Tag Archives: Google Stadia

The Yesterday approach

I was looking at the Google Stadia setting for games, and naturally I got a list of the games that is on all the other systems. The problem is that Google is just starting, and even as it has good games, it also has a few titles where we can wonder how many disappointments the gamers will be introduced to, this is not about bashing Ubisoft, but they do not have the best track record at present, giving the Stadia almost half a dozen games less. One option would be to renew the old games, and I am not merely pointing towards games from the PS3/Xbox360, which is not the worst idea, but another level of gaming. I mentioned Murder on the Zinderneuf in a previous blog, but today I was re-confronted with an old classic, Tower of Babel, it was a Rainbird production in 1989 and made by Peter Cooke. We might think that the game is simple and that is only partially true, what is important the this is a game that the younger players can play, it can be upgraded to 4K if need be, but the moment the Internet congests, I wonder how much playtime people will get. The game fitted originally on a 1MB disc, as such the game could be upgraded to some degree, but it was already a good game, and as I see it, the amount of puzzle games is a little on the low side on nearly all platforms. And it is not the only game that could make it there, I mentioned Millennium 2.2 in an earlier blog and as such there is a rather large game pool that can be connected too, and that shows the larger flaw in the Google Stadia arsenal. We see what some call ‘the cool games’ and plenty of others too, but for any console to copy the other ones, is merely an exercise in catching up at best and yes, the Google Stadia has the potential to make it to third position, but if they want to differentiate themselves they need and a larger arsenal and a different level of additions. Puzzle, strategy, RPG, but not merely the ones already advertised, they need more and the old games were really good, as such a streaming game that is an upgraded version is still a lot smaller than some of the 30GB games and in streaming that counts as well. And that is not all, NBA 2K21 is supposed to be coming, yet the games has all kinds of issues on the other platforms. Park not working, players are prevented from joining games, we see mentions of ‘hailstorm of issues’, which let’s be honest, was always going to happen, but on a new console, the more games with issues, the less appealing it is. Yes the Microsoft and Sony solutions had the same thing, but they had a pol of titles to rely on and Google does not have that. Nintendo has had this a lot less and they have the advantage there, but for Google being on par with Sony and Nintendo was never going to be realistic, as such Google needs its own pol of games, games that have been properly tested and they will need close to a dozen games added, a dozen Google games and the old games are a good option. So how many Chess games are there on non-PC systems? What is the range of games per category? I am actually a little surprised that Google lacked in that regard, at least according to their own pages. So I wonder who were the deciding voices at Google, especially as the Stadia list has Breakpoint, a game regarded as the worst game in 2019, and that is before we consider some of the other titles (without judgement), titles that have been ‘heralded’ as ‘more of the same’, is that really how Google wants to start a new console? There are a few other titles, but that would be kicking certain makers whilst they might be really wanted by other players, my view is merely my view for the games that I like, others like other games, yet no one will like a lack of games and in this Google has its work cut out for them. 

 

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Software as a salad

Yup, we all have our moments of creation, although this is a redesign, the idea is out there and it is set to be an open invitation to the owners of the game Clue, to take it to a next level. What happens when we change the tally? It dawned on me when I was walking in a mall and I laid eyes on the Harry Potter edition of Clue, it looked nice, it looked revamped to be as close to the Harry Potter world as possible, but it was still the classical game of Clue. It was funny, because around an hour earlier I was sitting down sipping on a coffee and try to wake up (well a fair attempt anyway), I noticed two tables over a gorgeous young lady (19-21) and she was talking to her friend (no idea what about) and she was getting slightly over enthusiastic over pictures of Professor Snape (Alan Rickman is cool). I had to giggle internally and I would have given anything for Alan Rickman to be blushing one table over, but that was not the case, yet it started a thought and after the coffee when I noticed the HP Board game, when a thought started to take hold, what if one game could lead to another? What if we take the EA original Murder on the Zinderneuf (yes, it was original in 1983), make it a first person adjustable mystery, yet every game unlocks specific randomised new options. What if the game unlocks the game clue, but what happens when the game, a game that is different every time (apart from the stage). The game offers a challenge already, but when you get a different murder mystery every time you play it, in addition, you get the board game Clue to play at home or online with opt in players or a computer character, as well as a stage where you could optionally unlock the HP edition, the Downton Abbey edition, the Walking dead edition, the Asterix edition, a Scooby Doo edition and so on. The idea of opening a game an unlocking the other skins one at a time sets a larger premise, sets a drive to play the game, especially for those who love the game. The game would not alter too much, but the location, people and object skins do and that are cosmetic items. The option to seed the game like a minefield with other cards (like the ones in the game), but with different outfits, so the game keeps on looking fresh. Then there are the stage where the initial game when replayed will offer a person to find objects, like a Golden Snitch, the Resurrection stone, An Asterix flask, Scooby Do’s bone and so on. A game with a long lasting half life, because there will be options to unlock for a long time to come, yet who took on considering that approach in gaming until the Google Stadia became a fact? Let’s face it, I never saw this for the years that Steam was out. 

There is no end towards what is possible, but what should concern you is why the makers of current games aren’t thinking the far ahead, or that much out of the box. This is my 7th game IP concept in under a year, and in the gaming industry, these so called captains of industry haven’t come up with 50% of that amount of IP. So I leave you with that thought, will you buy software, or will you mix it up like a salad, it might not taste the way you think it does, but it is more likely then not an original taste and that counts in gaming. The stage of ‘I never had that before’ and it remains true, it is not for everyone, but when you set the goal to make a game for everyone, you merely make a game that pleases no one. 

 

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The stage I partially ignored

We all have that, we hear and see something and partially ignore the small print (if it is stated at all), she deals are good. I have made no secret of my aversion to Microsoft, that remains, yet I thought that the Game Pass was a great idea, so when I was shown ‘Xbox Game Pass is a steal — so why aren’t people using it?’ (at https://www.laptopmag.com/news/xbox-game-pass-op-ed) two days ago, I was a little confused. I might not be a Microsoft fan, but there are plenty who love Microsoft and Xbox, it is their choice and they are welcome to it, in that part I would think that they would love the Game Pass, yet the article give me a few items that I was not aware of.

The first part is “If you’re in the middle of a long RPG like Final Fantasy XV and it is removed from Game Pass, you’ll have to buy it. In Game Pass’ defense, the service gives you a month’s warning when games you’ve downloaded are about to leave. You also have the option to buy the game at a discount”, as well as “Some players feel more comfortable buying and downloading games individually rather than getting them through a service like Game Pass. It sounds like semantics considering you’re downloading games regardless, but perception is key, and to some, knowing they are getting a game through a service turns them off. In their eyes, Game Pass removes ownership” it gives a stage where we basically never own games, we merely rent them and there is a plus side and a down side to that, it is slightly more clear when we set the Microsoft store quote next to this “Get 2-4 free games every month and save up to 50% on game purchases”, so basically you pay $15 a month and that gives access to some games, whilst buying a game is up to 50% cheaper. So imagine Assassins Creed 15 (whatever version) and any AC fan wants to own them, so that month the bill could be at least $65. How long until the basic setting of the game pass is no longer a real sweet deal? 

And that is not the end, the more people are hit with the temporary setting ‘removed from Game Pass’, the gamer gets the setting of an expensive pass. I am actually amazed that Microsoft did not do a better job there. How long until we see that the games that they offer have a mere 1 year (or perhaps even 2 year) shelf life? It is not a path I expected Microsoft to make and when we see “Game Pass is $9.99. For $14.99, subscribers get Xbox Game Pass for Xbox and Windows PC along with Xbox Live. This also includes access to play online games. An additional $5 on top of the $10 for Xbox Live doesn’t sound so bad, but to some gamers, it could very well be a deal-breaker”, which is not news, but when we see the temporary approach to ‘renting’ games, the entire matter changes. There is no denying that $15 is a good deal if the games are forever yours to play, in a temporary setting and the obligation to buy some games afterwards the setting becomes a non-deal for a fair amount of gamers and when we see this on top of the other stages that Xbox gamers have been exposed to since 2012 we see a stage where Microsoft might only have its Cloud and mobile gaming left, they squandered whatever advantage they had and now we see a stage where Xbox ends up in fifth position behind the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, that might be a setting I get to see in 2022, as such if Microsoft does not adjust its path they will end up dead last in a game where they could have been in second place.

That is the price of setting a business stage in a world where you do not comprehend the participants.

 

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The console stage

I made a claim last week and I forgot to follow up (my bad), and here it is. I was watching on the games out there in the past and games that might have a lovely return. First is the Sentinel. It caught my eye on the Atari ST in 1987, I played it them and I got the remake in my fingers on the PC in 1998, complete with the addictive music by the one and only John Carpenter. I believe that this game would be a nice asset on the Google Stadia (or Sony/Nintendo console), it is a game that you can play, put down and play again when you feel like it. Each of the systems can outdo the PC 1998 graphics without impeding on playability. I believe that the Ultima RPG games, but now with a Elder Scrolls first person look would be another game that could rise to fame (again), the important part is that games 4,5,6,7a and 7b would be one great game, a station that evolves as you play and they set a much larger stage that has not been achieved EVER. As such each of these systems could bank on a million fans almost overnight when properly transferred. And that is only the top of the chart, the state we see when we take the games that were not entirely at the top of the charts (like Paradroid) and we tweak those, we get a whole new range of games that would be out there for a renewed chance of more and more gamers. Another setting is seen in Mega-Lo-Mania, the game was good, not great, but it is set on too limiting a setting. It should be improved on, especially as RAM and hard drive are no longer an issue. The same could be said for forgotten Ubisoft gem Conquest: Frontier Wars, there are a few tweaks suggestions, but for the most, the skirmish part is all that is needed to give thousands of gamers fun for many many hours, and it could be ready for Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch et al quite quickly. I reckon that the Nintendo is especially interesting as it has no real space management games of that magnitude and it allows people to play by themselves and online against one another. Two stages that are easily achieved, Ubisoft does have the knowledge to run out to those fields (and they can use any win possible). In that same stage, who could forget 1989 addictive game Archipelagos, made by Astral Software? I reckon that in its original shape it is slightly too dull and too shallow, but the stage was good and when we consider other games from that era and we can spice things up a bit, the stage changes it from better than average to really good. It is not really a fair setting, because the original was better than ‘better than average’, but it was a game designed on a system lacking resources and as such improvements and additions are an option, yet there is a stage where we see that the 80’s and 90’s gave great creativity on the lacking stage of hardware, and as such we see that there is a whole range of games that can be revived on these systems. 

Yes, we all want new IP, but lets not forget that great IP remastered is still a good place to start and a lot of it is up for grabs and for those not up for grabs, the original makers could get a new lease on life and an additional pay check for the IP they know really well, gamers and game makers both seem to forget that part.

A stage that is in motion, and could set the console wars to another stage, the actual and factual stage where it does not matter how powerful your system is, it becomes a setting on who offers the most fun and that part has been forgotten to the largest extent, I wonder why?

For me, I still remember the many hours I rejoiced playing Fur Fighters on the Dreamcast, the PS2 version sucked, but the Dreamcast edition was massive fun and I still wonder why that game never made it to PS3 or XB360, now that most of the games can make it to a wider selection, I wonder if anyone will pick up the treasure trove before it is too late. Or perhaps the original makers will consider the larger stage that is now open to them.

2021 could be a great year for gaming and not just the new IP, golden oldies could be a genuine important stage for all systems willing to step into that mix.

 

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Jealousy

We all have it and I am no exception. Yes, I am keeping the IP I have to myself (for now), and I have been involved in video games since 1985, so when I see ‘EA Executives Blocked From Receiving “Exorbitant” Awards’ (source: Kotaku) all whilst we see “Earlier this week, investors shot down EA’s proposed payment plans for their executives” in the same frame when I proposed a version of Mass Effect that would undo the damage the previous one did and give the players a 400% boost in exploratory gameplay is set on a slippery slope. When a group of people getting millions of bonuses for making junk why would I bother helping them? (slightly miffed me), yet when we see the list of games coming out, we see a drove of remastered games (now also coming to Nintendo Switch), with a huge spoonful of sport games, which was always their core business, yet there is now a hole, even as we accept that there is a border to Sims, there is an edge to the Medal of Honour and there is a life expectancy of Dead Space, EA had good games and that is merely in the near past. Especially now in the Google Stadia stage, they seemingly forget Populous, Populous 2, Seven cities of gold. Yes, we get it these are old games, but so are a large group of remastered games. EA has a large opportunity, Google needs fuel for its stadia, EA has a whole range of games that likes players and with Ubisoft the way it is now, EA has the advantage. We might see the temporary influx of a gem like Battle Chess and we all see it, yet it became a game that was (for a while) liked and optionally loved by a whole range of people with zero interest in chess gaming. So what happens when the tutor part of Battle Chess increases a lot more, what happens when a whole new generation of players can get into chess, optionally with the added play online, set groups of players and so on. A categorical side of Elo, the chess rating. There is still the option to add Battle Chess 2, yet the question becomes how many people warm up Chinese chess (different pieces, different moves). When we accept that we are willing to engage into the side of puzzles that need solving, chess puzzles are there for all and in the stage that Google Stadia finds itself in, there is a larger need to get the gaming fuel going and the fuel they are all forgetting about is the fuel that is out in the open. And it is not about the identical port, but it is about what more the games could offer and these games have plenty to offer, all whilst the IP is still in the hands of EA (most of them anyway). EA has a massive advantage. Even as there is a lot of anti-EA people, the quality of games was never below the par line, not like the par line Ubisoft waves anyway. There is also the stage to grow, a game like Shadow Caster was not the great game it could have been then, but the stage now could lead to a lot more gaming and dare I say it a higher quality level of gaming? And they are not alone, Ian Bird created a game called Millennium 2.2 31 years ago. A game that I still remember playing on the CBM Amiga, The CBM Amiga had to deal with 512KB of RAM and a disc holding 880KB of storage, Any system can surpass that now, so we could see a setting where this game could be restitched at the tailor giving us a new style of clothing, in new colours with more versatility. That is the stage that I feel the most on with Severn Cities of Gold. Ubisoft makes us chase in game loot boxes, yet the origin of this comes from discovering things and Seven Cities of gold delivered. Nowadays it does not hold up to our needs, but what happens when we set the stage to a much higher level, yet the original idea was sound. Yes, I know, we hear all these people with ‘I can do this much better’, but where are they? Where is their product? 

I am not claiming to do any better, but I see what is and what can be and they are merely mulling it over with their ‘improved product’ and not showing anything. It is a shame because there is a stage where Google Stadia can surpass Microsoft and I have a vested interest in showing them how wrong their approach was, treason to gamers is a stage I take very seriously and I am driven to see them fall, if only to show them the error of their delusional stage of self preservation. OK, I admit that this is a little over the top, but to see them having to swallow their words ‘We have the most powerful system in the world’, letting them surpass themselves by the weakest system (Nintendo Switch) and optionally set the stage of the Google Stadia surpassing them as well is a nice notch on my 6 shooter. The fuel for gamers is games and adding a whole range of games that entice, reward game time and let them feel the joy of gaming is rewarding to me. 

And the stage of setting loose on the gaming world of amazing games is just icing on the cake. In this EA is a good start, they had excellent games, no denying that and a package deal there would be a larger win for Google. I believe that the games that enticed the previous generation can still entice the current generation when we upgrade and adjust the game to what we expect in today’s environment. Let’s not forget that most games were created in a pre controller age, as such the quality of game play will go up a lot, and I believe that this stage is one that Google Stadia as well as Apple Arcade would want to pursue. They cannot beat Nintendo or Sony, but they can catch up with marketing driven Microsoft and optionally surpass them, I would see it as a personal achievement. A setting where bullet point driven executives are shown the door by the gamers they set up to milk. So I admit, there is some jealousy when my evangelical approach to gaming is not rewarded and the inferior approach to gaming is, on the other had, they delivered a product and I do not deny it, I merely wonder why some products (the non-sport games) aren’t better, yet I also recognise that the umpteen versions of Sims allow for jewels like Unravel to make it, one hand washes the other and we let slide the disappointment that was Mass Effect 4, especially as there is a stage where the mistake can be undone. All whilst those who love the Sims get another influx of juice, Jedi juice is you like.

We can channel our jealousy, we can ignore our jealousy or we can deny it, it is up to you to decide on your view, your choice and perhaps your drive. I will leave it with you, and to give a little shot to your drive, gaming revenue represented $120 billion in 2019, if you want a slice of that, get to work.

 

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The Ai setting

Yes, we have all seen and optionally commented on the blunder that was Mass Effect Andromeda, yet consider that we could undo the damage? Even now as the rumour mill goes on about a remastered Mass Effect. I personally wonder what power Apple or Google consoles gained if they owned the Mass Effect IP (or Bioware). Consider a new console with one of the most revered IP’s in gaming history. This is not some ‘what if’, well actually it is, but consider tens of millions of fans now in a stage where they are confronted with one of these systems holding onto the console so that they can play this game. It is not unheard of, we have all been in that stage before and consoles used to get ahead with this level of creativity in their exclusives list.

So as I (re)designed the Mass Effect concept I did the one thing that had not been done before in gaming EVER. Mass Effect 5 is not merely the fifth game, it would be games 4 and 5 together, yes some things will be the same, but the stage is larger and also has a lot of changes. In the first, the Nexus playing area is at least 10 times larger, and the stage is a combinations of additional and new gaming settings. Of course each of the sister ships of the Hyperion would need to be found, Habitat 7 does not change, it is the introduction to the story and to playing the game. Yet the planets of 4 (Elaaden, Havarl, Aya, Eos and Voeld) would also be there and they would be larger, each with additional missions and additional tasks (making replaying acceptable and challenging). In addition to this  the other parts are mostly there, except for the memories, they can only be on the hyperion (how they could be on planets never visited before is just weird). As I see it, every planet has stages 1. Arrival stage, 2. Post Remnant Vault activation, 3. Phase one of repairs and adjustments 4. Phase 2 of repairs 5. Phase 2 of adjustments

It sets a stage where the planets need to be revisited and in that light each of these planets gets a second area to land and to set up another base, so as one base is scientific in nature, the second one is military in nature. Apart from the Kett presence, the second base will be a lot more about flora and fauna. There will be some Kett, but not to the first area levels, and in addition to that, the player will need to set the stage of building the cars and factories so that they support the nexus best. It will be around choices made, but it will depend on the player. For example in the 4 planets staged (Aya is off-limits), Food will be staged on every planet, yet the return on one is 100%, yet the others will give you 70%-80%, so the need to make the choice is essential, but you have no real choice in location, making the stage of food different, for example Eos is the first planet you reach, yet to give the player choices, we get a different setting, a such finding the right places to grow food and mine for minerals becomes a little bit of a challenge, however we can level the playing field by setting the percentage stage to random (70,80,100 or 110), add to this the nexus and the stage where waking up the right people becomes important, as well as reenergising the nexus so that labs can open up as energy becomes available is a larger stage. 

Most elements that can be compartimentalised in the game could set a growing stage we can adjust to, it also sets Mass Effect to a much larger stage, one worthy of a successor to the first three. For the fifths game we should look deeper into the Kett, we see them as the great evil, but what happens when that is not the case? What happens when their existence is part of a crucible? We need another 4 planets, in this, we should try to set a larger stage and a different stage. So what happens when one planet is aquatic? What happens when one place is like a gas giant (not unlike Cloud city in the Empire strikes back)? A stage where we interact in other ways, as such 2 remain, one should be toxic in origin the other one I leave open (someone might have had an idea), with the stage in that regard, the larger stage to revisit meridian and a stage where we apply a new stage, a stage of resources shared and politics gained. There are a lot of options that a game like Mass Effect allows for and in this we haven’t even looked at the stage where the nexus is attacked and a fight in the corridors, not just that, the damage is ‘real’ and debilitating depending on where the station is damaged, so repairs need to be made (to some degree) before the station is back on track. All these options overlooked in the initial game, the nexus was supposed to equal Citadel, but was less than 10% its size in gameplay. That has to change, and the game is in a much larger setting if the new approach is taken, a game that revisits feelings on a game published and becomes better and stronger because of it. As such no matter where it ends up initially (Google Stadia or Apple console) they would have the setting to add a few million fans right off the bat, when we see the initial hype for Andromeda, that stage can easily be surpassed if the result is properly tested. I wonder if Electronic Arts ever considered that their product could end up deciding who the third most sold console could end up being, the stage is that certain at present, and of course, there is no reason why it should not be on other consoles, yet the financial power that a timed delay for other consoles is could fund a massive part of the development cost and that is when the larger profits comes in (for Electronic Arts), especially if a game like Mass Effect Andromeda sets the gaming bar to a much higher level. We have seen long term gaming in several ways, yet until Bethesda released the Elder Scrolls Online, long term RPG was a little in a corner, now you are given the light where they are no longer alone in this, it sets a different stage for Google and Apple, one they could only have hoped for and it is within their reach to set this stage to their system.

 

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Standing by my point of view

I have looked at games for almost 30 years, and so far in the mode of gaming I have been in, I tend to stand by my position. It has nothing to do with stubborn, or with some kind of elevated sense of correctness. Time has proven me right again and again. Even now as SuckerPunch is regarded as the gospel of gaming  (these things happen), I tend to see how things fair and so far I agree with the many voices, but this too made me realise that there is another path. To see this, we need to go back to 2014, a new Infamous was launched. Now, I still stand by my original view, is was above average, but it had failed to be great, even as all the elements were there. Two massive elements influenced it. The game was almost tediously linear and after the final fight you do not get to use the concrete powers to the degree I had expected. These two parts make the game good, but not great and that was a shame. Yet that is not the issue, I reinstalled it today to play it again for a few hours, even as I had completed it 100%, and in almost record time well over a third of the game had been done. This is not due to memory, I had forgotten most of it, it was due to linearity, but that was not the surprise, I know I had updated the game on day 2 or 3 and now another update was there. Over 6 years the game had seemingly seen 7 updates (It installed 1.0.7), the final update and the only one I had to install was less than 4 GB, for a PS4 game that is decent, and here we see the first issue, Ubisoft sets games to dozens of GB’s per game per update and this game from the early days does a mere fraction of this. I personally see this as proper testing was done at Sucker Punch, and Ghost of Tsushima shows this again (and again and again). A good developer will always win and innovation in gaming (a thing Sucker Punch has shown a few times) will always beat iteratively thinking Ubisoft. 

Even as I still stand by the view I had, the game was still as enjoyable as the first time I finished it. That is the power of a decent game and this game if not hindered by the two flaws might have remained on the legendary games list. Still, this does not stop Sucker Punch from creating a decent game, an innovative game and this is the issue, no matter how I see this game, I recognised it as innovative gaming, when I revisit this old game, I see just how powerful innovative thinking is in gaming. And whilst we consider just how correct I am, Google Search is filled with all the game magazines that are trying to use Sucker Punch as much as possible, Forbes even states ‘‘Ghost Of Tsushima’ Is The Game Of The Generation’ and it is hard to disagree. They also give the additional text “I am more glad than I expected to be to have a game like Ghost of Tsushima. Rather than giving us innovation, Sucker Punch has given us care and craft with the things we already know. It is a comforting thing to have, here in a moment when my country is still grappling with its failure to contain coronavirus and when the future seems less predictable than it ever has before.” In this I am not sure if I completely agree, I personally see this game as innovative, as such I partially disagree with ‘Rather than giving us innovation’, yet when we look at the separate elements, Forbes might have a case, it is the ‘Sucker Punch has given us care’ that is true, but proper testing tends to get us there (often enough), no matter how we see it, we see that compared to a player like Ubisoft it is a mere dwarf, a dwarf that creates titans, so whilst the news is full of all the things going wrong at Ubisoft, I have stated (for some time), that they have bigger issues, and perhaps these events we see hit the news now is a consequence of stress and taking it out internally. And even as we see the news on all kinds of statements and promises, we see that Ubisoft has a rather large problem, one that Sucker Punch never had, or fixed well over a decade ago, properly testing games. That is the heart of the matter and they do know how to do that. No matter how I see Black Flag, it was near perfect and so was Origins. So as such, I cannot fathom why they cannot hold the rudder right, Sucker Punch shows how it can be done and they have done so for a very long time. 

These two players need to be shown for the mere reason that one player relies on hypes and marketing, all whilst the other does not and gives us great games. So whilst I am getting a little weary of messages like ‘Ubisoft teases us with…’, I would rather see that they cleaned their company from top to bottom, because no matter what we see on certain people, the failings there go to the very top. It angers me, not because of whatever, the fact that they had good games and they wasted 2-3 franchises is a real drag, all whilst the products show that there is graphical talent and the music as applied is close to legend. As a gamer, does that not upset you? And even as I remain cautious on Far Cry 6, does it not sound like something we played before? Now, this is speculative so do not treat this like gospel, but what the internet gives us is apparently nothing more that Far Cry 4/5 in a Far Cry 3 setting. I hope that I am completely wrong, but Ubisoft does not have the greatest track record when it comes to innovation, all whilst my idea on WatchDogs 4 is a setting that is completely innovative and I wonder if all that innovation would fit into a new console (I just do not know) but is that not the foundation of gaming, to be on the edge what is possible and see if it can be done? MGSIV in the beginning of the PS3 and the Last of Us at the very end show me to be correct, In that same view Black Flag in the beginning of the PS4 is in that same foundation, so why are these franchises developed too short for their own good? 

Even now, games like Breakpoint might ‘sell’ high end graphics, but it lacked joy, joy that a GameCube game (Metroid Prime) had in abundance. Even now 8.5 years later, I can still find joy in Skyrim (originally released 11.11.11), apart from AC Origins, what Ubisoft game released since 2017 has that (I am personally not considering Rainbow Six as that is not my kind of game). When you see how short that list is and how many games Ubisoft released, we see the flaw of iterative game releases. And this is not merely Ubisoft, how many think fondly back to the Mass Effect Andromeda, after the release? All issues that proper testing could have avoided and it took less than one day to come up with Mass Effect based IP that surpassed Andromeda, it is that flawed and we need to get angry, because a life of good gaming depends on it, for all of us. 

Even as we need not worry on Sony and Nintendo, a Microsoft pushing boundaries would keep Sony innovative, that too is a given, when there is no competitor the remaining players tend to relax, history has shown that part a few times, so I prefer that Microsoft wakes up fast, but reality is not in my favour, as such here is every chance that after the PS5, the PS6 might not be as advanced as we hope (unless Nintendo really changes the game). 

If we look at the past, many have heard of Melinoe and the nightmares she brings, but who remembers Makaria? When we consider Makaria and according to the scrolls of Nikolaos of Damascus her meeting Ares, what was the result? When we see all these greek god based games, we tend to see the big three and the direct dependants, but what of some of the others? With the exception of series like Xena (PS1 game) all based on Lucy Lawless and her formed fanbase of life under greek god reign, nowadays we see covers of ancient greek books, but we forgot to pick them up and read them. Yet the foundation of RPG and sandbox games is larger than that and I see a lack of grasping the unexpected by many developers. 

And this is not some console war, a game war can be fought on many fronts, as such the setting of google Stadia versus Apple Arcade is not over, not by a long shot and these systems have limitations, it matters, because the days of the CBM64, a system with 38Kb of RAM, a 64Kb system showed an entire generation how cool gaming could be, 10-17 million units sold and 99% bought it for the games, no matter what excuse, like ‘I want to learn to program’ they gave (I was one of them). Innovation comes with limitation, and that is where true treasures are found. I feel certain that browsing through the Amiga 500 list, I will find at least half a dozen that will make it and become successes on a system like the Google Stadia, in this, even Ubisoft has a few titles, neglected titles that would be a good match to the iPad, a system at times forgotten for the games it can play and if it does it there, it will be wanted on the Google Stadia and the Apple version. Even later than that, anyone who remembers the Microprose titles would instantly try them on these systems in a new jacket, games born from limitations and they could be upgraded to fit a whole new generation (and please the previous generation as well). 

I stand by my point of view and as I see Ubisoft buckle and Sucker Punch become one of the most revered software groups, I see the options of games and how they can be on several systems between now and 2023. Time has proven me correct a few times now, I wonder when some developers wake up, as I see it, they have little time left.

 

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Gaming towards isolation?

We have so much to look forward to, especially now as Sony has revealed much on their PS5 (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/mar/19/playstation-5-specifications-revealed-but-design-is-still-a-mystery), the first thing I checked for was storage, and there we see “the PS5’s 825GB model is promising faster throughput, with 5.5GB/s as opposed to 2.4GB/s on Microsoft’s machine. PS5 will also offer an expansion slot so that users are able to plug in a secondary SSD“, and it also gives us the Microsoft part “the Xbox Series X will include a larger capacity drive at 1tb“, as such I wonder if the Xbox will allow an additional internal drive? They still have not learned anything, the 1TB drive was not sufficient on the oldest Xbox One and with two generations the storage requirements merely increased with 4K, but the Microsoft executives have the idea that their consumers will accept what THEY consider wisdom, well as I personally see it, they do not.

And I get it, 1TB is enough to start with, but at the end of the first year we need more. Now, let’s be clear, I do not know if that internal drive can be upgraded like the others, We did not have that information on the PS4 until the first week of the PS4, so the Sony situation might actually be better, but even then, in this situation a secondary internal drive might fit the bill. And optionally we can select the Samsung 860 QVO 2TB 2.5″ SATA III SSD for $325, which gives us the additional 2tb that gets us a comfortable 3tb in total. The nice part here is that we do not need to do it on day one and for a while enjoy the PS5 as is. Don’t get me wrong I never regretted the 2TB drive in week one, but there is a benefit to this setup, and Microsoft in 8 years has not learned this lesson (or refused to learn it). 

There is an additional win, this time for Microsoft: “Microsoft has confirmed the machine will be able to play games from each previous generation of the machine, while Sony is only currently talking about backwards compatibility with PS4 titles“, it’s a fair win, yet at present I cannot remember when I even considered playing a PS3 game in the last 36 months, all whilst the games I love will be playable on the PS5 (Skyrim, Last of Us, God of War, Elite Dangerous), and now that I will be able to replay them in 4K mode, I will get a secondary WOW feeling from games I have had for years. 

As such we are in for a little larger christmas list this year around, as the PS5 (I reckon the Microsoft contraption as well) will get the best from a 4K 120Hz TV, as well as some of the 8K TV[‘s (for the rich bastards among you folks), we get to have the nicest digital christmas for a while. In my perception (at present) the Sony X8000G 65″ 4K UHD is a great buy at $1300, and even then I realise that it is not as cheap as some models in the same size offer, in that field players like LG and HiSense offer models for less than $1000. They all have 4HDMI ports, so that is not the achilles heel to worry about, I reckon that there are automated features in Sony I kinda love, when I switch on my Sony Bluray player, the TV also goes on, when I switch on my PS4, the TV reacts as well, all things other brands do not seem to have and that is fine, they are minor points that do not take away from the joy of a TV. I reckon that the one thing we all will need to enjoy the console a lot more this time around is a soundbar, there are plenty of solutions and even as there optionally might be benefit to having the same brand as the TV, there is not one person that can convince me that there is an actual contender to whatever Bang and Olufsen or Bose can bring, I heard the B&O solution this week and it almost literally blew my socks off (I found them 30 minutes later). That would be one hell of a way to hear what the Sony PlayStation 5’s Tempest 3D Audio engine brings to the table. Now, I get it, you can get that part later, or get it when there is a sale going on, yet I reckon that you want it the first time you hear that distinction, because it will be a much larger distinction. Lets face it, you were getting a TV, it has its ups and the sound no matter how great it is with Blu Rays, will not compare what a 3D audio engine brings to the table. Will you essentially need it on day one? Absolutely not, it is actually better to get it later, the WOW factor is pretty awesome, but once you have it, you won’t enjoy sound without it, no matter if it is a bluray or a game, the soundbar brings a lot to the table.

Yet in all this I am aware that we do not all have the coins to get it on day one and in that regard it is now the time to start looking for that 4K TV, or at least saving up for it (a decent 8K TV starts at $9,000), and you need not go for the larger brands, one option was a nameless brand giving a 50″ 4K TV for $450, consider the $79 for additional warranty (an extra 3 years) and you are set for 3-4 years. Then we get the target of our desires (the PS5) and here we see that they are still not giving us a price, but I reckon that $550 gets you there, as such you see a $1100 need by the end of the year. The additional $800 (soundbar and additional drive) is set to a later date giving you a year’s respite and you will end up having upgraded your gaming experience to almost the  highest end. 

In the end we can get all geeky with “CPU: x86-64-AMD Ryzen Zen 2, eight cores, variable frequency, up to 3.5 GHz GPU: AMD Radeon RDNA 2-based graphics engine, variable frequency, up to 2.23 GHz (10.3 Tflops)“, yet in the end, we gamers want to see our socks blow off when we restart Diablo III, God of War IV, Skyrim and a few other titles and wonder how we were ever happy playing it on a standard day one version of the PS4, that too is the adaptation towards new technology. And all that before you see the impact of a PS5 game. We can argue and speculate all we want, but until there is a launch trailer and official release date, I am discarding all the rumours. CD Projekt Red already gave the goods that Cyberpunk 2077 will be a PS4 title, not a PS5 release, it will optionally look better on the PS5, but it will not be designed specific for it as such, the same tale applies to the microsoft version. It is an important distinction as we will see that the best experience on either console will be CD Projekt Red with both Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, a distinction that sets them apart and ahead of all the other AAA developers. If getting a new console is about the best gameplay you could experience, it needs to include a CD Projekt Red (Witcher 3 or Cyberpunk 2077) game. I am not discounting the joy that Skyrim or Fallout 4 brought, I will want to replay them in 4K mode, but the distinction that the best feelings in gaming will be available on day one if you have any of these games is just a little too awesome for anyone’s good.

In all this we see that others are in their own world of hurt (no need to kick a developer when they are down). If there is one speculation that cannot be ignored, then it is the coming of a Harry Potter RPG to the PS5. An important distinction here is that in all the text none of them are making any ‘exclusive’ noise, as such I reckon that both the Microsoft and the Sony console will get this title, even as all the references only include the PS5 mention, the absence of ‘exclusive’ gives the larger rise that it will be on both platforms.

So whilst we wonder what will be coming to either console, the fact that most of us have the greatest games already on the PS4 and some will be getting the Last of Us part 2 (presently on 29 May 2020), we see an abundance of new WOW feelings as we replay the games we already had (for those who had no PS4 pro). 

For that too is a side of gaming we forget. The idea that we played Skyrim, but did we see it? Try it in 4K and see if you can play the game without finding your lower jaw on the floor, I dare you! The same can be said for Fallout 4. In that same trend, if Witcher 3 blows us away in 4K mode, what will Cyberpunk 2077 do? The boys (girls also) at CD Projekt Red were very distinct in the fact that they want to surpass Witcher 3, as such, whatever more time they need, I will not be offended. I merely hope that William Gibson (writer of Neuromancer) will be there at the launch to see the world he wrote about becomes as close to reality via a console, as he wrote it in 1984, the technology did not exist to blow him away, Sony needed a little longer for that, now that the time is here, I wonder what his thoughts will be on what the in his mind created world became in the hands of CD Projekt Red. 

Even as we are isolating ourselves in gaming, the setting is not that far away, if this Coronavirus (not the beer) is here to stay, alone time with the console will set us free. Lets face it, in this day and age, we see an absurd amount of reflection on something that we cannot avoid. 

OK, I get it, what had an initial mortality rate of 3.2% is now 4.1% as such our survival rate goes allegedly down, yet the amount of people is still well over 95%, so we should not worry, or if we do get a PS5 at the end of the year and celebrate our life in another way. 

Gamers have enjoyed this style of life for decades, are we crying? Nope!

How do we game towards isolation? In fact we do not, when Facebook started groups and gaming groups got involved, we saw an uncanny amount of new connections, this is likely to repeat itself when the PS5 (and Microsoft contraption) comes out. I even speculated on an upgraded version of console dependent social media (on the consoles), yet even as the previous versions were already in that mindset, the makers (both Sony and Microsoft) took too limited a view on it and as such both lost out. It is clear that we want to shout our achievements out at times, we also want to share a lot more, but the station at which both offer that is mindlessly limited to a larger degree. Both systems forgot to think things through and even as Microsoft is ahead of that game, both still think on how THEY can profit visibility, the thought of how the gamer benefits is seen that as they can approach the gamer, the gamer wins, which is the wrong attitude to have. In this they merely had to look towards Google Plus and learn from what was there, they did not. 

I believe that the next gen consoles will have a much larger stage as they embrace ‘true’ social media (not brand and profit driven media), as such we see that both systems have a much larger field to enjoy. I am not stating that any profit driven option is out of bounds, but to have 50% of your homescreen limiting itself to advertisements (Xbox issue) is just stupid, the home screen is where you start your game and see 50% removed for usage is just silly (on more than one level). Yes, the new platforms could ring in a few stages that embrace connections, will they? I honestly do not know and even as the PS3 had the advantage, the PS5 can recreate that advantage and see a much larger boost, in the opposition Microsoft might decide to wake up and do something about it all, will they? 

I do not know, but the lost connections and the stage where it could optionally lead to better revenue is just silly. Yes, I am all for non-profit-driven-players, yet I am not saying that to some degree it should not exist. 

For example, we have social media and we have the PS3 situation of PS Home. Consider that you have your one environment, for example it comes with the next Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed game, for example the Montefiori villa. You get to have one location for yourself (the villa) you can set the main game you are playing and how far you got. in some of them, you get to have a note board where people leave links to their mail and messages, screenshots and you decide who gets to leave those (Google Plus feature). As you chose the location that provider will have a place to advertise new things (and they alone). You get to walk around your place looking at the news and at the interactions you decide on, the previous version never had that. Will it be the Montefiori Villa, a Watchdogs location, the Batcave, a last of us house, or a house in Skyrim, and there is still the community wall where you get a better sense of what is placed there and you can decide. All elements that make for a much larger stage, a stage largely ignored at present, or at times too overwhelming. It requires filtering for some and almost none are there and both players have this issue. And to be honest, I would have thought they would have done a much better job of it (ever since the PS3), both players had the wrong hat on and in the end it makes the wall a ‘whatever!’ experience. 

I believe that the PS5 (and Microsoft equivalent) have a new stage in 2021-2022, as 5G is playing a much larger stage, there will be a larger stage for people to feel comfy in, it applies to gaming as well. Even as we are all in it for the game, the stage where we are comparing and reading about other gamers will become a lot more distinct. Perhaps it is the one field where the Google Stadia could rule in the end. 

I believe that it shows a much larger community that is out there. Some gamers do not want to talk to all their friends, they do not want to read about all the others, but he or she might want to look at something specific and it will differ per game, neither Microsoft or Sony considered that for almost three generations. None of them gave the right focal point on filtering, they merely dumped it all on the player, who ignored it in a hurry.

Forbes gave us 4 days ago “Stadia has been struggling to make waves and capture the interest of harder core players who were willing to pay for Founder’s Editions or the paid tier. But now with everyone stuck indoors, it seems like the right time to introduce the free tier” (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2020/03/16/coronavirus-quarantine-seems-like-the-right-time-for-google-stadia-to-release-its-free-tier/#e60fd00b168f), I believe that the issue goes beyond that. Yes the article reads easier when we see ‘the free tier‘, yet the truth is that this is the stage of cash strapped people, the gamer has another need, to see what they want to see and that is not addressed, by none of the providers, they merely dump a shitload of items and issues, with no filtering, or at most limited filtering.

Even as we are all gamers, we all have distinct needs or interests. I am interested in some of my friends on how far they get, one of them is a Witcher virtuoso, so seeing where he gets at is interesting, some games have nothing to contribute to me and some gamers are seemingly in it to get achievements. i cannot directly see which gamer is in it to enjoy Skyrim and who is in it to run through Skyrim. Filtering of users, friends and game specific items became apparent and it has been that way since the PS3/Xbox360, yet the makers did not really catch up, not in almost 15 years, how peculiar. There is always the option that they did not think it worthy of their attention, but that choice is dwindling down in light of what 5G offer and what the hardware can currently deal with.

It is a stage where we force our bodies into isolation, yet the mind is globally available and that is how it has been with gamers almost 30 years (M.U.L.E.) that is one of the first games that had enough multiplayer sides for people to take a much larger interest and the CBM64 (with an actual 300 bit modem option, no less) took that to another level (in those days). 

We (the people at Sony) seemingly forgot to take that into account and even as the world premiere on the PS3 implied it, it never really came to the degree we all desired, yet this time around, the isolation phase in the Coronavirus might give them pause to think on what gamers need and desire and adjust the system accordingly. The fact that most is software arranged implies that the systems will not be impeded and it could all be finished and better adjusted to when the console launches. I believe that whomever adjusts to that has a much larger audience to cater to when that part is realised. We might (to some degree) be in denial of that, yet I believe that the lockdown and self imposed isolation out there will push these issues to the surface and I believe that it will happen just in time. I reckon that the 2020 Olympics will add to that flavour of realisation as well. No matter whether the Olympics will be delayed for up to a year, or that Wimbledon will push that part to the upper reaches, it is a field where we see growth of a different nature, 5G already has the ability to set things in faster mode, but gamers have not been so lucky and we need to consider this, in the past where it was all PS2, the world consisted of 150,000,000 gamers, now that number has grown to well over 500% and now, as we see that 1,000,000,000 people want to reach out, now we see that the proper addressing on how they can reach out will matter, even as Facebook ignored it for far too long to cater towards advertisers, we see that consoles have a much larger game to play here. 

I merely hope that Sony (and others) take notice when it can still impact them in a positive way, the next two years will show where it ends. Will it end well? I cannot say at present.

 

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The time is now

Yesterday, an article in the BBC made me aware of a few items. Now, I was aware to a larger degree of most items, yet I kept it in the second drawer of the third desk of my brain, it was something I took for accepted and then shrug it off, so what changed? Nothing actually changed, but the article seems good enough to take a few items on view.

The article (at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-51115315) gives us “Google has announced a timeline for implementing new privacy standards that will limit third-party use of a digital tool known as cookies“, now this is nothing new, it was always going to happen, yet we also see: “analysts say the move gives Google more control over the digital ad market where it is already a major player.  To make advertising more personal web browsers collect small bits of information that allow them to create a profile of the users likes and online habits“, the question becomes, is that actually true? And when we see “This presents a core problem from a competition perspective. It is yet another example of Google diminishing ad rivals’ access to data for the stated purpose of protecting users’ privacy“, a quote from Dina Srinivasan, a lawyer focused on competition issues is not really that truthful, is it? Apple made a similar move in 2017 and when we go back in time, we see Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Opera. Most will have forgotten Netscape who became defunct in 2003, and basically stopped making a blip 2 years before that. We seemingly forgot about the exploitative market that Microsoft had in those days with Internet Explorer and all the crap it added to our HTML files (as did Word when we saved as an HTML file), in those days data in files was still an issue because there was a limit to what we could safe when we were not rich. Chrome was the first to keep our files clean, or at least lacking a lot of rubbish. Netscape was however on a different route, an employee of Netscape Communications, which was developing an e-commerce application for MCI. MCI did not want its servers to have to retain partial transaction states which was a killer for storage, as such they asked the people at Netscape to find a way to store partial options and methods of transactions where it mattered the most, at the side of the buyer, Cookies provided a solution to the problem of reliably implementing a virtual shopping cart, Google found a new way of using that idea and used cookies in the far reaching solution it currently has, they innovated, others merely took on board someone else’s solution and not they are all crying foul. Perhaps when these people had taken the time to innovate, they would have the choice, and the option of two years seems decent, so when I read “advertisers had hoped to have more time before it was implemented” is as I personally see a larger BS issue on timeframes and exploitation, if advertisers are in the now, they would be all about advanced implementation, yet they like their bonus and they seemingly do not like to spend money on investments to counter the timeline (an assumption from my side). 

Google’s director of Chrome engineering, Justin Schuh gives us “Users are demanding greater privacy – including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used – and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands“, which seems slightly too political to my liking, but there we have it. Business Day gives us “But GDPR also made life harder for a cohort of second-tier adtech players trying to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook. The regulation’s provision to prevent data being shared wantonly with third parties seemed to give the tech giants an opportunity to tighten their control over user data” where we see that this was one of the foundations that led to the end of SizMek, some state that it was DSP Rocket Fuel that ended the heartbeat of SizMek, yet everyone ignores a simple truth, ‘an overcrowded ad tech market with independent vendors with an inability to face serious cost pressures to their pricing structures‘, they all arrogantly believed that THEIR solution was the real one and they all basically read cookies like the ones Google had distributed. You can all claim to have the magic potion that Asterix drinks, but when the truth comes out that he drinks Darjeeling tea from India, the playing field gets overcrowded and when the customer figures out what they get priced for the end is pretty much around the corner of the next door you face.

So as we are told “third-party ad sellers will need to go through Google to get information about internet users. But critics say that is an advantage that makes the market less fair and safe“, in my view my question becomes: ‘Which critics, names please!‘, the problem is that third party ad sellers have no rights, none at all, the rights should be with the owner of the computer, Google (Apple also) are setting (not by their own accord) that stage, Microsoft is using their Azure Cloud to counter the Cookie option on PC and Microsoft Console, but the hard sight is already there, the people who are unable, unwilling and cannot afford to set the stage still want their freebee and they are now starting to complain as they are made aware that their time has ended, even though this was the direction we saw in US politics and EU politics well over three years ago. The EU had their General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and everyone shrugged their shoulders stating that it would not happen that fast, yet that was three years ago and now the time has been set back to merely two years to go and the ad sellers are feeling the pinch of the cost they will actually face. Moreover, they are seeing the red lights of career ends. The Verge gave us “an industry that’s used to collecting and sharing data with little to no restriction, that means rewriting the rules of how ads are targeted online“, they gave us that on May 25th 2018, so 1.5 years ago, why is this now a problem? The people wanted this, ad soon it will be here, Google has not been sitting still updating their systems accordingly, and as such we see that the flaccid and non-concerned rest is now looking at a deadline a mere two years away. When we look to the larger field we see Criteo, LiveRamp, Trade Desk, Rubicon, and Telaria, all losing value as ad-tech providers, yet the opposite could also be true when they offer to the customer a value, a value where most ad-tech companies never bothered going. Yet the power of any ad-tech was never the cookie, that was for the most merely the revenue. They had 5 years to consider the power of ad-tech and they didn’t. The power of this is basically engagement. Facebook showed this year after year and now it is out on the larger field, those who engage will survive, the rest will end up on a dog eat dog football field and a few will survive but only as long as they push to the next hurdle and make it, if not they will end up on the obituary page (just like Netscape, however Netscape ended there for other reasons). 

I wonder if that is why Google is so adamant about its stadia? It would get a massive tier of small time developers creating engagement content to be released on mobiles. That i me merely speculating. 

Still the words of Dina Srinivasan are not entirely without merit, she gives the Facebook issue (at https://www.wsj.com/articles/yale-law-grads-hipster-antitrust-argument-against-facebook-findsmainstream-support-11575987274), and she makes a good case, yet the history of certain players need to be taken into account. Even as she was her own misgivings about the evolution of the digital advertising market, history had been clear, some of them basically did not bother, they wanted it handed to them for free and in the beginning they got away with it. And she made a point with “How could a company with Facebook Inc.’s checkered privacy record have obtained so much of its users’ personal data?“, yet equally we need to weigh this with the words of U.S. Attorney General William Barr. He gives us “he is “open to that argument” that consumer harm can exist through the use of personal data, even if a service is free. “I am inclined to think there is no free lunch. Something that is free is actually getting paid for one way or the other”“, which is what I have been saying on my blog for around 4 years, so happy to see people wake up in January 2020. So when I see “Ms. Srinivasan would prefer that Facebook be forced to change certain business practices, including how it tracks users when they are off the company’s platforms“, I wonder when they give account to the small truth that Facebook is a free service for a reason and they are no longer alone in this, you are going after the large players when they are in the largest danger by losing slices of that revenue pie to contenders elsewhere in the world (EU and China). 

Whatever you want to do is fine, but realise that it will put a large group of people in the streets without a job, I am not against them losing their job, but that revenue and that data will also flow in other directions and that is the one part that all players (with political support) are trying to counter as much as possible. I wonder if they will succeed. The weird part is that if this group had been properly taxed 3 out of the 5 major issues would also fall away and in that view a workable solution could be pivoted to.

 

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It’s been that long

I got alerted to a milestone yesterday on YouTube, you see, last week was the 25th anniversary of System Shock, one of my most beloved games from the past. I still remember the two moments that set the milestones for this game. The first was the PC Format by Future plc. About a month before the release, PC format included the entire first level of the game (medical level). So you got about an hour of gameplay into that game, a month later the game arrived and of course, I had to have that game on day one! I did and that started a tour of around a week getting through the game. Someone was nice enough to stream the game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IzNzVAxk8E) the stream starts at 10:00. Even now, hearing the intro music still gives me the good shivers. For a game to do that is so rare, it is to some degree scary. I am still awaiting the remastered edition by NightDive Studios. It will be launched a little later than planned (2020) but on all the consoles, so I might get that happy feeling again on all my consoles.

This is the foundation of better than great gaming, the story, the emersion and the control. The game offered all three to a great degree. That part is also important as System Shock 2, a game that came 5 years later had almost all the same controls, the first game was the founding father of RPG games, and control was close to that perfect. Graphics did upgrade by a lot, yet the shock (for me) in this game that the game only sold 170,000 copies, not much for a game this perfect, as such I do hope that the remaster will hand out the multimillion copy achievement sold. When we look at PC Gamer we see: “System Shock smokes. It is the most fully immersive game world I have ever experienced“, as well as “no matter what kind of game you’re looking for, you’ll find something in System Shock to delight you“. Finishing with “unquestionably raises computer gaming to a new level” (at https://web.archive.org/web/20000309153138/http://www.pcgamer.com/reviews/1024.html), I gave the game a similar review and gave it a 95% score when I reviewed it.

From that moment on, I reviewed RPG games using System Shock as the minimum bar, as you might imagine not many games got to that level. It was also the first game where ‘leaning around corners‘ became an option in shooting games. As far as you see the stream and listening to the makers of the game, you get the part how this game became a trendsetter of excellence, even if they do not mention it, it was a labour of love and passion gets to be the deciding driver in any game towards excellence.

Depending on your age, consider the game that you would play again after 10, 20 and 25 years. What titles come to mind? In my view Elite Dangerous (after 35 years), Ultima 4 (after 35 years), System Shock (after 25 years), Ultima 7 (after 25 years), System Shock 2 (after 20 years), and the list goes on, but it is not a long list, games that are dipped in excellence are rare to say the least. Yet I am a gamer, a game junkie and like all other gamers I remain hopeful that another developer gets it right to the largest degree, Ubisoft did that with Assassins Creed 2 (and Brotherhood) then stuffed up to a much larger degree until Assassins Creed Origins was released. That is why the scrutiny of 93%+ games is so essential. Most gamers will take a turn in other direction if it gives them excellence, yet when they leave their comfort zone in gaming, excellence is the only marker that they will accept to make them do so. Games like Mass Effect 2, The Witcher 3, Grand Theft Auto V, Horizon Zero Dawn, all games that relied on near perfection; it is a stage that is seldom reached. And in all this the FX Slogan was key (for me it is) ‘The story is everything‘. Horizon Zero Dawn is perhaps the strongest example. In the beginning I enjoyed the game, yet it was the storyline after the proving that set the stage for me to continue and learn more and more. The origin story of Elisabeth Sobeck and Aloy is absolutely marvellous. Yes, I have seen the rants against the game, rants like ‘Giving up Horizon Zero Dawn‘ (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv_1DzGf_1s). His response ‘I just don’t find it interesting anymore‘. Yes, I do not agree, but it is his view, and his view is valid to him, just when we see this he is still not completing: ‘The War – Chief’s trail‘. Yet the best story parts were still coming up and the game takes it time getting into the story, it is important to show this, because you might have a different love for games, I love stealth games, games with an essential need for stealth, not everyone loves this, I get that. You have to realise that, I might not be the voice for you; I might have other loves in gaming. I was never a lover of GTA5, I admire it for its excellence, but it is not my game, it is however for millions of other gamers.

In this view it is important to find more voices until you find the reviewer that aligns with your fulfilment in gaming. It is easy to find good reviews and for many games a lot will have the same view, but in the 90%+ range you need to find the one voice that is on your level of gaming. It is easy to merely see that The Last of Us was a great game, pretty much everyone will agree, yet Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne? I loved both games; I never got to complete them. With Bloodborne I actually stopped (after a dozen attempts), I still have the game as it shows excellence on many levels and the engine is sublime, but it is also an excellent example for ratings. I would give it 91%, yet others will give it 93%-95% and now we have the review issue. Are their reviews better? They might be, they might be better at playing this game, more important, they might highlight things I missed, because I was not great at this game. Graphics and engines are easy, the subtle parts defining Bloodborne (as well as Dark Souls 3) is another matter. And now you come into the mix thinking it was merely an 85% game as you did not like the game (which is fair enough), finding the right reviewer is important, more important, the one that aligns with your game play and this is where a game like System Shock differs. The game remained playable for a much larger audience. Now we accept that the gaming bar was not as high in 1994 as it is in 2014, yet playability had remained similar over 25 years, it is my view that Bloodborne is a great game, yet, to me, it is not as playable. That small distinction is important when you seek out buying a full priced game that totally rocks your world.

To me the story is a deciding factor, whilst play style is the most important second. That part is visible to many who remember Metroid Prime on GameCube; I still love that game as well. I never got beyond 98% completion, and I would love to play it again getting to 100%, that is because the game is extremely playable with a play style that is set to comfort. We might sneer at the graphic level (compared to the Xbox and Playstation2 in those days), yet Metroid Prime still delivered as an equal and better to anything the other two could offer. That part validates the 97% rating it received. Yet, if it is not your game, would you still regard it as high?

The question is important as System Shock did make that cut, even by those not loving the game style, they were all impressed with the game, it set a new bar of quality, Metroid Prime and Horizon Zero Dawn both did that as well.

And it is there where we see the stage for streaming games, for Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and thee we see the links. Apple Arcade shows smooth gaming, but not hi-res gaming. That is not an issue if you consider Metroid Prime, the lowest resolution of the three consoles delivered the best gaming experience of all. You can see this (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q73cHEAwKVw), I found the top 10 interesting, but not overwhelming, of course the number one is like some Zelda clone, with decent graphics, but not great graphics. There are 100 games announced yet there too I wonder if people are willing to pay $5 a month, $60 a year to do this, You can argue if you can find even 3 games you really like, then the money is well spent. So it is a decent idea, the issue I have with the stage is that the solution will be years two and later. However, in a family setting the game changes massively, the cost is per family (up to 5 players) as such $1 per person per month is just too good to pass up.
More important is the fact that the games look amazing on the iPad, so there is that to consider. My larger personal issue is long term. For me it is $8 month (Australia), as such in Australia it gets down to $100 a year. It has good games and the important dig is: no ads, unlimited access to 100+ new games rolling out later this year, as well as download for off-line playing are the catchers that will make people try this. Consider the initial $100 for the entire year, seems a lot, but playing 100 games for the price of one is still a game changer. I am assuming that you can only play for as long as you are a member, but we get the same on consoles, so that should not be the issue.

The arrival of Apple Arcade and Google Stadia is still important, but not for the reason you think. System Shock was important as the game was a true innovator in gaming. These new streaming services are set on a stage where the amounts of gamers imply the revenue for the makers. Even as marketing get you in the beginning, the bulk of gamers will push for games that are TRULY innovative and I have learned and seen that true innovation pushes the envelope of games in general. System Shock, Command and Conquer, Metal Gear Solid, Wolfenstein 3D, Gran Turismo, Warcraft 3, Minecraft, Tombraider, Diablo, Zelda – Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, Super Mario 64, Half-Life, Doom. These are on a short list of the most innovative games in history and the most important part is that most of them started on systems lacking resources. Systems like the first PlayStation, the Nintendo 64 and the PC-Pentium One. Most mobiles and tablets now surpass what was possible even in those maxed out years. As such, innovation was always about imagination and I love the idea of streaming services as it pushes the need for innovation. I go back to System Shock one and two, yet some might remember Molyneux’s titanic achievement Black and White, a god video game. A game where you influence actions and not control all actions, when you realise that innovation is creation linked to imagination, we start considering the lack of resources required, not the max of resources. In this games and gamers are about finding the right note, the right chord that makes your heart sing. System Shock still does that to me 25 years later (OK, Elite Dangerous does it as well after 35 years).

I still play Blockheads by Dave Frampton after 6 years on my very first iPad, it is basically the only reason I still use my very first iPad for anything else but reading (until I get a new one). I got the game to deal with my Minecraft addiction when I was not at home and I never regretted getting it (oh, and I found the tablet edition of Minecraft not that playable), even today (last night actually) I still play Blockheads.

We might think that innovation fades, as it would over time, but I personally learned that innovation creates a captive audience regardless of time, it is a personal observation and you might not agree, but I also believe that this is the stepping stone for both Apple Arcade and Google Stadia. Consider the re-released consoles. CBM64 mini that gives us: Boulder Dash, Paradroid, Jumpman, Temple of Apshai Trilogy, Uridium, Impossible Mission (1+2), Winter Games and Summer Games II all games that could be upgraded and give a new audience the games they love to play. The CBM 64 brought so much innovation in games with only 64KB available; these games became the foundation for better games as systems upgraded (Atari ST and CBM Amiga). In this Nintendo with their 64 was pushing the envelope even further, Super Mario 64 is just one title, Goldeneye (named after the bond movie) set the bar so high that it was still the most desired game a decade later, even as the Wii relaunched the game, it ended up being inferior to the original, that is the level of excellence we lost out on and in this resources are not the issue, these are games that could easily be streamed and offer gaming perfection.

The list goes on and it would take too long, yet when we consider sources like My Abandonware and other sources (like Amiga Emulators) we see optional chests containing hundreds of titles that are ready to be remade and a lot of it has no IP protection, as such the best programmers can take the great vision and turn it into a cash maker through streaming. I reckon that is what both Google Stadia and Apple Arcade are hoping for, I am uncertain to see a winner at present, but the games that make it will be the deciding factor and even as the games on Apple are not great, they are still off to a good start, I myself hope that the historic database will inspire game makers, and this is a field where both genders can excel, you merely need to remember the name Danielle Bunten Berry (M.U.L.E. and Seven Cities of Gold) to realise that creativity was key, not gender. As such I do hope that we see both genders remain active, even as Danielle Bunten Berry left us in 1998, her games could stay around for much longer, that is the other part of innovation, it has no expiration date; it is almost timeless. If you doubt that, consider her games as well as those by Roberta Williams (King’s quest series). That is actually another part of gaming, there the playing field for genders is almost level as creativity not ego decides on the quality of the game.

As such it might have been that long, but in the end, the timeline was not long enough, I am willing to get into streaming to some degree (Assassins Creed Odyssey might get lag issues) but there are hundreds of games that will never have that issue and the list of games that will hit the spot is a lot larger than anyone ever considered, especially when a good idea (or a great idea) gets upgraded with innovations that were not available when a certain game came out.

Consider the game Command and conquer, optionally a game like Battle for Middle Earth, or even Dungeon Keeper 2. We have gone through those games and finished all the maps; now consider the issues you face when the maps are created procedural, would your strategy still hold up? That question impacts all three games. Often the strategy was in the map design, take that away and the challenge changes by a lot. I believe that ‘It has been that long‘ is a premise that does not really exist in gaming, I truly believe that System Shock will capture the hearts of new gamers, I believe that upgrading innovation that was will give life to other games, even games that were in the 80%-90% and upgrade them by an optional 15%, and be honest, what game maker would not love to be linked to making a 90%+ game? At present Ubisoft is seemingly proud of their 70% games (so are a few other makers mind you), so we can see the essential need of excellence in gaming, the question is who will bring it and with two new players (gaming providers) entering that field, answering those question becomes a lot more important as we (gamers in general) have had our fill of mediocre games.

Even now we see that as we still yearn for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion as well as Skyrim; I stated to Richard Garriott (the man behind the Ultima series) a while go, if we could get the Oblivion/Skyrim engine and create Sosaria to life, we would have a winner that could entice millions of gamers. Skyrim with over 30 million sold is clear evidence of that and the tales of Sosaria were founded on great story-lines and compelling interaction of personal choices and philosophical concepts. The entire Ultima line (story 4 and later) are all about eh seven virtues (Honesty, Justice, Honour, Sacrifice, Compassion, Spirituality and Humility), it would be the foundation of 6 games, each one surpassing the previous one and to see the evolution from isometric to first person would be the game changer for anyone who loved that story-line, in addition, the Elder Scrolls never did concepts to that degree, which is not their flaw, but it could be the strength of any new Ultima IP.

It is in that part where I see System Shock one and two, it was near perfect and it is still ready for a whole new generation of players. Especially when you consider that the original System Shock on floppy (yes there was a floppy version) was a mere 15Mb, and Metroid Prime on GameCube was less than 1.5Gb, whilst Goldeneye was a mere 64Mb, so as you can see size was never the deciding factor.

I believe that 2020 will be an interesting year for games and gamers. I believe that those relying on ridiculous large games and high resource requiring games (like a Core i9-9980XE) will find that their size issue gets thumbed by true playability and innovation setting the stage for much better games after that. Innovation remains a game changer for games and I wonder how much change we get to see in 2021-2022.

 

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