Tag Archives: Mass Effect

Time slice or lemon tart

That is indeed the question, but the question is not that important at present. It all started with a weird dream. In this dream I was in Montreal (Canada), now let’s be clear. I have no connection to the city, and apart from the fact that they have a good hockey team, I know next to nothing on the place, I know it is in French speaking Canada, but that is all. So in this dream I saw someone, it might be a reflective me, it could be anyone. They saved a hawk, or falcon from their balcony. The animal was shivering and clearly afraid, the person put on an oven mitt and offered his hand. The bird jumped on the hand with the mitt and carefully the bird was taken in the house. He placed the bird on top of a chair and got the bird rare roast beef (it seemingly really liked the rare roast beef) and gave it a bowl of water mixed with a lot of sugar. The bird was no longer seemingly afraid, but it was nervous. The person was looking at the clouds and wondered. He then moved what was drinkable and eatable into the bathroom, the bathroom and this is important was one of the innermost rooms in the house, no windows and no direct outer wall. He also placed a chair and a small table (it was a large bathroom), moved the goods into the bathroom and walked around the house pushing the heaters up everywhere, yet not to the highest setting, setting 4 was used on knobs with a 6 setting, I think that mattered somehow. Then he carefully moved the bird, now aptly named Horus with the mitt again and took the chair as well. He then got into the kitchen, took several items and moved to the bathroom where he set the radiator to high. 

Then it started to happen, Montreal was hit with a cold snap, it was only October, or November, but the cold-snap happened and well over 50% of the people in Montreal froze to death. 

Now, none of this is a mystery. I saw the Day after tomorrow, I played AC Origins, so all the elements (all except Montreal) fell into place, no real mystery or divine intervention.

Then I remembered every time I played a new game of Minecraft. Did you play it? The first day is important, because you need to create a safe location before the sun goes down. That part is important because too many RPG games are a service where it is at your convenience. Whenever you get around to it, and Bethesda has used that setting since I started playing it in Oblivion, in that same setting Fallout 3 onwards has the same stage. Yet what happens when that is not an option? When a house is on fire, it does not help to hand the bucket to the owner of the burning house when you get to level 13. He (of she) needs it now, or really soon. This is a stage we forgot about, the time slice. There are two issues.

  1. Do you have the minimum skills to cater to a time driven need?
  2. Should such a stage be set and always be achievable?

These two setting are important, there are gain two stages we must contemplate. In the first we cannot always be there, that is a mere fact of life and programming around that element is often folly. The second is that if we have a proper RPG, we have houses (guilds), but what if your first guild is not a mage or a tinkerer? So early in the game you see a setting where you can only watch, be that famous Monday morning quarterback and watch others do the job. Then we get to the important part, we need to set these parts to some level of randomisation that instigated when you START the new game. Not when you get there. So we see the need to have 20-40 missions with a decent rewards, but we need to be partially lucky, so that the internet cheater miss out as well. That is setting a larger story, especially when success unlocks a larger side quest. And the second part in all this, it enables and fortifies the replay of a game. So in the dream we can see that Horus was the trigger, but what happens when you never noticed that bird? Would you be ready? Would you make it to any shelter? And most important, without resources you will go hungry, thirsty and optionally will continue with decreased stamina and health (a day without food makes a person weak, try it for yourself if you doubt me).

So is the approach of having time sliced missions a hit or a lemon? I cannot answer that, I think it could be great if you program this properly and it will take proper programming to get it done. Programmers could ask Anunnaki (god of fate), but there is a chance that you will not receive any help from that direction. It will be a challenge on several levels, but should you pull it off you will be the one adding a new dimension to RPG gaming, a dimension that has been lacking for close to a decade, before that systems were just not strong enough.

In this I merely remembered the settings I came up with in Mass Effect Andromeda 2, Base of the pillar. And yes, I will admit that I had some overlapping ideas that I had for Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration, but I think that a good foundation (as long a the story is completely different) is not a bad thing. I saw the massive mass driven mistake that Andromeda was and there was a setting to fix it and regain credibility, but in that setting ME Andromeda would pack the second game with the first game, and even as a lot was the same, it was added with an enormous amount of changes and different storytelling. One needs to be faithful to the original trilogy. 

Yet all these settings cannot be more of the same, there needs to be a level of evolution. Yes there are plenty of gamers that do not mind more of the same, but they will soon realise that they are stuck in the past and that is as I personally see it never a good thing. And is success a guarantee? No, it is not. I do not offer guarantees, I merely dabble in ideas that can make the next generation of gaming special and enticing.We all might come up with a Nintendo WiiU, and that is fine, but it is not that system, it resulted in the Nintendo Switch and the few who are able to make THAT leap will make it big and that ups the level of gaming for everyone, that I the setting that players like Amazon Luna and Google Stadia (they a little less) get to look t and there is the larger station of play, a setting we have not seen before, not a game that exists everywhere. This is not about exclusivity, but about a totally new level and dimension of play, I think too many are forgetting that we need to push that part and not enough of us are making that leap. 

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New and reinforced

It all started a few hours ago, I decided not to write about the Canadian catholics, because I am too angry, some Bishop Bittman in Nelson asking for patience, we see (source: CBC) “Bittman says those buried in the unmarked graves may also include staff members of the schools”, yes, unmarked graves holding hundreds of unregistered teachers. Their families are all about dumping their carcasses in unmarked graves. Then we see “It’s coming out quite clear now tuberculosis, for example, was rampant around that time, and we know that there was overcrowding in the school”, yes, hundreds of unmarked graves, no notification to officials, as such catholic schools are not just murderous, they are stupid as well? I am in awe of Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, I personally would have scalped the whole lot of them years ago. But this is not about me, and it is not about Canada. As I was venting the rage within me I decided to browse YouTube and I cam across something I had seen before. It is a comparison of space ships from movies, games and TV series. I had seen it before but I looked again and two thoughts (optionally three) became the foundation. The first was seeing the Citadel (Mass Effect series). I was strengthened that my thoughts are still seemingly correct, EA screwed up Mass Effect Andromeda to the largest degree, and I am not sure if they can fix it, moreover the original trilogy is seemingly proving me right. So as the ships and stations pass by two places peak interest, the O4 (Halo), which might have some real life application when you consider the structural advantage that a circle has and the second one is Elysium, the station from the movie with an irradiated Matt Damon. Now consider that we find a station with a 25 mile diameter? Now some shoot them up, but a station with issues, dilemma’s and faults, abandoned for no one knows what reason and you arrive there. A station 1:1 in size and built to size, as such it will only work on a streaming system (for now). Stranded in a segment, trying to make sense of it all and not in some weird fabric way, no a station with systems, with computers with things to fix and as you go through that station you find records, books, recordings and you need to figure out what is what, a game that takes a year to complete, perhaps even longer. Do you have what it takes when it is not about the kill rate? What can be done when you get one robot fixed, then another and more. As you go through the systems, the station and the parts you can access, what more can you find? What more will you be able to do?

A game that I not a game, but it winks at places like the original SimCity, the original programs and we create a place where you work things out and learn. Would you like to learn about the foundations of hydroponics or actually use that knowledge to get a space station running again? And let’s face it, it had never been done before, that is well over half the fun of this and setting your record on your profile will fill you with a massive jolt of ego pleasure, when those around you are behind you, that is where the fun and pride take shape, a drive to be the better scientist, to be the better engineer and the greatest story collector. This is (for now) a streaming solution, to update millions of copies as things needs to improve is not a situation a console and its gamer want to endure, consider Ubisoft and Unity, if 14GB pisses you off, consider what 150GB will do and streaming has the server that keeps it all, the players will notice almost nothing. I wonder who will take a gander into the unknown first, Amazon or Netflix (Google is not developing in-house).

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Vindictive eagerness

So is a person eager to be vindictive, or does that person seek vindication through eagerness, they are not the same but at times we cannot tell the difference within ourselves. Yes, there are a lot of people who are angry because Bethesda games are not coming to Sony Playstation, it is the consequence of Microsoft paying $8,500,000,000 for Bethesda and all that is around it. I get it and even though we find it a dick move, if I owned Bethesda I would have done the same. Strategically speaking it was a pretty brilliant move. So as we took notice of quotes like “Bethesda’s SVP of global marketing and communications Pete Hines offered an apology to PS5 owners, claiming that he understands the frustration, but there’s also very little that he can do about the situation. At the end of the day, it seems that the exclusivity is just part of game publisher politics!” And the man is right, it is the trump card of a system, we feel stricken because millions of gamers embraced Bethesda on their console and that got me thinking even more. I had already handed out free IP to any Sony exclusive game, but what if I add Amazon Luna to that list? You see, the idea came when I saw “Microsoft outlined the future of the Xbox platform. It was a quick focus on how we’ll be playing games rather than what we’ll be playing. Part of this new design strategy was outlined in a Q&A with Xbox head Phil Spencer and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella” in the PC Magazine that was headed by ‘Microsoft Expands Xbox Cloud Gaming, But Streaming Won’t Replace Consoles’ and PC Magazine is right, but if we give IP to Amazon Luna (Google Stadia made a few wrong decisions), which was seen 3 days ago with ‘Ubisoft keeps Google’s ship afloat as exclusives dominate the show’, yes, if Google wants to embrace gaming mediocrity it is their choice, and even as they see it as a valid one, I do not think that relying on Ubisoft will help them that much, as I personally see it Ubisoft dropped the ball too often and has become slightly too unreliable. So it seems that the Number three spot after Nintendo might in the near future become Amazon Luna. Microsoft will remain around in gaming ranking, but it will be 4th, or 5th (more likely) position. So as I have a bit of free time, I will try to make the $8,500,000,000 invoice to seem like it was a $28,500,000,000 one, and by handing out free IP to Sony and Amazon exclusive games is one way of doing it and as I am creating novel and never seen before gaming IP, Microsoft will have to counter and that is the funny part of a vendor that buys ideas, they more usually than not are utterly incapable of creating their own (Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk). 

So as I was pondering a few ideas I suddenly realised that cloud gaming comes with another benefit, games can take new directions in a much larger field. It is like handing an artist who grew its art through drawing on A4 pieces of paper, an A1 sheet. In the beginning, he might think of how much bigger his art is, then he will see that he can place 15 additional pieces of art on one sheet, yet when you combine the two thoughts, you get a very different stage and that is where cloud gaming can take you.

I created in the past a game IP (situated in Amsterdam post apocalyptic) that had a wink towards Mercenary (a very old Atari ST game), but what if we change the premise, what if the sandbox is not merely one we create, but what if we can move from sandbox to sandbox? So what if we create the algorithm that can give us Europe around 400BC, 500AD and 2700AD and 3500AD? The same for a sandbox in China, India, South America and America? Not the people, but the lay of the land. So you end up with 20 sandboxes and the gamer can try and master them all. As we set the stage to a larger frame of mind (and a larger sandbox) we now can use that same sandbox in a few stages and in several games. So far none have offered that option, because it was not part of their setting, but they never considered the advantage of a much larger piece of paper, yes you can use it for larger art, but how many considered the ability to change that one piece of A1 and turn that into 16 pieces of A4? 

Yet that was merely the land, so what next? Well that is where it takes a shine to other fields and for that I need t remind people of something called Zoids, but with caution. I never saw the manga, I only saw the toys in a shop, but it was presented to me in a different fashion, two pieces make a larger third piece and even though I thought it was novel and nice for the kids, I never gave it much thought after that, but the idea stuck in the back of my mind somewhere. So what happens when the gamer is such a Zoid and by exploration the gamer can find and salvage more and more parts evolving over time and adding abilities, requirements and staging a much larger area. There was seemingly (never seen by me) something called ‘Zoids Saga DS’, it had the right idea, but like so many other things it was seemingly a really nice idea, but it was ultimately limited by gaming and that was 25 years ago, in this stage something like the Amazon Luna or the Sony PS5 can turn that idea into something serious and as we detach area from gaming premise we can add game after game in the same sandbox, the gamer can select which sandbox he plays this on, like an adaptive RPG, the stage will no longer be depending or limited on where you are, but what you become. Gaming as far as I could tell never took that sideway towards a larger highway, so as  we are dumped in what would become Madrid, Paris or Oslo, the adaption takes a different turn and we will not have seen that part before, cloud gaming allows for that and if we can bitchslap Microsoft marketing around on what they present to be innovation compared to actual innovation we might wake up whole scores of gamers as well. In this there is an old saying: “The analyst will show you what the best direction is, the politician makes you look forward to the invoice that follows”, yet the business world has more and more adapted from actual analysts to storytellers and now they have a problem, the politician adjusted to the storyteller, yet as I offer materials and foundations to others, the storyteller can adjust for what they have, not what others get. They can merely watch it happen and that puts the politician that the company relies on in a precarious situation.

Now this is no indication that all is bad for Microsoft, they will have home-runs and they will have plenty of good days, and they are entitled to those too, yet within the next year Microsoft and their  Azure work desk will add limitations and they will set the need for gamer data and as gamers will realise that always online means something different for Microsoft as it does for a cloud game, people will catch on, they are to some degree merely a revenue asset and that is where Sony, Nintendo and Amazon can shine and win. They always treated the gamer as a gamer and they gained the revenue, Microsoft and Ubisoft saw the gamer as a revenue piggybank and as I personally see it approached them as such, the moment the larger group of gamers catch on these two will take a dive and that is why my view of Google Stadia relying on Ubisoft gets hurt in the process. As I see it, should Amazon Luna embrace the qualities of Sony and Nintendo, they will end up in third position of the gamers list, with Google and Microsoft trying to catch up. I wonder if that is what Microsoft aimed for the whole time, spend $8,500,000,000 to end up in fifth position. I do not know, I am merely speculating and created a few ideas in the process. So as I left an (intentional) gap in the thoughts I offered, have you figured out what I am seeing all whilst Google Stadia and Microsoft Xcloud rely on Ubisoft+ titles? When Ubisoft+ becomes a separate vendor, something we have seen in streaming more than once, what will become of Microsoft, Google and its gamers? Amazon Luna has an advantage and over the next year it could evolve into an impressive amount of forward momentum, a stage that could degrade Microsoft in 4th position, so the maker of the strongest console in the world is basically a year away from moving from 3rd position to 4th position in gaming. I wonder if they consider that part when they handed over $8,500,000,000. I would not be surprised if they offer PS5 gamers Xcloud and Microsoft software on PS5 in some near future. I doubt Sony gamers will trust Microsoft, but you never know. 

So as we accept that we see “Xbox has roared to life at E3 announcing 30 new games for Series X|S”, we think it is a lot, and when we see “it laid out two years of exclusives including Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5 and Starfield from Bethesda”, yes over two years, implying 15 a year and more important, the big guns relying on a Bethesda game now need to create a hype that is staged for November 11th 2022. 11 years after Skyrim and it is still 511 days away and a lot can happen in that time, more important, their big guns are presented a year early and we saw that happen when Bioware did that with Mass Effect Andromeda, how exactly did that end?

The old expression: “You never know how the cow catches the hare” (answer: with a fishing rod)

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Replay the past in the present

We all do that, we sometimes think we can and sometimes we hope it will be an option. I am on this horse because I am slightly too angry with UK Common Law, and I need to cool down, so I hope that THAT article will come next. To cool off, I did something I had not planned, I installed Skyrim on the PS5, in part because I saw a tweet regarding Skyrim that I can get it to do 60 fps on the PS5, part because I am still one achievement short (slay the legendary dragon), in the last two attempts there was too much grinding going on and I am still playing it on the PS4 as well. Yet for some reason I had forgotten how satisfying the first 10 levels were. The limits, the setting of joining groups, and the setting of having no place. I had forgotten just how perfect Skyrim is. Yes, I know, I have seen the crying people on ALL the bugs, but to be honest, I have had very little issues. Yes, there are a few glitches, but that comes with the setting of a game this big. Oh, and over 9 years we see that there are 17 patches (including the last one for PS5, I am guessing), a game that is 9 years old (released 11.11.11) and still it holds a sway over us (at me at the very least). A good game is really hard to find and Bethesda outdid themselves here. I had designed Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration, and I had hoped it would equal Skyrim, of course my ego feels that I would be surpassing it, but if I only equal it, the game would be a massive success. This is seen in two ways, in the first, write yourself a list of games that you still love to play (beginning to end), and I reckon that this list has less than a dozen titles, If the game must be older than 3 years, the list will be less than half of what you had and in 9 out of 10 cases Skyrim will be on there.

The future options
In light of the news that has been out there, 2021 will be a great gaming year. This is part of what is already out there and part because Bioware has announced a remastered trilogy of Mass Effect on PS5 and that Microsoft contraption. There is off course the first game, yet it is the second one that takes the cake, until recent seen as one of the best tactical RPG’s ever created, the people (read: gamers) have been eagerly awaiting that title. There are all kinds of rumours as to the reason, but in the end it does not matter, millions want to replay that trilogy and on nextgen is a setting that no one wants to miss. Even as I set the premise last year n an idea to relaunch ME4 (together with ME5) to give a larger credibility to the titles, we see that no matter how good that could be, it might never be as great as ME1 through ME3. I get that, the story was breathtaking no game could ever equal that in that era and even now games are struggling to equal those three titles. Bioware and Bethesda set the markers to near perfection and that I what gamers crave, that near perfection feeling, Ubisoft seemingly never understood that. 

Yet no matter who we embrace and what title we go for, we go for the entertainment and in that setting I looked again at the station of the open RPG I created (as a response to Microsoft buying Bethesda) for developers to freely use for Sony exclusive games. It was my way to make the Microsoft $7,500,000,000 to be a lot more expensive than they bargained for. In this I made a few more modifications, or perhaps a better description would be ‘a conceptual path to allow for more’ in this the idea to have 1-2 additions to be played on mobiles, free games that enhances the first one. In Fable we saw Pubgames, yet what happens when we create mobile games (android and iOS), that allows players to do some of the menial tasks in the game, whilst you are on route to work/school, during lunch, or just when you are out enjoying the sun. 

Work
The work app is one where the rejuvenated hero works a job (depending on what job he scored), over 30 minutes you tire the hero and he sleeps it off whilst you work/learn, and at the end of that time you come home, start the game and the hero has gained credits and coins.

Education
Whilst our hero works he learns and gains experience (not as much as in the game), but he could learn and achieve an extra skill point, in addition to that, whilst the hero learns, there will optionally be a stage where new and more equipment becomes available.

As we have thee money to go out and explore, we see that the game gets a larger push towards the gamer, to see more, learn more and do more. Yes, we acknowledge that there was a great stage to play Fable 2 and own the pub BEFORE you entered the tower, yet what happens when your years of absence made you lose the pub and its income? The setting is a mere reflection (I am not negative towards Fable), we need to see that there is a whole range of options and in this I moved as far away from the Bethesda s possible, not because the games were bad, no the opposite, they were really good, so creating something different was essential and when you look at all the D&D games, it is surprising how alike some are. If another franchise gets to stand up, it needs to be different from other games, it needs to set a different stage and it needs to have larger options, in this large is reflecting on the application of other solutions giving you more options to enjoy exploring, and do things. 

In this, I merely thought of a part of my consideration (Elder Scrolls VII) and I came up with another bevel to implore and to exploit. A setting that TES4 and TES5 didn’t have to the degree I considered and as such, I can add this to my game as it was never there, and that is not all, even as we see the larger stage of new opportunities, we need to weigh, just like in every game, will it be an addition, or merely a fab that goes nowhere? It is an important question to ask ourselves, because we always think that our idea is perfect, but that is not a given and even as I create something new, it will not be for every gamer, it will be for the RPG lover, that is who I cater for, and I will say right now, if you do not care for RPG games you might not like this game and even if you like RPG games, you might not like this either. I cater to a group of people and I will be happy when that group is larger than expected, but unlike Ubisoft, I keep realism in the visors, those who cater to all will never cater to anybody, I still believe that and so far I have not been proven wrong.

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The path overlooked

Yes, we all overlook paths, options of choice, you, me, we all do it. It has nothing to do with intent. Most of the time we forgot that the option was there. Yet this time around it becomes an essential part, you see 2021 will offer a larger stage, a stage where Microsoft has an advantage (Bethesda, Bioware, EA), they might be in denial and some will make carefully phrased denials or reconsiderations with last November “PS5 will still get Bethesda games — but they’ll be ‘first or better’ on Xbox”, now, the first part is fine, Microsoft paid $7,500,000,000 for that privilege, it is the ‘or better’ part that I have a problem with, as such I set out and designed (conceptual design) of a new RPG to be used freely by Sony in previous blogs, but that is not enough. There is every indication that Mass Effect might not make it to PS5 either and that too is fair, it is a Microsoft stage and I worry, because Mass Effect remastered will contain Mass Effect 2, which is pretty much one of the best games in history, anyone denying that is nuts. So I need to have to be creative and set the stage for Sony too. Now, Sony has its own stage of exclusives and they are way good, but to set the stage that an independent software house can freely use for a PS5 exclusive is not the worst idea, I am a writer, not a game programmer. Intelligence and business intelligence yes, games no, I am a simple guy (to some extent). 

As such I started to work and after half a dozen ideas (that looked too much like something that existed already), and after I had set the stage of a completely redesigned Murder on the Zinderneuf (optionally now with a different title) and a completely new approach to Seven Cities of Gold, I found the setting I forgot about (all whilst I also made an approach towards Fallout Shelter, yet not the same game, but now set on a space station called Babylon 5) I found the solution in this in an approach taking a coin from the TV series Smallville. Yet this is not a game about Superman, Superboy or Tom Welling. Consider a city, I would say Any city and perhaps that is apt, you see there will be 4 towns, the size of Lancaster, PA. In these towns (you get one randomly assigned at the start of the game). We have a town with 12,000-18,000 NPC’s, we will also have events that impact the town (not unlike the TV series Haven), but not the same, anyhow, you start as a boy (or girl) as a sophomore and you will have abilities and there you can make a directional choice. But here the complication starts, the powers you have have limitations, they drain after use and take almost a full day to recharge, yet as you use a power, you make the power stronger and as such it can be used faster (up to 3 times a day) and as you use one power new options will evolve. 

SO you need to be wise in its use and also consider the option of being clever and find another solution. This will not make it easy, but that is the challenge, get to the end of high school and win all challenges. We have seen a partial setting in Buffy, Angel and Smallville, but no one considered to make a game out of it. 

So why will it work?
I believe it will work as the game maker needs to evolve the NPC part of the game way beyond Ubisoft ever achieved to do so. You need to keep track of up to 18,000 people and their family, if one person will not make it, it will affect at least a dozen people and as you fail to save people, there is a chance that the police will start to investigate you as an optional criminal. 

It sets a new stage where you need to plan your steps ahead, it is no longer fly by the seat of your pants, it becomes fly by wire and you are the Boeing 737, as far as I can tell, it has never been done before and if the makers pulls it off, it is the setting for an almost legendary achievement. And let’s face it, these series have had its settings of antagonists, in this we get the setting that we make some of these antagonists heroes. Some of them have been unfortunately in that regard.  A nice example is Sandman (Spiderman), Alicia Baker (Smallville), Amy Madison (Buffy), Sylar (Heroes), the list goes on and on and no one considered to set this approach of abilities in another frame and not merely there, there are a few more settings. 

Why this path?
Well, we can have another run through the story games like there are so many, but games like Spiderman (PS4, PS5) are successful, not merely because they are perfect, but because they offer choice, we get to go into the game in whatever direction we want to take it. We know that at times we need to follow the main story, but the large stage of freedom is why these games are so adored and replayed. We never considered to take that stage and evolve it. Yet we must also see the path of originality, which is why I merely gave examples. I saw ‘inFAMOUS Second Son’ as an average game, not because of the start, the start is pretty fantastic, a smoke ability? The issue becomes that the game based in Seattle becomes linear way too soon, so as you mark of all the missions per district, as you clean up each segment, you end up with enough power-points to immediately upgrade whatever power you unlock, the stage of choice is great, but always per district and always linear, that is why it is not a great game, but a good game, and the concrete power at the end is not used to the larger stage. Laser power is too powerful. All stages of near hits, but still an original game. A 90%+ game that ended being a mere 80% game, such a shame, such a waste. In my mind I am setting  stage that avoids that, and a stage where the town becomes the sandbox and the NPC’s are the triggers that starts missions (optionally puzzle inclined), and as I do this, I am wondering what happens when we remaster Soul Reaver to a new stage, enlarged, interacted and also take away the weakness the first one had (repetitive and a little shallow). Sony has great IP, I wonder who was sitting and considering what they hd only to fall into the same trap Microsoft is in (it needs to be new, it needs to be cool), and all that time, Sony has access to IP 20 years old that was regarded as an original game. It needs work, no one denies that, but it is something Microsoft does not have, as such we need to consider it, because the more exclusive games, the less chance Microsoft has and we need to acknowledge that the Bethesda deal gives them an advantage, not enough, but why give them that much leeway in the first place?

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A,B,C,…..D?

We all have ways to promote the thinking pattern within ourselves, we all have our way to get about it, I am no exception. Yet, today is a weird day, I am overwhelmed with a thought and a sensation from the 60s. I was a wee young lad (a little piss ant is more like it), I was never a saint, especially when I was young. And in all this we all had our own ways to deal with ourselves, again, I am not exception. 

The sensation that bugs me today is something that has been in the back of my mind for a while. It is like a nuisance that keeps on bugging me and I do not exactly know why. It is a drink, in the Netherlands it was for a small time (in the 60s) decently wanted. The bottle was long and slim, with a light blue lid, it contained some form of a tangerine drink. That drink has been on my mind for a while now, and I miss it, but until recently it’s been nagging me and I do not know why. I looked up a few things and I noticed that there is no decent tangerine liquor. The drink I used to have was a lemonade, basically tangerine juice, settled with a third ingredient like water, still water. So why was it on my mind so strongly?

I had been considering a lot more from that era, mostly TV series, it was all before the house of Pong set up its shrine (a manhunter New York joke). And then it hit me, it was 1968, the Dutch TV series ‘De Fabeltjeskrant’ created by Leen Valkenier started, the UK got it later titled ‘The Daily Fable’, the setting had connections to the fables of Jean de La Fontaine, Aesop, and others. No matter how simple it was then, it was close to unequalled until it ended in 1989 after well over 1600 episodes, a gem too many had forgotten about, The adventures narrated by Mr Owl, with Miss Stork, 

Mr. Cunningham the Fox, Mr. Crow, Boris the Wolf, Bert and Fred Beaver, Zippy the Hare,Shelly the Tortoise, Miss Ant, Gerald the Pigeon, Milord the Horse, Harold the, George the Guinea Pig in the British version, Mumbles the Mole, Myra the Hamster, Greta the Cow, and Zaza the Zebra. There were more characters, but I stopped watching when I grew a little older, yet consider the simple fact that this series ran for over 1600 episodes and consider all the old tales as well as the tales of Grimm and others, what a treasure trove it could be, even today, we are all looking at the hi-tech series, but there is a reason that Tim Burton struck gold with the Nightmare before Christmas, stop motion animation is still an art that can move all the senses we have and we forgot about that tiny detail. We seemingly forgot about the situation where what was is still good, but how to embrace it? The fair part is that children do not mind, they embrace the story, the interactions, the inclusion, it is the inclusion that tends to take the cake, but it is merely one of a few factors and to be around for 22 years, that matters, that shows that you have a winner. So can it be relaunched? That is the question we need to face. E can remaster it, it can be remade, but in the same way? It is like the original Mass Effect, these gems are close to timeless, in 15 years when we have the Playstation 6 and the Zbox (or XboxX), a game like Mass Effect will still have a value that equals its weight in gold, so TV series too will have their moment and the IP and its owner sees a new life where none was expected. It is the showing of a real visionary, a game like Mass Effect (the original trilogy) is truly one of those. 

So whilst my mind focussed on a tangerine smell and a faint taste of what was, the reason was lingering in the back of my mind and the Daily Fable is not the only thing from those days. Netflix is investing a little over $17 billion in this year alone, but on how much actual IP? What if a fraction could get them several series that could give them a much larger offering of series? As the workflow comes back (after another lockdown), we see that there is a need for materials that will be there for the younger and the not so young viewers. 

It is about series, games, streaming and non streaming. It is all directed via IP, but it is not the only option, there is a whole league of games that lost their IP protection years ago, the same for TV series and the clever mind is one that looks in the past and find the troves most forgot about.  A setting we need to take another look at. So consider on what Netflix is spending and then add the billions that DisneyPlus is spending and see what some can get at a mere farthing per pound, a setting too enticing to ignore, but the will be the name of the game soon enough. 

It links to an old joke, what is the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant? A zookeeper has a $10 note and hands you 10 $1 coins, an accountant squeezes the $10 note until it gives up 11 $1 coins. We can laugh at the or realise that the Netflix has an optional $1,700,000,000 around, all because not the right accountant took a look at the $10 notes. We can laugh at the joke, or we can consider that there are parts none of them looked at, why is that? Or better stated, where are the gemstones? You already saw one, let me give you one more, it was a Swedish series called ‘Den vita stenen’, a series based on a 1965 award winning book. In a collection of nations, a mere 2 options and that is before you realise that France, Germany, Norway, Estonia, Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. They all have the gemstones no-one noticed or they forgot the impact they had focussing on a local market tends to have that impact and the time goes short, soon more than one will catch on and when they get it done it will be too late for them.

Such is life, as such, did you get to point D? If so, is it a square, a rectangle, a trapezium or a parallelogram? All options and none are the same.

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The edge of IP

Yup, another bout of insomnia, another idea in the IP range. I state this casually and carefully, because even if the stage is altered, there might be a setting where it in not entirely my IP. In the first I came up with a new Mass Effect Andromeda, I wrote about it previously and to make the story fit, the game would contain a remastered and rewritten part one (the bad version we saw in 2017), a lot would be used, but the game would be different, even if the planets are not. That was only part one, the stage of part two is in three parts, the Nexus, the missing ships and 5 additional planets. Also we would revisit the planets that were cleaned up with a lot of additional materials. Yet my mind kept on racing. It was the Prothean Vigil VI who gives us “They used the conduit to gain access, but the conduit is only a prototype. The portal only links in one direction, so they were trapped on the station. I do not know what became of them there, it is unlikely they found any food or water, they suffered a slow grim death”, the game is 13 years old, and I have lashed out to Microsoft on a number of occasions, but this one, this one they got right, and the second game was even better the the first one, optionally one of the best RPG games EVER produced. 

So what happens when a group of people makes it to the Citadel, about 2 millennia after the reapers. The station cold dark and we get to see the restart of the station, the keepers are setting the parameters for races to come, yet what happens when teams Humans, Salarians, Drell, Turians, and Protheans make it to the Citadel? Not the original station as shown in the game, but the station in its complete complexity. Each race starts in the original building that was meant for them, as they could dock there, but after that, it becomes a chase, a challenge, of puzzles and wit to survive, to create the stations energy settings, the interactions that are required and not to mention as you play one race, all the others become NPC’s, with the option of a previous completed race to use your achievement as a template to equal. Something like that has as far as I can see never been done before and to that extent wasn’t even possible until the PS5 (and its Microsoft equivalent) were released. Not to mention there is every chance that the Google Stadia might keep up, so that is three, all whilst it would be possible to link a friend and set his milestones as one for one of the NPC’s. 

You might wonder why that and not a new station, a new environment. Yes, that is true, but to create all the races and all the settings takes a lot more and these races have been clearly established, also there is a danger that we might inadvertently copy parts of another Citadel station (System Shock), as such I wanted to get head of the curve (as I am not getting any sleep)

It would still be a large undertaking, The idea was bugging me when I was redesigning MEA and MEA2 in one package, the setting of the size of the station was never that clearly represented, also the cryogenic unlocks made little sense, there was too little pro and con options. A setting where we see the plusses on one sided and we weigh that, all whilst the minus side was largely ignored. So as I went out to create a new version in my mind, I kept on looking at the larger stage, the larger needs and it kept on kicking me back to Citadel station, especially the parts we saw in ME1 and ME2, I thought it was time to kick it in another direction and this is what I came up with in a mere 2-3 hours. 

Consider the screenshot, it is part of the citadel, 5 arms, one arm holding dozens upon dozens of skyscrapers, each building (or at least several of them) explorable, yet there is also the danger of that needle and haystack expression, there needs to be a clear directive on what is required, what are we seeking for, and not all are in the same arm, so paths are needed, airlocks, and larger cargo spaces so we can travel between the arms, yet the keepers (now under clear Reaper control) must also be avoided and changes need to be done whilst they are not looking. All whilst ever building is getting cleaned and sanitised by worker drones. 

It becomes a much larger setting and it might be one that the explorers under us (Dora too) might like to get a handle on. And let’s not forget, there are 5 teams, optionally some with advanced knowledge. All this and the Andromeda challenge too? What a luxury! I would love to make it a Sony exclusive, but Microsoft already has the beat on the IP, so if there is exclusivity, it might be Xbox (something I really would not like).

Well, it is 2:14 now, I have no idea what I will come up with next, but I got roughly 4 hours until the sun comes up and I forgot my Maui Jim glasses. 

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Exit stage right

Yup, I am back. In the first there is the Swiss issue I discussed earlier today, as set the free movement ending is not reached, 68% rejected that part. So in this the larger stage were (as I personally saw it) the fear mongering side, but that is merely my view on one part. The election was on a few items and the Swiss have spoken, they rejected the ending free movement part and I am fine with it, yet I do feel that the term of all those benefits, I wonder if we ever get to see a list on that. But no matter what it was up to the Swiss and they rejected the notion.

Then there is the corona issue (not the beer), as per now we have 33 million infected and one million are dead. I believe that this number is actually higher, but I cannot prove it, the top three are USA, India and Brazil. In this I partially reject it because I believe that Indian infected is most likely a lot higher and those who died are cremated rather fast, so even as the numbers are too low, I cannot say that there is intent here, consider that in India the alleged personal need for ignorance is high, a nation where the Mumbai region alone has 55 million people, so 6 million over all India and only 95,000 deaths does not add up. When we apply the global mortality rate, the death count in India is close to 50% too low, a nation where population pressure is through the roof. I get it, not every person gets tested, there are not enough test packages to get even close to the testings required, there is no blame, no one is at fault, but we need to realise the setting and in a lot more places than India, the setting does not add up. 

And in the third setting, we see that there is every indication that President Trump will be exiting the stage on the right side. There is an overwhelming amount of push on places like Twitter where we see the Rock, George Takei, Billy Baldwin, David Cross and numerous others are giving their voice to Joe Biden, there is even a growing amount of Republicans on that list (including me) and the stage that President Trump has set is for the bulk of all the people no longer acceptable. I reckon that if the voting amount is raised from 55% to 65% it will be over for President Trump. As far as I can tell, at no time in history have Americans united against an elected president ever before. These events are making the anti Vietnam and anti Lyndon B. Johnson events fade. Even as Joe Biden has presently a 10% lead, it is a dangerous setting. Some people will fall asleep and will not bother voting, but the is the danger that got President Trump into the Oval Office in the first place. I would hazard a guess that if only 65% votes, one could argue that the USA does not deserve saving, not t this stage. The active people seem to realise that and their voice is simple “please vote”, they do not say who to vote for, they seem to think that this will be enough to get them to vote and hopefully not for President Trump. People like Dwayne Johnson are more eloquent in this, they name the people they endorse and give additional information. Still, I am to some extent in awe, I have never seen such a level of unison coming from America since WW2 (the Hitler is bad group) and perhaps it is important to pause at this notion. Yes, I remember my last piece, yet that was not about being pro-Trump. That was about the law and the constitution, little pesky things all kind of people want to avoid, I do not. 

What else is on the table? 

Well, games would be my guess and even as we are all still reeling from the Bethesda, now Microsoft decision, PC Gamer gives us a past overview (at https://www.pcgamer.com/au/what-happened-to-12-of-gamings-biggest-studios-after-they-were-sold/). I understand what they bring and I do not oppose it, but what stands out is that Bethesda is bought for more than the amount spend on 12 other acquisitions (not all Microsoft), there we see the the purchase of Mojang by Microsoft implies that all is not lost for Sony, yet this close to release of a new console makes it a question mark at best. In this there is also the thought that EA has options for Mass Effect and even the original trilogy, yet that is for another time. For the most the countdown clocks are running for Cyberpunk 2077 and the PS5/Xbox series X. November 19th 2020 for Cyberpunk and the consoles will come at November 12th (PS5) and November 10th (Xbox). The mayhem starts in 43 days 6 hours and 34.2 minutes.

 

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Jealousy

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

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

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

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

 

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The Ai setting

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

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

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

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

 

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