Tag Archives: Lara Croft

Mummy and Daddy

Yes, we know it, we lived it, but we never played that stance. We learned it in school, but I took a page out of the works of Gregor Mendel who gave us the foundation of genetics. So proud Sony developers, it is time to walk into the next level of RPG gaming. The one part that was forever an issue was that Bethesda had to set a stage of rewarding, per cave, per site and that was fine, but spelunking and tomb raiding are not always that rewarding (ask Lara Croft if you doubt me). So even as you started to play as a he or a she, which was your choice, what if we give some kind of a time limit, if you started early, you had a family, as such the partner becomes important, so when we go past the steamy sex part where she rolls like a horny vixen and you get ‘victimised’ towards creating the next generation, you get a choice will the next adventurer be a he, or a she and it is not just there, as the next generation is updated every visit you make, the partner (depending on what gender you are) also brings power to the mix. And that is where RPG have not gone before. So there is a social setting in the village, or wherever you are living, the successful adventurer has better chances, more options, and there the game evolves, as we make a choice if the partner is more artistic, some abilities evolve into the next generation, more arcane gives other choices more power and so on. 

So for example 

Partner’s job
Smith – Strength
Farmer – food as a resource
Artist – accuracy, mapmaking
Carpenter – woodworks, agility
Butcher – armour, meat, leather
Baker – Food, alchemy, arcane support
Textiler – Fabrics, accuracy, armour design

And the list goes on, the idea is to imbue the following generations with additional knowledge. A set of things that you might have ignored but are gifted to the next generation. 

It also requires a much larger stage on the game itself, what we see, how we look at something alters, and getting rid of the simple internet solutions is merely icing on the cake.

Consider what we consider that some golden quest can be found and completed by the first generation, but in many cases the golden quest gives us some treasure and a larger clue, it is up to generations 2 and 3 to complete them, it is basically, to some degree the end of the linear quest person, it is a stage never seen before and I believe that whomever makes that game to the degree we see will make that developer a nice future stage as a new larger development house, and as Micro$oft learns that they lost out again, perhaps they will take the word of gamers against that of business analyst claiming to be gamers. 

There is a set of choices and the idea is to have a game that encompasses three or four generations. The more fame, the more the town grows, the better their setting for gold, for shops and resources. We are so used to do it all ourselves, we forgot that some tasks are too big, and the family still gets there, if the father gave the right clues that the son (or daughter) can pick up on. A new style of RPG and when we add the previous parts that include the 5 stories of the arcane, the set stage of an island the size of New Zealand, which is a place one person cannot explore in one lifetime, especially on foot, as such we can play an avatar (demigod) with a decent level of immortality, or we increase the game in other directions, I decide to opt for option 2 and so far no other game maker ever has, so as Microsoft is playing the same card over and over again, I am offering this to the Playstation developers, to create something quite new, something gaming has not seen before and that is what gamers want, something that is new to them, whilst not upsetting the genre of the game, it will remain an RPG, an evolving RPG no less. A setting that was viewed in the first day, but I saw too much and it took time to digest all my mind created at the seed of light, I merely wonder when gaming gets to this place, because as cloud gaming goes, its power will be in long term gaming, optionally another reason why Bethesda was so appealing to Micro$oft. Too bad I am handing out these ideas to Sony developers for bobkis, what a lovely waste of $8,500,000,000, ain’t I a stinker?

1 Comment

Filed under Gaming

Doubt and consideration

Yes, we all have them, doubts that is. And I had mine yesterday and this morning. I got a whiff of a game called Sandship (on iOS) and it did not take me long to get hooked. Now, we all get hooked, but hooked can be short term and long term. This game has all the trimmings that we can expect to see. It has some sort of storyline, it has puzzles, a sort of challenge setting and of course there is always the option of micro transactions. All these games have them now, but in this game it is done in both an ingenious and non-invasive way. As I was looking at what is possible, I realised that there was doubt in me. You see, I feel certain that a game like this would be a huge success on the Nintendo Switch, it would need some tweaking, but the foundation of the game is close to perfect. And as far as I can tell, Nintendo has nothing like this in their arsenal, especially when you consider that there is some level of operational education in the game. I get it, some will doubt my view on this, yet I also find myself wondering whether the makers took a look towards the Console, or are they in a stage where they will rely on micro transactions? For a beginning developer it is a fair call to rely on the micro transactions, yet this is not a game made by a beginner, if so that person is a real gaming savant. 

The doubt is whether I am seeing it correctly, I am to some degree anti-MT, yet I understand that these MT’s are a good starting point for any developer. In addition, even as I accept that some people want to play on their phones, some games need a tablet or a decent TV screen. It just works better that way.

The consideration is for some of these developers, once they have a starting capital, did they consider setting the game, optionally adjusted on a console and with cloud gaming on the rise that consideration will soon be a lot more important than ever before. It is more important because extending existing IP is a lot more important and optionally a lot cheaper than making up new IP. 

This gets me to part 3 in this, you see there was a game in 1985, it was made by Epyx and it was called Chipwits, now the game seems redundant, but the educational side as well as the challenge in all this was amazing, especially for a computer with only 64KB (RAM and ROM), consider what could be done with a Nintendo Switch that has 62,500 times the memory and a CPU that is probably just as excessively more powerful than the 6502 in the CBM-64 was. One of many games that are as easily remembered as some of the other games that some gamers idolised. Why? Because these games were truly innovative and original. And even now as as we see some developers concentrate on the flash and the bang, they are all seemingly forgetting that gamers come in all shapes and sizes, in addition, plenty of younger gamers are dependant on the parents and guess what, these parents are not a great fan of games like Manhunter 2, but they are  always seemingly willing to buy the additional game that has an educational character. But that might be mere speculation.

What is in view is that too many games rely on one path, whilst they could add paths to their software range and in these days having more than one path is important, especially when the waning range of downloadable games that can be surpassed every new week, yet the games we purchase are the games we keep around, often for a long time. There are plenty of examples. 

It is that part that shows the folly of Google when they dropped certain paths from their Stadia range, I wonder what Amazon will do, because we have 4 generations of consoles that show us that original and exclusive games make the console. PSX, N64, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox360, PS4 and PS5. They all had their range and gathered clusters of 1000’s if not hundreds of thousands. Microsoft had their Master Sergeant, Sony had Lara, Kratos (and a few others), it is the exclusives that makes and break the console, yet original games are still part of that equation and the makers need to realise that, because there is every indication that some are relying on makers like Ubisoft and EA (complete with bugs), yet that comes with a risk, the moment the gamer has had enough the entire development house will be regarded as toxic, whether that is fair or not, the gamer will almost always act out of emotion and emotion does not really consider the balance of the topic, merely his bruised ego and the aggravation of glitches. As such all consoles need a stack of options, options that Google (as I was told) has done away with, giving a larger playing field to Amazon. It is in this light that we will optionally sooner than expected see:

1. Sony
2. Nintendo 
3. Microsoft

Turn into 

1. Sony
2. Nintendo
3. Amazon
4. Microsoft
4. Google

This is not a typo, Even if Amazon wins, there is no real telling how Microsoft ends up against Google Stadia, I think that is the fear that drove their Xcloud. You remember the pictures? 

Why keep on pushing this when you have a console that comes close to the PS5? No one is asking that question. We see speculative settings on Xcloud and mobiles, yet the real gamer does not consider a mobile screen to be a real screen. So facilitating to more games will push Microsoft further to the back of the console line. I wonder how much Amazon and Google are considering that path, and there are options, there are games that matter, but will the hardware people consider the options that are decently in abundance?

1 Comment

Filed under Gaming, IT

The Commanding Conquest

The NY Times gave us a view, some are laughing, some are looking forward, some are grasping at the past, but you and me? What will we do? What are our thoughts?

That is the view I am having when I see ‘A Glimpse of a Crown Prince’s Dream? Saudi Arabia Invades Iran in CGI‘ (at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-iran-invasion-video.html). The video shown is not new, the article revealed that the movie was uploaded last December and has had 1.2 million views. That’s around 400,000 a month. We see the application of CGI and Command & Conquer intro movie style towards the games that Iran has been playing. So as we see “In scene after scene, he orders a succession of superior weapons systems to pulverize the enemy“, we see a setting, one that is changing. It is what I would optionally call the sabre rattling by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who according some of the sources is stated to be behind this all. I cannot tell, I do not know. But it is clear that Iran is also realising that everyone is looking at them now and none of the voices are telling Saudi Arabia to stop. Those voices will come too late and at that point, with the EU not willing to give an inch towards Iran, Iran will stand alone. Even Russia who has been their trade buddy for the longest of times is backing off a little, as they would endanger the foothold that they are growing in the Middle East via Syria. In addition, if there is a side, than Israel will never choose it will be the side of Iran, that ship has sailed and was burned down the moment it left the harbour of Jaffa.

One view given was “a Princeton professor who recently published a column explaining the challenges Prince Mohammed faces in the kingdom, suggested in an email that the Iranians themselves might have made the cartoon “to make the Saudis look silly”“, it is certainly one view, but when we consider Command & Conquer, is it as simple as Saudi Arabia v Iran, or is there a third player in town? The view that former CIA employee Bruce Riedel has differs as well. He of course has just published a new book based on 3 decades of experience and his view is “This represents how he sees himself, or what he would like to be, It suggests that at least some part of Mohammed bin Salman lives in a fantasy world, and if he really believes these things then we are on a course that could be extremely destructive“. It is not a view that I could state was incorrect due to lack of data, but if the Crown Prince has set this all in motion, is it in the end anything else than a creative presentation? Lets not forget, if we plough through the presentations of historical CIA, most of their directors would have ended up in prison, as would some members of congress and at least two former Presidents of the United States. So the view given here is not one that seems to be the pressure here. I actually like a later view in the article in the NY Times where we see “Other scholars suggested that one of the prince’s courtiers might have commissioned the video to flatter him“, that is one part that appeals, it would even be better if it was made by the courtiers son who has the dream of becoming the coolest game designer in Saudi Arabia, which is not a bad dream to pursue to begin with.

No matter who or what it is regarded to be. When we consider it from the distance, it is merely a presentation, one that took effort. My view on the third player is shown (in my humble opinion) by “The video was released almost simultaneously in Arabic and English, with subtitles in Farsi, Hebrew, Mandarin, Russian, Turkish and other languages, so its animators probably also had the help of a team of linguists“, you see no matter how they feel about Israel, Saudi Arabia would have been unlikely to have taken the effort, even when relying on Google Translate and even as we know that Israel will never be a friend of Iran, it is my personal view that Saudi Arabia would not have taken the effort to get the ‘Hebrew’ edition out there, giving rise to the third party. I would need to see the full list of subtitle editions, to learn how precise my prediction is, but I think that the players adding the Hebrew edition shot themselves in the foot.

Yet it does also give light to “Prince Mohammed is a long-time fan of animation and video games. His personal foundation set up a venture, Manga Productions, to produce Japanese-style animation about Saudi Arabia and its culture“. Did you know this? Many have been curious about Saudi Culture; many wonder just how warped the press had made certain settings of Saudi Culture. Now I know that it is not the culture, with all the options that Western Europe had, but that is their history, learning more about it will only make things better for both sides. So when we see “Japanese animation productions major Toei Animation is teaming up with Saudi Arabia’s Manga Productions to produce animation titles and films to be released in both countries. The new tie-up was unveiled Nov. 16. Manga Productions, which is affiliated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s MiSK Foundation, focuses on producing animations and developing video games with creative and positive content targeting different local and international social groups. Bukhari Isam, CEO of Manga Productions, said that his company will do pre-production or prepare designing content to be produced in Japan. The productions will be internationally targeted”. Most forms of information that is linked to Japanese excellence tend to be very well received on a global scale. So in all this we would need to realise that the media has been keeping information from us all. Now, there is no way that everyone will suddenly become a ‘Saudi’s best buddy’, but the setting that we see almost no exposure to this and that in the age of learning and comprehension that is one view that we are filtered from is equally dangerous. There is no other way to see it other than that the Muslim way of life has a global impact on nearly all, even if it is often not visible. Is it so bad to learn more on something that has no Christian foundation? Are we so afraid for the switching of atheists and agnostics to state: “This sounds like a much better way“, is the often hidden setting that Christians filter what must not be seen that has been a hindrance for decades! Should you oppose that (which is perfectly fine), than take a look at Spotlight, a 2015 movie on an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. This was based on the 2001 event where editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, the fore mentioned unfrocked priest. The article became proof of the cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. An issue that still impacts people today. Less than a day ago we see ‘Cardinal George Pell could face fresh charges after new witness statement emerges‘. This is merely one of many issues that had been pushed to the hidden shadows of society. These events are still being shown to be an issue 15 years after the initial article got out, so we can state that there has never ever been an events where filtering based on religion gave us wisdom, the media is only finding this out because it ups the circulation of their papers. There is a hard lesson to be learned there.

So, as we take a look at the Crown Prince, and the video game intro movie? Perhaps we will learn the truth of whoever was really behind it and what the purpose was. Perhaps it will be as simple as a member of the Saudi royal family telling Iran that they need to stop playing their games, because some mind games tend to become realities with fatalities and in this a video game is merely the presentation of artistic design. We all need to realise that only in a videogame foundation can a 1.68m tall model wearing nothing but cargo pants and a tank top take out dozens properly clothed mercenaries armed to the teeth with a bow, a knife and an ice axe, because that is where our minds in video games tend to end. So will the intro movie become a reason for war? I very much doubt it, whilst we are looking at these events, most are now forgetting that both Iran and Turkey are isolating themselves more and more, Iran for fuelling the events in Yemen and Turkey for the actions in pretty much all the Kurdish regions. In the end they can merely depend on one another, which would be a clear ending to whatever economy they thought they had. As Iran is dealing with 25% youth unemployment and Turkey with 24.1%, they both have other immediate needs. So in the end, even as the Command and Conquer, Saudi edition looked cool, a mere presentation of how opening trade and growing other economic options is a solution to youth unemployment, it seems that both Iran and Turkey are far far away from learning that lesson for now.

So as we end with two more parts from the NY Times. The first being: “The video appears to show an accurate reflection of the vast Saudi arsenal, with two exceptions. The tanks labelled in the video as Abrams M1s, the most advanced American model, look more like the outdated Patton M60s. And Saudi Arabia does not have the ships needed to transport them to Iran, said Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London“, which might be perfectly fine, so when we see the second part we see: ““The Saudis have a very limited amphibious capability,” Mr. Barrie said. “They do not have the platforms for a large-scale amphibious operation.”“, we might all agree, but these high paid people have taken the time to analyse a video game intro, so as the optional third player makes another movie, will they look at it again? When it comes in a box with image below, will we hear from these people about the substandard weapons that the French are using? #JustSaying

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, Media, Military, Politics, Religion

The choice of a new religion

The Guardian had an interesting article yesterday by none other than Alex Hern. He and I look towards the gaming world in very different ways, it does not make him wrong and it does not make my view right. We have at times different views on things. That is the wonderful world of gaming, it is one of the few fields where the approach to any solution tends to be almost artistic, many views, none the same can still warrant true correctness or success. In ‘Apple wants the Apple TV to be a games console. But can it be trusted?‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/12/apple-tv-games-console-can-it-be-trusted), which is a very true piece. The subtitle states ‘Apple would like to see its new set-top box become the next Nintendo Wii. But it’s questionable whether the company really understands gaming‘, which is as true as it gets. I have been ‘connected’ to Apple systems in one way or another since 1990. One thing from the very start is that the Apple systems were always ahead in many ways, even in artistic ways, yet true gaming was never supported to the extent it should have been. One of my very first freelance jobs was to take a look at ‘Balance of Power’ (by Mindscape), I ended up checking it on the Mac as well as the Amiga. Another one was Shadowgate by the same makers. Even though these games were always worshipped, but on the Mac they seemed to be on the side, accepted as in existence, but never truly part of the ‘Apple’ environment accepted. It is hard to get it into words. You would have had to be there to understand it.

The quote “The problem is that games are treated as just another type of app by the company – albeit a very profitable type. The games store, for instance, is organised in exactly the same way as the rest of the app store, with prominence given to a few select apps and then three charts of top-selling paid games, most-downloaded free games, and “top grossing games”“, helps here. It is like a bunch of economists see games in the spreadsheet as deep green and those economists really like deep green (as in profit). Yet games is a lot more than numbers (something Ubisoft has an issue with too). To see Apple people look at games and advice their users on is like going to your accountant for sex guidance. That person gets off on spreadsheets and a balance books, for many people not the orgasmic solutions to embrace. Yet there is also a side where I have to disagree on.

Part one is “Similarly, in the newly-released guidelines for Apple TV apps, the company reveals that “the maximum size of an Apple TV app is limited to 200MB”, with no persistent local storage. In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, part two is “The top-tier consoles right now ship their games on Blu-ray discs, which store at least 25GB and can rise to 128GB per disc (twice the total storage of the highest-capacity Apple TV“. Now, Alex speaks the truth and he is 100% correct. My issue is that quote 2 implies (he never really states it anything in that way) that size makes the game, that is wrong. Still there is a truth here. 200Mb is nowhere near enough for any decent game. If we look at previous games, like Metroid Prime on the GameCube, that game exceeds the 200Mb. Many games from the PC could get close to the 200Mb, but will in all likelihood exceed that part.

In addition, the statement “In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, which now implies that we are all dependent on quality connection. A property that is even debatable in parts of Western Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. For Apple it must be good to know that at least Scandinavia and its 18 million people will see the bulk of Apple TV gaming. The second issue is “Unlike PC games, consoles have always been fairly locked down by the platform manufacturers. In a way, it’s “no sex, no drugs, only rock and roll” attitude is merely replicating the same approach that Nintendo has emphasised for years in its efforts to keep its games consoles family friendly“. Now I am all for family friendly games, yet some people want more than Mario Kart. Some want to play the master Sergeant (HALO). Some want to be in the wasteland (Fallout) or they want to sneak their ways around a city (Thief). Many of these games would never be allowed, with a massive portion of the gamers being 21+, they end up being nothing more than a nuisance to Nintendo and without a massive arsenal of IP that will not happen any day soon.

It is the final quote that is concern as well as the source of howl of deriving laughter “But its success as a games console would be handing yet more control of the medium to a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming. And that should concern anyone who likes to play“, wasting this level of resources on a system with no expertise on quality gaming will put a dent in the Apple coffers, in addition, once rejected by gamers, those at the helm will be forced to take a harsh look at their choices and their considerations. It seems that so far in new gaming only Elite Dangerous made it. If the iMac 5K would have one additional hardware update. If they had something in equal or exceeding the Radeon R9 295X2, the system would become something to behold, not just with Elite Dangerous, but in addition with games like No Man’s Sky (if it ever gets here). The iMac would be an option, the Apple TV is clearly not that option, beyond Minecraft there is not a lot that plays on the Apple TV. So do I disagree with Alex?

Actually no! When we consider his quote “Despite my concerns, there is the chance that the Apple TV could be good for gaming“, it connects to my thoughts that good gaming is not about the size (well not completely). Consider that some of the games that were a massive success on the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST can still be the games in the new generation systems like the Apple TV. The games by Sid Meier, games like seven cities of gold, some of the legends like Lemmings, Dune 2 (Command and Conquer), pretty much most of the games Peter Molyneux made (including Dungeon keeper), there are loads of other games. The opposite is also true, now we can get a pirates game Sid Meier could never offer when he did because technology stopped him. In equal measure quality gaming has dwindled as there are no limitations, so that game designers are no longer trying to squeeze the maximum out of a console. Tomb Raider is an example here. When we consider that Apple TV could get a market, whilst the hard core end games on consoles and PC remains, I state ‘Yes’, that is a definite option. Yet Alex does illustrate a side of Apple that the foundation of Apple should be ‘concerned’ with. “If you want to criticise a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store”, in all fairness there should be space for that approach, but it will hinder your business. You see, the guidelines at 15.1 state “Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected“, which is nice but that pretty much sums up almost every game ever made, including New Zealand Story, where the little Kiwi loses health when he touches a spike. 15.3 makes any WW2 game a non-starter, unless Apple insists that Nazi Germany was never a real government where my response becomes: ‘good luck with that one!’

So, even though we can accept that guidelines are needed to keep certain groups (read children) free to wander on the app store selecting games. I get that, but as I stated before, it limits the Apple TV to the realm of Nintendo who already has a massive grip on its user base through several means, why would Apple TV wander in that field? It almost reads like Apple wants to add to the foundation of a failed system. The idea that was a write off in 2007, regarding a big fat fail in 2010, suddenly got the title ‘How Apple’s biggest failure could be one of its greatest accomplishments‘ in 2014 (at http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/saving-apple-tv-think-different/) we see: “Apple has a chance here to beat its competitors to the punch, first and foremost, by making sure that you can play every significant type of video file type that Apple TV doesn’t offer now. This will broaden the range of apps the device can support, and ensure they never have an issue like they did with Hulu again. They would also be wise to create a browser for the device, and to let users access its hard drive“, which is true, yet the article reads like a marketing approach to ‘new’ options for Apple TV and now a year later we see the games ploy. Is it truly about that, or is there a fear within Apple that they are being passed by, passed by those who had a clear goal and by growing in any direction they get to hold onto non-write-off a little longer.

I will let you decide on the parts that are a given, but are they truly a given? I must warn my own view that it is tainted and also clouded. There is a view that comes from true gaming and as such Apple TV does not add up to much, yet what is small can grow and as I stated, let true innovation grow through limitations. It gave us true pearls on three generations of consoles, innovations that seem to be missing in NextGen. Yes, there is still innovation, but not to the extent there was in the past. The idea that Apple starts it up again is partially pleasing. Pleasing because that is the one part that have been downplayed by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to the larger extent, if you doubt that, then look at how many independent productions made it to consoles in the past. The fact that this year is a lot more about independents is not a given, it is a fab and no guarantee exists that independents will make it through in 2016 and 2017.

That is the part where Apple could grow, you see I personally believe that the next 12 years will be all about the small innovators. As larger players have become vultures, eating the small ones and carrion eaters as they devour their brands in the insane vision that growth comes from interactive innovation, large jumps are ignored. You only need to see the success of Markus the Notch and Minecraft to see that I am right. Will Sean Murray be the next one to show this? David Braben is on the right track to do so too and they are not alone. Even though Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not likely to be the success others are becoming, the truth is that this game is innovative. Even though in respect to my Tomb Raider view that 10 hours of game play is not acceptable, it would be equally unacceptable to see a 6 hour story as a good thing (source: YouTube). Yet, it is a story and the challenge as such is too small. You only need to look back at the game Portal (by Rob Swigart) to see something a lot larger, even though not in an open world environment, the result as well as the story was truly unique. That does not make the game a failure or inferior, yet the truth remains that the challenge needs an upgrade. Too small, yet remains a true innovation compared what is out there. In all this my own perception is an issue for discussion too. Where is it a given that a 10 hour game is insufficient? I base it on past play and play that some games give, as such 10 hours of gaming just doesn’t hack it neither does 6 hours. Yet all this started with a new religion, one of gaming. not the worship of a controller, or the divination of a system, but the choice of what we believe is to be an open direction, a choice of innovation, because without innovation gaming seizes to survive and we get iteration of a given, in the artsy world gaming exists in, that part can never be allowed to remain in iteration. This is one of the core reasons why the iteration of Assassins Creed, the iteration of Lara Croft the raider of Tombs and Call of Duty will simmer down, will cease to be the cash cows they once were.

The future is all about true innovation in gaming, in that Apple TV could have a space if it opens the doors to independent developers. When we consider the iPad, it has had a nice collection of games and some are truly innovative, in all that IOS has a place and the Apple TV could bring it to the big screen (and I do mean on your TV). In the final part, I agree with Alex for the most, except for the part “a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming“. I am not certain it does. It seems to have an approach not unlike Nintendo. Do we look down on them? The question does remain when we see gaming as a religion. It could be the one religion that should be without a bible, which is fair enough, but what about the 10 commandments? Should we not consider some guidelines? Personally I state no, but then again, I started in a world where gaming was born, where it evolved. In all this gaming can evolve within any limited system (consider the 16KB VIC-20), as such any system can bring the joy of gaming, we only need to consider where we take gaming. Nintendo took a direction, there is nothing stopping from Apple taking it in the same direction. In my mind, it should be now and forever about innovation, because that is what draws us to a new game. Consider how Elemental Kingdoms took the concept of CCG and gave it a digital evolution, that is just one of many options, I hope many that are yet unemployed and it awaits the next visionary to create that path.

Who? That is up to the developer that dares to dream and make it reality.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Media, Science

About Gamespot!

It happens; we all make mistakes, even I (although I do not think I made one). I have been a member of Gamespot, officially since 2005, unofficially several years longer. I reviewed, I wrote and sometimes I complained. So, last week during the E3, where I followed it all for the second year in a row, I was again confronted with the technical flaws from Gamespot during the E3. Now, is it the fault of Gamespot? That is hard to answer, considering that they get a few million plus watchers to see the E3 shows live as many cannot attend the events in person. (it costs a boatload to get to E3 and stay there for 3-4 days). So we see the shows, the live events and the walk through the event.

These items are nearly always flawed because we get a lag, the buffers time out and then the show stops until we restart it and we miss some of it. Such things happen when too many attend (or even too many watching from the distance and your ISP times out). Several steps going wrong and it is unclear to see if there is even any blame. Oh and every time there was a timeout and you reloaded the screen we got the mandatory UBI-Soft advertisement again and again. I reckon I saw the Black Flag advertisement trailer at least 50 times during E3 2013.

That is one side. The other side is different. At times we the viewer would get the chance to ask questions live on the show. These are golden moments and we all hope that our question gets asked. Can you imagine getting personally answered by Hideo Kojima, Nobuo Uematsu or Yoshitaka Amano? In the past I met and spoke with Sid Meijer, Richard Garriott and Peter Molyneux and a host of other game makers. I can tell you that getting a personal response from a man like Hideo Kojima would be similar to Lara Croft walking up to you and asking you to sit down and share a beer with her. These are epic moments we might get once in a life time (if ever). So when I wanted to ask a question last year in regard to Arkham City the following happened.

The Gamespot comment screen shows a ‘log in’. (I was already logged in), but I go to the login screen, I re-entered my name and password and it takes me to the comment screen and I cannot comment, because I am not logged in. I try it half a dozen times and the moment to ask the question is gone. Man was I angry! However, I get that the servers are busy! I complained and let it go. Sometimes technology is not on our sides and we just have to swallow the bitter pill of defeat. This year the same thing happened when I was trying to comment on events and this time I really lost it (which happens to all of us)!

Even when angry I do try to keep my sense of humour about myself. So when I saw the article “E3 2014: Kojima Responds to Metal Gear Solid 5 Torture Controversy“, my pesky and creative inner demon woke up. It was quite an interesting article (at http://www.gamespot.com/articles/e3-2014-kojima-responds-to-metal-gear-solid-5-torture-controversy/1100-6420442/), and I responded on my Gamespot blog roughly (the response was deleted by Gamespot) as stated below:

Perhaps it is an idea to add an Easter egg and let the gamer torture information from the Gamespot web team“. There was a little more, but that was what it amounted too.

So read this carefully! I added ‘Easter egg‘, so something to unlock in a game, more importantly, the game Metal Gear Solid 5. The Metal Gear Solid being one of the most revered gaming franchises in gaming history. I would reckon that the web team would like to be immortalised in such a revered gaming franchise. As you see, I did keep some sense of humour about it, even though as I saw it, the Gamespot system failed twice (perhaps even more often). What was their response? I have now been banned (perhaps for life from Gamespot). It is interesting how some people react to issues.

The response was unbalanced and extremely unfair. I decided to take an additional look at Gamespot. There was a lot on IGN and most of it related to either biased or incompetent moderation. The quote “I have been temporarily banned for voicing my opinion on another member’s poor review of a game, after he continually sent me hostile PM’s” is only one of several voicing the quality of moderation. I did however find something else that made me wonder about the state of affairs at Gamespot. I found this at http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=116270

By now, most have heard that Jeff Gerstmann, Editorial Director at GameSpot, is now the former Editorial Director at GameSpot. The short of it, confirmed through our own sources: Gerstmann was fired for his negative review of Eidos Interactive’s Kane & Lynch. But there’s more to the story in which Gerstmann — one of the site’s leading editors for over a decade — was terminated this week.

The GameSpot staff is currently keeping publicly quiet, but CNET, the parent organization of GameSpot, issued a response today. “For over a decade, Gamespot and the many members of its editorial team have produced thousands of unbiased reviews that have been a valuable resource for the gaming community. At CNET Networks, we stand behind the editorial content that our teams produce on a daily basis,” reads CNET’s statement.

We’re told Eidos had invested a sizable chunk of advertising dollars for Kane & Lynch — check the before and after shots above of GameSpot’s front page for proof — and then allegedly threatened to pull the ads if the “tone” of Gerstmann’s “6.0” review (just under the current Game Rankings average score of 70%) wasn’t changed. Gerstmann did alter the tone of his critique ahead of publication, but it looks as if that wasn’t enough for management. When asked about the situation, Eidos declined comment to 1UP. “Eidos is not able to comment on another company’s policies and procedures,” said a company representative.

But pressure from other advertisers may have contributed to the clash with editorial. Just a few weeks prior, GameSpot came under fire from Sony Computer Entertainment America for scoring Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction a 7.5. In his former position, Gerstmann was responsible for overseeing (and defending) all reviews.

1UP did contact Gerstmann, but he declined comment, likely due to signing a non-disclosure agreement upon his termination, common in situations such as these.

What’s interesting is the timing of his termination, though. GameSpot has never been a stranger to review controversy or publisher backlash. Gerstmann himself had a long history of bucking the popular trend with certain review scores over the many years he critiqued games for the site, most recently scoring The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess an 8.8 on Wii. With no transparency into the situation, no one knows if this is something that had possibly been brewing for a while now, but sources point to a recent change in GameSpot management as the real catalyst. Stephen Colvin, former President and CEO of Dennis Publishing — the group responsible for publications like Maxim, Blender and Stuff — became CNET’s Executive Vice President at the end of October. One of Colvin’s jobs would be to oversee the growth of CNET websites, including GameSpot. The editorial in Maxim and Stuff, publications who routinely review games months ahead of their completion and where the line between marketing and editorial is a little less clear, is much different than GameSpot’s. That was apparently reflected quickly when Colvin joined CNET. “New management has no idea how to deal with games editorial,” said one source not long after Colvin came on board. Indeed.

The question becomes what is happening at Gamespot. This is not about the web team, or just the quality of moderation, this goes much deeper. Consider the almost massive amount of advertising that is as I see it UBI-Soft only advertising. I am adding two questions here.

  1. Is UBI-Soft the only one advertising? Which would be rather odd as the gaming industry is a lot larger than just UBI-Soft!
  2. Why was Assassins Creed Black flag reviewed so immensely high? It could be a genuine rating!

I personally saw Assassins Creed a firm notch lower, especially as it contained a repeated 4th generation of glitches. The blog post lights on several issues I had noticed on Gamespot, the first being that early reviews and ratings were less and less common. Consider this quote from Gamespot “We have no player reviews for EA Sports UFC yet“, which is fair enough as the game is not out until…… Yesterday! So that is possible, there is however also no review from Gamespot, which is in my book slightly unacceptable. Are they or are they not a gaming site? I know the E3 just ended, but not all writers went to the E3, did they? The same could be said for Sniper Elite 3, out next week. Not all game developers want their games reviewed early, but at this stage when loads of games are only reviewed after they get into the stores make me wonder why Gamespot is not taking a harder look on this. Over time I have seen several reviews that would not appear until after the games were in the store.

I have been a reviewer myself for 13 years, published in several magazines. In one high point of my ‘career’ I wrote 18 pages in one issue (which was a unique event), which might have been overdoing it a little. For the most, I always wrote positive reviews. As I had at the most space to write about 2-3 games, I had to choose the good ones. I had no intention wasting space on a 30% game if I only had 3-4 pages to write about.

I have seen other opinions from people writing that the 100% game does not exist. Yes, they do, but they are rare moments!

I have given (as far as I remember it) two 100% scored games. The first one was Ultima 7: the Black Gate. When it was released in 1992 in the age of floppies, 640 Kb computers and extended memory, this game was so high above what was released in those days, it was intense. The water views, the houses, the characters. This game was ahead of the games pack by a lot. The second one was Neverwinter Nights. It was released in 2002. This game took RPG in a visible, creative and story based level unlike before. The creation set was just the icing of a very impressive cake. I still regard these two games as bright lights showing the way to game developer as possibilities on how high the quality of a game could go. There were others, but they got a 90%+ rating. Games like System Shock that even, if re-released today, would likely become greater hits then what they were when they were initially launched.

Let’s get back to the issue. I cannot tell how true the blog was. I do however question the influence that is implied in the article on reviewers. I think that GTA-5 is a good game (not my choice of game) and 90% is a view of the reviewer, as was the 75% for Ratchet and Clank. Is the review far below our expectation less value than the one reviewed higher? I have always loved the Insomniac games (I have the bulk of them), which makes me wonder what to make of the ‘star destroyer’ piece and more important are the high reviews too high, the low too low and where do we base the comparison on?

The quote “New management has no idea how to deal with games editorial,” is another matter. A game is software, which means we look at the quality, the play value and the content. Is there a reason to debate Infamous Second Son at 80% when we get 15 hours of play time? Yet, Thief was only granted 60% (which was too low in my mind). A reviewer writes in his (or her) own street of passion, and in my street the games like Ultima, Mass Effect would end up with a high score compared to GTA-5 (which was not my cup of tea). However, no matter what my view is, over the timeline of games reviewed there would be a consistent view, and as such, some will value my views, some will value the view of Carolyn Petit. In the end, reviewers, not unlike columnists will have their own distinct styles and choices which they voice. I believe true reviewers will keep a fair view towards games, even towards games they do not like.

If Gamespot as implied by some has become a mere vessel for advertisement and basic information, then what value is there? The quote “I agree with Gamespot, they use to be good but have gotten far worse” is one that I have seen growing for some time now. I wonder why CBS Interactive is letting, what could be a powerful trademark, slip into something that just seems to become below average. I do not think it is just the people. I immensely enjoyed Johnny Chiodini when he was making Feedbackula (still a shame it got scrapped), Jess McDonell, gaming goddess, wearer of the coolest gaming T-shirts and bringer of excellent news in an upbeat way and there is Cameron Robinson with his Reality Check. They all bring video news in interesting ways. Gamespot also has its share of writers, which makes me wonder why CBS is not taking much harder stance on protecting and ensuring the value of the Gamespot Trademark and the issues that are at hand as I see them. Getting back to Cameron Robinson, you should watch his video “Surprising Facts About Video Games You Probably Didn’t Know” and it only gives a lot more question marks in regards to the implied ‘buckling’ of reviewers to the pressure by the software houses. Is it true? I cannot tell as the only name that keeps coming up is Jeff Gerstmann but the numbers that Cameron Robinson brought states that gaming sales is outperforming the US box office numbers, giving additional power to the question why CBS is not stepping up to the plate fast and immediate.

In the end games are product, they have a represented value and they rely on ‘good’ views. The consumer relies on a trusted portal where they can get reliable information from those with a view on that industry, simply because most people only get to spend money on a game once and they want the best game for them. If Gamespot loses the credibility, then others will step up to the plate, because one does not ignore a market that surpasses the 100 billion dollar mark this year, others will come and take the Gamespot share, whether they will or not will mostly rely on the actions of CBS Interactive.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, Media