Tag Archives: Nextgen

Wrongly Slapping Microsoft

So, there I was being happy, reading tweets when an article passed by. It was an article from July 2020 no less, although I did not notice the date at first, the title ‘The hidden costs of Microsoft Flight Simulator’ had me a little captivated, so I took a look. In all this, let’s be upfront. I have an issue with Microsoft on several levels, they screwed up their console, they (as I personally see it) betrayed their customers and I am not a Microsoft fan. Yet, there Flight Simulator is different, it is a ‘game’ for a select group of people. I am not a sim fanatic, but I get it, we all have needs and for them Flight Simulator is ‘da bomb’, I do not object. I bought my first flight simulator when I got my CBM64 (with disk drive). I bought the program in the early days for around $175 (Dfl 299), I was not bonkers about the game, but it was a new level of gaming. It came with a book, not a small manual, but an operations guide that was formidable, 4 maps and a disc. I never regretted buying it. I got one on the PC later on, I got the flight simulator X and one more. Even as I was not a great fan, the Flight simulator is a different level of gaming, so when I saw the new one announced and I saw first images on YouTube, my mouth dropped. It was overwhelmingly amazing, it was the best a non pilot could get and that person would get as close to flying (without the $300 an hour lesson fee) as humanly possible. So this article got me piqued. 

Now, as I said, I am not Microsoft fan and bashing them is almost a civil duty the first hour and done for personal pleasure the 6 hours that follow that, but I do try to keep a sense of fairness, so the article felt bad, it felt insincere. The article (at https://www.pcinvasion.com/hidden-costs-microsoft-flight-simulator/) gives us the following “However, simulation titles, particularly flight sims, are notorious for nickel-and-diming their customers. On day one, the new Microsoft Flight Simulator will continue this trend that it birthed right out of the box.” As I see it, this is their clumsy approach to a few items, the first are the three Simulators out there. There is a standard, a deluxe and a premium edition for $59, $89 and $119. We get “the simulator itself, the entire world map, over 37,000 airports, 3D telemetry of select cities, and 20 flyable aircraft, and replaces 30 airports with hand-crafted versions. It is available for one-time purchase”, the deluxe edition has 5 additional airplanes and 5 handcrafted airports and the premium edition has 5 more above the deluxe edition. If you are new, you might not want to go the distance and stay with the standard version, yet, I get it, the sim people do want more, they want the Beechcraft Baron, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Cessna Citation Longitude and so on. Even though we see ‘extra’ no one is looking too deep at what the standard has, and it has plenty. Like the Boeing 747-8, the Aviat Pitts Special and 18 others. As for airports we might look at that, but I found the information given “Each World Update has replaced additional procedurally-generated airports with hand-crafted models. World Updates are available in all editions for free, bringing the number of airports available in the Standard edition up to 45, so in the ‘FOR FREE’ side, we see 15 additional airports. In this, the hand crafted versions replace the procedurally generated ones, it is more precise, it is the one you want and that is if you want to go to this airport. The simulator has 100% world coverage including over 37,000 airports, 2 million cities, and 1.5 billion buildings. There are programs out there requiring the same pay with only 1% coverage (if they get to 1% that is). 

As such, I have no idea what the writer of “it’s really the price difference of this new release that has some folks reeling. The Standard edition will start at $60, but the Premium Deluxe is double trouble with a gut-churning $120 asking price” is bitching about. The simple sim matter is that sims are a niche market and if you are not a sim person, or if you want to find out, you can either pay the $59, or get the Xbox game pass (it is included there), with the world (on your computer), you will be engaged for months, if not years to see if you are Sim material and that is part of the choice, a niche market is not for everyone and the makers of that program will not cry if you are not. Microsoft Flight Simulator has millions of fans and well deserved so. I enjoyed playing them, I am not great at them and I get that some people pay the $200 for real flight controllers. Yet above all else, the FS2020 blew me away ad I was honestly not ready to be that impressed, but they achieved that and that too requires attention. I will happily slap them when they do something wrong, but not here. Microsoft got the FS2020 really really right and perhaps if I ever get another overhyped PC I will get this flight simulator as well. CNet gives us “The minimal specs are fairly reasonable, but for the ideal graphics, you may need a more powerful setup”, which is is to be expected. Yet when you consider that you will need a XFX AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT RAW II for 4K images, some get scared and some accept this. Yet when you get to see:

You know there was a reason that you bought that card, however the starter will find plenty of amazement in the low resolution setting which needs a GeForce GTX 770, however this card is $379 with the premise that if you have no hardware this close, your PC is decently outdated to begin with. As such, I am always happy to slap Microsoft around, but not in this case, they really outdid themselves for the sim fanatics and they will not hesitate to Pau the $50 more for 10 additional planes and 10 additional airfields. They will get over the all the other things soon enough and as far as I can tell, whomever want to slap the FS2020 around better be loaded for bear, when you can claim “100% world coverage including over 37,000 airports, 2 million cities, and 1.5 billion buildings” you did something really really right and that too is worthy of mention, excellence will always be admired in gaming, whether it is your cup of tea or not, excellence is where it is at, excellence creates immersion and that is key to any game hoping to become a legendary product.

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Redo from start?

I have been considering the games that are, that are soon to come and those we wish to see again. I feel that I am not unique, I am one of many who feels the same way many gamers feel. It all started with a simple pre-order notice I saw at JB-Hifi. The order was not for Mass Effect 4, but for Mass Effect, which seemed a little odd. Soon I found a few less reliable mentions of a possible upcoming re-release of Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 for Nextgen (Xbox One and PS4). I got excited, because overall the Mass Effect series are nothing short of a marvellous achievement. Consider that Mass Effect is one of the earliest Xbox360 releases, it still hold a storyline that was amazing to play. Yes, we will replay and we will know certain key parts, but that is still not an issue for those who love Mass Effect.

The revamped version of the last of us seemed to have instilled a desire for games on Nextgen that should make developers happy. Is that because the lack of good games or is that because the new games are leaving us cold? I think it is a little bit of both. As studios tried to play the ‘marketing game’ they are now learning harshly that playing that game on gamers is a sure way to see your product get smashed. The outrage that Assassins Creed Unity brought is only one of the elements. I will go one step further, a relaunch with upgrades to the story of Assassins Creed 1, 2 and brotherhood would very likely be more successful than the next Assassins Creed. This for the simple reason that the makers seem to have lost their way (the fact that Unity is regarded by many as the worst Nextgen release does not help any).

Even a relaunch of System Shock (1+2) is likely to draw in a much larger crowd than the likely disappointments new PS4 RPG’s are going to bring. The added issues is not just the game, the problem is for the most the marketing division for these developers; a decent example is the Division by Ubisoft. My issue is that so far the game might look good and could even become great, but in their approach to feed the hungry hordes of journalists and to remain ‘visible’, the people at E3 2014 got to see something that is now not coming until 2016, even the Q1 part here is currently under debate, so as the gamer is promised a game that is now 19 months from its initial ‘presentation’ the people are wondering whether to trust the game because of the mental link we all make between presentation and delivery. It leaves many of us with the thought ‘how many bugs do they need to fix‘? Now, that thought might not be the correct one, but when 10,000+ people think it, some outspoken nitwit will scream it on YouTube, which results in many players moving away from what could be a good game. An example here is Elder Scrolls online, which is a marketing disaster, yet when we see the review from ChaosD1 (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2082&v=csY7RYF4rKQ), which is excellent and might change the minds of those who walked away from Elder Scrolls Online.

We the players now want to move to games we know, we trust and believe in, which gives added weight to relaunched games. Let’s not forget that Borderlands, The Last of Us and God of War 3 were excellent games. There is however another form of relaunch, one that is not actually a relaunch, but a new evolution of the game. Elite, the legendary game from the BBC Micro B, might have made its fame on the CBM64, it is the upcoming console version which left some parts intact that is now the talk of many towns and even more gamer communities. It shows a new air and an approach to a ‘sandbox’ world many are eager to get onto. As Elite upped the game by mapping the galaxy, with the added wink to legendary science fiction moments, which they did by adding Vulcan and the Leonard Nimoy Space Station as well as Pratchett’s Disc Starport. It is still many years away (as he is in good health), but the moment will come when we will get a place like Badger’s station or the President Lampkin’s station of justice as Mark Sheppard joins the legendary ranks in Elite: Dangerous. You might wonder what does it matter, but it does! You see, as the gamer identifies with moments of his own ‘reality’, the things he/she is passionate about! The game becomes more fun and we will see that people connect more to a game. The danger is that when the threshold lowers and too many ‘legends’ are added, it could drive down the sentiment overall, but the sentiment remains! This will not hinder the upcoming No Man’s sky and both titles will very likely appeal to many players. In that same air we should see the upcoming Shadow of the Beast. What was a scrolling game with slashing on the Amiga/Atari ST, is showing itself to be a Nextgen blood dripping slice and dice extravaganza. This is a new group where the makers can relaunch their original idea and many gamers will love them. So, as the ‘new’ games don’t hack it, the gamers will get treated to a game that did and will do so again. The benefit here is that game makers will need to up their game by a lot to get out there. In the end the gamer wins no matter what! (Don’t you just love that?)

So they will pray at the ‘shrine of Pong‘ to replay System Shock, which does not hinder others either. When we consider Paradroid, or even some games for a chosen crowd like Sierra Entertainment’s games called Manhunter New York and Manhunter 2: San Francisco. They were well above average games then and could now get vamped into truly awesome games tomorrow. Perhaps we will actually live to see the conclusion of part 3 in London. It will be up to Activision to decide and as I see it, it just takes one visionary view within Activision to unlock that revenue! That same feeling is there for the Ultima series. Even though game 10 was an experience released too soon, the idea of an ‘Elder scrolls World’ that is Britannia could be massive. The fact that a developed ‘world’ is scanned and transferred to a first person environment complete with quests, side quests and upgraded storyline could give way to a new generation of gamers, let’s not forget that those who played the original are now regarded to be in the ‘old’ section (yes, that includes me), whilst the young section will experience something completely original in a new jacket. A world where you get Ultima 4, 5 and 6 in one game on the same world with the challenges to master is not only new and novel, pulling it off would raise the bar of gaming considerably. Something all gamers desire!

We became complacent in gaming as we played the Assassins Creed series, which for the most was just ‘more’ (specifically 2, Brotherhood and Revelations). Shadow of the Beast and Elite: Dangerous are now showing that ‘more’ can be an entire new range in evolution, a part many gamers (and developers) have not truly contemplated. As those behind the developers, learn to look behind them on what was and what can be great again, we learn, actually as I see it, it is the gamer taught the developer that games can be recycled.

Yet, we must also consider that it is not about the open world part, a trap I myself tend to fall into. The immersing part of being trapped in a house and surviving it, or as some will call it Alien: Isolation is basically redoing what was great and leaving the player with a replayable challenge. Which is the holy grail of gaming! I believe that more could be coming. I still regard Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 (GameCube games) as one of the most amazing games Nintendo ever released, they did on 3” DVD what many developers could not achieve on a 4.7” Blu-ray, which is truly amazing.

On the other side we see the failures, the hype that was Watchdogs is regarded by some as a failure and a joke. I do not completely agree, but overall the game is not the titan it was heralded to be, but it could be the introduction to a second game that is really awesome (Assassins Creed 1 + 2 are evidence of that), I am just willing to see the glass half full in the case of Watchdogs and I am willing to give Ubisoft a little slack in this game, especially as they do not deserve any slack for butchering the Assassins Creed series (yes, I am slightly obsessed with that). On that same line I tend to set Thief! It was not great, but decent, I do not regret getting the game when I did.

What will come next? Well, that is the question, so as many stare at the horizon for Fallout 4 and Mass Effect 4, we should not hesitate to look behind us to see new (and hopefully improved versions) of Tenchu and Mega-lo-Mania. In my view as all the developers are focussing on multi-player and micro transactions, they forget that the bulk of ALL gamers need moments of escapism, where they need not weigh anything, but focus on just having fun. This is why Minecraft is so bloody addictive. Diablo again shows levels of fulfilment. It is basically why people on Facebook keep a game like Zombie Slayer around. It has no mental need (minimal) it has decent graphics (images) and it shows progress. I will take it one step further, especially as I am not that much of a zombie fan. It is in my view one of the reasons why some of these games will always survive, when we add Pokémon to the mix we see that part even further. It is only because of the technological flaw that Sapphire and Ruby could no longer be played, yet now, with the 3DS editions, we see the power of that formula. Those who played before still love what can be played again, so as some stare forward to the horizon of new games due to technology, do not forget about the treasures behind us. Now some do not feel that ‘vigour’ when they play Colonization, a Sid Meier masterpiece, because it is board like and turn based, but what happens when the mastery of Colonization gets blended with the freedom of play that Seven Cities of Gold on the CBM-64 brought? Evolution, re-playability and challenge all in one go! I would really be curious to see such a result. I believe that within 95% of all gamers is a casual gamer that just wants to have fun, which is why Diablo and Minecraft will survive forever, we will do the multi thing in Mass Effect 3 for periods of time (best multi player experience EVER!), yet we will always return to the games that mentally satisfy, the part that scripted games cannot deliver, a niche market with long term gaming fun many developers seem to ignore.

Let the games begin!

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