Tag Archives: IGN

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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A little more slamming

It is only one day from release and the initial findings I saw, with which I stand, needs adjustment. You see, those reviewers who got the full copy, learned a few more things, and actual gameplay shows issues that all the YouTube play throughs never did. One of the better review sources Eurogamer, gives us (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-03-19-mass-effect-andromeda) with quotes like: “BioWare’s fourth Mass Effect smacks it over the head with a prospector’s shovel and boots it out the airlock during the first few hours of play. You’re left with a zesty but unsurprising third-person shooter“, which is not a good start, and it goes down after that with “go to a waypoint, scan 10 Remnant collapsible shelving units with your ugly wrist-mounted display, scoop up five mineral deposits for some lazy boffin back on the Nexus, blow up three raider outposts, and so forth” as well as “Andromeda is most disappointing when it’s at its best“, this reflects the subtitle of the review: “mediocre writing and tepid quests add up to what is probably BioWare’s worst RPG yet“, this is not good for an RPG that has been 2 years in the waiting. A lack of proper QA, not unlike Ubisoft has been through gives one other contemplation. The issues shown (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CPYw5uxER4), show us a few disturbing issues with the game and animations. What I found most interesting is the excuses that the narrators of the review give. The issue is proper testing which is now shown to have been absent to more than just a small degree.

There are a collection of additional videos when we look at Mass Effect Andromeda, some are partially funny to hear, but they will not give you the quality review that Eurogamer gives. The nightmare that BioWare now faces as it has received a mere 77% from IGN, gives that those not willing to pay full price might want to wait 6-8 weeks and pick it up for $29 as shops will now be stuck with massive piles of something that the gamers at large will not want at full price. I did like the mention that Dan Stapleton gives (IGN). “Mass Effect Andromeda has a few great moments that recapture the highpoints of the original great trilogy“. It shows that EA is not on the ball and more important, the initial presentation teaser is exactly what we thought it was, much ado about nothing.

So the RPG gamers can now relax and realise there is only Bethesda that as a real RPG maker remains (OK, I admit, Guerilla games is the new kid on the block), which is both unsettling and problematic, because actual competition will breed diversity and push cutting edge gaming forward, a party of one does not tend to do that. An improvement issue that is not coming our way any day soon, so it seems. I have my own sense of humour in all this, as I created a new open world game in my mind that already outdoes Mass Effect. I only wish I had the programming skills to make it a reality. So as you see, we are all flawed, although it seems that Electronic Arts is at present a lot more flawed than most others. The only thing remaining is the contemplation of what to think of certain reviews (like for example in Empire Online) where we see: “Combat clicks far better than it did in previous instalments, however, providing a twitchy experience more akin to a dedicated third-person action game than an RPG with some shooty elements tacked on“, a view I would have partially agreed with, yet several movies now show that to be not the case. Still, this would be a matter of opinion, and that reviewer has every right to feel this way. As you might remember, I made a similar statement last week, but clearly based on videos with playthroughs shown to me. The full reviews a few days later show a very different image. Even before the awakening by Eurogamer, there was no way that the game showed me “Andromeda’s superior combat allows you to play like a space marine, Sith lord, or the best combination of both“, in this I think I agree with several YouTube Bloggers that BioWare is not off to a solid start and a Mass Extension of additions and improvements will be required to show the next game not to be as good, but basically to be worthy to stand in the shadow of Mass Effect 2, which should be regarded as an issue on several levels.

I will be honest, the teaser trailer offered on June 12th, 2014 was the start of something that should have been a lot better than the end result that will be officially released tomorrow.

 

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When game makers don’t get it

This is another day where we get to bash the game maker. This is not done out of malice or spite, this is done because certain ‘players’ in this industry need to wake up and consider hard and clear that they are running out of rope, out of options and out of any future. For the same reason why the malicious bashers of No Man’s Sky don’t get why it is a good game, the same reasoning why many of the triple-A game makers are now no longer producing 90%+ games.

So, this all started this morning when I saw ‘Mafia III review: how can a super stylish 1960s shooter be this boring?‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/10/mafia-3-review-1960s-shooter-gameplay). First of all, I haven’t played it. Yet, to offset this, I looked at several sources. The issue is seen in the quote: “To say Mafia III is a disappointment is an understatement. It has all of the surface components to form a great game: the writing and acting are superb, its direction and style are great, but its mechanical underpinnings are archaic and desperately unimaginative. It’s ironic that Mafia III’s predecessor had a similarly stylish open world, but wasted it by giving players nothing to do besides its main story missions. Mafia III has the opposite problem – tons that you have to do, you just don’t want to do any of it“, which gives us the main goods in all this. I played the first game on PC, a game that had more than a few issues, but overall it was original and showed a game style that was novel in those days. So when I see this, I see another issue, which I will address later. The second review is one you cannot miss if it is your intent to buy the game. It is the video review on IGN (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7mkCsJm8Lk). This is actually an excellent view on the game. It also supports the reasoning I had (I will get to that, I promise). There are a few issues that also popped up, which are not negative sides, but they are linked to this all.

IGN mentions it in the video. There are references and similarities to the generic play of Assassins Creed and for what I saw, partially to Watchdogs 1 too. In these semi-open world games, there is a need to explore the world and find things, but what is the issue when you have to get items again and again, for no other reason than to find them? I reckon there is a plus to find album covers and playboy covers, if they are the actual covers and issue covers. A little historic on one side, a little sultry on the other. Yet, if it leads to nothing, why run through the city of London, finding all the ales? In Mafia 3 and as I am from the era, finding a Jimmy Hendrix album cover would be cool and could bring a tear to my eye, remembering this great guitar player, yet, what is the point? Same for AC and finding all the chests filed with cash all over the city where everyone is in states of poverty? Apart from the ridiculousness of it all, it stopped fulfilling a purpose long ago. The same in Watchdogs. Getting all those jackets without some bonus is just emptiness of cash spent.

This is where we see the emerging issues of these games nowadays. There is no longer proper play testing and the fact that the game is only given to reviewers on release day is only in support that the game makers know this. In my view when properly addressed it could make a 75% Mafia game a 92% mafia game, with the clear option to double revenue, because gamers will jump at a 90%+ game and there have been a lack of it.

In opposition we see Ubisoft, not their generic games. No! When we see the effort that For Honor has been showing with closed alpha’s additional rounds and now the closed alpha game on PS4 with releases on YouTube. This is exactly why I foresaw that For Honor would be a high scoring game, I want it and I am not even a true fan of this game type, but what is shown is what I see, gaming on a new level, a different level. That is what makes a top game. Even as Ubisoft has been dropping the ball in several games, they have shown a multitude of evidence that they got this right! Proper play testing is all the difference and taking time to get that right is all the reason why Mafia 3 is as I can see it the non-success at present it could end up being.

 

When you lack the open world that Bethesda has, play testing is the only way to get the semi-open world and mission based games correctly. This is why the original game released on 11/11/11 was the long term success and now it is about to be rereleased on HD for consoles. After 5 years it still have the appeal it originally had. I am of course speaking of Skyrim, and now that people have had a taste of Fallout 4, the Skyrim fan base could grow even further, Bethesda achieved that chance and in likelihood, it will be one of these games that will be found gift wrapped at thousands of thanksgiving parties, especially when some November releases decide not to deliver. Even though my version of Elder Scrolls 6 will not make it to the systems, Bethesda is already looking at new projects and as we are unlikely to see them before 2018, whatever makes it will be a new game changer, just as Fallout 4 was the game changer for players on all systems.

The others (Ubisoft, 2K, Square Enix) have issues to some extent, in some cases the issues are not big of massive, but they are still the reason that a game makes 80% instead of 91% and in this business 11% is not a margin, it is the reason that people wait for the game to drop 50% or more in price. In my view Far Cry4, Assassins Creed Syndicate, Assassins Creed Unity, Far Cry Primal, and this list goes on are all games that suffered such blows. I think for me Infamous Second Son remains one of the best examples. The game that started great became bland, repetitive and too linear. It is hard to point the finger at a single reason yet the elements tend to be their marketing department, the timeline pressed upon them and the vision of the people behind the game. That last elements is shown when we think back to Jason VandenBerghe when he gave a glimpse at E3 2015. This is not whether he should or should not have done it, he gave a glimpse and at E3 2016 he showed stuff, I think what he showed wetted the apatite and in 2016 we became thirsty for the real deal, which is now a mere 15 weeks away. More important 15 weeks with increased game play testing and movies that showed more and more final quality in a near flawless gaming interface. He showed vision, he did not just show a game, which set him apart from a lot of game producers. He also looks like he is the adviser for the Baltimore Stegmer Brothers on how to make a Skull Cleaver (just kidding, the Stegmer Brothers are experts in their own right with any kind of forged weapon). Here we see the issue, as explained in ‘When they get it right‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2016/07/30/when-they-get-it-right/), so when you consider these elements and take into consideration the multiplayer movie (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r59DAyolTyw), we see how a multiplayer game is not that ‘simple’, not because of game play, but because of the required tactics. So multiplayer will require people to team up, because for single players in a team match will have no chance to survive an actual team. Giving this game more than just a little edge. As I personally see it a quality play test crew is what made the difference (beyond vision and good coders). Yet the latter two were not the most important players. In my view, those two elements were present with Infamous Second son, well at least the good coders. Proper play testing and evaluating the game and post adjustments could have resulted in at least 11% more. When such a margin impacts the revenue to the degree we have seen in several games, the need for proper overhauling a game studio becomes apparent and the fact that this is either not happening or not having the desired effect, is now cause for concern (it should be for the game developer). You see, that part is shown in Mafia 3 (especially in the IGN video), because apart from all the nice little Easter eggs and other little titbits, the fact that we see “tons that you have to do, you just don’t want to do any of it“, is likely to limit sales and it will push people towards other games. In light of all the clips and advertisement we have seen in the big cities, that seems to be a massive impact on a game that would have had an 8 figure development cost. The weird issue in addition is that these game makers want a success, they want to be known for the 90%+ game they made, so partially, the road not taken is not making sense at all.

So we see that there are more games coming this year, the question becomes how good will they be? I am holding my breath for a few of them, including one that even as extreme snow sports was never my thing, this game has piqued my interest. Ubisoft is releasing the game Steep in December, so far it is the most ambitious and the most appealing snow based game I have ever seen in my life. The in game quote “Challenge cancelled, no death allowed in this challenge” is just hilarious (and you better realise that elbowing with a rock tends to be a terminal choice). One video titled ‘How an Open World Changes Action Sports‘ is exactly the issue. As written before, I have never been this excited over this type of game before, even when I was excited on playing SSX, when it got released with the PS2, it never came close to what I thought a snow game should be about. This game is it, yet, when we see the movies, which do look great, how much play testing did the game go through? We see the Ubisoft version of how smooth things play, and that might be so, but individual or independent are lacking. How many play testers went to the top of one mountain, just skiing to the very bottom? Ignoring all the tracks and challenges, just an open world ski trip, seeing if the game rears its ugly heads with a glitch?

The few I saw were all the same track and that is not what is supposed to make the game great. So, when we see the actual open area, what will it be then? (Not attacking, just actually asking). Like me, many others acted really positively on the initial parts we saw. The map implies that there is a massive amount of area’s to see and to explore. The game shows 4 ‘play modes’, which is not a given. From my point of view, there is a lot more that they could add, especially when the dynamics are already in play. In the lower area’s cross country skiing (not exciting, but a completionist option) and the way that reaching points could open up markers, I would have considered sleigh and bobsled tracks. Again, it is a completionist idea and adding this might give the game a feeling of completeness, especially when you are not multi-playing (which would be the driving force in a game like this). My idea’s will not make it a better game, it might make the game a lot worse, the question is what was considered, what was done and how was the game play tested? What is the impression a professional boarder has when looking and playing this game? Parts that I have not seen published or I missed it). The reason to ask these questions is because until December there is still time, for Mafia 3 it is too late to make a good first impression, for Steep there is time to get the upgrades done if required, depending on the time needed this game might miss thanksgiving and would need to globally rely on Christmas, which is not a bad thing. What is important is that the not extreme snow sport lovers are considering this game, implying that Steep could make a massive splash (revenue wise too). As to the verdicts of certain games, we will need to see the release of quality reviews, what is a given is that no early reviews is no longer a tool to get a better revenue, too many gamers have felt the impact of that flaw. Ubisoft lost a lot of cloud and 2K is getting hit as well soon enough, the question is what these players will do to up the game and get the gamers back to their fold. Time will tell, however in this year, there are a few too many games being released, so those hoping to see this level of revenue, would face the risk of losing their revenue being used to pay for games like Dishonored 2, games that have already proven themselves and are already showing to be equal or better. Some will even be holding on to their cash for the coming quarter, because Q1 2017 shows at least 3 games that are setting new levels of game play, and buying a wannabe for $49 is a lot better than the same anticipated title for $99. So make sure you get to the actual quality review goods BEFORE you buy the game you thought was going to be great.

 

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An early verdict

So many people have been speaking about No Man’s sky and I am now joining them. Those who know me are aware that I have idolised the game since I saw the very first teaser 2 years ago. It is still three days away, yet I could no longer wait and I saw the stream by DJ Angel (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqmjEv7l3u0). There are two reasons to look at this one. You see, for all the good, it also shows one debatable part.

From the first part, as far as I can tell, No Man’s sky is promising to be everything I hoped for. No quick glitches, or short cuts, just a play through. The fact that every planet is procedurally generated is also an indication that your planet could be very different from the one you are seeing, so watching this is not too much of a giveaway for what you face. The game gives the goods and the others. I am not stating it is the bad side. I am stating that as an explorer you need to think, so when you try to get to a milestone and you want to get something from your ship and you get introduced to ‘ship out of range’ you know you needed another solution and wandering so far from your spaceship was not the best idea you had. Yet, like Minecraft you can get lost in time and suddenly realise you made the milestone of 10,000 steps and you go Oops!

Not sure how DJ Angel felt, but I thought it was brilliant. So in the last weeks I saw people screaming upcoming disappointment, I saw people claiming to play this game and ‘finishing’ it in 30 hours and now I see a 6 hour play through (I watched a little over half an hour), where I see a player just trying to get by the elements. Short on items and getting ‘hindered’ by inventory full. I saw an option to buy a multi-tool upgrade and a few items you will have to see for yourself. I am moving towards a fair amount of sleepless nights I gather. No Mans Sky is about to exceed my personal expectations!

Now, The graphics (this is on a PS4), are pretty awesome. I reckon that other presentations were on PC, yet this resolution and the details we see are really good. The amount of icons in the field give decent indication of what I need to be aware of. Now, here is the part that I need to be mindful of. You see, I might not be in a desert environment, I might start on a temperate planet with seas, or in the icy cold. I will not know for another three days, yet this video shows clearly that we the players will be in for an excellent ride through our console universe. In earnest, Paul Tassi at Forbes raised a few issues I agree with, also sets ease many minds so you need to read the article ‘What’s Going On With No Man’s Sky’s Awkward Launch?‘ (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2016/08/06/whats-going-on-with-no-mans-skys-awkward-launch/#5730666621b3). For the most he asks fair questions in a way that should not worry you and moreover, on Wednesday you will have a clean server and a game with a day one patch to work with.

Yet in the negative, I would want to add a possible essential fixes to the achievements. This is based upon the IGN list of achievements: I saw several ‘milestones’ in the game, like ‘beginner’ for learning 8 words. Considering that 10 words gets you the bronze achievement, which is fair enough, yet another review I saw implies that the achievements were too easy (no idea how many words are needed for Silver and gold. So far, I am unable to oppose it and personally I do hope that from the initial verdict that this person gave where the achievement list is set to 4/10 (in difficulty) it will be shifted more towards a 7/10 or even an 8/10. I would feel sad if this ends up being an easy chase to the platinum cup (which does not lessen the gaming experience in any way). Yet, this is just my personal view and it is based on missing information. So, be aware that I might be wrong on that count, as I got this from none too reliable sources.

What DJ Angel clearly shows is that Hello Games completely delivers on the promise they made over the last 2 years. In addition, I do hope, based upon the IGN list, the following additions will be made:

Abreu – Survived one extreme planet for no less than 2 hours outside of a base or spaceship (Bronze).
Amundsen – Survived three different extreme planet for no less than 3 hours outside of a base or spaceship (Silver).
Armstrong – Survived five different extreme planet for no less than 4 hours outside of a base or spaceship (Gold).

I am going with extreme Heat, Cold, Radiation and Toxic, so I am hoping there is a fifth one.

That is pretty much the only negative part that we could possibly face and there is no guarantee that this is a fact, so no matter how you feel regarding the achievements, apart from all the BS we have been exposed to for many months, DJ Angel gives a few spoilers, but only if you land on a planet with these weather and ecology markers, which has a rough probability of 0.000002324%, those are truly gaming stats that make you smile!

We are a mere two days away from a great moment in gaming history! If Minecraft was anything to go by, I reckon I will be spending in excess of a thousand hours over the next year in this game. For Sony this is another notch on their guns of revenue. When we consider the past there were a few moments when one game was worth buying a console for.

With the PS1 this was Tombraider, with the PS2 that list was pretty big with God of War & Soul Caliber leading my list. The PS3 would be worth buying for Metal Gear Solid Guns of the patriot, Skyrim or the Last of Us and now on PS4 No Mans Sky joins that famous list. That game alone is buying a console for! In all the games published not many titles can make that claim, yet from what I have now seen No Mans Sky delivers the gaming goods!

Yet for those feeling nervous, there is one more fact that should be considered. This has been stated by several decently reputable sources. The two elements are that the database gets wiped, which means that those early players have no advantage and that you will discover your fair share of elements, life forms and planets. The second part is that there will be a day one patch adding even more replayability. Things like ship diversity, meaning there is a larger list of ships all with benefits and drawbacks. Additional depth in trading, meaning more fun for you and your ship as well as multiple endings. These are great facts and none are too much a spoiler. What is clear is that a team of 11 have outdone the larger developers with a comfortable margin, which is good for other claims I made in the past, and even more rewarding for me as I start playing No Mans Sky tomorrow (wishful thinking).

So I hope you join me in spirit as you embark on your own quest through a universe as Hello Games procedured it to be, a fun trip for anyone holding their PS4 controller!

 

 

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A simple choice for real gamers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which gives us the following points of evidence.

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

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

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

Which seems to relate to the oldest Basic program:

 

10 PRINT “Daymeeuhn is an idiot”

20 GOTO 10

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

Which leads me to the following question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I be wrong?

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

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

 

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Confirmation!

It is always nice to see confirmation, as the large players have now made their presentation, I see that the battle lines are drawn in my favour, in favour of PlayStation players. Make sure you get this, I am not stating that Xbox lost, or that they have bad games, in the world of games, the ones I prefer to play, Sony delivered! The Last Guardian coming in 2016 is pure poetry by controller, Horizon is taking post-apocalyptic views to a new level and the small demo gives a clear view that we have new levels of gameplay to adhere to. Agent 47 is coming to PS4 and the console is also giving us new versions of the old, classics like Streetfighter, with new and awesome graphics, but the same play line that Streetfighter fans love. I saw a new part of actual gameplay of No Man’s Sky, the vreator (not a typo) was showing it off and getting the limelight he deserved. He is showing a level of exploring never seen before, the more I look at it, the more that I see on how Elite: Dangerous and No Man’s Sky together are the perfect experiences non shooter addicted gamers will likely see this generation.

It is scary, but it is true. Consider the past. Most of those over 30 grew up seeing Steven Spielberg as the one creator of movies. After that we now get on his level Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams (not dismissing any other directors here). In games we had a few more, but over 20 years, the big names have been Peter Molyneux, Sid Meier and Richard Garriott. Now we get Gareth Bourn (No Man’s Sky) and David Braben (Elite: Dangerous). In the ‘old’ days David was the man of one game (one game I loved). Now we see that same game evolved beyond our imagination blowing me away and that is not all, so as we see more exceptional movie makers, we will also see more exceptional game makers. These Virtual Creators (vreators) are raising the bar by a lot, One on Xbox (me growling a little now) and one on Sony. Personally I truly hope that both consoles get to enjoy both games, because no matter which console you decided on, both games are as I see it, an absolute must!

Sony also showed a few games that were out there. Firewatch and Dreams, dreams is completely off the wall. Different and unique, which means it will completely appeal to the artsy gamer. Firewatch is set in Wyoming, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, you’re all alone. A mystery that involves two missing women, so good luck with that challenge. And this is just the top of the games. More clear appeal than Microsoft offered, more pure gameplay we had not seen before and this is before we get more on Metal Gear Solid 5. So both systems have unique offerings, and offerings on both, you the gamer gets to choose what gaming style appeals to you. For me, Sony delivers what I desire (apart from Elite: Dangerous).

Sony did not ignore the younger players. With Disney’s Infinity 3.0 it will be giving the Star Wars universe with a limited 1 month exclusive for PlayStation players. So, parents who want to imbue the passion for Star Wars to their kids, they will have the materials to do just that. Loads of options and exclusives, which will be opened for all others after 30 days, some will remain exclusive until the holidays. At least it is a temporary thing for none Sony players. Looking back at the presentations, it seems to me that we got twice the value from Sony in the same time that Microsoft was ‘hyping’ some of their exclusives.

The best thing is to go to www.IGN.com and look at the Sony presentation yourself, download the movie, watch online of stream it to your tablet offline. Everything Sony showed is telling me that we are in for an excellent year of gaming. I reckon that most of us will have plenty to play until the end of 2016. The show ended with Drake, a smooth introduction movie with a nice twist at the beginning, which shows us that the beginners that brought a ‘Crash Bandicoot’ is still reeling the wow factors of players today, with games like ‘a thieves end’ whilst ‘the Last of Us’ still has not stopped appealing the players. Yet so far, the one part that was never truly answered was the gossip and ‘leaked’ news regarding the Mass Effect trilogy on Nextgen, which seems to be not happening as far as I can tell from the news released, but I did see the question all over IGN, they all accept that for those new on consoles, Mass Effect is an established game that can grab the imagination of new players, whilst fulfilling the desire of the seasoned gaming veteran. So we must wonder how much can we rely on this information as such, if not, then why can you pre-order the game in some online shops (with a clear TBA mention though)?

The E3 is still going on, but for me, the important parts are done. Tomorrow we will see Square Enix and Nintendo. I still have my Wii in a box somewhere, I never got the WiiU and to be honest, I have no intention of getting it. The Wii started strong, was messed up by Nintendo Marketing, as such, Nintendo lost a market share part. Yet, last year they regained a lot of visibility with Splatoon, a game that amazed and impressed, it was released this month. For now, Nintendo has nothing new to offer and what I have (3DS) works really well, yet an upgraded version of a Gameboy advance game alone will not do it. Nintendo has work to do, whilst Sony keeps on amazing. Square Enix is another matter. Deus Ex is the big ticket for me, yet the remastered Final Fantasy VII should not be ignored. So far the news all over the place are stating almost the same. Sony delivered!

So as Sony ended one part of the presentation of Dreams with the music ‘life is but a dream’, I will say: “Thank you Sony!”

 

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