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An Intellectual Property example, Part 2

Yesterday I gave you part of the introduction in story form, yet an RPG is far too large for story form (outside of the main quest), and when you consider that the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition: Prima Collector’s Guide Hardcover is well over 1100 pages, you see the impact. I wanted to double that (at the very least) not merely through missions, but by adding additional forms of gameplay.

Premise

As the game’s introduction ends, we get the call to go home, or to just wander. The nice part of an RPG is that it is up to the player. No matter which call you make, there is now an added incentive to sleep. It was not there in Skyrim to the degree Oblivion had it and I called that back. In addition, too long without sleep gives the fatigue icon, yellow means 10% orange 15% and red 20% loss on power delay to regain magic, longer to hit with strength, diminished strength, speed, become slower and so forth. Fatigue is diminished 25% per hour of sleep, allowing for small naps until you get home, and when sleeping for over 8 hours fatigue goes to -10% (instead of 0%), in addition to that, when fatigue is red fast travel deactivates (just like when you are emcumbered).

Part 1

Part one towards the main quest happens when you sleep. In the dark, the black the void, your dreamless sleep is the introduction by Sithis himself. The Daedric lords are all gone, the oblivion plane is no longer connected which is due to the followers of Stendarr. Stendarr and its hatred of Daedra and all magic were able to almost completely sever the link with Oblivion, but Sithis is not of Oblivion, Sithis is of the void and there the choices start. He still sees in Valenwood where magic has links, but the rest is dark.

Your kills made him aware of you and now he reaches out. It is your choice to let the new world be, or to restore the old connections, but to do that you must recreate all the shrines to all the Daedric princes, balance can only be maintained when they are all there and one had been missing for too long [spoiler]. To regain the first shrine a new night mother needs to be sanctified, a new dark brotherhood chapter must be opened and the power of Stendarr must be diminished.

A this junction you can ignore that quest, you will not be contacted again, it was the last offer by Sithis. You will learn more, but it is up to you.

Lay of the land

Restoration is a lot larger than ever before. To make this work I needed to look on a larger scale. The Oblivion map was close to 6 by 6 miles giving us 36 square miles. To make this work we need to change Cyrodiil. Basically I changed the parameters to be 300%, making the map 18 by 18 miles, giving us 324 sqm. This is important as the map of Skyrim needs to become twice the size. The cities change partially accordingly, the imperial city due to placement becomes 900% larger, Skingrad 400% larger, Cheydenhal, Leyawiin and Anvil 200% larger, Bravil remains a village, a mere 50% larger. The lay of the land is important for the story as the quests will besides Valenwood and Elsweijr include the previous lands. There are larger changes and smaller changes.

In darkness we prevail

The Dark Brotherhood has a lot of quests, the story is that the brotherhood was no more when the night mother was destroyed, Sithis will give signs to find the knowledge to create a new one. Yet before that can be done, you need to find people. The first quest is the ring of souls, a person can only wear two rings and a necklace, which is important as magic is directly linked to imbued magical objects in the game and the danger of having no magic at all, is a disadvantage (or a challenge) on a few levels. People are more susceptible to magic (until more oblivion links return), and you are more protected against magic, yet you can still be killed. The ring of souls resides with Olava the Feeble in Whiterun (your first trip to Skyrim), the ring needs to be retrieved from her grave in Falkreath. It will also give rise to visit the old brotherhood sanctum where a dark brotherhood outfit awaits (her grave gives the information). With the ring of souls we can see the darkness of a person and only the true dark will help us find those people. In this case the people are randomly distributed (8 in total), because of population the best option is the imperial city to find at least one, but that is the new stage, I want to prevent people of merely making a run to completion, not everything is set in stone making the fun to replay the game again interesting. It also opens up more venues to track down.

When a person is contacted and found, the ring will trigger the conversation that person has seen it in his dreams and we see the first connection. The dark brotherhood needs a new home and none of the places will be available, the sanctum in Falkreath collapses when you leave and the others are no longer there. Your new disciple had always been a mason in the past, and can turn a house into the entrance to a sanctum, providing the right house is owned.

[Venture part] The venture part is there to do other things (essential to progress in a few ways).

Once we have enough serfs, enough cash and a place the serfs will start creating the sanctum with the mason.

The sanctum once, properly sanctified in blood (I had to go there) will open the new chapter, recreating a night mother Ocheeva (from Oblivion) will become the new Night Mother to serve Sithis again. The body needs to be found (a Blackwood mission) and that is merely the beginning.

Locations

The game is set in many locations and the stage is that if you choose the Daedric restoration path, you will learn that the guilds need to return to keep balance, there is also another part. Cyrodiil can have two guilds, the other places only one, and the mages guild will ALWAYS be in the Imperial city, the other guilds however are open to choice, One in Skyrim, One in Valenwood, one in Elsweijr and another one in Cyrodiil. The fact that you decide where also influences the games economy system. So we have the Mages, the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood, the Fighters Guild and the Guild of Necromancy (destroyed by Arch Mage Traven before Oblivion) [has spoiler links].

Each area has at least three options and more important, the stage of creating a den also has options (see later in this story). I set that stage so that people could find joy in playing this game again and again. As the games progress you will also learn that you have choices towards where a Daedric shrine is placed, there are however exceptions, the shrine of Azure is ALWAYS in Skyrim (it was a lovely statue), the shrine to Nocturnal is always underground and in the same area as the Thieves guild. Some shrines must be above ground, some underground and some are uip to the player. The stage is that 17 shrines need to be created/completed: Azura, Boethiah, Clavicus Vile, Hermaeus Mora, Hircine, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Mephala, Meridia, Molag Bal, Namira, Nocturnal, Peryite, Sanguine, Sheogorath/Jyggalag, Vaermina and Mannimarco.

Mannimarco was not a Daedric Prince, but he gets ascended to the Oblivion plane in the Necromancer quest, the former actual prince was destroyed by Traven, and the Colossal Black Soul Gem contains both souls, but can only function with one. Another choice whether you want to clean Mannimarco and destroy the Necromancers, or clean Traven and create the Guild of Necromancy. The stage is also tiled in another direction. There are connections that do not work, for example you cannot be in the Mages guild and the Guild of Necromancy, or the Thieves guild. A dark Brotherhood member will not be accepted by the Thieves guild or the Mages guild, the fighters guild will not allow thieves either. It created the stage where you at best can be in three guilds at one time; it also sets a stage where some guilds are created much later, so the opponents you face will be stronger (optionally much stronger). At the end you are removed as a member and like Oleeva you become a revered elder or a similar title in any of the guilds you complete with an added bonus and in some cases a new place to live.

Home is where you can afford a mason

As you progress you can again buy places, but there is also a small hitch [unrevealed spoiler], so be careful of the choices you make, some houses can connect to a guild, some guilds are on their own and some places can be vacated. More importantly depending on the mason you have (there are 8-12) and the upgrade books you find you will be able to add look to a place you upgrade. And this is where the large red quest starts, it is like a red line through the game and even as you are only involved at the very beginning, you will be introduced to the term serfs. Serfs or slaves are a bounty in this game, as you complete quests you are optionally rewarded a servant. A servant is also a financial responsibility, so you can only get it when you have a bank mark, some can be made house servants, most are workers, some can become an assistant mason (roll of the dice) and masons in your service can become Grand Maesters. That requires upgrade books. The large quest is the creation of New Kvatch and you need to lay the foundation for the gate with your bare hands (and pick and shovel). The creation of that place will take up to 600 days and cannot be started until you have 10 work serfs. The mission is offered through the commerce chapter, or if you walk to where Kvatch was, there is a notice that preambles the quest.

Upgrade books are like skill books, but the text is in another colour and has images. There are several, one is always with the Kvatch gate (Iron portcullis and stone wall), there are the gates, Iron and Steel portcullis, Iron gates, reinforced wood gates, Steel gates, Dwemer gates, Elven gates Moonstone/Silver, Silver/steel portcullis, Malachite Silver gate and the Ultra Rare Aylied gate. They are required to complete works and get a much nicer and more imposing city, two books are required to create a Grand Maester and becomes unavailable for the rest of the game unless you find another mason to head your workforce (or train one that has a minimum skill level).

The books are dispersed in places, whilst the easier ones could end up in a book store, the higher ones are in heavy boss chests, or in undefined locations with a 1% chance. The impact is that as you get a different gate, New Kvatch will also look different, more importantly its economic value will increase by a lot, when the gate is completed there can be no change, so the choice is almost final, you can change your mind if the gate has not been completed, however change also means a restart of the gate and all used resources are lost.

As the economic stage of time played and money earned impacts you get a more stretched value of the game and there will be rewards too, in New Kvatch you always get a house and a statue, there are optionally additional rewards [unrevealed spoilers].

The Powers that be (in you)

There was a liking in Skyrim, but also a linear flaw and I tried to address this. Your power needs to be retained in new ways and additional ways (like in Oblivion), Strength is in Melee, in travelling (not fast travel) and mining. Mining is a new skill, as we need a lot of resources and this you get to do in your own time (literally so), to get stone you need to bash proper rock 20 times, when you increase a skill it will be 19 and so on. whenever you level up, you have the option to put a point into Mining, Mining will go from 20-19, yet you also get a Strength point, you can gain in total 20 points this way, which also translates to 200 health as well, whilst normally you merely gain 5 health. In addition, a serf needs twice the time of your skill, so as you upgrade they all upgrade as well.

Physical

Block, Heavy Armor, One-handed, Mining, Smithing, Two-handed improve Strength, only 20 points and only if at least four skills have one skill increase, except Mining and Smithing, which always results in a strength point of two skill levels were gained, endurance will auto level by one if Block or Smithing increased by +2 in total (one each suffices) and no more than one point.

Magical

The beginning has a lack of Magic and optionally the gamer is almost without magic. Yet here too we see: Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, Illusion, and Restoration. Magica always increases as Destruction or Conjuration increases, or 4 others do. Magica is linked to Intelligence; however illusion and alteration will increase willpower +2 in will be required to get +1 willpower (automatic)

Stealth

Stealth gives us Archery, Alchemy, Light Armour, Lock picking, Pickpocket, Sneak, Speech. Here we increase both Stamina and Agility Light armour and Archery leads to Stamina, auto upgrades are Agility and Speed (Archery, lock picking, pickpocket and Sneak +5). Here too is a little snag, Agility and Speed, Archery is for both, lock picking and sneak only add to Agility and pickpocket is only towards Speed. You must have +4 in either one to get one, and +6 in both to get one additional point in both.

Generic

Stamina auto upgrades through walking, swimming, Archery and Light armour, it is harder to increase Stamina, yet the influence is stronger at is adds a truckload of options to Endurance

Speech is the only one that influences personality and is linked to successful conversations, in addition if at least three auto upgrades are a fact (from either: Endurance, Willpower, Agility, and Speed) luck goes up by one as well, still with a limit of +30 in total over the game.

This means that he gameplay results in a much more fluid person. You can try to manage the perfect person, but as levelling up becomes harder, the auto levelling also becomes more challenging.

This change was essential as I saw that over time the Skyrim increases became slightly less rewarding. This keeps the chase towards excelling skills much more intact.

I made no changes to the skills as such, merely added Mining with the added option that when your mining skills are above level 10, you can teach (for a price) the skills to your staff members (read: servants) and as such more resources are gained, and the rule from half speed is overcome to some degree. So as your skill is plus 10, serves will be at plus 5 and in addition any additional skill you bought them, additional new serfs down the game will still start at level 0, however whenever you add a skill, they add 2 per level until they are at par with all the other serfs.

New locations

To facilitate to the new set, another location is needed, there are Stone and ore quarries. The mining for gold, silver, moonstone malachite and so on still exists, but they are more rare to find and every location will yield a lot more (up to 2500 per location). Buying a quarry will be very expensive, findin one and not acquiring it (with guards) imply that it will be taken over and the bosses there tend to have a much higher threat and skill level.

Main Quest

There is little on the main quest, I do not want to hand out too much information. Yet the beginning is a given, there is only magic remaining in Valenwood, and the system also differs from the beginning, magic people are distrusted (speech -40, with 10 as minimum value) anywhere but in Valenwood and non-magical characters get -40 speech in Valenwood, again with 10 as a minimum value. The correction is that you need to resolve the mistrust and solve the actual main puzzle and as you progress in the game, each mission will remove one distrust point per complete quest. The mistrust also mean that guards and others watch you more closely (sneak skills gets reduced) and any wrongful action is punished more strongly, discounts fall away and so on. As certain situations are resolved, you will be regarded better and travel becomes easier, also there is a chance to increase in one way and decrease in another. Serving Stendarr will get you less trusted in Valenwood and additionally trusted everywhere else. There is a need to find balance which also influences gameplay, going all out being good or bad has benefits, but also gets punished in other places.

All this was devised in mere hours, it took 500% more time to type it all out and create tables and so on. I wanted to give a much larger option to halls (artisan halls) so that not going into the Daedric restoration would still have a much larger impact on gaming and give you a real truckload of challenges. That choice would not affect the New Kvatch or a range of other choices. The fact that the larger story is designed to be independent of other choices grants a player with much more exploration. Even though all the locations (cities) are there, the game was designed not to have EVERY location in place. For example there would only be 10 of each Ayleid Ruin (Cyrodiil and Valenwood only), Cave, Fort, Mine and so on and via the Season pass there would be a truckload more in Skyrim and Oblivion, it also would enable to get more created matter to be acquired (or offered). I also considered that Battlehorn Castle comes back with the added option that every guild completion also adds a bonus to that place as well as the option to overhaul the castle in other ways. So as you find enough better rated bows, the defending archers would be more powerful, swords and shields for guards and so on. As you gain more in one way, you also lose in other ways; less money means more hunting for goods to afford the workers. A system that includes more checks and balances makes the entire RPG game more rewarding as well as more challenging.

The Intellectual Property example

The example is not merely about how I devised IP; the power of real IP is a stage where you are able to give the reigns of your mind to your imagination. All the BS you read on discipline and excel based bullet points sound nice when you work for someone else, but your IP comes from the stage where they never had a clue to let creativity reign. When I gave my bosses in the late 90’s the idea of a website server where people can get their space and talk to one another with us in the middle was laughed away as it had no business function and it was not part of the mission statement. Interesting how Facebook did exactly THAT 4 years later (and more). Your imagination can get you the rewards you wished for as long as you are willing to let that part of you take control of you when you can guide it (usually out of office hours). It is that part that too many people lost, or never gained and that stops innovation a lot more than you realise. It is not a coincidence that I came up with close to a dozen markers on new IP, I merely learned not to trust those around me to give me a fair deal, most often by those with a ‘what if’ setting. Those people are merely selling what they have or acquiring at zero cost (a lesson I learned too late twice over).

 

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The next gamer plus

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

Bethesda

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

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

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

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

Ubisoft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Congressional Country Club Neighbour

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

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

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

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

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

So how is that better?

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

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

What else could there be?

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

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

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

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

 

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In the back of my mind

Today is not the same as yesterday. Yes, the same issues are playing still. They will remain an issue for some time to come. Whether we look at Yemen, Iran, Grenfell or the Saudi Consulate at Istanbul, the media has decided to make this a long term event. Some events cannot be resolved easy or quickly, that is merely the stage we find ourselves in and as such I accept that. It was this mindset that was awakened rudely by a thought that I have had for the longest of times. Now, this is pure speculation and perhaps it is all utter BS. I accept that, yet it remains in the back of my mind, it will not delete itself from my thoughts and this morning it woke up again as I read the headline ‘Yes, I ‘cheat’ at video games – it’s half the fun‘.

I respectfully disagree, it just ain’t cricket!

Yet the thought has been there for a while. You see, the latest adult generation is different. It partially grew up with that thought. So as we read the article by Stephanie Munro (at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/19/cheat-video-games-gaming-performance), we get a little more than we bargained for.

The cornerstone here is: ‘some games are worth a bit of cheating‘, we can agree that this is a thought every gamer has had, but I believe it transcends gaming. I believe that game makers have created the shits that audited Tesco (and devaluated it by billions). The people willing to quickly skate around the edges of Market Research to create a story that fits the bill, yet when we dig into the data, when we consider the weighting used, we see another issue. Some of these stories are more often than not, not worth the paper they were printed on. More importantly, the people mentoring these ‘younglings’ making (as a mere example) are achieving linear correlation by plotting two points. Even as they know that straight-line relationships between two variables can be achieved, they sometimes forget to tell them (implying that the newbie should have known) that it takes more than two observations. Yet a mentoring position is not about assumption. Even as reality is not this far-fetched, we see that there is a stage that counts. TU in Norway is one source giving us the most common example of unethical behaviour. It is: ‘Taking shortcuts / shoddy work‘ and it scored 72%, which is huge! I believe that there is a growing group of people relying on making deadlines and the entire issue is found there. It will almost always be on the new kid, getting advice left right and centre and not getting proper mentoring. Even when we see some parts not being violated, in some cases we see extreme examples of weighing data where weight values of well over 25 are achieved, an issue to be sure (when the population was increasingly small and unbalanced).

And here is where the shoe becomes too tight for comfort. You see behind this is the ‘golden rule’: ‘It’s important to realize that what is unethical may not always be illegal‘, it is a dangerous truth as it can at times be both.

Now this reflects back to the gaming article.

The quote: “I wonder whether cheating at video games is really anything to feel bad about. While downloading unverified cheat programs and exposing yourself to malware is not something to encourage, there are wider and greyer areas of game manipulation that deserve consideration“. There it is! The intentional push to consider cheating! We have all taken shortcuts; some are glitches within the game. Some are merely flaws in game design, the other part is exploiting a gaming bug and then there is God mode. God mode goes back to the beginning of gaming. A code that will set damage received to zero, or perhaps usage is now staged to a decrease of nil and the final part where build time and cost are set to zero. These are all stages that give you an immediate upper hand in the game. The codes tend to be there for testing purposes and were in the older days never removed, in some cases they still are not. Yet when we see the application done in Business Intelligence it becomes a different issue altogether, it has impact and it is too dangerous at present.

When we go back to Tesco in 2014, the Guardian gave us two parts. The first was: “what has already come out raises profound questions about how one of Britain’s biggest companies allowed itself to be run questionably – and about the role of its auditor. The making up of the profits figures was not in a report signed off by PwC. That happened in August – three months after PwC had given the supermarket chain’s figures a clean bill of health. Even then, it noted that there was something potentially funny with the numbers, and expressly warned about “the risk of manipulation” – but allowed them to pass anyway“, and the second one was “The audit is a key part of the scaffolding of shareholder capitalism. It is one of the primary ways in which investors, business partners and regulators can tell the true state of the company they are dealing with. If you can’t trust the audited accounts, you can’t really trust anything. This is why the vast bulk of public limited companies – and hospitals and charities – are legally obliged to submit audited accounts. And the vast bulk of those are done by PwC or one of the other Big Four auditing firms“. Now we get back to the gamer side. The bulk of people now becoming CPA have a gaming life. Whether they stay in the console closet is up to them, yet in a healthy life gaming will be part of it. It is a social interaction or perhaps a challenge to be among peers and see if you can Fortnite the hell out of your buddy and Overwatch him/her to death at the same time, nothing wrong with that. Yet we see more and more that the stage of normal gaming no longer suffices and we start relying on glitches and weaknesses, which is not altogether wrong, but when we knowingly have codes that give us 10% more, what then?

Gamers are actually getting pushed into that frame of mind and the industry as a whole loves it as the person willing to take every legal shortcut is a revenue asset, yet is it a long term solution and what happens when the border of legality was a grey area altogether? Consider the impact of Tesco, the most visible case in the last decade. And that is when we get to the 2017 New York Times (3 years after the event). Here we see: “The regulator said that finding did not suggest that any of Tesco’s directors “knew, or could reasonably be expected to have known, that the information in the August trading statement was false or misleading.” It did note, however, that there was knowledge at a sufficiently high level below the board as to the false and misleading nature of the trading statement to constitute market abuse under British law.” That is now the ball game. The two points ‘could reasonably be expected to have known‘, in opposition of ‘there was knowledge at a sufficiently high level below the board as to the false and misleading nature‘. So someone got a massive raise, someone got an overwhelming promotion and no one went to prison. This is what I would call an orchestrated cheat. When we look at PwC and we see: Tyco, Tesco, Taylor Bean & Whitaker, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and MF Global. All stages that are massive and all stages where in the end it is merely about the fine, the pressure for using ‘cheats’ is increasing and it seems that the gaming industry is banking on this. What is more appealing when an almost impossible task is achieved by someone who should not have been able to make it to level 2?

This is where Stephanie gives us the gem: “In the world of competitive sport, the line between a so-called clean win and one in which the performance of an athlete has been chemically enhanced is blurred – but we leave it up to governing bodies to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not. This leads us into the moral quandary of whether something being legal makes it acceptable“.

It is the moral quandary that is the switch, which is no longer an on and off switch, but a level that goes from 100 to zero. A lever that is pushed again and again a staged setting with online and single player achievements where we learn to do what it takes to get all the achievements, yet to keep a much more high profile stage to make us seemingly clean players.

So when we see a Battlefield example: “John is on the extreme end of a spectrum, because his tactics are so lethal, so outside of what the game’s creators intended, so far beyond what rival players can defend against and, oh yeah, he paid some hackers to have them. John pays to be able to kill your character instantly in Battlefield. He’s surely crossed some line, though it’s anyone’s guess just where that line must be” (source: Kotaku), we see the issue that is the stage on all this. This now directly reflects Apple and their mobile battery game. a conviction with a 10 million euro fine, whilst the payout makes crime a joke. The article (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/10/25/crime-as-a-business-model/) where in ‘Crime as a business model‘ we see: “Apple required the sale of 16,000 phones just to break even on that fine“, against “the means to sell 123 million iPhones through what the court is seen as deceptive conduct gets a fine that amounts to 16,000 units. A fine received that represents a mere 0.013% of their cost of doing business” and we see not only the progression of what should be regarded as unethical conduct, governments are actually encouraging it by giving fines that were a joke on a scale that is a mere 1% of what was done here.

So whilst we see: “For some of us, the idea of using a walkthrough is anathema, to others it is a means of bringing us back to a point where we can have fun. I’ll admit that I never completed the Ocarina of Time. It was too hard and I got bored. I’m sorry, Princess Zelda, I abandoned you“, we ignore that Ocarina of time is one of the best designed and most overwhelming puzzle journeys ever seen (I never got to 100%), the exclusivity of getting there is merely brushed on and the cheaters are given a pass. That is actually beyond the point where those with a gaming guide are not really cheaters, they merely walk the journey to get to the 100%. Apart from Ocarina of Time, there is Metroid Prime. A game I worshipped almost forever, I ended up only getting 98%, which is an achievement I was proud of (I never found all the missiles). And I played it a few times, loving that journey again and again. Yet the BI industry is merely hiring those with a 100% score and they had no interest how the player got there and that is actually the sad and worrying part in all this. Wall Street does not care how the revenue was achieved as long as it is and that is a much more dangerous setting in the upcoming future. To get the required numbers some analyst proclaimed no matter what. And when it is revealed in some scandal and the media is all over it, it is the mere ‘could reasonably not have been expected to have known‘ is what keeps the board members out of their well-deserved Rikers Island excursion (3-5 years). This sad evolution is not merely the creation of another Star Chamber, an old reference to a tribunal abolished in 1641, where we saw the king in council exercising criminal jurisdiction. It was inquisitorial, and torture is believed to have been used, with no accountability in any way shape or form. It is an upgraded system, evolved from those settings that allows corporations to do whatever they need to appease Wall Street and other financial centers, to exceed analyst expectations, whilst we see that these findings are increasingly becoming more and more unrealistic because that is what the market needs.

In all this holding these analysts and their formula’s up to scrutiny and accountability in the long run will not happen, making the need for these players to find the people who are willing, not to bend the rules, but to cheat their way across, increasingly more and more important to corporations and as such, the danger is that we get into a world where cheating is not half the fun, it is merely the only way to keep ahead of the curve and avoid being classified as no longer relevant.

When did we sign up for those values in our lives?

 

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‘More’ is Awesome

It is an expression we have seen in several places, so when I initially heard that the new Assassins Creed Odyssey was ‘more of the same’, I was not that surprised considering the Ubisoft of the past few years, yet, as I loved the forward propulsion that AC Origin gave us, I was upset enough to keep my eyes out for a decent review and Eurogamer gave that to us (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23CLV1jl9oo). In the first those who do not realise it, Eurogamer is one of the best reviewing channels for games you can find at present. They have been honest and give a decent view from their point of view. It is also interesting to note that each of the reviewers namely Aoife Wilson, Johnny Chiodini (aka Mr Feedbackula), Ian Higton and Chris Bratt have their own likes and dislikes, just like me. I myself am nuts about RPG games, they too have their preferences in gaming. So in this case I got treated to the smooth Irish voice of Aoife Wilson. Let’s face it, when any review comes with an Irish accent, does it not generally sound better?

So the review gives a little bit of a spoiler, but considering that it is merely the start of the game and the fact that the game promises over 100 hours of game play, we can accept that part and the very first thing we see is that even as it is another Assassins Creed, it is no exactly ‘more of the same‘. It is more, a hell of a lot more and even as there are elements of all other games in here, the game is definitely a new behemoth. So even as we are treated to 431 BCE, which by the way this was also the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (I remember that time well), it was a year before Athens was almost completely ravaged by Typhus, and a year after that we got treated to the very first showing of Oedipus Rex, a tragedy like no other. In this the mother forgives him, the father is unlikely to ever do so.

But back to the game. Yes, there was some ‘more of the same’, but mainly only in the graphics, which were outstanding in Origin and outstanding is always good. The video give us a clear setting that the storyline has been given a massive haul over, making it a much larger RPG sandbox setting than ever before. That is my part where I answer Aiofe’s question ‘Does it justify 100 hours of game play?‘ To that I at this point state ‘Yes!‘ The story lines are an important part, and in addition to the other parts it seems like with Tomb Raider, the underwater parts seem to look a lot better. Parts of the review also imply that the game has taken a more tactical side to the game as well. Going after a fort by yourself versus weakening the enemy first makes a lot of sense, so in all this, there is a lot to see. As I see it, it is not ‘More of the same‘, it has become ‘A more evolved and adult approach to a game of such a tactical nature‘. So in all when you look that you are playing a game with 4K (for those with the coins to play in this mode), we see the setting that AC Odyssey is offering a game that remains under $1 an hour, which is by far one of the most rewarding value for money games I have seen for some time and that is worth a lot. It also gives the setting that with two distinct choices (playing as the he or the she), also makes the game an interesting choice to replay, which makes the game even more rewarding in more than one part. If I had to make a pre-release view then it is that Ubisoft is back in adding value to its brand and franchise, which gives us the ‘better late than never’ part and that counts as well.

Those who have read my views on Ubisoft know that I have not been kind to them, but I have always given credit where credit was due and in all this, and in this case Ubisoft should get loads of Credit. If there is one optional part missing (unverified) in all this it will be the setting of the Nekromanteion not being there, what would have been in the Northern boundary of the map. It was where the Temple of Hades was. It might matter as it in this time setting when the site building was erected and it would stay there until the Italians (Romans) decided to burn it down in 167 BC.

I have watched several reviews and I disagree with a few. Some state that this is not a proper AC game, and perhaps this is true as this is centuries before the Creed, is that a bad thing? I would offer that AC Black Flag is even less of an AC game. It is perhaps a new IP and in all this it is a push for an historical RPG game, this is with my love for RPG a great step, for others perhaps less of a nice step. No matter how you feel about the AC part, Odyssey is exactly what the titles promises to deliver. You will embark on an epic journey and when you think that Origin already gave that, think again. The map alone seems to be close to 300% of the previous game and that is impressive when you realise just how big Origin was. So on October 4th give your pet a really big treat, presents and felicitations as it is World Animal Day, because the day after that AC Odyssey is released and there is every chance that you will ignore everything around you for days to come, which would make perfect sense.

So even when we see large changes in this franchise, it is my personal impression that they are all for the better, there is not one part that seems to be negative in this. More options for dialogue, more choices on paths as well as multiple endings. Making the replaying of this game more enjoyable and when you consider that this game was already down to $1 an hour (for some even a lot less) making that 100 hour journey the best epic journey in the history of this franchise. The most honest question you can ask yourself, are you willing to play an RPG? Are you willing to step out of your optional comfort zone? It is my belief that this trip will be one you are extremely unlikely to regret, but in the end only you can answer what you like. what is clear is that the AC franchise has taken a new course, and as it is a pronounced one, it will not be for everyone, I merely expect that it will be the right path for many more players than ever before and that is a good thing, a good game is always a good thing, even if it is not for everyone.

Only a delusional developer makes a game that is for everyone!

If there is one part that I will miss, it will be the one hit kill. Historically speaking, sneaking up to a person and shove a spear through the back of its skull tends to be fatal, there has never been an exception to that, not even when you sneak up to an ego driven empty headed politician. They all tend to keel over, curl their toes and start their: ‘I am dead now!‘ procedure. So that part I will miss, even if there is no more hidden blade.

So one optional non positive part against close to a dozen positive parts, how can any player pass it up? Well that will be fair, the non RPG lovers, but for that group there are plenty of other games to play. No matter how you view it all this will be an amazing trip, so choose, decide and optionally enjoy this game. I expect this game to get an 88%-97% rating, that whilst the RPG lover is likely to give it a 92%-99% rating (only Zeus, Poseidon and Hades get 100%), Leonidas and all everyone else will have to live with a 99% rating.

As far as I can ascertain at present, my official response will be: ‘Well Done Ubisoft!

 

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That one place

There is a place where everyone is the same, where it does not matter what your convictions are, what your gender is or how you swing your love life. That is the one thing I always believed, I remain faithful to the notion that games and gaming is the one place where it does not matter what you are, who you are and how you are, as long as you are fine that is. I grew up with games, I reviewed and tested games for well over a decade and played them for additional decades beyond that. I was already a gamer when the term did not even exist.

I always believed that games had, in those days two distinct powers. One was to entertain the person playing; the other was to lower the threshold of using computers, I ended up being correct on both counts. I started my gaming life in 1982, almost 36 years ago. I started with a Commodore VIC-20, after that a Commodore 64 and after that I was off to the races. So, the VIC-20, CBM-64, Atari 2600, CD-32, Atari ST, Amiga 500, PC, MAC, Nintendo-64, Sega Megadrive, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation 1, 2, 3, and 4, Xbox, Xbox360 and Xbox One. I had them all and played them all. I saw games evolve from blocks; I played Pong and many arcade games. I always hoped that the women would not keep on considering it ‘an act too nerdy’ and behold, in the beginning of the second millennia I saw more and more women taking up gaming to some extent. I always thought that gaming was a true equaliser and to some extent it became one, so I was a little upset to see ‘eSports analyst receives death threats after thanking men on women’s day‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/mar/09/soembie-soe-gschwind-penski-overwatch-league), there she is on the article smiling and announcing the Blizzard event, looking like an overwatch player. Soe Gschwind-Penski was not the pesky Peski adversarial player that was up against people, she was hosting the event as the excellent eSports commentator she is regarded to be. So, the lady born in the land of Cheese and Chocolate gave the tweet: “It’s #InternationalWomensDay I’d like to give a special shoutout to all the men in our lives who have supported us, gave us a voice when we had none, fought for our cause and treated us the way we all ought to treat each other…like a fellow human being – no race, no gender.” as @Soembie she gave us all a nice tweet, all positive in every direction giving a voice to an international day. So for the utter life of me, I cannot comprehend the fact that people hand out responses that lead to: ““Ive gotten death threats and hundreds of hate messages the past 20 minutes because I thanked men for treating me as their equal, on a day which is all about womens struggle for equality,” Gschwind-Penski posted. “Hate, because I am grateful for the men in our lives who fight alongside us for our rights.”“, from my point of view that could not have been done by anyone who is an actual real gamer. I see it as actions from people pretending to be ‘gamers’; pretending to know anything at all. Like those people claiming that they finished ‘Dead Space in Impossible mode in two hours‘, or something as ridiculous like that. They tend to use cheats and god mode codes or alterations so that they can run through a game not getting hurt by anything, they are not and never will be players. I never had any regard or respect for them. So am I a great gamer? Nope! I am a good gamer and I like to enjoy games, so I will never run through an RPG. What is the purpose of running through Skyrim, or Fallout 4 and missing on the magnificent views the game offers? I even admire the fact that Fallout 4 can be played as a pacifist. I never did that, but the fact that it is there is just awesome, it makes for a gamer to be an actual gamer (cause for a golden Achievement; Hint, hint). I am not one for multiple shooting games. I used to like it, but Unreal Tournament spoiled that for me. All people hopping like kangaroos through the game, it was just too weird for me. Still, there is plenty of awesomeness in going down the throat of Diablo 3 with three other players. A game I loved since the very first Diablo and my team of 7 hardcore mode level 70 characters are decent evidence of that.

So in that setting the entire abuse of Soe Gschwind-Penski makes no sense at all. Even when we see: “The two-year-old OWL did make headlines last month when South Korean teenager Kim Se-yeon signed with the Shanghai Dragons to become the league’s first female player. But high-profile eSports competitions remain a male-dominated space: Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team.

You see, for the most finding female gamers, serious gamers are still a rare thing. So even as there might be a case in regards to the fact that ‘Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team‘, we must equally realise that for the longest time, even today that a high estimate from my speculative view is that the women in gaming are set to a mere 10% at best (I apologise if I am wrong). So we are happy that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski, Aoife Wilson (@AoifeLockhart) from Eurogamer, Stephanie Claire Bendixsen (aka Hex), and Anita Sarkeesian. The list is way too short and we can point fingers at the reasons, but in the end I am not certain if there is an actual real culprit. If there is one than I might blame the makers of these review sites and channels as the culprit for not hiring more women, or is that actually the non-capability of finding more women?

You see, I started gaming in the age when nearly all women remained in enthusiastic denial of games for well over a decade. I know that because in those days woman in gaming was extremely rare. Roberta Williams was one of the very few. Jane Jensen would not appear until a decade later and the writing she did on EcoQuest and Police Quest 3 put her on the map (both excellent games). Yet the last two were two of a very small group of game designers, not game critics or reviewers (or hosts). Yet, I still believe that women are as welcome in the gaming industry and the gaming world as much as anyone else. Anyone who does not agree with that view is of course allowed to disagree, but he is not an actual gamer plain and simple!

You see, it truly does not matter what you are or who you are in gaming. It is merely the setting that you can hold your own in that virtual team, once you do you are in it for life! There are several women that I have met who can hold their own in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on platinum level. That is all it requires and even as the settings change per game, they are all about being able to hold your own and strengthen the multiplayer (MP) team. So in all this I have absolutely no clue why anyone would give death threats to any female gamer and I feel certain that this was not dome by any real gamer, at best a wannabe, and optionally merely a game hater and we have no real use for each of these two groups.

It is my view that it needs to be dealt with. It is in that regard that I remember an article (and found it) which was from 2014. The Guardian gave us (at https://www.theguardian.com/culture/australia-culture-blog/2014/nov/28/alanah-pearce-tells-on-her-internet-trolls-to-their-mothers) , so when we read the tweet “Sometimes young boys on Facebook send me rape threats, so I’ve started telling their mothers“, most actual gamers would be laughing out loud and when we read the results “more than 11,000 users had retweeted her comment, and more than 20,000 had favourited it, eight hours after Pearce made her original post” game reviewer Alanah Pearce struck gold! Actually, in my view it does not really matter how young or old the person is, when it comes to the threats that Soe Gschwind-Penski was exposed to, it should be standard practise to tell on them to their mommy’s. For them to be exposed as the utter disappointment they show themselves to be to others might not be a bad thing. The wannabe’s will stop pretending to be gamers and hide in a corner, the rest will get a quick moral adjustment they desperately needed.

In my view gaming is for all and everyone. It does not matter what your gender, religion orientation or conviction is. The world of gaming is about the gaming world you enter, whether that is in the depths of a cathedral in Diablo, the house in Overwatch, the landing site on Mass Effect 3, or the power chamber in Unreal Tournament. You only have to hold your own. If you cannot do that, choose a lower level and get there, or get better. It is the one part that every player can do and that is why gaming will remain a world of inclusion, it is the only place where your inclusion only relies on you doing your part which is awesome in nearly everyone’s view. And the nicest part is that if you are not ready today, you can practice, get better and return, gender was never an issue.

Yet, there is still a long way to go, not because of gamers or gender, the fact that the President of the United States is still a few cans short of a six pack and that evidence is shown in light of “Donald Trump will host executives from the video game industry at the White House on Thursday, resurrecting a debate over the link between violent video games and gun-related deaths in the aftermath of the Parkland high school shooting“, so how long until women (and some men) will turn away from Overwatch out of fear for being seen as an aspiring psychopath?

Do you think I am kidding?

The foundation of all this is values and inherent choices. The choice an abuser makes is seen in two settings. Psychology Today gives us the 5 types of abuse:

– Emotional (killing pet, playing mind games)
– Verbal (calling names)
– Technological (GPS system /Face book sabotage)
– Sexual (forcing sex while sleep or based on the bible)
– Physical (killing, punching, choking)

The issue is seen in the first two, emotional, and then verbal after that we get the physical one. Yet in gaming this is all in a virtual setting and the gamer knows this. So they know that the person they fight with is a virtual person, and in games like Half-Life counter-strike we know that the opposing person is a virtual one too. The issue is that every psychopath might be a gamer to some extent, but that person will not be able to tell the virtual world and the real world apart. They merely want to hurt people, to actually abuse them, a gamer never does. It was that same article that gave me something that I did not know. Did you know that an actual abuser ‘Holds very rigid gender roles‘? So basically these threatening people might be actual abusers and reporting them becomes a duty for every gamer, not merely every women threatened. This person, usually a male regards himself as ‘King of the Castle’, it is her duty to cater (and service) him. As I am not like that, I had no idea, but that becomes a worry and Trump is not making it easier. If anything he is currently catering to abusers and psychopaths. This could be a comforting notion if the entire issue was not that worrying, but it actually is.

Then we get the worrying part, worrying because it is a dangerous step. As we see ‘Treatment for this population‘, we get to see “Group Therapy is important because it allows the batterer to be confronted by his peers on his behavior. I’ve facilitated groups with 16 men in the room at times it would become very confrontational but it was important for the men to be held accountable for their behavior by other men and group facilitators so this might translate into “making them a group of inclusion, allow and accept them in our midst and calling them openly out on every transgression they make“. I for one am happy to shun abusers and never letting them in our midst, but I recognise that I would make matters worse, in my defence, I feel more compelled to protect my fellow gamer, whether he is a man or a woman, because quality gamers are rare and I feel that their protection is more important than curing a non-gamer in the gaming world. This is merely my personal view.

In the end I would call to my fellow gamers to call out those who attack gamers like Soe Gschwind-Penski because our population of true gamers is not that large when we compare 2-3 million on a total of 8 billion. I would love for that number to double the next few years, so as we grow we will hopefully see more women join our ranks.

In opposition

There is however a part I need to mention. I never agreed with it, but it is a view we must not ignore. In 2013 (at https://www.newstatesman.com/if-you-love-games-you-are-not-a-gamer), in the New Statesman there was a piece. In its origin the New Statesman is a British political and cultural magazine published in London. Founded as a weekly review of politics and literature on 12 April 1913, so a magazine from before WW1, gave us “The idea of the ‘gaming community’ needs to die“, it is one view. You see, as gamers we segregate ourselves, I am happy to do just that because I am proud to be a gamer, I always have been. One quote applies to the origin of the gamers (in the 80’s). With: “gamers are depicted as the contemporary nerd group, a mildly downtrodden crowd, shunned by the jocks and achievers. Gamers are the losers who spend their days in darkened bedrooms furiously tapping on controllers or keyboards in a solitary pursuit that sits close to masturbation in the mind“, in the old days that was certainly true as the image presented of gamers as others saw them. Yet is that true now? Now the gaming industry is a $100+ billion a year. Now we see that people group and identify with the worlds of Skyrim, post-apocalyptic USA and as other groups are formed around successful games like GTA5, Far Cry, League of Legends and Overwatch that image is not only no longer true, it is in opposition of all those developers called by the need of $$$ (and their developing powers). So when we see “Within the next century ‘gamers’ will be a term that encompasses every gay and transgender person, every girl and woman, every politician in the cabinet, everyone with a title in the House of Lords, every teacher, nurse, banker, social worker, dustman and paedophile“, which is an unsettling truth. It is unsettling because even as we all want our fellow gamers to be merely gamers regardless of gender, we cannot (and perhaps should not) see what they are in real life. So it is not impossible that the serial killer hides in GTA5 multiplayer, killing whatever he/she can until the call for real blood is needed. So my view is in opposition of President Trump, he is stating that every rectangle is a square, whilst I identify that every square is a rectangle, as well as proving him wrong at the same time. It is not the same but there is a foundation and a foundation where a person can hide in anonymity. I belief it is a good thing, but it could be abused by those who have in ‘the core of the matter’ no business being there. In that part the Statesman does not make the case but the call for the cancellation of any community is not overtly evil. It is a non-invalid view, especially when we see “the urge to form groups with like-minded people is a universal one. But when that collective power is turned against those on the margins of the group“, so even as we are gamers, and we unite and think alike, but when that makes us a target, is the call valid to endanger some of us? I believe that when we unite we are more than ready for those attacking us, even if we merely start protecting our fellow gamers by calling the mommy and daddy of their attackers, no matter what age they have.

In the end I hope that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski realise that every real gamer is happy that she is around and that we have no qualms about her presence, even if she, in addition, defeats us in the most humiliating way. It merely ups the ante for us to get better, and that is in the core of multiplayer gaming, a drive to improve, a fellow gamer that makes any of us a better gamer, how great is such a life?

Live it to find out!

 

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The red lights of death

It has been one year, one year since the doors opened to the consumers to become the owner of the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo has been a true gaming company that has focussed on gaming since the beginning of time. Even as we loved their journey and whilst we globally disliked the WiiU; that what followed is a machine that has been embraced by pretty much every gamer young and old. The numbers are giving a picture, one that is not yet complete, yet Nintendo has had one year, Sony and Microsoft have both had 6 years and the numbers are actually quite scary. The analytical site Statistica (at https://www.statista.com/statistics/687059/nintendo-switch-unit-sales-worldwide/) gives us that after a year, the Switch has now surpassed 14 million consoles sold, in one year it is close to 45% of the Xbox One lifetime sales over 6 years, and the Nintendo is still rising its sales numbers. Another source (VGChartz, at http://www.vgchartz.com/article/272742/ps4-vs-xbox-one-vs-switch-global-lifetime-salesjanuary-2018/) gives us more, the monthly numbers are that Nintendo has close to 225% of what Microsoft is doing and it is getting close to nipping the Sony sales numbers at the heels. Even as the PlayStation 4 is now set to 75 million gamers, the achievement of Nintendo is noticed. It is noticed to the extent that in the market share, the PlayStation 4 managed to achieve 48 percent. The Nintendo Switch accounted for 37 percent of the consoles sold, and the Xbox One 15 percent. So even as the total numbers are not yet equalled, Nintendo has defeated the Microsoft market share by well over 2:1, I predicted that Nintendo would surpass the total sales numbers, but the fact that the Microsoft share numbers would be outdone 2:1 in just one year is a little more positive than even I imagined.

So if the Xbox360 users might remember the red lights of death, we can now say that for Microsoft as a gaming provider, they too are now facing the red lights of death, because at present Microsoft will be surpassed by Nintendo well before December 2019, even Sony who is still ahead by 400K systems per month is feeling some pressure growing. As I stated in the past, Microsoft can pretend whatever they want to in the business world, gamers demand results and excellence and in that regard, both the Xbox One and Xbox One X have faltered the gamer at large. Did they actually think that hiding behind ‘the most powerful console‘ would help them? That system can store no more than at most 50% of a Nintendo Switch? Who were they kidding?

Forbes had a go at Microsoft on more than one occasion and their views are not good, even as they ‘hide’ it with ‘rough’ time, with “Sony is coming out swinging next year with games like Spider-Man, God of War, The Last of Us Part 2, Death Stranding, Days Gone and more. Exclusives remain Sony’s most important advantage over Microsoft, and the company’s 2018 line-up is one of its strongest yet” we see the first part, the second part was given by Forbes a month later with “I can’t really get into specifics because Microsoft no longer shares sales information on Xbox One consoles, but common estimates put it at about half of what the PS4 has sold, maybe around 30-35 million units. The Xbox One is not a failure, I don’t think anyone but Sony die-hards would say that, as we are miles past something like the scant 13 million sales of the Wii U, but it is clear that if we had to pick an odd man out in this current climate, it’s Microsoft“. Forbes is partially right. I see it in two parts; the first one is that the Xbox offers merely 80% of what the Xbox360 offered, which is a really bad thing. What is more important is that Microsoft refused to listen to the gamers and when they pretend that they did, they still harassed gamers to do what Microsoft wanted against the express desire of the gamer, so how long was that EVER going to work? Some took the $150 loss and traded in for the PS4Pro, others (like me) left to old Xbox to gather dust and played and enjoyed their PS4 and some their Switch on the side too. One console they could not keep up with, the other has surpassed them in market share and will within the next year also surpass their total console sales.

In this the only losers will be the independent game designers who will now have to see if Sony and Nintendo offer a better deal. Two of the most amazing ones have been Astroneer and Subnautica. Astroneer would be a great Switch addition and Subnautica might make it, If they can get this playable on Switch too, it is a long shot, but it would be a unique experience to say the least. And that also triggers another part. As independent designers are now looking if their game can be ported, Microsoft will be losing out in all three fields, meaning that the red lights of death for Microsoft in gaming would soon be heralded. That is the consequence of not listening to gamers and selling short what gamers need. You see, all that Microsoft Azure pep talk sounds nice, but there they have rough competition, to bank in that direction whilst short selling a $125 billion market was perhaps one of the most stupid acts that Microsoft could have tried, they tried and they are getting fried!

Even now, as we saw only a week ago (at https://www.windowscentral.com/new-xbox-one-preview-build-spring-update), on how there are improvements, we see “As with any pre-release update, expect bugs – a lot of them. Current known issues include black screens, update errors and various issues across the Xbox One experience. These will soon clear up in forthcoming builds, though caution should be taken, especially when installing on your daily driver“, so apart from non-stop updates, the fact that the largest console is 1TB, how much space will be wasted in that regard? In that side there is one issue that both Sony and Microsoft share, or is it? With ‘Fortnite’s new 60fps mode is the real deal‘ (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2018-fortnites-new-patch-really-does-deliver-60fps), where we see “Now, we’ve seen a range of ‘performance’ modes in the past that target 60fps on Sony and Microsoft’s enhanced consoles, but generally, they fail to deliver. The good news here is that Epic’s work is the real deal – and it’s by no means exclusive to the more powerful consoles, with owners of the standard models getting an equally impressive boost“, so both PS4pro and Xbox One X have issues and as the most powerful system cannot deliver at present as implied by multiple parties, the issue remains why that was not properly addressed before launch? That is still a dangerous subject as several games (example Forza: Horizon) do promise to deliver 60fps, so there is still an issue there. Still as the Switch is showing more and more games that get a much larger appreciation than other consoles tend to have for titles give even more rise to the Switch, which Nintendo will see as a handsome extra to the setting as given at present.

So in how much death danger is Microsoft?

That is the whole picture and until the 12th-14th June 2018, when the E3 will explode in our faces there will be no way to tell. The Microsoft marketing engine will continue to boast and boost what it can, but the E3 will be the first true test where Microsoft is and if they have any serious intentions to listen to the gamers and please their needs to the minimum, which is at present essential for their survival, Sony learned that lesson in 2017 and their adjusted views are back on the positive side for the most (they had less issues to deal with), in addition, the new exclusive game line-up that Sony has for this year is much stronger than before, so they are likely to rule the show. Although, there is no saying what Bethesda hits us with and they are on all systems, so Microsoft will have a benefit there. I also predict that they will be more and more dependent on Ubisoft stealing the show (whilst including the Xbox One X as much as possible) , more than ever before, so there will be information coming from several sides in all this and that should not be ignored.

The one thing that is at present almost a given, that is that the tickets to the Nintendo E3 show might be the hottest tickets in town because whatever they bat out of the park is also the size of the market share that Microsoft could lose to Nintendo, a side they never had to fear before. The game of gaming changed and Microsoft missed at least two exits from that road to nowhere. The E3 which is of course still rumours for the most as it is 12 weeks away is still an issue as it also rumoured to include a new Pokémon, Kirby, Yoshi and Metroid Prime 4 on Switch, whilst the Xbox One has 3 titles at present (no exclusives rumoured or announced) but does include the long awaited Cyberpunk 2077 by the makers that gave us Witcher 3, so there is that to desire. Bethesda had a teaser with references to Elder scrolls, Fallout and Doom, so there is more behind that whilst Sony might be stealing the show in regards to exclusives and it includes a conformed The Last of Us Part II, so there is enough to see that the Xbox might need to be placed in the ICU sooner than thought. Yet, in that last part, it will be at least another 5-7 weeks until there is a stronger confirmed list of games and gamers. The one part that is missing for now is the list of indie developers, because they can actually change the landscape by a lot, so I wonder what we will see. what is now clear and what is being shown by data, by the evidence out in the field is that Microsoft has lost the benefits they had and unless there is a massive overhaul and a large course adjustment by the Microsoft board of directors it is not impossible that the E3 2019 is one that will happen without Microsoft, or with them not getting noticed at all. I wonder which they think will be worse, but hey, they have ‘the most powerful console’, so this speculation might just be me with no chance of this becoming a reality, or will it?

 

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