Tag Archives: God of War

Taught by the past

There will always be one TV channel that remains in my heart. It does not matter how they go, what series they have and whether they stop existing. They had one thing right, the one thing above it all was their slogan ‘the story is everything‘, it still reverberates in my heart, and for years (when I had cable) they proved that they understood their own premise. The story was indeed everything and they stood by it. It should be the cornerstone in entertainment, but it is not (for some). Some have a setting that is nowhere near there. It does not matter how they go that journey, how they pass the time in their product, they forgot that one truth that makes all the difference.

This takes us to Eidos. I had a good connection there for the longest time, so when I got an early copy in the summer of 1996 to take a look at some game called Tomb Raider I had no idea what I was in for. I loved it, apart from the part that the hero was a woman, the game was new, it was different and we all wanted more, that would be delivered a little over a year alter and for the most we were all hooked, not merely because of Lara, little Lara, but the setting from the first to the second became a much larger leap. Even as the story for both was not the greatest, the levels, the design and the challenges made up for that. Over time we saw that the story become much more important and as we went through the stages, on PlayStation, PC, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One the story evolved and it became to some degree a real story. In all this there was an evolution (to some degree). Now we are confronted with ‘Tomb Raider – makes Lara Croft look boring‘. The Guardian gives us (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/sep/10/shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-review-lara-croft) “This game revels in its own beauty, but the plot collapses under the slightest scrutiny“, now first the important part. I did not play it myself, but I saw a large amount of videos. First the bad part, a few games back. When the definitive version on PS4 was launched, I became very upset. Not only was the game shallow, too easy (on hard) and way too small. It became the first game I ever returned to the shop. I had finished the game in hard mode under 10 hours. It was perhaps one of the most upsetting acts I ever did, mainly because my gaming experience with Lara Croft over 4 systems had been so good. When we look deeper into that game we see something that was perfectly placed on an island, the setting could have propelled in many direction and the graphics were amazing, even now I look back (in my mind) to that level when you arrive near the ocean and you see that large tugboat in the sea, I need to acknowledge that graphically it was an amazing feat, so when we see the setting where we could have had at least 20 hours of additional play, but the makers overlooked or ignored that opportunity. In a gaming sidestep, I realised the same with Assassins Creed Rogue, the remastered edition. What could have been nice story to side missions ended up being merely the setting of running to a marker and press the dig button or simply violently resolve it. All opportunities missed (in that case) by Ubisoft. So back to Lara, after that disappointing episode, I decided to give the second game a miss, something I partially regret now, because the third game (for hat I saw was a pretty amazing result). The graphics were still really good, yet the story is, as I saw it better and they took effort with the stealth part. A much better game overall (comparing to the first relaunched PS4 game). I liked Lucy O’Brien’s review in IGN giving us the parts that count (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEfROL2Wx8). If there is one part that I personally do not like is the use of ‘scripted moments‘. I get it that it essentially needs to be there (especially in the introduction), but in the end, the best game does not require scripted events, or requires them to be minimised to the biggest possible degree. Even as the stories are better, we need to address the Guardian verdict. We see the first quote “Shadow of the Tomb Raider nails the former, with sumptuous South American locations to climb, dive and rappel around, ranging from ancient Inca cities and missionary crypts to modern-day Peruvian jungles and towns. But it does Lara a disservice, turning her into a deadly mud-camouflaged jungle warrior without much interesting to say, pushed along by a plot that’s more concerned with prophecies and supernatural artefacts than with its main character“, so was that not always the case? I personally like the entire stealth upgrade, but is that just me? It might be, I was merely in that setting of trying to figure parts out. Yet I saw too many references towards Uncharted and Far Cry 5, which makes sense and it is not a bad thing, yet when we look back at what was and what should be, going through the other titles is not what I hoped for. Still Tomb Raider for all I saw remains Tomb Raider, so why did the Guardian give me that jump?

There were two parts in that. The first was: “Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s series of amazing places is held together by a plot that collapses under the slightest scrutiny. The narrative is an incoherent mess that goes well beyond the usual action movie/video game suspension of disbelief” and “when Lara shows up in an undisturbed native settlement filled with people who have somehow avoided the outside world for hundreds of years, is she instantly welcomed into their midst and put to work resolving their disputes? How does she communicate fluently with them? At first, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s narrative inconsistencies are ignorable, but with every new convenient riddle or magical artefact, pointless revelation or paper-thin character, my tolerance for nonsense wore thinner“. Now, I need to tell you that I do not always agree with the assessment of the reviewer Keza MacDonald, yet that level of disagreement is more about our preference for gaming. Keza is a good reviewer, hence her view matters to me, and I have absolutely no issue accepting her view on the Tomb Raider game. I like her two issues as I saw a similar setting as an optional solution towards Watch Dogs 3. Just like I designed what might optionally become Elder Scrolls VII (6 is being made now). My setting for my version of a new Elder scrolls would have been three times the size of Skyrim with optional story lines worth 150-200 hours of gameplay. In addition, if possible I could pull it off with Watch Dogs 3 as well. This is where the FX part comes in, the story is indeed everything!

So if I can add 100% to the first PS4 Tomb Raider, which merely took me an hour or so to come up with, why can some designers not do a much better job? In case of the new Tomb Raider, we see the optional shortage, but we also see that all the Far Cry games (3 and later) gave us similar parts and so did Far Cry Primal, and the less said on the story failings of Assassins Creed (except for Origin and optionally Odyssee) the better.

The setting is extremely important, as the current Shadow of the Tomb Raider could have been 90% instead of the 81% that Metacritic gives it now, and if we translate that to the three stars Keza rating, it would translate to an optional 70% at best. This gets us back to the story is everything, when we see that this translates to an optional 15%-25% more, ignoring that element is just too weird. It is to some extent the one element that Games and movies have in common. So if we translate that to the now, we see that the right story makes the larger impact. Merely see Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai, rated by IMDB at 93% to see how the right story makes for the impact. This translates to games as well, the better the story, the better the game. It is visible on nearly every level. Yet, that is not the only part in Tomb Raider and We see the goods on the negative side of the game as Keza gives it to us with: “Salvaged outfits for Lara offer meaningless bonuses (“gain more experience for assault kills”), crafting materials are so plentiful that they are not an exciting reward, and new skills or weapons are seldom used. Oddly, items such as lockpicks that open up new treasure-hunting possibilities are sold by merchants, not earned through exploration. It is very weird that so much of this optional content is incorporated so badly“, as well as “The places Lara visits and the things that she does, especially when she doesn’t have a gun in her hands, are beautiful and entertaining. But it lacks a coherent plot or creative vision to hold it all together, and the opportunity to make an interesting character out of Lara Croft is squandered“, that does grasp the heart in a not so good way and it matters a parts could have been dealt with in a better story setting and parts would never have been better. That negative part is exactly the impact that Ubisoft missed with AC Rogue. There we run for Viking swords, crosses on the map, opening bars with thugs, merely points to run to, yet the ‘rescuing’ of a bar from thugs could have been the start of a side quest line and in all this, much more could have been reached, when one leads to the other, instead of running over the island, from chest to chest, glitch to glitch and sometimes doing a Prince of Persia for some pirate shanty, meaningless actions that could have been a dimension all by itself in the game, all options lost and even as both franchises have amazing graphics, we see that this alone does not hold a game. I wonder how many developers are revisiting the current setting of their game that is in development, because if they are not then it does not matter to anyone how many games are being released between now and December 2019. If they do not up the ante for their own game, they will merely release something that is good, not great and it sits on the shelf until the game retail store has a large sale and the game is up for grabs at 50% or less, or people merely wait for one of the producers to add it to the ‘for free’ subscription monthly download bonus, what a waste! Merely because the simplest of all lessons was ignored by too many; It all starts with a good story, not with ‘Lara needs to look cool (or different) in the jungle, how can we do that?‘, or ‘Where is the next Assassins Creed story? When have we not yet been?

 

That is the part given to us in complete contrast when we realise that with the end of God of War we were treated to: [CENSORED TEXT REDACTING SPOILERS]. When I saw that unfold on my screen, my jaw dropped on the floor. It was not merely some twist, it was the setting for at least two more games in a way I never saw coming and I do remember my Nordic mythology. It was brilliant, indeed the story was everything and Santa Monica Studio’s treated us to the perfect meal (listening to Bear McCreary was an added desert that is just too surreal).

In the end, I know that I am a goof, I am creative and I can weave a tale like no one in my mind at the speed of the Deep Blue Super Mainframe, but overall, I cannot fathom why the game makers are not better at this, I never got that, because until lately I never thought I was on their level, yet recently I was shown (confirmed by a few sources) that I am on their level and even higher, but I am not a programmer. So when I see the lack of a storyline, I merely get sad, when opportunities are missed I get frustrated and when too much scripted issues show up, I tend to get angry. I do get the fact that some part requires scripted events. A certain boss fight, the introduction to one is the setting that cannot remains unscripted, yet at times it is too scripted deflating the tense moments it had been built to and the first PS4 Lara Croft had that flaw too much (as well as the shortness of the game).

So how can they do it better? Well this is seen in several clips in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and you might have missed them. Consider an optional reality, a reality we missed in the Far Cry, Assassins Creed and other games. You pick them off one at a time, I get that part. What I do not get is that when you are on a patrol and You are in a team, when one falls away their nerves are up (like in the Arkham games), yet in the earlier games, often enough they relax and go to their old ‘relaxed’ setting. In reality, my nerves would be in the stratosphere, so there will be no lapse and even as you can get the drop on others, only the first one is ‘free’, the others need to be close to perfect or all hell breaks loose. That part was never learned correctly, not in one decade of stealth gaming, weird is it not? OK, Far Cry did get that part right (to some degree). And even as the setting evolves over an act, a larger level or a chapter in the storyline, we see that some opponents are harder, yet the overall setting no longer gets to be more complex, which is also weird. It seems to me that only Far Cry 3 got that part better the most other games and here too Lara had her lesson to learn, or better stated her opponents. So even as we see her take out the enemy, in most cases when other vanished nerves did not get that much bothered, a missed opportunity.

Even if this is the optional end of Lara Croft, we see that there was a lot more to be had and it was missed. Will that lesson not be learned? The story is everything, but how to set the story properly in the frame of it all. That part will remain a challenge and solving it, or finding some level of a better solution will aid the game makers as well as the player, a win-win for all. In this, the loss is already there, but not setting the in-game bar higher, we see what looks really well is merely a 70% game, yet with the insight that should have been there, it could have been a 90% game which makes me sad. Yet I do acknowledge is that this game is a good game, everything shows that there is positive growth in several places and in many ways (especially the underwater parts, they were awesome), yet I feel that it is steps short of being a great game, whilst it could have been a great game. It is hard to put my finger on it without playing the game through until the end, but all reviews do support my view, the story could have been better making it overall better, and this game is not the only one that had that ‘flaw’.

So, as we agree that the past is a good tutor we see that partially the past is used to make this game better, that is good, some of the levels and the natural view that these levels seem to give is always good and this game got to be better at it and that matters too. In the end, on everything I faced, I regard this to be a 80%-85% game, whilst I feel that the setting and upgrade of the game would have made it a 90% game at least, and they should have done better than I would have been able to be and that makes me sad, especially as it might be the end of the Tomb Raider games for now. It will not ever be the death of the Franchise; it is in comparison very much a better game than that first relaunched game and several other Lara titles, which is a good thing. In my personal views, after seeing the play parts, seeing the reviews and watching the cut scenes, I get to the end conclusion that this is not the game to buy on day one, especially with Spiderman PS4 available, yet on special, Christmas sales and at discount sales? Yes! At that point it will definitely be my game of choice.

What a difference a stronger story makes.

I wonder if the makers will catch up to that part down the line, because higher ratings turns that, down the track to buy outright and in the end, that is still the name of the game in gaming, and not merely gaming. There is in my view every indication that the entire Chris Pine mess (OK, mess is a perhaps too strong a word), is not entirely about the money (what some sources indicated), I believe that the story is part of that too. Do you think that some starts would have given any ‘eff’ (censored) on money if they had the chance of becoming a main player in The Usual Suspects, or Silence of the Lambs? You have got to be kidding!

Yes, you want some decent remuneration. When you are a lead player in MI-Fallout, costing $178M to make, whilst the return at present is $726,386,554, one would hope that their income is slightly better than $73,559 for their part. If you are an extra, then you need to shut up, when you carry the family name Cruise, Cavill, or Pegg the amount should be larger (I have no idea what they are making, and I personally do not care either). Yet if the story would have been a legendary one, would you care? That is the part that matters in the long run, because over time, we will forget the MI titles, however we will forever remember titles like Ghandi and The Usual Suspects and that can drive a career (especially in the beginning as well). Star Trek showed in the Movie Star Trek Beyond that it did not consider that part too strong (even as I enjoyed watching it, and it had fresh looks), it did fall short of Star Trek Into Darkness and that was a shame. I have no illusions, getting to the Wrath of Khan levels is not to be expected, yet the relaunch in 2009 did pull it off (based on Rotten Tomatoes), so in that it had options and started to fall flat after that, I believe that this is also part of the decision for some actors to feel worried, Star Trek (2009) opened door, yet I personally believe that Beyond started to close doors, even with Idris Elba upping the ante by a decent amount, also in my personal view largely the reason it got an 85% rating and not an 80% rating. So when the actor is the pillar and not the story, we see a much larger flaw in all this and even as I do have idea’s to fix it, they will need a specific person to fix that for them over two movies (as I see it) and get the rating back to 94%, the number that the 2009 movie pulled off. The question is can they afford him and more important, are they willing to stick their necks out? In my personal view they have the option of doubling the 2009 box office revenue twice over and with two movies the overall cost goes down as well making it even more appealing, but in the end, their saviour will not be special effects or merely a good cast, it will be the story, it will be everything. Are people like JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof willing to make that $250M splurge? In the end it remains an actual risk whether that $250M becomes $1.3B (hopefully better), and it the one factor is the one writer who can pull it off. It has never been done in any Sci-Fi ever, making it not merely novel, if it does work, will it be the game changer that brings 1,635% of cost (Jurassic Park), or an Iron Man 2 giving a mere 312%? Yet, what if we consider that it is like Gravity, ‘only’ 716%, yet regarded as the 4# best Science fiction movies of all time, would you still not do it?

How strong is the story in all that? I personally remain with the faith that the story will forever be everything, yet when it is all about the box office and $1 billion versus $600 million, what path would you take? In this games and movies are more alike than not; making it a fascinating setting, but also a very personal, and set on one’s own perspective. It is the ultimate objective versus subjective view and I am not sure what the best path is for either game or movie, making the setting for a movie of gaming score harder, not correct or incorrect, merely harder.

 

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Bragging becomes the burden

We have all done it; we have all made that one claim that was in our imagination the better truth, or perhaps the better part of a truth. I myself offered a certain lady a 10″ penis (a long time ago), it would be delivered in two installments. I kept my word, she basically faltered in math, was I fraudulent?

That is the thought I went with when I got the annoying message on more than one game trailer when Microsoft stated: ‘Play it on the world’s most powerful console‘, which is hilarious for a few reasons. Now when we consider the quote from Japanese Analysts that “Nintendo Switch Sales To Surpass Nintendo’s Forecast“, which is of course really good for Nintendo and with “Japanese analyst, Hideki Yasuda, from the Ace Economic Research Institute in Osaka, has released his latest forecast for Nintendo’s full fiscal year – predicting the company will shift 25 million Switch units and 140 million software units. According to DualShockers, this would put the total amount of Switch sales at 42.79 million units by March next year“. This now also implies that the total sales for the Xbox One (not just the world’s most powerful part) will be surpassed in their total life cycle in approximately 13 weeks, which is just before Christmas, making my worst case scenario for Microsoft a reality. By the end of the year, which I actually did not expect, but there you have it, a console surpassed via short-sightedness and of course the blatant stupidity of NOT listening to their customers. From these parts we get the setting that if Microsoft is pushing forward on Project Scarlett, they have to do it standing from last position, the wooden spoon place, all because certain players (Microsoft executives) thought that they knew better than those who actually are the gamers, who play the games, who live the frustration.

And that is not even the good news, the good news was hidden in the previous quote, with “140 million software units” we see that the Nintendo gamers are not merely happier gamers, they also game significantly more, adding largely to the coffers of Nintendo wealth. Even as Nintendo was less enthusiastic, we need to consider that Nintendo is still picking up momentum in the US, or better states (by US Gamer): “The holiday frenzy is about to gain some sick momentum“, implying that both Thanksgiving and Christmas could be ruled by Nintendo this year around. Apart from that the pressure is on for Sony as well. Even as Sony has been the front leader for the longest of times, we were treated to ‘Nintendo Switch Set to Overtake PlayStation 4’s Lifetime Sales in Japan‘ a mere 3 days ago. It has no chance to catch up on Soy global sales any day soon, but this milestone is important, because that is a milestone we did not expect to see passed this early. For any console to surpass its own Japanese opponent locally, as well as the other player globally is just too strong an achievement, it cannot be ignored; all this whilst software sales are equally booming for Nintendo.

Venture Beat added to that setting a mere two weeks ago when we were treated to: “The NPD Group revealed its list of the top-selling games of July in the U.S. today, and Nintendo is the month’s big winner. Octopath Traveller is the best-selling game of the month. Nintendo not only wins July in terms of software sales, but it is also at the top spot for the year so far when it comes to physical game retail sales“, all because one player listened to their consumer base and the other one merely considered its own ego. That is how businesses collapse into any basement. In addition, we see that half of the July’s top 10 are Nintendo exclusives. In variety we see the additional info: ““Nintendo Switch is the only platform showing year-on-year growth in full-game dollar sales with gains of nearly 70 percent when compared to a year ago, despite digital sales on Nintendo platforms not currently being tracked by The NPD Group,” said analyst Mat Piscatella. “Year-to-date sales of full-game software on Nintendo Switch have more than doubled when compared to a year ago.”” That is the simple situation when we are faced on giving the customer what they desire or giving them what we think they desire.

That difference is the one bringing doom (not the game) to Microsoft. Yet we also need to give consideration to the other side. CNet did (at https://www.cnet.com/news/xbox-chief-aims-to-be-the-voice-of-consumers-inside-microsoft/) and we see a few things there. The first is “Looking at Phil Spencer’s role at Microsoft is a bit like playing the game “One of these things is not like the other”“, I like the setting because it gives the voice of gaming at Microsoft in another way, my interpretation is ‘something here does not belong‘, not as diplomatic but it seems to fit, the business side of Microsoft for the longest of times never understood gaming and Phil Spencer is at the deep end there. We also see: ““The analogy I use with some people is we were like the garage band for a long time,” said Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming. “As long as we didn’t play our music too loud, we’re allowed to keep practicing.” He’s allowed to play music as loud as he wants now” this is a comprehensible point of view and it makes sense. It is almost like ‘you can play, but do not disturb the people doing actual work‘, which is wrong on so many levels, mainly because the other players (the work people) are set in a stage of making less and less revenue whilst the gaming sector could have been the supporting pillar for them if they had only listened to their customers. A mistake still not tended to I might add. The question now is not whether Phil Spencer comprehends the market, we know he does, but does Satya Nadella have a clue in all this? That is one part I am not convinced of, basically time will tell. Yet it is the escapist that gives us other goods, goods that matter not merely for the systems, but for the players too. You see, we are smitten with titles, with games, with ideas and in all this the JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) has been tremendous in all this, it has been driving sales and desire among the players, which is exactly the well of goodness for Nintendo. Sony has benefitted as well but not as much, so when we are treated to: “Even 17 years after the arrival of the original Xbox, Microsoft still hasn’t gained a foothold in Japan. At this point the situation probably seems hopeless. But I think there’s a way in, if Microsoft is willing to do something unconventional“, I partially agree here, it can work if the unconventional is addressed into a form of curiosity for the new players and an irresistible urge for those who are not new players. That whilst the article ends with: “History has shown that drastic reversals in fortune are possible, particularly when the buying public is being denied something they really want“, which turned out to be the killing game show that murdered their own console. Storage and off line achievements are the two most damning part, both easily adding to 40% of the non-buyers, or switchers (to another system). How can Microsoft survive? Well, first of all they need to get the right indie developers (and fast too), because there is a market that embraces indie developers. You merely have to look at Elite Dangerous and Subnautica on the waves that they created. Microsoft had the right moves there, but as those players are now no longer exclusive, people moved away. There are a few more options. The still anticipated System Shock will get people to the Xbox/PC if released in the right way, the following for that title was huge and they are still there waiting to replay the game that these players loved for decades, that is a need that will not die and there is more in the open to get. When we look back even further we see that there is a world of untapped games, games that were OK and sometimes even great in the old days and they are awakening the next generation, whilst at the same speed also calling back the old gamers.

The essential next step is not merely looking at new IP; the power is that old IP under new conditions can become a truly great IP. When we consider the older games on the CBM Amiga, we see a setting that a decent game remained decent game despite the utter lack of resources. What do you think will happen, when it gets true resources? When those playing the game realise that was merely passable on that system with 512Kb gets to be fully versed in a system with 8GB RAM and plenty of gigabytes on the Drive? What happens when we see a game like Seven Cities of Gold with some real resources? We are seeing that the makers of the Bards Tale moved to today’s systems and the reviews are giving us ‘Contemporary take shows Bard’s classic tale stands test of time‘, so basically, what was old is new again and it is one of several games that are out there. I mentioned Seven Cities of Gold, yet there was also the Black Crypt, Paradroid, Space Hulk (now released as Martyr Inquisitor), a collection of thousands of games, where several dozen could be revitalised, Indie developer can get the gamers what they desire, the question is which console will get to these games first? Will we see a smoother version of what was one of my favourites Knights of the Sky? You see, it is not merely about copying the idea that has been done before, but to set the stage on a scale of arcade versus realism, where the setting can be tweaked by the player to their own preference is more important than you might think. Some of the players are not Forza dedicated (they admire and love it), some are more for a little more arcade version of that game and the one who gives both will rule that land. Will Forza remain or will the Crew 2 take it all? When we see Steam giving it 60%, IGN 70% and Gamespot 80%, yet we see that 94% loved the video, we see that something does not add up. I was personally overwhelmed with the E3 video, even as I accept the review by some on ‘jack of all trades‘ to some part, the game is graphically amazing and it is perhaps more arcade then Forza, which is for some the part of gaming that many prefer. I have had my issue with Ubisoft for the longest of times, and even as I am not a racing fan (I never was) this game drew me in and that is what matters, or what should matter. So where is this going?

I think that we need a stronger setting for adjusting a game to the player. If the Crew had the option to switch ‘realism’ levels and become a Forza? Would that change the game? Is that even possible?

These issues are important because even as we want a true Crew 2 game, how far can we get? This now links back to Knights of the Sky (Amiga), the Red Baron (PC) was in that basic setting of realism versus more arcade playability. It is not merely the graphics, even as the comparison video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFTO7JHXn7s) gives us the part that we accept and that pushes us towards a decision which game to buy. The Crew does not win, and against a game that has been out for 2 years, it matters, yet the Crew 2 gives us a much larger arena to have fun in and that matters too. For gaming it will be to find a larger community and that is where we are when we see the upcoming game Forza Horizon 4 (due in one month), giving us a setting that is more Crew, all open and in Britain with all the seasons available making it an entirely new challenge. In all this Microsoft has outdone themselves, anyone claiming not, trivialising that achievement is merely a Microsoft hater. The question is, why is Microsoft not more aggressive in gaining this level of excellence on more fronts. If we accept that exclusive games are the wining card in any console war, why is Microsoft merely running behind other crews doing new stuff? When will the Xbox and PC gamer get treated to a set of games that gives them some level of an upper hand? God of War and Spiderman on PS4 shows that the queues in shops are large and growing. Merely waiting for the next Assassins Creed and Lara Croft is no longer good enough for Microsoft, not when they are about to become a mere third position, right behind the least powerful console in the world. Microsoft has to change the game and the games they play. Indie developers are soon to be the essential first in all this. That, and to address the pressures from the gamers, which is something they needed to do a long time ago, just some of the issues that is dragging Microsoft down. So even as some shareholders are smitten with that ugly term ‘Play it on the world’s most powerful console‘ they will be less impressed as they are soon confronted with a third position and that ‘most powerful’ expression merely ended them with the wooden spoon console trophy, at that point their enthusiasm will simmer down really fast.

Microsoft is running out of time and options, when they do get surpassed, the options they did have are very likely to melt away like snowflakes in the sun.

#HappyGamingSunday

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As you are exploited

Today is different, with the E3 a mere week away; it is time for the people to become aware. Now, you will take great offense, especially if you are a drug dealer, a sex slave trader or an employee of Microsoft. You know what, today I do not care, especially if you are part of the third category. The media will not keep you informed of certain matters, so it is time to take the gloves off.

I have had issues with Microfsoft in the past that is no secret. I have clearly stated that they dropped the ball on at least three occassions, yet they have taken it a little further. Soon we might see some patch, or some message that there was a bug and it got fixed, but no company is this incompetent and there have been examples of true incompetancy, especially in politics. Yet this is not about that.

We are a week away from the E3 and all players are leaking hints and innuendo at nearly every corner in town. Gamespot is giving us: “E3 2018 Xbox One Rumors“, Polygon is giving us: “we expect to see Microsoft to use E3 to reveal new features and expand ongoing programs to further bridge the divide between Xbox and Windows PC gaming” and the list goes on. Yet none of them are zooming in on the exploitation of gamers, gamers that are now advertising coin for Microsoft. We see very little of that. It is my personal view that the Xbox One series now offer 30% less than the Xbox360. Whilst Sony is enjoying “PS4 hardware sales in April were more than Xbox One and Switch combined“, as far as we can tell mainly due to the release of God of War, in addition, some sources in give us that for April 2018, The Switch sold 171,000, the Xbox One sold 132,000 giving the raise that the Switch needs to counter Microsoft and surpass their total numbers. In addition, Forbes gave us 4 days ago “nine out of 10 belong to Switch“, the tenth game is a PS4 game. In the entire Amazon Top 10 Microsoft with their Xbox One does not show up at all. And now we get the big bang. The Pokémon Franchise is giving the players a lot more, you see with “What happens when your mobile Pokémon game gets more than 800 million downloads, and then you release two companion titles for Switch that let users sync their progress between both platforms? You’re going to sell a ridiculous amount of hardware.” This is the one thing that Sony cannot counter either. A Pokémon hype that allows those players to go on playing outside of their mobile range, by doing the Switch. Neither party counted on that and move it will impact both, optionally reducing the Microsoft Xbox total sales to number three no later than thanksgiving. A bold move that is about to push Nintendo forward in a way we had not predicted and that is the reality the gamers get to see at the E3. You can read that part all (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2018/05/30/nintendo-switch-games-are-dominating-amazons-best-sellers-list), including a few small facts that I have not mentioned yet. Now we get to the overwhelming part.

How do you like to get exploited by Microsoft? That is the question on my mind yesterday when (not for the first time), I got their marketing machine all over my console.

Now normally I do not care, you can try to ignore it, but when the functionality of a console is severed, you cannot ignore it. So normally I get the direct view of my console desktop, the parts in red are advertisement, Microsoft added that, and the sponsored one is expected to be paid advertisement, so Microsoft is gaining an optional $3 million a day (that is if they charge $0.10 per user). So they optionally gain $3 million by using our desktop without permission (intentional speculation). The issue is that suddenly my games page with pinned games was gone, instead of the functional part I usually have, I got something that is usually not there.

 

I got the third screen, which you can see is useless for 75%, the second screen was gone. Now, any user can tell that I could click on the ‘my games & apps‘, scroll to the game I wanted to play, but that is not what I paid for, was it? I merely wanted to start the game I was playing earlier that week, so the only way to get my pinned games screen to appear was to restart the computer. This is harassment! This is not a bug, this is Microsoft telling me and harassing me to take notice of the Xbox One X and to get Microsoft gold. This is intent! It reflects directly to a piece in the Computer World from 2016. The article (at https://www.computerworld.com/article/3101947/microsoft-windows/more-forced-advertising-creeps-into-windows-10-pro.html) gives us: “When the Anniversary Update rolls out on Aug. 2, Windows 10 Pro users will no longer be able to turn off certain kinds of advertising. That presents a real concern for admins, who will not be able to keep Microsoft from pushing the likes of Candy Crush Soda Saga onto their domain-joined Pro machines. It’s also a frightening concern for anyone who paid for Pro’s GPEdit feature“, and with “Microsoft recently announced it will be able to push live tiles for the likes of Photoshop Express onto any Windows 10 PC, unless it’s an Enterprise or Education version. Starting Aug. 2, you won’t be able to block them”, we now see implied that Microsoft can now push advertisement on children with or without parental control. Is that why you buy a console for your child, or for yourself for that matter, to watch advertisements?

Now, the issue is not merely your child getting exposed to advertisers, the issue is that my second screen was just casually not available until I rebooted the system, that is as screwed up as it gets, I do not believe it to be a bug, I believe it to be the intentional push from Microsoft to “Buy a newer Xbox and get Xbox Gold whilst you are busy!” I did not sign up for any of that. As the system is flawed and architecturally unsound, spending another dollar on it is just too ill advised an action.

And the bad news does not end there for Microsoft. If sources are to be believed, we see “It looks like Epic Games’ battle royale spectacular Fortnite is coming to Nintendo Switch. A leak posted on 4Chan’s video games board Thursday night, which suggested the game would appear at the E3 conference alongside eight other games, came just before more reports emerged Friday that the game would receive a port to the Nintendo hybrid console“, it is not that bad for Sony, yet, the optional leap in revenue and consoles sold is going to be a lot higher than anyone imagined, it will be the first time that Sony needs to up their game by a fair amount. Even as we see that the exclusive games for the PlayStation console is off the wall, the effort of growth by Nintendo is not to be underestimated. This comes in sharp contrast that we see (at https://www.extremetech.com/gaming/269049-even-the-xbox-one-x-cant-stop-microsofts-console-sales-slide). The issue is that Microsoft will not release official consoles sold anymore (not a great surprise), yet, if we are to believe the quote “implies Microsoft’s total Xbox One X shipments were extremely poor in 2017 — around 5 million units, compared with roughly 20 million units for the PS4 Pro“, so that implies that the most powerful console in the world merely appealed to 1 out of 5 people upgrading, or buying a new next generation console. Things are considerably worse than anyone expected, perhaps the advertisement on your console is to pay for the multiplayer server bills (and its electricity) that Microsoft faces every month? (Slight punch below the belt)

Whatever the reasoning of all the ball fumbles that we have seen from 5 months before the first Xbox One was launched, the entire mess is just getting bigger and unless we see true new exclusive games and true innovation coming from Microsoft, it is my personal view that when it comes to gaming, Microsoft is pretty much done for. Even now there are a few issues rising, yet I prefer to wait until the actual news is released as I do not want to kick a game below the belt before verifiable facts are set to the net and media.

Yet when we go back to the issue that truly angered me, I wonder why Microsoft is this stupid. it is almost like they want us the switch away from them. How can a storage weakness remain unattended for 6 years? Sony solved it on day one of the PS3 and that solution was maintained throughout the PS4 and PS4 pro, the additional issue is that the difference was a mere $15, so that should not have been an issue either. If there is one thing that speaks for Microsoft than it is Forza 7, it is exquisite in many ways, and Microsoft should tend to the needs of those fans as much as possible if they do not want to see this group switch to F1 2017 on PS4, or Mario Kart 8 on the Nintendo Switch.

I think for the most, Microsoft brought all the woe onto itself, and they have no reason to break down in tears or complain about the gamers, the fact that Nintendo surpassed the expectations in what fun was and Sony brought us how awesomeness can be surpassed (God of War) is just the beginning in a race that Microsoft has no valid reason to win for any other reason to end up with the wooden spoon. There is now enough evidence and visual proof that my predictions will not be wrong, the E3 has leaked so much information that the setting is now reduced to a mere exercise. Still, there is a side we are missing out on and that is the part that still matters, the indie developers could tilt towards Microsoft a little, yet the damage has been done, with advertisements and lack of gamer care (as I personally see it).

I reckon we all hope that Microsoft gets a homerun at the E3, yet there is now enough evidence that this is not likely the case, especially in light of the astounding results Nintendo gets to show (making Sony more than a little nervous) and the fact that so far, the Sony exclusives are making people buy or upgrade their PS4, is rising, especially as some Spiderman YouTube videos on the PS4 have now surpassed 32 million views, that against God of War having only had 19 million views and crushing all sales predictions. Let’s be fair, one does not guarantee the other, but the interest has not waned over a year, implying that this game will be out of stock for the better part of a month when it is released in September. All options Microsoft missed out on, to some degree. As stated, there is no way that any gamer loving games would not be impacted by Forza 7, it will set a new standard that is hard to equal and time will tell if that will be proven to be true.

Until then Microsoft has so many things to fix and merely a week to prove that they can fix things, because 4 days later, after the E3 the people will decide and for now it does not look good for Microsoft.

 

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The deceptive engine

We are all in anticipation of the E3, the one place where the game makers get to take the stage and either entice us for almost a year, or get completely destroyed. As we are 5 weeks away from the event, the game changes. It is all about creating hype, or creating optional falsehood. The false hype allegedly shows that the brand might still care to be inflated in perception value and regard. That is what I see when I look at the Daily Star, who gave us: “Microsoft games news: Has Xbox dealt ANOTHER KILLER BLOW to Sony and PlayStation in 2018?” That notion was so ridiculous that I decided to drill down a little. I have no idea who Dom Peppiatt is, but let’s drill down a little on the article (at https://www.dailystar.co.uk/tech/gaming/696572/Microsoft-games-news-Has-Xbox-dealt-ANOTHER-KILLER-BLOW-to-Sony-and-PlayStation-in-2018). So we start with “The company behind Xbox has recruited Darrell Gallagher to work on the Microsoft Studios Executive Leadership Team. Gallagher has a pretty significant history in gaming: he started as Head of Creative at Sony in 1997, then moved to Rockstar Games in 2004 to work as a lead artist. His next step was to become art director at THQ, before he joined Crystal Dynamics as art director in 2005“. This is fair enough, if Microsoft has acquired a titan like that, there will be optional forward momentum for Microsoft. I state optional, because we have seen that Microsoft tends to ignore its customer base and not listen to actual gamers, which tends to be a much larger issue. Then we get the not so nice parts “NEW Xbox One Games rumoured to be in development“, so the operative word is ‘rumoured‘, that was a first mistake, because we have seen that before, rumoured does not make it true and waiting for 5 weeks gives hype, yet in the same space gives massive amounts of resentment. With Rumoured we see references to ‘Perfect Dark’ and ‘Fable’ with old artwork and no evidence of any kind that it is true. Merely the ‘as leaked by Resetera user Klobrille‘ is given, like that ads any value to it all. The only one that is a decent given is a new (upgraded) Forza Horizons, it is the parade horse of Microsoft and it makes sense to make sure that it is there in all 4K glory. The second one is Age of Empires, it has been bled dry on the PC and it coming to Xbox One was merely a time setting. It was originally one of the better games they had, and if the interface is decently improved upon, it might be a niche market winner. So with 2 out of the 5 games that are ‘optionally’ games to come, what kind of ‘killer blow’ is that? It is not even close to a killer blow, so far they have not had any killer blows against Sony, and the Release of God of War last Friday is Sony showing all others that their games are of a massively higher plane of gamer satisfaction than anything Microsoft exclusively has to offer (at present), and they have close to nothing on the exclusive titles front. When we see “Microsoft and Xbox has acquired marketing rights on some massive upcoming games, including Borderlands 3, Cyberpunk 2077, Splinter Cell, Battlefield V, and Anthem“, we need to understand that ‘marketing rights’ does not make it an exclusive title. Another source had given us two weeks earlier “Borderlands 3 hasn’t been confirmed as being actively in development quite yet, Gearbox has unsurprisingly not given it a release date either“, with in addition “It’s likely to be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC“, so why acquire the marketing rights for a non-exclusive title? Seems a waste of money as I personally see it. Second is (from another source) “Ghost Recon Wildlands Splinter Cell DLC is getting a big reveal today. The Ubisoft content for the PS4, Xbox One and PC“, yet there is also mention that this is merely the setting for a new Splinter Cell and in that regard, there is every notion that Ubisoft, the people behind it will not be making it an exclusive title. The same is a given for the makers of Witcher 3, now prepping for Cyberpunk 2077, which leaves two titles none of these exclusives either. So as the article gives us “it’s important to note these are only rumours at the time of writing” in the end, the entire article was a waste of space for all gamers except for the need of Microsoft getting hypes out. The news that they have acquired Darrell Gallagher, which would be good news for Microsoft, yet to surround it with rumours, nothing to show and the fact that marketing exclusives were tailored whilst the games are not confirmed to be is merely a setting for failure, which we saw with the death blow against Microsoft with the release of God of War and actual exclusive title. It will only get harder for Microsoft; the consoles are set to 2.5:1 so for every Xbox One there are 2.5 PS4’s. There is not a game maker in the world that will not make for both if possible. The only option there is what Microsoft had exclusive and keep on converting the PC games that never made it to console. For Sony, it has its own worries. Both The Last of Us 2 and Death Stranding are exclusive titles, but these two players will not go to bed with anything but perfection and for both no official release dates are known, now that God of War delivered all it promised the hunger for these other two titles seems to be growing exponentially. And a gamer that gets too hungry for new games makes weird leaps, that has been proven in the past. So were the two titles just fabs? I am not certain there has been a massive desire to get the Fable line remastered (one, two and three) and the anniversary edition on the 360 only grew the fans of Fable. So getting them all three on the Xbox One remastered, not merely backwards compatible would be a real win for Microsoft, there is no denying it. It is not as clear with Perfect Dark, the heralded game just wasn’t the stuff of legends on the 360, so were some other games. Yet the fans will bow towards the Fable setting in a large way, in equal measure the Mass Effect rumours seem to resurface again and again, also in light of the Andromeda failure, that trilogy would be equally a win on the Xbox, anyone denying that is just utterly stupid. There are a few others, but they are in essence mere remastered games, not actual new games and that is what Microsoft desperately needs and so far they have too little, too few titles and no push towards exclusive wins.

It is in that regard that we see Forbes, who gives us “Sony And PS4 Are Beginning A Massive 2018 With ‘God Of War,’ And Microsoft Should Be Worried“. Yes, we all agree and even as actual numbers are not seen at present, we see in the UK “In terms of purely boxed units, it outsold God of War III by 35 per cent“, that is in merely 3 days, which is almost unheard of. The only title to ever pull that off was GTA5 in 2013. More good news is not console set, but for Ubisoft, it does not matter, Far Cry 5 broke the 100K boundary (on PS4) in Japan which should make the people at Ubisoft proud and happy and rightfully so, the fact that this will also benefit the Xbox One players is merely icing on the cake for Ubisoft and that is what counts. You see, actual gaming is never about the console itself, it is about the game and gaming. Even as God of War is ruling, Ubisoft is getting a nice global boost and with other Ubisoft titles ready to be released it will be a good thing. When it is about the gaming, we will not care, we only care about ‘gaming the play’, or was that ‘playing the game’? We tend to all get together I tend to burn whomever is trying to hand us hypes that are ridiculous, in that regard we have absolutely no regard for any hype bringer.

In the end, will it help us the gamers? Hypes do not, it is an engine of deception to maximise the product, that is the focal point, in this in that regard that the moment the hype is proven wrong (in 5 weeks at the E3), when any of the Daily Star mentioned ‘rumoured to happen‘ it will lash out to the Microsoft community and they will hold Microsoft accountable. You see, when it suits Microsoft they are all over a publisher with falsehood, when it suits them, so either the rumours are true (and I will reports one it), or this was a false hype that has the potential to sway more XB1 owners to switch console, which is overall bad news for Microsoft when that happens. I they have only one advantage this month than it is the rare case where the Gold Live Free games in April are actually better than PS Plus offer for a change. With AC Syndicate and Dead Space 2 ruling the free games, they are giving a better value in an uncommon move.

When it comes to the deceptive engine, it will not stop, not for at least 4 weeks and it is not limited to the Xbox, there are plenty of ‘rumours’ on the PS4 and Switch field, which we find equally annoying, in addition, it is not just limited to some papers, even a site like Christian Today is all about those rumours, which is unsettling on a few levels.

When you consider that ‘Deception’ is act of propagating a belief that is not true, or is not the whole truth, you might understand why we despise it in gaming. So if we consider that the ‘pro’ Microsoft article was optionally propaganda, as well as distraction, or concealment. The gamer has to ask, what is Microsoft trying to conceal or distract from? We will know in 5 weeks when we get to see the E3 presentation.

 

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In awe of Ares

The independent is throwing its readers a curveball with ‘The survey comes after it was revealed that a new political party with access to up to £50m in funding has been secretly under development for more than a year‘, it is change, change of a kind that makes us wonder if politicians are getting there ‘inspiration’ form somewhere else. This is not about that, this is absolutely not about politics. This is about the curveball.

Santa Monica Studio, they awed us two years ago at the E3, where we were treated to a teaser, one that made our jaws drop and we were nowhere near ready to see the real deal. That happened 48 hours ago, 48 hours since we woke up, in optionally the most overwhelming way. If you missed it all, you missed a lot. For those not entirely aware, let me explain, let’s take you back to 2013, when the people on the PS3 were treated to ‘the Last of Us‘. It was a game that surpassed whatever came before, the end of a console treated to the diamond of diamonds. Now take that feeling, multiply that by 3 and that is what you will feel with the normal God of War 4 edition on a normal PS4, I haven’t even seen it on a Pro with 4K yet. The beginning is simple yet still overwhelming, the graphics are beyond awesome and the music and sound effects give it an entirely new dimension.

So here we are he who took the powers of Ares, god of war. Now we are in the setting of Norse mythology. The initial intro to the game, the movement, the draughr, Balder and a few others are just overwhelming. When we dig deeper into the game we get to certain points that this is still very much a God of War game, yet there is also evolution. even as button mashing got you most of the way previously, this time around you need to be a little clever, button mashing gets you killed again and again (and again). It has the chests and it has health parts, slightly different, but still in spirit basically the same. Some chests now come with puzzles and a few are a little trying. It is all a step forward. The graphics throughout the game remain overwhelming and are beyond awesome. The tactics are a little more essential, yet it remains a God of War game. Christopher Judge, the (in)famous Teal’c from Stargate takes the axe from the predecessors and gives Kratos soul in a way that is amazing, the deepness of voice and the entire embodiment of Kratos slayer of gods comes to life with Christopher Judge, a stellar performance.

There will always be issues with any videogame, so has this game its little snippets of frustration, but the overall impact of the game is what I would regard it a 97% game, Metacritic gave it a 95% rating, what means that it should be regarded as a must for any PS4 owner. Even as you play the game, you feel a little lost at times, wondering where to go next. It is not a bad feeling, you get a clear view of your surrounding and it is close to breathtaking. The people at Santa Monica really outdid themselves, and not just them. In equal measure Bear McCreary, famous for his soundtrack work on Battlestar Gallactica truly shines. His music adds to the game in several ways. I wonder if anyone would be able to play the game on a TV with a sound bar, the music is that amazing. I am actually listening to it on YouTube whilst writing this. I hope that it will be a download option soon enough (or a soundtrack for sale). So in nearly all matters the game shines. So why am I using ‘nearly’? Well in the beginning as you have the options to better your character with outfits and upgrades, you are a little in the dark and in the beginning of the game optionally accidently wasting resources on the wrong parts and it is a merely a small loss, yet it makes for a great replay. This is perhaps the only small flaw in all this and it is so small a flaw that not heeding my words in this is just fine. Yet as you play the game you are almost overwhelmed by what you see and when you think that you’ve seen it all, you get introduced to Alfheim. If you consider that Midgard is the forest in midwinter, then Alfheim is the forest in spring and everything is in full bloom, a second whiff over being overwhelmed and I haven’t even seen the subsequent parts yet. Whilst I have been upgrading my skills and my weapon, the monsters have been becoming a lot stronger too, so the opposition is not getting easier and you the player are forced to thinking a little more tactics and no mash buttons, it is essential to making it through. It is almost like Santa Monica Studio saw the setting of Dark Souls and borrowed an idea or two, which is not a bad thing at all. In this, I found that the avoidance by Kratos is not completely flawless and it makes for a more challenging fight, all defence and no offence being pointless in the end. It makes a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things and God of War is more than the jackpot. If the next Last of Us is anything to go by, we are witness to a new level of gameplay, one that the Xbox cannot match, because Ubisoft will not be able to match it. That is not an attack on Ubisoft, it truly is not! They have shown with AC Origin to up their game by a fair bit. Microsoft was just not ready (read: awake enough) to up the game for gamers other than their ‘most powerful consolestatement. Now with the God of War first released, and the Last of Us 2 teasers making us desire more and that is whilst we know that there is every chance that Death Stranding will surpass them both, a Kojima special that does not ill to the other two titles, but we know that Sony is about to up the game for gamers a fair bit and that is merely the top of the 2018 iceberg.We have no idea what we will see in 7 weeks at the E3 2018.

That whilst Windows central ‘treats’ us to: “Ever since the Xbox One launched in 2013, Microsoft has revealed clothing items and other merchandise which were either E3 exclusives, competition rewards, or simply gifts for employees. Luckily, it seems like that’s about to change because a merchandise store is coming soon“, perhaps with a lack of exclusive games that is all they can offer?

Even as Bethesda has been giving us heaps of amazing options, the bulk of the gamer’s desires are set to Elder Scrolls 6 and an optional Fallout 5, and/or Fallout 4b. Bethesda is like Monica Studios and for the longest time they have delivered, even today Skyrim is still played, 6.5 year later, that is the trademark of the truly great and satisfying game and God of War 4 is a welcome addition. It is behind GTA5 the highest Metacritic rating ever and the people of Santa Monica Studio have all the rights, the reason and the ability to feel pride, be proud and enjoy the reverence they will receive for the rest of the year. In this they are sharing the warmth of reverence this year (optionally) with the makers of Spiderman for PS4, another exclusive title, which is now sold out on amazon. So the pre-orders of a game released in September 2018 are already sold out, so in that part Santa Monica Studios is just one player driving the Sony gaming force forward and the competitors have nothing even close to matching that.

Even as I am drawn to return to play God of War, I know that Santa Monica is likely to have a few interesting twists on their bow of confusion. So it will be essential to meet up with Morrighan, Crone of War. She can enlighten me to the opponents that Kratos may face. The Celts were always masters of the skull cleaver and I need to be alert and ready to whatever Santa Monica Studio will throw at me next. The life of a gamer, always trying to remain in synch with the game and with life to get the best results, only the truly great game makers allow us to do that.

When we consider the path that this game series has taken, the path seems obvious, but it is not, the upgrade and evolution of your weapon have options so it can enhance your strength or give power to the weaker side of you that in itself is also brilliant. If you are a range fighter of up close and personal, both have options to give you a much better chance of survival and in the end, you cannot really afford all the upgrades all the time, so choices must be made which makes the game even more challenging and rewarding when you get to the next point. That in itself is also a new victory for the series. The map reveals even more new sides, but I will steer away from that so you can experience that for yourself, making the impact even better.

In the end the God of War treated us to something special two years ago and now we are overwhelmed with what they have actually achieved, no small feat for any development studio, laurels well earned. Even if you are not into the hack and slash games, this game brings a new game, that overwhelms nearly all your senses that alone will be worth buying it for.

That is the curveball, the delivery of something special and again Santa Monica Studio surpassed our expectations, an art that politicians have been lacking for decades, perhaps they should actively listen to Kratos, Ares and Morrighan, nothing less will do at present.

There is one part that politicians can take away from all this. It is not the expected that makes you shine, it is the ability to exceed our expectations that truly matter, isn’t it funny that the one article that they looked down on for three decades (video games) have been able to deliver just that? I see it as the combination of art and imagination and God of War got it right on all counts.

 

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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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A flawed generation?

I was browsing the Guardian, more important the movie section. Then a thought came forth. It made me grab back to a Ted presentation, one of the most moving ones from 2006. Sir Ken Robinson treated us to comedy whilst underlining one of the most important issues, or so it should have been, watch it at https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity, it will be the best 17 minutes of your week, so how did I get here?

So, I was browsing articles, some I have already read like (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/feb/05/the-cloverfield-paradox-review) ‘Netflix sequel is a monstrous mess‘. The few quotes that sprung out were: “disparate elements carelessly smashed together“, “most of them largely nonsensical“, and “the underseen ‘Life’ managed to combine thrills and ingenuity“. Yet this is not the only article. The second one is one that I had not looked at before (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/05/black-panther-fought-off-a-toxic-ghostbusters-online-campaign-rotten-tomatoes), you see, I have mixed feelings on this movie. The trailer was awesome and I would love to see it, yet unlike the other ‘super heroes’, this is one comic I never read. Not intentionally mind you, you see whilst growing up in The Netherlands, the 70’s gave me some comics, but not all, so some franchises never made it across the Atlantic river. I did see the Black Panther as there was a guest appearance in like ‘Fantastic Four’, but that was pretty much it (besides Captain America Civil War). The other heroes are not a mystery and I had seen at least a few comics from each of them. So my mixed feelings are about not being able to relate it to the comics, so some of the background will be unknown to me. That’s all on that. The article became a larger issue when I saw “this attack was aimed at the most high-profile movie ever to feature a predominantly black cast felt racist” as well as “In an era when culture wars are predominantly fought on social media, this sort of down-voting can seem like an effective guerrilla tactic. Clicking on an angry red face or selecting zero stars is even easier than adding your name to an online petition“. It does not make sense to me to have hatred of a product you are utterly unfamiliar with; it counters art and creativity in almost every way as I personally see it. It goes on with the third article (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/13/venom-trailer-tom-hardy-sony-spider-man), where you can read: “In recent years we’ve seen examples of movies that have triumphed at the box office almost entirely on the basis of snazzy advance publicity“, as well as: “fans were more interested in finding out what the new big screen version of Venom looks like than charting the next stage in Hardy’s career-long mission to channel the most eccentric human beings on the planet. And, on that count, they were left profoundly disappointed“. It was at that point that I remembered the Ted Talk with Sir Ken Robinson, the presentation that is still funny and legend after almost 12 years. What is more important that it is actually more to the point as an issue nowadays? When he states “Art, we get educated out of it!” he made a stronger point than even he might have envisioned. I think that this time was recently in the past and many of us have gone to a negative point past that. This could be considered on both side of the isle. The ‘haters‘ who seem to use whatever option they have to be toxic against whatever they want to be against using automated channels to ‘voice‘ it, or to merely spout their discriminatory bias. Yet on the other side, we see flaws too, with “Sony, of course, is facing a very different problem, in that its previous big screen incarnation of Venom was not beloved at all” we actually don’t get to see it, it is merely a reflection of a ‘failed’ movie, yet when you consider that they made $890,871,626 whilst the production costs were set at $258 million, I wonder what they are bitching about, because they took home a nice clean half a billion plus. So what gives? I think that Netflix, HBO and others are making the same mistake I accused Ubisoft of in the last few years. By relying on some business model with forecasting, a model set ‘to not get a failure‘ we are treated to the near impossibility of seeing an actual mind-blowing movie. If you are unwilling to move that could be a failure, you will in addition also miss out on making an exceptional win. It is like the line between genius and insanity, it is a very thin line and walking it is the only way to get something truly exceptional.

This is also seen in another way, most will not agree, or even be aware, but Ridley Scott is the person ending up making one of the most awesome and most amazing Crusader movies ever made. Kingdom of Heaven is seen as an utter failure to some, but the movie costing $130M still brought in a little over $211M worldwide. That’s still $80M in the pocket, I would instantly sign up for that. So as we see that ‘forecasting models‘ are becoming more and more the daily bacon of our lives, we are not moving towards better profits, we are moving away from exceptional achievements. There was a second reason to mention Kingdom of Heaven, you see, just like the Abyss, the trailers were actually bad, I consider them no reason to watch the movie, but the end result was in both cases spectacular. The dangers of marketing jives and kneejerk reactions to incomplete data, is that the studios seem to be overreacting. If it is not a positive Hype, it will not be a success. We see that danger to Venom, which would be somewhat of a risky choice no matter how you slice it, but in equal measure, the danger could to a much smaller extent also apply to Aquaman. It is a lot smaller, because Jason Momoa rocked it in Justice League, so he has created momentum. Another example will be seen when places like Netflix will grow the comic book Universe and add other characters, like for example Moon Knight, or more apt, as the New Mutants arrives in 2019, will the makers be willing to make Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) dark enough? That is the question that the viewers/fans face. Even as the moviemakers are now direct enough (John Wick) and sexual tensioned enough (Spartacus, Game of Thrones) to take a leap to the edgy side, but when we see the absence of the edgy sides, was that truly the vision of the maker, or is that the forecasting model on how the prediction on what I regard to be unrealistic data to be setting the stage?

I cannot prove either part in this, but I am hopeful that outdated concepts are moving away further and further (John Wick is a nice example), but is it enough? You see, the more primal anything is, the more it links to our emotions and creativity (I personally believe that they tend to go hand in hand).

When it comes to the superheroes we tend to look at the legend Stan Lee and why not, he showed that creativity drives popularity and profit. The man has been around since 1922 and he was part of the creation of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor, representing well over $8 billion in movie revenue. So the larger bulk is all on him. Yet, I also want to see how this creativity is seen by the new makers like David Wohl, Marc Silvestri and Garth Ennis who created the Darkness. Can the dark view of Jackie Estacado, be created in the really dark way? As a videogame it was well received and ended up being an interesting setting, yet how would that work for the big screen? The problem is that the setting is now no more about the art (mainly), it is about the profit. Stan Lee had the benefit that the art stage was powerful enough and proven to be strong enough that most ‘forecasting models’ would remain obsolete, yet that path would be much less considered for anything new and unproven. We have seen How Azrael and Knightfall Batman were well received as comic books, but Azrael and the order of St Dumas, as a movie, or Netflix series, would it even survive if the character and acts were not dark enough? Will the ‘fan’ still embrace it when the forecasting models push the makers into making it into some Disney angora woolen soft product version, would it then instantly flop? I personally hope so!

The Main event

So as we saw some of the franchises evolve for the big screen, there seems to be a tactical and business side, but less of an artsy side to this. It is almost like we can no longer do that proving the point that Sir Ken Robinson made in 2006. As we look at how much coin we can get from a comic book transfer, we see a similar danger that it is merely the reutilisation of something already made, which in this light shows how rare the movie Life is (apart from the fact that Ryan Reynolds can make most movies watchable). Even as it seems to have been down written in reviews, I found it very enjoyable, in addition to that, the work of the other main cast members Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Hiroyuki Sanada was excellent. The issue is not just what is original, but what could make it. To see that distinction, you only need step out of your comfort zone and take a look at the Japanese movie ‘the Audition‘ (there is only the Japanese edition with subtitles), so you can’t be dyslexic for this one, or you need to be fluent in Japanese. That is the nice part of primal sides in any movie. It is the dark and unsettling side. It is easy to get to the primal sides of lust, because sex sells, it tends to do so with the greatest of ease. It is the other side where we are bound through discomfort, where we see exceptional works rise, but these instances are extremely rare which is a shame. In comic book world the fans are hopeful that they will see a good version of the Sandman, but that is still the stuff of ‘questionable future events’. So how can we rely on creativity to bring us an exceptional original movie, that whilst there is growing evidence that creativity is moving out, out of nearly all our lives, how can we move forward? I actually do not know. I have tried my hand at creativity in many ways, but I was never a movie maker, a storyteller (like all others ‘working’ on my first novel, which is currently approaching 60,000 words).

Getting back to where we had it

So how can creativity be reintroduced to the people? Well starting to create something, or better start to create anything is always a first step. We tend to replicate, then emulate and after that create. It is these actions that drive movies, TV series and video games forward. For something to be better than a mix of two (like a Pokémon RPG), we need to see it where we create within ourselves. This is how I found an optional new way to sink an Iranian frigate, how I came up with the concept of the Elder Scrolls: Restoration (ES6) and how I got the idea on two different kinds of RPG, as well as a new solution to resolve the NHS issues in more than one nation. Yet, even as the ideas were seemingly easy to grow and adapt; how to get them into reality? I am not a programmer and equally limited in my drawing skills, hence I rely on storytelling.

We see part of this (at https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/31/16952652/david-brevik-it-lurks-below-announcement), where the maker of Diablo is now building something new. Even as it looks familiar and it has elements of Minecraft (or Blockheads), we see the growth of a new approach, just like I saw with Subnautica which is an awesome result to an entirely new approach on survival RPG. Even as David Brevik revamped the 1985 game Gauntlet, and added more famous characters to create ‘Marvel Heroes’, the span between the arcade machine and Marvel Heroes gave it not just a more fresh approach, it gave it a new dimension as you could grow different super powers/skills making the game very replayable. So, even as I came up with this ‘new’ RPG, I did remember my many hours in the 7 cities of gold game on the Amiga and that shaped some of my ideas. Even as some of these games have been forgotten, the Amiga was a leap forward in those days. It had hundreds of games that were innovative (for a system with a mere 64Kb), so the fact that some of these ideas have not been restarted and evolved is simply beyond me. Now, is that new and creative? That is a point of view, by altering and evolving a game, it becomes a different game, by adding to it, the game does not merely becomes bigger, it becomes more. Now even as some games are remastered and as such remain the great games they were (System Shock for example), yet some games were nice on the original system (example Escape from Hell, Masters of Orion, Battle Chess, Covert Action), nowadays, these games would be too small, too limited and too restrictive, no bang for the buck. This is what has forever fuelled my passion for RPG (and sandbox games), the idea and the actions to do what I want, where I want, and at times when I want. Yet, I also believe that there should be inhibitors, just getting every mission, every option makes even an RPG game grinding. With limitations, we make choices, opening some doors, shutting others. It is that part that makes a game replayable and more important, it gives a much longer lifespan to any game you get.

Yet as I see it, the game makers are getting more and more restrictive, it is either making us do a thousand things on the side (AC: Origin), which is still a good game that I enjoyed, or we get into the grinding mode (Monster Hunter), a part in gaming I really do not like. Even as the graphics are amazing, it is the grinding that gets to me (I played the game on the 3DS). In that regard, the makers aren’t really making it easy for us, with Horizon Zero Dawn being a novel exception. In 2018 a new look on Spiderman is keeping us interested, but the actual ‘new’ additions seems to be limited to Sea of thieves, God of War and Vampyr, these seem to be the only games that are actually new and God of War only makes that cut because it is in an entirely new setting with only the playable character remaining the same, whilst the game play has actually change (a lot) from the previous 3, making it basically a new game. So including Monster Hunter there are 5 new games, the others are pretty much franchises (I left PC games out of the consideration).

In the end

Even as it is most visible with games, there is also an issue with movies nowadays. I love to see something really new, I equally enjoy the DC and Marvel movies, but if we take these and the sequels out of the equation, I am saddened to see it boils down to Red Sparrow, Annihilation, and Ready Player One. The rest seems to be either sequel, remakes or an altered version for something we have seen before. That does not make them bad movies, it is merely not really new, which is the issue here, they come through creativity. Isn’t it sad that the innovative list of truly new works is not growing to the degree it is? Now, we can look beyond borders, yet the reality is in my personal view that we have become less and less creative and we are losing out in several ways. Even if we are not game makers, TV producers or movie makers, as an audience we are equally missing out and we need to find a way to repair that flaw. One of the psychology views is: “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, its complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated“. Even as the shrink focusses on complexity, I do not adhere there, I believe that the creative mind becomes ever better in analysing complexity and simplifying it, and reducing complex matters it into something ‘manageable’. It is an ability every person can have, but I believe that as our creativity levels went down, we lost some of that. The ‘business results driven‘ educational world has done this to us. We see the results more and more around us. We are blindly relying on automation and process instead of common sense. I am not stating that we should not adhere to these elements. I merely believe that once an automation or process failed that it will take a lot longer for people to react and that is not a good thing. Westpac saw such a failure only last week. With: “The meteoric rise of automated credit card applications has been called into question after Westpac was forced to refund a total of $11.3 million to credit card customers. The refunds, which worked out as several thousand dollars per customer, were necessary because the bank’s online assessment process had failed to gather enough information about the customers’ financial situation“, when we consider “Corporate watchdog ASIC said the crux of the problem was that Westpac had relied on automated application processes” and “Westpac admitted that customers’ employment status and income may not have been “directly reconfirmed in the credit card credit limit increase application process”” could be seen as optional evidence that a more creative mind would have seen the flawed complexity and beyond that optionally saved their boss 11 million. That is merely my point of view, but I stand firm on our loss of creativity, it is all around me every day. It gives rise that we have become a flawed generation; we lost more than we bargained for. I reckon that the academics will state that this element was a separate question and they were not instructed to focus on that as they designed the education system of the 70’s and 80’s, we can go on that this flawed system is still in place today giving us the danger of a descending line of our creativity and actual new experiences in the arts, a frightening concept to say the least.

 

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