Tag Archives: Origins

The stage of a game

We all have an idea, some have the idea of a life time, but I cannot make that claim, not because I do not have one, but because I have too many. Yes there is the call to make remasters (Knights of the Sky), there is the call to reinvent the wheel (System Shock by Nightdive Studios), or there is the need to take it to the next level, a next level that was not possible in the past, mainly because technology did not allow for it.

This is how I always saw Pirates (by Sid Meier), there was a chance where Black Flag was a nice tribute, but it was the dawn of PS4 and Xbox One and Ubisoft took a cowardly way to progress a franchise on a lack of factors. So as I initially played Black Flag, my mind went racing. And then I remembered another pirate game, a board game with additional bluff cards. So what happens, when w take the foundation of Black Flag and make it more towards the original the Sid Meier made? The map would be well over 20 times the size, a lot more like the actual map of the Caribbeans in those days, the game would not be some fruity assassin, it would be your version and you get to live the life of a cutthroat, a buccaneer, a privateer, it is up to you, to go from a small skiff to a full-grown galley or slave ship if you are good enough. You see, there is something totally awesome about the way the game Elite Dangerous is designed (by David Braben). There your life does not matter, the game does not care, nor should it and it is time to set that stage to RPG and a pirate RPG makes a lot of sense. You cannot always be a captain, you start as a simple sailor. And in this you could get to a rank if you are good enough. 

So how do we go about it, we tend to look towards the wars of adjustment, yet there are so many wars the were never on the radar, the Dutch independence wars (which took close to 80 years), the age of piracy and lets not forget the Sudan wars (Mahdist War 1881-1899), all places that seem to be forgotten. Who remembers the siege of Khartoum? Some are so set in a stage of winning, the we sometimes forget that half the fun is surviving, so how far will you get? The original siege went on from 13 March 1884 to 26 January 1885, so what happens when you are in charge, how long will you last? Games are so much about winning, the we forget the enduring is nothing less. To make it to the date or even past it would be a victory and a half. It is so American to be the victor the most of them do not understand ‘the Last Samurai’, it is not about winning, it is about not losing, or better stated, the way you live towards the final days matters more, we forgot about that part, didn’t we?

We can set any gaming stage, but it is how we play where we see if we measure up, not if we merely tap the mile poles in a game. I reckon that the achievements made us all a little complacent in games. We can go in any direction, a Hindenburg flight simulator, yet in there we will always come up short against the Microsoft flight simulator, it makes more sense for them to add the Hindenburg. Yet what happens when we turn the script? What happens when we set the stage to a simple thing, what if the player is a no one, yet his/her grandfather was Hades, Poseidon or Zeus? What happens when we map a place like Monte Carlo completely and get him to retrieve a relic that one of the 2,261 millionaires or 50 billionaires has. Is it in a house, is it on a boat or is it somewhere else (like a museum)? We can simplify any game for as much as we can, but in the end we need a healthy story and for the most Wars tend to do that (an unhealthy endeavour if ever there was one). I saw the need of a game on mines, and remembered some bomb defusing game on the CBM-64, so where to go from there? The stage of a game is important, because it sets a vested interest of the gamer, Ubisoft had the down to perfection in Assassins Creed 2 and Brotherhood and after the they lost the plot, they almost won it back in AC4 Black Flag and they definitely got it back in Origins. I would think the a Battlestar Galactica RPG is one the would be favourable with the BSG fans, but not much outside that, the same can be said for Babylon 5, the Star Trek fanbase is huge, so that tends to be a close win any given day of the week, but that does not guarantee a good game, the issue is seen when an idea with a small base entices a large following, that is the stage we all seek. CD Project Red did so with Witcher and seemingly is about to do it again with Cyberpunk 2077.  It is the setting the fuels the story, and the story is everything, I have always believed that, it is the power of an RPG. It is because of the that we see out the great stories (Tolkien), yet I wonder what happens when we try this with Herbert on a larger scale with Dune, not merely on Arrakis, why if all the other places become involved? Perhaps a visionary will see that option with the next Dune movie (2020). In this books have been the strongest source of inspiration, mainly because there are so many of them. Yet most of us go to the same source, why? I agree that it is appealing, but there are so many nations with alternatives. That is something we saw when someone created the Untitled Goose Game, brilliant t in its foundation, as such I wondered if someone had considered the same thing with a cat (Minoes, Annie M. G. Schmidt), a writer the has a following of millions in the Netherlands and Belgium. In that same setting, as Skyrim became such a hit, did anyone ever look towards the famous Spanish Comic books of the Mercenary by Segrelles? It has all the makings of a much larger game, a stage where some are set not in multiple games, but one game with a season pass and several DLC’s.

Then there is the comic hero Rork, by Andreas, or even the Trigan Empire by Don Lawrence. I remember growing up to these stories and the stories of Ravian (Valerian), I am a little surprised that the Trigan Empire never made it to the silver screen or the computer, Don Lawrence has a flair for imagery and the computer always needs this. So what is the stage of a game that will be set next? The is the question and the is where players like Sony and Google/Apple will find themselves. Microsoft might be acquiring the brands (Bethesda), yet they do not have the stage alone and the next innovator might be just around the corner. For me, the idea that the $7,500,000,000 lemon the Microsoft acquired (not Bethesda mind you) would backfire largely and loudly and the would be OK with me.

As I personally see it, Microsoft pissed of true gamers and that group of people doesn’t pull punches when they play with their idols, we do not fault Bethesda in any of this, but aligning with Microsoft was not the best idea, as some say, you are only as good as your next game and Bethesda had plenty of winners, but what is next? We look not merely to the stage of the game, but to the next stage of gaming and I believe that they are too often hiding behind terms like ‘hype worthy games’, yet that is a setting from the mind of a marketing department, they predict that people who play games, will think this is a hype. Yet true hypes come from games the are on the edge of what is possible in gaming, the Witcher 3 is the perfect example there. Cyberpunk is also on the stage, neither of them are Microsoft games. Yet it was brilliant to buy Bethesda, but the also means that those who do not love the Microsoft console will look to the borders and see what else is possible, optionally setting the stage for the $7,500,000,000 lemon, not because of Bethesda, but because gamers have a lack of trust in Microsoft and the fact that some had the numbers that only 1 out of 3 considered the new Microsoft console, the gives me the impression that Microsoft has a much larger problem and buying software houses will not solve it, making visionary games do and the is the lesson Microsoft has not learned. They opened the door for Sony to look what else is out there, what else could become an exclusive and the is where Sony will win and gamers will win. Because it is on the edge of possible gaming where new gamers will be born, new games will be born and at the end of my life I see that there are options coming towards gamers, games the will create new gamers, it will create new creativity and new thinking through gaming and this is a good thing. The simple truth is the there is real gaming beyond Ubisoft and Microsoft, true gaming is never soft, it is challenging and the is where we need to look, we need to look where they are not looking. That is how I got most my IP in several fields. Not by being some bullet point presenter like all the others, but by looking in a direction they decided not to bother looking. That is how most revolutionary IP is created, and it is funny as this is the way Microsoft and Ubisoft started, to look where no was. Too bad they forgot about the part of the equation and I reckon the Sony is waking up to that lesson at present.

 

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Death of the creed

Before I begin I must warn you, if you are an AC fan, a fan of what Ubisoft produces, you will hate this story. The second part is that this is based on personal views, speculations and what the ‘leaked’ 30 minutes of AC Valhalla brings. The game is still in development, so the end result could differ. Keep all that in mind!

We saw the creed getting killed, its fans have seen a steady decline since the third game, and that is where we stand, it took 8 years. It took this long because no one will argue that AC4 (Black Flag) and ACO (Origins) are indeed excellent pieces of work, but it was marketed by what I like to call a group of people without any backbone, softcovers the lot of them. Black Flag is an excellent game but it is not an AC game (the escape from prison level is perhaps an exception). Black Flag is the pirate game that Sid Meier dreamt of making, but technology stopped him and Ubisoft had the inside track here to make a new piece of memorable IP, but they moved away and set the stage to a much larger IP hoping to set new standards, perhaps they partially succeeded, I will let you decide. After that the quality went down fast and as I see it they had a chance to make a new IP with Origins, they took a separate detour and it was truly an amazing product, but they spoiled it with Odyssey and now we have Valhalla, one person had the same idea I had, it is Odyssey with a new skin, it feels like that. Graphically it does look good, but the parts I saw is all about spicing and lacking substance, one viking goes into the fray, onto the breach and into the masses and slaughters what can be slaughtered. A lot of posturing, it feels off and I was afraid of this from the beginning, their marketing was so intent on creating hypes, this early, 6 months before the game is out, that usually reeks of shallowness and in all this, the game is as disappointing as I feared. The Creed was murdered by its own friendly forces. An IP dragged to death by shallow idea’s and a lack of creativity and staging of braced ego, or is that braised ego? It is a shame, for even as the first one lacked to some degree, it was an amazing start, after which we got Ezio in 2 and Brotherhood and legend status was reached. There is a decent case for revelations, but it was downhill from there, which is a shame, including AC3, the story was pretty amazing, there was a much larger stage and even as some (including me) did not consider AC3 to be a great game, it did bring surprises, there was no denying that. The Graphics department has never disappointed and that must be stated out loud, graphically the game remained at a high point all the way to Odyssey, even as we dread the last game, it was close to sublime in the graphics department. 

Perhaps this is the future for all who wants to make a game pleasing everyone, as I see it you are left with a product that pleases almost no one, it is my view on the matter.

So as I consider the Valhalla leak (no idea how the game was leaked, I think it is marketing, afraid of what is most likely to happen), I see a game that is shoddy on several fronts, but I do realise that I was watching something that had not been released yet. However, the stage I saw is in line of what AC had become. Yes, it is a game, as was Odyssey, but when you realise that not one fort on the planet had thousands of arrows, their aim was not that great (especially as they cannot shoot things in the night that moves), we see a much larger lag in gaming and a lag in the AC series. You merely need to see the first two seasons of Vikings to get that picture across to a much larger degree. To create arcade gaming situation in sandbox games implies the game needs triggers and that leaves you in a stage moving from mini game to mini game, did you sign up for that?

It is hard to write anything positive, and that too is an issue, apart from the graphics which has been far above par again and again. So even as we see the ‘leaked’ footage, we realise that the stage that Ubisoft created was the makings of hypes with no game play, it was perhaps the most stupid thing they could have done, and they should not have started the creations of hypes until October at the earliest, perhaps the birthday of the board of Directors on October 4th might have been a good idea (World Animal Day). If the game continues the way it is (as I saw it) there is every chance that it will be the last AC game to be made, I only bought AC Odyssey as it was on special at 80% discount, I stopped playing it after day 2 as the game was massively inferior to Origins and as I see it Valhalla is going to be even worse. If not, then Ubisoft better make it very clear in a next presentation with actual gameplay. 

Can the IP be saved? I am not certain whether it should, there have been too many massive misses, a new IP station makes a lot more sense and they have options there, they merely decided to ignore them (as I personally see it). So whilst we might consider bashing the Guillemot members (which is never a bad idea), we need to realise that they have bigger problems at present, because as I expect Valhalla to disappoint us, they only have one shot let, Watchdogs: Legion better be a slam dunk home run, if not the existence of Ubisoft might be done for. After Odyssey and Breakpoint, Ubisoft cannot handle any more disappointments, even as the Division 2 is heralded by its fans as a serious step forward, it does not get bonus points, Valhalla needed to be a win and there is every indications that this is not going to happen, implying that the life of Ubisoft will be in the hands of Watchdogs: Legion. It might not be fair, but that is how it is and even as it is shown to be pretty amazing, the failure of Valhalla will impact Watchdogs: Legion as well, unfair, but that is life, often not fair. Can I give Ubisoft any advice? Yup, they should have listened to me when I stated again and again that games need proper testing and both Odyssey and Breakpoint can be seen as evidence that this was not done. 

Could I be wrong?

Yes, of course I can, but those who have seen and flocked to the 30 minute leak will agree with me that Ubisoft has massive problems and not everyone is a Rainbow 6 lover, a game that so far has remained well above par (according to those who play it). So whilst the Creed is that ‘everything is permitted’ the Ubisoft board might have taken this too literally and releasing below par games should have been prevented, it is merely my view on the matter.

Oh and in the coming stage of the PS5 (and the Microsoft alternative), they better stop the entire stage of 25GB+ patches, it will hurt their business even more as I personally see it, and Ubisoft actually knows this, you merely need to see the opinion of internet in Rural France for that (which is France outside of Paris, Bordeaux, Cannes, Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Nantes) and Europe has a few of these places, as such, the people interested in Ubisoft games will be dwindling down faster than they are happy with.

 

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Feel free to disagree

I stumbled upon an article bashing Ubisoft this morning, it was an article that got published by CCN on January 18th (at https://www.ccn.com/ubisoft-finally-realises-how-bad-most-of-their-games-are/), yet as I was reading it, there was also this nagging feeling that I did not agree and I felt, especially after all the bashing (which was fun mind you) to partially disagree with this article. 

Even as today is all about ‘Ubisoft has acquired a majority stake in Kolibri Games‘, the people behind all the idle click games, we need to see that there are two sides in all this and even as bashing Ubisoft is high entertainment, it should be done for the right reasons.

It starts with the headline ‘Ubisoft Finally Realises How Bad (Most Of) Their Games Are‘, they aren’t that bad, even some of the franchises that are hit with all kinds of issues, I see that their basic problem is the lack of proper testing, in addition to that, I fear that marketing within Ubisoft is too powerful forcing release of software before it is ready (like the day one patches that are 7GB or larger), it is at times a time management issue and as we see that CD Projekt Red is stating that Cyberpunk 2077 is delayed, the gamers do not mind (they are a little upset) that is because they know that the final product of CD Projekt Red delivers, they always have. 

Then we get 

  • Ubisoft’s most recent games have suffered from some pretty bad reception.
  • Their editorial team is getting a much-needed shakeup to help fix the lack of variety in their line-up.

The first is very true, bugs glitches and a total iterative way of playing has that effect on people (Ubisoft buying Kolibri) implies that iterative gameplay will continue for some time. Then we get the second part ‘the lack of variety‘, I cannot agree to that, we can see that there is a repetition within a franchise, yet For Honor, Assassins Creed, Far Cry, Watchdogs and the Division are different. If it is about lack of variety because the Division, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six are shooting games, then we need to see that this is what buying consumers wants.

When we look at Assassin’s Creed and that in the past there was too much ‘Prince of Persia’ chase sequences than I would to some degree agree and other games have this crossover to some degree. Yet I feel that ‘lack of variety‘ is a bit of a stretch.

This is easiest seen in Far Cry, when Primal came, it was a larger surprise, and yes we know that it was based to some degree on the Far Cry 4 map, but I did not have an issue with that part (and the game is different enough to not notice it to the degree that some claim. The game (as many others) is largely repetitive and preventing that is a big issue, yet in Far Cry Primal getting a bird fly over going ‘Squeek Squeek Squaaa’ and then attacking almost every 5 minutes gets to be tiring real fast (Far Cry 4 had that down the road as well). Such an event was also the case in Far Cry 4. Then there is the collection part, I like to get an almost complete set of achievements, having to empty loot boxes in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is nice in the beginning when you have nothing, but consider, if this is the Victoria age, would you really find a £50-£500 in almost every chest out and abounds? You gotta be kidding me, I think that there are around 25 per region and there are 13 districts? (I forgot how many there are) but it amounts to running to 300+ chests for the achievement. And lets not forget that this game was an improvement to AC Unity and the Guardian still gave it only 2/5. That is the behemoth that Ubisoft fights, that and to some extent massively shody testing (see Breakpoint for that).

Then we get: “The fact that 100 Parisians basically controlled their entire output for years in the first place seems like a poor move“, I completely disagree with that, Ubisoft has had great achievements (AC2, AC Brotherhood, Far Cry 3, AC Origins, For Honor, Ghost Recon, and Splinter Cell Blacklist), for the most decent games, if only that pesky part ‘testing’ was properly done and a testing division that can override the word of Ubisoft Marketing that would be nice too.

Then we get “Ubisoft games are pretty rubbish these days. You might think that a blanket statement like that needs qualifying. Honestly, their games are all so similar that it barely feels like I’m talking about multiple games. Over the past decade, they’ve managed to homogenize their entire catalog into the same murky paste” in the first they are not rubbish, but they are at times too much below average. then we get the one statement that is true as I see it “they’ve managed to homogenize their entire catalog into the same murky paste“, I believe it comes from a feeling that they imbued during one of their E3 events ‘This game will please everyone!‘, I believe that this expressed feeling is their greatest flaw. If you create a game that pleases all, you end up with a game that pleases no one. I believe that to be true. I can see the brilliance of For Honor, but I personally dislike multiplayer games and their single game campaign was lousy. So it is not a game for me, do I care? No, they had other franchises, and I did recognise the brilliance that For Honor delivered. They also reinvigorated the AC franchise with Origins (and then screwed it up with Odyssey, for me that is), yet Origins is a piece of brilliance and the differences to the previous AC line makes you want to play the game. also the first game in 4K was overwhelming too.

This is a stage we recognise and to see other games become the ‘same murky paste’ is to some degree true when we see Far Cry, Ghost Recon and the Division as one (they are not) but they have too much of each other and that gives a consideration to a larger degree (especially when you have all these franchises). a Franchise needs to distinguish itself from all others, not hand out to each other. That is perhaps the larger flaw at Ubisoft, iteration never goes anywhere, it merely holds you in place. 

Personally I agree with “While we’re at it maybe follow Sony’s lead and do a game without any online elements either“, although for the most many games allow for that, you do not need to play AC online (unless you want 100% achievements), in Black Flag I never needed the online element, but for the blue chests it was essential, I had mixed feelings but not one of pure negativity. However, having strangers jump into my game of Watchdogs 2 and screwing up my stealth part by shooting all the cops in the neighbourhood is something I could have done without.

I am not certain whether shaking their editorial team fixes things, As I stated, it is the testing that is a larger problem and even as we accept that the editorial team will come up with the story and adjusts the programmers perception, the issue of repetition needs to be adjusted as well, I believe that too many fans have complained about those parts in the past, as such I hope Ubisoft listens. We see Watchdogs:Legion and what we got to see is a huge step in another direction, yet that is optionally not a bad thing, I merely hope that it gets properly tested and in the second part, I hope that Marketing does not push it before it is ready, a hype on a flawed game is a lot worse then an early hype on a delayed game for all the right reasons. CD Project RED showed us that part.

If Ubisoft does go under, it is by embracing the flaws they had and not taking a larger effort in fixing things, when we consider that the AC III, AC Black Flag, AC Unity, and AC Syndicate have certain issues that repeated over the games (like the AI, the control glitches you face and the repetitiveness) all whilst there was no real fix until AC Origin, we see a much larger failing and I have always stated that it was on the desk of Yves Guillemot (that is why he gets the big bucks).

And AC is only one of a few franchises that had issues. And for a gamer I have the weirdest mindset, when I see a 60% game that could have been an easy 80%+ game by fixing the issues I feel sad, because if I saw it, the bigger wigs at Ubisoft saw it too and they did not speak out when they could. It was a sad state of affairs!

So as such, Ubisoft might be in a predicament, yet I had some issues with the CCN article and I just could not resist taking it into a corner and bashing it a little.

 

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