Tag Archives: Infamous

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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Story about a game!

This all started with a video blog. It can be found at Gamespot and it is given by Danny O’Dwyer in a segment called ‘the point’ (at http://www.gamespot.com/videos/the-point-is-marketing-killing-the-wonder-of-games/2300-6420070/).

He hit an interesting snare with the topic of over marketing and I agree. When I started to think this through, I also got to the point that it is not all about the marketing side of that caper, but another side to the ‘lack of wonder’ as he put it in gaming. He was talking to someone from an upcoming game called ‘No man’s sky‘, the man is a Minecraft fan, which pretty much had my attention from the very beginning.

You see, gaming has become too much about getting to the end of the track with an added need to get achievements. Too many games are a chase. Minecraft is all about just having fun. It is virtual LEGO at its very finest; this awakens the creators in us, which is always a great thing. The issue ‘missed’ (which might be the wrong term) is that one side in the lack of gaming wonder (as I see it) is an off-set between freedom and storyline. It is the combination that has always drawn me to gaming, which makes me a sucker for any decent RPG.

Minecraft does not have any story, but it counters this with an amazing amount of freedom and exploration. I am not stating that Minecraft needs a story, but as we get the freedom to explore, discover and do whatever we feel like, the impact of a story is less of a factor. As freedom moves away (like towards a Call of Duty or a Ghost Recon), the story becomes more and more important. Some get it right (the Mass Effect series and The Last of Us), where the story drives us, whilst we get a limited amount of freedom to do whatever we like, or we get added parameters (challenges), many get it decent (Far Cry & Tomb Raider) not to mention, Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriot, which is still one of the best games of its kind, even a whole console generation later. Some lose out a little as I personally see it (Call of Duty & Halo), but these games counter it with another extra, which I will get back to shortly. Against these games are the open games like Oblivion, Fallout, Fallout New Vegas and Skyrim, where there is a decent story, yet the additional openness of the game makes a massive impact.

There are a few that lose massive points, because they got the story kind of right, but then the game-play, linearity and the lack of insight suddenly made what could be a massive hit, but got to be no better than mediocre as I see it. In this category we see games like Thief and Second Son (Infamous3).

Second Son is the strongest in that regard, as I see it; the game was over-hyped and over marketed. The game starts really nice, then after a while the designer gets sloppy. The evidence as I see it? Consider that you cleaned the first Island and as your smoke powers grew, you got decently into the story, at some point you get the 3rd power (video), instead of reopening the first island, adding additional challenges and added missions, perhaps even adding more laser and speed missions (2nd power), maximising the power of video, you continue on the linear path to the conclusion of the game. In addition, instead of actually giving added powers to the concrete power by adding challenges for cleaning the city or removing the concrete power out of the soldiers, the game pretty much ends and the concrete power actually becomes kind of ‘lame’, the one power you coveted the most is the one power you can happily do without.

It is that lack that is also killing the wonder in games and gaming. It is a sloppy side.

I mentioned Halo and Call of Duty. These games survive on the challenge of multi-player and that is fine, but I think that these gamers could get a boost of gaming if the story was something you could get through, or even explore a little, instead of run through to the end. Perhaps that is not what they want, which is fair enough, but the reception that Far Cry 3 got (including from me), gives a little strength to the view I personally have. I admit that not all gamers will agree here. In addition, I will reopen the talks on multi-player. Most gamers who are into this side, love (and demand) a good multi-player side to the game. I have never been a Halo fan, but I hear good things about it, some games have a massive downturn in multi-player gaming. In that regard, it is Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider that are the worst of them. You see, I believe that things either are balanced or they get an edge, having neither is a bad thing. With these two games, I have tried several times and when you start as a level 1 person, getting stacked against level 50 people, only to get stuck in a bottle neck with opposing you mini guns, one shot killing bows and people with 2-3 bonus skills, you know that the makers missed out and soon thereafter most will have had enough. In opposition I would like to mention God of War, which had an amazing multi-player mode. I was really impressed. You go 4 against 4 and you might have a weapons edge, or not, the fact that it is about the group achievement, you still get some points and soon thereafter you become an equal and even an asset in the multi-player version. A game like that invites multi-player and entices players to get out and do it multi style, which is how it should be. The last one to mention here is Mass Effect 3, which I consider to be the greatest multi-player game of all time. You go in groups of four, you go against a decent AI (at times an overwhelming one) and you go into maps you might have already seen. The options to improve the skills of the characters, the weapons, and armour by playing and buying upgrades is just too much fun. It is the most addictive multi-player form I have ever experienced. I met some of the best players ever. At one point I reached the top 2% of the multi-players, considering that there are over 1.2 million Mass Effect 3 players is just an AWESOME feeling! In all that time, the multi-player remained true to the story (given is that it is just to kill enemies, how wrong can you go) and true to the atmosphere of the game. In Mass Effect 3, it was NEVER about the multi-player, which makes it all even better.

I feel that gaming could move up a notch, not because of the nextgen in consoles, but because the developers will pay better and more attention to the story they hand out.

Even though we all still enjoy a game of Galaga at times, a game that was never about the story and all about zapping the baddies.Most of us will always love to have at least one game like that. I got Scribble Shooter and it is great fun! It is about the other 24 games we buy and we must consider that the next 5-8 years of all franchises will be about the IP (Intellectual Property), making a better story part of the mix will only bind us stronger to the game of our choice, which is one thing the developer will love.

In the end we the gamer win and through this so will the developer!

 

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First day peril

What do you do when you like a game? The initial answer is to buy and play it. Yet, this was not the case in the past and there are now growing issues that allows for the creation of a situation where might soon be the case again.

In my youth I had hundreds of games on my Commodore 64, many of them were less hindered by original packaging. I knew it was not quite right, but I did not think I was breaking any laws. Reasoning? I did buy original games, however many of them were not for sale and would never be for sale.

When I look back at my second computer I was happy to have bought the Commodore 64 with a 1541 disk drive for the price of almost $1500 dollars, those were the days! I also bought four games in the first 3 weeks. Loderunner by Broderbund, Suspended by Infocom, US Mail by US Gold and the Flight Simulator 2. The FS2 was the big one at $200, the other games were $90 each and I do not regret buying these games. US gold was a low level entry into flying, the FS2 was a high end flight simulator with all kinds of maps and Infocom was a challenge unlike any I would play for a long time. Loderunner was the odd duck in that list. I got so hooked on it that I had to take a sickie, so that I could play through the entire game in one go (no save and continue options in those days), all 150 levels, level 151 was the first level on a higher speed. It took the best part of a day and most of the night to get through it all. When I stopped I had well over 65 million points, 80 lives and no physical energy left, those were the days. In those days I also learned the hard way how distribution exploitation worked. The games that we all read about we could never order and the some games were 200%-500% more expensive in the Netherlands then they were in the US. So for a long time, there were no games to get. I remember these issues, because I was truly happy to get the original game (Ultima 3 by Origin) 2 years after I had already finished the game. This is however not about the legality of gaming.

This is about gaming itself. When I go through the ages of the games I bought on the CBM-64, Atari ST and CBM Amiga. The games had a massive amount of value. This only increased when the Nintendo N-64 and the PlayStation arrived. I am talking about good quality graphics (for those days) and the amount of game time a game offered. The Ultima series offered weeks of fun (if you are into RPG games), Ultima 3 on CBM-64 and Ultima 4 on Atari ST. I will go one step further stating that this last game had so much depth and story line that it is still for the most equaled, but not surpassed on today’s RPG games. If you are into a more active role in gaming then we had Boulder Dash, Ghosts and Goblins, Sentinel, Green Beret, Iridium and Rambo, each of these games offering well over 20 hours of gaming pleasure. Not to mention the pleasure you got from replaying at times.

So here it is: How come that a new PS4 game named Infamous: Second Son only offers 15 hours (1 play through) at $109? I did this in one weekend and I am not the best when it comes to action shooter games. This is at the heart of gaming now. Marketing gives us the ‘flim-flam’ of graphics, the storyline is decent, but the amount of play time is basically in the basement. With the engine in place, they could have offered an easy 10-20 hours of additional game play, so why are they not giving the consumer that? More important, as this is the first year for the new PlayStation, why is Sony not taking a better look at the games that are slowly pushing people to the Xbox One?

Yes, I did read that Sony is happy about the 6 million consoles and they think they are the clear winner now. This is an error that could prove to be fatal! Consider the PS2 (over 150 million), the PlayStation (the first one) over 100 million. The PS3 only sold 80 million, which is roughly the same as the Xbox 360, so 6 million consoles is no victory. The current lack of releases, the delays and now the released games are not the incentive Sony should be hoping for.

There is an overall lack of quality gaming and both big players (Sony and Microsoft) need to get their thinking caps on and consider the implications that a lack of quality brings. No matter how secure you make your system, people have almost no money to spend and spending $100 for something that represents less than a day of fun will not cut it. People (read students) will find a way around it. They do not just want to play games, they are quite right to demand value for money and that is what is found lacking more and more, no matter how good the graphics are.

I understand that an RPG is not for all, but then consider the amount of time it took just to finish the very first Tomb Raider. The second Tomb Raider took almost the same amount of time, each offering well over 300% of the fun that current games seem to bring (including the latest Tomb raider). Next gen consoles are one, but a regression of gaming quality is not what we wanted to see. This evidence can also be seen when we see the launch of remastered games from one console to the other one. The fact that Banjo had a huge following was shown as many bought the game on Microsoft Live Arcade (I reckon many of them former N-64 owners). So when we consider the games of Rare (a truly rare high quality developer for the Nintendo) and the need for gaming, compared to the pale imitations of games we see nowadays, I cannot stop wondering who is behind the lacking vision of some games and why some games just do not make a decent quality cut.

This last part can be countered or defended when we look at what I regard to be a questionable game. Metal Gear Solid 5, Ground Zero is an introduction game that is coming out this week for $50. Now, I still consider MGS4: Games of the patriot to be one of the best games the PS3 ever released and it was released in the first year of the PS3. With MGS5 however, there is a video out that completes the main game in only 10 minutes (when bypassing cut scenes and side missions), it is at http://www.gamespot.com/articles/you-can-finish-metal-gear-solid-5-ground-zeroes-in-10-minutes/1100-6418384/

I get that MGS fans might have missed their favourite character, but can anyone explain how a game can remain interesting when the main mission is so small? It comes down to a $300 an hour game and that is asking us to hand over cash for all the wrong reasons.

Gaming is taking a turn for the worst for now. Yes, better games will come, but how? We see more and more games relying on micro transactions. Either, you pay $3-$5 for additional outfits, weapons and downloads that give you additional missions at $5-15, yet when we add this to the base game, does the consumer still get value for money? In this day and age of economic hardship, that is the true issue that counts for families having a console and that demand is not being met, not even close. There is a reason for giving the spotlight to Metal Gear Solid in this case. The fact that a franchise that had a game that ended up being regarded as the best on a console twice is not a fluke. MGS on PS1 and MGS4 on PS3 showed that the makers knew games; they understood their gamers and they drove a console forward. It is slightly worrying that the bosses at Sony behind the PS4 have not been on top of this, because games do not appear overnight, it took more than a year of planning. When we see the amount of delays now, we can only conclude that someone was not paying attention and we are all paying the price for that.

So what will happen to console gaming next?

I do not pretend to have the answer here, but consider the releases and the marketing we saw on new Sony games, then consider the amount of time Infamous is offering us; what else will we learn after the fact?

In the end, good games might come, but realise that the two anticipated games (Thief and Infamous) are mediocre to fair at best. Sony still has the lead in regard of number of games released, yet, if the next one is found to be mediocre then Microsoft could take the lead in next gen gaming. Let’s not forget that the 360 became a contender because of the games they offered, the tables could turn on Sony with this system before the end of 2014. My personal belief is that Sony could pull through; it just takes some quality daylight (pardon the pun) to make all the difference.

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