cop shot me while a corpse was draped around my shoulders” was the most fun for me to read, because this glitch (read: interface bug) has been around since AC Brotherhood, Yves has let the brand slide to this extent!

In this we also need to name the man that does highly matter, because the pressure is not on Michael Fassbender, it will be on Justin Kurzel, the director. I am actually curious how he pulls it off. He has loads of things to start with, as stated on several occasions, part of Ubisoft might have failed, but not the graphics department, they delivered above and beyond with every AC game. Black flag is just one of the amazing graphical achievements that even today can be held up as an equal against any game released in 2015 and it will hold up and in most cases surpass many 2015 releases. In equal measure, the soundtracks of all AC games from the AC2 has been above many big screen productions, so Justin has many supporting sides making it all slightly easier for him, yet it will be his vision that matters to the public at large. And I refuse to make any speculation at present, I will await and see the final result.

So where are we?

You see, as stated earlier, AC Syndicate did not undo the massive damage of Unity, and there are other issues within Ubisoft that matters, because as it linked the experience to Uplay, the failing of Uplay as I have experienced it in equal measure drags down the product, the inability of their support to settle issues, link issues between accounts when a player has multiple systems, I cannot get the points of accounts to link, which is frustrating as it does not enable me to unlock certain parts, other parts are not acknowledged which just accelerates issues into the negative. Which is the downside of social media, a part certain player within Ubisoft are eager to ignore 7 days after release date, which does not help gamers and fans of the franchise any either.

So as we renew the view to the title in Shakespeare view of what constitutes the hero, we can see both Michael Fassbender and Justin Kurzel for their willingness to undertake the loaded challenge of the Assassins creed, which might reap great rewards, not just financially if they pull it off, in this I also feel that any failure might not be on their side, it might and up in the lap of Yves Guillemot as the brand waned to the massive degree it did on his watch. It gets us to the question we need to ask ourselves (as gamers mind you), a question both Michael and Justin should ask themselves to within the scope of vision that they are exposed to.

What makes for an assassin?

Is it a person with a sniper scope in 1983, one shot in Kirbat Al-Adas? Is it a knife thrown from an alley, a stab from a bench, a poison dart? Is it slicing your target then taking on 8 guards and a Templar? The game allowed for many ‘solutions’, but in the movies it is about pleasing the mass with an image, it is not interactive, which makes for the challenge Justin and Michael face, in all this the weight of previous decisions allowed by Yves makes for something else. The question is, will it make things better for the movie? It is not a fair question for those making the movies, but it will influence it all. So far, we know that the movie will play in the 15th century in Spain, which means that either that game will follow, or the movie line will become separate. The latter one being a better option in my personal frame of mind. Let’s not forget that the game started with Subject 17, so there are plenty of option for the movies and the bloody mosaic of bodies that we refer to as history allows for plenty of options for a movie based franchise.

As stated, I will await the final version of the movie and I do intent to watch it (as one cannot ignore a Fassbender movie). In all this it is not just about the movie, it is about what will Yves do next that matters, because in my personal view, Ubisoft has been running on borrowed time for a little too long and whatever happens next will impact the gaming industry, not because of a movie, but if we believe Shakespeare that a coward dies a dozen times over, than in my view Yves Guillemot had relied on marketing for too much and at the expense of a brand that could (read: should) have remained at high for a lot longer, so what is the value of a brand that has regained the same flaws for 6 iterations, I wonder why that question had not been asked by a 90% granting Gamespot, they are supposed to be a critical reviewer. Too many around the brand have dropped the ball and left things unspoken and un-investigated. The many delays that Ubisoft has should give way to massive improvements to gameplay, yet overall this was not achieved. At present only For Honor still seems to hold up to the expected hype of scrutiny, which is interesting, one in a dozen? I need to hold off on the final verdict as I feel that fairness needs to take centre seat and a review needs to remain fair, absent from hype. It is harder to do, but essential to give fair verdict to a project dozens of people put their life and faith into, I will not attack them like that, but Yves needs to realise that his billion is slimming down as he has fell short again and again, now the upcoming movie will be part of it. Whether the choice was a good one, is something we will see at the end of 2016.

Let’s all see what happens.

 

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Are stockbrokers clueless here?

My twitter account tweeted a tweet only minutes ago that gave me pause to take a look. It is an article from Gamespot (at http://www.gamespot.com/articles/activision-stock-joins-ea-in-hitting-all-time-high/1100-6428993/), which is actually 2 days old. The title ‘Activision Stock Joins EA in Hitting All-Time High‘ was reason for the first giggle, then I decided to take a deeper look at the quotes. The result?

Well, judge for yourself!

First off we get “The video game publishing giant’s share price reached an all-time high recently of just above $26 a share–and some experts are optimistic about the company’s potential to grow even further“, which is funny in its own right, where ‘some experts‘ is a link to www.zacks.com. Now, as I see it, the fact that they rely on how Activision/Blizzard is such a success as they state it “Call of Duty, Warcraft, Diablo, and Guitar Hero franchises“, which gets an added “Along with its Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and an expected EPS Growth Rate of 7.47%, there are three important factors to know when considering investing in Activision Blizzard” the site goes on mentioning a few titbits, which are all true, yet the foundation of the issue is one they skated around, why? It can be that they have no real sight on video games, or because they have other reasons. I have no idea what the other reasons are, yet in my view, their first tactical error is: “For the quarter ended March 31, 2015, Activision Blizzard’s GAAP net revenues were $1.28 billion, as compared with $1.11 billion for the first quarter of 2014” the second one is “Activision Blizzard’s earnings per share in 2014 was $1.42, again representing an all-time high of over 50% growth year to year“.

Before I start explaining this, let’s go back to the original article for a moment.

The next quote is “Activision has a number of projects currently in the development that investors may be looking forward to. These include Destiny’s Taken King expansion (September), Skylanders: Superchargers (September), and Call of Duty: Black Ops III (November)“. It is important to see what is up and coming, as such we see a field of particular possibilities, which gets the final added quote “the company will report earnings for its latest financial quarter on August 4th“.

So why is all this an issue?

First off, this is about stock joining EA, whilst the article is deadly numb on anything Electronic Arts in this field, which is odd to say the least.

Now for my other part, you see, investing in game stock is often massively risky, the part that these research companies fail to realise is that the value of these places are directly depending on the next upcoming failure! That has forever been the case with gaming companies, you see there is a reason why Ubisoft PC sales were down 90% in 2011 and I can tell you for certain that software piracy was NOT the cause of that!

So why did I find this all hilarious? In the end whatever a person wants to sink their money in, it is all fine by me. Now for the backdrop in all this, because so far, my reasoning could be regarded as an emotional one, which is really bad when it comes to shares.

No one will deny that Blizzard is a place of success, I am still addicted to Diablo 3 (as I was to versions one and two), yet Blizzard is still getting over the loss of Titan, a success that would never come to truth, which in the scheme of things is not the deadliest issue, especially as World of Warcraft is still grossing a billion a year, so Blizzard has many moments of success. However, stability is not a sexy thing in the market and Blizzard requires growth to pull this off, even though there are clear and reliable rumours of another DLC for Diablo 3, which would be, if we go by reaper of souls an essential and absolute must for any Diablo fan, it would not be enough for Blizzard to propel forward to the degree it needs to (personal view), in the end Blizzard is a fine company, with a solid income, yet as I see it, the massive sales drive needed (growth of customer base) is not one that Blizzard has, it has a faithful and loyal customer base (I am one of them), yet in my case, it is set to a game I have had for well over a year with no new spending in that time.

Now let’s take a look at Activision, first the good stuff, there is no denying that Skylanders was a brilliant idea, not particularly for me, but it is making kids spend, and spend and spend (or at least their parents), these figurines are not cheap. A well thought through business model. Destiny is another matter, this game is an MMO and a FPS, which is nothing short of a hybrid game and even though I am not a fan, the game looks good on the systems, but like all games of this nature, it has a problem and a handicap. This is nothing personal, you see, whatever good it is, it is money that has been spent. In one way Destiny is a huge success, the cost to make it was half a billion, yet this game made over 1 billion, so that is definitely a win. Now Destiny joins the ranks of requiring DLC moments, and here is the first hiccup. The drive and ‘choices’ in ‘The Taken King‘ expansion, has been all over the net and the day one gamers are not happy! The new full version with DLC will come with items available only in the Collector’s Edition mean that players only chance to get those items requires them to re-purchase a game and DLC they already own, which is not a good moment, so the new players will get rare weapons and items that seasoned players will not be able to get their hands on, the playing field will now be slightly uneven, it also makes for a game where players have a case of the ‘envy’ which also does no good, you see envy bites in a gamer, until he is too pissed off to play, which is deadly to Bungie to say the least. In addition, like with blizzard, revenue will come in, yet not in the large masses it did come in, so these players need to also rely on new IP and new games to grow its customer base. In addition, when we see a review like ‘Final verdict on most expensive video game ever made is a disappointing lack of ambition’, which we can question as it is only a single view, but MMO’s have fans and loathers, there is no in-between here. I am to some extent a loather, in this my reasoning is that these games at some point get hacked and the people go in overcharged destroying a perfectly good game, in addition, you need a decent player base with gamers that play like gamers, I do not mean their skill levels, but I mean that a certain level of courtesy is expected of your fellow fight mates, that at times is just not happening, souring the experience. It is also important that these bad moments are often just moments, not constant occurring events, in addition, many MMO games are often too unforgiving to new players, in some cases players who are experiencing their first 10 minutes in a game like Destiny, I have found in the past that MMO games do not once, not ever correctly tailor to those players, which puts them off. Someone gave this as a con to Destiny “Repetitive enemies, non-existent set pieces, and terrible bosses. No new ideas and overly simplistic role-playing and customisation elements“, I do not disagree here (from what I have played) but there is one side that is not part of that ‘con’ A game that tailors to thousands of players needs a stable setting, which cannot survive on terrible bosses and simplicity, what cannot (and as far as I can state) has not ever been confirmed is how the game plays after a while, you see, these games need to rely that a person once he/she pushes past level 13 is still eager to play, repetition is a killer here, not at level 4, 5 or 6. That will impact longevity, a side the stockbrokers do not seem to understand as that part of the game will not fit into a spreadsheet.

Now we get to the EA side of things, yes, there is no denying that their list is good. First we get the sports games (NHL, FIFA, NBA and NFL) and there will be Star Wars Battlefront. Now the bad part, so far EA Sports will always need patches and if the previous games are anything to go by it will not be that bad. In addition, sports games have a loyal following so unless their QA department screws up, we have 4 seemingly decent going games, however Star Wars Battlefront (SWB) is another matter, no matter how it looks now, there will be issues all over the board when the population at large goes into it, it is a mere statement of fact. An open system with so many fans will optionally truly drain the internet, so as EA overcomes the first issues, it will be an important setting, because Destiny and other MMO’s (real Elder Scrolls) have made many gamers a little hesitant to go day one (except for the limited edition fans), so that first hiccup will determine how wave two will react and that will result in slacking sales, in addition, upcoming Q1 2016 games will possibly see delays and the true kicker (Mass Effect Andromeda) is not out until the end of 2016, that is if there are no development hiccups. So in all this we have a stable setting from both, yet in my view, stability does not give rise to exploding share prices and the fact that EA doubled in a year might sound nice, but that was the result of new Nextgen consoles with a population making a mandatory purchase as there were almost no choices in games, now a year later that market shifted and the true anticipated upcoming games only have SWB on its list, the rest of the desired Nextgen games are all indie developers with none of them linked to either Electronic Arts or Blizzard/Activision.

In addition, the latest ‘remaster’ joke comes from Activision, The Prototype bundle, which I was initially looking forward to is now already regarded as the worst remastering ever. A frame rate that seems to go no higher than 30, blurry graphics at times, what was original is now a game not to take seriously (either of the two games). So Activision end up with two titles on Nextgen that look worse than it did on the original consoles, who is that for a non-achievement, that failing will also impact the non-revenue side. Kotaku shows it best at (http://kotaku.com/the-prototype-bundle-for-ps4-and-xbox-one-is-pretty-sho-1718779050), especially when the Xbox 360 has a framerate of 26, whilst the Xbox One has a framerate of 24. The average gamer can immediately see the flaw here, so why release a game that below acceptable default? It also implies that when a software house goes to this length to hope for revenue, we see a side that many gamers fear, the remake of a decent game that becomes a far below average result. It tend to make them shift focus to other titles, titles that are not from that software house.

From these point, I can now state the opposite of Zack’s reason to buy, which is from a gamer’s point of view, perhaps the shareholders will see it differently (as they focus on spreadsheets) when they look at returns, so when the next set of games fall short of quality, are returns still a guarantee? Again, my emotional side does not trust the setting here and I would personally prefer to sink $100 for shares on Frontier Development or Hello games based on their beta’s then on some of the final versions that either Activision or Electronic Arts has to offer. Yes we gamers are an emotional lot perhaps that will be part of what some might regard as ‘my failed view’ here, which would be fair enough.

 

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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?

 

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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.

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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!

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The Toothless tiger

It is roughly 1,544,400 minutes since we saw this message “The newspaper and magazine industry today takes the first steps towards setting up the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the new regulator for the press called for by Lord Justice Leveson” (at http://www.newspapersoc.org.uk/08/jul/13/independent-press-standards-organisation, in July 2013).

So when I saw the words ‘press’, ‘regulator’ and ‘sham’ together in one sentence (at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/sep/07/victims-press-regulator-ipso-leveson ) I was not that overly surprised. Let’s not forget that the implied innuendo in regards to the press cleaning up its act was never a reality.

You see, after all that visibility, on March 25th we see the report from the Daily Telegraph with the headline “Flight MHG370 ‘suicide mission’“, was anyone even surprised that the press regards themselves ‘beyond the law’?

Yet, if we are to properly assess the situation, we must therefore also allow matters of defence. So what is the issue that bites us so much? The letters from the 30 victims of press intrusion stated to Sir Alan Moses the following (as stated in the article of the Guardian):

By rejecting the majority of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, the paymasters and controllers of Ipso are rejecting due process

In its current form, Ipso retains no credibility with us or with the wider British public.

It furthermore states: “it was not truly independent, breaches of the industry code of practice would go unreported and unpunished, and there would be no effective and transparent investigation of serious or systematic wrongdoing“.

Now, after what happened in the hacking scandal, I am all for bashing the press, but let us all be honest, if we are to convict a group, let us do it for valid and preferably legal reasons.

About these pictures!

This all links to several issues that I wrote about in the past few days, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton might be the most famous ones, but they are by no means to most important ones (I feel for these victims, but reality shows us bigger problems). Yes, there is an issue that links to Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. If we go by the words of Reddit, we should use the quote “The site, which had an online forum named ‘The Fappening’, was one of the main places the hacked nudes were being posted and the website has now banned the page, six days after the photographs of the Hunger Games star first surfaced. It is thought the main reason bosses have finally pulled down the forum is NOT because of the J-Law snaps, but because photographs of Olympian McKayla Maroney which were also posted on the site are believed to show her underage.” which came from the Mirror. These places have been hiding behind the ‘innocent disseminator‘ flag for far too long. Their income is real and based upon bandwidth. If we want change, then perhaps forcing a tax bracket on bandwidth, especially with a bankrupt America, might be a novel way for debtors to get their coin back. Yet this is not about that. The fact that Jennifer Lawrence is now partially safe is only because another victim was a minor when the pictures were taken. This makes for a massively inhumane disaster and one that also affects the press. It is interesting that when we look at the name McKayla Maroney we see two events, both the hacked ‘under-dressed’ images as well as the Gamergate reference to Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

Vox Media stood alone

It is Vox (at http://www.vox.com) who seems to be on top of it, so we see one place, which might be regarded as ‘trivial’ by some covers the real issues that many ‘major’ papers have been ignoring all over the US and in places far beyond the US. You can read their words in depth at http://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6111065/gamergate-explained-everybody-fighting. It is well worth reading; however, there are a few parts I do not agree with. Let’s go over those, for they are all linked.

Here is the first part: “If it was just to bring attention to Quinn’s personal life, that’s, as stated, already happened. And if it was to create better ethical disclosures in online journalism, that’s happening, too. The Escapist is drafting new guidelines, while Kotaku is now forbidding its writers from financially supporting independent designers on Patreon, a popular method for backing independent artists, unless the site’s writers need to donate to Patreon for coverage purposes (since many developers release material first to their Patreon backers). And Vox sister site Polygon requires disclosures of this sort of support“.

I do not agree for the following reasons:

  1. If we look at the press at large, Quinn’s plight is less than a hot drop on a plate. “Jennifer Lawrence”, “Nude” and “shoot” gives us 41 MILLION hits when we use all the keywords. “Zoe Quinn” gives us 70,000 hits with less than a dozen reputable sources (including Vox Media). So, I think we can safely say that visibility is not even close to being a factor there.
  2. Better ethical disclosures in online journalism? Sorry, but are they for real? Most of these writers have never seen a class in ethics, it is also likely that some of them cannot ever write ‘ethics’ correctly. That being said, many of them write for mere passion on games, their transgression of alleged ‘corruption’ usually goes no further then receiving the free game. How corrupt is that? In all this, my issue with Gamespot has almost forever been with the open sponsor Ubi-Soft. They are not hiding it, so that is good, but I seem to colour my faith to any Ubi-soft review. Overall the writers and makers like Carolyn Petit, Jess McDonell, Danny O’Dwyer, Justin Haywald, Chris Watters, Cam Robinson and Kevin VanOrd do an interesting job. Depending on their ‘preference’ of gaming we tend to favour a certain person, whilst not ‘liking’ another one. The sad news that some of these writers are leaving as Gamespot is changing should be sad news to all gamers.

Scoops

This all goes towards “forbidding its writers from financially supporting independent designers on Patreon“, why? Is the likely fact that reviewers would have the inside track on a game and by personally backing a developer they will have a scoop? Is that not what pretty much every newspaper does? If not, how about cancelling ALL advertisements from Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Adobe? How long until they are missing out on scoops? I think support should not hidden, but if I was still in the business I would be funding No Man’s Sky or Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar (I have been a lifelong Ultima fan), if it gives me a scoop days in advance of others, than so much the better. The question becomes is this truly about implied corruption or about mainstreaming a 100 billion dollar plus business? You see, the gaming groups was for a long time ignored (especially in the time I was involved)

True Scenario: “I went to the ‘Efficiency Beurs’ (a Dutch IT/Technology trade show) in the RAI in Amsterdam in the early 90’s (1991/1994), I forgot the exact time. Anyway, I was already deep into the gaming world and sound would be the next big issue. PS speakers were no good, Adlib was an option, SoundBlaster was the new kid and those with real money (read wealthy parents) there was the Roland card, which costed a fortune. This is the age when the PC was a wild market, CBM-64 and Atari were on a high and the PC was relying on blips and bleeps. So, I walk to the IBM representative and asked him on the new PS/2 PC’s and whether the soundcards in the growing gaming market was a field that IBM was looking at, as well as, whether IBM had considered adding a sound card to the PC-Private projects (which was a tax deductable PC scheme in the Netherlands). I was ‘walked off’ the stand with the response that IBM was for ‘professional’ use only. This same IBM is now advertising ‘Smarter Serious Games’ (at http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/gaming/)“.

So, these ‘losers’ (just to coin a phrase), who would not consider this industry for a long time are now trying to leech of a 100 billion dollar industry by ‘Simming’ (Sims joke) it on, so nice of IBM to join the party almost two decades late (they did however join the party decently before 2013). So now we get this escalation on several fields and interestingly enough all at the same time. Several approaches of wild growth is seen, personally I reckon this all truly took off in high gear in September 2013 when one game made one billion in only three days and passed the 2 billion mark this June making a videogame more successful then the most successful Hollywood production in history. Now nearly everyone wants to jump on board and it also seems to allow for a ‘wild growth’ of certain ‘elements’. IBM is not a party to this (they move in different circles), yet, those growing wildly on our shores hoping for their billion are learning hard and fast that gamers can easily spot the quality from the chaff and as such we see escalations. Whether we take Forbes article (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/03/21/gaming-the-system-how-a-gaming-journalist-lost-his-job-over-a-negative-review/) for granted or not, it seems that the name Sony and the possibility of pulling away advertisements apply in several corners (like the PS4 release and Terms of Service issues). So, to avoid ‘ethical’ issues, it seems to me that newspapers at large just ignored the plight of over 60 million customers and any link to ‘changes to the terms of service’. So how does this all link to ‘corruption’?

That is the part that seems to elude many, it is not ‘just’ about corruption, it is about alleged corruption with the writers (emphasis on alleged), implied corruption with their bosses in what they publish but more importantly what they DO NOT publish. The last part is on streamlining it all. If anything, GTA-V shows us that a billion plus revenue takes more than just a good game, it is about marketing and advertising, which shows now exactly the issue on visibility.

I am not alone with these views; some of them were discussed by Ashton Liu in her blog at http://rpgfanashton.tumblr.com/. She has an interesting view I had not considered. She writers “It has been no secret to the gaming community that many video game news sites have been employing increasingly extremist and reprehensible tactics to gain site hits and forward their ideology“. In that regard she seems on top of it all, I saw the harassment of Quinn and Sarkeesian as idiots who should go the way of the Dodo yesterday, if at all possible. Yet in her view, we are dealing with more than just blatant ‘ranters’, it is entirely possible that there is a corporate push behind it all. If we consider the actions by Sony and the market they need to ‘rule’ is that such a far-fetched statement? If people are willing to sell their souls for a niche market, what is Sony willing to do to remain the number one on the market, especially if you can motivate non-journalists (read non-accountable people) to speak out loudly?

What makes a Journalist?

It is a side, that until the article of Ashton Liu I had ignored. Ashton is like me, an ideologist, we seem to share a passion for RPG games and we are willing to put some time into sending the message of the Role Playing Game, hoping to introduce it to others. Yet, part of the view she offers seems incorrect, is this all about true gaming journalists? Many of them are not journalists at all, they do not have a degree in journalism, so let’s all agree that unless the person has a degree in Journalism that this person is just a games reviewer (I myself am a games reviewer), I have degrees in Law and IT, but not in Journalism, which makes me a non-journalist!

This is where the issues become (slightly) clear. Many are not journalists at all, so journalists are compared to ranters and outspoken ideologists, whilst not getting painted on grounds of evidence, which is almost slander (I said almost). We are all in need of more clarity, clarity I am asking for, whilst trying to remain clear, clarity Ashton is trying to give the readers and there are the additional thousands online, ranting all over the place. So what is a reader to believe?

Corporations

Perhaps that is the part we all forgot about? We seem to ignore the corporate site. Is that the background of those who remained with Gamespot? Is CBS changing the gaming area by starting to cut away the ‘non-professional’ staff? I do not know, I am asking this. I have no issue with any writer at Gamespot (even if they cater to games I never play), their passion has for a long time been without question, yet, if this streamlining requires the presence of education, not just knowledge, then those without Journalistic skills to be ‘relocated’ and not all end up within the CBS structure.

So as Ashton made the statement I disagreed with “These journalists behave terribly and browbeat anyone whose opinions don’t fall lock step with their own“, the question “which are the real journalists” come to mind. This is where we return to Leveson, the issues that IPSO is accused of and how this relates to Journalism.

IPSO is regarded as a toothless tiger (perhaps correctly so), yet as papers are more and more online and as we see more and more ‘contributions’ from critics and reviewers, we will see that their painting of a group ‘as ignored’ as stated by the phone hacking scandal victims, we see a corporate move by many newspapers that employ reviewers and critics who are likely non-members of the official Journalistic core, but in the online mash no one can really tell anymore. This is at the heart of several issues, next to the editors relying on people whose family name tends to be “well-placed sources within”; I wish I had a relative like that.

This all gets me to the only part of the Vox article that I have an issue with. It is not really an issue, it is more a disagreement. They stated “Because what #GamerGate is all about isn’t who is or isn’t a gamer, or what role the press should play. It’s about what games should be and who they should be for. And that’s worth a real discussion, not just a hash tag“. I think that anyone enjoying a game is in the smallest extent a gamer, and as his or her passion grows, so will the Gamer part of that person. I think it is MASSIVELY important the part the press plays and to some extent they need to be judged on what they publish and to some extent even more on what they ignore, not unlikely for favours from the advertisers. You see, what happens when it is no longer them, but also the stakeholders? Consider the stakeholders for projects of Ubi-Soft and Electronic Arts. The moment they start ruffling feathers on ‘their’ dividend and the press ‘obliges’ that is the true moment when we will no longer see whatever ails a gaming community. When it goes through a journalist we do end up with the smallest protection, but ‘small’ beats ‘none’ every time.

It is ‘what games are and who they are for‘ is as I agree an important discussion, yet the implied evidence at present gives little support that that true vision will come from #Gamergate, because anyone willing to develop a game, no matter what gender, what topic and what ethnicity of graphics we are presented with should be a reason for bias and/or discrimination. These are parts #Gamersgate seems to be ignoring.

Streamlining is also all about who owns the IP, that is the one part they all seem to ignore, if the future is about IP (Intellectual Property), then it is the novel idea that has the future of gaming fortune, which is all about streamlining in the eyes of EA, Ubi-soft and Sony (to name a few big companies in this field), you see, who owns the IP will continue and not unlike the flaccid economists of Wall Street, 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. This is why I think it is important to protect them! This is seen in the slightly dangerous statement by Vox Media in the article as they state “Some argue that the focus on harassment distracts from the real issue, which is that indie game developers and the online gaming press have gotten too cozy“, is that true, or are the larger players realising that they passed the buck for too long and driving a wedge between the press and the Indie developer is essential to their survival as they try to ‘rekindle’ the press and push indie developers towards the ‘cheap’ deals where they can take over the IP. That part is at large ignored by most. If we look at 2014 we see a massive host of new versions of the same brand, whilst none of the truly new games are coming out in 2014. Splatoon, ignored by many is the new kid and so far it seems that it might largely drive sales for Nintendo. You see these larger houses have forgotten to cater to THEIR audience (not just bring a cool presentation about something not due for 15 months) and as such are under scrutiny facing an endangered future. When we see a headline like this ‘Battlefield 4 – It’s so bad, its actually funny!‘, they know that they are in trouble, no matter how much you pay marketing to focus on the small stuff and micro transactions, which some call ‘Blood Money‘. In my view this is partially the result of letting ‘Excel users’ anywhere near the gaming market and when these investments do not pan out panic will be the natural consequence.

Back to IPSO

Yet, this also reflects on IPSO, because is the story ignored not as irresponsible as calling a tragedy a suicide mission? I wonder if the two elements would have been anywhere near as extreme if IPSO had not been toothless. I cannot state this for America, but I am certain that many gaming issues would have been a lot more visible, which might have reduced the risk and abuse of both Quinn and Sarkeesian. If you do not believe the press to have any influence, then consider the Art ‘expose’ called “Fear Google“, which is exactly the method of News the Sun used to rely on for at least one page (a page 3 joke only the British understand), or as we could call it, how Rupert Murdoch got through his early years. So here we see the beginning of the future, as Jennifer will end up getting shown to the world in states of non-dressing, her stolen pictures are less likely to be stopped as they are not getting sold, even if sold, the chance of enough people getting convicted becomes a serious question.

We can safely say that there is a group of toothless tigers, law partially became toothless as it catered to business enterprise and as we see more and more ‘free’ services we see an abundance of innocent dissemination that no one seems to be able to stop, ‘oh yes’, for some reason many were ‘suddenly’, within hours, able to stop the film where a Journalist ‘suddenly’ lost his head. It seems that ‘sudden’ acts are at times possible, so why this entire system is not better regulated is to be perfectly honest beyond me, but you better realise that someone is making loads of money, not just the hacker (read: thief) that got a hold of the pictures.

 

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