Tag Archives: Mass Effect

Comprehension amok

We get it, some games are flawed, and some games go for the image of coolness and fail. We heard it well over 12,324 times, through articles and YouTube videos. Anthem, a game that is not bad is a failure. Some have a deeper idea, was this due to EA, or to Bioware? The issue is that the makers were no beginners. Bioware, the people behind the Mass Effect series, Dragon Age and a few more had a great track record. Even now, Mass Effect 2 is still one of the very best games to make it to any console ever, which is some achievement, and it remains a factor, even today.

Some give the decent feedback ‘a cool looking game that is not bad, but it is not getting us where we want to be‘. I can get along with it. Then I got a hold of a slide which is more important than you might ever realise. Another quote that matters is: ‘Anthem is an example of EA’s monetisation plans in action‘, we now have two settings that can easily make a game go from acceptable to really really bad. This matters when it is not merely a game you buy, but when it becomes Gaming As A Service. The issue is not how much you pump into it; it is how right you need to get it the first time over. They dropped one optional solution to it (not part of this conversation) and focussed on the artificially created Hype called Anthem.

I had seen issues with Destiny, so I was giving this game a wide birth until the game had proven itself and within 24 hours, the massive amount of complaints starting to hit the internet in close to every way possible. I was actually decently amazed how neutral and how considerate some reviewers were. the AngryJoeShow was its usual self, but for mere entertainment watching it is still the first step to consider, I do to see where haters come from, and he does not disappoint (a https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AJsKyh0x7w). When we see the statement (supported by evidence of sorts) that the loading of the game took longer than the actual gameplay, we see just how far Bioware had fallen of the wagon, or was that EA? Angry Joe gives a list that does not screw around. This does not merely indicate that there is a core issue, there are other parts linked to the core that give strong indication that EA failed on too many levels, optionally Bioware also failed on several levels, yet in all this we need to take a look at a screenshot.

When you make a game where jet packs are central in the gameplay, the makers need to consider that some people think outside of the box. So when we are in a cave and we see a large opening, large enough to fly through, so when you try and you get slapped back for no good reason, we see the first larger failing, the tactical side that was not thought through. Levels made on cosmetic states where the state of consideration should only ever have been tactical, so either remove the good looking hole giving you ambient feelings of lighting, or make sure we can use it as an escape cover. The second screenshot was early art work I was able to find. Now, I do not know whether that is in the game, but it seems to me that it is a clear sign of copyright violation and an optionally downright stage of plagiarism.

For some reason the stage reminded me of Alien 1979 and Aliens 1986, but then I might be wrong. If that is set as early concept art, it should have been a huge wake up call for both Bioware and EA, right there is where people had to consider the danger they were walking into.

Yet, for me this is not about those failings, for me there is another side, there are actually two sides. We see that with the GAAS image. The two elements that were there above all others were Player Centric and Lifetime value. Al the indications shown by so many people give us that these two were not merely ignored, they were not comprehended by the people trying to sell the idea, and they added catchwords to sell the money maker, without comprehending the impact it had, that is how I see it.

Player Centric comes from Customer centric. Yet there we see in one place: “Customer centric is a way of doing business with your customer in a way that provides a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, customer loyalty and profits. But, a customer-centric company is more than a company that offers good service. A place like Amazon is a prime examples of brands that are customer centric and have spent years creating a culture around the customer and their needs“, and when we consider that part, we see that Anthem would not have passed the Alpha stage at present before August 2019, that alone means that of the 6 elements, one is a 80% failure, making the game 17% less effective right of the bat. The additional testing and reconnaissance of the game in real live server environment would have shown 4 essential elements to be too far below par. The load screens, the loot, the tactical setting of the map(s) and the story-lines, storytelling as well as the interactive parts (those three all count towards the story dimension).

Here we see the failing of the presented Player Centric part. This also impacts the second element, namely ‘Lifetime Value’. The moment the player centric parts were hit, ‘Litetime Value’ was equally hit, but to a much larger extent. It is clear that proper testing would have ousted many of the elements, as such it stands to reason that either the makers BE-A (my optimistic version of this merger) never cared, or did not properly do the essential testing and fixing. All what I have seen (console versions only) indicates that it could have become a nice game when it gets to the beta stage; the game is nowhere near that ready. The graphics look good, but good graphics on a failed core is still a failed game.

Say What?

that is where the issue starts, a game that does not look bad and has potential is in the GAAS (Gaming As A Service) still a failed project when it does not meet certain expectations and Anthem fails a few of them. Even as I was never a fan of this genre, I see issues that I should never have noticed and those are really badly managed issues.

Still we should acknowledge that it is a failed, but not a bad game, which also implies that what went wrong, could optionally be fixed, yet when we get to the loot part, we see just how far the model failed. The loot is mentioned by several to be massively repetitive, in the stage of this game where the weapons are shown we see too much repetition making the loot way too bland, so when we look at this part against ‘High User Engagement‘, over a period of 6 years, we see that the third part fails too, at least when we consider player expectation. In all this when we see that other elements can only be bought, we see the drive towards Recurring Revenue Business, a side that will not be successful as three elements have already failed for too much. At that point the game has gone from 83% to a mere 41% effective as a GAAS experiment, a stage that could have been avoided to a much larger extent if it had only been tested better, stronger and with more diligence.

They did get the graphics right, and it looks cool, but there again we see that a real GAAS solution is so much more and the fact that one of their alleged slides show the failures to this degree, we see that gamers should be upset. A game like this could not be sold in any other way than an open BETA, optionally an open BETA that is for those who have pre-ordered (and pre-paid the game) offering these people unique gear and weapons, for their effort, that might have worked, giving them additional options would have made things even better and it would all have been in support of ‘Recurring Revenue Business‘, as well as ‘Multi-Platform Business‘, gamers love that shit. To be regarded as official beta testers upping the game to such an extent? Gamers would buy the game for the mere notion (as long as it comes with actual unique gear).

So as we see this game and the game maker we see that comprehension went amok on a few levels, in this I would point the finger at EA (for the most) yet the stage of whomever let this game slip towards the ‘approved for release’ that person should never ever be allowed anywhere near the gaming industry ever.

In the end I wonder if they have seen the Single Player GAAS opportunity that Mass Effect Andromeda would enable for. That is if they ever get a visionary to call the shots on that part of the equation, because if they fix up that game, they could have the stage of ‘High User Engagement‘ that surpasses 110%, which would be a legendary achievement to say the least.

If there is one accomplishment that does stand out beyond the graphics then it is the person who decided that hiring Sarah Schachner was a good idea. She created two pieces, AC: Origin and Anthem both soundtracks that make you wonder if they were even made by the same person and she hits the ball straight out of Fenway Park, twice in a row mind you. Two soundtracks that were utterly amazing, yes, the Music of Anthem does exceed all human expectations (merely my view, but I stand by it); as such I expect to see more great work from her in the future. If EA and Bioware can get the rest right, they might have a chance to survive this expensive overpriced, wrongly focussed ordeal called Anthem.

The EA shareholders would definitely be appreciative of that notion.

 

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Game of failures

This is for those who love games. Games are important, it has always been important even as plenty of people do not realise it. Getting your kids into gaming at an early age is increasingly important. Our lives revolve around interfaces; interactivity of systems, so lowering that threshold to children as soon as possible is important, very important. Those parents who think that they will get it school are out of their minds. To get any child to be aware of how a tablet is used, to how a mouse is used and a controller is close to everything. Yet this path only works when the software is up to scrap and whilst this was easily the case for Putt-Putt, the games nowadays that go beyond merely being an educational support idea is far from perfect, in some cases they are disastrous.

Some kids get to tap their parent’s smartphone and that is fine. This is not a new issue; it goes back to the early 90’s where Humongous Entertainment created amongst others, the Putt-Putt series, an interactive game that worked like a picture book story and as the player learned to click on the environment, it started to be more and more interactive. I thought it was the greatest idea in 1992 when I tested the game. I already saw at that point that lowering the threshold for the next generation was going to be a big thing and this game delivered. Even as that side did not survive, it had set a seed in motion and created learnware, a way for people to get engaged into the use of computers at an early age, an age that went beyond the Atari 800 and Atari ST. It was a game available on PC and allowed people to fear the mouse less and become inquisitive in a natural way. I got the game via Electronic Arts in the UK if I remember correctly. It hit me how wrong the company has gone. Well, that is not entirely fair, the larger missed stages are not by Electronic Arts, yet their link to Bioware taints them the same way, no matter how removed they are from the equation. As Forbes states: ‘Five Extremely Basic Things ‘Anthem’ Gets Wrong And Needs To Fix‘, not merely an elemental flaw, a much larger massive flaw from beginning to wherever the player ends. Forbes gives us “even if BioWare manages to patch all the technical issues out of the game, what ails Anthem goes deeper, and fixes will require some pretty core reworks of entire systems that are currently in the game“, this is what you get when marketing decides on the products and proper game testing is either ignored or never properly done. I particularly liked the introduction by Paul Tassi: “While I am Mr. Anthem-Is-Not-That Bad-Actually, trying to push back against a flood of negative reviews to let at least some people know that they may enjoy the game if they’re a fan of the genre, I am also not blind to a number of very, very obvious problems with Anthem“. For me it goes back to a more basic part. Bioware has been sitting on IP worth close to a half a billion dollars and squandered it to the largest degree. Even if there is a repair to the Mass Effect universe, if they are not ready to dish out $50-$100 million and take a very new direction, ne not seen before in gaming, they will be in hot water getting boiled alive. It is not merely the ‘hope’ on Anthem getting repaired; you cannot hold the audience with E3 presentations for almost 2 years and make colossal mistakes to this degree. Bethesda is similarly not in a good place, yet they have been changing direction 180 degrees trying to get fixed in their first massive failure (Fallout 76 for those in the dark). In case of Bethesda, it is their first tits up event, so they have time to get it fixed and they got the rudest wake up call. For Bioware it is not the first time, with the Andromeda failure, they have a lot less to go with and that whilst Anthem was supposed to be trying to budge in on the Fortnite hype (and similar games), as such we can come to the conclusion that Anthem is in much deeper waters, and there is no safe swimming there.

Forbes gives us a lot more, with ‘Viewing and Equipping Loot Is Absurd‘ is the indication that no proper game testing was done, or if it was done, it was not scrutinised towards the minimum levels it needed to be, the essential 6 steps that were discussed (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2019/02/24/five-extremely-basic-things-anthem-gets-wrong-and-needs-to-fix/#3f7327ce63a5) shows just how wrong it was implemented and handled. This makes for a clearly shown wrongly tested game. And when we get back to Mass Effect 3 and their loot boxes, we know that it could be done better and there was a much better example at hand. Forbes goes one better and shows the Ubisoft method (the Division) a two year old game where loot deployment is well done and take 8 seconds against the 12 minutes loss you face now (as was stated by the reviewer), how could you ever achieve in captivating and maintaining a proper audience?

With the comment: “there is no way to see your overall stats anywhere. Not basic stuff like health and shield, which are added up between components with no total shown” I am on the fence. In a real shooter (Bagdad 2003, Beirut 1983, Kandahar 2011, or Aleppo 2015) you are alive, wounded or dead (preferably not dead). When you get shot you do not get to check your health or shield status. The Kevlar either held and you felt like a mule kicked you hard, or there is red all over the place. Yet, this is a game and a choice was made not to give it. I am not sure whether the gamer accepts this, but it was a choice made and we have to accept it. We all have come a long way from the Wolfenstein 3D health indicator. Paul gives us a lot more, from the free play, to crafting to the revive issues. The game is seemingly flawed in too many ways, in a day and age where getting it right from the beginning is almost everything, when we consider that the first teaser was in June 2017 and we see these levels of shortcomings, we need to realise that the larger players have lost the plot somehow. Is it management, project management or merely marketing that cannot get the time lines straight? No matter what the reason is, between the need to grow knowledge in a global gaming dimension as well as the revenue driven side of gaming, it goes beyond what we know now, it is all about how to evolve a system that is as mature as it gets. Perhaps the curse for Bioware is that Mass Effect three was close to perfect. You don’t get to mess with perfection ever; they learned that the hard way twice already. And as we see an exploding amount of videos on YouTube on loot grinding and chest locations after a mere weekend of availability, we see that there is a lot more to fix on this game, from my point of view, a game that is still such an alpha should not have been released, not ever.

In the past I have had good cause and plenty of reasons to have a go at Ubisoft, yet in comparison there are plenty of indicators that they are getting it right. The Division 2 is a much better version that the original, it is not really a new brand or a new game; it is a much better game. Even as it is too early to tell, there are some voices (who had early access) and they are comparing the division 2 after the first game to the Assassins Creed 2 compared to that first game. If that is true, if that holds up than those who embraced the division are in for one hell of a ride, crushing Bioware further still. In a world where we are driven to choice as our budgets limits us, the problems that Anthem created for themselves is one that they might not survive, to get this much opposition to a game three days after release is a really bad thing, those who bought the game might run back return the console games (not an option for PC games) and put that money towards the Division 2 and wait three weeks to start a proper multi player shooter.

When it comes to this generation gamers, we are faced with a failing generation as they are confronted with decision makers who clearly have not had the best track record in game design, that is proven with the mere sight of so much failure on any day one edition.

If I had to make a judgement, my personal response would be a simple one: ‘Looks like this could be a nice game, call me again if you ever get to a workable beta version‘, a game that is optionally a year too early, unfinished and unbalanced in a world where there are half a dozen better made alternatives. Bioware strikes out a second time, will they be around to make that mistake again next time?

My version is upheld and given strength when we see the ‘Anthem Day One Update Patch Notes‘ (source Gamespot) which is massive and filled with issues that should not have been allowed to be around past an alpha version. It gets to be worse for the console owners. The information in the open is that the day one patch too that is around 7GB on consoles. So you buy the game and still you need to patch 7GB from the start, I expect at least half a dozen more patches in the near future and if they are core patches, the download size is likely to be higher. Forbes gives us more than mere patch information in the several articles that Paul Tassi wrote. Last week he gave us: “In addition to the sizable day one patch, BioWare has moved swiftly to hotfix two other issues right now. The first being killing a chest exploit that was allowing players to easily farm endgame gear“, it is merely proof (as I personally see it) that this game is still pre beta stage giving us a lot more issues to ask questions on and for the most, I do not see that such a critical look is being taken by many reviewers. I have had no issue going for the throat of Yves Guillemot (apparently still CEO of Ubisoft) in regards to the AC blunders; do you think I was going to pull my punches on Bioware after the Mess Effect Andromeda bungled to that degree? Bioware needs to sit down and take a hard look at where they are at and what they think they can do next, because squandering IP to the degree that they are doing is not a good sign and it will affect EA just as badly, because that is the impact of a game with this many issue relying on micro transactions. Their best action at present is to hand out the $39.99 pack for free to all those who registered in the first 7 days, and I would double the amount of shards given in that pack, because when we start seeing the dozens of copies of the console editions of Anthem in the preowned game section that will be the first sign that Anthem will become a dead product, death in 60 days, it could be the worst result a multi-player shooter has ever faced, and it is not all on them, in this case the increasingly higher regarded and higher review scores of Division 2 will be part of that death stroke.

Anthem for a failing gaming experience‘, it is quite the epitaph to put on the tombstone of any game.

 

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That Lion cliché

Do you remember the time when art was about art? Perhaps you remember the studio that had the lion in their logo? I think that the very same lion was also very active in an old TV series called Daktari (1966, CBS). They had on their logo ‘Ars Gratia Artis‘, although some refer to it as: Arse for the sake of the artists, which is not the same thing.

It means art for art’s sake and that ideology came under assault by the Business Insider through Netflix last year (2 days ago), or did it? The article (at https://amp.businessinsider.com/netflix-bird-box-sparks-debate-over-data-in-hollywood-2018-12) gives a very different light on Hollywood. We initially get: “Netflix said its original movie “Bird Box,” starring Sandra Bullock, was viewed by 45 million accounts in its first seven days on the streaming service, a record for the company“, which is a good achievement, considering that there are 137 million subscribers, we get the setting that 30% watched it, something that should be regarded as a huge success. Yet Business Insider does not think so, it goes on with the quote: “Though Netflix revealed the huge number, it didn’t give specifics. How many of those 45 million watched the movie from beginning to end? What were the demographics of the viewers? Those are the types of stats that movie studios and TV networks release about their content“. Here we have a larger issue; those in the cinema, with rare exceptions will sit out the movie in the cinema, in the digital world we get to consider a new stage: how many watch it completely? Just like Google ads on YouTube where the first 5 seconds is ‘free’, or better stated might not be a viewer, and after 5 seconds the person can skip, so that is not a viewer either, these metrics now count towards the greater need to understand the Netflix viewer, because those who start the movie are optionally not actual viewers, so setting the purchase stage towards those metrics will be the downfall of Netflix soon enough, yet in all this, the viewer, including me, we are all new to the Netflix, Stan and other parts, so we get to switch products, like we switch channels and as such, finding what we like is going to be important to Netflix et al. Also, multiple watching might imply that, or another person at the house was watching, or perhaps I merely nodded off after 24.3 minutes only to realise that a comfy chair and warm weather implies that watching is a lot more challenging? In all this metrics, especially top line metrics with demographics will be increasingly important to all these digital providers. Even as we see: “That 45 million number has not been verified by a third-party measurement company in the way TV ratings and box-office results generally are“, we do not realise that for the most, cinemas have an utter lack of these metrics (other than amount of tickets sold, tickets per purchase and date of purchase), so even as Digital channels have more granularity (a lot more), we can debate and even question these metrics on a few levels. I once heard that a friend has his father drop by every weekend to use his Netflix account and keep up on TV series whilst the sunshine lad was at the beach entertaining his tan and swimming ability, so when he got home, he shared a meal with dad and they talk and watched a little more Netflix. So that implies that for that day the metrics are no longer matching the demographics, merely the member graphics, which again is not the same, not even close.

So when we look back at bird box, we see the interesting quote: “she believes that the latest Netflix news is nothing but a publicity stunt and that Netflix’s lack of transparency about data hurts filmmakers“, which is when the wheels leave the carriage in every direction. If movies are about art, why would data transparency be important? How is a vision or art an indication of data requirement? I get the statement, I get the implied stage where the TV industry is now mimicking Ubisoft when they started claiming another Assassins Creed every year. The implied part is forgotten as soon as you read it, but the danger is there. Those makers who rely on data to form the next hit will never ever get one. You see, the lesson that Ubisoft has been learning the hard way is that a game that appeals to everyone is a game that appeals to no one. The sales figures show that flaw, the ratings of games that at $50 million should have been 90% or better get nowhere beyond the 65%-85%, so basically a products that gets a little more than break even, it is a business model that theoretically works, but it will never produce any diamonds. The 78%-81% for Far Cry 5 is a direct indicator of that, some gave it as little as a 60% rating, a total change from the 90% that AC Origin deserved and that supports my thoughts there.

Yet in TV and movies on digital format we see another shift, we see the lack of materials making the makers a little desperate for choices. Even as we see Bird Box as a massive win, we see that choices are now coming at a much steeper investment curve, making the game a lot more dangerous, and it is pushing these analysts towards the metrics of watchers and optional watchers giving them a dangerous step towards anticipated interest versus real interest. Netflix is the most visible player here, but they are not alone. Stan, Foxtel, Canal Plus and a few others will face their own demons. Disney is the safest player for now as they have the best established brand on any medium, yet over time they too need to face the choices of data use available.

For me this data war is important in other ways too, as we see Bird Box and a title like the Blair Witch project in one box of choices, we see the link of mass media towards creating an inflated hype, yet when we look in another direction we realise that gems like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would lose their footing into getting a place in creating and release. Sabrina is as I personally see it the true approach to ‘Ars Gratia Artis‘, the moment that data takes over, things will fall apart. It is not the data itself, it is the fact that in the first the data is mostly non-confirmed (member versus actual viewer), anticipated issues on re-watching versus actual reason of re-watching and that list goes on, the inability to properly vet data for a whole league of reasons will diminish the playfield and the Ubisoft stage takes over from the actual artistic stage, it could optionally kill a series like Sabrina overnight and will kill a whole range of other series in the same way in their first seasons too. There is other evidence too, the series Lucifer that got canned in one place, got taken up by Netflix and the fans win, in this case Netflix wins too and they deserve to win, but we need to realise that Lucifer is not unlike Star Trek, a series that initially got canned because the executives did not comprehend their fans (the watchers). We can add Firefly, Dollhouse and several other series to that list. I believe that Dollhouse was going towards the place that Westworld is moving on to and that is great, the stories are still accepted and they evolve for the viewing acceptance and appreciation levels and rightfully so, yet how many TV series were lost to us for the same reason? You see, I believe that the wrong approach to data and the non-comprehension (or wrongful use in dashboards) will make this a much larger issue soon enough, and guess what?

This will not be contained to the Hollywood world, the shift of data and dashboards will push into every realm that uses data soon thereafter. You might not think it now, but you all are part of this, it will affect you all soon enough. 5G is not merely a mobile platform, it is a data platform and we will personally see, feel and experience the impact of data. That impact is not theoretical, it is an actual impact. At Cornell University we saw the creation of a paper in March 2018 called ‘Load Balancing for 5G Ultra-Dense Networks using Device-to-Device Communications‘ by Hongliang Zhang, Lingyang Song, Ying Jun Zhang that gives us that to some degree directly. When we consider: “data traffic can be effectively offloaded from a congested small cell to other underutilized small cells by D2D communications. The problem is naturally formulated as a joint resource allocation and D2D routing problem that maximizes the system sum-rate. To efficiently solve the problem, we decouple the problem into a resource allocation subproblem and a D2D routing subproblem. The two subproblems are solved iteratively as a monotonic optimization problem and a complementary geometric programming problem, respectively. Simulation results show that the data sum-rate in the neighbouring small cells increases 20% on average by offloading the data traffic in the congested small cell to the neighbouring small cell base stations

Say What?

I am geting there the long way round, stick with me, it will soon make sense, as such, let’s look at this from another angle so that it makes a little more sense. Here I use a quote “We also know that the capacity (density) of current macrocellular 4G networks will continue to increase in the foreseeable future since there’s still spectrum available around the world that could be used or reused for mobile broadband“, this is a given, actually more than a given as both Cisco and Alcatel passed through the average barrier by 100%, as well over half a dozen carriers are on the average expectation, the other two crushed it by almost 100%, and that was 4G, the game changes in 5G (yes this is still about art).

Now consider that we are not set in metrics, my viewing pleasure never was, even as early as the late 70’s; that means that the metrics never fitted me and more importantly these metrics are failing a larger population to a much larger degree and it will increasingly fail those relying on them, no matter how good the story sounds. This part is important in a few ways. You see, from my point of view (always debatable whether it is correct), we see the flawed Ubisoft formula and consider that the choice fits 80% of all, this might be seen as a good thing. Yet in art the change is slow learned and even as with a video game the initial payment is done, we see a much larger stack of players going towards pre-owned games (for financial reasons). Now consider that in the Netflix et al world, it is not set into a $99 purchase, it is a $15 per month and everyone bailing after a few months will increase the financial dangers for players like Netflix (and others) as they have amassed a multi-billion dollar debt, whilst the people can leave at any time; even as leaving in the first year (or after the first free month) is not likely, especially at $15 a month, that same given part is not guaranteed after year one, so getting the right series up and running is a lot more important. Now that Netflix is no longer the one option and now that Disney Plus is gaining a global insertion, having the right data is increasingly important, we do get that, yet the Netflix data is lot more debatable than some think and this is where the problem starts. There are several indicators that the data is not that great or that complete. Unless Netflix is gathering data incorrectly (read: ethically immoral), which is not a given and there is no indication that this is happening, we have the direct issue with valid data versus non validated data and there is a much larger hiatus in play.

And now we get to the producer Rebecca Green, now we get to look at the part that is important. (apart from her ludicrous believe that Netflix data needs to be more transparent), we need to look at: “My goal is to create original content for wide audiences, but how do I cater to an audience if I do not know what they are turning in to watch?” she said. “‘It Follows’ has been on Netflix for two years, and I have no idea how many people have viewed the film. ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’ has been on Amazon Prime for two years as well, and I have no idea how many people have viewed the film on that platform. Why share the stats for one film but not the others, aside from wanting to create buzz?“, right next to “Netflix needs to be more transparent about the performance of its titles so that people can better contextualize the data and to help more of these types of movies get made. I Personally believe that an adaptation from Forest Gump is needed: “Stupid is as Ubisoft does!“.

She is implying that she is out to make sure that she will not create a failure, and as such, she is unlikely to ever help create a true blockbuster. That is how I personally see it and so far my view has been supported with the results by Ubisoft several times over, so I feel decently confident on my view. She needs the right dreamers, the ones that dream the new stuff, not data driven, but vision driven. I dreamt the sequel to Mass Effect Andromeda two nights ago and it is still unsettling me today, I hope I never dream in that direction again, this does not imply a success, but it could potentially show to be a blockbuster to a lot of people, enough to take the Nexus for another spin if the investors are willing to take a (likely huge) risk. It is not merely the risk, the state that if they go all in that they are looking at optional sales of 6-8 million copies. That would be the stage where the game gets to approach the billion dollar mark and I am trying to remain conservative there. You see, it is not about the game, it is about offering something not done in gaming ever before, especially in console gaming. So there is the space to truly shift the field onto another track, a high speed track, but to get vested in that, it will cost the makers to get the right software engineers hat can give view to vision and that is a much larger call than some might think. I did a similar exercise with Elder Scrolls VI (not the one that is being made). It was not about a new story, it was about where can we push the story to and more important, how can we instill additional value, for me that has always been the ability to replay a game, not merely watch an interactive story with a few variables. What if we could evolve the game not merely in size, but in the ability to give a game 100+ hours of challenge and fun? In my mind, I gave that setting a whirl with Elder Scrolls VI: Resurrection by changing the nature of the challenge and by adding the openness of the game. Oblivion had done a terrific job initially, but I learned that in the 4th play through that I went for the anticipated goals too fast, I wanted a change that gave the challenge , but removed grinding to a larger degree (removing grinding 100% in an RPG is pretty much impossible). It is done not by adding more repetitive challenges, but by limiting options. You see, in my view a person cannot join all guilds, they can be members of some (until completed), so mages will auto decline Necromancers, thieves will reject assassins and fighters will not allow for thieves or assassins to enter the guild, so you can do all, but not all at the same time giving an additional layer to the gameplay, because at a later stage one guild will be a lot more challenging than before. Having a long term quest, one that goes on over time, even as you are working other challenges is also a path to set the stage and a third one is seen in choice. In my view The shrines were no more, the [main quest challenge] had undone something and we get to choose whether we fix that, and also having to decide what goes where, or continue on the path Tamriel was on, in that stage I have set 5 main quest lines in a different path, optionally giving a severe different view to how Tamriel continues as a nation, whether the initial main quest is resolved one way or another, that is the shape of close to 50-100 hours of additional playtime, will people like that? What happens when you really give the option of choice a new dimension?

I do not think that those bragging on how they cleared Skyrim in 2 hours will like it, but I am not making it for those few, I thought up ES-Resurrection for those who loved travelling in Skyrim (and beyond), those who create additional content and loved the time they had in Skyrim, the true RPG players that want to see it all. That same situation exists on any RPG (read: Mass Effect) and those value art and the creation of art by software engineers and graphical artists, gamers will bend over backwards buying such a game the very moment it arrives.

This is the same for movies and TV series, You merely have to watch fans going nuts on social media regarding Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to see my point proven; in addition, we saw a mere 3 weeks ago: “‘Firefly’ Fans Are Upset That Trending Hashtag Isn’t About the Show Being Revived“, when we see such impacts, we know that something is missed and some of these metrics will merely increase the amount missed by series makers (read: initial funders) and producers (read: investors). In this it is important to see the view of Robert Bianco (USA Today) with: “that Joss Whedon’s most devoted fans will debate and embrace, and a mass audience just won’t get“, that view is fair enough and the makers invest in the series, so as we see that there was a drop of 50% in viewers, it made sense to them not continue, yet a lot of the story was lost in the end. Could this have been prevented if data drove the choices of writing? I do not believe that to be the case, if anything, when we look at the Netflix setting, data would have made it worse; the series might have fallen over quicker. That is the setting for Rebecca Green (as I personally saw it). She might adhere to data transparency, yet there we see the most likely failure to be a choice made on non-validated data making matters worse, shying actual fans away because of adherence to the masses, which in my personal view makes matters worse, not better. Consider that 5 series with an 80% score, what are the chances that overlapping groups of people that end up no liking 2+ series released? How many members will that cost them in the months 13 and onward? In a stage where they invest $8 billion, how many losses will that ensue?

In all this (a very personal view) when we stop adhering to art for the sake of art, we see the path of data driven art and it will be nothing more than mere marketing of brand, viewers created through awareness, a dangerous setting in any form of art, video games have proven that; how long do you think it will take for people to switch away from 45 minute branding shows? How quickly will we switch to another provider? I believe that this stage will be reached sooner than we think. We might still adore and worship Game of Thrones, yet what will happen in season 8? Will it keep us on the edge? I am not handing the same values to GoT as we have had 7 seasons of GoT already, and a following will continue the story for now; more important at what point will see that there is a stage for season 10? Even if season 8 flops, there will be a drive to end the story lines at this point handing the need for a season 9 at the beginning of season 8, yet for new series that premise does not exist, so how can a series survive when it becomes data driven in a stage where the quality of data is debatable to a much larger degree at the very least.

This is not in the same range as the TV series were, it seems that the new digital series are effectively marketing driven and that might depend on data, but in all that, how many people would have given the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a proper vetting in the initial hours? As the choice of streaming digital TV companies’ increases the timespan given to vet series changes as well. That is where my reference of that 4G paper comes into play. The stage of “Using higher modulations is a proven, reliable, and well-understood method to increase capacity in a given communication channel, but it has clear limits“, you see for people it is not bandwidth, it is time, yet the equation is basically the same, we have a finite 24 hours, minus 6-8 hours of sleep, minus time for food, hygiene, travel and work. Time is an absolute here and many forget that part; it is equally an issue in gaming. That part is even more so an issue as the digital age is trying to get attention from gamers (and vice versa) in the same way, more than you think. Marketing, TV marketeers and investors are trying to create hype’s anyway that they can and it gives an additional increase, but the personal impact is spread all over the board, so these people are trying to get towards data driven solutions forgetting about art to the larger degree and in that way losing an audience to a much larger degree than they could fathom. that is hard to prove in any direction, yet I feel that (when we translate this to movies), my part is proven by Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal with: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; It’s as if everyone had set out to make the best Spider-Man movie ever, which is exactly what they’ve done“, the mere stage of a movie, an animated movie that is showing to be a comic book that has been close to truly been brought to life, I personally hope that Stan Lee had been able to see the final result whilst he was still alive (he might have done that), the fact that his visionary view on comic books took on a life of its own, data would never have gotten us there, it required art to get there, the fact that Channel 18 gave the people: “This may be the first Spider-Man feature to qualify as a great New York movie, drawn from the life of the city rather than outdated stereotypes“, I personally believe that this was achieved with art, not through data, or data as a mere assistant, not a driver.

We might think of the MGM lion as a cliché, but their slogan is still a driving force in entertainment and arts, it will most likely survive the data farmers for at least two generation, it is only when AI evolves through insight leading to wisdom that we will see a 90% appreciation level through data on arts, I doubt I will live that long, but part of me hopes to see that day where the quantum computer is asked what the state of the cloud is and it answers with an image of a Cumulus or a Cirrostratus with a defined point of arrival. It is my personal believe that people like producer Rebecca Green will always have a place in Hollywood, yet they will never become the Whedon’s, the Howard’s or the Russo’s, they got there by artistic vision, yet that too remains the issue of debate, how will the producers and directors see eye to eye on art versus data? It is something we will see a lot more in 2019, as it will drive the digital providers, as well as their content makers to a much larger degree than ever before.

 

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We test da game

It is time to talk about Bethesda. It is having a rough week and not wrongfully so. Yet the application of exposure is something we do need to talk about. We see headlines like ‘Publishers like Bethesda Should Accompany Sony in Skipping E3 2019’; it is time to do a little more than merely disagree. Another review, the one from Eurogamer made a real effort to keep it clean and academically and that should be appreciated. With: “Bethesda’s attempt at Fallout multiplayer is, like so many of the series’ vaults, a failed experiment.” Those who played the Fallout games will know that this is a jab at Vaultec and that is fine. You see, the short and sweet of it is that we can look at Bethesda and think Nintendo; we can consider that Vault 76 is the Bethesda version of the WiiU and guess what? Out of those ashes the Nintendo Switch was born and it is a massive success, as such Bethesda can do the same, get a similar solution. Now, that does not stop the immediate, and it might not be immediately fixed, is that so bad? The fact is that Bethesda has never been a real ‘more of the same‘ company and we have applauded them for it and this time, we get to wait a little longer. Guess what, Ubisoft made us wait 9 months for Watchdogs (2012/2013) and the end result was still flimsy, Bethesda can outdo that achievement (effortlessly) whilst sleeping. Even as we see articles like ‘9 Ways Bethesda Can Fix Fallout 76‘, we see the impact of some people that have an axe to grind, merely because their expectations were smashed and that is fine. You should have seen me rant in the direction of France (specifically Yves Guillemot for screwing up the AC Franchise to the extent that they had done), we all have axes to grind and it comes with the field of gaming, emotions will run high. It is all linked to the complex mind and the necessity to play. We value that downtime like the hall passes we get on powernaps in the office on Monday morning, isn’t that what the Monday morning is for? When I looked at the list of 9 (at WhatCulture) there were parts we can optionally agree with and some we might not. You see, fast travel is a nice way to exploit glitches and the soul of Vault 76 might be the survival of you, as such the option “There’s not really any reason for the game to charge for fast travel, so it’s simply an unnecessary annoyance. It can be easily patched out of the game without upsetting its balance, and so it should be done” might be rejected, and focus on another stage. I very much felt like agreeing to ‘Add an Offline Mode‘, as this has been the core of everyone, to play offline, or online in solo, singular and lonely mode, optionally merely with the additional path to invite friends.

There I would go with ‘United we Stand, Lonely we Quest‘. I have friends (merely a few mind you) and I got unnerved way too much as they got into my line of fire. You see a marksman needs a clear field and when you get in my way you will get a bullet in the back of your head to remind the others not to get in my fucking way (I apologise for my applied use of French here). In a stage where an opponent needs to cross the 800-400 meter range so he/she can effectively open fire on me, my friends better not screw up my stats, I fought hard to have a decent accuracy rating, so one idiot getting in my way in whichever way is not my choice of acceptance, and people catch on quick, they kept out of my way and whichever enemy got too close was made permanently redundant (and they went down with satisfying graphics) . This is why I never cared for the Olympics, I absolutely love that the winner is heralded, yet why are the others allowed to live? (Sorry, I do have a weird sense of humour)

So back to that list as the previous part was linked to this. You see, I disagree with: “With the inclusion of an offline mode, though, Bethesda could also add in accessibility options for players to toggle the punishment factor of the survival elements“, I disagree here, if Vault 76 is about survival, having an impact and penalty is important, it also prepares you to not run into situations as most gung-ho players tend to do, survival is something else, it is cautious and tends to be slow. There is no greater sense of achievement as wiping out all life in a village and until the last person remains alive, these NPC’s had no idea what he was up against, which is a little wink at the Oblivion ‘Whodunit?‘ mission. In his list of 9 I failed to see a true link for greatness. There are valid points in there and some should be considered fast. Yet the bigger picture I miss is not what I saw, it is what I missed. In my view (apart from the bug fixing) which will take time and Bethesda is on it, I want to give a few points of my own.

  1. A built site needs a much bigger budget; in addition, the cost of defences should be down by at least 50%. Optionally build sites should be expanded on, so when the building budget is full, optionally expand it (for a price, or expansion mission add what would be up to 3 satellite mobile builders (one for each time a maximum budget had been reached), giving you the option to gain well over 100% of space, to optionally create an actual outpost, or perhaps link to a building, an official or community building, so that you can build something lasting. Not sure if that would be possible (software architecturally speaking), yet consider Fallout 3, who had not considered making the US Capitol their own personal space? Perhaps it is too large an example, yet that impact, like a subway station might be an awesome idea to build your own ‘town’. That was my hope when I was introduced to the intro of Vault 76, we understand why another vault is not an option, yet a failed vault (one that was not ready in time) is still an idea. Whether that idea is added as a DLC will not matter. It can even become a quest line in the game.
  2. Quests, there is (seemingly mind you) a lot missing here, as I mainly gathered from loads of reviews. My immediate idea was to add quests like ‘the Greenhouse effect‘. A mission that sets a stage where we need food to survive, aiding an NPC in setting up a greenhouse, growing vegetables and setting the stage to sell groceries to other settlers (a wink to fallout 4 Greygardens), not merely getting the entire structure up, but creating robots so that the work can be long term and automated.
    A similar quest could be created for clean water ‘the shape of aqua‘, and should not be repetitive in shape and challenges like the previously mentioned one. With these two in place, the game can give perks for outposts created. Another part for general goods stores ‘Crazy Goods‘ (a Crazy People wink). The trick is to make the challenges very different and testing, giving not merely a stage of improvement, but one with different sided challenges. It is one thing I partially missed in the past, there is a sneak preference in me, yet having a mission that is dependent on a technical skill, and perhaps one on heavy weapons/explosives and one on sneak gives a new view to how we ourselves, play that game, it is merely a thought. And it important to see that this is merely partial criticism on all this, I have not played the full game, not played to any large extent (merely a few hours at a friend’s place, as he has 4K and I do not). Even as it all looks impressive and even as it is buggy, it is still new, as well as in a new direction and that is what I love about Bethesda. I was never a rage fan, I never went beyond the first ‘the Evil within‘, yet they never stopped surprising me and they are willing to take leaps. They prove that their games are not for everyone and that is fine, the ones that do like their games tend to be extremely committed, you merely have to look at the Rage population for that part of the equation.
  1. Diversify! There are too many ‘password for terminal‘ moments in all this (I was given awareness of this, I have not tested this part). I get it that this is the operational stage of the Fallout series, yet the alternative to download terminals so that your Pip-boy can hack it (over time) gives us the need to find empty Holotapes and perhaps add the write capability to the Pip-boy (for the downloaded terminal), was that considered? How come that we cling to the ‘caps’ part, if this is the beginning, is there not a real needs for goods? Making the water, food and goods part more important and optionally also making those missions more rewarding? Then there is the option of ‘RandomWare‘. Spawn unique pieces in solo mode whenever a new game is created. So you cannot run to a place, you have to genuinely find it. For example a power armour helmet with sneak abilities (converting that item to sneak perks card perhaps), or a level 4 Rifleman card (+25% damage). This could be done for different sets and in different ways giving much more challenge and reward to the game. For example, adding 2 special parts for every S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skill might give the people true incentive to find every location and if those 14 parts are scattered randomly over 200 locations, the cheat guides will take a step back requiring people to become better players, it is merely a thought to consider. Consider that you have a game where you need to get lucky. That feeling that you get with Diablo 3, when after finishing the game 10 times, you still get a legendary item you never had before, in a trait that really gives you an edge; it is a real Adrenalin rush when that happens.

These are merely three elements that could add heaps to the challenge, prestige and rewarding sensation that is currently temporary lacking in Vault 76. I use the word temporary as I have complete faith that in the end Bethesda will come through for its players, so far it has never failed them and that must be said too. With about 5000 hours in the Elder Scrolls (not online) and Fallout, I feel that I know what I am talking about, besides the part where I have been connected to games going all the way back to 1982 (CBM Vic-20).

Is there more? Yes, there is always more but is that not the main concern with every Monday morning quarterback? So far Bethesda has not disappointed me and they will get past this, or perhaps not and the next gem we truly end up desiring is the one that comes after. It is always a side we have to accept, merely because games and gaming is not science, it is an art and art will always be personal, we either embrace it, or we do not. Yet in the end, like junkies we hope that the next Rembrandt is another Nightwatch, yet the next one might be merely ‘An Old Woman Reading‘, which is still a Rembrandt mind you. So when you realise that both him and me are both from the ‘van Rijn’ family branch, yet did that branch matter? It absolutely does not and I am not related to him at all, we are two separate trees completely (implying it at times, especially in New York was heaps fun, seeing the shock in the other person alone is worth the entertaining act), giving us another form of artistic entertainment.

When we realise that art is the foundation of any game you should start to realise how insane the Ubisoft claim ‘another Assassins Creed game every year‘ was. As I stated in a different blog before, it took me no more than 8 hours to create the foundation of Elder Scrolls 6 (not the one being made now), yet it is not merely the story, it is the art, the graphics (a part Ubisoft has truly mastered in all their AC games). It is the science of ‘AI’ so that the NPC’s are acting natural in the game and that part is still not perfect (in any game), there are so many parts and they all need to interact (making the Ubisoft claim much worse), because it all takes time and time will never ever bargain. It will never state that it will decrease itself in speed by 10%, it is the one constant we all face (until we die that is), making game testing crucial to success and taking into consideration that a game is finished whenever that is (the perfect CD Project Red) response to its fans. We can design and conceptionally spring the game in moments, yet it still needs to be done in the end and the visionary programmer will be worth gold at that point, yet the interactions with other parts of the game makers (graphics and sound) are still part of it all and that requires time. Bethesda’s approach to use golden oldies songs (in the fallout series) was a master move, we all (most of us at least) want those soundtracks with those old songs and they also give life to the consideration of classics, two home runs for the price of one. All parts that can be used to add to the game even more. The question becomes how to give proper positive impact to the gamer? It is a question no one can honestly state, not even the best marketeer. We can merely hope that the impact is appreciated, perhaps even loved by the gamer exposed to it. So far Bethesda has done really well and even as I was not playing them from the beginning (I started in 2001), I have so far never really been disappointed. Is that because I await the game, or perhaps I refuse to adhere to my own expectations? The second one is extremely dangerous. The moment that you start to live by your own expectations you will miss out, as I did ignoring Far Cry 3 for too long. It is an important moment even as I have raised my fist against Ubisoft for the longest of times, they got that one really right (4 and 5 a lot less so). If there is one impact for Bethesda is that they will face (deservingly) the issue that their launch day following will decline, yet I believe that they will overcome and any really great game will restore faith in the brand. Ubisoft faced that upbeat when we were introduced to AC Origin (still a true gem).

EA could face that same upbeat if they remaster (still a big if) the Mass Effect trilogy, they would have an option to fix the Andromeda parts if they are willing to go all out, but in the end, will they find the cash? It is important to look at this now; you see, most gamers cling to the old successes and so far plenty of people have seen the positive impact of a remaster, so the noise for the Mass Effect series is increasing again (and again, and again). Yet, is that enough? There is an option to set the stage for a fifth Mass Effect game, if the makers can learn to ignore the shouts for early release (aka muzzle their entire marketing division) and focus on quality, if the errors (seen in the first hour) are addressed and looked at as a challenge to make a better product, we see and we get to live through a new challenge that is a true new Mass Effect, but it implies that EA Games needs to be willing to put it all on the table and so far, they have not shown to be testicularly ready (aka they lack the balls), so why mention it? I am a gamer like all the other gamers and Mass Effect 2 is still one of the most perfect games I ever played; like everyone else I do want more of that and it is within EA to find that solution (there are millions of gamers wanting that) implying that if they get it right, it will come with millions of copies sold. Consider that Andromeda might not get that, yet link it with Mass Effect Hegemony (fictive future title) it becomes another matter altogether, especially if they are willing to change the focal point. I merely have to point at movies like: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Earth 2, where the humans are basically not the good guys to create a stage that is invigorating, creates moral ambiguity and gives consideration to other venues. A game like that would be a game changer, especially in the Mass Effect range. That same path should be considered with Bethesda. What happens if we up the game, what happens when there are real setback to the choice of becoming Railroad, Brotherhood of Steel or Institute minded? Just like we saw in New Vegas, where a direction impair another one, when direction offers options as well as impairment, we see a need to replay the gamer and that replay is actually just as exciting, providing that the missions are different and new, not merely a palate of sense (replace goods with slaves), it is a path less trodden because of the effort needed, yet the impact also implies that the game is valued up to 200% more that way.

We are all protective on what we desire and love, especially the games we embrace, it is natural to do so, yet we must be willing to be honestly critical when it does not meet our realistic expectations. As long as our expectations were realistic we will be able to do that, as such I feel no reason to joining the AOC (Active Oxhorn Critics). Here we see (via Reddit) “Seems like people hate the game despite it being good or not“, as the operative part is: “Oxhorn gets hate for actually liking Fallout 76“, it does not matter whether the expectations of Oxhorn were really low, or that he is like me, in Bethesda he trusts, all others pay cash up front. His dime, his choice. People are entitled to that part, plain and simple.

Faith is strange and fickle that way. I believe that the entire setting of the stage is not the one or the other, it is the appreciation of art, especially art that remains in transit and is still being upgraded, when the final product is a good one. We got the value for our bucks. Even if that is not the case, the price of art is what we are willing to pay for it. I have always been willing to pay $20 for any Rembrandt, yet that is the limit of my budget for an oil painting. Others pay $1200 for a pre-released No Man’s Sky, it is merely what we are willing to shell out at that moment and it is up to us to learn that we accept the choices we make. So even as some feel really bad of getting a launch day copy of Vault 76, we merely need to learn to look at the right sources informing us on what is and what is likely to be. Granted that this is difficult when a game is as large as Bethesda, or Project Red RPG’s, yet in this the success versus fail rate with these two players is so far massively in favour of the ‘I trust my maker‘ that we tend to go with the launch day part.

We win some, we lose some.

So get over it, especially as Bethesda is openly and loudly committed to fix the product, which in the end is still the biggest part we need to accept and I did mention the result after 9 months of waiting for Watchdogs 1, did I not? So let’s give them time to do the Sir Fixalot routine and await the upgraded result.

 

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To emphasize ‘flawed’

There are all kinds of issues playing. Murdoch who admits that they benefitted from hacked emails (so what else is new), the call for the leadership of the Tories or even more annoying the battering ram of North Korean rants and counter rants and the nauseating gossip train of the Las Vegas shooter. All of that is worth a few dozen words, yet in my mind, in light of yesterday’s view of IP and gaming IP, I think it is clear that a few more words need to be spend on the category, but now on a different field.

IP is at the heart of the matter, but now we will look at another side. For those who have had a view of games and gaming, many will remember the awesome trilogy called Mass Effect. Those who went through the growth of the Xbox 360 brand will have been aware of the Mass effect trilogy, there is no way escaping it. The first one gave us something new and exciting. When we consider the Elder Scrolls and the Fallout games, we were clearly introduced to a competitor in this field and Mass Effect delivered something new, 2007 became an almost magical year. Then something new happened, in 2010 we saw the sequel, a sequel that is still regarded as one of the best RPG games that the Xbox 360 ever received. I will skip the final part in all this. So in this history, you might understand that the expectations were so high (perhaps too high) for Mass Effect Andromeda. The people at Bioware had 5 years to get it right and they failed. The game was flawed on several levels and even as we need to accept that it is not a bad game, the utter quality of Mass Effect 2 was not equalled, not by a long shot. I am not alone, many reviewers saw the game as one that does not equal the initial trilogy and even now, the interest of a remastered original trilogy is desired a lot more than Andromeda is. I finally played the game, I was unwilling to pay the full amount after being shown the most basic of glitches and issues, but when offered as a new (not pre-owned) game for $25, I gave it a go. So as I have finished the game in a week, I concur, the game is flawed on several levels. I am not going into the animation and graphic glitches, too many did this. The game from the beginning shows a flawed approach to several sides. Now, it is shown in the initial level, a level which I usually ignore as it tends to be an intro level as to train the gamer how to play the game. So after the intro movie (which is actually quite brilliant) we get to go to the first place. Here we see the impact of flaws. So after 650 years in travel we get to a planet and whatever they have we can use to reload our own weapons. We see a new opposing player and that is fine, yet the battle strategy, the weapons, the resources show us a flaw from the very core onwards. Ammunition is the clearest part, but it goes beyond that. The Nexus, the entire evolution that we play through, we can go two ways here. Either the game should have been a lot bigger with a lot more to do to grow us into the nexus and locations, or live with the assumption jumps that were made, jumps that were wrong on a few levels (as I personally see it). Now, we need to accept that things like this happen in action games and shooters, because the focus of such a game is different. Yet in RPG you can’t get away with it. The plot does not thicken, but the elements get to be a lot more questionable. The Salarian ark and the Turian ark are just on the surface of that. When we get confronted with those elements in the story we see the flaws grow. Patched stories for the sake of whatever they thought it was going to be. So when we see (from Wiki) “Mass Effect: Andromeda required a team of over 200 developers and, according to Aaryn Flynn, was given a total budget of C$100 million, which included marketing and research costs.” we get the first realisation on the bungled level of a game. My initial personal design (concept) of the sequel to Skyrim took less than an hour to construct in my mind and an additional 4-5 hours to type. So I got to be in a much better place from the get go. Now, do not take my word for it, because you never should. So instead I am going to introduce you to a group of 20 people, not having anywhere near such a budget. The team is Unknown Worlds Entertainment and their take on RPG with Subnautica is one of the best, one of the most refreshing (all that water helps) and amazing trips I have had in my lifetime of gaming. I hope that this game makes it to the PS4 and if it is still available on Xbox live in early release do it because it will be the best $30 you are likely to spend this year. The comparison is important because even in its non-final stage Mass Effect does not get close to what Subnautica has already delivered. OK, granted that if shooting is your need in Mass Effect, Subnautica might not be for you, but overall Subnautica kicks Mass Effects ass on several fronts. Three programmers outshine the dozens that Mass Effect had and that is just embarrassing. If you want to learn more take a look at IGP (the Indie Game Promoter) who (at https://www.youtube.com/user/TheIndieGamePromoter) has all kinds of videos. So take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgyCiWXPZzE&index=76&list=PLVxH6E2fftrfbnmjYAXXiCJJwleb-HZvB for a first view of the game which gives a view almost two years before the final release. You want to skip to 1:45 and skip to the start of the game. The game is very much the truest view of RPG as they can get. So the intro is not as flash as Andromeda is, but that is the only time Mass Effect wins. Now, as stated, this is not a shooter, so be aware of that. The part that should amaze you is that this game is more about survival and the basic survivalist edge is often ignored by many RPG’s.

So as I am giving you a parallel on the skips of Mass Effect and also ‘story lining‘ of Mass Effect, we need to dig a little further. Now in their defence at times we cannot prevent that in the case of Mass Effect, but consider that after a trip for over 600 years, we get to aid certain players (Salarians) ‘just’ in the nick of time. This is an issue on a few levels.

Also even as we accept that many bought it soon and the game had sales close to three quarter of a billion, which is a financial success, it comes at the realisation that the game scores 72% which at the budget given is a massive flaw, yet here I will admit that the shooting side of the game is as some stated it: “The core shooting mechanics feel stronger here than anywhere else in the series“, which was made by Scott Butterworth of Gamespot and he is right, this part they did do very well and it is likely the one reason why the game remained the financial success it has turned out to be.

Yet the QA was far below par, the delivery was wrong and in the end I personally profited by getting a decent game for $25, a mere 6 months after release. So consider how this game could have gotten closer to the $1 billion mark by getting things right? An additional twice the investment by thinking things through and properly testing it from the start, and not even requiring to think too intelligent; the basic story line debated on the flaws that they needed to avoid from after the intro level onwards. Consider that the ‘Salarian Ark’ event became a basic shooting mission, whilst it optionally represented dozens of hours of additional gameplay on several levels. So apart from the timing as a ‘just in the nick of times‘ mission that is underused and oversold, we see that the other Arks become mere wasted moments in the game. In a place that has so many shortages, leaving behind an ark that has thousands of tonnes of resources seems weird, even if it does not have any lives left. It is not as the Nexus had an abundance of resources, did it? So there we see more, just after a setting that had a revolt, shortages and deviant issues, we see every time the Tempest comes and go’s (too often because of other flaws) we see that the docking level shows an environment that equals the embassy level of the citadel itself, all missed options and opportunities. There we see the option of an additional 10% score if it was done and properly tested. So now we get from 72% to 82%. Then there is the premise that this is a game with only 5 worlds to fix?

There could have been a few more, and more important, changing the way the vaults were accessed on at least one world might have made the game a little less obvious (to some extent). So here we have another 5% in the making, making the game approaching a 90% game, which is a given need when you waste 5 years and a hundred million. Subnautica, when you like that part of RPG gaming is giving you at 25% of the full price of the Mass Effect game. A game that was already awesome when I decided to get it and whilst playing the early release, the game added at least 4 more expansions to the main game and they are now part of the main game. In one part Mass Effect wins. The graphics, there is no denying that the graphics of Mass Effect were really good, but we might see that an additional 80 staff members (and 90 million more) should guarantee that part. All this and as we know that RPG’s are set over time, so we can accept that growing the impact over time as we play might have given a few more options and a few more changes to the way that the game was played, giving the gamer a better game (and optionally a much larger game).

So as I have enlightened you on some of the flawed parts, there is now the link to the previous article to set. The longevity of a game as well as the IP is the sellable part of any developed game and in that part Subnautica is all about original IP and they got the IP to grow value, loads of value. Even as we see that Mass Effect is to some extent more of the same, they did grow their IP range, but only to a fraction of Subnautica. This now gets us to the setting that is the link. In the digital age the value of the service purchased is the money we invest in the product we thought we bought. You see, as gaming progresses, we see a dependency and as such we no longer buy the property, but we lease it in some ways and rent it in other ways. The gaming industry has no choice but to set the multiplayer sides into a renting foundation (buying with an open point or termination), whilst the single playing part (the missions) will be leased for the term of the console. Now consider the satisfaction you get from leasing a game that is rated at 72%. Are you willing to go on paying the amounts we see? At this point I have now shown you the essential need to properly test a game before release. You see, it is shown in the quote that several sources gave. With: “Following Mass Effect: Andromeda’s poor critical reception and lacklustre sales, BioWare put the Mass Effect series “on ice”“. So even as we saw some sources state a sales numbers surpassing $500 million whilst there was $100 million invested, so either the numbers given were wrong, or we see the impact of greed as others walk away from a $400 million milk cow. In that part, what were the true costs and why would any company walk away from a possible $100-$250 million in season pass revenue. This part and the issues had shown from several sources that the detrimental financial health of IP and IP value is shown to be at least to a larger part to be due to the flawed quality of proper testing. Ubisoft has been though it (Assassins Creed Unity) and as we see Bioware and Electronic Arts walking away from half a billion dollars, we need to consider beyond games and the value of a gamer, we need to see that the impact of IP is not set in stone and the quality of the product (or service) is at the foundation of what we think we purchase and what we expect to receive. In this there is the clear evidence of the flawed product that is Mass Effect Andromeda and the weird part is that I saw the flaw in the first hour of the game. This now sets the premise of the wrong players (read: business parties) that were in charge within Bioware and Electronic Arts. It is my personal believe that their marketing division has either too large a vote and they looked at the wrong sides of the game. This in a setting of a 100 million invested, how weird is that?

So now we get the treasure that the Cullens, Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys give us on their web site. With “Whether buying or selling a business one of the most overlooked aspects of the transaction is the intellectual property of the business. Proper identification, scrutiny and valuation of intellectual property will have benefits for both the purchaser and vendor“. It is the issue that is really the bread and butter of growing game developers. In this the word business can mean either that or it can be set to ‘product’ or ‘service’ and the realisation of this quote which is not new, shows just how flawed (or sloppy) Mass Effect Andromeda turned out to be. Now, we look at the bad sides here, but the game has loads of good sides too. Yet it missed the boat by at least 20% (72%, instead of 92%) and I lighted up 15% in the easiest of ways. The last part we see when we dig into the world of the game testers. Now I can relate here, because I reviewed and tested games for the better part of a decade. My knowledge and skills showed me the parts I illuminated and I truly believe that there are better testers than me, so that implies that none of them work for either Electronic Arts or Bioware which is statistically near impossible, so that means that the large investment was made on a flawed infrastructure, or at least that is as I personally see it. You see, the old joke (from when I was young) has been that it takes 90% of the time to fix the last 10% of a project. At some point highly educated graduates were hired in places where the foundation of art is the core of the business and they introduced the setting of ‘linearity’ of art based projects. So that a project is done at 10% a month and the last two months of the year were for testing, which is not how it works and not how it will ever work. Now, I simplified the idea for illustration, so it is not an exact given, but the clarity of flaws that Mass Effect Andromeda shows on day one of release gives the validity of my view and shows just how breached the concept of design linearity is (perhaps you remember the Ubisoft statement of ‘every year a new Assassins Creed game’). As such, I believe that the game lost out on massive revenues.

Now consider the two headlines:

Bringing Mass Effect to a new galaxy isn’t quite the shot in the arm the series needed” or “Blown away in another universe 640 years later“. The first is IGN and the second one is one I came up with, if they had done a proper job. So would you buy the game if you read ‘isn’t quite the shot‘? Gamespot had “After the first few hours of Mass Effect: Andromeda, I was discouraged“, whilst Forbes gave us “I don’t think anyone will claim it outclasses the original trilogy, outside of maybe the very first game“, so a new game merely on par with a game released a decade ago. This is the setting of a flawed product and the fact that this was not seen in the beta stage of the game is questionable. So in an age of digital rights that are moving more and more from the permanent availability into a stage of temporary usage, where we no longer get to own the product, yet merely lease (read: rent) a product also requires others to realise that the game of gaming is shifting, and these players can only continue if they ‘up the quality’ of the product or service they make available. This shows in one way just how amazing a game like Skyrim is proving to be, the fact that the game still embraces gamers 6 years later whilst Electronic Arts loses the bulk of value of a product within 26 weeks. That is the evidence that shows that flaws are becoming a much larger issue for all in these fields and it shows that the players like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and others as well, need to take a harsh look at what they offer and not merely listen to their own marketeers as the value of what they bring forth is now shifting whilst a product is in development, which is the third nail in the coffin for Electronic Arts as it took 5 years to get to a very much less than perfect place they ended up. I believe that the flawed setting can be improved upon, yet the people at Bioware better realise that the stakes are raised and they are raised by a lot, in that we need to ask whether they can match the needs of a shifted market.

I cannot answer for them, and like Nintendo Electronic Arts and Bioware are not out of the game. You see, even as Nintendo bungled the WiiU, they hit back with the Nintendo Switch, which is becoming a game changer in gaming. I believe that both Electronic Arts and Bioware can do the same, the question is whether they will, time (read: the next release) will tell. Should that fail, they could always move forward by charging their fans an additional $10 for a steel box of a game. Oh wait, they are already doing that with FIFA18, ahhh how the world turns!

 

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In case of your death

I was surprised to see a Eurogamer article on the steam account of dead people (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHLFUbU5ceI). The article is interesting and puzzling all at the same time. You see a view that is interesting, mainly because Eurogamer is merely voicing issues that the audience bring to their attention. Now, let’s be fair, the maker Chris Bratt also mentions the bulk of other users of this approach.

It is puzzling because I reckoned that people should have known better. You can leave your physical products behind, but digital products will not transfer. That part has been a clear issue for decades (yes, not years, but decades) it comes with clarity that certain services, especially digital services are services, not goods with a clear setting of ownership. Digital ownership tends to remain with the maker of the product and you the gamer, or user are merely ‘leasing’ that product for the length of your life and in plenty of cases not even that long (read: annual fee).

That is a clear situation in the sight of the worrying owner (the maker) of the product. So in case of software products like Adobe, Microsoft and other players, the digital arena is granting access to, to the person that paid for these services. So when that person dies, the service will be gone, because the service is no longer required for the person who bought it. In my view it is simple and clear, because this is how it has always been. Now that people are actually thinking for the first time on what happens ‘afterwards’, only now are they considering the consequences of their initial forward thinking part to embrace Steam (as a first example). So, even as their might have seemed to be an advantage, having the physical copy will always be better. So now we see that people are catching on. Yet in light of a growing nagging population, do they have a case? You see they purchased a service, not a product, the difference is not what they do, but it is the stage of physicality, the lack of a media carrier. Even then it is not a given that you have any options. The history of software products has had the setting for the longest of time that the purchased products were not transferable. Ashton Tate with dBase 3 and 3 plus (1979) is one of the earlier examples in Software, the bulk of all Microsoft products, although Windows was usually not linked to a person, but a computer. So the phenomenon is not new or unique. So why is it now getting more and more limelight? Well, people are now starting to catch on that their thousands of dollars of games are linked to their identity, to their account and when that is gone, what has been bought is gone too. We can argue on it and also argue on how valid any discussion is on the products that do come with a physical element. What is a given is that as time progresses, the option to own for life a product will fail too. You see, there is a valid case that a product bought is set to the original buyer and no further. The greedy players like Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Ubisoft have been playing with that setting for the longest time. And let’s face it; they do have a point (to some degree). They promised to service your gaming needs, not those of your children and grandchildren. Now, when this is a single player game, a case could be made to transfer the disc to whomever it ends up with, yet there is also a clear case that the services and support are set to the original buyer and without it the game cannot continue. It might be regarded as an open and shut case, but is that truly the case?

We have seen it be done for decades, but was that a legally acceptable reason? I am merely leaving the point of view open to debate. Should a game be allowed to be transferred? Is it fair on the makers of the software products for this to happen? Nowadays we are waiting for the maximised utilisation, the greed driven makers on the minimum option and to some extent the truth tends to be in the middle. This is not because it is fair, but because it is expected. We grew into the expectation of ownership from books and gramophones. Only when the time of digital installation began, only at that point did we see the change towards the expectations that the makers had on ownership and with the age of parchment and gramophones behind us, the consideration of set service terms were not truly on the scale it needed to be. Yet now, with the cloud, with digital ownerships and with downloadable content we are seeing the shift where we are no longer the owner, but the authorised user of the digital product. Now we have the shift that the industry wanted and perhaps in the view of some was entitled to.

In all this we need to realise that the power of creation is not merely remastering of older versions it is the need of revenue for the makers to continue their development and is it fair or unfair to allow for this path? It is at times depending on the point of view that the person has, and n that setting the software industry and the user are unlikely to see thins eye to eye. Some like Sony have the option to link one account to all the devices, so three people could be playing at the same time (each on a different system), some give options for multiple users for a few dollars more and some will try to fetch cash from every user. It is as I personally see it linked to where our expectations are and through history they have been set in favour of the user, now with the cloud and with digital versions that ‘advantage’ is lost to the users and it is largely depending on the others on how they allow us to set this in motion.

Eurogamer is all set towards the need of a champion with references towards Bruce Willis, but is that fair? The best setting is one that Microsoft tried (best for them that is). They wanted to disable the option of pre-owned players and that got buried real fast. Now, I am on the gamer’s side when it comes to a physical product. But in case of Mass Effect, can we truly expect that multiplayer accounts are transferred? Is it fair to continue digital server service ‘ad infinitum’? I personally do not believe that to be fair. Yet in that same push, I think that a physical copy should not be linked to one person, to one owner, but in that as the future comes pushing us, the wrong stance to have. I believe that the intertwining of services, physical and non-physical will stop or enhance the push for limited authorised access.

It is merely my view and perhaps a wrong one, but I am willing to consider that we as users must accept this shift. In this it will become more and more important to have a full physical game. We see the setting of patents in the requirement of manufacturing and physicality, yet now with the cloud and distributed usage (including cloud gaming) we see that every unit is part of the whole, so as such person X with license Y will become part of the whole implying that person X2 with license Y is another entity altogether, I will go one step further that as each player becomes a mere key of the machine, we see that physicality is set in hardware and software and as such, the combination becomes its own dimension, meaning that transfer of ownership becomes a thing of the past. Yet this also spells dangers in other ways, because as non-repudiation becomes a larger issue, any element (like email address) becomes an absolute setting, so that we are in danger of stopping ourselves to move forward with a second email address, a thing we saw with Ubisoft in the past. So once we lose our e-mail address through hackers we could in theory lose whatever we purchased through that medium. Now, most have their own registration system, yet what happens when that depository is lost, damages or altered? That is the part that is not fixed and is unlikely to be properly addressed for some time. It is even more conceivable that our children will in their lifetime see the need and growth of identity implants. Perhaps even more than one and it is at that point that the digital age of ownership takes another leap, perhaps a much larger leap than we have seen in the last 25 years. It opens up whole new ranges of opportunities and dangers. The question will sooner become, which one tips the scales of balance and how will it affect all?

So in case of your death you might be confronted with the implants of your parents, the implants of peers and siblings. In this the law is actually not ready and it is not as simple as what will happen with your games. Because as the setting is fixed it will be about bank accounts, available funds and set funding of growth and wealth. In all this we will see shifts and we will ponder where the rights of services will be set. In this it will go beyond commercial versus NGO, it will be about the shift that identity enables us to hold and that will shift the movements that we are able to do. It will be a new level of hindrance and perhaps even a step towards global discrimination, because when you realise that the age of implants is already here, consider the impairment that some people will have by allowing these changes to the body and to the external extremities.

For those in IP it is a great time to get involved with block chains and non-repudiation, because the game of games, gaming and software will be changed to much larger degrees than people realise and the initial changes as some realise them to be at present are only the tip of the iceberg.

Enjoy the weekend.

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Merely my view

Yesterday, the Guardian confronted me with the writing of Ben Parfitt, his article ‘Server crashes, 40GB patches and DLC: gaming’s biggest irritations explained‘, drew my attention. It was the ‘biggest irritation‘ part that got to me and even though it is a very nice article to read and any gamer should read it (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/04/server-crashes-patches-dlc-video-game-irritations-explained), there were a few issues on it from my point of view. Still, there is a lot and much of it is very valid. So why would I object? Well, there are a few points and it is time to take a look at it.

The article starts with Downloadable content and that is an interesting side to games. The quote “So why do so many full price games now offer mini-payments? The obvious answer is that it works: downloadable content (DLC) is hugely popular” is one that needs a little more light. The writer does that by giving us part of the goods and in addition he separates it from part 2, the season passes. Basically they are connected. A season pass offers a range of DLC’s and the DLC is a single item (often). There are good games and there are some less good. In this I see Bethesda as really good and they are not alone, whilst we see Ubisoft in the Assassins Creed range, not as bad but as different. In the Assassins Creed you can buy additional items, additional game currency for a few dollars. This is a personal choice and Ubisoft is clearly warning the buyer that they are buying something that they can unlock later in the game up front. This is a good thing, so basically these are items that you can buy to give you an edge early in the game, like a sword that it twice as powerful from anything you can get in the beginning, in game currency that lets you upgrade long before you could normally afford it. This is a personal choice and there is nothing against it, thousands of gamers want an edge, so be it. This is not to be confused from other options they offer in their Ubiclub, which is actual pretty cool stuff to unlock. The really great ones, like we see in Bethesda are DLC’s that offer entire new regions to play with additional new items, monsters and goals These additions can be massive, they are also offered as season passes on day one, the nice part is that the season pass amounts to a 50% discount, which is really nice. Fallout 4 and Witcher 3 have taken that concept to an entire new level last year; they are the two players that have set the stage for many players to get a season pass on day one. Just realise that this could constitute to a download with a size up to 20Gb, which is pretty much the size of an entire game. Some DLC’s (example: Blood and Wine) are getting close to a game added to the game.

Some offer that it should merely be added to the game on day one. I offer in opposition that getting 40% more gaming for $30 is certainly worth it, these additions were never part of the base game. In some cases it was not worth the dollars, (example: nipple DLC), yet that is a personal choice, the nice part is that you do not need to get these DLC’s. Another one worth mentioning is Arkham Knight. They were offering all kinds of different DLC’s with different shops, for the most all of them were Skins. Several month later (I think around 6 months later), these skins all became available as free downloadable extra’s. So we see that some might object to DLC’s or Season passes, yet in the end, not much of the opposition is in my personal view regarded as valid opposition.

Day one patches, those are the ones we truly hate at times. The quote given “Jason Kingsley, the head of UK developer Rebellion, points out that the protracted submission process for console games means day one patches are often inescapable“, is one I cannot agree with. The entire day one patch has been in well over 80% of the cases due to bad QA. Graphic glitches, wrong controls, mission parameter freezes. In case of No Man’s Sky it was a mere 5MB, which is nearly nothing, when we see a 14GB day one patch, that is where we all get truly irritated.

Still, day one patches will happen. Skyrim and Oblivion might be the most visible ones, yet here, when we see that the Skyrim strategy book is 1120 pages. At that point we will see needed patches, which are just a reality for any game that is so big, and again, when we see Assassins Creed Unity, we see merely the flaw of a developer, one that could have been largely prevented.

When it comes to pre-orders I have mixed feelings. I think that when it is offered later on for free there should be no objections, when it is part of the Season Pass later it becomes a little debatable. The quote “why should I pay for a game before I know if it will be any good?” is not the best argument given, because the opposition states, those believing in us up front get a little extra. The quote “There are good pre-orders and there are bad pre-orders” is one I agree with, there is the additional issue that some pre order extras are limited to a certain shop, which is not a great feeling when you get the game somewhere else. It becomes all about how will others get that extra? When it is, let’s say 2 months later, there should be no issue.

The last item is the one I object to the most, Server Crashes. I get it, it is annoying and in some situations it sours the milk of happy gaming a little. Yet there is only so much QA a maker can do and there is no decent way to truly test for a few hundred thousand players. In addition, Microsoft and Sony have other setups in this matter, which implies that any multiplayer game will have a little rough patch in the first month. As a gamer you will just have to live with that. GTA5 has a huge start up issue, but guess what; after that one was solved soon thereafter millions of gamers had a happy game time for years to come. Many are still happily playing that part for two years now, so these gamers all got bang for their buck.

The article gives us a light of what bothers us to some extent, I get that. The questions become:

  • How valid is your annoyance
  • Was it solved?

There will never be a complete satisfaction with some DLC options, yet did it really spoil the fun your game offered?

We see another side from Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2017/07/01/its-time-for-bioware-to-come-clean-about-the-future-of-mass-effect-andromeda-dlc), the issue has been around the rumours of optional DLC’s for Mass Effect Andromeda. The quote “BioWare has never gone into detail about DLC plans and didn’t offer a Season Pass for Andromeda. That’s unusual in the gaming industry these days, but in keeping with the previous three Mass Effect games, which had plenty of DLC but no Season Passes” as well as “BioWare needs to come clean about the company’s DLC plans. The sooner, the better! Leaks, rumours and anonymous sources only muddy the waters. I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, whether or not it’s good or bad news. Not just a statement about Sinclair Networks, but a clear statement about whether or not the game will receive any story DLC.” Here we have two sides. One, why should Bioware come clean on unsubstantiated rumours? It could be that Bioware does not want to set the stage until it has investigated certain options. As some see the latest Mass Effect, it is stated to be one of the largest disappointments of 2017. Apart from the glitches and other small issues, it is rated far below what was expected from a product that had five years to get it right. With the issues like ‘substandard combat’ and ‘poor mission design’ is not what the people expected from the makers from the initial brilliant trilogy. So these people are hoping that they would feel better with some additional DLC packages. Not a realistic option, but the feeling is fair enough. So is that a fair part? From the point of view of the disappointed gamer it might be valid, yet the makers sell the game on the ‘as is’ package and that is valid from a business point of view.

The core of the issue for any player remains, they might love or hate it, yet as I see it, if the core was satisfying and worth the $$$, why object to a DLC that costs a few $$$ more? You could get it or not, it should not impact your view on the original game. We can agree that Fallout and Witcher brought a massive value with the DLC’s and there too are issues, especially with the Fallout one (you can no longer play the game offline), which is a devaluating part to the base game, but that is the only issue here. By large there will be players that add value and those who do not add value, the latter one will feel it by selling less DLC’s, so it is up to them to consider the choices.

Yet with only a minimal amount of exceptions, the DLC’s seem to have been worth it. Although that is as I personally see it set to the tone of the fans to the game in question. From my point of view, if I have not played the game, or if I did not particularly like the game, I tend to stay away from getting or commenting negatively on any DLC (the Nipple DLC excluded from that).

If one thing is certain than from my point of view it would be that there is validity in the existence of pretty much all DLC’s, it is however up to the publisher to set a fair stage when these DLC’s are set to outlets or DLC’s set to limited editions. We don’t begrudge those people to get a time advantage, yet the bulk of players who like a certain franchise will pretty much lose it when such DLC’s are not available to them at a later stage (for free or for very little). Part of me would like to look at the value that we get from Season Passes, yet would that be fair? We can all see how the two mentioned earlier are value without the shadow of a doubt. So if we consider other titles, are they less value? It is extremely subjective and personal. In the end when we love the game we play we will always want more or additional ways to play the game. What we can be thankful for is that the positive DLC’s are there in abundant; the bad ones are actually decently rare, or better stated have become decently rare. It is an evolving platform that has changed in an overwhelming positive way, a fact that we as gaming fans can be thankful for. It is merely my view on the matter.

 

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