Tag Archives: Metacritic

A path retaken

We all tend to do it for all kinds of reasons, gamers do it to redo that achievement feeling, or just to feel awake and superior, for me Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the Russia airport scene does it every time, 18 kills, 16 headshots, 100% accuracy; those virtual Spetsnaz kids had no idea who they were messing with (a nerd with a joystick), but hey, I digress.

I got to playing God of War again, it had been three years and when I played it there was no PS5 and that game became even more magical than it originally was. This time around I played the easy version, I wanted to enjoy all the views and I had forgotten just how perfect that game was. The soundtrack by Bear McCreary, the narration, the smooth graphics, especially the witch in the woods (censored identity), she looks as gorgeous on the PS5 screen as she does in real life. The game is all kinds of perfect, and I had actually forgotten just how perfect it is. It leaves little doubt why the game was rated between 94% and 100%, perfection seems to do that and from an RPG point of view, walking through Midgard, Alfheim, Helheim and so on looks overwhelming, and now that I am playing it in easy mode, the adrenaline goes down and I get to relax at times, taking in the beauty of the game more seriously than I had done before. 

Even as I never found everything, and there is every chance I will be in that same situation now, I do not feel bothered, the game delivers in so many ways, the idea that I miss a puzzle or two is mere icing on the cake. The game delivers and delivers again, that is excellence! (Ubisoft please take notice).

Even now as I am designing a new RPG, the feelings that I have replaying God of War matter; if you can hold your thoughts to something as perfect as that, you tend to gain ideas, you tend to open the thinking field and that part matters too. There is no need to copy, there is no need to be alike, there is a need to compare to a game of the highest notion and critically analyse the thoughts you are having. Others might use GTA5, or perhaps Horizon Zero Dawn, it doesn’t matter who you compare to, as long as you do. For me the story is everything, and there God of War delivers, in that I need to consider, if Keno Diastima (my TV series) taught me anything is that the field might have special effects taking the limelight, but it makes up for no more than 10%, any more and you are relying on the creation of a popcorn movie and the writer in me abhors that idea, it’s like a Batman story, complete with the kapow, crash, wham, and sploosh but without the graphics, it tires really really fast and that is what the game designer needs to fight, nearly all the time. When an action sided RPG launches, most of us focus on the perfection of form of the characters, and most forget the room they are in, the helmets that fall to the sky when you hit them, and perfect that ‘ding’ sound when an arrow hits a helmet, even as there are no cymbals in that village, there is a much larger setting here and when you revisit the God of War you see it all, the lack of glitches, bugs and weird issues (we are ignoring the blue dwarf in this case). What is a larger setting is the fact we ourselves need to take heed to not put our idea on a platform and if we do (not the worst mistake) we need to be willing to grab the nearest maul and reduce that pedestal to rubble if need be.

It comes with the territory. 

And I am still a little overwhelmed, I wanted to replay a great experience before the sequel is out (optionally in 2022), the amount of thoughts and the stages (some I had actually forgotten) that I am confronted with is more than I expected and my mind is taking notice of a lot of things more seriously now. 

That last part is not entirely due to myself, the option to compare mental notes to released perfection is rather rare, I named 3 titles, two of them had the smallest needs for alteration (if any), three in a stage of hundreds of games. Metacritic has 3 PS4 games that are 95% or higher (same amount for Xbox One), as such you can see just how limited that list is. And we need to take heed, plenty of games had good ideas, some had great ideas and did not follow through, no matter what the reason is. In this Ubisoft is that shining example. When we consider Far Cry 5 with a 70% score whilst Far Cry 3 had a 90% score you might see a first reason, how much money did Ubisoft deny itself? Because the PS3 was superior to the PS4, or because the game maker did not hold that candle up to its own reflection? I am guessing part two, hence the need to compare to something as perfect as possible (and perhaps not rely on repetition as much). 

There are more examples in other places too but you get the drift, we need to aspire to something bigger and get closer to this to be counted and too many do not. You can copy the idea of others, stay on iOS and hope that the micro-transactions do it for you and as money goes, doing that once is not the worst idea, but it does limit your future as what some would call a legendary game maker. I do not pretend to be one, but I hold their example to the light as much as possible, hoping that the ideas I have can be transformed into something that no one has seen before. If I do that and I end up a mere 70% developer, but if I see the verdict “new and unique” I know I am on the right track, the 70% part might be my lack of experience, we all go through that, not doing it because of that reason is just silly.

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A day of rest

Yup, we all have them and to be honest, not because it is Sunday, but because I wanted to contemplate that I had finished my 1500th story on Saturday, to be honest, I never thought I would get that far. So today I relaxed and considered things, at some point I ate 2 dozen King Mackerels and I also at 3 dozen people (playing Man Eater on PS4), a game that was a lot more fun than I expected it to be, and lets be fair, who wouldn’t want to be a shark, I wanted to be one since June 20th 1975, I don’t think the Steven Spielberg had that in mind when he made the movie, but we all have triggers and the VIC-20 brought out a few dark sides in me too. The game is fin, I have put aside Jedi, Fallen order for a week at present, it is not a reflection on the Jedi game, because it looks good and I enjoy the game, it is to show just how much fun Man Eater is. There is a growing sense that games like JFO are losing ground. It is not their fault, they did nothing wrong. It seems that with the stronger systems the option growing in players that we are all seeking a more sandbox approach. Dying Light, Alien: Isolation, Gotham Knight, Shadow of War, all games that are doing better because of the open game approach, even if it merely seems to be the case. Now with the PS5 (and the Microsoft alternative) we see the drive to open gaming. Still, we need to be careful what we embrace, because it is a dangerous step. Even as some embrace Second Son, a Superpunch creation, the game lost out as it was too linear, a game that had the setting to be legendary, because slightly better than average, not because of the graphics, not because of the story, but the execution needed work, the fact that I was able to complete the game in a little over a day in hard mode is in support of that view. It gave me the idea to come up with Infamous: Adulthood, a game that continues on Second Son, sets it in a much larger stage of Seattle (as that was where the previous game was). I took a different avenue (because that is how I roll), I like deployability, a game is not something that you play once, but there must be a drive to do that, taking a page from another design, I set the game map to a 900% of the previous one, so if the map was 3 miles each side, it would not be 9 miles each side. From 3 by 3 to 9 by 9 is quite the change. But the map is merely the first part. The idea is to continue a generation later (because the game was nicely set), Delsin Rowe is now an older man, he met a girl Dyani and she was a conduit too, she had the same ability that Delsin had and ended up with different powers they settled and had a family. This is the first tier choice, you can choose boy or Girl, the boy will be named Reggie, the girl will be named Betty, yet the powers with which they get (only two) will be set to a stage, the first power will be one of one of 4 random the boy gets it from the father the girl from the mother, the second power is 75% from the gender parent 25% from the other one. So here is the first reason to replay the game, you get different and new powers. The story will set the stage where the player gets the other 2 powers. To this stage the story doesn’t change, yet how to go about it does. I wanted to add the stage that the other two powers will be depending on whether the person has a good or an evil karma, so the offensive power of fire is for Evil, the power of water will be for good (just a thought, fire is not evil, the flames told me so themselves), The second one is in the air, I wanted to set a larger stage again. To avoid the linearity of the game, I wanted change, so we still might want some linearity to make things easier, but I wanted to avoid that cleaning a region gives you enough power to upgrade to the max from the beginning. To this effect we see a new stage, the good cannot destroy CCTV, as such the police can be a much larger stage to deal with. The evil choice gets additional criminals attacking them, whilst the police attacks them too, The storyline will be a larger challenge, I needed to consider missions that can be adjusted for the powers available. An idea is that as the powered are free, some are criminals, some are not and others are living in silence hiding their abilities. As such missions for 4 additional powers needed to be created. (2 good, 2 evil), optionally one will be neutral, but that is the stage. I had the idea of creating a storyline that is slightly more dripped in ambiguity than previously considered. So when considering the powers, we need 4 for Dyani and 4 that are optionally gained. I came up with Fire, Water, Acid, Air, Paper, Glass (the last two were mentioned in Second Son), and beyond the elemental is time, telekineses and projection. There might be more, but there is no stage to set it yet. The danger is that in Second Son the first power was cool, it can across as creative and it had limitations, Laser (second power) was too strong, basically when I had it, I only used that one for most of the game, so I wanted to make sure that each power had a serious setback, making relying on one power a bad idea. There is the idea to add powers like Flight or teleportation, but the powers that were in the game and climbing to the top was not overly negative. Then there are the positive parts, the spray can option was awesome, it was original, and looked great, but I do not want repetition, I considered that both good and evil had options, so the idea of the paper power allows the player to set posters to illuminate issues, yet if the person does not get that power, we need an alternative in Smoke (charcoal image), Laser (Draw), Video (override transmission) and Concrete (sculpt). In addition there is the need to create passive abilities, even as we see the stage where we use one power, or the other power, we could be actively using one power, whilst the other power passively works too, it is a harder stage, but it feels more real for the player. For the same reason where we didn’t get to use the concrete power, I want to make sure that the stage of all powers is there and an application of practical use too. 

To set that stage we need to create a sort of infrastructure, just like a normal real city, we have regions, the police has a city and area setup, but so do criminals and they are not the same, in addition, we see the approach of others (not trying to give away too much) and they to have their own maps and infrastructure. Setting a city in such a stage makes a linear approach much harder and optionally not possible. A setting where a region can be ‘cleaned’ but not until all 4 powers are there, and in some way, the stage needs to be that some issues cannot be solved (not the right power) and as such, the only thing that the player can do is limit damage, a stage we often forget. Yes, we all understand that there is a line we walk on when we play a game, but what happens, when that line is intersecting and the player gets the option to turn left or right? Sandbox games tend to have a much better realisation to make that happen and I believe that in next generation systems a push towards sandbox approach will give the player a much better and more entertaining approach to solving the puzzle giving them. Even as we all push towards the a game like Prototype and the need to drive a tank over the masses to get the 65,536 kills, but long before you get to the 40K cadaver mark, the grinding set in and the fun diminishes. That is the other side of sandbox gaming. When a game stops being linear there are more issues to consider, more options for glitches and an optional bug or two, so there is more to consider and isolation in programming tends to be a non-option. Isolation has benefits, but there is a much larger stage of other issues hitting the environment, there is more to consider programming and that is where the rails tend to come off. This is not a good thing, but I focus on the creativity, not on the technical stag of the game, I can create, I suck at programming (beyond standard stations of it), as such the re is a stage where my idea of creation will surpass programming, but that is good, when you skate on the fringe of technology magic is created, Go back in time and see the games that truly broke the mould, they all surpassed what was imagined to be possible at the time (Minecraft with the obvious exception), we all see what is possible and a game will expand the mind when it is in a stage where it seems impossible. Guns of the Patriots and the Last of us are the examples that set the stage of the PlayStation 3,  MGS4: Guns of the patriot did so in the beginning of the console and set unparalleled borders with several critics giving the game a 100% rating, and the Last of Us repeating the same setting at the end of the PlayStation 3 lifecycle receiving even more 100% ratings. That was not because it was cool, it was because the game was as close to a game that should not even exist on that console, to surpass the boundaries of what was possible, soon we will get a similar setting on sandbox games, creating the near impossible making the player skate on the edge of what is possible in gaming and it is a hard sell, even as we see “Within seven days of its release, The Last of Us sold over 1.3 million units”, it ended up selling 17,000,000 units. There is a reason why Ubisoft is at present with the consideration of ‘At best unremarkable, at worst unplayable, Ghost Recon Breakpoint is 2019′s worst game’ (source: Washington Post), It all starts with creativity and imagination, then we get proper programming and testing, as I personally see it Ubisoft failed 4 times over, as such it is important to set the bar of creativity as high as possible, a stage too often underestimated. So whilst Ubisoft still seemingly hides behind “There are five AC Valhalla editions available”, with the optional extra “Each one of the Valhalla editions offers a different pack of bonuses and additional perks on top of the base game”. We need to remind the makers that we need one game and an optional collectors edition that could have art, noise (soundtrack) and doohickey (statue), I am not opposed to a season pass, yet in my personal view it is that some of the makers see this as an excuse to deliver a 85% game and charge additional for the 15%, whilst I see it that the season pass would be a setting to add to the game giving us 115% of gaming. In this I need to reflect on the Desperado 3 limited edition, it is awesome (I do not have it), I got the game when I could and I love it, but the collectors edition ($80 more) gives a music box, with the five playable figurines interchangeable, an art book, the soundtrack and postcards. It looked really cool. Some will love it, some will not care, and I get that, but in what universe should we diminish playing quality? I also get that some will give out skins as a premium for some preorder and I am fine with that, yet they should become available for all and games like Gotham Knight offered just that down the line as free downloads. It seems to me that these game marketeers are all about creating hypes aiming towards what they call “For the most loyal and fanatic fans of the franchise”, whilst they have no issue charging well above 300%, all whilst they are currently in a stage where they have not proven that they can deliver a game that is worth 100% of the charges of a normal game, Breakpoint took care of that rather nicely. Metacritic gives Ubisoft a present an average career score of 69%, and we do need to distinguish that AC Odyssey is set to a mere 60%, Breakpoint got a mere 58%, so am I wrong? I believe not, although Ubisoft could have avoided a lot of issues by properly testing the games before release. Different games, different ratings, but the stage is set with the creativity of the person thinking up the game. Getting another Second Son game is not the worst plan, but it needs to deal with linearity, it was the biggest drawback in the game. I think that overall that is not a bad setting to have, The game is said to have sold over a million copies which is good, yet when we set this against the two legendary games, one selling 17 million copies, I believe that there is room to wow the people, I am not underestimating the realm that MGS had already created, but the Last of Us was a totally new IP, I believe that a near perfection driven SuckerPunch has more to offer and I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the PS5 era, if Ghost of Tsushima is anything to go by, I say that we haven’t seen anything yet. So let the PS5 and the good times come. And in the mean time, I will focus my creativity a bit more.

There are limits to a day of rest, the walls at present look good enough to eat. 

 

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Can you figure it out?

Let’s play a game, let’s play the game called ‘Can you Figure it out?‘ In this case a very numbers worthy game has been called to attention twice before, so let’s have a look especially with Black Friday coming up (in about 4 weeks). Let’s play it shall we?

Breakpoint, normal PS4 edition is $37.88

Breakpoint, Steelbox Gold edition XB1 $95.68

Breakpoint, Gold edition PS4 $59.56

Breakpoint, normal edition XB1 $62.77

Breakpoint, XB1 digital code $59.99

 

Can you figure out the 5 prices? And they all come from the same vendor, Amazon! This is a game that had the enormous flaws, the design weaknesses and the discussion issues, Having two bare prices would have been enough, one for XB1, one for PS4, although they too should have been driven across the fold, and what is that about a code for downloading? Why is it priced differently? OK, that latter part is fair enough I think, yet it shows just how unremarkable the Microsoft download is. A game that should be 100% prices until the end of the year no longer is and it will be getting worse up to Black Friday, now 4 weeks away.

I expect Breakpoint to go down a few notches in price, the initial price setting has become that much of a debate, with Ubisoft it has become a buyers’ market, they decided not to learn. Then there are the lightning errors, to see through the window of a bunker has a better light differential, then to just be outside. There are a few more that I noticed, but there could be an alternative approach to events, so I keep my cool.

However, one of the posters on YouTube gave an interesting view (for PC) that he had to lower the resolution to 1080p to deal with the performance of the game, so this game might not be actually playable (on any decent resolution) on anything but a PS Pro, or a Xbox X version (mere speculation by yours truly).

And still, beyond all the facades, beyond all the versions and mapping issues, this as well as the later far cry versions are as close as a playable version of Midwinter as this is going to be. Yes, for some that title is a revelation, but it is what it amounts too, a version that is as close to as the original in a version that is as crazy as possible. Yet in all its shape and all its flaws it is what the player is willing to pay for it, that is the game that Ubisoft invited, that is what ‘failed to complete‘ enticed. An AI that is esteeming below what an AI should offer, and that is merely in game vision, apart from that the colliding parts of one person against simple events like a barricade, or a wall.

In the end, the game that should have been a whopping 75%-90% was merely a 56% by metacritic; PC Gamer (probably because of the resolution issue) gave it a mere 40%, that is the consequence of not properly testing a game before release, if the entire Call of Duty path is part of their decision, the entire matter becomes a larger hoax. And that is not even the largest issue, the larger issue is that we stopped anticipating a 85%-95% game from Ubisoft, so any Ubisoft game will have a lower expectation, from the lower starts of -10% to a maximum of -15% away from the 100% of a near perfect game should be regarded as. That is what they are now fighting for, with Watchdogs: Legion being a game with a rating no more than 70%-85%, the revenue that it should promise will abstain, people will wait for the 50% discount, that is what Ubisoft will be fighting. The eternal fight against average, in case of Ubisoft it will be most likely a rage against average and avarice. For a lot of ‘fans’ it is a rather large problem, I was looking forward to Legion, so the anticipation of that game being within certain levels (an 80%+ game) is rather important and I am considering that Ubisoft will try to make it a game that is over 75%, the problem is that to understand this slide of quality is to expect us to figure out what Yves Guillemot will do.

No matter what their decision will be, it will be out of our hands and in the hands of a reacting population of gamers that have had enough and that is the part that is still willing to consider Ubisoft and do not go directly to Activision’s Call of Duty.

From this point until the end of the year will be intense for Ubisoft, but they did this to themselves, no one can tell us any different on that.

 

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It’s about time, slappers only

Even as we look at games, play games and even improve games, we all tend to have our own idea on how things should be. So I decided to take a look in another direction, I decided to look at the Unreal Engine (Unity too), on how to make a game. To be honest, I have no plans to create a game, even though I have a few ideas on at least one original IP, I feel out of my depth on creating the game myself.

So why look at these engines?

I noticed whilst I was observing someone else making a ‘game’ and introducing people on how to make a game, I noticed that my mind wandered into how that applied into my own IP. It also gave me the additional ideas on how to evolve gaming (my IP) and give the player something new, something they have not played before; more important, a version of view that has not been done before, which in light of all the games out there is quite the statement to make. Even as some effects seem familiar as we have seen different visions in games like Splinter Cell (night vision, thermal vision), what can you do to gaming when you do not get to have a choice? What if your evolution also brings with it changes in how you see things? It was an interesting view that we saw (read: read about), in Infocom’s Suspended. It was my first Infocom game (CBM64) and also the only one where I actually had to buy the hint guide for (came with a marker to make invisible statements visible. So as we took control of Iris, Whiz, Waldo, Auda, Poet and Sensa, we saw something different as all of them looked at the same thing. That idea was pretty interesting to read about, yet what happens when we ‘see’ the difference? That was the first foundation of a new title. The second part came from a memory of a game called Mercenary (Novagen). There were the Palyar and the Mechanoids, now what if they were one and the same (a Dark Chrystal reference), what if we have a game where the environment forces us (not allows) for evolution from one to the other, yet also with the setbacks that one or the other has. A game where you can choose to go one way, go the other way, yet gives us the puzzles and challenges that does not merely make it a fun game to play; it would in addition also give us a challenge that makes the fun of replay much higher. As an RPG fan, the option to replay a game is important to me for the mere reason that if I am able to buy a game at $100, I would like to be able to play it several times, or as they say in Fintech, if you can squeeze a $10 bill and you get 11 $1 coins, only then have you maximised your currency. I can do that to games, so hence the stage to create something that is a great return on investment.

So as I am looking at these Unreal Engine presentations, I am seeing all kinds of changes that could make the game even better, more challenging and more fun to play. I am now also seeing a few things that I had not actively considered to the degree that I needed to consider it. After merely seeing 3 hours of presentations, I saw half a dozen items that added to the thoughts of the new IP I am ‘creating’. So what happens when you are in one stage? You want to be in a stage where you can have two challenges without repeating the methods. It is almost an Alien versus Space Marine part, but not the same, the difference is still there, yet in another way. The best example is seen in the original Daredevil with Ben Affleck. So what if our view is based on some version of: ‘sonic plus’? This was merely one of several iterations my mind was going through to set the stage of the game. And just watching the run through gave me additional idea after idea and as such, my version of this non existing game kept on evolving.

Why do we care?

Well, you might not, yet consider the elements I came up with, it seems that it is not entirely unique, yet the version I have has to the best of the knowledge never be seen and if I can come up with this, why de several development houses work with a new version of that same Franchise again and again and we see a total lack of actual original new games. What makes for a game to be squeezed in repetition with a larger lack of new IP? It seems to me that certain houses have been lacking in true new IP and that seems like such a shame. If a gamer is depending on something new, not something relaunched, we see the flaw that is out there, and in that same light we see the growing desire of golden greats like System Shock. Do not get me wrong, I loved that game and I hope to play the remastered edition when it is done. More importantly, it also gave me other ideas on how to resolve play value. You see, in System Shock, what was working had to be destroyed (camera’s) systems had to be switched (VR Cyberspace level parts). Yet what happens when you have to get it fixed. Not some blatant ‘repair tool’ that shines on the object. No, what happens when you have to scrounge systems to find parts to rebuild a server, strip tools, strip consoles to get the keyboard, the display and the processor system? Get to the router and then get to the server? We seem to think of such elements too easy. So what value do you get when you play the game in hard core mode and you have to set the stage to repair network access systems? You might only have to do it once, but there we get the additional choice of fixing a system, versus stripping systems to create a mobile version. Now what additional solutions will we see when it goes beyond merely network. In System Shock it is on a space station, so water, environment and other elements would optionally be broken and that is how I saw my new IP, not merely fixing and scrounging, but the fact that in any biological disaster we see the impact and limitations of a dangerous zone. Now, what if that is not set straight, but could alter from game to game? New routes, now solutions and other options would need to be found to get to a certain stage, in addition, as we change those parameters, the steps to do certain things will also alter as to where and when we choose to make changes and that too adds to the challenge.

A next stage

So what happens when we take that to a new level? What if we consider Watch Dogs 4 (three is being made now)? What if the setting of the stage is completely out of our comfort zone? What if we impose limits on ourselves? How willing are you to go into true survival RPG when it is not some irradiated mess (Fallout series) or Post-apocalyptic (Horizon Zero Dawn). How ready are you to be a real gamer and in the game you ended up in Korea or Japan and that game is all Korean or Japanese? Will you fold or rise to the occasion? In my view in Watchdogs 4, you and your sister/brother escape from people smugglers and you swim ashore to end up being in either country. Having no knowledge of the language, in Seoul or Tokyo and the introduction leaves you with a clean smartphone and Google glasses. Now you have to get the software, use the glasses to translate signs on the go, you need to learn language and you need to figure out how to get another party free (who is still captive somewhere). You get to choose on a criminal or non-criminal lifestyle all with its own challenges of work, odd jobs, a place, food and other elements. Can you complete both sides whilst also freeing your parents and not set of the alarms that running to the police will get your parents killed? Now consider doing that in a completely set city (a 900% version of the Watchdogs 2 map), also consider the elements that can be added, additional challenges and a true evolved NPC stage of interactions. I got part of the idea when watching the YouTube channel Only in Japan * Go (at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDsvL48jluG3tvlyurB4K3g), what if the interactive part is truly AI driven and it has a lot more responses than we have now (like 5,000% more). A stage where time is more important, not merely a day rotation where 30 minutes represents 24 hours, but where time is closer to actual and the game will have constraints in time management. We have seen elements of what I described here and there, yet for the most we have never seen them all united and when you are in a game that should last you 100-150 hours of gaming to complete. Taking the stage forwards by adding long term playing challenges, with the essential need to avoid grinding we see a new stage in gaming, a new stage in RPG, even as we see the truck load of people being anti-Bethesda for now. They did make a huge change and even as there is an essential need to patch the 34,554 bugs and glitches (a mere speculated rough estimate), we are looking at a game that is more about survival than the series have ever added before. We see the option to push a similar evolution into the Watchdogs series, where survival becomes an issue when we are no longer in our element; also we are no longer in a place where we can just walk around. The option to show new technologies and add technologies in a new light, where a device like Nudle Glass, could translate any sign we see in the game by adding a text balloon with the translation. where the phone will do voice translation and we add mobile technologies where we start getting the ability to hack, the ability to interact and the ability to emboss the storyline and challenges. A place where you need to get the odd job (on a food market, a market or just some courier job) where you get the cash to get by for the daily cycle whilst still having to find a way to safe your parents. More importantly, a stage where you have to get it done within a certain time (250 days for example) before their health gives out, these are all stages that we have seen before, yet never all at the same time and not to this extent. We need food and water (the one real fault in Subnautica), yet when we are given hours to get things done, we see options to stretch a game in more meaningful ways. the need to get transportation and to get on public transport as we cannot run from one end to the other (like in Watchdogs), as we have to get from one place to the other in Tokyo (or Seoul), yet when we have to get by 13Km to do that, time becomes a factor and that is the part game makers ignored because they lived by the act that all of it had to be fast and dynamic, yet the longer RPG game could benefit from the additional challenge of getting transport and learning to find your way by public transport (time skipping). It is not merely for the challenges and the storyline. You get to be part of the environment; you will need to clearly think on your feet. We might have been able to forego sleep in Fallout 3 for 200 days, yet the need for sleep will be here (even if we skip it in a few seconds wait time), we impact the other elements and when time becomes a deciding factor in the game we get a more true survival game. In opposition of Elder Scrolls (Oblivion or Skyrim) where we loaded up al every mission we could, making time a factor means that we need to focus on a mission. Even as we need not consider time for everything, we get to have a time driven to do list, affecting the way our NPC’s regard us, as we miss the deadline for jobs.

We also get to consider how we survive, not only is making the wrong enemies a much larger concern, adhering the game to, for example, Japanese law where they have ‘No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords’ gives new needs for being creative. The Thunder ball in WD2 was extremely innovative, in WD4, we might resolve to set the stage for a walking cane, or perhaps a belt (strangling). By adding the locations realism in practise, we also create new solutions towards game play. We can still use the WD hacking weapons, yet now we add new elements to the challenge. We might think it is not cool to be unarmed, however when we consider the reality of ‘Japan has some of the world’s strictest gun control laws with punishments that even scare gangsters‘, when we see that, the need for creativity makes the entire enterprise more rewarding too. I hope we can all agree that opening vents via remote in WD2 was as lame as it could get, the challenge can still be met in other ways. So when it is no longer about the killing, but now it is about creativity (like collecting data) we create a new kind of survival game, an entirely new challenge and is that not what gaming is about? When it is not about dropping bodies; when the stage becomes about paths that are about industrial espionage, true surveillance and getting the wealth that could purchase freedom, or perhaps the paths that will expose the people holding your parents, we see applied creativity in another way. We open the door for people to find another way to get to the end and that journey is open for anyone, yet by making time a new constraint and a more truthful constraint we see that people will try to adopt ‘glitches’ when that fails (and it should), we end up getting a real gamer and the game that does that changes the dimensional view of anyone playing a game. When the silenced scope is not available, when the knife gets you years in jail (parents dead, end game!) we can start looking at what we can do to give the challenge of a watchdog. You see, a watchdog is a person who ‘warns members of the community when potential or actual problems arise‘, we saw that to some degree in WD2, running all over San Francisco, yet we can take it to a much larger scale. When the game allows for the criminal side by data invasion, corrupt journalist devices and hack police terminals, or do the opposite by resolving hacks, by deleting criminal data bases and transmitting video of criminal activities in the game, we can become rich, famous and well known or have both worlds by getting a second identity and do both. If we can set the stage of double dipping and we can also create the stage where we can be found out playing both fields and as such impede progress, angering both sides of the social isle; we get a much larger scale to play with and a much bigger challenge. It makes the game more rewarding when we replay the game.

Is this a good idea?

Most likely in this shape not. It needs work and we now have the resources to take it to this level, yet most software houses have not shown the willingness to take it this far (exception Ubisoft- Far Cry 5 and Bethesda- Elder Scrolls), and a lot more is possible. You merely have to look at Horizon Zero Dawn and how much further it could go is a clear indication of what might be reached. Having the map online is one solution (Fallout 76), yet when we realise that in Horizon Zero Dawn is in a scale of 107.5:1 (in miles) compared to real life. What if we see a game where it is less than 10:1 (1:1 being the optimal solution), what other parts will you open? Not merely a place like Tamriel with suddenly the space for 24,999 additional locations, but the stage where we actually need to keep mind on mapping to find the location of Telepe, we see a new challenge added to it all. The nice part is that we can still scale according to level of gameplay, having from easy (90:1) towards hard-core (1:1) we get a game that is not merely more challenging, we get a game that no one has seen before, it needs a true new approach to skills, levelling, completing and time that changes the game. The nice part we saw in Fallout, is where we in Survival (hard-core mode) we see the one life part as well as the absence of fast travel. We see them all as interesting challenges to try, yet when we add them all together we create an entirely new level of gaming. The PC has been there for some time, and with their drives installing it all to the drive is a breeze nowadays (one Blu-ray for the map, and one for the game) For consoles it is a different matter and one that needs work, optionally requiring an online connection for single play, where all the other players will work from an ‘image’ of the same map. No matter how we slice it, the players and gamers are all ready for a new level of gaming.

The downside?

Well, there is no real downside; there is an additional challenge of avoid the mistakes we see in AC Odyssey. Several sources give us: ‘Lots of level grinding‘, ‘Repetitive missions‘ and ‘Long load times and stuttering‘. The last one is a technology issue and should be resolved; grinding needs to be avoided at all times, yet at times will be there. If your daily routine requires income, we get grinding to some extent and food and rent, yet when you pay rent every month, we need to find the week to get through, whilst getting paid in the process. The challenge is to keep grinding to a low. when we see the comment ‘Simplistic combat’, we accept that in some cases, yet when we are in a game where combat is to be avoided and reduced to slappers only (pugilism), we still get a decent challenge if the AI is good enough. In addition, as I see it I want the gender to set the stage for entirely different play throughs, As the girl you have retail options, and also a stage where invitations to the right party places could offer all kinds of opportunities, yet on the criminal side of the game, it might not be so rewarding. To overcome (in a creative way mind you) on how we can add no less than 5 dozen ways to get income (two dozen of one and 36 of the other), we have the setting for not merely an achievement, depending on where it is, we might set a financial stage, as well as a social stage that opens up location (housing opportunities) to shift the range of time requiring to be spend doing one or the other.

When we approach that part, the game becomes bigger, not more tedious. Some might say that if there is no kill score, there is no game and perhaps those people would feel better moving to Detroit, yet in light of any RPG, is violence required? I never did it myself, yet some have played and finished the game in pacifist mode. I admire that as I never considered that in the first few play throughs. Those are defining moments in gaming, when you go out and try that one option you never tried. When you are merely left with the MacGyver placement to get the dough you need for next month, how can you apply it in enough ways to avoid getting the ‘grinder’ label?

In light of the AC Odyssey reviews that might be the larger challenge, especially when you want to equal or even surpass the 150 hour game challenge. I particularly like the Watchdog setting as we get to explore new ways where technology is pushing the envelope of gaming, not the hardware, but the devices in the game. When we need to evolve the software in the smartphone used to get better at hacking, get more in receiving and skim more from people, how can we do this in creative ways? As the locations change and we see that in ‘richer’ places we see more NPC’s with RFID protection, how can the player still get by? In WD2 we merely got the apps and that was it, it was an opportunity missed. Several apps had the potential to be upgraded to a ‘better’ version. When we see that in action, we can contemplate what foreign refugee life in that new place could be. Push beyond the apps and elements like health tags, domotics, smart monitoring, entertainment hacking for students (extra income in game), so many options to add to the game. At some point the question becomes, will that much data break the game?

The other way round

The largest issue we see in many RPG games is that linearity is an issue; Infamous Second Son is the best example. It starts truly great, yet when you get to Seattle it becomes as linear as a ruler and even in hard mode it is not a real challenge (apart from the third boss). To avoid that we can do what they avoided in Horizon Zero Dawn. There (in my personal view) the Tallneck had too much information; it is an equal flaw in the AC series. What if we change it so that some sets have some types of information (not unlike the server hacks in WD1), yet other information like food, shops, are found in other places. What happens, when we need some version of Yelp for one and a WD version of Lifull (Japanese rental app) for another part? Why did they not use a much larger App Shop tool, where apps had advantages and disadvantages and you can only use one, giving a new challenge in the game. You see we can use it as a benefit and a limitation. We get the benefit of one, whilst losing out on the other (luck becomes a factor) and if every game tweaks these elements (like rental prices, income per hour) we take a risk in using the same solution, diversifying the choices we make, enhancing the replay option.

Every time the ship sinks

It is an old joke, yet did you imagine in 1997, that watching Titanic (preferably in IMAX) had a different outcome when you watched it the second time? It might not work in the movies, in gaming it will. When we are confronted with a new challenge and we can reset the parameters, we can add a chance that some actions happen, making the rush towards a goal more urgent and by moving from easy to normal or even survival some chances increase. It gives two parts, the benefit that you are truly challenged and the stage where there was no chance to win (like in Shanghai, when you end up having two identical stones on one another), we can try to avoid the chance, yet should the chance be zero?

RPG & Realism

I added the no guns part earlier not because I like it that way, but because I admire the option of the pacifist path, it adds to a game, so we can still have weapons, we can still use them in the equation, making the penalty and danger a lot larger if caught. Yet having a weapon and especially in the far east where we all think that life is incomplete without Katana or Geom, we see all kinds of options to enhance the game and gameplay. Yet in my mind WD4 should be much stronger on technology, hacking and devices, maximising what we can do with them. It was pathetic in WD1, yet in WD2 we saw a really nice boost, we can however do a lot more than it had and we should push for that. At present there are a whole host of actual hacking apps. iRet, netKillUIbeta, iWep Pro, Myriam iOS Security App, iSpy, Hopper App, Cycript, Frida, Firecat, Highster Mobile, et al. What if there is a Watchdog version of some (or all) where we have to rely on other means to get information to get further in the game? We can have one to three apps that have these abilities and as we get access to another app, we can evolve one of those three to give us more hack power. In addition, the merging of app and stealth gives us more time to get what we need before we are blocked (an income limitation). So as we go forward we get challenged more. We could just go Fred Flintstone, bash the person hack the phone an walk away. Getting more initially, yet also getting loads of infamy from the boys and girls in law enforcement blue.

All options that would have been available, yet the present RPG lines never truly pushed the envelope, it seems a little bizarre. There is no way of telling how popular any RPG game gets, yet when we see that the greatest foes are ‘repetition’ and ‘grinding’, it seems odd that some of my ideas were not there in WD2, as it was something we could have seen coming a mile away.

This might not have been interesting to anyone but gamers, yet when we see how the US is seemingly angering Iran and Saudi Arabia to an equal degree, do you really want to wake up and drink coffee, or play a video game and hope that after 4 hours it was all merely a bad dream? When we consider the dozens of additions that took less than a few hours to add, against the fact that some of these games have been out since 2014 and sequels in 2016. Is it not interesting that so much of the same is shown to gamers? Not merely Watchdogs (Ubisoft), Fallout (Bethesda) could have made additional usage of terminals, writeable holotapes and other bits as well, between 2008 and 2018, we saw 3 products and we see forward momentum to a decent degree, no one is debating that, yet how much more could we have seen? When we see in regards to Far Cry 5 ‘it’s very much More of the Same‘, should we fear the beginning of iterative gaming? I can tell you now that this would be a really really bad thing. We went from Forbidden Forest (1983) to Tekken 3 (1997), which shows a 1000% improvement in all directions, yet when we consider Tekken 6 (2007) and Tekken 7 (2015) we are for the most merely confronted with better graphics and the list of games with a similar issue is growing rapidly. A truckload of gaming leaps all ignored for a few reasons I gather, so in my view there is too much wrong and the fact that we are confronted with Forbes asking “is it fresh enough, or is this just another Ubisoft open-world game checking off all the boxes?” and the fact that Metacritic gives us 78% rating for the game. When you consider that the game had a budget between $80 and $130 million, and a 78% score, we need to worry. Ubisoft might not care as some claim that it made over $310 million in the first week. Yet, if we consider that it could have been a 90% game, is this a stage where Ubisoft missed out of an additional $150-$200 million? There is no way to tell and it is highly speculative from my side. In this I am not hammering Far Cry 5, merely using the most visible example. Is one a sign of the other and as such is it also a sign of iterative game development? It is an important fact and one that needs investigation as the game in gaming is set for more and higher budgets. As gaming was set to a $108.9 billion stage in 2017, and as the predictions given to us, that in 2020 $20 billion more will be made, is it not important to maximise that as much as possible? Especially now in a stage where too many are on a tight budget, relying on Black Friday and Week 12 discounts, getting it right as much as possible will be adamant in getting the larger chunk of that $120 billion pie.

When we (speculatively) see that ‘more of the same’ is part of the 78% rating, a diversified game is becoming more and more important. Some might not care, others might oppose, yet when we see that GTA5, a game (not my style of game mind you) that some regard as perfect as a game can get, that game made $6 billion, my case is, as I personally see it made.

If some are to be believed, there is the idea that 2020 would be the year of GTA6, with the view as is, there is every chance that every owned of GTA5, will get GTA6, implying that all the other game makers will vie for the additional budget left for gaming. In that stage, as I personally see it, they will not spend it on a game that is more of the same, so the other game makers will have to consider upping their development ante by a lot.

Whatever comes out then will also require extremely serious testing, as the people are getting mighty annoyed with the amount of huge day one downloads they face.

 

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In awe of Ares

The independent is throwing its readers a curveball with ‘The survey comes after it was revealed that a new political party with access to up to £50m in funding has been secretly under development for more than a year‘, it is change, change of a kind that makes us wonder if politicians are getting there ‘inspiration’ form somewhere else. This is not about that, this is absolutely not about politics. This is about the curveball.

Santa Monica Studio, they awed us two years ago at the E3, where we were treated to a teaser, one that made our jaws drop and we were nowhere near ready to see the real deal. That happened 48 hours ago, 48 hours since we woke up, in optionally the most overwhelming way. If you missed it all, you missed a lot. For those not entirely aware, let me explain, let’s take you back to 2013, when the people on the PS3 were treated to ‘the Last of Us‘. It was a game that surpassed whatever came before, the end of a console treated to the diamond of diamonds. Now take that feeling, multiply that by 3 and that is what you will feel with the normal God of War 4 edition on a normal PS4, I haven’t even seen it on a Pro with 4K yet. The beginning is simple yet still overwhelming, the graphics are beyond awesome and the music and sound effects give it an entirely new dimension.

So here we are he who took the powers of Ares, god of war. Now we are in the setting of Norse mythology. The initial intro to the game, the movement, the draughr, Balder and a few others are just overwhelming. When we dig deeper into the game we get to certain points that this is still very much a God of War game, yet there is also evolution. even as button mashing got you most of the way previously, this time around you need to be a little clever, button mashing gets you killed again and again (and again). It has the chests and it has health parts, slightly different, but still in spirit basically the same. Some chests now come with puzzles and a few are a little trying. It is all a step forward. The graphics throughout the game remain overwhelming and are beyond awesome. The tactics are a little more essential, yet it remains a God of War game. Christopher Judge, the (in)famous Teal’c from Stargate takes the axe from the predecessors and gives Kratos soul in a way that is amazing, the deepness of voice and the entire embodiment of Kratos slayer of gods comes to life with Christopher Judge, a stellar performance.

There will always be issues with any videogame, so has this game its little snippets of frustration, but the overall impact of the game is what I would regard it a 97% game, Metacritic gave it a 95% rating, what means that it should be regarded as a must for any PS4 owner. Even as you play the game, you feel a little lost at times, wondering where to go next. It is not a bad feeling, you get a clear view of your surrounding and it is close to breathtaking. The people at Santa Monica really outdid themselves, and not just them. In equal measure Bear McCreary, famous for his soundtrack work on Battlestar Gallactica truly shines. His music adds to the game in several ways. I wonder if anyone would be able to play the game on a TV with a sound bar, the music is that amazing. I am actually listening to it on YouTube whilst writing this. I hope that it will be a download option soon enough (or a soundtrack for sale). So in nearly all matters the game shines. So why am I using ‘nearly’? Well in the beginning as you have the options to better your character with outfits and upgrades, you are a little in the dark and in the beginning of the game optionally accidently wasting resources on the wrong parts and it is a merely a small loss, yet it makes for a great replay. This is perhaps the only small flaw in all this and it is so small a flaw that not heeding my words in this is just fine. Yet as you play the game you are almost overwhelmed by what you see and when you think that you’ve seen it all, you get introduced to Alfheim. If you consider that Midgard is the forest in midwinter, then Alfheim is the forest in spring and everything is in full bloom, a second whiff over being overwhelmed and I haven’t even seen the subsequent parts yet. Whilst I have been upgrading my skills and my weapon, the monsters have been becoming a lot stronger too, so the opposition is not getting easier and you the player are forced to thinking a little more tactics and no mash buttons, it is essential to making it through. It is almost like Santa Monica Studio saw the setting of Dark Souls and borrowed an idea or two, which is not a bad thing at all. In this, I found that the avoidance by Kratos is not completely flawless and it makes for a more challenging fight, all defence and no offence being pointless in the end. It makes a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things and God of War is more than the jackpot. If the next Last of Us is anything to go by, we are witness to a new level of gameplay, one that the Xbox cannot match, because Ubisoft will not be able to match it. That is not an attack on Ubisoft, it truly is not! They have shown with AC Origin to up their game by a fair bit. Microsoft was just not ready (read: awake enough) to up the game for gamers other than their ‘most powerful consolestatement. Now with the God of War first released, and the Last of Us 2 teasers making us desire more and that is whilst we know that there is every chance that Death Stranding will surpass them both, a Kojima special that does not ill to the other two titles, but we know that Sony is about to up the game for gamers a fair bit and that is merely the top of the 2018 iceberg.We have no idea what we will see in 7 weeks at the E3 2018.

That whilst Windows central ‘treats’ us to: “Ever since the Xbox One launched in 2013, Microsoft has revealed clothing items and other merchandise which were either E3 exclusives, competition rewards, or simply gifts for employees. Luckily, it seems like that’s about to change because a merchandise store is coming soon“, perhaps with a lack of exclusive games that is all they can offer?

Even as Bethesda has been giving us heaps of amazing options, the bulk of the gamer’s desires are set to Elder Scrolls 6 and an optional Fallout 5, and/or Fallout 4b. Bethesda is like Monica Studios and for the longest time they have delivered, even today Skyrim is still played, 6.5 year later, that is the trademark of the truly great and satisfying game and God of War 4 is a welcome addition. It is behind GTA5 the highest Metacritic rating ever and the people of Santa Monica Studio have all the rights, the reason and the ability to feel pride, be proud and enjoy the reverence they will receive for the rest of the year. In this they are sharing the warmth of reverence this year (optionally) with the makers of Spiderman for PS4, another exclusive title, which is now sold out on amazon. So the pre-orders of a game released in September 2018 are already sold out, so in that part Santa Monica Studios is just one player driving the Sony gaming force forward and the competitors have nothing even close to matching that.

Even as I am drawn to return to play God of War, I know that Santa Monica is likely to have a few interesting twists on their bow of confusion. So it will be essential to meet up with Morrighan, Crone of War. She can enlighten me to the opponents that Kratos may face. The Celts were always masters of the skull cleaver and I need to be alert and ready to whatever Santa Monica Studio will throw at me next. The life of a gamer, always trying to remain in synch with the game and with life to get the best results, only the truly great game makers allow us to do that.

When we consider the path that this game series has taken, the path seems obvious, but it is not, the upgrade and evolution of your weapon have options so it can enhance your strength or give power to the weaker side of you that in itself is also brilliant. If you are a range fighter of up close and personal, both have options to give you a much better chance of survival and in the end, you cannot really afford all the upgrades all the time, so choices must be made which makes the game even more challenging and rewarding when you get to the next point. That in itself is also a new victory for the series. The map reveals even more new sides, but I will steer away from that so you can experience that for yourself, making the impact even better.

In the end the God of War treated us to something special two years ago and now we are overwhelmed with what they have actually achieved, no small feat for any development studio, laurels well earned. Even if you are not into the hack and slash games, this game brings a new game, that overwhelms nearly all your senses that alone will be worth buying it for.

That is the curveball, the delivery of something special and again Santa Monica Studio surpassed our expectations, an art that politicians have been lacking for decades, perhaps they should actively listen to Kratos, Ares and Morrighan, nothing less will do at present.

There is one part that politicians can take away from all this. It is not the expected that makes you shine, it is the ability to exceed our expectations that truly matter, isn’t it funny that the one article that they looked down on for three decades (video games) have been able to deliver just that? I see it as the combination of art and imagination and God of War got it right on all counts.

 

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